Though unfortunately I think the more likely response to environmental disaster will be totalitarianism and fascism. I suppose the goal of the Labour Party here should be to steer us away from this by not capitulating to creeping fascism.
Nothing creeping about it. It’s a huge, ugly tsunami wave and it’s about to fill the trans-Atlantic corridors of power with those scary sea monsters we had
thought hoped extinct. The comparisons to the 1930s aren’t to be dismissed, particularly in Europe – only this time there isn’t a powerful Left counter-weight. So which do you prefer: oligarchy or fascism?
Anon: I’d take fascism over oligarchal-neoliberalism honestly, even as a lefty.
It’s either because we’ve already seen fascism beaten* before – whereas neoliberalism maintains the illusion that it’s permanent and unbeatable – giving hope for a better future after a period of darkness, or out total surrender. (where in facing the fact the world is always going to be hellish, I pick fascism just to take neoliberalism down with me – knowing that fascism will in turn be permanent.)
Hope for the future is draining at a worrying rate.
*Okay, okay, I do have to add that Spain remained notionally fascist until the 1970s and the West loved them. That’s usually left out of the “WW2 was to destroy fascism” narrative.
Paddy: I hate to be so predictable but, do you know the slogan of the German socialists/communists before their parties were abolished?
Only they weren’t there to witness life post-Hitler, some of the first prisoners of Auschwitz were leftist politicos. From US Holocaust Memorial,
Among the earliest victims of discrimination and persecution in Nazi Germany were political opponents-primarily Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats, and trade union leaders. The Nazis also persecuted authors and artists whose works they considered subversive or who were Jewish. In 1933-1934, the German central government and various local governments as well as local battalions of the Nazi SA (Sturmabteilungen; Assault Detachments) and SS (Schutzstaffel; Protection Squads) established concentration camps throughout Germany to detain political prisoners. The SS, which centralized and took control of the concentration camp system in 1934, had established its first concentration camp, Dachau, in March 1933.
Anon: In some ways they were right, if perversely so. Even though countless individuals died parties and ideologies lived on. The SPD did get power eventually.
When facing the idea the current ideological system is permanent, dying as the result of a weird trolley-problem scenario so that the system may one day fall and be replaced by something better (albeit via something just-as-bad-or-worse) becomes a less scary prospect – at least in an abstract “I’m perfectly safe right now and therefore able to be very casual about the concept” sense.
(Naturally, there’s the problem the countless other deaths from a hypothetical fascist and the question of whether leverman has any right to interfere, though from a utilitarian perspective that doesn’t hide deaths from laissez-faire economic failure off balance sheet either it might be the best available option.)
Though I suppose assuming the present will be permanent is the eternal mistake of those who try to predict the future, as Adolf “Thousand Year Reich” Hitler can attest to.
Paddy: I think you have to ask yourself: at what cost are you willing to see neo-liberalism collapse?
Granted, much of this is academic seeing as the status quo is unsustainable, and neither you or I will have much say in what follows.
But – call me conservative or a splitter or whatever – I would make common cause with social democrats, capitalists, even liberal imperialists, if fascism ever became a real possibility. We, pale faces that we are, may not be harmed by the pogroms and expulsions unleashed by European right-wing populism, but we would be affected by the crushing of worker rights, the stripping of civil liberties and increased surveillance (can you just imagine a Ukipper heading the Home Office?), etc. (Although, I should make clear, pogroms would bother me much more than any of that.)
Fucking hell, I’d happily jump into a foxhole beside Blair, Cameron and Peter Hitchens if the alternative is mob rule, xenophobia and barbarity. Nothing is worth the de-civilization of society, even if there lies a potential paradise somewhere down the line. I’m a socialist because, among other things, I oppose fascism wherever or whenever it rears it ugly head. That, in a few words, is a good enough end for me.
(Originally seen on Counterpunch under a different name.)
As the red ink of incrimination between Trump and the Axis figureheads grows thicker, there are those on the Right who wish to draw our eyes away, and to loftier heights. An immigration speech of his is described as “Churchillian” (Ann Coulter); his resolute determination brings to mind the British leader’s, writes Jerry Falwell Jr.; and Robert Davi, in an open love letter, exclaims that Winston Churchill’s very essence is now part of The Donald (occupying in the interim in – you’ve guessed it: Ronald Reagan).
On the face of it it’s – as so much of it is – absurd. One employed great oratory skill, and helped rally a sizeable number of those nestled between Ireland and Indochina against the Nazi war machine. While, for the other, the simplest of sentences prove to be just impossible.
“I will be… the greatest jobs president that God ever created, I tell you that.”
It’s odd that Churchill’s name crops up with such regularity in American debate; and in what deferential tones its recycled. When a president is imagined to be courageous or proficient at smiting evil, he’s “Churchillian”. While there is seldom a wrong-headed, “dovish” foreign policy that doesn’t trigger a chorus of Munich!, followed by allusions to the intransigent canine. The US has her own home-grown stock of political metaphors, so what’s with the reliance on this particular old dog?
Much, perhaps, comes out of Churchill being an explicit advocate of Pax Americana just when Rule Britannia was becoming less than an echo – a long story best left for another time. Right now, I’m going to take Trump’s fawners at face value, for no other reason than amusements are hard to find in this circus of horrors.
How Does Trump Compare?
In the United Kingdom, our former prime minister is seldom dragged out of the ground for the purposes of prop, and when he is, it is often with the understanding that we’re dealing with someone complex and irritatingly contradictory. Sure, the man had a mastery of the language, and he did more than most to end the British Establishment’s complacency toward Hitlerism. But, we remind ourselves, as high and as large as his Zeppelin-like legacy may fly, there’s an unmistakable, sun-starved underbelly.
Churchill only turned his spluttering jowls toward, and exercised them against, the Third Reich after it had helped cannibalise Spain’s Republic and was well on its way to eradicating German Reds. So too, his views on women and class were abhorrent; those on race reactionary in the extreme – dated even for someone ‘of his time’… So wait, surely Falwell’s onto something? Well yes, but no, not really.
Communication is an obvious deficit – he possesses the vernacular of a 4 grader, literally – but Trump also lacks the wit and insight of the British patriarch. Can you imagine Trump ever responding to the charge, “you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk” with:
‘My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.’
Not only would he be incapable of stringing that many words together, we learn from his GP that Trump, very much unlike the other, doesn’t drink. If you weren’t already convinced of his inability to hold office, this ought to do it.
Trump’s father Fred was a self-made millionaire (well, as singular as these things can be), and a racist. A witness to both, Woody Guthrie used to sing: “Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower / Where no black folks come to roam.” And so it seems that his son inherited the big bucks and bigotry without picking up any of Old Man Trump‘s guile or business sense – things that made Churchill such a successful politician of the Right. Deborah Friedell of the London Review of Books writes,
Bloomberg puts Trump’s current net worth at $2.9 billion, Forbes at $4.1 billion. The National Journal has worked out that if Trump had just put his father’s money in a mutual fund that tracked the S&P 500 and spent his career finger-painting, he’d have $8 billion.
So what about policy?
There are two great themes which, I think, we can take from Churchill the Statesman. The first, even with his garbled “I love war” declaration earlier this year, is difficult to see in Trump: war and empire. Empire– a word which has a sort of Lord Voldemort quality in the States – is loved most of all, and mostly, by Neoconservatives. Their spokesmen have either denounced the Republican nominee, as is the case with Wolfowitz and McCain, or very reluctantly joined him. Reluctant because for every pro-war and -expansion remark Trump has made, there have been three contrary statements. Inconsistency may be fine on most issues, but not on the most important question of all. No, “you’re either with us or against us”. Churchill could be equally stubborn of questions of imperialism.
The second aspect is where Coulter and co. are on safer ground: racism and nationalism. Churchill initially welcomed the National Socialists and their blood-and-soil rhetoric, though was wary of their habit of finding and identifying with Germans beyond their borders. He even came to admire Josef Stalin’s sense of national purpose – it was resulting in plenty of dead communists. Although he could never overcome his fear of the Soviet experiment and those who took inspiration from it.
We see in Trump the same instinct to align with reaction. He has put in a good word about Saddam, Assad and Putin – staunch defenders of the Fatherland all – and, according to an ex-wife, kept a collection of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside. (In his defence, it’s unlikely that he ever read past the 140 character mark.) If you’ll allow me an aside: would it be outlandish to suggest that someone who has championed torture, the police state and the un-peopling of minorities, may, upon incumbency, allow admiration to become emulation?
But even here a comparison would be strained. Churchill sided with reactionary elements out of racial solidarity or reasons of state, not because he personally found the authoritarian inherently appealing or aspiring. He famously said that he thought democracy was the least worst form of government… whereas Trump,
“I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters and to all the people of the United States that I would totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win”
Not Quite Dead Right
Trump is not trying to channel Churchill (from what I can tell he isn’t even aware that the latter existed, or of anything B.T. for that matter). But his imported mentor certainly tries to. Nigel Farage went to the US following the first presidential “debate” to tutor Donald in the ways of greatness a la Truman at Fulton. Again, an Englishman playing the wise old Greek in the new Rome. Churchill’s heirs have repudiated Farage – “he’s like Donald Trump without the charm” – but there is a tradition of xenophobia and racism that can tracked back from UKIP to old man via the Tory right, the National Front and other undesirables.
In his time, Churchill promised the people of Britain they would always possess an empire headed up by responsible Anglo-Saxons. Under such tutelage the sun would never set on Pax Britannia. And he was honest enough among friends and to his readers, if not publicly, to include Ernest Jones’ appendage: neither would the blood ever dry, “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes…[It] would spread a lively terror”.
There was no way he could keep this promise, even with, or possibly because of, American stewardship. To believe it required a distorted view of reality, and a dread that irrelevance was looming. Similarly, Trump’s pledges to bring back manufacturing jobs, a racist police state and good ol’ conservative values (couldn’t quite add “family” to that) rely on suspensions of disbelief. So here, finally, are we onto something concrete – a shared trait between bulldog and ferret?
Both men have made promises they couldn’t – or can’t – possibly keep to adoring crowds which are fearful, not just of their future, but of their present. Or to put it in the vague terms the comparison deserves, both are vertebrates revered by the invertebrate.
One of the most popular silence-fillers you’ll hear parroted around the country is “no-one’s got any respect for the old anymore”.
We’re told of a golden age when young children sat in mute deference as Grandpa rambled on about that one time he gutted an entire family of wogs. When grown up children ignored their own needs, and dropped everything to ensure Nana had a nice little place to plonk her leathery layers. A time when it was unheard of – nay, unthinkable – for anyone to board a plane, train or automobile before those born in the early days of tarmac. And – O – the hard boiled sweets, wasn’t they great?
It’s gone to the dogs now though, innit? Now, all about, the young’uns do nothing but blaspheme and collectively chuck Tradition and its living embodiments on trash heap.
If only this were true.
If it were true, and those wonderful years in senior-citizen husbandry really have just disappeared in the rear-view mirror, then they certainly would have been exceptional. Throughout human history the grey-tops have mostly been seen as deadweights. A great many folk monsters – witches, hags, crones – of the Middle Ages can be explained as anxieties relating to age and decay. “There’s an elderly woman, she’s wizened, likes cats, gives the children a fright (and there’s no Jews around to point the pitchfork at) – but most importantly, she sits there, living off the fruits of my labour. Let’s cook up some tale and get rid.” And when famine and disease hit, a great many feudal villages did just that, cleansing themselves of their feckless old.
(An ungallant commentator might add that when Inuit food stores dwindled, at least their elders took the initiative and faded into the Wastes.)
The early decades of the Industrial Age weren’t much different – that is, of course, if you weren’t a member of the emerging bourgeoisie or crumbling aristocracy. An immediate effect of the Industrial Revolution, as in with all revolutions, was a dip in life expectancy – but reaching new lows here. To bring in a bit of focus here: homo decrepitus was a dying breed in the West.
That was until socialists, Chartists and Fabians began forcing through the foundations of the welfare state. Only then did we see some sort of state compensation for those who had quite literally broken their backs in the service of Progress (or should that be “tentative reform”?). Since this time, as sociologists have pointed out, Britain has only become more attentive to the extremes of age, the very young and rather old.
With every generation this trend has only gained more meat – pensions are now the biggest government expenditure on welfare, and one of the largest overall. This is a dramatic turn-around. Nusance to worthy donee.
On top of the £92 billion a year spent on pensions, governments of a mostly red bent have added the winter fuel allowance, nurses, free care and world-class medical treatment. And before attaining new hips, our current elderly demographic could expect government-subsidised further education, an equitable stock market and real wage growth — but that’s a different story. (What’s more, it’s those hated immigrants who are, in large part, ensuring these tributes from young to old keep going.)
They’ve never had it so good! And, while we’re at it, those ungrateful bastards!
How have they responded to the internationalist labour movement that coddled them so? By becoming insular, ignorant and bitter. In a word, Tory.
Little to no acknowledgment of names like Atlee and Bevan and Crossman, which made this historically-anomalously state of things orthodoxy – as natural to the mind as ABC.
I’m no Maoist, but the Chairman did acknowledge a struggle and solidarity too often overlooked: the generational. And it is about time that we, the so-called “lost generation”, recognise our shared interests and enemies. From Brexit and the General Election, to the existential crises that transcend politics, We are almost entirely opposed to Them.
Our generation – the under 30s – can not look to the past for a guide to the future, because no ancestor, living or dead, can help humanity properly confront the two great challenges of this epoch: Nuclear proliferation and global warming. (Both exacerbated by the sort of people who now wish to claim respect for who they are rather than what they do.)
I can almost hear the creaky tones of the opposition: well why don’t your lot get out and vote if you don’t like it so much?
Because for so long our political system has been kept under the wrinkled grip of the unimaginative and corrupted. And as a result, many have turned away from the whole thing in despair (how else did that opiate-fiend Brand gain such a following?). But if we were to put a ban on all those unlikely to survive through the brunt of their bad decisions – Brexit returns to mind – the youth’s voice would be heard. And then maybe, just maybe, it may guide us out of this mire.
So, just as one can be too young to understand what it takes to tackle the great problems facing society (the English have arbitrarily decided it’s anyone under 18), cannot someone be too beaten down by cynicism and senility to be taken seriously? I would say so, which is to say YES – I SAID YES.
What if we lived in a post-apocalyptic world? Media suggests, that most of us would be fucked. Whether it’s a result of a nuclear holocaust, global and drastic climate change or a zombie outbreak, most post-apocalyptic worlds look the same. Desolate places, not necessarily full of sand, with abandoned cities, ruined buildings and wanders of the old world reduced to rubble. All survivors have been forced to roam the wastes, scavenge, constantly on the run, while many have gone insane. Now, I don’t have much problem with the visions portrayed in films, TV shows and games. However, I do think that fall of mankind would look somewhat different, than what we are lead to expect.
Vision of the future.
Let us go through the process of going from pre to post-apocalyptia. In all versions I know, by which I mean those mainstream i.e. “Mad Max”, “Walking Dead” or “Fallout” etc., it’s always unexpected. It might be sudden with no warning or gradual with some early signs, which are usually ignored. We see news reports of some strange attacks and aggressive behaviour. Your friend or hot neighbour comes to your house, telling you how some creepy guy just bit them. Then, BAM! they throw themselves at you and try to eat your face. You run outside to find hordes of the dead eating the living.
That part actually makes sense. How many of you watch the news or treat them seriously? There could be nuclear missiles, launched from somewhere (<cough> Russia <cough>), on their way to turn UK’s largest city to the site of Fallout: New London. Chances are you would have no idea until it actually happened. The catastrophic event would be followed by widespread panic and total chaos, as everyone would attempt to flee the cities and so on.
What happens next is what truly matters. The government tries to maintain or restore order. This results either, in its total collapse or turn into a fascist/totalitarian regime. The survivors band together, to create nomadic groups, which pretty much are beings dicks to everyone else and sometimes to themselves. The alternative is to become a lone wanderer-badass (that’s the official title) Mad Max style. It also has to be pointed out that a sizeable portion of the surviving population turn out to be psychopathic killers and rapists.
Man’s inhumanity to man.
According to movies and other media, once catastrophe strikes, it is a matter of time before most of us start fighting over the last Twinkie .
Evidence suggests, that in a desperate situation we are able to do terrible things to survive. Steal food from a defenceless, elderly couple. Turn to cannibalism, even eating our own children, when there’s no food. Shoot a fat man in a leg, to use him as bait for the pursuing zombie horde, so we can get away.
Limited resources are the number one cause of conflict in the world. Those people have something we need to survive, let’s kill them and take their stuff, it’s that simple. Survival instinct overrides morality, compassion and human decency.
People are good after all.
Here’s what I think about that. After the period of chaos and panic, people would not turn into a bunch of nut cases and start eating each other (in a non-zombie way). Despite what you think, humans are a lot more cooperative and altruistic than the movies show us. It is a part of our nature. I don’t dispute that there, will be a lot of people, who would exploit the situation and start robbing and just being douchebags. But the truth is, groups, which work with others, share resources and help each other are more successful. After all, that’s how civilization started; smaller groups banded into bigger and go on to create tribes and nations.
At this point you might say: hold on, that’s what happens in Mad Max and Fallout. That’s true, but those tribes are still savage, closer to barbarians of old than modern man. We are no longer those people, we are more rational and reasonable. Even without a central government enforcing order and law, we would not go to our neighbours to steal their food and supplies. We would create our own, new structure, new government. The society might revert to its pre-industrial revolution state, with small settlements inhabited by farming communities, but no rampaging barbarians, no warlords…
Ok, some warlords.
I choose to believe that most humans are inherently good. We are capable of committing terrible atrocities, but we are also compassionate and helpful. There are however some limitations to that. We can be extremely altruistic and ready to sacrifice for those we know, love and hold dear, our family and friends; but completely indifferent to the suffering of those we don’t know or associate with. That’s why most of us don’t give money to a homeless guy sleeping on a bench in a park. However, while we wouldn’t help him, we wouldn’t beat him to death and steal his last fag either.
I guess that makes for a boring post-apocalyptic world, but that’s what I believe.