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CLR Book Club – Week 12 March 21, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Anyone joined in the read of It Can’t Happen Here? Some have already finished, I’m ploughing through it at a rapid rate of knots and enjoying it, well, it’s funny, but not necessarily enjoyable.

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1. yourcousin - March 22, 2017

Reading it now. Wholly depressing. May a I’m too close to the subject. Which is one of the reasons I delayed in getting the book. Well written etc. etc. More thoughts later.

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2. oconnorlysaght - March 25, 2017

On the second reading.
Firstly, it should be recognised that the book is a political novel, not a sober analysis of how Fascism can take over. Lewis bases his plot on some aspects of the process that were most obvious in the milieu with which he was best acquainted, the bourgeois and small bourgeois of small town New England. On this basis he produces a very entertaining novel. If he saw it as more than such a work, as a guide to action, he failed.
Having said that, I must admit that I was mistaken in saying that there was no mention of the class basis for a Fascist seizure of power. It is mentioned, but very much in the background, not least because it is clearest in Chapter 2, perhaps the weakest in the book. (In reading Doremus’ searing indictment of American imperialism for the second time, I was diverted by the sense that a sixty year old man would have made such a speech previously, and feeling, accordingly, that in real life, Tasbrough or one of the other bourgeois philistines would have interrupted with the words, ‘there you go again!’)
Actually, in 1935-6, large sections of the bourgeoisie believed that ‘it could happen here’, but that it would be executed by Roosevelt, whose National Relief Agency was held by the Supreme Court to have breeched the Constitution, and who was threatening to put constraints on that body. (They were nothing like Windrip’s: just age limits, if I remember right). They still looked to the Republicans, as did many less fortunate who were open to the idea that that party could have ended the depression had it not been for Roosevelt lying his way into power. The majority of the others looked to Roosevelt. A seizure of the Democrats was not a possibility for ’36. Hughie Long, Lewis’ most obvious model for Windrip, though a politician of greater substance (He did not need a Lee Sarason) saw his hour as coming in 1940, after the labour revival would have been crushed as in 1919. In this book, Fascism appears as a maneating tiger; it is rather a jackal, brought by the state’s regular coercive authorities to enforce their victory. And then, Dewey Haik would not have overthrown Windrip; it would have been vice versa.
By devaluing the class struggle, Lewisdescribes the rise of fascism as an oceanogrpher might describe a piece of sea from the froth on the waves, ignoring the currents below it. for him, it is just a matter of mass hysteria. He gives a distorted view of his subject’s nature. In turn, and most importantly, his vision of how it must fall is one of liberal popular frontism: just a lot of disparate people coming together. There are hints of a better societ being built, but with Perly Beecroft and Emmanuel Coon on board it would be wise not to hold ones breath. As it was, the fall of Fascism required a fullscale imperialist war.
An unrelated defect should be mentioned, too. Though the women are treated well, there is a definite homophobic current in the book. The leading gay is Lee Sarason. There is no such named character on the other side except Clarence Little, who breaks under pressure, but who may not be homosexual. On top of this, many of the Minute Men are shown to be of that leaning. (Presumably, this was based on reports of Rohm’s SA) In ’35, this may not have been seen as mark of prejudice; today, it must be condemned.
And so to Trump. the picture is still not clear. Obviously, his first ten days in office were not as catastrophic as Windrip’s, Nonetheless, there is still time, nearly four years for him to move against Courts, against Congress and, despite their notable futility (more than in ’35) the organisations of the working people. However, I suspect that he is less a fuehrer than a John-the Baptist for a possible fuehrer. Whatever he is, the left must try to unite to oppose hime, and provide a recognisable pole of attraction for those who recognise the inevitable failure of his policies. If there is anything we can do to help the process, we should do it. Over to you, Cousin.

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