Welcome! This is Part II of a series of posts on some of the strategies and tactics put forth by bourgeois philosophers and other academics on social media in relation to euro-american “feminists” defending Hillary Clinton against the Trump campaign. Part I covered the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton and went into detail about the ways it both represents the principles of bourgeois philosophy and expresses the social identity of the first world gender aristocracy and others who have a material interest in the continued oppression and exploitation of non-euro-american, non-bourgeois-liberal women.
Here in Part II I will focus on ‘pimping anti-fascism’ ―the disingenuous idea that people in the euro-american nation state voting for an imperialist like Hillary Clinton is, in the current context, a “strategic” move by euro-american liberals and co-opted oppressed-nation nationals “against” fascism. This is a popular line that was expressed up until the election in one form or another by people who advance the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton and others who have a material interest in perpetuating imperialism, including the continuation of its most fascist elements in the euro-american nation state.
Recognizing that Hillary Clinton’s political history of advancing imperialist war globally and national oppression domestically through continued poverty and increased incarceration for the oppressed nations hardly distinguished her as a “moral” alternative to Donald Trump, her neo-liberal and imperialist social democratic supporters bit the bullet of “lesser evilism” and gladly promoted her as such, claiming that a vote for the “lesser evil” was a way to stop fascism. This appears to be a pragmatic claim, a contribution to an anti-fascist struggle. In this post I hope to show otherwise ― that lesser evil voting is not part of the struggle against fascism but part of a power struggle among groups in euro-american society that vie for the power to carry out fascist practices on their own terms and that far from helping to stop the rise of fascism, lesser evil voting helps realize the fascist consolidation of state power. In doing so I will discuss fascism generally and the political and ideological ways in which imperialist social democracy helps bring it about. Politically, the main way that imperialist social democracy assists the fascist consolidation of power is through the disorganization of the anti-fascist forces in society in political struggle, including the promotion of lesser evil voting. The role of bourgeois philosophy is to support and justify the political efforts of imperialist social democracy through philosophy that expresses the ideology of people who benefit from the continuation and advancement of the most fascist elements of imperialist society ―that is, bourgeois philosophy assists the fascist consolidation of state power by promoting disorganization of the anti-fascist forces at the ideological level. As such, I will go into some detail showing that liberal lesser evilism stems ideologically from bourgeois philosophy by way of idealism, individualism, first-world chauvinism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism. At the end I will say a few things about how non-bourgeois philosophy differs from this.
“Fascism” is a term that’s come into some currency among imperialist social democrats and other bourgeois liberals, and can be used to chauvinistically advance euro-american imperialism, functioning much like the word “terrorism” in bourgeois liberal discourse. For example, surveying the first-world chauvinist takes on Trump from bourgeois academics, you’d conclude that it’s NOT “fascism” if it’s fascism abroad, supported and funded by the euro-american nation state, but it is “fascism” if the fascist wing of euro-america threatens the domestic character of imperialist settler social democracy. As a matter of course settler social democracy reserves the most fascist elements of imperialist society, the “justice” system, the police and other repressive agencies, euro-america’s prisons, and border protection to maintaining control of the semi-colonial peoples in the euro-american nation state. The white and first-world chauvinism surrounding the use of “fascism” by bourgeois liberals is something non-euro-americans are very familiar with: Something is “terror” if non-euro-american people defend themselves from european and euro-american imperialism, but it’s NOT “terror” if it’s terror sponsored by imperialist countries to undermine democracy abroad. When pro-imperialist, bourgeois liberals who have always trampled the sovereignty and self-determination of oppressed peoples by voting democrat and justifying it with one form or another of lesser evilism are suddenly “anti-fascists”, those from groups of people historically and presently economically exploited and nationally oppressed by these same people must wonder what is going on. Did the pro-imperialist liberals in the first-world suddenly during an election cycle give up class/national/gender privilege to advance the anti-imperialist struggles of the world’s oppressed people domestically and abroad? It’s more likely the typical ploy of settler social democrats to advance their preferred brand of imperialism, keeping fascism in place per their rules.
In his classic “Fascism and Social Revolution”, (available for download here) R. Palme Dutt defines fascism as a (mostly) petit-bourgeois, (but also) lumpen and labor aristocratic movement led and funded by finance and industrial capital for defeating proletarian organizations. Economically, fascism prescribes nothing to distinguish it from capitalism. Yet, in terms of degree, fascism has represented a more perfect union between the state and capital, where state powers are appointed to capital, thus subverting democracy. Applying this understanding presently to the imperialist neo-colonialism of the euro-american nation state, taking into account the vastness of the euro-american labor aristocracy and euro-american neo-colonialism over internal semi colonies, we can say that euro-american fascism is a (mostly) euro-american petit-bourgeois, euro-american lumpen-proletariat, and euro-american labor-aristocratic movement led and financed by euro-american finance and other big capital intended to defeat proletarian organization (like unions for undocumented immigrants) and the national-democratic political organization of the internal semi-colonies of imperialism (like the Black Lives Matter movement, and organizations for the civil rights of immigrants and refugees).
Fascism is a flavor of capitalism, a way of organizing capitalist society along bourgeois lines. Another way is the imperialist, white-power neo-colonialism in social-democratic form that has characterized the euro-american nation state since the rebellions of the Civil Rights movement, including the most liberal presidencies of euro-america. These two ways of organizing capitalist society complement and reinforce each other at key tangents having to do with settlerism, economic imperialism, and national oppression. And they share some fundamental core elements, including racist terror, political, national and ethnic origin-based mass incarceration, institutionalized national oppression, and militarism. This means that an imperialist, neo-colonial, social-democratic society like the euro-american nation state always has some fundamental fascist elements that may prosper and recede relative to the intra-national struggle of the different classes of euro-america for imperialist leadership. Economically, the union of the state and private capital in the imperialist countries is very nearly complete, thanks in part to people like Hillary Clinton who broker the delegation of state power to corporations. Congruent with this, there are some notable institutions where neo-colonial imperialism and its fascist refinement come together in the euro-american regime: the prisons, border protection, and the “justice” system generally, including the privatization of state functions. These institutions are the locus of national oppression and the subversion of the national democratic organization of the internal semi-colonies in the service of the euro-american people whose social identity endears them to the call of fascism.
Euro-american settlers have a hard time recognizing the most fascist elements of their society because for the most part, these elements just don’t affect them in a negative way. For settlers, it’s the opposite: the most fascist elements of euro-american society affect euro-americans positively, by on the one hand destroying, or isolating, and otherwise minimizing the extent to which non-euro americans are served by euro-american imperialism and on the other by subverting the democratic initiative of oppressed peoples to create independent institutions that serve their interests. The social identity of euro-americans, founded on slavery and genocide, expresses a bias for liberal ideologies that are mutually complementary with fascism and are the cornerstone of the most fascist elements of their nation state -the institutions they refer to endearingly and in liberal terms as institutions of “law and order”. And when we consider euro-america’s history when it comes to supporting “anti-crime” and “anti-terrorism” measures ―including things like the Patriot Act and mass surveillance, we see that they’re more than willing to give up some of the constitutional protections their nation-state offers if it will end up harming oppressed people more than it will harm them.
While, at both the institutional and grass-roots levels, euro-americans have free reign to do whatever they want consistent with the suppression of non-euro-american people and are both served and rewarded by the most fascist elements of the euro-american nation state, that’s not the case for non-euro-americans. Whether euro-americans shoot up a church, a Black National institution, and murder Black people by the dozens in one swoop and then are carted off to counseling, or whether they murder, rape, rob, extort in their capacity as settler police, or whether they illegally torture, illegally surveil, sponsor genocide and fascism abroad in their capacity as heads of state, or whether they deal dishonestly according to the principles of capitalism to line their pockets and deprive non-euro-americans of clean water and basic services as leaders of local and state government, or whether private (but really public because, believe it or not, not everyone can own their own airplane) euro-american airlines racially profile and expel travelers because of the racist concerns of euro-americans, there are no consequences to any of this that indicate, even in slight semblance, that euro-americans have set up a system of justice and institutions that serve the interests of non-euro-american people. On the other hand, euro-american police, the euro-american “justice” system and their prisons, exert the most heinous repression for simply being non-euro-american. Just focusing on everyday policing and the “justice system” we have: Routine traffic stop ―death sentence. Broken tail light ―death sentence. Playing with toy guns in the park ―death sentence. Selling individual cigarettes ―death sentence. Having being detained without cause, en-route to police processing ―death sentence (death ruled a homicide by all capable investigative bodies ―but no one present found “guilty”). Carrying a BB gun in a Walmart that sells BB guns in an open-carry state ―death sentence. Health worker, protecting mentally ill patient, complying with police commands, hands up, on the ground ―target practice. Really, there’s too many cases to list. Moreover ―but I won’t go into it here― the prison statistics and incarceration rates for non-euro-americans speak for themselves. In terms of border protection it’s not that different: Being disabled, en-route to surgery carrying your meds, doctor’s note and in the care of a guardian ―slammed to the ground at airport, bloodied and injured because TSA agents ignored the pleas of caregiver who in trying to explain the situation was “failing to comply”. The inhumanity is commonplace, and spearheaded by the current hero of euro-american liberalism, president Obama. Of course, the point is not generally whether the “law” was or wasn’t broken in any case of neo-colonial and repression, the point is that the systems of law set up by euro-americans, no matter what, represent the most extreme, fascist elements of euro-american society in their classist, patriarchal, ableist, and white-chauvinist reality.
These are some of superstructures defended tooth-and-nail by the supporters of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. These are some superstructures of the euro-american nation state that have set the stage, with the support of social democrats and other liberals for the fascist intensification of euro-american social democracy. This intensification in part means building on the political mechanisms for the realization of fascism currently experienced by the non-euro-american victims of settler’s “justice”, prison, and border protection systems. It will include building on and expanding current surveillance, militarization of police forces, increased low-intensity warfare (carried out currently by police and border protection) in non-euro-american communities and along the borders, and increasing the connection between the fascist elements of settler society and private capital. This is all bad ―but we should be clear: There is a tension in euro-american society the resolution of which on the side of fascism is unstoppable by the means available to bourgeois democracy. Fascism is a reality for the euro-american nation state irrespective of the outcome of any election. The reasons the descent into fascism is unstoppable are: 1, In capitalist society, the difference between fascism and social democracy is just a power imbalance and one of the things that the Trump campaign has demonstrated is that the social democratic wing of imperialism can at any time lose the office of the president and many other state functions -principally police and military with just a slight increase in fascist activism. And 2, the increased anti-colonial activity of national liberation struggles on the part of the First Nations, the Black Nation and others in the euro-american nation state who have grievances against imperialism inevitably incenses the fascist wing. Without swift, decisive action to destroy fascism on the part of the social democratic wing of imperialism, fascism rises. Such action, we have seen, has not been forthcoming because fascism is useful to the imperialists and the social democrats since the most fascist elements of contemporary euro-american society exist to carry out the oppression of the internal semi-colonies to keep the land and power in the hands of the euro-american nation.
Naturally, a big part of euro-american politics has to do with just maintaining a balance between the fascist and the social democratic wings of euro-american imperialism ―for example, liberal imperialists routinely employ the most fascist institutions of “law and order” to make concessions to “right-wing-nutjobs” like the many armed terrorist militias that operate legally under the reign of euro-america and which frequently, and sometimes violently “stand-off” with the federal police of imperialism, and institutions like the KKK, the NRA, Christian and other terrorists, and police and border defense unions. Euro-american society and politics also legitimize the operation of euro-american finance and industrial capital serving these fascist interests through special interest groups, prison lobbies, the zionist occupation and apartheid lobby ―which is also interested in securing domestic border checkpoint contracts, and career politicians dedicated to the favorable advancement of the fascist elements of euro-american imperialism in all aspects of imperialist society.
This is an incomplete characterization of the nightmarish character of euro-american fascism today, before Trump’s electoral victory, of the status quo carefully curated by Obama and the continued aspiration of Hillary Clinton and her supporters. This characterization lacks much of the grievous detail that informs the lives of the oppressed daily. But it’s enough to indicate here how important the present reality of fascism is for understanding the opportunism of euro-american liberal lesser evilism and the chauvinist “arguments” put forth by bourgeois philosophers and academics in support of militating for euro-america’s system of bourgeois democracy and its most fascist elements engineered and tended by people like Hillary Clinton and now wielded by Donald Trump.
The Euro-american Regime Chooses a Figurehead
We saw above that fascism is a bourgeois response to the organization of the oppressed. In the current context, the increase in fascist vociferousness and mainstream leadership in euro-american politics is a reaction to the action of Black Nationals domestically against settler police and vigilante violence, the economic vulnerability of the western bloc and armed anti-imperialist resistance mounted abroad. Consequently, the varieties of euro-american settler capitalism for whom imperialist elections matter have in part used the 2016 presidential election to hash out the way the suppression of the proletarian and national-democratic organization of the internal semi-colonies is realized, and, of course, how it affects the privilege, lifestyles and self-concept of euro-american settlers.
Part of what was at stake in this euro-american election cycle between neo-liberals of the Hillary Clinton type (which de-facto covers the “left” democratic base who was so enthused with the imperialism style of Bernie Sanders) and the wing of euro-america represented by those mobilized by Donald Trump is the social-democratic form of euro-american, imperialist neo-colonialism, which has been relatively stable since the 1970’s. It is this latter form of the system of neo-colonialism which the imperialist euro-american neo-liberal social democrats and traditional neo-liberals believe is threatened by Donald Trump, who is effectively mobilizing the wing of euro-america committed to the continued implementation of the programs of euro-american imperialism in a way that in their view more honestly executes the ever-present, core elements of euro-american settler imperialism that social democrats have always made concessions to for political and economic gain. The core elements are those things that unite euro-american liberalism and fascism, things like capitalist economics, racial terror, political, national and ethnic origin-based mass incarceration, institutionalized national oppression, and militarism. And it is the fight for the character of the implementation of these in the day to day operations of imperialist neo-colonialism that the grandstanding of american electoral politics is about.
It’s also what bourgeois philosophers (like Sally Haslanger) and other liberal people with a favorable stake in euro-american imperialism mean when they say the euro-american nation state is “being torn apart” in the fight between the neo-liberal imperialists and the forces mobilized by Donald Trump. It’s important to not be deceived here: the question is always about the extent and form of domestic fascism insofar as it is agreeable to the mass base of euro-american social democracy, and its ideological leaders like Haslanger (see the section on “First World Chauvinism” here) who militate and cheerlead for the status quo while fascists mobilize and ready their move. From the point of view of the domestic victims of the most fascist elements of euro-american society and liberalism generally (including the people Yasmin Nair calls the victims of “carceral feminism” (in Liza Featherstone. False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton (p. 109). Verso Books. Kindle Edition.)), pleas like Haslanger’s seem completely irrelevant and conspicuously out of place. But this is not surprising, since the white “feminist” posture of privilege and the general culture of indifference to violence against women who are victims of imperialism chauvinistically limits the bourgeois liberal discourse about global violence in a way that favors first-world women and re-enforces the structures that bring about that violence in the same way that rape culture protects gendered males and perpetuates the horrors of gender violence.
But if we set aside first-world chauvinism and the culture of indifference to violence against women and others who are victims of imperialism, we see that in relation to fascism, the euro-american nation state isn’t being “torn apart” and that the landscape of euro-american presidential election politics merely represents the major blocs of euro-america competing for the character of euro-american imperialism, including the continued operation of the most fascist elements domestically. For example, exploiting the poverty of settler education for adequately representing socialist struggles, imperialist social democrats of the Bernie Sanders type -prior to their political union with the traditional neo-liberal imperialists of the Clinton type – characterized the push for expanded imperialist social democracy as a “socialist revolution” while championing the principles of neo-colonialism ―nominally satisfying the democratic demands of oppressed people otherwise achievable only with national self-determination, regulating the native development of capitalism in favor of foreign imperialism, promoting a wing of the neo-colonial bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie to manage the political and economic expectations of the colonial population, and by promoting national instability and fragmentation between the neo-colonial classes and their native political leadership ―complete with a platform of robust concessions for the imperialist country labor aristocracies. The traditional neo-liberal imperialists of the Clinton variety, on the other hand, stood their ground, knowing that politically, the parasitic core of imperialist social democracy would not stray too far from the economic fundamentals of imperialism which are the material basis of capitalist social democracy, despite the Bernie Sanders camp throwing the word “socialism” around for political gain among the youth of euro-america and the neo-colonial populations. Finally, presently, Trump and other mobilizers of domestic fascism (I say presently, because the Clintons –pushed through by Bill and strongly supported by Hillary, have led this charge in the not too distant past, advancing domestic fascism over non-euro-americans and the descendants of former slaves by expanding and fortifying the most fascist elements of euro-american society through bills, policy and the advancement of monies to euro-america’s repressive agencies, which all were instrumental for the Democrats to seize and hold the office of the president) successfully exploited the core vision of euro-american settlerism basic to the founding of the euro-american nation state to rally euro-americans to continue to implement the programs of euro-american imperialism in ways that they see the Democrats dragging their feet on.
In the end, the types of things that would make a difference domestically in relation to stopping fascism just weren’t on the November 2016 ballot. These are things like 1) abolishing the euro-american police, prison and “justice” systems. This means, on the one hand, decriminalizing poverty and national origin, and on the other replacing the current systems with popular (i.e., not neo-colonial) institutions for direct justice, including treating social accountability as part of a process of overall social transformation, and implementing popular tribunals to re-evaluate convictions passed through the euro-american system; 2) disenfranchising private capital from any present and future stake in the institutions of justice 3) eliminating border protection and detention centers and opening the euro-american nation state’s borders to immigration and the international labor market.
Fascism and Euro-american Liberalism
Although abolishing the most fascist institutions of euro-american society and disempowering the groups that support them has never been up for grabs in euro-american presidential politics, bourgeois academics and others with a stake in the preservation of those institutions maintained that a vote for Hillary Clinton, a vote for the “lesser evil”, was a way to “stop fascism”.
I noted above that one of the reasons that fascism is unstoppable given the methods of liberalism and bourgeois democracy is that it helps the social democratic form of white power represented by the “left” parties in the imperialist countries. Well, it’s a two-way street: The most fascist elements of imperialist society help keep neo-colonial, social democratic white power at the helm, but neo-colonial, social democratic white power also helps fascism grow into a force that can seize state power.
How does social democratic white power do this? Lucky for us, R. Palme Dutt’s careful analysis of the rise of fascism in Europe keys us in on the methods that social democratic white power helps fascism grow (from Chapter 8, “Social Democracy and Fascism” of Fascism and Social Revolution). Reasoning about these methods in relation to contemporary society, we see that social democratic white power helps fascism grow into a force that can seize state power by disorganizing the proletariat and the oppressed in the following ways:
National chauvinism: The unity of the democratic party with other social democrats around the white-nationalist project of “America” that is the rallying point for the crudest form of chauvinism and narrow-nationalism along campaigns like “the war on terror”, defense of “our freedoms”, the “war on drugs”, “the war on crime” etc. It means that the “left” parties of the imperialist countries work to sever the only tie that first-world people have to genuine working class struggles, and the source of working-class leadership.
Labor-aristocratic cooperation with imperialism: Capitalizing on the fact that the success of imperialism is the basis for the prosperity of the imperialist nation labor aristocracies, the democrats and the social democrats rally for the re-distribution of imperialist wealth instead of for the abolition of imperialism. This sets the parasitic “working” classes of the imperialist nations against the international proletariat and splits the revolutionary movement in the imperialist countries into those who are national chauvinists and those who are internationalists.
Breaking the general strike: In the imperialist countries with a small uncorrupted proletariat, the general strike is often led by the forces of social democracy representing the labor aristocracy and on the side of imperialism. There are two serious issues here: First, non-social-chauvinists (internationalists) can defend the general strike and use it to advance the goals of the proletariat. Think of it in terms of the anti-war walk-outs after 9/11: the social chauvinists showed up in force there, but the proletarian, feminist, internationalist forces did as well and used it to rally support for independent institutions of the oppressed as well as for anti-imperialist struggles abroad. Second: imperialist repression of these functions should be vigorously opposed because it’s one of the only ways that non-bourgeois, non-liberal people have for carrying out above-ground revolutionary, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist organizing.
Denouncing class struggle: In the imperialist countries, this comes in the form of making believe the first-world labor aristocracies are the ones who can lead the charge against fascism. It also manifests itself in preaching false unity with the labor aristocracy and its leaders. Part of this is shedding tears about how alienated euro-american workers have been made to feel by the democrats and the social democrats and promoting the idea that people who are victims of euro-american imperialism domestically and abroad should liquidate the national question and “unite” with people who militate to defend and expand their stake in imperialism.
Preaching legalism: This includes the weakest type of “opposition” to fascism from the beneficiaries of imperialism claiming that the way forward is to “petition elected officials” and to “let the system work”, to “wait it out” until the next election, etc. These of course, aren’t the methods to resist fascism, but the tried and true methods to nurture it and enable it to grow its strength. Preaching legalism doesn’t just also cover upholding the racist, classist, and patriarchal laws of imperialist society as the “way forward” for those who want to stop fascism’s consolidation of power, but includes contempt for any resistance to fascism outside of the status quo of imperialist society -including activities which may be legal per imperialist law, but which challenge the social identity and methods of the social democrats and beneficiaries of imperialism generally.
Eliminating militant resistance: This includes basically all the methods used by imperialist repressive agencies to infiltrate, monitor, discredit, undermine and otherwise impede the organization of people who have a stake against both the most fascist elements of imperialist society at any given time and against the rise of fascism. This covers but is not limited to: sabotage, infiltration, illegal violence (both on part of vigilantes and the police), psychological warfare (of the type used against the Black Panther Party and MLK), and legal harassment of people opposing fascism to discredit, ruin and or break their spirit.
Splitting revolutionary and anti-imperialist mass organizations: This means using some of the same methods of eliminating militant resistance against revolutionary and mass organizations generally, but also includes exploiting all the ways of being of bourgeois society and liberalism to undermine leadership and dilute discipline. A good example of this that also connects to preaching legalism and eliminating militant resistance is the way democrats attempted to declaw BLM through neo-colonial opportunists like Deray Mckesson by positioning Black resistance against white-power as no better than another tired reform platform.
All Bernie Sanders supporters and the democrats are complicit in this. But so are many of the social chauvinist “revolutionary communist” parties in the first world. Now, this isn’t a study of the United and Popular Fronts against fascism, but I will mention another method that social democrats use to help fascism consolidate power. Dutt highlights this method as important in the “final stage” as fascism “advances closer to direct power”, and that is this:
Opposing and banning the United Front: This involves all the methods above pointed at breaking principled anti-fascist unity among proletarian organizations (in the case of the United Front) and diverse social organizations (in the case of the proletarian led Popular, or People’s Front). While the methods above are leveraged at mass organizations and revolutionary parties in isolation as they carry out their activities, the opposition to and banning the United and Popular fronts targets the primary means for society to stop fascism: the principled unity of proletarian and mass and social organizations representing different sectors of society under the leadership of those elements of society who have no basis for an alliance with fascism and imperialism and which all wings of imperialisms, social democrats and fascists alike fear the most. In general, this is the proletariat. But in imperialist countries with labor aristocracy forming the mass base for social democracy and with a small uncorrupted proletariat, those without a stake in imperialism and fascism are the proletariat (if any), undocumented immigrants, people in detention centers, slaves, the lumpen proletariat and those hustling on the streets for less than the imperialist minimum wage and those among the imperialist country youth who have the most to lose from imperialist war and environmental destruction. So, the United Front in this case, in the euro-american nation state, means solidarity among organizations organizing around the labor of these groups, while the Popular Front means unity among mass organizations under the leadership of these groups. But this is fluid ―writing about this very issue, seasoned fighter of fascism, Georgi Dimitrov addressed the Communist International:
It cannot be seriously supposed that it is possible to establish a genuine anti-fascist People’s Front without securing the unity of action of the working class itself, the guiding force of this anti-fascist People’s Front. At the same time, the further development of the united proletarian front depends, to a considerable degree, upon its transformation into a People’s Front against fascism. (United Proletarian Front or Anti-Fascist Popular Front?)
The role of leadership stands out: Leadership from the ranks of the oppressed can achieve unity among the different sectors of society in a way that is neither opportunist nor sectarian (this is what it means for unity to be “principled”). Leadership having nothing to gain from fascism’s rise and consolidation of power means that its more challenging -though not impossible- to slide into the type of opportunism that betrays the oppressed to gain concessions from the fascists and their pro-imperialist, labor aristocratic mass base. Such leadership can also effectively combat sectarianism by broadening the base of unity which is only limited by a small number of dividing line questions having to do with internationalism, collaboration with imperialism and the labor aristocracy, anti-communism, reformism, and militant resistance. In this way, the Popular Front under the leadership of those with nothing to gain from fascism, can unflinchingly call for strategically setting aside non-dividing-line differences among the different mass and social organizations while giving no quarter to those who collude with fascism and which have something to gain from allowing fascism to grow.
Yet, the bourgeois liberal and social democratic position regarding fascism is nothing like this.
Both the neo-liberal imperialists and their social democratic counterparts have failed to annihilate the fascist base of the euro-american nation and in practice, and they’ve protected it both legally and extra-legally, have dressed them up in military, police, legal, and prison official uniform and have kept them on retainer for selective use against domestic non-euro-american nationalist struggles in the post WWI period in ways that can be traced to the times that euro-america came into its own as an imperialist power. (This is not the place to go into the history of the value of liberal protection of right wing militias for advancing the political and economic goals of social democratic euro-american settlers -but it’s a role not unlike that of settler’s neo-colonial police forces and the slave-patrols that engendered them.)
The failure of anti-fascist leadership on the part of the euro-american liberals and social democrats, coupled with their support for the most fascist elements of settler society indicates that the bourgeois liberal struggle against the sector of euro-america represented by Trump is the struggle for maintaining the most fascist elements of bourgeois society operating smoothly abroad and in the internal semi-colonies. It’s not a struggle against fascism in the euro-american nation state as the people who don’t benefit from imperialism have known it since the global rise of finance capital -which is something the bourgeois liberals and social democrats support. Instead it is a protest against a different way of carrying out white supremacy that puts a different sector of settlerism at the helm of the state apparatus of euro-america. This is no more clear than in the reactions of bourgeois philosophers to euro-america’s election of Donald Trump to the office of the president.
Recently, bourgeois philosopher Joshua Knobe published a piece where he expresses concern that the “shared understanding of the normal” of euro-americans and others who benefit from the most fascist elements of euro-american society under euro-american imperialism neo-liberal, social democratic leadership “will…be lost”. From the point of view of people who don’t benefit from imperialism, the piece is problematic on many levels, not the least of which is its first-world chauvinism: The piece just assumes a neo-colonial narrative and counts as “normal” those things discussed thus far here as the most fascist elements of euro-american society under the social democratic leadership of the neo-liberal imperialists. The administration of these elements of the “normal” is now passing to a different sector of the white-power base of the euro-american nation state, and like Haslanger who spoke of the euro-american nation state as “being torn apart”, Knobe describes this shift in white-power as the “crisis we face today” ―the crisis of bourgeois liberal people losing the leadership role in administering fascist repression on non-euro american people and others who don’t benefit from settler society. Knobe’s approach to the concept of “normality” is also idealist in the sense that it doesn’t treat it in relation to a given aim in a context. This isn’t a problem in relation to the research design of the studies he draws on to shape his views -instead it is a prejudice of his presentation that fails to make explicit the socio-political context of the research in a way that favors the status quo, and normalizes the most fascist elements of euro-american settler society under the administration of the neo-liberal social democrats. The ability to uncritically carry on in this way is a privilege of those served by the dominant structures of what is a fundamentally unjust society even in times of “crisis”. Anyone who isn’t served by the imperialist status quo naturally resists its “normality” which is just the national oppression and economic exploitation that is the foundation of euro-american settler society. And this is why it makes little sense from the point of view of the victims of imperialist social democracy when the bourgeois liberals go on and on about Trump “normalizing extremism” -It’s because the extremism of imperialist social democracy is nothing new, it’s already “normalized’ and defended by the likes of Knobe and others like him. Naturally, the upshot of Knobe’s piece is nothing new either: feign objectivity and double-down on the social-democratic form of white power. Like all other imperialist social democrats have been saying since November 8, 2016, he prescribes that people in favor of neo-liberal control of the imperialist state apparatus should insist that the latest form of white-power isn’t normal. There’s nothing wrong with this, if it were framed honestly instead of idealistically, in a first-world chauvinist fashion. But since it’s not, it just serves to deceive the people whom Knobe and other imperialist social democrats don’t care for into thinking that taking sides in a power struggle about the best way administer the most fascist elements of the euro-american nation state and maintain white-power is an important task to avert “crisis”. The struggle of people who are victims of what Knobe and other imperialist social democrats cherish as “normal” isn’t about taking sides in these imperialist conflicts. Because the goal of this struggle is to expose the normality of settler colonial society as terroristic, genocidal and oppressive and build and alternative to it, it isn’t indiscriminate regarding the causes of these imperialist power plays and is sensitive to what nations and classes profit from it and how. The critique of bourgeois philosophy is part of this struggle and serves to expose the ideological foundations of settler colonialism and the way that bourgeois philosophers support the “normality” of imperialism, with the goal of presenting an alternative way of conceiving the landscape of power in a way that serves the interests of those who don’t benefit from imperialism no matter which imperialist faction come out on top.
Liberal Lesser Evilism and the Character of Bourgeois Philosophy
But bourgeois philosophers and imperialist social democrats were taking sides in this white-supremacist power struggle even before all the votes were counted by supporting the neo-liberal wing of euro-american imperialism represented by Hillary Clinton through the strategy of lesser evilism. When it comes to bourgeois electoral politics in a neo-colonial bourgeois democracy, lesser evilism is a voting strategy serving the interests of people who benefit materially from imperialism and neo-colonialism. It’s when people who benefit materially from imperialism and neo-colonialism militate for participation in bourgeois democracy by those who are the victims of those systems on the deceitful pretense that either there is a “less evil” option on the ballot (in the euro-american nation state, this includes republocrats, independent candidates, and third-parties) or that rejecting bourgeois democracy is a “greater evil” than throwing in with any of the options made available by imperialism, or both. From the point of view of non-bourgeois people and victims of imperialism this strategy serves imperialism in a variety of ways.
First, it’s a red-herring that distracts from the task of building independent power by centering an intra-imperialist power struggle and positioning, on imperialist terms, one or another side of that power struggle as advantageous to the revolutionary goals of the oppressed. The problem is that while it is true that participation in bourgeois processes can be strategically advantageous to the oppressed when the oppressed have built a power base defensible by force of arms in order to secure temporary concessions from imperialism on their terms as they re-group, form alliances, and otherwise prepare for seizing state power, in cases where no such locus of power exists and the non-bourgeois elements in society are fragmented and disorganized and weak, taking sides in an intra-imperialist struggle is to surrender unconditionally to imperialism. The type of surrender in question here is the practical kind that commits the victims of liberalism and imperialism to losing repeatedly to no end. This is a reality because in a system of bourgeois democracy the voting power of the oppressed is less than the financial and military power of the imperialists in control of the economic and state machinery. Yet, for many people in the first world who benefit from euro-american imperialism, including social democrats and democratic socialists of the Jill Stein type, electoral politics is appealing because they lack any kind of class-analysis and chauvinistically sidestep the intersection of class and nation, and thus mistakenly believe that the “majority” in places like the euro-american nation state are somehow a revolutionary class of people who are poised to “make change” for the victims of imperialism if they only just had more imperialist privileges promised by this or that candidate. This buffoonish, greedy myopia sets them materially and ideologically against the victims of imperialism and limits their political activity to pragmatic imperialist electability in the fraudulent system of bourgeois democracy. The result is that the entire history of the euro-american nation state is the history of electoral losses for the non-bourgeois, non-liberal people in who are victims of settler neo-colonialism and liberal democracy and who have unfortunately, for one or another reason, sided with the “lesser evil”.
Far from being on the brink of “making change” for the victims of imperialism and liberalism, the people in the euro-american nation state ―apart from prisoners, slaves, some lumpen-proletariat, undocumented immigrants, and people in imperialist detention centers― benefit in overwhelming ways from imperialism. Their material motivation for “change”, revealed by their practiced attempts at “fixing” the euro-american nation state is the redistribution of the wealth acquired through imperialist war, and the economic exploitation and national oppression of the people of the world to achieve and secure first-world way of being enjoyed maximally by most euro-americans. For those who are opposed to this, recognizing the intersection between nation and class means recognizing that a nation of people may be nationally oppressed by another nation, but that the working class of that nation may still not be economically exploited and have “nothing to lose but their chains”. Politically, for people who are victims of imperialism and liberalism and their allies this reality requires militating for national liberation and against imperialism simultaneously under the leadership of the revolutionary classes of the oppressed nations and building independent institutions and independent power to contend with imperialism. All of this falls by the wayside when effort is centered on bourgeois liberal “pragmatic concerns” involving imperialist electability that serve those with a material interests in the redistribution of imperialist wealth and not on the abolition of the economic relations of imperialism that create national oppression and global poverty. The consequence is that promoting bourgeois democratic voting as a strategy for the oppressed in imperialist nation-states is to erroneously promote the uselessness of independent, non-bourgeois, non-liberal, non-electoral struggle.
Elections without power are nothing. This is also true internationally: outside of imperialist nation states, whenever democratic socialists have been elected and have taken actions to oppose european and euro-american imperialism, imperialist nations of the western bloc (NATO) have used their military, and terrorism including training, arming, and funding right wing militias, fascists, and jihadists to undermine the will of the people expressed through the vote. The only thing in these cases that has stopped the undermining the popular interests of the oppressed is the organization of the broad masses in support of a national struggle against foreign imperialism under the leadership of the revolutionary classes including the creation of independent institutions (like schools, hospitals, and an army) and independent power that can repel imperialist aggression. And it is only when such power cannot be trampled by foreign imperialists that strategic participation in bourgeois democratic institutions for temporary concessions on the oppressed people’s terms can be useful while they prepare for seizing power and building socialism.
Second, the entire setup of lesser evilism voting in bourgeois democracy is just incorrect when considered outside the framework of bourgeois philosophy -that is, when considered non-idealistically, and in a non-first-world-chauvinist fashion that centers groups of people instead of individuals and that is critical of liberalism and its institutions.
Consider that barring metaphysical identity there’s some way in which one distinct thing can be considered lesser or greater than another trivially (just assign the names “greater”, “better” to one distinguishing feature and “lesser”, “worse” to another distinct feature). This is cute, but we’re talking about political actions that may or may not make a real difference to advancing the social and national democratic demands of people who are the current victims of imperialism and bourgeois liberalism. If we have an analysis of imperialist elections that considers power, class, nation, and gender, then “distinguishing features” between imperialist candidates aren’t enough to push the conclusion that one or the other is a “lesser evil” or that boycotting an imperialist election is a “greater evil” than throwing in with any of the imperialist candidates. This is because the forced relocation of 2.5 million people by the euro-american regime with the neo-liberals at the helm and with Barak Obama as president isn’t a lesser evil in any way from the point of view of the struggle for the welfare of the people whose lives are destroyed by euro-america. Similarly, there is no way that Hillary Clinton’s financial support of the Honduran government’s assassinations of defenders of human and environmental rights can be conceived as a lesser evil from the point of view of the struggle of the people of Latin America to resist violence by police and military forces funded by the euro-american nation state to protect multinational corporations from popular democratic decrees unfavorable to them. If idealism about imperialist politics and white-supremacy doesn’t express your way of life, and if you’re interested in turning things around in a favorable way for the current victims of imperialism and liberalism then electoral considerations become considerations of program, platform and having the power to carry through with those in a way that is guided by a political line that centers the intersection of nation, gender and class and the rectification of the global imbalance of wealth due to imperialist parasitism. It’s only by conceiving of imperialism and white-supremacy as “normal” in an idealistic and prejudiced way that limits the concept of “evil” to the concerns of bourgeois philosophers and others who benefit from these things do, that the normalization of white supremacy and fascist terror through the liberal institutions of imperialist states can be considered “lesser” when compared to the social upset of bourgeois liberal people having to be confronted in new social contexts with some of the more beastly aspects of the fascist repression they’ve gleefully reserved for the oppressed in the ordinary workings of imperialist society.
The idealism that prejudices what counts as “evil” complements the first-world chauvinism of those who think that the neo-liberals and social democratic imperialists are a “lesser evil” when compared to the wing of imperialism mobilized by Trump. Adopting a practice of defending the status quo of imperialism is just what it means to reinforce and prolong the people of the first world’s economic exploitation and oppression of the rest of the world, and that is plain first-world chauvinism. If we have an analysis of imperialist elections that isn’t designed to justify, reinforce, and prolong the people of the first world’s economic exploitation and oppression of the rest of the world, there’s no way to maintain that one or the other imperialist candidate is a “lesser evil” or that boycotting an imperialist election is a “greater evil” than throwing in with any of the imperialist candidates. This is because we cease to see the status quo of settler neo-colonialism, including the most fascist elements of the euro-american nations state as a benign alternative to a shift in the administration of white-power. Instead we recognize that hate crimes and violence against non-euro-americans are normal in euro-american society and that they are institutionalized in the ordinary operation of the police and “justice” systems. We recognize that euro-american settlers already have in place more than one racist registry system targeting principally non-euro-americans and with even broader scope than a “Muslim registry”. This includes lists like the “justice” departments “Violent Gang and Terrorist Organization File”, the DHS’s “No-Fly” list, the FBI’s “Terrorist Screening Database”. Euro-america also has registries, like SENTRI, that monitor the movement of foreign nationals and citizens of the euro-american nation state. Border communities exchange military surveillance and intrusion into their daily lives for the false promise of “hassle-free” border crossing ―border crossing that defines the daily realities of millions whose lives and families are destroyed by euro-america’s existing militarized border wall. None of this is new, however, since, throughout their genocidal history, euro-american settlers have maintained slave and other ethnic registries designed to terrorize, control and murder of African and First Nation people: The placement of African slaves into slave and forced labor camps (what settlers lovingly call “plantations” where they now schedule weddings and host catered events -and more recently, “prisons”) and the confinement of First Nations to concentration camps (what settlers affectionally call “reservations”) is neither a “lesser” evil nor a thing of the past. Euro-american’s practiced facility with these methods set precedent for the registration and placement of Japanese people and people of Japanese origin into concentration camps during euro-america’s racist frenzy during WWII. And after 9/11, euro-americans implemented the racist National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) to secretly and illegally monitor, harass, detain and terrorize people from the Middle East and other regions where euro-americans wage war to maintain economic hegemony. The legality of this program was challenged by civil rights activists in the euro-american nation state, so euro-americans did what they always do -change nothing, rename the program (it’s now called United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indication System (USVISIT)) but make a big public fuss about having “ended” it.
This is just a small sample of the horrors swept under the rug by the first-world chauvinist proponents of “lesser evil” voting strategies. In the end, it’s only because of first-world chauvinism that the violence toward and oppression of non-euro-americans at the hands of euro-american settlers can be positioned as a “lesser” evil by people who have a stake in maintaining it. When you take it for granted and are comfortable with the fact that the continuation of genocide, slavery, and cold, brutal, administrative terror are the basis of your way of life, these things don’t seem that bad, and positioning policy shifts, and vigilante violence consistent with the way euro-americans have always related to the rest of the world as a “greater” evil than the status quo gets political traction for the neo-liberal and social democratic wings of euro-american imperialism in their struggle for a leading role in the administration of white power.
Recall that individualism is a liberal philosophical view about the primacy and power of individuals in shaping society and history. It promotes the liberal idea that things like oppression and exploitation are individual evils rather than things that arise from the relationships between groups. The conceit is that liberal institutions and economics have “pinned down” what justice is and that it’s just individual people who do bad things. In such a way, people the world over waste their time and effort chipping away at individual biases and praising individual heroics without once striking a blow to the institutional, structural core of global injustice. Liberal lesser-evilism as a voting strategy is in the tradition of liberal individualism.
Participating in elections might not at first seem inert in relation to institutional change to people who have been indoctrinated into thinking that the euro-american nation state is a democracy. The story from the point of view of bourgeois socialization is that democracy is a way for “the people” to express their will. ―The term “the people” is in quotes because in the critique of bourgeois philosophy “the people” is a term reserved for a given social class defined by its role in the production process often including the allies of this class. In the worst cases, when bourgeois philosophers and imperialist legal scholars use this term they’ll employ it idealistically to speak about institutions and groups that don’t exist but disingenuously carry on as if they’re the institutions and groups in the world we all know. In the best cases bourgeois philosophers and imperialist legal scholars just mean “citizens” or others privileged enough to have the vote in a society where elections take place and then get to describing the nuts and bolts of exercising this privilege. The upshot of the idealist use of “the people” by bourgeois philosophers is that it obscures the class, national, and gendered character of the voting privilege in the real societies we are philosophizing about and sets up a false framework for reasoning about them based on the phantasm of egalitarian populism. ―Now the way “the people” are supposed to express their will in this bourgeois sense is by means of everyone with the voting privilege casting a vote that has an impact on leadership and policy enacted in accordance to the existing institutions of government and law.
Already the impotence of the voting privilege is built into this story. Consider that when the limit of your understanding of euro-american politics is the voting power of individuals positioned as something of decisive importance for institutional power, what gets left out is that institutions of government and law serve group interests while they subsume individual action. This is what some people mean when they despondently proclaim that by voting they’ve continued the cycle of their own oppression ―it signals that the structures and social forces that result in the possibility of voting in a system of bourgeois democracy are greater than the power of an individual with the right to vote. To make this point more precise, we can say that institutions of government and law have a purpose and in the case of bourgeois democracy, it is to restrict by institutional force, the voting power of individuals to a range of options that fails to include alternatives that don’t serve the groups with institutional power. This is why in class societies, popular organizing and agitation outside of electoral politics is the driving force for the concessions that groups in power have made toward the social and democratic demands of oppressed groups. In euro-american settler society electoral politics have always lagged behind the activism of those people with grievances against the euro-american nation state and that the history of LGBT, Black, and Xicanx rebellion and internationalism without the ballot box has played a central role in pressuring the euro-american government to grudgingly make concessions within the neo-colonial framework out of fear of armed insurrection. This indicates that far from being something of decisive importance for institutional power, the results of individuals exercising their voting privilege is more like a convergent expression, or snapshot of ongoing struggles for institutional power on a wider social scale than delimited by the electoral artefacts of power holding groups and on a time-scale broader than the typical cycle of electoral politics. Another way to say this is that the struggle for power isn’t electoral, but electoral politics represent the result of power dominance: exercising the voting privilege on a range of options delimited by antecedent and ongoing power struggles in a system of bourgeois democracy without a power base defensible by force of arms is either futile (this is mostly the case for people who are among the oppressed) in relation to power and or an expression of one’s stake in and complicity with class, national, and gender interests already privileged by the system. Individualism about imperialist elections as manifested in bourgeois liberal lesser evilism misses all of this in a way that re-enforces existing power structures and in true anti-democratic fashion expects people not served by euro-american settler electoral politics and opposed to euro-american imperialism to eat cake.
On the other hand, when we start thinking in terms of groups represented and served not just by presidential candidates but by the institutions that limit the voting options to different wings of euro-american imperialism and white power, there’s no way to maintain that one or the other imperialist candidate is a “lesser evil” or that boycotting an imperialist election is a “greater evil” than throwing in with any of the imperialist candidates because the center of the evils of imperialist, settler society leaning toward fascism is the system of neo-colonial white-supremacy, of which the institutions of bourgeois democracy play a key role in both instantiating democracy for the imperialist nation and its toadies as well as in disenfranchising the victims of bourgeois liberalism from building and consolidating independent power.
Brother Malcolm X got to the heart of this when he spoke about the settler presidential election in 1964:
It isn’t a president who can help or hurt; it is the system…Those who claim to be enemies of the system were on their hands and knees waiting for Johnson to get elected—because he is supposed to be a man of peace. And at that moment he had troops invading the Congo and South Vietnam! He even has troops in areas where other imperialists have already withdrawn. Peace Corps to Nigeria, mercenaries to the Congo! (Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements, G. Breitman, ed. Grove Press, NY 1990. pp. 201-202).
What Malcolm X teaches here, and what the opportunistic dishonesty of the “peace-loving” supporters of Johnson against Goldwater reveals is the same fact revealed by the opportunistic dishonesty of the newly “anti-fascist” opponents of Donald Trump who backed Hillary Clinton: maintaining that one or another sector of white power is a “lesser evil” and connecting that to a vote in a system of white power is to be either foolishly, as a result of neo-colonial, settler socialization into liberalism, or self-servingly, as a result of imperialist parasitism, committed to powerlessness before the social forces and institutions that shape settler society.
A non-individualist standpoint that correctly situates the power and role of the individual as well as the power and role of popular struggle at the level of nation, class, and gender, is necessary to conceive the type of power necessary to combat the systems of liberal neo-colonialism and white supremacy, including their bourgeois democratic institutions. But it’s not just individualist ideology about the institutions of bourgeois democracy that is opposed to such a standpoint -it’s also a general lack of critical engagement with liberalism.
Uncritical engagement with liberalism
Liberal lesser-evilism is an example par-excellence of one of the central features of bourgeois philosophy: uncritical engagement with liberalism. This is a bias of bourgeois philosophy where bourgeois philosophers just take the limits that liberalism sets up for debate about itself and about anything else as given, and start philosophizing. The problem is that liberalism is a game that only the world’s most privileged people can play and it excludes most of the world’s people in terms of consideration, relevance, and aspiration. The uncritical attitude of bourgeois philosophers regarding liberalism is a problem because it censors and erases alternative views and shrinks philosophy to a point, making it a bigoted echo chamber for the world’s most privileged people. But this state is no different than the position of those for whom the imperialist voting privilege makes a difference, who in line with the idealism, first-world chauvinism, and individualism discussed above, carry on as if selecting their preferred candidate for the administration of the most fascist elements of euro-american settler society is a way to meaningfully oppose “fascism”. The world’s people who suffer under euro-american imperialism haven’t had a say and will not, based on euro-american elections, in whether they will be bombed or whether their sovereign government will be undermined by fascist militias funded by the “lesser evil” crowd’s favored executor of the most fascist elements of settler society for the benefit of people in the euro-american nation state.
The liberal institutions of euro-american imperialism that exclude the groups of people principally affected by any outcome regarding the administration of white power for the benefit of people in the euro-american nation state aren’t the ways for anyone to combat fascism. In the preceding discussion of individualism, we noted that euro-american electoral politics have always lagged behind the activism of people with grievances against the euro-american nation state. Euro-american settlers and their government have always grudgingly made concessions within the neo-colonial framework, fearful of broad, revolutionary organization on the part of euro-america’s internal semi-colonies and their allies.
Recently, thousands of First Nation land protectors and their allies managed to make headway in defending their land and the environment for the rest of the planet from imperialists who are using every legal, and extra-legal violent military resource afforded to them by settler society to increase oil profits for euro-americans. Because of mass based protest and the relentless building of public opinion through independent and social media and direct resistance the First Nations were successful in forcing the united states army to deny permits for construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The official organs of euro-american bourgeois democracy, including all neo-colonial leaders of imperialism, Hillary Clinton, Obama, and Donald Trump, as well as the imperialist media failed miserably here, and were all but silent about the mass actions and resistance of the First Nation protectors. After months violence perpetrated by the state against the First Nation protectors, nobody was surprised at Obama’s comment: “We’re going to let it play out for several more weeks”.
In fact, the only reason there is post-facto coverage in the imperialist media of the army’s concession to the First Nations is because of the non-electoral, popular struggle of the indigenous people of this land who put themselves on the line for their land, their people and to protect the planet from imperialist multinationals for everyone else in the world. And predictably, after the First Nations did all the work and all the bleeding, imperialist settler politicians wasted no time in trying to co-opt the victory for their own goals of gaining traction among the settler base for social democracy.
If the First Nation protectors had followed the advice of bourgeois liberals, and the counsel of other “moderate voices of reason” and handed power over to the institutions of settler liberalism, the imperialist pipeline project would be advancing nicely now and the entire world would be none the wiser to it. This is a concrete example of how an uncritical engagement with liberalism and its institutions fails to serve the interests of those without any stake in euro-american imperialism. And it is this same uncritical engagement with liberalism and its institutions that co-morbidly with other features of bourgeois philosophy enables the principal beneficiaries of imperialism to carry on as if bourgeois democracy and its lesser-evilism is a viable way to mount resistance to the rise of fascism. As soon as we abandon this uncritical attitude and begin questioning the purpose and function of liberalism and its institutions in a non-idealist, non-individualist, non-first-world-chauvinist way, there’s no way to maintain that one or another imperialist candidate is a “lesser evil” or that boycotting an imperialist election is a “greater evil” than throwing in with any of the imperialist candidates because liberalism and its institutions are the vehicles through which a social democratic society leaning towards fascism finally averts all resistance to fascism and hands total power to the fascists.
So far, we’ve discussed the ways in which the red-herring of lesser evilism stems ideologically from bourgeois philosophy by way of idealism, individualism, first-world chauvinism and uncritical engagement with liberalism. The next section will focus on how this grounding in bourgeois philosophy cashes out in bourgeois ethical reasoning about liberal lesser evilism.
Bourgeois Philosophy and the Ethics of Liberal Lesser Evilism
In the discussion of fascism and euro-american liberalism above we saw the variety of ways that social democrats, neo-liberal imperialists, and others with something to gain from imperialism help advance fascism by disorganizing the groups with nothing to gain from imperialism and sabotaging their efforts. It is these efforts that find form, function, and legal protection in the institutions of imperialist social democracy with a settler labor aristocracy as the mass base. What the social democrats and the neo-liberal imperialists do politically to disorganize resistance against fascism, the bourgeois philosophers do at the ideological level.
It’s easy to see this when we consider that bourgeois philosophers moralize in lesser evilist fashion about imperialist elections in practice without once pointing to the role of their bourgeois ideology in predicating the worldview that frames their arguments. At its best, bourgeois philosophy discusses bourgeois philosophical accounts used to launch moral arguments for supporting imperialism and neo-colonialism by means of a vote. This means that the bourgeois philosophers will discuss consequentialist ethics or deontology, and will carry out calculations on imaginary evils, setting up equivalences and differences between the evil afforded by “each candidate” in idealist ways mired in individualism and first-world chauvinism, and which incorrectly take for granted the viability of liberal institutions and principles as ways to build a just society. They will engineer austere scenarios representing one or another ethical principle or doctrine and list the pros and cons as well as how each one relatively agrees with the socialized intuitions and world view of the status quo of imperialist society. They will raise objections and come up with alternatives to these scenarios based on those intuitions. Such schemes assume trichotomy, one candidate is always either more, or less, or equal in evil to the other in either some ultimate sense or in a sense constrained by the chauvinisms of liberal people who benefit from imperialism. For the consequentialist, sometimes this base assignment of values is enough to push through a course of action, just go with the lesser evil or abstain if there’s equality of evils. Then you can factor in the value of abstaining under the same chauvinist parameters. To complicate things, individualist concerns about the moral weight of individual actions will lead to questions of whether it is right to vote for a person an agent considers evil if their evil is less than the evil of the alternative. Then it comes time to bite some bullets ―things like sucking up the individual burden of voting for evil in the case where under some calculus it is worse not to do so, or to double down on the sanctity of individual action and damn the rest. These may appear like the lifeless, mechanical derivations of those privileged with idleness, with no bearing whatsoever on what happens in in the world, but that would be incorrect. These are the ways that the bourgeois philosophers, the ideological leaders of the people who benefit from imperialism and its institutions deaden debate among those that have nothing to gain from imperialism and justify repeating the patterns of oppression that they’ve imposed on the rest of the world whenever the time comes to make a choice about rejecting this way of being.
Philosophically minded non-bourgeois people must remember that philosophy is a fundamental human activity wound up with social identity, like producing art and making music, and there’s many ways to characterize it, including a variety of methods that involve abstraction and critique (what is historically called “analysis”) used in arguments and drawing conclusions using some logic or another (what is historically called “synthesis”). There’s nothing that makes these activities bourgeois other than when they are marked by first-world chauvinism, idealism, individualism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism. Instead, the bourgeois or non-bourgeois character of philosophical activity depends more on how first-world chauvinism, idealism, individualism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism function to delimit the scope of inquiry and avenues of thought leading to conclusions and what counts as results. Making it seem, like bourgeois philosophy does, that the contribution “philosophy” without qualification can make to political ethics in imperialist elections is a matter of applying and configuring chauvinist theories grounded in idealism, individualism, and uncritical of liberalism is not only dishonest, it’s also completely useless from the point of view of using philosophy for the purposes of social change in opposition to imperialism. By justifying and promoting a breezy cross-purpose of action, some consequentialist, some non-utilitarian, where the only thing in common between the alternatives is their inability to justify organized opposition along non-bourgeois-liberal lines to the fascist form of imperialism because of the prejudices of bourgeois philosophy, bourgeois ethics helps imperialism and fascism directly by using the institutions of bourgeois philosophy to poison the well of discourse for those with nothing to gain from imperialism, and leaving open the possibility of allowing fascism to grow and consolidate power, and even of electing a fascist to the highest “democratic” office. This is the analogue, at the level of ideological struggle, of the liberal and social democratic disorganization of the anti-fascist forces in the political struggle.
Non-bourgeois philosophy is very different. It is completely up-front about its ideological stance, doesn’t profess a false universality that re-enforces the prejudices of the dominant class, nation, and gender, and, in terms of political ethics in the context of imperialist elections seeks to deliver a non-idealist, non-chauvinist, non-individualist critique of liberalism and its institutions that expresses the social identity of those committed to building a world free of economic exploitation and national oppression and supports and complements their actions. The mistake that philosophically minded, and all critically minded people who don’t have a stake in the preservation of imperialism must avoid when faced with the supposedly abstract schemes of bourgeois philosophy is accepting the terms of the entire discussion which put one on the side of the imperialist status quo from the beginning. There’s no non-ideological way that bourgeois action ethics or consequentialist ethics can be framed as objective in terms of delivering support for people’s actions by philosophically expressing a social identity. This means that choice and action scenarios cannot be decided by appeal to these theories, but that these theories express the value of choices and actions grounded on something other than an illusory abstract rationality. That which grounds choice and action is the social being of groups colored with gender, nation, and class. From the idealist point of view of bourgeois philosophy one might say that this is a rejection of the fact/value distinction because facts are supposed to be bare, something that non-bourgeois philosophy questions. But this would be a misunderstanding of the relationship of facts, say about the role of bourgeois elections in imperialist settler and neo-colonial societies, of which there are plenty, and the comprehensive interpretation of the meaning of those facts in a way consistent with values. Defaulting to liberal ideology, then, bourgeois philosophers will say that it’s “rational” to ask: What abstract framework can I use to evaluate the question of political leadership? But because this question is something asked by real people in a real world what they’re really asking is: how can I position my liberal ideology as an abstract framework for evaluating the question of political leadership in a way that in practice gives fascism a fighting chance at seizing the reins of power here and now? Non-bourgeois philosophy is not a place for people who have an open-door policy on fascism, or for those who have a wait-and-see attitude about the possible benevolence of the people who benefit from economic imperialism. From the point of view of philosophically minded people who don’t think that fascism deserves a fighting chance, the relevant question about imperialist elections in the current global context is: how can the methods of philosophy, if at all, help to slow the rise of fascism and the fascist consolidation of power?
The answer is easy because the only thing that makes a difference to the practice of non-bourgeois philosophy is the ideological shift away from the principles of bourgeois philosophy. It means using the methods of philosophy in a way that helps to stop the disorganizing and stupefying effects of bourgeois philosophy which, in the case of imperialist elections, justify repeating the patterns of oppression imposed by bourgeois liberals on the rest of the world. It means critique/analysis of the bourgeois position on imperialist elections and positive reconstruction/synthesis of a position on imperialist elections along non-bourgeois lines. There is no “abstract” consideration of the social events unfolding before us ―the context is social and economic as determined by the best science of the day. There are no “abstract” individuals ―the principal objects of analysis are social groups in power relations with something to gain/lose from systems of power and electoral outcomes. Non-bourgeois philosophy repudiates first-world chauvinism ―the value of analysis and its results stem not from the relative austerity of an account, or a supposed “abstract” generality that helps the minority of the world’s people living in the imperialist countries. This value is instead measured by the way analysis and its results represents and promotes the material interests for independence and socialist democracy of people who don’t benefit from euro-american imperialism and imperialist elections. Non-bourgeois philosophy disavows dogmatism about liberalism and its institutions ―the value of liberalism and liberal institutions is relative and goal directed, the goal being national liberation and socialist democracy. The concepts: world, existence, knowledge, perception, mind, right, art, beauty, truth, form, meaning, number, inference, reason and others corresponding to the branches of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, logic) find operational form and expression in this non-bourgeois landscape as philosophical activity takes place.
Summary and Conclusion
We saw above how fascism is a way of organizing bourgeois society along capitalist lines. The rise of fascism and its consolidation of state power is aided by the liberal institutions of settler colonial social democracy with a labor aristocratic mass base because the most fascist elements of imperialist society, the “justice” system, the police and other repressive agencies, euro-america’s prisons, and border protection, are the backbone of social democratic neo-colonialism and white power. Bourgeois philosophers and other academics pretend that fascism is an uninvited guest and make much ado about “opposing fascism”, while they simultaneously militate both politically and ideologically for the most fascist elements of imperialist society and help fascism consolidate power by promoting the liberal ideology of imperialism. For this group invested in the continuation of imperialist neo-colonialism, a “vote for the lesser evil” isn’t a strategic move in the struggle against fascism, but against having the neo-liberal wing of imperialism lose state power to a different faction of white power over the administration of the most fascist elements of imperialist society. They pimp the anti-fascist struggle of those with nothing to gain form the preservation of the most fascist elements of imperialist society under neo-liberal or social democratic control in a power play against the wing of imperialist neo-colonialism represented by Donald Trump. The concrete form of this demagogy about anti-fascism is the way those invested in imperialism disorganize political resistance against fascism and promote the benumbing of critical thought among those within the confines of the euro-american nation state that have no material interest in any form or administration of fascism by framing reasoning about the liberal institutions of imperialism, including a vote for imperialism, along the blanched lines of bourgeois philosophy: first-world chauvinism, idealism, individualism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism.
Fascism is consolidating power right now in the euro-american nation state.
The way to combat the political disorganization of the anti-fascist forces in society at the hands of the liberals, neo-cons, social-democrats, and democratic socialists is by means of denouncing national chauvinism, rejecting alliance with the labor aristocracies of the imperialist countries, organizing mass protest and the general strike, re-affirming class struggle, avoiding the pitfalls of legalism, organizing militant resistance, and uniting revolutionary and mass organizations under the leadership of those who have nothing to gain from the complicity of social democracy with fascism.
And the way to combat the stupefying effects of bourgeois philosophy that aid fascism’s consolidation of power is by rigorously demystifying bourgeois liberalism and providing a philosophical way of thinking about the problems of imperialist society where ethical reasoning is broader than conceived by the minority of the world’s people who benefit from keeping fascism around. That means a non-bourgeois way of thinking that is internationalist, grounded in an understanding of the social relations between groups of people, openly on the side of the global majority, and not idealistic.