Madeleine Albright. Fascism: A Warning Chapters 13 – 15

Global Studies Group Discussion

5 May 2019

Fascism:  A Warning by Madeleine Albright, chapters 13, 14, 15

The report made by each facilitator is reproduced at the beginning of the discussion with comments of the members following.

We ended without a full discussion of Chapter 15 (Trump).  Instead each person was given the opportunity to make one comment about the chapter with the understanding we would start with the conclusion of this discussion at our next meeting

Our next meeting will follow the Congregational Annual Meeting on June 2.  At that time, Elvira will lead the discussion on chapter 16 (Bad Dreams) and Bill will lead the discussion on 17 (The Right Questions).  We will also decide what our next reading will be.

Chapter 13  “We Are Who We Were” (summary by Finley Campbell)

Introduction: a major aspect of fascism was its commitment to revitalizing a past of national glory, part fantasy and part historical reality.  For Mussolini it was the glories of the Roman Empire; for Adolf Hitler of the Second Reich; for Prime Minister ToJo, medieval Japan when patrolled by Samurai.  In a similar pattern, Albright sees a similar pattern in some current European authoritarian regimes, especially in formerly Stalinist States

  1. Hungary: proto-fascists groups, led by one Viktor Orban, the head of the Fidesz Party, push heavily the idea that the great moments of Hungarian history lie in the past, lie in its Magyar roots.  Like Mussolini before him, he depends on a mix of jingoistic nationalism. Public radio and television channels Parnell control by the Fidesz Party.  Possible centers of resistance like labor unions have been weekend.   And Hungarian nationalism is being used to shape the educational curricula and Orban’s fascist ideology dictates the content of movies and plays.  While doing all this, Hungarian proto-fascists wrap themselves in the red, white, and green of the Hungarian flag, all in the name of “illiberal democracy”; that is to say, it is democratic because it is based on a “chauvinized” majority; it is illiberal because it disregards the rights of the minorities.
  2. Poland:  The proto-fascist Law and Justice party is led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a right-wing leader, and it is rooted in the Polish Roman Catholic church as the national church of the past periods of Polish greatness.   The law of justice party has as its main nationalistic slogan, “Rising from our knees, “ a reference to the glories of the Polish national past prior to its conquest by Imperial Russia.  The Party depends on ”True Poles” to carry out its policies.  The semi-fascist policies include, for example, opposition to ex Communists, European politicians, and refugees who are described as being responsible for spreading disease and parasites.  Like fascists usually do, the Law and Justice Party sought to subvert the independence of the countries constitutional tribunal personal bureaucracy of oppositionist, and replace every senior military officer had most of all took full control over the national judiciary council. Nevertheless his victory has not been complete since recent polls show that the true Poles either think he was a great leader or a great danger.
  3. The EU: the European Union also has a great past to look back on, symbolize by the generation of Jean Monnet who was a leader of the French Committee of National Liberation, a part of the popular front against fascism, who is often called the father of Europe.   It was this group anti-nationalist Europeans who created the vision of the European Union. During the Golden age of the European Union, the gap between the richest and poorest nations narrowed, unemployment was low, and the advantages of a single currency and shared regulatory structures were vital.  Today the conditions of a proto-fascist reaction has emerged: a kind of top-down leadership centered in a transnational bureaucracy, a sense of the interference of the European Union in people’s private lives for those with small farms in Poland or smaller factories in Germany.  Therefore, the Union seems to be exhibiting if not a fascist mentality then an authoritarian one.
  4. Germany: the dream of a purely “German” state can be traced back to the Third Reich, which identified itself with the First and Second Reich.  Based on this dream the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AFD) has emerged as the voice of Third Reich nationalism and has now entered the parliament and occupies influential posts as the third largest party.  This has forced the center – left coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel to backtrack on some of her anti-racist stances and it is anti-immigrant racism, which accounts for successes of the AFD.  Its emphatically nationalist perspective has entered into the Bundestag for the first time since World War II.  Most of all, it has offered leadership to hyper-nationalist entities throughout Europe.  Russia has been identified as a financial source for this group as well as from forces in the United States. Neo-Nazi extremism and non-Neo-Nazi nationalism.
  5. The Czech republic: if there is an idealized past for the Czech Republic, it is the short period of its existence as a democratic republic between the 20’s and the 30’s when it was a part of Czechoslovakia, led by Jan Masaryk.   Proto-fascism in the Republic is symbolized by anti-immigrant racism and Tropism.  The leader is Milos Zeman who also admires the illiberal democracy of the Putin regime.  He opposes Czech nationalism against EU internationalism.  He is allied to the leader of a new proto-fascist party called the Action of Dissatisfied Citizens, led by one Andrej Babis, described as having a classic fascist personality, ala Wilhelm Reich’s the Mass Psychology of Fascism.
  6. General issues of contention: immigration – Like with anti-black racism during the period of slave labor capitalism and later during the colonial period of imperialism and legal segregation, like anti-Jewish racism in the pre-World War II period, anti-immigrant racism is the motive energy of the rise of the New Fascism in all its European forms: fears of decadence and decline, assertion of national and cultural identity; a threat by unassimilable foreigners to national identity and good social order; and the need for greater authority to deal with these problems.
  7.  Resurgence of a racialized nationalism (as distinct from multiethnic nationalism, symbolized by Yugoslavia) called hyper-nationalist entities that make their presence known in marches and rallies hoisting banners that advertise such sentiments as “White Europe” and “refugees out.”
  8. The need for progressive internationalism: “More broadly it is vital for leaders to work across international boundaries to minimize the number of people who feel the need to leave their home countries is the first place.  That requires building healthy democracies, fostering peace, and generating prosperity from the ground up.  Success in this endeavor demands a way of looking at the world that recognizes the humanity we share with one another and the interest that nations have in common.”
  9. Conclusion: The weakness in this chapter is that there is no recognition of the role that capitalism itself plays in creating all these problems or a lack of recognition that it played in the rise of the old fascism.

 

DISCUSSION

  • The chapter and the summary are much appreciated given the difficulty of keeping up with events in Europe – especially eastern Europe.
  • It seems that in every country strong nationalists/fascists are rising and liberalism is taking a beating
  • Albright’s comments that immigrants don’t want to leave their countries and that a “solution” to the immigration issue would be to improve the conditions in countries people are leaving were much appreciated

 

Chapter 14  “The Leader Will Always Be with Us” (summary by Allen Lang)

Albright opens the chapter with Korean history. Briefly:

  • 16th-17thCentury Japan repeatedly invades Korea.
  • 1900 Czar of Russia proposes to share Korea with Japan, the 38thparallel giving half to each
  • 1905 Imperial Japan takes over Korea as a protectorate, and annexes the country in 1910.
  • February 1945 At Yalta Stalin promises he will declare war on Japan three months after V-E Day.
  • 8 May 1945: V-E. Germany surrenders.
  • 15 August 1945: V-J Day. Japan surrenders.
  • 8 August 1945: As promised, Stalin invades Korea. The US fears that he will occupy all of country.
  • September 7, 1945, General MacArthur appoints John R. Hodge to administer Korean affairs. On a warship in Inchon Harbor General Hodge announces, “I know the Japanese, and the Koreans are pretty much the same breed of cat.”
  • 15 August 1948. The Republic of Korea is established with Syngman Rhee as President.
  • 9 September 1948. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea s established, under Lim Il-Sung, “The Ever-Victorious Generalissimo,” and “The Great Sun of Life”. Everybody pins on a badge showing the smiling Great Leader.
  • 25 June 1950 the Korean War starts when DPRK troops surge toward Seoul. They say we started it.
  • 15 September. 1950 UN Troops execute Operation Chromite, an amphibious landing at Inchon.
  • 2 November 1950 Chinese troops, blowing bugles, s cross the Yalu River to prop up the DPRK forces.
  • 27 July 1953 The Korean War is halted by the Armistice.
  • 26 December 1991: As the Cold War ends and the USSR collapses, North Korea loses military and economic aid.
  • 8 July 1994: Kim Jong-Il takes control on the death of his father Kim Il-Sung. Will preside as “Dear Leader” until 17 December 2011
  • 1994-1998: Famine, styled “The Arduous March” or “The March of Suffering,” starves 5% of North Korea’s people.
  • 23 January 1997: Czech-American Madeline Albright succeeds Warren Christopher as our first woman Secretary of State.
  • October 2000 Dr. Albright undertakes her state visit.
  • 10 April 2018: Fascism: A Warning is published.

When Secretary of State Madeline Albright flew to Pyongyang toward the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency, she had two objectives:  how to persuade Kim Jong Il to abandon his missile program as a person and to assess him as a leader.

On her very busy visit, Albright danced with young children. Kim Jong-Il asked for her email address. She visited the mausoleum of Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader, and stopped briefly at his bier. She went to a kindergarten where American food donations were served under a United Nations program, giving the impression that North Korea’s widespread malnutrition from a nationwide famine was under control.

She spent six hours trying to persuade him to suspend his missile tests, which could hand Mr. Clinton a signature foreign policy achievement at the end of his presidency.

Kim listened to Albright intently, not at all like her male colleagues in Washington, who constantly interrupted her to “mansplain” what she was saying.

Kim Jong-Il hosted Dr. Albright at a lavish dinner replete with French wine. She presented him with a basketball signed by Michael Jordan. He invited her to a show to celebrate the 55thanniversary of the North Korean Communist Party, held at the Rungado May Day Stadium, the largest stadium in the world, a building covering more than fifty acres and seating 150K spectators.

Albright and Kim sat together in the first ring of the stadium. Halfway through the show, an image of a ballistic missile launch was created by some thirty thousand school children, each holding up a book of colored cards, page by page, to create  a motion picture of the very weapon she had come to persuade the North Koreans to stop building and launching.

This was accompanied by group routines performed by tens of thousands equally disciplined gymnasts and dancers.

[You’ve likely seen versions of this “largest picture in the world,” produced by students who have practiced for months. Each holding a book of up to 170 pages, they turn the pages and link their books with their neighbors to make one gigantic scene. In effect, each individual becomes a pixel in a huge living screen].

Afterward she said that Mr. Kim turned to her as the image of the missile was displayed and “quipped” that the launch of the Taepodong 1 missile that was being shown was the first such test of the weapon — and would be the last.

Dr. Albright was asked by reporters if Mr. Kim had given her an “unqualified pledge” not to test any more missiles. The secretary said that she took his words to be “serious,” but she stopped short of giving definitive answers about her talks.

Madeleine Albright’s definition, a fascist “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.

Of President Trump she writes: “If we think of fascism as a wound from the past that had almost healed, putting Trump in the White House was like ripping off the bandage and picking at the scab.”

Of all the leaders Albright writes of in this book, only the Korean Kim Dynasty rulers meet her definition as Fascist. Kim She says, “Kim Jong Un, for example, is pretty obviously a fascist by my definition. He puts people into labor camps, starves them, uses his own military to execute political enemies”.

“People always ask me if I’m an optimist or a pessimist about all this, and I say, ‘I’m an optimist who worries a lot.’

Since Madeline Albright used the word “Warning”, here it is, taken from an interview she made with Vox. She says: “I’ll tell you where the line gets crossed. If Trump actually uses the military to deploy or incite violence, that’s when all bets are off. I’m very careful about who I call a fascist because I really do believe this is where the line is.”

Follow-up to the visit:

The warming relations under Mr. Clinton were short-lived. President George W. Bush came into office two months after Dr. Albright’s visit, and while his secretary of state, Colin Powell, tried to work things out with Pyongyang, Mr. Bush instead deferred to Condoleezza Rice, his National Security Advisor. She demanded a review of North Korea policy and iced the Albright advances.

After the 2001 September attacks, Mr. Bush denounced North Korea as part of an “Axis of Evil” along with Iran and Iraq, a move that swiftly ended contact with Pyongyang.

DISCUSSION

  • Allen prefaced his remarks by commenting that the development of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), which he maintains is the best and most easily learned alphabet in the world, was one of the most important events of the 16th-17th
  • The US has already deployed military forces on home ground at the Mexican border. There is the promise of more deployment against US citizens
  • Disagree –“Posse comitatus” – the use of the military in civilian law enforcement – is illegal
    • A paramilitary person was just arrested at the border
    • Military is stationed on the US side with the aim of bringing order to both sides of the border
    • Tear gas is close to violence
    • Allan’s granddaughter witnessed Trump counterdemonstrators at the border leaving when embraced by demonstrators

Chapter 15  President of the United States (summary by Bill Bassin)

She begins the chapter by talking about America’s Legacy and reputation as a free Democratic Nation dedicated to the ideals of Liberty and democracy she quotes Benjamin Franklin during the colonial and revolutionary period. A quote from Garibaldi about America as a beacon of hope during the Civil War. Then she quickly turns to Hitler who saw the defeat of slavery in the Civil War as a set back for what he thought could have been a quote Great America

she speaks about how Nazi writers used the Jim Crow laws in the United States as a way of questioning America’s Devotion to equality and to deflect criticism from their own discriminatory practices and she speaks of how even the policy of lebensraum which was a justification for German military advance on the basis of providing more room for German people to live— how this policy was compared to America’s Westward Expansion—in an attempt to justify the policy of lebensraum.   she speaks about the Normandy invasion as being a pivotal moment, a defining moment for American democracy as epitomizing our wartime effort to defeat Hitler— she emphasizes that the United States has been a pivotal player in creating  on a global Stage A narrative in favor of Liberty Justice and equal rights.

she speaks of this as being a grand tradition and a grave responsibility— this dedication to freedom and justice and equal rights —she begins her discussion of Trump by talking about his favorable treatment and favorable opinion of authoritarian rulers — strong men around the world– she talks about duterte in Philippines and his Reign of Terror where thousands of people some of whom might have been innocent have been killed because they were suspected of being involved in the drug trade she then talks about the Egyptian General El Sisi– how he became an authoritarian once installed in power and is implementing various authoritarian practices as leader of that country– and then mentioning Donald Trump’s endorsement of El Sisi– she speaks also the Kingdom of Bahrain and are Erdogan in Turkey as being two more examples of authoritarian rulers who have earned praise from Trump –she even discusses his favorable remarks towards Saddam Hussein– she zeroes in on the fact that he often  endorses actions by Foreign leaders that weaken Democratic institutions in quote and she also mentions his tendency to pick fights on immigration policy with Allies such as Australia or in Britain in on trade with countries like Mexico and in Canada and Germany.

Trump’s view is seen as very dark — his criticism of us courts as being biased– the FBI is corrupt— the Press is almost always lying— elections being rigged— she states the domestic impact of these kind of opinions is to demoralize and divide and here she is criticizing his persistent scorn toward us institutions and speaking of it as really being unprecedented by a president-by criticizing our basic institutions she charges that he is really doing the opposite of setting an example for the world to follow and really in the process is lowering American Prestige around the world and she mentions his disparagement of the press as being a particularly demoralizing Factor and as a way of sending messages to authoritarians that they don’t need to respect the press or to allow for press freedom in their countries– she states the ability of a free and independent press to hold political leaders accountable is what makes open government possible it is the heart beat of democracy and accuses Trump of stifling or  slowing down that  heartbeat— she focuses on how when he has an  authoritarian leader in Washington and he is the host he does nothing to bring the subject up of civil liberties but rather changes the subject as if it wasn’t important she contrasts this with her own experience as  Ambassador and Secretary of State where she had literally hundreds of meetings with foreign officials to urge freedom for political prisoners, release of jailed journalists, support for religious liberty, respect for a fair and open electoral process– so she’s contrasting these things that she did when in office with Trump’s Behavior as president.

she argues against those who would say that  America is not a very appropriate party to raise these issues of Human Rights since our government has violated human rights around the world so many times– she says quote if a blemished record were enough to disqualify a country from speaking out governments could murder torture and otherwise brutalize citizens without the least fear of criticism or sanction– so she is saying that perhaps we do need to improve our policies but this should not keep us from speaking out against Injustice and the lack of Freedom around the world

she speaks about Trump’s remarks playing on people’s feelings of being aggrieved or playing on people’s feelings of America being destroyed disrespected mocked and ripped off around the world and describes Trump Behavior as that of a demagogue she describes his analysis as being riddled with Bunkum and his arguments as designed to exploit insecurities and stir up resentment

she describes America as having an economy at the time of his inauguration that was one of the most competitive in the world— accuses him of painting an overly negative and really falsely negative picture in order to further his demagogic aims which are to inflame anger– she then goes on to talk about his foreign policy goes through some of the history of the America first movement in the 1940s and how this movements strove to keep America out of World War II and how it actually try to block measures which were meant to help Britain in their struggle with Germany—    she speaks about the collapse of the America first movement after Pearl Harbor and says — now America First is back but what does it mean?   the whole idea of America First is a trivialism obviously we’re going to put our own interests first that’s  obvious it doesn’t have to be mentioned –but the point is that the focus on America First ignores the interdependence of Nations– the degree to which nations depend on each other  and the degree to which their interests are interrelated and Linked together– she mentions that Lindbergh would have been willing to let the Third Reich dominate Europe during World War II and asks the question what if Europe what if Hitler had been triumphant would that have been in America’s best interest– so there’s this notion of interdependence and how eventually it’s going to affect our own self-interest –not just the interest of others —   think of this dog-eat-dog kind of mentality and how it would play out and say a small town or some small community — where everybody was just fighting for their own self-interest with no larger or overall goals– this would be a disaster it would be chaos it would not be a good result and the application is that this is similar to Trump’s philosophy on foreign policy there needs to be joint efforts around the world and the expertise and the background of and the influence of many countries has to be brought together to solve many of these intractable world problems it’s not some kind of darwinian struggle or survival of the fittest it’s all about an interdependent World in which we must frequently join forces if we are to make the best of our lot. putting one’s own country first can be seen as the motivation 4 building nuclear weapons on the part of North Korea or Annexing Crimea on the part of Russia or Iran intervening in the Affairs of its neighbors— Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia— even the basic tenets of fascism which is the theory that nations are entitled to take what they want for no other reason than that they want it can be linked to the idea of putting one’s own country first so one can see the bankruptcy of this approach if it is followed to its logical conclusion– this policy can also lead to an end of trust between nations, an end of helpfulness between nations– she speaks of Trumps policy as being Guided by cynicism– for instance his concept of NATO as a protection scheme in which the United States is “owed billions of dollars for supposedly hiring out its Armed Forces to provide security for others”    so on her telling of it Trump’s doctrine is almost like we’re kind of like a mafia Don within the north northern Atlantic Alliance “neighborhood”, providing protection to all the storefronts– that’s a pretty cynical interpretation— she describes NATO as the Cornerstone of world peace and a Living testament to our Collective will and that’s not something you can put a price on –she deals with the trumps well-known tendency to insult, and to make off the wall threats and in other ways to be unpredictable and  she says she doesn’t foreclose the possibility that the president’s Brash disregard for diplomatic and other conventions might in some cases be exactly what’s needed she seems to be cutting him some slack as if she’s not totally convinced that his seemingly eccentricities and instabilities might not leave some room for some kind of foreign policy breakthrough— she does admit to concern about his steadiness though and concern about the “brittleness of his ego”– she  emphasizes how egotistical he is –America she says is now seen as a threat to democratic institutions and values around the world and has seemingly left our allies in a state where they are less confident and less trustful of our support — she does give him credit for preserving sanctions against Russia related to Crimea, sending arms to Ukraine and managing an effective military campaign against Isis– but she criticizes him for the renunciation of the Paris climate agreement –for putting at risk the NAFTA agreement– bad-mouthing the Iran agreement —squandering resources on the Mexico wall— trying to ban Muslims— and slashing the budget for diplomacy development and environmental health– of course these are a very common list of shortcomings of the Trump Administration that we hear from many quarters

she also criticizes Trump for selling arms to the Arab establishment and criticizes his recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital—and then saying that it would further the prospects for peace–with which she doesn’t seem to agree— she criticizes his attitudes on trade and what she refers to as his scattershot approach to relationships in the Far East and she feels that China can make a lot of diplomatic Headway under Trump’s America First rhetoric and can be seen as a more by many countries around the world as  being a more reliable Ally than the United States— she notes that the next u.s. president will inherit a world more inclined to follow Beijing’s lead as far as labor standards, media Freedom, religious liberty, and human rights all of these being very crucial areas where lowering of standards would of course be very a very negative trend on a global basis — there is a criticism  of countries leaving their close relationship with the United States to make  alliances with other countries because they  sense that America is no longer interested in a closer relationship with them— she fears that we will return to the international climate that prevailed in the 20s and the 30s of the last century when the United States withdrew from the global stage and this kind of set the stage for World War II she feels that Trump’s regime could lead to a reinvigoration of fascist-like movement —-by the process of denying and distorting information, by undermining systems of justice and paralyzing the educational system, and by spreading in subtle ways Nostalgia for a world where order reigns– so it seems as if she sees the kind of effects that Trump is creating through his presidency as leading possibly to a Fascistic atmosphere and tendency in our public space in the coming years and she says that is a definite threat– she says we are not there yet but these feel like signposts on the road back to that era when fascism found nourishment.

Individual comments:

  • Agree that the book is superficial as Bill suggests, but I think that even she would write a different chapter at this point in time given what little is being done about the Mueller report, people refusing to testify before Congress (they should be held in contempt), the Democrats seeming to be afraid to do anything and allowing fascism to hold.
  • I didn’t gain any new perceptions of Trump. I don’t agree with Albright that he has done some things well.  I wish the book were more perceptive of what is happening now.  The Senate is a problem.
  • This is a good book but it leaves more unsaid than said. It is superficial and a brief survey.  America’s role in the past fifty years has been part of the problem, one she is not willing to address.  This is a contentious period and we have to learn to be democrats ourselves.
  • Economic crises are unpredictable. Trump is in a good position until the next crisis.
  • I shrink at the figures Albright offers about the declining percentages of people around the world who believe the American president can be trusted to do the right thing. How did we move so quickly from the confidence felt under Obama?  The reactionaries organized a blitzkrieg during the Obama years and managed to defeat the Electoral College.  We are now really polarized.
  • The book was written before the mid-term elections, which have represented something of a turn-around – in some cases a miraculous turn-around. I am concerned about Russian interference and voter suppression.   I am encouraged by the number of young people speaking up
  • What will Trump’s people do if he is impeached – Pence waiting in wings.