Consumerism, and the capitalist mentality more broadly, are equivalent to nihilism. They strip the human experience of meaning beyond what serves the market. When a culture revolves around this monetary and commercialist view of the world, it ceases to bring true fulfillment.
“Consuming entertainment has a sedative effect,” the commentator Meme Analysis has said about the pathology of the masses under this corporate-defined paradigm. “It has put mankind into a sleep of meaninglessness. The image of the consumer can be found in Nietzche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra: ‘alas, there cometh the time when man will no longer launch the arrow of his longing beyond man, and the string of his bow will unlearn to whizz. I tell you, one must still have chaos in one to give birth to a dancing star.’”
It’s a collective state of being that’s resulted in a political order which the writer Sheldon Wollin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” where rule by corporations is made out to be “freedom.” In this pseudo-free society, the different mainstream political affiliations become more brands that are marketed to people, and engagement in the political realm is rendered as shallow and cynical as consumer culture is.
We’re offered prepackaged candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who will only keep the wars going and make life worse for poor and working people, and then told to be excited about them. And when a supposedly anti-establishment politician like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comes along, they’re presented as a subversive option despite their complicity in the corporate and imperialist machine.
Living in this kind of paradigm, one where everything we’re told to care about is tied in with the structure of global exploitation and violence, presents one with two options: descend deeper into delusion and tie your identity in with the brands that are marketed to you, or embrace true freedom and work to smash the class system. It’s a choice between the temptation of believing the lie that we’re free, and making the sacrifices necessary to play your part in the revolution.
The “freedom” that the corporatocracy presents you with is nothing more than another marketing pitch. It tells you that participating in the consumer lifestyle, and theoretically being able to join the capitalist ruling class, are what it means to be free. The contradictions between this idealized view of capitalist society and the realities of what life is like under it—exclusion of the poor from the “democratic” process, basic necessities being conditional, power by the bosses to extract your labor and regulate your life—create a dissonance for someone who supports capitalism. From there arises the impulse to grow more reactionary, to become more ingrained within the capitalist and imperialist ideological hegemony.
These contradictions within capitalism are getting more pronounced than ever. U.S. imperialist sanctions are depriving the Global South of essential resources during a pandemic. Covid-19 deaths are being vastly increased by the capitalist world’s severe inequality. Neoliberal austerity is exacerbating the effects of the climate crisis in places like my own area of California. People are increasingly having to face the choice of retreating into the capitalist fantasy and defending the system, or embracing the path of revolutionary struggle.
Taking the latter path is how to reject the nihilistic state of being that late-stage capitalism has imposed upon you, and tap into the vital energy that’s needed for attaining meaning. In a world where the climate is collapsing, and civilization is moving towards a climate apartheid where the rich live in comfort while leaving everyone else behind, class struggle is more than ever a struggle for our dignity and survival. And a struggle of this nature, where you’re fighting for your ability to exist and for the affirmation that you have value outside of how you can serve the system, provides a deeply fulfilling experience. The visceral nature of this struggle is the perfect foil to late-stage capitalism’s nihilistic mentality.
When you engage in arms training for the protection of marginalized people from capitalist and colonialist violence, or organize a general strike like the U.S. labor movement is working towards right now, or educate people about revolutionary theory, you’re taking control of your circumstances. To take up the Marxist-Leninist line of seeking to overthrow the capitalist state and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat is to become opposed to the fraudulent bourgeois “democracy” that we’re meant to accept as the best societal model.
If you commit to doing the studying, organizing work, and defense training necessary to make this proletarian revolutionary movement victorious, you’ll be effectively refusing to help reinforce the machine that’s slowly destroying you. Outside the daily compromises within the system that you need to make in order to survive, through this movement you can find a way to seize control of your own fate.
The fate that the ruling class has laid out for you is one where you’re used as an expendable tool before the system goes down. Their neoliberal erosions of common economic security have made it so that during this economic depression, your main options are to try to survive as an unemployed person or work for poverty wages in the “gig economy.” In the U.S. and most other countries, this vicious cycle of rapidly growing inequality is going to continue throughout the 2020s and beyond. And as you’re confronted with all the other parts of our capitalist crisis—climate change catastrophes, continued pandemic dangers, future economic shocks from the coming collapse of the dollar—the rich will leave you to fend for yourself.
They want you to either put yourself in an increasingly subservient position towards them, or join the growing facet of the population that’s viewed by the system as totally worthless. Given this reality where you’re being treated as a capitalist appendage that can be sacrificed when the time comes, it makes sense that the capitalists and imperialists are now ramping up their propaganda with the hope that more people won’t start thinking for themselves.
We can break out of the bleak psychological mold that seeks to keep us invested in the corporatocracy’s dying machine. We can find meaning by fighting for the interests of our class.
The Capitalist Class Is Bringing America Towards Fascism
In his essay Snowpiercer and Necrofuturism, Gerry Canavan concludes that “The Holocaust has, after all, always been one of two major necrofuturist endpoints of necrocapitalist modernity, the other being the silence after nuclear holocaust.” Indeed, the Holocaust can be understood as an extreme example of necro-capitalism, the dynamic where the capitalist ruling class kills off or enslaves the portions of the population which they deem to be expendable.
In the case of the Holocaust, the targets of necro-capitalism were Jews and other demonized ethnic and religious groups, as well as political dissidents. The genocide was born out of a fascist takeover, which is always preceded by the bourgeoisie having their power threatened and deciding to resort to drastic measures. As Michael Parenti explains in Blackshirts and Reds, Germany’s capitalist class held an interest in bringing about the rise of the Nazi regime, and by extension the Holocaust itself:
“In Germany, a similar pattern of complicity between fascists and capitalists emerged. German workers and farm laborers had won the right to unionize, the eight-hour day, and unemployment insurance. But to revive profit levels, heavy industry and big finance wanted wage cuts for their workers and massive state subsidies and massive tax cuts for themselves.
“During the 1920s, the Nazi Sturmabteilung, or SA, the brown-shirted storm troopers, subsidized by business, were used mostly as an antilabor paramilitary force whose function was to terrorize workers and farm laborers. By 1930, most of the tycoons had concluded that the Weimar Republic no longer served their needs and was too accommodating to the working class. They increased their subsidies to Hitler, propelling the Nazi Party onto the national stage.”
This shows the role that capital had behind one of the greatest mass murders and enslavement campaigns in history. The German capitalists —as well as American capitalist Hitler supporters like Henry Ford —viewed the establishment of fascism within Germany and wider Europe as the best way to advance their own interests. By doing this, they implicitly decided that whatever the Nazis would do to the designated undesirables —including genocide —also served their goals.
And throughout the process of genocide, the German bourgeoisie indeed benefited from the campaign to eliminate or enslave these groups. The regime was able to kickstart the country’s economy largely by exploiting the forced labor of war prisoners and imprisoned concentration camp victims. Consent was created for the new fascist order by giving the benefits from this labor to the everyday members of the “Aryan” ethnicity, who came to make up an aristocracy which enriched itself through “National Socialism.” The people who were judged not to fit into this ethnostate were systematically murdered, or were closed off from the rest of society so that they could work as slaves.
As I watch the U.S. empire decline, and see the American capitalist ruling class grow desperate to maintain rising profits like the German bourgeoisie did, I’m getting the sense that Nazi Germany’s necro-capitalist model will soon be replicated in an American context. The forming nightmare scenario is apparent from the inhumane migrant camps that the Trump administration has already forced tens of thousands of people into. It’s apparent from the Gestapo-style arrests that Trump has been carrying out in response to the protests against racist police brutality. And it’s apparent from the incentives that our ruling class now has to implement an American version of the Third Reich.
These incentives come from the fact that when the capitalist machine grows unstable, the bourgeoisie come to see it as necessary to sacrifice certain parts of the population in order to preserve their own comfortable position. Capitalism has always involved some amount of this kind of human sacrifice, whether the victims are targeted based on their class, race, or nationality. So you could argue that capitalism and necro-capitalism are one and the same, with the necro aspect emerging whenever the rich choose to make others pay for the crises of capitalism. Given the crises that capitalism is facing in our era, it’s no wonder why the necro is becoming more and more dominant.
Climate meltdown, a global pandemic, a new Great Depression, and an ever-growing refugee crisis are cutting into the ability for global capitalism to function. And the U.S. corporatocracy in particular is now having to worry about another crisis: the collapse of the American empire. The rise of Russia and China, the failure of the War on Terror to secure U.S. domination over southeast Asia, the global effort to abandon the U.S. dollar, and the failure by the Washington imperialists to achieve their regime change goals in countries like Venezuela and Iran are all making U.S. capitalism weaker.
The solutions that the capitalists have come up with for these dilemmas are brutal and inhumane, as necro-capitalism always is: imprison and neglect the refugees, make the police state more militarized and deadly, ramp up mass incarceration, cut off more benefits to the poor, make workers work longer hours for increasingly lower wages. What’s happening in 2020, and what will get more undeniable in the coming years, is a consolidation of power so that these fascistic policies can be continued and expanded.
Trump’s moves towards carrying out an election coup through sabotaging mail voting are potentially some of the last steps before the American Third Reich becomes solidified. We’re experiencing a deterioration of democratic institutions in the same vein as the one which happened during the collapse of the Weimar Republic, a dictatorial creep whose end point is the establishment of a totally unaccountable tyranny. Fascism is the anti-democratic nature of capitalism exposing itself through the concentration of power into a reactionary clique.
If Trump manages to steal the election, he’ll remain the Hitler-esque figurehead at the top of this clique, with the white settler masses who’ve largely gravitated to Trump making up the broader facet of the aristocracy. To maintain the loyalty of his base, and to expend the people who the capitalist state deems undesirable, Trump will continue to foster a racist discourse while enacting human rights abuses against poor and colonized peoples. The refugee concentration camps will be how the American fascist regime disposes of undesirables. The labor of the largely colonized working poor will be how the capitalist class maintains profits. ICE, the militarized police forces, and federal troops will be how the regime stamps out dissent like the German ruling class did.
The modern propaganda equivalents of the Nazi slogan “One People, One Nation, One Leader” are how the U.S. ruling class will unify the privileged aristocracy around a fascist America. A modern equivalent of the Holocaust could be how the ruling class gets rid of the people who are judged not to fit into their society.
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