Filed under: Analysis, Anti-fascist, Capitalism, Critique, Featured, The State
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For many of us, it feels like we are sliding back into a feudal system.
Wages have stagnated since the 1970s, when financialization and deregulation began a process of what we now call neoliberal economics, while the cost of living, education, and transportation has increased. At the same time, people are working longer and longer hours for less pay. On top of that, many people’s sources of income are becoming often more precarious, with many people working a series of various jobs and hustles, trying to make ends meet. The same processes of austerity, precarity, and poverty have been repeated in all other aspects of our lives, from the schools we go to, the water we drink, the cops we interact with, to the places we live in.
This process also hasn’t impacted us all the same; for example, school and neighborhoods are more segregated now than before the supposed legal end of Jim Crow. More African Americans are currently incarcerated, on probation, on house-arrest, or on parole than those enslaved during chattel slavery. In the last eight years, African American families have also lost more wealth than during any point in history since the Great Depression. Native Americans still face continued colonization of their land and resources, crippling poverty, and some of the highest rates of incarceration and police murder. In short, neoliberalism hasn’t just been a class war, it’s been an instrument to reconstruct a racialized order through mass incarceration, broken windows policing, and the militarization of law enforcement.
— It's Going Down (@IGD_News) May 14, 2017
But the rich still expect us to be grateful for everything “they give us.” When Trump was asked if there was anything that he sacrificed or gave up to get where he was, he replied that he in fact sacrificed and gave up every day–by paying his employees. By this Trump means that it is by his good graces that he gives his employees benefits, wages, and jobs at all, and that in return they should be grateful for what he agrees to do for them.
It is this relationship, and this perspective, that seeps into all aspects of our lives. “You’re lucky to have this apartment,” even though it costs more than half of your income. “You’re lucky to have this job,” even though you work over 40 hours a week, never see your friends and family, and also are still broke. “You’re lucky to live in this city,” even though it takes a hour to go anywhere, you never see any of your friends because everyone is working, and a burrito costs $13.53.
But seemingly grabbing more headlines than the continuous class war of everyday life, is the steady rise of the Far-Right who rode the Trump wave: media moguls such as InfoWars, Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and Mike Cernovich; the militias such as the Oath Keepers and the III%ers; and the Alt-Right, which includes white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
These movements largely gained a foothold in part of the wider culture during the Obama years, as a new generation of (largely) young men came of political age on the internet and rebelled against the neoliberal and interventionist regime they perceived as being “politically correct” and “Leftist.” This rejection of political correctness, which neoliberalism developed as a way of shielding all the bad shit it was actually doing, allowed for a host of ideologies that embraced actual fascism to come in and brand themselves as “the true rebels.” Moreover, the Far-Right learned from this “multicultural” neoliberalism and stocked their movement with personalities such as Sheriff Clarke, Milo, and Ann Coulter as a means of deflecting being labeled outright neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
But when one actually gets down to what the Far-Right believes, when one matches the rhetoric with reality, especially to the real needs that everyday people have, one begins to realize how full of shit these movements actually are.
But moreover, you begin to understand that rational thought, logic, and facts don’t actually matter to the Far-Right. Instead, what the Right learned from liberals is that it can instead invert every criticism of itself back onto its enemies. “Antifa are the real fascists! They hate free speech!,” claims the Alt-Right, as they murder people of color and attack places of worship across the country. “Anarchists are the shock troops of the Communist, Democratic Party, and are funded by George Soros!,” proclaim the militias and right-wing biker groups, as they cozy up with billionaires and career politicians. “Feminism is a cancer! It oppresses men!,” write the Men’s Rights Activists and neo-reactionaries, who, in turn, promote everything from rape to pediofillia.
As both a movement and a media ecosystem, the Far-Right functions because there are a multitude of political cadres to do the work, organize conferences, make the youtube channels, and record the podcasts. But moreover, they are growing because there are also people with big money backing them who are pushing these movements and helping to generalize their talking points, ideas, and conspiracy theories within the wider population. Lastly, there is also a growing disaffected working and middle class that is unhappy with the status quo. And as long as grassroots, autonomous, community based, and anti-capitalist alternatives fail to interact with those who are massively disaffected, the Far-Right will continue to grow.
So, as we continue to fight, confront, and counter-organize against these groups, we must also attack their ideas and their talking points, exposing again and again this hodge podge of conspiracy theories, racist pseudo-science, and wingnut bullshit for exactly what it is.
Muh Free Speech
Everyone from neo-Nazis to militia members says that free speech is under attack in the United States and of course the real victims are themselves. This claim utilizes some of the major rhetorical reference devices of the Far-Right: it paints them as victims, portrays this victimization as the work of a conspiracy between anti-American forces and the government (or at least the Democrats), and also demands that the government intervene and protect them.
But while the Far-Right cries swastika tears, people across the US are getting organized in their communities to physically confront and shut down fascist organizing (as opposed to pushing the State to censor the fascists), the State–which has never cared about free speech to begin with–has been gearing up to attack social movements that actually challenge its power.
In short, while the militias, the Alt-Right, and Based Stickmen have been crying about “muh freeze peach!,” the government has been working over time to actually pass laws that attack it.
Already since the inauguration of Donald Trump, more than 20 states have introduced a series of over 30 bills that would crack down on protests and demonstrations, and give those arrested at protests stiffer penalties. According to The Guardian:
The proposed laws would variously increase the penalties for protesting in large groups, ban protesters from wearing masks during demonstrations and, in some states, protect drivers from liability if they strike someone taking part in a protest.
These pieces of legislation seriously attack basic freedoms and the ability of people to come together to express dissent. And, when you couple this on top of things such as the Patriot Act and indefinite detention, it keeps getting even scarier. If you want a vision of where we are headed, just compare the protesters who were mass arrested in Washington DC during Trump’s inauguration and now face 75 years in prison to the Oregon militia occupiers who have yet to receive any charges.
But, of course, none of these attacks on speech, assembly, and protest are denounced by the Far-Right; in fact, leaders such as Kyle Chapman, aka “Based Stickman,” claim that Far-Right militants will spend the next eight years defending the Trump presidency from any sort of threats posed by grassroots movements. In short, they seek to create a second auxiliary police force–to do in the streets what the government does in courts. So, if anything, the Far-Right will be the enforcers of the government’s attack on the ability of people to mobilize and express dissent, not those pushing back against it.
But this again fits into the mentality of the Far-Right. For them, the real threat is not in the power of the State to oppress, but in the danger that it is being “taken over” by forces that will weaken the power of men, carry out “white genocide,” and overall denigrate the power of “Western civilization,” regardless of the fact it is crumbling quite quickly, all on its own.
Looking at what the Far-Right actually wants also helps to show that it is the opposite of human freedom and community. The militias want rule by local sheriffs and police–a warrior caste of male fighters who tell the rest of us what to do. The Alt-Right and neo-Nazis want a fascist, all-white-ethno state and are willing to use genocide, murder, and violence to get it. The reactionary libertarians want a society ruled by property, money, and markets, and many are eager to give free helicopter rides, a la Pinochet, to anyone who disagrees. In short, the Right fucking hates freedom.
And if it really cared about free speech and “muh constitution,” it would be fighting the same federal government we’ve always been fighting, regardless of which president was in power or what color their skin is.
Surveillance, Indefinite Detention, and Civil Liberties
During Obama’s Presidency, while the Far-Right was making up fake-ass conspiracy theories about everything from his birth records; to his “drive to implement Sharia Law,” take away all the guns, or start race wars; to “death panels,” his administration was actually doing some real heinous shit no one on the Right seemed to give a fuck about. Guess if you remove the Reptiles and Ancient Aliens from the equation, it’s just too real.
Under Obama, the Patriot Act got extended and expanded, Guantanamo Bay stayed open, and also the president started the process of indefinite detention. Essentially if you were considered a terrorist, you could be held for as long as the State deemed necessary and tried without a lawyer. With this in place, the State now had essentially any and all powers to do whatever it wanted with anyone deemed an “enemy of the State.”
Also under Obama, the NSA grew the surveillance state, with the government essentially recording and monitoring everything you do online and storing it in massive databases for the purpose of monitoring the civilian population.
Again, hardly a word of this from the Far-Right.
Fast forward to today, and Sheriff Clarke, who has just taken a position at Homeland Security, has ties to the Oath Keepers militia and the Alt-Lite, and wants to expand the repressive nature of the State. As The Nation wrote:
The sheriff proposes “a suspension of habeas corpus” so that “suspected” Americans can be jailed indefinitely as part of his war-at-home program for “bold and aggressive action.”
Clarke’s new book, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America, is packed with “we are at war” language and talk of operating “under a war time model.” He advocates for rounding up Americans who are perceived as threats, suspending their rights, holding them indefinitely, and handling cases with military tribunals rather than the courts.
This is nothing new. On Clarke’s radio show, The People’s Sheriff, he advocated for suspending the writ of habeas corpus (America’s historic protection against unlawful imprisonment) and for shipping suspects off to Guantánamo Bay.
Beyond just labeling the bogeyman of the month (ISIS) as the key target, Sheriff Clarke also wants to crush and destroy any social movement that threatens the status quo:
During the 2016 presidential race, in which the sheriff, who was elected as a Democrat, campaigned across the country for Trump, Clarke wrote an opinion piece that was headlined: “This is a war, and Black Lives Matter is the enemy.” In it, he argued, “We have several forces internal and external attacking our rule of law: ISIS, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street—just the most recent iterations of the elements who brand themselves as unique but seek the same revolutionary aim: take down the West, the philosophy of equality before the law, and replace it with their authority, their rules, their hate.”
Of course none of this bothers the Far-Right, because after all, Sheriff Clarke is their guy. Hell, he even came to the Alt-Right Deploraball celebration.
Police and Prisons
Ironically, the cornerstone of much Far-Right thought is a rejection of government control over free individuals and also unjust or, sometimes, any, taxation. But this is exactly what police do in the US.
The police and apparatuses that they control first and foremost are designed to take money from the broader population. Every ticket, every court appearance, every fine goes straight into the coffers of the State. While some may simply look at this as “a drag,” when you factor in that communities of color are disproportionately policed, harassed, stopped, and brought to court in much higher numbers, the issue isn’t just about the structural racism involved, but the strategic decision by the State to essentially enact a broad tax on citizens of color in poor neighborhoods that flows directly into the State.
The VICE documentary “Driving While Black” reports:
A new report from Seton Hall Law School Center for Policy & Research has found that in the majority-white municipality of Bloomfield, New Jersey, nearly 80 percent of traffic tickets are issued to African American and Latino drivers.
The report also found that most tickets were issued to non-resident minority drivers passing through town, suggesting a “de facto border patrol” policing policy is in effect.
So even when black and brown drivers behind the wheel didn’t do anything wrong, or just violated simple driving codes, they had to go to court and pay a basic court fee. This daily, systematic white supremacy has a desired effect beyond sucking shit through a straw: it makes the State lots of fucking greenbacks.
And isn’t it this form of unjust taxation, and resistance to it, what militia groups supposedly base their existence on? No taxation without representation, right? Where are they standing up for poor and working-class people being harassed on the daily and being stuck with fines just for being poor, living in a certain neighborhood, or the color of the skin? Fucking nowhere.
But beyond tickets, court fees, or straight-up harassment, there is also the issue of all these people the goddamn police keep killing.
Since the start of 2017, at least 453 people have been killed by police in the US. In the last several years, over 1000 people per year have been killed by police, leading to a national average of over 3 people per day.
This reality creates a problem for the Right, as it shows that although African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinx people are more likely to be shot and killed by police in daily interactions, it still leaves the reality that at least half of the people killed by police in the US are actually white. For instance, according to The Guardian, in 2016, 52% of those killed by US law enforcement were white Americans. In short, while black, brown, and Indigenous people in the US are more likely to be killed by law enforcement, that’s still a whole lot of largely poor and working class white people dying at the hands of police.
While Kyle Chapman leads rallies in front of Oath Keeper militias and cries about “White Genocide,” he of course never talks about the fact that police killed almost 600 white people last year, not to mention all of the other human beings they shot to death.
There’s also the issue of the people who don’t die, the ones who are taken by police to jails and then court: prisoners.
Under the 13th Amendment, slavery is legal in the US, as long as it is a prisoner. This amendment states:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
What this means is that it is legal for corporations and the US government itself to work prisoners for free or next to nothing–making billions in profits, taking jobs away from those on the outside, and giving nothing back to the prisoners doing the labor. This is literally slavery.
Again, on all of this, the Far-Right is silent.
According to all sections of the Far-Right, immigration is a major threat to the American people. The only problem is, it really isn’t. According to the Far-Right, immigrants are draining the American tax payer and costing the rest of us millions, except they’re not. For the white supremacist sections of the Far-Right, immigrants are committing a form of genocide that is “breeding out” whites and will, eventually, literally kill those who are left– all because “The Jews” told them to. Ironically, migrant workers from Mexico and other countries are now leaving the US in greater numbers than they are arriving.
But in recent history it was the passing of NAFTA, which both took communal lands out of the hands of peasants and farmers in Mexico and flooded the country with US products and companies, that forced many workers to look to the US to find work to feed their families. Soon after, the Clinton administration began to militarize the border; this militarization increased through Bush and Obama, while the economy continued to be dependent on immigrant labor.
It goes without saying, but without immigrant workers, a huge section of the US economy running on lower paid, highly exploitable, and non-union labor would collapse. Furthermore, despite what the Far-Right says, immigrants aren’t basking in the glow of “free government money.” While they pay taxes through their wages and purchases, as non-US citizens, they can’t access various government programs that they pay into.
At the end of the day, this system is highly profitable. ICE agents scare migrants away from organizing and asking for better conditions through threats of raids and deportations, while those who profit from paying immigrants low wages reap the financial rewards.
Furthermore, many of the Indigenous communities that migrants come from are actually organizing and fighting back against the power of cartels and the Mexican State, despite the idiotic lies that Trump touts that all migrant workers bring drugs and crime.
If those on the Far-Right were serious about wanting people not to migrate, maybe they would do well to start asking what global forces are making so many people look for work in the US. Of course, that simply won’t happen. The Far-Right doesn’t care about reality; what it cares about is creating internal enemies that they can mobilize scared people to attack so they can make themselves feel better.
“Globalism,” Capitalism, and the Environment
Industrial capitalism is killing this planet and putting us all in danger. While the Trump administration dismisses global warming, other countries are rushing to build infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels. Meanwhile, species continue to die off at an alarming rate, our air and water become more polluted, and the oceans are literally being made acidic and fish stock is plummeting. On all of this the Far-Right is overwhelmingly silent.
At the same time, the Far-Right is united in a rejection in a vague notion of “globalism.” As we wrote in another essay:
After NAFTA was passed, and globalization allowed capital to move freely across national borders while locking workers behind them, as structural adjustment programs slashed social services, took away land, and restructured economies in the service of international capital, the mood began to change in the US among everyday workers against globalization. This anger helped feed into the anti-globalization movement, as large segments of labor joined the fight against free-trade deals. But it wasn’t long until sections of the Right began to bring critiques of globalization into their talking points as well, Pat Buchanan being a key example.
On the Right, discussion of global capitalism was turned on its head; into a conversation on the problem of “the globalists.” In short, the problem wasn’t a system, but a set of people, and this problem is almost always described along the lines of a conspiracy. In short, those on the far-Right framed the problem in terms of American nationalism, sovereignty, and power, pitted against the “globalist agenda.” Furthermore, the far-Right, of whatever stripe, always described the elite globalist system as being supported and maintained by a set of non-State actors, which work in its service to destabilize sovereignty and attack the ‘Native’ population. For some this is immigrants, for others Muslims, for the racist far-Right, it means black people being controlled by Jews, among others. But for all, it means anti-capitalists and grassroots communities in struggle which fight against the dominant social order and power structure.
The Far-Right has always attempted to turn working-class anger at capitalism into a rejection of a shadow government of “globalists” who are in turn directing social movements and struggles, immigrants, and Islamists. In this way, the Right can push away any systematic attack on capitalism and instead use conspiracy theories to explain why things are so bad.
But what this doesn’t address is why poor and working-class people keep getting attacked not by a shadow government of globalists, but instead by an economic system that makes some rich and others poor and destitute, while destroying the planet.
And Trump will only continue this trajectory. His recent budget proposal calls for slashing trillions in social programs, including Medicaid, which millions of poor people depend on. Meanwhile, he slashes regulations and working standards, and pushes for tax cuts on the wealthy.
For the crisis of capitalism, the Right has no answers, and instead lines up behind the billionaires, politicians, and corporations–backing them as their loyal shock troops.
Isn’t it time we stopped listening to these clowns?