Wednesday, July 25, 2018

(Why) Capitalism Degenerates Into Fascism When the Precarious Ally With the Powerful to Dominate the Powerless - Umair Haque

Democracy and Class Struggle knows the history of fascism and proto fascism and its data set but we are also aware there are some new elements arise in the Fascism of the 21st Century and we think this article by Umair Haque who is a progressive but no revolutionary communist points us in direction we should look to find the new elements. 

(Why) Capitalism Degenerates Into Fascism
When the Precarious Ally With the Powerful to Dominate the Powerless

You’d be kidding yourself like American pundits are if you haven’t observed by now that America’s having something like a classic proto-fascist meltdown. 

Demagoguery, demonization, scapegoating, camps, “animals!,” “vermin!,”and parallel institutions?—check, check, check.

So. Here’s a tiny question. Does capitalism have a tendency to degenerate into fascism? After all, it must be a mighty coincidence indeed that America’s the most capitalist society in human history even calling an ambulance will cost you a few thousand dollars (yes really, people of the world) —and it’s also the first one since the 1930s to melt down like this.

I’m going to put it like this. Capitalism degenerates into fascism when the precarious ally with the powerful to dominate the powerless. 

Those who feel entitled to, but deprived of, power—instead of reforming a society so that everyone has more, and truer powers, rights, freedoms?—lick the boots of the powerful, in order to dominate and subjugate the powerless. 

I’ll explain all that?—and it might be tough reading, so feel free to skip around, mull things over, and of course you are most welcome to disagree with me.

The way that the story of capitalism declining into fascism used to be told is that essentially, that capital, always starved for more profit, which is always in relative decline, therefore needs more and more force to subdue labour with.

Until at last, people are in camps (more or less enslaved) while their de facto owners plunder the homes which once belonged to them. 

But this story the old one while it has a ring of truth, also seems to leave much out. 

I think by now we can glean deeper truths, perhaps, too. So I will tell you a new story, or a new variant on the old one, maybe and you judge if it carries any water.

Consider the rise of the alt right. It’s a proto-fascist movement by any other name. Dehumanization, scapegoating, violence, the submergence of the individual within the group-check, check, check. But why? Why would a bunch of dorks and nerds, basically?videogamers and incels and comic-book collectors, basically suddenly become something like vicious little fascists? Do you see how weird it is, when you really think about it?

Think about the incels for a second. They’re funny, and they’re pathetic but they’re also proto fascists. They’d like nothing more than a society where women, who are inherently “whores” and “bitches”, are under the thumb of a kind of brotherhood of men—who allocate the bodies of those women in such a way as to satisfy the “greater good”, at least according to the men’s sexual appetites, one woman for every man. In that way, the women, too are “purified”?—they’re honorable, because they’re not acting against the interests of the collective of men. 

Do you see how weirdly fascist this all is?

Now. The question is why these guys—these nerds and dorks—would delve down the rabbit hole and recreate fascism without even knowing it. 

Don’t you find that striking? Somehow, there’s a weird set of socio-economic pressures that seem to have shattered their minds apart. What are those pressures?

The answer is that they are losers. They don’t have the things they expected—not just sex, of course, but what sex is a means to for them: the power, status, rank, respect that comes from being part of a tribe of men who control women’s bodies. 

So they are losers of a special kind—losers who expected to be winners. Who felt entitled—to women of course, but more truly, I think, what they think sex represents to other men just like them—power and status. Losers who expected some level of status, power, rank, and respect to simply accompany them throughout their lives. And yet, somehow, they don’t seem to have enough of it.

The key word is “enough”. It’s not that they have none - they’re not losers in the absolute sense. They have plenty of power and status. After all, incels and alt-rightists are dorks and nerds of a specific kind: white ones, usually. 

Below them sit millions of young black and latino men?—not to mention women - who don’t share the privileges that the white ones appear to take for granted. So they’re losers of a very special kind?—?losers who expected to be greater winners than they are.

But why would that be the case? Why would they feel entitled to more power, status, rank, and respect than they have?—?and why would the amount they have, which is still quite a bit, socially speaking, not be enough? The answer must lie in their expectations. Those expectations can only come from history. So the answer must be something like: they saw their grandfathers and fathers live lives in which these things seemed to materialize almost effortlessly. Women, relationships, sex—and the power and so on which other men accorded them as a result.

Now we are getting somewhere. We have found that the sudden, violent turn of young white men, towards fascism, is driven by a kind of relative collapse in social rank, status, and power. 

It is in that sense they are losers —they are not living the lives they expected to live. But why not? Has the number of women in society suddenly decreased? Are there more men? Of course not. The answer must lie somewhere beyond demographics.

The answer, which has never occurred to these young men, these losers, is that society itself is growing short of power. Not just for them—but for everyone. And that is because power is being concentrated at the top. It’s being taken away from everyone?—?women, minorities, the young, the old, the poor—and flowing towards a tiny group, at the very top: that is what growing inequality really means. 

These young men don’t see any of that, though. They think they are the only victims in a society being robbed and cheated of the power to obtain what they expected to have (even if it was foolish to want it in the first place). And so they lash out viciously, trying to preserve what power they can for themselves. But do you see the bargain they are making? 

They are the precarious allying with the powerful to dominate the powerless.

And all that is how capitalism degenerates into fascism. It’s hard to see —my parable isn’t quite clear yet —so let’s zoom out. It’s not the absolutely powerless, the dirt poor who are the fascists—at least the ardent, bellowing true believers. It is the imploded middle class. The ones who expected to be powerful?—?but aren’t. If we think about American proto-fascism, it’s the people who expected to be living the American Dream—but aren’t—who are the Trumpists, not the dirt poor inner cities.

But that American Dream always had a dark side, too. Who was gay in it? Were black people living in those suburban neighborhoods? What ethnicity was the maid, the carwasher, and the gas station attendant? Do you see how even being in a secure middle class means being at the top of a little social heirarchy? How being “middle class” means that you have, above all, a certain kind of power, which is what “stability” must also mean, in a certain sense?

So what happens if you lose all that? The powerless one never expected to be on top of anyone. But what about the guy in the middle, who did? What happens when he or she finds themselves without as much power as they expected to have? Then, my friends, you probably turn to those who promise to give you that power by force. At the precise moment you probably should be asking: “wait?—?am I the only one who’s growing powerless? Is power over other people what I should be after, anyways? Is that kind of power what’s causing this meltdown in the first place?”

A middle class, you see, is one of the great inventions of modernity. It never really existed before, at least in a relatively stable sense, until the birth of modern democracies. Modern democracies, of course, were accompanied by capitalism. But capitalism, in turn, creates winners and losers, which threatens to destabilize the whole project of a modern society, by undoing that middle class, unless it’s reined in.

When capitalism creates too many losers, and not enough winners?—?when it becomes predatory, in other words, and a tiny number “win” by making everyone else “lose”, as is the case in America today?—?then the spark for fascism is lit. Some losers expect to be losers?—?they always have been. But some are new losers. And it’s those new losers, the precarious, who make a strange and stupid choice. Instead of bringing down the winners, they lick the winners’ boots?—?as long as the winners promise to give them the power to sit atop the people they expected to dominate again. It might not make sense morally, and it might be ethically foolish?—?but it’s perfectly rational when you think about it.

That’s what the incels and the dorks and nerds of the alt-right are really doing, after all. They felt entitled to a certain amount of power, status, and rank. They didn’t get it. 

But they also didn’t see that no one did — everyone’s lot in life is declining in a stagnant economy, and that means that society should probably be reformed so everyone’s life improves. 

And so instead of changing the system for the benefit of all, they chose to lick the boots of a set of domineering bullies, who promised them just the power to dominate those they’d expected to. Bang! 

The recreation of the essential bargain of fascism, all over again, in weird little internet communities. How strange. How sad. How absurd.

That’s a lot, and it’s very, very abstract, so let me try to simplify the lesson. Capitalism creates winners and losers. 

When the winners are many and the losers are few a broad middle class, lording it over an entrenched poor, serving a tiny number of rich - then the system is stable

No, of course, even that is not “fair” it is just stable. But when capitalism becomes predatory, then the losers begin to outnumber the winners. 

The once stable middle class, which expected a middling level of dominance, collapses. They aren’t as powerful as they expected to be. And rather than reform the system so that everyone is powerful and prosperous again, they choose, instead, to ally with the tiny number of predatory winners —granting them dominance, as long as they themselves are granted the privilege to dominate, by force, all the people they expected to. Minorities, gays, immigrants, refugees —if they are just regular middle class people. Women —if they are incels. And so on.

I think the answer is very clear by now. Capitalism does indeed have a tendency to degenerate into fascism.

The winners take more and more for themselves —but that makes everything more precarious, more precarious, by creating more and more losers, until ultimately, the system folds in on itself. 

But in a perverse way —the more powerful of the losers lick the boots of the winners, in order to gain to what they were always promised, to subjugate the weakest among them. 

And in that way, nobody really asks the question: what might happen if we all had not just power over each other, but power in, through, and with one another - to live decent and beautiful and sane lives?

Do you see how subtle and strange it is, the way capitalism folds in on itself, ultimately Not with a bang - but with something more like an explosion that crescendoes back into an implosion.

That is a great lesson America’s collapse is teaching the world. The question is if the world is learning it.

July 2018


No comments: