This Interview was originally published with RTV in Slovenia, September 6, 2017 and was translated from Slovenian to English.
[Creston Davis] Thank you for your penetrating set of questions, which, when taken as a whole, on my view, gets to the heart of, at least part of the general composition or picture of our world today. But just what is that general picture of our world when examined from a “bird’s eye” point of view? It seems to me a few facts need to be established in the first instance for my replies to your questions to make sense.
1. Today’s current economic order poses as the single greatest threat to our world, a threat far greater then nuclear war and terrorism combined.
2. The militarization of police forces
3. The disintegration of citizen’s rights
4. The undermining of education and alternative thinking.
The force of these four basic truths has nearly and completely exposed liberal democracy, inherited from the Enlightenment epoch, for what it truly is and forever was. At the same time, the hidden kernel and intrinsic foundational truths on the bases of which the European Enlightenment ideological horizon emerged on the world stage have also been exposed namely an irreducible racism and patriarchy favoring white ethnicity and “maleness”. This racist ideology is bound up in and gives rise to the four truths stated above. Thus, I pose a pre-mature but I think general correct hypothesis in the following manner: What we are witnessing today is the beginning of a collapse of the foundations of Western European thinking whose current epicenter is located in the United States and in the European Union. This position sets the stage for my replies to your questions.
Kaja Sajovic [KS]
1. Let's start with antifa first. One of their most controversial features is the use of any means to fight the facism in its broadest term. In your view, is there such a thing as legitimate political violence?
Creston Davis [CD] There are many different ways to position the situation today. One way is to pose a binary between two competing oppositional groups. Your question does precisely this: there are fascists and there are anti-fascists (antifa) on the bases of which the question of violence is posed. But suppose the composition of this question were refashioned and reformulated in a way that isn’t reducible to binary thinking. To me, the binary (fascist vs. antifa) and other binaries is a product that continues to reproduce the ideology of the racists, patriarchal position, with one exception, which I will get to shortly.
What is needed is a different register and matrix entirely, one that radically relocates the geography and horizon of thinking. This is why, four years ago, and with over 100 other leading intellectuals, I founded The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS). We created a new and different space in which to re-think and re-imagine a world beyond colonialized epistemologies that peddle white supremacy. We must, in the first instance, see that white nationalism itself is the deepest inner expression of Western European thinking as such something that Frantz Fanon came to realize an approach that James Baldwin embodied in his writings in the Civil Rights era. And it doesn’t take much to observe how the Western European project emerged and dominated nearly the entire planet from the 17th century onward through slavery, colonization, corporatization, industrialization and finally capitalism. Liberal democracy is a face behind which white supremacy has always functioned for centuries.
And now I will approach your question more concretely, directly. Within the framework that your question operates, the more fundamental question is: how do you both strategically and tactically overthrow white nationalism, which is also to say liberal democracy, and neoliberal economics? If white nationalism is itself the core ideological driver on the bases of which the economic order of capitalism and now neoliberalism materializes itself then the physical violence exerted in the streets of Charlottesville and Hamburg is a symptom of a deeper insidious dehumanizing project in which only a handful of people in the world according to Oxfam, are calling the shots for everyone else. In this sense, what both Charlottesville and Hamburg (and other places besides) have in common is the expression of the unconscious revolt against the dominant repressive order of things under the rule of economic determinism, liberal democracy, patriarchy and racism.
In today’s terms racism functions on different levels including economic racism, but that’s another matter altogether.
An example that verifies my thesis is that within liberal democracy the fascist, Nazis in Charlottesville got permission and permits from the government to make openly racists claims in public against the Jews and Blacks. In other words, at best liberal democracy can only defer the rotting sickness of its core ideological racism for so long, but like one who suffers from a mental illness from a repressed trauma in childhood, eventually a breakdown will happen unless it’s identified and managed. In a way, this is what my school, GCAS is doing—we are trying to manage the trauma that Western European thinking has exacted on the world which is why earlier I mentioned we must cope and manage thinking today in terms that aren’t reducible to quick binary thinking—that is in fact a symptom of the problem itself. So, in short, the seeds of fascism are planted and nurtured in liberal democracy. And this brings us to your next question:
[KS] Can you fight violence with violence? And where do you draw the line - let's say violent opposition to neonazism and white supremacy is legitamate and can be interpreted as "justified" by some parties, but what about riots and destruction we've seen in Hamburg for the G20 meeting?
After high school I joined the US Army and was part of an elite airborne recon unit and so I am all too familiar with a mode of violence enacted by the State. But for me, it’s not a question of violence vs. violence; I am for non-violent solutions, which is why education is so crucial for us today, but even this has been undermined by greedy wealthy businessmen and women like Betsy DeVos (the US Education Secretary appointed by the billionaire President, D. Trump) who have gutted the public school system in the USA turning it in every moment into a profit-making venture. We must also not be naïve: The state and liberal democracy defines “violence” in terms of itself. Do you know when I was writing my PhD dissertation I lived just a few miles away from the Highlander school in Tennessee where Martin Luther King, Jr, Rosa Parks and the rebels that started the Civil Rights movement were trained? They were trained by Communists who ran the school and were trained in the tactic of non-violent resistance—and so massive marches and protests begin in the south of the USA because there was an outlet to the insanity of how the logic of slavery traumatized Blacks but also the entire system itself; in other words, Whites too have been damaged by the very soul of a dehumanizing system we call democracy. It is spiritually dead and now we seeing the symptoms of this death start to emerge on the body-politic in the streets.
And Europe is no different; indeed Europe is not even a democracy—it’s run by technocrats and by an economic system on the face of which is slapped a romantic image of parliamentary democracy. I learned this firsthand when I lived in Greece 2014-2015 when Syriza rose to power and the people overwhelmingly rejected the EU bailout on July 7, 2015. In this case, you can objectively see how the EU is not only not a democracy but actually functions to crush real democracy when profits are at state for the banksters, the European Commission, the IMF and the World-Bank.
Violence in this case only gives the state more powers of legitimacy not to mention deep-state operations, surveillance systems in which Silicon (Facebook, Google etc) have formed another front on the battlefield determined to worship the dollar and profits at the cost of privacy and basic civil rights of citizens.
And we haven’t even talked about how the police in the USA have become another wing of the military. So left with this daunting outlook, I needed to deploy a strategy of creating GCAS as a way to organize another way altogether.
[KS] Last week Noam Chomsky described antifa as a "major gift to the right" which provoked some harsh condemnation from liberals. He also described Antifa as self-destructive. Would you agree with him or the supporters of the far left who claim that there's nothing polarizing and controversial about Antifa at all - they are merely the opposition to evil.
I communicate with Noam Chomsky pretty regularly and he’s agreed to teach for GCAS, but I’ve only heard about this position second hand. But my sense is, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the deep-state and even neo-fascists groups are part of some antifa groups with the logic being that they will provoke the authorities who alone can declare a “state of emergency” and once again neutralize even more rights and protections of the citizenry. The reality is what happened in Boston last week where people marched to protest a neo-fascist demonstration is that although I support their efforts, but until liberal democracy itself is rearticulated into a more just system on all levels economic, political, social, cultural for all human beings then such “victories” like Boston only defer the real truth underlining the system as such.
[KS] This week German government prohibited major (far) leftwing site linksunten.indymedia.org that was used also by organizers of G20 protests. The decision was somewhat surprising even though some are trying to portray the extreme left as a terrorist organization. What kind of president does that kind of decision set?
Again, this is not surprising given what I mentioned above about the marriage between the State (i.e., the economic elite) and Silicon Valley or the Internet. And the portrayal of the desire to want a cure to the madness called capitalism materialized in the so-called “Left wing” groups has already grammatically lost the ability to create an alternative epistemological structure and “worlds”. We must keep in mind that the binary “Left vs. Right” was a direct product on the French Revolution and Enlightenment the “left” side of the Seine River (University of Paris) vs. the “right” side: elite Barons and the Government. This divide limits our ability to think outside, to think and create new and different worlds without leaving this world into a utopian non-place. This struggle continues.
[KS] In the USA, in light of events in Charlottesville, there's a lot of talk of Donald Trump enflaming and empowering the extremists, neonazis and white supremacists - and racists in general - now sort of feel they can come out of the shadows since they have the support of the Commander in chief. Just how dangerous is Trump's defense or equalization of far right?
Trump himself, as an egomaniac figurehead, and is another symptom of the system itself predicated on European-North American white racism as stated previously. It’s not so much that we should think about him “releasing” the hatch of white hatred, like popping a balloon, rather this is the core of the system itself—a system that is coming to terms with its own threat to itself.
[KS] Do you see it as purely opportunistic political move - we are talking about his hard core base -, or something more sinister? Is the president of the US an outright racist or does he just want to defy the left and provoke ...?
Given my position as stated, there is no doubt in my mind that the connection between Russia and Trump shows there is something far more deeper then we previously imagined. And given the militarization of the police and post-911 with the Patriot Act along with the NSA and Silicon Valley exposed by Edward Snowden, the matrix is ripe for a new fascism, which is to say, the recapitulation of the foundations of Western European political philosophy but formulated and deployed on a global scale.
[KS] Some philosophers, like Slovenians Tomaž Mastnak and Slavoj Žižek, feel that political correctness of both Clintons, Obama, Trudeau, our Pahor etc. is far more dangerous than Trump's vulgar transparency that opened up discussion about racism and white privilege like never before. Whereas Clinton and Obama are just solidifying and reproducing the existing system, Trump and the like serve as the mirror of society and - ultimately, a cure, they claim. As it's been often said, racism didn't start with Trump, discussion about racism did. Your thoughts on that? Can Trump serve as some sort of long needed reset button for society?
[CD] I have written and published books with Slavoj and he is a genius, obviously. For me “political correctness” is another way to speak in the “fairy tale” mode—like reading a story to your young 6 year old before bedtime. Essentially, it creates a grammar of protecting the dangerous fantasy of individual “liberal” subject against barbaric offensive people like “Red Necks” and so forth. In this way, Trump pops that fairy tail mode and what people feel is naked, exposed and unprotected. But my point is that people have always been exposed and vulnerable within liberal democracy especially after the rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s. Trump’s only truth is that he is the truth of the system as such, a system that was broken in its inherent madness found in its conception. And when you look at the naked truth for what it is, no longer protected by fairy tales, religion, gurus and other opiums and drugs, then you will seek other forms of protection or prophylactics installed. If these other protective measures are not found, then this is a recipe for revolution.
[KS] Trump's equalization of neonazis and protestors against racism caught the US by surprise. I would argue that in Slovenia and Eastern Europe where relativisation of WW2 and post WW2 events has become so common statements like that would not provoke such strong condemnations which, of course, can be atributed to the fact US view themselves solely as the liberating army, as allied forces with no ugly aftemath back at home and Slovenia's history is somewhat marred with extra judicial killings of traitors after the war. Would you agree with that assessment?
[CD] I agree with what you say about the US view of itself as the sole army of liberation. I know too little about Slovenian history to comment intelligently.
[KS] Alt right is a whole different breed. As Spiegel put it in a recent article on the rise of Alt-right, they represent "the cool" far right, almost a hipster far right. Their most prominent voices and faces are usually gays, a lot of them have partners that are either black or immigrants. How do you explain that paradox?
[CD] If this is what Spiegel says about the “Alt-right” well that is up to them. As for me, I have already referred to them above.
[KS] The leaders of alt-right have huge following, their videos have millions of views, their claims are often completely fabricated and made up (like the one about Hillary Clinton's health), but are often picked up by media or public and definitely president Trump. It's an interesting phenomena and definitely takes a lot of (machiavelistic) skills, no?
[CD] Yes, I agree.
[KS] The main alt right outlet, of course is, or at least it used to be Breitbart News, where Trump found his chief strategist Steve Bannon. Bannon who fought fiercely with more moderate forces in the White House was recently dismissed but declared he'll be even more powerful and effective working outside. How big of an impact can he make and how can Breitbart help Trump at this stage?
[CD] I really cannot comment with any real insight here. There is so much to say in replying to your questions, so much in fact that a book can and should be written on this—a detailed scientific study. Suffice it to say that in an age where information can be manipulated for forces of evil, education is one answer, education like GCAS, but also trusted sources.
Thank you for your questions, which are very important.
[KS] Thank you, Professor Davis