Spring Is Coming
“Trump and GOP Candidates Escalate Race and Fear as Election Ploys” New York Times, October 22, 2018.
The use of the term “ploy” in that headline is interesting. “A cunning plan or action designed to turn a situation to one’s own advantage.” Common synonyms for ploy include subterfuge, ruse, stratagem, contrivance, gambit and trick.
The implication here is that Trump and the GOP have an ulterior motive, an agenda that is cynically being foisted upon ignorant people for narrow electoral gains. He’s tricking them. The typical counter argument proceeds to expose the ploy to unveil the truth. The ploy is ‘the border crisis’, the truth is that there is no crisis. The counter argument, swaddled as always in statistics and eye candy, proceeds thusly: The border is strong. We are not letting in undesirables, the unworthy, the illegal. There is no crisis. Stop inventing one. Look! I’m a reporter at the border and everything is great! I’m eating a street taco. No national crisis. Trump is making up this nonsense to scare people into voting for Republicans.”
This engages the conspiracy theory on its own terrain, and thereby assists its growth. This is the overwhelming narrative fiction that poses as political analysis all around us.
Then there is the other assertion made in the headline, that of an escalation of fear and race. I can understand how Trump’s racist attacks on migrants escalate fear on the part of some people, however irrational that fear may be. But how, exactly, does one escalate race? This is a textbook example of using ‘race’ apart from the only concept that gives the term any meaning, namely ‘racism’. To use ‘race’ here without its prerequisite (racism) is to naturalize the former within that threadbare sociological construct ‘race relations’, something that brackets out racism and white supremacy in its very definition, together with class and gender.
My favorite delicious tidbit from this article:
“…Mr. Trump’s dystopian imagery has clearly left an impression with some. Carol Shields, 75, a Republican in northern Minnesota, said she was afraid that migrant gangs could take over people’s summer lake homes in the state.
“What’s to stop them?” said Ms. Shields, a retired accountant. “We have a lot of people who live on lakes in the summer and winter someplace else. When they come back in the spring, their house would be occupied.”
Spring is coming.
Just as Bill Maher, that sneering, smug, creepy jokester who locates the social base of bigotry within the consumer choice between “Chef Wolfgang Puck or Chef Boyardee”, liberals declaim ‘the wall’ but uphold the sanctity of the eternal border.
It is now March, 2019 and there is no let up with Trump’s ‘rhetoric’ on the border and immigration. Quite the opposite–he recently sent an additional 3,500 national guard troops there. But wait, there is no election. What about that cynical ploy? Why would Trump and the GOP persist with these policies if there isn’t a national election scheduled for almost two years? It must be the government shut down, a lazy liberal might say. But that’s over, too. What cannot be acknowledged is that the attacks are meaningful in and of themselves, and constitute a form of racism. Why is that so difficult to understand? Precisely because what Trump argues is not really any different from the actual function that the border serves; it differs not in kind, only degree. The border itself is a racist construct, a vast filter for the smooth accumulation of capital by the few.
What is it then that is so important to the far right that it pursues it, perhaps even to the detriment of electoral calculations? The answer is, quite simply, that they mean what they say. It is not a substitute for something else, nor a means to achieve something else. It is not a feint in one direction, so as to move in another. It is a project for a deepening of fascist tendencies within our economy, politics and culture. Increasingly that project resonates among elites within both major political parties. It was not too long ago that lazy leftists dismissed fascism in America on the grounds it had no base of support within the ruling class, no fraction of capital supported it against liberals or the left. Must I cite the stock market, Mercer and McGinnis, vast swaths of Europe and Brazil to drive home the folly of that position?
To Trump and Carol Shields it is an ongoing crisis irrespective of election politics. To understand this as principally a ‘ploy’ or as theatre is to say it is artificial, manufactured in a cynical fashion to accomplish other ends, to distract the gullible from the ‘real’ issue, which is the smooth functioning of that border. What does that look like? Perhaps the 2.5 million souls deported during the tenure of Obama is a good index to an answer. Obama is no fascist, but his policies and political philosophy seeded the terrain within which fascism grows. Liberals will cry for the popular front while they demolish the only force capable of giving it meaning, the left. Watch how low they go to undermine DSA and Sanders.
Spring is coming.
In order to understand what they say, one must understand the world view that informs what they say. At the center of that worldview is a picture of the United States of America, sometimes drawn with crayons, at other times rendered with more sophisticated instruments, but always clearly defined by borders.
Listening to liberal or conservative acolytes ‘debate’ immigration is the rough equivalent of a person standing on a street corner trying to decide between Uber or Lyft. The better choice would be a functioning public transportation system, something which ‘rideshare’ is hurriedly eviscerating. Your ‘choice’ is determined by the parameters set by someone else. That debate, between different styles of border is as that between McDonalds or Burger King, Pepsi or Coke.
The national crisis here is precisely how one understands ‘borders’.
These are not merely ploys that will disappear from right wing strategy just as soon as they win or lose an election. They will be back with a vengeance regardless of who wins.
It is a distinction without a difference–between raw, naked aggression that celebrates itself and the kind that is exercised quietly from a remote desk, using clever algorithms. The children of the undocumented have been and will continue to be housed in barbaric camps by both parties, then tossed aside as human refuse or put to work in their factories. Both accomplish the same thing: The regulation of the flow of humanity across borders so as to maintain the privileges and majesty of our ruling classes. However it is managed, the end result is largely the same, different only in degree, not kind.
The real crisis is the existence of those borders, in any form.
Spring is coming.
Liberals, conservatives and progressives will never say this; so we must. For to say otherwise is to tacitly accept that the accumulated wealth and power of elites has a legitimate place in organized human societies. It has no place. It is an abomination. Everything they have accumulated has been stolen from us. Therefore, we say to them: everything we want is in the end of you.
Besides, what these conspiracies take as their worst case scenario is, in many ways, our best case scenario. The values that inform the world we live in are upside down, almost entirely so. If that is the case, then a set of counter values cannot be found, much less articulated, within the language and assumptions that frame the world view of the dominant elite. Their values should never be our values; their utterances should strike our ears as so much gibberish. One does not debate the master; their tongues should be ripped from their mouths.
It is important to debunk these conspiracy theories, but in doing so one should not throw out the baby with the bath water.
One must be more than just right; one must have an impact apart from success in the circus that passes for reasoned debate. And it is a circus, dominated by clowns and jugglers who compete for our attention.
Don’t be a clown or juggler. Be a soothsayer by creating self fulfilling prophecies.
Spring is coming.
As fascism grows within any given society it can, if not properly checked, create its own facts on the ground such that its world view becomes dominant–however irrational it may be–and therefore normative. The conspiracy theory shapes the world to conform with its view. No amount of dispassionate, disinterested critique will change that awful reality, only a militant anti-fascism can do that.
Liberal antifascism, on the other hand, is based on a set of ideas that lead, quite expectantly, to a politics of centrism, a defense of capitalist authority from which no revolutionary politics is possible. The dream becomes anemic, and will quickly turn into a nightmare. Remember, popular frontism presumes a political alliance forged in response to a previous defeat of revolutionary left forces; its weakness is always to be found therein.
Some conspiracy theories need confirmation in resistance and rebellion. Let’s affirm that the nightmare about which they are terrified, is real.
For us, of course, it is a dream we work to bring about.
Antifascists must create our own facts on the ground, not shibboleths that render tribute to the powerful.
We are coming for your summer homes, but from much closer than Mexico. If necessary we will drag you from them, kicking and screaming. We just haven’t figured out how to effect this. We don’t deny it.
Spring is coming.