Behind Bars

Fascism Enters Through ‘Terror’ Door

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary By Glen Ford

For more than 40 years, the Left has been sounding alarms about the United States’ imminent descent into fascism. And there have, indeed, been fascists at every level and in every branch of U.S. government. One can even make the case, as I often do, that during the long period of Jim Crow the southern states fit nearly all the usual definitions of a fascist regime. At various times and places, America has teetered on the brink of fascism, or experienced episodes that certainly felt like fascism to those who lived through them.

With the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding laws against providing what is called “material support” to terrorists, the national criminal justice system is now set to operate as a recognizably fascist political machine. Six of the nine Justices endorsed the government’s definition of what constitutes “material support” for groups it deems terroristic, including a civil rights activist’s attempt to draw a Kurdish resistance organization into non-violent dialogue with its Turkish adversaries. The High Court majority essentially ruled that mere interaction with those branded terrorists is a serious crime, no matter what one’s intentions. It is criminal to give such groups any advice whatsoever—even if the advice is to find non-violent means of reaching their political goals. The new law of the land is: thou shalt not talk to or appear in any way supportive of those who the U.S. government has proclaimed “terrorists.”

It appears to be settled law that the United States can label opponents of its allies abroad—Turks, Israelis, Pakistanis, Indians, whoever—as terrorists, even when their activities are not directed against the United States. Nelson Mandela and other South African freedom fighters remained on a State Department terrorist list until just two years ago—which is a useful historical point.

We can safely say that the U.S. is much closer to fascism now, under Barack Obama, than it was under President Ronald Reagan, 30 years ago. Back then; the Reagan regime embraced the white minority government in South Africa. Yet, even though Mandela and his African National Congress were on a U.S. terror list, no American citizen was punished for actively supporting the ANC. Ronald Reagan and his crowd may have been fascists—I think they were—but the mechanisms of law were not in place to allow them to rule like fascists. Since 2001, the fascists that have long been among us have been allowed to perfect their judicial, legislative and executive machinery of state power, and to dismantle legal barriers to actual fascist rule.

Next month, in New York City, a “people’s lawyer” and civil liberties heroine, Lynne Stewart, faces re-sentencing on her conviction of giving material support to her client—who was marked as a terrorist. Federal prosecutors—that means, Barack Obama’s prosecutors—want to increase Lynne Stewart’s 28-month sentence to decades in prison—a death sentence for a woman of her age and health. When all the people’s lawyers are gone—and Lynne Stewart is among the last—then so, effectively, is the rule of law. And all our talk about the definition of fascism will be moot., June 23, 2010