Published at 10:58 on 22 January 2023
Since some here may be unfamiliar with the term, here is a definition (shamelessly copied from Wikipedia):
The Führerprinzip (German for ‘leader principle’) prescribed the fundamental basis of political authority in the Government of Nazi Germany. This principle can be most succinctly understood to mean that “the Führer’s word is above all written law” and that governmental policies, decisions, and offices ought to work toward the realization of this end. In actual political usage, it refers mainly to the practice of dictatorship within the ranks of a political party itself, and as such, it has become an earmark of political fascism. Nazi Germany aimed to implement the leader principle at all levels of society, with as many organizations and institutions as possible being run by an individual appointed leader rather than by an elected committee. This included schools, sports associations, factories, and more. Nazi propaganda often focused on the theme of a single heroic leader overcoming the adversity of committees, bureaucrats and parliaments. German history, from Nordic sagas to Frederick the Great and Otto von Bismarck, was interpreted to emphasize the value of unquestioning obedience to a visionary leader.
From this, we come to an inescapable conclusion: The USA ascribes to the Führerprinzip. Because, really, it does:
- Johnson’s word was above all written law. Johnson was exempted from punishment for lying his way into Vietnam and starting a war without a formal declaration of one from Congress.
- Nixon’s word was above all written law. Nixon was exempted from punishment for Watergate and the invasion of Cambodia.
- Reagan’s word was above all written law. Reagan was exempted from punishment for Iran-Contra.
- George W. Bush’s word was above all written law. Bush was exempted from punishment for lying his way into Iraq.
- Trump’s word was above all written law. It is pretty clear now that Trump is not going to be punished for anything. Even my nice liberal friends who used to consider me cynical when I said that odds disfavoured the system holding him accountable now mostly agree with me on this.
Nixon was right: if the if the president does it, it is not illegal. Oh, sure, the system might put on a good show about hypothetically being interested in accountability, but when the rubber meets the road it never actually ever happens. In today’s USA, the leader’s will is above all written law.
Don’t get me wrong. The USA is not a fascist state. The next time I check up on my place in Bellingham, I do not expect to be questioned about posting opinions critical of the ruling ideology when I enter the USA. The USA is somewhere in between being a functioning democracy and a fascist state: it is a flawed democracy that ascribes to a fundamentally fascist principle.
Like all states where fascist principles are in play, the American public is not allowed to choose whether or not fascist principles are to be policy of the day. Both the Republicans and the Democrats agree that Führerprincip ought to be the policy of the land. Typically this support is worded as “having respect for the institution of the presidency” or some other such bullshit.
Yes, the Republicans may be the big innovators in using Führerprincip, but the Democrats really never ever truly challenge their right to use it, and the system is rigged to make it virtually impossible for any political party other than these two to achieve power.
The question is what it all means for the future. Probably the main takeaway is that one cannot rely on the professional political class to do much about it: both parties, and the punditocracy that supports them, agree on Führerprinzip.
A second conclusion is that it is inevitable that the USA will become a full-fledged fascist dictatorship if nothing is done to turn away from Führerprinzip. Trump was attracted to the unlimited power of the presidency, and the only reason he failed was that he really wasn’t all that good at political leadership. Eventually someone equally power-hungry will get into that office who is not so politically incompetent. Then it will be game over for democracy.
Eventually may take a while, but eventually it will happen.
If, that is, nothing is done to turn away from this principle. And since such turning away cannot depend on the professional political class, it must depend on those of us who are on the outside of power. What are the chances of that?
First, anti-fascists are not a majority in the USA. A little under half the country is already objectively pro-fascist or at least very fascism-friendly in their outlook, based on the support Trump was able to obtain. When you get to Democrats, many of them support the status quo, too. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that a lot of rank-and-file Democrats are already disgusted with their party and its morally bankrupt principles. They only support the Democrats because the rigged system gives them no other real choice. Such support is grudging enough that the Democratic Party establishment often has difficulty overcoming the resulting voter apathy.
I have no idea how big the number of actual antifascists in the USA is, but I would have to guess that it probably is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, maybe more. If half of rank and file Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents were disgusted by American Führerprinzip, that would make 25%.
Note that this fraction is not simply the party’s progressives: many of the Democratic Party’s “centrist” voters are also disgusted by the elitism and lack of accountability in society. In fact, such disgust often drives their distrust of liberal policies; they wonder and worry about how such a corrupted system can properly oversee expanded social programs, which they might theoretically support if only the system were not so self-evidently rotten.
Then we get to the Republicans that Trump pushed over the edge and have abandoned their party. The numbers may not be great, but they exist, and (given how even the divide is) their numbers are significant. If they had stayed loyal to their party, Trump would have been reelected. So 10 to 20 percent is a very conservative estimate, and the actual number is probably higher. But let’s err on the side of caution and go with the more conservative numbers.
10 to 20 percent is significant. It is way more than the 3% or 5% that is commonly cited as the critical mass needed to launch a social revolution. The size of the Womxn’s Marches (the largest demonstrations in US history) that happened shortly after the Trump inauguration prove that the base numbers are there.
The question is how much pain and suffering there will be before that revolution happens. The numbers are there and ideally it would happen before a full-fledged fascist dictatorship is in place. But complacency and denial are things, as is general disorganization and ineffectiveness on the grassroots Left, so we cannot count on this.
And if it doesn’t happen early enough to avert a fascist dictatorship, then the likelihood of violence (understated in the article I just cited, but that is a topic for a future post) and the associated pain and suffering goes way up.