Bulletin N° 786
Subject : PREDATORY CAPITALIM REPRODUCING PREDATORY RELATIONSHIPS THROUGHOUT SOCIETY, AT EVERY LEVEL . . . .
16 February 2018
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
The predatory violence in society of recent years speaks to the decline of imperial power we are now witnessing. The debacle of liberal ‘law-and-order’ does not mean the spontaneous generation of socialist ‘harmony’. On the contrary, the brutalizing effect of the neo-liberal ideology of ‘possessive individualism’ seems to be ushering in a new phase of the most blatant violence that capitalism can produce. The sadistic episodes of military and police violence are, of course, only the signal of a paradigm shift that will affect all of society, from Gargantuan financial/banking interests and giant pharmaceutical companies to the unorganized working poor and the homeless, not to mention Third World victims who, also, are suffering the onslaught of capitalist-owned state agencies.
According to historian Fritz Stern, this pattern was detectable in the pre-Nazi era of German history, during the Imperial reign of Kaiser Wilhelm and during the rise of the Third Reich.
By the late nineteenth century, Germany had developed an academic-industrial and, later, military complex that was supported and sustained by its authoritarian state, whose leaders combined class-induced political myopia with a confident grasp of the immense utility of science.
. . .
Put too simply Germany’s elites - most especially the materially declining old agrarian–feudal class, many of the rising captains of industry and banking, and the professoriate - saw themselves as guardians of the nation’s special character; they thought or imagined that Germany was beset by a ring of external enemies, and most importantly by internal enemies. The mounting tide of Social Democracy seemed to them to threaten their values, their privilege, their property. . . . Only a nation so internally divided could have welcomed the outbreak of war in 1914 with the extravagant hope that war would unify its people through sacrifice. Instead, the long war – conducted on the German side under ever more radical leadership – bred an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust that, upon Germany’s defeat, erupted into both actual and latent civil war. [Walther] Rathenau’s life and his assassination in 1922 exemplified the travails of the postwar Weimar Republic, the impressive efforts made to salvage German promise that finally the horror of National Socialism totally perverted.
Einstein’s German world was one in which Christians and Jews (or individuals of Jewish descent) lived and worked together; in the relatively protected realm of science, prejudice against Jews gradually yielded to a recognition of talent and of shared values. (In the Protestant states of Germany, Catholics probably fared worse than Jews - and the conflict between the two Christian religions ran very deep.) German society as a whole was rife with every kind of prejudice – anti-Semitism came in the most diverse guises – from irritation at Jewish success to paranoid fear and fury at the thought of Jewish power threatening German life and virtue. So while German Jews before 1914 prospered in spite of and sometimes even because of these rampant prejudices, they did so at great psychic cost, as the lives of Haber and Rathenau make clear. In no other country were Jews met with so peculiar a mixture of hospitality and hostility, while being so attracted to a country that in many ways treated them . . . as second-class citizens. Chaim Weizmann had contempt for what he regarded as ignoble servility and wanted to deliver Jews form it. The full range of Jewish responses to German life before Hitler emerges in these various lives, as does the still terrifying failure of the German elites to resist Hitler’s march to total power. That failure was the precondition of Nazi success.(from the Introduction to Einstein’s German World, pp.5-7)
In the lengthy Chapter 3 of this book, Stern discusses the life of Fritz Haber (1868-1934), “the inventor of poison gas warfare” as a "paradigm" of “the physical destruction that was to mark the life of German Jews.”(p.156) In a footnote, he elaborates on the dilemma in Haber’s post-First-World-War life.
In the spring of 1933, fearful of what might happen to him and his children, Haber turned to his former collaborator in the army, Herman Geyer, who in the meantime had advanced to being a major-general. In a handwritten, cordial letter Geyer testified that Haber had not only been a “frontline fighter of merit” but also : ‘In the months before the first great gas attack (April 15) you lived for weeks or months at the front and sat not only with the high staffs but with full commitment of your person. You also were in the furthest frontline in order to help and learn and to study the conditions for using the gas process [Gasverfahren] of every kind.’ Geyer mentioned ‘a particularly impressive occasion’ when both men stood in the ‘furthest front line’ on March 21, 1918, at the moment of the ‘great attack in the west’ under heavy fire. In his reply, only partially preserved, Haber thanked Geyer for his note, which he would use to enable his children ‘to remain in their school’ – if that should become necessary. At the same time he mentioned: ‘I received directly and indirectly the army suggestion that I should again put my Institute in the serviced of gas warfare and gas protection, as had happened during the war, and I evaded the suggestion.’(p.156-157)
A few months later, on October 8, 1933, Haber wrote a letter in English to the Paris representative of the Rockefeller Foundation, from which the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, when under his direction, had received financial support. He warned his American colleague that,
a new Nazi-appointed director of the Institute was likely ‘to study chemical warfare with the Institute . . . . You will remember that in war time I have been the leader of the |sic] chemical warfare in Germany and that I have been proud to work for the military authorities with the institute as [sic] experimental basis. But after the Armistice, I have cancelled every [sic] such work and fully decline to renew it in whatever form.’(p.135)
Stern went on to note that Haber “worried about Weimar’s future in the shadow of Versailles. In the early years he renewed his ties to the army and may have been involved in the super-secret deliberations about the use of poison gas in the future war. . . . Likewise Haber and his institute experimented with pesticides and developed a deadly substance that came to be known as Zyklon B. The horror of Haber’s involvement with the gas that later murdered millions, including friends and distant relatives, beggars description.”(p.135)
Haber who converted early in his career from Judaism to Lutheranism, at the age of 24, found himself in a precarious situation at the start of the Third Reich. He had been a military officer in the imperial war and had made a contribution to German warfare, but when he refused to dismiss Jewish scientists under his direction at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, the die was cast. His privileged elite status would no longer serve to protect him. On August 7, 1933, he wrote Albert Einstein (1879-1955) who had just delivered his final speech in Europe, at London's Royal Albert Hall a few days earlier, on October 3, 1933. Haber asked him to tone down his criticisms of Zionist violence against Palestinians in his communications with University of Manchester Chemist and ardent Zionist, Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952). He wrote, “I have the impression that the public quarrel between you and Weizmann renews the misfortune that the internal conflicts in Jerusalem signified in the days when Titus and his legions besieged Jerusalem.” He begged for reconciliation and concluded by confessing, “In my whole life I have never felt so Jewish as now!”(p.159)
Einstein responded almost immediately to his old friend from the days in Berlin in characteristic fashion, on August 10, 1933. He attacked Weizmann and warned Haber, who had now converted to Zionism, not to work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem*; then went on to write:
[I’m] pleased that . . . your former love for the blond beast has cooled off a bit. Who would have thought that my dear Haber would appear before me as defender of the Jewish, yes even the Palestinian cause . . . . I hope you won’t return to Germany. It’s no bargain to work for an intellectual group that consists of men who lie on their bellies in front of common criminals and even sympathize to a degree with these criminals. They could not disappoint me, for I never had any respect or sympathy for them – aside from a few personalities . . . . (p.159)
Earlier that same year, Einstein had written to Harber, on May 19th :
I can conceive of your inner conflicts. It is somewhat like having to give up a theory on which one has worked one’s whole life.
It is not the same for me because I never believed in it in the least.(p.159).
Einstein expressed repeatedly his contempt for servile German obedience to Nazi rule, and later called Germany, “a country of mass murderers.”(fnt. on p.163)
*Note: Einstein eventually softened his criticisms of Israel and three years before his death in 1955, he was offered the presidency of the new Jewish state. He declined the offer for reasons of advanced age, poor health, and his lack of political experience. After his death and in fulfillment of his will which was written in 1950, his archives were moved from Princeton University to Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The 28 items below represent the “new normal” in US political culture, as the paradigm shifts into a remarkable surge of highly visible, capitalist-orchestrated state violence against classes of dominated people living in North America and beyond. The challenge remains to successfully conceal this violence from the general public in order to curb widespread resistance and proactive organizing against it . . . . The caveat in the 28th item below, sent to us by Alan Haber, questions whether it is productive to call the Trump Administration "Fascist" or to recognize important differences, in order to seek strategic advantage.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
The Fed's Impossible Choice,
In Three Charts
by Tylor Durden
Critics of “New Age” monetary policy have been predicting that central banks would eventually run out of ways to trick people into borrowing money.
Plunge In Interbank Lending:
The Straw That Broke The Fed's Back
One Belt, One Road Map
Global Warming Map Shows What Happens
When the Earth Gets 4 Degrees Warmer
by Jessica Stewart
Russia In the Crosshairs
by Paul Craig Robers
Dutch FM resigns after admitting lie about meeting Putin
Syria - Is War With Israel Imminent
by Moon Of Alabama
On February 11, 2018, around 6 am GMT the Syrian air defense shot downed an Israeli fighter jet that was attacking the country. There is now the chance that a larger war will ensue. (The whole story behind this will surely be covered in Elijah Magnier's upcoming book on Hizbullah.)
[This is a developing story that will be updated below as new information comes in. - The latest update (below) is a video interview with Elijah Magnier on the implications of today's developments.]
“It’s Hard to Believe, But Syria’s War Is Getting Worse”:
World Powers Clash as Civilian Deaths Soar
WHITE HELMETS: James Corbett – An Open Letter
to Olivia Solon of The Guardian
from the Corbett Report
As attentive Corbett Report viewers will already know, The Guardian was the recipient of the highest dishonor of the year this year: The award for “Fakest Fake News Story of the Year 2017” at my First Annual REAL Fake News Awards ( aka “the Dinos”). Specifically, the dishonor was bestowed on The Guardian’s San Francisco-based technology reporter, Olivia Solon, for her breathtaking contribution to the annals of establishment fake news hackery, “How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine.”
Tip-off received on Al-Nusra, White Helmets plotting chemical weapons provocation in Syria – Moscow
Erdogan threatens US with 'Ottoman slap,'
says all NATO countries created equal
The Selective Empathy of #MeToo Backlash
by Megan Garber
That was President Trump, on Saturday, ostensibly reacting to the fact that, this week, allegations of domestic abuse led to the resignations of two high-level staffers at the White House. He was also, obliquely, weighing in on #MeToo. The president’s 48-word assessment of the reckoning so many Americans are painfully but productively engaged in made for rich (but thoroughly unsurprising) irony: Trump, of course, has been accused of sexual impropriety by 19 women—and has also been caught on tape bragging about sexual assault, and has also boasted, on national television, about advising friends to “be rougher” toward their wives, and has also been elected president of the United States. His tweet is revealing both in spite and because of those facts: “Peoples[sic],” in the plural; allegation, in the singular. The peoples meaning the “men’s”; the allegation—though in its context, the diminishing adjective is redundant—being a “mere” one.
Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis
by Joanna Walters
Philanthropic heirs to OxyContin fortune have a ‘moral duty to help make this right’ says the widow of one of Purdue Pharma’s founders
The Sackler Drug Rehab Facility, unlike the prestigious Sackler art galleries of New York and London does not exist. Yet. If lawyers have their way, however, or public opinion pricks a few consciences, it may soon. US drug companies accused of being 'cheerleaders' for opioids. The Sackler family, a sprawling and now feuding transatlantic dynasty, is famous in cultural and academic circles for decades of generous philanthropy towards some of the world’s leading institutions, from Yale University to the Guggenheim Museum in the US and the Serpentine Gallery to the Royal Academy in Britain. But what’s less well known, though increasingly being exposed, is that much of their wealth comes from one product – OxyContin, the blockbuster prescription painkiller first launched in 1996.
The FBI and the President – Mutual Manipulation
By James Petras
Few government organizations have been engaged in violation of the US citizens’ constitutional rights for as long a time and against as many individuals as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Seldom has there been greater collusion in the perpetration of crimes against civil liberties, electoral freedom and free and lawful expression as what has taken place between the FBI and the US Justice Department. In the past, the FBI and Justice Department secured the enthusiastic support and public acclaim from the conservative members of the US Congress, members of the judiciary at all levels and the mass media. The leading liberal voices, public figures, educators, intellectuals and progressive dissenters opposing the FBI and their witch-hunting tactics were all from the left. Today, the right and the left have changed places: The most powerful voices endorsing the FBI and the Justice Department’s fabrications, and abuse of constitutional rights are on the left, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and famous liberal media corporations and public opinion makers.
How Establishment Propaganda Gaslights Us
by Caitlin Johnstone
The dynamics of the establishment Syria narrative are hilarious if you take a step back and think about them. I mean, the western empire is now openly admitting to having funded actual, literal terrorist groups in that country, and yet they're still cranking out propaganda pieces about what is happening there and sincerely expecting us to believe them. It's adorable, really; like a little kid covered in chocolate telling his mom he doesn't know what happened to all the cake frosting. Or least it would be adorable if it weren't directly facilitating the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.
I recently had a pleasant and professional exchange with the Atlantic Council's neoconservative propagandist Eliot Higgins, in which he referred to independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley as "bonkers" and myself as "crazy", and I called him a despicable bloodsucking ghoul. I am not especially fond of Mr. Higgins. You see this theme repeated again and again and again in Higgins' work; the US-centralized power establishment which facilitated terrorist factions in Syria is the infallible heroic Good Guy on the scene, and anyone who doesn't agree is a mentally deranged lunatic.
Ramo Reminded South Koreans of the Brutality of Imperial Japan
by Joseph Essertier
It is sad that even now, at this hopeful juncture in the history of Korea, when the end of the Korean War could be just around the corner, that we are confronted with the false claim that South Koreans cannot take pride in the democratic and modern country they have built. A country that is now generously hosting the Olympic games. A country whose president, Moon Jae-in, is bringing hope to millions in East Asia and the world. A hope that is being kept alive by his spirit of independence, his message to not only South Koreans but to the whole world, that a peaceful solution to the US-North Korea crisis can be found as long as the baying hounds of war in Washington can be kept at bay.
The Deadly Rule of the Oligarchs
by Chris Hedges
Oligarchic rule, as Aristotle pointed out, is a deviant form of government. Oligarchs care nothing for competency, intelligence, honesty, rationality, self-sacrifice or the common good. They pervert, deform and dismantle systems of power to serve their immediate interests, squandering the future for short-term personal gain. “The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments that rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one, of the few or of the many, are perversions,” Aristotle wrote. The classicist Peter L.P. Simpson calls these perversions the “sophistry of oligarchs,” meaning that once oligarchs take power, rational, prudent and thoughtful responses to social, economic and political problems are ignored to feed insatiable greed. The late stage of every civilization is characterized by the sophistry of oligarchs, who ravage the decaying carcass of the state.
These deviant forms of government are defined by common characteristics, most of which Aristotle understood. Oligarchs use power and ruling structures solely for personal advancement.
Do Financial Markets Still Exist?
by Paul Craig Roberts, Dave Kranzler, Michael Hudson
For many decades the Federal Reserve has rigged the bond market by its purchases. And for about a century, central banks have set interest rates (mainly to stabilize their currency’s exchange rate) with collateral effects on securities prices. It appears that in May 2010, August 2015, January/February 2016, and currently in February 2018 the Fed is rigging the stock market by purchasing S&P equity index futures in order to arrest stock market declines driven by fundamentals, and to push prices back up in keeping with a decade of money creation. No one should find this a surprising suggestion. The Bank of Japan has a long tradition of propping up the Japanese equity market with large purchases of equities. The European Central Bank purchases corporate as well as government bonds. In 1989 Fed governor Robert Heller said that as the Fed already rigs the bond market with purchases, the Fed can also rig the stock market to stop price declines. That is the reason the Plunge Protection Team (PPT) was created in 1987.
Trump Privatizes America
Trump's infrastructure privatization plan is a hat trick that optimistically turns $200 billion into $1.5 trillion, is designed to eliminate the public sector and to bankrupt cities and states, says economist Michael Hudson.
Rationalizing the “Irrational”
Pentagon Budget Like None Before: $700 billion
by ROBERT BURNS and RICHARD LARDNER
It’s the biggest budget the Pentagon has ever seen: $700 billion. That’s far more in defense spending than America’s two nearest competitors, China and Russia, and will mean the military can foot the bill for thousands more troops, more training, more ships and a lot else.
And next year it would rise to $716 billion. Together, the two-year deal provides what Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says is needed to pull the military out of a slump in combat readiness at a time of renewed focus on the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan and the threat of war on the Korean peninsula.
The budget bill that President Donald Trump signed Friday includes huge spending increases for the military: The Pentagon will get $94 billion more this budget year than last — a 15.5 percent jump. It’s the biggest year-over-year windfall since the budget soared by 26.6 percent, from $345 billion in 2002 to $437 billion the year after, when the nation was fighting in Afghanistan, invading Iraq and expanding national defense after the 9/11 attacks.
Medicare Recipients Will Pay For Border Wall?
Trump Proposes to Cut Medicare and Spend Big on Wall, Defense
by Justin Sink
President Donald Trump will propose cutting entitlement programs by $1.7 trillion, including Medicare, in a fiscal 2019 budget that seeks billions of dollars to build a border wall, improve veterans’ health care and combat opioid abuse and that is likely to be all but ignored by Congress.
The entitlement cuts over a decade are included in a White House summary of the budget obtained by Bloomberg News. The document says that the budget will propose cutting spending on Medicare, the health program for the elderly and disabled, by $237 billion but doesn’t specify other mandatory programs that would face reductions, a category that also includes Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare and agricultural subsidies.
The Medicare cut wouldn’t affect the program’s coverage or benefits, according to the document. The budget will also call for annual 2 percent cuts to non-defense domestic spending beginning “after 2019.’
Noam Chomsky Explains What’s Wrong with Postmodern Philosophy & French Intellectuals, and How They End Up Supporting Oppressive Power Structures
John Pilger: How the People of South Africa Were Misled and Can Rise Again
by Eric Ortiz
Scientists Know How You’ll Respond
to Nuclear War—and They Have a Plan
by Megan Molteni
A Dangerous Turn in U.S. Foreign Policy
by Conn Hallinan
The Trump administration’s new National Defense Strategy is being touted as a sea change in U.S. foreign policy, a shift from the “war on terrorism” to “great power competition,” a line that would not be out of place in the years leading up to World War I. But is the shift really a major course change, or a re-statement of policies followed by the last four administrations? The U.S. has never taken its eyes off its big competitors. It was President Bill Clinton who moved NATO eastwards, abrogating a 1991 agreement with the Russians not to recruit former members of the Warsaw Pact that is at the root of current tensions with Moscow. And, while the U.S. and NATO point to Russia’s annexation of the Crimea as a sign of a “revanchist” Moscow, it was NATO that set the precedent of altering borders when it dismembered Serbia to create Kosovo after the 1999 Yugoslav war.
From: "Alan Haber" <email@example.com>
To: "FRANCIS FEELEY" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, 15 February, 2018 10:15:13 PM
Subject: Fwd: Global Peace -- February 15 -- Fascism in the Age of Trump
for your interest
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Tom Mayer <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 4:09 PM
Subject: Global Peace -- February 15 -- Fascism in the Age of Trump
Hello peace and justice activists:
My dear friend Tom Clark forwarded me this article by the distinguished cultural analyst Henry Giroux. The article explores the relationship between the presidency of Donald Trump and emergence of a distinctive American variety of fascism. Giroux has many fascinating insights regarding United States political cultural. He chastises liberal Americans for passivity in the face of growing authoritarianism.
"Instead of refusing to cooperate with evil, Americans increasingly find themselves in a society in which those in commanding positions of power and influence exhibit a tacit approval of the emerging authoritarian strains and acute social problems undermining democratic institutions and rules of law. As such, they remain silent and therefore, complicit in the face of such assaults on American democracy. Ideological extremism and a stark indifference to the lies and ruthless polices of the Trump administration have turned the Republican Party into a party of collaborators, not unlike the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s. Both groups bought into the script of ultra-nationalism, encouraged anti-Semitic mobs, embraced a militant masculinity, demonized racial and ethnic others, supported an unchecked militarism and fantasies of empire, and sanctioned state violence at home and abroad."
Giroux appears to be agnostic about whether the Trump regime is actually converging towards fascism. I regard Trump as a serious threat to democracy, planetary environment, world peace, immigrants, people of color, and many other things. However, I do not think political realism or conceptual clarity are served by labeling Trump as a quasi-fascist. Fascism is by no means the only grave threat to democracy, the environment, and world peace.
The United States political system can be described as an electoral plutocracy. It is electoral in form, but plutocratic in content. All policies truly threatening to our capitalist plutocracy are suppressed or rapidly disqualified. As long as capitalists institutions remain secure, genuine civil liberties (e.g. freedom of speech and association) are tolerated. But, as the McCarthyist episode of the last century indicates, this toleration is by no means absolute. The Trump presidency and its Republican Party collaborators push the U.S. political system towards a modified version of electoral plutocracy, which I would characterize as racist electoral plutocracy.
Of course racism is no stranger to the United States political system. For most of its history our political system has been thorough imbued with racism. This history is what gives the Trump modifications so much political purchase. But also bear in mind the ambivalent relationship between the capitalist class and fascism. The capitalist class will usually embrace fascism as a desperate defense against burgeoning working class power, but fascism is rarely the preferred political system of the capitalist class. Fascism makes the state too powerful and also limits the control which capitalist elites have over state policy. Electoral plutocracy tends to be the desired political system of the capitalist class: electoral to gain legitimacy with the subaltern masses; plutocracy to insure obedience to capitalist interests.
On behalf of the Global Peace Collective,
Henry A. Giroux | The Ghost of Fascism in the Age of Trump
By Henry A.
In the age of Trump, history neither informs the present nor haunts it with repressed memories of the past. It simply disappears. Memory has been hijacked. This is especially troubling when the "mobilizing passions" of a fascist past now emerge in the unceasing stream of hate, bigotry, lies and militarism that are endlessly circulated and reproduced at the highest levels of government and in powerful conservative media, such as Fox News, Breitbart News, conservative talk radio stations and alt-right social media. Power, culture, politics, finance and everyday life now merge in ways that are unprecedented and pose a threat to democracies all over the world. This mix of old media and new digitally driven systems of production and consumption are not merely systems, but ecologies that produce, shape and sustain ideas, desires and modes of agency with unprecedented power and influence. Informal educational apparatuses, particularly the corporate-controlled media, appear increasingly to be on the side of tyranny. In fact, it would be difficult to overly stress the growing pedagogical importance of the old and new media and the power they now have on the political imaginations of countless Americans.
This is particularly true of
right-wing media empires, such as those owned by Rupert Murdoch, as well as
powerful corporate entities such as Clearwater, which dominates the radio
airwaves with its ownership of over 1,250 stations. In the sphere of television
ownership and control, powerful corporate entities have emerged, such as
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns the largest number of TV stations in the
United States. In addition, right-wing hosts, such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean
Hannity have an audience in the millions. Right-wing educational apparatuses
shape much of what Americans watch and listen to, and appear to influence all
of what Trump watches and hears. The impact of conservative media has had a
dangerous effect on American culture and politics, and has played the most
prominent role in channeling populist anger and electing Trump to the
presidency. We are now witnessing the effects of this media machine. The first
casualty of the Trump era is truth, the second is moral responsibility, the
third is any vestige of justice, and the fourth is a massive increase in human
misery and suffering for millions.
Instead of refusing to cooperate with evil, Americans increasingly find themselves in a society in which those in commanding positions of power and influence exhibit a tacit approval of the emerging authoritarian strains and acute social problems undermining democratic institutions and rules of law. As such, they remain silent and therefore, complicit in the face of such assaults on American democracy. Ideological extremism and a stark indifference to the lies and ruthless polices of the Trump administration have turned the Republican Party into a party of collaborators, not unlike the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s. Both groups bought into the script of ultra-nationalism, encouraged anti-Semitic mobs, embraced a militant masculinity, demonized racial and ethnic others, supported an unchecked militarism and fantasies of empire, and sanctioned state violence at home and abroad.
Words carry power and enable certain actions; they also establish the grounds for legitimating repressive policies and practices.
This is not to propose that those who support Trump are all Nazis in suits. On the contrary, it is meant to suggest a more updated danger in which people with power have turned their backs on the cautionary histories of the fascist and Nazi regimes, and in doing so, have willingly embraced authoritarian messages and tropes. Rather than Nazis in suits, we have a growing culture of social and historical amnesia that enables those who are responsible for the misery, anger and pain that has accompanied the long reign of casino capitalism to remain silent for their role and complicity in the comeback of fascism in the United States. This normalization of fascism can be seen in the way in which language that was once an object of critique in liberal democracies loses its negative connotation and becomes the opposite in the Trump administration. Politics, power and human suffering are now framed outside of the realm of historical memory. What is forgotten is that history teaches us something about the transformation and mobilization of language into an instrument of war and violence. As Richard J. Evans observes in his The Third Reich in Power:
Words that in a normal, civilized society had a negative connotation acquired the opposite sense under Nazism ... so that 'fanatical', 'brutal', 'ruthless', 'uncompromising', 'hard' all became words of praise instead of disapproval... In the hands of the Nazi propaganda apparatus, the German language became strident, aggressive and militaristic. Commonplace matters were described in terms more suited to the battlefield. The language itself began to be mobilized for war.
Fantasies of absolute control, racial cleansing, unchecked militarism and class warfare are at the heart of much of the American imagination. This is a dystopian imagination marked by hollow words, an imagination pillaged of any substantive meaning, cleansed of compassion and used to legitimate the notion that alternative worlds are impossible to entertain. There is more at work here than shrinking political horizons. What we are witnessing is a closing of the political and a full-scale attack on moral outrage, thoughtful reasoning, collective resistance and radical imagination. Trump has normalized the unthinkable, legitimated the inexcusable and defended the indefensible.
Of course, Trump is only a symptom of the economic, political and ideological rot at the heart of casino capitalism, with its growing authoritarianism and social and political injustices that have been festering in the United States with great intensity since the late 1970s. It was at that point in US history when both political parties decided that matters of community, the public good, the general welfare and democracy itself were a threat to the fundamental beliefs of the financial elite and the institutions driving casino capitalism. As Ronald Reagan made clear, government was the problem. Consequently, it was framed as the enemy of freedom and purged for assuming any responsibility for a range of basic social needs. Individual responsibility took the place of the welfare state, compassion gave way to self-interest, manufacturing was replaced by the toxic power of financialization, and a rampaging inequality left the bottom half of the US population without jobs, a future of meaningful work or a life of dignity.
The call for political unity transforms quickly into the use of force and exclusionary violence to impose the authority of a tyrannical regime.
Trump has added a new swagger and unapologetic posture to this concoction of massive inequality, systemic racism, American exceptionalism and ultra-nationalism. He embodies a form of populist authoritarianism that not only rejects an egalitarian notion of citizenship, but embraces a nativism and fear of democracy that is at the heart of any fascist regime.
How else to explain a sitting president announcing to a crowd that Democratic Party congressional members who refused to clap for parts of his State of the Union address were "un-American" and "treasonous"? This charge is made all the more disturbing given that the White House promoted this speech as one that would emphasize "bipartisanship and national unity." Words carry power and enable certain actions; they also establish the grounds for legitimating repressive policies and practices. Such threats are not a joking matter and cannot be dismissed as merely a slip of the tongue. When the president states publicly that his political opponents have committed a treasonous act -- one that is punishable by death -- because they refused to offer up sycophantic praise, the plague of fascism is not far away. His call for unity takes a dark turn under such circumstances and emulates a fascist past in which the call for political unity transforms quickly into the use of force and exclusionary violence to impose the authority of a tyrannical regime.
In Trump's world, the authoritarian mindset has been resurrected, bent on exhibiting a contempt for the truth, ethics and alleged human weakness. For Trump, success amounts to acting with impunity, using government power to sell or to license his brand, hawking the allure of power and wealth, and finding pleasure in producing a culture of impunity, selfishness and state-sanctioned violence. Trump is a master of performance as a form of mass entertainment. This approach to politics echoes the merging of the spectacle with an ethical abandonment reminiscent of past fascist regimes. As Naomi Klein rightly argues in No Is Not Enough, Trump "approaches everything as a spectacle" and edits "reality to fit his narrative."
As the bully-in-chief, he militarizes speech while producing a culture meant to embrace his brand of authoritarianism. This project is most evident in his speeches and policies, which pit white working- and middle-class males against people of color, men against women, and white nationalists against various ethnic, immigrant and religious groups. Trump is a master of theater and diversion, and the mainstream press furthers this attack on critical exchange by glossing over his massive assault on the planet and enactment of policies, such as the GOP tax cuts, which are willfully designed to redistribute wealth upward to his fellow super-rich billionaires. Trump's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels garners far more headlines than his deregulation of oil and gas industries and his dismantling of environment protections.
Economic pillage has reached new and extreme levels and is now accompanied by a ravaging culture of viciousness and massive levels of exploitation and human suffering. Trump has turned language into a weapon with his endless lies and support for white nationalism, nativism, racism and state violence. This is a language that legitimates ignorance while producing an active silence and complicity in the face of an emerging corporate fascist state.
Like most authoritarians, Trump demands loyalty and team membership from all those under his power, and he hates those elements of a democracy -- such as the courts and the critical media -- that dare to challenge him. Echoes of the past come to life in his call for giant military parades, enabling White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to call people who disagree with his policies "un-American," and sanctioning his Department of Justice to issue a "chilling warning," threatening to arrest and charge mayors with a federal crime who do not implement his anti-immigration policies and racist assaults on immigrants. What can be learned from past periods of tyranny is that the embrace of lawlessness is often followed by a climate of terror and repression that is the essence of fascism.
Whether Trump is a direct replica of the Nazi regime has little relevance compared to the serious challenges he poses.
In Trump's world view, the call for limitless loyalty reflects more than an insufferable act of vanity and insecurity; it is a weaponized threat to those who dare to challenge Trump's assumption that he is above the law and can have his way on matters of corruption, collusion and a possible obstruction of justice. Trump is an ominous threat to democracy and lives, as Masha Gessen observes, "surrounded by enemies, shadowed by danger, forever perched on the precipice." Moreover, he has enormous support from his Vichy-like minions in Congress, among the ultra-rich bankers and hedge fund managers, and the corporate elite. His trillion-dollar tax cut has convinced corporate America he is their best ally. He has, in not too subtle ways, also convinced a wide range of far-right extremists extending from the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis to the deeply racist and fascist "alt-right" movement, that he shares their hatred of people of color, immigrants and Jews. Imaginary horrors inhabit this new corporate dystopian world and frighteningly resemble shades of a terrifying past that once led to unimaginable acts of genocide, concentration camps and a devastating world war. Nowhere is this vision more succinctly contained than in Trump's first State of the Union Address and the response it garnered.
State of Disunion
An act of doublespeak preceded Donald Trump's first State of the Union Address. Billed by the White House as a speech that would be "unifying" and marked by a tone of "bipartisanship," the speech was actually steeped in divisiveness, fear, racism, warmongering, nativism and immigrant bashing. It once again displayed Trump's contempt for democracy.
Claiming "all Americans deserve accountability and respect," Trump nevertheless spent ample time in his speech equating undocumented immigrants with the criminal gang MS-13, regardless of the fact that undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than US citizens. (As Juan Cole points out, "Americans murdered 17,250 other Americans in 2016. Almost none of the perpetrators was an undocumented worker, contrary to the impression Trump gave.")
For Trump, as with most demagogues, fear is the most valued currency of politics. In his speech, he suggested that the visa lottery system and "chain migration" -- in which individuals can migrate through the sponsorship of their family -- posed a threat to the US, presenting "risks we can just no longer afford." In response to the Dreamers, he moved between allegedly supporting their bid for citizenship to suggesting they were part of a culture of criminality. At one point, he stated in a not-too-subtle expression of derision that "Americans are dreamers too." This was a gesture to his white nationalist base. On Twitter, David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, cheered over that remark. Trump had nothing to say about the challenges undocumented immigrants face, nor did he express any understanding of the fear and insecurity hanging over the heads of 800,000 Dreamers who could be deported.
Trump also indicated that he was not going to close Guantánamo, and once again argued that "terrorists should be treated like terrorists." Given the history of torture associated with Guantánamo and the past crimes and abuses that took place under the mantle of the "war on terror," Trump's remarks should raise a red flag, not only because torture is a war crime, but also because the comment further accelerated the paranoia, nihilist passions and apocalyptic populism that feeds his base.
Fascism is hardly a relic of the past or a static political and ideological system.
Pointing to menacing enemies all around the world, Trump exhibited his love for all things war-like and militaristic, and his support for expanding the nuclear arsenal and the military budget. He also called on "the Congress to empower every Cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers -- and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people." Given his firing of James Comey, his threat to fire Jeff Sessions, and more recently his suggestion that he might fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein -- all of whom allegedly displayed disloyalty by not dismantling the Russian investigation conducted by Special Council Mueller -- Trump seems likely to make good on this promise to rid the federal workforce of those who disagree with him, allowing him to fill civil service jobs with friends, family members and sycophants. This is about more than Trump's disdain for the separation of power, the independence of other government agencies, or his attack on potential whistleblowers; it is about amassing power and instilling fear in those he appoints to government positions if they dare act to hold power accountable. This is what happens when democracies turn into fascist states.
Trump is worse than almost anyone imagined, and while his critics across the ideological spectrum have begun to go after him, they rarely focus on how dangerous he is, hesitant to argue that he is not only the enemy of democracy, but symptomatic of the powerful political, economic and cultural forces shaping the new US fascism.
There are some critics who claim that Trump is simply a weak president whose ineptness is being countered by "a robust democratic culture and set of institutions," and not much more than a passing moment in history. Others, such as Wendy Brown and Nancy Fraser, view him as an authoritarian expression of right-wing populism and an outgrowth of neoliberal politics and policies. While many historians, such as Timothy Snyder and Robert O. Paxton, analyze him in terms that echo some elements of a fascist past, some conservatives such as David Frum view him as a modern-day self-obsessed, emotionally needy demagogue whose assault on democracy needs to be taken seriously, and that whether or not he is a fascist is not as important as what he plans to do with his power. For Frum, there is a real danger that people will retreat into their private worlds, become cynical and enable a slide into a form of tyranny that would become difficult to defeat. Others, like Corey Robin, argue that we overstep a theoretical boundary when comparing Trump directly to Hitler. According to Robin, Trump bears no relationship to Hitler or the policies of the Third Reich. Robin not only dismisses the threat that Trump poses to the values and institutions of democracy, but plays down the growing threat of authoritarianism in the United States. For Robin, Trump has failed to institute many of his policies, and as such, is just a weak politician with little actual power. Not only does Robin focus too much on the person of Trump, but he is relatively silent about the forces that produced him and the danger these proto-fascist social formations now pose to those who are the objects of the administration's racist, sexist and xenophobic taunts and policies.
The ghosts of fascism should terrify us, but most importantly, they should educate us and imbue us with a spirit of civic justice.
As Jeffrey C. Isaac observes, whether Trump is a direct replica of the Nazi regime has little relevance compared to the serious challenges he poses; for instance, to the DACA children and their families, the poor, undocumented immigrants and a range of other groups. Moreover, authoritarianism is looming in the air and can be seen in the number of oppressive and regressive policies already put into place by the Trump administration that will have a long-term effect on the United States. These include the $1.5 trillion giveaway in the new tax code, the expansion of the military-industrial complex, the elimination of Obamacare's individual mandate, the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and a range of deregulations that will impact negatively on the environment for years to come. In addition, there is the threat of a nuclear war, the disappearance of health care for the most vulnerable, the attack on free speech and the media, and the rise of the punishing state and the increasing criminalization of social problems. As Richard J. Evans, the renowned British historian, observes, "Violence indeed was at the heart of the Nazi enterprise. Every democracy that perishes dies in a different way, because every democracy is situated in specific historical circumstances."
US society has entered a dangerous stage in its history. After 40 years of neoliberalism and systemic racism, many Americans lack a critical language that offers a consistent narrative that enables them to understand gutted wages, lost pensions, widespread uncertainty and collapsing identities due to feeling disposable, the loss of meaningful work and a formative culture steeped in violence, cruelty and an obsession with greed. Moreover, since 9/11, Americans have been bombarded by a culture of fear and consumerism that both dampens their willingness to be critical agents and depoliticizes them. Everyone is now a suspect or a consumer, but hardly a critically engaged citizen. Others are depoliticized because of the ravages of debt, poverty and the daily struggle to survive -- problems made all the worse by Trump's tax and health policies. And while there is no perfect mirror, it has become all the more difficult for many people to recognize how the "crystalized elements" of totalitarianism have emerged in the shape of an American-style fascism. What has been forgotten by too many intellectuals, critics, educators and politicians is that fascism is hardly a relic of the past or a static political and ideological system.
Trump is not in possession of storm troopers, concentration camps or concocting plans for genocidal acts -- at least, not at the moment. But that does not mean that fascism is a moment frozen in history and has no bearing on the present. As Hannah Arendt, Sheldon Wolin and others have taught us, totalitarian regimes come in many forms and their elements can come together in different configurations. Rather than dismiss the notion that the organizing principles and fluctuating elements of fascism are still with us, a more appropriate response to Trump's rise to power is to raise questions about what elements of his government signal the emergence of a fascism suited to a contemporary and distinctively US political, economic and cultural landscape.
What seems indisputable is that under Trump, democracy has become the enemy of power, politics and finance. Adam Gopnik refutes the notion that Trumpism will simply fade away in the end, and argues that comparisons between the current historical moment and fascism are much needed. He writes:
Needless to say, the degradation of public discourse, the acceleration of grotesque lying, the legitimization of hatred and name-calling, are hard to imagine vanishing like the winter snows that Trump thinks climate change is supposed to prevent. The belief that somehow all these things will somehow just go away in a few years' time does seem not merely unduly optimistic but crazily so. In any case, the trouble isn't just what the Trumpists may yet do; it is what they are doing now. American history has already been altered by their actions -- institutions emptied out, historical continuities destroyed, traditions of decency savaged -- in ways that will not be easy to rehabilitate.
There is nothing new about the possibility of authoritarianism in a particularly distinctive guise coming to the US. Nor is there a shortage of works illuminating the horrors of fascism. Fiction writers ranging from George Orwell, Sinclair Lewis and Aldous Huxley to Margaret Atwood, Philip K. Dick and Philip Roth have sounded the alarm in often brilliant and insightful terms. Politicians such as Henry Wallace wrote about American fascism, as did a range of theorists, such as Umberto Eco, Arendt and Paxton, who tried to understand its emergence, attractions and effects. What they all had in common was an awareness of the changing nature of tyranny and how it could happen under a diverse set of historical, economic and social circumstances. They also seem to share Philip Roth's insistence that we all have an obligation to recognize "the terror of the unforeseen" that hides in the shadows of censorship, makes power invisible and gains in strength in the absence of historical memory. A warning indeed.
Trump represents a distinctive and dangerous form of US-bred authoritarianism, but at the same time, he is the outcome of a past that needs to be remembered, analyzed and engaged for the lessons it can teach us about the present. Not only has Trump "normalized the unspeakable" and in some cases, the unthinkable, he has also forced us to ask questions we have never asked before about capitalism, power, politics, and yes, courage itself. In part, this means recovering a language for politics, civic life, the public good, citizenship and justice that has real substance. One challenge is to confront the horrors of capitalism and its transformation into a form of fascism under Trump. This cannot happen without a revolution in consciousness, one that makes education central to politics.
Moreover, as Fredric Jameson has suggested, such a revolution cannot take place by limiting our choices to a fixation on the "impossible present." Nor can it take place by limiting ourselves to a language of critique and a narrow focus on individual issues. What is needed is also a language of hope and a comprehensive politics that draws from history and imagines a future that does not imitate the present. Under such circumstances, the language of critique and hope can be enlisted to create a broad-based and powerful social movement that both refuses to equate capitalism with democracy and moves toward creating a radical democracy. William Faulkner once remarked that we live with the ghosts of the past, or to be more precise: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
However, we are not only living with the ghosts of a dark past; it is also true that the ghosts of history can be critically engaged and transformed into a democratic politics for the future. The Nazi regime is more than a frozen moment in history. It is a warning from the past and a window into the growing threat Trumpism poses to democracy. The ghosts of fascism should terrify us, but most importantly, they should educate us and imbue us with a spirit of civic justice and collective courage in the fight for a substantive and inclusive democracy. The stakes are too high to remain complacent, cynical or simply outraged. A crisis of memory, history, agency and justice has mushroomed and opened up the abyss of a fascist nightmare. Now is the time to talk back, embrace the radical imagination in private and public, and create united mass based coalitions in which the collective dream for a radical democracy becomes a reality. There is no other choice.
What are the longer-term trends that gave rise to the presidency of Donald Trump? What will be the national and global impacts? And what do we need to do to resist? Henry A. Giroux tackles these questions in The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism. "This courageous and timely book is the first and best book on Trump's neo-fascism in the making," says Cornel West. To order your copy, click here and make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout now!
HENRY A. GIROUX
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books are America's Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press, 2016) America at War with Itself (City Lights, 2017) and American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is www.henryagiroux.com.