Neofascism in the White House

by

Monthly Review Volume 68, Issue 11 (April 2017)

Parody of the gleichschaltung process

Parody of the gleichschaltung process by Walter Wesinger.
There is a shadow of something colossal and menacing that even now is beginning to fall across the land. Call it the shadow of an oligarchy, if you will; it is the nearest I dare approximate it. What its nature may be I refuse to imagine. But what I wanted to say was this: You are in a perilous position.

Jack London, The Iron Heel1

Not only a new administration, but a new ideology has now taken up residence at the White House: neofascism. It resembles in certain ways the classical fascism of Italy and Germany in the 1920s and ’30s, but with historically distinct features specific to the political economy and culture of the United States in the opening decades of the twenty-first century. This neofascism characterizes, in my assessment, the president and his closest advisers, and some of the key figures in his cabinet.2 From a broader sociological perspective, it reflects the electoral bases, class constituencies and alignments, and racist, xenophobic nationalism that brought Donald Trump into office. Neofascist discourse and political practice are now evident every day in virulent attacks on the racially oppressed, immigrants, women, LBGTQ people, environmentalists, and workers. These have been accompanied by a sustained campaign to bring the judiciary, governmental employees, the military and intelligence agencies, and the press into line with this new ideology and political reality.

Who forms the social base of the neofascist phenomenon? As a Gallup analysis and CNN exit polls have demonstrated, Trump’s electoral support came mainly from the intermediate strata of the population, i.e., from the lower middle class and privileged sections of the working class, primarily those with annual household incomes above the median level of around $56,000. Trump received a plurality of votes among those with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 a year, especially in the $50,000 to $99,999 range, and among those without college degrees. Of those who reported that their financial situation was worse than four years earlier, Trump won fully 77 percent of the vote.3 An analysis by Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell of Gallup, updated just days before the election, indicated that in contrast to standard Republican voters, much of Trump’s strongest support came from relatively privileged white male workers within “skilled blue collar industries”—including “production, construction, installation, maintenance, and repair, and transportation”—earning more than the median income, and over the age of forty.4 In the so-called Rust Belt 5 states (Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) that swung the election to Trump, the Republican vote increased by over 300,000 among voters earning $50,000 or less, as compared with 2012. Meanwhile, among the same demographic group, Democrats lost more than three times as many voters as the number Republicans gained.5 None of this was enough to win Trump the national popular vote, which he lost by almost 3 million, but it gave him the edge he needed in the electoral college.

Nationally, Trump won the white vote and the male vote by decisive margins, and had his strongest support among rural voters. Both religious Protestants and Catholics favored the Republican presidential candidate, but his greatest support of all (80 percent) came from white evangelical Christians. Veterans also went disproportionately for Trump. Among those who considered immigration the nation’s most pressing issue, Trump, according to CNN exit polls, received 64 percent of the vote; among those who ranked terrorism as the number-one issue, 57 percent.6 Much of the election was dominated by both overt and indirect expressions of racism, emanating not only from the Republican nominee but also from his close associates and family (and hardly nonexistent among the Democrats themselves). Donald Trump, Jr., in what was clearly a political ploy, repeatedly tweeted Nazi-style white supremacist slogans aimed at the far right. Trump’s only slightly more veiled statements against Muslims and Mexicans, and his alliance with Breitbart, pointed in the same direction.7

As the Gallup report pointedly observed:

In a study [Richard F. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler?] of perhaps the most infamous [nationalist] party, the geography of voting patterns reveal that the political supporters of Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist party were disproportionately Protestants, if living in a rural area, and those in lower-middle administrative occupations and owners of small businesses, if living in an urban area. Thus, neither the rich nor poor were especially inclined to support the Nazi Party, and even among Christians, religious identity mattered greatly.8

The clear implication was that Trump’s supporters conformed to the same general pattern. According to the Hamilton study, it is generally believed that “the lower middle class (or petty bourgeoisie) provided the decisive support for Hitler and his party.”9 Hitler also drew on a minority of the working class, disproportionately represented by more privileged blue-collar workers. But the great bulk of his support came from the lower middle class or petty bourgeoisie, representing a staunchly anti-working class, racist, and anti-establishment outlook—which nevertheless aligned itself with capital. Hitler also received backing from devout Protestants, rural voters, disabled veterans, and older voters or pensioners.10

The parallels with the Trump phenomenon in the United States are thus sufficiently clear. Trump’s backing comes primarily neither from the working-class majority nor the capitalist class—though the latter have mostly reconciled themselves to Trumpism, given that they are its principal beneficiaries. Once in power, fascist movements have historically cleansed themselves rapidly of the more radical lower-middle-class links that helped bring them to power, and soon ally themselves firmly with big business—a pattern already manifesting itself in the Trump administration.11

Yet despite these very broad similarities, key features distinguish neofascism in the contemporary United States from its precursors in early twentieth-century Europe. It is in many ways a unique form, sui generis. There is no paramilitary violence in the streets. There are no black shirts or brown shirts, no Nazi Stormtroopers. There is, indeed, no separate fascist party.12 Today the world economy is dominated not by nation-based monopoly capitalism, as in classical fascism, but a more globalized monopoly-finance capitalism.

After its defeat in the First World War, Germany in the 1930s was in the midst of the Great Depression, and about to resume its struggle for economic and imperial hegemony in Europe. In contrast, the United States today, long the world’s hegemon, has been experiencing an extended period of imperial decline, coupled with economic stagnation. This represents a different trajectory. The White House’s “America First” policy, unfurled in Trump’s inaugural address, with its characteristically fascist “palingenetic form of ultra-nationalism” (“palingenesis” means “rebirth”) is not aimed at domination of Europe and its colonies, as in Nazi Germany, but in restoring U.S. primacy over the entire world, leading to the “potentially deadliest phase of imperialism.”13

Further distinguishing the neofascism of our present moment is the advent of the climate change crisis—the very reality of which the White House denies. Rather than address the problem, the new administration, backed by the fossil-capital wing of the Republican Party, has declared flatly that anthropogenic climate change does not exist. It has chosen to defy the entire world in this respect, repudiating the global scientific consensus. There are deep concerns, raised by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which just moved its doomsday clock thirty seconds closer to “midnight,” that this same irrationalism may extend to nuclear weapons.14

But if the White House is now best described, for all of the above reasons, as neofascist in its leanings, this does not extend to the entire U.S. state. Congress, the courts, the civil bureaucracy, the military, the state and local governments, and what is often called, after Louis Althusser, the “ideological state apparatus”—including the media and educational institutions—would need to be brought into line before a fully neofascist state could operate on its own violent terms.15 Still, there is no doubt that liberal or capitalist democracy in the United States is now endangered. At the level of the political system as a whole, we are, as political scientist Richard Falk has put it, in a “pre-fascist moment.”16 At the same time, the bases still exist within the state and civil society for organized, legal resistance.

Here it is vital to understand that fascism is not in any sense a mere political aberration or anomaly, but has historically been one of two major modes of political management adopted by ruling classes in the advanced capitalist states.17 Since the late nineteenth century, capitalist states, particularly those of the major imperial powers, have generally taken the form of liberal democracy—representing a kind of equilibrium between competing social sectors and tendencies, in which the capitalist class, by virtue of its control of the economy, and despite the relative autonomy accorded to the state, is able to assert its hegemony. Far from being democratic in any egalitarian sense, liberal democracy has allowed considerable room for the rise of plutocracy, i.e., the rule of the rich; but it has at the same time been limited by democratic forms and rights that represent concessions to the larger population.18 Indeed, while remaining within the boundaries of liberal democracy, the neoliberal era since the 1980s has been associated with the steepest increases in inequality in recorded history.19

Liberal democracy is not, however, the only viable form of rule in advanced capitalist states. In periods of systemic crisis in which property relations are threatened—such as the Great Depression of the 1930s, or the stagnation and financialization of recent decades—conditions may favor the rise of fascism. Moreover, then as now, fascism is invariably a product of the larger context of monopoly capital and imperialism, related to struggles for hegemony within the capitalist world economy. Such a crisis of world hegemony, real or perceived, fosters ultra-nationalism, racism, xenophobia, extreme protectionism, and hyper-militarism, generating repression at home and geopolitical struggle abroad. Liberal democracy, the rule of law, and the very existence of a viable political opposition may be endangered.

In such conditions, as Bertolt Brecht declared, “Contradictions are our hope!”20 It is necessary then to ask: What are the specific contradictions of neofascism in the Trump era? How are they related to the larger crisis of the U.S. political economy and empire? And how do we exploit these contradictions to create a powerful, united resistance movement?

The Classical Fascist Gleichschaltung

“The antonym of fascism,” Paul Sweezy wrote to Paul Baran in 1952, “is bourgeois democracy, not feudalism or socialism. Fascism is one of the political forms which capitalism may assume in the monopoly-imperialist phase.”21 The issue of fascism, whether in its classical or current form thus goes beyond right-wing politics. It raises, as Baran replied to Sweezy, the much more significant question of the “jumping [off] place” that marks the qualitative break between liberal democracy and fascism (and today between neoliberalism and neofascism). The complete development of a fascist state, understood as a historical process, requires a seizure of the state apparatus in its totality, and therefore the elimination of any real separation of powers between the various parts, in the interest of a larger struggle for national as well as world dominance.22 Hence, upon securing a beachhead in the government, particularly the executive, fascist interests have historically employed semi-legal means, brutality, propaganda, and intimidation as a means of integration, with big capital looking the other way or even providing direct support. In a complete fascist takeover, the already incomplete protections to individuals offered by liberal democracy are more or less eliminated, along with the forces of political opposition.

Property rights, however, are invariably protected under fascism—except for those racially, sexually, or politically targeted, whose property is often confiscated—and the interests of big capital are enhanced.23 The political forces in power aim at what Nazi ideology called a “totalitarian state,” organized around the executive, while the basic economic structure remains untouched.24 The fascist state in its ideal conception is thus “totalitarian” in itself, reducing the political and cultural apparatus to one unitary force, but leaving the economy and the capitalist class largely free from interference, even consolidating the dominance of its monopolistic fraction.25 The aim of the state in these circumstances is to repress and discipline the population, while protecting and promoting capitalist property relations, profits, and accumulation, and laying the basis for imperial expansion. As Mussolini himself declared: “The fascist regime does not intend to nationalize or worse bureaucratize the entire national economy, it is enough to control it and discipline it through the corporations…. The corporations provide the discipline and the state will only take up the sectors related to defense, the existence and security of the homeland.”26 Hitler likewise pronounced: “We stand for the maintenance of private property…. We shall protect free enterprise as the most expedient, or rather the sole possible economic order.”27

Indeed, an often overlooked Nazi policy was the selling-off of state property. The concept of privatization (or “reprivatization”) of the economy, now a hallmark of neoliberalism, first gained currency in fascist Germany, where capitalist property relations remained sacrosanct, even as the new fascist state structure dismantled liberal-democratic institutions and instituted a war economy. At the time of Hitler’s rise to power, much of the German economy was state-owned: sectors such as the steel and coal industries, shipbuilding, and banking had been largely nationalized. Under Hitler, the United Steel Trust was privatized in just a few years, and by 1937 all of the major banks were privatized. All of this increased the power and scope of capital. “The practical significance of the transference of government enterprises into private hands,” Maxine Yaple Sweezy wrote in a major 1941 study of the Nazi economy, “was thus that the capitalist class continued to serve as a vessel for the accumulation of income. Profit-making and the return of property to private hands, moreover, have assisted the consolidation of Nazi Party power.”28 As Nicos Poulantzas noted in Fascism and Dictatorship, “Nazism maintained juridical regulation in matters of the protection of the capitalist order and private property.”29

If privatization within industry was crucial to the rise of fascism in Germany, thereby further concentrating the economic power of the capitalist class, it was the consolidation of Nazi rule within the state itself that made the former possible, breaking the liberal-democratic order altogether. This process, known as Gleichschaltung (“bringing into line” or “synchronization”) defined the period of consolidation of the new political order in the years 1933–34. This meant politically integrating each of the state’s separate entities, including the parliament, judiciary, civil bureaucracy, military, and the local and regional branches of government, and extending this to the major organs of the ideological state apparatus within civil society, or the educational institutions, the media, trade associations, and more.30 This synchronization was accomplished by means of a combination of ideology, intimidation, enforced cooperation, and coercion, usually by pressuring these institutions into “cleaning their own houses.” The leading Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt promoted the two principles governing Gleichschaltung in the German case: (1) the removal of “non-Aryans,” and (2) the Führerprinzip (“leadership principle,” placing the leader above the written laws). During this period a kind of judicial cloak legitimated the consolidation of power, to be largely dispensed with later. As Schmitt explained, the object of Gleichschaltung was unity and purity, achieved through the “extermination of heterogeneity.”31

Gleichschaltung in Germany was aimed at all the separate branches of the state and the ideological state apparatus simultaneously, but underwent several stages or qualitative breaks. The Reichstag fire, set only a month after President Hindenburg’s appointment of Hitler as chancellor in January 1933, prompted the issue of two executive decrees providing a legalistic justification for the violation of the constitution. These decrees were further legitimized by the Enabling Act, or “Law to Eliminate Peril to Nation and Reich” in March 1933, giving Hitler unilateral power to enact laws independent of the Reichstag. This was soon accompanied by the arrest and purging of political opponents. This period also saw the initiation of the “Law for the Restoration of the Civil Service” that allowed for the application of Gleichschaltung to all civil service workers. This initial stage of bringing into line ended in July 1933 with the abolition of all political parties other than the National Socialist German Workers Party.32

The second stage was aimed at establishing control over and integration of the military, as well as the universities, the press, and other social and cultural organizations. Not only did Hitler move to consolidate his control of the military (the Wehrmacht), but, in the attempt to integrate the military with the Nazi project, he declared in December 1933 that the army was “the nation’s only bearer of weapons,” undermining the claims of the Nazi Party’s paramilitary, brown-shirt wing, the SA (Sturmabteilung, “Assault Division” or Stormtroopers).33

The “extermination of heterogeneity” within major cultural institutions is best illustrated by the absorption of the universities into Nazi doctrine. As rector of the University of Freiburg, beginning in 1933, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger was charged with the institution of Gleichschaltung as his main official duty. Heidegger carried out these functions to the letter, helping purge the university and denouncing colleagues. In these years, he worked closely with Carl Schmitt to promote the Nazi ideology, helping to rationalize anti-Semitism and presiding over symbolic book burnings.34

The third, decisive stage of Gleichschaltung was the bloody purge of the SA from June 30–July 2, 1934, and the subsequent establishment, particularly following Hindenburg’s death that August, of Hitler as the ultimate source of law, as celebrated in Schmitt’s article “The Führer Safeguards the Law.” From this point on, fascist rule was consolidated in all of the main institutions of the state and the chief ideological organs of civil society.35

Other fascist states have followed a similar, if less totalizing, trajectory. “In the much slower [and less complete] process of consolidating Fascist rule in Italy,” Robert O. Paxton writes in The Anatomy of Fascism, “only the labor unions, the political parties, and the media were fully ‘brought into line.’”36

The Trumpist Gleichschaltung

Many of these developments were specific to Europe in the 1930s, and are unlikely to recur in anything resembling the same form in our day. Nevertheless, neofascism today also has as its aim a shift in the management of the advanced capitalist system, requiring the effective dissolution of the liberal-democratic order and its replacement by the rule of representatives of what is now called the “alt-right,” openly espousing racism, nationalism, anti-environmentalism, misogyny, homophobia, police violence, and extreme militarism.

The deeper motive of all these forms of reaction, however, is the repression of the work force. Behind Trump’s appeals to alt-right bigotry lie the increased privatization of all state-economic functions, the reinforcement of the power of big business, and the shift to a more racially defined imperialist foreign policy. Yet to put such a neofascist strategy in place requires a new kind of Gleichschaltung, whereby various institutions—Congress, the judiciary, the civil bureaucracy, state and local governments, the military, natural security state (the “deep state”), media, and educational institutions—are all brought into line.37

What concrete evidence is there, then, that the Trump White House is working to implement neofascist forms of capitalist state management, transgressing legal norms and abrogating liberal democratic protections? Here it is useful to remind ourselves of the characteristics of fascism in general, of which U.S. neofascism is a specific form. As Samir Amin states in “The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism”:

The fascist choice for managing a capitalist state in crisis is always based—by definition even—on the categorical rejection of “democracy.” Fascism always replaces the general principles on which the theories and practices of modern democracies are based—recognition of diversity of opinions, recourse to electoral procedures to determine a majority, guarantee of the rights of the minority, etc.—with the opposed values of submission to the requirements of collective discipline and the authority of the supreme leader and his main agents. This reversal of values is then always accompanied by a return of backward-looking ideas, which are able to provide an apparent legitimacy to the procedures of submission that are implemented. The proclamation of the supposed necessity of returning to the (“medieval”) past, of submitting to the state religion or to some supposed characteristic of the “race” or the (ethnic) “nation” make up the panoply of ideological discourses deployed by the fascist powers.38

The ultra-nationalist and ultra-right-wing slant of the new administration is not to be doubted. In his inaugural address, written by his alt-right advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, Trump declared, in what economist Joseph Stiglitz has called “historical fascist overtones”:

From this moment on, it’s going to be America First…. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones—and unite the civilized world against Radical Islamic Terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth…. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs…. America will start winning again, winning like never before…. At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will discover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice…. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear—we are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God…. Together, We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Wealthy Again. We Will Make America Proud Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again.39

The ideological framework and political strategy of Trumpism are chiefly the work of Bannon, formerly head of Breitbart News and now chief White House strategist and senior counsel, who also directed Trump’s electoral campaign in its final months.40 Bannon, recently appointed to Trump’s National Security Council, has played a key role in attacking the mainstream, non-Rupert Murdoch-owned media. While the reach of Bannon’s influence is debated, his dominance within the administration’s inner circle is so great that the New York Times editorial board has claimed that he “is positioning himself…as the de facto president.”41Bannon is flanked by two other Breitbart ideologues, Miller, a senior adviser to Trump (and a protégé of Attorney General Jeff Sessions), and Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant for national security. Another Breitbart principal, Julia Hahn, has been appointed as a “special assistant to the president,” working under Bannon as his chief assistant, and is known as “Bannon’s Bannon”—a polite reference to her role as an unrestrained ultra-right ideologue, hired to keep congressional Republicans in line.42

Bannon’s neofascist ideology can be seen as consisting of six major components: (1) the need to overcome “the crisis of capitalism,” particularly in the United States, brought on by the rise of “globalism” and “crony capitalism”; (2) the restoration of the “Judeo-Christian West” as the spiritual framework for a restored capitalism; (3) the promotion of extreme ethno-nationalism, targeting non-white immigrants; (4) an explicit identification with what Bannon calls a “global populist movement”—that is, global neo-fascism; (5) the insistence that the United States is in a global war against “an expansionist Islam” and “an expansionist China”—what he calls a “global existential war”; and (6) the notion that the rise of the alt-right represents a quasi-mystical “great Fourth Turning” in U.S. history—after the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War.43

Bannon’s ideology was most vividly on display in a 2014 talk at a Vatican conference, in which he praised the far right “populism” of France’s National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, as well as Britain’s UK Independence Party. He argued that “the harder-nosed the capitalism, the better.” But this required a restoration of lost Judeo-Christian “spiritual and moral foundations…. When capitalism was…at its highest flower…almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West…. Secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals.” For Bannon, the enemy was not just liberals but the “Republican establishment” and their masters, the promoters of “crony capitalism.” These were the true enemies of “middle-class people and working-class people.” The racism in the movement he represented was not to be denied outright, but rather “over time it all gets kind of washed out” as people pull together in a patriotic alliance (while excluding others). All of this fit within a larger sense of a crusade: “There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global…. You will see we’re in a war of immense proportions.”44

Most remarkable was the sympathetic way that Bannon, fielding questions after his talk, called upon the ideas of the Italian fascist Julius Evola, a source of inspiration to and supporter of Mussolini, and later of Hitler, who emerged after the Second World War as a leading figure in the Traditionalist movement of European neofascism—making him a hero of the alt-right white supremacist leader Richard Spencer in the United States.45 In the 1930s, Evola declared, “Fascism is too little. We would have wanted a fascism which is more radical, more intrepid, a fascism that is truly absolute, made of pure force, unavailable for any compromise…. We would never be considered anti-fascist, except to the extent that super-fascism would be equivalent to anti-fascism.” In his postwar writings, he argued that Traditionalists “should not accept the adjective ‘fascist’ or ‘neo-fascist’ tout court,” but rather they should emphasize only their “positive” characteristics, allying themselves with the “aristocratic” values of the European tradition. The goal was the creation of a new, spiritual “European Imperium…We must create a unity of fighters.” The ultimate intent was the resurrection of traditional sovereignty understood as the spiritual power of a nation, or patria (i.e., fatherland).46

Bannon, himself a strong promoter of “palingenetic ultra-nationalism,” in tune with Evola, argued that those in “the Judeo-Christian West” needed to resurrect “traditionalism…particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism.” Most important, he told his audience at the Vatican, was the restoration of the “long history of the Judeo-Christian West’s struggle against Islam.” Speaking of sovereignty in Evola’s sense, Bannon stated: “I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country.” But as he made clear, this first required the deconstruction of the political “governing class” and of the state in its current form.47

Insofar as the Trump White House sees itself as empowered to unleash a neofascist strategy of Gleichschaltung, along the general lines suggested above, one would expect to see an assault on the major branches of the state and the ideological state apparatus, transgressing legal and political norms and seeking to increase vastly the power of the presidency. In fact, much early evidence suggests that the political culture has changed in this respect in the brief period that the administration has been in power. All the major sectors of the state have come under attack. The most extreme action was Trump’s January 27 executive order immediately banning immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East, which, in the face of national protests, was quickly overturned by the federal courts. This led Trump to issue personal attacks on individual judges, in an effort to delegitimize them in the eyes of his supporters—a move that could be seen as a preliminary attempt to bring the judiciary into line.48

These events were followed in February by Trump’s executive order establishing a quasi-legal basis for the mass deportation of an estimated eleven million undocumented individuals in the United States—even long-term residents and those never convicted of any crime, and without reference to age. This was to be complemented by the administration’s long-promised construction of what the president called, in his February 28 address to Congress, “a great, great wall along our southern border.” In this legal and political morass, Trump is inheriting 103 judicial vacancies, nearly twice the number inherited by Obama, giving the new administration the ability to restructure the judiciary in ways likely to remove constitutional rights and reinforce repression.49

Trump’s conflict with the national security state or “intelligence community,” consisting of hundreds of thousands of employees across seventeen agencies, began almost immediately, and was prefaced by his repeated attacks on the intelligence agencies while running for office. In late January, he issued a directive reorganizing the National Security Council (NSC) and the Homeland Security Council (HSC), in which the CIA director, the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were removed from the regular members of the NSC and HSC Principals Committee; while, in another break with precedent, Bannon, the White House chief strategist, was added to the Principals Committee. A popular backlash prompted the administration partially to reverse itself, restoring the CIA director as a member of the Principals Committee, but the intention of undermining the existing structure of authority within the national security state was clear.50 Meanwhile, Trump created a separate shadowy organization, the Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG), referred to in Foreign Policy as a “cabal” within the NSC, under the supervision of Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. A key figure in SIG is Gorka, best known for his insistence on a war against “global jihadism,” which he contends has penetrated the entire world.51

The Trump administration’s attempts to destabilize and bring into line the national security state provoked a countervailing response in the form of a proliferation of leaks within the “deep state” that within a few weeks brought down Michael Flynn, Trump’s initial pick as National Security Adviser—partly due to conflict with Vice President Pence and more traditional Republicans. Tensions were further inflamed by Trump and Bannon’s sudden move to shift the United States’ geopolitical posture away from the new Cold War with Russia and toward a global battle against “radical Islam” and China. Although he has peppered his administration with generals in order to integrate with the military, Trump remains locked in conflict with much of the national security state.

In mid-February, Trump asked billionaire Steve Feinberg, co-founder and CEO of Cerberus Capital Management, best known for its role in selling semi-automatic rifles, to head a White House-based investigation of U.S. intelligence agencies—a move seen as a challenge to the intelligence apparatus and an attempt to build an alternative power base. Cerberus became notorious as the parent company of a subsidiary that manufactured the Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle used in the killing of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012. Cerberus has since expanded its role in the gun business, and also owns DynCorp, the fifth-largest private national security contractor working with the U.S. government, which has been paid billions for its overseas military and police training. Presumably Feinberg would draw on personnel from his private military in “investigating” the national security state. Given the nature of the apparent power struggle taking place, it is likely that the White House’s attempted Gleichschaltung with respect to the intelligence community will continue.52

Nor is the rest of the state free from such efforts to bring it into line. There are more than 2.7 million civilian employees in the federal government. Trump supporter Newt Gingrich stated that “Ninety-five percent of the bureaucrats are against him.” Longtime Republican operative and Trump strategist Roger Stone has said that “there aren’t that many Trump loyalists in the White House,” necessitating a rapid change in personnel. Further, between the chaos of Trump’s first weeks in the White House and the concern for “loyalty,” nominees for only a small number of the more than five hundred Senate-confirmed positions have been found so far. Nevertheless, press leaks from within the state have convinced Trump supporters that the most pressing task is to accelerate the removal of civilian employees not in line with the new administration. According to Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, Trump’s close friend and adviser, “the federal bureaucracy itself is a powerful machine, and they tend to have very establishment ideas”—meaning opposed to the new alt-right agenda.53

This is part of a more general attack on the civil bureaucracy. Bannon has declared that a “new political order” is imminent, promoting “economic nationalism” and entailing the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” The administration, he says, will be in a constant battle for “deconstruction.”54 The undermining of the civilian bureaucracy has been most pronounced in the environmental agencies, mostly because there whole departments can be brought under the axe. In a meeting with business leaders shortly after his inauguration, Trump indicated that his administration planned to cut governmental regulations on business by “75 percent,” and “maybe more.”55 Beyond financial deregulation, the plan is to go after environmental regulations in particular, along with environmentalists within the federal bureaucracy.

Myron Ebell, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a major organ for climate denial, and a key Trump adviser on the environment, has declared the environmental movement “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world” and has attacked climate scientists and other members of what he calls the “expertariat,” with the aim of removing them from government.56 Ebell has gone so far as to characterize the Pope’s encyclical on climate change as “leftist drivel.”57 This anti-establishment rhetoric, so integral to the success of Trump’s campaign, is now being used to legitimate cuts of 20–25 percent in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget and 17 percent in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Trump has called anthropogenic climate change, on which there is near-universal scientific consensus, a “hoax.” Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA and a fervent climate denier, is also historically one of the agency’s chief enemies, having sued the EPA numerous times to block pollution regulations. Likewise, Rick Perry, the new head of the Department of Energy, and former governor of Texas, is a known climate denier, who has even claimed that the planet is cooling. He once called for the elimination of the department he now heads. During the White House transition, a questionnaire from the incoming administration was sent to employees in the Department of Energy, seeking to identify those who had been involved in work related to climate change, in what was clearly an effort to intimidate scientists. A sweeping purge in areas of the federal government related to environmental protection is expected, with whole agencies directed at issues like climate change eliminated and employees bullied into compliancy. The recent Republican congressional revival of a defunct 1876 law that would allow the salaries of federal employees to be reduced to a $1 a year is being wielded as a weapon to threaten governmental employees. During the transition, the Trump team indicated that NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, perhaps the world’s leading center for climate research, would be redirected to deep space studies. In these conditions, there can be little doubt that climate science will be virtually outlawed within government agencies, seen as opposed to the America First strategy of the White House.58

The Trump administration is clearly ready to transgress all legal norms to drive environmentalism into the ground, in defiance of the wishes of the population and the needs of the planet. One of the administration’s first actions was to issue an order to the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve in an expedited manner” the Dakota Access Pipeline, to be drilled under the Missouri River, at Standing Rock, North Dakota, reversing earlier decisions and overriding environmental interests and the valiant struggles of the indigenous-led water protectors. With the federal government now lining up with the North Dakota state in its readiness to push the pipeline through no matter what, there is little doubt that peaceful protests to stop the pipeline will increasingly be confronted with the use of force.59

Cornel West has spoken of the “repressive apparatus” that defines the Trump administration. “That’s the neo-fascist dimension of it. It’s not just the attack on the press,” West told his audience at Harvard’s W. E. B. DuBois Institute. “He will be coming for some of us. We have to say like DuBois, like Frederick Douglass, and like the nameless and anonymous freedom fighters of all colors, we can stand [up]…. I refuse to normalize Donald Trump and his neo-fascist project.”60 How and at what speed the new administration will unleash this repression is still unclear, though the massive scale of the deportations of undocumented immigrants—projected to be far greater than those under Obama—and the scarcely veiled racism that animates them, is already evident. There is little doubt that the Trump administration will reinforce the “new Jim Crow” system of racialized mass incarceration. He has insisted on the need for further privatization of federal prisons—something already being introduced into policy by Sessions. Before Trump’s election, as many as 141,000 people signed a petition sent to the Obama White House—heavily promoted by Breitbart—requesting that Black Lives Matter be listed as a terrorist organization. Trump himself insisted, prior to the election, that Black Lives Matter was a “threat” and that the U.S. attorney general should be asked to do something about it, starting with “watching because that’s really bad stuff,” which suggested the need for massive surveillance. He has also come out for expanded racial profiling by police across the country.61

A leaked draft of an executive order on religious freedom being prepared by the administration proposed a great expansion of religious freedom exemptions to federal laws allowing individuals and organizations legally to discriminate in providing access to goods and services in relation to abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, and protections for LBGTQ people, undermining vast numbers of federal laws.62 Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, is a strong proponent of allowing religious freedom to justify repressive actions and exclusions by corporations.63

At the same time, an assault is being prepared on labor unions, in particular public-sector unions. The Republican Congress, bolstered by Trump, is proposing a national “right to work” law aimed at stripping unions of their funding by making it possible for workers to be free riders, receiving the benefits of union bargaining without having to pay the “agency fees” to support it—with the result that the unions are to be driven into a financial crisis. Right to work laws already exist in twenty-seven states. The U.S. Supreme Court, with a restored conservative majority, may achieve much the same result even more quickly in upcoming court decisions, stripping public-sector unions of their ability to deduct agency fees from the paychecks of workers covered by the union agreement. School privatization is likewise aimed directly at breaking teachers’ unions. The overall goal is to end de facto, if not de jure, workers’ rights to organize in the United States.64 Though Trump’s first choice for labor secretary, fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder, was forced to withdraw amid popular protest and Republican discomfort, his nomination was fully in line with this labor-crushing campaign. Puzder was found to have consistently ignored and violated wage, safety, and overtime laws in his fast-food conglomerate, CKE Restaurants.

Trump’s choice for education secretary, billionaire Betsy DeVos, who has long been dedicated to the privatization of public education, represents an assault on a bedrock of democracy in the United States. DeVos is a strong supporter of charter schools and school vouchers aimed at the demolition of the entire public education system in the United States, which she has dismissed as a “dead end.” The federal government provides relatively little money to public K-12 education, which is mostly funded by state and local governments. Most federal money is devoted to helping students with disabilities and those from low-income communities. Trump, however, has vowed to put $20 billion into funding vouchers nationwide in a proposal that assumes that states will kick in more than $100 billion for vouchers, taking that directly from public education. Trump’s choice of DeVos indicates that the emphasis on the new administration will be on promoting maximum privatization of U.S. public education, which would lead to vastly increased disparities in access to education and destroy teachers’ unions and teacher professionalism. But DeVos has objectives beyond that. She has stated that in privatizing the schools “our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”65

The Trump administration’s effort to bring universities into line was evident in the new president’s response to a riot that occurred on the UC- Berkeley campus in early February, when protestors clashed with police, prompting the cancellation of a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, then a Breitbart senior editor (and close Bannon associate) known for his white supremacist, misogynist hate speech. After Yiannopoulos’s talk was canceled, Trump tweeted that Berkeley should be denied federal funds.66 Trump’s election has fueled right-wing attacks on universities. Days after his election, the right-wing nonprofit Turning Point USA announced the creation of a “Professor Watchlist” targeting more than two hundred professors in the United States (including me) as dangerous progressives to be “watched”—a move designed to intimidate the universities.

The Trump administration is marked by an extraordinary attempt to bring the mainstream media in line with its neofascist objectives. Trump has declared that he is in a “running war” with the media and that journalists are “among the most dishonest people on earth.” Barely a month into his presidency, Trump tweeted that the mainstream media “is the enemy of the American people” and that the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN were all “FAKE NEWS.”67 These were not of course rational attacks on the mainstream capitalist media for what Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky called its “propaganda model”—or the systematic filtering of news in order to promote capitalism and its power elite, while excluding or marginalizing all left criticisms. Rather, Trump was disparaging the non-Murdoch mainstream media for its general defense of separation of powers and civil liberties.68 This included the media’s questioning of Trump’s claim that he only lost the popular vote in the election due to voter fraud, its coverage of his ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and its treatment of the new administration’s contacts with Russia.

In an alarming display of Goebbels-like tactics, Bannon told the press to “shut up” in a press conference in January, and declared that “The media here is the opposition party…. The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work,” he ranted. “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.” For Bannon, this “opposition party” has to be completely brought into line. The object, as noted by the New York Times, is to so manipulate and intimidate the media that it will “muzzle itself.”69

In an extraordinary instance of Gleichschaltung, the Trump-dominated Republican Party issued a “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey,” rife with leading questions, misleading “facts,” and ideological posturing, which the usually staid National Public Radio called “phenomenally biased.”70 This was soon followed by the exclusion of the New York Times, CNN, Politico, BuzzFeed, and other media from a White House press briefing, due to their unfavorable stories on the Trump administration (the Associated Press and Time refused to attend in protest).71 Bannon’s Gleichschaltung strategy is also aimed at the traditional right itself. Thus, in December 2016 he declared: “National Review and The Weekly Standard are both left-wing magazines, and I want to destroy them also.”72

As part of a general ideological campaign, Bannon’s attacks on the media, in what is a long-standing technique of fascist and neofascist “radicals,” borrows from the language of the left, referring to “the corporatist, globalist media” as the enemy. Yet the real ideological driving force of neofascism is the ultra-nationalist one of the resurrection of a national-racial culture. Thus, Bannon has spoken in Evola-like terms of the United States as “a nation with a culture and a reason for being,” creating a distinct principle of “sovereignty.”73 The concept of the restoration of national “sovereignty” has become a key organizing principle of the alt-right ideology promoted by Breitbart and has been employed to justify the anti-immigrant stance of the Trump White House.74

Part of the power of the Trump administration lies in a largely compliant and ideologically right-wing Republican-dominated Congress. But the Gleichschaltung extends to the Republican Party leadership too, the chief figures of which are being bullied into line. An indication of this is Bannon’s hiring of Breitbart’s Hahn, known for her unrestrained attacks on Paul Ryan and other leading Republicans, as his assistant—thereby warning the Republican leadership of what could await them if they were to refuse to play ball. Hahn made her reputation by accusing Ryan of fleeing “grieving moms trying to show him photos of their children killed by his open borders agenda.” She charged Ryan of being a “globalist” linked to crony capitalism, and as the mastermind of a “months-long campaign to elect Hillary Clinton.” Here the Gleichschaltung strategy aimed at the Republican Party itself if quite clear: “A number of House Republicans told The Washington Post that Hahn’s involvement signaled Bannon’s plans to possibly put her to use against them, writing searing commentaries about elected Republican leaders to ram through Trump’s legislative priorities and agitate the party’s base if necessary.”75

What makes the rise of a neofascist White House of such great concern is the enormous weight of the U.S. presidency, and the long-term breakdown in the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution. The undermining of the Congressional power to declare war, established in the Constitution, is well known. Moreover, with the Patriot Act and other measures, the power of the executive branch has been greatly expanded so far this century. In his statement in signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, Barack Obama affirmed that the executive branch now has the power of “indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” removing thereby the protections of the courts and individual rights established in the Constitution. This means an enormous extension of the power of the presidency against that of the judiciary, continuing a process of the abrogation of judicial review in expanding areas of “national security,” that has seriously undermined the separation of powers in the U.S. constitution. Such power conferred on the presidency makes conceivable an abrupt shift of the state in a dictatorial direction, ostensibly under the rule of law. Although Obama in 2011 indicated that he would not authorize military detention without trial of U.S. citizens, which he said “would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation,” he did not question the legal right of a future president to do so, or fight against this provision within the law, which abrogated the constitutional protections of citizens. With the advent of what Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have called a virtual “coup” in the executive branch of government, there is much less assurance that the White House will exercise restraint in this area.76

Trump and the Decline of U.S. Hegemony

Trump was elected to the presidency on a pledge to “Make America Great Again.” Following the ideological template offered by Bannon and Breitbart, he pointed to the reality of continuing economic crisis or slow growth, high unemployment, the deteriorating economic conditions of the working class, and the weakening of the United States in the world as a whole. His answer was economic and military nationalism, “draining the swamp” (the end of crony capitalism), and attacks on big government. All of this was laced with misogyny, racism, and xenophobia. Among Trump’s pledges was an end to economic stagnation, with the newly elected president promising an annual growth rate of 4 percent, compared to just 1.6 percent in 2016.77 He declared he would create jobs through massive infrastructure spending, elimination of trade agreements unfavorable to the United States, spurring investment by cutting taxes and regulations, and colossal increases in military spending—at the same time protecting entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

After years of feeling ignored by the dominant neoliberal ideology, large numbers of those in the white, and particularly male, population who saw themselves as lower-middle class or relatively better-off working class rallied to Trump’s economic nationalist, overtly racist cause—though of course few had any real notion of what this would fully entail.78 The fact that the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton, the very image of neoliberalism, over Bernie Sanders, with his grassroots social-democratic candidacy, played into the Trump-Breitbart strategy.

Trump also drew considerable support in the election from the “billionaire class,” particularly within the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) and energy sectors, which saw his promises on cutting corporate taxes, increasing federal financing of private firms in infrastructure developments, and promoting economic nationalism, as ways of leveraging their own positions. After the election Wall Street’s support turned to elation with stocks rising rapidly. Between Trump’s win and February 24, the Dow and Nasdaq both rose by 13 percent, Standard and Poor’s by 10 percent. Most of the enthusiasm was for expected tax cuts and massive deregulation.79 According to the London-based Financial Times, “Donald Trump is creating a field day for the one percent.” Meanwhile, his repeated promises of infrastructure investment to create jobs for the working population were being revealed as largely fraudulent, a case of “bait and switch.”80

Although it is true that Trump still promises a $1 trillion investment in the nation’s physical infrastructure, this was never meant to take the form of direct federal spending. Rather, Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, Jr., is the author of a highly questionable report claiming that tax credits to corporations on the order of $137 billion would provide the financing for private companies to leverage $1 trillion in infrastructure spending over ten years. The entire plan, as concocted by Ross, rests not on governmental spending on infrastructure, but rather on giving capital back to capital: a huge windfall to private contractors, much of it subsidizing projects that would have occurred anyway.81

Although Trump promised to fight crony capitalism and to “drain the swamp,” he has filled his cabinet with billionaires and Wall Street insiders, making it clear that the state would do the bidding of monopoly-finance capital. Ross has assets valued at $2.9 billion, and was designated by Forbes as a “vulture” and a “king of bankruptcy.” Todd Ricketts, the deputy secretary of commerce is worth $5.3 billion. DeVos, secretary of education, is worth $5.1 billion, while her brother, Erik Prince, called by Intercept “America’s most notorious mercenary” and a Trump adviser, was the founder of the universally hated Blackwater security firm. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s treasury secretary is a cento-millionaire hedge fund investor. Rex Tillerson, the new secretary of state, is the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Trump’s initial seventeen cabinet picks (one of whom, Puzder, was forced to drop out from consideration) had a combined wealth that exceeded that of a third of the population of the country. This does not include Trump’s own wealth, reputedly $10 billion. Never before has there been so pure a plutocracy, so extreme an example of crony capitalism, in any U.S. administration.82

What paved the way for Trump’s neofascist strategy and gave it coherence was the deepening long-term crisis of U.S. political economy and empire, and of the entire world capitalist economy, after the financial crisis of 2007–09. This left the system in a state of economic stagnation, with no visible way out. The financialization process, characterized by expanding debt leverage and market bubbles, that in the 1980s and ’90s had helped lift the economy out of a malaise resulting from the overaccumulation of capital, was no longer viable on the scale needed.

In 2012, I published a book with Robert W. McChesney, based on articles that appeared in Monthly Review between 2009 and 2012, entitled The Endless Crisis. In the opening paragraph, we wrote:

The Great Financial Crisis and the Great Recession arose in the United States in 2007 and quickly spread around the globe, marking what appears to be a turning point in world history. Although this was followed within two years by a recovery phase, the world economy five years after the onset of the crisis is still in the doldrums. The United States, Europe, and Japan remain caught in a condition of slow growth, high unemployment, and financial instability, with new economic tremors appearing all the time and the effects spreading globally. The one bright spot in the world economy, from a global standpoint, has been the seemingly unstoppable expansion of a handful of emerging economies, particularly China. Yet the continuing stability of China is now also in question. Hence, the general consensus among informed economic observers is that the world capitalist economy is facing the threat of long-term economic stagnation (complicated by the prospect of further financial deleveraging), sometimes referred to as the problem of “lost decades.” It is this issue, of the stagnation of the capitalist economy, even more than that of financial crisis or recession, that has now emerged as the big question worldwide.83

Five years later, this “big question” has in no sense gone away. Economic stagnation is endemic. As the Financial Times recently acknowledged in an article questioning the stagnation thesis, “the secular speed limit on growth in the advanced economies is still much lower than it was in earlier decades.”84 The U.S. economy has had only a meager 2.1 percent average annual growth rate since the end of the Great Recession in 2010. The country has now experienced more than a decade of less than 3 percent growth, for the first time since growth rates began to be recorded in the early 1930s—a period which includes the Great Depression.85 The labor share of income of all but the top 1 percent has been declining dramatically.86 Net investment, which normally drives the economy, is stagnant and in long-term decline.87 Unemployment rates, while seemingly low at the beginning of 2017, as the economy approaches the peak of the business cycle, are being kept down largely as a result of millions of people leaving the work force, together with an enormous increase in part-time work and precarious jobs.88Income and wealth inequality in the society meanwhile have been soaring. U.S. household debt, now at $12.6 trillion, is the highest in a decade. Despite an aging population, homeownership in the United States is at its lowest level since 1965.89 Nor are these conditions confined to the United States. The G7 richest countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States), taken together, saw an average rate of growth in 2016 of 1.3 percent, capping a long period of slow growth. The European Union had a growth rate of only 1.7 percent over the last decade, 1.8 percent in the last year. (To put these figures in perspective, the average annual growth rate of the U.S. economy in the depression decade from 1929-1939 was 1.3 percent.)90

These economic conditions are accompanied by the shift of production from the global North to the global South, where about 70 percent of industrial production now takes place as opposed to around 50 percent in 1980.91 Although today’s monopoly-finance capital in the North continues to siphon vast economic surpluses from the South via multinational corporations, including financial institutions, these surpluses for the most part no longer feed production in the North but simply add to the gross profit margins of companies, stimulating financial-asset accumulation. Hence, there is a growing disconnection between record wealth concentration at the top of the society and income generation within the overall economy.92 All of the major economies of the triad of the United States and Canada, Europe, and Japan, have seen the share of income going to the top 1 percent skyrocket since 1980—rising by more than 120 percent in the United States between 1980 and 2015, even as the economy increasingly fell prey to stagnation. The top decile of wealth holders in the United States now hold more than 70 percent of the wealth of the country, while the bottom half’s share is virtually nil. The six wealthiest billionaires in the world—four of whom are Americans—now own more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population.93

In the United States, these global shifts are further complicated by the slow decline of U.S. hegemony, which is now reaching a critical stage. With the U.S. economy currently growing at a 1.6 percent rate and the Chinese economy growing, despite its slowdown, by around 7 percent, the writing is on the wall for U.S. hegemony in the world economy. The U.S. share in the global economy has fallen steadily since 2000. In 2016 Forbes announced that the Chinese economy will likely overtake the U.S. economy in overall size by 2018.94 Although the United States is a far richer country, with a much higher per capita income, the significance of this shift, and of the more general erosion of U.S. hegemony according to a wide array of indicators, is now the main global concern of the U.S. power structure. The United States retains financial hegemony, including the dominance of the dollar as the world’s leading currency, and is still by far the world’s leading military power. But history suggests that neither of these can be maintained in coming decades without hegemony in global production. The Obama-era strategy of trying to maintain economic hegemony not simply through U.S. power alone, but also through the power of the triad, is failing, due to economic stagnation throughout the triad. This has fed a more economic-nationalist outlook in both the United States and United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the restructuring of the U.S. economy in the context of its declining global hegemony has contributed to the widespread impression that its diminishing global power—dramatized by its endless and seemingly futile wars in the Middle East, which produce few victories—is the source of all the pain and hardship endured by the lower middle and working classes.95 Foreigners “taking U.S. jobs” and immigrants working for low wages have thus become easy targets, feeding an ultra-right nationalism that is useful to those in power, and that merges with the concerns of part of the ruling class.96 The result is not only the growth of Trumpism in the United States, but Brexit in Britain, and far right movements throughout the European core. As Amin has written,

the following phenomena are inextricably linked to one another: the capitalism of oligopolies; the political power of oligarchies; barbarous globalization; financialization; U.S. hegemony [now declining and therefore even more dangerous]; the militarization of the way globalization operates in the service of the oligopolies; the decline of democracy; the plundering of the planet’s resources; and the abandoning of development for the South.97

More recently, Amin has called this the problem of “generalized monopoly capitalism.”98

All fascist movements emphasize extreme nationalism, xenophobia, and racism, and are concerned with defending borders and expanding power by military means. What is known as geopolitics, or the attempt to leverage imperial power in the world through control of wider portions of the globe and their strategic resources, arose in the imperialist struggles at the beginning of the twentieth century as articulated in the work of its classic theorists, Halford Mackinder in Britain, Karl Haushofer in Germany, and Nicholas John Spykman in the United States, and can be regarded as inherent to monopoly capitalism in all of its phases.99 In the period from the Gulf War in 1990–91 to 2014, U.S. geopolitics was aimed at restoring and entrenching U.S. hegemony in the wake of the disappearance of the Soviet Union from the world stage—making the United States the sole superpower. As understood by U.S. strategists at the time, such as Paul Wolfowitz, the goal was to take advantage of the limited amount of time—Wolfowitz saw it as a decade or at most two—before a new, rival superpower could be expected to arise, during which the United States could freely carry out regime change in the Middle East and North Africa, and along the periphery of the former Soviet Union.100

This approach led to a series of U.S.-led wars and regime change in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa. The Persian Gulf in particular was a priority, of vital strategic value not only geographically but because of its immense oil resources. But gaining control of all Eastern Europe and weakening Russia was also crucial.

The push of NATO into the Ukraine, supporting a right-wing coup in the attempt to check Russia as a reemerging superpower, led to a Russian pushback under Vladimir Putin, with the annexation of the Crimea and intervention in the Ukraine along its borders. Russia further responded by aggressively intervening in Syria, undermining the attempt by the United States, NATO and Saudi Arabia to bring down the Assad regime by supporting surrogate pro-Salafist forces (committed to the creation of a fundamentalist Sunni state). Meanwhile, the destruction of Iraq in U.S.-led wars, and the Western and Gulf-state promotion of pro-Salafist armies in the context of the surrogate war in Syria, led to the rise of the Islamic State.101

These grim facts, representing what Richard Haass, head of the Council of Foreign Relations, has called “a world in disarray,” have opened a rift within the ruling class over U.S. geopolitical strategy.102 The main part of the ruling class and the national security state was strongly committed to a new Cold War with Russia, with Hillary Clinton vowing to introduce no-fly zones in Syria, which would have meant shooting down Russian as well as Syrian planes, bringing the world to the brink of global thermonuclear war. In contrast, Trump put his emphasis on a détente with Russia so that the United States could concentrate on a global war against “radical Islamic terrorism” and a cold-hot war against China, in line with Bannon’s Judeo-Christian war—resembling Samuel Huntington’s notion of the “clash of civilizations.”103 Here Islamophobia merges with China-phobia—and with Latino-phobia, as represented by the so-called “defense of the U.S. southern border.”

In the Trump vision of the restoration of U.S. geopolitical and economic power, enemies are primarily designated in racial and religious terms. A renewed emphasis is put on placing U.S. boots on the ground in the Middle East and on naval confrontation with China in the South China Sea, where much of the world’s new oil reserves are to be found, and which is China’s main future surety of access to oil in the case of world conflict. However, the result of this attempt to institute a sudden shift in the geopolitical strategy of the United States has been not only a falling-out in the U.S. ruling class between neoliberals and Trump-style neofascists, but also a struggle within the deep state, resulting in the leaks that brought down Flynn.104

Trump’s geopolitical strategy ultimately looks east toward China, taking the form of threatened protectionism combined with military posturing. The new administration immediately moved to set aside the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which appeared to be failing as an instrument for controlling China—preferring instead blunter methods, including a possible confrontation with China over the South China Sea.

Overlaying all of this is Trump’s declaration that the United States is about to enter one of the “greatest military buildups in American history.” In his initial budget he has indicated he will increase military spending by $54 billion or by around ten percent of the Pentagon’s current base budget.105 This is likely to be seen also as a means of absorbing economic surplus, since the vast infrastructure spending promised in the presidential election is unlikely to materialize given traditional Republican party resistance. (As indicated above, the Trump plan to provide tax credits to industry for infrastructure spending will do little directly to stimulate the economy.)

Can Trump succeed economically? An analysis in the Financial Times at the end of February suggests that “the effect of Mr. Trump’s economic agenda will be to deepen the conditions that gave rise to his candidacy.”106 Given the deep-seated stagnation in the economy, and the structural basis of this in the overaccumulation of capital, any attempt to put the U.S. economy on another trajectory is fraught with difficulties. Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers writes: “I would put the odds of a U.S. recession at about 1/3 over the next year and at over 1/2 over the next 2 years.”107 Coming along after a lost decade of deep economic stagnation, including an extremely slow economic recovery, this would likely be experienced as calamitous throughout the society.

Against this one has to recall that it was Hitler who first introduced “Keynesian” economic stimulus through military spending, privatization, and breaking unions, instituting deep cuts in workers’ wages.108 A neo-fascist economic strategy would be a more extreme version of neoliberal austerity, backed by racism and war preparation. It would be aimed at liberating capital from regulation—giving free rein to monopoly-finance capital. This would be accompanied by more aggressive attempts to wield U.S. power directly, on a more protectionist basis. In the longer-run the economic contradictions of the system would remain, but the new economic nationalism would be aimed at making sure that in the context of global economic stagnation the United States would seize a greater share of the global pie. Nevertheless, an expansion of the war economy is fraught with dangers, and its stimulus effects on production are less potent than in the past.109 There is no surety that the United States would win a trade and currency war or a global arms race, while such developments could presage the kind of rising conflict that historically has led to world war.

The Resistible Rise of Donald Trump

Brecht’s 1941 satirical play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui was an allegorical attempt to place Hitler’s rise in Germany in the more familiar context—at least to American audiences—of Chicago gangsterism (in this case, a mob-controlled cauliflower monopoly), so as to suggest how fascism might be prevented in the future. Brecht’s main point, apart from stripping the Nazi protagonists of any traces of greatness, was that the fascization of society was a process, and that if the nature of the fascist techniques of gaining power, by means of propaganda, violence, threats, intimidation, and betrayal, were better understood at an early stage and by the population in general, they could be countered through a conscious movement from below. Fascism, Brecht believed, was bound to be defeated, but the continuation of capitalism ensured its reemergence: “the womb he [Ui, or Hitler] crawled from is still growing strong.”110

Given the reality of the penetration of neofascism into the White House, knowledge of the process of bringing into line now being instituted by the executive branch, is essential in organizing a systematic defense of the separation of powers and constitutional freedoms. But in resisting the U.S. alt-right, the old Popular Front strategy of the left uniting with establishment liberalism is only practical to a limited extent in certain areas, such as combating climate change, which threatens all of humanity, or in efforts to protect basic political rights. This is because, short of real structural change, any initial gains achieved through such an alliance are likely soon to be abrogated once the immediate crisis is over, causing the old contradictions to reappear. An effective resistance movement against the right thus requires the construction of a powerful anti-capitalist movement from below, representing an altogether different solution, aimed at epoch-making structural change. Here the object is overturning the logic of capital, and promoting substantive equality and sustainable human development.111 Such a revolt must be directed not just against neofascism, but against neoliberalism—i.e., monopoly-finance capital—as well. It must be as concerned with the struggles against racism, misogyny, xenophobia, oppression of LGBTQ people, imperialism, war, and ecological degradation, as much as it is with class exploitation, necessitating the building of a broad unified movement for structural change, or a new movement toward socialism.

The worse thing in present circumstances, I believe, would be if we were to trivialize or downplay the entry of neofascism into the White House or the relation of this to capitalism, imperial expansion, and global exterminism (climate change and the growing dangers of thermonuclear war). In his statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump, while pointedly failing to mention the killing of six million Jews, declared, in Manichean terms: “It is impossible to fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror…. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent…. I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good.”112

More than three decades ago, left historian Basil Davidson concluded his Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War with these words:

Now, in our own time, the old contest [fascism versus the democratic resistance] is there again. Self-appointed super-patriots of the far right…croak their froglike voices to the tunes of a victory which, they would have us believe, was theirs: whereas, in fact, the truth was precisely the reverse. New “national fronts” clamber on the scene, no smaller or more stupid than the Nazis were when they began. Old equivocations are replaced by new equivocations, just as apparently “respectable and proper” as the old ones were.

They are all things to resist. Now as then: but sooner this time. A lot sooner.113

Notes

  1. Jack London,The Iron Heel (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1907), 67-68.
  2. For earlier treatments of neofascism in the United States since the election see “Cornel West on Donald Trump: This Is What Neo-Fascism Looks Like,” Democracy Now!, December 1, 2016; Henry A. Giroux, “Combating Trump’s Neo-Fascism and the Ghost of ‘1984,’” Truthout, February 7, 2017. U.S. neofascism, viewed in this way, can be seen, in the words of Paul A. Baran, as “a fascism sui generis, of a special American variety.” Baran [writing as Historicus], “Rejoinder,”Monthly Review 4, no. 12 (April 1953): 503. The notion of “neo-fascism” first arose in accounts of extreme New Right movements and ideologies in Europe associated with thinkers such as Julius Evola and Alain de Benoist. See Roger Griffin, ed.,Fascism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 311–16.
  3. Exit Polls, Election 2016,” CNN, November 23, 2016, http://cnn.com.
  4. Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell, “Explaining Nationalist Political Views: The Case of Donald Trump,” Gallup draft working paper, November 2, 2016, available at http://papers.ssrn.com, 12; Samantha Neal, “Why Trump’s Base Differs from the Typical Republican Crowd,” Huffington Post, August 22, 2016.
  5. Konstantin Kilibarda and Daria Roithmayr, “The Myth of the Rust Belt Revolt,” Slate, December 1, 2016.
  6. Exit Polls, Election 2016,” CNN, November 23, 2016.
  7. Jason Horowitz, “Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles Tweet Fits a Pattern,”New York Times, September 20, 2016.
  8. Rothwell and Diego-Rosell, “Explaining Nationalist Political Views,” 2.
  9. Richard F. Hamilton,Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 420. Hamilton himself says it is impossible to confirm (or deny) the decisive role of lower-middle class voters based on the available data on electoral outcomes for urban areas in Germany in 1931 and 1932 (though his own data could be interpreted as supporting this). Nevertheless, the fact that fascism was historically rooted in the lower middle class or petty bourgeoisie is one of the most firmly established observations in the entire literature on fascism’s rise, both in the 1930s and today, encompassing both Marxist and non-Marxist thinkers. See, for example, Nicos Poulantzas,Fascism and Dictatorship (London: Verso, 1974); Seymour Martin Lipset,Political Man (New York: Doubleday, 1960), 134–76. Leon Trotsky wrote that “fascism is a specific means of mobilising and organising the petty bourgeoisie in the social interests of finance capital.” Leon Trotsky,The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York: Pathfinder, 1971), 455.
  10. Michael H. Kater,The Nazi Party (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 252; Thomas Childers,The Nazi Voter (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), 157–59, 166–88, 225–26; Jürgen W. Falter, “How Likely Were Workers to Vote for the NSDAP?” in Conan Fischer, ed.,The Rise of National Socialism and the Working Classes in Weimar Germany (Providence, RI: Berghan Books, 1996), 9–45.
  11. Trump was never very isolated from the financial community and billionaire class of course. See Robert Hackett, “Here Are the Billionaires Supporting Trump,”Fortune, August 3, 2016.
  12. Paul Baran argued in the 1950s that the absence of these factors did not necessarily prevent the growth of fascism in a U.S. context. One should not confuse the objective tendencies with its outward forms, or expect a social phenomenon to manifest itself always in the same way. Baran, “Fascism in America,” 181. Similarly, Bertram Gross wrote, “Anyone looking for black shirts, mass parties, or men on horseback will miss the telltale clues of creeping fascism.” Bertram Gross,Friendly Fascism (New York: Evans, 1980), 3.
  13. Donald Trump, “Inaugural Address,” January 20, 2017, http://whitehouse.gov. On “palingenetic ultra-nationalism” as the matrix of fascist ideology see Roger Griffin, “General Introduction,” in Griffin, ed.,Fascism, 3–4. On “The Potentially Deadliest Phase of Imperialism” see István Mészáros,The Necessity of Social Control (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2015), 97–120.
  14. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, “It Is Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight,” news release, January 25, 2017.
  15. Louis Althusser,Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays(New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), 85–126.
  16. Richard Falk, “The Dismal Cartography of Trump’s Pre-Fascist State (and Opportunities for Progressive Populism),” Mondoweiss, January 26, 2017.
  17. Samir Amin, “The Return of Fascism in Contemporary Capitalism,”Monthly Review 66, no. 4 (September 2014): 1–12.
  18. See C. B. Macpherson,The Life and Times of Liberal Democracy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977); Paul A. Baran and Paul M. Sweezy, Monopoly Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966), 155; Ralph Miliband,The State in Capitalist Society (London: Quartet, 1969).
  19. Michael D. Yates,The Great Inequality (London: Routledge, 2016).
  20. Bertolt Brecht,Brecht on Theatre (London: Methuen, 1974), 47.
  21. Paul M. Sweezy to Paul M. Baran, October 18, 1952, in Baran and Sweezy, The Age of Monopoly Capital(New York: Monthly Review Press, forthcoming 2017).
  22. Paul A. Baran to Paul M. Sweezy, October 25, 1952, in Baran and Sweezy, The Age of Monopoly Capital. Although fascism tends to reduce the state to one principle, it is conceivable, Baran noted in this letter, that it could take the form of “parliamentary fascism,” i.e., it need not inherently be organized around the executive power. “The crucial point,” he wrote, “is that terrorism, oppressiveness, Gleichschaltung [synchronization], state domination, etc. etc. are introduced in a specific class struggle constellation.”
  23. As Chris Hedges notes, “Hitler, days after he took power in 1933, imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations. He ordered raids on places where homosexuals gathered, culminating in the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin, and the permanent exile of its director, Magnus Hirschfeld. Thousands of volumes from the institute’s library were tossed into a bonfire. The stripping of gay and lesbian Germans of their civil rights was largely cheered by the German churches. But this campaign legitimated tactics, outside the law, that would soon be employed by others.” Chris Hedges,American Fascists (New York: Free Press, 2006), 201. See also Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2014).
  24. See Franz Neumann,Behemoth (New York: Oxford University Press, 1942), 62–82. This is the classic account of the development of the Nazi state and its relation to the economy. Although the “totalitarian state” (not to be confused with the later liberal concept of “totalitarianism”) is the ideal of fascism, in actuality it was less monolithic, and more chaotic. In classical fascism, a “dual state” consisting of the state apparatus and the party apparatus was typical, and the centralization of state power did not prevent a kind of disarticulation, in which the state ceased to function fully as a state in all respects, no longer accomplishing all of the tasks of Thomas Hobbes’sLeviathan. For this reason, Neumann took as the title of his work on fascism, from Hobbes’sBehemoth, on the period of the long parliament. See Neumann,Behemoth, 459–60; Slavoj Žižek,Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism?(London: Verso, 2001), 1–3.
  25. Poulantzas refers to the fascist state as “relatively autonomous” from monopoly capital. It seems more appropriate to reverse the emphasis and to refer to the economy and monopoly capital as strongly autonomous. Monopoly capital prefers a liberal democratic state but is willing to accede to fascist management of the political economy as long as private, monopolistic capital accumulation is allowed to continue and is even enhanced within the fascist “superstructural” framework. See Poulantzas,Fascism and Dictatorship, 85. In Nazi Germany this strong autonomy of capital was only interfered with in the midst of the war, when Albert Speer was put in charge of organizing industry for the war effort. See Franz Neumann and Paul M. Sweezy, “Speer’s Appointment as Dictator of the German Economy,” in Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, and Otto Kirchheimer, Secret Reports on Nazi Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013), 48–60.
  26. Benito Mussolini, “Plan for the New Italian Economy (1936),” in Carlo Celli, ed.,Economic Fascism (Edinburgh, VA: Axios, 2013), 277–80.
  27. Hitler quoted in Konrad Heiden,Der Fuehrer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1944), 287; Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols,People Get Ready (New York: Nation, 2016), 38.
  28. Maxine Y. Sweezy (also under Maxine Y. Woolston),The Structure of the Nazi Economy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941), 27–35. See also Gustav Stolper,German Economy, 1870–1940 (New York: Reynal and Hitchcock, 1940), 207; Germà Bel, “The Coining of ‘Privatization’ and German’s National Socialist Party,”Journal of Economic Perspectives 20, no. 3 (2006): 187–94, “Against the Mainstream: Nazi Privatization in 1930s Germany,” University of Barcelona, http://ub.edu.
  29. Nicos Poulantzas,Fascism and Dictatorship (London: Verso, 1974), 344.
  30. Karl Dietrich Bracher, “Stages of Totalitarian ‘Integration’ (Gleichschaltung): The Consolidation of National Socialist Rule in 1933 and 1934,” in Hajo Holburn, ed.,Republic to Reich (New York: Vintage, 1972), 109–28; Robert O. Paxton,The Anatomy of Fascism (New York: Vintage, 2005), 123–24; Emmanuel Faye,Heidegger (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 39–58.
  31. Faye, Heidegger, 151-54; Carl Schmitt, “The Legal Basis of the Total State,” in Griffin, ed., Fascism, 138-39.
  32. Bracher, “Stages of Totalitarian ‘Integration,’” 118–22. On the Reichstag fire, see John Mage and Michael E. Tigar, “The Reichstag Fire Trial, 1933–2008,”Monthly Review 60, no. 10 (March 2009): 24–49.
  33. Bracher, “Stages of Totalitarian ‘Integration,’” 122–24.
  34. Faye,Heidegger, 39–53, 118,154–62, 316–22; Richard Wolin, ed.,The Heidegger Controversy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993).
  35. Bracher, “Stages of Totalitarian ‘Integration,’” 124–28. Here what Bracher called the third and fourth stages ofGleichschaltung in the German case are treated as one.
  36. Paxton,Anatomy of Fascism, 123.
  37. See Oliver Staley, “There’s a German Word that Perfectly Encapsulates the Start of Trump’s Presidency,” Quartz, January 26, 2017; Shawn Hamilton, “What Those Who Studied Nazis Can Teach Us About the Strange Reaction to Donald Trump,” Huffington Post, December 19, 2016; Ron Jacobs, “Trumpism’s Gleichschaltung?” Counterpunch, February 3, 2017.
  38. Amin, “The Return of Fascism,” 2.
  39. Trump, “Inaugural Address”; Joseph Stiglitz, “How to Survive the Trump Era,” Project Syndicate, February 20, 2017, http://project-syndicate.org; “Miller and Bannon Wrote Trump Inaugural Address,” The Hill, January 21, 2017, http://thehill.com.
  40. According toVanity Fair, in August 2016, “Bannon…expressed a wariness about the political genuineness of Trump’s campaign persona. Trump is a ‘blunt instrument for us…. I don’t know whether he really gets it or not.’” Ken Stern, “Exclusive: Stephen Bannon, Trump’s New C.E.O., Hints at His Master Plan,”Vanity Fair, August 17, 2016.
  41. President Bannon?New York Times, January 30, 2017.
  42. Andrew Marantz, “Becoming Steve Bannon’s Bannon,”New Yorker, February 13, 2017.
  43. Gwynn Guilford and Nikhil Sonnad, “What Steve Bannon Really Wants,” Quartz, February 5, 2017; Steve Reilly and Brad Heath, “Steve Bannon’s Own Words Show Sharp Break on Security,”USA Today, January 31, 2017.
  44. Steve Bannon, Remarks via Skype at the Human Dignity Conference, the Vatican, Summer 2014, transcribed in J. Lester Feeder, “This is How Steve Bannon Sees the World,” Buzzfeed, November 15, 2016.
  45. Bannon, Remarks at the Human Dignity Conference; Jason Horowitz, “Steve Bannon Cited Italian Thinker Who Inspired Fascists,”New York Times, February 10, 2017.
  46. Julius Evola, “Fascism: Myth and Reality” and “The True Europe’s Revolt Against the Modern World,” in Griffin, ed.,Fascism, 317–18, 342–44; Paul Furlong,Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola (London: Routledge, 2011), 77, 89. Umberto Eco has called Evola “one of the most respected fascist gurus.” Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism,”New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995.
  47. Bannon, Remarks at the Human Dignity Conference.
  48. Anjali Singhvi and Alicia Parlapiano, “Trump’s Immigration Ban: Who Is Barred and Who Is Not,”New York Times, February 3, 2017; Ben Rosen, “Up Close and Personal: How Trump’s Attacks Against the Judiciary Are Different,”Christian Science Monitor, February 9, 2017.
  49. Philip Rucker and Robert Barnes, “Trump to Inherit More than 100 Court Vacancies, Plans to Reshape Judiciary,”Washington Post, December 25, 2016; “Trump’s Order May Mark 11 Million Undocumented Immigrants for Deportation: Experts,” ABC News, January 26, 2017; Donald Trump, “Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress,” February 28, 2017.
  50. Donald Trump, “Presidential Memorandum Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council,” January 28, 2017; Edward Price, “I Didn’t Think I Would Ever Leave the CIA,”New York Times, February 20, 2017; Linda Qiu, “The National Security Council ‘Shakeup,’” Politifact, February 1, 201.
  51. Julie Smith and Derek Chollet, “Bannon’s ‘Strategic Initiatives’ Cabal Inside the NSC is Dangerous Hypocrisy,”Foreign Policy Shadow Government blog, February 1, 2017; “Bannon Builds a New Node of Power in the White House,” Daily Beast, January 31, 2017.
  52. Heather Timmons, “Trump Wants a Billionaire Best Known for Selling Semi-Automatic Rifles to Rein in U.S. Spy Agencies” Quartz, February 16, 2017; “Trump Asks Billionaire Steve Feinberg to Review Intel Agencies,” NBC News, February 16, 2017; James Risen and Matthew Rosenberg, “White House Plans to Have Trump Ally Review Intelligence Agencies,”New York Times, February 15, 2017; “30 Most Powerful Private Security Companies in the World,” Security Degree Hub, http://securitydegreehub.com.
  53. Josh Dawsey, “Trump’s Advisers Push Him to Purge Obama Appointees,” Politico, March 3, 2017.
  54. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, “Bannon Vows a Daily Fight for ‘Deconstruction of the Administrative State,’Washington Post, February 23, 2017; “Trump Adviser Hails ‘New Political Order,’” BBC, February 23, 2017.
  55. Chris Arnold, “President Trump to Cut Regulations by ’75 Percent,’” National Public Radio, January 24, 2017.
  56. Damian Carrington, “Green Movement ‘Greatest Threat to Freedom,’” Says Trump Adviser,”Guardian, January 30, 2017.
  57. Henry Fountain, “Trump’s Climate Contrarian: Myron Ebell Takes on the E.P.A.,”New York Times, November 11, 2016.
  58. Foster, “Trump and Climate Catastrophe”; Carrington, “Green Movement ‘Greatest Threat to Freedom’”; Penny Lewis, “What’s Coming for Unions under President Trump,”Labor Notes, January 19, 2017; Matthew Rozsa, “House Republicans Support Rule That Could Allow Them to Pay Individual Federal Workers $1,” Salon, January 6, 2017 ; Rafi Letzter, “Trump’s Budget Could Cut 3,000 Staff from the EPA, Report Suggests,” Business Insider, March 1, 2017, http://businessinsider.com; “White House Proposes Steep Budget Cut to Leading Climate Science Agency,”Washington Post, March 3, 2017.
  59. Oliver Milman, “Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Says Trump is Breaking Law with Dakota Access Order,”Guardian, January 22, 2017.
  60. David Pluviose, “Cornel West: We’re All Responsible for Gangster Trump,” Diverse, January 25, 2017, http://divereducation.com.
  61. Eric Tucker, “Sessions: US to Continue Use of Privately Run Prisons,” Associated Press, February 23, 2017; “Donald Trump Defends Racial Profiling in Wake of Bombings,” CNN, September 19, 2016; “Donald Trump: Black Lives Matter Calles for Killing Police,” CBS News, July 19, 2016; John Hayward, “Petition to Designate Black Lives Matter as Terrorist Group Approaches 100K Signatures,” Breitbart, July 11, 2016, http://breitbart.com.
  62. Sarah Posner, “Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination,”Nation, February 1, 2107.
  63. Jeff John Roberts, “Trump Picks Religious Liberty Defender Gorsuch for Supreme Court,”Fortune, January 31, 2017.
  64. Lewis, “What’s Coming for Unions”; Michael Paarlberg, “With All Eyes on Trump Republicans Are Planning to Break Unions for Good,”Guardian, February 2, 2017.
  65. Kevin Carey, “Why Betsy DeVos Won’t Be Able to Privatize U.S. Education,”New York Times, November 23, 2016; Kristina Rizga, “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools to Build ‘God’s Kingdom,’Mother Jones, March/April 2017.
  66. Amy X. Wang, “Trump Is Picking Free-Speech Fight with the University that Birthed the Free Speech Movement,” Quartz, February 2, 2017; Abby Ohlheiser, “Just How Offensive Did Milo Yiannopoulos Have to Be to Get Banned from Twitter?Washington Post, July 21, 2016. Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart in mid-February 2017 amid a growing scandal over his active promotion of pederasty.
  67. Max Greenwood, “Trump Tweets: The Media Is the ‘Enemy of the American People,’” The Hill, February 17, 2017.
  68. David Bauder, “Trump’s ‘Running War’ on the Media Undermines Trust,” Associated Press, January 23, 2017. Edward Herman, “The Propaganda Model Revisited,” in Robert W. McChesney, Ellen Meiksins Wood, and John Bellamy Foster, eds., Capitalism and the Information Age (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998), 191–205.
  69. Michael M. Grynbaum, “Trump Strategist Stephen Bannon Says Media ‘Should Keep Its Mouth Shut,’New York Times, January 26, 2017; Jim Rutenberg, “In Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom,”New York Times, February 17, 2017.
  70. Danielle Kurtzleben, “The Trump Media Survey Is Phenomenally Biased. It’s Also Useful,” National Public Radio, February 17, 2017.
  71. Lukas I. Alpert, “Some Media Excluded from White House Briefing,”Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2017.
  72. Grant Stern, “My Mouth is Shut, So You Can Read Steve Bannon’s Words; He Runs America Now,” Huffington Post, January 30, 2017.
  73. Rucker and Costa, “Bannon Vows a Daily Fight”; Max Fisher, “Stephen K. Bannon’s CPAC Comments, Annotated and Explained,”New York Times, February 24, 2017.
  74. Daniel Horowitz, “Trump’s Executive Orders for American Sovereignty Are Game Changers,” Conservative Review, January 25, 2017, http://conservativereview.com; “7 Steps to Reclaiming Our Sovereignty,” Breitbart, July 17, 2014; Nick Hallet, “Eurosceptic Parties Sign ‘Stockholm Declaration’ Pledging to Defend Sovereignty, Defeat Radical Islam,” Breitbart, November 5, 2016. See also Furlong,Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola, 77.
  75. Robert Costa, “Trump’s Latest Hire Alarms Allies of Ryan—and Bolsters Bannon,”Washington Post, January 33, 2017; Marantz, “Becoming Steve Bannon’s Bannon”; Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, “Donald Trump’s Mission Creep Just Took a Giant Leap Forward,” Moyers and Company, February 1, 2017, http://billmoyers.com.
  76. Barack Obama, “Statement by the President on H.R. 1540,” December 31, 2011, http://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov; Jean-Claude Paye, “Sovereignty and the State of Emergency,”Monthly Review 68, no. 8 (January 2017): 1–11; Carl Mirra, “The NDAA and the Militarization of America,” Foreign Policy in Focus, February 10, 2012, http://fpif.org; Michael E. Tigar, “The National Security State: The End of Separation of Powers,”Monthly Review 66, no. 3 (July–August 2014): 136–59.
  77. Bob Bryan, “Trump Is Officially Making an Economic Promise that Will Be Almost Impossible to Keep,” Business Insider, January 22, 2017.
  78. For a particularly sensitive sociological account of the interests and views underlying Trump’s appeal to many white working-class voters, see Arlie Russell Hochschild,Strangers in their Own Land (New York: New Press, 2016), 221–30.
  79. Michelle Celarier, “Meet the Wall Street Titans Who Back Trump,”New York, June 22, 2016; Ben White and Mary Lee, “Trump’s ‘Big Fat Bubble’ Trouble in the Stock Market,” Politico, February 24, 2017.
  80. Edward Luce, “Donald Trump is Creating a Field Day for the 1%,”Financial Times, February 26, 2017.
  81. Steven Mufson, “Economists Pan Infrastructure Plan Championed by Trump Nominees,”Washington Post, January 17, 2017; Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, “Trump Versus Clinton on Infrastructure,” October 27, 2016; Donald Trump, “Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress,” February 28, 2017.
  82. Alan Rappeport, “Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Nominee, Failed to Disclose $100 Million in Assets,”New York Times, January 19, 2017; Dan Kopf, “Trump’s First 17 Cabinet Picks Have More Money than a Third of All Americans,” Quartz, December 15, 2016; David Smith, “Trump’s Billionaire Cabinet Could Be the Wealthiest Administration Ever,”Guardian, December 2, 2016; Jeremy Scahill, “Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Advising Trump from the Shadows,” The Intercept, January 17, 2017, http://theintercept.com.
  83. John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, The Endless Crisis (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012), 1.
  84. Whatever Happened to Secular Stagnation?Financial Times, February 26, 2017. On the deeper causes of secular stagnation, see Harry Magdoff and Paul M. Sweezy, Stagnation and the Financial Explosion (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1987).
  85. Center for Budget Priorities, “Chart Book: The Legacy of the Great Recession,” February 10, 2017, “U.S. Economy Set to Grow Less than 3% for the Tenth Straight Year,” Market Watch, December 22, 2015, http://marketwatch.com.
  86. Michael W. L. Elsby, Bart Hobijn and Aysegul Sahin, “The Decline of the U.S. Labor Share,” Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2013-27, September 2013; Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, “The Plight of the U.S. Working Class,”Monthly Review 65, no. 8 (January 2014): 1–22.
  87. Timothy Taylor, “Declining U.S. Investment, Gross and Net,” Conversable Economist blog, February 17, 2017,.
  88. R. Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster, “Marx’s Theory of Working-Class Precariousness: Its Relevance Today,”Monthly Review 67, no. 11 (April 2016): 1–19.
  89. U.S. Household Debts Climbed in 2016 by Most in a Decade,”Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2017; Andrew Haughwout, Richard Peach, and Joseph Tracy, “A Close Look at the Decline of Homeownership,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Liberty Street Economics blog, February 17, 2017, http://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org.
  90. Ben Chu, “The Chart that Shows the UK Is No Longer the Fastest Growing G7 Economy,”Independent, February 23, 2017; “European Union GDP Annual Growth Rate,” Trading Economies, http://tradingeconomies.com; Bureau of Economic Analysis, “GDP and Major NIPA Series, 1929-2012,” Survey of Current Business (August 2012): 188 (Table 2a).
  91. Foster and McChesney, The Endless Crisis, 128.
  92. John Bellamy Foster, “The New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly-Finance Capital,”Monthly Review 67, no. 3 (July–August 2015): 11–20.
  93. Paul Buchheit, “These 6 Men Hage as Much Wealth as Half the World’s Population,” Ecowatch, February 20, 2017. In less than a year, the number decreased from eight to six men, according to a study of 2016 data by Oxfam (“Just 8 Men Own Same Wealth as Half the World,” January 16, 2017. Also see Michael Yates, “Measuring Global Inequality,”Monthly Review 68, no. 6 (November 2016): 3–4.
  94. Mike Patton, “China’s Economy Will Overtake the U.S. in 2018,”Forbes, April 29, 2016.
  95. Many of those who see themselves as part of the “lower middle class” arguably belong to the working class, as defined by most objective metrics. Strict lines of demarcation are therefore difficult to define. For an objective look at the size the U.S. working class, see R. Jamil Jonna and John Bellamy Foster, “Beyond the Degradation of Labor,”Monthly Review 66, no. 5 (October 2014): 1–23.
  96. For a Marxist perspective on immigration and the U.S. working class, see David L. Wilson, “Marx on Immigration: Workers, Wages, and Legal Status,”Monthly Review 68, no. 9 (February 2017): 20–28.
  97. Samir Amin, “Seize the Crisis!Monthly Review 61, no. 7 (December 2009): 3.
  98. Amin, “The Return of Fascism,” 3; “The Surplus in Monopoly Capitalism and the Imperialist Rent,’Monthly Review 64, no. 3 (July-August 2012): 78–85.
  99. John Bellamy Foster, “The New Geopolitics of Empire,”Monthly Review 57, no. 8 (January 2006): 1–18.
  100. General Wesley K. Clark,Don’t Wait for the Next War (New York: Public Affairs, 2014), 37–40; John Bellamy Foster,Naked Imperialism(New York: Monthly Review Press, 2006).
  101. U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Report on Iraq, 2012, declassified 2015, available at http://judicialwatch.org; Pepe Escobar, “The U.S. Road Map to Balkanize Syria,” RT, September 22, 2016; Samir Amin, Russia and the Long Transition from Capitalism to Socialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2016), 104, 127–28, The Reawakening of the Arab World (New York; Monthly Review Press, 2016), 14, 79; Diana Johnstone,Queen of Chaos (Petrolia, CA: Counterpunch, 2015).
  102. Richard Haass,A World in Disarray (New York: Penguin, 2017).
  103. Samuel P. Huntington,The Clash of Civilizations (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011).
  104. See Gareth Porter, “How the ‘New Cold Warriors’ Cornered Trump,” Consortium News, February 25, 2017, http://consortiumnews.com.
  105. Emily Stephenson and Steve Holland, “Trump Vows Military Build-Up, Hammers Nationalist Themes,” Reuters, February 25, 2017; Michael D. Shear and Jennifer Steinhauer, “Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending,”New York Times, February 27, 2017.
  106. Luce, “Donald Trump Is Creating a Field Day for the 1%.”
  107. Larry Summers, “I’m More Convinced of Secular Stagnation than Ever Before,”Washington Post, February 17, 2017.
  108. Michał Kalecki, The Last Phase in the Transformation of Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 65–73.
  109. The weakening stimulus offered by each dollar of military spending has long been noted. See Baran and Sweezy, Monopoly Capital, 213–17.
  110. Bertolt Brecht,Collected Plays, vol. 6 (New York: Vintage, 1976), 301.
  111. See István Mészáros, “The Critique of the State: A Twenty-First Century Perspective,”Monthly Review 67, no. 4 (September 2015): 23–37; The Necessity of Social Control.
  112. Donald Trump, “Statement by the President on International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” January 27, 2017.
  113. Basil Davidson, Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1980), 278.
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