Garbage Floats in with the Tide: For Autonomous Antifascism

bw-sea-tide-shipwreck

In his “Notes on Trump,” Bromma posits that the election of Trump and the accompanying rise of the far right are not simple accidents of history, nor the result of some single failure on our side or success on theirs, but are conjoined expressions of a deep phase-shift within the global capitalist economy. Whereas the fact that a wacky reality tv star was the one who ushered this in, and that it happened in 2016 and not 2015 or 2017, might be a matter of contingency or chance, a lurch to the populist xenophobic right was predictable, perhaps unavoidable. This is an important claim, one which, if true, has strategic consequences for those of us who seek to resist what is coming.

While it is important to not fall into the trap of viewing political and cultural phenomena (“superstructure”) as being automatically set in place by economic considerations (“base”), we can nonetheless see that the latter often determines the possible ways the former might develop.

In this light, certain characteristics of the far right today gleam with particular intensity. For instance, while the far right always had important gender politics, in the current moment gender is explicitly centered in new and unstable ways, as different tendencies vacillate between wildly different positions. Whereas a perverse “femonationalism” has taken hold over large sections of organized racists, especially in Western Europe, positing Islamophobia and outright white supremacy as justified on “feminist” grounds, the alt-right in the United States swings the other way, embracing misogyny and a series of masculinist tropes.

Similarly, the “unipolar” post-Soviet world has been one of porous, unreliable state sovereignty, for a variety of reasons including but not limited to what some have termed the “hollowing out” of the state. In this context, far rightists have explored fantasies as to how to use zones of chaos, statelessness, and warlordism, as opportunities to bootstrap their own “tribal” minarchies. The welcome so-called “anarcho-pluralists” and “national anarchists” have received from larger far right forces, not to mention the authoritarian path of American “Libertarianism,” seem less anachronistic, and more significant, when this fractious global reality is taken into account.

Bromma’s text therefore points to Trumpism, and the current prominence of the far right, as being noteworthy for the way in which they signal that the worm has indeed turned; even though they themselves may only be precursor phenomena for what could be a cascading series of jumps to the right, to authoritarianism, ultimately towards a new cycle of genocide and war.[1]

If the motor force behind the night and fog descending is structural and present on a world scale – then ultimately, this points to global structural change as being the best bet to jam history’s gears and set ourselves upon a better path. That’s the “big picture” solution, one we must keep in mind – but looking at the far right surge as a corollary to this capitalist shift also demands more practical decisions for the immediate future.

RADICAL

The word “radical” comes from the Latin word Radix – itself ironically the title of an important alt-right publication – a word that means “root.” To go to the structural root of the historical dynamic we are enmeshed in, is therefore to be radical – and a radical vision, both going to the root of things and imagining ways of completely uprooting them, is made more urgent with every tremor that cracks the historical terrain.

Developing a radical stance means not only deepening our opposition to the far right, but also disconnecting our analysis and our positions from the system the far right so often claims to oppose. As troubling as it is, this sets a treacherous path before us, where we must resist automatic “left” or “antifascist” unity, while continuing to intervene against far right offensives. A task made all the more difficult by the fact that much that the far right sets itself against is itself a surface expression of the same deep structure that we ourselves oppose.

It is worth making sure this is not misunderstood, because it resembles a theory being muttered in some quarters, that leads nowhere good. Neocolonialism creates contradictory cultural and political phenomena – secondary effects of neocolonialism’s integration of oppressed and oppressor within structures that work to maintain these oppressive dynamics. Some of these secondary effects seem to promote the interests of historically oppressed groups, some seem to work against their interests, but all within this larger system that relies on massive and even genocidal oppression around the world. (And keeps its finger always on the trigger ready to kill to defend this order.) In this sense, the “whitelash” and the alt-right are themselves secondary effects of neocolonialism, just as are various new forms of middle-class etiquette and campaigns to “decolonize” aspects of capitalism without eradicating capitalism itself. Sensing this, some argue that the latter have caused the former – one common formulation being that white reaction is a “response to identity politics.” Whereas in fact, both what is often being referred to as “identity politics” and white reaction itself are secondary effects of the deeper neocolonial order – each may exacerbate the other, but neither one will go away just because the other does. They are generated by something deeper, the global economic and political structure itself.[2]

If opposing the far right everywhere, while not necessarily lining up behind everything the far right attacks, seems like a paradox, it is one that will only be solved to the extent that we develop positive reference points for ourselves and others. This means figuring out our social base, those who we will prioritize relating to, and whose interests we will take as our concern. This also means putting forth our own alternatives, ones based on our own values. Both tasks raise questions – what social base? what values? It is in how we answer these questions that we will finally learn who we really are. And it is here that communism, anarchism, and other “unrealistic” (and certainly unpopular) dreams, may prove themselves to be more realistic and practical than what the reformists and liberals have on offer.[3]

CULTURE

We are witnessing an entire constellation of ways of thinking and acting and being, all associated with a particular historical era (and with it, a particular configuration of capitalism), being pushed aside. Certainly, the charade of liberal multiculturalism and the pro-capitalist version of state-sanctioned “feminism” even, were as much products of the neoliberal moment, as were the invasion of Iraq and the proliferation of mass incarceration. Today, we see other forces pushing their way through, coming in with the tide, with giddy plans to change all this. Just not for the better.

In lockstep almost, Trump’s trajectory in 2016 grew alongside the enthusiasm of millions of alienated and angry privileged white men fed up with one facet of neocolonial culture. With every homophobic, ableist, racist, or sexist statement, those grounded in the neoliberal consensus felt more certain that The Donald “could not win” – and yet with every such pronouncement his support increased. On a cultural level, this was indeed a “whitelash” – one full of personal hatred against Barack, Michelle, and Hillary, to be sure … but not just against them, nor even just against the neoliberal clique that had won every election since Reagan … no, theirs was an anger against the entire neocolonial order and how it chafed. As the alt-right Traditionalist Youth Movement noted, “Even if Trump had never stated a single policy position, his alpha male frat boy bullying of the media and the left is a revolutionary thing in itself.”[4] They are correct.

Trump is not unique in this regard. The demagogue who appears to the polite left as a buffoon but to the broader public as a “man of the people,” is a mainstay of the populist right, radical and not. Ask a Canadian about Rob Ford. Such figures are especially attractive in times of rapid change; they are easy for a certain demographic to project their own feelings onto, whatever those may be – and if such figures seem a bit “nuts,” or unpolished, doesn’t that make them all the more accessible, reassuring even? Along these lines, it is worth quoting at length from Franco “Bifo” Berardi, in his discussion of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (a Trump prototype if ever there was one):

“Silvio Berlusconi’s behaviour is incomprehensible to the conservative Right and Left, whose political reason follows traditional models. They see it as indispensable to respect official language and cannot imagine a context for political action outside of adherence to legality. But the strength of Berlusconi’s media-populism lies precisely in the systematic violation of the taboos linked to political officialdom and legality. […] What seems most unbearable and provocative to the custodians of severity is the ridiculing of political rhetoric and its stagnant rituals slyly and systematically operated by Berlusconi. But there are reasons to believe that the large majority of people who constitute the ‘public’ of politics (the electorate) were amused by this ridiculing and provocative gesture and in many cases conquered by it: they identified with the slightly crazy Premier, the rascal Prime Minister who resembles them, as at other times they had identified with Mussolini and Craxi.

“The majority of the Italian electorate grew up as TV audiences at a time when television became the primary vehicle for informality, vulgar and coarse allusiveness, the language of ambiguity and aggressiveness. Thus they spontaneously found themselves on the same cultural wavelength as Berlusconi, with his language, words, and gestures, but also with the deprecation of rules in the name of a spontaneous energy that rules can no longer bridle. […]

“To the plebeian coarseness of Berlusconi and his perky banqueters in government, the Left responded with prissiness and consternation in the face of the violation of the language of political correctness. But calling out ‘Scandal!’ proved to be a losing argument against the policies of the centre right government. In fact, part of the secret of Berlusconi’s success in politics lies precisely in the use of excess.”[5]

Like the Italian left criticized here, many today feel it enough to describe (accurately) the sexism and racism of Trump and his far right supporters, and cry out “Scandal!” And of course, it is scandalous, horrific. However, here too, just saying so is a losing gambit: those neocolonial and neoliberal rules and norms are not something we can rely on or properly defend any more, even when we want to. They’re a ship sinking in a shallow harbour – can’t be rescued, even though sections may stay above water, maybe even indefinitely – the important thing from our point of view, is that as a vehicle to go somewhere, or an alternative to appeal to people with, it’s not going to work very well. We need a break with all that, one that goes to the root. Easier said than done, of course.

AUTONOMOUS

To be radical for us therefore requires a break, a separation. It requires autonomy from the same system and culture the far right also claims to attack. Autonomous, radical, antifascism strives to not go down with the ship.

Beyond the culture war, nurturing autonomous radical opposition to the far right also makes good tactical sense. Not long after Trump’s victory, as thousands took to the streets night after night to express their outrage, Democrats were already sheepdogging for the new administration that days earlier they had dismissed as simultaneously fascistic and impossible. In her first statement after the election, Hillary Clinton announced that people had to “accept this result,” that they owed the new administration “an open mind” and a “chance to lead.” In a more concrete vein, Bernie Sanders would later explain that “It’s one thing to kill the TPP … it’s another thing to develop a trade policy that finally works for American workers and not the CEOs of large multinational corporations, and if Mr. Trump is serious about moving in that direction I’d be delighted to work with him.” The “responsible opposition” postured as the “resistance,” all the while condemning the black bloc and antifascists. As the 1st of May Anarchist Alliance noted at the time, “Perhaps the most revealing aspect of this moment is that after spending months describing Trump as a grave threat to the lives of women, people of color, queer and trans people and the disabled, the entire Democratic Party has immediately capitulated to him. They have made clear that they always held preserving their broken system to be far more important than our lives.”[6]

In such situations, there is a direct relationship between how quickly we can act, how clearly we can see, how easily we can relate to the people in the streets, and how well we have kept ourselves away from those forces intent upon capitulation/integration. Again, we strive to not go down with their ship.

On a very practical level, autonomy is a safety measure. Cooperation with state actors, or with organizations that seek ties to sections of the state, will always leave more radical forces vulnerable to manipulation and repression. Or to simply being used as a commodity up for trade, in one of the predictable deals that such groups must always make. Indeed, on more than one occasion state-allied organizations purportedly working against the far right have turned their fire against our side. While the most infamous examples are probably the 1993 revelations about the Anti-Defamation League’s collaboration with (apartheid) South African agents to assemble intelligence and smear progressive and anti-Zionist organizations, and the Southern Poverty Law Centre’s attacks against radical environmentalists in the 2000s, these are just the visible edge of a much wider phenomenon, one that plays out in small, trivial, and dangerous ways every day.[7]

Autonomy from the state does not guarantee our success (or survival), but it does give us a chance to set our own goals, and to fight for space in what is becoming an increasingly claustrophobic situation. Avoiding integration by the state and keeping our own priorities clear are more necessary now than ever. We may never be a majority here – that should not come as a surprise in a society based on theft and murder around the world – but that does not mean we can’t get stuff done, or that we’re not better off with a smaller but surer number of allies. As J. Sakai remarked years ago, an “obsession with needing a social majority has nothing to do with being ‘practical’. What it has to do with is bourgeois and defeatist thinking. This is like the left thinking that could not build a practical anti-fascist movement in Weimar Republic Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, although millions hated Nazism and wanted to do something, because that German left was too preoccupied with fantasies of either seizing or getting elected into state power for itself.” Prescient words indeed.

That said, autonomy in any complex multisided fight is an ideal which cannot always be put into practice. We must expect that we will be showing up at the same demonstrations, even sharing the same podium, with groups and individuals we do not entirely trust. (Not necessarily anything new there.) These situations have to be navigated on a case by case basis, real life not offering any guarantees.

“Autonomy” begs the question: Autonomous from who? From what? As our goals are social and political, our autonomy contains within itself its opposite, as we must be constantly reaching out beyond ourselves, putting our identities and our separateness on the line. On the level of offense, we need to win over the undecided, to be there at the moment where something makes them think twice – as such, we need to be where people are, even if this means not being comfortable or at ease ourselves (but to be effective, we had best not cling to our discomfort). On the level of defense, on a tactical level, we need to be able to work with larger numbers of people, without being burned by state-supportive elements but also without burning people who are not yet down with our complete programme. In other words, in terms of both defense and offense, we need people. So our autonomy is outward-looking, standing against the self-referentiality of the sections of the left. At the same time, it navigates away from state, systemic, and pro-capitalist forces that would trap us within their orbits and agendas.

Perhaps the best we can do at this point is to remember that there is no way to make ourselves (or our allies) bulletproof to the consequences of such unavoidable circumstances. Tread with care, and keep your cards close to your chest.

METAPOLITICS

After World War II, the imperialist west entered a long period of growth and relative stability. There was not a single successful revolution, either from the left or the right, in a “core” metropole from this point on. Major challenges to the world economic system, for instance the end of formal colonialism, did throw the system into crisis, but in the end were handled without the violent overthrow of the ruling class in any of their “home” countries.[8]

That said, the challenge thrown up by the anticolonial revolutions was massive. That this “should have” provided an opening for revolution in the core countries simply indicates how great the barriers (parasitism, chauvinism, racism) always were to such a possibility. Still, the imperialist countries could not neutralize anticolonialism without themselves being changed, and not just superficially. What we are witness to today is just one massive aftershock to this (and the way this aftershock plays out may throw a very different light on the past half century, showing that what we thought was up was really down, that what we thought was over had really just begun). Painful though it may have been, this change was something the ruling class could do, had to do, and once they did it, the stability of the postwar imperialist states and their new neocolonial consensus seemed practically unassailable. (Until, of course, it started to stumble.)

This had major consequences for the far right, which became increasingly hostile to the neocolonial solutions that the former colonial powers pursued, as most clearly evidenced in North America by phenomena such as the nazified “Fifth Era” Klan, the Posse Commitatus, etc. At the same time, this new situation led some of the more insightful far rightists to reject the quick march to power as simply impractical. It was in this context, in France, that a school of thought known as the European New Right first emerged, intent on rehabilitating fascism and racism and making them appealing to future generations. Focusing on the ideas, cultural forms, and assumptions that undergird formal politics, the approach adopted was termed “metapolitical” by its partisans. The goal being to shift the entire discussion in their favour, with a focus on the “elite.” Explicitly, this was a “war of position,” and Gramsci (and Mao) were discussed with interest in the ENR’s highbrow journals and symposia in this light.

It is thanks to their metapolitical strategy, borrowed directly from the ENR, that the U.S. alt-right has been most successful. A particular kind of success that has caused the “mainstream” to be enthralled by the spectacle they provide, as they contest areas where the (neo-)liberal consensus reigned, and where leftists grew complacent. We may not have expected to enjoy hegemony there, but we certainly did not expect the far right to be contending for it, either. Maybe we expected them to be the main radical force in the rural midwest, in the hillbilly churches, the army, or the prisons – but not on the nightly news, where depending on the venue they may be presented less as a freakshow for pundits to make fun of, than as the voice of a “forgotten America” said pundits wish to reconnect with.[9] This caught us off guard – but not nearly as off guard as it caught the liberals, which partly explains the media fascination with the alt-right, especially just after the election, trying to decode its appeal and debate its meaning. A fascination that does nothing so much as it provides an opportunity for their next major advance – because, despite the liberal hype, the smartest fascists are not into normalizing or mainstreaming, they’re into pulling the “mainstream” onto their terrain.

While recognizing the strength of a metapolitical approach, and how strongly it can boost a group’s importance on the level of ideas, it is worth noting that it does not a complete fascist movement make. Specifically, metapolitics aim to eventually win by shifting the parameters of debate everywhere, but do not immediately translate into any capacity to make their supremacist dreams reality right now. This points to an important initial weakness of the alt-right, namely its lack of any effective street presence. Until well into 2017 it remained a conglomeration of elitists who meet at private conferences, and populist keyboard warriors who rarely leave their basements, all of whom seem to have experienced their lives before Trump as some kind of inner emigration from the hostile – supposedly anti-male and anti-white – world around them. While they punched above their weight in the realm of public opinion, as we saw, this didn’t protect them from real punches in real life. This lack of a street presence proved a crucial factor in how things played out in the first months of the year. Our opponents were clearly aware of this, and there were a number of attempts to overcome this limitation, for instance in the calls for an anti-Jewish march on Whitefish, Montana, and in Gavin McInnes’s Proud Boys Network.

Finalizing this paper in April, the events in Berkeley – in which members of the alt-right came together with Patriots, neonazis, Republicans, and independent Trump supporters – seem to indicate that our opponents have overcome this weakness, and that basing our long-term strategies on an assumption that they will always be the ones we send running is a dangerous mistake. It is unclear how easily they will replicate this success – as has been noted by others, Berkeley was the result of a national far right mobilization against a local antifascist countermobilization – however we can’t afford to assume this was just some freak event.

Again: It is important to appreciate that what has changed is just the latest big lurch, in what we can predict will be an ongoing cascade of jumps to the right, and away from the neoliberal consensus that too many of us had grown comfortable with.

SPECULATIONS #1: SPLITS

It did not take long for observers from all sides to start noting the likely splits to occur between the insurgent far right and the Trump administration. What is perhaps less easy to recognize, is that such splits, when they happen – and indeed, some of them have already happened – also present our side with a challenge.

The alt-right and Trump each benefited from throwing their hats in history’s ring at just the right time. While the lurch to the right may have been structurally determined, their particular good fortune was not: despite the obvious talents of all involved, there was more than a little (bad) luck at play, too.

As the paths that together make up their awkward dance fall in and out of sync, this latest far right iteration finds itself occasionally at odds with the “new” political establishment, and its ongoing need to mediate and manage ruling class interests. Whether as an authoritarian racist regime, or as a simple demagogic kleptocracy, whichever way Trump heads, it’s unlikely to satisfy all the forces now in motion. (While discussions such as this can seem whimsical in that they are almost guaranteed to fail at guessing the future, we benefit from thinking these possibilities through in this abstract way, if only so that we can later see where we went wrong.)

Let us assume – for no good reason, really – that the more “responsible” ruling class approach is adopted. At first some hopefully claimed that Trumpism in such a scenario might involve a strategic withdrawal from the Middle East; more recent events seem to indicate that it is more likely to involve a dramatic escalation there. Either way, though, the kinds of increased social bribery Trump promised his supporters can only be paid for by increased imperial plunder, which eventually brings with it all the same problems that bedeviled the globalizers. The hopeful claim made by some on the left, that Trump would be worse for people inside the United States, but Clinton worse for people around the world, was a lot more convincing when everybody knew Clinton would win.

In the months since i first started writing this text, cracks have already appeared. Much of this speculative section is now outdated. And more will be before it goes to print, or ends up in a reader’s hands. Suffice to say, that being aware of the differences between different players and factions, not just using the same most-inflammatory or polemical terms for them all, is necessary in order to understand what is going down, and how we orient ourselves.

Splits between the non-systemic far right and a far right administration will be irresistible for some on the left, who may feel compelled to seize the opportunity and enter the fray, on one side or another. Needless to say, past experience shows that doing so often ends badly. The ability of the state – even a Trumpist state – to integrate left-wing movements, stands in parallel with the ability of sections of the far right to forge “red-brown” alliances of their own. Without our holding the center of gravity, with the tide against us, such dalliances will always leave us weaker, less steady, less what we need to be.

Which seems obvious beforehand, but may be less so when we notice who else is protesting the first Trump war, or when we are faced with Breitbart calling for a crackdown on their erstwhile friends, or perhaps themselves are the target of said crackdown.

There will be no “easy bits” on the road we must walk.

SPECULATIONS #2: CRISIS OF THE STATE – POSSIBILITIES OF A COUP

There was for a while much chatter about coups. Such talk might be done with, or might come again. The possibility of some kind of disruptive course correction from the neoliberals within the u.s. state was certainly there at least in the first days of the administration, as was the possibility of preventive countermeasures, but even then it must be said it was always highly unlikely. Which is not to say that nothing can be gained by thinking about it, of course, or that such a possibility had no impact on moves our opponents made.

There are abstract realities that we can map out, however doing so has only a distant connection to what would be necessary were such an eventuality to come to pass. The relationship between the two is similar to that between knowing the rules and the betting odds of a sports championship, and knowing as a competent player on the field where and how to kick the ball (not to mention being able to do so).

What we do know, is that under such conditions – whether a coup for or against Trump – sections of both the far right and the far left would be repressed, while sections of the far right and of the “left” would be used by the state to help with the repressing. To the extent that we have failed to retain our autonomy, and that we have failed to develop a sympathetic social base, we will be mopped up before we can figure out how to respond.

Given that the spectre of such a clampdown appears on both sides of the ruling class mudwrestling match, broad unity or affiliation against one side (in the name of democracy or antifascism or whatever), will conversely make us vulnerable to instrumentalization/integration by the other (and quick neutralization if we balk too much).

Even in these surprising times, this a highly improbable scenario; there is so much to lose for the ruling class (and not only the u.s. ruling class) if the regular state system breaks down in the united states, that all factions have a strong incentive to swallow all kinds of bitter pills rather than allow that to happen. However, this is not to say that the possibility, even if never realized, is without consequence.

More than anything, the talk of a coup was itself a sign, a shrill echo, of the crisis of the state under Trump. This is a characteristic of imperialism in decline, and one that is unlikely to lessen without a new equilibrium being forged between increasingly fractious capitalist elements – not a probable scenario.[10]

THE YEARS AHEAD

2016 represented a lurch to the right, both within and opposed to the u.s. state. History, experienced “live,” can be dizzying, and even before his election, friends and comrades were claiming that Trump was a fascist. Certainly, there was smoke, and there are live embers, but the overall situation remains more complicated than those initial claims. It is through that complexity that we must now fight.

What is to come will require political principles, to distinguish us from our far right and state-allied rivals, and also to allow us to develop and deepen our own political and social bases, and put forth our own alternatives. Anti-racism and anti-sexism are vital, but these terms must be given real content; they become ghosts of themselves when confined to the symbolic field and without an orientation towards those suffering economic marginalization, intensified exploitation, ever-harsher poverty, i.e. the proletariat. Liberation from structures of domination, an embrace of people as they choose to be – and with the power to make that choice in a meaningful way – without exploiting or oppressing others. Perhaps the biggest challenge to those of us in the metropole, especially in the oppressor nations, is finding what our base can even be, in societies founded on and maintained by white supremacist parasitism. In this regard, neat and tidy formulas represent a bad habit we need to get over, fast.

While Trump and the alt-right benefited from an extraordinary confluence of factors – not least for each being the other – there were deep structural factors at play that made such a lurch inevitable, if not now then soon enough. This is not “fascism,” and the alt-right are different from the mass reactionary movements the United States and Europe have seen in the past. But the night is still young.

One thing is clear, revolutionary left politics in North America are more relevant today than they have been for decades.


NOTE TO READERS: This essay was never going to be finished. Started writing in in December 2016, every few weeks coming back to it. Often things had changed so much i had to remove or rethink bits.  i was always uneasy with this piece, especially with my own tone in it, but comrades insisted they saw something worthwhile, and after a point i had put enough time into it that even if it is 100% useless to most people, it will serve as a reminder to me of what i have been thinking.  And then i shared it with a number of people who pointed out a number of issues, which i dealt with perhaps clumsily in some very long endnotes. Particularly encouraging, comrades from the journal Red Skies at Night  expressed interest in printing it in their journal — it will be appearing there this May, minus some last minute edits i made here prior to uploading.


 

ENDNOTES

[1] Before continuing, a note on tides, cycles, history: Bromma’s text, like this one, uses the metaphor of the tide, that global phenomenon of the oceans being pulled back and forth roughly twice  a day, something that has been going on ever since the moon was split from the earth. As regular and predictable as clockwork. Metaphors, however, should not be taken literally. Bromma also, more than myself, takes the old-school setup that ruled prior to the mid-20th century global shakeup as a reference to where things are heading in the current era of the right ascendant. This can give the impression that what we are experiencing is a return to the past, that globalization is over and will be replaced by the same kind of setup that existed beforehand. Some readers may even think it means that neocolonialism will revert to old-style colonialism – not a claim that Bromma makes, it should be noted.

History after all is not like a tide. While it goes through repeated cycles where new phenomena carry with them what superficially may look like returns to the past (“history repeats itself”), in actual fact it is more like a spiral moving both circularly and in a particular direction at the same time. Not only does a full cycle not bring one back to the same point as before, but there are also chokepoints, qualitative boundaries, which once surpassed cannot be undone or reversed.

I am unsure, simply because I don’t feel I have a proper grasp of the macro-economic mechanics, as to whether or not Bromma’s view is correct, that the wave of globalization has crested, and that that is the economic sea-change being expressed in the rise of the right. However, I do proceed with the firm sense that whether globalization has crested or not, that neocolonialism in the context of the decline of imperialism is itself sufficient to establish structural parameters that will foster far right racist politics on a mass popular level, often with anti-elitist and even anti-systemic characteristics, as nations built around privilege sense that this core aspect of their identity now needs to be aggressively reasserted and defended.

Furthermore, it should not be assumed that even if Bromma’s formulation is correct, if globalization has crested, that this means a return to the status quo ante. The exact lines of division and forms of oppression that were challenged and to some extent displaced in the 20th century may reassert themselves – or they may not. Structurally, what is important is stratification, exploitation, hierarchical division – these are the sources of social power and overall cohesion for capitalism – the precise lines and forms these take are to a real if limited extent up for grabs. (It is very much this “up for grabs” that motivates all kinds of political actors, including those organizing and leading the right-wing surge, but also many who may appear to be on our side.)

As indicated above, my gloomy thoughts are not contingent on even that much being true. What they do assume is that the neoliberal and globalized form of capitalism is in crisis and is shifting to something new (whether this superficially resembles the past or not), and that this coming world will be a more hostile terrain for us, one that in numerous ways will make things worse for oppressed people, encouraging even greater racism, sexism, and violence both towards and between oppressed groups.

[2] How many things in life are complicated! Deeper, or more central, phenomena, seem to always throw up these contradictory surface-level expressions of themselves, sometimes separate but more often than not still tied to each other, spinning around each other’s center of gravity like some wobbly unstable binary star. Or maybe electrons around a nucleus would be a better analogy – and think of the energy that is released when an atom gets split. But how to do it is the trick. We need to learn to see how phenomena contain contradictory characteristics, and we need to be patient with the fact that what helps us and what hurts us can’t always be separated just by announcing that that’s our intention. Whether we’re talking about antifascism, “identity politics,” decolonization, Marxism or feminism or anarchism – the expectation that these things will be simple, take it all or leave it all, the final word …  are likely to disappoint.

[3] In this regard, the recent interview with Kieran on KPFA Radio is highly recommended. It has been transcribed and is also available on the Three Way Fight blog.

[4] http://www.tradyouth.org/2016/08/why-is-the-altright/

[5] After the Future, Franco Berardi Bifo, pp. 116-7. I am grateful to AK Press for publishing this book, and also for individuals from around AK for highlighting these specific passages for me.

[6] “No One is Coming to Save Us: An Anarchist Response to the Election of Donald Trump” First of May Anarchist Alliance, November 11, 2016. http://m1aa.org/?p=1268

[7] Those in canada may also be interested in the pathetic history of the Ligue Antifasciste Mondiale (World Antifascist League) in this regard: http://kersplebedeb.com/posts/cops-and-lam-go-hand-in-hand-1997/

[8] While Turkey, Greece, Portugal, and Spain all experienced what might be termed “revolutions” during this period, these countries existed in a condition somewhere between the imperialist core and the colonized periphery. Furthermore, when abrupt “illegal” changes of government did occur, they came from within the state, shepherded by NATO and other bodies of international capitalist order.

[9] Not to mention direct impact. The “alt-lite” Breitbart website, for instance, somewhat predictably improved its Alexa ranking from 1000 in the summer of 2016 to the 600s just before the election, to the mid-200s immediately after the election, and has continued to improve more slowly since then. (By comparison, flagship media sites like cnn.com and nytimes.com maintain ratings in the 100s.) More hardcore racist websites associated with the alt-right – the Traditional Workers Party, National Policy Institute, The Right Stuff, etc. – all saw similar predictably dramatic improvement in their ratings in 2016, with major jumps in November, though most lost some of these gains in the early months of 2017 (and all of these sites remained in the 1,000s or 10,000s).

[10] In this regard, recent articles in The New Yorker and The Washington Post about the Mercer family and the impact of the Citizens United decision on the U.S. State are worth reading and thinking about seriously.

K. KersplebedebK. KersplebedebK. Kersplebedeb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *