Category Archives: European

January 30, 1933

Yesterday in 1933, Adolf Hitler was made chancellor of Germany.

Although he hasn’t killed any Jews or started any wars yet, Trump-Bannon are very much cut from the same mold – not only fascists, but racist fascists to boot. Another word for a racist fascist is a National Socialist or Nazi.

So yeah, this time the Godwin Rule actually makes some sense.

Have fun with your dictatorship, Trumpsterfires, or Cum Trumpsters. Which is better,  Cum Trumpsters, Trumpsters, or Trumpsterfires?

I rather like Cum Trumpsters. Reminds me of Teabaggers. Similar acts, both associated with fellatio. And boy are the Trumpsters fellating Herr Donald! Whew. If they don’t come up for air soon, they may suffocate. Wait. This is bad?

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Filed under Europe, European, Fascism, Germany, History, Humor, Modern, National Socialism, Nazism, Political Science, Politics, Racism, Regional, Republicans, US Politics, White Racism

What Sort of Fascist Is Trump? A Berlusconist, a Francoist, or a Latin American Right type?

amspirational: Trump would be the first fascist without a core of street activists which even Oswald Moseley had. Why, he’s not even as authoritarian as Putin, who indeed has NASHI and other fascist-like groups.

He’s a fascist. And his supporters are thugs. But he doesn’t have a Brownshirt army running around doing his will. But did Franco? I am thinking that at the very least Trump is a Berlusconi fascist, and he may be as bad as a Francoist fascist. He is clearly not as bad as Moseley, who was a real deal fascist all right. I do think comparisons to Hitler and Nazis are not good and a comparison to Franco feels a lot better to me.

He may not have all of the accouterments of fascism to be a 100% pure fascist, but he sure has a lot of fascist tendencies. So maybe he’s Fascism-Lite. Trump is the most fascist President in US history. That’s so obvious. We have never had a President with so many fascist tendencies as this man.

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Filed under Eurasia, Europe, European, Fascism, History, Italy, Political Science, Politics, Regional, Republicans, Russia, Spain, US Politics, USA

Israelis, Islamists, Hindutvadis and Fascism

William: Robert- I suppose it may be splitting hairs, but isn’t Israel about the Jewish faith? I mean it’s not like they’re all secular Jews – they’re linked by faith as much as bloodline.

Jews by blood but who have never been religious are not granted citizenship to Israel, although they are allowed to immigrate/reside there (green card equivalent).

RL: So Israel’s about the Jewish faith? “So what,” I would say. What does that have to do with anything?

William: Lindsay- I’m just saying it makes it not blatantly fash. Just kind of crypto-fash. There is a pretense not about race/bloodline.

OK, I can go along with that. I have always worried that these Lefties people calling Christian fundies Christo-fascists and the Islamists Islamofascists were going too far.

But in India, those Hindutvadis, well, they are pretty close to real deal fascism. They are not racist fascists. I suppose they are religious fascists. But the Hindutvadis are far more fascist than the Israelis or Islamists are.

There is a real question and a good debate going on regarding whether a religiously based fascism is even possible. But there was something resembling that in Croatia under World War 2. There was a racist-fascist (Nazi) regime called the Ustashe that killed Serbs, Jews, and, well, anyone who was not a Croat. However, a number of Serbs were given opportunity to convert to Catholicism and become in effect Serbs. The opportunity was given at gunpoint. It was covert or die, just like the Muslims did and sometimes still do. This would seem to be a Nazi-like regime that seemed to be based on religion at least in part.

There were also Chetniks roaming around in the mountains. These were Serbian Far Right guerrillas, often with a Serbian Orthodox priest traveling with them in the bands, who killed everyone who was not a Serb – Catholics, Muslims, etc. I believe they also fought against the Nazis though. The Chetniks would seem to be a sort of religiously-based racist fascism. There were also much more numerous Communist guerrillas roaming around the countryside at the same time, and they and the Chetniks did not have good relations.

Some Leftist theorists have recently been suggesting that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was actually fascist in a sense, and they laid out a theory on why that was. I am not sure if I bought it though.

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The “Jews Help Fund the Bolshevik Revolution” Canard

From the comments:

While it’s true that wealthy interests from America and Western Europe helped fund the Russian Revolution, this was not the BOLSHEVIK Revolution. True, Bolsheviks fought in the initial revolution to overthrow the Czar (the February Revolution), but after that the (Pro-Western) Provisional Government was set up (which is what the wealthy interests such as Jacob Schiff wanted), so the Bolsheviks initiated a second revolution (the October Revolution) against the Provisional Government.

Western forces from 21 different nations then invaded Russia to protect the Provisional Government but ultimately failed (to the Bolsheviks’ credit). If the Western elites wanted the Bolsheviks in power, why would they support such an invasion of Russia? Again, they funded the February Revolution to get rid of the Czar and open up Russia’s resources to Western capitalists, but the October (Bolshevik) Revolution was not at all part of the plan.

I always wondered about this odd charge which seemed so nonsensical to me. Why would very rich Jews want to fund a Communist revolution which was going to do away with most of their wealth? It never made any sense. Nevertheless, this has always been a favorite of rightwing antisemites, including Nazi types. This ties into the whole “Jews are Communists” thing which was one of the main reasons that Hitler wanted to kill them in first place. He was fighting a war against “Jewish Communism” remember?

The canard continues long past WW2, when Jews are charged with being behind every Communist movement that arose on Earth, including the Chinese one I suppose. “Jews are Communists”, “Jews push Communism”, “Jews push Leftism”, and “Jews are behind the Western Left.” It goes on and on. According to the Nazi types, this is one of the main reasons why Jews need to be killed – because they were and are behind Leftism in the West which is seen as corrosive.

\This Jewish-sponsored Leftism is purportedly a plot to destroy the White race in various ways, including by subverting the traditional institutions of the West and therefore undermining out moral culture and causing the decline of our civilization. This is what is behind the whole Frankfurt School and Cultural Marxism Theory, which I find a bit silly, though I would like to look  into it a lot deeper. A bunch of Jews screaming “conspiracy theory” and “It’s a lie – an anti-Semitic!” just doesn’t cut it for me as it does for most people. If it’s a big lie, how about proving it?

Now we have the answer to the riddle. The Jews only funded the initial revolution to get rid of the Czar because they hated the Royals so much. And this was not a Communist revolution in any way, shape or form. It was a democratic revolution, and it had some progressive and even socialist elements about it, but this government did not want to seize private property or anything like that. Another one of the reasons behind it of course was the desire of these very rich Jews to open up Russia’s resources to these capitalists so they could make money off of them.

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The “Taiwan Miracle” Nonsense

The people who ran Taiwan were the same folks who had completely run China into the ground by 1949, resulting in a life expectancy of 1949. Their legacy was repeated famines, foot-binding, murder of female children, epidemic wife-beating and more or less feudal relations in the countryside. Most Chinese peasants were little more than slaves or serfs. They were serfs on a landlord’s feudal estate.

The landlord or his buddies could go visit the serfs at any time and do whatever he wanted to with them? He had the power of life and death over them. He could kill or beat up any serf he wanted to at any time. He could steal any of their property. And especially he could rape the wives and daughters of the peasants, which he did in epidemic form.

When the Communists took over, in the first few years, they did a land reform, dissolved the feudal estates and distributed the landlords’ land to peasants with no compensation. The Communists simply stole the landlords’ land. And in same time  period, the Communists decided to  put the landlords on trial. The trials were held in the villages and towns and the peasants were to serve as judge and jury. These were wild raucous public trials and in most cases, the peasants convicted the landlords of many of the crimes above and sentenced them to death. Up to 3 million landlords were executed by the peasants themselves.

This is what happens in peasant uprisings under feudalism. Study the subject of peasant uprisings down through time, and this is how they always end up. For centuries before feudalism was dismantled, there were peasant uprisings the world over. They even occurred in Peru under Inca rule! Usually they were horrifically bloody and if the peasants won, typically they simply killed all the feudal lords and everyone who helped them. The Chmielnicki Uprising in the 1500’s in Poland resulted in all the landlords and half the Jews because they were tax collectors for the landlords. But it also caused the deaths of 1/3 of the population of the country!

Under the Nationalists, feudalism and warlordism was the way in China. There was almost no state at all. Feudal landlords also served as warlords. Their warlord armies held sway in the countryside.

Go read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck sometime. That is what life was like in China under the Nationalists and that was the same way it had been for centuries. The Nationalists did not give a damn about anyone who was not rich. It was a feudal party of landlords and warlords.

The Taiwan miracle happened because when the Nationalists fled China, they took almost every nickel in the country with them. That’s why Mao had such a hard time at first. He was starting with more or less nothing. Also they completely dismantled the feudal landlord-warlord system under severe pressure from the US. Then they did a land reform under heavy pressure from the US also. Then the US flooded money into Taiwan for decades in an effort to make Taiwan an anti-Communist showcase, sort of a propaganda exhibit to compare it with China.

Sure the Nationalists turned around Taiwan. Taiwan has a population of what? 50 million? Try doing that with 1.3 million. And the only reason Taiwan junked warlordism, landlordism and feudalism and did a land reform was because Mao won the war. If Mao would have lost the war, China would have just continued with their landlordism, warlordism and feudalism because that was how the Nationalists had governed for decades before and how their predecessors had governed for centuries before that.

If Mao wouldn’t have won, why would the Nationalists have dismantled the system? And don’t forget that 4% of the population left the country and took almost every dime in the place with them when they left. If they would have stayed the money would have stayed in China, so the nationalists would have had 96% less money. Show me how they do their miracle now? And if there had been no revolution, why would the Nationalists have made those massive economic changes they did when they went to Taiwan. Getting rid of landlordism, feudalism and warlordism was a response to the threat of Communism. If they would have continued on with the system the Nationalists were running in China on Taiwan, they would have had another Communist uprising on the island for sure.

Oh and one more thing. When the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, one of the first things they did was to kill 300,000 Communists in Taiwan.

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A Dark and Ominous Phoenix Rises from the Past

A Black Bird Rises in the West

My understanding is that in 1932, Jews were 1%* of the population of Germany. At that time, the Jews reportedly had 32%* of the wealth in the Germany.

The very next year, in 1933, Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Party was elected to rule German democracy. They quickly did away with that pesky democratic part of the state and imposed a dictatorship on a shocked but quite willing populace. This party had been trafficking in toxic anti-Semitism since its birth in German beer halls in the early 1920’s. Almost all of the leaders of this movement were very racist White men. All were White Supremacists and anti-Semites.

They preached ethnic ultranationalism and taking back the nation from the (((liberal and decadent cosmopolitan Establishment))) that had run Germany into the ground in the previous decade. It was time to take the country back from these (((liberals usurpers))) and make Germany great again. A vicious antisemitism was imposed very early on and quickly assumed savage and even homicidal proportions. Several years afterwards, those homicidal tendencies detonated into a full-blown genocidal project targeting not only Jews but also many other hated peoples such as Slavs and Gypsies. For four short years, this unstable and deranged party set the world on fire worse than it had ever been lit up. The fading remnants of that darkly incandescent blazing inferno leave traces that to reverberate among us to this day.

Of course I opposed (to put it very mildly) the Holocaust, the whole Nazi antisemitic project and the German/Japanese alliance in World War 2. It was as if a dual headed Satanic hydra had simulatenously risen in both the West and the East to menace all of mankind itself.

But then I look at that figure. Jews were 1% of the population and they controlled 32% of the wealth in a nation with an increasingly immiserated, disenfranchised and enraged majority.

I look at that figure. 1% of the population controlled 32% of the wealth. And I think, “You know what? There’s not too many countries in the world where people would put up with that for very long. At some point, the majority is going to rise up and try to take back a lot of that money from that tiny group that is monopolizing it.

In Another Century in Another Land…

In 2016, Jews are 2% of the US population. At this time, they reportedly have 28% of the wealth of the nation in a nation with an increasingly, immiserated, disenfranchised and enraged majority.

That same year, a fascist-like movement was elected to rule American democracy. They planned to quickly do away with some of the pesky democratic part of the state and impose an authoritarian government on a shocked but significantly willing populace. This party had been trafficking in increasingly toxic racism since its rebirth in the orange groves of the nation in the early 1980’s. A significant number of the leaders of this movement were quite racist White men. A few were White Supremacists and antisemites.

This movement preached an increasingly ethnic form of hyper-nationalism and taking back the nation from the (((liberal and decadent cosmopolitan Establishment))) that had been running America for most of the previous two decades. It was time to take the country back from these (((liberal usurpers))) and make America great again. A vicious racism loomed very early on. No one knew if this unstable and deranged party would set the world on fire in the next four years.

Let’s look at these two paragraphs again.

In 1932, Jews were 1% of the German population. At this time, they reportedly had  32% of the wealth of a nation with an increasingly immiserated, disenfranchised and enraged majority.

In 2016, Jews are 2% of the US population. At this time, they reportedly have 28% of the wealth of a nation with an increasingly, immiserated, disenfranchised and enraged majority.

I suppose my position would be that if the Jews, 2% of America, really do have 28% of my country’s wealth, I would say that not many countries in the world would put up with that for very long. I would also say that being 2% of the country and having 28% of the wealth is definitely not good for the Jews. Of course I don’t always support what is good for the Jews (Why should I?) but in this case, I definitely would, out of worry, fear, alarm and compassion for my fellow man alone.

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The Democratic Party Is the Suicide Left and It Deserves to Lose

The Israeli Right calls the Israeli Left “the Suicide Left.” Now I happen to like the Israeli Left a lot, but they may have a point. Their point is that the Israeli Left is trying to get us killed. So if the option is vote Left and get killed or vote for some fash like Sharon or Netanyahu and stay alive, a lot of basically decent people will vote fash. This is how a lot of non-fascists vote for fascist-type parties and leaders. Hell, if voting fash meant saving my life, I might just vote fascist myself, and I hate fascists!

I now believe that the US Democratic Party is the “Suicide Left” of America. They just don’t get it. I think what is going on here is that the party has been taken over by wealthy and upper middle class professionals on both coasts. The Republican Party is also represented by these types, among others. The Left and Right upper middle class professionals on the coast claim to hate each other, but they share the same class interests. Both are utterly out of touch with the working classes. These Democrats are well-to-do suit and tie types who only talk to others of their class and ilk. Incredibly, when a well-known liberal columnist interviewed a White working class Trump voter to see how he felt, he had to make up an imaginary person because apparently he didn’t know any actual working class people!

In other words, the Democratic Party is completely out of touch. Sure, the TPP was going to royally screw 90% of the country, but 10% were going to make out great. Guess who those 10% were? Those well to do upper middle class professionals on the coasts, including the entire leadership of the Democratic Party! Of course they push these crappy trade deals. They’re making lots of money off of them. What about the other 90% of Americans? Well, the Hell with them. If it’s not your ox getting gored, most people could care less what happens to you.

The entire Democratic Party has been sold on free trade madness. Go over to Daily Kos, the home of the left wing of the Democratic Party (the base). There’s article after article about how this election proves how racist and sexist and homophobic and transphobic and awful White people, oops I mean Americans, are. That’s what this whole election was all about. White Supremacy. White folks bein’ raciss again. Were there any other issues at play? Of course not.

Please understand that Kos is 100% free trader as far as I can tell. The left wing of the Democratic Party is hardcore freetrader! They never met a trade deal they didn’t love. There’s not one single article on trade over there right now, and I’m not sure when or if you will see another one. It is just not discussed. Occasionally in the comments someone will remark about these lousy trade deals, and “liberal Democrats” will rush over and bombard this person with attacks. According to them, the trade deals had nothing to do with working class job losses in Middle America. It was all automation! This is a complete lie, and actually, that is a very neoliberal, freemarketeer line. So the left wing of the Democratic Party is made up of neoliberals, freemarketeers and freetraders.

Every now and then you see tiny bits about trade. All they say is that Trump’s anti-free trade plans are going to be horrible for US workers. Like those Carrier Air Conditioning folks. Trump’s anti-free trade policies are going to throw millions of people like that out of work. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like crap to me. In other words, we cannot go back on free trade. Not one step back. In another article, it said that US trade policy definitely needed some tweaks (Like what?), but we cannot succumb to protectionism.

It ought to be clear now that Americans have had it up to here with mass immigration in all forms, legal, illegal, and all of the myriad fake guest worker programs. On Daily Kos, if you criticize illegal immigration even one time, you are banned forever. We cannot criticize those Holy illegal aliens, Gods among men!

The other day I saw a comment that said something like, “Hey look, don’t you think we need to do something about mass immigration, illegal immigration and especially these fake guest workers like H-1B’s?” They piled all over him, beating the crap out of him. On Daily Kos, apparently even attacking guest worker scab programs is verboten. Sure, they throw Americans out of high paying jobs and give them to job-stealing 3rd World scabs, but so what? Don’t you realize that these guest workers are those wonderful people called immigrants? All immigrants are Holy People! They are Godlike! We must worship at their feet!

The Democratic Party just doesn’t get it. They are dead-set on free trade crap and neoliberal economics. They’re free-trading freemarketeers. And they will not budge one inch on the insane immigration issue because muh racism. What they offer in place of any pro-worker project is endless Identity Politics screeds. Go to Daily Kos and scroll down the page. It’s: Racism! Sexism! Homophobia! Transphobia! Stop White Supremacy! Black Lives Matter! Up with Black People! Up with Mexicans! Down with Whites! White People Suck!

The Democratic Party is the goddamned Suicide Left. The reactionaries under Trump will completely destroy the country, but it will in part be the fault of the Suicide Left who handed it over to them. The same thing happened in the 1920’s and 1930’s when the German Communist Party attacked the German Social Democratic Party, calling them “social fascists,” sort of like how the SJW’s attack everyone not Cultural Left enough, calling them reactionaries and fascists. This idiotic infighting played a strong role in handing the country to the Nazis. And once again, we see an insane, tone-deaf, suicidal Left playing a a major role in handing the country over to a fascist movement.

The Democratic Party is the Suicide Left. They deserve to lose!

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Have Countries Improved by Moving Away from Social Democracy and Towards Neoliberalism?

HBD investor: Many countries floundered in various socialist schemes and their economies massively improved when they became less socialist.

None of this is true.

Many countries had problems with centrally planned economies with many or all state firms. This is called either state socialism or Communism and the record is not so wonderful. It isn’t so bad either. Been to Eastern Europe? See all that infrastructure? That was all built by the Communists. Go to Russia and see the same thing. Same in China. Communists built Russia and China up from nothing. They were nothing before, and Communism turned them into superpowers. They also had very high economic growth in industry and agriculture for decades. They massively expanded the nearly nonexistent education system. The Communists made monumental gains in housing in both countries. Health care improved to an incredible degree in both countries.

Now with Communism you can get great economic growth for a while, maybe a few decades, maybe more, but at some point it all starts bogging down in bureaucracy, lack of a pricing mechanism and a market, a lot of people just not working very hard and massive thievery of state property. In addition, the rate of economic growth slows. Although Communist countries usually wipe out poverty, in its place they only allow a relatively low standard of living. People probably want to live better than that. In addition, the collectivization of agriculture has been such a failure in Communist countries that I believe we should stop trying it. Production usually goes down by quite a bit and there are sometimes famines at the start if they try to do it too fast.

Yugoslavian Communism worked very well by the way, and they had a very good standard of living, the highest in Eastern Europe.

In addition, state socialist schemes with central planning had a lot of problems in Syria, India, Tanzania and other places. It just doesn’t work very well.

On the other hand, some form of social democracy is the norm all over the world. It’s not true that social democratic countries did a lot better as they shed most of their social democracy and adopted neoliberalism. The world has been doing that for a long time now and the record is in. It’s been a massive failure.

All of Europe except the UK is voting in Left parties, and at least the people want more social democracy and less neoliberalism. There’s no move towards neoliberalism and away from social democracy in Europe outside of Latvia and the UK.

There is no neoliberal free market capitalism in the Arab World. Arabs actually don’t believe in neoliberalism because Arabs and Muslims are sort of “naturally socialist” people. The Gulf states are huge social democracies. There is a lot of social spending and considerable state involvement in the economy in much of the Arab World.

Iran has been pretty much a socialist country ever since the Revolution. There is vast social spending, and the state is involved in the economy. Afghanistan is collapsed, but Communism was actually pretty popular there. Pakistan has been run by social democratic parties in recent years. India is officially a socialist country. It’s written right into the Constitution. An armed Maoist group is very powerful in India. Communist Parties have been running the states of West Bengal and Kerala for decades. Nepal is run by a coalition government consisting of a socialist party and a Communist party. The large opposition is made up of Maoists. I believe Sri Lanka is run by a social democratic party.

Myanmar’s been socialist forever. Vietnam and Laos are Communist. Cambodia has been run by Communists in recent years. The Philippines is a bad example, but they have free state health care for all, and education is free through the university level. Indonesia recently elected a socialist, a woman. The very popular newly elected president says he is a socialist. An armed Maoist group is very active in the country.

Australia and New Zealand are longstanding social democracies on the Canadian model.

Canada is a longstanding social democracy.

The largest party in Mexico is a member of the Socialist International, and the oil industry is state owned. Education is free through the university level, and health care is also free. El Salvador and Nicaragua are now run by former Marxist guerrillas, the FMLN and the Sandinistas. Costa Rica has been a social democracy since after World War 2. Honduras recently elected a leftwing president who was quickly overthrown in a state-sponsored coup. The military is still in power in Honduras, but everybody hates them.

A socialist party called Lavalas, the party of Jean Bertrande Aristide, continues to be the most popular party in Haiti, even though it has been declared illegal. To show you how popular Lavalas is, in the last election they ran in, they got 92% of the vote. During his short reign, Aristide built more schools than had been built in the entire 190 years before him.

A number of Caribbean island states are members of the Bolivarian economic bloc set up by Venezuela. Most Caribbean political parties are leftwing parties with the words socialist, revolutionary, workers, labor, or popular in them. Cuba is Communist and has a lower infant mortality rate than we do. A few years ago, they also had a longer life expectancy than we did.

Venezuela is still run by the Chavistas, a socialist party. Ecuador is run by a Leftist. Peru recently elected a leftwing Indian, although he has not been able to do much as his hands are tied. Brazil has been electing the socialist PT or Workers Party for many years now. A former Marxist guerrilla was the most recent president, and she was only removed by an illegal US-sponsored legislative coup. Paraguay elected a Leftist Catholic priest, a preacher of Liberation Theology, but he was soon overthrown in a legislative coup. The illegitimate party is now in power.

Uruguay has been a social democracy forever, and it is now governed by a former Marxist guerrilla. Juan Peron put in a social democracy in the 1950’s. Argentina was recently governed by a leftwing husband and wife team who alternated in the Presidency. Chile has been electing presidents from the Socialist Party for about 20 years now. The most recent Socialist, Michelle Bachelet, is a radical, but it remains to be seen what she can do. Chile has a huge class divide, the upper and lower classes  want to murder each other, and there are regular violent protests, leftwing versus rightwing street brawls, and riots, lately by students.

In Latin America, radical neoliberalism was imposed for 20 years, and it failed so badly that the whole continent has been electing leftwingers ever since.

I do not know much about Africa, but most African parties have been officially social democratic for a long time now. The Communist Party was recently part of a South African government. If anything has failed in Africa, it is neoliberalism.

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Turkey – The Sick Man of Europe, a 100 Year Running Joke

The Turks make up a single race – Turkic-Armenian-Kurdish-Ashkenazi Jewish. The Turks tried to turn most of these people into Turks by eliminating their ethnic identity via abandoning their religion and language. The Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians refused to give up their languages but most importantly their religion, so the Turks killed over 2 million of them for that sin. The Kurds continue to see themselves as a distinct ethnic, cultural and linguistic group from the Turks. The Turks wish to eliminate the Kurdish language, culture and even ethnicity. and that is why the Kurds are slaughtered like flies over there.

Turks are a profoundly backwards people, and they like it that way just fine. In fact, it infuriates them that anyone demands that they act civilized. Turks don’t exactly have European Enlightenment values – in fact, they have exactly the opposite. Erdogan is an Ottoman imperial Sultan and Caliph combined with a murderous Young Turk mixed with an Ataturkist ethnic ultranationalist. He’s literally one of the worst human beings on Earth, and the Turks worship this man like a God.

The Turks are enraged that Europe sees Turkey for the Sick Man it is. Hence they refuse to let them into the EU.

Letting Turkey into the EU would be catastrophic.

First of all, Turkey is incapable of abiding by the EU’s European White Christian Enlightenment values which now verge on Culture Left parody. The Turks don’t even believe in the Renaissance. Why would they believe in the PC SJW Left? Get real.

In order to join the EU, one must do a minimum number of things, including have a minimal base of European civilized Enlightenment values. These include basic human rights, limits on corruption, basic rights for minority groups and their languages, religions and cultures, etc. Turkey fails as miserably on all of those counts as they did a century ago when the Young Turks unleashed their Shoah/Islamic Jihad.

Turkey is a land frozen in time or worse where clocks actually run backwards instead of forwards like they do everywhere else. An example of this is how Erdogan has recreated 19th Century Turkey as the new imperial Sultan/Caliph.

A good guess of how backwards a nation is is whether or not the Left has been driven to such desperation and exasperated rage that they have take up arms. Nowadays, the Left only takes up arms in the most reactionary of holes. The Turkish Left has been so abused that they have been armed for decades. They carry out regular bombings and assassinations. Turkey is the Colombia of Europe, the India of the Near East.

The only way to let Turkey in would be to so weaken these EU ultra-liberal laws to the extent that they barely existed anymore. Further, poorer Turks would flood all through Christian Europe, further Islamicizing an already badly Islamicizing Europe. Even with only a few Muslims, they are causing havoc and chaos all through Europe. Imagine 10’s of millions of Turks given free reign to move to any part of Europe that they wish.

Turks have moved to Germany in large numbers and they have assimilated very poorly. Many of them hate Christian Germans, both their culture and their religion. They stage regular riots calling for the death of Jews, etc. Many are sympathetic to radical Islam. In Germany, many Turks have turned to street crime. Honor killings continue.

There are already far too many Turks in Christian Europe. Let’s not let 10’s of millions more in please.

There is of course a minority of more or less progressive Turks often working in and around academia, the opposition parties and the media. There are good people in the opposition, even in Parliament and there are many fine journalists, including some of the bravest and most daring investigative journalists. I work with a lot of Turks like this now. They bear no resemblance to what I just wrote above other than perhaps denial of their land’s backwardness. These are finest sons and daughters of the land.

Sadly the more forward-looking Turks have long been a minority, though they may make up 20-30% of the population. That’s enough to cause a lot of rowdy (and often violent) street protests, but it’s not enough to win an election.

Like the Colombians, every four years, the Turks march off to the polls to vote for another reactionary ultranationalist nut.

I would say that Turkey is hopeless. 20-30% is not enough to turn a land around, and Turkey has hurdled horribly backwards since Sultan Erdogan assumed the throne and crowned himself Caliph. He has emboldened all of the worst aspect of the Turkish soul in the same way that Trump is doing in the US. Perhaps Turkey can move forwards, but I will not see it in my lifetime.

There is nothing a Turk hates more than a mirror. It’s like a cross to a vampire. Turks refuse to look in a reflection and see what its really there. Instead they wrap themselves up in Rube Goldbergian fortresses of psychological defense because the truth is too ugly to bear. You can’t begin to cure an illness until you diagnose it, and until Turkey looks deeply into the illness of its body politic, it will remain, as always, the Sick Man of Europe, first as harsh truth a century ago, now as pitiful caricature and running twisted joke a century later.

He who is not busy growing is busy dying.

– Bob Dylan

To thine own self be true.

First of all, know yourself.

– famous aphorisms

 

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Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

I participated in a session with this fellow on Academia.edu. I believe the author is a professor at a university somewhere in the UK. I really liked this paper a lot. It’s a bit hard to understand, but if you concentrate, you should be able to understand. If I can understand it, at least some of you guys can too. It is an excellent overview of what exactly neoliberalism is and the effects it has on all of us all the way down to the anthropological, sociological and psychological.

Was Joseph Conrad a Neoliberal? Are We? A Contemporary Reading of Victory

by Simon During

Over the past decade or so “neoliberalism” has become a word to conjure with. It is easy to have reservations about its popularity since it seems to name both a general object — roughly, capitalist governmentality as we know it today — and a particular set of ideas that now have a well-researched intellectual history.

It also implies a judgment: few use the term except pejoratively. I myself do not share these worries however, since I think that using the word performs sterling analytic work on its own account even as it probably accentuates its concept’s rather blob-like qualities. Nonetheless in this talk I want somewhat to accede to those who resist neoliberalism’s analytic appeal by thinking about it quite narrowly — that is to say, in literary and intellectual historical terms.

I begin from the position, first, that neoliberalism is an offshoot of liberalism thought more generally; and second, that we in the academic humanities are ourselves inhabited by an occluded or displaced neoliberalism to which we need critically to adjust.1 Thus, writing as a
literary critic in particular, I want to follow one of my own discipline’s original protocols, namely to be sensitive to the ways in which the literary “tradition” changes as the present changes, in this case, as it is reshaped under that neoliberalism which abuts and inhabits us.2

To this end I want to present a reading of Joseph Conrad’s Victory (1916). To do this is not just to help preserve the received literary canon, and as such is, I like to think, a tiny act of resistance to neoliberalism on the grounds that neoliberalism is diminishing our capacity to affirm a canon at all. By maintaining a canon in the act of locating neoliberalism where it is not usually found, I’m trying to operate both inside and outside capitalism’s latest form.

***

1 Daniel Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2014, p. 17.
2 This argument is made of course in T.S. Eliot’s seminal essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1921).
Let me begin with a brief and sweeping overview of liberalism’s longue durée.3 For our purposes we can fix on liberalism by noting that it has two central struts, one theoretical, the other historical. As generations of theorists have noted, the first strut is methodological individualism: liberal analysis begins with, and is addressed to, the autonomous individual rather than communities or histories.4

Methodological individualism of this kind is, for instance, what allowed Leo Strauss and J.P Macpherson to call even Thomas Hobbes a founder of liberalism.5 Liberalism’s second strut is the emphasis on freedom as the right to express and enact private beliefs with a minimum of state intervention. This view of freedom emerged in the seventeenth century among those who recommended that the sovereign state “tolerate” religious differences.

It marked a conceptual break in freedom’s history since freedom was now conceived of as an individual possession and right rather than as a condition proper to “civil associations” and bound to obligations.6 We need to remember, however, that methodological individualism does not imply liberal freedom, or vice versa. Indeed neoliberalism exposes the weakness of that association.

Early in the nineteenth century, liberalism became a progressivist political movement linked to enlightened values. But after about 1850, non-progressive or conservative liberalisms also appeared. Thus, as Jeffrey Church has argued, Arthur Schopenhauer, the post-Kantian
philosopher who arguably broke most spectacularly with enlightened humanist progressivism,

3 Among the library of works on liberalism’s history I have found two to be particularly useful for my purposes here: Domenico Losurdo’s Liberalism: a Counter-History, trans. Gregory Elliot. London: Verso 2014, and Amanda Anderson’s forthcoming Bleak Liberalism, Chicago, University of Chicago Press 2016.
4 Milan Zafirovski, Liberal Modernity and Its Adversaries: Freedom, Liberalism and Anti-Liberalism in the 21st Century, Amsterdam: Brill 2007, p. 116.
5 Van Mobley, “Two Liberalisms: the Contrasting Visions of Hobbes and Locke,” Humanitas, IX 1997: 6-34.
6 Quentin Skinner, Liberty before Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, p. 23.

can be associated with liberalism.7

Likewise Schopenhauer’s sometime disciple, Friedrich Nietzsche, no progressivist, was, as Hugo Drochon has recently argued, also an antistatist who prophesied that in the future “private companies” will take over state business so as to protect private persons from one another.8 Liberalism’s conservative turn was, however, largely a result of socialism’s emergence as a political force after 1848, which enabled some left liberal fractions to dilute their individualism by accepting that “a thoroughly consistent individualism can work in harmony with socialism,” as Leonard Hobhouse put it.9

Conrad himself belonged to this moment. As a young man, for instance, he was appalled by the results of the 1885 election, the first in which both the British working class and the socialists participated.10 That election was contested not just by the Marxist Socialist Democratic Federation, but by radical Liberals who had allied themselves to the emergent socialist movement (not least Joseph Chamberlain who, as mayor of Birmingham, was developing so-called “municipal socialism” and who haunts Conrad’s work).11

The election went well for the Liberals who prevented the Tories from securing a clear Parliamentary majority. After learning this, Conrad, himself the son of a famous Polish liberal revolutionary, wrote to a friend, “the International Socialist Association are triumphant, and every
disreputable ragamuffin in Europe, feels that the day of universal brotherhood, despoliation and disorder is coming apace…Socialism must inevitably end in Caesarism.”12 That prophecy will resonate politically for the next century, splitting liberalism in two. As I say: on the one side, a

7 Jeffrey Church, Nietzsche’s Culture of Humanity: Beyond Aristocracy and Democracy in the Early Period, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015, p. 226.
8 Hugo Drochon, Nietzsche’s Great Politics, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2016, p. 9.
9 L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism, London: Williams and Norgate, 1911, p. 99.
10 It was at this point that one of neoliberalism’s almost forgotten ur-texts was written,Herbert Spencer’s Man against the State (1884).
11 For instance, he plays an important role in Conrad and Ford Madox Ford’s The Inheritors.
12 Joseph Conrad, The Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad, vol 1., ed. Frederick Karl and Laurence Davis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983, p. 16.

 

progressivist, collectivist liberalism. On the other, an individualist liberalism of which neoliberalism is a continuation.

By around 1900, liberalism’s fusion with socialism was often (although not quite accurately) associated with Bismark’s Germany, which gave anti-socialist liberalism a geographical inflection. Against this, individualistic liberalism was associated with Britain. But this received British liberalism looked back less to Locke’s religiously tolerant Britain than to Richard Cobden’s Britain of maritime/imperial dominance and free trade.

Which is to say that liberalism’s fusion with socialism pushed socialism’s liberal enemies increasingly to think of freedom economically rather than politically — as in Ludwig von Mises influential 1922 book on socialism, which can be understood as a neoliberal urtext.13 By that point, too, individuals were already being positioned to become what Foucault calls “consumers of freedom.” 14

They were now less understood less as possessing a fundamental claim to freedom than as creating and participating in those institutions which enabled freedom in practice. Crucially after the first world war, in the work of von Mises and the so-called “Austrian school”, freedom was increasingly assigned to individual relations with an efficient market as equilibrium theory viewed markets. This turn to the market as freedom’s basis marked another significant historical departure: it is the condition of contemporary neoliberalism’s emergence.

Neoliberalism organized itself internationally as a movement only after world war two, and did so against both Keynesian economics and the welfare state. 15 It was still mainly ideologically motivated by a refusal to discriminate between welfarism and totalitarianism — a line of thought already apparent in Conrad’s equation of socialism with Caesarism of course. As
13 See Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: an Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane. New Haven: Yale University Press 1951.
14 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 63. One key sign of this spread of this new freedom is Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous appeal to the “free trade in ideas” in his 1919 dissent in Abrams v. the US, a judgment which joins together the market, intellectual expression and the juridical.
15 See Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe (eds.), The Road from Mont Pèlerin, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2009.

 

Friedrich Hayek urged: once states begin to intervene on free markets totalitarianism looms because the people’s psychological character changes: they become dependent.16 For thirty years (in part as confined by this argument), neoliberalism remained a minority movement, but
in the 1970s it began its quick ascent to ideological and economic dominance.

Cutting across a complex and unsettled debate, let me suggest that neoliberalism became powerful then because it provided implementable policy settings for Keynesianism’s (perceived) impasse in view the stagnation and instability of post-war, first-world welfarist, full-employment economies after 1) the Vietnam War, 2) the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement; 3) OPEC’s cartelization, and 4) the postcolonial or “globalizing” opening up of world markets on the back of new transportation and computing technologies.17

In the global north neoliberalism was first implemented governmentally by parties on the left, led by James Callaghan in the UK, Jimmy Carter in the US, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating in Australia, and leading the way, David Lange and Roger Douglas in New Zealand.18 At this time, at the level of policy, it was urged more by economists than by ideologues insofar as these can be separated (and Hayek and Mises were both of course).

As we know, neoliberals then introduced policies to implement competition, deregulation, monetarism, privatization, tax reduction, a relative high level of unemployment, the winding back of the state’s participation in the economy and so on. This agenda quickly became captured by private

 

16 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 48.
17 This history is open to lively differences of opinion. The major books in the literature are: Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the College de France 1978-1979, London: Picador 2010; Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown, London: Verso 2014; Stedman-Jones, Masters of the Universe; Joseph Vogl, The Spectre of Capital, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2014; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007. My own understanding of this moment is informed by Stedman-Jones’s account in particular.
18 It is worth noting in this context that the left had itself long been a hatchery of neoliberal economic ideas just because liberalism’s absorption of socialism was matched by socialism’s absorption of liberalism. See Johanna Brockman, Markets in the name of Socialism: the Left-wing Origins of Neoliberalism, Stanford: Stanford University Press 2011 on the intellectual-historical side of this connection.

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interests, and from the eighties on, it was woven into new, highly surveilled and privatized, computing and media ecologies, indeed into what some optimists today call “cognitive capitalism”.19

In this situation, more or less unintended consequences proliferated, most obviously a rapid increase in economic inequality and the enforced insertion of internal markets and corporate structures in non-commercial institutions from hospitals to universities. Indeed, in winding back the welfare state, renouncing Keynesian and redistributionist economic policies, it lost its classical liberal flavor and was firmly absorbed into conservatism — a transformation which had been prepared for by Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.20

But two more concrete conceptual shifts also helped animate this particular fusion of conservatism and liberalism. First, postwar neoliberalism was aimed more at the enterprise than at the individual.21

Largely on the basis of van Mises’s Human Action (1940) as popularized by Gary Becker, the free, independent individual was refigured as “human capital” and thereby exposed instead to management and “leadership.” At the same time, via Peter Drucker’s concept of “knowledge worker,” which emphasized the importance of conceptual and communication skills to
economic production, postsecular management theories for which corporations were hierarchical but organic communities also gained entry into many neoliberal mindsets.22 At that

 

19 Yann Moulier Boutang, Cognitive Capitalism, trans. Ed Emery. Cambridge: Polity Press 2012.
20 Nietzsche and Schopenhauer’s influence is no doubt part of why neoliberalism emerged in Austria. Indeed the Austrian context in which contemporary neoliberalism emerged is worth understanding in more detail. In their early work, Hayek and Mises in particular were responding to “red Vienna” not just in relation to Otto Bauer’s Austromarxism but also in relation to its version of guild socialism associated with Hungarians like Karl Polanyi, with whom both Hayek and Mises entered into debate. See Lee Congdon, “The Sovereignty of Society: Karl Polanyi in Vienna,” in The Life and Work of Karl Polanyi, ed. Kari Polanyi-Levitt. Montreal: Black Rose Books 1990, 78-85.
21 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 225.
22 Drucker was another Austrian refugee who turned to capitalism against totalitarianism in the late thirties and his profoundly influential work on corporate management shadows neoliberal theory up until the 1970s.

 

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point, neoliberalism also became a quest to reshape as many institutions as possible as corporations.

At this point too Foucault’s consumers of freedom were becoming consumers full stop. To state this more carefully: at the level of ideology, to be free was now first and foremost deemed to be capable of enacting one’s preferences in consumer and labour markets. It would seem that preferences of this kind increasingly determined social status too, and, more invasively, they now increasingly shaped personalities just because practices of self were bound less and less to filiations and affiliations than to acts of choice.

This helped the market to subsume older gradated social and cultural structures of identity-formation, class difference and cultural capital. At this juncture, we encounter another significant unexpected consequence
within liberalism’s longue durée: i.e. the sixties cultural revolution’s reinforcement of neoliberalism.

This is a complex and controversial topic so let me just say here that, from the late seventies, neoliberal subjects who were individualized via their entrepreneurial disposition and economic and labour choices, encounters the subject of post-68 identity politics who had been emancipated from received social hierarchies and prejudices, and was now attached to a particular ethnicity, gender or sexuality as chosen or embraced by themselves as individuals. These two subject formations animated each other to the degree that both had, in their different ways, sloughed off older communal forms, hierarchies and values.

Governing this ménage of hedonism, productivity, insecurity and corporatization, neoliberalism today seems to have become insurmountable, and is, as I say, blob-like, merging out into institutions and practices generally, including those of our discipline. And it has done
this as a turn within liberal modernity’s longer political, intellectual and social genealogies and structures rather than as a break from them.

Nonetheless, three core, somewhat technical, propositions distinguish neoliberalism from liberalism more generally:

  1. First the claim, which belongs to the sociology of knowledge, that no individual or group can know the true value of anything at all.23 For neoliberals, that value — true or not — can only be assessed, where it can be assessed at all, under particular conditions: namely when it is available in a competitive and free market open to all individuals in a society based on private property. This is an argument against all elite and expert claims to superior knowledge and judgment: without prices, all assessments of value are mere opinion. In that way, market justice (i.e. the effects of competing in the market) can trump social justice. And in that way, for instance, neoliberalism finds an echo not just in negations of cultural authority and canonicity but in the idea that literary and aesthetic judgments are matters of private choice and opinion. In short, neoliberalism inhabits cultural democracy and vice versa. By the same stroke, it posits an absence — a mere structure of exchange—at society’s normative center.
  2. There is a direct relationship between the competitive market and freedom. Any attempt to limit free markets reduces freedom because it imposes upon all individuals a partial opinion about what is valuable. This particular understanding of freedom rests on the notion of the market as a spontaneous order — its being resistant to control and planning, its being embedded in a society which “no individual can completely survey” as Hayek put it.24 Not that this notion is itself original to neoliberalism: Foucault’s historiography of liberalism shows that, in the mid eighteenth century, this property of markets was thought of as “natural” and therefore needed to be protected
    from sovereign authority’s interference.25 But as Foucault and others have argued, neoliberalism emerges after World War 2 when the spontaneous market conditions of freedom are no longer viewed as natural (even if they remain immanently lawbound) but as governmentally produced.26
  3. Neoliberalism has specific ethical dimensions too. While it generally insists that individuals should be free to “follow their own values and preferences” (as Hayek put it) at least within the limits set by those rules and institutions which secure market stability, in fact individuals’ independence as well as their relation to market risk, provides the necessary condition for specific virtues and capacities. Most notably, in Hayek’s formulation, a neoliberal regime secures individuals’ self-sufficiency, honor and dignity and does so by the willingness of some to accept “material sacrifice,” or to “live dangerously” as Foucault put it, in a phrase he declared to be liberalism’s “motto”.27 This mix of risk-seeking existentialism and civic republicanism not only rebukes and prevents the kind of de-individualization supposedly associated with socialisms of the left and right, it is where neoliberalism and an older “Nietzschean” liberalism meet—with Michael Oakeshott’s work bearing special weight in this context.28 But as soon as neoliberalism itself becomes hegemonic in part by fusing with the spirit of 1968, this original ascetic, masculinist neoliberal ethic of freedom and risk comes to be supplemented and displaced by one based more on creativity, consumerist hedonism and entrepreneurialism aimed at augmenting choice.29

***

23 See Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis, p. 55.
24 Friedrich von Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Texts and Documents. The Definitive Edition, ed. Bruce Caldwell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 212.

25 Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 19.
26 This is argued in Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval’s The New Way of the World: on Neoliberal Society, London: Verso 2014. For the immanent lawboundedness in Hayek, see Miguel Vatter, The Republic of the Living: Biopolitics and the Critique of Civil Society, New York: Fordham University Press 2014: pps. 195-220. Vatter’s chapter “Free Markets and Republican
Constitutions in Hayek and Foucault” is excellent on how law is treated in neoliberal thought.
27 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, p. 130. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 66.
28 See Andrew Norris’s forthcoming essay in Political Theory, “Michael Oakeshott’s Postulates of Individuality” for this. We might recall, too, that Foucault argues for similarities between the Frankfurt school and the early neoliberals on the grounds of their resistance to standardization, spectacle and so on. See The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 105.

 

I have indicated that Conrad belongs to the moment when socialist parties first contested democratic elections and which thus split liberalism, allowing one, then beleaguered, liberal fraction to begin to attach to conservatism. In this way then, he belongs to neoliberalism’s deep past (which is not to say, of course, that he should be understand as a proto-neoliberal himself). Let us now think about his novel Victory in this light.

The novel is set in late nineteenth-century Indonesia mainly among European settlers and entrepreneurs. Indonesia was then a Dutch colony itself undergoing a formal economic deregulation program, which would increase not just Dutch imperial profits but, among indigenous peoples, also trigger what was arguably human history’s most explosive population growth to date.30

Victory belongs to this world where imperialism encountered vibrant commercial activity driven by entrepreneurial interests, competition and risk. Thus, for instance, its central character, the nomadic, cosmopolitan, aristocratic Swedish intellectual, Axel Heyst, establishes a business— a coal mine — along with a ship-owning partner, while other characters manage hotels, orchestras and trading vessels. Victory is a novel about enterprises as well as about individuals.

But Conrad’s Indonesia is other to Europe as a realm of freedom. Importantly, however, its freedom is not quite liberal or neoliberal: it is also the freedom of a particular space. More precisely, it is the freedom of the sea: here, in effect Indonesia is oceanic. This formulation draws on Carl Schmitt’s post-war work on international law, which was implicitly

 

29 The history of that displacement is explored in Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso 2005.
30 Bram Peper, “Population Growth in Java in the 19th Century”, Population Studies, 24/1 (1970): 71-84.

 

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positioned against liberal and neoliberal theory. In his monograph The Nomos of the Earth (1950), Schmitt drew attention to the sea as a space of freedom just because national sovereignties and laws did not hold there.

But Schmitt’s implicit point was that liberal freedom needs to be thought about not just in terms of tolerance, recognition, rights or markets, but
geographically and historically inside the long history of violent sovereign appropriation of the globe’s land masses so that elemental freedom was enacted on the oceans where law and sovereignty had no reach. From this perspective, piracy, for instance, plays an important role in freedom’s history. And from this perspective the claim to reconcile radical freedom to the lawbound state is false: such freedom exists only where laws do not.

The sea, thought Schmitt’s way, is key to Conrad’s work. But, for him, the sea is also the home of economic liberalism, free-trade and the merchant marines by whom he had, of course, once been employed, and whose values he admired.31 Victory is a maritime tale set on waters which harbor such free trade at the same time as they form a Schmittean realm of freedom — and violence and risk — which effectively remains beyond the reach of sovereign law.

Let me step back at this point to sketch the novel’s plot. Victory’s central character Heyst is the son of an intellectual who late in life was converted from progressivism to a mode of weak Schopenhauerianism or what was then call pessimism.32 Heyst lives his father’s pessimism out: he is a disabused conservative liberal: “he claimed for mankind that right to
absolute moral and intellectual liberty of which he no longer believed them worthy.”33

Believing this, Heyst leaves Europe to “drift”— circulating through Burma, New Guinea, Timor and the Indonesian archipelagoes, simply gathering facts and observing. But, on an

 

31 For Conrad and trade in this region, see Andrew Francis, Culture and Commerce in Conrad’s Asian Fiction, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015. For Conrad’s affiliations to free trade proper see my unpublished paper, “Democracy, Empire and the Politics of the Future in
Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”. This is available on this url.
32 Joseph Conrad, Victory, London: Methuen 1916, p. 197.
33 Conrad, Victory, pps. 92-93

 

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impulse, while drifting through Timor he rescues a shipowner, Morrison, whose ship has been impounded by unscrupulous Portuguese authorities, and through that act of spontaneous generosity, becomes obligated to Morrison.

The two men end up establishing a coalmine in the remote Indonesian island of Samburan, backed by local Chinese as well as by European capital. The company soon collapses. Morison dies. And, living out his Schopenhauerian renunciation of the world, Heyst, the detached man, decides to stay on at the island alone except for one Chinese servant.

He does, however, sometimes visit the nearest Indonesian town, Surabaya, and it is while staying there in a hotel owned by Schomberg, a malicious, gossipy German, that he makes another spontaneous rescue. This time he saves a young woman, Lena, a member of a traveling “ladies orchestra,” who is being bullied by her bosses and in danger of abduction by Schomberg himself.

Heyst and Lena secretly escape back to his island, causing Schomberg to harbor a venomous resentment against Heyst. At this point Schomberg’s hotel is visited by a trio of sinister criminals: Jones, Ricardo and their servant Pedro. Taking advantage of Schomberg’s rage, they establish an illegal casino in his hotel. To rid himself of this risky enterprise, Schomberg advises them to go after Heyst in his island, falsely telling them that Heyst has hidden a fortune there. Jones and his gang take Schomberg’s advice but disaster awaits them.

The novel ends with Jones, Ricardo, Heyst, Lena all dead on Heyst’s island.
The novel, which hovers between commercial adventure romance and experimental modernism, is bound to neoliberalism’s trajectory in two main ways. First, it adheres to neoliberalism’s sociology of knowledge: here too there is no knowing center, no hierarchy of expertise, no possibility of detached holistic survey and calculation through which truth might command action. Heyst’s drifting, inconsequential fact-gathering, itself appears to illustrate that absence. As do the gossip and rumors which circulate in the place of informed knowledge, and which lead to disaster. Individuals and enterprises are, as it were, on their
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own, beyond any centralized and delimited social body that might secure stability and grounded understandings. They are bound, rather, to self-interest and spontaneity.

This matters formally not simply because, in an approximately Jamesian mode, the narrative involves a series of points of view in which various characters’ perceptions, moods and interests intersect, but because the narration itself is told in a first person voice without being enunciated by a diegetical character.

That first person, then, functions as the shadow representative of a decentered community, largely focused on money, that is barely able to confer identity at all, a community, too, without known geographical or ideological limits just because the narrator, its implicit representative, has no location or substance. This narratorial indeterminacy can be understood as an index of liberalism at this globalizing historical juncture: a liberalism divesting itself of its own progressive histories, emancipatory hopes and institutions. A bare liberalism about to become neoliberalism, as we can proleptically say.

More importantly, the novel speaks to contemporary neoliberalism because it is about freedom. As we have begun to see, Heyst is committed to a freedom which is both the freedom of the sea, and a metaphysical condition which has detached itself, as far as is possible, from connections, obligations, determinations. This structures the remarkable formal
relationship around which the novel turns — i.e. Heyst’s being positioned as Jones’s double.

The generous Schopenhauerian is not just the demonic criminal’s opposite: he is also his twin. Both men are wandering, residual “gentlemen” detached from the European order, and thrown into, or committed to, a radical freedom which, on the one side, is a function of free trade, on the other, a condition of life lived beyond the legal and political institutions that order European societies, but also, importantly, are philosophical and ethical — a renunciation of the established ideological order for independence, courage and nomadism.

To put this rather differently: Heyst and Jones’s efforts to live in freedom — to comport themselves as free individuals — combines economic freedom — a freedom of exchange, competition and

 

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entrepreneurial possibilities— with a state of nature as a line of flight (or emancipation) from received continental laws, values and social structures. Freedom, that is, which combines that which Carl Schmitt and the early neoliberals imagined, each in their own way.

The novel’s main point is that there is, in fact, nothing in this freedom to sustain true ethical substance. It is as if Schmittean freedom has smashed both liberal freedom and pessimistic asceticism, along with their ethical groundings. Or to come at the novel’s basic point from another direction: it is as if the absence at the heart of a free society has transmigrated into these characters’ selves. It is at that level that individual freedom cannot be separated from violence and risk and good from evil.

Without an instituted social structure, Heyst cannot stay true to himself: his commitment to freedom and renunciation is compromised because of his spontaneous acts of generosity and sympathy which lead to his and Lena’s death. On the other side, Jones, a homosexual shunned by respectable society, is afflicted by those key nineteenth-century affects, resentment and boredom as well as a quasi-Nietzschean contempt for “tameness”, which drive him towards living outside of society, at contigency’s mercy, and towards reckless, malevolent violence.

Heyst and Jones die together almost by accident, in deaths that reveal them not just as entangled with one another at existence’s threshold, but as both attuned to death, even in life. It now look as if while they lived they wanted to die. In that way, the novel makes it clear that the risk, disorder and emptiness which inhabit their striving for a radically liberal practice of life corrode distinctions not just between violence and renunciation, not just between good and evil, but also between life and death.

We can put it like this: the freedom that these characters claim and the risks that it entails and which bind them together are inclined more towards death than towards life, just on account of freedom’s own conditions of possibility, namely radical autonomy, absence of sovereign power, and maximum choice.

***

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As I say, this is a reading of the novel which, at least in principle, helps to canonize Victory just because it claims that its form, plot and characters address versions of our current neoliberal social condition, and does so in metaphysically ambitious terms. Victory is a critique of freedom, I think.

Conrad is insisting that even in a liberal society devoted to free trade,
enterprises and markets, the law — and the sovereign state — comes first. It is, if one likes, beginning the work of detaching liberalism from freedom. To say this, however, is to ignore the most pressing question that this reading raises: to what degree should we today actually accede to Conrad’s ambivalent, pessimistic and conservative imagination of radical freedom?

How to judge that freedom’s renunciation of established hierarchies, collectivities and values whether for adventure, risk and spontaneity or for violence and death? It is a condition of the discipline’s neoliberal state that the only answer we can give to that question is that we can, each of us, answer that question any way that we choose.

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