Is Buffoon Trump, the Tip of a More Coherent Fascist Spear?

Is the level of political discourse a reflection of the rise of fascism in the United States? Will Biden set the stage for a more dangerous far-right demagogue? Adolph Reed and Leo Panitch say organizing a renewed labor movement is crucial for defeating the rise of fascism. On podcast with Paul Jay



Paul Jay

Hi, I’m Paul Jay. Welcome to podcast. And please don’t forget there’s a donate button at the top of the webpage.

In the presidential debate, Joe Biden was saved by moderator Chris Wallace and the vice presidential debate Kamala Harris, was saved by a fly.

Mike Pence

(a fly is visible on Pence’s head) “This is a great insult to the men and women who are… “

Paul Jay

 The vulgar display of bullying and bellicose behavior of Trump brought presidential debates to a new low.

Chris Wallace (moderator)

“You have repeatedly criticized the answer is that you have stated, you know, you’ve been talking. He made a statement. I’m asking you. I would love to know, sir. I would love to know if you want to switch seats. We could very quickly.”

Paul Jay

In some ways, the VP debate was even worse. Praised by most pundits as being civilized. Perhaps, that’s what was so wrong about it. The same lies and hatred dressed up in a central casting, presidential looking Pence, who pretended to respect his opponent rather than trash her, I think was even more insidious than the at least honest and raw expression of the rage and contempt Trump feels towards anyone who disagrees with him. The inability, of the over scripted Harris, to land a punch on the perfect square jaw of Pence. When so many opportunities presented themselves that almost any well-informed viewer could have devastated him.

I think it was less about her quality as a prosecutor, than her political strategy of trying to appeal to Trump voters and conservatives in the audience, in a way that corporate Democrats imagine might work. It’s called playing it safe, and perhaps it was given the lead Biden holds at the moment. But her disavowal of the Green New Deal, and her passionate defense of fracking, brought the level of discourse to another new low in its own way. I remember when Obama, who was no socialist, was accused by McCain of being a socialist in the last week of the election of 2008, he did not get defensive. Instead, he said, quote, “My Bible tells me, I should be my brother’s keeper”. Compare that to Biden and Harris, running as fast as they can, from every progressive notion they claim to support. And this is civilized.

In a forthcoming article, Leo Panitch writes, “what was perhaps most disturbing, though, to those of us abroad who watched the so-called debate, and here he’s talking about the presidential debate, was what it revealed about the current level of American political discourse. Whatever else may be said about the disappointments of his presidency, Obama certainly raised that level not just in comparison with Bush, but even with Clinton. By contrast, the degradation of political discourse under Trump, brings to mind Umberto Ecos observation, that the most telling characteristic of the rise of fascism was how its impoverished vocabulary and elementary syntax, increasingly limited popular capacity for complex and critical reasoning.”

Donald Trump

“Say it. You want to call them. What do you want to call them? Give me a name. Give me name.  White supremist and white proud boys. And would you like me to conduct voices and write of my face? Stand back and stand by.”

Paul Jay

Is this level of discourse we’ve seen in the debates a reflection of the rise of fascism in the United States? Is the narcissistic, megalomaniacal buffoon Trump the tip of a more organized, coherent, fascist spear?

Donald Trump

“We will defend America against all threats.”

Paul Jay

 Is Trump a farce that will usher in a greater tragedy? Is the liberalism of Obama, and now Biden, part of the process of fascistization too, in that, the inequality gap will continue to grow wider and the economic and psycho-social depression of the working class, is likely to worsen under Biden, if as expected, he continues on the road established by Clinton and Obama. Obama’s administration set the stage for Trump, will Biden set the stage for an even more dangerous, far right demagogue. President Tucker Carlson, anyone? Don’t laugh. Stranger things have already happened. And if so, what are the economic and geopolitical forces, driving the fascistization of America?

 Now joining us to discuss this is Adolph Reed. He’s a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. He’s taught at Yale, Northwestern and the New School for Social Research and is considered a leading voice of progressive and socialist thought, in the United States.

Also joining us is Leo Panitch. Leo’s emeritus, distinguished research professor of political science, at York University in Toronto, and co-editor of the Socialist Register. And he’s considered a leading progressive thinker and writer in Canada. Thank you both for joining us.

Leo Panitch

Thanks for having us.

So Adolph, first of all, why don’t you kick us off? What was your impression of, I guess, last night’s debate and how it connects to this larger question of the generation of discourse and what that means politically?

Adolph Reed

Right. Well, I’m smiling because I didn’t watch last night’s debate.

Paul Jay

 Well, you missed the best moment, the fly.

Adolph Reed

Well, I’ve seen the highlights, right? So,  I watched last night’s debate like I watched last sundays Saints game, by scouring the highlights the day after.

 But I’m just taken with your observation about the contrast between Biden and Harris, and and their commitment to running away from anything that sounds  left, in comparison to Obama’s smoother way of basically doing the same thing. Because I think one of the differences is, like in addition to Obama’s being a much more adept at deflecting. 

That and it’s worth remembering that, well, first of all, Harris was the first person in the Senate to sign on to Sanders’s single payer bill or the Medicare for all in 2016. And she didn’t bail until she decided to run for president. And you may recall from the first couple of debates, she was waffling a little bit and only later became definitive in her opposition. But both she and Biden, certainly Biden from the very beginning, and the mainstream Democrats, including the sort of group of of also rans, who are contesting for the nomination like a Klobuchar and Bennett and Bullock and all the rest of the others. They were running against the left the whole time, right? So in that sense, it shouldn’t be surprising that when pressed in a McCarthyite way, from  the farther right, from the Crypto-NEO, straight up fascist, right, that their reaction would be to continue, would be to take the bait and to show just how centrist by you know the vacant language of the moment, but how conservative they actually are, right. That they wouldn’t push for serious  health care reform, they wouldn’t push for serious climate policy. I didn’t know, for instance, that Harris said, had changed her tune on fracking, which is shocking.

Kamela Harris 

“First of all, I will repeat and the American people know, that Joe Biden will not ban fracking. That is a fact.”

Adolph Reed

But one of the features of this election, is that we’ve got a Democratic candidate. Who’s committed to a view from the very beginning of the campaign, that the left was a greater danger than than real action, than the possibility of the reelection of Trump. And I’m sure that he and Harris and Schumer and Pelosi have all convinced themselves, and one another, that it really is all all about electability, because that’s the story that they tell themselves.

So, but then that once again, I mean, leaves us in this odd position of wanting them to be elected. But that’s what we’ve got to do.

Paul Jay

Leo, this article you wrote about,  the level of discourse and growing fascism, is that, if that’s what you’re seeing in the United States, what are the forces driving it?

Leo Panitch

I’m not sure I quite have the same take on the debate. Apart from the fly, that was a great comment. And I do, what I do think is correct, though, is that when Harris said so vociferously, we will not tax anyone earning four hundred thousand dollars or less. I thought that just said everything, and Pence kept pushing her, of course on this. And, you know, this is the way in which, that wing of the dominant wing of the Democratic Party, has accommodated to neo-liberalism. Since arguably Reagan, maybe even earlier. And of course, she also committed, as Biden has done repeatedly, that they would not do away with fracking. So on the substance of the matter, I think you’re right. Certainly.

 My own impression is that they aren’t more afraid, of the left than of the right. I think these people are absolutely convinced, that a democratic socialist is unelectable in the United States. In addition to be convinced that liberal capitalism is the best of all possible worlds.

I do think they desperately did want Trump out. I think that is their top priority, and I think they very sincerely believe and I’m not sure they’re entirely wrong, given the balance of media forces in the United States on that, Sanders would not have been elected. And certainly one of the reasons would have been that there would have been such fractions in the Democratic Party, as there were in Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party, which would make the party look divided, much more than the Republican Party appears today.

 Despite, as Harris so proudly pointed out, seven of Bush’s cabinet members are supporting Biden. So you see a divided party, there would be much more to the Democratic base. So in those senses, I somewhat disagree.

 On to the question of the discourse. I do think it was a more recognizable political discourse. Not only on Harris’s side, because she is an Obama type clone, but also, and I do think she scored a point against him. On the Supreme Court issue when she said that he couldn’t respond, that Lincoln, who she was sure, Pence admired greatly, had a Supreme Court vacancy to fill with 24 days in the election. And he said he wouldn’t fill it, because it should wait for the next president. So she scored with him, I think, there.

 And it was the kind of substance that you didn’t get out of, here’s the deal, Biden, or the blustering Mussolini type of behavior we got from Trump in the first debate. It did look something more like the line up of the Republicans against the Democrats, from Reagan on, not least when you could see that Biden got most motivated around the issue of big government and taxes, and that was very familiar stuff.

He played the religious line, to be fair to me. You’re right, in a way that connects with his type of evangelical neo-fascism. And she responded typically by saying, I’m religious and Biden’s religious. What was interesting in American historical terms, was she proudly said that Biden would be the second Democratic Catholic president. I thought she blew it by not pointing out that Kennedy was the first, because I’m not sure how many people would even know that in American public life today. But so, if you want me to pick up on the question.

Paul Jay

 Let me just say before you do, I was just blown away, frankly, at how she didn’t even listen to what he was saying and how ill prepared she was. Like even on this question of, that Trump and Biden keep, not Biden, Trump and Pence keep repeating how he closed down travel from China. The fact checker on CNN did better. In fact, he didn’t close down most of the travel from China. There were all kinds of categories of people that were still allowed to come from China and thousands and thousands of people did. 

But even more importantly, on the East Coast, the United States, where this thing really took off, the research has shown that actually the virus came from Europe, not from China. And that’s been out there in the press for months and months. She was so ill prepared for any kind of factual discourse. I mean, even that that kind of level, there was no real substance. It was a bunch of platitudes.

Leo Panitch

She was prepared on the Supreme Court. She wasn’t prepared on that. You’re right. And she kept repeating all of these deaths. My heart goes out to all these families.

Paul Jay

Yeah, but even on the Supreme Court, like, why don’t they answer the bloody thing about packing the Supreme Court and just frankly say if you guys forced through something which is clearly, you shouldn’t be forcing through at this time when the election’s already started, then, yeah, we’ll consider packing the court. I mean, be honest about it, that the leading figures in the party are saying it. Who do they think they’re going to offend, except people who are never going to vote for them anyway?

Leo Panitch

I’m not so sure they’re being electorally ineffective. I really am not. 

Paul Jay

No, I mean, on that one question. No, generally, I think the Biden campaign seems to be working, generally.

Leo Panitch

Well and I think that’s not important. I think I’d like to hear from Adolph on this. I mean, I do think in terms of the question you were posing, that the fascistic culture, that we’re seeing in the United States is very serious. On the other hand, it does appear that the Obama, Kamala Harris, type of discourse, is capable of defeating it electorally. I’m not convinced that they’ll defeat it by enough. That the Trump campaign won’t attempt to challenge the outcome. And there won’t yet be blood in the streets, I’m not yet convinced of that. 

On the other hand, I think the news today that the FBI has sussed out a far right militia conspiracy in Michigan, thought to arrest Governor Whitmer, is the equivalent of the Reichstag fire, and the rise of German fascism, but turning it on its head. That is the state apparatus is using it against the fascists. Rather than against the left, which is what happened in the Reichstag fire

 So I think things may be coming together in such a way, that won’t prevent the legacy of Trump being a very strong, fascistic fraction in American politics. It isn’t going to go away and may be very visible in 2024. And there may be a lot of blood in the streets even this November, but it does look like the Biden Harris strategy will probably bring them into office.

Paul Jay

Well, Adolf, let’s assume that’s true and it looks like that now. I guess things could change, but it looks that way. But does this point, the question I was raising earlier, is Trump a somewhat of anomaly or is this really part of a somewhat qualitative growth of the rise of fascism in the United States? And if that’s true, what’s driving it?

Adolph Reed

Well, and that’s an interesting question to Paul. I mean I mean, let me just say something about the Democrats, or both really, Harris and and Bidens, waffling I guess, or coyness, on the court packing question. I mean, I think it’s right, that from the standpoint of electoral effectiveness, I think it makes sense for them to do that, right. Because it wouldn’t make sense for them to say, no, no, we’re absolutely not going to pursue it. And it wouldn’t, but the cost of saying yes and even laying out the qualification, right, that it’s a retaliatory move to what Trump did, or to what Trump is trying to do, would just set them up for more attacks and continually coming from the Trump administration. 

 Well, I think, but on the bigger question, I mean, I’ve been saying this for a little while now, but I think that. And it may just be like I mean, especially as we look around the world, it may just be that, you know, neo-liberalism has kind of played itself out to a point at which it’s not really capable of delivering enough stuff, benefits, to enough of the population to sustain its legitimacy as a democratic order or a nominally democratic order.

And I know that’s a reified construct. But it might simply be that we’re at a point now where, I know in the US right, now the number of people who are hurting and who are economically marginal, I mean, even before the pandemic has been growing steadily right over decades. And the prevailing left of center discourse is one that either disparages or simply dismisses the suffering of the working class and insecurity of the working class.  And as my good friend Anthony Misaki often said, you  know, the current order can’t hold because it can’t deliver enough to working people. We either have to have, or either we have a credible explanations of why people are feeling more insecure and something that sounds  like a credible path to trying to do something about it. The right wing will and does and has. And I mean the Democrats, I mean the neo- liberal wing of the Democratic Party, has nothing to offer, the actual working class population out there except bromides and cliches.

So in that sense, I mean, there’s a. Yeah, I’ve been thinking that, we may simply be approaching a point at which there are only to two directions forward, either the direction of an authoritarian neo-liberalism, because, as everyone knows, you don’t have to have a democratic, even a nominally democratic order for neo-liberalism to function. In fact, that the ideal would be just the opposite, probably. 

Or a step in the direction of something like struggles for social democratic reforms and that just might be where we are like in American politics now. And that speaks to one of my concerns about a Biden Harris administration. I mean, not that there’s any alternative for us. But if Biden/Harris win, take office, and muddle through for four more years with the same bromides, then we could be setting ourselves up for a less crazy and more competent version of Trump. And then  well, the both you guys, cause you’re back like in Toronto now, you’ll probably see me in that refugee population.

Paul Jay

 If we don’t build a wall first. But we’ll lobby for you to get in.

Adolph Reed

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Paul Jay

 But there’s a lot of talk now about a wall coming up. Leo, what is your take on this choice of kind of FDRish? But I don’t see where the FDR is coming from, but some kind of real social democratic reforms versus more authoritarianism. And when you read some of the foreign affairs and different kinds of literature, coming from the right especially, far further right especially, there’s a lot of discourse that there’s no way to compete with China without America becoming more authoritarian. I mean, how much does that enter into this? 

Leo Panitch

Yeah, I think, first of all, we need to keep our eye on the ball. With regard to the importance of the united electoral front. To make sure that these Democrats do get elected.

Adolph Reed


Leo Panitch

 Now, not only these Democrats, there are other people running at other levels on the Democratic ticket. Who do reflect at least a New Deal mentality, if not something more, to the left.

So it’s also important that they carry on their coattails, people like that into Congress. And it’s the state legislatures. These, this is not unimportant, especially given the size and the danger of the fascist threat, the legacy that will continue even after, if Trump is defeated. 

It’s also important that we keep the eye on the ball with regard to there attempts to not recognize the outcome of the election, which will definitely be the case if the Electoral College difference is 30 or less, may not be the case if it’s, you know, 130 or less.

But you know anything is still possible. And in that sense, it’s very important that there be some discipline in the street protests and it not be led by mindless anarchists. Who will be inviting repression. No, I do think you know, and I think we may see terrible repression if that happens. 

So this is very short run, but it’s very immediate and it’s important that we not allow, as the Communists did in the early 1930s, our awareness of the limitations of the center left, so to speak, or of the center, so to speak, get us, confuse us over what to do in November. I think this is the first thing that has to be said.

 Now, assuming that they do win, and I think it looks likely, and it looks like that other elements of the repressive apparatus, like the FBI and CIA, will not be moving with the militias, the far right militias. We’ll have to have to see. But I would expect other elements of the state, the local police forces, and of course the Border Patrol and so on, could easily be mobilized in a different direction.

So assuming they get through, all it’s to be said is that one has to try to take advantage of this opening. And it is an opening relative to Trump as possible. Right. It’s incredibly important and it could happen if they take the Senate. That the labor legislation that has been promised ever since Clinton in 1992, but never delivered to the very conservative American labor movement, finally does get through and it’s not inconceivable Biden will see it through.

And if that happens, it’s not just a matter of the dues checkoff and so on. It opens space for organizing in the labor movement by the left. And if that should happen, a process of transforming the unions can be set in train, which, if the left is going to emerge as a significant force, is a sine qua non. So you know there is a possibility and I think this matters less than what’s in the policy of Harris or Biden. As to whether we will see the types of policies that do look more new deal like than what’s in the hands of Harris or Biden.

 What it will take to make the Green New Deal happen, is precisely the kind of mobilizations in the labor movement, as well as in the environmental movement, that would force them to go further and maybe engage in some direct state employment in the area of infrastructure built, as the New Deal did. 

So I think that’s how we have to look at this, not to imagine the fascist threat is over, not to imagine that these people that would shift the balance of forces in such a way as to allow for far more progressive policies than the Harris and Biden types would like to have.

Paul Jay

Adolph, whether we’re talking short term, meaning Biden doesn’t win the Electoral College on November 3rd, but does win the Electoral College by the time they do the mail-in votes, but Trump won’t recognize the mail-in votes. Whether it’s that kind of short term or Biden does win, does take office, and there’s a need for a broad movement to push progressive demands, because Biden’s clearly going to be pushed enormously from Wall Street and the traditional levers of power. 

What are the obstacles to creating a stronger, broader national movement in the United States? Because we’re just weeks away from this election, now. This scenario of a kind of potential Trump coup of sorts, is being talked about openly in all the media. And Steve Bannon was on Tucker Carlson, I’ve been saying this a few times on theAnalysis. He openly says the war begins on November 3rd. Well, if a war begins on November 3rd, there needs to be some mobilizing on the people’s side, now. How much is there going on and what are the obstacles to that building a broad movement?

Adolph Reed

 Well, that’s kind of depressing, actually, I think I mean, first of all, let me say that I agree completely with  the account that Leo just laid out about what’s possible and and how we need to think about this. And certainly the point that, that if the left is to become a significant force, there’s got to be transformation within the labor movement. Because everything else is basically Potemkin, right, and that’s kind of the tough pill, I think, for us to swallow thats left us in the US. That what occupies the place of a dynamic, structured social and political movement in this country is like mainly, has been NGOised to the extent that we’ve got like, grass tops and no real  mobilized base. And  I’ll draw, I mean, listeners attention at this point to the distinction that Jane McAlevey makes in her fine book, ‘No Shortcuts: Between Mobilizing and Organizing’. And I’ve had this complaint for decades now.

Oh. But one parenthetical is, on Leo, Jimmy Carter was the first of the Democrats to promise us let labor law reform it and back away from it. And I sometimes thought that Carter was like the warm up act for Reagan and the embryo of neo-liberalism. And as I dug more into the earlier decade, I think Kennedy was probably the zygote of neo-liberalism because  that’s the point at which currency stability began to outpace full employment as a central concern of Democratic national economic policy. 

But anyway. But what we’ve, it’s a frustration that I experienced almost daily in my own work that people have have become so accustomed to acting as though we have a popular movement that  deeply embedded, that they buy and large lost the sense of that really important distinction that McAlevey makes between mobilizing and organizing. And nobody’s been organizing in this country, right up in a political sense for. I can’t recall mean, for how long, frankly, I think we turn out people for demonstrations, we turn out people for there street actions, we do all the kind of stuff that the Internet fundraising left and  NGO left, urge us to do: postcards, letters, phone calls. But with the real work of building a base, trying  to build a base among working people, right. Not trying to be heard on MSNBC, not trying to influence what’s  written on the op ed page of The New York Times. But getting out into the society and here again. Trade unions are crucial for this work and connecting with working people who we have to have the confidence are capable of hearing a message and an agenda that speaks of their direct material concerns. And but people who may not agree with us on on everything. And one of the problems here in this country in particular, I think they’re probably also some tendencies in this regard up in Canada and elsewhere, even in Brazil at this point.

But is that people tend to think of the left. To many people tend to think of being on the left, like like being in a frat, right, that you’ve got to show that you know all the secret handshakes and accept all the basic principles like before you get to be part of it. I would,  the good news for me in all of this, though, it’s been immensely frustrating since the lockdown. But that and I was just complaining about this to somebody else. So like I’m going to be the alter cocker who kvetches for like a couple of minutes here. But that is a cottage industry among the bright and precocious young leftists, especially those who are enamored of the second international, who to sort of parse why it was that Bernie Sanders lost, right. How the campaign failed about this and the other.

And I’ve argued consistently that’s like the wrong approach to take because he was nuts to think that he was ever going to win. Most of us who were seriously involved and who weren’t part of the inner circle or the Vermont crowd never thought that he was going to win. I mean, there was that moment between Nevada and South Carolina where, I mean, everyone was sort of inclined to say, wow, I don’t know, maybe this could happen, but it came crashing down.

I mean, that’s another story for another day. But the key point is and I mean, the objective, from my perspective, was always to keep the campaign going for as long as it could be viable because of what it did. And I think it succeeded fabulously at what it did, which was, you know, in more than 20 consecutive primaries, a majority of Democratic voters identified Medicare for all as an issue that they supported and one of the most important issues. Even South Carolina, where  Biden cleaned Bernie’s clock, a majority of Democratic voters said that they supported medicare for all. And we actually had more than 18,000, mainly black, mainly working class, South Carolinians signed pledges saying that they were, that they prefer to vote only for candidates who supported it. 

So around the country. Right. Well, I think that Sanders is showing and he demonstrated that there is a potential for us to connect with the working class base, if we do it. Right, if we try to do it, if we try to do it around the panoply of issues that connect with people’s lives.

The other thing about that is that we found in South Carolina where, that without any prompting from us, the people who, the grassroots types, who were part  of this effort, after talking a little bit about the health care issue and health care as a public good, began bringing up on their own free public higher education, right. For instance, I mean, so if health care should be treated as a public good, well, why shouldn’t a higher ed be treated as a public good? Why shouldn’t housing be treated as a public good? And that’s where the movement’s going to come from. 

Now the problem is we don’t have it, right. And I guess this is not an uncommon problem for our sort. But we don’t have that movement we don’t have, in so far, as what is understood to be a left, in the US, is organically grounded in any place it’s Brooklyn. And that’s not what we need. That’s really not what we want, but a natural response and I’ve been for a reflexive response and as well I’ve been hearing for more than 25 years now, is that OK? But the peril, the perils that confront us now are so great that we don’t have the time to indulge, like the luxury of trying to organize in that way.

 To which my response has been, well, the reason that  part of the reason that the perils are so great now is we haven’t been doing this shit for 30 or 40 years, right. So on that basis, I mean, well, and one other observation, really, it’s not much of a point, but it’s one that’s worth maybe paying attention to, for a second anyway, about the need for discipline.

 A couple of months ago, like in the midst of the street action around the police killings and Black Lives Matter, I recalled and I went back and checked to make sure that in the summer of 64, the main civil rights leadership, and this included King, Rustin, Randolph, John Lewis from SNCC, the Urban League core, has called a press conference and put out a statement calling for a moratorium on demonstrations. I think they put this statement out on the 30th of July, and they called for a moratorium on  the demonstrations until after the November election. Why? Because of the imperative to defeat Goldwater. And it’s just a way of thinking strategically about politics. They had a cultural force and the organizational ability to see  that call through, right. And to enforce, I mean the moratorium, now that Goldwater is like a walk in the park compared to Trump. But now there is no such grouping with the cultural force to even make the call, to make it happen and disorganised, self-indulgent, frankly, I just don’t attempt to candy coat it, protest activity has become like the legitimate norm now, right. I mean, that’s what radicalism is understood to be broadly, right, as performative politics and expressive activity. And that’s understandable. I mean, everybody does it right and young people especially are inclined to do it, and all the more so, when they’re operating with the newsreels of Chicago in 68 and Watson 65 and Birmingham in 63 playing in their heads, right. But we don’t have the organizational structures. Right. And we don’t have. The political agenda, like I’m trying to finish my New Republic column now and my main, and the main focus is that this is the I mean, this year, the 75th anniversary of the publication of Drake and Caytons, Black Metropolis. And I read it a couple of months ago, again. And was struck, they don’t talk about combating racism. They don’t talk about it a trans historical, existential commitment to white supremacy or racism as the problem confronting black Americans.

It’s a field study of Chicago, and what they do is examine the history of the black population in Chicago from the end of the 19th century. And at every step  along the way, like  they linked prejudice and bigotry and the practice of discrimination to political economic forces. Right. Competition for jobs, competition for poor housing. And they finger that the racialist structuring of the real estate market, as what both produced ghettos on the one side and a chunk of white fear about the spectre of black encroachment, right.

 That’s something also that’s  been lost, right. We don’t have a way of understanding racial injustice anymore, right. As political discourse has become much more moral, or moralistic, and much less politically strategic. And I mentioned to Leo that  I mean, more and more, I think we need to know and by the way, here, I don’t mean the worm, what worm I have in my pocket and me, I mean, we as as as leftists, right. And I’ll end this rant just by saying this, which is what I have said often, and will say often, that from the standpoint of building the kind of deep and broad movement that we need to stave off this fascism that I mean, Leo is absolutely correct, is not going to go away with Trump. I don’t see how we’re supposed to get to that  kind of movement, if we have to start out from affirming what we don’t have in common.

Right. And that’s one of the core problems with what’s currrently called identity politics. And it just seems to me that they have a better chance even of working through racist dispositions, right, if it’s possible to start out from a position of solidarity, not Kumbaya or, you know, if everyone lit one little candle kind of solidarity, but the solidarity that comes from understanding, that you have common interests and that  you fight for in common is part of a common project.

And as it seems to me, that all of the anti soldaristic stuff now, especially because of the mounting danger of these fascist tendencies, it’s just time to call, shenanigans, right on that stuff. Because it’s just not it’s counterproductive from the standpoint of trying to build a real left in the US.

Paul Jay

Leo, the issues of like housing and employment, all the more immediate economic issues, which clearly do engage and mobilize people, especially as the depression deepens, which is likely to happen given the pandemic is already into its second wave and right now there’s no end in sight.

Leo Panitch

 The other day there, 840, 000 new applications for unemployment.

Paul Jay

Yeah, and but the overriding issue of our time, which in theory should be something that could unite every kind of interest, is the climate crisis. But it keeps getting second, third and fourth on a grocery list of issues when we have very, very little time. The issue of building a broad movement and trying to coalesce all the different silos of issues and people that are involved in things.

Do you not think there needs to be some push from the left, to make climate the sort of galvanizing organizing issue that a broad front, a very broad front, gets built around. Because even sections from all kinds of classes, including sections of the elites, are getting how existential that threat is. 

Leo Panitch

Well, sections of the elite have been getting it since the 1960s, and built the environmental movement from that point on, was supported by capitalists who understood what was happening.

I think that’s right, Paul. I think, however, when I say this in relation to what Adolph said as well, that I think there is plenty of stuff to build on in this respect. And it doesn’t behoove us to set those indicators of exactly movements in the direction you’re both speaking of, taking place. Of all places, you know, at the heart of the American empire, the United States. After all, the Green New Deal did emerge as the symbol, of what the democratic socialist left now is in and outside the Democratic Party.

And it was no bad thing that it was identified with the old New Deal because it implied that the left was concerned with workers fears that they would lose their livelihoods. So I think that we see a trend in this direction, the fact that politicians, utterly pragmatic politicians, career ambitious politicians like Kamala Harris, signed on to AOC’s Green New Deal and then had to backtrack, is an indication of how much pressure there was in this respect. This is very important.

And all I’m saying is that people are oriented to speaking and thinking the way in which Adolph was speaking. I think that there are tens of thousands of young people who are and that’s the future. And they do think in ways that I think realize, unlike most environmentalists. That you can’t speak as though it’s all over in 5 years or 10 years, if you speak that way, we’re screwed. 

Because as Adolph was saying, the short term capacities in the environmental movement, is elsewhere. Do not even meet the long term exigencies of strategy, and we’ve got to be thinking in the long run strategic terms, including how do we change ourselves, as activists, to be able to take this on? This cannot be done in 5 or 10 years. And when you have a rhetoric, we’ve got 5 years or 10 years left, then people go to bed and pull the sheets over their head or go to watch porn videos or whatever they do. 

And it’s really important that environmentalists now start saying, it may be the case that after 10 years from now, any transformation we’re going to make in the social order, will have to deal with aspects of the environment that cannot be undone. But doesn’t mean the end of human life on Earth, but it may mean that it won’t be a socialist Valhalla that we get to easily. What we need to be thinking in terms that aren’t limited by this phrase.

Paul Jay

All right well, gentlemen, thanks very much. This is just the beginning of a conversation. So, thanks for joining us.

Leo Panitch

Thanks for having us Paul. 

Adolph Reed

Oh, yeah. Thanks a lot, Paul. Good to see you Leo, even if its  virtual.

Paul Jay

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