Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Just Happened -- National Socialism Wins When Socialism is Abandoned

I was here in Portland, Oregon when Obama won in 2008.  Me and my two-year-old daughter were hanging out in a pub, listening to our favorite local band (the Pagan Jug Band).  The pub and the streets of Portland around it were full of celebration.

"We won!" some very enthusiastic, drunk guy with dreadlocks shouted too close to my sensitive ears.

Wanting to get away from the pandemonium, I carried Leila outside.  A young man dressed in black, standing against the wall, looked like he felt as out-of-place as I did.

"Meanwhile in Afghanistan," he said.

At least there's one sensible anarchist among these very friendly but clueless hippies, I thought.  It wouldn't take long before both of our suspicions of what had just happened were confirmed, as our new Black president appointed a team of rich, old white men to lead the US further down the road of neoliberalism and imperialism.

Fast forward eight years.  Leila is ten now.  Last night a friend and neighbor of hers here in Portland was having a little birthday party, and most of the parents were getting drunk on very good beer (Leila's friend's dad brews his own) and getting high on very good weed (another parent in the neighborhood grows some of Oregon's finest cannabis).  And they were all looking shocked and confused, consulting those who were glued to their phones every minute or so for election updates.

For about 24 hours prior to this, my Facebook page was awash in hundreds of comments related to my prediction that Trump was going to win, and especially to a song and essay I wrote about how I didn't have any idea whether this outcome would be better or worse than the Democratic Party's alternative (of more Clintonian neoliberalism and imperialism).  The comments were all over the map, but many of them expressed complete confidence that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and that she and her party represented the lesser evil.

Why were they all so sure Clinton was going to win?  Well, there were a few who expressed their belief that the election was rigged and that the outcome was predetermined.  (They were wrong, at least on the predetermined aspect.  US democracy is very corrupt and extremely primitive, but it is an oligarchic pseudo-democracy, not a monarchic one.)  Mostly, they were so sure she would win because they don't understand why so many people would vote for Trump.

Why were they so sure that Trump didn't have the widespread support he clearly has?  Because these people live in a bubble.  (Obviously.)  What kind of bubble?

There are many aspects to this bubble, or these bubbles.  Social media tends to be an echo chamber full of people who agree with you, more or less.  I mean, it's all relative -- within a general agreement there can be lots of vitriolic disagreements.  So my Facebook friends and Twitter followers include lots of people who agree with my general assessment of our two-party plutocracy (it's all shit).  This group includes a diverse array of anarchists, socialists, and communists from throughout North America and northern Europe, primarily (not coincidentally, mainly people living in the countries where I tour a lot).  And then there are a lot of people who believe the Democratic Party to be the lesser evil, particularly, it seems, in this most recent election.  Among this group, my friends were divided between those capable of reasonable discourse, and pro-Clinton bullies, flinging largely baseless accusations at anyone who disagreed with them.

Among the hundreds of people commenting on Facebook (drawn from a total of around 10,000 friends and followers, mostly white men from the United States), not one person advocated for voting for Trump.  This is the nature of social media, for better or for worse.  It does not give us a clear vision of any kind of shared reality.  It is, by nature, an echo chamber.  (And sometimes echo chambers have great acoustics!)

If these folks were also getting their news from more traditional forms of corporate-controlled media (aside from corporate-controlled social media), as most of them probably were, then they would have been similarly out of luck.  Most of the media that I listen to, watch and read, such as NPR, BBC, the Guardian, NY Times, etc., was virulently anti-Trump -- in a way that was different from media opposition to any prominent politician in my memory, aside from Bernie Sanders or Ralph Nader.

Personally, I felt so out of touch with what was going on in this country that I subscribed to Donald Trump's YouTube channel, and started listening to his speeches from beginning to end.  Then it all made sense.

All I was ever getting on most corporate, public and community media to date had been the most incendiary quotes from the landlord of landlords from New York City.  And to be sure, xenophobia and racism played a huge role in his campaign.  But what I learned from listening to his speeches was that far from the way he was generally characterized as a flip-flopping madman spewing whatever bile happened to come out of his mouth on a given day, changing his positions with the wind, here was a guy who was staying on message -- and his message was very clearly classic National Socialism.

National Socialism is not a terribly coherent or one-size-fits-all ideology.  It's flexible, depending on various circumstances.  But Trump's version of National Socialism is consistent.  It integrates nationalism with socialism -- that is, it can be hard to separate the nationalism from the socialism.  We want to build a wall to keep out "illegal aliens" because they are "taking our jobs."  That is, we protect our borders (nationalism) in order to lift ourselves up economically by not having this unfair competition represented by non-citizens (socialism, sort of).  We want to Put America First (nationalism) in order to renegotiate trade deals so they're a good deal for American workers (socialism).  We want to stop worrying about protecting Japan and South Korea, pull our troops out of there (an isolationist version of nationalism) in order to spend the savings from not maintaining a huge military presence there on infrastructure in the US (socialism).  The working class -- yes, he frequently used the term that only Sanders dared to use, among leading Democrats -- had been forgotten, and would be forgotten no longer.

These were the sorts of messages he was hammering home day in and day out, to massive crowds throughout the country.  During Bernie Sanders' primary campaign -- which he lost largely because of the DNC's rigged super-delegate system -- he was also attracting huge crowds, hammering home messaging on similar themes, minus the nationalist, racist, xenophobic elements.  But the messages about a fairer system where politicians are not bought and sold by corporations, opposed to TPP, etc., were basically the same.  And the messaging from the media -- that Sanders and Trump were both idealists without any practical proposals, was also the same.

Sanders lost.  Trump won.  Socialism failed -- not due to a lack of popularity, but due to a rigged system.  The National Socialist won -- voted in by many of the same people who would otherwise have voted for Sanders.  There's a lot of history in the world with this phenomenon.

For many of those people who could have gone either way with these two candidates, it seems abundantly clear to me that what they were voting for was for a fairer system that's not rigged by plutocrats.  One of the reasons the polls were wrong and I was right was because there were lots of people who didn't want to admit to pollsters that they were going to vote for Trump.  Because they were shy about their support for him -- because they didn't want people to think they were crazy, since the media was portraying his supporters as being a collection of racist, sexist lunatics.

Here's one thing I don't want to do over the next years:  I don't want to spend my time insulting Donald Trump or his supporters.  I want to be part of building an internationalist, socialist movement that can be more popular than the Trump phenomenon.  I don't believe this movement can or will come from the Democratic Party, since the leadership of this party abandoned the working class in favor of dividing our society into various interest groups, devoid of any awareness of the basic, class-divided nature of this country.

What I know for sure, wherever this movement might come from, is that the road forward does not involve pitting educated urban liberals against the semi-employed denizens of the countryside and the exurbs -- or writing them all off as racists who don't know their ass from their elbow.  The road forward involves recognizing the socialism in National Socialism, and appealing to that aspect of Trump's message -- while also communicating effectively about how many aspects of nationalism (and racism, sexism and xenophobia) are actually inconsistent with socialism.


Unknown said...

Wise words ...

Brad Simpson said...

you're totally right - as was Michael Moore, back in July.

Unknown said...

Hear! Hear! Time to build a new party. Will Bernie lead it?

Oldwhatsisface said...

Good essay, David. It is entirely possible, maybe even probable, that Sanders would have won had he been the Democratic candidate. Killary is a war criminal (and everyday criminal on Wall Street's payroll) that elicited little enthusiasm even among Democrats, and none among most working people. It is ironic that a Billionaire quasi-fasicst is more in touch with the needs and aspirations of the US working class than the nominally "liberal" candidate of the Democrats who is somewhere to the right of Margaret Thatcher.

All the Bush gang were lined up behind Killary - Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney, Nuland, Samantha Powers, Madeline Albright: the whole - let's call a spade a spade - Zionist Jewish/Israeli clique that has been running the US for decades on behalf of the Billionaire oligarchy and war machine. That includes virtually all the mainstream media, much of which also has a completely disproportionate over-representaion of Jewish writers and commentators, and a flip-side underrepresentation of black and latino correspondents. The Western Media Lie Machine, mouthpiece of the CIA. You knew who she is by the company she keeps: war criminals and financial/banking white collar criminals.

Incidentally, you can get some different viewpoints on RT, Sputnik, FARS, and TASS. Here is an example: Could Bernie have won? Democrats ponder Clinton rout — RT America

Unknown said...

A refreshing and hope inducing point of view ..... I never thought of something like 'national socialism' ..... thank you for writing it and maybe gives me a prism with which to look at our right-wing Modi Government here in India !

Unknown said...

Very good insights, my friend, especially in terms of what we should be doing with regards Trump supporters, or ...all my neighbors here in rural Tennessee. People who will drop everything to help someone in immediate need. However, I want to take it all out of the Pavlovian realm ruled by the mass media and focus on the oligarchy that is well above all the puppet politicians and puppet pundits, I only want to participate in this delusion of democracy enough to expose as such so we can organize understanding where the seat of power really is, which more and more of us are discovering is in the monetary authority. The oligarchy has grown in that soil for hundreds of years and they do not want to be rooted out, thus they go to great lengths to program society with limiting beliefs to hide this truth. They even created the profession of "economics" to academically support the system and hide the facts about money. Most do it unknowingly as they are not educated about money either. As they say, "Silence is Golden" a phrase coined by the Fuggers, an old German banking family, around the time they started practicing fractional reserve banking. Marxist socialism is taught in the oligarchy'e universities because they understand that to maintain power they must control the dialogue, excluding any knowledge of money. This is why every socialist I've spoken with wants to get rid of money, having been programmed like the economists, distorting any understanding of money, democracy and socialism. We may not like to think we've been subjected to any program conditioning and are utterly manipulated but we should get over that and take a bit more of a scientific look rather than just an emotional one. We need a revolution but I think it important we really understand what power is before we can turn it to serving humankind and all our relations.