From The Michael Slate Show:

Sasha Abramsky on Trump and 1930s Germany... BA on Role of Students... and Andy Zee on Why Nothing Short of Removing This Regime Will Stop This Nightmare

April 9, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


On April 6, 2018, The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio aired a show that included an interview with journalist and professor Sasha Abramsky; an audio clip from the Q&A of the talk by Bob Avakian, THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible, in which BA addresses the role of students; and an interview with Andy Zee, co-initiator of Refuse Fascism and a spokesperson for the Revolution Books stores. The following are excerpts from the transcripts of the interviews with Abramsky and Zee.

The Michael Slate Show airs every Friday at 10 am Pacific Time on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. The show can be streamed live here and people can listen to or download archived shows here.

Revolution/ features interviews from The Michael Slate Show to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theatre, music and literature, science, sport, and politics. The views expressed by those interviewed are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere by Revolution/

Sasha Abramsky

Michael Slate: I’m pleased to welcome to the show Sasha Abramsky. We are going to be talking about one of his most recent articles in the Sacramento Bee on fascism in Germany, the rise of Hitler, and what it has to do with what we are looking at with the Trump regime and what’s happening in this country today. Sasha welcome to the show.

Sasha Abramsky: Hey, good morning.

Michael Slate: Reading what you’ve written, I thought this was something people need to hear about because far too many people have normalized a lot of things that are happening in this country today. Fascism, it can’t happen here—that’s a lot of what people are thinking. But you bring lessons from Germany. You’ve written about what happened when the great mass of citizenry either supported the transformation or sat back and did nothing. And you’ve said that as Trump consolidates his power, the history of 1930s Germany needs to be understood and the Trump/Pence regime needs to be called out for what it is.

Sasha Abramsky: What I’ve been writing about for the last several years is the fact that when norms start breaking down, it’s very easy for the great mass of people—the sort of apathetic middle of the road people who hope for a return to normalcy, the people who don’t really want to pay attention to politics in the first place—to sort of step back and say: “Oh well, we’re different. We have something exceptional about American history that guarantees permanent democracy.”

It’s certainly true that the way our constitution is crafted, we’ve got a lot of braking mechanisms built in to try to constrain demagogy and to try and constrain a march to tyranny. But it’s also true when you look at the last couple years that Trump and his administration have shattered one norm after another. They’ve done it both deliberately and also simply because they’re full of bluster and they’re full of hatred and they’re full of nastiness and every time they enact a policy they go after another vulnerable group.

I’m always haunted by that quote from Nazi Germany about first they came for the socialists and I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t a socialist, and then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t do anything because I wasn’t a trade unionist. And it goes on and on and finally it says and then they came for the Jews and there was no one left to defend me. I’ve always been haunted by that idea that when a civic society breaks down it doesn’t happen all at once but it happens gradually. What we’re seeing in America at the moment is the erosion of one norm and one safeguard after another and the corrosion of one institutional braking mechanism after another. And as that happens one group after another is targeted, whether it’s Dreamers, whether it’s people with temporary protected status, whether it’s pregnant women who come to the border and try to claim asylum, whether it’s vulnerable young people who are being attacked by the police—one group after another is being rendered vulnerable. If we sit back and if we just say, “Look, it can’t happen here,” we’re going to sleepwalk into a disaster. Because it can happen here. There are no guarantees that it will but there are clearly impulses in play at the moment that are pushing America in a deeply authoritarian dark, direction.

Michael Slate: When you write about what happened in Germany you say that even among the best of people in Germany at the time, there was an idea that “silence and disdain” was “effective opposition.” You can see a lot of that where people here today dismiss what Trump does, they dismiss some of the people in his cabinet and meanwhile he’s basically rolling out the whole fascist groundcover and people are saying look, he’s an idiot, the elections are coming up and that will change things.

Sasha Abramsky: A few things about the slide into first chaos and then authoritative fascism of Germany have always intrigued me. One of them is that Germany was one of the most cultured, sophisticated countries on Earth in the Weimar period [1919-1933]. It had this rich history; it was reinventing itself after the calamity of WW1; it had this thriving political culture in Weimar Germany. It was sexually tolerant; it was politically tolerant; it was an epicenter of artistic creativity. That was in the 1920s. Then the economic collapse triggered by 1929 occurs and by the early ’30s its economy is a wreck. People are homeless by the millions, they’re unemployed by the millions, they’re feeling humiliated, they’re feeling humbled. They’re looking for a fifth column of domestic enemies to blame. They’re casting around for religious and racial minorities that they can target and scapegoat.

All of these things happened remarkably quickly. When you look at Germany in the mid-1930s, in the early Nazi period, you see a few things. The first is that the scapegoaters are now in charge and they’re busy blaming Jews and communists and homosexuals and people they call “degenerate artists” and so on and so forth. The second thing you see is that an awful lot of Germans are very comfortable with this because their economy is starting to rebound. As long as Hitler delivers the economic goods and as long as he continues to talk about national pride and putting Germany first and preventing other nations from laughing at Germany, and as long as he pulls out of international treaties with impunity—a large number of Germans are actually rather content with the situation, especially businessmen. They might not like Hitler, they might think he’s crude and he’s crass and vulgarities come out of his mouth and they might not like his henchmen who run riot in the streets and intimidate journalists and all these things. But they’ll tolerate the Nazis as long as the Nazis deliver tax cuts, as long as the Nazis deliver economic benefits and so on.

When you look at the parallels to today, there’s a frightening similarity. For the vast majority of Americans, the people who aren’t being directly targeted or aren’t being directly brutalized or aren’t being directly intimidated—there seems to be a tradeoff. They might not like Trump, they might not like the Republican Party at the moment but a goodly number of them will sit back and tolerate it as long as the jobs are flowing, as long as the tax cuts are flowing, as long as their daily economic situation is OK. That’s a horrifying calculus because what it means is a large number of people in an authoritarian system become expendable. And they become expendable simply because the vast majority of people aren’t willing to stand up to the government and say this is outrageous. You cannot intimidate and beat and brutalize people in our names. But as long as that outrage isn’t there, there’s room for an authoritarian government to do tremendous damage to civic culture.

Michael Slate: When Hitler came to power in Germany there were many in the German elite, and even somewhat broadly in German society, who believed that Hitler could be handled by the machinations of the conservative elites. There was this idea that he was a bumpkin, as you said, who would collapse in the face of the well-established ruling elite. Well, that didn’t work very well and Hitler went on and changed everything.

Sasha Abramsky: Yes, the parallels are eerie. Hitler gets to become the supreme power of Germany, not through winning a majority at the election but through winning a large minority. He comes into power and there’s a political crisis and eventually the president, Hindenburg—the old rearguard, the last line of World War 1 in German politics—Hindenburg basically brings Hitler into office and says, “I’m going to make you chancellor but you’re going to be chancellor of a coalition government.” So all of these traditional conservatives, like von Papen, these business elites, these old military elites, the old diplomatic elites, they hold their noses and they decide they can do business with Hitler because it’s better than political chaos. So they come into office and they make these private statements, very derogatory of Hitler saying look, he’s a nothing. We can control him. We can have him in our corner in no time. They think they can corral him and instead the exact opposite happens.

Hitler, who is derided by the elites, rapidly consolidates power and within a year all of the civic structures of Germany are breaking down and the Reichstag, the Parliament of Germany, is actually passing laws, one after another, enabling extra-constitutional government, enabling all the excesses of Hitler’s personalized rule. All of the non-Nazis in the government, one after another after another, the so-called moderates, are pushed out into oblivion. Again, the parallels to today are eerie.

The traditional conservatives in the Republican Party, they didn’t really like Trump, they held their nose, they thought he was vulgar. They didn’t really like his nativism, but what they did like was the idea that they could get someone into power who they could control. They could get their judges into positions of power, they could deregulate the economy, they could get their tax cuts. Those were the big three things the Republican Party cared about. They thought they could get Trump to do all of that and then he would roll over and be entirely in their corner. Instead what we’ve seen is yes, he did pass tax cuts, he did sign tax cuts, he’s gone after regulations with a vengeance, he’s put this horrifying number of conservative judges into the courts, but he hasn’t rolled over.

Instead what we’re seeing is purges, one after another, of the so-call moderates, people like Rex Tillerson. Or the institutions of government, whether it’s the attacks on the Department of Justice or the FBI or whether it’s the attacks on the State Department as an institution. And what we’re seeing is one after another, the people who aren’t simpatico with Trump’s agenda are being driven out of office....

History never repeats itself exactly, it always repeats itself with variation, but the danger is that we now have a deeply demagogic, scapegoating national leadership in America in control of all of the vast economic and political and military power that goes along with being in charge of the most powerful country on Earth. The potential for disaster is immense because you have a government now that has no moral constraints, no moral limits. You have a president who has indicated his willingness—at least rhetorically—to talk about using nuclear weapons. You have the immense potential for a bloody, catastrophic denouement to this period in American history. I guess where I’d wrap it up is I’d say look, the parallels with the past are always going to be parallels with a variance. So it’s not that Hitler and Trump are exact equivalents, it’s not that Weimar Germany and early 2000s America are exact equivalents, and it’s not that the Third Reich and Trump’s America are exact equivalents, but there are disturbing enough similarities that we do not have room for complacency at the moment.

Andy Zee

Michael Slate: There’s been a theme during this show today, the discussion with Sasha Abramsky early on, the Q&A section of the talk from BA, THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible. When you look at that, there’s a real need and necessity for people to be breaking this stuff down, but also for giving people the ability to actually step up and go out and take this stuff on, in the way that it needs to be taken on.

Andy Zee: This is actually a very rich show. There’s a lot that both Sasha Abramsky brought forward and certainly the Q&A with Bob Avakian—one of the questions among several that were part of and addendums to the film that you referenced, the talk by Bob Avakian in October, 2017. Sasha made many important points, but in saying that the greatest danger we face is complacency, this is a very profound point. It means that people are actually going to have to act to stop this.

To not repeat what he said, but to actually add to it, and highlight the film that Avakian brought forward, we have to understand that fascism actually does represent a qualitative change in the form in which this society is ruled. It doesn’t mean it’s a different system. It’s still the capitalist-imperialist system. It’s still a system that is a system of empire around the world that’s done horrific things to people in this country since its foundation. But this is a qualitative change in the form of rule, which means essentially the evisceration of democratic rights, civil rights, civil society. These are the norms that Sasha was talking about as being shattered.

And when you get to that point where there is a qualitative change, sort of a more blatant form of dictatorship if you will—and I would assert that we always live under a dictatorship of a system and a class of people—but this is really a qualitative change which, if you don’t recognize it before it consolidates, then you’ve got yourself a big problem. It makes it much harder for every form of struggle to be waged.

The other thing is, and you got a sense of this in the answer Avakian was giving to the question, “What about the students?” where he’s talking about the kind of atmosphere in society, the kind of ideas and the history of the country. And this talk, which I would recommend to your listeners—I know you do this all the time on your show—but it’s really important because Avakian goes into the roots of fascism in the system itself. We have to face up to the fact that this is not the first time fascism has occurred under this system. There’s Italy, there’s Germany, there’s Japan, in the last century. Right now, there are fascist regimes springing up all over the world, including right here.

Avakian goes very deeply in this talk into the roots of an American fascism in the whole history of this country of genocide of the native peoples, slavery and the misogyny that ran through the culture of this country and the actual laws of this country. So it should not be an anomaly or something where you can say, “How could it happen here?” This is actually the history of the country. If you have a country that has the largest prison population in the world, and percentage-wise it’s through the roof, why should you be surprised that there’s a fascist government that is coming to power and attempting to impose its rule?

So this is my perspective on this in terms of the root causes, and I’ve learned from what Avakian has done in terms of the roots of this, as well as the solution in that indeed we must now unite to stop this. And that means people of all different political persuasions, all different points of view, need to come together and recognize this as the danger that sits right in front of us. And then in that process, myself as a spokesperson of the Revolution Bookstores, we want to move beyond this system. But that is not immediately on the agenda. What is on the agenda is all kinds of people uniting today to defeat this regime through mass, non-violent protest that involves ultimately millions of people from many different points of view uniting together. That’s what Refuse Fascism is formed around.

Michael Slate: One of the things that Sasha talks about in the article he wrote—in Germany, people who should have known better looked for ways short of totally assaulting and dismantling the rising fascist regime. There’s a need for people here to be aware of the character of the situation we face today and what it demands from us. They’re consolidating their fascist machinery in a big hurry, and it’s going to mean even more horror, as we’ve already seen in the rest of the world, as you were referring to. People really need to cast aside illusions and self-delusions.

Andy Zee: I think that’s true. People do need to cast aside illusions. There’s an article on called, “The Continuity of the Past Does Not Negate the Urgency of the Present.” This is an important point. There’s a parallel with Weimar Germany, which was that period of a florescence of democratic culture in Germany, and Sasha was right, it was often most located in the cities, and in certain elite strata there, and included a belief that that would continue. Germany, of course, was in a very different position than the U.S. is. Germany was a defeated power at that point. There were severe restrictions on it in its geopolitical aspirations.

But let’s be clear. The U.S. itself as the sole superpower has been under increasing duress in many different directions, including internationally, including that it’s now in the longest war in its history with no end in sight in Afghanistan, and certainly throughout the Mideast, as well as changing demographics, changing population, globalization. All these kinds of things has led to a section of very powerful people who have been developing a fascist movement in this country over the past 30-40 years. Perhaps it surprised Trump and it surprised them, but Trump has been able to speak to that diverse social base, and has shown the willingness and the ability to shatter every norm—this is the point Sasha was making—to shatter all these norms such as to bring about a different coherence in the ruling class.

So this is what we’re facing. You’ve got, not the majority, but a big section of the people in the United States who’ve lived a relatively comfortable life. Different from Germany—in Germany they had just gone through a world war. People here haven’t had a war in the continental United States since the Civil War. There’s been relative political stability, except for the period of struggle in the 1960s, which is something we need to learn a lot from, even if we weren’t able to succeed [in getting rid of this system] in that period.

So you have this political complacency and stability that’s based on an economic foundation. But we’ve got to get beyond that, and people have to look at what’s coming, and what the implications are. And this gets really sharply posed right now with the formation of this war cabinet, this cabal of people: Gina Haspel, an absolute war criminal being appointed the head of the CIA. This is somebody who should have been convicted of war crimes for torturing people. Pompeo, about to be confirmed as head of the State Department, a verifiable lunatic, right out of “Dr. Strangelove.” And then, what can you say about Bolton other than this is a straight-up fascist who’s advocating using first strike weapons? These people are extremely dangerous and “Mad Dog” Mattis isn’t going to restrain them.

So it is a time when people have to cast away these illusions and self-delusions and look at what’s actually in the offing. That’s something we should talk about. Over the coming weeks, you have the Iran deal coming up, you have this negotiation with North Korea. Both of these are trip wires that could lead to an absolute catastrophe for the people of the world, for people in this country, for humanity as a whole and even for the survival of humanity, should it spin out of control. This, by the way, can happen.

Michael Slate: We still are faced by this very dangerous normalization. People are saying, “Well, we have an election coming up.” Plus all this other stuff you’re referring to. But people do need to step up, recognize what’s going on, and then decide what needs to be done in this situation. There’s an historic challenge that has to be carried out or the planet could disappear.

Andy Zee: I think that’s true. And this coming Wednesday, April 11, Refuse Fascism is calling a national meeting. We’re having 30 minutes of live stream from New York. It’s happening in cities around the country. We’ll be announcing our plans for 2018 and a new Call to Act. And we do begin this by saying that we are resolving that nothing short of removing this whole illegitimate regime from power will stop the nightmare of the Trump/Pence regime.

There is a way to do it, but to do it we have to cast aside illusions and self-delusions—which is that this is just part of the normal processes of elections, or a protest now and again around particular things by itself will change the situation. We have to be—and this is a point that Sasha also brought up, and it’s something Avakian really was hammering home in that answer, speaking about the students—just because something isn’t happening directly to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And if you want to live in a world that’s not like this one, if you want to live in a world that’s about justice, then if something is happening to other people, you have to act against it. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening, and it also means it’s not something you should tolerate, or you’re going to get the worst of what could come. Including that it could affect you. That’s the point of that Pastor Niemöller quote, “First they came for the communists, and I wasn’t a communist, so I did nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did nothing.” To the point when they came for me, and there was no one left to stand up.

We do put on the front page of our new Call—I’m going to preview it, but people should come listen to this live stream, and come to the meetings—if we are not as outraged and motivated to act today as we were right after the election, we are on our way to accepting a great horror that builds daily. If we adjust to the injustice of this regime, do not ask how the German people could have accepted Nazism in the 1930s.

Michael Slate: That was something that really grabbed me when I read it. It makes you sit up and think, and hopefully it will make you stand up and do something.

Andy Zee: At the meetings we’re going to be discussing plans for how do we go from a situation where there’s millions of people outraged at the situation, probably tens of thousands acting around one outrage or another, whether it’s the situation with women, the Black Lives Matter, the DACA youth, immigration, climate change, scientists are marching next weekend—and a situation where there’s a few thousand people who are determined that the whole regime must go through mass non-violent struggle, on the model of what happened in South Korea in 2016 where they massed in the streets, day after day, night after night until the president was removed from power—impeached and then indicted.

Michael Slate: Do you have anything to add?

Andy Zee: Two things. One is to go to this website, and sign the call. You can read it there. And take part in this movement. And two, if you really want to understand, and you do need to understand what we’re facing, go to either or and watch this film by Bob Avakian, and watch the Q&A, and get into the causes of this, and to the solution. I would also recommend to your listeners an article by Avakian, “The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy... And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer.” This is also on the website It’s an incredible analysis of the roots of this American fascism, of Manifest Destiny, the Bible taken literally, misogyny, white supremacy and xenophobia, the roots of all this in the history, including the present history of the U.S.


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