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Nederlog

October 12, 2018

Crisis: On Fascism, Sanders, Hysteria, Hedges & Talbot, On Class War


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 12, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, October 12, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from October 12, 2018:
1. Jason Stanley on “How Fascism Works”
2. Bernie Sanders Delivers Stirring Rebuke of Trump's Authoritarianism
3. There Will Be No More Business As Usual
4. Why the left must go beyond electoral politics
5. Economics: Class War by Another Name
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Jason Stanley on “How Fascism Works”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now. It starts with the following introduction:
In his new book “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,” Yale professor Jason Stanley warns about the dangers of normalizing fascist politics, writing, “What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary. It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been.” We speak with Jason Stanley in New York.
I say: A professor of philosophy, at Yale, no less, who writes a whole book about fascism. He is one of the first, but then again I do not think that normalization is very important to fascism, neofascism, or indeed to other political doctrines, and one reason is that this supposed ability ¨to tolerate what was once intolerable¨ treats ordinary people as if they are small children, who cannot recognize what was normal a short time ago.

Incidentally, the definitions of fascism and neofascism are mine, and have been compiled on the basis of
On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions, that I wrote in 2016, while they are inspired by the facts that my father, my mother and my father´s father were all in the communist resistance against Nazism in Holland between 1940 and 1945, while my father and his father were arrested in 1941, and convicted (by collaborating Dutch judges, who were never punished) as ¨political terrorists¨ to concentration camp imprisonments. My father survived over 3 years and 9 months of that; my grandfather was murdered.

O and as to philosophy: I am the only person who was removed from the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam very briefly before I could take my M.A. in it (with a candidacy in philosophy with the very high marks of an 8+, and while I suffered from a serious chronic disease) because I was unhappy with the standards of teaching and said so in public and because I was NOT a Marxist or communist (as nearly all of the leading students in the ¨U¨vA were, between 1971 and 1984), and said so in public. The last fact also led to my being called ¨a fascist¨, ¨a dirty fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist¨ between 1977 and 1989, at a fundamentally ¨communist¨ university.

Back to the article:
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We end today’s show with a remarkable new book titled How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, which focuses in particular on current trends under the Trump administration, arguing that the president is not as much of an anomaly in American history as we often think. The book’s author, Yale professor Jason Stanley, whose parents were both Holocaust survivors who came to the U.S. as refugees, shows instead that, quote, “In its own history, the United States can find a legacy of the best of liberal democracy as well as the roots of fascist thought (indeed, Hitler was inspired by the Confederacy and Jim Crow Laws),” Jason Stanley writes. He also warns of the dangers of normalizing fascist politics, saying, quote, “What normalization does is transform the morally extraordinary into the ordinary. It makes us able to tolerate what was once intolerable by making it seem as if this is the way things have always been.”
I summarized most of the above already, but I want to say something about normalization that I learned from my own experiences:

As I described above, I was styled ¨a fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist¨ by the club of ¨communist¨ (and ¨leftist¨) students who had been given the power in all Dutch universities in 1971, and I was styled so because I was not a ¨communist¨ like nearly every student of philosophy was in the late 1070ies.

This was also quite normal in all Dutch universities - but both of my parents were (prominent) communists since the 1930ies or early 1940ies; I had been a communist until I was 20, simply because I had been raised in a communist family; and I refused to say so in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam because my father could get very angry because of his concentration camp experiences.

And in fact I was not a fascist, and not a terrorist, but a kind of anarchist; I do not think that any of the many tens or hundreds of students who pretended being ¨communists¨ (that often also included a membership in the Dutch Communust Party) were real communists, like my parents were, but they were quite free to abuse me for being a fascist because I was not ¨a communist¨ like them, and they were in the vast majority in the university.

It was fundamentally pretension for the vast majority of the ¨communist¨ students, and indeed as soon as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990-1991 the whole lot followed the example of the prominent communist students who published a booklet in 1991 (mostly as members of some faculty in some Dutch university in some pseudoscience) that essentially claimed they had done nothing wrong and now were neo-conservatives, and should keep their jobs and status - and they all did. (Incidentally, the whole history of the ¨U¨vA from 1971 till 1995 is essentially totally denied and hardly treated at all by the current - very authoritarian - ¨University¨ of Amsterdam.)

Back to the article. Here is Stanley´s first definition of fascism:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, explain what fascism—define what it means for you.

JASON STANLEY: So, fascism is an ideology based on power. Liberal democracy is based on liberty and equality. Liberty and equality require truth, because you need truth to speak truth to power, and a free—if you’re lied to, you’re not free. No one thinks the people of North Korea are free. They’ve been lied to. So, if you’re going to attack liberal democracy and replace it with power, you need to smash truth. So, fascism is an ideology based on power and loyalty. It creates—it’s based on hypernationalism, so one group—loyalty to one group. And one person, the leader, represents that group. It’s hypermasculine and hyperpatriarchal.

I am sorry (and see my definition of fascism) but this is just an extremely schematic ¨definition¨ that is in fact not a proper definition at all.

Here is a somewhat better ¨definition¨:

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the 10 pillars of fascism. What are they?

JASON STANLEY: The 10 pillars of fascism are, number one, a mythic past, a great mythic past which the leader harkens back.

Number two, propaganda. There’s a certain kind of fascist propaganda where everything is inverted. The news is the fake news. Anti-corruption is corruption.

So, three, anti-intellectualism. As Steve Bannon said, it’s emotion—rage gets people to the polls. We got elected on “Lock her up!” and “Build the wall!” Hitler, in Mein Kampf, says you want your propaganda to appeal to the most—to the least educated people.

Number four, unreality. You have to smash truth. So, reason gets replaced by conspiracy theories. I first started writing, got out of my academic shell in 2011, when I wrote a piece about birtherism, because I saw conspiracy theories coming, and that’s a deeply concerning sign. Unreality. So, you smash every—smash truth, so all that remains is loyalty.

Hierarchy. In fascist politics, the dominant group is better than everyone else. They were like the loyal—the great people in the past who deserve respect just for being them.

Victimhood. In fascism, the dominant group are the greatest victims. The men are the greatest victims of encroaching feminism. Whites are the greatest victims of blacks. Germans are the greatest victims of Jews.

Law and order. What are they victims of? They’re victims of the out group, who are criminals. What kind of criminals are they? They’re rapists. Sexual anxiety.

Pillar nine is Sodom and Gomorrah. The real values come from the heartland. The people in the city are decadent.

And pillar 10 is ”Arbeit macht frei“—work shall make you free. The out group is lazy. They’re not just criminals; they’re lazy. And social Darwinism. It’s all about winning.
Well... I considered no less than 21 definitions of the term ¨fascism¨ in my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions and while Stanley´s list is reminiscent of three or four lists in On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions it also does not resemble them, so at best I may consider this a 22nd ¨definition¨, which also is not a proper definition, and wholly misses the fact that fascism was a social system for two decades in Italy and for nearly 15 years in Germany.

In brief, I am not impressed and the ¨definition¨ that Stanley provided above does not seem proper to me, neither as a definition, nor in its criterions.

2. Bernie Sanders Delivers Stirring Rebuke of Trump's Authoritarianism

This article is by Jon Queally on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. This is from near its beginning:

In a speech delivered at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Sanders told the small audience that he wanted to “say a few words about a troubling trend in global affairs that gets far too little attention,” as he proceeded to describe a trend that both describes the America under Trump, but one also seen in nations across the globe.

“There is currently a struggle of enormous consequence taking place in the United States and throughout the world,” Sanders declared in his speech. “In it we see two competing visions. On one hand, we see a growing worldwide movement toward authoritarianism, oligarchy, and kleptocracy. On the other side, we see a movement toward strengthening democracy, egalitarianism, and economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.”

Well... as a matter of fact, I have seen similar struggles and similar visions since (at least) the 1860ies. Then there is this:

Sanders continued by drawing a picture in which an increasingly wealthy and powerful set of elites—not just in the U.S., but in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, South America, Asia, and elsewhere—are actively fomenting anti-democratic angst while butressed by the rise of “demagogues” who, like Trump domestically, “exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to gain and hold on to power.”

In response to such forces, argued Sanders, “Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people and not the other way around, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to confront it effectively.”

And this is nothing new either. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

In the end, Sanders observed,  “Authoritarians seek power by promoting division and hatred. We will promote unity and inclusion.”

And, he concluded, “In a time of exploding wealth and technology, we have the potential to create a decent life for all people. Our job is to build on our common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. We know that those forces work together across borders. We must do the same. “

I am sorry, but I disagree on (at least) two points.

First, non-authoritarians are supposed to ¨promote unity and inclusion¨:

No, not for me (and ¨Unity!¨, ¨Unity!¨, ¨Unity!¨ was a very prominent slogan of communists, though this is a side remark), for I do not want to be ¨united¨ with IQs of 85 and no scientific knowledge whatsoever who on those two bases now support Trump.

And second, if ¨
we have the potential to create a decent life for all people¨ that potential lies in the - far - future, and at present the situation is that there are 7.6 billion persons in the world of which at least some 50% (3.8 billion persons) are poor to very poor, while 50 years ago there were 3.5 billion people of whom some 50% were poor to very poor.


3. There Will Be No More Business As Usual

This article is by Lucian K. Truscott IV on AlterNet and originally on Salon (and yes, I cut titles-as -tweets). This is from near its beginning:

There was a time, not so long ago, when the United States would not have ordered that children be separated from their families and be held in tents in concentration camps inside the borders of this country. Gone.

It was only two years ago that a president of the United States nominated a judge from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court who was not an accused sexual abuser and a drunk. That president, and that Supreme Court nominee are gone.

There was a time not so long ago that the Department of Justice voting rights division would have filed lawsuits challenging state laws like those in North Dakota and elsewhere that make it difficult, if not actually impossible, for people to vote. Gone.

Republicans in this country don’t even bother to pretend anymore that they’re interested in justice and playing by the rules. They have declared war on women, on workers, on people of color, on immigrants, on the poor and dispossessed, on organized labor. They have gone to war against everything that isn’t white and male and wealthy.

All pretense is gone. Remember fairness? Gone. Comity? Gone. Compromise? Gone. The rule of law? Gone. Facts? Gone. Respect for others? Gone. Gone. Decency? Gone. Agreed upon democratic norms? Gone. All men are created equal? Gone.

No, I am sorry but I disagree with this - and I know how my communist father would have diagnosed Truscott IV: as a ¨petit bourgeois run wild¨. This may not be quite adequate for Truscott IV, but what he wrote above is fundamentally propaganda and not reason.

Here is some more:

It’s long past time to call their bluff. If they’re going to disrespect the Supreme Court with their flagrant politicization not only of the court, but of the laws its decisions will affect, then it’s time to show disrespect in return. No more respect for Supreme Court justices like Gorsuch and Kavanaugh who took the bench after political campaigns that spurned legal norms. They should be shunned. Social organizations in Washington D.C. should leave them off the invitation list. No more Kennedy Center Honors box seats. No more invitations to art or theater openings. If you see them on the street, or in the post office, or in a restaurant, confront them. Tell them they don’t have your respect. Tell them they are illegitimate justices on an illegitimate court.

This is more of the same. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

No more business as usual. No more civility. No more respect. Point a finger of ridicule at them. Make them stand naked before the world in their corruption and disdain for norms and the law. Show them the disrespect they deserve. Make their personal lives a living hell. Take to the streets and protest their Supreme Court decisions ordered up by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. Make it clear we know what they’re doing to this country and that we aren’t going to stand for it.

Bring a goddamned machete to the knife fight and slash away. What have we got to lose?

A lot, and this article is fundamentally hysteric bullshit.

4. Why the left must go beyond electoral politics

This article is by David Talbot on Salon. It starts as follows:

Chris Hedges is an intellectual bomb-thrower. The kinds of insights he provides into the troubled state of our democracy cannot be found anywhere else. Like many of our most important thinkers, he has been relegated to the margins because of ideas deemed too radical — or true — for public consumption.

In "Unspeakable," Hedges speaks with Salon founder and New York Times bestselling author David Talbot about the most pressing issues currently facing our nation. If we are to combat the intellectual and moral decay that have come to grip American life, we must listen to Chris Hedges and the urgent message he brings in this book.

This is more or less adequate. Here is more from the interview:

David Talbot: Let’s talk about the Obama legacy. Do you share your friend Cornel West’s view of him — that he was an Uncle Tom who sold out to Wall Street and the other centers of American power?

Chris Hedges: Yes. The facts support Cornel’s statement.

Talbot: How do you back that up?

Hedges: A $7.7 trillion bank bailout and nothing for people who lost their homes — I mean, how is that disputable? Obama did what he was paid to do. He delivered credulous vot­ers into the hands of Wall Street. [Ed. Note: According to a Bloomberg Markets analysis, during Obama’s first year in office, the Federal Reserve committed a staggering $7.77 tril­lion to rescuing the financial system, or “more than half the value of everything produced in the US that year.”] He’s worse than Bush. Bush was witless. He was a tool of Cheney and the neocons. But Obama is very intelligent and very cynical. And Obama has not only expanded these wars, especially with drone strikes that include assassinating US citizens, but his assault on civil liberties has been worse than under Bush.

Yes. I dislike Obama as well and for the same and similar reasons. Besides, as far as Obama and the Clintons are concerned, their main aims seem to have been to become multi-millionaires themselves, rather than help the poor or oppressed in their country.

Here is more - and this is about Bernie Sanders:

Talbot: He promised to impose much higher taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street speculators.

Hedges: Yes, but if we don’t get control of the military spending we’re finished. We’re being hollowed out from the inside like every other empire. We have expanded beyond our capacity to sustain ourselves. Our infrastructure, our public educational system, our social services — everything is crumbling for a reason, we don’t have any money for it. It is being consumed by the war machine. And Sanders didn’t touch the military-industrial-complex. That would have been political suicide.

Talbot: I agree with you on that—by and large, the bloated war state was not part of Bernie’s campaign rhetoric.

Hedges: There will be no socialism until we dismantle imperialism and dramatically slash military spending power. Martin Luther King understood that.

I think this is mostly correct as well. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Hedges: Voting for Clinton and supporting the Democratic Party will not curb the rise of American fascism. Trump did not create the phenomena. He responded to it.

The Democrats, and in particular Hillary and Bill Clin­ton, are responsible, along with the rest of the Democratic elites, for our being sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit. They engendered this rage. They told the same lies as the Republicans. They fed the same white racism. They exploded our prison population. They destroyed our welfare system — and 70 percent of the original recipients were children. They enabled the corporate coup. They unleashed the predators on Wall Street and in the fossil fuel industry. They colluded to strip us of our civil liberties. They backed endless war and fed the obscene profits of the arms industry and swelled agencies such as Homeland Security. Obama and the Democrats have authorized the assassination of US citizens. They signed into law legislation that permits the military to act as a domes­tic police force and detain US citizens indefinitely without due process. Obama and the Democratic Party establish­ment, working with the Republicans, turned us into the most watched, photographed and monitored population in human history. And they are attempting to ram new trade agreements down our throats.

It pays to sell out the citizenry. The Clintons have made more than $153 million for paid speeches alone since 2001. The Democratic Party is awash in corporate cash. And the Obamas will soon, like the Clintons, be multimillionaires.

I think this is mostly correct - and as I said above, as far as Obama and the Clintons are concerned, their main aims seem to have been to become multi-millionaires themselves, rather than help the poor or oppressed in their country.


5. Economics: Class War by Another Name

This article is by Frank Lee on The Off-Guardian. My illustration is a somewhat better version of the illustration Lee starts with:

             

The text of this article starts as follows:
I recall an old anarchist cartoon which was in the form of a pyramid. The top stratum consisted of Kings and Queens, millionaires, billionaires, high-ranking politicians, the military, ministers and statesmen and various other high-falutin’ members of the ruling elite: the adjacent caption read – “We rule you.” The next tier down, consisted of the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, priests and other members of the clergy: the caption read – “We fool you.” Beneath that there were soldiers and militia and police: the caption read – “We shoot you.” And the lowest, broader and most populous layer was – us, the ordinary folk, the caption read: – “we support you”

In modern times legitimation of the ancien regime is a function of a sophisticated propaganda apparatus which is both ubiquitous and omnipresent. This configuration consists of academics, politicians, journalists, economists, think tanks, and so forth, among what is a huge army of other specialists in psychological warfare and thought control. My choice of economists may seem arbitrary but in fact it is of crucial importance. Economics, or political economy as it was called during the first half of the 19th century, played a pivotal ideological role in the ongoing conflict between classes.
In fact, the lowest layer in the capitalist pyramid were the workers who were said to ¨feed all¨ and to ¨work for all¨. But this is a minor correction.

A major disagreement I have with Lee is that I do not believe in classes in the way he seems to do, which amounts to these assumptions: (1) there are - in the end - just two classes, say the exploiters and the exploited; (2) everyone belongs to the one or the other class; and (3) the behavior and choices of classes can be deduced from the class they are.

It seems to me that the first and the second assumption are mostly conventions, while the third assumption has been massively refuted e.g. by WW I, when tens of millions of workers, who should have opposed the war and prevented it, faught the war for nationalistic reasons, that were at fundamental variance with what they should have done based on their class position.

In brief, classes are too much of a simplification - and no: Not everything depends on economics (however defined).

Here is some more:

Neo-liberalism, as opposed to 19th century reform liberalism, has been the direct descendent of the neo-classical school and subsequently the dominant ideological vehicle for the last 150 years, particularly in the Anglo-American world. (As an appendage, a watered-down version of Keynesianism was added on during the post WW2 period 1945-1975).

Such changes in economic, political and social structures always presuppose and are accompanied by changes in the existing status quo and general weltgeist. The post-war boom which lasted from circa 1945-1970 was to founder of the rocks of the US trade deficit, the costs of the Vietnam war and Johnson’s Great Society, the oil crisis which in fact was the function of the dollar’s devaluation, the outflow of gold from the US to Europe, the industrial catch-up and recovery of Japan and Germany and a prolonged stagflation of the early 1970s.
Well... the ¨watered down version of Keynesianism¨ was in considerable part produced by Keynes himself, and it delivered welfare and freedom in Western Europe. And the rest - including ¨changes in the existing status quo and general weltgeist¨ - is just too vague.

Finally, here is a quote from Roger Bootle:

Academic economics has become a disaster and a disgrace … Not only did most academic economists fail to see the great implosion of 2008 coming, but they weren’t even looking in the right direction. And having been surprised by its arrival they have little to say about its implications…

Although there are shining exceptions, most academic economists, whilst clinging to the idea that the subject is relevant and of interest to the wider world, in fact practice a modern form of medieval scholasticism – of no use to man or beast. The output of this activity consists of articles entombed in ‘scholarly’ journals usually about questions of startling irrelevance, badly thought out, and appallingly badly written, littered with jargon, and liberally dosed with mathematics, destined to be read by no-one outside of a narrow coterie of specialists, and increasingly not even by them.”
I more or less agree, but academic economics will continue to exist.

Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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