Capitalist Crisis and the Rise of International Fascism

There is no greater indication that our global economic system, the capitalist system, is immersed in a profound crisis than the current rise and spread of international fascism. From Narendra Modi in India and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, to Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the USA, the success of populist, alt-right, nationalist leaders has punched its way through the fragile veneer of democracies throughout the global village. With their xenophobic and racist policies of state homogeny, ultra-right-wing governors enhance their power through lying, cheating and inveiglement, and through corruptions they threaten to install nightmarish, dystopian dictatorships in places which have always seemed impervious to radicalisms. And as the crisis of capitalism deepens with the coronavirus pandemic, the risk of a wave of goose-stepping, military-religious national-socialisms spreading across the globe’s political map is more and more a tangible possibility.

This capitalist crisis is not a simple readjustment of the marketplace, this glitch has uncovered a chronic, structural malevolence and a sense of unsustainability has wormed its way into the subconscious of the global-world populace, creating a general malaise based on a strong dose of incomprehension and peppered by a crippling sense of impotence.

The first great victim will have to be democracy. The ugly truth that is facing us is that this crisis is an infirmity that demands extirpation. A revaluation of all values is needed, and democracy is not an effective system at all for establishing systemic change.

The traditional democratic dance that sees a continual exchange of power between liberal-democrats and social-democrats (i.e. between conservative capitalists and progressive capitalists) is no longer viable. The make-up of most democratic, parliamentary systems today (or partial presidential republics) take the following, simplified form:

THE LEFT:

  1. There is a social democrat party that favours the capitalist economy but believes in a strong state-run public sector. Traditionally it is the left-wing party most voted for, and still is in many cases, although the existential threat of the capitalist crisis has created an anti-systemic consciousness in the left that has sparked the creation of radical rivals to the centre. These groups are …
  2. Ecological groups that have risen according to a vital need, the climate emergency, that has been looming for decades and which is the principle negative result of the capitalist policy of continual growth. However, the movement itself has failed to establish itself as a governable option as voters do not clearly see the way a green alternative would deal with day to day problems and many green parties have associated themselves with a broader platform …   
  3. A broad radical-left amalgamation that has gathered and grown because of the social democrat’s impotence or tardiness in dealing with the reforms necessitated by the crises. These groups are fuelled by an awareness that systemic change is imperative, an attitude which frightens many centre-left voters and terrifies the right. To govern, these parties need to convince the electorate in the vital need for systemic change, but when it has been able to achieve democratic power, as in Greece with SYRIZA after the Grexit crisis, it is rendered largely impotent and unable to fulfil expectations.

THE RIGHT:

  1. There is a conservative-liberal, pro-capitalist democratic party, that often has close ties to religious pressure groups and, because it is economically liberal, it supports the private sector and disdains the public sector. In most cases these parties still vie with the social democrat parties for the post of the party most voted for in the election race. However, the obvious capitalist crisis and the threat of an anti-systemic left-wing radicalism has drawn many disenchanted voters away from these parties into the lap of the alt-right.
  2. There is often a more-liberal-than-conservative pro-enterprise party that also draws votes away from the conservatives and represents more agnostic or atheistic entrepreneurs. They are neo-liberal in their roots and need to obtain support from the centre-right conservative electorate if they are to govern. In order to do that, however, they need to adopt a conservative mask which undermines their own identity.
  3. In the last decade alt-right forces have established themselves throughout most parliamentary systems. They vie with the conservative-liberal centre to appear the most patriotic of political parties and link their party image to church and the military with nationalist homogeneity being the centre of their agenda. They are therefore economically anti-globalisation and protectionist, and also racist and xenophobic. Once elected they distance themselves from all other parties and play a more disruptive role in parliament than any positive participatory role. They are not in politics to do the democratic dance of governorship. When they reach a position of power they want to stay, and they begin the process of rigging the system in their favour in order to make it difficult to remove them.

Over the last decade, parliamentary-system politics has become more and more a stressful struggle between these six main groups, usually spiced up by smaller local, regional groups making secessionist demands. In terms of making the necessary systemic reforms needed to replace capitalism or simply mitigate its malicious effects and defects, it seems unlikely that these parliamentary stews will be able to make significant headway. But, as the crisis thickens, and the political atmosphere becomes more densely charged with a necessity that seems impossible to satisfy, the simple solutions of building walls around our fears that is offered by the alt-right will become more and more politically appetising.

To counteract the fearmongering that will inevitably come from the right, the left must be able to be primarily seductive. But that will only be possible if they are also effective. The climate crisis and the restructuring of labour are systemic reforms that need to be implemented now wherever the left is still able to govern. Systemic change needs to be sold from, not just the radical but also the centre left as something beautiful and desirable. Green deals and more economic systems with more equative distributions of money have to be made if an alternative to the alt-right dystopia is going to be feasible, because, at the moment, for an ever  larger part of the democratic world’s electorate, the only way out of the crisis of capitalism leans toward fascism.     

Doctor Faustus & America’s Demons

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We can see and feel it coming, and we hope that we will be wrong. It’s a sickness that we share: an insanity rooted in nihilism, xenophobia and hatred; creating a general paranoia that is very much alike to a diabolical possession.

There is nothing new in what we see now: the demons have been lurking in wait to take possession of their inheritance for as long as we can remember. It was conceptualized in nineteenth-century imperialism, becoming manifest in twentieth-century fascisms, and has been simmering under the surface ever since Nazi Germany was defeated by other kinds of fascisms wearing democratic masks.

The success of Trumpism lies in the fact that he sold his brand to the voters by claiming to be the only one untainted by the errors and miscalculations that have brought our consumer civilization to the brink of an apocalyptical demise.

But did the void have to be filled by such a monstrous apparition? For potentially, this creature is even worse than the Nazi Führer. He is capable of everything Hitler was capable of and yet wields a power a thousand-times more potent than Hitler’s was, and a psychology that is more infantile and egocentric than Hitler’s was.

At the end of the Second World War, Thomas Mann, in a talk entitled ‘Germany and the Germans’ described a pact between the German people and the devil, Hitler. The speech was given in retrospect, Satan was already defeated, but Mann had developed the metaphor years before and had written a novel about it called Doctor Faustus.

Like Faustus, Germany sold its soul to Hitler, and like Faustus, America has sold its soul to Donald Trump.

Trumpist America has many of the same symptoms of Nazi Germany: the evocation of nationalist (patriotic) feelings and militaristic pride; the humiliation of past bungled military operations; the influence of perverted theologies and the feelings of family love – and these are all themes that are developed in gruesome detail in Mann’s Doctor Faustus.

The Second World war did not bring about the End of Times, but the demon-Hitler certainly pushed us to the brink of it. It inspired the creation and utilisation of the doomsday weapon (the atom bomb) and we have been living under that apocalyptic cloud ever since.

In Trumpism, even when he chants his own optimistic slogan “Let’s make America great again”, there is an apocalyptic atmosphere that engulfs our present, creating a tone of fear: a fear of the nihilism; the xenophobic and egocentric stupidity that the devil-Trump represents.

Middle-class America is shrinking and the divide between rich and poor is widening; a generalized decline which has been running its course since the 1970s[1]; a decline that is not only reflected in an increase of poverty but is also a psychological depressant as it worms its way through a way of life that has always been deeply fragile in its depth of consumer-based nihilisms, precariously held up by the fragile supports of hypocritical evangelical theologies and the symbol of the dollar. It is hardly surprising, then, that they have mistaken Trump’s promises of greatness as a chance to restore what has been eroded away. His message is that America’s middle-class can only be resurrected by flexing America’s muscle, creating the common-sense, but intrinsically false, equation that the country with the biggest army should be able to dictate any and all the terms in order to bring the maximum profits to all American nationals.

But the greatest errors that these believers-in-Trump have made, and the greatest misfortune for them, is that they expect this restoration of consumer-power to come from a silver-spoon-fed businessman, who built and ruined his own empire on the bricks of inheritance, who has a perverted, psychopathic self-esteem and a mind that is anything but centred and orderly, and who prefers watching Fox & Friends to receiving counsel from his advisors.

If the Trump presidency does succeed, the most logical outcome of that success will be alike to a biblical End of Days. The success of Trumpism depends on a Trump-dictatorship. It is doubtful that the prolongation of the Trump regime will be able to last without intense gerrymandering of the already intensely gerrymandered electoral system in the U.S.A., or without a more blatant redesigning of the constitution to allow his dictatorship to be formalized, but, logically, these are all part of Trumpism’s agenda – the one who seems like a dictator wants to be a dictator, and they will continue to seem like a dictator until he or she is a dictator.

This dictatorship will be a bellicose one, pushing the world to the edge of the End of Days. To avoid it, the Americans will need to everything the Germans in the 1930s did not do when Hitler rose to power, and that means recognizing the devil for what he is before he is allowed to begin his destructive Armageddon and become the personification of Satan himself.

For this recognition to happen, the enlightenment has to be stirred, not in the already enlightened liberal folk, but in the vast army of evangelist Trump supporters themselves. The great irony of Trumpism is that its Satanic ideology has so easily infected the hearts of those who should have known better – all the God-fearing Evangelists.

We can now read Thomas Mann’s description of Germany’s pact with Satan because Satan’s attempt, as Hitler, to either control or destroy the world failed. But now the devil has made a new pact with a country more powerful and potentially more destructive than anything ever seen on Earth before. If he is successful this time, there won’t be any new Thomas Mann to tell us about it afterwards.

[1] Richard Florida, THE GEOGRAPHY OF MIDDLE CLASS DECLINE, 2016, CITYLAB

Patriotism, Fascism, and the Death of Democracy

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Our Civilisation of Wealth has used very different kinds of political ideologies to sustain itself but its ugliest version is undoubtedly Fascism. That a vulgar and fascistic, personality-cult leader has now become President of the USA is shocking, but not so surprising if we consider that the fascism has always been there in a latent form.

The Great War against Fascism of 1939-45, that we call the Second World War, did not actually defeat fascism. Yes, it defeated Hitler and Mussolini and the personality cult regime in Japan, but it did not defeat fascism. It did not defeat fascism because it did nothing to eradicate the patriotic pride of the national states. There were victors and losers in the war: one way of perpetuating the patriotic spirit defeat another manifestation of those sentiments; in the Second World War “democratic” fascism defeated “authoritarian” fascism with the help of the national-socialist regime of Joseph Stalin.   

Authoritarian fascism is best defined by the term National Socialism and the key word in fascism is National. The patriotic spirit behind the democratic forces that defeated Hitler were nationalistic and therefore fascistic forces. All forms of wall building and border defining ideologies are inherently nestling fascist frameworks. All nationalism and patriotic feelings are essentially fascist sentiments. Even the great bridge building ventures since World War II, like the European Union and Globalisation have always clung on to the maintenance of state sovereignty, and by doing this we have maintained the roots of fascism under every progressive tree.

The problem of fascism is that, once the National State establishes its power it needs to extend its boundaries if it wishes to keep progressing. The fascist state is always a little empire, and the Fatherland Empire will always want to expand into neighbouring Fatherlands. The same expansionist need is also an essential part of neo-liberal capitalist growth. However, the capitalist powers that defeated Hitler, knew that they did not need the muscle of dictatorship to perpetuate itself and its growth, in fact, they understood that tyranny was counterproductive to expansion. Fascism had to be subtler, and democracy was a far more efficient machine for allowing the rich to get richer and for Wealth to legitimise itself. Civilian upstarts like Hitler, or military reactionaries like Franco were themselves a bigger threat to Wealth than the pseudo-freely elected parliamentary systems. Control from the unquestionable legitimacy of the ballot-box, contained within an easily controllable patriotic ambience, is the apotheosis of power that Wealth needs to maintain itself.

In theory, Democracy should be the system that favours the masses, but by restricting it within the patriotic bubble this is hardly ever the case. The seemingly illogical results of the Brexit referendum, the Colombian peace referendum, or the seemingly impossible election of a fascist president in the emblem of the Free World that has been the USA, seems to indicate that the democratic process no longer works. But, really, veiled with the mask of patriotism, democracy has always been an easily manipulated motor for the National Socialisms that pull the strings.

As for the United States, where democracy is so widely revered, a heavy paradox has always lain over that system; for an idea of politics favouring the masses is associated there with the “evils” of socialism, that most Americans think is an un-democratic process. By rejecting socialism, the Americans reject the role of the people in democracy. When the will of the people rejects the power of the people, then the situation lies in an essential paradox that is profoundly absurd and invites dangerously ridiculous solutions like authoritarian fascism.         

ON WILL

fascism

Will works within both the unconscious and conscious realms. It drives and is driven: for that reason it is hard for us to claim ownership of it. It is driven by the big Other, the Big Brother, the Moloch civilisation and the Wall Street Whale. It is stamped on us by the symbolic order that creates our norms and language, which gives us the slogans and axioms that are the foundations of our beliefs. It is Oedipal and despotic, even fascistic. Its blood is money.

On the more conscious level, it lies in the “causes” that we come to identify with and act along with. Causes that may either conform or non-conform to the big Other’s symbolic stamping and the money-blood sanguinary system that runs through society’s veins. But unless it can vanquish that big Other, the system will survive and absorb all revolution into its perpetual oedipal fascism.

Civilisation survives through its power of creating and maintaining the walls of separation between us and the great diversity of separating identities. Separating and amalgamating humanity into sub-groups of humanity with no real consciousness of being truly human. The real Identity – the species identity – is completely undermined by interests of wealth, which can only be sustained by maintaining an idea of us against them. For a real revolution to occur, in which the big oedipal Other can be made obsolete, we need to revaluate our identity in terms of the species. We need to confront the truly big picture of existence – the great panoramic mural of humanity.

NIETZSCHE’S LEGACY (the danger of scepticism)

Friedrich_Nietzsche_drawn_by_Hans_Olde

Forget the Übermensch, the Last Man and the Eternal Return, if Nietzsche really did have a determining influence on 20th century intellectual thought it was through his idea of the historical reinterpretation of reality:

“There is no set of maxims more important for an historian than this: that the actual causes of a thing’s origin and its eventual uses, the manner of its incorporation into a system of purposes, are worlds apart; that everything that exists, no matter what its origin, is periodically reinterpreted by those in power in terms of fresh intentions; that all processes in the organic world are processes of outstripping and overcoming; and that, in turn, all outstripping and overcoming means reinterpretation, rearrangement, in the course of which the earlier meaning and purpose are necessarily either obscured or lost. No matter how well we understand the utility of a certain physiological organ (or a legal institution, a custom, a political convention, an artistic genre, a cultic trait) we do not thereby understand anything of its origin.”[1]

Suddenly everything we know becomes suspicious. The accounts we have been given are no longer reliable, in fact they are almost certainly smoke-screens erected to hide the truth. And then comes the realisation that – if everything we know has come from distractions, deliberate lies even, then what do we know? Here we see the best of Nietzsche’s scepticism and cynicism. Like Diogenes, some two thousand years before him, he was looking at the Emperor, saw that he was naked and proclaimed the truth.

 

From Nietzsche onwards history “becomes a continuous chain of reinterpretations and rearrangements, which need not be casually connected among themselves.”[2] Evolution “is a sequence of more or less profound, more or less independent processes of appropriation… as well as the results of successful counterattacks.”[3]

 

The observations are brilliant, but Nietzsche himself does not conclude a subsequent need to discover and unveil the truth from this constant chain of falsities and falsifications, rather he applauds the falsifications as necessary (without using the actual term) and imagines his Will to Power exploiting this condition in which progress “is measured by all that must be sacrificed for its sake”[4], coming to the proto-fascist conclusion that: “To sacrifice humanity as mass to the welfare of a single strong human species would indeed constitute progress…”[5] Unfortunately, there could not be a more perfect Nazi slogan.

 

Nietzsche, who saw the great dangers of nihilism and was terrified by them, just as he was terrified by the negating process of scepticism, needed an anchor for his thought, an anti-nihilistic grounding, for he knew that without one humanity was doomed. The will to power was one of those anchors, as was the Eternal Return. While the latter was indefinite, fantastical and weak, the former was perverse, only succeeding in dragging his most brilliant sun-scorched illuminations into the cool shade of the status quo. His idea of power as freedom would prove to be deeply reactionary and after Nietzsche the 20th century produced a succession of power/freedom regimes that have made humanity more insipid and ignoble than ever before. We now have a power/freedom aristocracy that is driving humanity to the brink of destruction and Nietzsche’s dreams of sacrifice for the good of the single strong species seem hardly any different to Christian fantasies of the Apocalypse.

 

 

[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS, 2nd Essay, XII

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid