Category Archives: Donald Trump

Autonomist Antifascism: An Interview With Kevin Van Meter

This is an interview with Kevin Van Meter, the author of the new book Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.  Van Meter draws on the Autonomist Marxist tradition to discuss how the concept of “everyday resistance” can inform antifascist struggle.

Pick up Guerrillas of Desire from AK Press.

 

AFN: You have written about the fragmentary position of the left, especially the state of the labor movement and the changing tide of class consciousness and composition. What do you think left and revolutionary organizations should do now?

 

Kevin Van Meter: I think it is remarkable to note that the labor movement predates things like the 1886 Haymarket Massacre. It really goes back to the 1850s in the United States and Europe. It took capitalism a hundred and seventy-five years to smash the labor movement. From it’s rise and development, the formation of the American Federation of Labor, from the development of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905 and its initial suppression in the 1920s. But we have never had a weaker labor movement than we have right now, and it took capitalism a fucking long time to destroy it. That is remarkable and worthy of our attention.

With that said, the activities which lead to the formation of the IWW, the rise of feminist consciousness raising collectives, of the Black Panthers, and similar formulations was the expression of prior forms of self-activity, which the left and labor in our contemporary period ignore. I make this claim in Guerillas of Desire that left organizing assumes that the people are unorganized and not resisting in their everyday lives. I think I’ve shown empirically that this assumption is unfounded. Any good union organizer is going tell you when they walk into the shop for the first time they want to see where those existing power relationships are. Who’s the trusted worker that fellow workers talk to when looking for advice? Who is taking really long bathroom breaks? Who is punching in their drunk friend? These forms of organization, communication, and resistance are already taking place.

I open Guerillas of Desire with a story about how I went on a job interview with Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known by it’s acronym ACORN. We knocked on doors to get people to sign our petition, give donations, and support legislation around getting child care. Well, it is a fundamentally different thing when you’re going around knocking on doors asking for the state to provide child care than to actually acknowledge that the people who are surviving under very difficult circumstances and are, in fact, already addressing the childcare needs in informal ways. The question should instead be about how we can assist people so that they can survive more efficiently and have a better quality of life […] from those initial methods of survival to something that’s expressed on a higher level of organization or composition. So I would argue that it’s a fundamentally different thing to demand that the state provide child care than to organize child care collectives or take existing survival methods of child care and further organize them to a higher level and then make the state pay for it. Those are not the same thing. The first is how the left behaves regularly, leading to chagrin and failure. The second is the road that is not regularly taken, to see the existing forms of self-activity and everyday resistance as the real core of effective organizing.

I’m interested in how we further struggles, how we circulate struggles, and how we understand how particular communities are surviving. Even under the horrible fucking conditions of the capitalist state and the massive deprivation of resources. So we need to understand that and to then internalize what those communities’ needs and desires actually are. Maybe they need and desire revolutionary organization or maybe they need a “survival pending revolution” programs. Who are we to decide ahead of time? Where do our needs to reproduce ourselves connect the needs for other people to reproduce themselves […] for education, for housing, for childcare, and other necessities. We also need to put the reproduction of our movements and the self-reproduction of the class on our political agenda. Those are two important questions.

 

 

AFN: How do you think the concept of “everyday resistance” applied to antifascist struggle?

 

KVM: I think these new antifascist formations must connect to the self-activity of the working class, and then we hear of projects like Redneck Revolt or the Bastards Motorcycle Club that argue just this. These things actually are emerging out of existing working class formations and new working-class organizations are forming. These new antifascist projects are coming out of some existing social sphere, so the question is what that sphere is. What things are taking place in our communities that could provide new approaches?

These antifascist groups are also going to have to address their own self-reproduction of their members and their own survival. If that is slush funds for legal counsel, if that is safe houses for organizers and marginalized people, if that’s creating infrastructure, those are all important. One of the lessons I learned from the “Green Scare” is the density and strength of social relationships among the thousands brought to revolutionary activities, and then the movements relationship to the larger community, is vitally important.  Because you want the larger community to come to the defense of antifascist forces when they’re under attack, you need that connection.  It’s one thing for someone to say they support person “X” because they’re an antifascist. It’s a totally other thing for them to say they support a particular individual, a member of their community that they know intimately. That is a different kind of social relationship. We’re going to have to consider those and I think what’s exciting about the new formulations that are coming out, like Redneck Revolt, is that they are coming out of a different social relationship and community than we often have had in the past.

I mean we have to ask ourselves what else is coming out of that community. What kind of working class needs and desires are being expressed in other ways that might not be antifascist, but are still critically important.  Something simply like “survival pending revolution” programs, these could be educational projects or workplace organizing, it could be a referral service for collective houses. All kinds of projects that meet the needs of that community. Antifascist work is just one of those needs, but not the whole need. The mistake would be to only look at what’s coming out of antifascist activity and not all the needs and projects that are emerging.  Other things are coming out to they might not be expressed yet, that aren’t fully formed, but still will be where the needs, activity, and consciousness of the class is at.

 

AFN: How do you think the broad resistance to Trump and Trumpism plays out in this context?

 

KVM: I think that’s also dangerous because that’s focusing on an abstract enemy instead of the kinds of struggles that are actually taking place.

 

We have rising rent in a lot of places. We have the eroding structure of the welfare state. People are surviving in some way, and we don’t really know what that looks like.   How do we connect the needs with the projects people are creating to survive so we can further develop alternatives to capitalism? Community gardens, alternative schools, or other projects people create to just survive. And I think we need to ask some of these larger questions.

Also, and this is more theoretical, but in fact the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress are, in fact, the same desire. We have this terrible idea that “fascist bad,” “lefties good.” But there are fascistic desires that exist that circulate. For example, the anti-Semitism currently being expressed by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire. Anti-trans politics (i.e. TERFs) by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire.  It’s a desire to oppress and I think what we need to ask ourselves how is the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress emerging and formulated in such a way to create different kinds of power relationships and organizational forms. I think we have to constantly ask ourselves where the desire to repress is coming from and how it is manifesting.

 

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How to Address Truth Denialism Effectively Over the Holidays

By Gleb Tsipursky

It’s the holiday season, which means plenty of opportunities for uncomfortable interactions with friends and family who are truth deniers. For example, my close friend invited me to her holiday party recently, where I sat across the table from her brother Mike. We got to talking about Donald Trump’s recently-successful efforts to ban people from many majority-Muslim countries from entering the US and his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos.

Mike strongly supported Trump’s ban and rhetoric, and other anti-Muslim policies. By the end of that meal, he grew to be much more tolerant and inclusive of Muslims. To get him to update his beliefs – something I do regularly during interviews with conservative talk show hosts – I relied on my research on how to get people to accept the facts, specifically a strategy that can be summarized under the acronym EGRIP (Emotions, Goals, Rapport, Information, Positive Reinforcement).

The typical response to truth deniers of presenting facts and arguing is generally not effective in changing people’s minds on charged issues. Research on the confirmation bias shows that people tend to look for and interpret information in ways that conforms to their beliefs. Moreover, studies on the backfire effect reveal that when people are presented with facts that challenge their identity, they sometimes develop a stronger attachment to their incorrect belief as a defense mechanism.

If someone denies clear facts, you can safely assume that it’s their emotions that are leading them away from reality. You need to deploy the skill of empathy, meaning understanding other people’s emotions, to determine what emotional blocks might cause them to deny reality. In Mike’s case, it was relatively easy to figure out the emotions at play through making a guess based on what research showsabout what conservatives value: security. I confirmed my suspicion through active listening and using curiosity to question Mike about his concerns about Muslims, and he shared extensively about his fears about all Muslims being potential terrorists.

Next, establish shared goals for both of you, crucial for effective knowledge sharing. With Mike, I talked about how we both want security for our society. I also pointed out how sometimes our emotions lead us astray. We might want to eat all the Yule log on the table, but it would harm our health, so we should focus on our goals over our gut intuitions.

Third, build rapport. Using the empathetic listening you did previously, a vital skill in promoting trusting relationships, echo their emotions and show you understand how they feel. In the case of Mike, I echoed his fear and validated his emotions, telling him it’s natural to feel afraid when we see Muslims committing terrorism, and it’s where my gut goes as well.

Fourth, move on to sharing information. Here is where you can give the facts that you held back in the beginning. There were eight terrorist acts in the US motivated in part by Islamic beliefs in 2016, with nine terrorists in total. Given that there are about 1.8 million Muslim adults in the US, you have a one-in-200,000 chance that any Muslim you see would commit a terrorist act in one year. That’s like picking out a terrorist randomly from the number of people in several football stadiums, and focusing our efforts on surveilling Muslims will make us less secure by causing us to miss the actual terrorists.

Moreover, the FBI praises Muslims for reporting threats, and anti-Muslim policies will make Muslims less likely to report threats. Besides, we already see Trump’s anti-Muslims rhetoric used to recruit terrorists in the US, and more anti-Muslim policies will only result in more materials to recruit terrorists. The key here is to show your conversation partner, without arousing a defensive or aggressive response, how their current truth denialism will lead to them undermining the shared goals we established earlier.

Mike was surprised and moved by this information, presented in an emotionally-sensitive manner. He agreed that anti-Muslim policies seem unwise, and we should be more tolerant and inclusive for the sake of increasing our security, even if that’s not how we intuitively feel. I offered positive reinforcement for his orientation toward the facts, a research-based tactic of encouraging people to change their identity.

 

Think of how much better your holiday dinner could go if you use EGRIP instead of arguing!

 

 

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide. He is an Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University, President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights, and co-founder of the Pro-Truth Pledge.

Refusing the Fascist Future: An Interview With Shane Burley

Below is an interview with Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It author Shane Burley discussing the Alt Right, anti-fascism, and what a mass movement looks like.

So where did the Alt Right come from?

The Alt Right really comes from a few converging political movements, both inside and outside the U.S.  The real beginnings of this goes back to France in the 1960s when a number of far-right intellectuals laid the groundwork to “rebrand” fascist ideas using the language of the left.  The European New Right, led by figures like Alain de Benoist and Guillume Faye, used the language of the New Left, appropriated the arguments of post-colonialist and national liberation movements, and attempted to engage in a type of “cultural struggle” as proposed by Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.  Their ideas really were to pick up where the German Conservative Revolutionary movement and Radical Traditionalist thinkers like Julius Evola left off and argue for a going after the culture with nationalist values.  If they change the way that Europeans think about the world, and think about themselves, maybe this can allow a radical shift in politics down the line.

They argued that they were “anti-colonialist” and that white European nations had been “colonized” by forced of “globalist” capitalism and modernity.  Their argument was then for “Ethnopluralism,” a sort of “nationalism for all peoples,” that could then fight the destructive elements of modern multiculturalism, internationalism, and capitalism.  This approach avoided racial slurs, violent white nationalist politics, and the baggage of fascist political parties, and really laid a heavy intellectual groundwork for a new generation of fascists who wanted to appear as academics rather than Klansman.

The next is really paleoconservatism, a sort of far-right American conservatism that defined itself in opposition to the hawkish foreign policy of the neoconservatives that were coming into power inside the GOP in the 1980s.  They saw themselves as a part of the “Old Right,” which was likely a fantasy rather than a reality, which was isolationist, traditional, and America First.  The paleocons were aggressively conservative on social issues, especially in reaction to queer rights and the AIDs crisis of the 1980s, and were reactionary on racial issues.  Pat Buchanan was the best known of these figures, though he was moderate by their standards.

The third real key element to the Alt Right is old fashioned white nationalism.  The white supremacist movement in the U.S., rebranded in the 1990s as white nationalism, has a train going back to the early part of the century as it had to define its ideas as the rest of the world was leaving vulgar racialism behind.  Many of the major Alt Right institutions, such as American Renaissance, VDare, and the Council of Conservative Citizens, trace back to years of white nationalism past.  The difference with the Alt Right was really one of tone and class rather than ideas.  There has always been a suit and tie contingent inside American white nationalism, but the Alt Right wanted to scrape the top of that intellectual layer off and crystalize it.  The ideas were not much different, but they wanted to make sure that it would mimic radical movements on the left that have huge depth inside the academy.

The Alt Right, really then the Alternative Right, was a concept created by Richard Spencer with a web zine of the same name in 2010.  He wanted to capture an energy he found while working at the paleoconservative magazine Taki’s Mag that was coalescing around different schools of thought.  The European New Right had largely not had major texts translated into English, but they were starting to make their way over, and that was a huge foundational set of ideas for the Alt Right.  Against modern conservatism, capitalism, Judeo-Christianity, and Americanism, it instead wanted an elitist, traditionalist, and aristocratic right.  It broke with American conservatism, which was still founded in enlightenment values, and was open that it believed race was real, identity was fixed, and human beings were not equal.  Paleoconservatism had been considered the edge of mainstream conservatism for years, so that is where a large amount of the its founding energy came from.  It was white nationalism of America that ended up giving it its focus on race and its aggressive tone, which then allowed it to merge with the troll culture found on places like 4Chan and the Men’s Rights Movement.

From that cauldron it created its own synthesis, a more academic foundation for its racism, an aggressive revolutionary aspect from white nationalism, and the communities and connections from paleoconservatism.

What is the ‘Alt Light’ then?

The Alt Light is the sphere of slightly more moderate right-wing people that surround the Alt Right, giving them cover and helping to mainstream their ideas.

Fascism has always required a bridge to the mainstream.  Even inside the GOP, open white nationalism is not going to bring a ton of converts on its own, it needs to have a stop over point if their ideas will have currency with the beltway.  Political movements have done this in years past, whether it was the Goldwater campaign, pro-Segregationists in the 1960s, or paleoconservatism in the 1980s-90s.

Today, the battle is more cultural than traditionally political, just as the European New Right had always wanted.  The ideas and community were also forged online, so it would make sense if it was online cultural figures ranting on social media rather than fringe politicians.

The most obvious of the Alt Light was Breitbart and, now, Rebel Media.  Milo Yiannoupoulos was the first to really champion the Alt Right’s ideas without committing to open white nationalism, anti-Semitism, and anti-egalitarianism.  Later it would be Gavin Mcinnis and his Proud Boys, Lauren Southern, Alex Jones and the conspiracy and patriot crowd, or anti-immigrant nutjobs like Anne Coulter.  The “free speech” rallies have been this in the physical world, as have many patriot militia types.

The main point is that they are often “civic nationalists” rather than racial ones: they are simply more inclusive in their authoritarian nationalism.  This means, though, that the Alt Right and the Alt Light won’t agree on some of the really big questions like race and eugenics.  In that way, the Alt Light, like any of these more moderate crossover movements, are built to betray their more radical counter-parts.  In the end, Milo refused to really endorse the Alt Right’s racialism, the same with figures like Laura Loomer, and, therefore, they were unable to continue the relationship.  This is a very traditional process as well.  The more moderate folks who were helping to mainstream the white nationalists eventually betray them and leave them behind.  And the alienation that those nationalists feel during this process is often what leads to desperate acts of violence.

Is it this process of marginalization that is leading to acts of Alt Right violence?  Is this violence going to increase?

It is hard to say definitively that the violence of the Alt Right is going to escalate, but the pattern is pretty well established.  Right now it appears as if acts of organized violence from Alt Right and white supremacist groups is increasing, especially in the wake of the “free speech” confrontations with antifascist groups and with the debacle at Charlottesville, and that violence is turning bloody.  At the same time, acts of “seemingly random violence” are increasing, with the murder of Heather Heyer just being a recent example.

This process of white supremacist terrorism, which often plays out as “seemingly random violence,” is often less random than it appears.  In the 1980s, after decades of failure to meettheir objectives, many insurrectionary white supremacists took to the strategies of “lone wolf” terrorism and “leaderless resistance.”  These eschewed more formal revolutionary organizations for random acts of violence that were intended to have a “propaganda of the deed” effect on the white working class.  They believed that these acts would spark “racial consciousness” in white people and create a race war.  In periods when more conventional organizing, both community organizing and political organizing, fail to show white nationalists any results, these attacks increase exponentially.  These are also mixed with the increase of violent street formations, which in years past included KKK and skinhead projects and today look more like the Proud Boys and Vanguard America.

With the massive platform denial that the Alt Right has faced since Charlottesville and the growth of a mass antifascist movement, this is largely where the Alt Right is at.  Desperation, failure, and the inability to meaningfully organize leads to increased acts of violence.  While the Alt Right has been hit very hard in the last few months, it isn’t gone, and its acolytes will likely turn towards violence before they simply disappear.

Antifascist organizing has seen a massive explosion with a whole number of organizations and types of projects out there.  What kind of work should someone do who is just now wanting to get involved?

This really depends on who they are, where they are, and what they want to do.  The honest truth is that we always want novelty in times of crisis, and there is certainly some room for that, but this is also a good opportunity to re-establish and re-enforce the organizations that have been doing this work for years.  Many organizations go back more than a decade and have a great handle on antifascist praxis, from how to handle neo-Nazis taking space to doxxing and reporting detailed information to even drawing together mass coalitions.  The first real step would be to look at those organizations that have a track record in doing the work and see if that is something you can connect with.  This is doubly important given the very real material threat that white nationalists offer to people’s safety.   Not only are they targeting marginalized communities, but they are going after those that dare to stand up to their growth, and they often target individuals and make examples of them.  This means that  it is important to not behave recklessly or go off half cocked, and instead work with organizers who are experienced, know how to do the work, and give it the care and respect it deserves.

The other thing would be to look at what skills and resources you bring to organizing work, and what type of organizing and projects you can fit into your life.  I don’t offer this line as a way of providing an “out” to the actual organizing work, it requires organized coordination in formalized groups that are going to do the not-always-fun organizing work, but it is important to make sure that you are able to continue contributing over time.  It is not uncommon to find activist projects that explode with excitement only to peter out months down the line when those doing much of the work find that it is unsustainable in the way planned.  Instead, find a pace and commitment you can sustain over time because continued involved over longer periods is always going to be most effective.

I would also caution against putting too much faith in large electoral or reformist movements, they often fail to deliver the kind of movement building or direct action necessary for antifascist work.  Instead, it may be good to look at organizations that have a deeper foundation in their analysis, that look at the ways that capitalism and white supremacy feed and necessitate insurrectionary fascist movements.  We are not going to Democrat our way out of the rise of populism and white nationalism, and instead we are going to need to have much deeper solutions.  This will also require looking towards community defense as the Alt Right and neo-Nazis pose a threat of violence.  Plainly put, they are out there murdering people, and if we do not organize to stop them then this will only increase.

When did white nationalism first come on your radar?  This isn’t exactly a new thing.

No, it’s not, it really has been one of the most consistent features of the white supremacist institutions of the U.S.  It is really one of the ways that the system of racial injustice gets its sharp teeth.  In the segregation-era South, it was insurrectionary groups like the Ku Klux Klan that helped reinforce the system through the extralegal violence of lynchings.  Technically not state sanctioned, but encouraged and socially condoned anyway.  White nationalism has also always existed as the sort of violent reclamation of privilege.  In times of crisis, rather than choosing to target the white supremacy that enforces worker subjugation, they scramble after lost privilege and attack people of color.  This violence is a consistent feature of the way white supremacy works in late capitalism, reinforcing itself repeatedly.

I began looking at what was then called the AlternativeRight.com in 2011 when famous Holocaust Denier David Irving was touring through upstate New York, where I was living at the time.  When doing research I ran across a podcast that was covering different far-right figures, and the interviewer had a certain way of speaking that seemed as though it could catch on at some point.  That was Richard Spencer, then editing his webzine AlternativeRight.com and hosting a podcast called Vanguard Radio.  From there he sort of lingered in the background through 2014, seeing increased opposition internationally and even in his then home of Whitefish, Montana.  It wasn’t really until 2015, though, that the huge Internet cadre going under #AltRight came forward, and his movement got energy beyond their quiet conferences and academically-toned articles.

How have antifacists been approaching the rise of the Alt Right?  What has been different or successful in the last couple of years?

Honestly, they have been getting shut down everywhere.

The Alt Right, for years, focused on an academic demeanor.  Their move towards what they call “IRL [In Real Life] activism” is pretty recent.  So one of the main sites of struggle was things like their public conferences, especially from the National Policy Institute and American Renaissance.  Organizations like the One People’s Project has made it a focus to confront those conferences for years before the term Alt Right was commonly known, they even got the American Renaissance conference shut down in 2010 and 2011.  The National Policy Institute conference has also been a site of growing protests, with attendants photographed and doxxed regularly.  This has created such an issue that Richard Spencer, who runs NPI, was unable to even get the same public venue this year as he had for the past several.  Instead they had to cram into an unheated barn whose owners booted them when they realized who they were.

One place that has become an increasing location of conflict is on college campuses.  Groups like Identity Europa have honed on college recruitment, and “crossover” groups, who we often call Alt Light, like Turning Point or many Trumpist College Republican groups, have acted as a trojan horse for Alt Right ideas and members.  So antifascist campus groups have grown heavily, and flashpoints like the appearance of Milo or “free speech” rallies have seen huge battles.  Richard spencer wants to focus on public universities since they are more indebted to support his “free speech,” which means they will use hundreds of thousands of dollars of public subsidies and student tuition funds to pay for security if he appears.  The Alt Right is also about “cultural struggle,” the Gramscian battle to change the culture to make it more palatable for their influence.  All of this means that the college campus if very important and a main focus for them.

This has inspired a massive growth in college campus centered groups that are challenging them.  The Southern Poverty Law Center, known for its lawsuits that have crippled white supremacist organizations and for its detailed reporting on hate groups, has moved in the direction of campus organizing.  Their Columbia University chapter has taken on speeches by Mike Cernovich and the founder of the European Defense League, along with the Liberation Collective.  

The Campus Antifascist Network is another huge example, growing really quickly since its announced formation only in August.  They have been taking on huge challenges, defending professors threatened by fascists, confronting events by Milo and other speakers, basically responding to Alt Right organizing on campus.  

The success of different projects has really been from the willingness to do the hard organizing work, to commit to high quality research and journalism work, and to build connections with a real world presence.  The organizations that are successful are not just avoiding interacting with fascists, they are getting into the middle of things.  Here in Portland, groups like Rose City Antifa, the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, the Unite Against Hate coalition, the Rural Organizing Project, among others, really have come together to challenge the space occupied by far-right outfits like Patriot Prayer, who have basically protected explicit white nationalist groups.  They challenge them directly, often with thousands of people in tow.  

The increase of the far-right’s “free speech” rallies, which were happening in notably liberal cities simply to get a reaction, saw an increase in this battle over space.  In Boston, directly after Charlottesville, a similar event sponsored by Proud Boys brought out 40,000 people in response.  This did not just go to another area of the city, but came directly to the space that the fascists hoped to hold.  The Alt Right’s event was effectively canceled by this, and then they continued the march, growing the community presence, reaching out to affected communities and people interested in organizing, and creating a strong and vibrant set of alliances.  

Groups like the IWW’s General Defense Committee have used this mass movement antifascist approach, working in plain sight and building a mass movement with the community while refusing to allow white nationalists to have space.  Redneck Revolt has done similar work in more rural areas, trying to connect with the people that would be the recruiting base for “Patriot” militias.  Groups across the gamut, from non-profits like the SPLC, the Rural Organizing Project, and the Montana Human Rights Network, to militant antifascist groups, have all stepped up a presence to create long-term organizing solutions that don’t see each incident as a one-off affair.

It is hard to overstate just how bad the Alt Right is at actual organizing work, they birthed their ideas out of chatter not action, but without an organized opposition they will find a way.

A Micropolitics of Fascism

 

By Jeff Shantz

It is important that fascism is openly being named and opposed in the present context. Yet the mechanisms of fascist flourishing and spread in current period require some further understanding. And on levels that are not often considered (beyond the visible manifestations of explicit fascist creeps mobilizing). There is too a soft ground of support and sustenance for the more overt manifestations of fascism.

French psychoanalyst Felix Guattari presented an article in 1973, when few were thinking actively about a present fascism entitled “Everybody Wants to be a Fascist.” Guattari recognized in 1973 that fascism was still very much “a real political problem” and not merely a pure theoretical matter (154). In any event as Guattari asks: “Besides, isn’t it a good idea to discuss it freely while we still can” (1973, 154). And we need to talk about it in ways that go beyond the standard or typical features to understand how fascism survives, reproduces, and recurs.

This was an early discussion of micropolitics and fascism. No one should feel that it is all over and the good guys won. For Guattari: “Through all kinds of means—in particular, movies and television—we are led to believe that Nazism was just a bad moment we had to go through, a sort of historical error, but also a beautiful page in history for the good heroes” (Guattari 1973, 166).

Elements of fascism leap transhistorically across generations. They proliferate in other forms. They adapt to new conditions. They move intergenerationally. There are different types of fascism. Italian, Spanish, German, etc., but there are also continuing threads. Fascism is not renewable like a complete artifact. Fascism is in constant evolution.

Guattari takes neither a historical nor sociological approach. He seeks a micropolitical examination of the molecule of fascism. Fascism is dangerous and molecular. This can be massified but not as a totalitarian organism.

Guattari makes a provocative move in his analysis. He suggests that fascism is an internal part of desire. It is immanent in desire, not something that comes from without, for Guattari. It emerges at a microphysical scale. It is not located in individuals but in sets of relationships. Whenever there is desire there is a microfascist potential.

We need to address the in/visibility of fascism that is (and has been) everywhere operative in the present. The Trump campaign was a lightening rod for tendencies that have been long in play. As Guattari warned at that time, we do indeed need to talk about fascism while we still can. And we need to talk about it more fully.

 

 

Micropolitics and Macropolitics of Desire

In works of Felix Guattari and his colleague Gilles Deleuze, desire is the key economic concept. Desire is both political and psychological as well as financial. The “eco” in economy draws from the original Greek for household or habitat, or milieu in Deleuze and Guattari. For Deleuze and Guattari, desire is productive. Desire involves and structures a specific milieu. Desire acts within social context, the situation. Guattari notes a distinction between desire and pleasure. While one might speak of a revolutionary desire, it would appear odd to refer to a revolutionary pleasure.

For Guattari, fascism is, in fact, a key theme for understanding the issue of desire in the realm of the social. In Guattari’s view, you cannot put pleasure in the same sentence with revolution (1973, 154-155). You cannot talk of a “pleasure of revolution” but can readily speak of a “desire for revolution” or a “revolutionary desire” (1973, 155). The reason Guattari gives is that the meaning of pleasure is connected to, inseparable from, an “individuation of subjectivity” (1973, 155). On the other hand, desire is not intrinsically linked to this individuation.

There is a macropolitics of desire, which acts on larger social groupings. At the same time there is a micropolitics of desire. Guattari emphasizes the micropolitical. His goal is “to put in place new theoretical and practical machines, capable of sweeping away the old stratifications, and of establishing the conditions of a new exercise of desire” (156).

Guattari goes beyond the association of psychoanalysis with the small scale (the person and family) and politics only with large social groupings. Rather there is a politics that addresses itself to the individual’s desire and a desire that manifests itself in a wider social field (1973, 155). For Guattari, this politics has two forms: “either a macropolitics aiming at both individual and social problems, or a micropolitics aiming at the same domains (the individual, the family, party problems, state problems, etc.)” (1973, 155-156).

Macropolitics has been given the dominant emphasis. But politics works at micropolitical levels as well. In his terms, molar and molecular. Not a dichotomy. Not dialectical.

The self is a multiplicity of “desiring machines.” How they operate and what they produce are as crucial as what they are. In Crain’s words: “One’s sense of personal identity is itself a product of desire related to a broader social structure” (2013, 3). As Crain suggests, one does not simply desire an iPhone, one desires being seen as someone with an iPhone.

Desire produces not only objects, but rules. What you want structures your behavior (Crain 2013, 3). The desire for an iPhone produces new desires—taking pictures of trivia, posting them to Facebook or Instagram. Checking repeatedly for likes and follows. These new desires form habits. And these habits form rules governing our actions (Crain 2013, 3).

How do these minute habits and rules relate to your political actions? For Deleuze and Guattari, there is no fundamental difference. Except that one affects others (Crain 2013, 3). This is the notion of micropolitics. The habits and rules speak to desire investing itself in the world (Crain 2013, 3).

Macropolitics draws from “small interpersonal dealings with one another” (Crain 2013, 3). If the macropolitical structure becomes repressive how is it drawing from and organizing desire (Crain 2013, 3)? And why would “we” (specific people in a specific context) desire fascism? This gets to the heart of the growth of fascism, in a particular desiring form of the so-called “Alt Right,” for example, and the rise of Trump.

For Deleuze and Guattari, fascism only emerges because it is wanted, desired. Micropolitics is a sense that others should follow the rules that our own habits have produced. The desire is for others to follow your rules. This is the imposition of desire on others.

Written large you get Trump and “Make America Great Again”—make others follow your rules of an America that you desire (in a context where you perceive the existing rules not working in your favor and where others express diverse views, habits, or rules).

One might ask about the molar level and identity. White supremacy and the figures of Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, and David Duke. The Authoritarian Personality (of Theodor Adorno and Frankfurt School fame) speaks of the winning loser who is obsequious to those above while being brutal to those below. White rage and hatred of Obama is directed at the Affordable Care Act which hurts mostly the poor (overwhelmingly poor whites).

State fascism always seeks homogeneity (even in a context of diverse microfascisms) (Crain 2013, 4). Fascism seeks to impose an order on the chaos of desire. It is ultimately suicidal. Homogeneity is only realized in death (Crain 2013, 4).

 

 

A Typology

In pursuit of his labors, Guattari develops a typology of fascism. Guattari identifies three approaches that have been undertaken. Of the three approaches, the first two maintain the distinction between small and large social groupings for Guattari. Only the third attempts to move beyond this distinction (1973, 156).

First is “sociological analytical formalist thought.” This seeks to identify and classify “species.” It seeks common elements while distinguishing differences. The first re/produces sociological types. These focus on national, historical types of fascism. Italian, German, etc. Each has specific phenomena that mark it.

Sociological. On one hand this approach minimizes differences to pull out a common feature. In this way it will distinguish three types of fascism—Italian, German, and Spanish. On the other hand, the approach will magnify differences to construct species, as between fascism and Western democracies (1973, 156). Guattari finds little of interest in this approach.

Second is a “synthetic dualist neo-Marxist thought.” This puts forward a collective representation of the desire of the masses expressed through the party and ultimately the state. The second, Marxist approach, distinguishes revolutionary desires of the masses and the Marxist categories imposed on them. This “massifies” mass desires.

There is a dualism. A code wielding political class and a passive mass of followers. This is viewed in relation to the power of the state. What type of state does it produce?

The dualist neo-Marxist approach encounters another gap then. This is between the reality of the masses’ desires and the supposed representation of those desires.

The Marxist system poses itself as the collective representation of the masses’ desires, rather than failing to recognize the creativity and desire of the masses as occurs in sociological thought. Sociology reduces social objects to things. It is reifying. While Marxism recognizes the existence of revolutionary desires, in contrast to the sociological, it imposes mediations on them—Marxist theory and the representation of the party (Guattari 1973, 157).

The differences that flow through the desires of the masses become “massified”—turned into standard formulations viewed as necessary for class and party unity (Guattari 1973, 157). There is a dualism between representation and reality, between the party leaders and the masses. Bureaucratic practices flow from this. The oppositions revolve around a third party—the state.

Third is “political analysis” in a “connection of a multiplicity of molecular desires which would catalyze challenges on a large scale” (156-159). Political analysis speaks to a “univocal multiplicity” rather than the mass (159). Micro-groupings offer challenges and there is no necessary unitary content. For Guattari, the “unification of struggles is antagonistic to the multiplicity of desires only when it is totalizing, that is, when it is treated by the totalitarian machine of a representative party” (159).

Desire creates itself when saying is doing (1973, 160). When saying is doing, as Guattari puts it, the division of labor between the specialists (in saying and in doing) ends (1973, 160).

Guattari is not interested in representing the masses and interpreting their struggles. You do need some political analysis though. Guattari seeks a conception of desire that does not have an object or a center. It does not distance as in representation or interpretation. Mediation must be bypassed.

This is done in the third approach, political analysis. for Guattari, this political analysis “refuses to maintain the disjunction between large social groupings and individual problems, family problems, academic problems, professional problems, etc.” (1973, 158). It does not reduce struggles to alternatives of classes or camps (Guattari 1973, 158). Theoretical and practical truth are not the domain of the party.

A micropolitics of desire, in this way, would not present itself as representing the masses and interpreting their struggles (Guattari 1973, 158). In Guattari’s perspective:

“It would no longer seek support from a transcendent object in order to provide itself with security. It would no longer center itself on a unique object—the power of the State, which could only be conquered by a representative party acting in lieu of and instead of the masses—but rather, it would center on a multiplicity of objectives, within the immediate reach of the most diverse social groupings.” (1973, 158)

Challenges are catalysed on a larger scale by “a multiplicity of molecular desires” (Guattari 1973, 159). There is a “univocal multiplicity of desires” rather than an “ideal unity” representing and mediating multiple interests (Guattari 1973, 159). What Guattari suggests has relevance for thinking about contestational risings, of resistance among diverse forces. In his words:

“This multiplicity of desiring machines is not made of standardized and regulated systems which can be disciplined and hierarchized in relation to a unique objective. It is stratified according to different social groupings, to classes formed by age groups, sexes, geographic and professional localizations, ethnic origins, erotic practices, etc. Thus, it does not realize a totalizing unity. It is the univocity of the masses’ desire, and not their regrouping according to standardized objectives, which lays the foundation for the unity of their struggle.” (1973, 159)

The threat to the multiplicity of desires comes when the unification of struggles is totalizing. As when dealt with by the totalitarian form for the representative party (Guattari 1973, 159). Desire always wants to go “off the track.” It wants not to “play by the rules.”

By Guattari’s own claim he seeks not reductivist comparisons but to complexify the models in terms of fascism, for example. In his words, “[T]here are all kinds of fascisms” (as all kinds of bourgeois democracies, for example) (Guattari 1973, 161).

The groupings break up once one considers “the relative status of, for example, the industrial machine, the banking machine, the military machine, the politico-police machine, the techno-structures of the State, the Church, etc.” (Guattari 1973, 161). So, as Sinclair Lewis famously said—” “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

The Nazi party changed. Himmler’s SS was not Rohm’s SA. They operated in specific domains. And, as Wilhelm Reich suggests, they each bore a specific relationship to the revolutionary desires of the masses.

Yet, simplifications should not interfere with grasping “the genealogy and the permanence of certain fascist machineries” (Guattari 1973, 162). This is the same fascism that operates under different forms. And which, for Guattari, can continue to operate in families and in schools.

Totalitarian systems produce formulas for the collective seizure of desire (Guattari 1973, 163). These depend too on productive forces and the relations of production. At the same time, and despite his contributions, Guattari drifts into totalitarian analysis (a la Arendt) and shares some of the limitations of that approach.

 

 

Microfascisms

Guattari stresses that what fascism set in motion continues to proliferate in contemporary social space (1973, 163). Today’s productive forces unleash a whirlwind of desires. Guattari looks at the continuity of the fascist machine in different forms. For Guattari, it is important to confront totalitarian machines in their micropolitical aspect. Otherwise “you find yourself a prisoner of generalities and totalizing programs, and representative instances regain their power” (164).

In Guattari’s view: “Molecular analysis is the will to a molecular power, to a theory and practice which refuse to dispossess the masses of their potential for desire” (164-165). In Western capitalism the totalitarian machine lives in “structures capable of adapting desire to the profit economy” (171). Western capitalism is subversive in this way of molecularization. It gets “under the skin” (we simply have to have the newest newness).

Thus, the bureaucratic systems must “miniaturize their repressive machines” (Guattari 1973, 164). We could see this today in debates over micro-aggressions or in the minutia of memes.

Desire gets away from encoding. It avoids containment. There is no dichotomy between saying and doing. There is a process of connectivity. Machines.

Disobedience, disruption, resistance to demands of stakeholders. Micropolitics of desire: Refuse any formula to slip by at whatever scale. Fascism in family, political structure, etc.

There is a capacity of fascism to spread throughout the social body. Memes. IRC. The meme machine and the circulation of memes is able to coalesce desire in particular ways. In the present period the oddest portions of the Internet become politically important. The memeification of Pepe. “Pepe for President.” Pepe the frog says “It feels good, man.”

4chan was launched in 2003. 4chan is hyper-err-production. It decenters the individual as both source and lack. In 4chan anonymity is a goal. It is keeping individuation at bay. No one wants celebrities or personal benefit in that space. The anonymity of social dislocation, unfamiliarity, market forces.

The aim is to release intense flashes of desire and intention. It is delirious and incoherent. Trump rolls the joy of winning and the despair of losing into one. He is the loser who won.

 

Why Fascism?

The fascist party is organized like a police force. In this it compartmentalizes the masses in a way a straightforward military dictatorship cannot (Guattari 1973, 165). A military dictatorship does not draw on libidinal energies in the manner a fascist dictatorship does.

In response to the question of why German capital did not simply turn to military dictatorship after 1918 or 1929 (“Why Hitler rather than General von Schleicher?”) Guattari turns to libertarian socialist Daniel Guerin in suggesting that big capital did not want to “deprive itself of this incomparable, irreplaceable means of penetrating into all the cells of society, the organization of the fascist masses” (1973, 165).

For Guattari, the coming together of four libidinal series in the figure of Hitler crystallized a mutation of  a “new desiring mechanism in the masses” (1973, 165). First was a “plebeian style.” This gave him a handle on the people. Second, a “veteran-of-war style.” This allowed him to somewhat neutralize the military elements and gain some of their confidence. Third, and most relevant for the Trumpist figure, “a shopkeeper’s opportunism.” Guattari expands on this: “a spinal flexibility, a slackness, which enables him to negotiate with the magnates of industry and finance, all the while letting them think that they could easily control and manipulate him” (1973, 166). Finally, and crucially, “a racist delirium.” This was “a mad, paranoiac energy which put him in tune with the collective death instinct released from the charnel houses of the First World War” (Guattari 1973, 166).

We should have little question of this in relation to Trump after Charlottesville, his response to it (“on many sides,” alt Left,” etc.), and his pardon, a short week after, of the sadistic Sheriff Arpaio.

Hitler tried to forge a compromise among different machines of power that sought their own autonomy—the military, police, and economic machines (Guattari 1973, 167). Trump, like the early fascist regimes, will provide some economic solutions to current issues. A phony boost to the economy or markets, a dip in unemployment, a public works program (of Brownshirt infrastructure as I have already discussed elsewhere). And  these will be compared favorably by the administration to the feeble efforts of Obama.

Note the similarities of Trump’s language in this regard with the language used by Guattari to describe fascist rhetoric—“The socialists and communists had a bad program, bad leaders, a bad organization, bad alliances” (1973, 168). One might add to this, in Trumpist style: “Sad.”

And remember,  a section of the bourgeoisie only rejected fascism because it stirred too powerful forces of desire in the masses and was too unstable. Global capital could only consider the elimination of fascism in the presence of other means to control class struggles (including Stalinism) (Guattari 1973, 167). The United States could ally with Stalin because his form of containing mass turmoil was more stable than that offered by Nazism.

 

Lessons for the Left and Desire

There is a very real (non-metaphorical) social war that is being waged in the United States. It goes by names like neoliberalism and involves cuts to Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, the increase in military spending, the tightening of borders, growing detention and deportations, cuts to education spending, increases in incarceration, etc. Historically fascism responds to political and economic crisis. The crisis of 2007 and 2008 was an economic crisis. It gave rise to some resistance in the form eventually of Occupy Wall Street.

The Left today is extremely divided amongst itself presently, unlike the lesser divisions that marked much of the 1930s. The rallying cry of a more united Left in Spain was “Let Madrid be the tomb of fascism.”

Guattari reminds us that at the very beginning the Leftist organizations in Italy and Germany had been liquidated. This is always the aim of early fascism. It is the aim of the alt-Right and the anti-antifa today.

Still, as Guattari suggests, we need to ask why these organizations collapsed like houses of cards. His answer is that these organizations never offered the masses a real alternative, one that could tap their energies of desire (or even direct it away from the fascist draw) (1973, 168. Guattari follows Wilhelm Reich in suggesting this.

Wilhelm Reich notes too how an element can change into its opposite under certain conditions. So the anti-capitalist rebellions of the mass of German people, in acute contradiction to the objective functions of fascism, became interwoven with that function and transformed for a period into its own opposite—a reinforcement of German capital and its rule (1972, 29-30). Social democratic support of capital as a defense against fascism.

Mechanistic communism as in the Comintern, overlooked the revolutionary tendencies of the fascist mass movement, where revolutionary and reactionary tendencies were temporarily combined in fascism (Reich 1972, 30). The Comintern could not turn the revolutionary tendencies to its own advantage.

Desire. The micropolitics of desire sparked by the anti-capitalist rebellions, flowed into the revolutionary tendencies within fascism. Especially as the Leftist movements faltered. This is not to say, as some contemporary liberals might, that the Left caused fascism. Rather it is a reminder to the Left to finish the job.

Reich notes, commenting in the 1930s, that:

“In Germany there were, at the end, some thirty million anticapitalist workers, more than enough in number to make a social revolution; yet it was precisely with the help of the staunchest anticapitalist mentality that fascism came into power. Does an anticapitalist mentality qualify as class consciousness, or is it just the beginning of class consciousness, just a precondition for the birth of class consciousness? What is class consciousness anyway?” (1972, 285-286)

Reich points out the challenge of desire for socialists. The average worker in Germany, he says, was not interested in Soviet Five Year Plans or their economic achievements except inasmuch as they present increased satisfaction of the needs of workers (1972, 293). Reich describes the thoughts of the workers as follows: “If socialism isn’t going to mean anything but sacrifice, self-denial, poverty and privation for us, then we don’t care whether such misery is called socialism or capitalism. Let socialist economy prove its excellence by satisfying our needs and keeping pace with their growth” (1972, 293).

Even as sections of the masses acted against their own interests in lifting Hitler to power (Reich 1972, 283). As Reich says:

“While we [communists] presented the masses with superb historical analysis and economic treatises on the contradictions of imperialism, Hitler stirred the deepest roots of their emotional being. As Marx would have put it, we left the praxis of the subjective factor to the idealists; we acted like mechanistic, economistic materialists.” (1972, 284)

 

In different terms, for Guattari:

“By reterritorializing their desire onto a leader, a people, and a race, the masses abolished, by means of a phantasm of catastrophe, a reality which they detested and which the revolutionaries were either unwilling or unable to encroach upon. For the masses, virility, blood, vital space, and death took the place of a socialism that had too much respect for the dominant meanings.” (1973, 168)

And in this is a lesson (an old one) for today. The Left must not be afraid to go beyond the traditional terrain of politics. It must seek more than reformist liberal democracy or politics as usual. And it must make its uprisings all the way, not part way. Lest it dig its own grave.

Guattari concludes:

“It can be said of fascism that it is all-powerful and, at the same time, ridiculously weak. And whether it is the former or the latter depends on the capacity of collective arrangements, subject-groups, to connect the social libido, on every level, with the whole range of revolutionary chains of desire.” (1973, 171)

This again echoes the insights provided by Wilhelm Reich in the 1930s. We might think of this in terms of the collapse of the alt-Right, and its confidence in its desires, after Charlottesville. And we might reflect on this before becoming too confident it will not recover and regroup.

 

Conclusion

Capitalist machines tap the working class potentials for desire. In Guattari’s words: “These machines infiltrate the ranks of the workers, their families, their couples, their childhood; they install themselves at the very heart of the workers’ subjectivity and vision of the world.” (1973, 169). Guattari makes a point, easy to overlook, that industrial capitalism decodes all realities. This liberates greater waves of desire. We might think of this in terms of the desires in trolling, fake news, sarcasm, and nihilism expressed today and which rise along with, as part of Trumpism. Capitalism always needs to search for new formulas for totalitarianism to control struggles of desire (of migrants, of racialized people, of prisoners, etc.).

Political practice is at an impasse. A social totality is locked in inertia. Despite the best intentions of those involved. There is a surplus of information and a lack of action. The Right personalizes national ills. The Left does not personalize. Rather it looks at structural forms. The Right looks for and focuses on particular groups that can be vilified.

Fascism is the charismatic leader with a cult following and religious fervor. It is the regular refusal of all philosophical positions. This is so throughout its various incarnations. On deception Reich suggests:

“A worker trained in the class struggle is not often deceived, but many, very many, have been ideologically softened up. Only a minority are trained. The majority, thanks to the free trade unions, have never known a strike. There is hardly a “dangerous worker” left in the factories. And so the average worker may have a correct sense of what is happening, but he is without leadership and is forced to fall back on the hope that Hitler means well, after all, and that “he’s doing something for us workers.” He accepts the pittance without realizing that he is really the master and nobody has any presents to give him.” (1972, 311)

The fears of anonymous society give rise to a desire to submerge oneself—maintain anonymity—in the figure of the leader—who is known and even famous. The leader carries one’s desires forward for them in a  way that takes the heat—so you can remain anonymous and not have to be accountable. Even if they are wrong or get  hammered they are respected because they have put themselves out there and taken the heat—for you.

Modern society is marked by docile, passive interchangeability. Anywhere, anyone. This is not revolutionary anonymity. It is rather an anonymity to blandness. The mask of democracy and interchangeability of voting or polls.

The black bloc is a visceral response to the phony transparency of liberal democracy. Also  the use of minimal violence to expose much deeper and extreme violence. It rests on masking. That is both its strength and its weakness. Transparency gets you clobbered.

Modern citizens are too comfortable, but not comfortable. They are isolated, detached, fragmented, lonely, exposed. This relates to their susceptibility to social phobias. As Reich puts it: “Such a man is psychically so deformed that simply being told he is a “fully valid member of society” will make him feel better, especially if he is given some kind of uniform to wear” (1972, 310). He wants an impossible comfort.

Trumpism and the end of comfort. Fear based politics related to climate change. First impacts of climate change. Reflected in fear of the refugee. Fear of the “outside invasion.” Which will only increase as the climate crisis increases.

Affect. Trump projects symbolic disarray that only the symbolic leader can address. Support for Trump is acknowledgement that the bet will never be placed. Giving your money and knowing it will not be placed. You will be ripped off. The more it goes off the rails the more it works and the more people join. Trump does not hold together well—and that is a big part of his appeal. The euphoria of empty promises. Finding solace in distress. Alterity and alternative facts. For Guattari, the more it breaks down, the better it works. Unlike totalitarianism it liberates the desires o the masses for their own death. It is an escape that is suicidal.

 

 

References

Crain, Caemeron. 2013. “Microfascism.” The Mantle

Guattari, Felix. 2009 [1973]. “Everybody Wants to be a Fascist.” In Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972-1977. New York: Semiotext(e), 154-175

Reich, Wilhelm. 1973. Sex-Pol: Essays, 1929-1934. New York: Vintage Books.

Trump’s Transgender Gaslighting

By Gleb Tsipursky

President Donald Trump signed a directive on August 25 following up on his earlier tweets that he “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Whatever you think about the decree, the spin from the Trump administration about it amounts to the gaslighting of the transgender community.

Consider the terms of this order. It prevents any new openly transgender recruits from joining the armed forces. It also orders the military to evaluate the status of currently-serving transgender soldiers and potentially get rid of them as well in line with Trump’s original tweet: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is putting together a group of experts to study the matter. Transgender troops decried the order, saying it will create “complete inequality,” in the words of one. The director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Palm Center said that Trump is “pull[ing] the rug out from under a group of service members who have been defending our country.”

Any reasonable person can see that the decree blatantly discriminates against transgender individuals, meaning treating them differently and worse than others. Yet the Trump administration explicitly denies this reality. According to the official briefing the press on the directive, it did not represent in any way discrimination against transgender individuals. The official stated that Trump will “continue to ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ community” are protected, and is not going back on his campaign promise in 2016 to “fight for” that community.

Why make statements that are so clearly false? There is no doubt that the directive discriminates against transgender people, so what explains the blatant lies?

This type of deception falls into the category of gaslighting, a psychological manipulation that aims to create doubt about the nature of reality. Often occurring in abusive relationships, gaslighting is so harmful that victims often report that the impact of this manipulation is worse than the original offense. It can make you doubt your reality, grow confused, vulnerable, and uncertain, unable to fend off the manipulations of the perpetrator and even fall into accepting their reality, known as the gaslight effect.

Trump’s administration has used gaslighting extensively as a psychological weapon. Denying reality creates confusion and uncertainty, a highly useful outcome since the victims of the gaslighting are unsure about what to do next. Should they expend their resources demonstrating the obvious truth of reality, or should they focus on addressing the problem at hand?

In this case, the transgender community is the target of Trump’s gaslighting. The issue they face is whether to address the blatant lies coming from the White House about the decree, or emphasize fighting Trump’s discriminatory actions.

The solution is to make the gaslighting tactic itself unacceptable. Political and social science research shows that trust is vital for healthy democracies. Citizens in a democracy have a basic expectation of their public officials being trustworthy, in their words and actions. In return, citizens comply with laws, pay taxes, and cooperate with other government initiatives. In comparison to a democracy, an autocratic state bears a much higher resource burden of policing to make its citizens comply with its laws. When political leaders act in ways that destroy trust – as the Trump administration is doing through misleading statements and outright lies – people will increasingly stop complying with laws and paying taxes.

While Trump is making short-term gains for conservatives, he is undermining the stability of our political system as a whole. No one – liberals nor conservatives – want the chaos and disorder that would result from the destruction of trust. All can recognize the terrible dangers posed by such denial of reality to our democracy.

Even worse, other politicians, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, are adopting Trump’s tactics. For instance, Christie ordered a number of state-run beaches in New Jersey closed on Friday, June 30, 2017, yet he used a closed state beach in Island Beach State Park for himself and his family on July 2, 2017. At a press conference later that same day, he was asked about being on the beach during the time of the beach shut-down order. In a classic example of gaslighting, Christie said “”I didn’t get any sun today.” When Christie’s spokesperson was shown the pictures, the spokesperson responded “He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on.”

Christie’s use of gaslighting to justify corruption and abuse of power points to the normalization of gaslighting within our political system. Only by coming together in a nonpartisan manner to call out such lies and commit to truth can we hope to make gaslighting unacceptable and preserve our democracy.

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the author of the forthcoming The Alternative to Alternative Facts: Fighting Post-Truth Politics with Behavioral Science. One of the lead creators of the Pro-Truth Pledge, he is a professor at Ohio State and President of the nonprofit Intentional Insights.

Gangsterism and the Trump State: First Notes

By Jeff Shantz

In 1941, two years into World War II, socialist playwright Bertolt Brecht released a play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (in German: Der aufhaltsame Aufstieg des Arturo Ui) which chronicles the rise of Arturo Ui, a fictional 1930s Chicago mobster, and his efforts ruthless efforts to dominate the cauliflower racket. Subtitled A Parable Play, Arturo Ui is a satirical allegory of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany before the start of World War II. Brecht’s depiction of the Nazis as gangsters references a reality of Nazi governance, the Nazis operated as gangsters, a point made by social historians. It further speaks to the Nazi emplacement of its own gang members into key positions within the existing government structures, especially the bureaucracy, and takeover of those structures once in power. This is a trend that can be observed in interesting ways in the developing goon presidency of Donald Trump. The most notable recent example is the naming of Anthony Scaramucci to the position of Communications Director.

In Trump we are seeing a re-cartelization of the economic sphere. Trump is a goon and he admires goons. As fascists did he is putting his own people into the administrative and bureaucratic state, And they are gangsters and goons. He is getting rid of the bureaucracy that forms policy.

 

The State as a Racket

In War Making and State Making as Organized Crime, the sociologist Charles Tilly, in writing about the state has famously said:

“To the extent that threats against which a given government protects its citizens are imaginary or are consequences of its own activities, the government has organized a protection racket. Since governments themselves commonly stimulate, or even fabricate threats of external war, and since the repressive and extractive activities of governments often constitute the largest current threats to the livelihoods of their own citizens, many governments operate in essentially the same ways as racketeers.”

Neoliberalism has already decimated any notion of popular sovereignty or social welfare. The crisis of capitalism results in the crisis of the traditional parties and the liberal democratic order. The ruling class can no longer rule in its familiar ways. As this crisis deepens they become more ruthless in their attacks on the working class and its historic gains (social welfare, etc.). Health care, education, social welfare, etc. Become “luxuries” (which the truly luxurious strata become envious of). Attacks on these bare, but essential services, ratchet up already churning resentment and anger.

With the stripping of the state of its “luxuries” or inessential (for capital) features it is returned to its status as what Friedrich Engels called “armed bodies of men,” of gangsters—it is restored to the status of a racket.

So the army, police, prisons, are underwritten and grown. So too the Brownshirt industries associated with them. But the dictatorship of capital is no longer disguised. This is the resort to fascism.

In a period of sharp crisis the disguise slips. And it can slip. Obscuring ideology is not needed. How else to understand Trump’s open appeal to police across the country to not be too nice to suspects being arrested (in a context of racialized MS-13 panic), in front of a group of cheering and applauding cops.

As an aside we might suggest that the strange attack on MS-13 is a one-sided gang war-waged from the White House. And it occurs while his regime is raiding families of Latin American background in California, New Mexico, Arizona, etc.

Capitalism in crisis has always in periods given rise to the bare gangster form. Marx identified it as Bonapartism. The deep crisis of capitalism produces armed thug gangs who can oppose working class resistance.

In fascism, the state loses its monopoly over non—state violence. That is partly the threat of the Brownshirts. They are a parallel force of violence that shows up the loss of the state monopoly. With fascism, the bourgeoisie gives over power to the gangsters, the thugs, the goons.

 

The Trump Gang

If the protection racket us a scheme in which a group provides protection (to business, clubs, etc.) through violence enacted outside of the sanction of law, then the Trump regime, like all fascist regimes, has taken form as a base protection racket, a gang. This type of authoritarian formation maintains existing property relations while taking a piece of the pie for their own benefit. The Trump inner circle is made up of gangsters.

This is highlighted in liberal terms with the undermining or circumventing of the judiciary. It cannot provide legal protection. Trump poses it as incompetent. One can see this most forcefully in his attacks upon the courts over his Muslim ban. The Muslim ban is itself a racialist, fascistic offering of protection (for nativist whites, Christians, etc.) against a “foreign” other posed solely as a threat—and terroristic one at that.

As in an extortion racket there is also an implied threat that the protected may also be turned on themselves if they do not come through—so Trump’s call to let Obamacare implode—with costs assumed by poor whit Trump supporters (and Republican insiders alike).

The distinction between capitalist and gangster is simply one of state definition so it is not surprising that a capitalist would be surrounded by gangsters. One need not go into detail on the Kushner clan. Insider Jared’s father Charles Kushner was sentenced to two years after pleading guilty to 18 counts of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion, and witness tampering (involving a nasty case in which he set up his’ wife’s husband in a videotaped fling with a sex worker). Trump is of and for such people. This is his milieu. This is he.

Trump becomes the autonomous figure—the decider who can stand above the fray of divided politics. Trump is a magical gangster. He has a calling—it is the market. His is a counter-revolution based around the market, in the face of impending catastrophe.

At the same time he always has an alibi. His is an alibi of being. It does not allow the acknowledgement of the other. Except, that is, to destroy the other. He admits freely and jokingly to sexual assaults, in public, but denies the very realities of his accusers.

 

Postscript: Farewell Mooch, We Hardly Knew Ye

At the time of his appointment, commentators noted that Scaramucci was nothing more than “a thug for hire.” Unlike Steve Bannon, Scaramucci had no agenda beyond self-debasing loyalty and no ambition beyond time with the boss. In the end he got neither.

Like the gangster Nazis in power, Scaramucci immediately took out two figureheads of the Republican orthodoxy, Press Secretary Sean Spice and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. In their place are committed Trumpites Sarah Huckabee Sanders and, notably a military guy, General John Kelly. The Scaramucci hire is symptomatic of the gangster mode of organizing. It follows and reproduces the Nazi gangster inclination for management of underlings through envy, fear, aspiration, in which all are expected to give complete loyalty (typically unrequited) to the leader who need show none. This latter point was made hilariously clear when Scaramucci was himself tanked only 10 days into his role, surely a record of sorts.

Of course history tells us that the generals felt uncomfortable with the gangsters in the SA (largely because they viewed them as a potential competitor breaking the monopoly on violence). We do not want to read too much into John Kelly’s urging of Trump to dismiss the Mooch but on the night of July 30, 2017, it would seem that at least one long knife was out. Still the unexpected hit on the loudmouth who talked too much is not entirely outside of Trump’s gangster management of the White House.

 

We might finally remember that for Brecht, the name Ui was meant to sound like a pig screaming.

 

References

Brecht, Bertolt. 1941. The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: A Parable Play.

 

 

Producerism: The Homegrown Roots of Trumpism

Jeff Shantz

The disturbing rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and the growing  mobilization of rightwing forces in the United States has driven attempts to understand and situate trumpism and the particular brand of politics his rise signals. Most commentators have been tempted to look at rightist traditions outside of the US, whether right populism in Europe or Latin America or historic fascist movements as in Italy, Germany, or Spain. Yet I would suggest we can better understand trumpism and its place in rightist developments in the US by looking at a forgotten homegrown American lineage—producerism.

Producerism refers to a political-economic perspective of right wing populism. At the center of producerist ideas and movements is the notion that so-called productive members of society, typically industrial or more skilled workers, small business people, and individual entrepreneurs are threatened by dual pressures coming from so-called parasitical strata both above and below them in the social hierarchy. From above are the economic and political elites who live parasitically by usurping the value produced by their workers in the form of surplus value or profit. From below the middle class workers are threatened by the poor, unemployed, and those who receive social welfare. Both the elite and the non-elite strata live off of the value produced by the middle classes. Producerists present a picture of an imperiled middle class that is responsible for social wealth, growth, and development but is constantly squeezed by non-productive forces from above and below. The dual squeezing of middle class labor is said to drain society of its productive faculties and resources, leading to stagnation and eventual decline. The end result is a society that is lazy and unproductive due to pressures toward idleness, parasitism, and freeloading. For producerists, the middle class are the real engines of social growth and development are should fully enjoy the fruits of their labor, free of undue control from capital or taxation by government.

Producerism is an undertheorized, often overlooked perspective, yet one that has influenced a range of historical and contemporary right wing movements. Producerism was developed by organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan to mobilize working class whites against former slaves, union organizers, and Jewish workers in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Producerism found some expression in William Jennings Bryan’s populist opposition to the rail and mining monopolies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1960s producerist rhetoric was used by George Wallace in his anti-federal, campaigns for states’ rights. It also found expression in Richard Nixon’s appeals to the “silent majority” and his so-called “Southern Strategy” to become president. Contemporary expressions of producerism are found in the Reform Party of America and figures like Pat Buchanan and Glenn Beck. The more recent Tea Party movement in the US, and its rhetoric of middle class decline, tax-cutting, cuts to social spending, anti-immigration policies, etc. is perhaps the most dramatic recent expression of producerism as a political movement. The images of the “Momma Grizzly” or “Hockey Mom,” popularized by Sarah Palin, are expressions of the tenacity or resilience of the middle class and entrepreneurialism.

Producerism represents a critique of capitalism and free market ideologies, but does so from a conservative or reactionary rather than a radical or progressive perspective. For producerists, the primary class within social change is the middle class rather than the proletariat or working class more broadly, as in anarchism and communism. In producerist perspectives, it is the so-called productive middle class, particularly better paid industrial or skilled workers rather than service sector workers or the poor, that produces value in society.

The value produced by middle class workers suffers a dual expropriation by economic and politics elites. On one hand the value they produce at work is expropriated by executives and owners who retain that value as profit. On the other hand the portion of value retained by middle-class workers as their wages is expropriated by government elites in the form of taxation. For producerists, middle class workers always bear a disproportionate and unfair burden in national taxation schemes.  On the one end, corporations enjoy a variety of tax breaks, rebates, and loopholes.  On the other end, producerists claim that the poor and lower wage workers are not taxed as heavily. This latter claim, of course, overlooks the heavier burden placed on lower paid and poor workers by regressive taxes such as consumption or sales taxes. The earnings expropriated through taxes are redistributed both upwards (as corporate grants and tax relief) and downwards (in social welfare spending for the poor and unemployed).

The usurpation of middle class value by large corporations and international finance capital siphons wealth out of the country, limits free enterprise and entrepreneurship, and destroys small business through monopolization. At the same time, the underclasses and migrant labor drain productive wealth away from entrepreneurs and industrial production giving it instead to supposedly wasteful government programs that benefit the least, rather than the most productive, strata in society.

Producerists, unlike anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, and communists, are typically not anti-capitalists. Producerists differ from anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists even in the way that they view capital. Some producerists draw a distinction between what they view as productive industrial capital (which is usually portrayed as domestic) and so-called idle or unproductive financial or speculative capital (which is often constructed as international). While industrial capital is involved in the production of real material goods that address specific needs, such as automobiles or refrigerators, financial capital is viewed as purely symbolic or frivolous, undermining productive capital by wasting resources on speculative schemes aimed only at profiting the financiers. Speculative capital is connected with the rootless interests of cosmopolitan or multinational investors. This distinction between national capital and international capital or investors can give rise to racist formulations as in anti-Semitic constructions of finance capital as part of a Jewish world conspiracy. Such were the infamous formulations at the center of Nazi ideology, in which ill-defined notions of Jewish, cosmopolitan, and communist were equated in a paradoxical framework that also included global capital (also ill-defined).

In the period of capitalist globalization companies engaged in outsourcing, global movement, or investment, rather than domestic production, are viewed as a threat. Some producerists advocate protectionist policies and high tariffs to safeguard the domestic economy and workers. Foreign transnational companies are viewed as a threat, yet domestic transnationals, such as Wal-mart and Ford are viewed more favorably. The internationalist threat is, once again, posed from above (bankers, financiers, Trilateralists, the United Nations) as well as from below (socialists, communists, migrants, labor solidarity).

While primarily economic in orientation producerism often takes on cultural critiques.  Middle class values, associated for producerists with a sturdy work ethic, patriarchal and heteronormative family structure, and values of thrift and conservatism, are counterpoised against the so-called “decadence” of supposedly unproductive classes such as artists and writers.  These cultural workers, who are believed to live from government subsidies, grants, or welfare, are viewed as dangerous bohemians who threaten economic prosperity as well as cultural values.  Their “lifestyles” are again viewed as being subsidized or underwritten by the productive work and surplus value produced through the labors of the hard working middle class.

Often the terms are racialized as the middle class is presented as white and African-Americans and Hispanics are presented as lazy or bound by “cultures of poverty.” Producerists often take on nativist, even explicitly racist, positions toward immigrants.  Immigrants are viewed as a threat to the middle classes as they can be used to drive down labor values by expanding the labor market and, thus, depressing wages. Producerists accuse migrants of representing a drain on social services, particularly welfare, education, and health care.

Producerist narratives are often also gendered, presenting middle class workers as male and proper families as male-headed.  The narratives are also often heteronormative, presenting homosexuality as a form of unproductive decadence that threatens cultural values of restraint and discipline.

Producerism bears some relation to notions of social Darwinism in which poverty is viewed as the lack of “fitness” of the poor who should be left to survive by their own labors. Where the poor fail to succeed or survive the outcome is viewed as a reflection of natural selection at work.

The political ideology with which producerism bears the greatest similarities is indeed fascism. Indeed fascism is often viewed as a form of producerist ideology. Fascism, like producerism, also presents a view of society in which the middle class suffers a dual threat coming from above (financial capital) and below (the poor, unionized workers, the left). Hitler expressed the view that the state should respond only to the claims of the productive classes which excluded migrants and the poor.

Some producerists support skilled craft associations, even craft unions, as free associations of individuals. Yet they oppose industrial unions, particularly radical or syndicalist unions, as threats to production or advocates for the less productive. It bears watching to see what types of union formations might emerge as part of contemporary trumpist initiatives and to oppose them.

 

Further Reading

Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. 2000. Right-wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. New York: Guilford Press.

Betz, Hans-Georg and Stefan Immerfall, eds. 1998. The New Politics of the Right: Neo-Populist Parties and Movements in Established Democracies. New York: St. Martin’s Press

Laclau, Ernesto. 1977. Politics and Ideology in Marxist Theory: Capitalism, Fascism, Populism. London: NLB

Zernike, Kate. 2010. Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America. New York: Times Books

 

Originally Published in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review #70

On the Messy Psychology of Trumpism: Deception, the Right, and Neoliberal Trauma

By Jeff Shantz

In fascism, the monsters of childhood come true. – Theodor Adorno

 

In the words of tragic cultural theorist, and victim of actual fascism, Walter Benjamin, “Behind the rise of every fascism is a failed revolution.” A contribution of the Frankfurt School is thinking through the connection of the failed revolutions and fascism. While Trumpism might differ from historic fascism in not following a failed revolution (unless one looks at the failings of a mass movement like Occupy which is a stretch) it does respond to the failings of hopeful liberalism.

This is expressed in terms of fear and a seeking for comfort among those who feel or perceive a loss of status. Understanding rebellion and resistance in the current period also must involve coming to grips with the Trumpist counter-revolution and currents running through it.

How might the Trump phenomenon, and seemingly rising proto-fascism, be understood? While it is still early in the development of Trumpism (it is also late in terms of stopping real social harms from being inflicted) some outlines can be drawn.

 

Deceiving The Crowd

Trump can readily be situated within historical trajectories of fascism and Right wing populism. One can look to the historical social and psychological conditions of the nineteenth century. Then too popular progressive movements from below, including anarchism, were (quite rightly) viewed as a challenge to conservative elites. The growth of the masses in democracy raised concerns for elites about how to preserve their rule. Elite concern over these movements was the subject of numerous public discussions. Examples of social scientific writing on this include Gustave LeBon’s The Crowd and The Psychology of Revolution and John Henry Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

In The Crowd LeBon recommends mass deception to ensure a favorable outcome for elites. In the approach outlined by LeBon, conservative elites cannot actually practice democracy but must deceive the masses to appear to be doing so. One might pursue this argument in thinking about the role of so-called fake news and alternative truths in the Trumpist mobilization and the centrality they find among his key organizers like Kellyanne Conway. LeBon focused on supposedly irrational crowds that could be used by demagogues. LeBon was cited favorably by Mussolini and Hitler.

Passive democracy is no match for the power of the myth to mobilize the masses. This perspective finds an echo in the work of Georges Sorel and his emphasis on social myth. Sorel identifies the supposedly irrational in politics. In his view political actors must understand feelings that move the masses to action. LeBon speaks of elite manipulation. Sorel focuses on popular mobilization. These tendencies are combined in the figure and action of Mussolini. This convergence is reproduced in the Trumpist movement.

Nazi theorist of political power Carl Schmitt suggests conservatives must play the democratic game in order to maintain power. According to Andrew Sullivan, Trump is a result of too much democracy. Trump is of the crowd, by the crowd, for the crowd.

Precursors to Trumpism can be found in the works of Gottfried von Herder and Joseph de Maistre. In Trumpism, the artist of Romanticism is transferred to the entrepreneur or magnate who is presented as an artist (the art of the deal). The supposed genius of the entrepreneur, the “art of the deal” is contrasted with the supposed mediocrity of the mass and the degeneracy of the political establishment (the corrupt hacks of the swamp of Washington). Fascism proposes an elite that can save the nation from the degenerate state. This makes clear the choices made by Trump in his cabinet. The cabal of millionaires and billionaires are the elite who will bring about national rebirth. The ones posed as “doers.” They will make America great again. (Notably, Kevin O’Leary a financial blowhard and reality TV star is running for leadership of the Conservative Party in Canada as one of the entrepreneurial “doers,” his word, who will make Canada great again also).

 

The Trauma of Neoliberalism

To understand the response to Trumpism one must also understand the trauma of neoliberalism, the context of popular dissatisfaction fear, and hope. The advent of neoliberalism initiates a crisis period (see Shantz 2016, Crisis States). This involves punitive accumulation and a redoubled accumulation of wealth for the wealthy. The neoliberal period can be understood as a traumatic period of four decades. Social trauma. Margaret Thatcher even referred to “a short, sharp, shock.”

Fundamentally, neoliberalism has changed and dismantled processes of socialization and mutual aid. Indebtedness and a sense of being alone in your own debt. It is your responsibility alone in a context of declined social support. Supporters are people dispossessed and feeling left out or feeling threatened economically. This is a sense of being dispossessed or not cared for by society. Neoliberal trauma  is a loss of power as a collective capacity to act. Dislocation and isolation are conditions ripe for authoritarianism (both are central to Hannah Arendt’s account of authoritarianism).

Clinton, foolishly, took on the task of reducing expectations and denying people their frustrations. She played a role of lessening the experienced impacts of neoliberalism. Impacts that Trump acknowledged and affirmed. Sanders offered another story of the white working class, if in limited, constrained, terms. Clinton held a bond to the failed program of neoliberalism. This was a condition for Trump’s victory.

Properly understanding Trumpism perhaps requires a theory of trauma related to association with the aggressor. In an actual assault, one can get through with support and understanding. Hypocrisy gives victims a sense of abandonment. This leads to compliance. You perceive things as you are supposed to not according to your own feelings. One has to give up critical thinking since it raises possibilities of separation. You comply so you belong. Any feeling of abandonment can evoke this. This is associated with feelings of shame.

Compliance is a response when society does not accept or value someone for who they are. There is an intimate connection between neoliberalism and hyper-responsibility. Issues of inequality and injustice are viewed as being the individual’s fault. Society does not owe you anything (unless you are wealthy, in which case you are owed tax breaks, grants, subsidies because of your greater contributions to a trickle down economy that will benefit everyone).

A response is compliance and omnipotent fantasy. Excess can be directed toward scapegoats. This relates to a sense of exceptionalism and belonging for those who align with the authority. A reality of compliance is expressed through a rhetoric of standing up for oneself. People whose trauma has been invalidated need their trauma to be known. Trumpism expresses a move from individual trauma to social trauma. There is an individual sense of loneliness and sense of dispossession.

 

An Agitator-In-Chief

The crowd is typically understood by theorists like LeBon in relation to the agitator. Trump is an agitator rather than an insurrectionist. The agitator focuses on groups who can be targeted. The agitator does not want followers to think too much.

There is an attempt to individualize the mob in the form of the figure. The figure will tolerate reality for them. What they cannot tolerate, the figure can and will.  He speaks to discreet self-identified groups who identify in terms of losers (in trade, globalization, internationalism, metropolitanism, etc.) but not as classes. Agitation uses emotional tools to reinforce the power structure. The agitator differs from revolutionaries and reformers.

Trump is an over-inflated narcissist. He appears, on surface, to have none of the insecurities his followers are trying to escape. He is the mirror they look into and wish to see themselves. He is appealing to people who otherwise feel powerless. Secondary narcissism stimulates feelings of belonging and loss. Trump, unlike his followers, exhibits no self-questioning, no self-doubt. This is a great relief to his supporters. He is shameless, he has no shame. Refusal to feel shame is a guide to people. Trump expresses a politics of shame and a politics of repugnance.

Fascism promises certainties. It promises a return to more easily understood or familiar conditions for sectors of the population who feel threatened with loss of standing or position (these are often middle strata groups that feel economically insecure or threatened with decline rather than the poor).

Regular folks who support Trump (even as he represents elite interests) can see Trumpism as making the country great again while they are largely able to continue on with their lives. It does not ask much of them but promises much (even if it never delivers on those specific promises). The imagined community or imaginary love of a powerful leader emerges as an outlet for repressed drives even if the program is not realized. Charismatic nationalism offers narcissistic gratification and an outlet for repressed drives against the externalized other.

 

On Fake News and Alternative Facts

It has been well remarked that Trump shows a contemptuous regard for truth or facts. He is appealing to the constrained who do not want to be hemmed in or constrained by facts either, as they are by so much else in their lives. This is related to the wish to win that Trump so effectively conjured during his campaign (with his repeated emphasis on America winning again, winning huge, etc.).

Primacy of the wish to win is related to the sense to which one feels dispossessed. Trump tells an emotional truth for his supporters even if he is widely seen to be lying. This truth is his anger and the affirmation of his followers’ anger. This is the truth that comes to matter, a point rational critics generally overlook or misread. Omnipotent fantasy cannot be told the factual truth. There is a turn to emotional truth. Trust is based not on his truth claims but on the sense that he will do what really needs to be done. His supporters trust his promised power.

There is a libidinal investment of the masses in the leader. They have fallen in love with him. The crowd enjoys vicariously through the leader. Trump, on their behalf will restore the lost narcissistic idea of the nation. He will “Make America Great Again.”

Critical thinking isolates you and isolation is part of the problem in neoliberal societies. There is a pleasure in feeling free from thinking. It is partly presented as a reaction against the constant thinking through of political correctness (doing what you are supposed to do and thinking through the implications of all utterances, let alone actions). So-called political correctness (simple decency perhaps) is constructed as an artificial strategy that maintains hypocrisy.

Unknowing is derided but critics fail to see the enjoyment it can provide. Ignorance can indeed be bliss. Trump represents a poverty of ideas. He expresses a cathartic change. Trump is a grotesque character type. In the enactment of aggression, Trump is both a fool and a wizard.

Trump speaks the analytic session: be spontaneous; speak the repressed; no emphasis on truth; free association. Trump brings the language and posture of the analytic session. What of the return of the repressed? What is repressed is fear and hatred of the other.

 

Conclusion

Living with fascism has been the underbelly of US politics for a very long time. It is not coming, it has been there. Frankfurt School theorists Max Horkheimer and Erich Fromm did not see the United States as immune to fascism.  Their view is developed significantly in the largely forgotten “Studies in Prejudice.” See also The Authoritarian Personality and an earlier study on anti-Semitism in the US.

Fascist tendencies exist in all modern capitalist societies. This was true even after the defeat of fascism in World War Two. Resentment has been mobilized against the post-war social welfare state and union movements. It has focused on the progressive redistribution of wealth, particularly as it has benefited members of minority groups.

From the 1980s on there has been a reversal of these tendencies as state capitalist regimes have abandoned welfare state policies in favor of Crisis State arrangements (Shantz 2016). This shifted has been effected under the so-called neoliberal consensus for state managers. The turn to neoliberalism coincides with the rise of a new generation of Right wing parties. At the same time this period has seen the decline of communist and socialist parties and movements in the West. There is a rise to prominence of Right wing parties and fascist groups. This is happening everywhere. Russia and Putin. India. Much of the blame belongs with failed democratic, labor, and social democratic parties that still refuse to break with neoliberalism. Trump breaks with neoliberal consensus. This is expressed in his election opposition to trade deals.

What the Left wishes to secure through cultural means (recognition and inclusion) the fascists will actually secure through material and military means. The challenge of Trumpism is also a challenge to rethink positive resistance politics. There is certainly a need for the Left to re-evaluate its politics. On the Left, there has been a loss of the language of solidarity as a shared fate. And a politics unrestrained by economics or program.

 

Further Reading

LeBon, Gustave. 2002 [1895]. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. New York: Dover

Shantz, Jeff. 2016. Crisis States: Governance, Resistance & Precarious Capitalism. Brooklyn: Punctum

 

Originally published in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review.

Tendencies of Trumpocalypse

By Jeff Shantz

The rise of Trump and more importantly the far Right movements around him raise some questions about the nature of the Trumpocalypse (and its relation to Right populism or more to the point to fascism). The question is now being asked whether or not it is true that there is fascism of some sort in the US at the present time. While not providing a firm answer on that question there are some initial tendencies or shaping features that are suggestive and should be addressed. These are outlines of Trumpocalypse rather than hard and fast conclusions.

Fascism refers to a unique and most extreme form of bourgeois rule. This is so because under fascism the bourgeoisie gives up some of its control to shock troops and loses its customary hold over the mechanisms of liberal democracy. Big capital desires fascism to do its dirty work for it and fascism becomes a tool of big capital. Finance capital through fascism gathers all the organs and institutions of the state. Schools, press, municipalities. Not only the executive. Workers groups are crushed. At its heart fascism is an armed movement that uses extreme violence against the Left.

Some suggest that populism is a more useful term than fascism right now. Yet there are problems with the use of populism to describe the far Right movements today. Centrist notions of populism equate Left and Right. Both are lumped together as non-liberal, against trade, etc., and therefore both are bad. In this way the centrist notions of populism are similar to earlier versions of totalitarianism analysis, as in the work of Hannah Arendt, for example. FDR was referred to as a fascist by some communists. While at the same time Hitler was called a passing phenomenon—to be followed in turn by a victorious proletarian revolution.

At the same time there is a Trumpism—against urbanism, rationalism, metropolitanism. It is a proto-fascist movement. It is about a dynamic. The proposed “purification” of society. A new anthropology—creating the human anew (as in fascism).

Of some importance, there is a tendency to underestimate the movements of contemporary brownshirts in the US. Some commentators might still assume that real fascists in the US live in bunkers in the desert and are merely odd survivalists. But that is a dangerous misreading of current movements. It is an analysis from the 1990s. Fascists today, and this is one thing that can be said about the Trump campaign, have come above ground.

 

Trump and Brownshirt Infrastructure

Trump represents the construction wing of Wall Street. He will oversee a regime of infrastructure building particularly of Brownshirt infrastructure. That is infrastructure of repression such as prisons, policing infrastructure. His will be a regime of building as his campaign expressed—build a wall; build prisons; build detention centers. He will provide help to banks and he will provide help to construction industries.

Trump will build his base and reward it through Brownshirt infrastructure and physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, airports). This will help the Midwest and the Rust Belt and shore up his base in those areas. That means it will reinforce the white nationalist base and white nationalist rhetoric.

Tax holidays for corporations to repatriate wealth. If taxed at one percent it could be used to fund Brownshirt infrastructure. Funding would be through banks and government would secure the loans. This will be a state assisted accumulation of capital.

 ***

Trump represents warmed over Reaganomics. His plan is the dream of investment bankers. The DNC will carry out his agenda as it benefits Wall Street. There will be a battle in the DNC over the nature of support for Wall Street. They will do so around infrastructures spending and a child care tax.

The Democrats will align with Trump. Sanders, Warren, Chuck Schumer, and the AFL-CIO have all said they could work with Trump. They will hope to gain some credit for some policy decisions. Yet this will only reify Trump as the dealmaker who gets stuff done and can work with anyone (on his terms) as he has said throughout his campaign. There will be no benefit accruing to Democrats for doing this.

This raises the need for organizing within the infrastructure industries. At present too many unions in those industries are crass business unions with less than progressive practices.

Contemporary far Right populism, Trumpism, in the US, is something of a coalition of the one percent with people of all classes who are outcast (dislocated from the social system at all levels), declasse (particularly, of course, among white American males). People supporting Trump are not the most downtrodden, not the classic lumpenproletariat, as is often assumed. They are instead the ones who fear losing their assumed place in the social structure, those who fear precarious status and economic decline (the much talked about loss of the middle class).

 

Context

Fascism comes to power when the Left has abdicated its role and responsibility. That is when it is not fighting fascism directly in the streets or when it has not carried through a revolution in the making. Today’s far right operates in a different context and has a different intent.

In Europe and Latin America there are right populist movements. There are fascist organizations, but they are small and few in number. Furthermore, they have no significant connection to either capital or state power. Big capital is not significantly supporting the fascist groups. The main purpose of the current far right is anti-globalism. But big capital wants globalism. Social phobias find a home in the parties of the far right—nationalism, not globalism.

The one percent (particularly building capital) has little interest in populism. It wants migration, for example, in order to keep wages down and increase completion on the labor market. Indeed, many of the voices for the movement of refugees come from neoliberal capital rather than the broad Left.

Historic fascism emerged in face of an imploding world market. Some might suggest that there is no need of fascism for capital since there is no Left working class movement and no imploding world market.

Yet one can see hints of an answer in current social struggles, particularly over extreme energy. As one instructive example we might look to the militarization of police at Standing Rock. Some mobilization against extractives. Is this being used as an impetus for capital to mobilize fascism in the present period? The militarization has already happened in Canada. As the stakes get higher this militarization will increase. It has not yet developed in the form of Right wing mobilization of civilian gangs to attack Indigenous peoples defending their lands. But there are isolated individual instances that suggest it could.

 

When Reform Fails

Far Right populism is what you get when social reform or social democracy fails. Today there are not significant working class movements of the Left in the US. Right wing populism thrives where the Left has failed. There have been mass movements representing refutation of elites and neoliberalism recently. Arab Spring, Indignados, Occupy Wall Street represent examples. There has been, since the decline of these movements, a hard swing to the Right. This is represented in Trump, Modi, UKIP, and the Front National in France, etc. In the current context the far Right has taken up the challenge that the Left has failed to meet.

The Left has abandoned even its bread and butter “wheelhouse” issues. There is virtually no Left movement against global trade agreements anymore. While there has been some spoken opposition against CETA and the TPP there is no semblance of the public mobilizations that challenged NAFTA in the 1980s and early 1990s and the WTO in Seattle in 1999 or the FTAA in Quebec City in 2001. There has been no large scale movement against any of the smaller agreements passed over the last few years either. And that is at the level of manifestations, not at the level of organization in workplaces and neighborhoods.

And this has been an organizational challenge. The Left in the West has built very little in the way of real world, material infrastructures of sustenance and resistance. Unfortunately the far Right has moved in to occupy this abandoned territory. Megachurches gave a center to sprawling suburbs. They provided community life. The Left used to do this but does not anymore.

Unions are business unions and there is no contestatory ideology. They offer service for workers for pay. They organize over contracts and grievances. It is a commodified form of unionism. There is nothing that makes mainstream unions inherently working class, let alone radical working class. Organized labor has become a form of clientalism. Organized labor does not organize labor. It is focused on contract negotiations. There are some public campaigns on issues like education. There are some “get out the vote” efforts.

 

Neoliberal Populism Today

The present period is perhaps closer to the 1970s period of neoliberal populism. The Left in the 1970s was marked by three different tendencies. First was welfare state social democracy. Second was the advocacy of class conflict. Third was the denial of class (post-modernism).

Neoliberalism impelled a shift from understandings of classes to notions of taxpayers versus elites. Corrupt elites were understood not as capital and politicians but as state bureaucrats and unions within neoliberal frameworks. Individual liberation was viewed as everything. The aim of neoliberal populism was identified as getting welfare state and union bosses off your back, not capital. This would supposedly allow anyone to win in the market game. These were staple views espoused by Reagan and Thatcher.

After some years of course the realization grew that the market game produced mostly losers. And these losers were working class. By the time this realization set in for broad cross-sections of people there was no likelihood of getting back the welfare state that neoliberals had transformed (into a carceral or workfare state). Capitalist globalization circumvented and destroyed unions.

Now neoliberalism is unpopular and the welfare state is not on offer. The Left cannot deliver on hopes for a return to the welfare state. Right wing populism emerges keeping at its center the rugged individualism of neoliberal populism. But now it has also to focus on bailed out bankers and big capital. It must focus on corporate welfare as well as social welfare as its motivating social ills. But, not surprisingly, Right wing populism gives less focus to corporate welfare. Indeed, for Right wing populists many of their leaders are part of the establishment.

Neoliberalism has made the irrationality of supporting capitalism (a planet destroying system) seem to be the only possibility on the planet. Right wing populism has been ramping up a counter-revolution in culture. It is a cultural counter-revolution rather than an economic counter-revolution.

The Democratic Party claims that they can be and will be better managers of neoliberal capitalism. They claim to be more efficient and thus will be able to manage more tax money to put into some, limited range of, social programs. They also claim a more diverse base of interests in their representative politics. The Democratic Party since 2008 has, despite the hopeful rhetoric, been pro-Wall Street and pro-war as, indeed, it has always been. They offer nothing to the working class, even in the Sanders wing.

 

In Response

Fascism always needs to be fought directly, not argued with. You cannot fight power unless you build power. There is a need for organizing infrastructures of sustenance and resistance. Syndicalist organizing and a militant approach to challenging structures of ownership and control are crucial. On the one hand there will be a need to organize against development capital. On the other green syndicalist approaches can connect struggles over extreme energy and extractives.

It might be recognized that organizers have to engage with some Trump voters (some, not by any means all). Not doing so is to replay the elitism of Hillary Clinton. At the same time, and crucially, organizers have to support and defend the main targets of Right wing populism. There is a pressing need to find the common ground there.

There are real questions about how to provoke progressive politics in the US. One necessity is to refocus on locally based struggles and work to share them and their lessons internationally.

Some have suggested a Left Tea Party. This is a futile hope. There is no Left equivalent of the Kochs and Coors who build up Right wing infrastructures. The Left cannot have a Left version of the Tea Party. The Left has no real organizational form or movement like the Tea Party. The Tea Party was a real movement, it was not strictly Astroturf. There is no equivalent on the Left.

One approach is to think of organizing space. Especially in the cities. Trumpism is a war against the cities. It is a war against diversity. It is a war against metropolitanism. Cities are refuges of migrants, queers, women, unions, the Left. Cities are also a concrete space. Imagined communities do not exist the way cities do. There could be a broad based strategy focused on cities.

Cities are controlled by real estate developers. Thus struggles confront the Trump wing of builders and real estate capital. Cities are huge bases of support and opposition. They are large economies. There is a need to organize city by city. At the same time it is a historical fault of the Left not organizing the working class in the suburbs. Suburbs are the areas of the working class. Yet the Left organizes downtown in the city center.

Finally something must be said about the anti-Trump protests. The Republican Party wants to pose the working class as white reactionaries. Anti-Trump protests are working class protests. The diversity of the working class. A working class revolt against Trump. These manifestations are already posing questions of organization (beyond street manifestations) anew.

 Originally published in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, Issue # 69 

 

What Would Have Happened to the Alt Right if Trump Had Lost?

 

The presidential election of 2016 is going to go down as one of the largest political upsets in history.  Even into the evening, most mainstream pollsters and political rags were declaring a decisive Clinton victory, and as the states rolled in red, a sense of desperation hit the streets.  Sure, Clinton was a candidate of the capitalist class, but Trump had awakened the racist id of white America.  No matter what you think of the political caste, he provided a mass mobilization to the Alt Right, who lacked a connection to the mainstream before his campaign.  They had grown by leaps and bounds, but what would have happened to them if Trump had actually lost?

***

A slight tone of mourning would have graced the Ronald Regan building as the suit and tie guests make their way through metal detectors and waves of counter-protesters. But also a feeling of victory. The sold-out conference, which sold out its discounted “Millennial” tickets weeks in advance, knows where its boost has come from. Even if Trump had lost, their numbers had increased more than any of them could have dreamed.

The National Policy Institute’s annual conference took place on November 19th, and was the largest Alt Right meeting of the year. With the steroid injection they have received from crossover figures like Milo Yianouplous and the caustic rhetoric of Trump, it was not surprising it was the biggest in their short history. The National Policy Institute is the benign name for the central institution of the diffuse Alt Right, the latest attempt at rebranding the white nationalist movement. Founded by William Regnery, the inheritor to the Regnery Publishing operation, and Sam Francis, now deceased paleoconservative and racialist author known for his work at the Washington Post, the organization was taken over several years ago by Alternative Right founder Richard Spencer. In the years since, Spencer has made it an “identitarian” think-tank, bringing together the various strains of the Alt Right into a meeting point that can try to take the movement’s ideas forward.

Their conferences have become a “who’s who” of the movement, linking up “shitlords” on Twitter with white racialists who have been in the movement for decades. In years past we have seen people like long-time white nationalist Sam Dickson, VDare founder Peter Brimelow, French New Right philosopher Alain De Benoist, and “male tribalism” advocate Jack Donovan.  In 2016 they rode the wave of celebrity and even included Tila Tequila, the bi-racial reality-television celebrity who has come under fire for her virulent anti-Semitism, anti-black racism, and Holocaust Denial and “flat earth” conspiracy theories. Peter Brimelow was ported over again, as well as Dr. Kevin MacDonald, a former University of California at Long Beach professor whose work on Jews has become the central doctrine for modern anti-Semitism. Millennial Woes, F. Roger Devlin, and the people behind Red Ice Creations, all of which have become Alt Right stars in the world of Internet podcasting and streaming video, joined them. British nationalist politician Matthew Tait spoke about Brexit after his time supporing the UK Independence Party.

In an attempt to make the NPI gatherings more of a social network and fraternal community, they included nationalist neofolk and post-industrial musicians Xurious and Upward Path, as well as evening cocktails and polite banter before the main conference presentations begin the following afternoon.

For the Alt Right as a branded movement, this was the high water mark, and though the Trump victory added an element of celebration, a loss would have had much the same atmosphere.  One of rebellion, race, and revolution.  The cameras from The Atlantic later caught conference goers Seig Heiling as Richard Spencer yelled “Hail Trump, Hail our people, Hail victory!”

 

Breaking Through to the Mainstream

What is undeniable is that a Trump loss in the Presidential election would have cost the Alt Right their bridge to the GOP.  As Spencer has often derided, the GOP is not explicitly in line with their political vision. Instead, the Republican focus on free markets, tax policy, foreign intervention, and other disparate “idea clusters” distracts from what they want, which is an institution dedicated to manifesting white ethnic interests. Beyond all of their guesses, the GOP then turned in their favor as Trump rode a populist-wave into the Republican nomination, and if Hillary had taken the White House that branding would not have stuck.

Instead, a Trump loss would lead the GOP to strip out all remnants of the Trump campaign, including supporters, messaging, and partnerships. For years the GOP has searched to reestablish a soul, one that was lost after the George W. Bush presidency took the country to the nadir of Neoconservative approval. It went through various stages of possible rebranding, such as the Tea Party and hard libertarianism, but all failed to galvanize the base into a real ideological force that they could ride into a new coherent identity. Trump’s civic nationalism represents another branding opportunity, and a loss would have added it to the list of losing identities.

Places like Breitbart would of moved on to the next trendy thing in conservatism, just like they did in the various incarnations it has been through since Andrew Breitbart first dreamed it up at the Huffington Post. This would have pushed the ‘Alt Lite,” the people like Milo Yianoupoulos and Gavin McGinnis who mainstream the Alt Right’s message, further away from the Alt Right’s ideological core, turning on the white nationalists and repudiating their radical base.

Since the base of Trump’s support in rural and midwestern states have yet to prove that they have a grassroots movement building strategy separate from the Trump campaign, it would have been unlikely that there would have been a mainstream “Trump Republican” movement beyond this election. This message can be drawn explicitly from the Bernie Sanders campaign, which has yet to show that it has legs to exist as something tangible past the election and piecemeal victories like influencing the Democratic Party platform.

For the Alt Right and the various strands of white nationalism, this would have effectively become the “black pill,” a tool for them to lose faith in the political system and forces them to look to other options.

 

No Enemies to the Right

Even before the election, the Alt Right began consolidating itself to the right. In a large part this came from the growth of the Alt Lite and the desire that many had in core Alt Right circles to define themselves ideologically. They were not just “anti-PC, “anti-SJW,” against immigration and for Trump, they were white nationalists. This meant creating strong allies within the “1488 crowd,” which means the more explicit neo-Nazi and KKK communities. This is going to help them re-enter the white nationalist subculture as access to mainstream conservatism shrinks over the coming months. This would help to slowly dissolve the cultural identity that made the Alt Right distinct from the larger white nationalist project, one that was forged out of its middle-class character and associations with high paying tech jobs. As they further meld with the larger mass of white nationalism it will further radicalize their constituency, even if people like Richard Spencer and American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor will desperately try to hold on to the moderate intellectual tone they have achieved.

“I do think that their approach, generally speaking, will be to double down and triple down on overt appeals to Ethnonationalism,” says Tim Wise, an anti-racist writer discussing their possibilities if Trump was to lose.

“There will be a threshold that they will find themselves bumping up against because there is still an aversion to their open fascism.”

This exit from the political sphere would force a “reform vs. revolution” discussion inside of the fascist right, one that has happened for years in anticipation. Even as recently as the 2015 American Renaissance conference there was as a staged debate about whether or not the “race problem” can be solved inside the American political system. Peter Brimelow and former National Review writer John Derbyshire sided with the electoral system, while Spencer and Dickson took a more revolutionary position. With their feelings confirmed, Spencer would likely have continued his call for a “meta-political identity” that can eventually take advantage of what many on the Alt Right see as the inevitable “Balkanization” of American states. They want to foment white revolution just as many neo-Nazis have suggested for years, and that notion would have crystalized after the loss. Their proposed “Ethnostate” would then become a revolutionary project; one that will require the overthrow of the U.S. government in some form, even if they believe the American project is doomed even without their revolutionary opposition.

 

U.S. Under Attack

The most dramatic increase in possibly violent tension from the far right would have happened in the form of the militia movement, which already poses itself as a revolutionary faction. Though Trump will only intensify this turn, it has been validated in the recent acquittal of the Bundy family and accomplices in the 2015 occupation and standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Sanctuary outside of Burns, Oregon. The recent verdict in federal court shocked many, especially as arrests and confrontations littered the largely peaceful encampment blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. The armed occupation, which damaged sacred Paiute land and cost the state millions, was the latest stage in a build up coming from Patriot groups fighting for privatizing land rights.

Though the Trump camp would likely have been unable to create a grassroots movement outside the election, it is fertile territory for a well-crafted message from militia groups like the Oath Keepers and the 3%ers. They will be able to speak to the rural angst of many of these groups, intermixing their experiences of financial instability with a reactionary white anger. As rural America sees hits on small farms, the decrease of unionized manufacturing, and the shrinking of local economies, the instability is likely to increase these feelings of isolation. The militias have used this to their advantage and have stoked a racially motivated anger out of that situation in the absence of the left.

Though the Alt Right is an outsider to these movements, they can continue to contribute rhetorically by continuing to ignite fears about immigration, non-white crime, and the perils of a “progressive government.” There may even be a material support that begins to transpire as the wealthier elements of the Alt Right attempt to hedge their bets, but either way it will means an effort to further racialized the Patriot movement and prepare them for nationalist confrontation.

 

A Move Towards Violence

The Alt Right, especially in its leadership, has been clear that they do not want violence. For people like Spencer and Taylor, this would change the public perception of their movement and stop them from achieving the mass groundswell they would need for a radical change in the country. They have an uphill battle since the history of white nationalism is the history of racist violence, and its one they are slowly trying to build an alternative for.

The problem for them is that this dynamic would begin to change with a swiftness as their core constituencies, who are radical white nationalists, saw that their previous efforts were partial failures and they begin to look towards possibilities with more firepower. Their rhetoric turns violent through an image of revolution where confrontation with the government, and eventually other races, is inevitable.

“Some of the people who have been brought into this Alt Right orbit, who are not the intellectuals…are going to turn to a much more reactionary approach,” says Wise.

“I fear that there will be a sort of uptick in blatantly terroristic actions, probably done in lone-wolf fashion, not necessarily organized… I think there will be certain there will be some folks in that movement that say ‘It’s time for war.’”

For years, white nationalism has seen this logic through its notion of “lone wolf” violence. This comes from the “leaderless resistance” model proposed by people like Louis Beam, who saw a failure in electoral politics after his participation in the early campaigns of David Duke. The notion was further proposed by Tom Metzger, the founder of the Nazi skinhead allied White Aryan Resistance who was sued into oblivion by the Southern Poverty Law Center after WAR affiliated skinheads murder an Ethiopian student. Lone wolf action sees spontaneous, disconnected violence and murder as a possibility, with the targeting of Jews, non-whites, and political officials as key action items. While this seems disconnected from the discourse inside the Alt Right, its further consolidation within the larger white nationalist movement and a feeling of political helplessness as conservatism abandons them after Trump’s loss could increase its likelihood. When the rhetoric is of necessity and the method is revolution, unstable individuals who feel like they “must do something” have the potential to slip into acts of seemingly random mass violence.

This turn would be self-reinforcing, as the increasingly violent rhetoric would continue to marginalize the Alt Right, which will continue to push it towards violent tendencies.

 

History Repeats Itself

The pattern of white nationalist failure has been seen over the last several decades as they have had similar periods of crossover. In the 1960s, as the Civil Rights movement began to set fire to the policies of the Jim Crow South, many white nationalists saw a crossover potential in the pro-segregationist movement and organizations like the White Citizen’s Councils. As they began to lose the third-era of the Ku Klux Klan began resorting to terrorist violence, including the bombing of children in churches and the murders of civil rights activists.

Through the 1980s, the failure of white nationalist politics to head into mainstream conservatism led to the creation of the revolutionary group The Order. Using support from militia groups and neo-Nazi havens like the Aryan Nations, they went on a stream of bank robberies and murder until federal agents took them down in fiery episodes of violence.

White nationalism from the Second World War onward has a pattern of attempting to find crossover movements that they can use to mainstream their messages. They are inevitably betrayed by those movements as they moderate, which sends their ideological core to become more radical. This often leads to disorganized actions of mass violence that horrifies their leadership, which were hoping that their ethnic nationalism could finally be taken seriously by the mainstream.

With this pattern in mind, it could be a mistake to dismiss the Alt Right as merely a fringe phenomenon of over-privileged white men using Anime avatars from their basement. The Alt Right has shown its ability to utilize electoral campaigns, but that is the end of its reach since it shares the same identity as the organizations posting on Stormfront, reveling in their long history of violence.

Anti-racist movements will have to tangle with this counter force for years to come, and that is only intensifying in Trump’s America. The advantages that these organizations have today is the years of education and multiracial organizing that have built a base to confront these voices, though undoing their logic of conspiracy theory, scientific racism, and manipulation is going to require an ongoing focus on anti-racist education and community empowerment. As these voices transmute and possibly become more pernicious it will mean a stronger effort in communities to see the threat that white nationalism actually presents for safety and to find solutions that both bring the community together and protect the most vulnerable.

Now that Trump has won, the question remains, what’s next?  As Trump betrays his promises, capitulates to international capital, and is a failure at his primary policy points, it is likely the same direction will happen with the Alt Right.  Some segments are growing, as seen with the recent Lauren Southern event, but others are shrinking as well.  It seems like now that Alt Right is trying to define itself back into its radical image, and the final break with Trump could signal a return to the terrorism that white nationalism is known for.