Thursday, August 17, 2017

2016 Fascism Roundup

As the Trump presidency speeds toward disintegration, here is a chronological series of 2016 posts on that warn of fascism:
Feb 28,2016 : Question: What do ISIS and Trump Have in Common? Answer: Both are Backed by US Power.  
The American media only mentioned in passing that ISIS had taken over oil fields until Russia started bombing the (white Toyota) trucks transporting oil to Turkey for sale.

Similarly, until today, the American media has indulged in all-day, wall to wall coverage of the Donald Trump phenomenon: a billionaire businessman known for shady deals who galvanizes working class American voters. Today, CNN - the only major channel on news duty Sunday afternoons - had to unequivocally criticize Trump for alleging that he “knows nothing” about white supremacist, David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, who endorsed him.

(From Wikipedia: The  "Know Nothings" were members of the semi-secret American Party party. When a member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, "I know nothing." Outsiders called them "Know-Nothings", and the name stuck. In 1855, it was empowered by popular fears that the country was being overwhelmed by German and Irish Catholic immigrants, whom they saw as hostile to republican values, and as being controlled by the Pope in Rome. Mainly active from 1854 to 1856, the movement strove to curb immigration and naturalization, but met with little success. Membership was limited to Protestant men.)

Like everything else that Donald Trump has done in the campaign, this slip-up (curiously preceded by “I disavow”), will probably not dent his support, nor is it likely, in the long run (which, in the news cycle is a few hours, days at most ) to substantially alter the media’s fawning coverage. Trump is such a ‘good story’, it matters not one whit whether or not he is good for America.

At four-thirty, I tweeted that Trump may have seized upon the Duke endorsement as a convenient way to end his campaign, then I remembered that yesterday a poll revealed that 20% of his supporters believe it was a mistake to free the slaves. 
As for ISIS, like the Taliban whom we supported in order to spoil Russia’s party in Afghanistan (which consisted mainly of efforts to liberate women and try to get some modern industry going, efforts that were condemnable because lead by ‘communists’) we support the latest Islamic avatar in covert ways because it is located on the right end of the political spectrum, pretending to ‘know nothing’ about the fact that it is a dictatorship more brutal than anything to have hit the front pages in decades (Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot), having expeditiously replaced gas chambers with always ready-to-use head-choppers (as Donald calls them). 

Our case against ISIS is that it is a ‘terrorist organization’ that could in future take on the Homeland. We don’t mind at all when it inflicts pain on a present enemy such as Bashar al-Assad, whom we want to dislodge from power, or even against the Iran-friendly Iraqi government that we put in place. 

US power is a one-track system that seeks ever increasing control of greater parts of the world.  It is not interested in ‘doing good’, or even in ‘saving the planet’ since there are a myriad of other planets out there, virtually guaranteeing that one of them will turn out able to support life. Until that planet is found and made ready for human habitation, expediency dictates that the few dispense their backing for whatever and whoever is likely to keep the many at bay.

March 13, 2016:
The Second US Revolution is Starting

When the time comes to write the history of the second American revolution - or perhaps the second civil war - no one will be able to say that they didn’t see it coming. We have seen it build day after day on our television screens: A big, sexually active, square-jawed billionaire decides that a weekly tv show isn’t enough to feed his ego, so he runs for the presidency, getting 24 hour coverage.

Like every media star, he plays to his strengths, led by a stream of consciousness filled with the same dirty words we hear on television, encouraging his followers to attack those who disagree with his plan to ‘make America great again’.  It has only taken a few months for violence to appear, but Trump gets away with calling Bernie Sanders protesters ‘Communists’, blaming them for the incidents, when they are constitutionally against violence, whether at home or abroad.

The Sanders candidacy allowed the American left to come out in favor of social democracy.  Almost a century behind the rest of the Western World, it is finally possible for a socialist to appear on national television. Last August, I wrote that we could be faced with a Trump/Sanders election, and nobody believed me because Sanders is facing a presumptive front runner. Today it’s clear that his uphill battle for the nomination is helped not only by Hillary’s foibles, but by Trump’s embrace of violence.

Most Americans have long believed that our country would continue its middle-of-the-road course, avoiding both fascism and communism. But they allowed money - always an ally of the right - unprecedented freedom to create never-before-seen disparities of wealth. With our international quality of life scores embarrassingly low, reasoned condemnation of that policy sooner or later had to break through the pretense of exceptionalism.

Powerful economic interests want the country to continue its foreign wars, making it impossible to close the quality of life chasm. We may eventually discover that bankers and weapons manufacturers actually called on Trump.  As US workers began to discover that every other developed nation has better schools, free health care, free universities and a host of other benefits that flow from the conviction that the community must stand in solidarity with its individual members, just as do families, the 1% may have decided that it will not suffice to have brought the European welfare state to its knees to prevent them from demanding equal treatment. Even if the Islamist threat ensures continuing ‘patriotism’, they may need to feel certain that the thousands of militiamen and other Second Amendment fanatics at home will turn their guns on a resuscitated left rather than on them.

Trump may sincerely believe he can will the country back to  ‘greatness’, just as Hitler believed his ‘master race’ would rule Europe. But as the almost imperceptible drip drip of information about how the rest of the developed world lives reaches a critical mass of Americans, the many demanding equity will be met by the few defending power. 

America’s role in the world is also at play, as religious fanatics reject a ‘city upon a hill’ that has descended into a gutter of commercialism in which everything has a price, embodied by female forms. As shown by attacks on European women by Muslim immigrants, this doesn’t help Muslim men accept women as equals.

Most liberal Americans still believe that Sanders doesn’t stand a chance of getting the Democratic nomination, and those who support him see him as primarily a domestic reformer. But Bernie’s attitude is also what is needed to heal a rift with the Muslim world, for it was Christians who undertook the crusades that destroyed its rule over half a continent, (a rule that accepted Jews).

If Bernie can build on the stance he took the other day when he welcomed a hijab-clad student of political science to his microphone, telling her: “I am a Jew. Members of my family perished in the holocaust,” he could be seen as the right president for the United States, both domestically and internatio-nally.

Journalists are finally daring to play back to us Trump’s encouragement of violence when he denies it, but they are only slightly more inclined to condemn him outright than are his challengers for the Republican nomination. All should review 1930’s German history, when democratic socialists failed to meet a similar challenge, before it is too late.

The rule of physics called ‘the arrow of time’ tells us that once a process reaches a certain momentum, it can only continue in a forward direction: the arrow of time is irreversible.

June 9, 2016: It’ s Our Turn to Fall Apart

For decades, the carefully scripted Anglo-Saxon world has been gloating at the sight of lesser polities’ perpetual political turmoil: whether it be European — France’s successive ‘Republics’ - currently the Fifth — or the escapades of Italy’s media tycoon turned politician - or Latin America’s succession of what Fidel Castro called ‘politicheros’ - or Africa’s long-term dictators - the US has always been above such confusion, our two parties participating in regularly-scheduled two and four-year election cycles.

Hence surprise and incomprehension among both actors and commentators, as the Republican Party finds itself saddled with a candidate chosen by a rambunctious people rather than party hacks, while the Democrats are unable to see that Hillary’s coronation comes eight years too late: Democratic youth have finally discovered socialism, and are unlikely to vote for Hillary because she has not. 

2016 will go down in history as the year the US strayed beyond the boundaries of the Democrat/Republican duopoly, the elephant and the donkey, the blue and the red, into a free-for-all in which the media no longer has to soup up ‘stories’ to increase ratings (which have replaced rational analysis). Many have commented on the ‘bandwagon’ that accompanies American elections, few have considered that they are made to appear more meaningful in terms of policy than they are.

But never have we seen such grasping at straws! While third party candidates have always been tagged as “spoilers” (think Ralph Nader, who may have cost Al Gore the fateful 2000 presidency…), in this extraordinary situation, the Republicans are frantically seeking anyone who will run against their presumptive nominee, and Democratic voters are trying to convince Bernie Sanders to ditch the party and run as an independent. News shows reveal major Republican movers and shakers desperately try to pull out of a hat someone who has not already been defeated by Donald Trump in the primaries, and who would be willing to take on ‘the Donald’ as he is referred to, as a third party candidate whom they would back, even though they were previously pressured to promise they would back ‘the nominee’…) Such disarray has probably never been seen in Washington, and it signals that there is a real right and a real left in this country, both of which have left the two ‘ruling’ parties behind.

Speaking of France, Francois Hollande is the least popular president of the Fifth Republic. His socialist party kowtows to the global financial mafia, (demurely known in French as ‘the market’) following upon similar behavior in Iceland in 2011, Cyprus, 2012-13, Greece, on-going since 2009, Spain and Portugal, ditto. French workers responded to Hollande’s supine acceptance of the ‘market’s’ demand for looser labor laws by paralyzing the country and threatening to desert its 58 nuclear power plants. 

Seen in the context of America’s diverse machinations abroad, it’s no surprise that the major TV outlets announced that Hillary had clinched the nomination before California voters went to the polls, causing many Democrats to stay at home, depriving Bernie of that crucial state’s delegates - or that they voice confidence that although the Attorney General met with Bill Clinton “on the tarmac”, i.e., in her private plane, for a ‘chance encounter’ the FBI will not upset the apple cart. 

As fear rises like fumes from a swamp, in a country in which feminism has become more important than fascism or the threat of World War III, the City Upon a Hill has descended into the real world alongside the rest of humanity, and it hasn’t a clue what to do.

June 13, 2016: US Election: Ignorance in Charge

Republican despair over the fact that Donald Trump has managed to become, for all intents and purposes, the Republican nominee for President, shows one striking thing: for one man, one vote, to ensure enlightened governance, democracy has to be backed up by a very high quality compulsory education system.

Donald Trump won more primary votes than any other American candidate ever, forcing the Republican establishment to anoint him as their candidate, against their better judgement. But if you are going to limit voter education to TV reality shows and video games, you should not be surprised if anger over government failings leads a lot of ordinary people to vote for the candidate who encourages them to have a gun. Donald Trump didn’t become a billionaire by being a couch-potato or toting a gun, but his message is clearly designed to appeal to such voters.

That message is the equivalent of Hitler’s appeal to disenchanted 1920’s and thirties German voters, who longed for past glory, and it’s a stinging indictment of a century of compulsory eduction. Television is a wonderful means of mind control, and when its appeal began to fade, video games and smart-phones came along to pick up the slack. Technology opens up a world of unlimited information if one cares to look for it, but obsessive use of computers and its offshoots leaves little time for independent thinking, which requires a silent environment without too much visual stimulus.

In mid-nineteenth century America, education was seen as the key to democracy: voters needed to master the three r’s (reading, writing and arithmetic), to make meaningful decisions in the voting booth.  But at some point, the decision to invest in advertising in order to sell more stuff, rather than in schools, meant that more money was invested in ‘fun’ than in knowledge, filling the coffers of manufacturers while emptying minds. Most progressive analysis since the end of World War II has focused on the ever-growing role of publicity in consumer choices.  But advertising also plays a crucial role in deterring voters from paying attention to what goes on beyond their neighborhood or town - not to mention their ability to do so meaningfully.

The American population can be divided into two main groups: an overwhelming majority that hardly knows there is a world beyond our borders, and a very small minority - probably no more than 10% - that pays attention to international developments, but believes America should always be top dog.  

That is why a year-long presidential campaign - longer than those of any other country, by far - holds Americans spell-bound, to the exclusion of wars or natural disasters occurring elsewhere. And when someone like Donald Trump comes along bragging about his commercial - not academic, scientific, artistic or spiritual - accomplishments, large numbers of voters, especially men who have seen their dreams of success (those promised by TV ads) fade away, leaving as only recourse access to a gun with which potentially to alter reality, literally rise up, as we have seen at countless rallies, giving him the primary votes needed to become the candidate of a Republican Party whose 2012 candidate was the milk-toast Mitt Romney. 

June 18, 2016: This is How it Starts

Too bad they haven’t yet invented a time machine that could take us back to the nineteen thirties. We would probably recognize ourselves in the Germans of that time, as Hitler was taking over power by ‘electoral means’, his lusty rednecks soon to wear brown shirts.

We’re beyond the time when we could say with confidence ‘It Can’t Happen Here’.  Events that no one can control are carrying us forward: one thing leads to another, no one (or at least very few) are doing ‘this’ deliberately, but if our grandchildren survive, they will wonder how we (yes, we!) let the United States birth a fascist takeover, not of one continent, but virtually the entire world.

Europe was probably in a much more ‘normal’ state in 1930 than it is today, not to mention the US. When Americans were first introduced to the ‘Red Scare’, radio was a novelty, and so, comparatively were airplanes.  Ford T’s were still on the roads. Americans were clearly divided over entering the First World War: the battle was fought through the 1916 election: Woodrow Wilson won, and the following year took us to war in an early version of R2P.
Today, our abuse of R2P has upended a good part of the world, sent hundreds of thousands of innocents fleeing governmental or rebel violence, much of it indirectly caused by the industrial/financial complex seated on Wall Street.  Our rush to ‘protect’ is about bottom lines, not people.  As for the American people, they would be hard-pressed to point the finger at one guilty party, or one turning point.

Enthroned on our ‘hill’ we have watched with uninterrupted schadenfreude as those whom God did not choose saw their governments fumble and tumble, or grow into monsters, thinking to our superior selves “How unfortunate for these people that they have not the good fortune to live in the United States!”

It has taken a century for the shoe to move to the other foot, but Americans are as powerless today as the Germans were then.  The citizens of a country who’s Declaration of Independence proclaimed it was their duty to replace a government that failed to obey their will with another, were made to be mortally afraid of the Revolution that put an end to autocratic rule in a country that had scarcely outlawed serfdom.

The House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was created as early as 1938 “to investigate alleged disloyalty and subversive activities on the part of private citizens, public employees, and those organizations suspected of having Communist ties.”  It was not abolished until 1975. In other words, this committee, that summoned ordinary people to testify on friends, family or co-workers, operated for almost 40 years, roughly the same amount of time that, in the Soviet Union, ‘Stalinism’ held sway. (Stalin become the country’s undisputed leader in 1923 and died in 1953, thirty years later…).  

It took decades for Stalin’s legacy to be replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika and Glasnost, and the Yeltsin years that followed his dissolution of the Soviet Union, saw the sacking of the country’s patrimony and the rise of the oligarchs and Russia’s billionaire class. Less noticed, in the US, HUAC was succeeded seamlessly by Neo-Conservatism, that carried forward under more sophisticated disguises the HUAC ideology.  

Literally as I write this, I notice a post on the same theme on by no less an authority than Bill Moyers, tracing Trump’s close political operative Roy Cohen back to McCarthy!

The most accurate label to describe the progressive media to which I belong is that is inhabited by hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of powerless voices that can only cry in the wilderness, today’s equivalent of the Victorian ‘wringing of hands’.  On the rare occasions when Bernie Sanders’ supporters become feisty, they are quickly condemned by the media. The many, many more occasions when Donald Trump’s supporters demonstrate their propensity to violence, draw only mild condemnations from news anchors, while Trump eggs them on.

Trump’s headline comments on the Orlando shooting by an ISIS admirer, far from joining very belated congressional calls for better gun control, were that lives would have been saved had even just one person among the revelers had a gun. Make no mistake: the Republican Party’s failure to forcefully back a credible alternative to Trump is a folly that has its reasons, however disputable.

And this is how events that history looks back upon with disbelief come into being.

July 8, 2016: More Than Ignorance 

The Public Broadcasting Channel (PBS) is running a series on the war in Ukraine that would make the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk furious if they could see it. In the first episode we meet government soldiers who claim they are fighting for the country to stay unified. However, when one of the rebel soldiers (a woman, by the way) says forcefully that she would rather die than live under a fascist government, the narrator claims that she is evoking Russia’s role in World War II, (when it fought Nazi (or fascist) Germany). He failed to inform the viewer that the 2014 coup in Kiev deposed a democratically elected pro-Russian president for a pro EU-regime imposed via chains and truncheons wielded by descendants and followers of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists who fought alongside Hitler against Russians and Jews in World War II.

In the second episode, the narrator acknowledges approvingly that the new uniforms of Kiev’s police are copies of US police blue, complete with the vizor cap, instead of reporting that US military are training Kiev’s army.

The third episode dispenses with reports on Ukraine’s civil war to focus on scare-mongering in Estonia, one of the three tiny Baltic countries that were part of the Soviet Union for seventy years, becoming independent when that multi-national country collapsed. Pretexting that the presence of large Russian-speaking populations could tempt President Vladimir Putin to try to take over these counties, the way he supposedly did Crimea, the narrator sets up his shot on a desolate looking Russian border, then cuts to massive NATO forces standing ready to counter any Russian incursion.  

The new Cold War that has been playing out since US-backed pro-EU Ukrainians carried out their coup in 2014, is attributed to Russia’s reprehensible ‘behavior’ — a word US foreign policy wonks favor, as if Russia were a wayward child. But the Kiev coup didn’t materialize out of thin air, among a population rightly fed up with corruption. It was carefully orchestrated by Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Europe, who bragged at a talk to Washington journalists that the US had ‘invested’ five billion dollars in a campaign to ‘bring democracy’ to Ukraine.  This talk is available on-line, as is her conversation with the then US Ambassador to Kiev discussing which Ukrainian politician would make the best Prime Minister. Nuland referred to her pick as ‘Yats’ (for Yatsenyuk) and when warned he might not suit the EU, famously responded ‘Fuck the EU!’  Nuland had been repeatedly seen on news footage of the Maidan uprising handing out cookies to Ukrainians fighting for ‘democracy’.

Although two and a half years have passed since the February 2014 coup, even most college-educated Americans, who read the New York Times, the Washington Post or the Wall St Journal religiously, are unaware of these details.  Reporting on the Maidan was on the same level of accuracy as the current public television series on ‘Ukraine’.

Having made repeated efforts to enlighten friends and acquaintances about what they don’t know, I’ve come to the conclusion that the US public’s attitude toward Russia is not just due to lack of information. Older generations, especially (those over 45 make up the majority of voters for the first time, and tend to support either Hillary or Donald) don’t want to know what is going on. Confronted with evidence that crimes are being committed in their name, they cannot bring themselves to enlarge their news sources. The refusal of people who are normally open and eager to know about the world to take advantage of non-traditional or foreign news sites, can only be called pathological: they apparently believe that if they do not look at the evidence that everything they have believed about their country was a facade, that ‘inconvenient’ truth will eventually go away.

This attitude is strikingly similar to the fear Americans had of the word ‘communism’ during the Cold War. It was as though learning about communism would contaminate them, a subliminal fear of being brain-washed. This could be understood in that ‘Communism’ is a ‘doctrine, or worse, an ‘ideology’, in a country in which ideologies are rejected in favor of a straightforward ‘one man, one vote’ and may the best man win, as if all candidates were committed to the common good, i.e., the pursuit of happiness via equal opportunity, no strings attached.  (If you “play by the rules and work hard”, you will flourish.)

So the prevention against learning about communism - or even socialism - the two being interchangeable in the minds of most Westerners - is in a way understandable.  What is much less so is the refusal to consider the possibility that a country that has been tagged as an enemy, might in fact not be one at all in the minds of either its people or their leaders.

I’ve encountered this attitude time and time again - with surprisingly few exceptions - among professional seniors who believe they are abreast of world affairs. It suggests that after the presidential election, more Americans whose eyes are open will emigrate than during the Vietnam War.

September 1, 2016: Pick Your Fascism 

I was sure Donald Trump would get a bounce from his lightening trip to Mexico:  he would show that he can walk and chew gum at the same time, compared to a Hillary who would have planned the visit to a foreign president for months.

I was right about the bounce, but it’s clear that it has a whole other meaning: the meeting with the Mexican president forced Trump to show the dangerous side pundits have been warning of: vindictive, brutal, playing to supporters who worship these traits.

Little more than a month separates American voters from the chance to pick which form of fascism they will embrace: Hillary’s version that will whip so-called allies into line and if ‘necessary’, nuke recalcitrant nations like Russia, to advance the goals of Wall Street, or Trump’s cruder incarnation at the point of citizens’ guns.

Cuban famlies picknicking at Havana Book Fair, 2011

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The American 'Alt Right' and Europe's New Right

As American pundits argue over what 'Alt right' means, I'm reposting this article from last year: 

At one point during World War II, Josef Stalin famously asked his then allies, Churchill and Roosevelt, “How many divisions does the Pope have?”, underlining the crucial role of brute force in world affairs. Military might has still not taken a back seat to negotiation, however, there is a growing conviction across the world and across political lines, that morality must play a role in public life.
Notwithstanding Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent posturing in front of the Hiroshima monument to the atomic victims of World World II, nuclear stockpiling continues unabated, while climate change competes as the ultimate threat of annihilation. Any hope of maintaining a human presence on earth can only come from a psychological turnaround. 
The nineteen-sixties call by the American counter-culture for a spiritual transformation was not heard, but since Donald Trump entered the presidential fray, and refugees from US wars in the Middle East stormed Europe, progressive warnings about the rise of fascism are. In Europe, everybody knows what fascism is so they don’t use the innocent sounding word Alt or ‘alternative’ to designate the militant far right. 
In addition, Europe has a New Right, that backs the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, who has tried hard to shed her father’s anti-Semitic rhetoric. (The nationalist part of her platform also finds favor with the Russian President, who is more of a social democrat than either a cowboy capitalist or a communist, and about whom more later.) 
The US’s ‘alt right’ is not easy to define. It’s nationalist, but so are most religious groups. On the other hand, to say it’s misogynous barely scratches the surface of its attitude toward women, which tends toward disparage-ment, as opposed to the religious right’s ‘respect’. Ultimately, it’s the alt right’s demonization of ‘the Other’ that separates it from the new right. For Hitler’s Nazis, the main ‘Others’ were Jews, but their xenophobia included Slavs, Communists and brown people across the board. The Alt right is against everyone who opposes its gun-toting, flag waving ‘patriotism’, putting it at odds with the New Right.
While both the European and the American left are reduced to desperate cries for ‘equality’, the new right has appropriated the left’s major memes, from individual flourishing to decentralization, anti-globalization and anti-consumerism, while abandoning the old right’s militarism and racism.
Its program is spelled out in a Manifesto published in 2000 by GRECE, a French think tank founded by the philosopher Alain de Benoist. This 14,000 word text could have been written by a leftist were it not for its opposition to multiculturalism, which by the way dovetails with Vladimir Putin’s opposition to the immigration of non-Europeans into ‘Caucasian’ societies. In response to what has hitherto been considered the most progressive view of human relations, the manifesto states:

"The French New Right upholds the cause of peoples, because one is only justified in defending one’s difference from others if one is also able to defend the difference of others. This means that the right to difference cannot be used to exclude others who are different. The French New Right respects ethnic groups, languages, and regional cultures, as well as native religions. It supports peoples struggling against Western imperialism. The diversity of the human species is a treasure,  and  ‘universal’, does not oppose difference, but recognizes it. For the New Right, the struggle against racism is not won by negating the concept of race, nor by blending all races into an undifferentiated whole, but by refusing both exclusion and assimilation: neither apartheid nor the melting pot, but acceptance of the other as Other in a perspective of mutual enrichment.” 

Many leftists will agree that this argument makes sense. But they will wonder what a right-wing party could have against Western Imperialism. It’s that imperialism is the flip side of modernity, that generates alienation: While the contemporary left in the developed world has condemned imperialism in a laudable commitment to equality, for the new right:

“Modernity designates the political and philosophical movement of the last three centuries of Western history…characterized by individualization, or the destruction of old forms of communal life; massification, or the adoption of standardized behavior and lifestyles; desacralization, which replaces the great religious narratives by a scientific interpretation of the world; rationalization, the domination of instrumental reason, the free market,  technical efficiency and universalization, the extension of a model of society postulated implicitly as the only rational possibility and thus as superior, to the entire planet."

A couple of decades ago, that was a typical left-wing argument, but Neo-liberalism has traded ideals for efficiency, thought to guarantee the greatest good for the greatest number: “The  ‘free’ market is an exacerbation of rationalization in which standardization is confused with  superiority and equality implies conforming to a host country’s customs and standards of behavior.” 

France has recently revealed the degree to which conformity can become absurd: freedom to dress as one pleases, which enabled western women to abandon stays and long skirts for shorts, is now an obligation to uncover one’s body, turning so-called freedom into conformity. Progressives may argue that this is a convenient excuse for maintaining the bulk of humanity in an inferior condition, yet the abandonment of traditional social memes in the competition for ‘more’, seen as an intrinsic good, also leads to crime, drugs and alienation.

Referring to Russia, Vladimir Putin affirms that “It is clearly impossible to identify oneself only through one’s ethnicity or religion in such a large nation with a multi-ethnic population. … People must develop a civic identity on the basis of shared values, a patriotic consciousness, civic responsibility and solidarity, respect for the law and a sense of responsibility for their homeland’s fate, without losing touch with their ethnic or religious roots.”

According to the Arab website Al Monitor, file:///Users/deen/Documents/PUTIN/Putin’s%20Muslim%20family%20values.webarchive when Putin emphasizes Russians’ shared moral values, he connects them to the “traditional” values of Middle Eastern, Asian and other non-Western societies. “We can see how many Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization … People are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens the door to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis, so we consider it natural and right to defend these values.” While clearly identifying Russia as a largely Christian country, Putin draws a line between religious values and those of a decadent, secular West.

I witnessed the American cultural takeover of Europe, starting in the fifties, with the introduction of coca cola that gradually replaced the typical Frenchman’s glass of wine, as jazz flourished in the ‘caves’ of Paris and Berlin. Little did American expats realize at the time just how far the transformation of a world we loved would go, as together with the multifarious French left, we demonstrated against the Vietnam and Algerian wars. Never in a million years would we have imagined the cost that Europe would ultimately pay for what at the time was called ‘Americanization’ and is now called ‘globalization’ - or that a new right would most eloquently oppose this race to the bottom.

                  The Seagram Building, New York

Monday, August 14, 2017


Following on the events in Charlottesville over the week-end, I'm reposting an article from 2014:

After defeating German, Italian and Japanese fascism that threatened American power in the mid twentieth century, Washington turned against its former ally, the Soviet Union, and then China, when the Communists won their struggle for power there in 1949; for Communism was the real enemy of corporate power! Sixty-five years later, fascism is resurgent, overtly in Europe, covertly in the United States. And yet, when left-leaning American intellectuals utter the F word, it is with lowered voice, perhaps fearing accusations of irresponsibility, or a lack of academic rigor, should they  compare what is happening in the United States with the process that took place in Germany in the nineteen twenties and thirties, culminating in the Second World War, and ultimately, the banalization of ethnic cleansing. The events in Ukraine require Americans and Europeans to review that history, unless we want to relive Nazi Germany. 
After the Nazis were defeated, the Soviet Union took over Eastern Europe. One local leader boasted of destroying his country’s non-Communist parties by ‘cutting them off like slices of salami’, re-baptizing what Hitler had called his ‘piecemeal strategy’. Today we talk about frogs allowing the water they are in to be gradually brought to a boil until it is too late to jump out. Efforts by right-wing parties to lure Ukraine, whose Western half fought with the Germans, into the EU, suggest that it may be too late for Europe to avoid another fascist takeover: thanks to genuine political freedom that affords all parties the same protections, fascist parties are on the ballot in every country, with between ten and twenty percent of the vote.
American fascist parties are not on the ballot, yet Americans are seeing their freedoms being cut away, slice by slice, by the government, and with each slice, we dispose of fewer means to prevent the next cut. The corporate media condemns Hitler-worshipping hate groups, but appears not to notice that the NSA, PRISM, FISA, facial recognition, police drones, etc. are technologically embellished equivalents of the means Hitler used to consolidate power with the backing of Germany’s industrialists. 
The German excuse for territorial aggression was ‘Lebensraum’, literally, ‘room to live’. Today, the world military/industrial/financial complex headquartered in Washington is determined to secure the raw materials that will enable the 1% to maintain itself on a dying Earth until it can colonize another planet. If you think I’m elucubrating, I’m not alone. See Neil Bloomkamp’s Elysium, in which two classes of people exist: the very wealthy, who live on a pristine man-made planet called Elysium, and the rest, who live on an overpopulated, dying Earth. Bloomkamp isn’t elucubrating either: government research on space colonization has been going on for years and is now also being carried out by private companies. Implementation of the project will require the acquiescence of the 99%, who in fact are just now emerging from McCarthy’s closet to demand the rights, benefits and personal freedoms that have been enjoyed for decades by workers in the European Union. This awakening makes it doubly necessary to take down the welfare state, which not only ensures a decent living for all, but is a major economic competitor. If the economic crisis of 2008 created by Wall St. turns out to have dealt it a fatal blow, it will not, I believe, be an unintended consequence.
On the surface, what is happening in 21st century America looks nothing like what took place in 1930‘s Germany. However, it is still about the fundamental question of equity, whether between the few and the many, or between governments. American determination to topple the Syrian president is the latest example of the latter: Since its independence in 1946, Syria has been the only secular Arab state, and under the Arab Baath Socialist Party it has maintained that distinction. It has been the contention of this writer for many months that the current world crisis is at bottom about equity, as illustrated by the array of religious, secular and progressive forces vying for power in the Arab world. And we cannot understand this if we are ignorant of the historical conflict between fascism and communism.
The fact that fascism developed precisely as a nationalist competitor for workers’ allegiance in the years following the victory of the many in Russia is largely ignored today. The fact is that the Russian Revolution led to brief takeovers in both Germany and its former ally Hungary by Communist and Socialist governments, creating a veritable Red Scare across Europe. After a turbulent two years, Germany’s first ever parliamentary system, the Weimar Republic, was created.  As a sign of the times, it was led by democratic socialists, and opposed by conservatives, monarchists, communists, as well as Hitler’s so-called ‘national-socialist’ party. 
The 1918 armistice had formalized the loss of Germany’s African colonies, excised part of its homeland to create new nations and condemned it, as the aggressor, to huge reparations. Hitler’s career took off in the early twenties with charismatic speeches that stoked the resentment over this punishment among farmers, war veterans and the middle class. Hitler and his friends tried unsuccessfully to take over the country in 1923, in what was called the Beer Hall Putsch. 
What follows is a rough comparison between the rise of fascism in Germany (where it was known as Nazism, the German contraction of ‘national socialism’, and contemporary America, where, a globalized economy is rewarding the 1% while imposing hardships on the majority, as happened in post World War I Germany. 
⦿ While in prison, Hitler dictated Mein Kampf, an autobiography that promoted the ideology (inspired by the American eugenist, Madison Grant), that would lead to a massive extermination of European Jews, Gays, Gypsies and Communists.
 • In post 9/11 America, Fox News, the novels of Glenn Beck, and the position papers concocted by the Koch brothers’ minions wage an unrelenting assault on blacks, Hispanics, women and the LGBT community.
⦿ Hitler was released from prison in 1924 in a becalmed political and economic situation. With no grounds for agitation, he promised that his National Socialist German Workers’ party (NAZIS) would only seek power through legal means. But when the Great Depression hit six years later, the social democrats were too divided to block the replacement of a grand coalition by a minority cabinet. Hitler then defeated the socialist faction of his own party and imposed the ‘leader principle’: unquestioning obedience to those above. During the series of unworkable parliaments that followed, the Catholic chancellor, Heinrich Brüning was forced to rule by decree. 
• The lack of unity among post-war Germany’s social democrats could be compared to twenty-first century America’s progressive Democrats allowing the Clintonites to fill President Obama’s cabinet with the people whose policies had led to the 2008 financial debacle, and who would continue Bush’s war policies. The ‘leader principle’ was a forerunner of the Imperial Presidency and the notion that “When the President does it, it’s legal.”
(The current situation is also remindful of the inability of Russia’s Mensheviks to insist on social reforms that eventually allowed the better disciplined Bolsheviks to resort to revolution.  However it is not certain that there will be an American Revolution due to government initiatives that make one impossible - the boiling water.)
⦿ In September, 1930, Chancellor Brüning was forced to call premature elections. The Nazis moved from the ninth-smallest party to the second largest, winning 18.3% of the vote. 
• Two years after Barack Obama’s stunning first Presidential victory, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party was able to reduce his health care initiative to a bare minimum of what has long existed in other countries, and the Republicans re-bounded in the mid-term elections. 
⦿ In 1932, Chancellor Brüning's austerity pro-gram having brought little economic improvement from the harsh conditions of the Depression, Hitler was able to run for the presidency against the aging Paul von Hindenburg, with the support of Germany's most powerful industrialists. 
• Whoever runs in the 2016 American election will, like Obama, take orders from the military/industrial/ financial complex that grew out of the Second World War. 
⦿ President Hindenburg won the election but Hitler came in second, and as parliament continued to be hamstrung, the German business class urged that he be appointed to head a government ‘inde-pendent from political parties’. President Hindenburg finally agreed, hoping to contain the Nazis within a conservative cabinet, and Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor on 30 January 1933.
• American fascists do not run for the highest office, however, in France in 2004, after fifty years of symbolic runs for the presidency, far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second to the conservative Jacques Chirac, booting the socialist that had been tipped to win out of the race. Then in 2012, Le Pen’s daughter Marine obtained 23 percent in the presidential poll, sending shock waves through the French political scene, and bringing to power a weak socialist who has turned out to be one of France’s worst presidents. Following the Greece's economic debacle, the Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party garnered seven percent of the vote, entering the Parliament.
⦿ When the fractured German opposition again failed to cobble together a majority against his party, Hitler was able to persuade Hindenburg to dissolve parliament for a second time. Next, he barred its left wing delegates and pushed through the Enabling Act that gave his cabinet legislative powers for four years, transforming his govern-ment into a legal dictatorship.
• Wikileaks files from the early 1970s reveal Henry Kissinger saying: ‘The illegal we do right away. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.” The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision of 2010 allows individual states to find ingenious ways to prevent Democratic victories: eliminating last-minute registration, requiring photo IDs, redrawing voting districts, and even eliminating some, forcing residents to travel elsewhere to vote. 
Although more subtle machinations have been going on for decades, American workers still do not quite believe the country’s rich are flouting the constitution in order to keep them in their place. In  Germany, Hitler benefitted from an exceptionally dire situation, but the foundation for America’s takeover was laid out in our founding documents. As I noted in my March 4 blog the constitution, in contrast to constitutions inspired by the French revolution that enshrine equality, the American Declaration of Independence promises the ‘pursuit of happiness’. After a two-hundred year run, this motto has led to a no holds barred pursuit of ‘stuff’, a stunning loss of community, the rape of the planet and growing worldwide resentment. 
We’ll probably never know the truth about that resentment’s first major manifestation on 9/11, however it probably has a Nazi prece-dent: 
⦿ After the second dissolution of the Weimar parliament, German elections were scheduled for early March, 1933. On February 27th, the Reichstag was set on fire, a Dutch communist was found in the building, and the fire was attributed to a communist plot. Hitler’s government responded by issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree that suspended basic rights, including habeas corpus
• Bush would do the same after 9/11 with the Patriot Act. Although the Military Commissions Act fails to specify who designates persons as ‘enemy combatants’, depriving them of habeus corpus, Congress rubber stamped it, and President Obama continues its heinous policies. In creating enemies to disguise our rape of the planet, we have become an under-developed but increasingly organized salami republic that whittles its democracy away slice by slice.
⦿ During Hitler’s methodical pursuit of absolute power, leaders of the German Communist Party and others were arrested, forced to flee, or murdered. 
• President Obama uses drones to assassinate suspected enemies, including American citizens abroad. As almost two hundred prisoners in their 11th year of captivity at Guantanamo without charges went on hunger strike, Julian Assange marked a year in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London and Chelsea Manning was convicted of revealing America’s war crimes to the world. In an ironic twist, Edward Snowden was granted political asylum in Russia, while computer hackers working to disseminate his leaks have left the United States for safer lives in Germany - a former enemy upon whom the US still spies.
⦿ In July, 1934, Hitler used allegations of a Stormtroopers’ plot to purge that military organization’s leadership and other ‘enemies’ during the ‘Night of the Long Knives’. When Hindenburg died the following month, the cabinet made Hitler both Führer und Reichskanzler (leader and chancellor), violating both the Constitution and the Enabling Act. According to the Constitution, the president of the High Court of Justice should have become acting president until new elections could be held. As for the Enabling Act, it barred Hitler from taking any action that tampered with the presidency.  But no one dared object.
In August, almost eighty-five percent of Germans approved the merger of the presidency with the chancellorship, eliminating nearly all institutional restraints on Hitler’s power - and the last legal means by which he could be removed. In little more than a decade Germany went from a parliamentary democracy in which citizens were represented by elected representatives, to a dictatorship whose propaganda machine engineered the answers to simplistic referenda questions.
As head of state, Hitler now became Supreme Commander of the armed forces. Normally, soldiers and sailors swear loyalty to the holder of the office of supreme commander, not to a specific person, but the oath became one of personal loyalty to Hitler. 
• It’s probably unlikely that something like this could happen in the United States, yet in 1940, planning to one day seek a higher office, French Colonel Charles de Gaulle required those who joined him in London to coordinate resistance to the German occupation to sign an oath of loyalty to his person. 
⦿ Though no well-meaning German wanted what happened to their country, in a dire economic situation, they embraced a leader who held up imaginary enemies and promised to restore their former glory.
• Today, in the United States, the Koch brother’s position papers affirm that collective bargaining is not a right, since it does not appear in the Constitution; that children of immigrants born in this country have no claim to citizenship, violating the ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition of jus sol; that the soul of an eight-week old fetus has rights, but health care is a privilege; and finally, that China is a bona fide trading partner, while Cuba is an existential threat. 
Glib talk of democracy and rule of law are echoed by promises to ‘take the country back’ to the time of the founders via ‘second amendment remedies’ administered by a population that doesn’t know in what state the battle of Concord was fought. Birthers, Tea Partiers and right-wing libertarians take advantage of an educational system that produces ideological illiterates to accuse workers of being at once fascists, communists and socialists, while supporting salami tactics to impose really existing fascism.
The refusal of Wisconsin’s workers to be stripped of their legal bargaining rights in 2011 could have marked the beginning of a second American Revolution, adding economic equality to political equality. But the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision to allow unlimited corporate spending for elections enabled the governor to overcome their resistance with not even a pretense of legality: as the lone Democratic representative in the Wisconsin legislature demanded that the rules of procedure be followed, the Republicans drowned out his voice.
What, exactly, would prevent a similar episode from taking place in the United States House of Representatives? As legislative attempts to muzzle American workers continue, what will be the role of hundreds of militias playing war games in America’s woods? Their stated enemy is an encroaching government, but will they fight it in the name of equity, or merely to defend their right to carry weapons, ultimately joining with the police and the army against those ‘too lazy to work’?
If we do not bear in mind Hitler’s rise to power eighty years ago, the dramas of the twentieth century will pale in comparison to what awaits us. Unless national priorities can be reordered to meet the two major threats provoked by runaway capitalism’s pursuit of inequality, wars and climate change, actions taken under the guise of saving us from sharia law, coupled with inaction to prevent a climate meltdown will lead to a point of no return.  
As Middle East populations increasingly prefer to experiment with hybrid regimes that include Muslim parties but have more in common with the Radical Enlightenment than with runaway capitalism, notwithstanding the biggest military the world has ever seen and the most sophisticated spying apparatus, the United States will be unable to impose its will. And yet, if Americans continue to see these rebellions as merely part of the news cycle, the right-wing will gain total control of our lives. 
When today’s tumultuous events had their first beginnings with the attack on the Twin Towers, few Muslims heeded fundamentalist calls for jihad. But the new generation watching our films and hearing our invitations to ‘freedom’ are becoming increasingly aware that their unelected leaders are our clients and poodles, who resist calls for democratization to further our goals.
While in their secret forums such as the Bilderberg Conference, the world’s 1% fine tune strategies to eventually escape a devastated planet, resistance grows among an increasingly redundant 99%, provoking the turn from runaway capitalism to fascism in order to prevent open revolt.
A growing phalanx of intellectuals tries to awaken Americans to what is happening. Foremost among them is Chris Hedges, who led an inconclusive class action suit against the Obama Administration over the FISA Act that allows it to detain Americans indefinitely on charges of aiding the enemy, including journalists reporting on the enemy. A former seminarian, Hedges continues to hope that America can change. But the international grass roots are beginning to suspect that leaders are neither stupid nor incompetent, and hence that the possibility of electing better ones is an illusion. That realization is buttressed by the fact that the arrow of time is irreversible. Only an increased flow of energy into a system can provoke a change of direction. 
An increased flow of energy into a political system can take the form of revolution or war. The Middle East and Africa are experiencing what I call the Reformation of Islam, bound to play out over decades, as did the Reformation of Christianity. However, it should not be permitted to obscure the continuation of a historical fight for equity.
It is that fight - and not a Holy Crusade - that has provoked a resurgent fascism. 
In Europe we are witnessing a grass roots fascism that is linked to the increasing presence of Muslims in a Christian continent proud of its traditions. European intellectuals are not about to point out that the Old World is confronting an unstoppable trend that the EU should deal with intelligently instead of pretending that the continent is not being transformed.

In the United States we are seeing a top-down fascism incarnated in the ever more intimate alliance between big business and government. And unlike what happened in Germany, where a lone megalomaniac was almost assassinated, to defeat the 1%’s aggressions will require a global revolution.