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Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse

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Photo by Shardayyy | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Shardayyy | CC BY 2.0

Fascism commends itself on its self-evidence (to its adherents) and its tidiness (making the trains run on time), a mental frame which harnesses the cult of action to a certitude of belief that translates into authoritarian submissiveness. How else explain what is happening in America today? We have billionaires floating around and in government who we did not know existed and who seemed pulled out of a rabbit’s hole of gut-level extremism heretofore always present but under wraps waiting for its day in the sun.

We are still at sunrise, after a predawn setting, under Liberal/Democratic auspices, which already created the conditions for its breaking surface in a new day. There could not be Trump, if there were not, first, Obama, and there could not be Obama, if there were not first the continuity of predecessors, bipartisan, single-minded, dating back half-a-century. Trump is not happenstance; he is as American as apple pie.

Take for example his invitation to Stephen Feinberg to review United States intelligence agencies, with his possible appointment as director of one. An incestuous process at first glance, it is actually a still more rightward shift of mainstream government, with Republicans goading him on, and Democrats largely marginalized, shooting arrows at hardcore nutcakes ordinarily beneath contempt. Yet in present-day America, to be a billionaire is certification of competence, (nonexistent) prior public service, patriotism (the single word driving a state of false consciousness, and yes, America’s own Nazification), and mood of hardening ideology.

Feinberg is the co-partner in Cerebus Management, a fund unerringly pointed in the direction of America’s fascistic underpinnings, from heavy investment in defense industries to covert counterrevolutionary forces. That he and Trump would go public with such a record speaks volumes about the prideful assertion of what had once been publicly unsuitable and almost beyond the pale. But there he is in full display (as are the others around Trump: take your pick, Bannon?), no apologies, on the contrary, bulldozing straight ahead.

Once, from the standard of structural analysis, the interpenetration between business and government, a unification of two modern spheres of authority, capitalism and the state, was adequate to the definition, as found in late stages of Weimar, and corresponding stages in Japan and Italy. With internal regimentation and the outpouring of militaristic expansion, matched by, or even preceded by, the concentration camp and gas chamber, the definition was seen as too simple. that in fact history was in the throes of civilizational upheaval, capitalism a driving force, even within itself, of world conflict. (Neither Russia nor China has evinced the staying power to be a viable challenge in determining the global order.)

Under Trump, American world ascendance is proving catastrophic, a frenzied feeding in search of still greater power: America First, as our neo-Nanzis of the late 30s would have understood and appreciated the phrase, has come to signify a solipsistic national universe, unilateral in its power surge, that, perhaps without need of the concentration camp, will produce the same result, passivity, marginality, of the people below. Trump, Feinberg, Mattis, Bannon, make even the CIA look good. The rehabilitation of Obama is rapidly underway, if that was ever in doubt. In sum, there is no governmental impasse, only the next step in the uphill slog to greater supremacy.

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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