By Julio Covarrubias (April 2, 2020)
United States of Sinvergüenzas
“Intellectuals still argue whether Amerika is a fascist country. This concern is typical of the Amerikan left’s flight from reality. … This is actually a manifestation of the authoritarian process seeping into its own psyche.” —George Jackson
Watching DNC running dogs pile-on on Bernie’s National Press Secretary Brie Joy’s Twitter the other day—just for asking a politician as powerful as Kamala Harris to support Medicare for all; at a moment in which it is clear that millions of people stand to suffer without health insurance during this pandemic, and, as David Sirota pointed out, just 24 hours before the millions of newly unemployed will lose their health insurance—it dawned on me that liberal centrists who appropriate “social justice” language to attack and silence the left are, in fact, using the same gaslighting strategy that fascists use. After all, the M.O. of fascists has been to use the language of liberal ideals, like “freedom of speech,” to normalize their violent ideologies and to use the mechanisms of liberal systems to obtain political power.
This age-old strategy was given a name, finally, in an old Koch-funded libertarian magazine, REASON. As Mark Ames reports, the strategy is outlined in a series of articles on how to “market” libertarianism and convert both right-wingers and leftists to the libertarian cause. They named this strategy “political cross-dressing.”
Here is how they explained it: “‘Cross-dressing,’ of course, refers to the adoption of the dress and behavior of members of the opposite sex. For the libertarian, political cross-dressing means using right-wing words, evidence, and arguments to support civil liberties, and left-wing terms and reasons to support the free market.”
Ignoring the transphobia of the name for a moment, it is obvious that the Democratic establishment has deployed this strategy to win voters. Beginning perhaps with Bill Clinton, and perfected by Barack Obama—the “political crossdresser” par excellence—this strategy has since risen to its most cynical and decadent forms during and after Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. For liberal centrists, “political cross-dressing” means using the language of “intersectional feminism” to market their brand of neoliberal governance, which differs from the right-wing not by the lack of class warfare, racism, patriarchy, imperialism, or even genocidal border policies, but only by the face we put on the system and who it is that gets to lie to us.
The pile-on on Brie is only a recent item in a long list of centrist liberals either acting in bad faith (consider this unbelievable response by David Frum to Joe Biden’s “incident” with an auto-worker) or hijacking the language of social justice for their own aims (consider this lame attempt at construing an inane gesture by Speaker Pelosi as an act of resistance). The truth is that the Democrats have no integrity. They are completely shameless. They are the party that, today, holds a better future hostage, while promising to parcel it out in crumbs to those who remain loyal. This is the relationship between the medieval Lord and the deluded serf, and it speaks to a deep seated form of moral and social decay.
When we talk about corruption, we have to understand that it’s much more than taking bribes or rigging elections. It’s a kind of moral sickness that sets in on the social fabric. It’s this sickness that lets the shameless get away with what should be shameful. There is no other way to describe the way liberals think and act, and the way they’ve taught their base to think and act. In this, and in their commitment to serving at the pleasure of capital, DNC centrists and ultra-right fascists are companions in guilt.
The Spanish language has a wonderful word for this kind of personality—sinvergüenza (=literally, “without” + “shame”). A sinvergüenza is a person lacking in any sense of decency or propriety, someone whose moral constitution simply provides no internal sanction against dishonorable action. Observing that there were even gay and Jewish Nazis, Dorothy Thompson, too, observed, long-ago, that “going Nazi” had more to do with being a certain type of person—a person with certain moral defects, a person with a certain type of bad character—than with race, ethnicity, or social background.
In this respect George Jackson was right to say that fascism “has established itself in a most disguised and efficient manner in this country.” The political structure of the US simply is a form of structural fascism: “An electoral choice of ten different fascists,” he said, “is like choosing which way one wishes to die.” What defines fascism at its base, Jackson claimed, was the joint commitment to facilitating the expansion of racial capitalism while repressing the democratizing demands of labor. “Any action that threatens the right of a few individuals to own and control public property must be prohibited and curtailed whatever the cost.” It’s in that sense, also, that neoliberalism is a form of fascism: it is the subordination of every aspect of governance, of social life, of inner will, to a totalitarian and nihilistic ideology; it is the worship of the market and of unaccountable corporate power.
Liberal centrists use the same strategies as fascists, then, because they are themselves, in fact, fascists.