• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal
KEEP COUNTERPUNCH AD FREE!

We are nearing the end. But if we don’t reach our modest goal, we will have to cut back on content and run advertisements (how annoying would that be?). So please, if you have not done so, chip in if you have the means.

FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

About Last Week – and the Accelerated Drives to Extinction and Fascism

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

If, as some observers worry, the United States is undergoing an accelerated transition to full authoritarian class rule in the Donald Trump years, then the events of last week may be considered critical by later historians permitted to chronicle what happened.

Another Democratic Gift to “the Most Dangerous Criminal in History”

On Wednesday, the mock mistrial of the demented fascist oligarch Trump came to its foreordained conclusion. As Noam Chomsky says in a recent interview, the Senate “trial” was an “exhibition of pure farce.” The president was falsely “exonerated” for committing a clear criminal abuse of power. The stay-in-office verdict came courtesy of the totally Trumpified white-nationalist (neofascist) party in the U.S. Senate. The instantly demonized Mitt Romney was the only Republican Senator to vote in accord with Democratic House evidence showing that Trump set the Founding Fathers’ wigs on fire by trying to trade U.S. military assistance and a White House visit to Ukraine’s newly elected president Volodomyr Zelensky in return for Zelensky agreeing to hold a press conference announcing a corruption inquiry into Sleepy Joe Biden and his creepy son.

As many left critics, myself included, have argued, UkraineGate is far from the worst of the demented fascist oligarch Trump’s many offenses – try concentration camps on the southern border and the acceleration of capitalogenic global warming (the second is merely the worst crime in human history). “The impeachment effort,” Chomsky notes, was “another gift by the Democrats to Trump, much as the Mueller affair was.” It was also a great act of avoidance, reflecting the narrow priorities of ruling-class politicians. Chomsky’s comments merit lengthy quotation and sober reflection:

“Are the [UkraineGate] crimes discussed a basis for impeachment. Seems so to me. Has Trump vastly more serious crimes? That is hardly debatable. What might be debatable is whether he is indeed the most dangerous criminal in history (which happens to be my personal view). Hitler had been perhaps the leading candidate for this honor. His goal was to rid the German-run world of Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other ‘deviants,’ along with tens of millions of Slav ‘Untermenschen.’ But Hitler was dedicated with fervor to destroying the prospects of organized human life on Earth in the not-distant future (along with millions of other species…The list of Trump’s crimes is immense, but none merit a nod in the impeachment proceedings. Trump is. And those who think he doesn’t know what he’s doing haven’t been looking closely.”

“…. Trump’s war on organized life on Earth is only the barest beginning. More narrowly, in recent days, the Chosen One has issued executive orders ridding the country of the plague of regulations that protect children from mercury poisoning and preserve the country’s water supplies and lands, along with other impediments to further enrichment of Trump’s primary constituency, extreme wealth and corporate power.”

“On the side, he has been casually proceeding to dismantle the last vestiges of the arms control regime that has provided some limited degree of security from terminal nuclear war, eliciting cheers from the military industry. And as we have just learned, the great pacifist who is committed to end interventions “dropped more bombs and other munitions in Afghanistan last year than any other year since documentation began in 2006, Air Force data shows. He is also ramping up his acts of war — which is what they are — against Iran. I won’t even go into his giving Israel what the Israeli press calls “a gift to the right,” formally giving the back of his imperial hand to international law, the World Court, the UN Security Council and overwhelming international opinion, while shoring up the Evangelical vote for the 2020 election. The prerogative of supreme power.”

“In brief, the list of Trump’s crimes is immense, not least the worst crime in human history. But none merit a nod in the impeachment proceedings. This is hardly a novelty; rather the norm. The current proceedings are often compared with Watergate. Nixon’s hideous crimes were eliminated from the charges against him despite the efforts of Rep. Robert Frederick Drinan and a few others. The Nixon impeachment charges focused on his illegal acts to harm Democrats.”

“Any resemblance to the farce that is now winding up? Does it suggest some insight into what motivates the powerful?”

There’s nothing noble or virtuous about the imperial New Cold War agenda shared by top Democrats. “Since Trump came to office three years ago,” the World Socialist Website (WSWS) notes, “Democrats have worked to channel mass opposition to his fascistic administration behind their own conflicts with Trump, centered on issues of foreign policy. This has culminated in the impeachment drive, which is focused on Trump’s decision to delay military aid to Ukraine in its proxy war with Russia” – a war that carries no small risks of escalation.

Chomsky might have added that Trump has recently acted to slash Food Stamps for 700,000 needy Americans, been upheld by his right-wing Supreme Court in his effort to deny public benefits to untold masses of immigrants, and now released a “low-yield” tactical nuclear weapon (the W-672) that promises to significantly escalate chances for nuclear war.

Trump is trying to move the Doomsday Clock right up to and past midnight. If I was religious and Christian, I might seriously consider Trump the Antichrist.

Bold New Open Steps Beyond the Rule of Law

The profound limits of the UkraineGate embarrassment don’t mean that the sham is without dark historical significance beyond its diversionary role. It is worth nothing that that Trump’s party decided (with the single exception of Romney) to make an open mockery of the rule of bourgeois law and to coldly deface the Constitution to which they took an oath. The neofascistic Republicans gave their Dear Leader a pass after absurdly refusing by open vote to hear witnesses and consider new and damning evidence. They did this in accord with openly grotesque “legal” arguments including Trump counsel Alan Dershowitz’s Orwellian notion that the Constitution lets the tyrant Trump do whatever he wants to bring about his re-election. These were bold steps beyond constitutional and legal checks and balances on path to dictatorship.

Mocking Jesus

Trump followed the Senate’s sham trial by going to the annual Christian National Prayer Breakfast last Thursday morning. Historically, the event has claimed to stand for national and bipartisan reconciliation and healing, shared mercy before the Lord. The malignantly narcissistic president had no interest in all that. He used the gathering to boast of his greatness and thrash his enemies. The crime-boss-in-chief held up headlines declaring his “exoneration.” He mocked Jesus’s call for the forgiveness of one’s enemies. Trump called the Democratic House leaders who impeached him “terrible” and “vicious” people. He persisted in his preposterous Big Brother claims that he committed no offenses and that his “treasonous” impeachment was an attempted “coup.”

That was the language of a wannabe dictator, nothing new. Whence Trump’s special love for despots and dictators of various ideological stripes around the world? “The president,” one top national security aide told the senior Trump administration official Anonymous, “sees in these guys what he wishes he had: total power, no term limits, enforced popularity, and the ability to silence critics for good.”

There was no rebellion among the sausage-slurping flock at the National Prayer Breakfast. Of course not: this is the Antichrist the nation’s evangelical Christians have embraced in order to enlist the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal bench in the holy projects of maiming poor pregnant women, advancing female slavery, and slashing social programs for the truly disadvantaged.

Purging the Disloyal (and Insufficiently Enthusiastic)

Then came the predictable beginning of authoritarian payback with the discharge of two key witnesses who testified in the House impeachment inquiry. On Friday, Trump fired Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and had Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman – a top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council – escorted out of his White House job. Vindman’s twin brother, who also worked for the NSC, was also given the perp-walk treatment. Vindman’s attorney released a statement saying the obvious: “LTC Vindman was asked to leave for telling the truth. The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career and his privacy.” The brother had to go too.

The discharge of Sondland, the Vindmans (more will certainly follow) happened just hours after Trump was asked about his press secretary’s declaration that the president’s opponents must “pay a price.”

“Well, you’ll see,” the president told reporters.

But of course. The “purging of the disloyal” – and even just the insufficiently enthusiastic in Sondland’s case – is a central part of the fascist and broadly authoritarian playbook.

The firings were also, by the way, illegal. But so what? As the childish former Black Republican Congresswoman Mia Love explained on CNN two days ago, “the president can do whatever he wants…” The plagiarist-Zionist Professor Dershowitz will be happy to explain.

Twitter and Facebook lit up with anti-Semitic applause from Trump’s fascist fans after the firings. Many Trumpenvolk take special pleasure in the termination of Jews.

Hate of the Union

Equally chilling and more explicitly fascistic was Dear Leader’s State of the Union Address last Tuesday night. Emboldened by the certain preposterous party-line pardon coming the next day, Trump’s right-wing demagoguery brought the annual exercise in presidential bluster and delusional national narcissism to a new low.

Demented Orange railed against the supposed ominous specter of allegedly evil socialism, which he accused of “destroying nations.”

He identified the Democratic Party with the “radical Left,” consistent with fascist-style politicos’ longstanding false conflation of centrist liberals with socialists and communists.

He doubled down on his longstanding Nativism with vicious attacks on immigrants and “sanctuary cities” – and with praise for border officials who have ripped infants from their mothers’ arms, caged children, lethally denied medical care to sick minors, and overseen concentration camps on the US-Mexico border.

Trump denounced women’s right to control their own bodies.

He bragged about expanding the already gigantic U.S. military.

He crowed about the U.S. murder of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, a monumental war crime that nearly sparked a full-on war with Iran.

He hailed Juan Guaidó, the ridiculous right-wing politician whom the Trump administration has been trying to install as the president of Venezuela in an ongoing imperialist operation.

He announced the granting of a Presidential Medal of Freedom to the far-right talk-radio hate merchant Rush Limbaugh – a racist hog who would love to see Black chattel slavery reinstated in the U.S.

He trumpeted his support for guns, which kill more than 30,000 U.S.-Americans every year.

He openly lied (imagine that) by claiming that his administration is dedicated to maintaining the guarantee of health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions (the opposite is true).

Why So Much Socialism, Then?

Not content merely to smite and smear his liberal, “radical Left,” and brown-skinned immigrant enemies and scapegoats, Trump sought to advance a “positive message” by boasting about the supposedly great state of glorious American capitalism supposedly under his supervision. “In just three short years,” Trump declared, “we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing,” he said. “We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago and we are never going back.” His favorite indication of national prosperity was of course the booming stock market.

Trump’s economic claims naturally deleted a number of inconvenient facts: tens of millions of Americans stuck in low-paying zero-benefit working poverty employment; the massive statistical under-reporting of real unemployment and workforce participation under the standard inadequate government measures; a weakening pace job- and GDP-growth under Trump compared to the last three years of the Obama administration; the savage unaffordability of health care and higher education for most of the population; ubiquitous crippling credit card and student loan debt; the highest national income and wealth inequality in half a century; the disproportionate ownership of corporate stock by the wealthy class; the slowing of business investment under Trump; the bankrupting of government services by Trump’s massive tax-breaks and other giant subsidies – socialism – for the super-rich and powerful; the near-certainty of a deadly recession for which government and society are unprepared (thanks in no small part to trump’s policies) in the near-future; the fatal environmental costs of capitalism’s growth-addiction and ideology.

If capitalism is performing so damn well under Trump, one might ask, then why is socialism – popular hostility to the savage inequalities, unfairness, ecological toxicity, and anti-democratic nature of capitalism – such a rising “menace” in the U.S.? Why do most young American adults respond more favorably to the word socialism than they do to the word capitalism these days?

It is of course a great myth that the sitting U.S. president is personally responsible for the state of the American economy, good or bad, at any given point in time. Capitalism ebbs and flows in accord with its own cyclical and long-wave logic and contradictions. It is hardly directed, central command-like out of the White House – certainly not by a president who can’t read a balance sheet and who spends most of his taxpayer funded time watching television, playing golf, and sending out vicious Tweets.

Fake Resistance

So, well, what about the so-called opposition party, absurdly labelled the “radical-Left Democrats” by Trump? That’s not a pretty story, either. As noted above, the doomed impeachment trial was largely an act of fake resistance and diversion: like the Watergate Articles of Impeachment, it dodged the president’s worst crimes and went after him for trying to criminally harm the other ruling-class political party – the Democrats (though with UkraineGate we have to add that Trump was also being prosecuted for messing up imperial policy in Eastern Europe).

Along the way, many atop the Party of Fake Resistance have been quietly signing off on much of the Trump agenda. “If Trump has successes of which he can boast,” the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) noted, “they consist of getting his far-right agenda through Congress and the courts. He bragged about passing the USMCA trade deal with Mexico, cracking down on immigrants and massively expanding the US military. All of these policies have been approved by Congress on a bipartisan basis.” A popular Internet meme speaks a lot of truth beneath a picture of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

“Yeah, I Resist Trump:

Raise his military budget.

Endorse status-quo corporatists.

Suppress left-wing voices.

Ignore the needs of the working-class.

Stop Medicare for All from being passed.

Take millions in campaign contributions from the 1%”

At Trump’s Hate of the Union Address last week, Pelosi and most of her fellow Congressional Democrats leapt to their feet at Herr Trump’s command to applaud Washington and Wall Street’s Venezuelan coup figurine Juan Guaido. When Fred Guttenberg, father of a teenager felled in the Parkland High School gun massacre, booed Trump’s promotion of “gun rights,” Pelosi glared and ordered his ejection.

The Democrats’ official response to Trump’s HOTUA was pathetic. Michigan’s mild-mannered neoliberal governor praised Michigan residents for (in the words of the WSWS) “personally trying to fix the state’s notoriously poor roads with ‘a shovel and a bucket of dirt.’”

Alfred E. Wine Cave “Wins” Iowa for Mike Bloomberg

More and historic proof the inauthentic of the dismal Democrats’ “resistance” came with the Iowa Democratic Party and the Clintonite Shadow app’s theft of the Iowa Caucus from Bernie Sanders last week. The epic Iowa Debacle let the dodgy former McKinsey consultant and Naval Intelligence officer and current Wall Street plaything Pete Butiggieg – the candidate I call Alfred E. Wine Cave (AEWC) – play Juan Guaido and claim triumph.

It was a great centrist play. The fact that Sanders won Iowa was turned into a public non-fact. The confusion bought Mayor Pete three days to take some undeserved victory laps across the “liberal” media (MSDNC and Stephen Colbert, for example), boosting him by 9 points in New Hampshire tracking polls.

And even if Sanders really won Iowa, liberal talking heads tell us, Bernie didn’t really win because he didn’t set new Iowa turnout records and he didn’t get to have a triumphant, momentum-building election night speech. Without the speech, it’s not a win – ask Rick Santorum.

It’s all about setting up the mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg as the “pragmatic” savior to calm a bourgeoisie thrown into a panic by the hideous specter of Judeo Bolshevism that is Bernie Shining Path Sanders and his Red Army Fraction – and by the nonviability of depressing centrists like Biden, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, AEWC, and Amy Klobuchar.

Steve Bannon Likes Bernie

Imagine Bernie supporters trying to make themselves vote for Bloomberg in November. Imagine Bernie following a primary campaign directed at “the billionaire class” by trying to get his backers to vote for the mega-billionaire oligarch Bloomberg in the general election.

FOX New had global fascist organizer and grinning bastard Steve Bannon on last Sunday saying that the establishment Democrats are “screwing Sanders,” that he “likes Bernie,” and that Bernie supporters need to come over to the “populist” Trump. Someone who never samples the rightmost cable network might be surprised at how much of that sort of talk one hears there.

Trump would love to face off against Bloomberg and run with “the Bernie got screwed” theme to keep Democratic turnout down. I’m not sure he’d have to say much about the screwing. Reality will be enough: Bernie will have been screwed and many Sandernistas will be unable to make their hands make marks for Bloomberg even as Bernie tells them to do so.

“Bernie Sanders Makes My Skin Crawl”

By contrast with Bannon’s false affection for the “democratic socialist” candidate, it’s difficult to overstate the depth and degree of the contempt the “liberal” Democratic business and professional class feel for the moderately leftish Sanders, who has the “radical left” audacity to think that health care should be a human right in the world’s richest nation and that humans might want to get off fossil fuels before Antarctica (which recently registered a record high temperature of 65 degree Fahrenheit) melts. Two days after the nightmare in Iowa, snot-filled Chicago Sun Times columnist and Chicago City Club enthusiast Neil Steinberg wrote that “Bernie Sanders makes my skin crawl.” Praising the neoliberal-imperialist robot AEWC for “hav[ing] dignity,” “speak[ing] in complete sentences,” and being able “to lead us into the future,” Steinberg called Sanders “hare-brained” and “uncomfortably similar to Trump.” (Steinberg did not elaborate on the similarities). In a column that ended with a pitch for readers to attend a $50 City Club schmoozing reception on “Urban Health Care Challenges and Solutions,” Steinberg admitted to “scowling…whenever Sanders spools out his wish list of what he’s going to do – Medicare-for-All, Green New Deal, free college” – you know, crazy stuff like that.

What an asshole.

World Class Jackass Chris Matthews: “How Do You Know?”

Speaking of which, CNN’s cool, calm, and collected globalist Council on Foreign Relations guru Fareed Zakaria didn’t flinch two days ago when he absurdly called Sanders “far left” and used the Brexit-muddled and media-managed destruction of Jeremy Corbyn as “proof” that Sanders can’t win in the U.S.

Ask an actual left socialist if Bernie Sanders is “far left,” Fareed.

At the outer reaches of unhinged talking-head idiocy, MSDNC’s world-class jackass Chris Matthews is anything but cool, calm, and collected. He told a live television audience last Friday of his insane fear that Bernie Sanders might support public executions in Central Park “if Castro and the Reds had won the Cold War.”

It was left to MSDNC’s leftmost commentator Chris Hayes to tell the network’s neo-McCarthyite Ted Baxter impersonator that Sanders “pretty clearly” advocates the social-democratic “socialism” found in Scandinavia.

Suggesting that he has passed his intellectual expiration date and needs to retire, Matthews said “how do you know? Did he tell you that?” and then repeated his suggestion that Bernie backs massive state violence.

Someone should tell Matthews that the Reds won the World Series in 1975, 1976, and 1990 [the Soviet Union still existed for the last one] and the U.S. bourgeoisie kept its head in New York City and across the country. (You can purchase a special Johnny Bench 1792 guillotine model here.)

Will the DNC Ask Trump to Run as a Democrat?

As Rolling Stone’s Peter Wade rightly noted, “Matthews nearly losing his mind on national television in addition to some of the debate questions about Sanders — including whether his opponents were afraid of having a democratic socialist on the ticket — shows just how terrified corporate media is of a Sanders win.”

A recent Onion spoof almost credibly runs with this headline: “DNC Mulls Asking Trump to Run as a Democrat in Effort to Stop Sanders.” The Onion cleverly concocted the following statement from Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez:

“This late in the game, we need somebody with name recognition and a built-in following, which Trump definitely has. He has political experience working with Republicans, which will help him win over moderate voters who are turned off by the idea of a socialist president. Plus, he’ll have the backing of the Democratic donor base, who generally prefer him to Sanders. Look, sometimes politics makes strange bedfellows, but I think I speak for party leadership when I say that we’d much rather see Donald Trump than Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee.”

The last line there is no joke.

So what if Sanders is the Democratic presidential candidate most likely to organize the working- and lower-class the corporate Democrats have been grassing and shutting down for half a century? So what if this makes Sanders the most electable candidate against an incumbent president and a party that pose existential fascistic and ecocidal threats to what’s left of democracy, the republic, and life itself? So what if Sanders’ key policy proposals are required for the common good and, you know, human survival?

Surprised? Don’t be. Welcome, my son to the machine. Where have you been? The Democratic Party isn’t about social justice, democracy, and/or environmental sanity. It isn’t even primarily about winning elections. “History’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party” (as former Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips once accurately described the Democrats) is about serving “elite” corporate and financial sponsors above all, and those sponsors prefer a second fascistic Trump term to a mildly progressive first Sanders one. Money, it’s a crime.

The ruling class wants the fascistic Antichrist over the neo-New Deal progressive. The Democrats are tools of the ruling class. America’s possible full-on transition to authoritarian class rule is a richly bipartisan affair.

If that transition occurs, and it could very well in the absence of a significant popular rebellion beneath and beyond the election cycle, historians will want to pay some special attention to last week – if there any historians left, I should say.

Postscript: Amy Doesn’t Know You

Just because you are an elitist, centrist political candidate who views progressive-populism with disdain doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to pretend to be a progressive-populist in your campaign rhetoric. Listen to this tear-jerking soliloquy from “moderate” (corporate) Democrat Amy Klobuchar’s final statement in last Friday’s presidential debate in Manchester, New Hampshire:

“There’s an old story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and when he died, his body was put on a train and went up across America and there was a guy standing by those tracks along with so many Americans, and he had his hat on his chest and he was sobbing and a reporter said, Sir, did you know the president? And the guy says, no, I didn’t know the president, but he knew me. He knew me. …If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent. I know you and I will fight for you. If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your childcare or your long-term care, I know you and I will fight for you. If you have trouble figuring out if you’re going to fill your refrigerator or fill your prescription drug, I know you and I will fight for you. I do not have the biggest name up on this stage. I don’t have the biggest bank account. I’m not a political newcomer with no record, but I have a record of fighting for people.”

That’s quite the purple passage. But Amy’s nice, progressive-sounding words that are contradicted by her constant and false claims that Sanders’ proposals for Single Payer, a Green New Deal, and free public college are too expensive for the government of word history’s richest and most powerful nation. With her constant harping on what government CAN’T provide everyday people and her continuing reliance on big money donors opposed to basic social-democracy decency, Amy Klobuchar is most definitely NOT there to fight for the working class.”

Ask your doctor if Klobuchar is right for you.

Paul Street’s new book is The Passive Resistance: Obama, Trump, and Politics of Appeasement.

FacebookTwitterRedditEmail