This article also appeared in Counterpunch.
June 30, 2016.
Clinton and Trump. Fear and Fascism.
We live in an age of consequences; intended and unintended. If we are to avoid, or at least blunt, the worst of what is to come, then we must look to the root of our problems and to our own roots for solutions.
Fear is the main enemy. Fear will paralyze us and perpetuate the system. That is why fear is the machines’ strongest weapon. Given the unprecedented disgrace of the primary election and the pitiful weakness of both Trump and Clinton as candidates, we are likely to experience a fear-mongering crusade without parallel in American electoral history. Get ready people because fear is all they have left.
But take heart. History has not come to an end. Its almost as if there is a moral order to the universe: as if karmic forces are putting us hard to our lessons; as if “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap,” is the new and true law of life.
Those who vote Clinton to fight Trump (or even Fascism) cannot escape the consequences of American politics by traveling down the same road we have taken every four years. We are already way past the bend. Setting aside consistent polling data that has for months shown Sanders far and away the best candidate to defeat Trump, a vote for Clinton is a vote for “more of the same.” And this “more of the same” is precisely the existing order of things from which Trump sprang.
Support for Clinton may, or may not, defeat Trump this time, but, as Green Party candidate Jill Stein has pointed out, Trumps has deep roots in the existing system, a system the Clinton machine has helped to create and will fight to maintain. Trump grows right out of American political soil, he is an expression of our political system and political culture, not an exception to it.
The two party system is a system. For three decades at least, the “mainstream” or official American discourse has drifted steadily to the right preparing the way for the rise of Trump. The lesser evil has paved the way to the greater evil, not prevented it. But, lets keep our heads. The same two party system is showing unmistakable signs of decline. It is up to us to create a democratic resistance with the capacity and vision to defeat Trump.
We cannot afford to adopt the simplistic idea that fascism is a plague, a virus, a disease of the mind and spirit more mysterious or irrational that other political beliefs. It can be understood well enough to combat it. Like all the great “isms” and ideologies, fascism defies easy or precise definition. Let’s leave the ultimate question of what Trump is, and what fascism is, open to debate.
But strategy demands a working definition if not an ultimate one. Trump is without doubt the boogeyman and the biggest baddest boogeymen in modern memory are fascists. But boogeymen do not just appear out of nowhere. Fascism can be understood as a set of institutional relationships.
In an era of rising fascism, President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt wrote to Congress:
The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.[emphasis added]
The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe, if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.
Both lessons hit home.
Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing. This concentration is seriously impairing the economic effectiveness of private enterprise as a way of providing employment for labor and capital and as a way of assuring a more equitable distribution of income and earnings among the people of the nation as a whole.
Since 1938, when FDR warned us, the corporate power has grown dramatically. It is not just “stronger than their democratic state itself,” it has merged with the state. The failure of “assuring a more equitable distribution of income” is part of the on-going crisis that set the stage for Trump and the threat of fascism. In the end however, its all up to what “the people tolerate.”
Who can deny that the merger between the immense wealth of the corporations and the political power of the government is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the US politics since the Sixties? The corporations rule and share sovereignty with the state. How else can “Citizens United” be interpreted, except as a recognition of this fact, many decades in the making.
Power is the new profit and like prior forms of capital accumulation it knows no bounds even unto ecocide.
The corporatization of our institutions have drained away any democratic content they once contained. More than the direct control of institutions by some corporate board members, corporatization occurs when institutions internalize the corporate model, adopt the managerial mindset, and run some essentially public service like a business. The military has become big business. Generals manage wars not win them. Prisons, schools and universities, political parties, media, hospitals, even some of our labor unions operate on managerial models.
The Clinton machine played a pivotal role in creating the corporate power particularly in the key financial sector. By abandoning its New Deal voter base, becoming the party of Wall Street, and accomplishing core Republicans goals, the “third way” Democrats embodied triangulation. The Clinton machine took the merger of power and money to its logical conclusion by innovating a new form of global political corporation known as the Clinton Foundation. Profit is power, power is profit.
While the Clintons had to engineer this merger Trump was simply born to it. Trump is wealth inequality, entitlement to unearned riches, and its fusion with political power personified. Trump and Clinton are both, we hope, the final episodes of the so-called “Reagan Revolution. “ A revolution no president since has even tried to reverse. Not Clinton. Not Obama. Since Reagan only one major party candidate has even promised to return government to the vision and policies of the New Deal, and that, of course, is Bernie Sanders.
The consequences of this unchallenged corporate power — economic misery, distress, despair and death — have been pushing the white working class left toward Sanders and Stein and right toward Trump. The hollowing out of institutions like the labor movement, that once achieved some measure of political and economic democracy, are preconditions for fascism. The weakness of labor and the social movements leaves millions with nothing much more than resentment, sexism, racism, homophobia and the glory of our military might to assuage their wounded pride.
If the present trends continue to deliver “more of the same”— and we have no reason to expect Clinton to change course — then the broad economic and social conditions that gave rise to Trump will simply intensify. It is likely that far worse than Trump will arise unless the people make history. Remember, the boogymen of the past, the Bush dynasty, are now allies with Clinton providing political support and funding against this new and seemingly more dangerous threat.
Will Trump reap what the Clinton machine has sown?
Not if we break the cycle and support candidates and parties that actually represent our interests. Not if we build pro-democracy movements of all kinds.
Clinton and Trump. Fear and Fascism. Part Two.
July 12, 2016
This article appeared under a differen title in Counterpunch
Full Frontal Fascism
Trump has returned a deep and frightening bigotry to the public discourse of the so-called center. Hatred has a long history in the US and, while we must be outraged, we should not be surprised that it rears its ugly head in times of crisis. Racism has always been the default division among “we the people.” White supremacy will continue to be embraced — ever more desperately — until not just resisted, but displaced by a compelling and tangible alternative based on solidarity and shared interest.
Trump’s form of bigotry is easy to identify and invites open resistance. The coalition of immigrant, youth and people of color that shut him down in Chicago and the Latino lead protest movement against Trump in California, Texas and elsewhere are the leading edge of a movement with wide appeal and great expectations.
Much more difficult to address than blatant racism and much more subtle and dangerous are the institutionalized forms of violence and repression aimed at people of color, the young and the poor.
Hidden in Plain Sight
How is it that a new system of racial oppression came to be created in a liberal world supposedly blind to race? How did new forms of racial oppression become institutionalized at a time when public statements of racism were considered unacceptable? Read The New Jim Crow for a complete answer. The short answer is that it did. And, it took the form of a vast militarized penal system.
The penal system relies on mass incarceration, slave-like prison labor, extrajudicial killings, and the militarization of the police forces. Are these racist? Are these fascist? If not, they are the closest thing to fascism we have in the US today. Did the Clinton machine help construct this system? Yes, they were among the architects of the system. Obama simply managed it. This is not something you can just apologize for or easily dismantle. It is an institution hard and fast, legal, well-funded and a centerpiece of the social order.
If we cannot see it for what it is, its because institutionalized racism and the vast militarized penal system has become the new normal in labor relations for many corporations. When you eat at McDonalds, Wendy’s or Starbucks, shop at Walmart or JC Penny; make a call on Sprint or Version wireless; book a reservation on Avis or American Airlines; enjoy Victorias’s Secrets lingerie or invest with Fidelity you are consuming slave labor. And that is just the start of it.
We miss this fascism, hidden in plain sight, because it is legal and accepted. Hannah Arendt, Jewish-German immigrant and great American thinker, went face to face with the fascist nightmare as a reporter at the trial of notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. To the world’s surprise, Arendt found not a monster but a colorless machine operative, a bureaucrat, a climber with an eye toward his own career. He was just doing his job and following the law. The mass face of fascism is deceptive, its banality and routine masks grave danger. One the other hand fascism demands a flamboyant, demagogue like Trump to brashly articulate the fear and anxiety that both compensates and distracts people from the dumb obedience and despair of life in the machine.
If this is fascism, it is also just good business. Maximizing profit is standard operating procedure, isn’t it? After all, Trump did not come to power on the shoulders of streets toughs or the KKK. Trump is the “made man” of the corporate media. Giant media corporations gave one of their very own millions of dollars of free publicity. Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Poltics and Public Policy have documented the media’s positive treatment of Trump during the decisive “invisible primary” during which big media shapes public opinion and expectations before a single vote is cast.
Trump’s candidacy was made by the very same corporations that made Clinton the frontrunner and “presumptive” nominee, marginalized Sanders for ten months only to finally recognize his campaign as a doomed and senseless spoiler harming Clinton. And who is Jill Stein anyway? Trump is very much the corporate media’s boy, and yes, its the same media that launched the preemptive strike on the California primary.
We live in an age of consequences and Trump is the consequence of three decades of dragging the Democratic party to the right that redefined the so-called center around the extremism of mass incarceration, endless war, corporate media and corporate power. At first triangulation was a cunning play for the Clintons. If they could steal conservative issues, the logic went, the Republican would have nothing left to peddle. But the Republicans simply resorted to ever more explicitly rightwing and fanatical politics and in the US that means racism and bigotry.
The great recession of 2008 and failure to do much of anything beside secure the interests of the corporations finally pushed millions of Americans away from the extreme center triangulation created. The game could go on forever as long as no challengers appeared to state the obvious: the machines no longer represents the American people.
The Movement Can Stop Trump
There are answers to Trump far better than Clinton. The super-delegates have but one redeeming possibility: they are supposed to pick the best candidate not simply perpetuate the machine. If they do so Sanders is the only choice. If not the options get tricky. Write in Sanders? Perhaps the best long term choice is to build the Green Party, get our 5% of the vote for Jill Stein and move forward. Stein is currently polling at 7% and is likely to finish much, much stronger. But the threat cannot be beat back at the ballot box alone. We need to push our unions toward social movement unionism, and expand the pro-democracy movement.
The Chicago anti-Trump demonstrations have already inspired other protest movements in California and Texas. They are only the beginning of a next phase of new civil rights movement. The movement can stop Trump or at least has a far better chance of doing so than voting for Clinton.
And the progressive white-working class, reawakened by Sanders, is in a pivotal position to help fight Trump. The work and vision of Showing Up For Racial Justice needs to be taken national. Their face-to-face organizing approach and focus on bringing white people into anti-racist activism is just what we need. A multiracial organizing conference focused on “Organizing Poor and Working Class Whites,” in Greensboro, NC is also setting plans in motion. The ground-breaking scholarship of Theodore W. Allen, a white working-class intellectual that pioneered the concept of white skin privilege is gaining wider acceptance.
Maybe Trump is our rendezvous with our own roots. Any social movement worth a damn was built through millions of conversations with the people that helped motivate organizing and action. Consciousness raising, organizing into units of power and acting peacefully but disruptively. These are our roots and must be our future.
For as bad as Trump is, there are fears far worse: environmental destruction. Lead by Exxon and the Koch brothers, the corporate power is wrecking the planet. Even under pressure from Sanders and the science community the Clinton machine can not bring itself to even symbolically support modest measures such as a ban of fracking or keeping fossil fuels on public lands in the ground. The defense of the fossil fuel industry allows Trump the political space to indulge in equally dangerous climate denial.
Perhaps the most subsidized industry in the world, fossil fuel giants exemplify the corporate power. Fossil fuel companies recycle vast sums of money to Clinton and almost every other important political figure in the US government. Untold trillions in environmental costs are paid by the public. No free market here.
A mass environmental movement would obstruct the exchanges between government and capital and disrupt the inner workings of the corporate power while exposing it as a threat to every nation, culture and life form. What should be our greatest fear, points us right toward the movement and issue with the potential to mobilize millions and upset the existing order.
Martin Luther King’s intersecting “giant triplets” of racism, militarism and economic exploitation have morphed into the new “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:” ecocide, racism, empire and the corporate power. We are fighting for our future and we must not fail.
We have to start by knowing what time it is and what battles lie ahead. Strategies, like the lesser of two evils, have failed. We should not be deceived into using outmoded weapons that not only lost the last war but backfired because we surrendered our power and lowered our expectations. Movements that win the day innovate strategies to fight the war they are actually in. The inside/outside strategy is a starting point. We must move millions into action.
Will movement-building triumph over fear and fascism? Can we unseat the Four Horseman? How much more will the people tolerate?