Donald Trump, commenting on the passing of Fidel Castro, branded him a mere “dictator”. Whatever the long-lasting results (and mistakes) of the Cuban experiment, History has already de facto recognized Fidel as one of the great revolutionary leaders of the modern – and postmodern – era.
Trump – historical irony obliges – also has all but christened the groundswell of anger that delivered him the White House as a “revolution” – led by, and in the name of, white, non-college educated, blue collar US masses.
Yet old habits die hard. A self-appointed “leader of the free world”, true to conventional script, could never pay tribute in public to a “communist” who escaped over 600 CIA assassination cum regime change attempts – which is quite a heavy load to bear for so-called US “intel”. In the end, it was nature’s clock – not a magic bullet – that took Fidel away.
With the Cuban revolution now history, the focus switches to the current American “revolution” – which might turn out to be quite the regime change special the CIA dreams of (for others). If Fidel was The Prince as well as Machiavelli rolled into one, in gringoland the storyline may be largely about Steve Bannon, the blue collar-meets-Goldman Sachs Machiavelli to Prince Trump.
White House chief strategist Bannon has been vilified, over the top, all across the spectrum, as neo-fascist, white nationalist, racist, sexist and anti-Semite. So far, this has been the most detailed explanation of the Bannon agenda – in his own words. One underestimates him at one’s own peril.
State and revolution
Bannon in the past billed himself as a Leninist. What a shame Fidel was not paying attention.
In his highly complex and immensely engaging Apres Nous, Le Deluge (French translation recently published by Payot), master German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk explores how Lenin, in a few months in a cabin in Finland, laid out the theoretical premises of what should happen after the revolution; how the former State, under Marxist analysis, was just an instrument allowing economic exploitation and the misleading resolution of “irreconcilable” oppositions between classes (sounds quite like the current Washington set up).
For the revolutionary apparatus, it was not enough to take over the apparatus of the Ancien Regime – as social democrats would have it. That would have to be totally smashed, the ruins reassembled in new combinations until the long-term communist goal – the agony of the State – would be achieved.
Now imagine Leninist Bannon trying to package this agenda to viscerally indoctrinated “communists eat babies for breakfast” US public opinion. So he resorted to pop culture – stressing the inspirational models as Darth Vader, his incarnation Dick Cheney, and the dark side as a whole.
Smashing the State (or the establishment) was rephrased as “drain the swamp”. And to polish it all up, when talking to the establishment, Bannon added the indispensable English credibility touch as his top role model; Thomas Cromwell, the dark side behind Henry VIII, instead of Lenin. No wonder the deep state is totally freaking out.
Lenin, in trying to accomplish his revolution, as Sloterdijk observes, relied on “a double psycho-political strategy”; massive intimidation of the non-convinced (something Bannon obviously cannot deploy in contemporary America), as well as mobilization of the impoverished and enthusiastic masses attracted by the promises of the new power (Trump’s overwhelming twitter machine and Breitbart News will be in charge of this department).
In Lenin’s revolution, the faculty of political judgment was exercised by an elite that Lenin conceived as the proletariat; they became the elite via the dictatorship of the Party. All other strata, especially the rural categories, were no more than a reactionary plebe – to become useful only long term via revolutionary education.
One century after Lenin, Bannon’s proletariat “elite” will be supplied by blue collar alienation spread out across Virginia, Florida, Ohio, the Rust Belt. A special place is reserved for Reagan Democrats and Reagan Democrats 2.0 (working class minorities) as well as for all and sundry rejectionists of that good ol’ Marxist bogeyman – rigged-to-the-hilt “bourgeois democracy”.
Bannon’s early incarnation of his ideal Leninist Prince was obnoxious Mamma Grizly Sarah Palin. She could see Russia from her house – but that was about it. Trump, on the other hand, is the perfect vessel; billionaire builder/doer; a product of reality TV; the “New York New York” factor; vetted by the Masters of the Universe; no need to court donors; and a natural foe of an uppity East Coast establishment which does despise his glitter and his brashness.
Fascism and global war
To describe Trump’s “deplorables” (their definition by the establishment, via Hillary) as a fascist army, as US corporate media shills insist, totally misses the point. Marxist theory, during the 1920s and 1930s, turned fascism upside down, conceptualizing how fascism essentially crystallizes the power of finance capital (that’s something Bannon can easily sell at home). Fascism also terrorizes the working class as well as the revolutionary peasantry – thus the popular appeal of “drain the swamp”.
Mussolini defined fascism as “the horror inspired by a comfortable life”, thus leading Sloterdijk to characterize fascism as a militant-ism of street politics; total mobilization. Let’s rewind to a century ago; after 1917 and 1918, to the Left as well as to the Right, the zeitgeist dictated there was no “post-war”; in fact, the sentiment was that a global war was going on, and that had been so since times immemorial (today, under neoliberalism, global war is even more radicalized, pitting the 0.0001% against the rest.)
Under Lenin in Russia a century ago, the conflict took the form of civil war of an active minority against an impotent majority. Under the Leninist White House, the conflict may take the form of war by a very active minority (those roughly 25% of the US electorate who voted Trump) against another, infinitesimal – but very powerful – minority (the East Coast establishment, the incarnation of the Ancien Regime), with the whole saga watched ringside by a transfixed, passive majority.
“America First”; but for whom? The key question is who will end up defining America’s real national interest; true nationalists embedded in Team Trump, plus the proletariat “elite”, or the usual – globalist – suspects able to infect and corrupt any notion of nationalism.
Goodbye Fidel Castro, welcome Prince Trump (with Leninist Machiavelli attached). Brace for impact. Politics is war – what else? And “revolution” is still the biggest show in town.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). His latest book is Empire of Chaos. He may be reached at [email protected].