On the rise of fascism - Part 2

작년

...CONTINUES from part 1

I've seen the future, brother, and it's murder

The USA currently supports most of the world's dictatorships and we all know-how it has been imposing/deposing world leaders and waging war virtually non-stop since WW2. Will these nasty habits get worse and worse as the country feels the need to control contain more and more of the world? To prevent the geopolitical chaos that climate change will bring from spilling into her borders? Capitalism offers no remedy. Capitalism itself created the disease through market externalities and the ridiculous notion of infinite growth. The solution would be to address climate change and stop the war machine, which are destroying lives and creating refugees as we speak. Do you see capitalism as a system willing and able to stop the forever war, the military-industrial complex and move us all decisively and quickly towards sustainable consumption and renewable forms of energy generation? Or do you see capitalism only exacerbating the problem(s) as the next decades roll by?

Figure 9. While the "Doomsday Clock" (maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and initiated due to the development of nuclear weapons) is a serious estimate made by serious people regarding global anthropogenic threats, it's obviously largely symbolical. As of Feb. 2019, the Clock marks 23:58, which is still the closest it has ever been to midnight. Full resolution picture here. You can find out the reasoning behind each changing of the time at the source. Figure incorporates 'Dr Strangelove' public domain picture and CC BY-SA 2.0 picture 'Bone Pile' by jeffr_travel.


Capitalism is an inherently unstable system. It's all I have droned on and on about (democratic swindle, destruction of everything we hold dear through externalities, ramping up of inequalities, overconsumption, overproduction, constant need for growth, incentive structures that promote lending sprees, bubbles, people exploitation, monopolies, undermining of markets and etc) which always comes to bite capital in the ass. It's so common we have a name for it: the boom-bust cycle (also known as the "business cycle"). You are familiar I'm sure with the busts of 1929 and 2008, but those are far from the only ones. We can mention fun ones like the Tulip Mania crash of 1637, the Bengal Bubble crash of 1769, the Panic of 1796-97, the Panic of 1866, the Long Depression of the late 1800s, the Panic of 1907, the early 1980s recession and the Dot.com crash of the early noughties. It is estimated that the American economy has gone through 33 business cycles between 1854-2009. Centuries of capitalism and nobody has found a solution. Things are far from perfect when the economy is growing and during each bust the amount of strife and suffering among people who did nothing wrong only goes up. The only reason capitalism hasn't been relegated to the dustbin of history already is because capital is constantly co-opting state power to prop its ass up. If capitalism gonna boom-bust, the bare minimum we can do is move away from neoliberalism so that people can at least get rid of their debt and have a right proper safety net to fall back on during each bust.

Figure 10. Whaddayamean this figure is a mess to read? You have yearly GDP growth for two leading economies (USA in red, UK in blue.) The dashed black line is the average GDP growth for the USA between 1950-1970, a period that falls well within the so-called "golden age" of capitalism, notice how GDP growth has been consistently below this line during the neoliberal era. Source Then you have yearly unemployment rates (pink for the USA, purple for the UK), notice how unemployment has been consistently higher during the neoliberal era (plus all other things visualised in Figure 1). Source And the brown dots denote the number of banking crises out of 70 countries, just go to the source if you want more details, I grow old and tired. Full resolution picture here. Note: Reinhart and Rogoff have been criticized for their methodology and conclusions on GDP vs debt analysis (a criticism I agree on), but the graph on number of crises is sound as far as I know (with the stated caveat of quantifying 70 countries only).

Now, whether you are still not convinced or you more or less already agree with me, just you wait a few decades as the worst consequences of climate change come crashing down on us. Increased levels of mortality, morbidity, strife and disease are not only terrible by themselves, but also correlate with fascism. As climate refugees and disease vectors expand, as the economic costs of climate change tank whole economies, as resource wars intensify... well, by then it'll be too late.

Silver lining?

About the only way in which I’ve seen corporate power fight against typical fascist tendencies is in its inclusiveness (unleashing the hilarious triggering of people who should rethink their lives). Authoritarian leaders love to ‘otherize’ almost anybody. Corporations seem to actually put a small fight here because they don’t care about your skin colour, creed or nationality as long as you can fucking consume their products (which I suppose means poor people are the ones not reached by this silver lining.) And yes, if push comes to shove corporate power will still side with fascism, make no mistake.

The other silver lining I can mention is that the same conditions that can lead people to support populist authoritarian demagogues, can also lead them to support non-authoritarian, non-demagogic populists. This is the hope that people like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent. If someone comes along placing blame where it must be placed (ie. the economic system and the owner class), people will respond positively to that too.

We seem to be at the crossroads of environmental catastrophe, fascism and corporate dystopia,[9] the only path forward seems obvious to me: grassroots mobilization and electoral support for social democrats and democratic socialists. It's still not too late, the window is closing fast and we must act now, but it's not too late. There are better ways of organizing our society that don't lead to unsustainable consumption and fascism. For all our faults, we currently have the data, tools, know-how and computational power to make a better world. There are people out there doing great work and with ideas. We can move rapidly and decisively towards the democratization of the workplace and sustainable forms of energy generation and consumption. We are only lacking the will, and, again, we can put this will in power if we support social democrats and democratic socialists and we mobilize (it won't be enough to get the right people elected). It's up to us who live in relative privilege to do it. The generations that follow us can receive the next century as they reach the doorstep of libertarian socialism instead of wanton political dystopia and ecological collapse.

You still droning on? I stopped reading after the title and scrolled all the way to here to see how long this thing is. What a joke!

What I’ve collected here are several trends (with sources, as best as possible) in which I think we can detect neoliberalism paving the ground for fascism. The world is a very complex system, I do not pretend to have collected a bunch of universal, infallible truths here. Furthermore, it’s my estimation that the first world and the third world are, well, a world apart if you will. Neoliberal capitalism has worldwide trends, but also some aspects that work differentially in the first and third world, creating and/or exploiting different backgrounds. The way that capitalism exploits workers in Germany is different from the way it does so in Congo.

For example, as best as I can see it, corruption in the first world tends to be legal and pushed by corporations for corporations (with politicians enjoying kickbacks). In the third world it tends to be illegal, engaged in by politicians for politicians. And neoliberalism exploits these differences accordingly. In the third world education is not so much defunded by the owner class pushing for legal rerouting of funds as I explained has happened in America, but mainly through embezzlement by politicians (this can still play well with the owner class: if public education is a defunded mess due to embezzlement of public funds, they can sell their private for-profit alternative more easily and to more people).

As someone who has lived in South America, I was not surprised by Bolsonaro’s victory. The quantity and quality of violent crime (which we can, in the end, argue is a consequence of capitalism) and the levels of abject poverty (yep, capitalism again) and corruption that are common currency in vast swathes of Latin America make the appeal of a fascist “tolerance zero” approach enticing. This is true especially when the popular left-wing candidate was virtually proscribed by capitalist interests and the propaganda machine is constantly equating the left with "Venezuela" and the USSR. Say what you will about Lula, but I would bet almost anything I have that he was the least corrupt Brazilian leader since the last dictatorship and the advances that Brazil experienced during his presidency for both people's and business' interests are undeniable. But the powers that be couldn't have someone from the workers' movement in power, even when he was playing nice with corporate power. They'd rather roll the dice with a fascist.

Figure 11. Income inequality in Latin America (Argentina-Bolivia-Brazil-Chile-Colombia-Costa Rica- Dominican Republic-Ecuador-El Salvador-Guatemala-Honduras-México-Nicaragua-Panamá-Paraguay-Perú-Uruguay-Venezuela) as measured by the Gini index. Source Ignoring any criticisms of Gini itself, intra- or inter-regional comparisons can be tricky and only go so far back in time. Other analyses show similar or different results.

As for the first world, there are differences in there too. Continental Europe has retained more vestiges of Keynesianism and socialism in a general sense even as neoliberalism took hold. But things are getting dire in Europe too. I see Euroscepticism as a direct consequence of neoliberalism, same as the rise of far-right parties all over the place, people are getting shafted by neoliberalism and they are misplacing their distrust and hatred instead on the EU as a concept and on immigrants. If Brexit wasn't already, the Macron presidency and the yellow vest protests can easily be seen as a canary in the EU mine. Macron, a neoliberal centrist, won the election over the far-right candidate by a 2-to-1 ratio. Already too close for my tastes, but as more and more people get pissed over his owner class-friendly neoliberal policies, the higher the chances that Le Pen will be elected president next.

We could also look at the Nordic countries (here referencing Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland), which are usually regarded as the current torch-bearers of socially-minded capitalism. The truth is that welfare state generosity has stagnated or gone down since the mid-to-late-1980s, and if we look at figure 7 we see that most Nordic countries (except Denmark) experienced the neoliberal wealth redistribution to the very top too. While all of these four Nordic countries have experienced a rise in popular support for far-right parties in the last 20 years, no clear correlation has been found between immigration quotas and support for such parties, which lends to the idea that far-right sentiments come first with neoliberalism. Even if we say that these things are difficult to measure (ie. such statistics are suspect) and that the far-right parties have been indeed preaching against multiculturalism and immigration to galvanize their increased support... the other point I talked about remains: as climate change creates an insane refugee situation, racism and fascism will come with it and capitalism has no solution in offer.

But anyway, I don't want to fall prey to generalizations that are cast too wide, the point here is that I do not claim to be able to see clearly the complex matrix of interactions in this mad, mad, mad, mad world. I do think there are trends out there, the result of multiple, often contradicting things going on all at the same time, and have presented several of these trends with hopefully enough evidence to back them up.

Notes:

[9] Did you pay attention to the DAPL protests a few years back? They had all the staples of cyberpunk dystopia: private mercs, evil megacorps and ecological destruction.

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