By Kumar David –
On Sunday I said and I now repeat: “Trump is the last warning the world will get before fascism resumes its global march”. The Trump Base has exhibited its power – 72 million votes, retaining the Senate, Governorships and State Legislatures and winning over seven more House seats. It proved itself the most powerful single force in American politics; more powerful than liberalism or the left. Interestingly, it proved more powerful than Trump himself; it did better downstream (Senate, House and governorships) than its presidential candidate. Since Trump is politically amoral, deceitful and self-obsessed had the GOP offered a less repugnant candidate that more women, the middleclass and blacks could have related to would it have won? Neo-fascist populism (N-F-P) was not defeated, its candidate was. Everywhere Republican Senators and House candidates polled better than its presidential candidate. Still it is moot whether N-F-P would have won the presidency with a less obnoxious candidate because only a rabble rouser could not have incited and energised the Base. A less obnoxious person may have won over some genteel folk but he would not have energised the rabble that Trump set on fire. Without that inferno Republicans would have done less well all round.
Reflect on it as it paints an alarming scenario. A hard realist who looks reality in the eye will see that America has changed. America has the largest economy, most powerful military and exercises the greatest diplomatic clout in the world, the global significance of America transforming into a mere simulacrum of democracy will be far reaching. But first I need to define what I mean by N-F-P. the defining feature of Classical Fascism (CF) of the inter-war genre, symbolised by Mussolini but more identified with Nazism is the obliteration of all independent organisations and their incorporation as arms of the state. Political parties, trade unions, churches, learned societies and universities was pulverised and reconstituted as facets of a totalitarian state; totalitarian literally. Nazism was anti-sematic but CF was often but not necessarily associated with racism. Some “democracies” too are extremists, vide Hindutva Modi’s India. Stalinism after the Moscow trials of the 1930s was a totalitarian in the image of fascism.
The ‘neo’ of N-F-P is that political conditions are so different in this Century that it cannot replicate some aspects of CF. N-F-P in power will be intolerant and repressive but it cannot achieve the same totalitarianism as Nazism or Stalinism. A Trump second term would have been anti-democratic but it would not have been able to obliterate a fighting opposition. The other way in which N-F-P differs from classical fascism is populism. Populism is a powerful force in ultra-right-wing politics. Liberals and capitalist parties like European Centrists and US Republicans are prostrating themselves before extremists and the so-called ‘Trump Base’, respectively. Hitler on the other hand crushed German populism which had been his handmaiden in the rise to power.
Though Trump is now the butt-end of terabytes of scorn and cartoon-humour in Chinese social media, and though the Chinese government chuckles in self-satisfaction at US democracy gone awry, the truth is that when America goes off-balance it becomes dangerous for the whole world, China included. No one, traditional allies included trusted Trump, he created foreign policy chaos, but it remains to be seen to what extent Biden will be able to reverse this. China’s exports have fallen from 33% of GDP 15 years ago to 17% but not because of a fall in the absolute volume of exports but a statistical consequence of burgeoning domestic demand. China has made a strategic decision to restructure supply chains reduce dependence on US and the West for “stranglehold technologies”. It will be a decade before China (think Huawei) achieves supply chain independence of the West’s best, but things are on the move. Xi Ping’s is not increasing state ownership but raising the level of state leadership of all sectors of the economy including finance, energy and high-tech. The sudden cancellation of the Ant Group IPO targeted for 14 Nov, it would have been the world’s largest IPO ever, is proof of deeper state regulatory intervention in the financial sector.
Where does all this change on Himalayan mountain tops leave those trapped in deep gullies like ourselves? I am a sanguine; I reckon that the Trump to Bidden transition will not affect us. Once the oaf is gone and America has a rational being at the helm, the US Ambassador in Colombo poor woman, and the next Secretary of State (who won’t be a Pompeo like thug) will be intelligible and we will live in a predictable world. China at least for now is more concerned with economic restructuring that foreign financial initiatives which may spell less attention to Belt & Road investment and in the post-Trump world strategic confrontation by both sides in the Indian Ocean Theatre may ease. This could mean that Lanka’s ability to self herself to bidders may be disadvantaged. Still, we have no option but to swim, even if against the current in everlasting debt while doing our darndest to build up some degree of import substitution at least in agriculture, fisheries and the informal sector. Reflating thriving exports, remittances and tourism is very challenging. Next Sunday I will write about everlasting global debt.