(Kersplebedeb Note: I received the following email from Mr Takei, who had just read the book Confronting Fascism that i co-published in the summer of 2002 (along with ARA Chicago and Arsenal magazine). I wrote back, suggesting that he may want to write a review for my site, and he replied that i should just post his comments as he sent them originally, thus the letter-style format of this review…)
I would like to make some comments on the book, Confronting Fascism . I hope that you will forward this message to Hamerquist, Sakai, Salotte, and other interested people. Fascism has not been a particular interest of mine; however, I study ethnic politics worldwide.
I must disagree with Hamerquist’s statement on p. 60 that “the attraction of freedom and creative space is far greater than any fascist appeal to duty, self-sacrifice, order and certainly more attractive than racialist solidarity.” I think that he is greatly underestimating the attraction of the arbitrary power that white supremacy gives to white people. I think that people of color are very angry because of the effects of racism; I also think that white people are very fearful over the threat to white privilege that they perceive. White people can racialize crime, racialize welfare, racialize immigration, and of course, racialize terrorism.
I think that the form of slavery that existed in the United States is a model for white supremacy–slaves could have been more intelligent, more hard-working, and more morally upright than their masters, yet they were required to follow the orders of the masters because they were property. Slavery in the Americas was probably the most cruel and arbitrary form of domination that has ever existed, hence the need to justify it through an ideology of racial superiority.
The fact is that many white people are addicted to white supremacy. They are desperately clinging to the notion that because they are white, they are automatically superior to people of color. They resent any lessening of their power over people of color. Racism is still arbitrary, even though slavery is no longer legal in the U.S., outside of prison. Today, many white people are trying to convince themselves that they are more intelligent, more hard-working, and more morally upright than people of color; but the ideology of white supremacy still mandates that white people should be in charge, regardless of the personal characteristics of people of color.
Another problem is that freedom represents merely a theoretical promise offered by radicals. Most people would have difficulty imagining how the burdens they feel could be lifted. On the other hand, white privilege is something white people enjoy at present, and most are afraid of losing their privilege.
The appeal of fascism in the United States rests in part on the fact that it defends white privilege. I think that _Confronting Facism_ is correct in saying that fascism is attractive even to some people on the Left. The conclusion has to be that anti-fascists should not be focusing so much on the neo-Nazis, the Klan, etc. Potential fascists are all around–they are among your friends and allies. I have observed the racism of people who claim not to be racists; I have noted the extremely domineering behavior of people who claim to believe in democracy; people who claim to believe in freedom of speech censor me. Understanding of white privilege is in its infancy among white people–education about racism is a crying need. So many white people have trouble treating me as an equal; others have a racist reaction when I challenge them.
I think that you should use caution in attempting to compare fascism in the industrialized North with movements in the Global South. People in the South have a collective memory of colonialism, and they continue to be the victim of economic domination by the North. The people who carried out the attacks of September 11, 2001 were striking at symbols of U.S. military and economic power–I can’t see any reason for thinking that they were defending racism.
Of course, ethnic domination also exists in the South. I could spend several lifetimes investigating what ethnic groups are dominant in various countries. To give just one example, I suggest reading Michael G. Cotter, “Toward a Social History of the Vietnamese Southward Movement,” _Journal of Southeast Asian History,_ vol. 9, no. 1 (1968). If you read the article, I think you will see that Vietnam is a settler state. Just as the United States annexed half of Mexico, Vietnam conquered a part of Cambodia (today’s Mekong Delta region of Vietnam). I believe that the Pol Pot regime represented a desperate attempt to prevent Vietnam from swallowing Cambodia.
My point is that people studying any country need to try to determine what groups are doing the dominating. The situation may really be much different from the picture that the mainstream media presents. In the case of Cambodia, ethnic Vietnamese settlers are potential tools for the government of Vietnam to use in swallowing Cambodia. If people are struggling against the domination of another ethnic group, some observers might label them as “fascist,” but such a movement would be different from fascism in the U.S.
You might give some consideration to politics in Japan. I have read that governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara might try to become prime minister. Some people compare him to Le Pen in France. But don’t forget that despite the fact that people in Japan are racist, they are still people of color. If Ishihara becomes prime minister, the racism of the United States will be partly to blame. He might become the prime minister under whom Japan becomes nuclear armed.