There are many extremely worrying similarities between fascism in Europe in the 1930's and the neo-fascism that we can see around us today. For example, Donald Trump, according to his first wife, kept a book of Hitler's speeches beside his bed, and studied it thoroughly. Today, he imitates Hitler’s rhetoric, as is discussed in Appendix A. The white supremacist supporters of Donald Trump have revived Nazi ideology, language and symbols. Neo-fascism and neo-Nazism are not confined to the United States, but exist in many countries.
Why was Germany allowed to rearm during the period before World War II?
Chapters 1 and 2 of this book review the history of Hitler's rise to power, and discuss the question of why Germany was allowed to rearm during the period prior to the Second World War. The answer that emerges is that the elites and decision-makers in Britain regarded Hitler as a “bulwark against communism”. A revolution had occurred in Russia, and they feared that it might spread elsewhere. What members of the upper class feared most was the loss of their own privileged positions.
Are there parallels today? In the United States, members of the Republican Party are often relatively wealthy people who fear that socialism would endanger their privileged financial position. Like Hitler and Mussolini, Donald Trump uses rhetoric addressed to the mob to guarantee the privileges of the elite. In return, he is supported by wealthy patrons and corporate oligarchs. Like Hitler, Trump appeals to racism and ultranationalism to gain support.
The climate emergency
Today human civilization and the biosphere are faced with two existential dangers. The first of these is the danger that the activities of the constantly-increasing global population will lead to uncontrollable and catastrophic climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in half within 12 years and reduced to net zero by 2050 if we are to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change. However, measurements at the Mount Loa Observatory in Hawaii show that atmospheric CO2 concentrations are continuing to increase, unaffected by the warnings of the scientific community.
One of the major problems in mobilizing political will to take action is a contrast between two time scales: Rapid and resolute action is needed immediately, but the worst effects of rising global temperatures and sea levels lie in the long-term future. Hopefully the wildfires burning in northern Russia, which have produced a blanket of smoke the size of the European Union, will be enough to wake us up. As 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg says: “Our house is on fire!”.
In the United States, Donald Trump maintains that climate change is a hoax. He has withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement, sabotaged the Environmental Protection Agency, fired and insulted scientists, and enacted numerous measures supporting the fossil fuel giants. The greed of these enormous corporations weighs present profits so highly as to disregard the threatened collapse of civilization in a future burning world. Trump is their agent.
The Green New Deal concept takes its inspiration from the measures that Franklin D. Roosevelt used to bring the United States out of the Great Depression in the 1930's. In Roosevelt's New Deal, the Federal government initiated massive programs to provide the US with much-needed infrastructure, and these programs simultaneously addressed unemployment by creating jobs. Similarly. the Green New Deal would support the creation of the infrastructure needed for a complete transition to renewable energy. This large-scale project would simultaneously provide jobs.
The newly-elected congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has been one of the most active and eloquent leaders promoting the Green New Deal. She was one of the four non-white congresswomen recently demonized by Donald Trump, who tweeted: “Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?" It was another example of the racism that Trump's supporters love. In fact, three of the four, including Ocasio-Cortez, were born in the United States.
The fact that leaders of the US Republican Party have adopted a stance of climate change denial and support for the fossil fuel industries is the reason that Professor Noam Chomsky has called the party “the most dangerous organization in history”.
The threat of an all-destroying thermonuclear war
The second existential threat facing human civilization and the biosphere is the threat of a thermonuclear war. Such a war might produce wide-spread famine because of the nuclear winter effect, and it could make large regions of the world permanently uninhabitable through radioactive contamination.
Despite the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which was passed by a large majority vote at the UN General Assembly on 7 July 2017, the nuclear weapon states have not changed their world-threatening policies. They continue to consecrate trillions of dollars to the modernization and maintenance of nuclear weapons. They continue to rely on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence, or “mutually assured destruction”, whose very appropriate acronym is MAD.
The concepts of nuclear deterrence and “massive retaliation" have several flaws. First of all, the obliteration of entire populations, including old people, young adults, children and babies, is genocide, and is forbidden not only by international law, but also by the ethics of all major religions. Secondly, a thermonuclear war could occur through accident, through mechanical failure or human error, or through the uncontrollable escalation of a conflict. There are very many instances when this type of disaster has been narrowly avoided. We cannot continue to be lucky forever. Thirdly, existing nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists or organized criminals.
Finally, we must remember that even if the danger that a catastrophic nuclear war will occur in any given year is small, over a long period of time the danger builds up into a certainty. If the dangers for any given year are 1%, 2% or 3%, the probabilities of are survival until 2100 are respectively 43%, 18% and 8%. If the period for which we must survive is extended to the year 2200, the chances of survival in the three cases are respectively .16%, .025%, and .0039%.
Donald Trump's withdrawal from the INF Treaty, and his nuclear threats against Iran and North Korea, have increased the danger of a world-destroying nuclear war.
Betrayal by the mainstream media
Humanity is being betrayed by the mainstream media (with a few notable exceptions such as The Guardian). Our predicament today has been called “a race between education and catastrophe”. How do the media fulfil this life-or-death responsibility? Do they give us insight? No, they give us pop music. Do they give us an understanding of the sweep of evolution and history? No, they give us sport. Do they give us an understanding of the ecological catastrophes that threaten our planet because of unrestricted growth of population and industries? No, they give us sit-coms and soap operas. Do they give us unbiased news? No, they give us news that has been edited to conform with the interests of powerful lobbies. Do they present us with the urgent need to leave fossil fuels in the ground? No, they do not, because this would offend the powerholders. Do they tell of the danger of passing tipping points after which human efforts to prevent catastrophic climate change will be useless? No, they give us programs about gardening and making food.
In general, the mass media behave as though their role is to prevent the peoples of the world from joining hands and working to change the world and to save it from thermonuclear war, environmental catastrophes and threatened global famine. The television viewer sits slumped in a chair, passive, isolated, disempowered and stupefied. The future of the world hangs in the balance, the fate of children and grandchildren hangs in the balance, but the television viewer feels no impulse to work actively to change the world or to save it. The Roman emperors gave their people bread and circuses to numb them into political inactivity. The modern mass media seem to be playing a similar role.
The importance of alternative media
The failure of the mass media to mobilize us to action against neo-fascism, decay of democracy, and the existential threats of uncontrollable climate change and thermonuclear war, increases the importance of the alternative media. We owe a debt of gratitude to the editors of independent on-line news websites, who give us news that has not been distorted by corporate greed. We owe them not only thanks, but also financial support.1