Rise of Yuppie Fascism, Part Two: Yuppie Fascism in Practice
by Jack Rabbit
fascism is the new form of right-wing tyranny. Last
week, we examined the origins and theory of yuppie fascism.
This week, we shall examine yuppie fascism in practice.
Let us first re-examine some of the highlights of last week.
We examined the phenomenon of yuppie fascism, also called
post-fascism, largely through the work of Hungarian intellectual
and politician G. M. Tamas, whose article "On Post-Fascism",
which appeared in the Summer 2000 edition of the Boston Review,
is recommended. According to Tamas, the main feature of fascism,
whether classical fascism or yuppie fascism, is a hostility
to universal citizenship resulting in actions that constitute
a reversal of the Enlightenment tendency to conceptualize
citizenship as a necessary part of the human condition. Furthermore,
the phenomenon of yuppie fascism adapts this classical fascist
feature to a world where the power of the nation-state is
Last week, we also defined classical fascism by listing some
points from an encyclopedia article co-authored by Il Duce,
Benito Mussolini, himself. We gave those points in the order
Mussolini presented them. Let us now reexamine them in a slightly
different order, rearranged in order of the importance of
the difference between classical fascism and yuppie fascism.
First, Mussolini said in fascism the state is absolute. However,
in recent history, the state has declined in power and the
power of the multinational corporation has risen. Thus, in
yuppie fascism, the power of the corporation is absolute and
all other individuals and institutions, including the state,
are conceived only in how they stand in relation to the corporation.
Second, Mussolini's absolute state is expansive. However,
under yuppie fascism, the state is a tool of the corporation
and uses its power not so much to seize and occupy territory
but to negotiate trade agreements that open foreign markets
to the corporation in such a way as to set aside any barriers
to corporate investment in the foreign market with the aim
of corporate dominance of the market. The state's military
force is used only if there is no other way to open the market
or to protect the corporation's existing investments in the
foreign market. In short, the relationship of the corporate
state - in the new sense, where the emphasis is on corporate
rather than state - of the developed world to the developing
world is colonial.
Third, Mussolini's fascism renounced pacifism and embraced
war as that human endeavor that "puts the stamp of nobility
on the peoples with the courage to meet [its challenges]."
However, only corporations directly involved in preparation
for war benefit from war. Otherwise, open conflict is a hindrance
to commerce; for example, no oil pipeline from the Caspian
Sea to Karachi can be built as long as there are local hostilities
in Afghanistan. Consequently, war is replaced not by peace
but by a state that might be called one of security, in which
tensions that arise from the imposition of corporate power
over the powerless are suppressed; brute military strength
is used to suppress the tensions - labor strife and peasant
uprisings - only if necessary.
Fourth, classical fascism rejected egalitarian ideologies
like socialism and democracy in favor of "the immutable, beneficial
and fruitful inequality of mankind" which cannot be altered
by "a mechanical process such as universal suffrage." Yuppie
fascism also embraces inequality as beneficial to society
as a whole and therefore holds that the rich deserve their
opulence. Vast wealth is placed at the disposal of the members
of an economically elite class for their private pleasure
as a reward for their superior ability and foresight.
Finally, classical fascism rejected Marxist class struggle
as a vehicle of historical progress in favor of concepts of
individual "holiness" and "heroism", by which Mussolini meant
"actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect."
For Mussolini, the exponent of the absolute state that expanded
for its own sake, a heroic act was an act of valor in war.
In yuppie fascism, with the state in decline and war seen
as an inconvenient though occasionally necessary evil, the
hero is the entrepreneur.
This is especially true if he began in middle-class or even
lower-class surroundings, becoming the hero of a modern success
story written by a contemporary Horatio Alger. Collective
class struggle, in which individuals band together to better
the position of all, is thus replaced by the endeavor of the
individual to better himself and only himself, leaving the
members of the class from which to rose to be exploited by
him as the head of a new corporation.
Yuppie fascism exists in Europe and America. In Europe, it
is the successor of classical fascism. Yuppie fascism in Europe
is promoted by political leaders such as Jean-Marie LePen
in France, Jorg Haider in Austria and Gianfranco Fini in Italy.
Fini coined the term "post-fascist" to describe the new approach
of his party, the National Alliance, as opposed to its predecessor,
the Italian Socialist Movement (MSI), which was in turn the
successor of Mussolini's Fascist Party. Fini, who is the Deputy
Prime Minister in the coalition government led by Silvio Berlusconi,
is the most successful exponent of yuppie fascism among European
Some of the difference between classical fascism and yuppie
fascism is superficial and stylistic. It is the makeover of
the fascist MSI into the yuppie fascist National Alliance
that perhaps is the most emblematic moment in the transition
of fascist style in Europe. In America, that emblematic moment
came years earlier when Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David
Duke traded his white robes and hood for a business suit and
blow-dried hair. For Tamas, citizenship is restricted by European
yuppie fascists by the usual political denunciations of minority
groups such as homosexuals and AIDS sufferers; in this respect,
they are no different from the yuppie fascist politicians
in America who pander for support from the religious right.
European yuppie fascists have also made an issue of immigration.
Part of Jorg Haider's platform is the expulsion of foreign
workers from Austria.
The issue of immigration was a major one in America in the
1990's and was an important reason for the success of the
Republicans in the off-year elections of 1994. In California,
one of the most passionately contested ballot initiatives
was Proposition 187, promoted by its proponents as the "Save
Our State" initiative. Proposition 187 called for barring
illegal immigrants from public schools and other public services,
including all but emergency public health care; it required
state and local agencies, including doctors and school teachers,
to report suspected illegal immigrants to the state attorney
general and to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service;
for the attorney general to maintain records and report to
the INS; and to make a felony of the manufacture, distribution
or sale of false citizenship and residency documents. Proponents
of Proposition 187 asserted that illegal immigrants cross
the border into California from Mexico because they are attracted
to state social services and by denying them those services,
immigration would be stopped (see http://www.calvoter.org/archive/94general/props/187.html).
This argument was adopted by the then-governor of California,
Pete Wilson, who made support for the initiative a centerpiece
of his campaign. In his support for Proposition 187, Patrick
Buchanan added to these arguments those that Proposition 187
"are grounded in the warring ideas that we Americans hold
about the deepest, most divisive issues or our time: ethnicity,
nation, culture" (see http://www.buchanan.org/pa-194-1031.html).
Buchanan asked his readers: "Do we have the right to shape
the character of the country our grandchildren will live in?
Or is that to be decided by whoever, outside America, decides
to come here?"
The phrasing of Buchanan's question is quintessential yuppie
fascism. "We" are an exclusive group and "we" have the right
to say who can join our exclusive little club and under what
circumstances. Buchanan calls for a "time-out" on immigration,
"to assimilate the tens of millions who have lately arrived."
Buchanan believes that anyone can come here and "become a
good American." What is between the lines of Buchanan's article
is that by "good American" he means that the immigrants must
embrace Anglo-American culture, customs and values. It's as
though Buchanan is saying that anybody, regardless of race,
color or creed, can become a White Christian Capitalist. All
others should be excluded.
Opponents of Proposition 187 had a number of arguments against
the initiative. They argued, perhaps incorrectly, that beefing
up border patrols would better solve the problem (in reality,
in the face of increased border patrols, illegal immigrants
have only found new and more dangerous routes across the border).
Opponents also wanted to see law enforcement crack down on
employers who hire illegal immigrants, a feature absent from
the initiative. If those arguments didn't work, there was
always the argument that it would cost up to 150 times more
to enforce Proposition 187 than the state was losing by providing
social services to illegal immigrants. However, what opponents
of Proposition 187 couldn't hide was their horror and revulsion
at an initiative that was thinly-disguised racism.
Going into the campaign, Pete Wilson's job approval ratings
in California were extremely low. During the campaign, Californians
really didn't warm up to him. Nevertheless, by taking tough
stands on immigration and crime, Wilson easily won reelection.
It is hard to think of Pete Wilson as a racist on a personal
level. Indeed, Wilson would denounce in strong terms the crude
racist elements in the Republican Party - and actually named
such offenders as David Duke and Patrick Buchanan. However,
while Wilson was making such statements out of one side of
his mouth, he endorsed an initiative these yuppie fascists
could have written.
The success of Proposition 187 was so impressive that the
Republicans took it to a national level. The elections of
1994 brought the GOP into control of both houses of Congress
for the first time since the first two years of the Eisenhower
administration and made Newt Gingrich speaker of the house.
The House passed the Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility
Act of 1996. This act constitutes not merely a remedy for
illegal immigration, but had many consequences for legal immigrants
as well. Under section 303 of the act, an immigrant convicted
of a crime is to be detained by the INS upon his release;
under section 304, the detainee is entitled only to a single
deportation hearing; under section 306, judicial review of
the deportation process is denied (see http://www.takatalaw.con/us/iract96.html).
Cases exist where the detainee's country of origin has refused
to take back the alien. In such cases, detention is indefinite.
Many court cases are pending.
Even tougher immigration legislation was passed by Congress
in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Instead of being
convicted of a crime, a non-citizen need only be detained
and deportation proceedings started on the certification of
the attorney general that there are grounds to believe that
the alien is a threat in any way to national security (see
Again, the alien is detained until his country of origin agrees
to allow him to return. Since that might not happen in the
case of one labeled a terrorist, detention is potentially
Immigrants are by definition not citizens; it therefore seems
specious to argue that they are being denied the rights of
citizenship in the conventional sense. However, immigrants
from underdeveloped countries migrant to developed nations
in Europe and North America with or without proper documentation
or authority to seek a better life with higher-paying jobs
than they can find in their own country. The yuppie fascist
argument is that these people are undeserving of such opportunities.
Since the Republican takeover of Congress immigrants are
not the only targets of yuppie fascist legislation. A good
example is the so-called Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, colloquially called
welfare reform. Under this act, the old Aid to Families with
Dependent Children (AFDC) program was replaced by a new Temporary
Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. ADFC was a very
bad example of a welfare program and was for thirty years
an irresistible target for those who genuinely had the best
interests of the poor at heart. But yuppie fascists do not.
In many ways, AFDC was every bit as bad as its critics on
the Right said. It was an inflexible system that discouraged
work (earning income could result in having benefits reduced)
and tore families apart (a single parent might be able to
draw more benefits by remaining single).
However, TANF is really little more than AFDC with time limits
and work requirements. The yuppie fascist line is that the
poor are dependent on welfare and if they were threatened
with being cut off after a time, they will get off the dole
and better themselves. Often, supporters of welfare frame
their arguments in terms of the benefits of the new system
for the poor as compared to the old one. However, listening
to the arguments presented by supporters of welfare reform,
one may come to think that their real concern is reducing
caseload rather than fighting poverty. They almost never mention
that a great problem with the old AFDC system was its inflexibility.
Getting off welfare and going to work was often an all-or-nothing
proposition for the recipient. If the beneficiary was working,
then the beneficiary apparently did not need to draw AFDC.
Thus, getting a low-wage job with no fringe benefits like
health insurance leaves the AFDC recipient worse off than
before; a full-time worker earning minimum wage with no benefits
is earning only 60 percent of the poverty line.
In all this, the poor are never heard from or seen. It is
always those chosen to speak for them, which nowadays may
be not Martin Luther King but a research fellow from the right-wing
Heritage Foundation. The poor are thus deprived of their voice.
The war on drugs is yet one more way to deny the citizenship
and humanity of a targeted group. We needn't go into detail
about how the war on drugs has been a war on the poor, largely
responsible for the statistic that one in three young black
males is or has been under the control of the judicial system.
However, they are drug users or drug dealers, so we needn't
be concerned about them. There's no discussion about race
and poverty in the argument; it's simply a matter of crime
and punishment and denying that any inquiry should be made
into root causes.
Of course, this argument goes global as well. Corporations
want the government to open markets. Up to now, this has been
through trade agreements favorable to corporations in the
developed world. NAFTA and other trade agreements have exported
manufacturing jobs from the developed world to developing
nations. While the manufacturing jobs disappear in the developed
world, they are replaced by lower-paying service jobs. However,
these people are for the most part invisible to their middle-
and upper-income compatriots. We see little or nothing of
their suffering in the popular culture.
The workers in developing nations earn less money; the lack
of labor laws in such countries often means that they have
no right to strike and work longer hours. Occupational health
and safety laws are lax, if they exist at all. The lack of
environmental laws mean that money that the corporation should
spend on making sure that the by-products of the manufacturing
process not foul the local air and water instead goes into
profits. With the talk of a shrinking world, the interdependency
of various national economies and the global nature of the
world economy, there is no room to discuss the worker in developing
nations. He is denied his humanity for the benefit of the
corporation. He is invisible. He is not seen by people in
the developed world. To the corporation, the worker is the
source of labor, and labor is thought of as only a commodity.
The concept that this worker seeks a better life in the developed
world brings us full circle; in order to benefit the corporation,
the worker must remain a source in cheap labor; therefore,
the nations of the developed world prohibit his immigration.
The recent state of the union address may indicate a new
direction in US foreign policy. Mr. Bush's specious claims
of an "axis" of evil among three nations that are not associated
with each other and even at time hostile to each other, strongly
that the war on terrorism will expand. However, many observers
question what threat these countries currently pose to the
US. European allies are incredulous. This begs the question
whether the war on terrorism is expanding in order to combat
terrorism or to open markets to multinational corporations
based in the United States.
This invisibility of the low-wage earner in both the developed
and the developing world and the lack of a counter-argument
on Mr. Bush's foreign policy is accomplished by the fact that
the media is under the control of the same corporation that
benefits from the free trade in the global economy.
Thus, the same people who decide that capital shall cross
international boundaries but labor shall not also decide what
is news and have the power to limit debate. This total corporate
control of news content has been major part of the political
success of coalitions with yuppie fascist elements, such as
the Berlusconi government in Italy and the Bush administration
in the United States. For Berlusconi manipulation of the media
was particularly easy. Berlusconi is at once the leading media
magnate, Italy's wealthiest man and the Prime Minister. His
platform is toughness on crime, promises a crackdown on illegal
immigration (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article0,4273,4201739,00.html)
and he treats trade unions as enemies (see http://www.zmag.org/content/MainstreamMedia/italy0122.cfm).
What Berlusconi does not own privately, he now controls as
Prime Minister. As the owner of Italy's three largest private
television stations, Berlusconi had no trouble manipulating
the media in his favor (see http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0524-06.htm).
Berlusconi used his power to make certain that he would be
the most dominant figure on television during the parliamentary
election campaign in 2001. The problem of Berlusconi's dominance
was exacerbated by the fact that the state-run television
network in Italy, RAI, does not air political advertising.
Those other candidates who wished to be heard had to buy air
time from Berlusconi, thus furthering Berlusconi's personal
fortune in an attempt to prevent him from assuming political
Now that he is the head of the government, Berlusconi also
controls the RAI. Between Berlusconi's private station and
the RAI, 90 percent of Italian television viewers are tuned
in to programming controlled by Berlusconi. Berlusconi uses
his power to control the editorial content of Italian state-run
media. As soon has he assumed power, Berlusconi began purging
the RAI of left-wing journalists (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Aritcle0,4273,4190266,00.html).
Europeans find Berlusconi's dominance of television outrageous.
There is a tradition of state-run media in Europe. However,
the public expects the state-run media to have journalistic
independence from the government. By moving against left-wing
journalists, Berlusconi has betrayed that trust. In the United
States, there is no tradition of state-run media. However,
there had been a long tradition of journalistic independence.
Television networks allowed their news departments this independence,
in spite of the fact that the news divisions were often money-losers,
because they found that viewers watching a good newscast often
stayed tuned for the moneymaking prime-time programming afterwards.
Today, however, news programs are expected to make money.
Furthermore, they are under control of global interests that
would limit discussion.
Public discourse was dealt a serious blow in 1987 with the
death of the Fairness Doctrine. Under the Fairness Doctrine,
a broadcaster presenting an editorial view was obligated to
make time available for those who wished to present an opposing
point of view. The doctrine went by the wayside when a Reagan-era
FCC ruling killed it. Congress passed legislation to restore
it, which President Reagan vetoed; Congress was unable to
override the veto (see http://www.onlinejournal.com/Midia/Higdon080301/higdon080301.html).
Today, broadcasters do not need to present an opposing point
of view and usually don't. Opposing points of view on the
war in Afghanistan have not been heard. Anti-globalization
demonstrators are portrayed as crazy anarchists. Those at
the lower realm of the American economic strata are seldom
The result of this is a remarkable manipulation of public
opinion. In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Neal
Gabler points out that in spite of the fact that there has
been an increase in the maldistribution of income in America,
politicians have a difficult time using it as an issue (see
The news media does not cover issues involving wealth and
poverty, and as a result Americans do not think in terms of
class. Gabler admits, rightly, that there are other cultural
aversions to Americans thinking in terms of class warfare.
However, on the whole, says Gabler:
"[C]lass warfare has been steadily subverted over the past
20 years by defenders of the status quo: Republicans have
chiefly led the fight, but so have some Democrats, captains
of industry, journalists, religious leaders, radio talk show
hosts and cable television babblers. They have waged this
campaign on the stump, in the media and, most effectively,
in the popular culture. What they have achieved amounts to
a psychological revolution in which Americans not only don't
think in terms of class, they don't even recognize any economic
force beyond their own labor. Class warfare has been destroyed
through a kind of national brainwashing."
And thus, we come to the way in which yuppie fascists deprive
the members of the underclass of their global citizenship:
by making them invisible in the media and popular culture.
If they are portrayed at all, they are portrayed not in their
own terms, but in corporate defined terms. The corporations
have no more powerful weapon than this.
Yet they can argue that is not censorship because the government
is not telling them what to say. This argument is specious.
When the news media does not broadcast news because they are
told not to, it is censorship whether it comes from the government
or the corporation. This kind of control of the media is undesirable
and anti-democratic no matter what the source of the censorship.
One of the most important thing that can be done to fight
yuppie fascism is to restore the Fairness Doctrine so that
those who currently have no voice will again have one. Again
voices for the dispossessed will be heard. Again there will
be people visible speaking for the dispossessed beyond our
borders, who make our clothes for substance wages in poor
working conditions. Again, these voices will be able to speak
on their own terms and choose their own spokesmen. No more
will the anti-globalization protester be the youth with body
piercings and orange hair chosen by the corporate media for
the purpose of frightening the uncommitted in the public,
but rather one chosen by the movement for the purpose of persuading
the public with well-presented arguments that invite open
discussion of the issues.
Yuppie fascists embrace contested elections while their classical
fascist predecessors banned them. However, a truly democratic
system is more than simply voting, especially when all candidates
are being financed by the same corporate money and must pander
to the same corporate media to get the point across, a corporate
media that may ignore those bearing a message that they find
threatening to their power. Democracy requires not just voting
for a candidate of one's choice, but that there be universal
citizenship and that each citizen have an equal chance to
have his voice heard. In the 1940's, we came to realize that
democracy and classical fascism were not compatible; democracy
and yuppie fascism are no more compatible today.