Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trumpism, conspiracism, fascism and capitalism

This revelation is simultaneously weird, upsetting and hilarious...
President Donald Trump shouldn’t agree to talk with special counsel Robert Mueller without knowing more about a man said to have approached Trump campaign aides in 2016 as part of the U.S. investigation into Russian election interference, his lawyer said Saturday.

Rudy Giuliani said Mr. Trump could be “walking into a trap” unless federal prosecutors make clear the role played by the suspected informant and whether the person compiled any “incriminating information” about Mr. Trump’s associates.
Where to begin?

This statement -- from Trump's own lawyer -- rests on the foundation that the Trump campaign really is guilty of something. Just as there would have been no surveillance without cause, there would be no possibility of a "trap" without an actual crime.

Whatever that "something" is, it must be big. Everyone knows that you can't trap the President of the United States (or his associates) on an inconsequential or highly technical matter -- not if you hope to make the charge stick. Any such exercise would be pointless.

Republican propagandists want us to think that Mueller is somehow responsible for actions taken by the FBI long before the Mueller probe got underway. Unfortunately, the kind of people who vote for Trump tend to have difficulties with chronology. We're talking about the  same people who once were convinced that the Branch Davidian siege in Waco began under Bill Clinton. (I've seen guys become purple-faced furious when I told that the Bush administration ordered the raid -- and this was back when memories of the event were quite fresh.)

Hell, there are people out there who can't recall the date when 9/11 happened. I doubt that the poor dears could tell you whether BC or AD came first.

Conspiracy. The propagandists have been absolutely masterful in portraying the FBI's probe as itself criminal. If the Bureau was out to get Trump for political reasons, why didn't they mention before the election that they were investigating the guy? Trump's victory owes a lot to James Comey's selective revelations.

The "deep state" conspiracy theory -- once considered a paranoid fantasia -- has become Trump's sole defense. Trump has forced the rest of the Republican party to embrace that theory, even though many of them seem embarrassed by it. Someone once said that the myth of the Illuminati was a "scarecrow to frighten the gullible." That scarecrow -- or at least his brother -- now guards the White House.

How can we convince the populace that the scarecrow is just a scarecrow? I'm not sure that we can.

Scarecrows can be surprisingly formidable.

Adolf Hitler's power, like Trump's, was founded on conspiracy theory. The Reich Chancellery was also guarded by a scarecrow. All of fascism requires conspiracism, for the defining characteristic of the fascist is the desire to subordinate reality to the all-conquering Will, and conspiracy theory is the only weapon which can accomplish that goal.

Any "fact" which contradicts what I want to believe is a deception created by a band of malign schemers, and any person who stands in my way is part of the plot.

That statement is the quintessence of fascism. Everything else is a mere detail.

Fascism and religious fundamentalism are linked by their mutual reliance on conspiracy theory. Here in America, we've tolerated a massive network of "madrassas" -- fundamentalist Christian schools -- which taught millions of children that evolution is a hoax perpetrated by a worldwide conspiracy of Jesus-hating scientists. Although many of those children later fell away from religion, I doubt that they fell away from belief in baseless conspiracy theories. The worms of paranoia burrowed tunnels in their brains, and anything can now fill those voids; if you grew up believing in a Darwinian conspiracy, you'll probably get suckered into accepting a global warming conspiracy.

You're also more likely to believe in an Evil Clinton Conspiracy (or perhaps an Evil Soros Conspiracy) capable of controlling the FBI. Never mind the clear evidence to the contrary: As I've argued in previous posts, elements of the FBI and the intelligence community actually helped Trump rise to power.

The "Clinton controlled the FBI" conspiracy theory -- which few took seriously a mere year ago -- has spread like the flu after WWI. The people who buy into this nonsensical scenario never seem to notice that the very same propaganda organs spreading this story once assured them that Saddam Hussein perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Did the New York Times or the Washington Post create that false impression? No. Fox News did. Right-wing media did.

As I've said on many previous occasions: Some conspiracies are real -- and the conspiracy theorists are the conspirators.

Fascism and capitalism. In saner times, Trump's attempt to use his office to destroy Jeff Bezos would would lead to impeachment. Trump maintains a firm hold on power even though he has alienated the world's richest man (Bezos) as well as the world's second richest, Bill Gates.

Those who consider capital to be the all-powerful factor must now ask themselves: Why is Trump still in office if the world's wealthiest men disdain him?

Zoom out for a wider angle. Let us consider the larger topic of the relationship between fascism and capitalism.

Back in the day, the USSR party line on fascism was simple: Fascism is the final stage of capitalism. Hitler, said the Marxists, was a puppet of the large capitalists. Nazism was created for the purpose of attacking the Soviet Union.

A generation of lefties, including a great many non-communists, took this claim as gospel. I recall hearing this same analysis in a speech given in the early 1990s. For a while, I was among the seduced.

Unfortunately, this claim never had much historical merit. Most of the big capitalists in Germany supported center-right parties until very late in the game. They never really trusted Hitler; he was too uncontrollable, too ideological.

In recent times, a myth has arisen that Hitler was funded by the Bush family. Not true: The Bushes invested in the Weimar system which Hitler overthrew. In fact, the early Nazi party received much funding from American anti-Semite Henry Ford, publisher of the Protocols and later the darling of the John Birchers. (Never forget that Alex Jones arose out of the Birch milieu.) This American money was laundered by figures within the German military who were sympathetic to Nazi idelogy.

So, yes, some elements of Big Money supported the Nazi takeover. You can't accomplish anything without money. But for a good long time, the largest donations came from foreign sources.

As the saying goes, history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Today, some lefties consider Trump to be just another puppet of Big Capital. If so, why is he willing to annoy both Bezos and Gates? Are there any bigger capitalists than those two?

As in the 1920s, so too today. The Big Money funding American fascism seems to be foreign. And fascism is once again proving that it can conquer capitalism, with a little covert help from the so-called "deep state" that Trump pretends to despise.

History does rhyme.
Joseph, Masterful. "Some conspiracies are real -- and the conspiracy theorists are the conspirators." “Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?” Lady MacBeth, Act V, Scene 1

Online post allege 2 payments made by DOD’s Off of Net Assessment (ONA) to a subcontracting agent (SCA) on 9/27/16 and 7/26/16 conveniently fit the timeline for a GOP narrative alleging the SCA was an FBI ‘mole’ who infiltrated the Trump campaign (not an informant) to aid Democrats.

A Jones and R Stone, notorious consp. theorist & loosy-goosy oppo researcher, have blabbed about an FBI "mole" in the Trump campaign. The hardly credible Sam Nunberg downplayed Stone's 2nd betrayal of the U.S. covert agent in 2 yrs. DOD/DCS/DIA/ONA own any legal issues: the SCA contract isn't w/DOJ/FBI. Is the GOP narrative a Plame-out: who is motivated to discredit in one fell swoop the SCA, DOJ/FBI, & DOD/DCS/DIA/ONA?

The GOP’s narrative, w/Dems & FBI conspiring to run ops that spied on the Trump campaign (“worse than Watergate”), it ignores key facts. Why was the ONA contract w/a CIA operative? Why didn't DOJ own the contract and payment? Why would Comey reopen a damaging Clinton investigation 2 weeks before the election? Why are early Dutch intel tips not factors? DOD/DIA typically share foreign intel w/ CIA & State Dept, but ONA routinely lacks intel contract details. Which sr leaders authorized or knew about a DOD op to explore links between members of Trump’s campaign and foreign agents from July to Aug '16?

Historically, DOD HUMINT has no great love for CIA. Sharing info across agencies creates risk if well-positioned political actors use other agencies’ intel to stack the deck: suppressing investigations, discrediting the free press, and reducing gov. transparency.

This looks like a bloodless internal coup crafted to discredit DOJ, tar the DOD, and eviscerate the FBI, the agency that is the biggest threat to investigations of corrupt actors, breaches of Nat Sec, violations of democratic processes (e.g. voting), money laundering, tax fraud, human trafficking, etc. GOP leaders have already gone to extraordinary lengths to concoct stories based on incomplete facts in hopes of fatally wounding the Mueller investigation and shutting down info on foreign interference w/ the election. The GOP's conspiracy-covert op narrative begs a question: are there precedents for these ops in other elections, such as Ukraine,…?

Extending most favored nation status to investors in leaders’ political and personal business interests violates a primary duty to serve the people and the law. The rise of a "professional" political class, whose collective ignorance, cupidity, and fund-raising ability are pre-requisites for campaign viability, have inexorably diminished our democracy.

Stink emanates from places eager to bury the Mueller investigation. After DOJ shakeups, was Pompeo’s sudden Xfer from Dir CIA to SoS needed to suppress facts that would expose a fake GOP "narrative", sinking “proof” of a “deep state” conspiracy, the pretext for fascist exorcisms of “corrupt” partisan “enemies” in State, DOD, DOJ, and FBI. Rosenstein is unlikely to identify the informant, increasing pressure on him to resign even if the CSA’s name is all over the internet.
dataflo ; ; ; 5/19/18

FBI probably had informants (spies) within the Clinton campaign as well. No matter who gets elected you always want to make sure your budget gets approved. The FBI hasn't changed much from the days of Hoover. The lure of being the power behind the throne is just too intoxicating.
OK, on fascism...

When and by whom were the Nazis (NSDAP) first called "fascists"?

And why? I suspect that those who ordered the application of this label were seeking to convey the message that the Nazis were basically upstarts, too big for their boots, exponents of an ideology that originated in relatively weak and backward Italy, mere copiers, and (therefore) doomed to fail.

(Of course that does not explain every use of the label. When Hitler was still in power there were some anti-Nazis, such as Otto Rühle, who argued that the world was heading towards "world fascism". Clearly when they referred to "fascists" they did not mean to invoke connotations of "losers". There were also many who were less pessimistic than Rühle who wished to point up what they saw as a world danger. After all, once the Francoists had won the war in Spain only a few months passed before Germany - and the USSR - invaded Poland.

And although the Nazis themselves did not call themselves "fascists", there were also some far-right nationalists outside of Italy who were happy to call themselves by that term, such as Oswald Mosley in Britain. Which was a mistake on their part. Mosley was adulated by his supporters but many saw his movement as foreign-inspired, which in its iconology it certainly was - the black shirts, the salutes. The style of his favoured upper-body podium garb was actually based on a fencing jacket, but I doubt that many whom he might otherwise have won over were aware of that. Had he styled his brand in a more British and English way, and perhaps called his party the "National Labour Party", he might have gone a lot further. Of course Hitler too used coloured shirts, but he didn't call himself a "fascist" and nobody seems to have got very far pinning a "foreign" label on his movement. In Russia meanwhile the military hats used by the "red" side in the civil war were chosen to invoke the spirit of the legendary bogatyrs of Russian folklore. That explains the pointy hats. Have a look at Dziga Vertov's 1924 film "Soviet Toys".

In Italy, birthplace of fascism, nobody called the German Nazis by that term, although Italian fascism did in its later years contain a Nazi tendency, which termed itself "Nazi-fascist" and was home to a number of Steinerite maniacs. That's a tendency with which I suspect many influential figures in today's world are far more familiar than they like to let on.)
The relationship between fascism and capitalism has been addressed by many on the left in a way that has been crude, if often well-intentioned (although hardly well-intentioned by Leninist arseholes). But when it comes down to it, fascism is all about money. It's just that the critical use of the concept of "money" needs to grasp its ontology and also its historical dynamic...which is about the objectification of the vast majority of individuals and essentially the advance of a kind of slavery.

Trump - in his brand message the great maker of "deals" - officiates at the cult of money with a fervour that I cannot recall in any previous US president.

The idea of "cultural capital" could have some mileage if it weren't covered with so much bullshit by academics who spout their "cultural Marxist" rubbish with little clue about Marx's critique of political economy, about what "capitalism" is, and who are essentially comfortable scribes with no passion or profundity in their scribblings. The sad thing is that the neat conceptual division between "political", "economic", "social" and "cultural" is and always has been total crap, purveyed by the likes of clueless superficialists wholly at one with US capitalist power, such as Talcott Parsons, and further spouted by French and French-influenced academics who like most academics challenge nothing or very little. But if "cultural capital" is properly understood as literally and not figuratively a flavour of capital, critique can get somewhere - and it can shed light on questions such as the differences and similarities in where Bezos and Trump draw their social power from.
b, there's a lot to chew on here. For now, I will say this: I think you mistakenly conflate "love of money" and "love of capitalism." King Midas loved money, but was hardly a capitalist in the modern sense. Yeah, Midas was a mythical figure, but you get my point: There were plenty of people who loved wealth in the days before Adam Smith and the Industrial Revolution and all that.

My post was overlong, which is why it did not include a section Putin and the Russian oligarchical system. It's not capitalism and it's not socialism. It's in a category of its own -- neo-feudalism, perhaps. This system harkens back to pre-capitalist forms of avarice, in which the ultra-successful man of business is not a creation of the market but a person selected on the basis of his fealty to an authoritarian leader.

You say fascism is all about money. I say fascism is all about neo-feudalism. And this is the system which Trump (operating more by instinct and personality than by any kind of coherent ideology) would like to install here.

As you know, Marx's critique of capitalism was founded on admiration for capitalism's achievements. Thus, I think Marx would be as repulsed as anyone by neo-feudalism.

Ultimately, I think we're headed toward a new society which may look a bit like the Ralph Richardson section of the film "Things to Come."
b, the Vertov film was brilliant. Crude propaganda made semi-sublime by sheer weirdness.
@Joseph - Glad you liked the Vertov film. Unpleasant, but brilliant.

Trump thinks his own "greatness" has raised the Dow and thereby created a lot of value, so I agree it's money he is worshipping rather than capitalism. But even if he doesn't appreciate it, money nowadays is essentially a form of capital and all money is capitalist money. One cannot usefully take money, wage-labour, male domination, debt or other such features of society that have existed since ancient times and trace their development down in isolation, from thousands of years ago to the present day.

(Something such as the dream should be excluded from the list, but there are reports - from various angles - that people in Russia are dreaming a lot about Putin. Those who manage the culture in that country know very well what's going on. Perhaps Trump is featuring in dreams in the US?? But Russia is a much older country...)

Even the money that is used in small-scale circulation to mediate the reproduction of the proletarian is mediating the reproduction of the capitalistically exploited wage-labourer, or the maintenance of those who are kept alive pending possibly being put to work (or breed) in the future - or the maintenance of those who simply can't be rounded up and killed YET for reasons of expedience relating to the balance of class power. An "unnecessary" expenditure that our rulers' advisers are working on reducing.

I embarrassingly misused the word "literally" after deciding not to call cultural capital a "kind" of capital and to switch to the vaguer word "flavour". But cultural capital is literally capital. It is invested in production, reaped, amassed in greater quantities than the investment, and sometimes lost. It is totally within the cycle of money capital -> commodity capital -> more money capital. Sometimes, as happened in the USSR a lot of the time, money capital doesn't get logged in terms of currency units. Most people in that country engaged in wage-labour in return for money in their wage packets with which they bought food etc., even if more vacations were organised through the workplace than in the US, etc. etc., and the exploiters had a very different accounting system from the one in the west.

We could go kabbalistic and say all capital is cultural capital but that would be too easily misunderstood.

True that Marx praised some of the achievements of capitalism, even if he said there was no crime it wouldn't commit given a high enough profit rate. Also you gotta hand it to the guy who first called the modern school a sausage machine. What I like about his work is how he shows that capitalism unlike previous societies is fundamentally economic, about the imposition of scarcity. It's a shame he didn't show more rage in his writings. André Breton could have taught him a thing or two :-) As for the "dialectics of nature" - argh! I don't know why he didn't distance himself from "science" but he never managed to. There it was: Comte (who was insane), Malthus, Spencer, Galton, Morgan. He could have sussed how it all stuck together and denounced the lot of it, head-on. How I'd love to believe that no radical critic since 1990 has sung the praises of capitalism's latest achievement, the internet.

As for neo-feudalism, in Britain the culture is increasingly that everyone outside of the upper orders is receiving whatever they get as some kind of permitted allowance in return for their faithful obedience...whether that's minutes on their phone tariff or treatment in hospital...

Also into the analysis: money in the form of numbers of "likes" and "followers" shown on people's "accounts" run in their name by advertising companies is becoming an ever more "common" currency without being "freely" convertible. Perhaps it's similar to "clout" ("blat") in the USSR?
Regarding Neo-feudalism, Wiki says that "The term originated as a criticism of the left". Neo-feudalism is described as
"unequal rights and legal protections for common people and for nobility" and
"widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the state's provision of security" and
"individuals' public lives are increasingly governed by business corporations" and
"the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship".

If all of this (and much more) sounds familiar, it's because it is happening in real-time. Right now, as you live and breathe. Billionaire Nick Hanauer, a very proud Capitalist (he literally calls himself such), correctly opines that "our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society". I would take it further and say "our world is rapidly becoming less a classically capitalist society and more a neo-feudal society."

Regarding the relationship between fascism and capitalism. The leading definition of fascism is that it is "palingenetic ultranationalism". Which means that it is hypernationalism rooted in racial identity. I disagree with this definition because that is not the kind of fascism that first occurred with Italy. In fact, Benito Mussolini was very much against the NSDAP and Hitler's racial policies and ideology (partly because they excluded the Italian people) and refused to go along with the anti-Jewish campaigns (which would culminate in the Shoah/Holocaust). Mussolini specifically called the Nazi racism "stupid" and "unscientific" and considered Nazi policy to be thoroughly discredited by science. My point is, the fascism in Italy lacked the racism we equate with fascism today. The weird hybrdid fascism that occurred in Germany had racism (especially racism against Jews and Slavs) as its basis. Thus the notorious comment where Hitler says (and I'm paraphrasing) that he didn't care if a thousand pregnant Slavic women died while preforming slave labor (Slavs tended to be more used for penal slavery, whereas Jews tended to be outright executed) if it improved the life of even one German/Aryan woman. My point is, I don't think racism originally belonged to fascism. I think it was imported by disgusting and wretched figures like Rosenberg, Goebbels, Himmler, and their cohorts.

And how did fascism actually come to power in Italy? It came to power because King Victor Emmanuel III (who still held absolute power even during Mussolini's dictatorship) thought he could use the fascists to preserver capitalism. Capitalism, as King Emmanuel III saw it, was under threat and the King feared a communist/Bolshevik coup that would see him ousted if not executed. The communists had already tried to preform a coup and failed. After the communist failure to oust the Italian monarch and his security forces, Mussolini and his fascists tried to do a coup. The fascists also failed. But this time, instead of simply imprisoning or putting the fascists to death for crimes against the state, King Emmanuel got an idea. He decided to appoint Mussolini as head of government, thinking that the fascists would violently exterminate the communist problem in Italy.

So the first fascist government came about through the power of monarchy with the intention of preserving two things: crown and capitalism. So, yes, Fascism is what Capitalism does when it's mortally threatened. And the racism (specifically the anti-Jewish stuff) we equate with fascism was not part of Italian fascism. So what is fascism if not a type of racism? I would say that fascism is a type of capitalist hypernationalism. A fusion between capitalism and hypernationalism. Blend the two ideologies together, you get fascism.
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