The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself?

The West’s illiberal-bashing frenzy has reduced what should be a crucial debate about a fearful West Against the Rest, to the more pressing issue of The West Against Itself, writes Pepe Escobar.

By Pepe Escobar
in Paris
Special to Consortium News

What is the bigger story? The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself?

The Illiberal Quartet of Xi, Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan is in the line of fire of haughty homilies about Western “values.”

Illiberalism is arrogantly and provocatively depicted in the West repeatedly as a Tartar Invasion 2.0. But closer to home Illiberalism is responsible for the social, civil war in the U.S. as Trump’s America has long ago forgotten what the European Enlightenment was all about.

The Western view is a maelstrom of a Judaeo-Greco-Roman, pseudo-philosophy steeped in Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler and obscure biblical references decrying an Asian attack on the “enlightened” West’s mission civilisatrice.

The maelstrom stunts critical thinking to evaluate Xi’s Confucianism, Putin’s Eurasianism, Rouhani’s realpolitik and non-Westoxified Shi’ite Islam, as well as Erdogan’s quest to guide the global Muslim Brotherhood.

Targets of the West.

Instead the West give us phony “analyses” of how NATO should be praised for not allowing Libya to become a Syria, which it indeed has.

Meanwhile a golden rule prevails about one Asian power: never criticize the House of Saud, which happens to be the ultimate manifestation of Illiberalism. They get a free pass because after all they are “our bastards.”

What the illiberal-bashing frenzy does accomplish is to reduce what should be a crucial debate about a fearful West Against the Rest, to the more pressing issue of The West Against Itself. This intra-West battle is being manifested in several ways: Viktor Orban in Hungary, eurosceptic coalitions in Austria and Italy, the advance of the ultra right-wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the Sweden Democrats. In short it’s The Revenge of the European Deplorables.

Bannon’s ‘Paradise’ Regained

Into this European fray steps Steve Bannon, the master strategist who elected Donald Trump and is now taking the continent by storm. He is about to launch his own think tank, The Movement, in Brussels, to foment no less than a right-wing populist revolution.

It comes replete with Bannon spooking assorted EU lands by paraphrasing Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost: “I prefer to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

Bannon’s growing influence in Europe has reached the Venice Biennale, where director Errol Morris presented a documentary on Bannon, American Dharma, based on 18 hours of interviews with Trump’s Svengali himself.

Bannon held court two weeks ago in Rome supported by Mischaël Modrikamen, the president of the Popular Party in Belgium, who is slated to lead The Movement. In Rome Bannon again met Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini – whom he had previously advised “for hours” to finally break a political coalition with fading star Silvio “Bunga Bunga” Berlusconi. Salvini and Berlusconi though are now horse-trading again.

Bannon has correctly identified Italy as the vortex of post-politics, spearheading the crusade to defeat the EU. The game-changer should be the May 2019 European Parliament elections, which Bannon reads as a certified victory for Right populism and nationalist movements.

In this do-or-die battle between populism and the Davos Party, Bannon wants to play The Undertaker against a puny George Soros.

Bannon in Rome (CNBC)

Bannon is even seducing cynics in France by designating self-described “Jupiter” Emmanuel Macron, now in public opinion free fall, as public enemy number one. A faded U.S. newsweekly declared Macron to be The Last Man Standing between “European values” and, well, fascism. Bannon is more realistic: Macron is “a Rothschild banker who never made money – the definition of a loser…He imagines himself to be a new Napoleon.”

Bannon is connecting across Europe because he has identified how the West peddles “socialism for the very rich and the very poor” and “a brutal form of Darwinian capitalism for everybody else.” Quite a few Europeans easily grasp his simplistic concept of Right populism, according to which citizens must be able to get jobs, something impossible when illegal immigration is used as a scam to depress workers’ salaries.

The political strategy underlining The Movement is to unite all European nationalist vectors – a currently fragmented mess featuring sovereignists, neoliberals, radicalized nationalists, racists, conservatives and extremists on a quest for respectability.

To his credit, Bannon viscerally understood how the EU is a vast, de facto “un-sovereignty” space held hostage to economic austerity. The EU bureaucracy can easily be construed as Illiberalism Central: It was never a democracy.

There’s no question Bannon impressed on Salvini the need to keep hammering over and over again how the Germany-France leadership of the EU is anti-democratic. But there’s a huge problem: The Movement, and the Right populism galaxy, center almost exclusively on the role of illegal migrants – leading non-ideological cynics to suspect this might be little else than State xenophobia posing as a revolt of the masses.

Meanwhile, in Plato’s Cave…

Belgian political theorist Chantal Mouffe, teaching at the University of Westminster and a darling of the multicultural café society, could easily be depicted as the anti-Bannon. She does identify the “crisis of neoliberal hegemony” and is capable of outlining how post-politics is all about Right and Left wallowing together in a conceptual swamp.

The political impasse of the whole West once again revolves around TINA: There Is No Alternative, in this case to neoliberal globalization. The Goddess of the Market is Athena and Venus rolled into one. The question is how to organize a politically strong reaction against the all-out marketization of life.

Mouffe at least understands that just demonizing Right populism as irrational – while despising the “deplorables” – is not good enough. Yet she places too much hope in the fuzzy political strategy of Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise in France, or Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Arguably the only progressive politician in Europe who has a clear shot at government is Jeremy Corbyn – who’s consuming all his energy fighting a nasty demonization campaign.

Mouffe: The anti-Bannon. (Stephan Röhl-Wikimedia Commons.)

Sanders has just launched a manifesto calling for a Progressive International – capable of outlining a New Deal 2.0 and a new Bretton Woods.

For his part, Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister and co-founder of the DiEM25 democratic movement, laments the triumph of a Nationalist International – at least stressing that they “sprang out of the cesspool of financialized capitalism”.

Yet he resorts to the same old players when it comes to pushing for a Progressive International: Sanders, Corbyn and his own DiEM25.

Mouffe’s conceptual solution is to bet on what she describes as Left populism, which can be construed as anything from “democratic socialism” to “participatory democracy”, depending “on the different national context.”

This implies that populism – relentlessly demonized by the neoliberal elites – is far from a toxic perversion of democracy, and can be authentically progressive.

Slavoj Zizek, in The Courage of Hopelessness, couldn’t agree more, when he stresses that when the masses “not convinced by ‘rational’ capitalist discourse” prefer a “populist anti-elitist stance,”this has nothing to do with “lower-class primitivism”.

In fact Noam Chomsky, way back in 1991, in Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, had brilliantly shown how Western “democracy” really works: “It is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated.”

So what does Europe want?” Zizek asks. He holds the merit of identifying the “principal contradiction” of what he qualifies as “The New World Order” (actually we’re still under the slow burn of the Old Word Disorder). Zizek succinctly depicts the contradiction as “the structural impossibility of finding a global political order that could correspond to the global capitalist economy.”

And that’s why the “change” spectrum is so limited, and for the moment totally captured by Right populism. Nothing substantial can happen without a real socio-economic transformation, a new world-system replacing casino capitalism.

Taking the shadowplay in their Platonic – Russophobic – cave for reality, while mourning “the end of Atlanticism,” the champions of “Western values” prefer to adopt a diversionist tactic.

They keep on summoning fear of “illiberal” Putin and his “malign behavior” undermining the EU, coupled with “debt trap” neo-colonialism inflicted on unsuspecting customers by those devious Chinese.

These elites could not possibly understand they face a plight of their own making, courtesy of free market populism, which happens to be the apex of Western Illiberalism.

Pepe Escobar is the correspondent-at-large for Hong Kong-based Asia Times. His latest book is 2030. Follow him on Facebook.

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47 comments for “The West Against the Rest or The West Against Itself?

  1. Rong Cao
    September 27, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    Find a way to escape the tight capital controls of those greedy international citizens, the west will then be reborn. The relentless practices of money producing more money only lead to the ultimate destruction of the healthy society.

  2. mike k
    September 19, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Still playing the same old games with the worn out cards of a discredited past. All this political mumbo jumbo will not put Humpty together again. Only a whole new way of thinking and being human can withdraw our tender chestnuts from the raging fires sweeping the planet. And this is so unlikely, it spells hopelessness. Quel domage!

    Throw those old cards into the fire, and take a quiet walk in the woods – while they still exist….

  3. Brian
    September 19, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    Socialism for the rich and the poor…Darwinian capitalism for everyone else…I’ve never heard of a better description of the European Economic Model…Is that what the U.S wants? Is that what puts your country on top? Militarily? Financially? Trade? I want capitalism for everyone…Subsidies for job training purposes exclusively.

    • September 19, 2018 at 4:11 pm

      The USA already has that.Why do you think we have Trump?It was a last gasp and stiff middle finger to the neoliberals and both corrupted parties. Trump may be a greedy baboon but he went against the bush republicans and Gop with a vengeance and Hillary was Bush on steroids with the popularity of a sexually transmitted disease.

      Only Hillary Clinton could cheat and still lose to her own pied piper baboon.Only Hillary could make Trump look palatable.

    • Deschutes
      September 20, 2018 at 5:55 am

      Nah, capitalism sucks and must be replaced by a new system altogether. It is the greed inherent in for-profit capitalism that is destroying the planet, turning it into a polluted shithole. Capitalism makes wage slaves of everyone. Your entire life spent slaving away to line the pocket of your master, the boss, the owner. It is captialism that has brought us to where we are today: with 5% owning 90% of the world’s wealth, the rest disenfranchised peasants begging for crumbs. It is 21st century neo-liberal corporate capitalism that rewards psychopathic greed, e.g. Jeff Bezos who became the world’s richest man by paying his workers so little they must apply for government foodstamps even though they work in brutal sweatshop conditions 40 hrs/week with Bezos wringing every last bit of energy and productivity out of them. It is capitalism that has created a massive, record-setting homelessness crisis in USA, the world’s richest country: if capitalism is so great, why can’t it provide basic housing for everyone? Something that the derided and demonized communist countries had no problem achieving? Absolute 0% homelessness in communist Czechoslovakia and 100% employment. If 21st century neo-liberal capitalism is such a great economic system, why are millions of Americans out of work and unemployed? The actual (not the US dept of labor propaganda stats) unemployment rate in the USA now standing at 20%? Face it: capitalism is in essence a form of exploitation forced upon the working class by the ownership class. It is no different from slavery from the 1800s, only you get some pocket change from your master for a shiny new iPhone and hardly enough to pay the exorbitant rent to your other master, your Land Lord. If that’s the ‘capitalism you want for everyone’ please leave me out!

  4. September 19, 2018 at 2:33 am

    I would like to add this piece to my comment showing the burning question rof fascisme and nazism in europe and the USA

    https://libya360.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/american-fascism

  5. September 19, 2018 at 2:08 am

    As a Paris-based freelance researcher in geopolitics and political theory, I read regularly Pepe escobar’s analyses. Thank you Pepe and Consortium for this very informative piece. “Democratism” of the left parties in Europe and US, is “cretinism” and sounds hollow. Adolf Hitler wrote in his Mein Kampf that nazism is eternel et it will never die. He was right. Now, Of course, Hitler died on April 30, 1945 mais his legacy continues first with Thatcher and Reagan and their sons and grand sons who rule in Europe and the US. Nazism and fascism disappeared from the political arena only two decades after the end of the World War II. But nowadays, the West experiments anew not the fascism and nazism of the previous century with its apparent violence and brutality but a SOFT FASCISM AND NAZISM with the participation of the so called left parties.

    • Allan
      September 23, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      Hitler was a known anticapitalist, and it was German national communists who exported the German welfare state to the population of Czechoslovakia. These are just two examples of the communist predilections of NSDAP, but there’s more. AH had little to offer a liberal, in the proper sense of the word, so he had to recruit his propaganda minister from the international communists, i.e. Internazis. Never mind Brüning’s claim that prominent Zionists provided financing from the late 1920’s.

      Virtually all leaders of the Fascists of Italy were [ahem] men of the left, esp. former Marxists and syndicalists. They had been angry that the uncooperative workers mostly refused to become enthusiasts of internationalism, and they had been disappointed by theoretical defects of Marxism. So these impatient leftists struck a nationalist pose, feigned tolerance of Trinitarianism, and recruited lots of disgruntled people who expected a nanny state to care for them. Many of those recruited were veterans, meaning that they were conditioned to accept servility and communism if packaged cleverly. Together they seized power (always the main goal in do-gooder politics) and imposed a regime which preserved the superficial appearances of a market economy while gutting its substance. Their motto began with “Everything for the state”, as in all commie regimes, remember??

      Jews were quite welcome in Italian Fascism, and those perennial pests were overrepresented as usual in totalitarianism. By 1936, they had, among other developments, left their fingerprints all over a law mandating a state accident and insurance company. This is just the sort of thing which every alert, informed person expects a leftist regime to impose at some time of its career.

      Do we remember how the USSR and China had a falling out? Of course we do, and each commie regime promptly discovered that the other had gone Fascist. (Only the USSR, however, was tagged as superfascist.) We also remember the nationalist commie regimes of Africa. All of this disorder, too, is traced back to leftists.

      Now, almost a century after spawning Fascism, the barking mad left is still busy howling about inequality, “corporatocracy”, etc. As usual from these world-historical criminals, there is still no cogent explanation for their failure to organize a movement to abolish the institution of incorporation—which exists to ease the concentration of wealth which lefty is always pretending so much to oppose. ‘Tis not too difficult to figure out what’s been going on in leftism since before the time that Horace Greely helped the GOP and Honest Abe Lincoln to start a great, big, industrialized war.

      • Luther Blissett
        September 24, 2018 at 5:52 pm

        You think “corporatocracy” is a “barking mad” concept but claim to understand fascism??

        I’m not reading yet another America go on yet another ‘John Bircher’ history rant…

      • Broompilot
        September 26, 2018 at 4:42 pm

        does fascism really deserve the bad name?. After all, it is what kept communists from taking over most of Western Europe. I think we an addendum to Godwin’s Law

        • Ernesto Che
          September 29, 2018 at 11:47 am

          @Broompilot: Was fascism a better alternative than communism? It gave us the Holocaust with 6 million Jews, 6 million non-Jews, 26 million Soviet citizens slaughtered, as well as the same amount of others. Did communism do that?

  6. Robinson
    September 19, 2018 at 12:09 am

    The problem is that the space on the left is clogged and currently rendered useless by the fake corporate liberals like Hillary, Obama and Macron. These creatures have appropriated the space on the left to their own power and wealth grabs and have left no room for anything else. Their strawman fake lefties like Sanders are too hobbled and controlled to provide an alternative. Until that logjam is broken, nothing can move on the left. There are tiny groups and voices, but nothing like anything that can develop a political mass and contest for power.

    One problem is that ever since the 60’s the focus of corporate power has been on crushing, defeating the left and then kicking the left while its down to make dang sure it doesn’t rise again. Now that the corporate fake-liberals need a popular movement to contest against rightwing populism, if they look around they find only corpses and bones from their slaughter.

    The logjam on the left will eventually break and real lefty movements will arise again. Its the natural result of oppression of the people, and the one thing we are sure to get with the right in power is lots of oppression of the people.

  7. Tom Kath
    September 19, 2018 at 12:01 am

    Interestingly, if we define “WESTERN” in any meaningful way, there are many states and possibly a majority of people of the USA including Trump, that scarcely fit or meet that definition. Startlingly, Russia today meets the criteria far more accurately than, say Denver. I contend that Germany, Canada, and Australia are the “extremes” in what we call western.

  8. Godfree Roberts
    September 18, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    “Nothing substantial can happen without a real socio-economic transformation, a new world-system replacing casino capitalism.”

    Hmmm. By July 1, 2021, every Chinese will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, health and old age care.

    On that day there will be more homeless, poor, hungry and imprisoned people in America than in China. Not relatively or per capita, but in absolute numbers.

    And 450,000,000 urban Chinese will be worth more and have higher disposable incomes than the average American, their mothers and infants will be less likely to die in childbirth, their children will graduate from high school three years ahead of ours–and outlive ours.

    • Tom Kath
      September 19, 2018 at 12:50 am

      Yes Godfrey, but shifting “casino capitalism” to China is not really the transformation we are hoping for. Whether the wealthiest people live in China, London, or Wall Street, ?

      • Theo
        September 21, 2018 at 11:21 am

        Tom and Godfrey,I agree with both of you.The

  9. Rob Roy
    September 18, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    “The Illiberal Quartet of Xi, Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan…” These four cannot be lumped together under one heading, “illiberal”….nor can Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, and Yanis Varoufakis be lumped together, those these three are at least fighting a good fight (though Corbyn, to his detriment, tries to offset the accusations of anti-semitism, when he should hang strong; and Sanders caves to the Zionists).
    Yanis Varoufakis, the brightest economist today, should he become prime minister of Greece and his DiEM25 become a strong economic system, may tip Europe toward sanity and defy the USA’s hegemony, which the most thoughtful leader in the world today, Vladimir Putin, will support.
    P.S. Drew Hunkins, I like your commentary.

  10. penrose
    September 18, 2018 at 7:56 pm

    A lot of people confuse hopes and wishes with reality, and what they would like to be true with the truth. Oh well, no one can guarantee that the human thread in the evolutionary quest will succeed. Perhaps not.

  11. David Hamilton
    September 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Yes, progressive taxation would be an equitable way for we, the masses to reclaim much of the benefits that we have graciously and unselfishly bestowed upon the rich, through – how many, now? – three rounds of trickle down (excuse me, trickle up) economics, since Reagan’s Revolution began. These fiscal-economic and anti-regulatory policies for helping the rich get more entrepreneurially-minded were approved by our representatives in Congress in those days, and again and again thereafter. Now, “it’s our turn!” to appropriate much of what-turns-out-to-be their ill-gotten gains, to ourselves, in acts of righteous “wealth re-distribution”. “We helped you out, now return the favor!” could be a motto for a populist progressive movement for democratic self-governance in that Congress, which seeks to return to the masses what is rightfully theirs.

  12. Faulkner
    September 18, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    “In our society, real power does not happen to lie in the political system, it lies in the private economy: that’s where the decisions are made about what’s produced, how much is produced, what’s consumed, where investment takes place, who has jobs, who controls the resources, and so on and so forth. And as long as that remains the case, changes inside the political system can make some difference—I don’t want to say it’s zero—but the differences are going to be very slight.” ~ Noam Chomsky

    Giants: The Global Power Elite – A talk by Peter Phillips
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Np6td-wzDYQ

    “The TCC are not seeking a global government. The ultimate goal of capital is the building of a semi-privatized neo-feudal police states, controlled by friends of capital, where individual countries are populaton containment zones with strict controls on local citizens, and capital is free to go unrestricted anywhere in the world.

    If the empire is slow to perform or faced with political resistance, private security firms and private military companies increasingly fulfill the TCC’s demands for the protections of their assets. These protection services include personal security for TCC executives and their families, protection of safe residential and work zones, tactical military advisory and training of national police and armed forces, intelligence gathering on democracy movements and opposition groups, weapons acquisitions and weapon systems management, and strike forces for military actions and assassinations.”

    https://projectcensored.org/911-permanent-war-transnational-capitalist-class/

  13. Rael Nidess, M.D.
    September 18, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    So wonderful to find Pepe on C.N.!!

  14. September 18, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    (“Zizek succinctly depicts the contradiction as “the structural impossibility of finding a global political order that could correspond to the global capitalist economy.””)

    – I much appreciate Pepe’s insights, however, I’d add that simply evaluating the available climate science alone suggests that we are long past a point where we have – “time” – to make any kind of global shift that might stop this out of control neoliberal locomotive from crashing headlong, full speed, into the looming solid brick wall that is a -“biosphere capable of supporting life on planet earth.”

    We are in a full-blown ecological crisis collectively facing a potpourri of pending environmental catastrophes while Western “leadership” is obsessed with how to maintain the petro-dollar, how to keep Russia from selling its gas to Europe, and how to keep causing endless chaos in Syria without unintentionally sparking nuclear armageddon – “fiddling” as it were, not why Rome burns, but while the entire planet does. It would be nice to see some light at the end of this tunnel, but rationally speaking I fail to see a glimmer at this point.

    • Gary Wenk
      September 18, 2018 at 9:37 pm

      Your comments are exactly to the point. We are locked into an 18th century mentality, utterly ignoring the looming catastrophes the planet has in store for us. It is as if we had a collective suicidal wish, and there doesn’t seem much on the horizon to steer us away from it.

    • Michael
      September 19, 2018 at 6:53 pm

      I totally agree.

      The elites of the planet have so much vested interest in a suicidal economic model, ie that of infinite growth on a planet that is quickly running out its ability to support the current population, let alone the projected one, that they are incapable of acting in a unified manner to lessen the impact of the upcoming trip off the cliff.

      Given the melting of the Arctic and the consequential disruption of weather patterns controlled by the jet stream, life will become much more brutal for much of humanity, let alone those people already living on the edge of existence.

      I live in a rural area that produces much of the crops for the planet. The locals who work close to the land and who carefully pay attention to the weather, the crops, and the massive extinction of naturally occurring species are very worried about our survival.

      The elites are busy fighting over the deck chairs on a burning ship, but are clueless and mute regarding how to survive, except those who are busy building bunkers in places like New Zealand.

      Even journalists such as Pepe Escobar write as though we have an infinite time to survive this challenge.

      https://www.truthdig.com/articles/saying-goodbye-to-planet-earth/

      • J2027
        September 19, 2018 at 9:01 pm

        …and they’re projecting their upper-crusty squabbles onto the public…and it’s working. We need to be smarter than that.

      • Seeka
        September 21, 2018 at 5:58 am

        I don’t think they mind what they are causing and are in fact well aware.

        I mean after all who is going to suffer the most as the world’s climate becomes more volatile?

        The poorest of course. In fact they probably welcome the destruction, so long as it kills off a portion of the “deplorable” masses.

        Meanwhile the global elite stay home and dry in bunkers and ivory towers

  15. September 18, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Looking away from the Saudis and Israelis shows that the West’s opinion leaders and political leaders are quite capable of ignoring what it is in their short term interests to ignore.

    Thus, the question is rather why they see it to be in their short term interests to confront the illiberal leaders of the near-West.

    They don’t care about Poland’s or Hungary’s internal affairs now any more than they did before, which was very little.

    They are motivated by domestic political battles. Attacks on easy foreign targets are proxies for fighting their domestic foes, against whom they make many of the same accusations, or have made against them and so they virtue signal by fighting it abroad.

    It is about Trump, not Orban. It is about Brexit, not Poland’s Supreme Court.

  16. TomG
    September 18, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    I plodded through Mr. Escobar’s latest here and could only conclude his efforts to be clever wear me out. Fortunately, most posts on the CN site are written to communicate important news and views with mere mortals.

    • Ernesto Che
      September 29, 2018 at 11:51 am

      @TomG: the solution is so very simple: skip Mr. Escobar’s articles and stop wearing us out with your account of getting worn out. That way we all have the best of both worlds ;-)

  17. Bob Van Noy
    September 18, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Excellent and timely economic thoughts by Pepe Escobar. It is very interesting to see and read about the global movement in economics. Since I was reading a lengthy article entitled “Socialize Finance” by J. W. Mason at Defend Democracy Press, I will pass it along for those interested. There are many excellent insights in both articles…

    http://www.defenddemocracy.press/socialize-finance/

  18. Jean Ranc
    September 18, 2018 at 4:04 pm

    It’s always amazing how much territory Pepe Escobar covers in depth! I would add a little fine tuning to his reference re. the documentary, “American Dharma” by film director Errol Morris in Venice last month. This the cinema “Biennale”, or the 75th annual film festival, not “La Biennale”, the huge Art Festival held from mid-May to mid Nov. every other year on odd years…with the next to open in May 2019. And I expect the Bannon film will likely be shown at many, many film festivals, as well as a stand-alone in many venues around the world in the coming year…which, I think, diminishes the possibility of its being linked to or particularly serving “populist movements” in Europe. Or even Italy, where, a couple of months after their election last spring, the leaders of Silvino’s Lega (in the minority) and DiMaio’s Cinque Stelle (5 Star, in the majority) “populist” parties negotiated an arrangement whereby neither Silvino nor DiMaio was to become “Prime Minister”, rather Conte of Puglia (the heel of the boot) province was selected…after quite a scuffle between the populists & the establishment represented by the President Matarella, “the decider”, was resolved with Conte named “Prime Minister” after all & just in time for their celebration of their “Festa della Repubblica”, or the founding of the Italian Republic in 1946. It was, indeed, a thrilling time to be in the country: watching real democracy in action & I celebrated with a brief verse in Italian, “La Primavera Italiana” (The Italian Spring)…their 1st real election after 20 years of Berlusconi followed by some 5 more of appointed prime ministers…ending with the neoliberal Matteo Renzi, former mayor of Florence. But back to my verse as translated: “The Left is neither sacred nor immortal. The truth flies where it will. Today “La Sinistra”/The Left is an iron cage full of dead words defended by (the once “real left” founder of the Rome daily paper, La Repubblica-turned neoliberal mouthpiece) a screeching Eugenio Scalfari (90-some y/o) and his chorus of black crows.” (Retired as Editor-in-Chief, Scalfari would descend from his “Mt. Olympus” every Sunday with a long proclamation taking up the entire left column of the front page and extending sometimes for another full page inside the opinion section: delivering The Word for The Week to come…as his “Sunday sermon”…which became clearly frantic leading up to March election, whereupon obviously “the people” rejected His Word and chose their own candidates instead. While back in Florence…led by the very wealthy aristocracy…the neoliberal left took to the streets in protest, er… that is “solidarity” with their distraught former Mayor (“Sindaco”) Renzi. Indeed, it’s a new day for democracy in Italia!, which could possibly spread to the rest of Europe…if they succeed in their struggle against a very entrenched Neoliberal Establishment with all of its wealth, power, palaces & media under the protection of the “American Nuclear Umbrella”…unless Trump succeeds in closing it down & storing it in a DC closet?

  19. F. G. Sanford
    September 18, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Having lived there for a long time, I’m not sure how a guy like Bannon got a foothold in Europe. It’s definitely a “closed shop” both economically and politically, where the so-called “vita di arrangamento” reigns somewhat supreme. That entails being “connected” in some way to established networks which allow one to “extract” a living based on circumstances not readily apparent to the naked eye. Nepotism plays a big part in professional life, and has evolved to a level of refinement which makes it almost invisible. Chinese vendors of dime-store junk seem to have been able to effectively “break in” to the economy, though I imagine they pay a heavy toll in bribery and kickbacks to maintain operations that any novice customs official could successfully prosecute…unless discouraged by unseen influence. Working people work hard, and the oft-touted benefits of European “socialism” are nowhere near the “free ride” American critics of New Deal economics would have you believe.

    If you’re not connected, you’re simply screwed. For instance, a medical doctor may work eighty hours a week and earn 2,200 Euros a month. Sanitation workers in some communities earn more, but not much. By the same token, a department head in a large hospital may hardly work at all, and live like a Wall Street Banker. It’s all about connections. A politician may take a train to the city once or twice a month to cast his vote in parliament, simply to retain the enviably generous pension benefits. The ideology behind his vote matters not a whit.

    If Bannon succeeds, it will be a result of economic disenfranchisement, not some cognitive awakening based on a tangled web of philosophical traditions. Often heard is the resentful observation, “Only workers pay taxes.” They are deducted from the paycheck, whereas business and professional people have myriad ways to evade. It is not unusual to hear someone long for the old days of the “Codice Rocco”, a set of mandatory sentences that could imprison the driver of a luxury automobile who had no legitimate employment. Conspicuous wealth absent a legitimate income was prima facie evidence of the crime. The trial was a formality.

    The recent “Project Veritas” video I strongly suspect is a fraud. Desperate measures are being employed to paint any affinity for “social reform” as some sort of subversive movement. As the western world progresses to overt Weimarization thanks to unfettered Wall Street fraud — and yes, the crash and inflation are inevitable — expect the masses to become more enamored of Bannon’s brand of fascism.

    The only thing missing from these movements to date is what I call “visual spectacle”. That would be things like Zeppelins and big parades. If the day comes, I hope the “democrats” will realize that they brought it on themselves. The only way out is FDR’s “New Deal” 2.0.

    • September 18, 2018 at 6:46 pm

      Sanford: So correct. The same fascists of the 30’s have been working since to bring elite control over the planet. FDR and his supporters fought these neo fascists as we are today. Sanders, Corbyn and a few others are our only hope. If the people around the planet do not mobilize, organize to dismantle this worldwide theft of all its resources for their personal benefit, at the expense of the masses. Workers of the World Unite, I read that when I was young.

    • Mild-ly- Facetious
      September 18, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      “The only way out is FDR’s “New Deal” 2.0.”
      :::::::::

      Yes ! This is Real. This is the Correct Direction.

      All else in World- Wide Depression.

      Thank You F.G. Sanford. – You speak in the similitude of the Prophet Jeremiah, who warned of the miserable future ahead. …

  20. Babyl-on
    September 18, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    “Sanders has just launched a manifesto calling for a Progressive International – capable of outlining a New Deal 2.0 and a new Bretton Woods. “For his part, Yanis Varoufakis, former Greek finance minister and co-founder of the DiEM25 democratic movement, laments the triumph of a Nationalist International – at least stressing that they “sprang out of the cesspool of financialized capitalism.

    Yet he resorts to the same old players when it comes to pushing for a Progressive International: Sanders, Corbyn and his own DiEM25.”

    While I have a high regard for Varoufakis, this exactly sums up the wrongheaded thinking of the Western “left.” As was pointed out in the article the Enlightenment is dead – so called liberal ideals and all that are dead. No new world order is going to come from the West, Western Liberal Democracy is over, it has failed and the result has seen 73+ years of perpetual slaughter.

    The “New Bretton Woods” or a “New Deal 2.0” there will be no recycling of failure.

    The new global monetary policy is more likely to come from a small town in Malaya, the new general prosperity will come from a new system of global trade, from economic harmonization not from politicians bent on “saving capitalism.”

    So few in the West realize how much bigger the world is now that the Western Empire doesn’t have Central Asia for its own little Pipelinestan and world domination, they have ideas of their own. Central Asia has been surrounded and suffocated by the Empire, no more. Now the great land mass of Eurasia is connecting and will become interconnected across the Steppes and with the rest of us. Look at Africa now that China, India and other Asian nations trade and invest there instead of installing murderous dictators suddenly the world looks much bigger and far more promising than the bankrupted and corrupted West.

  21. Jeff Harrison
    September 18, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Pepe is always such a fascinating read. I’m glad that he can keep the isms and ists and whatnot clear. I can’t. Nor am I as eloquent as Mr. Escobar. Nonetheless, I think I know what’s going on. The “Champions of “Western Values”” have another name. They are the old colonial powers that have ruled the world for the last 500 years whilst oppressing the natives, stealing their wealth, and getting fat and rich in the process. They’ve lost their colonies and so aren’t so rich anymore. But they still believe in casino capitalism which is what got them on top in the first place. Casino capitalism is great fun if you can inflict it’s deleterious consequences on some hapless native population but when they’re gone, you take it in the shorts. That’s not so much fun. And the old colonial powers haven’t given up on the idea of controlling their old stomping grounds by “other means”. As Patrick Lawrence points out, the 21st century is going to be multipolar. The only real question is how long will it take for multipolarity to take hold, not if it will take hold. The United States picked the wrong time to become an imperial power.

  22. September 18, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    In the industrialized Western world the populist-progressive left will eventually get routed by the borderline neo-fascist right if the populist progressive left fails to:

    1.) come up with a reasonable plan addressing unfettered immigration into Western nation-states that has a deleterious affect on the wage and employment prospects of the hard pressed domestic populations

    2.) tied in with number one is a vociferous and accurate critique against Washington militarist-Zio wars of aggression. This critique must be constantly conveyed since of course these bloodbaths are what drives most migrants to our shores

    3.) the populist progressive left MUST obviously stress bread and butter kitchen table economic issues such as raising the minimum wage, passing a robust Medicare for All, instituting a Wall Street transaction tax and reducing the bloated Defense [sic] budget. This program must be championed over and above gonadal identity politics and trans bathrooms.

    If the populist-progressive left ultimately fails to address these three crucial points, the fascist right will gain in ascendance and a possible major violent backlash against corporate liberal elites will follow. (Just read some of the alt-right filth that’s gaining currency, stuff like blacks are innately inferior to whites and blacks are innately more prone to violence than whites, etc. etc.)

    The prospects are potentially grim, the only hope is for a “left” to steadfastly advance the three pillars I’ve outlined above.

    • Dave P.
      September 18, 2018 at 12:56 pm

      Drew Hunkins:

      Excellent comments as always. I will add that implementing progressive taxation to reduce income inequality.

      • September 18, 2018 at 1:17 pm

        Thanks for the kind words Dave P.
        Yes, progressive taxation, no doubt. Great point.

        In solidarity,

        Drew Hunkins
        Madison, WI

      • September 20, 2018 at 12:53 am

        @ Dave P.: “… progressive taxation to reduce income inequality …”

        A net worth tax would be quicker. :-)

    • Mild-ly- Facetious
      September 18, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      Drew Hunkins

      In the industrialized Western world the populist-progressive left will eventually get routed by the borderline neo-fascist right if the populist progressive left fails to: —

      Rein In Corporate Greed / Which Allows “TAX SHELTERS” for 1%ers and “Tent Shelters” for the Homeless and Jobless.

      Must we Repeat and Again Fall Into the Depths of 1930’s poverty &
      homelessness brought to us by Robber Barons & Greedy Banksters ?
      ________

      Not to mention the 2008 collapse that REQUIRED A MASSIVE TRANSFER OF CITIZEN CASH
      WHICH “BAILED-OUT-THE-BANKS” AND BANKRUPTED SWINDLED AMERICAN HOMEOWNERS.
      ________

      (Which Massive Swindle Was Foreseen/Foretold by our FBI
      – but WHICH WAS PURPOSELY UNFUNDED by White House Administrators

      … . WHY ???
      ..?

      • Mild-ly- Facetious
        September 18, 2018 at 6:56 pm

        Sep 17, 2004 -FBI warns of mortgage fraud ‘epidemic’ –
        http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/09/17/mortgage.fraud/
        …………..

        Sep 17, 2004 – Rampant fraud in the mortgage industry has increased so sharply that … with bank fraud for their roles in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud, …

        Missing: underfunded ?| ?Must include: ?underfunded
        The Mortgage Fraud Scandal Is The Biggest In Human History …

        https://www.businessinsider.com/mortgage-fraud-scandal-2010-10
        Oct 14, 2010 – The FBI began warning of an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud as early as 2004. We know that mortgage originators invented “low doc” and “no …
        Missing: underfunded ?| ?Must include: ?underfunded

    • September 18, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      Absolutely agree. End these wars and attempted wars,

      ( Stablize and rebuilf the war torn countries, along with education of all children and those up to 25yrs. In rebuilding (in US too) millions of jobs will be created with a $15min wage. Medicare for All will stablize this for profit health killing system. All undeveloped countries provided with machinery, tools and seeds to grow their own food. Women are leading the way in every country, if the men who screwed it all up since time began would just step aside.

  23. JOHN CHUCKMAN
    September 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    “This is writing?” that, of course, should be.

    • Mild-ly- Facetious
      September 18, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      This is Civil Discourse; Basically. …

      i can provide samples from everyday working people — if you’d like. …

  24. September 18, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    ‘The Western view is a maelstrom of a Judaeo-Greco-Roman, pseudo-philosophy steeped in Hegel, Toynbee, Spengler and obscure biblical references decrying an Asian attack on the “enlightened” West’s mission civilisatrice.

    “The maelstrom stunts critical thinking evaluating Xi’s Confucianism, Putin’s Eurasianism, Rouhani’s realpolitik and “non-Westoxified” Shi’ite Islam, as well as Erdogan’s quest to guide the global Muslim Brotherhood.”

    This writing?

    • September 18, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      it’s the way that Pepe writes.
      I understand why it irritates some people but what is the alternative?
      Escobar isn’t really doing anything more than hinting at lines of enquiry- he covers a lot of ground in these articles and that means that there is a lot, between strides, that he doesn’t touch on.
      In a lesser writer we would know that these references are a form of name dropping, in Escobar’s case they are suggestions worth pursuing.

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