I sense no soul in this rabble
just fearful alchemy
a hum of devilish trouble
’tis no people’s celebration
this fascist akelarre
just a rueful abnegation
of what we’re fighting for
a ghastly chill is in the air—
Her smile inspires her fellow partisans and her community
She throws caution to the wind
so as to watch their spirits soar
When Fascists questioned her commitment
she let her carbine counterclaim
She looks out over Barcelona
From the top of the highest tower
survaying a land riven by
passions and politics
But beyond this tumultuous horizon
there is a glint of light
beginning to peak through
the gathered clouds
and so she smiles
and goes about her revolution
Her farmers hands deep in the earth
gravid with hale prosperity
coaxing forth a flourishing worth
to furnish her community
her humble sweat a palliative
to dulcify her burning brow
her labor is the love she lives
and to her comrades she’ll endow
the sun will set before she’s done
but with evening comes release
a night of humor, dance, and fun
with the cream of the Argonese
“We are constantly making the mistake in Russia of judging the slogans and tactics of a certain party or group, of judging its general trend, by the intentions or motives that the group claims for itself. Such judgement is worthless. The road to hell—as was said long ago—is paved with good intentions.”1
Lenin wrote at a time in history that would inevitably be seen to be nearly providential by those looking back from the contemporary vantage point. In 1913 the crucible of revolution had yet to boil over into the true paradigm shift that was the fall of the Russian Monarchy and its’ proto-capitalist/feudal system. We forget today, or are made to ignore the fact, that history is not preordained or inevitable even if it is in fact possible to be analyzed rationally. Lenin wrote in his letter, Word and Deed, of imminent, arising social upheaval. We cannot look at this letter as a piece of self-conscious dogma; instead we must realize that Lenin is expressing a realization of political reality that is made self-evident by the events taking place around him.
The workers strike was still seen as a violation of societal doxa, a rejection of the contract written and executed from above and based upon the premise that mass civic action was a form of terrorism. Lenin makes an especial case against the liberal members of the structural orthodoxy who viewed worker organization and proletarian action as a dangerous attack on their own pursuit of “reform” within the context of the existing system. The rejection of the liberal bourgeois conception that change within a flawed system is required or preferable to the dismantling of the system through class struggle was an important step for the socialist movement in Russia and an essential signpost on the road that we are still traveling towards a more sustainable and equitable system. By accepting the claims of liberal parties and movements that they are friendly towards the proletariat, socialism is undermined and indeed made heterodox. A step forward on a crooked road is not progress made towards the destination; it is for all intents and purposes a step backwards to a state of affairs intolerable to the interests of the proletariat and its aims.
For example, look at the left liberal (contemporary United States) Democratic party pledge of strengthening the middle class[es] through “hope” for “change” in the system of a “reformed” market capitalism. But what sort of “change” can be expected when there is no rejection of underlying conditions that lead to inequality or abuse? The classic capitalist class system is upheld and even celebrated by the acceptance of a reformation of processes and laws that can only see success as the increasing stratification and separation of workers from each other. The middle class becomes a destination away from the working classes, a realm apart and a vantage point from which the anointed can look back in shame and increasing disgust at the situation of the proletariat. Lenin says that there is nothing remarkable about the upper class, governmental or conservative reactionary dismissal of proletarian needs and struggles but that “Much “newer” is the amazing indifference of the bourgeoisie”.
Similarly the antagonism between the Democratic party and the vast and expanding ex post politico “working poor” (as the proletariat is referred to within the context of contemporary American politics) is, if not actually increasing, becoming more apparent and shocking to those who once labored under the delusion that at least one party represented a means of support for the worker. The left liberal “solution” to the problems of the unequal division of wealth and exploitation of labor is simply a less violent entrance into a feedback loop that preserves the systems that create the need for such exploitation. Members of the proletariat need to come to terms with the fact that they were and are “making the mistake of […] judging the slogans and tactics of” the liberal Democratic party based on their own standards that reject the very idea that the capitalist system is something to be overcome. Indeed, Lenin goes on to say, “in many cases this indifference [on the part of the left liberal factions] changes to a negative attitude” and eventually expresses itself as so much reactionary more violence against the rejection of the class constraints advocated by the Marxist philosophies and socialist parties. Lenin is correct that we must look beyond the word and to the deed when examining the intentions of those professing to be allies of the proletariat and its cause. Lenin makes it clear that in order to move the proletariat cause forward liberal conciliation with reactionary forces and capitalist institutions must be combated as though the factions were one and the same.
The tragic irony of this letter becomes clear when we realize that the trenchant criticisms leveled by Lenin against accommodations with strains of left liberal thought and practice can just as easily, indeed should just as readily, be leveled against Lenin’s own assertion that the vanguard party was essential to the advancement of the interests of the proletariat and its eventually achievement of a communist society without need of party (or the class system that invariably arises from a vanguard party). Lenin writes
The proletariat cannot do its democratic duty, serve as the advanced contingent, give service to, educate and consolidate the masses of the people other than by a decisive struggle against the liquidators, who, in fact, are completely dependent on liberalism. The liberals, too, frequently play at being radicals from the Duma rostrum and do it as well as the various near-Marxist or wavering elements, but that does not prevent the liberals from fighting (with the aid of the liquidators) the democratic aspirations of the masses outside the Duma.2
Lenin fails to understand that the elite vanguard party apparatus, whose very education and intellectual assumptions are themselves derived from liberal bourgeois systems and values and cannot be separated, in essence, from this strain, are also “play[ing] at being radicals”. If proletariat cannot, therefore, “do its democratic duty” by cooperation with liberal economic and social forces, how, then, can the proletariat be expected to do the same under the aegis of a vanguard party indelibly stained by bourgeois prejudices against the inherent genius of the proletariat? Lenin succeeds in highlighting the problem of compromising one’s values in the name of pragmatic expediency in pursuit of revolution and the creation of communism in a nation, but he fails to apply this criticism to his own compromised values, in the form of the vanguard party idea of revolutionary action.
If you think pogroms and concentration camps and purity laws and the destruction of political dissent and the full rollback of liberal human rights protections cannot happen here, that is what they, the liberal, secular, intelligent, open minded folks, thought in Germany in 1933. There were no grand messages of warning from God or sages, no fiery crosses in the sky to warn of the coming civil apocalypse. There were warnings, there were worries, there were possibilities, but in the end it happened because it was allowed to happen.
Fearful armed white men walk around feeling they are protecting people from “outsiders” and “thugs” and “criminal elements” while a demagogue they support is winning in the election polls denouncing a tiny minority of the population as a source of the nations ills, while ineffectual liberal leaders tear themselves apart fighting over pie in the sky solutions to problems.This sound familiar? It should. It is what happened in Germany in 1933 and it is what is happening in the U.S. in 2016. It can happen here because it IS happening here. The fascist element in U.S. society sees this election as the last chance to hold on to power and to implement its nationalist and xenophobic policies in the face of a nation that is no longer a purely white supremacist system. This is a dangerous time.
I truly believe that the open/concealed carry movement is the moral equivalent i.e. the unique American manifestation, of the xenophobic/nationalistic/fear based chauvinism that led to the creation of the Black Shirts in Italy and the Brown Shirts in Germany. Look at it: they take the law and the “protection of the public” into their own hands, they target, physically and rhetorically, minorities who they see as “destroying the fabric of our society”, and they act as though they have a legal and moral mandate that comes from the foundational documents/values of the nation state. The German and Italian versions started out as very loosely organized but eventually came together as an actual force under the auspices of regimes (Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany) that harnessed their fear and anger, legitimized it through their power that was gained through ostensibly democratic/civil means, and unleashed it first on the “enemies of the people” as understood by the militia/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups themselves. After this was accomplished, the power of these groups was then used to attack and suppress (and eventually liquidate) enemies of the regime, the regime that was now seen as the personification of the nation and the values that the militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups held most dear to begin with.
An authoritarian regime becomes a totalitarian one when it taps into the fears and anxieties of the former ruling class/caste/race and uses its historical militant agency for its own purposes, and institutionalizes these civil pathologies into technocratic systems and actions. The militias/armed vigilantes/paramilitary groups still operate under the belief that they are “free men” fighting for a “free society” when in fact they have be co-opted to serve a regime and a system that will eventually turn on them as soon as all the less powerful enemies have been eliminated. The gun culture of the United States, while benign enough in its origins, is ripe for this sort of manipulation. The open/concealed carry fanatic sees “his” nation being “taken away” from him and fears for the safety of “his” property and “his” women and children, usually at the hands of a hated or feared minority or minorities, in the case of the U.S., black men, non-white immigrants, and Muslims. He must, then, take it onto himself to “remedy” the situation, to constantly be on the look out for those who would “stab the nation and its people in the back” and to “take back what is ours” from people they at best do not trust and at worst actively fear and despise. It took hundreds of years of conscious and unconscious cultural programming to get the German and Italian populations primed for the sort of grass roots fascism cum systemic totalitarianism that the Fascist regimes were eventually able to create and control.
I think, I fear, that it would not take nearly as much programming for this sort of thing to happen in the U.S. We already have a history of race based terror, violence, and systemic abuse of minority rights and dignity. Combined with a conservative impulse to obey and trust authority, an easily manipulated rugged, machismo individualism, and a propensity towards armed violence, and you have the foundations of a very potent fascist system that could come about almost entirely through grassroots and institutional democratic means. Trump is tapping into that, and he is succeeding, while the media and culture that is obsessed with celebrity, wealth, and prestige is too busy gawking and laughing at the funny man-boy with the silly hair (the funny former artist soldier with the silly mustache) to see that he understands fully what he is doing and who he is appealing to and by what means. Trump is a fascist in the grain of Hitler and Mussolini, it is that simple. They only reason he is not acting outright exactly like they did is that he does not yet have the legitimized political power. He is on the verge of getting that power, and the scared, armed, xenophobic white men who will give it to him are just waiting for their time to finally take revenge on the blacks, the immigrants, the liberals, and the Muslims who they feel have taken “their” nation away from them. The only question remains, can Trump win through legitimate means, and if he can, how soon after that will the Reichstag mysteriously catch fire amidst streets strewn with broken glass?
There has been a lot of blabber lately, from the far right in general and Donald Trump worshipers in particular, about building an enormous wall between Mexico and the United States so as to “stem the invasion of the ‘illegals'”. The Great Wall of China is often named dropped as an example, or rather, THE example of how a wall can be used successfully to maintain the supposed integrity and security of a large nation. You see, there is just one little problem w/ using the example of the Great Wall this way: It didn’t work, or at least not the way people have been led to believe.
China (or more accurately, the areas of China populated and controlled by the Han ethnic and cultural group) was invaded successfully by the Mongols, the Hsi Hsia (Tanguts), the Tibetans, and the Manchu. The wall, or rather serious of walls (made variously of stone, wood, and earth at different places along its length) and border forts linked by trade and communication networks and manned by pickets and conscripted militias along with the Imperial military, was basically a giant propaganda tool and a way to martial large amounts of labor resources and maintain control of frontier regions, protect against bandits, and control import/export trade. So, long story short, walls don’t work as ways of keeping large amounts of people out of large nations and they are almost never effective at “controlling” the flow of migrants. People are like water; they will always find a way through even the most tough and powerful looking barrier.
Also (talking to you here Mr. Trump and your supporters) China never made the other nations that were meant to be kept out by the wall pay for the wall. China tried the whole bravado/middle finger technique against the Mongols, and, well, the Mongols invaded China, killed 20 Million people, burned many of its largest cities to the ground, and ruled it as conquerors for 150 years. So there’s that. Unless we are willing to post tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of armed to the teeth soldiers on and around the 2000 mile border permanently (like the Israelis in Palestine, the Soviets in East Germany and North & South Korea on the DMZ) said wall is not going to solve the “problem” of unregulated immigration into the United States from Mexico and Central America. And even THEN, as the China examples shows, it wouldn’t work. Only a “giant loser” would think otherwise.