by Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
More than one week after the dramatic events in the United States, a lot of confusion reigns on what really happened, but also about the meaning of what happened. We will examine this question but we consider useful, before doing it, to make some more general remarks.
What is Trumpism
We believe that Trump represents a modern equivalent of classic totalitarian movements, like Nazism and Fascism, in the sense that it is trying to imitate the traditional historical function of Nazis and Fascists, that is to use the deep dissatisfaction with and anger at the ruling elites of the popular and the middle classes, in order to put them finally at the service of Big Capital and Imperialism.
Trump’s real programme is essentially “Dictatorship in America, War against everybody else” (including civilisation and nature). His efforts to accelerate the destruction of climate, with catastrophic consequences for the survival of human civilization, if not of life itself on the planet are well known. The same goes for his efforts to provoke a huge (and probably nuclear) war in the Middle East, in cooperation with Netanyahu. The Prussian General Clausewitz, one of the most eminent theoreticians of War, has defined it as “the continuation of politics by other means”. We can also inverse his formula. The ideology and the type of links Trump cultivates with the masses are necessary if one wants to go from the “never ending wars” to the “cataclysmic wars”. (For the military and nuclear policies of “real Trump” look the excellent analysis of Mike Klare and Tom Engelhardt http://www.defenddemocracy.press/trumps-legacy-from-the-forever-wars-to-the-cataclysmic-wars/).
The whole debate in the United States is framed in an irrational way, as both camps accuse the other for what it is not, but not for what it is really. Trump is accusing the Democrats, the party of big US capital par excellence, as “socialists” and “radical leftists”. The Democrats accuse Trump of being an agent of Putin, when we all know that it is impossible for anyone not supported and not protected by an influential power center in Washington to become President of the Unites States. On the other side Trump is using in reality this accusation to create the illusion that, as a friend of Russia, he is an anti-war, peace loving politician. Believe but verify say the Americans. If one examines Trump’s real politics and not myths he will find the continuation and acceleration of US anti-Russian policies (bombing of Syria, encirclement of Russia by NATO, abolition of the INF Treaty, new sanctions, a mammoth program of modernization of nuclear weapons, a new strategic doctrine characterizing Russia and China as the main strategic rivals of USA etc. etc.). We don’t believe either the theories about agents, or the theories about friends (Hitler has signed a Treaty with Moscow only to attack it in two years, as for Margaret Thatcher also presented herself as a friend of Russia in her historic meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1984. Russia is impossible to conquer by frontal attacks).
Of course phenomena do not repeat themselves in exactly the same forms in different places and time. Besides, “Trumpism” has not yet achieved its final form, but it also took several years for the Nazis to acquire it. One of its main differences with Nazism was that it was organised from the top and by extensive use of the social media. Only last year it began to acquire some rudimentary characteristics of a mass movement with the gangs of armed Trump supporters (the Nazis began also their “career” in 1919, as terror groups against the German workers movement and the Left). Now, with Trump outside the White House, it will probably try to acquire the characteristics of a mass Far Right movement.
The fact that Trump left finally the White House has diminished considerably, in the short term, the danger of a global disaster. But much of his legacy will remain and Trumpism will not evaporate, it will remain most probably a strong political current in the Unites States and internationally. (We must not forget the powerful network of his allies, like Bolsonaro in Brazil, Johnson in Britain, Modi in India, the European Far Right and, of course, PM Netanyahu in Israel, even if some of them try now to take some distance).
The biggest damage Trump has done comes from the fact he has been able to orient important social forces to the Far Right, social forces which want to fight against the Establishment and its destructive policies, and a part of which could become an ally for a vitally needed progressive transformation of the USA and of the world.
The “coup” of January 6
Trump, by publicly inviting his supporters to gather in Washington to protest against the “rigging” of the election, predicting at the same time that the protest would be “wild”, seems to have quite openly called for what ultimately led to the “storming” of the Capitol, although one has usually some difficulty in understanding what this man really means when he speaks, given his «buffoonish», Mussolini-like style.
The intrusion of a band of “lunatics” into the Capitol may be or may be not be considered legally as an “insurrection”, still it remains clear that the whole thing lacked any seriousness. A much more serious problem than the intrusion of the “lunatics” into the Capitol is the “intrusion” of lunatic ideas into the mind of millions of Americans. To this problem Biden does not seem to have any answer.
Did Trump really want the “storm” and what did he think he would gain by such an action? Was he preparing a real coup to seize power and if there was such a plan why it was not implemented? Why the Police of the Capitol did not even try to stop the protesters from entering the building? We are speaking of a country where policemen first shoot and then ask questions, and of one of its most important state buildings, where the US Congress was going to validate the election of the new President. Why did the FBI send the first three “tactical groups” to the Capitol only when somebody from inside the building phoned to a friend of him in the Bureau? Why did the Pentagon refuse repeated demands by the Washington and the Maryland National Guards to deploy forces to protect the Senate of the United States?
Neither side of the conflict has provided us with any serious answer to the above questions. Often the explanations they try to provide are quite frankly rather ridiculous. Trumpists have accused Antifa as the perpetrators of the whole affair. Equally implausible is the official thesis of the FBI that it did not have any prior idea of incidents to come.
I was able to write, from my home in Europe, and publish on 5 January, an article entitled “Rumors of a coup in the United States” (http://www.defenddemocracy.press/red-alarm-in-the-pentagon-rumors-of-coup-and-or-war-in-the-us/ ), but the FBI did not know anything in advance! We predicted in this article that if Trump were to try a coup, he would most probably produce a farce, like Hitler’s failed coup in 1923, ten years before he finally acceded to power. We were able to make this prediction based on the fact that Trump did not seem to have support for such a move, neither from a majority of US capitalists nor from the prevailing tendency inside the Armed Forces and the Secret Services.
How Trump’s fate was sealed
On 20 February 1933, the representatives of the German industries and banks (to a large extent the same ones still dominating the European economy), met the leadership of the Nazi party in the Reichstag. They endorsed Hitler’s plans and provided him with generous financial support. They did that in order to avoid the disaster for them of a Socialist or Communist Revolution and to be able to prepare their imperialist campaign to the East (Drang nach Osten) deemed necessary to find a way out of the deep crisis of German capitalism. They were probably hoping that the other capitalist countries would follow them in their anti-Bolshevik crusade.
The majority of the US capitalist class, although endorsed with great satisfaction the tax cuts and other gifts offered to it by Trump, was not ready for such a bold and risky move and saw no reason to endorse it, at least after neutralizing Bernie Sanders, perceived as a real potential threat to their interests. Neutralization of Sanders was their first goal and, only when they achieved it, they began moving their preferences from Trump to Biden. Since May 2020, only after Sanders’s defeat, Biden has outraised Trump in fundraising, and his lead has grown with each passing month, although a considerable, but minority section of the US riling class did support Trump until the election (https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2020&disp=D&type=V&superonly=N). Especially critical for Biden’s electoral victory was the support of the media industry except for Fox, which begun to alter somehow its position only after the election.
But this was not enough. A series of meetings of top business executives has been necessary to endorse the “peaceful transition” of power to Biden. Look for example https://www.cnbc.com/2020/11/13/top-ceos-met-to-plan-response-to-trumps-election-denial.html and https://www.ft.com/content/e49fdbcf-5992-4d17-8ccd-c5223707e14d.
Here is what an associate editor of Financial Times, Rana Aylin Foroohar has written on the outcome of those meetings:
«As Karl Marx observed, it is only under threat from the masses that the owners of the means of production recognise their common interests. Corporate America got what it wanted from Mr Trump, namely tax cuts and deregulation. Big business in America now knows that there’s nothing more to be got from him. So they are eager for him to go, taking with him those disruptive tweets of which they were sometimes the target.
They are also eager for president-elect Joe Biden to come into office and normalise trade and foreign affairs, as well as deal with the Covid-19 crisis. Mr Trump’s inept handling of the pandemic, now raging again in the US, has been terrible for the economy and for business. CEOs are desperate for Mr Biden to get the situation under control, even if he does roll back their tax cuts.
I believe Mr Trump will eventually go. But the cynicism and anger of many left behind voters who supported him will remain»
When US capitalists met after the election, their majority decided to support the transition of power to Biden. We do not know if and what kind of assurances they asked for and were given in exchange from Biden. We see already no representatives of the Left of the Democratic Party in Biden’s administration, although its role was crucial in his electoral victory. Biden is still sending quite contradictory signals about his intentions, which probably reflect also the forces applied to him (like appointing Nuland and Burns). We will have to wait and see the final posture of his policies.
The other two important struggles which sealed Trump’s fate, already before 6 January, were:
– first, the prevailing of what we may call “normal imperialists” over “extremist” ones, in the US Armed Forces and the secret services, as proved by the fact that the latter were unable to launch the war on Iran they wanted and, also, by the letter of ten former Defense Secretaries warning against involvement of the Armed Forces in deciding the outcome of the election. Again we don’t know what Cheney and Rumsfeld may or may not have received in exchange for their support of Biden getting to power.
– second, the apparent victory of the anti-Netanyahu faction inside the all-powerful Lobby
To those factors we should add the decision of the Internet giants to oppose finally Trump
The fact that the majority of all those shifts took place only after Sanders’s defeat and became decisive only after the election, proves in a way that leading US capitalists can be ready, at another point, to support somebody like Trump, maybe a more predictable Far Right figure, like Pompeo for instance. For the time being, they will most probably use the pressure by the Far Right to promote their agendas with Biden. Even today, they will put pressure to Biden to become a little bit ‘Trumpish’ himself, by adopting at least some of his policies. They are already pressing him to attach new conditions to the return of the United States to the Obama agreement with Iran, in order to torpedo any reconciliation with Teheran and leave open the gate for a great war in the Middle East.
Anyway, an effort to try to keep Trump in power after his electoral defeat would have meant enormous risks and would deeply destabilise both the state power system and US society. In this context the US voters did play actually a decisive role in deciding which of the competing factions of the ruling elite would exercise power.
Unanswered questions and two competing infoworlds
Returning now to the events of 6 January, it is also important to note that we know nothing serious about what happened behind the scenes during the seven hours that the events lasted. The inaction of the Capitol Police, the FBI and the Pentagon can be explained in at least three ways. It could have been the result of action by Trump’s supporters inside those state structures, of infighting, or of a deliberate effort by anti-Trump forces to let Trump and “Trumpists” expose themselves in order to provoke the backlash that we witnessed. We doubt that we will ever learn with some degree of certainty what really happened behind the scenes in the USA on 6 January.
Now, in the United States, but also internationally, an atmosphere prevails that renders impossible any serious dialogue and even agreement on facts themselves. Public opinion (and those participating in the public dialogue through mainstream outlets or the Internet) seems now to be separated into two camps by a Chinese wall. Not only they do not communicate and discuss among themselves; not only do they disagree on the significance of reality, but even on reality itself! It is the very fundament permitting logic and rational decisions which is being destroyed before our eyes.
One camp believes the mainstream media uncritically. The other is increasingly influenced by a huge (international) network of far right extremists, propagating various irrational conspiracy theories and fake news, according to the Bannon doctrines (“nonsense is superior to the truth”, “we will fill the network with shit”). The most extremist of those tendencies are even flirting with theories that COVID does not exist, but, at the same time, is a “Chinese bioweapon”, that climatic change is not taking place or, if it is, is not the result of human activity; they present (the father-in-law of Jared Kushner who probably pressed his own daughter to change her religion!) as a warrior against Mossad and satanic Jewish rule; they cultivate a kind of religious relationship with the leader, presenting him not as a politician, but as a kind of prophet or saviour. In the periphery of this network, we see even the multiplication of adepts of the “acceleration” theory (the collapse of society is inevitable, so we had better we accelerate it), of ecofascism (there are too many people on the Earth, we have to diminish their number), and even of theories that extraterrestrial beings have taken the form of humans and govern us (which by the way we cannot easily say that it would be so bad an idea, given the results of … our ruling by terrestrials). The effort of those who conceived the QUanon theory and other “comparable” theories is to found a new religion and a new church, not just a political current.
Most serious people do not pay much attention to all the “ideas” now being propagated through separate “channels” of the social media not overlapping with their own. They only rarely receive them, and if they do, they dismiss them as ridiculous. But nothing is ridiculous, if it is believed by millions of people. The situation begins to present the characteristics of the end of Roman Empire. At that time people were completely desperate, owing to the corruption and the cruelty of their elites. As they could not find a rational answer to their unbearable life, they produced a multitude of metaphysical, mystic beliefs. Although one cannot be certain, this process was probably encouraged by sections of the Roman power structure in order to avoid a real revolution against it. All that contributed to the decomposition of the ancient world and the entrance to the Dark Ages. The only difference is that now we have nuclear weapons, biotechnologies and a lot of other deadly “toys”. In this connexion, we are now witnessing “revolts” against masks; in the ‘20s of the last century there were “revolts” against the curving of time and the “Jewish physics” of Albert Einstein. (The irony is that, by propagating all that nonsense, the German Far Right finally inflicted a huge blow on itself. It helped to accelerate the exodus from Germany of the scientists capable of producing the atom bomb).
Both camps, the mainstream news empires and the irrational internetic Far Right, are far away from the truth and Rationalism, although the second blogosphere seems to operate a much more complete divorce from Rationalism, Logic and Science (in spite of the fact they are using the latest applications of science, eg. smart phones, to exchange their messages!). In fact it is the unprecedented collapse of the credibility of the main institutions of capitalist countries (state institutions, political parties, mainstream media, scientists, banks, corporations) that are preparing the ground, in the absence of credible progressive interpretations and proposals, for the development of Far Right paranoia.
Soros vs. Netanyahu
Let us take an example outside politics. People have been criticising for decades the nefarious (some time even criminal) policies of huge pharmaceutical corporations. But this criticism, often but not always very serious, while it has not been able to produce but rather limited pressure to control the activities of those multinationals and their influence on the medical practice, has undermined confidence in science and medicine. The result is that millions of people around the globe believe that COVID does not exist or is a satanic ploy by Bill Gates and George Soros who want to inject microchips via the vaccine. We don’t have any confidence in either Gates or Soros, and are against anybody exercising such influence in public affairs via wealth, but we find very curious the fact that literally everybody we know has heard about their supposed satanic plans and, at the same time, nobody knows the fact that there is one very powerful politician, the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who actually proposed publicly to put microchips in all children (and subsequently in everybody), but then backtracked because of the outcry he provoked! (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/benjamin-netanyahu-suggests-to-microchip-kids-slammed-by-experts-627381 ) (By the way the movements of all vehicles in Israel are already tracked by police and are stored in an unregulated database named Eagle Eye).
What one can conclude from this incident? First Gates and Soros have already been condemned by a considerable part of the public opinion. But this “condemnation” does not help us to fight against the wrong doings of either Gates or Soros. And if I say tomorrow they eat children and if I have the resources and the capacity to post such things in the proper positions of the network many people will believe me. On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu, the closest friend of Donald Trump, is enjoying a strange “protection” inside the Internet, in spite of the fact he avows himself openly having similar intentions to those attributed, without any proof, to Gates and Soros! The explanation is very simple. Gates and Soros belong to the “liberal” section of the establishment, Netanyahu to the “extremist” section.
How both camps are helping each other
Those mutually excluded worlds in the “info-sphere” are fueling one the other. Looking with horror to the ideas and practices of Trump and his followers (which is not but the plan B of Western Capitalism), a considerable part of the public opinion is supporting the “plan A “ politicians in order to avoid a catastrophe, thus re-stabilizing (albeit temporarily) the system.
On the other hand and by lying systematically for years, the mainstream press is fuelling the Far Right networks. Even more critical is the fact that by supporting uncritically the elites and even deforming reality itself (like for example when they claim Russians begun a war in Ukraine instead of the truth which is that the USA instigated a coup against a corrupted but elected President, only to replace him by some more corrupted), they stopped providing the system with the necessary “feedback” and “cleaning” functions. If you compare the treatment reserved to Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War to the one reserved now to Julian Assange, you will get the exact measure of the evolution of Western Capitalism towards Totalitarianism. You will also find a quite telling reflection of its weakness to produce a sort of reasonable answer to its deep crisis, which explains after all the appearance of people like Trump. One difference with the ‘30s is that at that time we had Hitler but we had also Roosevelt.
Recently, former President Obama gave an interview to the Atlantic. He was trying to reassure the public things are not as bad as they seem. But he did not find any better argument than to compare our era with that of Genghis Khan! By the way we are not convinced that he is right even on that. Is the situation in Iraq, Libya or Yemen really worse now than it was during the Genghis Khan’s times? Was Genghis Khan really more barbarian than Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who expressed her satisfaction after watching live the humiliation – execution of the Libyan leader Colonel Quadafi? Or Madeleine Albright, US ambassador to the UN who, when asked about the fact that sanctions on Iraq had cost the life of half a million Iraqi children, answered “I think that is a very hard choice, but the price, we think, the price is worth it”. After making such a statement she was appointed Secretary of State.
But we don’t need in reality Obama’s interviews. It is enough to hear Biden as he was addressing, with great delay, the American people during the Capitol events. He did not call for any popular mobilisation to save democracy from a fascist coup, as any democratic leader facing a rebellion would normally do. He almost begged Trump to stop everything, not so much in the name of protecting democracy, as in the name of preserving the stability of the state. He had not a single word to address to the half a million of Americans protesting outside the Capitol and to the tens of millions who voted for Trump, to address their grievances and the deepest reasons which pushed them to the revolt against a system they feel deeply corrupted and hostile to their needs.
He could not say all that for a simple reason. He is also the representative of this oligarchic regime evolving towards totalitarianism. Only a serious, coherent and credible Left could have played such a role and it is the only one which could face the twin threats of classic neofascism and post-modern, techno-neo-totalitarianism. But we are still quite far from its emergence.
A coup inside another one
Temporarily, the events of 6 August shifted the political equilibrium in the USA against Trump while, in the same time, they “cemented” the belief of at least a faction of his supporters that the outgoing president is a “victim” and a “hero”. We don’t know what will be the future of Trump himself. But he laid the foundations for both the creation of a mass Far Right movement and for a permanent adoption of some of the extremist Far Right ideas by the Republican Party, if not by the whole of the US political spectrum.
Carl Schmitt defines the “Dictator” as the one who takes decisions in an emergency situation. In that sense, 6 January was a turning point, as Facebook and Twitter proved who has the real power. They were preceded by TV stations which cancelled live the broadcast of Trump’s address to Americans.
As for Biden himself, he treated intruders to the Capitol as terrorists. Obviously they are not terrorists but, by treating them as such, he is creating the conditions for the imposition of a new authoritarianism, today against Trump’s supporters and the Far Right, tomorrow against everybody else.
The operetta-like events of January 6 may probably be considered in the future as the birthday of a classic Neo-Fascist movement. But behind them we can easily discern the shadow of the enormous, emerging threat of a new branch of Totalitarianism based on the explosive progress of information and other technologies, which is no less of a threat to human civilization than classical Fascism.