An American State Organized on Fascist Principles

“Fascism is capitalism in decay.” — Maybe Lenin but probably R. Palme Dutt

“There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People” — Umberto Eco

The past week has laid bare all of America’s growing contradictions. The contradictions of mythical American exceptionalism, late-stage gig economy services capitalism with 40 million unemployed, a pandemic that disproportionately affects people of color with little-to-no federal response, an incoming climate crisis already visible but ignored, consolidated financial capital for the 1% while growing misery affects all of the working class. It is a country that cannot, or will not, provide a social safety net to working people nor appropriate equipment to medical personnel during a pandemic, yet will happily mobilize a militarized police to crush any legal right to voice discontent with widespread violence and impunity. Ironically, it will designate anti-fascism as a terrorist ideology.

While both conservative and liberal media hyperventilate about looting, no one has bothered questioning the heavy-handed actions of the police apparatus as perhaps initiating a response by people looting. In fact, many articles coming out in the Spanish press are praising police taking a knee with protestors. Which is absurd, because thirty minutes after these photo ops, they start tear-gassing again.

Adam Weinstein for The New Republic:

It is time to embrace the parallels, to be unafraid to speak a clear truth: Whether by design or lack of it, Donald Trump and the Republican Party operate an American state that they have increasingly organized on fascist principles. It is also time to consider what else the fascists may yet do, during an unprecedented pandemic, amid unprecedented unemployment, faced with unprecedented resistance ahead of an unprecedented election. The Republican Party wants to make “antifascist” a category of terrorist; whether or not it actually uses active-duty soldiers to round up this new class of undesirables in the “national emergency,” it has at its disposal every police officer who flies a Punisher or Blue Lives Matter flag above the U.S. flag, every armed vigilante and Oathkeeper and Proud Boy who craves the boogaloo.

America is in a deep crisis, and it has little to do with some people looting some stores. Far from the cries of police reform of more body cams, the people on the streets understand that any posturing by politicians with these ideas are totally insufficient. We have past that long ago. We are seeing this level of uprising precisely because the authorities have ignored this for decades.

We have no opposition party left in the Democratic Party, with its means-tested focus-grouped solutions. And the Republican Party has been wholly capture by Trump and his brand of vacuous machismo. These contradictions necessitate systemic change, and it starts with overthrowing capitalism. Vote for whoever you want in November, but regardless of who ascends to the highest office in the land, our crises go beyond the ballot box. Our decaying empire and its sprawling military will still be there if Joe Biden is president. We will still be left with structural racism and a trigger-happy, violent police force that believes themselves to be an occupying force in American cities, because they live in the suburbs. We will still have concentrated capital for a small group of oligarchs that offer shitty jobs with no medical or social protections. It is time to start understanding that reality and act accordingly.

Warmer and Freer

I can once finally go outside in the morning with shorts and sandals. The weather is still a little cool, but it’s a pleasant change from always being bundled up for most of the winter, even inside our house.

A few weeks ago, I woke up to a smoke-filled house and a malfunctioning pellet heater. That scared us enough to not turn it on again until someone came to look at it the other day. We think there was a small gap in the pipe leading out of the ceiling and the ashes. Unclear if he solved the problem, but luckily we’re getting to the season where we don’t need it.

On Monday, all four of Galicia’s provinces will be promoted to phase 1 of the deescalation plan. Notably, Madrid will stay in phase 0. But here, we’ll be able to:

  • gather in groups of up to ten people while maintaining social distancing. Luckily we have about four friends here plus their kids!
  • drive in the van together. For the whole quarantine, we have separately driven down to town to buy groceries or to the post office and back up. We’ve saved quite a bit on gas.
  • sit at a terrace restaurant of 50% of its normal occupancy. We’re both not desperate to do this, as we rarely ate out before the pandemic.
  • visit the countryside and beaches in limited groups within the same province. The last few weeks with the warming weather, I’ve daydreamed of taking the van out and camping in the middle of nowhere once again. It’s been so long.
  • use the gym, but not the changing rooms and by appointment. I finally developed a good routine of going to the gym before the virus came and I hope to be back soon, but I’ll be waiting much longer until things are calmer.

I expected to be in quarantine for much longer, but it seems we’ll make it out of this first wave and finish our different phases by late June. Other than possibly seeing a few friends from a distance here and my in-laws at the coast in July, I’ll be maintaining my social distant vigilance for quite awhile.

An Andalusian Pueblo Blanco Without Coronavirus

Instead of jumping on Twitter in the early mornings and inevitably seeing distressing reports of impunity and inequality, I’ve been reading La Voz de Galicia. It’s local news that relates more to my day-to-day, I practice reading Spanish and Galician, and there’s a plethora of human interest pieces that are pretty interesting. I pick out a few to read while I eat some breakfast to prepare for the day’s fasting. This pleasant article caught my attention today:

“Zahara de la Sierra, from medieval fortress to sanitary fortress”

The town of 1,500, a quarter of which over the age of 65, has not registered a single case of coronavirus. Considering that at the time of writing, Spain is the country with the second highest number of total cases and the fourth highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, this is astonishing and awesome.

Zahara is a pueblo blanco, one of the whitewashed towns in the southern community of Andalusia with narrow streets and clustered houses. This one is perched on a mountain, with an old Moorish fort overlooking the town. I haven’t been there myself but I’ve been to other pueblos blancos like Grazalema and Ronda.

So how did Zahara de la Sierra manage to stay free from coronavirus, even as nearby towns and villages registered cases and fatalities?

First, they sprang into action the day after the state of alarm was announced and blocked off four of the five roads leading into the town. They sprayed every entering vehicle with water and bleach. The markets set up a delivery service. The women’s association cooked and delivered food to the footsteps of their elderly neighbors. They cleaned the streets a few times a week. They stayed in touch on Facebook. They outfitted music and lights onto cars to entertain children from the balconies. And they used the town’s contingency fund to help family-run businesses and autónomos, freelancers, stay afloat during the lockdown. They also turned away tourists, even though the pueblos blancos are very popular with international tourists and depend on the tourism sector.

This level of neighborhood support and seriousness to health should be envied everywhere.

Shifts and Self-Discipline

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. — Arundhati Roy

The weird thing about a paradigm-shifting pandemic is many of my habits haven’t changed significantly but how I feel about them, and pretty much everything else, has shifted. Every morning, I take a walk with my dog up the road. We pass the sign of our village’s name with the diagonal red stripe through it, the castaños, up until the small pig farm. Often I’d throw in an earbud and play whatever podcast I had been listening to the day before, but I’ve stopped, preferring the sound of the birds and maybe the wind rustling the trees. The town comes into view on the right and from our elevated position one can see it in its entirety. Sometimes, like today, it is shrouded in a thick fog, the small peak behind, whose name I’m unaware of, protrudes out.

I have bad habits. I wake up early but then use that time unproductively for at least an hour or so, reading news or scrolling through Twitter, a place increasingly fraught with melodrama and uninformed commentaries on events we cannot control. I occasionally put off my exercise routine until after my classes, when I’m already worn done and my body is tight from sitting in a chair. Most days, I get closer to beating these. Small victories, sure, but still.

Before meeting Patricia, I had a terrible grocery shopping philosophy. I would fill my basket with things that looked good and when I arrived at the checkout, I realized I had purchased snacks rather than ingredients for a meal. Then I’d come home, eat the snacks, and toward dinner, walk to one of Nouakchott’s restaurants for shawarma.

I was once enamored by the latest and greatest Apple products. Now I cannot stomach the thought of buying new things while my current tablet works fine. I am grateful for hand-me-down iPhones from family regardless of the broken speaker. Technology podcasts or Apple’s price tags for computer wheels further remind me of how materialistic I once was, how I’ve changed. How we can all change to better adapt to what many of our most brilliant minds, away from the political class, are telling us what’s coming.

Our success or failure, individually during this quarantine, and as a species and planet through the next decade vis-à-vis a very probable second wave of coronavirus, our vampiric capitalist realism, the fast-approaching climate tipping points, will depend on our self-discipline and willpower. Our bad habits, our biases, some of our conveniences, our lack of knowledge on things like agriculture. Individuated mobilization starts now.

“The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.”

Chances are, many of us in the West will not be governed by an authoritarian regime so soon. Or if we are, it will have an air of nominal liberty. Our ‘freedoms’ and political inaction, the hard questions needing to be asked, the work that needs to be done, will climatically doom those in the global South. No one will tell us what to do.

Só o pobo salva ao pobo
Only the people save the people

In Obvious Twilight

As the world settles in to its new virus-covered reality, time becomes amorphous. For many, especially city-dwellers, gone are the inessential errands, any whimsical excuse to leave the apartment, or the chance to meet up with friends on a nice day. “Is it Friday today?” Going to bed feels like a relief or a chore, the anchors of our social lives are lifted.

At least I have the woods behind our small village. I head up the road and enter one of the trails with my dog at least twice a day. Many of them are already well-trodden, even before the quarantine and a clearcut patch to give room for the electrical lines serves as a compass when we pretend to be new world explorers.

I often carry my phone to take photos. I was looking down at it this morning, cool but dry, when I saw a big black spot in the middle of the path. My eyes shot up and I saw the backside of a fleeing boar. My clueless unleashed dog didn’t notice and I grabbed him to prevent a futile and possibly dangerous chase. We continued cautiously for a bit looking for any sign that it ran off the path, but none. It was time to head back home, do some exercise downstairs and make some breakfast before my classes.

Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign a few days ago. Diagnosing the post-campaign mood of his supporters and the socialist left, the brilliant Meagan Day from Jacobin wrote;

Once you’ve actually internalized that society doesn’t have to be this way, that none of the exploitation you’ve experienced or witnessed is actually inevitable, that human freedom is achievable, you don’t go back to thinking otherwise. Once you’ve been looked square in the eye and asked which side you’re on, you never take for granted your own neutrality again.

Encapsulated in this paragraph is my political and personal trajectory. I’ve lived in countries with vastly different socioeconomic and developmental levels, worked jobs from washing dishes to teaching primary school, accumulated student and medical debt, and tried to make sense of the world physically and intellectually as best I could. And as most socialists would attest, I cannot unsee the inane hardship and structural barriers with the assertion that that misery for others can change, that we can build something better, something more just. Capitalism is not manifest destiny. I could not simply put my head down, try to live for myself, care only for my family and friends and isolate myself in a village in my corner of Spain without feeling any solidarity whatsoever for everyone, everywhere they may be.

Bernie Sanders was the moonshot candidate; the millennial left’s Lorax to speak on our behalf, since we hold no power of our own, despite some of our comrades pushing 40 years of age. In most industrialized societies, the reforms we were demanding would be common sense. But common sense does not square with American financial capitalism: the CEOs are too powerful, the parties too tied to form and not function, the president a sociopathic liar, his “democratic” challenger hardly a democrat and continuously on the wrong side of history, and the working class even more expendable than previously imagined.

In the end, I felt a lightness. I was buoyed by the momentum, assumed too earnestly that the ruling class would allow themselves to be overrun by Bernie’s nascent coalition of social movements, young people, communities of color, marginalized folks, and working people. That they would not fight back and punch us back down was us being foolish. And they landed their knockout by manufacturing the unlikely comeback of a compromised Joe Biden. If you feel this assessment is incorrect, that “democracy spoke” in the form of the primary, I would love to hear it.

“The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development” — Albert Einstein

We are living in the late Anthropocene. We have 17 million Americans out of work in just the last three weeks, with no real plan to help them in this crisis. The president gaslights the world every day with lies, his administration either gives PPE to private companies to auction off, pitting states against each other in a bizarre bidding war, or it steals ventilators from poorer Caribbean nations.

I have trouble believing we have the time necessary to build power electorally when a second and perhaps third wave of COVID-19 is expected. In the next decade, if drastic climate action isn’t taken, we will see those climate tipping points the IPCC report from last year warned us about. Even in the unlikely event of a Joe Biden victory, he will do very little on climate. His campaign has prioritized a return to some mythical normalcy, ignoring the fact that the Obama administration built the cages in deportation centers, bombed Muslim countries, supported death squads in Honduras, expanded the empire, etc. He has made it clear he has ‘no empathy’ for millennials.

In the daily outrages and political battles mixed in with the ups-and-downs of our own personal lives, the machinery of capitalism continues to extract and consolidate capital for the very few.

There are bright spots, however. People are waking up to their individual and collective power. We have seen the unintended reductions in carbon emissions when half the world must stay at home. No longer can the pundit and media class ask us incredulously, “How will you pay for it?” when we demand moderate social democratic reforms. We see the inhumanity of Jeff Bezos firing a striking worker who dared to ask that their Amazon warehouse be disinfected when workers tested positive. We will see a massive bump in member in organizations like Democratic Socialists of America. The political, economic, and social impossible is nothing but an illusion.

The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters. — Antonio Gramsci

With newfound power, our enemies will become more brazen. As the US struggles to get a handle on COVID-19 and the president throws daily tantrums to reporters, we continue to witness a decaying empire gasping for last breath. They will try to distract us with a return to normalcy, a new iPhone or an endorsement from the “cool” former president. Perhaps they will enact fascism-lite policies such as monitoring cellphone tracking in exchange for freedom to leave the house. Whatever comes, many we will be wiser than just a year ago.

So tomorrow, I’ll wake up, return to the monte with my dog. I’ll exercise, make breakfast, work, read as much as possible, try to write to no one more frequently, and find others like me to connect with. And I’ll do it the next day. And the next. Maybe something can come out of it. Thanks for reading.