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Coco Das (@Coco_Das) and Paul Street (@Streetwriter17) in conversation with Sam Goldman (@SamBGoldman) answer listener questions on fascism and recent events.
Find or organize a protest at Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights: Fascist Judges: Keep Your Hands Off Abortion Medication!
Mentioned in this episode:
Christian Fascist Matthew Kacsmaryk’s Coming Ruling and the Need to Abandon Liberal Surrender and Complicity by Paul Street
Trump Might Face Criminal Charges—But He’s Unlikely to Face Justice by Elie Mystal
Refuse Fascism is more than a podcast! You can get involved at RefuseFascism.org. We’re still on Twitter (@RefuseFascism) and other social platforms including the newest addition: mastodon.world/@refusefascism
Send your comments to [email protected] or @SamBGoldman. Connect with the movement at RefuseFascism.org and support:
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
Refuse Fascism Episode 149
Sun, Mar 19, 2023 2:59PM • 51:15
Paul Street 00:00
It’s a racist, sexist, patriarchal, oppressive, violent movement that wants to get rid of even bourgeois democracy and even bourgeois rule of law.
Coco Das 00:07
It is a complete transformation in the way society is governed in the direction of a blatant dictatorship.
Paul Street 00:14
And if you think it’s all going to implode, you’re just living in a dream world. They have one of the two major viable capitalist parties. They have the Electoral College. They have states rights. They have the fraternal orders of police. They have much of the judicial branch including the Supreme Court.
Coco Das 00:27
The Fascists are not stopping in the red states. They want the whole country.
Paul Street 00:32
We can build movement in the streets and the public squares, not just in the ballot box.
Coco Das 00:36
Our power is our collective action in the streets, and our collective resistance.
Sam Goldman 01:02
Welcome to Episode 149 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes, analyzes, and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States. All right, everybody, we talked about it and now it’s here, our first episode dedicated to your questions. Historian Paul Street and contributing editor for RefuseFascism.org, Coco Das speak to what’s on listeners minds, such as: What’s with this yearning for lost empire? Do liberals understand fascism? Are we waiting for the fascists to implode? Where’s the outrage? and much more.
Sam Goldman 01:52
But first, thanks to everyone who goes the extra step and rates and reviews the show on Apple podcast or wherever you listen. If you appreciate the show and want to help us reach more people who want to refuse that fascism, be a gem and go write a review and drop those five stars wherever you listen to your pods. I really can’t overemphasize what a difference this makes. Please tell the people out there in podcast land why you listen, and they should too, subscribe/follow so you never miss an episode, and of course, keep up all that great commenting/sharing on social media. Oh yeah, and shout out to our new patrons.
Our goal is 50 patrons — sustainers — by our 150th episode. Guess what? It’s next Sunday. You can become a patron of the show; for as little as $2 a month you can support the work of this show and join the community refusing fascism in the name of humanity. Sign up over at Patreon.com/RefuseFascism. Thanks in advance.
Sam Goldman 03:01
Before we get into it, we have to talk about the increasingly possible indictment of Trump on charges related to a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels in 2016. First off, we have to say this would be completely unprecedented. Wow, right. No one, no one, that was president was ever indicted? Yeah, really. Wow. Also, let’s be real, nothing is decided yet, and as much as we all want to see this orange Mussolini locked up, we gotta confront some stuff. One, if this goes forward, the legal case could go any number of ways, which are worth talking about, but none of them will be confronting the problem that Trump and everything he represents — it’s more than just Trump — poses to humanity; the threat of fascism consolidating, nuclear primed power.
Elie Mystal cut to the heart of it, writing for The Nation: “Many of those eager to see Trump face any form of accountability rightly believe the state level prosecutions are closer to indicting him than anything happening at the federal level, but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly close to bringing Trump to justice.” One thing we can know, based on years of experience, is that the fascists will tirelessly work every development to their favor, and the great majority of the media will enable that every step of the way. And this won’t just be a spectacle. Trump’s call for protests are blatant calls for violence and his followers know this.
Whether it results in violence or not, this shit needs to be taken seriously. As leading Republican — and yes, that is what she is — Marjorie Taylor Greene made abundantly clear, there will be retribution for those who don’t stand and fight for Trump in this moment. Trump’s open withering criticism of his former Attorney General Bill Barr make clear what he expects from any future Justice Department under his leadership: ruthless political prosecutions. And the GOP House leadership is already pursuing investigations into their targets, whether Trump or some other fascist is holding the reins.
On one side, we have a seemingly tenuous indictment on a single financial crime that happened before Trump was president. And on the other, we have fascism — real life, straight up fascism. We use that word because that’s what it is, and we have to fight it on that basis. Trump’s calling for fascist violence. He did so — calling for protests on the day that he announced that he believes he will be arrested, or that he wants his followers to believe he’ll be arrested, on Tuesday — in a super, barely coded, anti-semitic message where he called on people to protest and take the country back.
Trump is a fascist and MAGA a fascist movement. Fascism doesn’t pack up and go home because of hush money charges. This is no time for complacency. To quote the final lines of Bradley Ohnishi’s “Preparing for War, “January 6th was not the end of a movement. This was not the last stand of a dying faction. It was the first violent battle in what they foresee as a coming civil war.” Oh, yeah, did we mention that Trump’s campaign rally on March 25th is in Waco, Texas? Yeah, Waco, victimhood, savior, avenger, and guns, guns guns. Stay tuned for more from Refuse Fascism on a possible indictment. Make sure to follow us on social media at Refuse Fascism for the latest.
We continue to pay close attention to the case that could effectively ban abortion medication mifepristone nationwide. Last week, there was a hearing in the case that could up-end this access — again, access nationwide. No matter how the judge rules, the very existence of this illegitimate lawsuit is further evidence that the Christian fascists, who are driving the assault on abortion rights, are not stopping. They will continue to attack and restrict abortion and birth control again and again until they win it all or are decisively defeated through mass political resistance and struggle. During the hearing, the judge gave credence to claims that mifepristone is unsafe and asked plaintiffs for guidance on whether/how his court could order the FDA to withdrawal approval. This, we gotta be clear, is total b.s.
Mifepristone is 96% effective in terminating pregnancies and 99.9% of people who take mif[epristone] experience no adverse effects. This Christian fascist judge thought to hide this hearing from the public to prevent protests. He only allowed this oddly specific 19 members of the media and 19 members of the public into the courtroom, and only allowed it to be live-streamed to a courthouse in Dallas. The hearing is over and the judge said he will have a decision as soon as possible. So we can’t overemphasize folks staying vigilant. This case is not only unprecedented, but completely illegitimate in its entirety.
For fuller analysis on this, be sure to check out our social media, where we’ll share the emergency webinar I hosted earlier today for RiseUp4AbortionRights.org on this topic, and check out Paul’s substack where he talks about the coming ruling and the need to abandon liberal surrender and complicity — see link in the show notes. They are counting on our silence. They are counting on our conciliation. Don’t give it to them. See link in shownotes for day of/day after protests. Not waiting for the decision, Wyoming has become the first state to specifically ban medication abortion. It’s a de facto total abortion ban for the state, and a harbinger of what’s to come unless we rise up.
As we mark 20 years since “shock and awe” in Iraq, we want to remind listeners that if we are to confront the fascist threat looming large today, it’s imperative to deepen our understanding of how Bush’s crusader doctrine of endless war on the world, with torture and assassination out in the open, along with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the exponential ramping up of the militarization of the police, of surveillance, unleashing a tsunami of American chauvinism, coupled with anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Asian hate helped us get here. It’s important to come to grips with the reality that Obama — with Joe Biden as his vice-president — not only refused to prosecute those crimes against humanity, not only normalized them, but expanded many key tenets of that doctrine, and in key ways opened the door for the fascists to walk right on through.
We need to cut through the American chauvinism, this amnesia that permeates society that so insidiously without question or apology, leaves absent from our collective memory, the screams of hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq — much more if you include the indirect toll of war. The millions made refugees as whole villages were erased, millions injured, maimed, the orphaned children, the crushed lives of widows, and the terrors that range across over seven countries over the course of 20 years of the “war on terror”, and the domestic terror felt by Muslims are those that “looked Muslim”.
Thanks to David, Scott, Lisa, Aaron, Connor, John, Stephanie, Scott G, and the many others who sent in their questions that we’re going to speak to. If we did not get to it here, we will likely get to it in another episode. Here are your questions, answered by Paul and Coco.
So today, we are doing something a little bit different. As we have told you repeatedly on the show that a Q&A episode was coming. Here it is. We are speaking today to burning questions listeners of the show had sent our way. This is our first episode dedicated to listener questions, and I want to start off by giving a hearty thank you to everyone who sent such thoughtful questions and being part of this community to refuse fascism in the name of humanity. To get into all these questions that y’all sent our way. I
am so glad to welcome back to the show our friends, Coco Das and Paul Street. Coco is a contributing editor for RefuseFascism.org and frequent guest and guest host of the show. Paul is a member of the Refuse Fascism editorial board. He’s a frequent guest of this show. He’s a historian whose latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America. Welcome, Coco. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Street 12:24
Coco Das 12:25
Good to be here.
Sam Goldman 12:27
So I just wanted to start off by saying: Is there anything that’s on your mind? Any questions that are keeping you up at night that you want to put into the listeners heads before we give you our listener questions?
Coco Das 12:44
Well, you know, we’re bracing here for the possible banning of mifepristone, taking it off the market. This fascist Trump appointed judge heard the arguments yesterday. We are planning our emergency protests, which should be ongoing. Everybody should be just out in the streets enraged over this. That’s definitely on my mind weighing heavily right now.
Paul Street 13:11
Same here and I was gonna mention the same thing, the Kacsmaryk decision, it’s in all likelihood almost certain to be a very bad decision on mifepristone, and that really lays bare something that a lot of us anti- fascists and abortion rights activists have been saying forever, that the Christian right wants the whole country. It’s not enough, red state, blue state, we can’t hide, the war on women nationwide, and this really makes that clear. It’s a big wakeup call to the women’s rights movement. It’s time to get serious and take to the streets in the public squares, Latin American style, and this year to also say Iranian style.
Sam Goldman 13:43
I’m in this same boat, in the same rocky water. I think that listening to what we could get from the hearing yesterday, I was sitting with the fact that this is another part of the awful, awful via Trump — you know that Trump’s dead and is still at work. This was a Trump appointed judge who’s now laying a blueprint for much more of the Republi-fascist judiciary, to follow about doing things in the dark, refusing to let the public access, press access. This is really, really ominous. I just wanted to touch on that briefly.
Let’s get into these questions. These questions, just for everybody to know, came to us through an Instagram Live that Coco and I did, email, Twitter, YouTube. You sent them all the ways and we appreciate it. This one came in during the Instagram Live. It was a question that I think I want to put to Paul first. The question was: Do you think liberals even properly understand what fascism is? And wait, what is fascism and what is it not?
Paul Street 14:57
Some have an inkling — some do, some don’t. I was revealing a book — I’m going to reveal both next week by a big mainstream liberal journalist, last name Draper is his first name, and it’s called Weapons of Mass Delusion or something like that, how the Republican Party lost its mind. The premise is that they’re just crazy. If there’s no content of their worldview, they’re just… and if you get inside the book, it makes a few references to authoritarianism, it’s a few references to racism, it says populism a few times. But it’s really describing fascism, and it can’t say that, and it’s very common.
When people do say fascism in the liberal community, they often just vaguely mean it, and maybe it’s racism, maybe it’s sexism, maybe it’s trans bashing, which in and of itself is not inaccurate, but they don’t tend to have a cohesive, integrated sense of the concept. It just seems always to have — fascism does — an aspect of, to use an intimidating word — it’s really not that intimidating — palingenetic nationalism. Palingenetic is just a fancy word for restoring to greatness something that was lost. Just seems across the board. You know, make Hungary great again, make America great again, make Italy great again. It’s always there. There’s this sense of lost national — sometimes imperial — greatness that’s been undone and stabbed in the back by liberal elites. There’s always an othering of typically racial minorities, religious minorities, gender minorities, and so forth.
There’s a deep attachment to traditional social hierarchies. There’s a huge emphasis on strength and social Darwinism and the survival of the fittest. There’s a big legitimization of political violence. And there is a kind of pretend populism where you tend to be against the rich, but you’re really not. You’re really on board with the social Darwinian supremacy of the rich. Fascism is sort of capitalism without normal elections and normal rule of law anymore. It’s sort of capitalism with a boot on the neck of the masses. In the end, the abrogation of previously normative bourgeois democracy, rule of law and elections, such as they are under capitalism, they’re ready to dispense even with the more superficial democratic accoutrements of modern capitalist society and really just go flat out with authoritarian rule, typically under a maximal, almost always male leader, and it speaks always in the name of the rule of the law and advances lawlessness, as in canceling an election.
January 6 was pure, unadulterated putschist fascism, and it’s what Refuse Fascism said all along. It was one of those rare moments where you did hear the bubbling up of the word and said somewhat accurately — then it’s gone away again. Now we’re sort of back to calling it populism or calling them conservatives or just authoritarians. Some liberal elites have used the word in a somewhat accurate, sophisticated way. Adam Gopnik wrote a great piece in The New Yorker early on, which in many ways is kind of a dead on description of key aspects of fascism. Mehdi Hassan on MSNBC says fascism alignment seems to get what it is.
Believe it or not, Barack Obama said to Tim Kaine before the 2016 election: You guys better get your shit together, Hillary and Tim; we got to keep a fascist out of the White House. I think sometimes liberals privately noted as fascist that it’s a racist, sexist, patriarchal, oppressive, violent movement that wants to get rid of even bourgeois democracy, and even bourgeois rule of law, but Obama would never say that publicly. He never said it publicly. So there’s a kind of getting it, but not admitting it. Because that means people really have to get up off their ass and do something about it and fight it. And oftentimes they don’t want to.
Sam Goldman 18:33
Coco, what are your thoughts, especially on this. What is fascism, and why is it not?
Coco Das 18:38
I think most liberals don’t. It’s not entirely their fault. As Paul was saying, the pundits and the liberal media will not use that word. People like Obama who know better, who knew what Trump was representing, will only say it privately. I think the main thing that they don’t get is how transformative it is of all of society. It is a complete transformation in the way society is governed in the direction of a blatant dictatorship, with very strong genocidal trajectories. People associate fascism only with Italy and Germany, and not the fascist movements all over the world right now, including in the US.
There are many resources like this podcast, the Refuse Fascism website, and some scholars like Jason Stanley and Federico Finchelstein, people that you’ve interviewed. Overall, you’re not going to hear this word used on the news on CNN or MSNBC. I think people understand something’s wrong, but the means for people that really grasp what is happening, and why it’s happening, what it has to do with the system that we live under, where it could go, how do you stop it? Especially how do you stop it. There’s nothing that is really going to come close to helping people grasp it in its entirety and their role in winning a different future.
Sam Goldman 18:38
I think that part of it, too, is that fascism isn’t just like the baddest insult that you can sling or the words you use to describe everything you hate that it we’re talking about a different form of rule. Even as in the current form of rule, there is a lack of rights, all of this, there are a certain amount of rights that people do have. What we’re talking about is once consolidated a form of rule by brute force, there is no democratic civil rights. If you look out at what is happening at state houses across the country, you see that advancing very clearly. In some ways, they’re really just like tying bows on it like in Texas or in Florida, where you have it pretty consolidated.
One listener on our live had posed a question that I thought was very provocative, which was: Could this situation persist for a considerable period where some states go full fascist, while others maintain bourgeois democratic norms? I was wondering what your thoughts are on that?
Coco Das 21:18
I think that’s a really good question. It does seem somewhat conceivable, living here in Texas, where things just keep getting worse and worse. We are still living within one country. I don’t think that would remain the situation indefinitely, because the Fascists are not stomping in the red states. That’s not what they want. They want the whole country. That’s what this mifepristone court case is about. That’s why they wanted Trump to appoint a record number of federal judges and remake the Supreme Court. They want the whole country. Long term, I don’t think that we’re going to have a situation where we have bourgeois democratic rule in the blue states and fascist rule in the red states.
I think what we’re looking at, increasingly, is two countries within one, which many people have commented on and talked about, and is just quickly becoming cemented in reality. This is going to have to be resolved in one way or another, which Bob Avakian talks about, that all of this is going to be resolved either in a radically reactionary and truly horrific way or in an emancipatory way. It’s not going to remain unresolved, and even if that were the case, I don’t think that’s what we want. We don’t want to subject 22 million women in the red states to fascist laws about abortion. So I guess that’s my answer to that.
Paul Street 21:23
Let me just backtrack a little bit to the previous question, but it relates to this question too. That author I was talking about, Draper, who’s going on and on about how the Republicans have lost their mind — it’s a 300 page book, and it’s almost completely focused on the hijinks at the national level. You had a historian on named Thomas Zimmer a while back, and he talked about the House of Representatives wrecking crew and all the chaos that they’re carrying out. Draper’s book is all about Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar and the rest of these congressional lunatics. In that interview Zimmer points out, they might look like they lost their mind at the national level, but at the state level they are dedicated.
They have found their minds. They have a cohesive fascist agenda underway. They’re outlawing the accurate teaching of history, they’re attacking voting rights, they’re attacking environmental regulation, they’re attacking, obviously, women’s rights, and advancing the Christian fascist agenda on that. One follow up on the liberals and fascism that I find often a lot of confusion is they do not understand fascism is a subset — and I would even argue as an outcome, a destination — of capitalism. They have all these different isms; so you have the capitalism over here, which is associated democracy and socialism over here and fascism over here. We don’t have time to go into why I think fascism is the destination of capitalism, though I will say the capitalism tends to undermine and discredit and delegitimize the authenticity of democracy at the same time that it creates crises for everybody that require big government intervention.
Can it continue this kind of red state, blue State divide? That’s a really interesting question. You know, there is now a growing literature — I haven’t read it yet — on secession: the country breaking up. I saw a review somewhere recently, and there are four or five books that are talking about the country breaking up. I have never in my lifetime seen the division between states quite this extreme. I’m old enough to remember the Jim Crow South, believe it or not. I remember my folks taking me down to New Orleans and Mississippi before Jim Crow was overthrown down there.
But it was just the South, and now really, you’ve got a blue-red divide that reaches up into the state I’m talking to you from right now, Iowa. Also, the Dakotas and Wisconsin and Michigan go back and forth — it’s really, really intense. I doubt that it can go on for that long. Fascists want the whole country and they think they can get it, and maybe without a mass movement of opposition, they can get it, because of the very right-tilted killing confine — to use a phrase from a Avakian — of bourgeois democracy American style. They have the electoral college that is biased towards the rightmost, rural, revanchist states. They have widespread gerrymandering. We have now the lifetime appointed far right Supreme Court, which stands well to the right of the population. We have voter suppression all over the country, and particularly in red states.
I think they meant the whole thing, and if we don’t get serious about the fascist medicine, the fascist threat — and we’re seeing that right now with the ban of mifepristone — and if anyone tells you that the second abortion drug will be the solution, you got to be kidding me — you don’t think the fascists are gonna go after that one, too? They want the whole ball of wax, so I do think it’s going to have to be confronted nationally, whether we like it or not. They want the whole ball of wax. Can we hang on like this for a while? I suppose we could, but ultimately the destination is some sort of coming to terms with all of this or just descending into fascist nationhood. Yeah, we’ll have the cities and all that, and they’ll rise up against the Electoral College coups, and then the fascist fraternal orders of police in big cities will crush everybody who led them.
Sam Goldman 22:49
I wanted to move into some questions that listeners of this show have posed regarding what factors helped propel or advance this fascism. I wanted to start with — you alluded to it, Paul, I believe earlier in the mythology, or the myth-making in fascism. A listener was asking for people to expand on how the yearning for Lost Empire and fake stories about the historical role of the nation state help prime people for fascism.
Coco Das 27:11
Make America Great Again is just the basic slogan for this yearning for the lost period of greatness. It’s completely tied up with the aims of the fascist movement, which, in the U.S., is harkening back to the days before the civil rights movement, before all these people who were supposed to know their place, rose up and won concessions under the system. I also think fascism is a response to real contradictions. It’s a response to real problems that are emerging that the system doesn’t have any answer for, and creating this myth that, at one time, these problems did not exist. When you’re talking about Make America Great Again, the way that they’re framing the problem is that the diversity in this country or the divisions between people, that those did not exist before the Civil Rights Movement. It requires the whitewashing and erasing of history.
You have to erase the history of slavery. You have to erase the history of genocide. So it’s all of a piece. The myth-making helps them to transform the society, reinstating traditional oppressive values, often religious values. When you have a society that has changed a lot, the violence that it’s going to take to go back, the myth-making getting people to rally behind this myth of greatness is what you get a lot of these fascist stormtroopers energized. So, it’s all required as a way of wrenching this terrible future that they want into being and the myth-making is one of the less violent ways of doing it even though there’s violence in the lies that they’re telling. It’s part of their propaganda campaign.
Paul Street 29:12
Again, real quickly, this notion of this one time national greatness is intimately related to the notion of this insidious, liberal globalist — not properly nationalist, leftist, and of course liberal and left are always conflated with each other by fascists — that stabbed the once great empire or the one great nation in the back and made it weak. In the American case, by opening the door to allegedly inferior and lazy and dissolute and criminal, non-white masses, and now we’re just crumbling in our feckless nothingness because of what’s been done to us by this horrific elite over we can be great again — meaning we can be white again and patriarchal again.
Coco Das 29:58
One more thing from the history of fascism, one of the things that they want to overturn is bourgeois democratic norms. The myth-making is about the more feudal aspects of society, those more religious or traditional aspects of society. It’s a strange thing that fascism is something that rises out of capitalism, but there’s this part of it that’s actually yearning for these feudal values, which you see a lot in these religious fascist movements like in India, the Hindu fascist movement or some of the Islamic fascist movements, but also in the Christian fascism in this country and in the European fascist movements.
Sam Goldman 30:45
Thank you both. I really think it’s clarifying and helpful, both looking at the historical example, and also looking at what it means here and what it means now. I wanted to pose this question that came up in the IG live: Are we waiting for the fascists to implode? Not “we” — those of us talking together right now — but is there a larger sense where people are waiting for the fascists to devour themselves?
Coco Das 31:14
I think that’s definitely the message that is being put out to people, that they’re going to implode, they’re done. I saw a comment yesterday that just infuriated me, where the mifepristone case, somebody’s saying: Bring it! GOP 2024 is coming. First of all, how many times are we gonna say they’re imploding, they’re done, and they launch the next attack, and they win?
Sam Goldman 31:42
Worst zombie movie ever. [PS: laughs]
Coco Das 31:45
Yeah. I think this is a prevailing myth, the delusion that they’re going to implode. On the one hand, yes, it may be that one day they’re going to implode. I mean, Trump wasn’t able to win the 2020 election. There are some reasons behind that. But how many people are you going to sacrifice waiting for that? The thing that people have to grasp about fascism is there does come a point when it is too late to stop it without the stakes becoming much, much greater. In the 30s there was World War II. At this point in history, it could be the end of humanity. Are you willing to wait for that? It is not likely that they would implode without a mass movement to really create crisis after crisis for them. It’s not likely that they will implode before consolidating.
If you look at most fascist movements, unless there’s massive resistance, they consolidate. Then things may happen. They can be defeated that way. It’s not something that happens just on its own. It happens through what the decent people do. And part of the lesson from Germany is that the decent people did not act in the window of time where they could have actually prevented millions and millions and millions of people from dying. Yes, this is the prevailing thought that they’re going to implode. We’ve got to cut it out. Everybody who knows better has to challenge people and say No. If that’s what you’re waiting for, you are being those good Germans that did not speak up and did not act when it was time to act. We have to act now. We have to act massively to resist and stop the trajectory. It’s not going to stop itself.
Sam Goldman 33:38
Thanks for that Coco, I couldn’t agree more. I wanted to move the conversation towards action. The idea — the whole concept behind our show together — isn’t to just put it out into the ether, and just some magic happens or something. It’s that we’re changing the trajectory through our actions together. That wrangling over the obstacles in people’s thinking and trying to understand together what we face has everything to do with how we together work to fight to change the future that we all face.
There were two questions from Texas and Florida and I thought we would speak to those listeners’ questions because I think they’re really important. One is: Where the hell is the outrage? Where’s the protest? Where’s the protest? Where’s the pushback? Where’s the civil disobedience? Where’s the law? Where is Merrick Garland? How is Ron DeSantis able to get away with illegal book bans in Florida?
Paul Street 34:41
Where’s the outrage? Too much of it is getting channeled into a kind of stay-in-our-lane electoral politics and identitarianism which is very much focused down to the level of the individual. We really have to step up, people out here, us good Germans, good Americans, who think we can just — as Avakian says: Just stay in your lane — well, the whole goddamn world is gonna blow up if we all stay in their lane. They’re blowing up all the lanes.
The first thing is to get out of this denial. If you think it’s all going to implode, you’re just living in a dream world. They have one of the two major viable capitalist parties. They have the Electoral College. They have states rights. They have the fraternal orders of police. They have much of the judicial branch including the Supreme Court. First thing is to just get really serious about it. I think Refuse Fascism is a very good place to do that. Talk to people about what’s going on. Take risks. We need educators to defy things like the insane Critical Race Theory laws around the country. We need some doctors to defy the insane anti-abortion laws that are going out there. We need people to step up with individuals struggling.
I’ve been hearing forever that Trump is done. I’ve just sort of given up on hearing that. Where is Merrick Garland? Merrick Garland has a conundrum. There is a gentleman’s agreement in the American ruling class at the level of the presidency and it goes back forever: You don’t prosecute former presidents. Why? Because to be the chief executive of the American imperial system, is to be someone who’s going to have to commit, at some point, epic war crime. It just goes with the turf, and it’s understood. The problem is that they’re in an unprecedented situation.
Now they have an ex-president who, not only did the usual kinds of crimes, which are typically overseas, but literally tried to overthrow previously normative bourgeois democracy and constitutional rule of law in his own country. I’m rather skeptical about whether Garland has the guts and the wherewithal to do that. He seems to have kicked the prosecutions of Trump over to the special prosecutor Jack Smith. We’ll see what happens with them. I think they’re waiting to see what happens with Trump in a New York case, and also, more importantly, in the Georgia case, where they really seem to have the goods on Trump, and we’ll go from there, who knows. This is uncharted territory. As a historian, one of the nice values of studying history, I will say, is sometimes not just seeing how stuff is old, but when something is new and unprecedented. This has never really happened quite to this extent in American history.
DeSantis, he can get away with a whole bunch of shit because he’s in Florida and the demographics of Florida and the racist voter disenfranchisement in Florida and the gerrymandering in Florida. He acts less crazy than Trump, and he’s actually perhaps unarguably more dangerous fascist than Trump. And it’s interesting to speculate that we might see, if Trump is sufficiently damaged by prosecutions — I’m not ruling out that he could be, that he is in fact displaced or marginalized, at the top of the GOP — then we have DeSantis, who might be worse. He has been able to be at the state level, building a fascist resume down there, turning his state into a fascist laboratory. It sounds like I may have gone far afield from the question, but there we go.
Sam Goldman 38:00
No, I appreciate it all, and I’m sure those listening do too. I will say I have no interest in who wore it worse. They’re both fascists. They both wear their fascism. Both are extremely dangerous, and what’s dangerous is the fascism. I want to get Coco’s thoughts on, in particular, really, the question is, the listener is asking: Where’s the outrage? Where’s the protest? Things should get shut down in the way that you would would imagine when such fundamental rights are being taken away.
Coco Das 38:33
One thing I’ve been thinking about is how the illegitimacy of these fascists in what they do has never really taken hold. People still see some legitimacy in it. This is something that is actually a feature of fascism. It arises through the democratic norms. It arises through the normal electoral channels for the most part. Fascism is not the same as like a military coup, where immediately it’s very obvious that this is illegitimate. Not that it makes it any better, but with fascism, it seems legitimate because this person got elected. He got elected through the way our system works. And these judges are appointed through the system.
One, they think that for that reason, it’s legitimate — it’s not. When Roe was overturned, Rise Up was out there in front of the Supreme Court saying this decision illegitimate. People have to understand that enslaving half the population is not legitimate, throwing urban voters — or the widespread voter suppression, taking away the right to vote from millions of people — that is not legitimate, and it requires an outsized and commensurate response. [PS: Sure it does.] We just have not broken through enough on that. There were glimpses of it with the 2020 uprising after the murder of George Floyd. There were some glimpses of it in the protests leading up and following the overturning of Roe.
But for the most part, people have not let go of hanging on to that this system is going to correct itself somehow. And that normal ways that the pendulum swings back or that all of that is going to resolve this. I really think that’s one huge reason. It’s not that the outrage isn’t there. I know it’s there. I’m here in Texas. I know it’s there. But it is so suppressed; it is so channeled into this system is going to work. People tell themselves it works, it works over and over again, even though it has not worked in Texas. You have not been able to unseat the GOP for 20 years. This is not legitimate, and it’s not normal. And we have to stop acting like it’s legitimate and normal.
Paul Street 40:56
It does seem rather extraordinary that we were still kind of stuck in it can’t happen here, even after January 6th, which was a coordinated, top down fascist coup attempt, and yet even now.
Sam Goldman 41:12
That’s a perfect example. Because people look at that and they say it fails. And they say, as awful as it was, the guard rails held. They look at it and instead of it being, how close it got, how dangerously close it got, how by our teeth, we avoided it, they look and say the system held.
Paul Street 41:35
And meanwhile, the Supreme Court has heard a case and will rule on it this year that may allow red state legislatures to invalidate the popular vote in their own states if the presidential vote goes the Democratic Party way.
Sam Goldman 41:47
I wanted to close with one question from Florida: As individuals, what are some of the effective actions we can take to educate, inform, and change the fascist regime we are facing?
Coco Das 42:02
Well, one thing is spread this podcast and then this understanding that it’s fascism to everybody, and join with protests. I love the episode about the walkouts in Florida, and we have to resist and join up with that kind of resistance, but also challenge and spread this understanding that this is actually trying to remake all of society in a direction where the rule of white straight Christian men in this very patriarchal, oppressive, white supremacist, society becomes unchallenged. That’s what they’re going for. It’s not gonna be stopped by voting alone. It’s not gonna be stopped through relying on the courts or the legislatures.
Our power is our collective action in the streets and our collective resistance. En masse, doctors should refuse to follow these laws. It’s not without risk. Of course, we know that. This is something that happens in Texas, I’ve noticed that every time a new law gets passed or a new outrage comes down, everybody starts thinking about how can they comply. That’s the framework, that we’re going to comply so that we can minimize the risk to the providers or to the abortion funds or whatever. It’s all about compliance as laws get more and more draconian. If compliance is your default, not resistance, how are we gonna win? Join in, look for how people are resisting, resist yourself, and really spread the truth about what this is and what’s at stake and how we stop it.
Sam Goldman 43:54
Today, Whole Women’s Health put out that no matter what the judge says, whole Women’s Health is still gonna offer medication abortion care with Mifepristone until there’s action from the FDA. And that’s a good sign. That is very different than what we’ve seen from the Walgreens of the world that comply in advance. I want to restate the question again for Paul: As individuals, what are some of the effective actions we can take to educate, inform and change the fascist arc?
Paul Street 44:27
Well, as individuals, we have to reach out to other individuals and organize collectively. There’s only so much we can do as individuals. Some individuals are in more powerful and influential positions than others, and I think it’s really overdue for intellectuals — I think of academics — to step up and start educating the kids, their students, about what the hell’s going on in this country and really what’s at stake here. As much as I hate fascism, I have for years in my writing said that environmental catastrophe — ecocide and particularly climate change — is the biggest issue of our or any time in history.
But there’s no real dichotomy there, because I’ll tell you right now, environmentalists won’t have a chance of redirecting our underlying economic system in sustainable harmony with the environment under fascism; there wouldn’t even be a shot. I think in many ways, fascism, consolidated, will be an environmental death knell to the human species, particularly in really big carbon emitting countries like the United States and Brazil, and elsewhere. I have an acquaintance who lives not too far from me, who is an urban studies professor at the University of Iowa and I asked her out of curiosity after the draconian neofascist, Christian, white nationalist, Critical Race Theory law was passed in this state, what are you guys going to do about that? It’s ridiculous [chuckles], it’s preposterous.
How are you supposed to teach with the reality of racism and genocide and racial oppression up to the present made formally illegal? She said to me: I’m just going to try and stay under the radar screen and find other less provocative types of words to use. And I just thought to myself, that’s not gonna work. You’ve got to challenge this. You’ve got to step up. It is time for people in influential positions to step up and get serious about what we’re looking at.
Sam Goldman 45:13
Well, I want to thank you both for coming on, and getting into the questions. And of course, thanks to all the listeners, who sent in their questions. Keep it coming. We hope to do more of this in the future. I wanted to give Coco, Paul a chance if you had any final words, things that you wanted to add. Have at it.
Coco Das 46:43
Thanks for doing this. Sam. It was good to get questions. Thank you for everybody who sent in questions. I just want to say that on the day that the decision from this judge on mifepristone comes down, which is likely to be negative, we’re doing a protest at the capitol in Austin, the Texas State Capitol, at 5pm, same day as the decision, and I’m sure Rise Up for Abortion Rights has other protests planned, so get out there. Do not sit this one out.
Paul Street 47:17
Yeah, I want to second that. I will say almost certain to be a negative decision. If you look at the history of this judge Kacsmaryk, he’s a Christian fascist. He was once an attorney for a Christian fascist, woman hating anti-abortion organization. There are things that can be demanded of Joe Biden that do not require getting out votes. This is not about an election. That can be demanded of him right away. Right now, we need to demand that Biden and the FDA, which is part of the executive branch, they should ignore this freaking order out of this hand picked, Christian fascist judge, who’s one of 690 plus federal district judges in the United States of America. He’s at the lowest level of the federal court system.
It does not need to be legally binding on the whole country, and it shouldn’t be. At the very least they can ignore it, and force the women-hating fascists to take this thing all the way up to the Supreme Court over years, during which time we can build movement to defend women in the streets and the public squares, not just in the ballot box, but where stuff really happens, and as any good anti-fascist would do, because Fascism is among other things a woman hating patriarchal, militantly sexist worldview.
Sam Goldman 48:32
Thanks for listening to Refuse Fascism. We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics or guests or lend a skill. Right now we are particularly looking for researchers and those interested in editing transcripts. Tweet me @SamBGoldman, or drop me a line at [email protected] Hit us up on Mastodon, the link in the show notes, or leave a voicemail by visiting Anchor.fm/Refuse-Fascism and hitting that message button.
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Thanks in advance for your support. And thanks to Richie Marini and Lina Thorne and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Of course, thanks to Coco and Paul for all their work as well. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox. We’ll be back next Sunday with an interview with Jeff Sharlet on his new book that is coming out next week, March 21, The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, so you’re not gonna want to miss it — be sure to tune in. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.