“Those who are against Fascism without being against capitalism, who lament over the barbarism that comes out of barbarism, are like people who wish to eat their veal without slaughtering the calf. They are willing to eat the calf, but they dislike the sight of blood. They are easily satisfied if the butcher washes his hands before weighing the meat. They are not against the property relations which engender barbarism; they are only against barbarism itself. They raise their voices against barbarism, and they do so in countries where precisely the same property relations prevail, but where the butchers wash their hands before weighing the meat.” Bertolt Brecht, “Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties”
The new US administration is beginning to take shape, and it’s as bad as we expected – a mix of bible thumpers, climate deniers, white supremacists, homophobes, ant-semites and generally the most unsavoury elements of American tea party conservatism. I guess a lot of people will be saying I-told-you-so.
Told us what, exactly? That things would be bad under Trump? This seems to overlook the fact that things were already pretty awful.
Two million signatures have so far been collected to petition the Electoral College to reverse its decision on Trump – two million butthurt liberals sore that after rigging their own primaries they lost the general election to a scarecrow, are now desperately trying to put the blame on anyone but themselves. They blame ‘the Russians’, ‘the internet’, and ‘the white vote’ (really a 6% decline in black and Latino voter turnout). They call “fascist” and denounce Trump as racist for his plans to deport between 2 and 3 million undocumented migrants. HELLO! Obama has already deported 3.5 million.
Indeed on examination of the 2016 Republican Party platform, there is not much that stands out as being particularly to the right of current policy settings. Mass surveillance, prosecution of whistle blowers, banker bailouts, cuts to food stamps, massive military expansion, war with seven countries, direct support of terrorists, millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands dead… Uncle Tom has served his masser real good.
Much to the alarm of the presstitutes, the Butcher of Libya’s transition to power suffered a last minute derailment, signalling the end of 25 years of bipartisanship on foreign policy. The Bush era neocons are finally gone, replaced by a giant three year old with an orange bouffant, leading army of conservative cockwombles who believe that evolution is wrong because there are still monkeys, and that climate change is a communist plot. Never mind, it’s not like the Fracking Queen and her pals the Koch Brothers were going to do anything for the climate anyway.
The US is now officially an idiocracy. The elevation of a TV reality star to the most powerful office in the land is appropriate in a number of ways. Mostly it reminds us that the US exists in a virtual world of unreality. It has a virtual economy of finance capital where wealth creates wealth – the real economy has moved to China, Mexico, Brazil and other countries where labour is cheap. It has a virtual polity where class struggle has been replaced by the petty politics of gender and race. It has a virtual democracy that offers once every four years a choice between cholera and plague.
In this virtual world the working class have become the “middle class”; a fallacy concocted to exclude the growing ranks of great unwashed; the immigré, the out of work, the old and the afflicted, left behind by the march of progress. Government is for the rich and by the rich – a den of snakes in which no rational, ethical person could ever hope to survive. The law exists to protect property rather than to serve justice – witness the protests at Standing Rock.
In this virtual world, individualism and profit-seeking go hand in hand with mass incarceration, surveillance, and toxic trade pacts. Real wages and living standards are in permanent decline as stock prices soar to record highs. 43 million Americans rely on food stamps, but still see themselves as Steinbeck’s temporarily embarrassed millionaires. The US has become a parody of itself, the headquarters of Democracy Inc. where post-democratic bourgeois liberalism masquerades as popular self rule.
Into this dystopian nightmare unreality strides Donald J Trump. Trump is a paradox – a capitalist technocrat and yet anathema to the establishment. Conservative on identity-politics while toting a Santa-sack full of postwar liberalism, he plays to the anxieties of the oppressed working class “Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party, a party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry”, he said in an interview in May. On foreign policy, Trump eschews the aggressive stance of past administrations and seeks détente with China and Russia. Sadly, instead of being all over his more progressive policies like flies on chopped up pieces of Syrian children, the party of the so-called left is determined to oppose him every step of the way. Instead of holding his feet to the fire over promised reforms to healthcare, welfare and the student debt crisis, they will simply obstruct.
“There’s just a deep desire to believe that we can have free college, free health care — that what we’ve done hasn’t gone far enough, and we just need to go as far as Scandinavia — whatever that means. They’re the children of the Great Recession and they are living in their parents’ basement.” – HRC via WikiLeaks
The Clintons have been rightly excoriated for selling American democracy to Wall Street in the 90s, but the rot set in well before this. Honourable mention should also go to Jimmy Carter, who first signed on to trade liberalisation and privatisation, setting up the framework for Reaganomics – a system of socialism for the rich and capitalism for everybody else. This is the reality we now live in – there are not two political parties but one, and it is neither Democratic nor Republican. Carter correctly described the US as an oligarchy, a fact which has been laid bare in the recent election.
Those who see in Trump as some sort of neo-fascist have not been paying attention. The conditions for fascism existed well before this. Its seeds were sown with the weakening of anti-trust laws in the 1890s. This is the birth place of the modern American corporation, and arguably the birth place of US imperialism. Lobbying power in the hands of big business, combined with an emerging steel and ship building industry, gave rise to what is now known as the military industrial complex. It is this behemoth which has set the agenda for more than a century of war.
If WWIII is not going exactly to plan, it is because the West has a bad habit of underestimating Russian resilience. In their hubris, the neolib-cons thought they could subjugate post-Soviet Russia with trade sanctions. In response, Russia has forged stronger ties with its traditional strategic and economic partners. It’s no surprise to see the Philippines, Egypt, Turkey, not to mention China, now distancing themselves from Washington. In response to this realignment, Trump presents an opportunity for the empire to save face, to back away from a war which it was clearly losing, without appearing weak – an opportunity to regroup and change tack. But as with the nautical analogy, this should not be seen as a radical course correction, merely a change of approach. The objective remains the same; other ways must now be found to achieve it.
If Brexit was a rejection of the neoliberal, capitalist, imperialist EU, then the US election result must be seen in the same light – a vote of no confidence in the business-as-usual politics of endless war and poverty. The new CEO needs to take heed of this, but more importantly, so does the anti-war left. After eight years of hibernation, it’s time for liberal identitarians to wipe the rainbow fairy dust from their eyes and see that things have actually gotten worse under Obama and Hillary.
A period of isolationism would probably be a good thing for the US, and would certainly be good for the rest of the world. But even if the establishment were to tolerate an isolationist president (unlikely), it doesn’t change the fact that we are sailing toward an iceberg. A reawakening of class consciousness is our only bulwark against fascism. Until there is economic justice there can be no social justice. Until people come to recognise their place in the social order, they will continue to vent their fear and frustration against each other. This is as true for the bourgeois left as it is for the alt-right.
“He said a bayonet, that’s a weapon wi’ a working man at either end
Betray your country, serve your class. Don’t sign up for war my friend
Don’t sign up for war.” – Alistair Hullet