September 23, 2020
by Matt Stannard
Neoliberalism seeks to build normalcy by hiding and peripheralizing the violence of capitalism. Fascism builds on the glorification of violence in order to achieve widespread enforcement, compliance, and celebration of a mystical order that is really just capitalism.
The failure of neoliberalism to do what it promises to do calls fascism into its performative life.
The performativity of fascism matters. Jedd Legum reported a few weeks ago on the Trump campaign’s acceptance of “thousands in donations from a notorious neo-Nazi leader and other racist extremists.” The neo-Nazi leader is Morris Gulett, leader of the Aryan Nations. “The Trump campaign has repeatedly accepted cash from Gulett”, who preaches that “White, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and kindred peoples are the direct descentants of the Adamic man . . .” and has called for genocide against those of African descent, calls Jewish people children of Satan, and so on.
Gulett’s contributions were brought to the attention of the Trump campaign in July 2018 by The Forward. At the time, Gulett had donated to the Trump campaign three times for a total of $200. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Forward.
The Trump campaign also did not respond to a request for comment by Popular Information about Gulett’s continued donations.
Judd’s post at his really good Popular Information site lists a handful of additional donations–in the several thousands of dollars–Trump has accepted from other open racists and white nationalists. There’s no attempt to hide any of this. Nobody in Trump’s support base, which may total as much as 40 percent of the country, will walk back that support. The reason they won’t isn’t because they are fascists (politically active and committed white supremacists, to functionally describe what I mean by this) per se, but because they’ve accepted that the open celebration of white supremacy is an effective means of protecting and promoting their own perceived interests and values.
For U.S. politics, including for a socialist approach to politics, it matters that one side is doing this and the other side isn’t.
There are two things that make the Democratic Party’s difference from, in particular, the Trumpian Republican Party, matter strategically. One is the presence of social democrats and democratic socialists in the party. Their presence is not “cover” for neoliberal and right-wing Democrats, but rather is the result of factional political struggle and popular support for the left in the United States’ two-party system.
The second implication of the difference is the philosophical positioning of the Democratic Party as embodying the promise that capitalism can be made humane.
Strategically, these implications give socialists the opportunity to emphasize both neoliberal capitalism’s broken promises and the importance of electing and protecting left Democrats while building an independent infrastructure for both direct action and electoral anticapitalism–whatever forms those take in the coming months.
Trumpian fascism, like all fascism, begins with the premise that capitalism can’t and shouldn’t be made humane, but rather that its violences are its virtues, the desirability of a violent hierarchical system, a sadistic celebration of brutality and caste order.
Fascism exists because humane capitalism rests on a lie. Neoliberalism’s stability rests, in turn, on the always-looming threat of fascism. We should be pointing this out–not as a pretext for comparing candidates or making epistemically sloppy arguments about equivalencies or third parties, but for building socialism as mass movement in opposition to capitalism, neoliberalism, and fascism.
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