In a pretty good piece on Brexit and Trumpism, in Salon, Ben Norton writes:
Liberals smugly blaming the Brexit vote on stupidity, making fun of working-class Leave supporters for (falsely) googling E.U. after the fact and actively downplaying the serious economic concerns behind the vote only further plays into right-wing hatred of elites.
It also conveniently absolves establishment liberals of responsibility for supporting policies that fueled the rise of the far-right.
We live in an incredibly dangerous moment. It is not hyperbolic to say Europe is going through political changes similar to those of the post-Depression 1930s, when fascism was on the rise for the first time.
Brexit is a big victory for neo-fascist forces throughout the West — actual neo-fascist parties and politicians. And there is no sign that the far-right will decline anytime soon.
Demagogues like Trump in the U.S., or Marine Le Pen in France, or Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, may lose the upcoming election, but there will be many more elections after that, and the far-right will only continue to gain strength — unless it faces a real challenge.
The problem is that neoliberals already know this – and don’t care. Austerity creates misery which in turn creates populism. Populism grows and splits into its left and right hemispheres, which buys the neoliberals more time (every moment of austerity makes them money, ratholed away in a Costa Rican bank). Eventually they will get their populist comeuppance, but all the neoliberals care about is from which direction; they’d of course like to never endure populism of any sort but they damn sure won’t tolerate it from the left.
Sanders was constantly smeared, roadblocked, cheated by the neoliberal centrists — and still almost won. Corbyn is getting the same treatment; his fate is unclear. Neoliberals consider populism of the left more dangerous than of the right, crushes or cheats it, allowing right populism to take root or even triumph. With Sanders out and Clinton’s victory in the general election highly likely, neoliberals have their preferred Worse Case Scenario: the only populist who could win is Trump, who is often described as a neo-, proto-, or crypto-fascist. It would be a major upset and neoliberals wouldn’t like it on cultural grounds, but they will make their deal with him and keep their precious low tax rates. Their bourgeois Lifestyle Liberal publicists in the media will be livid and histrionic, declaring every stupid-asshole thing Trump says the start of a pogrom, but they will get over it; after all, for the donor class these people are just the hired help.
Misery will deepen no matter who wins in November. Trump is a supply-side Reaganite with perhaps insincere Buchananite protectionist tendencies; HRC is a woke version of Thatcher, a warmongering austeritarian monster. Neoliberal economy will triumph either way. And the longer it continues, the uglier people will get. More and more will fall out of the middle class into poverty; more people will rob and steal from the remaining middle class just to make ends meet. More suicides, drug addiction, mass despair. Scapegoating, tribalism, and racism will be more extreme, widespread, mainstream. Terry Eagleton, a while back in The Guardian, described Zizek’s take on the same dynamic, though the context for them was the failed/thwarted Arab Spring revolutions:
One lesson of the Egyptian revolt, Žižek argues in Trouble in Paradise, is that if moderate liberal forces continue to ignore the radical left, “they will generate an unsurmountable fundamentalist wave”. Toppling tyrants, which all good liberals applaud, is simply a prelude to the hard work of radical social transformation, without which fundamentalism will return. In a world everywhere under the heel of capital, only radical politics can retrieve what is worth saving in the liberal legacy.
The neoliberal elite likes its cheap domestic immigrant help and social liberalism. They like the financial windfall from austeritarian policy more. They’d like to keep both and with HRC they will, but if they have to keep just one, their choice is obvious. And the people in another five or ten years of such conditions? Then will come the fascism, without any mitigating prefixes, nothing quasi about it – if, that is, we haven’t already all been killed in a war by then.