Savage Capitalism (essay-14)
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Word Count – 769
politics is returning to the streets
What follows are excerpts from Enzo Traverso’s essay – Trump’s Savage Capitalism: The Nightmare Is Real – World Policy Journal. The essay was referenced in Ishaan Tharoor’s, March 28 article – Today’s WorldView – in the Washington Post.
- When the final results came in, the triumph of an indecent, semi-fascist monster over a former secretary of state produced a vast and prolonged trauma.
- But what the media failed to foresee was not a Trump landslide, which did not take place, but the decline of the democratic vote.
- We are not facing the transformation of the United States into a fascist community embodied by a charismatic leader; what occurred is the rejection of the political establishment through mass abstention and a protest vote captured by a populist demagogue in a few key states.
- In other words, Trump signifies an upheaval at the political level, not a sudden, dramatic change in American society (as the Nazi party did in Germany, shifting from 2.6 percent to 37.27 percent of the popular vote between the elections of 1928 and 1932).
- Trump is as far from classical fascism as Occupy Wall Street, … are from 20th-century communism. Nevertheless, Trumpism and the Occupy movement represent a social, political, and even class polarity as deep as the conflict between fascism and communism nearly a century ago.
- He pretends to defend the popular classes that have been deeply affected by the economic crises of 2008 and the deindustrialization of the country — not by denouncing the main culprit, financial capitalism, but by offering them a scapegoat. His campaign reproduced features of old anti-Semitism, which defined a mythical, ethnically homogeneous national community against its enemies: the Jews. Trump took this model and enlarged the spectrum to include African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and nonwhite immigrants.
- It seems to me that, in Trump’s rhetoric, his condemnations of “the establishment” reproduce the anti-Semitic cliché of a virtuous agrarian community rooted in land and tradition opposed to an anonymous, corrupted, intellectual, and cosmopolitan metropolis. … he portrays the cities as realms of an abstract and ungraspable power generated by media, finance, and culture, which anti-Semitism codified during the past century.
- His speeches and meetings recall fascist aesthetics: One could not view the images of his aircraft landing at a rally, surrounded by a cheering crowd, without remembering the opening sequence of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, with Hitler flying over Nuremberg to join his waiting disciples at the Nazi congress.
- The European dictators relied on the electrical, exciting atmosphere of mass rallies, in which their mystical union with the people resulted from the physical presence of the crowd; Trump’s charisma runs through TV screens.
- The fact is there is no fascist organization behind Trump. He does not lead a mass movement; he is a TV star. From this point of view, he is much more reminiscent of Berlusconi than Mussolini. … like Berlusconi, he is a billionaire (or at least claims to be) whose political activities will permanently collide with his private business. … He was able to channel the dissatisfaction and anger of ordinary people against Washington and Wall Street,
- The Republican Party he now leads is precisely the opposite of a radical, subversive movement.
- Classical fascisms worshipped the state, defended imperialism, and promoted military expansionism. … Trump, by contrast, seems more oriented toward isolationism … In the field of foreign policy, his vision does not transcend his own business interests.
- He won the votes of only a quarter of eligible American voters, and his success gives a voice to the fear and frustrations of a minority, like WASP nationalism did a century ago, when its targets were the Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.
- Trump emerges in an age of financial capitalism, competitive individualism, and social precariousness. He does not organize and mobilize the masses; he attracts an audience in an atomized society of consumers. He does not wear a uniform, like Hitler and Mussolini, but instead exhibits his luxurious lifestyle like a stereotype of a Hollywood star.
- Trump’s rise is not a sudden return to barbarism, nor is it a meteor crashing down onto a peaceful country. Rather he is the product of the transformations of capitalism in recent decades. With his nationalist, populist, racist, and authoritarian tendencies, he personifies a form of savage capitalism—a capitalism without a human face. It is not a resurgence of fascism, but something new and not yet realized.
- Since Trump does not respect the rule of law, traditional politics risks becoming obsolete or, at the very least, largely inadequate. Politics, therefore, is returning to the streets.