Neoliberalism and the fascist danger: A reply to some left critics

September 8, 2016
Neoliberalism and the fascist danger: A reply to some left critics


The Communist Party’s anti-right electoral policy has been criticized for not addressing the dangers posed by neoliberalism.  In particular the neoliberal brand associated with folks like the Clintons, is seen as costing jobs, depressing wages and shredding the safety net. The resulting anger it’s believed has opened the door for demagogues like Donald Trump thereby contributing to an increase in the fascist danger.

In this regard, one writer on the Party’s Facebook page recently asserted, “It’s the neoliberal policies of Clinton and the Democrats that made Trump possible.” Another argued in a similar vein, “I’m also aware that neoliberalism isn’t going to curtail neo-fascism – it is only going to make it a more imminent threat.”

The writers have a point. Neoliberalism – austerity, privatization, free trade, deregulation, and budget cuts – have in large measure guided economic policy in the advanced capitalist countries for decades. And it’s done a number on the working class and poor.

At once an economic policy and a way of looking at the world, neoliberalism got its start as a right-wing critique of the New Deal’s Keynesian foundations. Keynesianism, named after the British economist John Maynard Keynes, holds that increased government spending on jobs and infrastructure and lower taxes, increases demand and stimulates the economy.

Post-war shrinking profit rates, economic sluggishness and government deficits prompted the neoliberal critique. Instead of spending on health care, education and other social programs, the neoliberals proposed cutting corporate taxes, and eliminating government programs or privatizing them.

In its pure form, the doctrine draws inspiration and practice more from the Republican right than old school Democratic economic orthodoxy. That said, it’s become a ruling class policy practiced to varying degrees by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. and political parties across the spectrum in Europe, Australia, Canada, and other countries.

The roots and results of neoliberalism

Neoliberalism’s domestic tour de force came with Ronald Reagan’s trickle down economics and his budget director David Stockman’s savage cuts. On the Democratic side, even before Reagan, Jimmy Carter took a turn with austerity by cutting the federal housing budget. It was with the advent of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Bill Clinton’s candidacy that the policies of neoliberalism became embraced more widely. Clinton, influenced by Reagan’s success sought to harmonize aspects of right and left policies in an alternative “third way.”

Indeed, with the DLC what started off as a policy model for the right became the dominant set of ideas for the political center, drawing with it important sections of the liberal left. Today acceptance of tenets of the neoliberal narrative are everywhere even if few will call themselves a neoliberal.

However neoliberalism’s prevalence also owes a debt to a section of the left. Recall, for example, the French Socialists’ imposition of austerity measures in the early 1980s, a time when Communist ministers joined the Mitterrand administration and held governmental posts – a policy for which the French Communist Party paid heavily in subsequent elections. And then there was the role played by Marxism Today, the now defunct theoretical journal of the Communist Party of Great Britain which gave a platform to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s New Labor (New Labor is the British equivalent to the DLC) and contributed to the rightward turn in the British Labor Party.

It is important to point out that these policies did not occur in a vacuum. They emerged out the real circumstances of the times – the arms race and the corresponding huge expansion of military spending and pressures on national budgets are cases in point. But more importantly, deep systemic crises of the capitalist system underlay the neo-liberal cures: the industrial crisis of the 1970s (e.g. the collapse of the steel industry), the recessions of the 80s and 90s, financialization, globalization, the bubble, and most recently the subprime crisis which prompted the Great Recession.

During this period, there was a discernible pull to the right electorally and in public discourse that would at first blush give credence to the neoliberals’ culpability for creating conditions that provided fodder for right-wing and even fascist thinking. Reagan’s election, the attack on affirmative action with the Bakke decision, the breaking of the air traffic controllers union are examples.

“Neoliberalism is a ruling class policy.”

The Moral Majority, Heritage Foundation, and other outfits were birthed during this period which helped lay the basis for the Chamber of Commerce-inspired right-wing takeover of the Republican Party.  At the same time, the edifice of the New Deal and Civil Rights gains of the 1960s were attacked. This period also marked the beginnings of the successful effort to redistribute wealth upwards by means of tax policy and budget cuts.

At the same time, down below trends in the opposite direction began to make themselves felt. Pro-labor, pro-peace, and anti-racist majorities began to appear in reaction to the challenges presented by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Huge democratic shifts in public opinion began to develop on issues relating to race, gender, LGBTQ rights, immigration, and other important social issues.

To what degree were neoliberal policies responsible for these opposing trends? On the one hand there’s little doubt that they played some role; on the other it’s proven quite difficult to draw a straight line between economic policy and their  social reflections. Life is exceedingly complex and growing increasingly so with myriad factors coming into play.

Take racism for example. The neoliberals were not of one mind: those on the right championed the Republican’s Southern Strategy (targeting southern white Democrats), welfare queen charges, and the criminalization of black and brown youth; those in the center and on the left, while in some cases capitulating to the aforementioned, promoted what they considered to be an anti-racist “everyone-is-equal” corporate multiculturalism.

In this milieu, complex and contradictory trends were emerging. On the hand, frontal attacks on labor, hyper segregation, gentrification, broken window policing, mass incarceration; on the other, huge shifts in demographics and in the workforce as the shift to a service economy deepened. Add to these the developments in the cultural and social arena; the impact of Hip Hop culture, sports, and in the last quarter century the growth of the internet and social networks. Last but not least are changes in the political arena, such as the election of thousands of black and Latino public officials – many in majority white districts.

Centrist sins: Real and imagined

Notwithstanding these contradictory trends some like Chris Hedges and our Facebook comrades, lay blame for the increasing racism and xenophobia that is fueling fascist thinking squarely at the feet of centrist neoliberals like the Clintons. Hedges argues:

“College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades…”

He continues:

“There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.”

Hedges does us a service by pointing to the seriousness of the growing fascist threat. However it’s unclear why he centers his fire at centrist Democrats when – unlike their New Labor British counterparts –  they’ve never claimed to be on the left or placed themselves outside of the prevailing capitalist world order but have been among its staunchest defenders – albeit with a softer, gentler “I-feel-your-pain” tone.

Perhaps it’s because that at times, while portraying themselves as champions of progressive causes and advocates of labor, civil, and human rights, these DLC types capitulated under the pressure of the right. This has led Hedges and others to accuse them of providing a cover for right-wing policies, a charge that cannot be wholly dismissed.

Still, the judgement seems misplaced. The fiercest attacks on jobs and living standards that Hedges is properly concerned with are coming from the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP right. Even the Clinton capitulation on welfare reform – as terrible as it was and remains – has to be understood within the context of Gingrich’s Contract With America and GOP majorities in the House and Senate – not that Clinton should be let off the hook!

In addition, Hedges description of the working-class white reaction to these policies is also dubious. The bulk of Trump’s support comes not from “lower class whites,” but arguably from those with higher incomes. This is not to say that Trump is without hardcore support among some working-class white elements. A survey carried out by Working America estimates that this involves approximately one-third of white working-class voters in swing states.

What is fascism?

This is important because historically the mass base of fascism has not been among the working class per se, but among lower middle class and professional elements who in times of crisis are pushed into its ranks.

Here one must also make a distinction between fascism’s base of support, that is, the demographic where it finds resonance, and its source, that is, the class or classes that are responsible for its promotion and implementation. While drawing numbers from the ranks of middle strata, fascism’s source lies not here but far above in the lofty domains of Trump Tower and other rarified habitations of the ruling class.

This is significant because above all else fascism, while a mass movement, when fully developed represents a form of capitalist rule. It is a type of government, in a word, a dictatorship. In this regard, Georgi Dimitrov, a leader of the international Communist movement during the 1930s, warned against treating fascism as a movement of the petit bourgeoisie, i.e., of the middle class capturing the state, but rather as the “open, terrorist  dictatorship of the most reactionary sections of finance capital.”

“Fascism is the open, terrorist  dictatorship of the most reactionary sections of finance capital.”

This brings us once again to raise the question of wherein lies the fascist danger: what is its source? Does it arise from the employment of and reaction to a policy – in this case neoliberalism – or does it come from somewhere else?

Consider first of all that monopoly capitalism – imperialism – is inherently conservative and reactionary. In fact for Lenin, imperialism was “reaction all down the line.” Capitalism carries with it an inherent and even inevitable backward moving trend. Why? Because notwithstanding all of the powerful countercurrents in the opposite direction arising out of the process of production, and the creative innovation and scientific genius they entail, the system must preserve and justify itself and bind citizens to its imperatives. And this involves old appeals to race, nation, gender, God and country.

And it must do so in the midst of ongoing crises: crises of overproduction, environmental crisis, recession, depression, and war. And the impulse towards fascism occurs just when these crises become most severe. Historically, this happens often, but not always, when a movement arises to challenge the system itself, as in the case of Germany in the early 1930s. However, it can also arise to prevent the growth of such a movement. Here the tragedy of Italy under Mussolini in the early 1920s comes to mind.

But fascism, as Dimitrov suggests, is not simply a spontaneous reaction to events, anger at policies, angst, or insecurity. These sentiments must be organized. They must be imposed. And achieving such organization and imposition require the necessary means to do so, means available only to a small section the population – the class today popularly called the 1 percent, or more precisely, the most reactionary section of it.

Today there is a strong relation between neoliberal economic policy and white supremacist social conservatism as twin strategies of the capitalist class.  Examples in Europe, most notably the UK and France, show this even more clearly: the ultra-right Front National in France became a mass party when it fused opposition to the neoliberal policies of the EU with national chauvinism, and a similar argument could be made around UK Independence Party and the Brexit vote in the UK.

Organizing the basis for fascism in America

Similar trends are occurring here in this year’s election: the basis for fascism is being steadily organized with the passing of each day at the highest levels in the land, in some cases consciously, in others unconsciously. This development is not new. Take the Tea Party, for example. This “astro turf” movement has been organized and funded by big business now for several years. Its rallying cry: racism, hatred of the president, and the defeat of his agenda.

Yet another source is right-wing radio. For decades now, it has been a constant source of anti-government, pro-business, anti-labor, racist and homophobic garbage. Even a figure like Wisconsin’s conservative Charlie Sykes has been taken aback by the Frankenstein he and others have helped create. In this regard, Politico writes: “Sykes’ many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump’s serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking—racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic—that has shaken Sykes.”

And then there’s the right-wing think tanks, blogs, and websites that have pursued a 24-hour stream of anti-immigrant xenophobia, racism, and misogyny. The recent appointment of the head of Breibart News, Stephen Bannon, to the leading position in the Trump campaign was their crowning achievement. The event prompted the Clinton campaign to warn the country of the danger now posed by the likes of the alt-right and KKK who, according to the Democratic nominee, have effectively taken over the GOP.

“White supremacy has been mainstreamed.”

But it doesn’t stop there. The mainstream media has become deeply involved. How? By mainstreaming and legitimizing white supremacy. Think that’s an overstatement? Consider that CNN’s former anchor Soledad O’Brien recently took the network to task for doing precisely this: “If you look at Hillary Clinton’s speech where she basically pointed out that what Donald Trump has done — actually quite well — has normalized white supremacy.”

Pointing to the complicity of her former employer, she continues, “I’ve seen on-air, white supremacists being interviewed because they are Trump delegates,” she noted. “And they do a five minute segment, the first minute or so talking about what they believe as white supremacists. So you have normalized that.”

Thus, just as the normalization of anti-Semitism and racism was a precondition for the rise Hitler, so too today with the normalization of white supremacy and the rise of Trump. The same can be said for sexism.

And why has the media been so complicit? One doesn’t have to look far to find the answer: it’s good for the corporate bottom line. Speaking of Trump, CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves put it this way: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” he said of the presidential race. Moonves went on, saying, “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now?… The money’s rolling in and this is fun.”

Fascism and neoliberalism are both products of capitalism

What conclusions then can be drawn from the foregoing?

First, that both fascism and neoliberalism are products of monopoly capitalism. Both emerge out of its incessant drive to maximize profits and overcome crisis, efforts which lead to ever-increasing reactionary measures.

Second, that the two therefore have their origins in the ruling class: neoliberalism as an economic policy and fascism as a form of class rule and government.

Third, that neither are inevitable, notwithstanding capitalism’s inherently conservative tendencies. A policy can be chosen or discarded, as can a form of government, depending on the relative strength of the actors involved and balance of class forces at any given time.

Fourth, that neoliberal policy is adaptable. It has been employed by Republicans, Democrats, social democrats, and fascists, as in the case of Chile. While it contributes to fascism’s growth, neoliberalism is not a necessary precondition for it.

Blocking the fascist threat

Does the attempt then to prevent the ascendance of a Trump by the election of a centrist Democrat with a neoliberal background assist fascism’s growth?

To the degree that the Clinton campaign and the broad coalition supporting it challenges the raw racism, extreme nationalism, and the anti-constitutional and undemocratic underpinnings of the Trump campaign, it cannot but help push back against the danger. If it does not, then the answer is obvious.

If after the election under the guise of bipartisanship backtracking occurs on the TPP, the minimum wage, privatizing Social Security etc, the problems associated with the rise of Trump can only grow worse. But first he must be defeated.

Exposing Trump is critical. The GOP nominee represents a danger of a different type. The U.S. people and many of our comrades on the left are not accustomed to fighting a danger of this kind. Trump is seen as a performer, a reality T.V. star, a larger-than-life expert brander, a not-so-dangerous buffon. But buffoonery aside, the forces lurking in and around his campaign are no joke.

However, a winning campaign cannot only focus on the negatives but must provide a vision of how to move forward. Here, the Sanders campaign provided an important lesson: the fight against austerity, trade pacts, and budget cuts, the demand to increase Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; the call to make university education free – in other words, the fight against neoliberal policy is key to sparking the kind of movement necessary to defeat Trump and the hordes of racist moneybags backing him.

But even that is not enough. During the campaign, Black Lives Matter had to take the stage and demand an end to police murder, violence, and mass incarceration. The immigrant rights movement had to demand comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship. The LGBTQ movement had to insist on marriage equality and basic rights for all.

Labor – and this is critical – too had to make its presence felt by continuing to develop its own independent structures and offering support for only those candidates that signed off on its agenda.

But all of this taken together may not be enough. Added to it must be the demand for peace, an end to military intervention, and cutting the military budget. So far, Mrs. Clinton has at best demonstrated a tin ear to this issue. But here the movement to defeat Trump cannot be discouraged and must keep the pressure on.

2016 can also be a setback for neoliberalism

According to a number of accounts, the neoliberal agenda has been set back in this election cycle and is on the defensive in many places. Witness Mrs. Clinton’s shift on the TPP after initially supporting it or adoption of many progressive planks in the Democratic Party platform.

All can agree that neoliberalism can and must be defeated.

The time is ripe for doing so. Many of the policy’s champions fear its time has come to an end. On the other side of the Atlantic, Tony Blair recently lamented, “It’s a very open question whether the type of politics I represent really has had its day or not.”

Another British writer, Martin Jacques, the former editor of Marxism Today, in whose pages Tony Blair’s own writings once appeared, agrees: “The western economy has stagnated and is now approaching its lost decade, with no end in sight.”

The mass public rejection of trade pacts, anger at big banks, and the huge growth of inequality has convinced both that the neoliberal policy itself is no longer sustainable. Crocodile tears? Perhaps. But what’s sure is that the force that Frederick Engels called the “mole of history” – class – is reasserting itself with a vengeance. That is at the heart of the anti-establishment politics of the present.

“Neoliberalism can and must be defeated.”

The challenge today is ensuring that the two movements in U.S. electoral politics, those representing Clinton and the anti-establishment political revolution of Sanders, join together. When that happens watch out!

If anything, the last several years have proven that the stages of political life are not easily predictable, neat, or nicely circumscribed. Before Occupy Wall Street, who could have predicted that the neoliberal narrative of deficit reduction would disappear from the airways to be replaced by the demands of the 99 percent? And before Sanders declared his candidacy, who would have thought that a self-declared socialist could seriously contend for the Democratic nomination?  Needless to say, the same must be said of the election of President Obama. To paraphrase Goethe, “Theory is grey, but the tree of life, ever green.”

It may well be that the anti-extreme right stage of the struggle might coalesce with the anti-monopoly stage rather quickly and bring about a new political alignment. This however will be an academic question if Trump prevails.

If that is so and with neoliberalism having reached its nadir, the question arises with what will it be replaced? While seeking an answer, let’s unite to defeat Trump.

Photo: Creative Commons 3.0


Comments (30)

Evan Minniti | September 22, 2016 at 1:38 PM

Terrible article. No serious Marxist uses the term neoliberalism. Austerity and privatization were adopted by the Democrats and Republicans, as well as any political party, even those on the left, because they hadn’t broken with capitalism. As long as you work within the confines of capitalism, you will have to manage its crisis through austerity. The Workers Party of Brazil, French Socialists, Syriza, the ANC, etc. are all examples of this. As to fascism, there is no fascist threat to our country. Fascism isn’t a dictatorship of reactionary finance capital, it is a dictatorship of reactionary finance capital AGAINST THE WORKERS PARTIES AND ORGANIZATIONS. These DO NOT exist in America. We have no labor party and the labor movement is weak and poses no threat to the capitalist class in its current form. Fascism was used as the battering ram to smash the Communist and Social Democratic parties as they grew in votes and their rank-and-file moved towards unity, despite their Stalinist and reformist leaderships. The Fascism-Trump analogy is superficial and really only used by liberals as a scare tactic into voting for Hillary Clinton. Clinton has to scramble and fight so hard to keep herself above Trump in the polls WHEN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DON’T EVEN LIKE TRUMP. The “Communist” Party of the United States should support the genuine Marxist and Leninist task and support the creation of a mass labor party by calling on the trade unions to break from the Democrats.

    Joe Sims | September 23, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    Actually Marxism uses the language that’s in use and where terms are unclear, the task is to clarify – this the article does by pointing to the practices: austerity, deregulation, privatization etc. Secondly there are many tools in the toolbox austerity is but one albeit a major one, stimulus is another. As for the degree of the threat – the alt-right has taken over at least for now the GOP. It’s a real danger. One can agree that fascism is directed at the working class and its organizations but not only – it’s also directed against other strat, against democracy in general. As argued in the text most often this occurs when there’s a direct threat – but not always. For example, when Benito M marched on Rome, there was no such direct threat, nor was revolution in the air when apartheid snuffed out democracy for the African majority. Finally we favor a third party, not a labor party per se, but one led by labor that would carry on the fight for advanced anti-monopoly measures and democracy. That requires independent structures even now which do exist and are being strengthened.

      Evan Minniti | September 25, 2016 at 6:54 PM

      Comrade, do you mean “Independent structures”, as in social movements? They certainly aren’t strengthened when the Left endorses the Democrats. The Democrats are the death of social movements. Austerity is the order of the day in any capitalist country, hence when Syriza came to power and didn’t break with capitalism, it was inevitable that they would have to bow to the orders of the Troika. It was the same when Labour was in power in the 1970s in Britain, they bowed down to the orders of the IMF. And it was the same when Hollande was elected in 2012, even though he ran an a leftwing program. The capitalist parties (of which the Democrats are certainly one of them), openly support austerity, and any workers party that doesn’t break with capitalism is forced to commit austerity. It’s the only way to “manage” the crisis of capitalism. Keynesianism is dead and buried. Its fundamental premise, that the government must spend money in order to create demand is extremely flawed. Keynesianism doesn’t ask where the money comes from (taxes) or why the crisis even happened or how to prevent further crises. In order to spend money on social services and to create demand you have to increase taxes on either the working class or the capitalist class. If you raise taxes on the workers, they won’t end up spending money buying commodities on the market, thereby DECREASING demand. If you raise taxes on the rich, they will fire workers, who now in poverty, don’t have money to spend, again, DECREASING demand. Keynesianism, like the left-reformism of current workers parties, is short-sided.

      Venezuela in a peculiar way proved the limits of left-reformism with Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Oil and a few other key industries were nationalized, and in some cases workers occupied factories, who in turn were nationalized. Feeling this threat to their economic power, the oligarchy in Venezuela has waged its brutal economic war and misled the middle classes to fight against the Revolution. As he was dying of cancer, Chavez realized these limits and radicalized his program. He called for a revolutionary 5th International and advocated turning Venezuela into a workers and compesinos republic based around communes modeled off the soviets. His landslide victory in 2012 (PSUV receiving 8.2 million votes compared to the bourgeois candidate receiving 6.6 million) and the huge counter-protests in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution in 2014 were the result of his calls for socialism! The current defeats that the Bolivarian movement has faced is because of the bureaucrats in the rightwing of the movement not enforcing socialist policies. In turn, Maduro has been forced to the negotiating table with representatives of the bourgeois, and has actually privatized a number of factories. In short, even in Revolutionary Venezuela, if the workers party didn’t break with capitalism, it is forced to eventually capitulate to it.

      Fascism isn’t a ideology in any sense of the word. It is the battering ram against the workers parties that the capitalists have used historically. Apartheid was the result of colonialism, not fascism. Democracy is a concession given to the masses by the bourgeois. It is disregarded when the workers and youth are on their way to coming to power. In turn, Bonapartist and even fascist dictatorships are used to smash the workers. Trump, if he came to power, wouldn’t dare to try and install a fascist dictatorship, not would he have a base of support in the middle class for it. Any fascist dictatorship in the West would be overthrown by the fires of Revolution. You can see this in France and Greece, where the capitalists have supported the rightwing populist National Front and the neo-nazi Golden Dawn, but only as a way to intimidate the workers parties. Examples of those intimidations would be the far-right thugs that orbit these movements (including Trump), that violently disrupt leftwing gatherings and meetings. Now, they regret those decisions, because a layer of the middle-class and lumpen have been tricked into giving these parties enough support to almost come to power. Now, the capitalists have cowardly gone back to supporting their traditional parties and appealing to “democracy” and the “republic”. The only real democratic republic is a workers republic.

      As to your example of Mussolini coming to power, I believe you say there was no direct threat to capitalism? After WW1, there was a HUGE threat to capitalism in Italy. The workers, the youth and the lower peasants were in revolt! Even though their leaders bickered (Social democrats afraid of revolution and ultra-leftist leaders like Bordiga of the early Communist Party who ignored Lenin’s call for united front, as well as chaotic anarchist leaders who opposed elections and voting), there were huge strikes, workers and peasants soviets were formed and guerrilla war raged in the countryside between leftwing peasants and Mussolini’s fascist forces. The capitalists gave power to Mussolini so he could crush the Revolution, much in the same way the Weimar Republic unleashed the freikorps and later Nazism to do the same. Once Mussolini and Hitler proved to be losing WW2, they switched sides to supporting the Allies.

      Finally, a labor party must be the order of the day for the Left. We must call on the trade unions to break from the Democrats and create their own party. The rank-and-file of the unions was much to the left of their leaders this cycle, condemning the support Clinton automatically received by the labor leaders. Though demoralized after the Sanders capitulation, many of the unionized workers and the youth are still fighting against Clinton because they correctly recognize her as the preferred candidate of the billionaires. Labor’s support for the Democrats has proved suicidal. They blame the decline of unions on the fact that America is transitioning to becoming a service economy, ignoring the incredibly powerful unions in Western European service economies. No, the fault lies in the labor leaders’ support for the Democrats, even when radical trade unionists were trying to get a labor party off the ground in the 90s. The Democrats aren’t democratic and they aren’t a party. They are one of two electoral machines for the capitalist class. It seems that in this cycle, they are the PREFERRED machine for the capitalists. Even the Koch Brothers are supporting Hillary because they recognize that Trump is a bourgeois out for himself, not the class, much like Berlusconi. The creation of a labor party and arming it with a militant socialist program is the only way to defeat the capitalists. This isn’t a far-away goal, this should be the next step in fighting for a socialist world. Tens of millions of workers, youth, middle class and lumpen would flock to this party immediately. Bernie had the opportunity to create this party had he broken from the Democrats instead of endorsing Clinton. It is now the time to pick up this task, (endorsed by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky themselves) and to dump the capitalists into the dustbin of history.

        Joe Sims | September 26, 2016 at 2:49 PM

        Independent structures specifically refers to the unions setting up separate GOTV, phone banking, fundraising, endorsement procedures etc from other political parties, mainly the Democratic party. This is an extremely important step. As for the other issues, the goal of the Labor Party in the UK, or the Socialists of France, even SYRIZA in Greece, is not social revolution and the establishment of socialist economy or a working class state. Most of them set themselves the task of a reforms and managing a capitalist economy with socialist benefits. Again, for them austerity was a choice of managing an economy they see no alternative to. Your report of the death of Keynesian economics is a little exaggerated: don’t forget the stimulus of 2007 when such measures were required to combat the great recession. the point about the sources of fascism is that historical precedents are instructive but not determinative: don’t get hung up in models: repression comes about for different reasons and an existential threat to the capitalist is just one – albeit an important one. thus even if apartheid fascism arose from and was a form of colonialism – the country was not on the verge of social revolution when it was imposed. lastly we disagree about Italy. I also think that the demand for an immediate creation of labor party – a fond dream of the Trotskyist element – is premature at best even as we work toward a third party led by labor depending on conditions at the earliest possible date.

          Evan Minniti | September 26, 2016 at 4:07 AM

          You are aware that this isn’t a “fond dream” of Trotskyists. This was the task that Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin advocated that American communists had to set up. It is the only way forward. No, Apartheid wasn’t fascist. Fascism is a very very very specific thing, it doesn’t refer to any dictatorship. You are completely one hundred percent incorrect on Italy.

          Joe Sims | September 28, 2016 at 12:14 PM

          On Italy Gramsci and the Italian communists were calling for a democratic front to address the post war crisis. Already by this time the sense was the moment – if in fact it ever existed – for revolution in Europe had passed. The tragic events in Germany reinforced that. As for a labor party, the call has been limited almost exclusively to the various Trotsky factions in U.S. That’s very clear.

          Evan Minniti | September 28, 2016 at 6:42 AM

          As to Keynesianism and left-reformism: again, Keynesianism doesn’t solve the crisis of capitalism. The stimulus packages may have temporarily lowered unemployment, it doesn’t change the fact that we are headed towards another slump. The goal of the Left shouldn’t be to “managing a capitalist economy” with a few reforms. That has led us nowhere but to defeat, capitulation to the capitalists and an increase in political apathy and the right. In fact, the right-populists bank off the failure of Keynesianism and left-reformism. The goal of the Left must now clearly be revolution and the creation of a socialist society. Corbyn’s call for the possible reintroduction of Clause IV is a step in the right direction. In addition, you say that the creation of a labor party is premature. When will it ever not be premature for those who seek the “lesser-evil”? Every election cycle, independents and third parties are usually shunned, and the condescending liberal pundits claim “there is too much at stake!” Frankly, there is too much at stake to support the Democrats again. If anything the Labor Party should and could have been set up almost a century ago! The conditions for social revolution anywhere in the world today are far better than they were in 1917 Russia, FAR better. Despite the defeats faced by left-reformists in Europe and Latin America, India has experienced two massive strikes over the last two years, with more than 150 million workers taking part in each one. The Left must form a revolutionary international to connect these movements around a socialist program. Marxists in the United States must form a Labor Party and arm it with a socialist program.

          Joe Sims | September 28, 2016 at 12:17 PM

          The argument was never advanced that Keynesian methods offered permanent solutions – only that austerity was not the only method used to address crisis.

          As for a third party – one has to base oneself on where people are and not where one would like them to be. Objective conditions are one thing, subjective ones something else entirely.

        Caligula | October 22, 2016 at 5:15 AM

        This discussion is confused. One must distinguish between general theories and strategy. Until the social forces of revolution have reached the breaking point, the revolution is in abeyance. One waits on the crisis of capitalism. The manner of waiting must consider proper strategy, proper positioning, proper attitude. Before the crisis breaks it matters little which party you support or do not support — unless you are positioning yourself within all parties to act when the situation “develops.”

Alvaro Rodriguez | September 20, 2016 at 9:12 PM

A most excellent Marxist analysis of the current neoliberal crisis and a cogent electoral policy. I applaud the author for his contribution.

Nick Carl | September 19, 2016 at 9:47 PM

Great article. Thank you for writing it. In this very confusing presidential election season, to read such nice, clear analyses of the political melee and economic and ideological interregnum that we’re passing through helps me stay hopeful and focused.

Steven white | September 19, 2016 at 7:53 PM

Trump is very dangerous: reminded me of Hitler. Watch Hitler speeches they are very similar.

David Maynard | September 17, 2016 at 7:21 PM

Another “deplorable” anti-working class endorsement. Are y’all proud to be a puny appendage of the Democratic Party?

    Joe Sims | September 17, 2016 at 9:17 PM

    There’s no endorsement here, not hardly. We are proud to recognize the danger presented by Trump and that’s involves working with a broad coalition and making the choices that are now available.

Claire Carsman | September 16, 2016 at 6:02 PM

An excellent analysis. A big concern is that the Party, and other Marxists are keeping it hidden and just talking to themselves.

Peggy Frankie | September 16, 2016 at 12:34 PM

I think the article has made a significant contribution to Marxist-Leninist discussion during this important electoral cycle. It that can guide people’s thoughts and actions now and after November. Thank you.

Ben Sears | September 15, 2016 at 2:01 PM

This article is a great example of the theoretical work that our party can and must provide at this crucial time. Personally I will have to go through it at least once more to get the full benefit. It has generated some good discussion, which is also a plus. I would only add that I very much appreciated the call for attention to the peace issue and the need to cut the military budget and stop the seemingly endless interventions around the world. This is a tough issue to confront given Trump’s buffoonery (“Putin likes me”) regarding foreign affairs. Figuring out how to raise this question continues to be a challenge for us.

Carl Davidson | September 14, 2016 at 12:18 AM

Good article. I’ll pass it on.

E.E.W. Clay | September 12, 2016 at 7:35 PM

The Communist Party’s anti-right electoral policy has bee criticized not only for not “addressing” the threat of neo-liberalism, but for “contributing” to neo-liberalism. Small, repressed, prosecuted and persecuted parties like the CPUSA, are difficult scapegoats. In other words, it is very unreasonable to blame communists and Marxist-Leninists parties which have never had governmental power in countries like the U. S. for these colossal problems like neo-liberalism, fascism and the many brands of both. Oftentimes, “leftist” (right-wing and “centrist” parties may be added), parties and groups, when they cast this type of blame on such parties, are simply reflecting the anti-communism, they claim to so vociferously reject. Sure, fledgling parties and groups can and do contribute to standing problems-but those who consistently stand with people’s movements and people’s needs in the milieu of the vast wasteland of capitalism and imperialism will prevail, and this is the main message of Joe’s outstanding article here, for which he and his Party can be commended.

Art Perlo | September 11, 2016 at 6:48 PM

The article makes a number of important points. Especially the section “What is fascism” is important for the descriptions of fascism’s mass base, fascism’s source in the ruling class, and the connection of the rise of fascism with growing crisis of capitalist system.

A few months ago, Robert Reich had a fairly good column explaining Trump’s fascist features. But while listing many of the outward attributes of fascism, which include its use of racism, miscogony, national chauvinism, and tactics of thuggishness and disruption when not in power, and of brutal repression when in power, he failed to recognize it as a product of capitlism’s crises, nurtured by significant sections of the capitalist class, and with the support or at least grudging acceptance of much of the ruling class. Reich lists some of the notable fascist rulers of the 20th century (with some notable omissions as well, especially the post-WWII US-supported fascist regimes in Latin America and elsewhere) and includes Stalin in his list. Thus Reich confuses a subset of the outward manifestations of fascism (brutality, repression) with its essence — dictatorial rule by the most reactionary sections of the capitalist class to maintain their rule and profits.

The section on Blocking the fascist threat is a good discussion on the relation between blocking Trump and advancing a more positive agenda. I would add that fascists, once in power, use the state apparatus to consolidate their rule. The redistricting and voter suppression laws enacted in Republican-controlled states are only the tip of the iceberg if they aim control of the federal government.

In “The roots and results of neoliberalism” you say that Marxism Today, by giving a platform to Blair and Brown, contributed to the rightward turn of the Labor Party. I suspect that is an overstimate of the influence of MT, but that the converse is true — it contributed to the demise of MT, juts as collaboration with Mitterand accelerated the decline of the CPF.

In the U.S., a factor I think is the change in the nature of the main political parties. Both are objectively coalitions of various class and social forces. But with the Southern Strategy, and the decline of the dominance of the landowning plantation class in the South, the Democratic party lost its most reactionary social base, and the Republicans gained their legacy, and gradually lost the remanants of the Lincoln Republican base of small-town New England and Midwest asmall farmers and small businesspeople with a degree of anti-monopoly and democratic outlook. I think this at least artly explains the polarization of the 2 main parties, and the ability of fascism to gain a foothold, and threaten complete takeover, of one of the major parties. This is important, because the US political system as we know makes it nearly impossible for a national third party to emerge.

Understanding the nature of fascism, and that Trump’s campaign greatly increases the threat of an organized fascist movement that can gain power in the US, is essential for understanding the issues and the strategy of this election. The section “Blocking the fascist threat” lays this out. I would only add that fascists use political power to rapidly consolidate their rule — redistricting and voter suppression are only the start of what we could see.

I am not sure that neoliberalism has reached its nadir. It is certainly in crisis. But until there is an answer to the question, “what to replace it with (and how to get there?” it will continue, lurching from crisis to crisis, becoming every more dangerous, and increasingly breeding fascist “solutions.” But I agree with the last sentence. The answer to the question will not come from think tanks and theorizing at this stage, but by building class conscious movements in the US and around the world, internationalism, and learning from the positive and negative experiences of people in all the countries struggling against the neoliberal/imperialist yoke.

As pertains to the coming election, this article is a real contribution to clarifying one of the central issues.

    Joe Sims | September 11, 2016 at 11:46 PM

    The judgement about Marxism Today’s role and New Labor comes from none other than some of Blair’s co-workers many who were associated with the journal. They talked about it as ‘a midwife,” an “integral part of what was to become New Labor,” that “without Marxism Today New Labor wouldn’t have been possible.”
    In hindsight I should have made some mention of the impact of Euro-Communism – another time maybe.

    Please listen to BBC’s Where did all the comrades go for reference.

Shelby Richardson Jr | September 10, 2016 at 1:06 AM

Joe’s article deserves study. Most who criticizes the Party’s electoral perspective are thoughtful, honest but not convinced of our position. As Joe points out history does not make the correct course crystal clear. Efforts must continue to shed light on why the coming together of the ninety nine percent is necessary to stop the Ultra-right danger. We have to work hard and have patience, as we, along with others, remove the layers of confusion.

Emile Schepers | September 09, 2016 at 1:01 AM

Fine article which puts the tactical/strategic exigencies of our electoral situation into a Marxist theoretical framework. I hope to see many such articles from Joe and others on this website.

Myke Simonian | September 09, 2016 at 4:16 PM

Great analysis, Joe. Might I add a couple points?

One, you neglect the political dimension of keynesianism and its crisis. On the political end, it was supposed to create a ‘middle’ class to act as a cushion for Corporate America — siding with it and guaranteeing a mass constituency. Instead, it created a students’ movement, an antiwar movement, a women’s movement. We had overwhelmingly petty-bourgeois movements during the 70s, where others had movements dominated by the workingclass. That has had its effects, too.

When the Reaganites targeted keynesianism, they started with the political considerations. If Keynesianism had been successful politically, I doubt they would have jettisoned it. Instead, they got two birds with one stone: the re-absorbed HUGE economic resources and the shattered the main mass organizations of the day.

Two, the DP is now a coalition party. There are the Corporate Dems, the Clintonites. And then there is Labor, which as you say has its own organization. The history of the last thirty years cannot be understood without putting Labor’s political evolution front and center.

In 2008, Labor, the Black community and petty-bourgeois liberals united around the Labor/Black candidate, Obama. In 2016, those constituencies are fragmented. Part of Labor supported Clinton. Part supported Sanders. The Sanders camp has a real class mix that is showing itself in the general election. Black folk mostly supported HRC. It is THIS coalition that has to be rebuilt. DuBois’ Black/Labor alliance.

All the best and thanks for writing this.

    Evan Minniti | September 22, 2016 at 1:43 PM

    The Democratic Party isn’t and never has been a coalition. It is a bourgeois party and always will be. Labor’s leaders support it, I would hardly say labor does. As to Obama being a “Labor/Black” candidate, TPP and police shootings discredit that.

      Myke Simonian | October 05, 2016 at 8:40 PM

      Evan, I just came back from a meeting with Labor leaders who are very much organized on their own agenda within the Democratic Party. You are out of touch.

      I know that it’s easier to think of Labor as bunch of bureaucrats. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but I see it all the time. It is an attitude that justifies NOT engaging with bourgeois-dominated mass organizations.

      If we want to talk about Gramsci and Italy, consider that in the Lyons Congress Theses, one of the criticisms Gramsci levels at the Socialist Party was that it squandered the opportunity to bring in the radical element of bourgeois youth. He levels this criticism because had the Socialist Party acted differently, it would have made Fascism’s rise more difficult.

      Was the situation in Italy ‘revolutionary’? Gramsci says that the conditions were there to build a revolutionary movement. The industrial proletariate was mobilized and on positions which made possible vast social alliances. The agricultural workers of the Po Valley were in movement. As Gramsci says, with these came — as always — forward movement on the part of the peasant masses of the South.

      However — and it’s a BIG however — all this takes time. If you think that just because everyone is up in arms, the fight is over, you’re wrong. It would have taken a decade, and many, many intermediate steps, to get to the point of revolution in Italy. That was Gramsci’s point. To be able to get there, it would have been necessary to prevent a fascist solution to capitalism’s crisis. That meant bringing a part of the bourgeoisie over to the side of the masses. And that possibility was largely lost when the Socialists veered into an bloc with the industrial bourgeoisie.

      We have a growing left movement in this country, coalescing from several different directions. We have a Corporate class which is very alerted to the danger and is pushing hard to prevent what the Italians would call a ‘salto di qualita’ ‘ — leap forward dialectically. We cannot bring this thing to fruition overnight. We need time to organize, and that means a bourgeois-democratic pact.

      Obama and the the Labor/Black alliance. You say you are a revolutionary, yet you think like a bourgeois radical. You see the individual candidate and that is enough for you — you are unwilling to consider either social forces or historical process.

      Obama was indeed the candidate of Labor and the Black community in 2007. The Clintonites did not want him. Labor and Black folk imposed him.

      Consider what happened afterwards. The Obama candidacy in 2008 mobilized vast sectors of the populace who had never voted in their lives. A majority of white workingclass men voted for Obama, breaking a critical social barrier to progress.

      Then came the Clintonite counteroffensive on healthcare and, in the GOP, the Tea Party — a direct response to the social dynamics unleashed by Labor and Black folk. ‘Citizens United’ was passed in the wake of that election. It was a watershed for both the left and the right. But if you say, ‘politics as usual because Obama is TODAY for TPP’ — you are not even close to thinking like a Marxist.

      A Marxist thinks in terms of social forces. A Marxist thinks in terms of pragmatically, concretely, getting from here to there. Gramsci had no time for big theories and bluster. He wanted facts on the ground, organizing, mass programs capable of finding the key pressure point in a society and moving things forward. Most of all, with Marx, Gramsci saw history as tending in a progressive direction. “Capitalism is its own gravedigger” — ever heard that one? It means that there is an objective process driving all this forward. It means that there is an intimate tie between the struggle for democracy, the struggle for the rights of labor and the struggle for the rights of the racially oppressed. That’s Marxism.

      So yes, I am working to get Clinton elected. Not because she’s ‘great’ — she is not — but because there is a historical dynamic in motion that has to be pushed along. If the left could stop goofing around, we could guarantee a defeat which would shatter the GOP and get a Congress in which it would be politically impossible for the Clintonites to wring their hands and say, ‘we just don’t have the numbers to pass this program we got from Bernie.’

        Myke Simonian | October 05, 2016 at 9:56 PM

        PS. The partisan movement was not contemporaneous with the other events you mention, but followed them by 15-20 years. The Resistance was primarily a reaction to Nazism, not to fascism. The heart of the Partisan movement was also not among the peasants but the Northern proletariate. Outside the North, the largest Partisan movement was in Sardinia, with its deep-rock miners. And while the Communists played a prominent role, so did the Azione cattolica, precursor to the Democrazia Cristiana.

Len | September 09, 2016 at 4:14 PM

Bernie supporters and Greens must see this piece. Excellent the way it avoids economism and tackles the complexities. Some neoliberals try to ride a horse in opposite directions when it comes to climate change and the never-ending wars of intervention. They support some renewable energy projects then cheer on the next invasion. Let’s get Joe’s fine analysis out there.

Marc Brodine | September 08, 2016 at 7:22 PM

Excellent piece! I much appreciate addressing the concerns and claims of others on the left in a direct and forthright fashion. Essential reading in this election season.

Mark S Alper | September 08, 2016 at 6:55 PM

This article is a thoughtful, thorough and much needed rejoinder to those on the left (and I know many of them from the Sanders campaign, for instance) who do not acknowledge the substantial differences between Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump, and are at the same time cavalier at what is at stake in the upcoming election. Kudos to Joe Sims for his excellent and timely writing on this important topic.

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