Here you come upon the important fact that every revolutionary opinion draws part of its strength from a secret conviction that nothing can be changed.
—George Orwell, Thoughts in a Time of Darkness
Capitalist Realism: the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.
—Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism
If nothing else, I take a certain pride in knowing that I helped spare the nation four years of President Hilary Clinton — an Administration that would have been equally corrupt and wrongheaded as Donald Trump’s, far more devious, and probably just competent enough to keep the ship of state from sinking until 2020. Then with the boiler about to explode from four years of blather and neglect, Hilary’s post-truth liberals could have fled down the ratlines and left the disaster to whoever inherited it.
Trump, at least, is blessed with a mixture of arrogance and stupidity that causes him to blow the boilers almost immediately after taking command. By bringing in hundreds of thugs, fixers and fascists to run the Government, he was able to crank almost every problem he touched into a mindbending crisis. About the only disaster he hasn’t brought down on us yet is a nuclear war with either Russia or China or both (but wait. . . he isn’t finished yet, is he?), but he still has time, and the odds on his actually doing it are not all that long. But we will get to that point in a moment.
For now, we should make every effort to look at the bright side of the Trump Administration. It has been a failure of such monumental proportions that political apathy is no longer considered fashionable, or even safe, among millions of people who only two years ago thought that anybody who disagreed openly with “the Government” was either paranoid or subversive. Political candidates in 2020, at least, are going to have to deal with an angry, disillusioned electorate that is not likely to settle for flag-waving and pompous bullshit. Bullshit flies, and truth is nothing but a media ad on a Sunday night football session.
One of the strangest things about these downhill years of the Trump Presidency is that despite all the savage excesses committed by the people he chose to run the country, no real opposition or realistic alternative to Donald Trump’s cheap and cynical-hearted view of the American Dream has ever developed. It is almost as if that sour 2016 election rang down the curtain on career politicians.
This is the horror of American politics today — not that Donald Trump and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed as of yet (although things seem to be heading that way…) — but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned-out Democratic hacks who have been fouling our air with their gibberish for the last twenty years.
It’s hard not to be a cynic in this time of madness, when politics has become just another Reality TV show on a B-rated channel that’s slowly taking down the economics of entertainment to a new low. If Reagan were alive even he would kick Trump in the nuts for being so fake and flimsy. Power? Authoritarianism? Fascism? Trump’s more like Charlie Chaplin’s comedic take on a fool for President than a satire on the perils of democracy we’re all supposedly facing.
As Mark Fisher once admonished one of the “left’s vices is its endless rehearsal of historical debates, its tendency to keep going over Kronsdadt or the New Economic Policy rather than planning and organizing for a future it really believes in. The failure of previous forms of anti-capitalist political organization should not be a cause for despair, but what needs to be left behind is a certain romantic attachment to the politics of failure, to the comfortable position of a defeated marginality”. (Fisher, p. 78)
The Left is more like a deflated rubber ducky left out to dry than a ‘defeated marginality’ these days. It uses it’s Plutocrats like Bloomberg to capitalize on the message of the day: ‘Impeach Trump’. Which seems feasible now that Trump’s lawyer Cohen is headed for the clink. Trump’s not only a deflated duck like those across the aisle, but has become the target of the new New York AT who seems bent on jailing not only Trump but his entire family. Letitia James: “We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well…”. Political corruption is like a nighttime sitcom, the canned laughter of three-stooges runaway skit in which Pelosi slaps Trump slaps Schuman and the papers twist and turn in the updraft of flaming tribute to a dying democracy.
After kicking Pelosi and Schuman out he told reporters: “The Democrats are really looking at something that could be very dangerous for our country,” Trump said. “They are looking at shutting down. They want to have illegal immigrants, in many cases people that we don’t want in our country, they want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime.”
Too bad the late Mark Fisher isn’t here to see the Trump balloon burst and the Theresa May clown patrol Brexit brigade stumble into the new year:
The long, dark night of the end of history has to be grasped as an enormous opportunity. The very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible. (Fisher, p. 80)
When the cold eye of history looks back on Donald Trump’s years of unrestrained power in the White House, it will show that he had the same effect on conservative/Republican politics as Charles Manson and the Hells Angels had on hippies and flower power during the Nixon era. . . and the ultimate damage, on both fronts, will prove out to be just about equal.
This is the horror of American politics today — not that Donald Trump and his fixers have been crippled, convicted, indicted, disgraced and even jailed — but that the only available alternatives are not much better; the same dim collection of burned-out hacks on both sides of the aisle who have been in the moneyed pockets of the .01% for decades seem to switch sides from time to time in an effort to keep the Reality Studio going.
The crisis of politics is manifested in the crisis of the individual, as whose agency it has developed. The illusion that traditional politics has cherished about the individual and free-will and about reason—the illusion of their eternity—is being dispelled. The individual once conceived of reason exclusively as an instrument of the self. Now he experiences the reverse of this self-deification. The machine has dropped the driver; it is racing blindly into space. Or, scooting along in a driverless auto-da-fé where at the moment of consummation, politics has become irrational and stultified, broken in ruins wherein even Humpty Dumpty’s new social engineers and fantasists can’t begin to piece the world back together again.
- Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books, Nov, 27, 2009) (p. 78).