Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Warning 

From someone who doesn't dismiss the significance of Obama's victory, but who also knows that it isn't enough. Without a true revolutionary alternative -- that is, without an alternative to the system tout court -- the aspirations of the people for something more and better will be harnessed by the forces of barbaric savagery. This has and will remain the weapon of the fascist right: liberalism is not enough, never enough. People will always want more. And if they don't get it, they will choose death and call it the supreme victory.

The warning, anyway, is from Mike Davis:

Only three things, in my opinion, are highly likely:

First, there is no hope whatsoever of the spontaneous generation of a new New Deal (or for that matter, of Rooseveltian liberals) without the combustion of massive social struggles.

Second, after the brief Woodstock of an Obama inauguration, millions of hearts will be broken by the administration's inability to manage mass bankruptcy and unemployment, as well as end the wars in the Middle East.

Third, the Bushites may be dead, but the hate-spewing nativist Right (particularly the Lou Dobbs wing) is well-positioned for a dramatic revival as neoliberal solutions fail.

The great challenge to small bands of the left is to anticipate this mass disillusionment, understanding that our task is not "how to move Obama leftward," but to salvage and reorganize shattered hopes. The transitional program must be socialism itself.

Davis is simply repeating the classic analysis of fascism and hard-right politics offered by Trotsky. Below is a summary of Trotsky's key ideas about fascism, developed during his exile in the 1930's. The summary here just collects a few of Trotsky's key points and quotations. It's from the International Socialist Review.

It all still applies today, especially if we understand that Trotsky means something like "working poor" when he refers to "working class." And globally, many of the "proletariat" aren't exactly workers at all -- just desperate and dispossessed.

"The centerpiece of Trotsky’s argument was that fascism was a mass movement based in the middle class, but backed by big capital, that sought to destroy the working-class movement. Again and again he called for united working class action against the Nazi movement. The reformist SPD—the largest working-class based party in Germany—feared mobilizing its ranks against Hitler, preferring parliamentary manuevers and appeals to the state instead. Trotsky argued that the the Communist Party (KPD)—which alone still did not have the forces to defeat Hitler—should propose a United Front with the Social Democrats (SPD) for the purposes of physically confronting the Nazis. Such a policy would have been gladly supported by rank-and-file workers of all political shades, would have exposed the Social Democrats' half-heartedness, and would have stopped Hitler in his tracks. Sadly, the KPD followed a completely opposite strategy. Under the directives of Stalin the KPD leaders refused to call for a united front with the SPD, whom they insanely considered to be the 'moderate wing of fascism.' This policy paralyzed the working-class movement and allowed Hitler to take power without a fight....

Excerpts from Trotsky:

'The gigantic growth of National Socialism is an expression of two factors: a deep social crisis, throwing the petty-bourgeois masses off balance, and the lack of a revolutionary party that would be regarded by the masses of the people as an acknowledged revolutionary leader. If the Communist Party is the party of revolutionary hope, then fascism, as a mass movement, is the party of counterrevolutionary despair.'

'Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. [Sadly Trotsky sees this as barbaric -- and sadly of course the reduction of Christian supernaturalism to mere assertions of divinely sanctioned power _is_ often barbaric. --GA] Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet, fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism.'

'[T]he Big Bourgeoisie, even those who supported Hitler with money, did not consider his party theirs. The national “renaissance” leaned wholly upon the middle classes, the most backward part of the nation, the heavy ballast of history. Political art consisted in fusing the petty bourgeoisie into oneness through its common hostility to the proletariat. What must be done in order to improve things? First of all, throttle those who are underneath. Impotent before big capital, the petty bourgeoisie hopes in the future to regain its social dignitiy through the ruin of the workers.'

'German fascism, like Italian fascism, raised itself to power on the backs of the petty bourgeoisie, which it turned into a battering ram against the organizations of the working class and the institutions of democracy. But fascism in power is least of all the rule of the petty bourgeoisie. On the contrary, it is the most ruthless dictatorship of monopoly capital. Mussolini is right: the middle classes are incapable of independent policies. During periods of great crisis they are called upon to reduce to absurdity the policies of one of the two basic classes. Fascism succeeded in putting them at the service of capital.'

'The coming to power of the National Socialists would mean first of all the extermination of the flower of the German proletariat, the destruction of its organizations, the eradication of its belief in itself and its future. Considering the far greater maturity and acuteness of the social contradictions in Germany, the hellish work of Italian fascism would probably appear as a pale and almost humane experiment in comparison with the work of German National Socialism.'

'The Communist Party must call for the defense of those material and moral positions which the working class has managed to win in the German state. This most directly concerns fate of the workers’ political organizations, trade unions, newspaper, printing plants, clubs, libraries, etc. Communist workers must say to their Social Democratic counterparts: “The policies of our parties are irreconcilably opposed; but if the fascists come tonight to wreck your organization’s hall, we will come running, arms in hand, to help you. Will you promise us that if our organization is threatened you will rush to our aid?” This is the quntessence of our policy in the present period. All agitation must be pitched in this key. The more persistently, seriously, and thoughtfully...we carry on this agitation, the more we propose serious measures for defense in every factory, in every working-class neighborhood and district, the less the danger that a fascist attack will take us by surprise, and the greater the certainty that such an attack will cement rather than break break apart the ranks of the workers.'

'Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers canbring victory. Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left!'

Source: The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, (Pathfinder, 1971)

The shit is going to continue to cascade into the fan -- in ways that are truly scary to try to imagine -- and people will need an alternative to Obama to believe in. The alternative had better be one that is to Obama's left, an alternative that Obama himself can move towards and manipulate. Otherwise, people are going to be pissed, and Obama will be a focal point for a new articulation of hatred and madness.


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