If you want to defeat Trump, the worst thing you can do is vote for the ‘lesser evil’.

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Hillary Clinton embraces wanted mass murderer Henry Kissinger at the Atlantic Council // Jonathan Ernst // Reuters

The 2016 Presidential election looms ever nearer. On the right, Hillary Clinton offers platitudes, false promises, and outright lies, while on the far-right, Donald Trump echoes the sentiments of fascist demagogues before him. Both candidates pledge to kill enormous amounts of people if elected. Both candidates have little to no response to the growing global crises of our age. Both candidates essentially hope to fiddle while Rome burns.

If you’re familiar with any of my previous works, you’re probably thinking I sound like a stuck record. Last April, I wrote a piece about Clinton’s penchant for bloodthirstiness and corruption, a piece met with derision by devoted Democrats (the sort of people who talk about Barack Obama as though he were their personal friend, or some such nonsense).

Though I published this piece way before the rise of Donald Trump, I was (and have been) repeatedly informed by liberals that even mild criticisms of Hillary Clinton boost Trump’s chances of winning the election, and thus the chances of losing our hard-won social victories. It was my civic duty as any kind of progressive to hold my tongue and support Clinton on election day (despite being a British citizen) to stop fascism in its tracks.

We might call this Lesser Evil Syndrome, whereby voters begrudgingly support the candidate with the best chance of winning who isn’t the candidate they hate or fear. Of course, many people who intend to vote for Hillary Clinton are enthusiastic disciples, but others who are critical or even hostile towards her will still reluctantly vote for her in November because the idea of a Trump Presidency is too much to bear. To varying degrees, her lackluster campaign seems to rely on this – it often substitutes meaningful policy substance with foreboding tales of Trump’s plans.

John Halle and Noam Chomsky recently published a defense of Lesser Evil Syndrome, in which they essentially argue that voting should not be a form of self-expression or any attempt at a moral judgement. Instead, it should be a measure designed to inflict the least amount of harm on the fewest people possible, in this case by voting for Hillary Clinton. For the authors,

“The suffering which [Trump’s] extremist policies and attitudes will impose on marginalized and already oppressed populations has a high probability of being significantly greater than that which will result from a Clinton presidency” and “should Trump win [because of the left’s] failure to support Clinton, it will repeatedly face the accusation (based in fact), that it lacks concern for those sure to be most victimized by a Trump administration”.

At face value, Halle and Chomsky’s defense of Lesser Evil Syndrome has the curious effect of telling all of those who will be victimized by Hillary Clinton to go to hell.

If Clinton’s record is anything to go by – from threatening to commit nuclear genocide against Iran, to joining Haiti’s factory owners as they sought to destroy a minimum wage increase – she has, at times, implemented many of Trump’s policies.

The fact that she recognizes the threat global warming poses and Trump doesn’t (something Halle and Chomsky stress repeatedly), does not mean she has done much to mitigate it – her time at the State Department reveals that she repeatedly pushed fracking onto countries that didn’t want it, and meekly supported the Keystone XL pipeline until it became impossible not to oppose it.

Immigration, also oft-cited by those suffering from Lesser Evil Syndrome, yields few fruits either – Trump’s plan to deport millions of people is shocking and brutish, but Clinton has boasted about supporting a Mexican border wall, and admitted to deporting orphaned refugees while at the State Department.

“Truly, how can we call something “lesser” when it creates the framework for the “more””Andrew Smolski

Regardless, Halle and Chomsky’s crucial point is that if Trump wins, the left will be blamed for the things he does, making it harder to get their voice heard within the Democratic Party and get the changes they want in society more generally (if not supporting Clinton makes the establishment stronger, imagine what will happen if you do support her!).

In fact, the exact opposite seem to be true, as borne out by two dark chapters of European history:

In the final days of the Wiemar Republic, the Social Democratic Party of Germany sensed that the country’s mood was decidedly right-wing. In the belief that Paul Von Hindenburg could reign in the worst of fascism (he was considered the ‘lesser evil’), the SDP refused to put forward its own candidate, and backed Hindenburg in order to keep Hitler out of power. So enthusiastic was their belief that Hitler must be stopped at all costs that according to Hal Draper, they “rejected with scorn the revolutionary proposal to run their own independent candidate against both reactionary alternatives”. Hindenburg won the election, failed to rescue the German economy from depression, and appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor in 1933.

Mussolini’s rise to power during the 1920’s offers a similar warning. Italy at this time found itself in the grips of the Squadrismo, bands of fascist thugs who assaulted and murdered people and seized control of public spaces. Liberal politicians in the Italian Parliament sought to stop this fascist violence by any means necessary – even if it meant refraining from criticizing Mussolini, or even openly supporting him. In their cowardice, many praised his no-nonsense approach to corruption and disorder, and saw him as the only one capable of reigning in the Squadrismo. In other words, Mussolini was considered the ‘lesser evil’ even though he was responsible for much of the violence liberals were afraid of.

Naturally, the United States in 2016 faces very different calamities to those of the past. But the point is that allying with establishment or ‘lesser evil’ candidates rarely staves off the threat of fascism and idiocy, and certainly does little to shore up the ideological basis of the establishment philosophy. The SDP and the Italian liberals were not shored up by opting for the lesser evil – they were destroyed by it, and so was the chance for a real leftist opposition.

Even if we ignore the warnings of the past, Halle and Chomsky have not properly considered how Donald Trump has risen so high to begin with. It is not down to the work of Fascist Fairies who delicately sprinkle White Supremacy Dust on people’s pillows at night – it is down to decades of political corruption, economic stagnation, endless hungry wars, racist police violence, and an ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor, all of which establishment candidates are directly responsible for regardless of which party they hail from. No, Trump will not depart from this playbook, but he promises to, and that’s all that matters.

Democrats may humanize the inhumane through cutesy social media distractions, and throw the occasional tasty scrap down to the proles, but to think that they have any meaningful economic or foreign policy differences with the Republican Party is absurd and anti-historical. To think that opting for the right-wing instead of the far-right is anything but a self-defeating and short-sighted attempt at defeating fascism is also absurd and anti-historical. Both parties serve the interests of capital, above all else.

When one examines Hillary Clinton’s record in any meaningful detail, Halle and Chomsky’s argument seems to be that she is the preferable candidate because she will offer platitudes to today’s global crises and may leave the door ajar for the left to squeeze in. Conversely, Trump offers no such platitudes, and so he must be stopped. Reassuring lies are apparently a meaningful and preferable difference to frightening lies.

If the difference between the greater evil and the lesser evil is in the speeches they give and the language they use, rather than what their record shows, then voting truly has become a totally nihilistic and pointless exercise.

Signing the death warrants of Palestinian children at the ballot box is not a worthy price to pay for a candidate who will entrench corruption and illegality but will at least take good selfies while she does it. If for no other reason than that it doesn’t work.

The Nazis are back.

860x860Laura Ingraham gives a Nazi salute at the Republican National Convention // Bloomberg

Comparisons to Adolf Hitler are dime a dozen in the contemporary political climate. Bush is Hitler. Obama is Hitler. Angela Merkel is Hitler. These comparisons often cheapen the argument being made, have no real basis in reality (many of history’s ratbags are frightful, but not architects of genocide), and do nothing to further the discussion at hand.

At least, that used to be my view, but since the current election cycle in the U.S. began, I fear that the comparison may be rapidly becoming accurate. At first, I too laughed at the Donald Trump campaign. Like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, I regarded Trump to be an inept and bumbling outsider who was going to do nothing to transform the political landscape of the Republican Party, let alone the country at large. ‘Sure’, I thought, ‘he says awful things, but nobody’s really going to take him seriously once the campaigns get down to brass tacks, and I doubt he believes half the stuff he says anyway’. How wrong I was. How wrong we all were.

If the experiences of Laurie Penny are anything to go by, this year’s Republican National Convention was an opportunity for fascists and, dare I say it, neo-Nazis, to band together. Such contemptible figures as Daryush Valizadeh and Milo Yiannopoulos can do little on their own, but in greater numbers, their rhetoric translates into calls for violence. Indeed, Yiannopoulos was recently banned from Twitter after he helped to lead a merry band of white supremacists to direct a hate campaign against Leslie Jones for her role in the new Ghostbusters movie. This is the consequence of allowing fascists to speak freely.

Alone, they can do little but pout on the internet. In numbers, they can drive people off Twitter. But with a leader? That’s when the real nightmare begins.

There have been early signs that Trump was becoming such a leader of the American fascist movement. For instance, he has retweeted a quote from Mussolini, as well as a racist and inaccurate crime infographic, and has been endorsed by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. But at the RNC, he openly and clearly declared himself the leader of this movement, in an acceptance speech full of lies and dogged by aggressive rhetoric.

In this speech, we heard Trump offer insight into how he views the world, and it’s not pretty. Immigrants, refugees, liberals, Muslims – for Trump, all of these groups stand in the way of America’s greatness, and all will be swiftly dealt with once he assumes office. Rife with warnings and threats, the speech reads less like an outline of policy and more like a declaration of war against cultural dissenters. It is truly frightening to read, and it is even more frightening to hear the screams and cheers from the audience, whose members are so eager to surrender the rights and freedoms of others on the basis of lies and fear.

In school, our grandchildren will read books about Trump’s rise to power, and his acceptance speech may well serve as a warning, a warning that fascism has a new face, one which offers a firm but fair loving approach in public, while advocating the mass deportation of 11 million people in private. Like the March on Rome, or the publishing of Mein Kampf, it represents the first real step nominee Trump has made to lead America deeper into the bottomless pits of Hell, and to actively recruit new converts for the upcoming struggle.

It would be foolish to underestimate the threat that Trump and his supporters now represent, a threat that while significant, is nothing compared to what it may become. Trump’s real success as a fascist leader will come when he convinces ordinary people to devote their lives to the planned race wars, trade wars, or actual wars that his Presidency will no doubt have in store, much in the same way that Benito Mussolini converted apolitical Italian citizens.

How is this done? In Christopher Duggan’s Fascist Voices: An Intimate History of Mussolini’s Italy, the author uses diaries and letters to show how angry and frustrated ordinary Italians had become with the established order, and how this frustration drove them into the hands of fascists, who promised stability and order (all while promoting nothing but chaos and violence). Though many questioned the motives of Mussolini and his squadristi, the thought of returning to the political status quo, with all the corruption and ineptitude it brought, was too much to bear.

Given that the United States is also highly corrupt and unstable, it’s no wonder Trump has done so well. But fascism needs a modern face – there’s no Treaty of Versailles or Communist Party around to blame any more, and the cultural landscape has shifted dramatically.

But Trump’s speech shows he is more than prepared for this. He included LGBT and African-American victims of the status quo in his posturing, which may just be the equivalent of “How can I be a racist when I’ve got black friends?”, but it probably has more to do with seeking new recruits (this, to some extent, seems to be working – Penny recalls seeing gangs of young gay men wearing ‘Twinks for Trump’ t-shirts at the RNC). Overtures were made to Bernie Sanders’ supporters too, many of whom also happen to be extremely dissatisfied with the established order.

Of course, Trump embodies all of the characteristics he criticizes in Hillary Clinton, if not more so, and his policies will only accelerate the death of the empire, but none of that matters provided you meet just two conditions: a) seek power in a country strangled by corruption and poverty, and b) give good speeches.

Perhaps a quote from Michael Rosen might help explain this further.

“I sometimes fear that people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress worn by grotesques and monsters as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. Fascism arrives as your friend. It will restore your honor, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighborhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you. It doesn’t walk in saying ‘our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution'”.

This is why Trump routinely lies and refuses to apologize without losing support. Fascists are fundamentally orators who rely on a disaffected and angry population in order to thrive and destroy what remains of democracy. What better place than the United States, a country whose legislature has already become terminally ill due to the Republican Party, a country already facing small-scale armed insurgencies at the hands of Oath Keepers and Tea Party members?

Fascism has been coming to America for a very, very long time. Trump just represents the latest and most successful attempt at implementing it.

 

From victim to villain: A look back at Elie Wiesel’s thorny legacy.

Books-Elie-Wiesel_Horo-e1387427780296AP // Bebeto Matthews

Yesterday, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel died at the age of 87. In homage, the BBC credited his dedication to “ensuring that the atrocities committed under the Nazis were never forgotten”, while Ronald Lauder mourned the loss of “the most articulate witness to history’s greatest crime”. Wiesel’s seminal work, Night, chronicled his horrifying experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp as a child, experiences in which his mother, father and sister were all killed.

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