‘A Trump campaign with Bernie Sanders principles.’Ye’s presidential platform
‘If the poor people all unite, then it’s much harder to control us.’Andrew Tate, who grew up in extremely impoverished circumstances
‘Capitalists posin’ as compassionate be offendin’ me.’Kendrick Lamar, ‘Savior’
‘I’ve got to formulate a plot / Or end up in jail or shot / Success my only option / Failure’s not’Eminem, ‘Lose Yourself‘
‘Is hip hop just a euphemism for a new religion / The soul music of the slaves that the youth is missin’?Kanye West, ‘Gorgeous’, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
At University of Cambridge, I read a lot of Marx. Not only that, but I read a lot of people inspired by Marx. While Marx developed a critique of capital specifically, his successors applied this critique to other areas of society — with greater and lesser degrees of success. So it is notable that it is not in academia, where the ‘cultural’ critique dominates, that we hear a return to orthodox Marxian economics — but in hip hop and the ‘alt right.’ For example, Curtis Yarvin anchors his so-called ‘Dark Enlightenment’ critique of what he calls ‘The Cathedral’ of capitalist ideology in the underlying power of markets. The ‘mute compulsion’ of capital is understood by Marxists today, but it is elsewhere that we find this economic explanation applied to ideology.
For all its critique of ‘cultural Marxism’, the alt right strikes me as extremely similar to the Frankfurt School of critical theory in its critique of mass media deception. During the War on Terror, left-wing figures like Noam Chomsky applied this critique to right-wing insanity — but today the left drives the prejudice through the resentment against all political enemies. This ‘left-wing racism’ as Peter Hitchens puts it is denied by the left and the centre, which together form a totalitarian axis analogous to Nazi Germany’s ‘alliance of the elite and the mob’ (Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism). The way ‘Antifa’ attacks the right as ‘fascist’ mimics the way the ADL calls economic leftists ‘antisemitic’ for criticising Israel, capitalism, American foreign policy since 1991, or all three.
Perhaps ironically, this critique (implicitly, and sometimes explicitly) applies to none other than Professor John Mearsheimer — whose critique of America’s dogged hostility to Russia and Iran, unconditional alliance with Israel, and reluctance to challenge rising totalitarian China ticks all the boxes of ‘prejudice.’ Fellow historian Adam Tooze casts John Mearsheimer as the villain in a hit piece entitled, ‘The dark origins of realism.’ The way the early Frankfurt School is similarly seen as too ‘dark’ for students’ tastes and abilities (I remember being told by a professor that Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer is too complex a read for first years) reflects this tacit antisemitism in the academy (Tooze has not refrained from hurling this accusations at others, such as Marxist Wolfgang Streeck, for defending institutions outside the paradigm of Tooze’s own left liberalism — such as the nation-state, which Arendt herself defended as a bullwark against totalitarian fascism).
The media fails to critique the ‘far left’, but condemns pro-Trump organizations of the ‘far right’ like ‘Proud Boys’ — even though there is little evidence ‘Antifa’ is any good. The rhetoric and deeds of the ‘far left’ and associated cancel-culture organisations are considerably more violent than anything on the ‘far right’. The way the ‘far left’ targets young men as the villains mimics the way the War on Terror targeted Muslims, and the prison incarceration drive targeted black men as ‘superpredators’ (Hillary Clinton, who referred to Trump supporters as a ‘basket of deplorables’).
Trump is condemned for relatively anodyne rhetoric — but the centre and left are excused of all crimes; except if they trip over a ‘no-no’ linguistic taboo, especially if it has anything to do with ‘antisemitism’. But real antisemitism exists and is channeled to dislodge the economic views of Bernie Sanders and the geopolitics of John Mearsheimer from their innate popularity. This antisemitism, masquerading as antiintellectualism, is further extended to individuals such as Ye — whose deliberate breaking of liberal taboos was seen as violent, at a time when the West is arming Ukraine with uranium and accepting Finland into NATO, raising the likelihood of nuclear war with Putin, who Ye actually proposed meeting last year.
Ye also proposed expelling China from its Most Favored Nation status on the WTO — the best idea for containing China along Mearsheimer’s proposed lines since Trump’s lacklustre trade war. Ye sees in Trump the potential rhetoric and foreign policy to defend the economic core of ‘Bernie Sanders principles,’ but also the free speech necessary to fight the racist censorship by the centrist elite and ‘left-wing’ mob. Ye saw that hip hop is a ‘new religion’ as Marxism was once seen to be, and sees how the ‘right’ is closer to critical Socratic thinking — as it ‘ask[s] more questions’, unlike the dogmatic, self-hating ‘left’ — than any other movement is in politics today.
It is entirely possible that embracing the rhetoric of Christian capitalism may be the best way of advancing communism in policy, in order to dislodge totalitarian fascism from its iron throne — at home (in the form of ‘woke’ fascism) and abroad (in the form of China’s ‘totalitarian-monopoly capitalism,’ as Franz Neumann described Nazi Germany). Ye is seen as akin to Hitler by the mainstream media, but his policy and rhetoric are more similar to that of Franklin Roosevelt, adapted to the specific needs of our time. Ye draws on the new left, labelled the ‘far right’ by the mainstream media, to propose what amounts to a Good New Deal.
Ye values the power of markets but wants to reign in inequality and challenge, as Hannah Arendt did, the way China (the new Nazi Germany) uses Jewish people and other vulnerable minorities as economic and ideological tools for disciplining free thinkers into staying silent, for fear of being labelled as ‘prejudiced’. ‘Woke’ liberalism works in China’s interests by dividing the West and funnelling all profits from industry back to China. This confused liberals because Ye stands against the use of ‘antisemitism’ as an insult, but this is only because Ye opposes antisemitism on a deeper level — as the substance underlying his rhetorical critique of mainstream narratives shows.
When Mearsheimer and Walt published ‘The Israel Lobby’ in 2006, they were similarly lambasted by the press — even though, as they pointed out, the idea that Israel has a monopoly on Jewish identity is a lie, just as it was a lie for Nazi Germany to claim to have a monopoly on the identity of the imagined community of ‘Aryans’ (cf. Benedict Anderson, Brendan Simms). It is a tragedy that the memory of the Holocaust is being used to silence the very sorts of free thought and surprising analogies that might help us avoid a repetition of the past. ‘It could happen today,’ as organisations like the ADL and Antifa never cease to say, but it may be these very organisations are making things worse by making ordinary people associate antisemitism with anticapitalism.
And if capitalism is the issue in substance, then the way the ‘woke’ left — and right — have behaved means that it is impossible to criticise capitalism without also criticising the ‘woke’ fascism that makes it possible. Andrew Tate — another villain for the media — points out that racism and the most recent wave of ‘feminism’ have in common a means to divide the working class along identitarian lines. As Professor Francis Fukuyama points out, identity politics not only stands in the way of real socialism — it stands in the way of civic nationalism. Identity politics claims to oppose National Socialism, but it has become the very thing it set out to destroy.
The right reacts to left-wing extremism by swinging in the other direction — just as Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine last year in desperate bids to deter NATO expansion. The mainstream media says Russia and the right are ‘playing the victim’ — but this is what the so-called ‘left’ now does since the economics-focused movements of Corbyn in 2017 and Bernie in 2016 were captured by culture war — which is class war, but allied with capital rather than the working class.
The elite centre and mob left are gaslighting the right and ordinary people alike, forcing the two to align just as the West pushes Russia into China’s arms. Ultimately only a working class-led ‘right’ (i.e., the real new left) can stop China and capital in their tracks, and invest in the nuclear fission and fusion technology needed to confront climate chaos. By allying with Russia and the working class alike, the GOP can contain China and capital — and end the gaslighting neo-fascism of the left.
The prosecution of Trump is a case in point. The January 6th protests pale in comparison to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ riots, which weaponised a tragedy in order to loot whole towns, but the media uses the former, not the latter, as a Reichstag fire to justify Biden’s unquestioned ascendancy. Trump points out Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if Trump were still in office — but no matter. Peace is no concern for the profit- and power-hungry elites, whose moral decay is evident in the surprising ‘suicide’ of Jeffrey Epstein, who turned out to run a pedophile ring as a part of a broader corrupt elite that Trump rightly challenged politically (if not, sadly, personally). But all critiques of the elite are labelled ‘conspiracy theory’ — even when such theories make correct predictions, such as QAnon’s reported prediction of the geopolitical Five Eyes breaking apart and Twitter head Jack Dorsey resigning (the latter of which has happened as Elon Musk has taken over Twitter, and the former of which is ongoing).
Alas, the media creates conspiracy theory through censorship — pushing any critics of totalitarian liberal capitalism to the periphery, where their audiences demand poetic imagination beyond the bounds of centrist or academic precision. But since when was precision, a stylistic emphasis on niche points and little-known facts, more important than substantive accuracy? Political scientists rightly pointed out the media took Trump literally but not seriously. It is possible that the media, or ‘culture industry’ as Adorno and Horkheimer put it, do this at least somewhat deliberately — but it is also possible the educated elite has forgotten what truth is. Totalitarianism can arise from the middle class, as John Gray points out in his concept of the ‘myth of the liberal bourgeoisie.’ Alas, the liberal middle class rejoices so much in its ‘antifascism’ that it forgets the way it has become fascistic and totalitarian.
This reminds me of the way ‘empiricist’ academics in the ‘Cambridge School’ look down at the ‘rationalists’ from Chicago. Marxist and Platonic writers close to Strauss and Macpherson are treated as conspiracy theorists even though their arguments are philosophically watertight. Historical precision has become a fetish that obscures accuracy. Liberal hegemony in the media has a similarly siloing effect, forcing journalists — like academics — into narrow specialism that rejects theoretical generalism. But genuine, dangerous conspiracy theory often arises from liberal individualism itself — just as totalitarianism arises not from state unity but market-driven disunity. To see this you would have to read Plato and Marx — and today’s educated elite spurns the classics in favour of the ‘footnotes’. This leads to what analytic philosopher Quine called the ‘dogmas of empiricism’ — and what Adorno and Horkheimer saw as excessive emphasis on the individual as the only relevant unit in politics. So the individualist left sees on the collectivist right a fascistic ideology which liberalism itself entails. Republicanism predates liberalism and nationalism — and could constitute a way out of this trap, acting as a path back towards ‘liberty before liberalism’ (Quentin Skinner), and afterwards, too. ‘Republican liberty’ may help us move beyond the individualist and groupist liberties of the contemporary ‘woke’ left, and any remnants of ethno-nationalism or other varieties of liberal sectarianism elsewhere.
Ye has the opportunity to turn things around, making the implicit communism of the ‘fascist’ right explicit, contrasting it with the real fascism parading as ‘communism’ on the left. Ye can awaken the ‘right’ to its historic vocation to play the role of the new left, freeing the working class from ‘woke’ capital. In essence, ‘right-wing’ communism must triumph over ‘left-wing’ fascism. But if republican socialism in America seems as distant a goal as Bernie’s democratic socialism did to Obama and the Democratic elites, then Ye may play the role of a new Roosevelt — drawing on the real left to defeat the right, masquerading as the ‘left,’ which is showing its current intentions in the Biden presidency: to turn wine into salt water that no-one except ‘protected’ groups can drink. But the water is poison, and minorities and majority alike will suffer from the false hope of ‘left-wing’ fascism.
The true faith of ‘right-wing’ communism may allow Ye to unite America and the world to confront the triple crisis of capitalism, the rise of China, and climate chaos. If the geopolitical and class conditions of this movement do not materialise, I fear the world will slide deeper into oblivion. As the ‘left’ denies the validity of natural law as Nazi Germany once did — echoing Ernst Fraenkel’s seminal study of totalitarianism, ‘The Dual State’ — we slide further towards Hobbes’ state of nature, which as Marx noted had a lot in common with market society, where everyone is (literally or otherwise) at one another’s throats.
It does not have to be this way. ‘Capitalist realism’, as Mark Fisher points out, is as ideologically misleading as ‘socialist realism’ was in the Soviet Union. We must stop totalitarianism today not by embracing a cowardly shallow centrism, but by developing a deep balance between radical and conservative impulses, which form the Yin and Yang of political life. We cannot have order without chaos, life without death, happiness without suffering, or history without tragedy. But we can accept the tragedy of reality rather than dangerously repressing it. If there is anything music can do for politics, perhaps it is this: allowing us to accept our own selves as we are; and thereby each other. If we can confront our own fears, we may be more at peace with one another’s fears. Loneliness makes us fear togetherness — but through free speech and political argument, reconciliation is possible. Conflict is inevitable — but it is not all there is. The philosopher Immanuel Kant, for all his flaws, once argued for limiting the scope of reason to make room for faith. A little faith in humanity and our collective power to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles may go a long way in these troubled times. If I may end with a quote from my new favourite series, Evangelion:
There are no sins you can’t atone for. There is hope, there is always hope.Kaworu in Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo by Hideaki Anno.
Disclaimer: Any similarity between names mentioned and actual individuals is purely accidental and largely theoretical. These are fun ideas to entertain but, as always, I may be mistaken. After all, what do I know?