“trump was no more a fascist than biden a socialist”

In the Wake of the Riots: The Blowback from Defeating Trump was Criminalizing Dissent
Roger D Harris, MintPress News, Jan 26 2021

A padlock secures a guarded access gate outside the Capitol, two days after the inauguration
of President Joe Biden, Jan 22 2021. Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP

The Capitol building riot of Jan 6 marked the messiest transition in the recent history of ruling class power from one chief executive of the capitalist world to the next. If that history is any guide, the change of guard neither portends better treatment of working people nor a reduction of the threat of fascism. Trump may have been booted off the mainstage, but the next act promises to be worse. Beyond the particularities of either Mr Trump’s or Mr Biden’s personalities, or even the parties they represent, fundamental institutional factors have, and will likely continue, to determine the trajectory of neoliberal capitalism towards an ever more authoritarian state. Austerity for workers, and imperialism abroad.

Neoliberalism is the current form of capitalism in the US, replacing the New Deal regime that incorporated elements of social democracy. Jimmy Carter foreshadowed the neoliberal era with his mantra of deregulation and small government. The “small” referred to the state’s role to ensure the social well-being of its constituents, but not its coercive functions, which would expand. Next came the full-blown neoliberal Reagan revolution. When Democrat Bill Clinton became president, he did not reverse the trajectory of neoliberalism. Instead, he extended it by passing NAFTA, ending “welfare as we know it,” contributing to mass incarceration, deregulating banking, and launching wars of his own. And in those endeavors, he was assisted by then-Senator Joe Biden. While Republicans and Democrats are not the same, no lesser an authority than then-President Obama explained that the “divide” is “not that wide,” with “differences on the details” but not on “policy.” Differences between the two parties lie in their “rhetoric and the tactics versus ideological differences.”

Biden may bring some relief: he will be better about wearing COVID masks and is rejoining the voluntary Paris Climate Agreement. But as a whole, there will be more distinctions without differences as with the two parties’ response to the existential threat of global warming. One denies it; the other believes in it, but fails to combat it. Under oilman George W Bush, US oil production declined. Under his Democratic successor, production nearly doubled with Obama bragging:

We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some.

Biden defended fracking, promised the military-industrial complex that war appropriations would be maintained, and guaranteed Wall Street “nothing would fundamentally change.” Next Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured the new administration’s imperialist policies would follow Trump’s, but will “more effectively target” official enemies such as Venezuela and will double down on Russia.

According to the rulebook for bourgeois democracy, the POTUS serves the interests of the owners of capital. To legitimize this arrangement, elections are staged to give the appearance of choice, but only those who can raise billions of dollars can successfully run. The blatant buying of candidates by the rich is protected as “free speech” by the US Supreme Court. The presidential primary is an audition contest where hopefuls prove they can appeal to the voters while being vetted by funders. Donald Trump gamed that extravaganza riding on his TV reality show celebrity and personal wealth. He was lavished with billions of dollars of free TV coverage because his antics boosted ratings. Hillary Clinton and the DNC, as revealed by Wikileaks, abetted his campaign. Against expectations, Trump became number 45. Throughout most of his presidency, his rule was garden variety neoliberalism with a veneer of racist, nativist populism. Despite hyperbole from left-liberals, Trump was no more a fascist than was Biden socialist. Trump erratically made rhetorical feints against establishment orthodoxy “to get out of endless wars to bring our soldiers back home, not be policing agents all over the world.” He railed:

Unelected deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself.

Last spring and into summer such maverick utterances gave way to anti-China, anti-BLM, and anti-socialist rants. The veneer of hard-right populism became increasingly Trump’s essence as he careened towards the debacle of Jan 6. The event of Jan 6 was a demonstration turned riot, leaving five fatalities. But did it rise to the level of a coup? After storming the Capitol building and taking selfies, the demonstrators simply left after a few hours. Regardless of the intentions of the inscrutable Mr Trump, the clumsy and violent attempt to influence the electoral process by disruption did not and could not have led to the seizure of state power because all the institutions of state were aligned against him along with a nearly unanimous ruling class. The Democrats, most of the corporate media, and much of the left reported a premeditated attempted coup, focusing on the violence, collusion by police and Republican politicians, and the racist nature of elements of the crowd. Their emphasis afterward has been on the punishment of the Trumpsters so as not to “embolden” fascism, while downplaying the need to address root causes: treating the symptoms and not the disease.

Some right-wing media claimed that Trump walked into a trap designed to discredit and isolate him. A poll taken shortly after the incident found 68% of Republicans believed Antifa incited the violence. Although such involvement is highly unlikely, the poll suggests many Trump partisans did not favor the violence and thought it was a false flag operation. Putting the event to the cui bono test (who benefits), the outcome went badly for Donald Trump. The flight into the Democrat Party’s big tent precipitously accelerated by members of Trump’s own party, his administration officials, military brass, and security state spooks, leaving a sitting president with little more than his next of kin to comfort him. His prime creditors, the Deutsche and Signature banks, dropped him. Cutting to the quick, even the US Professional Golfers’ Association canceled their scheduled tournament at one of his golf courses.

Fascism is a form of capitalist rule where the legitimizing role of elections is done away with in favor of more authoritarian means of maintaining elite hegemony. If the façade of bourgeois democracy can be maintained, the ruling elites have no need to impose a dictatorship over themselves to preserve their class rule. Analogies made of Trump to Hitler are misleading. While material conditions for many Americans are distressing, they are not as dire as Weimar Germany. Nor do the Proud Boys and company approximate the hundreds of thousands of trained and armed paramilitaries under Hitler’s direct command. Most importantly, the mass working-class communist and socialist parties in pre-Nazi Germany were positioned to contend for state power. As long as such contending forces are absent, the US ruling elites have little incentive to resort to a fascist dictatorship. But that does not mean that they need not prepare for the contingency of fascist rule, which is where the present danger resides. The collateral damage of the Democrats’ offensive against Trump may turn out to be the left. Bans from social media and broad definitions of sedition have been and will be used to suppress progressive expression and action. Particularly misguided is the leftist acquiescence to the establishment’s call for yet new repressive legislation, such as Biden’s domestic anti-terrorism measures. Even existing hate crime legislation has been used to disproportionately target people of color.

Jill Biden surprises National Guard troops outside the Capitol with cookies, Jan. 22, 2021.
Photo:Jacquelyn Martin | AP

Already on the books, Obama’s abrogation of habeas corpus and Biden’s incarceration state legislation facilitate fascist rule. The Democrats’ romance with the FBI, CIA, and other coercive institutions of the unelected permanent state may be harbingers of a dystopian future. That supermajorities of Democrats in Congress voted to extend the Patriot Act and for the war budget should be warnings that supporting Democrats to defeat Republicans risks falling into the pit of preemptive fascism. Proposed cures for Trump’s purported fascism may cultivate the disease. The blowback from the victory over Trump is criminalizing resistance to the government.

The left-liberal framing of Jan 6 as a violent fascist assault has some validity, though it paints the tens of thousands of demonstrators all in one color, failing to put to the forefront the underlying causes of right populism. Underplayed is the distress that has fed the movement led by Trump. That 74m people voted for such a repugnant figure is proof that folks are hurting and looking for relief. Not all Trump voters identify with the racist, populist right veering towards fascism. Many are traditional Republicans, fiscal conservatives and simply people seeing the bankruptcy of liberalism, who voted for what they perceived as the lesser evil. Within that assemblage, from a progressive point of view, are those that can be won over, those to be neutralized, and those to be defeated.

The second impeachment of Trump was a gift allowing the Democrats to appear to take decisive action. This symbolic gesture did not cost their donor class, nor did it address relief from the pandemic and the economic turndown. Had timely $2000 stimulus checks been distributed, some of the wind might have been taken out of the Stop the Steal demonstration on the 6th. With Democrat majorities in both houses, Congress refuses to vote on Medicare for All at a time when record numbers of people have lost their health insurance while being threatened by a deadly virus. The Squad demonstrated that they were more beholden to their party’s leadership than their constituents’ health but got off the hook of #ForceTheVote with the distraction of the Capitol building riot.

Neoliberal capitalism is heading into a crisis of legitimacy as the system proves itself increasingly incapable of meeting the needs of its people. Class disparities during an economic recession are ever more evident. US billionaires added $4t to their net worth since the onset of the pandemic. That obscene windfall was a product, not of a rising economy, but of a bipartisan policy to benefit the class the politicians serve. Meanwhile, the politicians are still bickering over a stimulus package that will be a fraction of what was already gifted to the superrich. Petty partisan sectarianism by both major parties is on full display. Republicans believe the Democrats stole the 2020 election; Democrats believe the Russians stole the 2016 election. Three-quarters of the US population agrees the country is heading in the wrong direction. Overall, the failing institutions of bourgeois democracy are being seen as fraudulent. Although conditions appear ripe for fundamental challenges to the capitalist system, incipient challenges have either been defeated or co-opted. The November presidential election was noteworthy, given two truly unattractive candidates. Rather than a rejection of the two corporate parties through abstention and third-party resurgence, the opposite happened with the absorption of a historically vast popular mobilization contained within the two major parties of capital. Trump’s and Sanders’s campaigns both spoke to popular discontent, though with different messages. That these potential insurgencies could be contained within the two-party duopoly is a testament to the current strength of bourgeois institutions. Trump’s stepped out of bounds and was crushed. The other attempt was derailed by the DNC, and the campaign co-opted into supporting neoliberalism.

Bernie Sanders has been unfairly criticized for not leading a progressive insurgency out of the Democrat Party. But Sanders has always been a principled epigone in the Democrat Party who would not bolt for fear of facilitating a Trump victory. Sanders is kept around for his ability to give the Democrats a false patina of progressivism. Had the Resistance been the genuine article and not the “Assistance,” the political landscape would have been different. Instead, the progressive movement massively capitulated. The slogan “dump Trump and then battle Biden” of the self-described “progressive thinkers” was at best ingenuine, because they surrendered their guns, their vote, before going into battle. Now, these leftists of faint heart, having passed the “we have to hold our nose and vote Democrat” phase, are in the “hopeful” phase of their perpetual four-year lesser-evil cycle. This soon will be followed by the predictable “so terribly disappointed” phase and then a brief “we’ve been sold out” phase. The Trumpsters are more perceptive; they go directly to the “sold out” phase. Ashli Babbitt recorded a video yelling:

You guys fail to choose America over your stupid political party!

Shortly thereafter, draped in a Trump flag, she was silenced, fatally shot by Capitol Police. The system failed her and millions more, and it is at our peril to ignore their cries of anguish. She had no illusions about failed liberal pretensions, which is a clue why right-wing populism is on the rise in the US and globally. Indicative of the current state of the left is that “red states” are right-wing. Ralph Nader has been haranguing the liberal-left to get outraged for decades. No-one has to make that plea to the populist right, whose outrage is manifest and dangerous. Trump may recede, but right populism will not because the conditions that foster it continue. As the neoliberal state’s crisis of legitimacy matures, anti-terrorism laws and the institutional apparatus of fascist repression are being perfected to use against future insurgencies. Tahe left is faced with serious challenges, from (1) the neoliberal state and (2) right populism precipitated by failures of that state, and will need to develop effective means of struggle on both fronts.

6 Warning Signs from Biden’s First Week in Office. The “progressive” candidate praised as a “woke bloke” seems to be carrying on where all his authoritarian Imperialist predecessors left off
Kit Knightly, OffGuardian, Jan 27 2021

It’s been a busy first week for the 46th POTUS, there are the 20k troops occupying the capitol cityto organise, as well as the totally unprecedented show-trial of his immediate predecessor. You know, usual democracy type stuff. On top of that, Biden has now signed at least 37 executive orders in his first week. The record for any President, and more than the previous four presidents combined. What do these orders, or any of his other moves, tell us about the future plans of the recently “elected” administration? Nothing good, unfortunately.

1. VACCINATION PASSPORTS

I still remember people claiming the introduction of vaccination passports (or immunity passes or the like) was just a “conspiracy theory,” the paranoid fantasy of fringe “covidiots.” All the way back in December, when they were getting fact-checked by tabloid journalists who can’t do basic maths. These days they are rebranded as “freedom certificates” which are “divisive, politically tricky and probably inevitable.” Many countries are already preparing to roll it out, including Iceland, the UK and South Africa. Biden’s “Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel” adds the US to this list:

International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis. Consistent with applicable law, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of HHS, and the Secretary of Homeland Security (including through the Administrator of the TSA), in coordination with any relevant international organizations, shall assess the feasibility of linking COVID-19 vaccination to International Certificates of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) and producing electronic versions of ICVPs.

2. CABINET APPOINTMENTS

Biden’s cabinet is praised as the “most diverse” in history, but will hiring a few non-white people really change the decades-old policies of US Imperialism? It certainly doesn’t look like it. His pick for Under-Sec State is Victoria Nuland, a neocon warmonger and one of the masterminds of the Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014. She is married to Robert Kagan, another neocon warmonger, co-founder of the Project for a New American Century and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and one of the masterminds behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The incoming Sec State, Antony Blinken, is also an inveterate US Imperialist, arguing for every US military intervention since the 1990s, and criticised Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. Biden’s pick for Sec Def is the first African-American ever appointed to this role, but former General Lloyd Austin is hardly going be some kind of “progressive” voice in his cabinet. He’s a career soldier who retired from the military in 2016 to join the board of Raytheon Technologies, an arms manufacturer and military contractor. As “diverse” as this cabinet may be in skin colour or gender, there is most certainly no “diversity” of opinion or policy. There are very few new faces and no new thoughts. So, it looks like we can expect more of the same in terms of foreign policy. A fact that’s already been displayed in:

3. IRAQ

Despite heavy resistance from the military and Deep State, Donald Trump wanted to end the war in Iraq and pledged to pull American troops out of the country. This was one of Trump’s more popular policies, and during the campaign Biden made no mention of intending to reverse that decision. Then, on the very day of Biden’s inauguration, Daesh conducted their deadliest suicide bombing for over three years, and suddenly the situation was too unstable for the US to leave, and Biden is being forced to “review” Trump’s planned withdrawal. The Iraqi parliament has made it clear it wants the US to take its military off their soil, so any American forces on Iraqi land are technically there illegally in contravention of international law. But that never bothered them before.

4. AFGHANISTAN

Turns out the US can’t withdraw from Afghanistan either. Last February Trump signed a deal with the Taliban that all US personnel would leave Afghanistan by May 2021. Joe Biden has already committed to “reviewing” this deal. Blinken was quoted as saying that Biden’s admin wanted:

to end this so-called forever war [but also] retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place.

As a great man once said, nothing someone says before the word “but” really counts. The US will not be withdrawing from Afghanistan, and if there is any public pressure to do so, the government will simply claim the Taliban broke their side of the deal first, or stage a few terrorist attacks.

5. SYRIA

Far from simply continuing the on-going wars, there are already signs Biden’s “diverse” team will look to escalate, or even start, other conflicts. Syria was another theatre of war from which Donald Trump wanted to extricate the US, unilaterally ordering all US troops from the country in late 2019. We now know the Pentagon ignored those orders. They lied to the President, telling Trump they had followed his orders, but not withdrawing a single man. This organized mutiny against the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces was played for a joke in the media when it was finally revealed. There will be no need for any such duplicity now Biden is in the Oval Office, he was a vocal critic of the decision to withdraw, claiming it gave Daesh a “new lease of life.” Indeed, within two days of his being sworn in a column of American military vehicles was seen entering Syria from Iraq.

6. DOMESTIC TERRORISM

We called this before the inauguration. They made it just too obvious. Before the dirty footprints had been cleaned from Nancy Pelosi’s desk it was clear where it was all going. Within 24 hours of being sworn in as president, Biden had ordered a “review of the threat posed by domestic terrorism.” As usual, the press are laying down the covering fire for this. Talking heads have been busily comparing MAGA voters to al Qaida in television interviews. The WaPo and New Yorker Journal have cut-and-paste pieces about this supposed threat. Politico published an article titled “Biden vowed to defeat domestic terrorism. The how is the hard part,” which outlines what Biden could do:

Direct the Justice Department, FBI and National Security Council to execute a top-down approach prioritizing domestic terrorism; pass new domestic terrorism legislation; or do a bit of both as Democrats propose a crackdown on social media giants like Facebook for algorithms that promote conspiracy laden posts.

That last part is key. The “crackdown on social media” part, because the anti-Domestic Terrorism legislation will likely be very focused on communication and so-called “misinformation.” Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has publicly called for a congressional panel to “rein in” the media:

We’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.

And who will be the target of these crack downs and new legislations? Well, according John Brennan (ex-head of the CIA and accomplished war criminal), practically anybody:

They’re casting a wide net. Expect “extremist,” “bigot” and “racist” to be just a few of the words which have their meanings totally revised in the next few months. “Conspiracy theorist” will be used a lot, too. Further, they are moving closer and closer toward the “anyone who disagrees with us is literally insane” model. With many articles actually talking about “deprogramming” Trump voters. The Atlantic suggests “mental hygiene” would cure the MAGA problem. Again AOC is on point here, clearly auditioning for the role of High Inquisitor, claiming that the new Biden government needs to fund programs that “de-radicalise” “conspiracy theorists” who are on the “spectrum of radicalisation.” As I said at the beginning, it’s been a busy week for Joe Biden, but you can sum up his biggest policy plans in one short sentence: More violence overseas, less tolerance of dissent and strict clampdowns on “misinformation.” How progressive.

2 Comments

  1. Paul
    Posted January 27, 2021 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Its true that while we are judging them on how well they fit into our ever-evolving definitions of what constitutes a “Fascist” or a “Socialist”, they are ploughing on doing what they do regardless, and by the time we’ve found a pigeon-hole with which to explain things they’ve already moved on to the next travesty. Reminds me of…..

    ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out…” (claimed to be from Karl Rove, though never really sourced directly).

    Nothing has changed.

  2. niqnaq
    Posted January 27, 2021 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    I see it as the two wings, left wing and right wing, having more in common with each other than with the centre, which is the actual government, which has becone totalitarian.

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