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February 13, 2007

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Zach

David Brooks has effectively grasped the essential questions facing both the revolutionary left and the US imperialist ruling class. Brooks correctly grasps both the tactical strengths of US imperialism, and the current subjective constellation of political forces and consciousness, which both favor the continued global dominance of US imperialism, in spite of all the tremendous setbacks they have faced. However, Brooks completely misses the strategic weaknesses of US imperialism.

The looming challenge for the revolutionary left will be to translate the strategic weakness of US imperialism into a crystallization of domestic consciousness according to its true interests, in opposition to the strategic interests of US imperialism. Tactically, the political climate facing the left is far more formidable than in the Vietnam era. Strategically, the current crisis of US imperialism presents far greater opportunities to dismantle this unjust empire of exploitation once and for all.

No single political force on the domestic left possesses the strength to unilaterally face down US imperialism, even if the current crisis were to dramatically deteriorate. However, the left as a whole, if correctly oriented toward the current crisis of US imperialism, along with the political upsurge that will undoubtedly accompany a dramatic deterioration of the current crisis, has a favorable chance of breaking this empire.

The objective short-term, as well as long-term, interests of the vast majority of people of the United States, are in opposition to the occupation of Iraq, and the current policy of unilateralism and new imperialism. The social contract with working and middle-class people has dramatically changed with the new economy. Both manufacturing and service sector jobs are subject to sudden termination, real wages are flat or have declined, health benefits have been in a downward spiral since Hillary Clinton’s failed attempts to reform the health care system. The welfare state was slashed to the bone under the Clinton administration. Yet all of these phenomena have occurred during an undisputed era of prosperity for US imperialism.

For generations, left critics have postulated an economic crisis that would facilitate revolutionary opportunities. Ironically, this crisis may yet come, when left critics have stopped looking for it, and when David Brooks arrogantly describes “[t]he economy is humming along nicely.” The war and occupation of Iraq are driving current budget deficits, destabilizing American currency and threatening to raise US interest rates. This may well puncture the US housing bubble, deflating the twin engines of job growth and consumer spending. This could be the first true test of the new social contract.

A left that has both a strategic revolutionary orientation against US imperialism, and is firmly planted organizationally among a section of the working and middle classes, will have a real opportunity at breaking the US empire in the event of such a crisis. The liberal and radical sections of the middle class stepped outside of the confines of the Democratic Party to oppose the US invasion of Iraq, stripping US imperialism of both moral legitimacy, as well as political and military allies. No one should minimize this victory.

If the working class also steps outside of established political structures, in the face of economic crisis, on top of the current political and military crisis of US imperialism, we may have an objective opportunity to break this empire. The question is, what tactics and strategy do we need to decisively break the people of the United States outside of the ideological framework being set by David Brooks and both the Republican and Democratic parties, such that the hegemon will die, and the people of the world will have a chance to live?

Francis

Hello all,

Not sure this is the proper place for such things, but I couldn’t help but notice the obligatory reference to “the fascist direction Bush (and Hil) have taken the country” in Burningman’s otherwise decent analysis of the piece by David Brooks. This use of the term fascism is distinctly at odds with the way I have long thought of the term, although at least the Bush part seems consistent with the RCP analysis of “Christian Fascism” (which I’ve never really understood). Anyway, I thought some regulars here might be interested in a left critique of the “Christian Fascism” concept, courtesy of Matthew Lyons, who is a regular over at the ThreeWayFight blog – http://threewayfight.blogspot.com. Anyway, the url for Matthew’s full piece is here:

http://www.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue42/Lyons42.htm

(I wish I knew how to create hyper-links in this comment area…)

the burningman

For embedding links, as well as italicizing and so on... just check any basic HTML guide of which there are an infinite number on the web.

Regarding the F word:

Seems like folks think unless fascism comes with jackboots and swastikas, it's not "really" fascism. The same categorical logic is at play with the arguments over "deformed" or "degenerate" workers states.

As if there is an ideal, particular form fascism takes (as counter-revolution, personalized dictatorship, etc.).

Mussolini's definition is a good one: the merging of state and corporate power.

Legalized and public torture, an endless war without a declared enemy, the reduction of civil interaction with the state until it is meaningless, a unifying (authoritarian) ideology... all of this is very much the order of the day.

In terms of the Christian Fascist stuff: look, it's real and this analysis is not (only) the "property" of the RCP. People who don't live in the areas most effected by it just act like its the same old thing.

It is not.

BattleCry, the mega-churches, the infiltration and sectarian domination of (for example) the Air Force Academy (the folks who will the nuclear arsenals!), the war on science (and the Enlightenment, for all you post-modern enablers!), the normalization of fundamentalist discourse in conservative circles and the very logic of liberal accomodation to this fundamentalism (Jim Wallis) is dangerous.

It certainly could take a qualitative leap. It already has.

Acting like its hysteria is naive.

Or that fascism is simply a "re-play" of 1933...

This empire is in crisis. The old ways of holding it together are not working. Thousands of immigrants are being caught up in raids. Muslims are kidnapped and tortured and it's considered normal. Fundamentalists are in the highest coridors of power.

This country is already indistinguishable from fascism for large sections of the Black population. The incarceration rates for Black men are several times the rate of state control at the height of Stalin's terror.

Is it "fascism"? That boogyman?

Yes. Yes it is – and if people keep acting like it's just another "degree" of difference, they are missing what's happening. It's moderation in the face of plain horror.

Francis

Hey Burningman,

I honestly can’t tell from your comment whether you’ve even looked at Lyons’ piece or not; I recommend you do so before assuming that he (or I, or others associated with ThreeWayFight) are dismissive in some knee-jerk way of the views you and others hold. None of us is suggesting that there hasn’t been significant change in the already repressive arrangement of power in this country; we are challenging the idea that it is useful to describe this change as fascist.

You may think this is merely a semantic dispute (although if you do, you’ve just gotten awfully defensive of something that reduces to word choice), but for many of us with a background in on-the-ground anti-fascist work it feels like a distinction that has real world consequences. And it’s silly to assume that we “just act like its the same old thing” when our commitments to anti-capitalism and anti-statist politics are just as strong as our anti-fascism.

And, as Lyons makes fairly clear, it’s not a question of limiting the use of the term to the strictest imitators of Hitler or Mussolini. But this is just another reason not to use Mussolini’s own definition: “the merging of state and corporate power” with no other qualifiers, applies quite nicely to regimes like Pinochet’s Chile, which had almost no popular support, or to Venezuela under Chavez, which features only very limited forms of repression. A more useful definition must include an awareness of the radical character of fascist movements BEFORE they take power, and I mean radical in the sense of not being primarily reactionary. The left doesn’t have a monopoly on revolution, nor even necessarily on anti-capitalism.

the burningman

Busted.

I had not looked at it, but having taken a gander it seems very interesting. Let me dig into that and then respond.

leftclick

Francis I took a look at the piece and found it provocative. I'll have to look at it again but I just wanted to make a point and throw out a few questions.

When the RCP characterizes certain political policies and gestures as 'fascist, they are not saying that we have a full-blown fascist regime, but a regime that is implementing measures towards fascism. After all, the Nazis were fascists even before they took power.

Do you agree that the Bush regime has set up a momentum towards fascism that not even the Democrats will stop? How would you characterize the trajectory that different political forces under the Bush umbrella? How would you describe the projected future they have in mind for us if they are insufficiently challenged?

Francis

Leftclick raises some interesting questions. First, I’d like to point out the difference between the important fact that the Nazis were fascists BEFORE they took power, and the questionable notion that the current US regime is shifting toward fascism WHILE IN power. I don’t think this sort of shift is automatically impossible, but the Nazi style scenario seems much more probable to me, partly because I think that fascism is (almost) always characterized by both a popular/populist base of support and by a radical break with parliamentary politics. Bush has made clear his desire to expand executive power, but he has never attempted to set up any sort of fundamental conflict between his popular base and Congress.

Speaking for myself, I would disagree with the claim that the Bush regime has “set up a momentum towards fascism,” although I agree that there has been a substantial change in the ruling class approach to domestic governance since approximately 9-11, and I agree that the Democrats have no interest in stopping or substantially altering this shift. Yes, a president Obama would probably try to tweak the Patriot Act etc., but no one in the ruling class is interested in getting rid of it. But the class structure is not under any real stress at this point, and again I would say that fascism is normally characterized by a fundamental break in the traditional class structure. So it seems to me that we’re mostly looking at a set of relatively minor intra-ruling class disputes over how to handle a changing global situation. These disputes, moreover, are just as much global as the situation they are attempting to deal with: thus, for instance, France’s headscarf ban, which doesn’t foreshadow fascism there any more than the Patriot Act does here in the US.

I think there’s a word missing in leftclick’s second question, so I will leave that to the side, and move to the third and final question: “How would you describe the projected future they have in mind for us if they are insufficiently challenged?” This is a great question, and one that we haven’t spent much time on over at Three Way Fight. I would guess, and it’s just a guess, not really based on extensive research or analysis, that if Bush and company have their way, we are looking at the likelihood of an increasingly supervisory state, and possibly an eventual police state, but not one that breaks fundamentally with either “representative” government or with the fundamental economic status quo. And again, in my estimation, fascism in practice has been characterized by both of these ruptures. (And, for what it's worth, I think other regulars at threewayfight would disagree with the particulars of my assessment here.)

In short, I don’t dispute the importance of challenging the “war on terror” and its attendant shifts toward increased repression. What I challenge is the attempt to frame these as a form of fascism, especially when there are real fascist movements both in the US and across the world, most of which share a firm opposition to many of the same things we on the revolutionary left also oppose. Hence the value of the three way fight analysis: in a world of apples, oranges and bananas, it doesn’t make sense to pretend that there are only two kinds of fruit.

leftclick

My second sentence, edited properly should read : "How would you characterize the different political forces under the Bush umbrella?"

I understand the need for caution when using a term like "fascism." It has been too easily thrown around by the left to characterize our opponents. At the same time, I'm not yet convinced that it's inappropriate in this case. I want to re-read your piece think about it little bit more.

As for the mass base, read Esther Kaplan's With God On Our Side and Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy on this. Significant numbers of Bush voters support his ideology, not just his policies. These popular blocs have been in the making since the Billy Graham crusades in the 1950's.

More later.

r. john

I want to make a note about the RCP and the term fascism:

They are not among those who threw the word around lightly. Not in the sixties, not under Reagan. In fact, they were known for NOT throwing it around lightly.

so (whether you agree or not) the fact is that their warning of the danger of fascism came as something startling.

There is a long legacy (in both bourgoeis and revisionist thought) of extremely mechanical thinking around fascism.

for example, Hitler is often reduced to "killing six million Jews" -- as if that is the only event or defining point about the nazis. And so, rather mechanically, rightwingers say "What has Bush done that compares with that?"

But in fact "Hitler was not always Hitler." He came to power in 1933 (by legal, electoral means involving appointment by the President) and the major "death camp" phase of the "final solution" did not happen until late in World War 2 (around 1942).

There was a process -- there was even the build up of fascist legal precedents, and fascist-minded forces in the ranks of judges BEFORE Hitler himself and his party came to power.

It is also worth noting that in all of Avakian's writings on the rise of this fascist danger in the U.S. (and his still-controversial pointing to the danger and real approach of Christian Fascist theocracy) the analysis does not proceed from definition.... i.e. the "traditional" Dimitroff style definitions of fascism (the open terroristic dictatorship etc.) -- that's now how it proceeds.

It starts from reality,from the necessity of the ruling class to make basic changes because of objective conflicts they fact (internationally and domestically -- in holding their whole thing "together") and from from the reshaping and overturning and preparations for more overturning of basic and defining precepts, laws, standards of U.S. bourgeois democracy (separation of church and state, habeas corpus, posse comitatus, warrants for searches).

This is a process with leaps, happening in the framework of bourgeois dictatorship. It will not take the same form as Hitler's rise or approach -- and will not look the same. This i s a matter of essense, and direction, and understanding how the dominent circles of the ruling class are responding to their necessities.

r. john

i meant:

"that's NOT how it proceeds"

not:

"that's now how it proceeds"

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