The most striking aspect of the neo-liberal era is the expansion of 'rights to be' alongside the greatest concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a tiny elite the world has seen since the Gilded Age. Alongside a flowering of cultural and sexual diversity and emphasis on individual rights and freedoms, there has been a devaluing of the power and possibilities of the collective, and especially of the traditional collectives of the working class. The rank and file can only engage with entrenched power through the ballot box or various forms of protest, the most potent of which is industrial action. Their only chance for success in either of these is in combination i.e through organisations which represent their political and social interests and trade unions.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
"Anyone who calls himself The Donald has to be a dick..."
...and now that dick is President elect of the most powerful nation on the planet.
The polls were wrong; the pundits were wrong; the media was wrong; the DNC elite was wrong; and the Clintons and the Obamas were wrong and have been left with political egg all over their faces. A vulgar, sexist narcissist is to be President of the USA. His boast that he could manipulate Republican voters was as right on the button as the episode of the Simpsons in 2000 which forecast a Trump presidency as the nadir of American politics and society.
I had a horrible feeling he would win - a visceral feeling that all my intellectualising about the improbability of it could not quell. My gut instinct was telling me that the conservative backlash was building and if enough people voted for Trump, and enough chose not to vote at all rather than vote for Clinton, he could win.
The Democratic Party machine ignored the Sanders phenomenon and put up a candidate who was vulnerable on many levels. I don't know if Sanders would have been permitted to win the presidency had he won the nomination but assuming no-one assassinated him or his character, I suspect a lot of the 46% of Americans who did not vote would have been motivated to vote for him. As it was, 54% of voters divided almost evenly between two deeply unpopular candidates i.e. Trump has been elected by about 26% of the total electorate. Without the arcane and archaic electoral college system, Clinton would have won the Presidency on a slightly larger proportion of the popular vote.
Some people would have voted for Trump as a 'fuck you' to what they perceive as an out of touch and corrupt political machine; some because they resent the tall, elegant, well educated and urbane Obamas; some because Trump's chubby, anti-intellectual, bombastic, boastful, 'self-made man' is a character they can relate to; some because they are committed racial and/or religious bigots; some because they are misogynistic and could not countenance a woman as President; and a lot because they have swallowed the lies about why they are poor and unemployed and shut out of what they see as their birthright. These people have bought the even bigger lie that Trump will bring private sector jobs back to the US. They do not realise that if he does bring jobs back it will be only if American workers are prepared to accept lower wages and worse conditions than the places the jobs were relocated to - and because the American state will accept even worse environmental controls on industry.
The conservative backlash has been building for a long time and the reason it will be so destructive is because the forces which oppose it are in such disarray - and nowhere more so than in the USA. It was easy for the neo-libs to ship US jobs off to places where they could make bigger profits because at the outset of the neo-liberal era only 20% of US workers were in a union - that's now down to 11% overall and 7% in the private sector. Obama - architect of the TPPA - is fully committed to corporate globalisation and his administration, like that of post-war Democrats before him, has done nothing to reverse the decline of trade unionism.
One of the most telling things about the destruction of first world trade unions over the past 30 years has been the refusal of so many academics, commentators and media pundits to confront why that is. But, to paraphrase Upton Sinclair - it is difficult to get people to confront something when their salary depends on them not confronting it.
The US has had centuries to perfect its use of racism as a divide and rule and terror tactic. Trump's' vicious rhetoric should have left the majority of US citizens reeling in horror; instead it has emboldened its racist heartlands. This is not just the old guard who remember the times when white folks could murder black people and civil rights activists and get away with it, many young white people - who have grown up in a more open and diverse nation than their grandparents did - are enthusiastic followers of Trump. The cancer of racism in the US has never been eradicated. If it metastasises, it has the potential to break down the connective tissue of the social body.
The influence of fundamentalist religion in the US is enormous: it has proved hard enough for a woman to be elected, it would be impossible for an avowed atheist. All presidents and their family are required to do the ritual obeisance to god - the Christian version. Trump, who is about the least spiritual person I can envisage, appealed to conservative religionists on issues like abortion and same sex marriage on the grounds of bigotry not theology.
His victory shows the millennia-old phallocracy is still firmly in charge, such concessions as have been made to women can and will be rescinded if it suits the suits. Same as the concessions to minority groups whose formal and informal rights have expanded over the past couple of decades.
It's not surprising that there's a lot of catastrophising going on - some of it with good reason. Given the increases in the sophistication of the mechanisms of repression - weaponry, surveillance etc - today's elite are more powerful and therefore more dangerous than the elites of previous eras. Rightwing extremists have been let off their leashes across the world. In the US police already kill black people with virtual impunity and the country has an ignoble and recent history of the vicious suppression of people of colour and of political dissenters.
A lot of people who are disappointed that Clinton did not win are terrified there will be war because Trump is such an erratic character. They seem oblivious as to why Putin was so anxious for a Trump victory. You have only to look at the relative military and economic strengths and deployments of the 26 nations of NATO against that of Russia to see who is best candidate for the label of aggressor in that sphere. Against all logic - given so many Americans are viscerally anti-communist and still link Russia to communism - Trump positioned himself alongside Russia and against China and all other countries he could label as stealers of US jobs and power. And it paid off.
Clinton supporters tend to sidestep the fact that there were many good reasons to be fearful of a Clinton administration. She would have continued Obama's TPP strategy of squaring up to China economically while threatening Russia militarily via NATO. The initial battleground would have been fought by proxies in Syria but Clinton has already proved she is a hawk and is prepared to take the US to an aggressive war.
Trump is a rooster - he might crow and strut a lot and put up a good show against another rooster but whether he'd have Clinton the hawk's stomach for the slaughter of war is not yet known.
There's a good reason why the powerful like to keep the masses ignorant and diverted, with what divides writ large and what unites them kept hidden or mocked. The mushroom ideology - keep them in the dark and feed them shit - has always worked well for the powerful. And the truly excellent joke for the elites is that - because of all the pretty flashing lights and baubles they've been fobbed off with - most people don't even know they are in the dark.
If the people who can don't start to shine spotlights on what is happening and why, the darkness may become permanent.