Sunday, February 19, 2017

El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca?

Or the Fuehrer der Lumpenproletariat?  And Who is the White Trash?  What is the Lumpenproletariat?

Figuring Donald Trump as a political figure requires covering some ground that's been left fallow since the triumph of the now fraying international neo-liberal consensus, celebrated in much of the Western World as an occasion to stop thinking hard about things and instead pretending to be public intellectuals, think tank pundits,  cable TV talking heads and right wing radio talk show entertainers.  (I leave out bloggers only because I don't want to be splattered by my own back splash.)

I have been calling Trump, the political actor 'El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca'', not as a term of respect, of course, but as an accommodation to his own conception of himself.  Not being fond of the Hispanic influences on American culture (my main reason for chosing to say it in Spanish), Trump would translate it as Strongman of the White Trash, though he'd probably use a term like 'real Americans' instead of White Trash.  Now, people who use their identity as white native-born American citizens to feel superior to other people, to intimidate all the Others, and to claim special privileges in defining the national culture or at least owning guns, can be called a lot of things, and White Trash is as good as any.

So, for me, as far as the term El Caudillo de la Basura Blanca goes, the question isn't about the 'Basura Blanca' part, it's about the 'Caudillo' part of it.  Now Francisco Franco was the archetypal Caudillo of the twentieth century.  Juan Peron wasn't too shabby, either.  Both of those guys had a political cunning and will to ruthlessness than leaves The Donald in the dust.   If Trump were to build his wall using the slave labor of his surviving political opponents after having bathed the country in blood, he'd be worth comparing to Franco, building the Valle de los Caidos in the 1940 and 1950s.  Given the president's track record so far, that doesn't seem likely.  He lacks the leadership abilities, the strength of personal character, the myriad political empathies, the technical expertise, etc., etc.  If he is replaced from the Right, maybe his successor will have that necessary mix.  If he ends up propped up as the front man for some beta test of a future, dystopian version of the American presidency, the whole idea of 'leadership' goes out the window, and he's just a pawn in somebody else's shadowy game.

Which brings us to the idea of the Fuehrer der Lumpenproletariat.  For those of you who learned to hate communism without bothering to learn any Marxism, the lumpenproletariat is probably a foreign concept.  I'm not a Marxist (and if I were, I'd be an American Marxist, who were never much to write home about, anyway), but here goes, the 'lumpenproletariat' is the alienated, antisocial, parasitical, deviant, corrupted, quasi-criminal elements of the lower social orders.  Most of Trump's core supporters would probably object to be described than way even more than to be called 'white trash' (which in some tobacco chewing, wife beating, Confederate flag flying circles can be a perverse badge of honor).

Now, a rabblerouser or a demagogue can be a leader (which is all a fuehrer is) without having the skills necessary to govern.  In the American War of Independence, Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams were good examples of gifted speakers, rabblerousers if you were a Tory, in the Patriot Cause.  But no one every accused either of them of strong management skills.  More recently, Mussolini reputedly said of himself and Hitler that Hitler was the second rate leader of a first rate nation while he, Mussolini, was the first rate leader of a second rate nation.  So, maybe fuehrer fits better than caudillo.

But, viz., my rather pallid reference to Hitler and Mussolini,  it is precisely the swift descent into the foetid swamp of internet Nazi comparisons that keeps me from using the word 'fuehrer' in connect with Donald Trump.  Who wants to wade through that fascist sewage?  Leave that particular f-word to the likes Newt Gingrich with his PhD, Rush Limbaugh with his pill problems, and all the other right wing talking heads.  And fuck'em.

So, in the interests of civility and good manners, and have due respect for my enemies and their feelings, I think I'll avoid 'fuehrer der lumpenproletariat' and stick with 'el caudillo de la basura blanca.'  After all, as Marx himself said in reference to the two Napoleons who were Emperors of the French, the first time tragedy, the second time farce.  Hopefully, the progression in Caudillos, from Franco to Peron to Trump, will be a similar descent.

But, the White Trash, the lumpenproletariat, the workings of class in American, now there is something to consider, and not exclusively from the perspective of simple economic determinism (though will a little layering economic determinism will prove useful).  Something for another day.  Not until after Realism. Art. Politics.  But someday soon.

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