(Note: the following commentary was modified at 9:45pm Sunday, Seattle time.)
Europe's One Percent is aggressively pursuing the destruction of their social safety nets while bringing the governments of the smaller countries under the control of the One Percent's financial institutions.
The eurozone’s permanent bailout fund, the ESM [European Stability Mechanism], has not yet been ratified by all 17 members and already the European Commission wants to change its mandate to include direct bailouts to banks. The direct funding of underwater banks is a blatant power-grab, an attempt to establish the primacy of banks in the same way that the TARP was used to create Too Big To Fail in the US. TBTF means that the banks have merged with the state and that taxpayers provide blanket guarantees for their survival. Europe is moving fast towards this same model.It appears to me that Western capitalist governments are sliding down the slippery slope to some version of fascism--a system of government that relies heavily on the rich and their engines of wealth: private ownership and control of banks and industry, and the open use of police state methods to enforce their interests.
The capitalist ruling class has always used both hard and soft power, but it is only when the capitalist ruling class relies mostly on hard power, particularly police-state methods, that their rule is described as fascist. Usually they prefer to use soft power and forms of representative "democracy"; and when they practice these forms, their propaganda organs frequently refer to their rule as "democratic".
There is a lot of confusion about the term fascism--often it has been reduced to a swear word--I think mostly because writers from the One Percent like to cause confusion about concepts that are too revealing about their rule. Most of the confusion can be attributed to differences in style and methods used in different historical periods. One must not confuse form and substance.
In the classic period of fascism characterized by Germany and Italy in the 1930s, capitalists allied themselves mostly with the sub-class of small business people and unemployed and solicited the support of many others with nationalistic, patriotic, and racist appeals. But these methods were adopted because the capitalist class found them to be useful in that period. Nowadays, they rely much more on fears of "terrorism" and immigrants, and phony anti-drug campaigns. Thus, fascism is an integral part of capitalism, but usually in latent form until periods when other devices fail to work. Then the velvet gloves come off to reveal the mailed fist.
So, what do we have today? It appears to me that the governing One Percent is using a mixture of both hard and soft power, but increasingly preparing to use and using hard power as people are starting to resist their austerity policies and as wide sections of populations experience declining living standards. At times the ruling classes show their friendly "democratic" face, at other times the soulless expression of a banker-vampire; but when their rule is threatened, they will take off their "democratic" masks and turn their enforcer dogs on anyone who opposes them. Ask any Occupier activist about this.