Category Archives: History

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.

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The Political Theocracy – Trump, the GOP and Fascism

By Benjamin Doscher

Fascism has been omnipresent throughout American history. The Republican Party used the hate generated in response to the twisted fear of the accomplishments of the Civil Rights era, to make it GOP policy ever since — known as the Southern Strategy.

While the Democratic Party steered in a neoliberal direction, the Republican Party took a sharp alt-right— towards fascism. That turn has brought the United States to the present day and represents the overt continuum of this omnipresent protofascism in American history.

Republicans have embraced Trump – his outright racism, xenophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism, nationalism, worship of corporation and tax cut – all part of the cult of Trump, which is part of his neofascism (and fascism is a religion I posit – dealt with in more depth later in this writing) – the GOP establishment supports this and of course their Protofascist Neoantebellum Ideology is part of that agenda – so the leap to Trump (as many have written) and Trumpian Neofascism was not so much a leap, as a baby step.

Credit – Daily Kos

As Richard Cohn writes, in the Washington Post, Trump’s GOP enablers take a page from the fascist-era Vatican:

Mussolini was vain, bombastic, vulgar and, while the creator of fascism, he believed in nothing aside from himself. A former Italian prime minister, quoted in David Kertzer’s book “The Pope and Mussolini,” thought that Mussolini’s chief attribute “was his devotion to the cult of his own personality.” Is this our guy or what?

– – –

It is instructive to read how the Vatican, a moral institution, once put its own self-interest above its moral duty and embraced Mussolini. It is just plain depressing to note how history repeats itself. The Vatican, at least, sold out for church privileges. The GOP business and political class has sold out for greed.

– – –

Pius XI did not like Mussolini – not his swagger, not his use of violence, not his libidinous ramblings and not his vanity. Bit by bit, however, he came to terms with what he loathed and instead concentrated on what was good for the church. This amorality is often called pragmatism.

– – –

In today’s Republican Party, a similar process is under way. The princes of the GOP have elevated business concerns to the level of national interest. This accounts for the procession of Wall Street types who have backed Trump almost from the start – Wilbur Ross, Carl Icahn and Steve Schwarzman, who once said of a possible tax increase on private-equity firms: “It’s a war. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

In a 2015, YouGov Poll Republicans (43%) were more than twice as likely as Democrats (20%) to say that they could conceive of a situation in which they would support a military coup in the United States – this dictatorial tendency is further evidence that the Republican Party is more likely to lead to American Neofascism. Further, a person’s inclination towards authoritarianism directly coincides with support of Trump.

The GOP’s embrace of anti-intellectualism is also a clear embrace of fascism, as Robert Paxton makes clear:

The anti-intellectualism of Trump has also been a long time in the making. It was the Republican establishment that has for decades refused to even consider the science of climate change and has through local education boards strove to prevent the teaching of evolution. Although not as explicit as the Fascists were in their efforts to use the woman’s body for reproducing the nation, the Republican attempts at restricting abortion rights, and women access to healthcare in general have often been designed with the same purpose in mind. Of course American historians have pointed to this larger strand of anti-intellectualism in American politics, but what is different about this moment is that Trump has successfully wedded this anti-Enlightenment mood with the anti-political rage of the Republican base.

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates opined, Tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy. Meaning the longer a democracy exists, the more susceptible it is to autocracy. Thus, this is an acknowledgment of tribalism winning the day over logic.

The United States is the longest continuous form of (pseudo) democracy in history. Trump’s election has, at the very least, validated Socrates’ argument about the potential for American democracy to fall to tyranny.

Trump’s campaign and election exposed what the GOP would never openly acknowledge — its underlying Christian White Supremacist Protofascism led to Trump — now blazingly obvious with its Trumpian Scream.

As Jeet Heer writes in the New Republic:

(Trump) he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.

The propaganda campaign emanating from the Republican Party has been going on for years, with a wink and a dog whistle. Suddenly, its White Supremacist ideals are clear as day and with Trump’s election it now echoes with the sounds of a conversation in a Berlin cafe circa 1939. Propaganda once concealed has now been given a specific name … alternative facts.

Karl Marx, in his infamous metaphor illustrates that religion is the opiate of the people, countless words and minds have debated this notion before and after Marx — the GOP’s Protofascist Neoantebellum Ideology provides an obvious conclusion — the addict is blinded to logic and empathy in pursuit of a fix — so to are the pious.

Alternative facts are the neofascist hit. This is Propaganda in the United States circa 2017.

Alternative Ethics

Alternative Ethics

A storm of hate is engulfing the world — this hate correlates with the demonization of the other — this fear historically, the catalyst to relinquish reason, power and humanity — that release plants the seed of hate, in the fertile ground of ignorance, which sprouts, the roots of neofascism.

Far-right fascist parties have demonized the other in time and memoriam — demonization of the other is currently part of all the Nationalistic Fascist movements in Europe.

Putin surely is ecstatic — it is no secret that the Kremlin has aligned itself with these far-right movements — the United States no different, no matter how many alternative facts are tweeted by Alt-POTUS.

It is not coincidence that all far-right fascist parties in Europe and the United States have scapegoated refugees, immigrants and Muslims — demonizing them as the other. This is apparent in Trump’s own brand of American Fascism. And history repeats — Jewish Refugees fleeing Hitler’s hell on earth were demonized in the same way and stopped from refuge in the United States — sent back to certain death. As Smithsonian.com writes:

In a long tradition of “persecuting the refugee,” the State Department and FDR claimed that Jewish immigrants could threaten national security

Anti-Semitism is the underlying current of hate in all these fascist movements — The Blood Libel runs deep in their dementia — Jews were the original scapegoats — demonized as part of the myth of the resurrection.

Hitler’s virulent weaponizing of this hate created a pit of rabid dogs throughout Nazi occupied Europe — Roosevelt could have lowered a ladder to these Jewish refugees — instead he intentionally refused to, covering the hole and forcing them back into the Reich’s abominable, virulent bite.

The Daily Banter hits the nail on the head:

We are witnessing the opening stages of organized anti-Semitism in the United States. For decades, it was relegated to the fever swamps of the far right, out of sight, out of mind. The KKK and neo-Nazis and Ron Paul Libertarians were still virulent haters of Jews but they mostly kept it among themselves. Now it’s a new day in America and the monsters are crawling out of the shadows again.

When Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller had Trump remove any mention of Jews and anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day, they were signaling the white nationalist “alt-right” that their time had come. A few days after that, word went out that the government would stop keeping an eye on white nationalist extremists. A few weeks later, Trump said, out loud, that maybe the attacks were committed by Jews to make other people look bad, a well-worn anti-Semitic trope.

The message was delivered: No longer would the extremist fringe be considered the detritus of society with their hate-filled philosophy; they had friends at the highest levels of power in the United States. White nationalism and its perennial handmaiden, anti-Semitism, were free to blossom once again. Yes, Trump makes wet mouth noises that sound like condemnations of anti-Semitism and his lackeys tout his daughter and her Jewish husband as proof he loves “The Jews,” but for some reason white nationalists are receiving the message loud and clear anyway: Go crazy, guys.

If it seems strange to you that in the midst of Trump screaming about dangerous immigrants and Muslim terrorists, anti-Semitism is taking root with terrifying speed, you don’t understand the mind of a Jew-hating white nationalist. There’s a special place in the black void that passes for their heart for us. While brown and yellow skinned people are offensive to them, the true threat is and always has been the Jews. We provide the money for black people to move into your white neighborhoods and rape your white women. We keep the borders open so Latinos can swarm into America and steal the jobs that belong to white people. We turn your movies and TV into pro-Jew propaganda. We control the banks and foreclose on your white homes to destroy your white communities. We’re the masterminds of everything that’s wrong with the world today.

It is established fact that any mention of anti-Semitism was left out of Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance day debacle, (a play right out of the Holocaust Denial playbook), Trump’s false flag attack against Jews, his shaming of a Jewish reporter, a prominent Hitler historian delineating that Trump’s playbook is Mein Kampf (and the fact that Trump slept with a copy of it by his bed), a prolific rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes since Trump’s election (legality withstanding), the utter disregard to disavow this, except when he felt forced and than it was done as a side note and a dog whistle, not to mention the meme with Secretary Clinton and a Star of David, and the television commercial just before election day which portrayed the old anti-semitic tropes straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The Trump platform has always been openly anti-Semitic. Trump’s son, Don, Jr., used Nazi propaganda in his description of refugees as skittles. He is not smart enough to create this type of propaganda on his own — the Nazis used the same illogical argument against Jews — back then it was mushrooms instead of candy.

Nothing new is happening here, and nothing new was happening in 1933 either —there has been an undercurrent of hate via anti-Semitism historically. Hatred of Jews has been part and parcel of demonization and scapegoating for millennia and the fact that anti-Semitism is an overt Trump message is all the more vile.

The anti-Semitic, Sebastian Gorka, Trump’s Deputy Assistant to the President, is illustrative of this fact.

Gorka is a member of the far-right Hungarian group Vitézi Rend. No matter what the vile individual says he will always be a member of this group – part of the membership process was a life long oath to always be part of the demonic cult.

Róbert Kerepeszki of the University of Debrecen told a conference in 2014 that Vitezi Rend operated an unofficial secret police to report on dissent and was:

radically rightist, ultra-Nationalist as well as anti-Semitic, never admitting Jews to their ranks

Further, Gorka co-founded with two former members of the far-right, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party, the New Democratic Coalition.

And according to The Forward, Gorka voiced support for and defended the establishment of the Hungarian Guard, an extreme right-wing paramilitary militia led by known anti-Semites.

Credit — The Forward

Needless to say Gorka is a Neonazi and Trump an obvious sympathizer to those views — or more specifically and more accurately a collaborator. Jargon aside they are Nazis. Of all the people in all the world there is a reason Trump chose Gorka.

I go into more detail about Gorka here.


Hate is still Trump’s platform, as a recent article in the Nation indicates:

Trump’s Muslim entry ban and aggressive crackdowns on undocumented immigrants show that he is still campaigning on the undercurrent of hatred that energized his base. Many community activists see an organic link between Trump’s rhetoric and policies and the perceived groundswell of street-level violence, especially in areas with visible Muslim and Latino communities. Though right-wing hate groups are relatively rare in New York City, according to Fahd Ahmed, executive director of the South Asian American advocacy group Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), recent law enforcement crackdowns on Muslim and Latino communities reveal a “feedback loop” between Trump and hardship for communities of color on the ground. Trump’s overheated rhetoric is now directly channeling the talking points of bigots and white supremacists tied to the administration.

Far-right ideologues in Europe and the United States have scapegoated immigrants — that is what fascists do — blame societies ills on a minority to attain power through propaganda and ultimately control the minds of the masses.

Propaganda was and is used to demonize refugees in Europe and the United States. Refugees are associated with Muslims and immigrants on both sides of the Atlantic and Muslims are associated with terrorism.

In the United States immigrants are associated with Hispanics as well — specifically Mexicans. Trump’s demonization of them began following his infamous golden escalator descent. ICE is implementing the horror that Trump inspired and that he has made policy since his inauguration.

Now each word, immigrant, refugee and Muslim can be replaced with other. The propaganda campaign has worked. The other is feared. Even though the other is fiction — the germination of fascism requires mass glorification of absurdity and the championing of meaningless cruelty, writes Alexander Reid Ross in Against the Fascist Creep.

In the United States, Immigration Law is under the direct purview and control of the Justice Department and now Alt-AG Sessions (this reprehensible individual is an obvious representative of the clear connection between the GOP’s Protofascist Neoantebellum Ideology and Trumpian Neofascism) — Article III Courts only have jurisdiction over Appeals from the BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals and Writs of Habeaus Corpus) — the AG appoints immigration judges.

Protofascist Neo-antebellum Ideology resonates in Immigration Law. Immigration violations are, for the most part, civil offenses — this is propaganda, as violation engenders criminal consequence. No other civil violation in American Federal Jurisprudence can cause indefinite detention and a Petition for Habeus Corpus as the only means to redress the injustice. The Petition often failing, and this after prolonged detention in the massive American prison industrial complex.

Apparently, The United States has been criminalizing (otherizing) immigrants since its inception and the only place it is not obvious is in the propaganda of semantics.

The Alt-AG, Alt-POTUS and Alt-POTUS Puppeteer (Steven Bannon — I go into more detail about him here) are directly responsible for the demonization of immigrants and the suffering ICE is causing.

There is now a weekly list of immigrant crimes — this is nothing less than Hitlerian. As the Washington Post explains:

This strategy – one designed to single out a particular group of people, suggesting that there’s something particularly sinister about how they behave – was employed to great effect by Adolf Hitler and his allies. In the 1930s, the Nazis used a similar tactic to stir up anger and hatred toward Jews. Professor Richard Weikart of California State University explained that Nazi leaders used different kinds of communication tools to sell the message that “Jews are criminal by disposition,” as a 1943 Nazi directive to the German press put it. “The Jews are not a nation like other nations but bearers of hereditary criminality,” the order said. Germany, in other words, was out of control, and only Nazi anti-Semitic policies could “restore order.”

Further, the Trump administration created VOICE:

Trump celebrated the creation of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, or VOICE. It will, among other things, put out a regular report on the illicit doings of the undocumented. “I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” he said. “We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests.” (It will be paid for by money spent, in the Obama years, on advocating for undocumented immigrants.)

And like Hitler’s demonization, Trump’s is based on nothing but fear mongering and evil. Senator Sanders called out Trump’s insidious plan, Let’s be clear about what Donald Trump is doing, … He is stirring up fear and hatred against immigrants and trying to divide our nation.

The fear in immigrant communities is palatable — the suffering never ending — the racism and xenophobia, clear as day, and accepted as normal, as is obvious from the lack of adequate media coverage. The Guardian notes:

‘Psychological warfare’: immigrants in America held hostage by fear of raids

The normalization of this hate is noted by Ross:

The “fascist creep,” as I am using the term in this text, refers to the porous borders between fascism and the radical right, through which fascism is able to “creep” into mainstream discourse.

Watch Sessions do just that in his demonization of Sanctuary Cities.

As Nafeez Ahmed illustrates, in Return of the Reich: Mapping the Global Resurgence of Far Right Power — an INSURGE intelligence investigative series:

The anti-EU agenda of these neo-Nazi parties constitutes perhaps one of the greatest threats to international security since the Second World War. Whatever the faults and failures of the European Union — and there are many — this emerging trans-Atlantic neo-Nazi movement sees the collapse of the EU as essential to its fascist project of enhancing highly parochial conceptions of nationalist supremacy premised on excluding an array of ‘Others’ — Muslims, Jews, foreigners, the disabled and sexual ‘deviants’

On January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration, Marine La Pen, the leader of the French far-right party, Front National, met with a group of other far-right fascist movement demagogues in Europe and said:

“We are living the end of a world and the birth of another … 2016 was the year that the Anglo-Saxon world rose up — 2017 will be, and I am sure of it, the year of the awakening of the peoples of continental Europe. We must pass to the next stage, the stage where we are no longer contented with being a minority in the European parliament, the step where we get the majority of the votes in the ballot boxes at each election.”

She called for a “new treaty” on the European Union’s structure, based on far-right fascist rejection of “all authoritarian or totalitarian plans,” … “supra-national model,” and the collective demonization of the other: “to control and regulate immigration” as a “fundamental right” of nation states.

These European and American Nationalistic Fascist movements dream of a once great past — this is a fever dream of the deluded — the creation of this past is what propaganda does and it is within this delusion that those predisposed to fascism already dwell.

Fascists indoctrinate with the promise of a return to a nonexistent gilded age: a time of Anglo-Saxon and pure, of white and of right, of military, of men, of riches, of diamonds, of gold, of adventure, of conquest, of women and weapons, of castles and canons, of murder and mayhem, of hate and of fate.

As Reinhold Martin writes, in Places Journal:

In today’s United States, this is the ground of white nationalist patriarchy, or what its stage managers euphemistically call “economic nationalism.” Its jargon includes “alt-right” code words like “tradition” and “neo-traditionalism,” often accompanied by qualifiers like “Judeo-Christian” or “European.” This is the nativist jargon of a pseudo-philosophy peddled by self-promoting, anti-intellectual impostors. As such it fortifies a mythic, white “people” against their imagined enemies, both political and economic, and implies a gendered division of labor where men produce and women reproduce. As toxic common sense, this jargon helps to construct a socio-technical theater of power that authorizes and enables patriarchal, demagogic speech acts in the first place.

The United States conservative population is indoctrinated with worship — worship of made up morals, worship of preacher, worship of patriotism, worship of flag, worship of military, worship of country, worship of party and ultimately worship of Trump.

The GOP’s fascist flock have been indoctrinated to pray to an all powerful, invisible, omnipotent being and to follow its rules or burn in hell.

The Republican Party’s Platform is epic, pious hypocrisy— evil. The Jesus myth like all others was created to control and abuse the weak — to garner, consolidate and keep power.

And it still is — transcendent hypocrisy — which echoes with Trumpian bombast.

 

GOP Pious Hypocrites

The Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings offer stark evidence of this — Alt-Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee, an exemplary conservative hypocrite, will implement the GOP’s agenda— he did not answer questions with answers, only originalist alt-jurist obfuscation — because doing so would expose this evil.

Senator Al Franken’s questioning at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings illustrates this point.

The religious are more susceptible to fascism — magical thinking begets magical thinkers. One demagogue can replace another.

Fascists don’t wait until death to meet their god — they strive to recreate a past heaven on earth — all they get is a present hell. Zealotry, religious or otherwise, is illustrative of ignorance — it represents the illogical nature of humanity and it will be the downfall of humanity.

The omnipresent chaos that followed 1.20.17 at 12:01PM is intentional — sowed to foment true chaos. Either Trump is malevolent, ignorant or both — but it’s got to be one or the other. This is a zero sum game. It is obvious that the propaganda campaign occurring now is helping both sides and so to would a terrorist attack. ISIS has stated numerous times that Trump is the proverbial harbinger of American and western disdain for Islam — when in reality they need each other — not Islam and Trump but ISIS and Trump.

Trump’s base rallies around fear and hate and so to does the ISIS synchophant. So closely do both sides share the same vitriol towards each other that a Trump synchopant’s brain could be tinkered with and easily flipped to hate himself if immersed in the propaganda of Daesh. It would fit seamlessly into the clash of civilizations that has been the subject of rigorous conspiratorial debate since before that horrendous September day almost sixteen years ago. George W. used the attack to consolidate power, wield war, win election — ISIS grew out of the exact same thing.

The modern American era of propaganda began during those somber days — propaganda feeds fear, the melancholy national mood was primed for Nationalistic fervor — with the other created — the American government began a psyops campaign against its own supposed core values and citizens.

The Republican Party embraced 9/11 with Trumpian gusto and it represents part of the current GOP neofascist narrative, its own origin story or myth.

Martin writes, in reference to the fallen Towers (emphasis mine):

Often it is said that the deaths of thousands made these voids sacred. Before this they were mere property. But it would be more precise to say that after 9/11 the absent towers, like Ground Zero itself, became a sacred stage on which two ways of imagining the nation, as property and as homeland, converged. Speech acts uttered upon this stage secure its sanctity even as that sanctity secures those acts, in a circle of performativity.

This circle is a version of art for art’s sake. Today, it draws the outline of a neo-fascism, or fascism for its own sake. Despite the evident affinities, the current performers do not bear all the markings of their forbears. But the stage that they are building does, in altered form. Modern fascism aimed to build a murderous utopia; postmodern fascism builds a murderous hall of mirrors. It does so ubiquitously, on countless little screens rather than on one big one. Rather than the mass media of cinema and radio favored by their predecessors, today’s pretenders to the throne do their work on Twitter and Facebook, syndicated talk radio and cable television, relying more on recirculation than on rapture. With all the talk of “rebuilding,” of return to a triumphal state of nature where America is American, and where all ground, all property, is sacred “again,” it is easy to miss the difference. What matters in the new theater of power is not (yet) the half-hearted apocalyptic finale, but unending repetition. The show must go on at all costs.

The GOP lashed onto this protofascism — stoked the kindling of fear and ignited the fire of hate — Trump emerged from the flame.

What is occurring now was always the goal of Osama Bin Laden — freedom that we once had has descended into the same netherworld of delusion that he dwelled in. Terrorism has hit the United States with small blows throughout this war — the biggest perpetrated by Al Qaeda on 9/11 — the smallest occurs every second of every day. We are no longer free — we have destroyed ourselves and become what he was — lunatics with only one goal — kill because we fear.

The United States is now led by a moral heathen whose base is ignorant — pious naïveté — indoctrinated with Christian White Supremacy — Protofascist Neoantebellum Ideology — current Trumpian Neofascism.

However, indoctrination is not education. Ultimately, fascism, is a solidarity of cruelty, of the belligerent against the defenseless, masked as spiritual truth for lack of rigorous understanding of fact.

Thus, there is a fundamental disconnect between thinking one is educated and being educated. This is a failure of our educational system and a direct cause of the blinding of the mind by religion. Two separate facts can be linked to reach a logical conclusion. But when these two facts are complementary and this cannot be understood that is the root of the problem. It does not seem as though humans can learn basic logic. Without basic logic philosophy cannot be understood. Humans cannot see that the defending of a supposed culture (or race) which of course is the unconscious mindset of humanity — the nebulous need to be part of and thus to exclude — this is defending the exclusion of every single human that does not conform or ever did not, to every bigoted aspect of what that means — this is racism.

The true failing of our educational system — without a knowledge of the hate that is more a part of the history of humanity … sociologically, historically, biologically … than anything else — and the obvious realization that we are the most brutal, evil animal ever to evolve — we as a species can never evolve.

Human history has from the beginning been based on the simple premise that the quest for power and the comfort of identity (which necessitates the companion of fear of the other) leads to the downfall of society. Fascism and religion are intertwined, fascism and religion are part of human nature.

Fascism is ultimately a religion of reality — an alt-reality — both divine and fascist religions offer a savior and both offer their own demons.

This is a truism that can clearly be seen when you open your eyes — religion and fascism share many of the same components — in fact fascism is just political religion and worship of an earthly god.

It begins on page one of the figurative book of human history … with death — death had to be explained because we feared it. And, what could explain death? It was of course the first gods humanity created. Those gods explained what could not be understood — humans longed for comfort, protection and solace. These gods had the power to provide all of this and those of us that were vessels for those gods preached their will upon the group we lived with — and those that preached these words took the power of those gods and that power was intoxicating.

Soon that group that heard the preaching and was comforted by it, identified as followers of those gods and that preacher continued espousing divine words to his flock. The preacher told his followers what the gods wanted in order to provide for an afterlife that would be heavenly and the preacher was given anything he desired. The followers of that preacher identified with the gods and soon that preacher controlled those followers. An identity was created — religion was all that mattered — it was everything.

1 _53zHKUP31LPBJTh5y9j7g@2x.jpeg
Credit-Benjamin Doscher -Washington, DC 1.20.17

With identity cemented, the followers came upon others that did not know of these gods and did not subordinate themselves to the gods or the preacher and they were castigated — they were the other.

Thus, the origin of religion was the unknown, fear of this unknown was explained by a story — the fear was assuaged by that story but the fear had to be replaced — we, as humans, are always afraid — the other took its place. The other is a historical basis for hate.

Hate and fear leave us vulnerable to tyranny — the first tyrants were religious fundamentalists. Fascism preaches fear of the other — hell has been replaced by a literal hell on earth and this hell has its own demons. All tyrants use human nature to take power and historically religion provides that power — fascism is another form of religion — history has shown that religious indoctrination controls. Fascist religion is a set of rules that must be followed or punishment ensues. Fascists punish with an earth bound hell — religion offers hell after death.

Religion and fascism both destroy free thought, set rules, create order and require worship. Propaganda is used in the same way and for the same reason. Fascism is the religion of party, of identity, of now — religion affords an unquestionable answer, so to does fascism. Follow the rules or die — follow the rules or be punished for eternity. Nietzsche (a fascist himself) opined that God is dead — fascist hell hath no fury regardless; for fascism exists in the here and now.

This is when you realize that chaos is fundamental to history because humans did not evolve to learn from the past. At the pinnacle of technological progress the world is still the same as it always was – tribal.

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 the seeming rise of 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 affected 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

Jeff Shantz is a longtime anarchist writer, poet, photographer, artist, and organizer involved with numerous anarchist projects. He currently teaches critical theory and community advocacy at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Metro Vancouver, unceded Coast Salish territories.

Shantz is the author of numerous books including Crisis States: Governance, Resistance, and Precarious Capitalism (Punctum 2016) and Commonist Tendencies: Mutual Aid beyond Communism (Punctum, 2013). He is co-founder of the Critical Criminology Working Group (http://www.radicalcriminology.org/) and founding editor of the journal Radical Criminology (http://journal.radicalcriminology.org/index.php/rc). Most recently he has initiated an action research project on, and against, social war policing in the suburbs (http://www.thesocialjusticecentre.org/new-page-1/). Samples of his writings can be found at jeffshantz.ca. Follow on twitter @critcrim.