democracy, Essays, latest, Propaganda, United States, USA

Tilting at the Mills in the Empire: Or, Fascism Real and Imaginary

Vladimir Golstein

In the real world, fascists come to power when Western democracies imposed unbelievably harsh sanctions on Germany, and when the genuine German lefties were crushed by the unhealthy alliance of the liberals and right-wingers.

In the real world, fascists come to power after they targeted a particular group of people as the object of vicious, culturally shaped demonizing, and then destroyed any opposition by accusing it of its connection with a demonized group.

In the real world, fascists put those who challenge them into the camps, where they are brutally killed, along with all the demonized groups.

In the real world, fascists use all the means at their disposal – propaganda in particular — to manipulate, brainwash, and turn its own population into irrational haters.

In the real world, fascists and their armies are crushed by Russians, who die in their millions in order to put an end to the brutal fascist occupation of their country.

But we are not talking about the real world in the 21st century. We are now inhabiting the world of simulacra, the imaginary world of today’s West, where fascists and racists are those who don’t share liberal PC mantras.

In this imaginary world, it is the noble and wise Western democracies that crush the fascists and other authoritarians whom Western democracies depict as fascist.

In this imaginary world, fascists become those who happened to win an election despite all the manipulation of the establishment and its approved candidates.

In this imaginary world, all the power of the state apparatus, including spy agencies and domestic police, are directing their efforts to subvert the politician – designated as fascist — who won despite the democratic elections.

In the imaginary world, the fascist is the victorious politician, who is constantly harassed, mocked, bullied, and humiliated by the corporate press and the establishment, which prefers name-calling to analysis and self-scrutiny.

In the imaginary world, the fascist is the person, from whom his rival politicians or the members of the press can demand the answer to the question: “Are you a fascist and a traitor, and how can you prove that you are not?” And when the accused politician refuses to answer, his rivals continue calling for the ever increasing number of investigations in order to get to the bottom of this refusal to answer.

In this imaginary world, anyone who is one way or another connected to Russians — the people who defeated real-world fascists — is suspected in being an agent of fascism.

In this imaginary world, the mocked politician who is constantly accused of being a fascist, and those who dare to support him or question the accusations, are dismissed as ignorant bastards living in the fake world, as opposed to the press and the establishment politicians who imagine that they live in the real world.

Of course, we all know that arguing with an irrational person inhabiting an imaginary world is as futile as it is frustrating. One of the wisest humans, Miguel Cervantes, had described the endlessly failing efforts of those who tried to talk sense into a delusional Don Quixote. Cervantes just smiled at the deluded knight and at the efforts of those who tried to wake him up, and described–with his unparalleled humor–the misadventures of the hidalgo who preferred the imaginary world to the real.

Vladimir Golstein is an Associate Professor of Russian and Chair of the Department of Slavic Studies at Brown University.


  1. Robbobbobin says

    “Socrates on Heraclitus”

    What I have understood is good; and so, I think, what I have not understood is; only the book requires a Delian diver to get at the meaning of it. –Diogenes Laërtius, reporting(?) Socrates on writings by Heraclitus

    Diogenes L was like a Hollywood gossip columnist, about as selective as a 10cm sieve when it came to separating facts from entertaining bullshit. If you “quote” then cite fully, unless you seek to resemble an L Harding who’s mistaken this place for hIs spiritual home in a central London sewer (still not an excuse but at least true to form).

  2. Gezzah Potts says

    Thanks Vladimir for your article. I’ve come to realise how futile and frustrating it is attempting to point out the reality of the World to my friends and acquaintances who completely believe the nonsensical dogs poo put out by alleged journalists in alleged News organisations. It has been immensely frustrating indeed. Being well into middle age, what woke me up was the invasion of Grenada way back in 1983 just after I’d left high school, and then later became involved with Central American and East Timor solidarity groups which really opened my eyes to how the World was, and have kept my eyes open ever since. There seems to be only a handful of decent, ethical journalists left in the World now, John Pilger, Seymour Hersh, Chris Hedges, Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Bealey, and few others. Am no fan of Trump or Putin, but I recognise what is going on and who is pushing this crap, and that yes, we in the West are part of the Anglo Zionist Empire. And I fully concur with those who point out that Neoliberalism equates to Corporate Fascism. Am just grateful that there are many other very knowledgeable and ‘woke’ people on this site, and other alternative news sites I visit who also get what is happening.

  3. harry stotle says

    Whilst agreeing with the thrust of Vladimir Goldstein’s article I think we have to be wary when using loaded terms like fascism, not because the powers he alludes to are not fascistic, but because such labels carry so much baggage that debate often ends up disappearing down a historical rabbit hole.

    These days what we are up against is corporate gangsterism, and its evil twin, neoconservatism and the long reach both exert on our political systems, security services and media.

    Perception management is a key ingredient when it comes to persuading the general public that certain policies, up to and including illegal wars are essential to protect ‘our way of life’ – sadly too many people fall for it time and time again.

  4. DunGroanin says

    Serve the power
    Or else!

    Ignore reality.
    Believe the fantasy.
    Or else!

  5. bevin says

    The appeal of the fascists that allowed them to graduate from the political margins to power was that they offered the wealthy a bulwark protecting their property and their socio-political power from democracy.
    Fascists hold the view that property, in a democracy, is always at risk from the ‘envious’ poor who, using the force of numbers could impose their greed for subsistence and services on society-presenting the wealthy with the bill, in the form of progressive taxation.
    The EU is guided by the ideas of the Austrian school of Economists, including von Hayek, who taught that to preserve property, essential in their view to civilisation, democracies must be prevented from interference in the ‘natural’ course of economic development.
    This means that within the EU all manner of political activity is effectively forbidden, in order to prevent the many from subjecting the few to legal constraints.
    The curiosity is that, in attempting to preserve the economy from democracy- workers rights to combine into collectives are also curtailed- society is frozen at half time in the historical process: the Austrian economists say, in effect, it is illegitimate to enquire into the origins of present conditions. It matters not that the slave trade is one of the basses of capitalism and that the gulf between rich and poor reflects the historical fact that the people were dispossessed of their commons. All that is in the past. It should be forgotten. Capitalism is such a good thing that mass famine and societal impoverishment is but a small price to pay for it. The important thing is to allow capitalist development to continue, it will probably lead, eventually to the conglomeration of all society’s wealth in the hands of a handful of people. That is all to the good: they will obviously be extremely civilised people, patrons of art and interesting conversationalists- like the Koch Brothers. Only more so….,
    As to those who would get in the way of economic evolution: they must be crushed.
    The distance between Macron’s police strategy and Concentration Camps where the inmates are starved to death and subjected to medical experimentation, is a short one.

    • Francis Lee says

      ”The EU is guided by the ideas of the Austrian school of Economists, including von Hayek, who taught that to preserve property, essential in their view to civilisation, democracies must be prevented from interference in the ‘natural’ course of economic development.”

      Not quite. The Austrians would have been adamantly against bailing out the banks or any other failing business since this would have resulted in what they termed a ‘moral hazard’ whereby bailing out unsuccessful businesses would only have encouraged more malinvestment and encouraged, aided and abetted by state intervention designed to protect the interests of the rich. Twentieth century capitalism could not survive without extensive state subsidies, tax breaks, currency manipulation, publicly funded research, tax exemptions for R@D and exports. Such actually existing policies of modern/financialised/rentier capitalism would be anathema to every libertarian of the Von Mises stamp. People like Ron Paul or Peter Schiff. No rescues for failure or misjudgement and overoptimistic investment. The bust was the essential corrective of the boom. Absent the bust and you are left with a zombie economy.

      Low interest rates create zombie companies. Weak businesses survive (when they ought to have gone out of business) directing cash flow to cover interest on loans – but not the principal – that cannot be repaid but that banks will not write off. With capital tied up, banks reduce lending to productive enterprises, especially small and medium sized ones, which account for a large proportion of economic activity and employment. Firms do not dispose of or restructure unproductive investments. The creative destruction of the slump when businesses of this type go out of existence and debts are wiped out and the reallocation of resources necessary to restore the economy does not take place. Thus a zombie economy, where failed businesses are kept artificially afloat is one where the necessary adjustments including liquidation of unproductive enterprises and assets are allowed to continue and the necessary restructuring fails to take place. This thus results in a semi-permanent depressed conditions, until the next downturn comes along.

      Of course many of the arguments don’t stack but some do. What is certain is that Free-markets or free-trade, don’t exist, never have existed, and never will exist. What we have at the present time are the worse features of state financial, rentier, capitalism for the rich. combined with a minimalist social welfare system for the not rich.

      • Maggie says

        This is how the cockroaches should have been dealt with..

      • bevin says

        It seems to me that nothing that you say conflicts with what I claimed which was that the EU, following the Austrian Economists, sees itsr role as the protection of private property against the state, when the state acts democratically, which is to say in the interests of the many.
        Of course the EU made no objection when HMG handed billions of dollars over to financiers in 2008. Though it draws the line at nationalisation. It is fine to hand over subsidies to the rich but werong to do so to the poor.
        This has a very long pedigree, as Arthur Young said, if the poor are not kept hungry they will not work. Whereas the rich require to be cossetted, subsidised and favoured for fear that they will take their capital elsewhere.
        Perhaps I should have said that while the EU follows the Austrian economists when convenient to the wealthy when doing so suggests inconveniencing High finance, they whistle and look away. Thatcher had the same attitude towards Hayek.

  6. BigB says

    It seems to me most remainers prefer the imaginary to the real: allying with proto-fascism, in the form of the EU, is vital to the national interest. That we will no longer have a national interest in the EU is lost to the imagination. 🙁

    • @BigB
      This request has nothing whatsoever to do with OffG’s article above but I value your opnion. I have recently read an article and was left bewildered. It could be just me and I have the wrong end of the stick, I don’t tolerate bigotry however “incidental” it is, but since I’m not that quick to comprehend sometimes, I did not want to dismiss the article for lack of understanding. If I’ve got it wrong I can reblog it, but I need you or Bevin to read it first and give a verdict.

      probably a bit of a cheek to ask the favour, but I need to know what to do with this article, if I’m wrong you won’t spot the problem, if I’m right you will.

      • BigB says


        I am both flattered and a little miffed that you would ask my opinion. I think you undervalue your own perspicacity and intuition, particularly on the text in hand. As you asked: in no way should you reblog this article. It is intellectually eugenicist in the extreme …IMHO that is. A sure fire way of confirming is to read the comments BTL. Have a bucket handy. And you will need to go for a long walk to regain your sense of humanity.

        When someone says “don’t mention the Bell Curve”: they actually mean “reach for the Bell Curve”. It is a cognitive racist signalling. It’s not what the article says (its locutionary text) that is the problem: it is the racist genetic determination assumptions the article is predicated on (its illocutionary text). To me, it blatantly says that there is a White/Asian ‘cognitive elite’ that are being deliberately dumbed down and held back by intellectually inferior Blacks (no mention of Hispanics?). This threatens the ‘American Dream’ of innovative, individuated, entrepreneurial, technocratic, and democratic progressivism …the ‘Enlightenment potential’. In other words: Weissberg’s white privilege and entitlement are under threat.

        All this goes unsaid, because to say it would betray the authors dispositions as inherently cognitively elitist. And racist. Yet he is subtly arguing for exclusive education: on (White/Asian privileged) intellectually meritocratic grounds – i.e. for a cognitive (and racially superior) elite. Dismissing the pseudo-facts that IQ is at all a genetically determined factor with racial characteristics (Asians/Whites/(Hispanics) are genetically determined to be more intelligent than Blacks): the whole scientifically and morally unsound premise should be situated within the general dumbing down of the population. John Taylor Gatto and others have argued this point for years. Are the cognitive elitists reaping the consequences of their own social engineering and sectarian polity of rule? I don’t know, but I’d love to make that counterargument (only, not here).

        Stephen Jay Gould exposes and debunks the underlying scientism that the article dare not mention:

        • BigB. Wot ‘e sed.

          As for my tuppence worth, I was discussing Marian Anderson with a USan Jewish Israeli lady, and we got talking about the good old days of the Civil Rights movement where Jewish USans and Afro USans were on the same side. She said relations between these two ethnic groups in the USA had soured. What happened? As a born cynic I suggested that the root of the trouble is, both groups are competing for First place in the Victim Stakes.

          But there is a more serious issue here: most people have below average IQ; and even those with high IQ do not always use their God given intelligence. I would say that Intelligence is as much a cultural habit as a genetic trait. So the experience recounted by Weissberg in mohandeer’s Link may reflect a real failing of Positive Discrimination in the Academic sphere, insofar as the Academic Authorities could have been filling academic places with Black students of Low IQ or High IQ but Low Culture. This was noted in Britain in the early 1950s, by sociologists who studied two groups of Dark Skinned Immigrants: West Indians and East Indians. The Afro West Indian children behaved just like normal Light Skinned British kids: rowdy, workshy, motivated only by football and/or fashion. The Asian East Indian kids behaved like Middle Class British children: encouraged by their parents to make socially superior friends, and to study so they could Get Ahead. Which is why today the real competition to Jewish American students comes from Asian American students rather than from Afro American students. It’s that stratum of brown and yellow Tiger Moms from India and China pushing their kids to Get Ahead. But I would not be surprised to see a Black Afro Middle class culture developing, pushing their kids into the ranks of Nobel Prize winners and Billionaires. In fact (pace Jim Watson) I would not even be surprised to see a breed of White Tiger Dads developing, and their daughters being pushed into the same ranks.

  7. Derek says

    In the real world, fascists use all the means at their disposal – propaganda in particular — to manipulate, brainwash, and turn its own population into irrational haters.

    Don’t kid yourself mate or us (for that matter) as they all use these tactics – Russophiles like yourself included.

    In the real world, fascists and their armies are crushed by Russians, who die in their millions in order to put an end to the brutal fascist occupation of their country.

    Yes indeed like Poland in 1919 or Finland or perhaps Poland again in 1941 and then all those countries they “liberated” in 1945?
    You omit these facts so i go with olavleivars comment – “worthless bilge” for the consumption of the Russian groupies here.

    So go ahead and vote me down because you all don’t like what i have written as the truth does not matter here.

    • Vladimir says

      How do your square your ignorance with reading OffGuardian, which presupposes factual knowledge? Trolling and paranoia maybe?
      1919: no Fascists yet. Poland invades new Soviets hoping to expand. Gets as far as Kiev. Eventually they are kicked back but still retain 200 km east of Curzon liborder set after WWI. Should I go further, mate?

    • Derek, you forgot to mention Poland invading Cheko-Slovakia in the wake of its occupation by Nazi Germany in 1938, and biting off a morsel.

      “Poland is haunted by annexation of Zaolzie from Czechoslovakia, annexation at the very moment Czechoslovakia got deserted by all supposed allies. I wish the Polish government at the time had come to the right decisions, and had not chosen the easy but wrong way. Churchill called the Polish action “Hyena”, and I am afraid he hit the mark in this case.

      The Polish Holocaust under the Nazis was as great as the Russian Holocaust under the Nazis; both nations were Slavonic, both were Untermenschen destined for genocide. From that fate the Red Army _did_ liberate Poland in 1945.

      “Never do anyone a favour; give people a hand, and they will resent your not giving the the whole arm.” — Aristotle, Ethics

      • Robbobbobin says

        ‘“Never do anyone a favour; give people a hand, and they will resent your not giving the the whole arm.” — Aristotle, Ethics’

        Care to sharpen up that citation (with ‘Nicomachean’ being assumed)?

    • mark says

      Perhaps you will listen to a few facts before dismissing me as a “Russian groupie.”
      Russia was defeated in the war with Poland in 1920. The Poles seized huge territories in the east from Russia where virtually no Poles lived. All the inhabitants were White Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians. Poland was about 150,000 square miles in 1939. About 70,000 square miles was of this was this territory seized from Russia.
      The Polish government of the day could be legitimately described as fascist. It was certainly very repressive and no democracy. It had crazy dreams of recreating a Polish empire of the 1600s, extending Poland to the Black Sea and westwards as far as Berlin.
      The population of Poland in 1939 was about 35 million.
      22 million Poles including 3 million Jews who were discriminated against hardly less than in Germany.
      1 million Germans.
      12 million White Russians and Ukrainians in the east in the territories seized in 1920 adjoining the Soviet Union. This territory was regained Stalin in 1939.
      I don’t defend the indefensible or hero worship Stalin. But it would have been more indefensible if Stalin had been taking over territory inhabited by 12 million Poles. He wasn’t. These are facts you can check for yourself.
      And I think it is understandable that Russia would want friendly governments in eastern Europe after they had been invaded three times in a generation through those lands, with a loss in population that some people put as high as 80 million. Certainly, under similar circumstances I can see the UK/ US of the time doing far more.
      If I was a Pole or a Czech, Hungarian etc. I would probably feel a legitimate sense of grievance over this. But it’s not all black and white – and western countries certainly behaved far worse as they rampaged through Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

  8. olavleivar says

    May be the Article had noble Intentions
    Alas .. due to completely FALSE HISTORICAL NARRATIVE
    and his Article becomes BLABBERDASH
    where the Writer demonstrates his LACK of FACTUAL KNOWLEDGE
    albeit HIDING behind some partial TRUTH which after many years of honest struggle
    are completely IMPOSSIBLE for the AUthor to deny


    • Yarkob says

      can you point out what’s wrong or is it just a generic dislike? Not a particularly helpful comment

  9. Narrative says

    “fascists come to power after they targeted a particular group of people as the object of vicious, culturally shaped demonizing, and then destroyed any opposition by accusing it of its connection with a demonized group”

    And this is precisely what took a remarkable acceleration immediately with the events of 11th September 2001. Note how eagerly some groups propelled the demonisation of every person of the Muslim faith –every person they could reach– after those events..

  10. Instead of old labels, what of the underlying acceptance and belief in ideas that result in the nature of the world we see (co-create)?
    The personification of conflicted ideas is the self-entranced matrix of a reactive identity.

    • Narrative says

      I see concrete plans have been in place for some time to divide and mislead people, using whatever mean possible that may resonate with any crowd. It’s not that people wished this onto themselves.

      • Yes – but we are already disposed to do this to themselves even without ‘help’.
        label-identity is often a way of asserting what we are not, or are ‘anti’.

  11. In this world, everything used as a weapon can and will be used against you.
    In the imposition of the grievance of the past upon the reality of a genuine present, is the future condemned to repeat in, in ever shifting forms.
    In a world of vengeance, fear demonizes and attacks under the belief in order.
    In the world of deceit multiplied, no one knows quite who the enemy is and therefore who they are, and is nostalgic for old clear simple demarcations – as if that was reality and a new world has gone mad.

    The human world is mad – and the management and concealment of its contradictions is conflict – in which we each have acquired and developed an identity as a strategy of survival in shared or opposing reinforcements.

    Madness recognised as such, becomes then a call to reconnect with reality rather than persist in old patterns that fit a world that is not here.
    The reality of ourself is not manufactured in opposition to the hated or feared or despised attributes we see in others, but our personality or masking persona is. The two are not the same.

    Finding a way to open or allow and abide in our reality is seemingly denied by a seemingly real world. But this is the power of fears set in stone by an identity imprint that no longer identifies truly.

    Living from a real or genuine movement of being has a different quality to being compelled by a fixed or set ‘reality’ imposition. It flows as a ground up, rather than a top down – and can be allowed to move by withholding the urge to recoil, deny or contract in fear and defence.
    Only in the movement of our being can we really relate as the living, rather than as the justified hate made ‘solid’ in defiance of a sense of life denied.

    The world as I want it to be is not here, and what I want is therefore dissonant with what is – with reality. The attempt to make reality be what I or we (think we) want, is the fantasy that I believed real but was broken, rejected or abandoned and betrayed by a hateful ‘life’.

    Everyone in this world has grown and adapted a masking persona to cover and control their ‘separation trauma’ so as not to relive the intolerable. What else would power in the world be but the ability to set all hatred and division OUTSIDE ourselves and kill or subdue it from a point of victory and freedom from dissonance and dissent upon a fantasy self and world regained and vindicated?

    The world has changed, the world is change and never was the thing we set it up to be – but for a brief seeming. The real world is the reality You give it. In this statement I am restoring power where it truly belongs. Not out there on hated, feared and despise others who we must then attack and prevail over to keep or increase the little we have left, but within the genuine movement of our being – which unlike a fantasy – recognised as such or running as IF true – is truly shared and knows itself in the sharing.

    All such moments as we have lived are real and are part of our acceptance, but often framed in terms that distort, limit and deny a full appreciation. Lost love is lost reality. What else could take its place than a world made mad. The reality of love is not its framing in terms of control, and so the active investment in such framing is a self-depriving and self-destructive act.

    If I cannot look within and give release to that which truly seeks communication and acceptance, why would I expect the world at large to be or do any different – or even believe it possible?

    Madness is not solved by intensifying its cause. Persisting in what doesn’t work is easy when it seems to have worked before and is hoped to work again, but sooner or later the pattern of a self-defeating futility becomes inescapable. Tolerance for pain is not infinite.

    We cant relate to others but in the capacity we relate within ourself. These two are one. Judgement is not relating. Listening is a basis for a response that holds a quality of worth for self and other within a wholeness that is not tangible until given witness.

    • Carmel MacIntyre says

      does anybody understand any of this?

      • Mac, I find that a missive by Binra is like the curate’s egg: Parts of it are excellent.

        “The bits that I could understand were excellent; I have no reason to believe that the rest was not equally excellent”. — Socrates on Heraclitus.

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