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Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_8

An attempt to clarify some very general aspects, psycho-social contexts and motifs of right-wing populism as it has manifested across the advanced industrialised world for several decades starting with the end of the post-war boom in the mid-70s and now increasing again after the global financial crisis since 2008: Australian Hansonism, French NF, UKIP, German AfD, Austrian FPO, US Trumpism…

1. The fertile soil of all right-wing populism (RWP) and fascism everywhere is powerlessness.

2. RWP is the revolt of the marginalised and powerless ‘ordinary or little man‘ (and woman) which, although it has the potential, has not yet become militant fascism.

3. RWP and its fascist potential always increase under worsening economic conditions when material standards of living decline and reasons and solutions are being sought.

4. The RWP revolt is ambiguous. Like fascism, it is an unstable amalgam of revolt and conformity, rebelliousness and belief in leaders/authority, left and right policies and resentments. (more…)


brexit

All the wrong people are cheering. Farage, bulbous eyes swivelling and moist, lauded a victory for “the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people”. The citrine-tinged Trump, with customary intuition, praises the Scots (who overwhelmingly voted for Remain) for taking their country back. Marine Le Pen, hailing a “victory for freedom,” demands a similar referendum in France. Certainly, George Galloway, having joined Farage in demonising ‘mass immigration,’ is also pleased, and there are a few saps who think that Tony Benn’s democratic socialist dream is on the brink of fruition. But the serried ranks of red-faced, Toryboy rosbifs, delightedly fluttering their Union Jacks while sinking glass after glass of celebratory fizz, know that tomorrow belongs to them.

How did it happen? The Remain campaign had the broadest possible coalition, the most money, and ample media backing. It had the CBI, the TUC, the City, the leaderships of all the major parties and most of the minor ones, the Mirror, the Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Independent, the Observer, even the Mail on Sunday. All the big class battalions were for Remain. Most of the big intellectual artillery was lined up behind Remain. World leaders intervened on its behalf. Ukip, the Tory Right, small-to-medium sized capital, and the ranks of Poujadist patriots out to restore Britishness, surely had little chance. (more…)


Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_8

1.Two Clowns

Kierkegaard tells a nice story in his 19th century existentialist tract Either/Or:

A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke.

Although he is perhaps the epitome of the archetype of the sinister political clown, Donald the Trumpet isn’t the warning clown in this essay, I am.

2.Trump in a Nutshell

Like other right-wing populists, Trump speaks mainly to those materially impoverished or marginalised by the march of neoliberal globalization and its new international division of labour, and psychologically overwhelmed by, and resentful of, rapid technological and cultural change and immigration: male white manual workers and others, at least a third of the population.

There is one straight line from Thatcher-Reagan to Marine le Pen and Trump: right-wing populism and proto-fascism are the chickens of neoliberalism and imperial interventionism coming home to roost under multi-critical conditions where people are radically disillusioned with mainstream politics but there is no strong left-wing alternative able to speak to them. (more…)


Avigdor_lieberman_minister

I recently mentioned the German word Gleichschaltung – one of the most typical words in the Nazi vocabulary.

“Gleich” means “the same”, and “Schaltung” means “wiring”. The long German word means that everything in the state is wired up the same way – the Nazi way.

This was an essential part of the Nazi transformation of Germany. But it did not happen in any dramatic way. The replacement of people was slow, almost imperceptible. In the end, all important positions in the country were manned by Nazi functionaries.

We are now witnessing something like this in Israel. We are already well into the middle of the process.

Position after position is taken over by the far-far right, which is ruling Israel now. Slowly. Very, very slowly. (more…)


Jeremy_Corbyn_Global_Justice_Now

During the campaigns for and against Scottish independence, the leadership of the Unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign comprising both Labour and Conservative parties embarked on an offensive privately dubbed ‘Project Fear’ by the organisers. The idea was, rather than selling the benefits of the Union, to terrify Scottish voters with visions of political and economic chaos should they vote to leave the UK. At its peak, Project Fear brought together leading figures in the state, business and media operators. The Financial Times reported that the government twisted the arms of business leaders – 85 per cent of whom supported the Union – to go public with a series of warnings about economic disaster in the event of independence. Meanwhile, the civil service abandoned its customary pretence of neutrality, as the head of the Treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson argued that there was no need for neutrality when ‘the very existence of the British state was at stake’. Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, drafted the Queen’s intervention in the debate, while the Treasury published unusually partisan advice. Research showed that the main broadcast media, above all the BBC, were on board with the fear campaign, overwhelmingly publicising negative claims about independence.

A remarkably similar pattern was to emerge in the case of the Left’s capture of the Labour leadership. During the leadership election, three Labour MPs from the party’s right-wing – John Mann, Barry Sheerman and Graham Stringer – called for the process to be halted, claiming to be worried about infiltration by the far Left and Tory trolls. They argued that the new rules under which the election was being conducted made it impossible to vet participants. As Stringer put it, with the influx of registered supporters, ‘We do not know and could never know whether these people support other political parties.’ Sheerman likewise contended that among infiltrators, only a few of the ‘usual suspects’ could possibly be detected by vetting measures. Mann suggested that ‘long-standing members’ might be ‘trumped by people who have opposed the Labour Party’, invoking the danger of a return of the old Trotskyist faction, Militant. (more…)


us flag gun

[Media Advisory: the following program contains substandard language, violence, sexual imagery and the archetype of a psychopath. Viewer discretion is advised.]

Yous wuz new ‘n’ I wuz ol’
I cross’d da sea in surch o’ gol’
Yous gave me corn, squash ‘n’ beans
Ma response wuz cruel ‘n’ mean!

Bang, bang – I shot yous down!
Bang, bang – yous hit da ground!
Bang, bang – ma fav’rit sound!
Bang, bang – da worl’ in blood diz drown’d!

Injun red ‘n’ yous wuz dead
If yous wuz black, I whupped yer back
De yellor race ain’t got no case –
White iz right o’ I brek yer face!

Bang, bang – I shot yous down!
Bang, bang – yous hit da ground!
Bang, bang – ma fav’rit sound!
Bang, bang – da worl’ in blood diz drown’d! (more…)


communism

There are several essential messages literally shouting from the screen, whenever one watches ‘The Last Supper’ (La Ultima Cena), a brilliant 1976 film by a Cuban director Tomas Gutierrez Alea.

The utmost one: it is impossible to enslave an entire group or race of people, at least not indefinitely. Longing for freedom, for true liberty, is impossible to break, no matter how brutally and persistently colonialism, imperialism, racism and religious terror try to.

The second, equally important message is that the whites and the Christians (but mostly the white Christians) have been behaving, for centuries and all over the world, like a horde of savage beasts and genocidal maniacs.

At the end of April 2016, on board Cubana de Aviacion jet that was taking me from Paris to Havana, I couldn’t resist opening my computer and watching La Ultima Cena again, for at least the tenth time in my life. (more…)


dilma rousseff

By now it is old news that there is a coup afoot in Brazil and that the right-wing is using extraordinary political measures to overthrow Dilma Rousseff.

What is little discussed amid all the talk of impeachment and corruption in Brazil is the larger context: how international finance capital is working with Hillary Clinton and other U.S. political elites to reassert the Washington Consensus in Latin America; how the right wing throughout the region is collaborating in this project; and how this is manifesting in the targeted countries. Though the pieces of this puzzle may be partially concealed, it is time to put them all together to see the big picture.

Brazil and Argentina: Case Studies in Wall Street Meddling

As the world waits for the next episode of the unfolding Brazilian drama, it is critical to note why the spectacle that is this “impeachment” process is happening. Having been elected, and re-elected, four times in the last four elections, Dilma Rousseff and the Workers’ Party are undeniably the single-most popular political formation in Brazil, a country known for its deep divide between a wealthy right-wing elite, and the masses of workers and poor people who predominantly support the left, including the Workers’ Party in recent years. (more…)


city college

After one frustrating year of union bargaining, AFT 2121 faculty at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) conducted a one-day unfair labor practice strike “of all classes at all eleven campuses” on April 27 because the administration has not been bargaining in good faith as it proposes “to shrink classes by 26% and lay off more than a quarter of the faculty.”

These cuts are staggering. But, as labor educator, author and AFT 2121 executive board member Joe Berry pointed out to me, it’s all part of a decades-long national attack against community colleges to shrink their budgets and limit their mission to a technical and vocational curriculum. A genuine school failure and “student ‘unsuccess’ plan,” said Berry.

As it is, CCSF has approximately 1500 faculty members serving around 70,000 students who are primarily working class, immigrants and people of color. It is the largest public community college in California and remains one of the largest in the nation.

However, Berry explained, “it was only a few years ago that our faculty was over 2000 serving 100,000 students.” This downsizing is the result of methodical funding cuts and, most troubling, drawn-out attempts begun in 2012 to actually close the school. (more…)


VirginiaWoolf

The assistant looked at me with an amused, vaguely ironic expression: better not to do than to do, better to meditate than to act, better his astrophysics, the threshold of the Unknowable, than my chemistry, a mess compounded of stenches, explosions, and small futile mysteries. I thought of another moral, more down to earth and concrete, and I believe that every militant chemist can confirm it: that one must distrust the almost-the-same (sodium is almost the same as potassium, but with sodium [no explosion] would have happened), the practically identical, the approximate, the or-even, all surrogates, and all patchwork. The differences can be small, but they can lead to radically different consequences, like a railroad’s switch points; the chemist’s trade consists in good part in being aware of these differences, knowing them close up, and foreseeing their effects. And not only the chemist’s trade.
— Primo Levi, The Periodic Table (1975)

In the current American climate, while Donald Trump lunges for the White House by ranting from platforms, screens, and newsfeeds against the women, the immigrants, the refugees who must be identical with his contempt for their differences from him, as if a word matched its referent, always without slippage, I talk to the dead. To two long gone, especially: to Virginia Woolf and Plato, their resonances stretched across the millennia separating them. They are tough to hear, those echoes, but the listening can be earned, so long as any hearer balks at the sameness that lives on the other side of Trump’s disdain for the differential. Part of our human trade, as Levi sketches out, ought to involve defying the effort to squeeze persons into our vision of them, to batter down two into one, whether or not we are mindful of the consequences of such an act, its potential explosions. Together, Woolf and Plato help their listeners to resist equalizing the seer and the seen, or at least to understand that the consequences of resistance, as well as its failure, are ours. (more…)

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