As the masses rise (and they are going to rise no matter what–we are on a rising trajectory of rebellion and revolutionary activity), the government is going to start cracking down even more harshly no matter what. This will happen just as much under Clinton as it would under Trump.
There’s also the flip-side, and this is something that most “radicals for Clinton”-type people don’t understand, is the history and mechanisms of fascism. Fascism doesn’t come from nowhere–it is part of capitalism’s DNA, especially the DNA of imperialist countries. No matter what imperialist country you look in, even after it was smashed in Europe, there has been a “pilot light” of fascist ideas burning ever since. Liberalism (the reigning ideology of capitalism) allows this–liberalism says we have to protect the right of fascists to organize and have free speech that they can use to recruit.
But when capitalism hits a crisis, as it *always does* because that’s how capitalism works, a large number of disenchanted middle-class people go looking for answers, and some of them always find the answer in fascism.
That is happening now. We are entering a moment of great crisis in the global capitalist system. People need to realize that Trump didn’t create this rising fascist movement–it has been accelerating well before he got on the world stage, for the past decade or so. It will continue to rise no matter whether he’s defeated or not–it’s part of the logic of the global political-economic system, not some fad. Seeing Trump as the root of the problem is seeing only the surface level.
You cannot vote fascism away. Fascism has to be destroyed by force–it doesn’t reason with you, it doesn’t listen to you. If we want to destroy it, we need communists, anarchists, and revolutionary nationalists of oppressed nations organized and ready to kill it. That is the beginning and the end of it.
So how can we do that? We have two choices–
(a) tell a weird and confusing story to the working poor and deeply-oppressed people of this country and say, “Fascism is rising no matter whether Trump is defeated, but let’s vote for the candidate who isn’t fascist but will merely wink and nod as fascism keeps rising.”
But what will that do? It won’t help us build revolutionary people’s self-defense organizations–it will lead the people to think we want to softball the truth. We have to give the unmodified truth to the people–fascism is coming, President Clinton or no. We can’t organize with anyone if they think we’re full of shit.
(b) Tell them the full truth: don’t vote. It never worked for you before, and it won’t stop fascism now. Organize–let’s build a people’s militia and as fascism rises, let the organized and armed people also rise, and as we do it, pull out the root–capitalism–that gives rise to fascism in the first place.
A big part of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is saying that we need to draw a very firm line and say, “Y’all other communists need to WAKE UP!–something went really drastically wrong trying to do things the old way, and Mao pointed out what the problems were. We either take him seriously and go to the hard work of revamping literally everything in our theory and our practice along the lines that he pointed out, or else we’ll probably keep making the same mistake.”
Meanwhile, Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought folks are like, “Mao added some stuff that was pretty cool, no doubt, he was good, but you guys are a little extreme. Look, nothing went super-duper wrong–we still have some socialist countries. So you’re being too extreme by saying we need to think through everything again.”
Although MLM and ML-MZT superficially appear to say many of the same things, this difference in orientation between “everything needs to be re-thought” and “keep everything basically the same, just make some alterations” is one of the very most important differences.
I remain flabbergasted that anyone can call themselves “Mao Zedong Thought” and reject the theory of social-imperialism, which Mao asserted and pioneered, and reject that capitalist restoration can happen, which Mao asserted and pioneered. It’s like, exactly what elements of Mao Zedong’s thought are they claiming, just the mass line?
Some ancap (“anarcho”-capitalist) came onto the MLM Communism 101 Facebook group and eventually put forth this question. This was my response.
There are a lot of mistaken assumptions in your question. Let me try to do them really quickly.
1. Free markets are never coming back. All we will ever have from this point forward are cornered markets divided between monopolies, or planning.
2. Even in the era of free markets 375 years ago, the freedom of choice was only for those who had money–the overwhelming majority of people producing the goods for sale were doomed to an even more brutal existence than they had been living as peasants, and they could never afford them.
3. Freedom of choice is a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom. If I can live in this soul-destroying suburb with a tropical design scheme or that soul-destroying suburb with a midwest design scheme, and I don’t give a fuck about either, what good is this choice? What good is the addition of twenty additional design schemes if my only option is suburbs? This is the kind of choice presented to us under capitalism: difference that doesn’t make a difference.
What makes freedom meaningful is the choice between things that hold meaningful differences between us. If all the human beings on this planet grow up psychologically malnourished, all the idiosyncrasy in each individual is dulled. The choice of who we’re friends with, whom we love, etc. etc. is all less meaningful. If we grew up in a society that oppressed no one, and gave literally everyone all the resources that they need to truly flourish, everyone’s idiosyncrasies would be given fertile soil to blossom into their own unique fruit. And everyone could enjoy that fruit, and be inspired by that fruit. We would have a society whose richness and diversity and harmony-through-diversity are inconceivable to us today. As Marx put it, “the free development of each would be the precondition for the free development of all.”
We cannot have this kind of society without a planned society.
4. The history of the socialist countries of the 20th century is complex, and it is incredibly unlikely that you have an accurate picture of it.
Super-rich capitalists run our society. They control the media, the education system, the think tanks, and basically all official and commonplace apparatuses for generating and spreading opinions. They have control over commonsense and “obvious” understandings. This is who taught you how the USSR was, and how the People’s Republic of China was.
I am a Maoist, I hold that the USSR thru the 50s and the PRC from 1951 thru 1978 were a genuinely new type of society, and that after those points they simply returned to capitalism.
I think if you examine those eras compared to what came before or after them, or really to any other point in history, you will find more meaningful freedom of decision than had ever existed, or has existed since.
6. Your opinion of how human beings work is flawed. We aren’t born with preferences that contradict each other. Class society generates two groups of people with irreconcilable interests: the capitalist class wants to stay pampered and powerful, while the working class wants liberation. Obviously there is a worry for the capitalist class if the majority got a vote. But who cares? Their pamperedness comes with the brutal oppression of billions.
In a classless society where all things are produced by democratic decision-making, but certain things (such as a guarantee to every individual of all the things they need to completely flourish) are non-negotiable, no decision where the minority “loses” can be meaningfully harmful for the losing faction. One faction might want to colonize Mars, the other might want to focus more on undersea research.
Boohoo for the faction that doesn’t get as much funding as it wants.
7. Your concept of “central planning” is without a doubt based on false ideas of how it operates.
In all future socialist countries, as it was in the PRC under Mao, a method will be employed that should be better understood as “democratic-centralist” planning.
The way this operated and would continue to operate is according to Mao’s principle of the mass line.
There is a tendency among some Marxists to be picky about the definition of fascism—like, can we call it fascism if it’s not in an imperialist country?—but I don’t think this pickiness is useful. I think the whole point of trying to make an analysis of fascism as a distinct form of capitalism (and a movement that sometimes emerges within capitalism) is that it can give us predictive power. I think a globally applicable definition gives us that necessary predictive power, whereas reserving the term “fascism” for imperialist-country movements only needlessly requires us to come up with an additional term to refer to basically the same phenomenon in non-imperialist countries.
What is fascism? I would define it as “a revolutionary right-wing movement consolidated around ideas of national supremacy.”
“Revolutionary,” here, means believing in proactive, extra-legal violence to attain state power, and open terror as a strategy once it has taken state power.
“Right-wing,” here, refers to wanting to preserve the existence of private property—i.e., capitalism.
And “nation,” here, is not strictly the Marxist definition put forward in works like “Marxism and the National Question.” Instead, the “nation” that is exalted by a fascist movement can be a more fictional nation.
For instance, the Trump movement’s fascism and the Bundyites’ fascism focus on the united states as a whole, and Erdogan’s fascism takes Turkey as a whole, as the nations to be exalted—but neither of these is actually a nation in the Marxist sense, and both are instead a “prisonhouse of nations.” Other, more traditional forms of fascism (e.g., Nazism and neo-Confederate white supremacy) do venerate things that more closely match the Marxist definition of “nation.”
A discussion of fascism doesn’t offer any predictive power until it explains where fascism comes from. People with a fascist mindset don’t come from nowhere.
Fascism emerges like clockwork in times of crisis in capitalism. Fascism’s main social base is a “middle class” (the petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy) being squeezed out of existence by increasing wealth stratification between the working poor and the super-rich. Fascism and social democracy are created by the same social forces—”middle classes” trying to resolve the contradictions of capitalism without abolishing capitalism, with the fascists usually being led by a particularly reactionary wing of the capitalist class, and the social democrats by a fairly “progressive” section of the capitalist class.
The solution that both movements offer to this crisis is to perpetuate and cling to a mythology about bygone glory days of the nation when capitalism was fundamentally decent, and trying to end the current crisis by trying to restore the nation to that former glory.
By its nature, the so-called “middle class” exists in a state of ideological groundlessness and confusion. The “middle class” lacks the clarity about the workings of society that both the working class and the capitalist class have. The working class gains awareness of a class structure directly by being confronted day by day with capitalism’s heavy exploitation and oppression, whereas the capitalist class grasps the existence of class in order to perpetuate their rule.
The danger in this “middle-class” ideological groundlessness is that it gives the fascist movement a wildly inaccurate “class analysis,” so they inevitably find some scapegoat(s) other than capitalism. This lets them recruit from the working class as well, because workers, who inevitably grasp that there is a class structure but not necessarily its specific inner workings, may be able to believe that after the scapegoats are neutralized, businesspeople will be able to give them good-paying jobs, or the crisis will otherwise be resolved.
The fact that the middle class is being threatened both from below (by the threat of being outcompeted by people lower in class) and from above (because they can tell they are being screwed by at least some section of the “elites”) means that scapegoats are usually sought in both directions. These scapegoats can be a shady section of the capitalist class (such as Jewish people are alleged to be), or immigrants from economically weaker countries, or Catholics or Muslims, or some “impure” ethnic group that is “dirtying” or “destabilizing” the nation genetically and/or culturally. Leftists also get targeted, usually both for “causing trouble” (and thereby exacerbating the crisis) and for “enabling” and protecting the scapegoats.
Another way fascists use nationalism to recruit workers is to claim that the capitalist class are being jerks *currently* because some of them are degenerates being corrupted by the scapegoats (or *are* the scapegoats), but the capitalists who join the fascist movement are patriotic and will love you and be kind to you because you’re both part of the same nation, and that’s more important than the fact that you’re from different classes.
One final point to make is about fascism’s relationship with social democracy. Importantly, they both attract a significant segment of the oppressed and exploited of a society away from revolutionary politics back toward a worldview that can never liberate them. And by promoting a mystifying view of society and discouraging armed self-defense at the precise time when fascism is growing, social democracy objectively facilitates the success of fascism, because fascism never goes away of its own accord but has to be defeated with organized force.
This is why the leading anti-fascist orientation has to be a revolutionary leftist one—it is fine for the anti-fascist movement to be partially composed of social democrats *tactically* (contingently, short-term) as long as they agree with confronting and isolating fascists, but anti-fascism cannot accept social democrat leadership *strategically* (unconditionally, long-term), because that ultimately disarms the working class literally and ideologically when they most urgently need to be as armed as possible both theoretically and militarily.
Edit (2016 06 26 1834 CDT):
When I recently shared this on reddit, /u/skeeran commented adding some really thoughtful nuance to the question of fascism in imperialist countries vs. fascism in imperialist-dominated countries. Their two comments appear below. Their first was,
I’m not sure if you’re giving adequate consideration to the role of imperialism, though. Consider that the class basis for both fascism and social democracy is generated by imperialist capital. In addition to sharing a social base, both ideologies have proven to be pro-imperialism, and indeed accomplish their policies with large governments funded by imperialist loot.
And then their second, when I said that that was a very good and important point and asked whether they thought it was unfair to call Pinochet’s regime fascist, was,
I think that, shall we say, comprador fascism, as we might consider the political formations that were put in place in Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Ukraine, and even perhaps including such organizations as the Islamic State would have to be formulated differently from the imperialist fascisms that we observe in Italy, Germany and Japan. Another prototype to examine might be the “fascist” (in form, though not social basis) collaborator governments that Germany and Italy put in place in the territories they conquered. These could be compared with the fascist comprador governments that imperialism (primary US imperialism) put in place in the third-world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Fascism as it appears in imperialist countries, at the later stages of capitalist development, takes on an imperialist form, savagely attacking their neighbors and destroying foreign rival capital to essentially create a capital vacuum to fill. The policy of Liebensraum, while framed in terms of national destiny (much like the policy of “Manifest Destiny” in the USA), was ultimately a desire by monopoly capital to liquidate its rivals and expand into the gaps left behind. In the 20th century, this meant securing colonies and conquering access to resources. In the 21st century, economic warfare and financial control may be more important than military conquest (see China’s entry into Africa and US hegemony over Latin America).
Comprador fascism simply cannot follow these examples. They are not in a geoeconomic position to do so. Dominated nations led by comprador states must by necessity be weaker, without the worker’s benefits that were typical of European fascism. Generally, it seems that these states require outside interference in order to maintain stability at all. The combination of low state funding, high worker exploitation, and no economic space for the petite-bourgeoisie, would seem to prohibit a solid social basis for fascism from forming. That would seem to be why so many fascist leaders in oppressed countries and their political organizations (e.g. Papagos in Greece, Pinochet in Chile, Poroshenko in Ukraine, Suharto in Indonesia, Rhee in Korea, etc.) required assistance and support from an imperialist country to take power and legitimize themselves.
We live in a society where the laws are not applied equally; white, wealthy, cis-het people get far less policing and lighter sentences than oppressed-nation, working-poor, queer, and/or trans people—despite comparable rates of illegal acts.
So-called gun control laws are no exception. Our inherently white-supremacist, patriarchal, anti-poor “justice” system applies them unequally in this same way.
Strengthening these laws would be like intensifying the War on Drugs—it would primarily hurt the already most oppressed.
“Gun control” is not the answer. More police up in oppressed people’s lives is not the answer.
The roots of this violence are patriarchy and white supremacy, which continue to exist because they are perpetuated by capitalism. So solutions that are proposed by capitalism—such as changes to the laws, or campaigns led by nonprofits funded by capitalist money—will not solve it.
The independent, organized, self-reliant power of the oppressed is the answer—power that will make reactionary scum afraid to attack for fear of retaliation. Anything else is an illusion that serves the same group that benefits from all oppressive violence.