One of the curiosities of our time is that the far right is quite comfortable with the established institutions of liberal democracy. There are instances here and there of disgruntled political leaders who refuse to accept their defeat at the ballot box (such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro) and then call upon their supporters to take extra-parliamentary action (as on 6 January 2021 in the United States and, in a farcical repetition, on 8 January 2023 in Brazil). But, by and large, the far right knows that it can attain what it wants through the institutions of liberal democracy, which are not hostile to its programmes.
Prophet and GOAT status holder, James Baldwin, wrote in his opus, No Name in the Street, “Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, is a vivid example of what can happen to a Black man who obeys the American injunction, be true to your faith, but his press has been so misleading that he is also an unwieldy and intimidating example.” Brother Jimmy continues, “Muhammad Ali is one of the best of the ‘bad niggers’ and has been publicly hanged like one…” Without knowing it (or maybe he did, he was, afterall, a prophet), Baldwin adroitly portrayed the baleful conditions associated with being a profound, unapologetic (as it was written by the dear and brilliant sister Charlene Caruthers) , and non-tone policed Black person in the United Statesian climate/environmental “movement,” and the nonprofit industrial complex writ large.
The fusion of politics, news, and entertainment has given prominence to comics like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Bill Maher, who serve as attack dogs for the Democratic Party, which has joined forces with the establishment wing of the old Republican Party against Donald Trump and his supporters. By belittling Trump and his followers, these comics feed the smug, self-righteousness of the ruling establishment, bolstering their sense of moral and intellectual superiority. All the while, they remain comfortably constrained by the corporations and advertisers that employ them.
The conflict now raging between the West and Russia and China is a struggle for global power. At the end of the Second World War the economic weight and influence of the United States allowed it to dominate world trade and manufacturing but also to control financial markets as well as build a system of global political and military alliances and bases which reinforced its control. Today its imperial dominance is under threat. The US is trying to prevent the emergence of rivals for world hegemony and block the development of a multipolar world. But it still maintains a residual power based on the role of the dollar as well as its military forces and political pacts.
Antifascism, as a politic and concept, has grown more appealing in the last 6 years because of the rise of right-wing authoritarianism domestically and globally rooted in patriarchy and ongoing (settler) colonialism. Nonetheless, there remains much confusion about fascism. Earlier this month, I was a featured panelist for a roundtable discussion with the editors of For Antifascist Futures: Against the Violence of Imperial Crisis and author of On Microfascism: Gender War and Death at the Red Emma’s bookstore in Baltimore. It was a compelling cultural and political exploration wherein we engaged the feminist and anticolonial dimensions of antifascism with readers and has since led me to deeper exploration of fascism’s historical relationship to liberal democracy, in the context of this current political and pop culture infused moment.
Energy and food bills are soaring. Under the onslaught of inflation and prolonged wage stagnation, wages are in free fall. Billions of dollars are diverted by Western nations at a time of economic crisis and staggering income inequality to fund a proxy war in Ukraine. The liberal class, terrified by the rise of neo-fascism and demagogues such as Donald Trump, have thrown in their lot with discredited and reviled establishment politicians who slavishly do the bidding of the war industry, oligarchs and corporations. The bankruptcy of the liberal class means that those who decry the folly of permanent war and NATO expansion, mercenary trade deals, exploitation of workers by globalization, austerity and neoliberalism come increasingly from the far-right.
Elon Musk successfully won his bid to purchase Twitter on April 25th just days after a rally in New York City chanted “Azov” to express support for Ukraine. While these events appear unrelated on the surface, they represent key examples of the road to hell paved by U.S. imperialism’s dominant ideology: liberalism. Liberalism is often viewed as the most progressive political ideology of the prevailing social order in the West. In actuality, liberalism is the driving ideological force of capitalist and imperialist expansionism. Liberal ideology is characterized by the fetishization of racism, individualism, and the political preconditions necessary for the expansion of capitalism. Once a kick-starter for the explosive growth of capital, liberalism has devolved into an ideology that defends the rule of the rich at any and all cost.
Ask your liberal friends about Danny Glover. They will say – superstar actor featured in the Lethal Weapon film series. Civil rights activist. Democracy Now regular. Supporter of Bernie Sanders for President and for single payer national health insurance. But ask older Americans who watch a lot of cable television about Danny Glover, and they will tell you about Danny Glover – paid actor for big pharma and the insurance industry. As it turns out, Glover is the civil rights face of corporate liberalism. I didn’t believe it when I first heard about it this week. But then, reality was just a few Google clicks away. Issue one: single payer national health insurance. Danny Glover supports single payer. He was a major supporter of Bernie Sanders for President. Single payer would effectively eliminate the insurance industry.
With the presidential election coming up, there is a lot of focus on how the election will go and who will win. One thing is certain, no matter which corporate candidate wins, the people and the planet will lose. To understand where we are and how we got here, I speak with Gabriel Rockhill, a philosopher, author and activist. He explains the connections between our governance structure and capitalism and how both liberal democracy and fascism in a sort of good cop/bad cop relationship are used to protect the profits of the few while exploiting the many.