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Nederlog

Wednesday, Apr 26, 2017

Crisis: ”People's Party", On "Fascism", On "Neoconservatism", Trump's Failings

Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Cornel West & Former Sanders Staffer on Movement to
     Draft
Bernie for a New "People's Party" in U.S.
2.
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which
     Is a Contradiction in Terms

3. How Neocons Push for War by Cooking the Books
4.
Donald Trump’s Failing Presidency
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, April 26, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is about the possibility that Bernie Sanders would support a "People's Party", but he did not agree (yet, at least) and will be 79 in 2020; item 2 is about the thesis that Le Pen is a fascist and that populism is leftwing humanism, both of which seem a bit vague and/or rather mistaken to me; item 3 is about neoconservatism and James Burnham (in my extract), and it seems a mistake to me to identify Burnham as the father of neoconservatism; and item 4 is about a good article about Trump's many failings.

Incidentally, the first three items are about possibilities or the meanings of terms, which is why the main terms in the title were quoted.
April 26: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site againstuck on April 23, where I meanwhile - after 16 months - conclude it will stick for a week. (They did it from 1996 till 2015 within minutes at most. I think this is to limit the readings of my site.) These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. And they happen on purpose, because it is extremely simple to do this properly, and it was done properly from 1996 till late in 2015. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them.)

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Cornel West & Former Sanders Staffer on Movement to Draft Bernie for a New "People's Party" in U.S.

The first article today is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

As Donald Trump approaches his 100th day as president on Saturday, his approval ratings are the lowest any president has had at this stage in generations. A recent poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found just 40 percent of Americans approve of his job performance so far. Trump took to Twitter to call the poll "totally wrong." This comes as former presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as one the country’s most popular politicians. The Hill reports a Harvard-Harris poll shows 57 percent of registered voters view him favorably. Meanwhile, some former Sanders supporters have launched a movement to "Draft Bernie for a People’s Party," urging him to start a new progressive party and run for president again in 2020. We speak with Nick Brana, the former outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign, and Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University. His new piece in The Guardian is headlined "The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment."

This article is here mostly because I agree with the basic argument, which may be put as follows:

Because both the Republicans and the Democrats now are parties of liars and deceivers that are factually run by the rich for the rich, and also - I'd add, being a European - because having effectively two parties is not at all good for a real democracy, it is a good idea to start a new party that is not for the rich but for the non-rich.

And here is a quotation of Bernie Sanders:

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: The model of the Democratic Party is failing. We have the—we have a Republican president who ran, as a candidate, as the most unpopular candidate in modern history of this country. Republicans control the House, the Senate, two-thirds of governor’s chairs. And in the last eight years, they have picked up 900 legislative seats. Clearly, the Democratic Party has got to change. And in my view, what it has got to become is a grassroots party, a party which makes decisions from the bottom on up.

Yes, except that it will not become a grassroots party with Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Tom Perez in charge, and it also has not been a grassroots party since Bill Clinton (who sold out to the bankers, and indeed became quite rich himself), that is since 1991.

But as is, there are just two parties in the USA who contend about most issues, and both of these parties have been bought by the rich (bankers in case of the Democrats,
industrialists in case of the Republicans).

So here is what seems like an alternative:

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, some former Sanders supporters have launched a movement to "Draft Bernie for a People’s Party," urging him to start a new progressive party and run for president in 2020.

Well, for more, we’re joined by two guests. Nick Brana is the former outreach coordinator for the Bernie Sanders campaign. He has joined with former Bernie staffers and volunteers to launch the campaign. We’re also joined by Dr. Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University. He served on the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee during the 2016 election. Now he, too, has joined the movement to draft Sanders, his new piece in The Guardian headlined "The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days: disappointment." In it, he writes, "The distinctive feature of these bleak times is the lack of institutional capacity on the left—the absence of a political party that swings free of Wall Street and speaks to the dire circumstances of poor and working people. As the first 100 days of the plutocratic and militaristic Trump administration draw to a close, one truth has been crystal clear: the Democratic party lacks the vision, discipline and leadership to guide progressives in these turbulent times."

I agree mostly with West (although I should add that as a philosopher I have no idea about what the academic content is of being a "professor of the practice of public philosophy", but then again that does not only apply to Cornel West but to many modern academics: There seems to be little real academic content behind what they are nominated to teach (unlike those who teach physics or mathematics or Chinese)).

Here is some more by him:

CORNEL WEST: Well, I was blessed to spend some time on inside of the Democratic Party looking at the ways in which we could come up with some vision. And I was convinced that the Democratic Party was milquetoast, moribund. It lacks imagination, gusto, doesn’t have enough courage. It’s too tied to big money. The duopoly stands in the way of democracy.

Yes, but the main reason that "the Democratic Party" is "milquetoast, moribund (..) lacks imagination, gusto, doesn’t have enough courage" is that it is far "too tied to big money".

And here is Nick Brana:

NICK BRANA: There is an amazing hunger for this, especially among young people. It was 91 percent of millennials, people under 29, who actually wanted a major independent choice in this past election. And the majority of Americans actually wanted it, as well, and still do—57 percent. And so, those are staggering numbers in favor of a new party.

And we’ve reached the point where, to address what you were saying earlier, is that what we’re trying to do at Draft Bernie for a People’s Party, the group that we’ve founded to get Bernie to start a new party, is fundamentally different than what the Green Party, Ralph Nader, tried to do, in that it follows a successful model in our own history of starting a major party that can displace an existing establishment party.
(..)
If Bernie starts a party, that party begins with tens of millions of followers. And in my view, Bernie already built the party. He did it during the primaries. That coalition that he brought together, that’s the party. It’s just about formalizing it.
Well... perhaps. There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended, but there are also at least two difficulties: The first one is that Sanders has not yet been convinced of this idea, and the second is that Sanders will become 79 in 2020.

Neither problem is insurmountable, but this is where this plan for a third major party is at the moment: Not far.

2. Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms

The second article is by Harvey Wasserman (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig:

This article starts as follows:

Marine Le Pen is the latest fascist to be called a “Right Wing Populist” by the corporate media.

There is no such thing. 

Let’s be clear: Populists are leftists. We support human rights, social democracy, peace and ecological sanity.

“Populists of the Right” are fascists. Their goal has a clear definition, as put forward by the term’s originator, Benito Mussolini: “Corporate control of the state.”

When they take power, they become National Socialists, using the government to enrich the corporations and the rich, rather than Democratic Socialists, or social democrats, using the state to serve the people.

Fascists support enriching the rich and to hell with the rest of us. They are racist, misogynist, anti-ecological, militaristic and authoritarian. They hate democracy, freedom of speech and an open media. They take power by fomenting hate and division. Le Pen, now in in the runoff for the leadership of France, is a classic fascist, as is her American counterpart, Donald Trump. 

The term “populist” has a clear historical origin in the United States. It’s important we claim it.

O Lord! Someone who derives basic factual "truths" from an arbitrary completely unenlightened view of semantics! And Harvey Wasserman is 73! Let's see:

First, quite possibly Le Pen is "a fascist" in some sense (I am a European and I don't like her at all, but indeed did not thoroughly investigate her), but my parents and grandparents were - prominent - antifascists (my father was knighted for it, for example), and I did study fascism, and found at least 21 mostly more or less reasonable distinct definitions of the term "fascism". See here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions. The least this implies is that "fascism" is a quite vague and quite ambiguous term.

Second, populists are not leftists. Here is the Wikipedia on populism (minus two note numbers) which does get linked in the quotation by "clear historical origin":

Populism is a political doctrine that proposes that the common people are exploited by a privileged elite, and which seeks to resolve this. The underlying ideology of populists can be left, right, or center. Its goal is uniting the uncorrupt and the unsophisticated "little man" against the corrupt dominant elites (usually established politicians) and their camp of followers (usually the rich and influential). It is guided by the belief that political and social goals are best achieved by the direct actions of the masses. Although it chiefly comes into being where mainstream political institutions are perceived to have failed to deliver, there is no identifiable economic or social set of conditions that give rise to it, and it is not confined to any particular social class.

Political parties and politicians often use the terms populist and populism as pejoratives against their opponents. Such a view sees populism as demagogy, merely appearing to empathize with the public through rhetoric or unrealistic proposals in order to increase appeal across the political spectrum.

In fact, this is how I understand the terms "populism" and "populist" the last 50 years (and indeed I don't like it). It is also true I am European, but in the above definition this does not matter. It's true that in Wikipedia's populism lemma it is remarked that:

In the United States and Latin America, populism has generally been associated with the left, whereas in European countries, populism is more associated with the right. In both, the central tenet of populism—that democracy should reflect the pure and undiluted will of the people—means it can sit easily with ideologies of both right and left.

But this does not mean Wasserman is right, for it is also explained in the lemma that - according to Wikipedia - in the USA

(..) the term "populist" nonetheless came to be applied to both left-wing and right-wing groups that blamed elites for the problems facing the country (..)

As indeed is correct on my understanding of the term "populism". Next, while I am not a rightist, it seems to me that not everything is either black or else white: There are quite a few tints of grey, and the statement that "“Populists of the Right” are fascists" reduces all the grey tints to "fascists" or "populists", which is both unclear (there are at least 21 different meanings of "fascism") and a radical simplification of the real facts (for there are rightists who are not fascists, such as - for example - classical Republicans).

To end my critical remarks on the quoted paragraphs, I agree Wasserman's use of "fascism", while not precise, does seem more or less correct (in my view), but - judging by Wikipedia - his statement that "The term “populist” has a clear historical origin in the United States" does not seem to have much support. (Check out populism in case you disagree.)

The article ends thus:

The fascists’ divide-and-conquer scapegoating embodies the precise opposite of real populism. Their small-minded meanness of spirit and blatant greed contradict everything the People’s and Socialist Parties stood for.

Led now by France’s Le Pen, America’s Trump and so many others, the core corporate values of Kleptocracy, war mongering, racism, misogyny, homophobia and ecological contempt can be seen in sibling reactionaries throughout Europe, in Russia’s Putin, in the Philippines’ murderous Duterte and among countless corporate dictators in developing nations.

There is nothing “populist” about these thugs and thieves except the media’s use of the term to describe them.

The “F” word applies. It is FASCIST. It’s time to use it—and to reclaim the true meaning of populism, in all its humanistic glory.

And thus Wasserman has reduced everything political to two positions: "FASCISM" or "populism, in all its humanistic glory".

To this anti-fascist from an anti-fascist family this seems a very naive form of wishful thinking.

3. How Neocons Push for War by Cooking the Books

The third article is by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould on Truthdig. It is in fact part 2 of a four part series, of which I reviewed part 1 yesterday:

This is from the article:

The ideology referred to as neoconservatism can claim many godfathers, if not godmothers. Roberta Wohlstetter’s reputation as one of the pre-eminent Cold Warriors of RAND Corp. was equal to her husband’s. The couple’s infamous parties at their Santa Monica home acted as a kind of initiation rite for the rising class of “defense intellectual.”

But the title of founding father might best be applied to James Burnham. A convert from Trotsky’s inner circle, Burnham championed the anti-democratic takeover then occurring in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in his 1941 “The Managerial Revolution” and his 1943 “The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom,” while in his 1945 “Lenin’s Heir,” he switched his admiration, if only tongue in cheek, from Trotsky to Stalin.

George Orwell criticized Burnham’s cynical elitist vision in his 1946 essay “Second Thoughts on James Burnham,” writing: “What Burnham is mainly concerned to show [in “The Machiavellians”] is that a democratic society has never existed and, so far as we can see, never will exist. Society is of its nature oligarchical, and the power of the oligarchy always rests upon force and fraud. … Power can sometimes be won and maintained without violence, but never without fraud.”

Orwell is said to have modeled his novel “1984” on Burnham’s vision of the coming totalitarian state, which he described as “a new kind of society, neither capitalist nor Socialist, and probably based upon slavery.”

I say, for this does not quite correspond to my judgements, which are quite well informed about George Orwell (<-Wikipedia) (whom I admire and read everything of except two early literary novels) and also about James Burnham, of whom I read both "The Managerial Revolution" and the - much better - "The Machiavellians".

The above quotation is more or less correct, but I don't think it is quite correct to make James Burnham (<- Wikipedia) the "founding father" of "neoconservatism".

What seems true is that he was quite conservative after 1945, and that someone mentioned in the article on Burnham said "His approach to foreign policy has caused some to regard him as the first "neoconservative,"" but then (i) neoconservatism (<-Wikipedia) " is a political movement born in the United States during the 1960s among conservative-leaning Democrats who became disenchanted with the party's foreign policy", which (ii) doesn't mention Burnham at all (and traces the roots of neoconservatism to Commentary rather than to Burnham).

There is more in the article, but this supported my judgements, though I am quite willing to agree the difference is not very important.

4. Donald Trump’s Failing Presidency

The fourth and last article today is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The 100-day mark may be an artificial measuring stick for a U.S. president. Obviously much can happen in the remaining 1,361 days of a four-year term. But Donald Trump’s decisions in his first three months in office have put him on an almost irreversible path to failure.

He now appears to be little more than a traditional Republican with more than a little dash of Kardashian sleaze in him, a boorish reality-TV star reading from a neocon script that could have been written for many of his GOP rivals, except he delivers his lines with worse grammar and a limited vocabulary, favoring imprecise words such as “beautiful” and “sad.”

Trump also has the look of a conman. He sold himself as a populist who would fight for the forgotten Americans, but is following domestic policies aimed at comforting his super-rich friends while afflicting his most loyal blue-collar supporters.

Yes, that seems all correct, although as long as Trump is president he can blow up everyone in a fit of pique.

There is also this:

On the foreign policy front, Trump has broken his vow to move away from endless war and needless confrontation – and avoid their extraordinary costs in blood and treasure. After months of getting newspaper-slapped by the mainstream media over Russia-gate, Trump has put his tail between his legs and become a housebroken dog to neocon dogma.

Quite possibly so. And there is this, which I think is correct:

Indeed, what we have learned about Trump in the first 100 days is that he is a thin-skinned, insecure narcissist who obsesses over sleights and relishes tangible signs of praise and approval. The Clinton campaign was right about one thing at least, that Trump’s fragile ego puts the future of mankind at risk given his control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Further enhancing that danger is that Trump apparently thinks his erratic behavior is a plus, not realizing that there are limits to what a madman can get away with even if he has his twitchy finger on the nuclear button. At some point, one of Trump’s crazed bluffs will be called and then he will have little choice but to prove that he is, indeed, a madman.

One reason I think this is correct is that I am a psychologist who agrees with - meanwhile - many other psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump is not sane.
And if Trump has "
little choice but to prove that he is, indeed, a madman", that
will be the probable end of human civilization.

The last bit that I'll quote from this article is this:

Despite denials from mainstream commentators about America having a “deep state,” one does exist in Washington, as should be obvious watching the cable news shows or reading the major newspapers. Indeed, there is arguably less diversity allowed in the vaunted “free press” of America than in some supposedly authoritarian states.

For instance, even people with solid professional credentials who disagree with the U.S. government’s interpretation of the evidence on the April 4 chemical incident in Syria are excluded from participation in the public debate. The major U.S. media even takes pride in that exclusion because these people are deemed “fringe” or responsible for “propaganda” or guilty of “fake news.” The tendency toward careerist “groupthink” is very powerful in Washington and the national media.

I agree there is a deep state - in some sense - and if you want to know more about it you can check the indexes of Nederlog in 2016 and 2017 with "deep state", and I also agree that the remarkable agreements of the mainstream media support that idea.

As to groupthinking, I quote my Philosophical Dictionary once more, because I think this whole idea is very important although mostly neglected:

Groupthinking: The kind of thinking, feeling, valueing and desiring that keeps human social groups together.

Much of the thinking that goes into groupthinking is totalitarian in principle, and is made up of principles based on wishful thinking of the following kind:

Usually the members of groups are hardly aware that their membership is to a large extent emotionally and intellectually based on principles such as the above, even though it is very easy to see these principles at work in the mental make-up or the behavior of members of other groups - political parties, religious organizations, soccer supporters, but also firms, schools, universities etc., for one way the human animal is social is by actively belonging to groups and by supporting the ideas, ideals, morals and practices that constitute, regulate or support these groups.

Also, it is noteworthy that the above principles involved in most group-thinking are relatively innocuous, and that most groups also practice such principles as

  • Whoever does not belong to Our Group is less good (perfect, humane, religiously or racially proper) than whoever does
  • Whoever opposes Our Group, Our Leaders, Our Ideologyor Our Faith is, therefore and thereby, morally or humanly or intellectually inferior
  • Whoever does not conform to the practices and principles current in Our Group is immoral or insane

Most groupthinking involves prejudice of all kinds, and the best excuse for this seems to be that, since human beings are social animals, there is an instinctual motivation to wish to belong to and to support a human group.

And there is considerably more in the original that is strongly recommended.

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