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On Contact: Undercurrents of American fascism


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On January 6, 2021, a mob, incited by outgoing US President Donald Trump, stormed the US Capitol building, in an attempt to halt the in-session congressional certification of the 2020 election results. Within the mob, as scholar Gabriel Rockhill points out, were many current members of the military and police. Some of the leaders of the organizations involved, such as Proud Boys' Enrique Tarrio and Joseph Biggs, had direct ties to US intelligence agencies, having served as FBI informants. Only one fifth of Capitol Police were on duty that day, both unprepared and underequipped, even though the US national security state had advance knowledge of the plot. Capitol Police were seen opening barricades and fraternizing with the mob. The assault raises questions about how deeply fascist undercurrents run beneath the ruling elites and organs of state security. How much of the ruling capitalist class backed the organizations behind the assault on the Capitol? To what extent are proto-fascist groups such as the Proud Boys 'astroturfed' by them? (Astroturfed means discretely funded so as to create the illusion of a grassroots-movement.) What was the exact ratio and relationship between state agents and the para-state –i.e. vigilante– actors? Was this solely an organic conflict between the Trump and Biden camps, or was something deeper at play? And what does all this portend for the future, especially given the staggering levels of social inequality, deep financial wounds caused by the pandemic, and the decision by the Biden administration to walk back from its tepid campaign promises, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Is this a moment of rising fascism in American society? And is it prefigured by the attempt by ruling elites in the 1930s to carry out a fascist coup with the breakdown of capitalism? Is this where we are headed? Gabriel Rockhill is professor of philosophy at Villanova University.

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