The Year in Review: Verso authors reflect on 2016
From the explosion in border walls to the rise of Donald Trump to the books that they've read along the way, Verso authors reflect on one of the most shocking years in recent history in this 2016 review.
With contributions from: Franco Bifo Berardi, Christine Delphy, Keller Easterling, Nick Estes, Liz Fekete, Amber A'Lee Frost, Andrea Gibbons, Owen Hatherley, Eric Hazan, Helen Hester, Karen L. Ishizuka, Reece Jones, Costas Lapavitsas, Andreas Malm, Geoff Mann, Jane McAlevey, Ed Morales, David Roediger Nick Srnicek and Wolfgang Streeck.
Ninety-nine years after the Soviet Revolution the stage is set for precipitation into global civil war. While the financial class exacerbates its agenda fuelling unemployment and social devastation, the dynamics that led to Nazism are deploying worldwide. Nationalists are repeating what Hitler said to the impoverished workers of Germany: rather than as defeated workers, think of yourself as white warriors so you’ll win. They did not win, but they destroyed Europe. They will not win this time neither, but they are poised to destroy the world.
After two centuries of colonial violence, we are now facing the final showdown. As worker’s internationalism has been destroyed by capital globalisation, a planetary bloodbath is getting almost unavoidable.
After centuries of colonial domination and violence, the dominators of the world are now facing a final showdown: the dispossessed of the world are reclaiming a moral and economic reward that the West is unwilling and unable to pay. The concrete historical debt towards those people that we have exploited cannot be paid because we are forced to pay the abstract financial debt.
The year now coming to an end has abounded with bad news on the political front. After a foul and very long debate on how we could ‘strip’ French citizens of their nationality – ultimately reaching the conclusion that this was impossible with regard to both French laws and international conventions – the government abandoned the bill. Immediately after that, a fresh bill was presented to ‘reform’ the labour code, largely getting rid of the majority of the guarantees enjoyed by workers. There was a mass mobilisation against this plan, lasting across the whole spring and part of summer. It opposed demonstrators in all France’s towns and cities to a police which, as the prime minister Manuel Valls put it, ‘had not been given any orders to show restraint’.
This ‘lack of restraint’ faced us with the violence of armed police set off the leash, their near-lethal weapons notably including grenades. Two people lost an eye, not to mention the others who were injured. Then in mid-summer the government decided that it had no need for Parliament’s agreement: indeed, article 49.3 allows it to go ahead without such agreement, and it did so. Again in mid-summer thirty mayors in Southern France passed municipal decrees banning women wearing a burkini from bathing or being present on ‘their’ beaches. The photo of four armed police ordering a woman to undress circulated around the world, and thus allowed not a few people to understand how out-of-control the anti-Muslim hatred might get. Thanks to the joint legal action of the League for Human Rights (in French, league for the rights ‘of man’) and the collective against Islamophobia in France, the matter was put before the State Council, which overruled all these decrees. This did not stop Valls from continuing to support these mayors’ actions, even after it had been condemned by the highest administrative jurisdiction in the land.
Then the whole country was dumbfounded by Donald Trump’s victory. Even today I sometimes think I am about to wake up, and that it was all just a nightmare. Finally, we have just witnessed the end of the long bullfightthat the prime minister has been waging against the man who appointed him. Today the prime minister has won and the little bull Hollande is dead, and Valls now puts forward his candidacy for the presidential election.
So in May we will get to choose between the far Right (Marine Le Pen), a Right that identifies with Thatcher, and a Left that identifies with Blair and Napoleon.
In 2016 the world got another bad political superbug. Dissembling with resilience, it tells not the one lie that calls for truth, but the many lies that create a Teflon on which puny rationality slips and slides. Occasionally it appears to be in retreat to galvanize false hope around a customary solution. Then, refueled and refreshed from all the attention, it continues to out-maneuver reasonable conversations and runs rings around earnest punditry. Oppositional dissent and left/right binaries provide more and more of the nourishing rancor that it craves. By doubling and inverting the terms of any debate, it defangs those terms and inoculates itself against them. Especially susceptible are those for whom the logics of Capital and neoliberalism are all that is needed to explain concentrations of bullet-proof authoritarian power. Mostly the superbug is pure disposition without content except that luckily it likes to see its shape. So with one foot lightly resting on its neck and attention turned away, maybe what came into view this year was a more dispositional dissensus with surprising powers of its own.
Nick Estes, author of Mni Wiconi
Last Week Tonight host John Oliver’s annual recap “Fuck 2016!” captures how many feel, myself included, as Trump’s presidency looms. But fear must not guide us. Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s mantra of pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will inspires us to think critically about world while steadfastly advancing and building upon existing struggles, such as Black liberation, Indigenous liberation, environmental justice, migrant rights, revolutionary feminism, and, of course, the overthrow of capitalism.
While these struggles have faced significant state repression, they instruct us to fight back. They teach us what it means to win — and to lose.
The Haudenosaunee call every US President “Town Destroyer,” since George Washington’s scorched earth campaign against the Iroquois Confederacy. The title is apt because every election cycle is a loss for Indigenous peoples. No matter who wins, we still lose, the land is still stolen. That’s not pessimism. It’s fact.
Hope emerges, however, in victory, such as the temporary halt of Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River because of Indigenous and allied forces. This historic struggle has instructed us to expand Gramsci’s formula: pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, revolutionize the spirit.
Liz Fekete, author of Europe’s Fault Lines: Racism and the Cultural Revolution from the Right (forthcoming)
The New Right is triumphant. Its intention, for years, has been to foment a cultural revolution from the Right, to reconfigure politics and establish itself in power. On the face of it, Brexit and Trump’s election – and their aftermaths – suggest the onward march of the Right, even the triumph of fascism if the white supremacists of Breitbart move into the Oval Office.
But even in openly illiberal states – where the brutal and predatory face of capitalism has replaced its once seductive pull – there are openings. As the countries within the EU chose to militarise their borders, a community of civilian volunteers appeared – seemingly from nowhere – to feed, clothe and shelter the refugees. NGOs, independent search and rescue missions and humanitarian volunteers substituted themselves for the ‘social state’.
The cultural revolution from the Right demands a cultural revolution from the Left. If we are to step up to this challenge, we need to root ourselves in the new communities of resistance and develop a vocabulary that, in speaking to issues of human dignity, breathes fresh life into Socialism.
Amber A’Lee Frost, contributor to False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton
It's sure as shit difficult these days for a red to keep her chin up. Of course, socialism or barbarism has always been the only choice before us, but the false starts and political bombshells of 2016 have been exceptionally dispiriting, especially under the urgent deadline of irremediable global climate catastrophe. It is not enough that we are fighting austerity, neoliberal tyranny, raging war, rising reactionary sentiments and so on, we must fight these battles while the world burns, boils and melts. Still, to despair for the revolution is to turn your back on one's comrades and, ultimately, The People.
So suck it up, buttercup.
It is time to unify a "broad left," but it's clear that the watered down strategies of centrist compromise (especially of the electoral variety) are no longer capable of beating back either the literal or figurative rising tides. We must examine (but not agonize over) so-called "progressive" failures, and anti-capitalists must lead the charge in building new institutions--and we must hurry the hell up. The work ahead is daunting but winnable, and we must win, for our task is no less than saving the world itself. And as always comrades, be kind to each other, and enjoy yourself (it's later than you think). Make time for art and laughter, leisure and a bit of luxury, perhaps even romance if you're of a mind. Devour everything we're fighting for; it will sustain you for the work ahead.
Andrea Gibbons, author of Land, Privilege, Race: One Hundred Years of Struggle Against Segregation in Los Angeles (forthcoming)
I listened to my mother last night. Her compassion is causing her physical pain. She can’t sleep. She talked politics, the death and damage coming. After over forty years of joy in family and exhaustion in minimum-wage work my mom now painfully embodies conscientização.
This the threat, this the promise of 2016. A year of loss and terror.
My own world broke long ago, trembling while another mother screamed over the grave of her son. People have been dying for a long time, their beautiful promise robbed by structural injustice and the strip-mining of communities. Trump’s America is built on bullying rationalisations of such plunder, on imperialism, genocide, slavery. It huddles around its white supremacist roots, circles its fearful wagons against the world it has engendered. Denies CO2 levels now past the point of no return, demonizes tens of millions worldwide fleeing starvation and war in desperate migrations for survival. Chokes the breath from Black Lives Matter, sets dogs on indigenous peoples rising to protect water and life. Trump offers the select few a rapacious scramble for what resources are left. And walls.
Everyone I love is outside those walls, and those the right are building worldwide.
I hope 2016 made the violence visible to those who could not see it. Most cannot choose their side. May those with choice join their movements of love and struggle to listen, learn, and fight side-by-side. How else to build a new world?
Owen Hatherley, author of The Ministry of Nostalgia
Everyone is going to note the awfulness of 2016, and I can't disagree, though personally it was considerably less awful than 2015. These recommendations don't have any particularly redemptive purpose of any sort and they won't help you survive 2017 better –they're just some books I enjoyed in a year that was almost relentlessly awful, and haven't had the chance to write about at any length.
Peter Watts' Up In Smoke is a history of the afterlife of Battersea Power Station – its long dereliction, the fanciful proposals for its re-use, and its current, depressing fate as a bauble tucked into riverside yuppiedromes. Chris Leslie's Disappearing Glasgow, a photo-book on the clusters of 'high flats' that the city crammed into infill sites at great speed in the 1960s, and their current fate as an embarrassment the city council would prefer to erase, captures the programme's ambition, the lives lived in them and the ambiguous results of their 'regeneration'. Another architectural photo-book that transcends its usually vacuous genre is Mikołaj Długosz's Summer in the City, the utopian, beautiful, sad and silly results of a comprehensive rummage in the archives of Poland's formerly state-owned postcard company (a good Eastern Bloc analogue to the wonderful twitter account @PastPostcard).
2016 was the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR. The contrast between two accounts of Ukraine and Russia (and Belarus) is noteworthy: Svetlana Alexievich's Second-Hand Time, an almost unbearably moving and unashamedly overwrought lament for the lives destroyed by, and in more cases destroyed by the collapse of, the Soviet Union; and Sophie Pinkham's Black Square, a lighter and far subtler account of travelling through Russia and Ukraine in the last ten years, shows a humanity, humour and nuance too often lacking in accounts of the subject. Finally, I found Stephen Squibb and Keith Gessen's anthology City by City, accounts of urban America by a variety of writers – historical, personal, dyspeptic, detached – a useful way of understanding quite how that country could have started the year with millions voting for a self-described socialist, and ending it by voting in a fascist.
Eric Hazan, author of A History of the Barricade
In Paris at the moment you can go and see a work by a very fashionable British artist called Tino Sehgal. It is not an installation, but rather a walk through the architecture of the Palais de Tokyo, lightly fitted, totally empty and uniformly painted in white: a big corridor, a bend, a second corridor where with a dozen steps you get to a staircase going down toward a series of similarly empty white spaces. Along the way kids ask you questions like ‘what is an enigma’ or ‘what is progress’. You don’t really have to answer.
It’s slickly done. And to go in you have to queue up to enter in little groups. Since the viewers themselves make up most of the activity, they cannot be too numerous to be able to observe one other. You hear hardly anyone speak. The effect is a sort of mute astonishment.
An articulated void of great dimensions, delimited by smooth white walls: the candidates for the [2017 French] presidential election ought to be fighting over Tino Sehgal’s services, not as a potential Minister of Culture but rather as a strategic adviser for elaborating their programme. While some would be surprised by an artist who is a choreographer by training rising to such a lofty role, we might remind them of the words Beaumarchais puts in Figaro’s mouth, with regard to another sought-after post: ‘They needed a calculator, but a dancer got the job’.
Helen Hester, co-author of After Work with Nick Srnicek (forthcoming)
2016 has been a bad year for reproductive autonomy and bodily integrity. Concerns mount as to what a Trump/Pence White House will mean for Roe vs. Wade. Croatia has seen the right to choose – already curtailed by doctors’ unwillingness to perform abortions – come under additional direct threat. A citizen’s initiative pressed for an extension to Poland’s already restrictive abortion legislation. And there remain over 50 countries in which abortion is illegal or permitted only to save the pregnant person’s life.
Resistance to these developments has been fierce. We have seen an ecology of activisms emerge, operating upon various scales and according to multiple timelines. Tactics have included grassroots direct action, alliances with trade unions, and engagement with political parties. This diversity of approaches has made feminist activism nimble and robust, as demonstrated by the Black Monday protests in Poland. By successfully mobilizing tens of thousands of people, they helped to ensure anti-choice proposals were voted down. And yet, activists repeatedly find themselves on the back foot.
So, what can we learn from 2016?
1) We should note the efficacy of enlisting a multitude of approaches, of training various tactical weapons upon the same target. We must think ecologically and learn to operate within the contradictions that complex, interconnecting struggles can generate.
2) We must not think of pro-choice activism as a single-issue struggle. Feminists of colour have long stressed the necessity of a holistic understanding of reproductive justice. In the US, the movement has eschewed a tight focus on fertility control in favour of building networks of solidarity around housing, employment, and child care – all of which impact upon the ability to exercise meaningful choice. We must also stress the necessary connections between reproductive justice and trans* health activism.
3) Finally, we would do well to look to previous generations of feminist influencers. The Black Monday protests were partially inspired by the Icelandic Women’s Strike of 1975. What might we learn from, say, the underground network of the Jane Collective, or the second wave feminist self-help movement? Let’s draw upon these positions to put feminism on the offensive in 2017.
Karen L. Ishizuka, author of Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties
2016 started out as the best year ever. I had recently completed a Ph.D. after a 30 year lapse. My husband and I were honoured by the Japanese American National Museum. I had the pleasure of having Verso publish my third book. My son premiered his 5th (and some say his best) film. My third grandchild was born and my other two turned a robust 9 and 7. My daughter got married and my husband celebrated his 80th birthday with a badass workout with his trainer.
That was then. This is now. If retired career colonels Larry Wilkerson and Andrew Bacevich are scared, we're in deep shit.
Yet here, on this once deciminated land, surrounded by demons and bodhisatvas, where the devil once shouted, "You are not strong enough to withstand the storm," I stand in solidarity with generations around the world in shouting back, "We are the storm."
Reece Jones, author of Violent Borders
The good news about the past year is that the long-term structural problems of global capitalism finally had an impact on the politics of Europe and North America. The bad news is that the moment of reckoning resulted in the success of an anti-migrant and closed border politics that drove the Brexit and Trump votes. These outcomes suggest that for the short term in 2017, more countries around the world will turn to walls and closed border policies. This year had the highest number of deaths at borders ever recorded (over 6,200 through early December) and this troubling trend will likely continue as the further hardening of borders will result in ever more dangerous journeys and more deaths for people on the move. In the longer term, the fortress world of closed borders is not sustainable and the history of walls from the Great Wall of China to Medieval city walls suggests that they always come down. These walls will as well, but I won’t be holding my breath to see that happen in 2017.
Costas Lapavitsas, author of Profiting Without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All
Since the end of the great crisis of 2007-9 the pace of the world economy has changed. The financialisation of capitalism, characteristic of the previous four decades, has probably passed its peak. Financial profits have been stagnating, the rate of growth in developing countries has weakened, and developed countries have simply been stagnating. Slowly and steadily the world economy is entering a new phase.
In 2016 the political implications of these developments have started to become clear. The Brexit vote in Britain, the election of Donald Trump in the USA, and the Italian referendum are obvious landmarks. The verities of “There is No Alternative”, the unthinking acceptance of “globalisation” as an unstoppable force, the persistent (and false) message that the “market” cannot be opposed, all have received a body blow. The tragedy is that it has been delivered by the Right – and even the Far Right – peddling racism, sexism and anti-immigrant poison.
Still, the way has been opened for the Left to recover some of its radicalism. Events in 2016 have shown that the plebeian classes in mature countries are angry with systemic forces, and want sovereignty and democracy. The task for the Left is to reconnect with its historic roots providing a radical, anti-capitalist content to popular demands.
Andreas Malm, author of Fossil Capital
As 2016 draws to a close, temperatures in the Arctic are 20 degrees higher than normal. Not one, not one and a half, not two, not six: 20. And Donald Trump has just kicked off his reign by declaring that all climate research at NASA will be terminated. Try to wrap your head around these two facts simultaneously and maintain a modicum of mental health. For me, the best injection of sanity this year was the Ende Gelände camp: I relish the memory of us tearing apart and kicking down the fence around the Schwarze Pumpe coal power plant. The moment when the guards and police realised they were outnumbered. Their panic, our euphoria when streaming into the compound, their spasmodic movements, the few minutes when they felt they could do nothing and we that we could do anything. A naïve wish for 2017: climate riots break out across the world. How to stay sane in their absence? ‘Rome burns’, wrote Sigrid Rausing in the introduction to the issue of Granta entitled ‘What Have We Done’, ‘and we fiddle, hoping for the best, turning away from the flames; staring hypnotised into the flames; throwing fuel onto the flames’ – and ‘yet the pleasure of reading remains.’ She’s right. Two novels that blew me away in 2016: The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Two masterpieces of art that sounded the depth of the despair and therefore also, paradoxically, struck a faint note of hope: Anohni’s Hopelessness and Kate Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos. ‘I want to see the world / I want to see it boil / It’s only four degrees, it’s only four degrees…’ Somehow those anguished words from Anohni helped me through this sorry year.
Geoff Mann, author of In the Long Run We Are All Dead: Keynesianism, Political Economy and Revolution
Those of us on the Left have much we can and must learn from 2016, and I think one of the most important lessons is that we must affirm the dignity of all while avoiding the tempting expediency of re-engineering the legitimacy of a system that generates dishonour endogenously. The point cannot be to simply give the dishonoured masses sufficient dignity to pull back from the precipice and re-cement the existing social order in some kinder form. That is the Keynesian urge, and it must be resisted. But we must also acknowledge, not ridicule or deny out of hand, the alienation of millions in the hope that they will be shamed into suppressing it. Of course we have to oppose racism and imperialism, gendered and other oppressions. But if that is not conjoined with a longer-term politics that can include more that just those who understand themselves as on the righteous side of history, it will never work.
For good or ill, the meaning of dignity for many is defined by an order—liberal capitalism—that cannot last. That breeds desperation, and not just on the Right. I feel certain that any effort to construct a kinder liberal capitalism in the long run, is just as doomed as Trump’s bombastic call to roll back history. A somewhere-close-to-peaceful transition to what comes next is impossible without a compelling alternative conception of what it means to live a dignified life. As long as we find ourselves hoping that the masses won’t be handed the ship’s helm in a storm because we are terrified they will run us aground, we will know that alternative is not yet recognizable.
Jane McAlevey, author of Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement
The vicious tactics used by the Trump campaign throughout the 2016 election cycle are the lifeblood of successful union busters. Turning the class against itself using racism, misogyny, lies, and fear is exactly what workers attempting unionization, or a real all-out strike, face day-in and day-out in the USA and elsewhere. Successful union organizers have names for these types of campaigns: Trump just ran what we call an “A-level boss fight.” We categorize boss fights into A, B and C level, and each type of boss fight requires a corollary union effort, an A-, B- or C-level fight back!
Understanding the stages—all predictable—in a typical A level boss fight would have helped a lot of people understand the prospect of Trump’s winning over a year ago. More important, they point to a way forward, a path out of this horrific mess.
The foundation of an A-level boss fight—fear, division, and futility—requires first recruiting the workers that are the most trusted among their peers (trust), having hard conversations and constructing solidarity (deliberate, constant, well-thought-through steps), and developing people’s confidence to win based on a careful series of actions that are helping them win throughout the longer campaign (raising expectations).
Leftists become liberals on the question of what organizing means, believing that as long as they are deeply committed to the idea of class struggle, and militant (of course), they can win. Wrong. It’s particularly urgent that people now realize there are good ways and bad ways, successful and not successful strategies, to beat campaigns predicated on fear, racism, misogyny and dividing the working class. There are no shortcuts, and yes, there are methods.
Ed Morales, author of Latinx (forthcoming)
What does Trump’s victory, the punctuating moment of a discouraging 2016, mean for Latinxs in the US.? It provokes a set of very difficult realizations and challenges for which there are no clear engagement strategies. Being content with merely delivering votes to a Democratic Party machine that has yielded few returns is clearly not an option. Latinxs should expect marginalizing attacks from multiple directions. Perhaps the most threatening is an expanding mass incarceration system designed to entrap acculturated citizens of large cities as well as undocumented and legal residents whose citizenship will always be in question. Latinx identity itself will also be subject to a low-intensity warfare against ethnic studies, bilingualism, as well as pressure to abandon racial difference as a form of cultural and class solidarity. Yet Latinxs also have an opportunity to add an intersectional perspective – through the dynamic flexibility of our non-binary identities – to an emerging flashpoint of contention on the left between class-based and identity politics. By helping to erase the distinction between multiracialism and the collective black, as well as connecting the US’s foreign policy in Latin America to internal class conflict, we can disrupt narratives that favour entrepreneurialism and false meritocracy –cornerstones of neoliberalism that will not fade under whatever bait-and-switch discourse awaits us under the new regime.
We materialists do not of course believe in bad years. But there are difficult stretches of time in which lots of great musicians—Prince, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, Holly Dunn, Sharon Jones, Mose Allison, Phife Dawg—die in proximity to each other and some of us pretend to have been eager listeners to all of them. And there are unfavorable conjunctures, propelling the right to or near to power, though not without also greatly exposing the fragility of empire and perhaps the end of one sub-system of accumulation and rule. In the United States there was certainly an election of 2016 and what gets called the rise of Trump. I’d say the rise of Trumps and not only to gesture toward his family, scarcely more grotesque than the Clintons in any case. What is instead vital is to focus on the rise of the “little Trumps”—the blowhards and patriarchs who paved the way for his coronation and will now be emboldened by his victory. Everyone wants to invent a hitherto unmentioned “white working class” to blame for the election results. There are little Trumps among those choosing to be white instead of working class--living their miseries as possibilities of a future of bullying, ethnic cleansing, and sexual battery. But the little Trumps congregate among the owners of DIY car washes and franchise restaurants and within the ranks of aggrieved middle management in desperate search of apprentices. It is they who wholesale the ridiculous idea that we need a boss to lead us, suspecting there’s somehow a chance for them. Watch out for the little Trumps.
Nick Srnicek, co-author of Inventing the Future with Alex Williams
This year saw what should have been the second death of neoliberalism. But these are not normal times. Absent an alternative, neoliberalism seems likely to mutate into increasingly twisted forms. Its first death was in 2007-8, when the global economy nearly collapsed under the weight of immaterial speculation. Obituaries were gleefully written, but after a brief moment of respite, neoliberalism returned in renewed austerian form. Not satisfied with its ignominious exit, neoliberalism sought to revive its regime of accumulation. Yet a decade of lacklustre investment, sluggish productivity growth, and surging government debt has left neoliberalism worse off. The UK has seen the longest decline in wages since the beginning of British capitalism, long-term unemployment in the US remains abnormally high, Italian banks are precariously positioned, and Greek and Spanish unemployment remain at Depression-era levels. Under such conditions, increasingly tedious attempts to shore up the status quo are bound to fail.
This leads us to the second death of neoliberalism: the emergence of a far right economic nationalism combined with vicious xenophobia and racism. The border has become more important than the market, the wall more significant than Wall Street. Yet there is a significant difference from previous epochal crises of capitalism. In the 1930s, fascism and communism openly competed to defeat liberal capitalism. In the 1970s, neoliberalism had spent decades preparing for the downfall of Keynesianism. Today, no clear competitor is ready. The right-wing resurgence is not the product of strategic foresight and ideological coherence, but opportunists treading well-laid paths to xenophobia and racism. Their incoherent ideologies and tendentious social alliances prevent them from solidifying a new hegemonic bloc. And their confused economics – a daft mixture of neoliberal orthodoxy, crony capitalism, and neonationalist self-harm – will not solve the crisis of accumulation. But a breakdown of hegemonic consensus will incite a period of overt coercion, and the contemporary security state should make us all cautious. There are monsters worse than neoliberals. The task for the left now is not just to deploy defensive actions, but also to actively mobilise and organise for the alternative. We must assert the necessity of socialism.
To me the surprise of the year was how surprised so many people were about Brexit and the Trump election – as though they had forgotten, or never really appreciated, the deep crisis of contemporary politics and of the state system of financialized capitalism. Part of this crisis was the historical failure of the Centre Left, from New Labour to the Clintons, to notice the growing resistance among ordinary people to neoliberal globalization. If, at the end of 2016, Clintonism is dead and Blairism stands no chance of a return, it will have been a good year – and an even better one if the Left learns from all this that a cosmopolitanism that loses sight of the economic and cultural losers of internationalization is a neoliberal project in which progressives can have no share.
Enzo Traverso, author of Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945
Is Donald Trump a fascist? This question means speculating about what fascism would look like in the twenty-first century. Historical comparisons allow to sketch analogies rather than homologies: Trump is as far from classical fascism as Occupy Wall Street, los Indignados and La nuit debout are from twentieth century communism. But this is a historical analogy, not a genealogy. Trump is an explosive cocktail of charismatic politics, authoritarianism, contempt of law, radical nationalism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and a populist style that consider citizens only as a crowd to mesmerize and mislead. In his rhetoric, the “Establishment” reproduces the old anti-Semitic cliché of a virtuous community rooted in land and tradition opposed to the anonymous, corrupted, and cosmopolitan metropolis inhabited by intellectuals and bankers. All these features have an incontestably fascist taste, but they simply concern the personality of Trump. The fact is that behind him there is no fascist movement. He is a demagogic billionaire, much more reminiscent of Berlusconi than Mussolini, and he was the nominee of the GOP, a historical pillar of the American establishment itself. His “program” eclectically merges protectionism and neoliberalism. Classical fascism championed a strong state; he defends individualism. All in all, he embodies a xenophobic and reactionary vision of Americanism: a social-Darwinist self-made man, the avenger bringing arms, the resentment of a White population that does not accept becoming a minority in a country of immigrants. Trump is a fascist without fascism, but his campaign is a foretaste of what American fascism could look like.
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