The Donald Trump mythos

Donald Trump must be one of the most widely and fiercely lampooned people of all time; indeed, his entire life can be seen as a one-man war of attrition against the forces of irony

by Anwar A. Khan

The overarching pretension of America is that it believes itself to be the final telomere of every human society. It believes, in the words of a US military officer in Stanley Kubrick's macabre masterpiece "Full Metal Jacket" that: "inside every gook is an American trying to get out." Gook here, of course, being a placeholder for any non-American Identity. This pretension to being the universal destiny of human society is not an accidental facet of American Identity; rather it is the basis of it. Without this prime symbol with which to frame the American symbolic order, American Identity itself disappears. This much has been admitted by many.

Columnist Roger Cohen of TNYT has made this acute observation, "America is an idea. Strip freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law from what the United States represents to the world and America itself is gutted." But these are the ornaments of power with which they adorn their mythical being. So it is down to America and it is down to everywhere. American White House is now an abode of neo-mythos under the presidency of Donald Trump with a newfangled government activity. It gibes in definite but not specified or identified paths. It has, rather, chartered a shape of authoritative political orientation of Germany and Italy of Hitler, Mussolini… which the world witnessed during their regimes, but with respect to history trenchant lineaments finicky to the governmental economic system and acculturation of America in this century.

This neo-mythos portrays the character or the qualities or peculiarities of the president and his snuggest advisors, and some of the principal corpuses in his cabinet. From a fuller sociological point of view, it reflects the electoral bases, class constituencies and alignments, and racist, fraid doctrines that has brought Donald Trump into authority. Neo-mythos dissertation and political praxis are now-a-days evident on regular basis in blistering assaults on the international affairs of other independent and sovereign states, at present in the internal affairs of Iran and more specifically Venezuela, a land of pride, of patriotism and the racially oppressed, immigrants, women, environmentalists, and workers in his own country. These have been companioned by a corroborated crusade to bring the judicatory, governmental employees, the military, spy agencies, and the press into line with this novel mythos and political realism.

Some say the details of the Trump hagiography don’t matter, that his policies may be up for discussion but his can-do bona fides are not—they are a given, unquestioned and unquestionable. They add that the foibles and quibbles have all been brought up in the past and they do not stick; he is a guy who knows how to get things done in a colossal way, and that’s all that counts, forget the other stuff. The fascists expect to find shortcuts around the chaos of humans acting freely together. But even in the autonomous council such ideologies recur, seeking always to restore some natural hierarchy.

The White House’s “America First” policy, unfurled in Trump’s inaugural address, with its characteristically fascist rebirth form of ultra-nationalism is not aimed at domination of Europe and its colonies, as in Nazi Germany, but in restoring US primacy over the entire world, leading to the potentially deadliest phase of imperialism. If the White House is now best described, as neo-fascist in its leanings, this does not extend to the entire US 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 neo-fascist state could operate on its own violent terms. 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, as political scientist Richard Falk has put it, in a “pre-fascist moment.”

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. 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.

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. 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 are endangered. Fascism is one of the political forms which capitalism may assume in the monopoly-imperialist phase. The issue of fascism, whether in its classical or current form thus goes beyond right-wing politics. It raises 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 neo-mythos.

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. 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.

The political forces in power aim at what Nazi ideology called a “totalitarian state,” organised around the executive, while the basic economic structure remains untouched. 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. 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.” 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.” 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, neo-mythos 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 in other independent and sovereign states across the world.

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 privatisation of all state-economic functions, the reinforcement of the power of big business, and the shift to a more racially defined imperialist foreign policy. The Trump White House is working to implement neo-fascist forms of capitalist state management, transgressing legal norms and abrogating liberal democratic protections. 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.

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…. And, Yes, Together, We Will Make America Great Again.” The Trump administration is marked by an extraordinary attempt to bring the mainstream media in line with its neo-fascist 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.” A part of the power of his administration lies in a largely compliant and ideologically right-wing Republican-dominated Congress.

What makes the rise of a neo-fascist White House of such great concern is the enormous weight of the US presidency, and the long-term breakdown in the separation of powers in the US Constitution. The undermining of the Congressional power to declare war, established in the Constitution, is well known. In the Trump vision of the restoration of US geopolitical and economic power, enemies are primarily designated in racial and religious terms.

A renewed emphasis is put on placing US 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. Because of Trump’s hauteur and warfare aridity, the Korean peninsula has also become a hot-bed bedeviling grievous affrights to millions of people. The result of these attempts to institute a sudden shift in the geopolitical strategy of the United States has been not only a falling-out in the US ruling class between neoliberals and Trump-style neo-fascists, but also a struggle within the deep state, resulting in the leaks that brought down Flynn.

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.

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 US 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. Now, in our own time, the old contest i.e. 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, is theirs: whereas, in fact, the truth is 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.

Donald Trump must be one of the most widely and fiercely lampooned people of all time; indeed, his entire life can be seen as a one-man war of attrition against the forces of irony. His fortunes are not damaged by it. In fact, it is a war he keeps winning. Trump has a lot of fragile pride, but no shame. His campaign for president invited what must have been the largest onslaught of parodies, sketches, punch lines, unflattering cartoons and disparaging limericks that has ever been unleashed against a single individual. It had zero effect.

In spite of it all, he managed to win. But they are all things to resist. Jack London reminds us these words, “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.” The dirty truth is Trump can’t be trusted. Today it is clear that the future order of society is in the grassroots, but the soil and sunlight are still up for grabs.

-The End –

The writer is a senior citizen of Bangladesh, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.


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