Jaco in the bin

The current edition of Jacobin includes the most recent iteration of a push within social democratic circles and organizations to support strong border controls in the wake of the US Presidential election. It’s not only or quite that however.

Since the US is not really lacking in border controls, and since cheering on what already exists renders Jacobin irrelevant at the level of existing state policy, it’s impossible to read this is something other than a call for social democratic parties to align with the far Right over a support for borders and against current re-alignments between antifa and anti-racists, since Trump’s election and in preparation for the next election cycle. It is a telling filial choice. But they have been nothing if not consistent in their adherence to the most normative, oikonomic cast of ‘the political,’ on issues of racism as much as gender and sexuality. Plainly Jacobin have decided to enhance Breitbart‘s business model with better fonts.

The article includes an argument that the German Left party, Die Linke, should take a position on borders that is closer to the far Right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) than Merkel’s CDU/CSU government is at present. The editors of Jacobin had already announced their intention to press for more voluble support for border controls, in various contexts and articles. What is remarkable about this most recent article – besides its hilarious translation of ‘anti-essentialism’ as ‘racists can change if they join the party (because it supports racism)’ – is that it explicitly trumpets the embrace of border controls as part of a political break with anti-fascism, in Germany and, by implication, Europe. The AfD is, of course, the close ally of the Austrian Freedom Party. Neither alt-right nor quite neo-Nazi so much as Nazi, the AFP was founded by an ex-SS officer. It recently boasted on facebook of having met with Trump’s recently-departed National Security Advisor, General Flynn.

For Jacobin, this marks a deliberate and new low, but I honestly cannot say I am all that surprised. Most if not all of the names lifted into prominence by this milieu as ‘Marxist theorists’ over recent times have either steadfastly refused to offer the barest critique of fascism as a matter of policy or incorporated its key thinkers as part of the canon.

Theoretically, the understanding of neoliberalism from these quarters has, for some years now, been the means by which a small group of people applauded one another on the basis that they all viewed a garbled reading of Marx (always the early writings of Marx) as continuous with either conservative and, at times, explicitly fascist thinkers, from Polanyi to Schmitt. Consistently, for decades, they have railed against ‘international bankers’ and, with some determination, re-packaged the views of Henry Ford and Hitler as a ‘marxist take on finance.’ From the credence given to the mythical ‘white working class’ in the wake of Trump’s election to the US Presidency to the high regard accorded to the National Socialist jurist, Carl Schmitt, not to mention Zizek’s remarks that the problem with Hitler is that he was ‘not violent enough’ followed by his denunciations of antifa, there has been a dogged course set toward the far Right that pre-dates and parallels Trump’s appearance in the Republican primaries.

I do not subscribe to a horseshoe theory of politics, wherein the far Left inevitably meets with the far Right. This is vacuous nonsense. The shared condition is not ‘extremism’ but nationalism, and the naturalization or acceptance of its borders as the borders of politics. As it happens, the theoretical framing is far more Machiavellian liberalism freighted onto eighteenth-century moral economy and fascist understandings of money and finance. But, clearly, the refusal to consider fascism as having a politics rather than being some vacuous form of ‘extremism’ lends itself to accommodations and excuses.

Strasserism is not new, but it is certainly time to stop pretending that Jacobin and others around the DSA are capable of understanding let alone critically reflecting on their own investments in national socialism.

There are many other, far better journals and magazines, with far more integrity and more intellectual credibility than Jacobin has been able to muster.

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