The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: President Trump: symbol of a dying social system. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!
President Trump: symbol of a dying social system
The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: President Trump: symbol of a dying social system. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
One thing not mentioned here is the fact that Trump lost the popular vote, which highlights a couple of things: 1.) His Presidency will be viewed as illegitimate by many in both the population in general and within the ruling class (although the media is doing its level best to try to normalize him right now); 2.) The state machinery the US bourgeoisie has inherited from the 18th century has proven obsolete, having now thrown the Presidency to the less preferred candidate twice since 2000 and has this time given it to the most dangerous figure to make a serious major party run for President in forever; and 3.) The populist posison has not entirely infected society and there are large swathes of the working class who completely reject this ideology. The problem is that they are concentrated in particular geographic areas as a result of the neo-liberal restructuring of the economy: coastal metropolitan areas in the US (which is how the Electoral College bites the US bourgeoise in the ass), London and other major cities in the UK (and Scotland, for some reason that has yet been explained). This later part is very important to understand--the geo-spatial structuring of the economy and its resultant political effects (both for the bourgeoisie's attempts to manipulate the electoral process, but also for the proletariat's consciousness), the increasing splitting of the nation-state itself into geo-spatial regional identities that are in constant politico-cultural conflict with one another.
A few other points: whatever the economic angst and anger felt by working people in the rust belt (or middle England), no matter how many Trump voters were Obama voters four years ago, the fact remains that tens of millions of working class people just voted for an openly racist, xenophobe, bully who is on record as admitting to assaulting women. We can't underestimate the importance of this moment in WORLD HISTORY. Millions of people now feel increasingly unsafe in their daily lives as a result of this outcome. Calls to crisis hotlines for LGBT people, immigrants, Muslims and anyone else who may become an "other" are up damatically. Daily life has just become that much more emotionally strenuous and challenging for many IMMEDIATELY. For many, this is a traumatic experience every bit as disorienting as 9/11--perhaps even more so in that it was perpetrated not by foreigners from some exotic place, but by millions of their fellow citizens--you can't build walls against that. The shock is even worse in that all the institutions of bourgeois authority told us that it would not happen. How do we understand this reality? What delusional mental gymnastics did these Trump/Obama voters have to preform to convince themselves he is not really a racist or did they just not give a fuck? However else you understand a Trump vote--it is clearly an abandonment of solidarity with the most vulnerable in society (in a much more clear way than a Brexit vote); perhaps even an abandonement of solidarity with themselves.
Right now the liberal political establishment is doing its best to console itself that it is still on the "right side of history." It may yet be right, but I don't think we should downplay the magnitiude of the terrible reaction that this represents--even if Trump himself turns out to have been pulling a con game all along and does not advance the most egregious promises of his campaign. The question for us is how much does the future of the communist project depend on the maintenance of some semblance of liberal values and norms in society and even if we do not cooperate with the liberal factions of the bourgeoisie to advance their political agenda, do we nevertheless have to root for it admist this carnage? Of course, it is an illusion to pretend that the liberals can protect us from the barbarism at the gates now, but that is for many an extremely frightening prospect.
The future of the communist project is certainly threatened by these developments; the rise of populism expresses a weakening of working class consciousness which is probably no less serious than the effects of the collapse of the eastern bloc in 89-91. I don't think we have reached the point of no return, but we are definitely facing a period when 'don't betray' is central to our activity, as it was for Bilan during the 30s. The signs of capitulation by parts of the proletarian milieu faced with the growth of barbarism are becoming more evident: the anarchists who are supporting the 'Rojava revolution', the headlong flight towards leftism by the Tampa Communist League, and most recently, the strange evolution of the Greek group that was aligned with the ICT, who seem to be collapsing into nationalism in the face of the refugee crisis (http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2016-11-09/statement-of-the-internationalist-communist-tendency-on-the-nationalist).
Jk is right to insist that we cannot pretend that the liberals can protect us from barbarism. In a discussion we were having tonight in the UK about the Trump article, a comrade pointed out that over two million 'illegals' have already been deported under the liberal Obama. But I'm confused by the preceding sentence, which seems contradictory: "even if we do not cooperate with the liberal factions of the bourgeoisie to advance their political agenda, do we nevertheless have to root for it admist this carnage?" Can you clarify?
Yeah Alf, I think it means that we do not participate in the electoral circus to support liberal candidates, but that we nevertheless have a better chance of reaching the communist goal if liberal values remain ascendant in society rather than the populist ethos, which seems to reflect something dark and foreboding. It is one thing to hold bougeois society/politicians to account for the failure to live up to the liberal values they profess (i.e. Obama deporting millions of people, etc.) another when society does not even pretend to believe in those values anymore. But, I don't really know if that is right. If Bernie had won this election--and there is a decent chance he would have had the Dems allowed him to run--there would be tremendous illusions that a new day would soon dawn and a reflexive drive to defend him, which would be no less a barrier to class consciousness. But, I am not sure that's even what I mean--I think I mean something more on the level of daily life.
But bearing in mind baboon, referring to your post above, that Bilan in the 30's was dealing with a situation that was already a disaster for the absolutely defeated working clsss with the World war looming ominously on the horizon. We're not like that now exactly are we? Or are we, and it's just hidden from view?
Thanks baboon for your illuminative and consolatory reply.
So far, there are suggestions that Trump will be a figurehead, while the Republicans that rode in with him will do the actual "governing", which will mean austerity and repression domestically--even if it is still totally unclear what will happen on foreign policy. It has been reported that Trump has received only 2 intelligence briefings so far, while Pence has taken all of them. Meanwhile, Trump has brought his unelected daughter and business partner Ivanka (who the protesters are calling "Tzarina"-- in an insult that might be a continuation of the anti-Russian theme of the Democrat's campaign, I am not sure) into a meeting with Shinzo Abe and then participated along with her father in a telephone call with the Argentine President, in which it is likely Trump family business was discussed. Suspiscions are rising that Trump will use his Presidency to advance his family's business interests and that he has no real interest in the duties of the job. Meanwhile, the newly empowered Republican Party appears poised to attempt to enact its domestic agenda--the only apparent brake on that appears to be Trump's new found concilatory language and his unpredictable personality. Still, he has appointed a far right, and outright racist, Attorney General and will bring the alt-right, anti-Semite Steve Bannon into the White House as his "Chief Strategist." There is plenty here to keep everyone puzzled and apprehensive, something which can readily be garnered by the dour and fearful tone of newscasts and editorial pages.
The Democratic Party meanwhile is in utter turmoil having blown an election that it supposedly couldn't lose. You would think this would empower the Bernie-wing and push the Democrats to the social democratic left in an attempt to win back the white working class, who hightailed towards populism. While there are some suggestions that the Dems will make a token effort in this direction, the "establishment" (i.e. corporate) wing of the party still holds tremendous sway and there is already a counter-offensive under way to block any "Corbynization" of the party. Editorialists and opinion makers are already warning Democrats not to "overlearn" the lesson of this election and whatever the emerging panic surrounding the white working class's desertion of the "party of the working class," the establishment is warning that the party should maintain its course and might even want to double down on "identity politics," as there is nothing that can be done to win back the deplorables, who are likely irretrievably lost to populism and ethnic resentiment (using the French word, because it makes it sound so much worse).
Personally, I think the situation is a complete mess for the bourgeoisie and there is a real risk that it will get out of coontrol. While the institutions of the state will do their best to constrain Trump, what happens when the deplorables figure out that he never gave a fuck about them and his election has only empowered the most draconian forces lurking in the Republican Party? Will they even figure it out or will he find away to blame it all on immigrants and poor people? Or will the Dems try to make some kind of pact of convienence with Trump against his own party and try to force him to act on some of his populist rhetoric (like infrastructure investment), but not where it threatens the interests of the corporate paymasters? Nobody knows. What about his appointment of General Flynn as national security advisor--who supposedly has an affinity for Putin? Is this a sign of a real change in imperialist orientation? Is it just a vanity appointment to appease the right? Or is it a sign of the sheer incompetence of the incoming administration? Again, who can say?
As far as the working class is concerned: I don't share Baboon's optimism about the lower turnout among African American voters. I doubt this was due to some kind of principled refusal of electoral politics. More likely its a sign of the corrosive effects of civic and community disintegration and their replacement with a vapid celebrity pop culture--the "Kardashianization" of society. African Americans had no good looking, smooth talking black guy to vote for this time, so why bother? Of course, it didn't help that the candidate the Democrats put up there had called African-American youth "super predators." Her hot sauce pandering and Jay-Z/Beyonce endorsement just couldn't connect with African-Americans the way an actual black guy on the ticket would--something which highlights just how terrible the Clinton campaign really was in retrospect. With a young hip black guy (Corey Booker) and several actual Hispanics to choose from for the VP spot, she went with Tim Kaine-- who although he speaks Spanish, has the distinct disdvantage of not actually being Hispanic. He is just a boring centrist white guy, who because the Democrats wanted to make a virtue out of his linguistic abilities, probably couldn't even appeal to white guys. Meanwhile, Trump showed that it is possible to do identity politics the other direction too--and his voters did not fail to turn out to vote for a celebrity candidate who speaks to their frustrations and angst.
It is also imporant to keep in mind that there was likely massive voter supression going in this election, preventing many minorities who might have wanted to vote from doing so--or discouraging them from trying. There are even growing suggestions that the election itself might have been rigged or hacked or something in those swing states Trump needed to win. But for now, the bourgeoisie has decided that the pretention of a fair system and the sanctity of the "peaceful transition" is more important than accurately counting the votes (2000 redux).
Further to the left, it does appear that the Jill Stein vote did cost Wisconsin and Michigan (but not Pennsylvania). So, there is some solace to be taken that the younger generations (likely) were not entirely cowed by the anti-fascist campaign and some voted their conscience--even though they were told they were wasting their vote and enabling a monster. But it is unclear where that element goes from here. Back into a tokenly more open and left-wing looking Democratic Party? More futile attempts to found some third party alternative or back to the road of extra-parliamentary struggle like 2011? But now that there is an actual boogeyman in power, won't it be that much easier for the Democratic Party to recuperate whatever energy is left?
Here is a chilling piece; the latest in the US bourgeoisie's meltdown response to Trump's victory, spurred by the "liberal" establishment in the Democratic Party, which now finds itself in crisis. Now, the "left" is responsible for Trump's victory--just the latest in a long line of Putin's dupes. Remarkably, the author detects a "red-brown" convergence underway. While the main figures he cites on the left as Putin's stooges are far from "communists," this doesn't prevent him from going straight for Cold War McCarthyite metaphors that shame anyone associating with Marxism as in league with a foreign power. Amazing stuff:
A brief moment of levity.
Emperor Trump is starting to behave like some of his famous forebears. I have in mind Emperors Nero and Caligula. High office allowed the latter pair to behave in the most idiotic and dangerously lunatic ways, even elevating horses to the status of Senator. Trump hasn't got round to that just yet, but some of his appointments come metaphorically close, and the speed at which he can change his ungrounded opinions on potentially serious bourgeois issues like who are your political international if temporary allies and not, is breathtaking.
Still that great bourgeois politico Theresa May likes him so that must count for something and he'll soon be trotting down the Mall in an open carriage with her majesty herself and that makes it all worthwhile. After all he didn't want to be president and only did it to thwart the abominable Hilary who should be in prison anyway. So there!
One of the most important features of the ban was that it intially also applied to Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) of the United States from the affected countries. People who had been living in the US for years, who supposedly have the bulk of the same rights as US citizens, who happened to be out of the country when this edict came down (even perhaps just making a shopping trip to Canada) were suddenly being prevented from reentering the country. This kind of draconian didact issued without any warning, apparently without any consultation with the bureacracies who had to implement it, is a far cry from governance under Obama. I know that we want to stress the continuties between successive bourgeois governments regardless of party, and on a policy level there are some to be sure--but we should not underestimate the dramatic--shocking even--actions of this administration so far to seemingly intentionally destabilize society and even the international order.
Some have suggested that this Executive Order was something like a "trial balloon" for a kind of internal coup d'etat aimed at the security bureacracies. It was a test of how far Trump's inner cabal could push the bureacracy before it began to push back in order to reestablish some kind of "normality." The confusion and chaos was thus intentional. I don't know if this is true or the roll-out of this thing was just a reflection of this administration's ham fistedness, but the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement was replaced on Monday, with someone who looks like a go along type of guy.
They have since backed off the application of this ban to US PRs, but the chaos of this weekend has already had its chilling effect and the damage to the US's international image has already been done. Companies, universities, etc. are telling their employees and students not to leave the country--even those who are not from the countries in question, because there is just no way to know what will happen next. Its not just people in the street who are up in arms about this, but major corporations and research insitutions have already come out to voice their utter disgust at this kind of counter productive and economically harmful nonsense. This kind of thing is not something the Obama administraton would have been so stupid or deliberately reckless to attempt.
Though targetting innocent travellers, the migrant ban was, in my opinion, first of all aimed at Iran. The incredible statement yesterday by National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn (backed by a Trump tweet) that Iran was now "formally on notice" following a "legal" missile test is indicative of how different and more dangerous this regime is compared to that of Obama. In the meantime the US and Iranian militaries continue to work side-by-side at high levels in the war against Isis in Iraq. That, according to the administration, could change very quickly.
And yet, they will supposedly try to institute some kind of detente with Russia, which is generally aligned with Iran. Of course such confused alliances shouldn't be too surprising I guess; Flynn sat at the same table wih Putin at the RT banquet in Moscow along with, beleive it or not, Jill Stein--apparently decomposing capitalism makes for strange dinner companions in a number of ways.
Baboon may be right that in terms of foreign policy the travel ban may have been aimed at Iran in some way, but it is difficult to see how it helps advance whatever orientation this new administration will take towards Iran in that domestically it was most likely to affect Iranian-American PRs who tend to oppose the Iranian regime. I think the main goal of this ban was domestic--to draw out points of opposition and alliance within the border security apparatus and to send a chilling effect to all immigrants in advance of whatever they are planning--and in that regard, it was probably a success.
I think that the Trump administration clearly wants to pursue a confrontational appraoch to Iran, but the idea of some kind of rapprochement with Russia in order to accomplish this is not something that the main factons of the bourgeoisie support. This idea is being described as a delusional fantasy--one commentator this weekend called it an absurd dream of a "new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact." It does in fact seem like the Bannon-Flynn axis in the administration is bent on this orientation, but it is not something going over easily in the rest of the bourgeoise, many of whom probably see it as an ideologically driven mistake. There are factions in the bourgeoise who have desired an armed conflict with Iran for some time--but not at the expense of conceding ground to Putin. Can the new administration rally the bourgeoisie around its new orientation--trying to isolate Iran by making it harder for the Russia to support it? Right now, there is tremendous resistance on both sides of the partisan line.
I think the idea that the travel ban was "required" by US imperialism is an overstatement and underestimates the extent to which bourgeois politics is increasingly deviating from rational pursuits of the national interest as a result of decomposition--as demonstrated by Trump.
To say that this is aimed at Shia people would be a bit of an exagerration. Middle east religious map does not neatly overlap with actually existing political borders. For instance there is a huge alawite minority in Turkey or Yemen is majority Sunni and Shiites in Yemen are not exactly similar to Iran Shiites etc. So, in that sense, I think there is an element of racism/anti-islamism involved in this ban. Clearly this ban punishes some of the weakest populations in the ME that deeply suffered under imperialist interventions. We have to see explicit bourgeois hatred towards suffering humans in the particular cruel way this ban is implemented.
But then again I agree with you, Baboon that the primary political target (beyond its moral) here seems to be Iran and its potential allies in the ME.
I don't agree with jk that the travel ban was "required", by US imperialism but that it does flow from a distinct orientation by US imperialism. Whether it affects anti-regime Iranians or highly-skilled workers of Microsoft, etc., is not the point of the ban. The "muslim ban" is aimed at Shia elements or those with Iranian interests. The message to Iran is clear and unequivocal but the "Shia travel ban" also sends a clear message to Sunni Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, the latter two having moved much closer to Russia in the recent past.
Well, you didn't use the word "required," Baboon (I thought that is what you wrote--daily brain fog must be taking its toll), but you did say the travel ban was a move "dictated by" US imperialism. I think that at this juncture, it is risky to talk in such deterministic ways, given that it is not even clear what the interests of US imperialism really are at this stage. This rapproachment with Putin is opposed by almost every other faction of the US bourgeoisie outside of Trump's inner circle, and the travel ban has not met with any kind of favorable consensus within the US bourgeoisie, with figures from both sides of the partisan aisle denouncing it as counter productive . Which side is sufferring from "false consciousness" about the "requirements" of US imperialism today?
Internal repression and attacks on specific layers of immigrants have a long history in the US in relation to its imperialist aims.
Yes, but using exiles to promote US imperialism's interests has a much more recent history, as witnessed in the campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the long Cold War against the Soviet Union. What would have been gained for US imperialism's goals in all of a sudden not letting Alexander Solzhenitsyn back into the US because he was Russian? It just doesn't make much obvious sense how these actions advance imperialist or economic interests in a tangible way, which is why much of the bourgeoisie opposes it. I think these moves were something designed by Trump's inner circle of ideological hacks in an attempt to 1.) Shock the bureacracy, 2.) Shock the bourgeoisie, 3.) Shock the population and send a message to Trump's electoral base that he was not going to be like other Republican politicians who have sold them out in the past--he will do what he says. But while some Republicans in the hardline anti-Muslim camp (Rudy Giuliani) support these moves, and some Congressional Republicans have been soft in their rhetoric about it in order to not upset the apple cart before they have had a chance to enact their domestic agenda, it seems that much of the bourgeoisie is not happy about it. That could of course could change.
The view from the Guardian is that the Trump administration's foreign policy is showing signs of being brought back into alignment with the Obama presidency.
I think the series of reversals isn't due to one particular factor but a combination of several. Firstly, there's a certain degree of incompetence around the administration. Many genuinely do not seem to understand how the machinery of government actually functions, or how the state relates to other factors in the bourgeois political machine (e.g. the media). Kellyanne Conway's latest comment regarding "Buy Ivanka" was so embarrassing, even the White House felt forced to issue a rebuke (albeit a soft one).
Secondly, there is a certain amount of jockeying for position within the administration. Bannon's Machiavellian efforts to get himself into the security councils is unprecedented and was achieved by writing an executive order and getting Trump to sign it without reading it (the world's self-appointed expert on the "art of the deal" will apparently sign things without reading them).
Thirdly, there is an element of strategy with the flurry of executive orders. The "Build a Wall" and "Muslim Ban" orders are clearly designed to appeal to Trump's core vote, thus bolstering his image as a politician who actually keeps his promises. They also manage to "shock and awe" both the wider population but also the bourgeosie and elements of the state machine itself into submission by creating an atmosphere of instability, with everyone wondering what batshit crazy announcement will come next.
But while this happened, the regulations imposed on the banks since The Great Recession have been lifted and the banks let off the leash again. Crooked Hilary, supposedly the great ally of Wall Street against the workers, couldn't have done it better.
However, this strategic element (undoubtedly with its source in the "Leninist" Bannon) betrays the irrationality of the current regime. The combat between the White House and the courts may not metastatise into a full blown constitutional crisis, but it can only weaken the US state machine in the long-term. In particular, it can only exacerbate the deep suspicion towards the state in the large segments of the population. If the judiciary wins, Trump supporters will shriek at "elitist judges" that defy the "will of the people". It will also fatally weaken the Presidency and its capacity to impose a direction on the state which will deepen the divisions in the ruling faction. If the White House wins, the Judiciary loses credibility and the whole apparatus will lose the capacity to resist the Trumpification of the state machine, something which has already taken significant steps forward with the attempts by the White House to take direct control over several state agencies.
I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that the Trump administration is not a "normal" presidency. Even the more establishment elements are drawn from the more unstable elements of the bourgeoisie and it remains to be seen how assertive they will be in determining the course of the regime.
I wouldn't read too much into Trump's zigzags. The US has more than 800 military bases abroad. Probably hundred of those are surrounding China or Chinese allies. Whatever Trump says or tweets the US remains a growing giant Empire and it keeps growing. The Anglo-American left is blind to this fact. A single fascist in an American campus preoccupies them more than American bombs falling on a bunch of thirld world cities and villages. Tbh Trump worries me less than this self-obsession of the American left.
As for jk's argument that the travel ban would prevent anti-regime elements from going to the US, in general such elements would not be affected by any sort of bureaucratic measure and they would easily be moved into the US. Once in the US these elements, many of them, have tended to be settled around Virginia on CIA real-estate. They are not likely to be moving around public airports; you couldn't imagine Gulen for example flitting in and out of Turkey nor any effective Iranian dissident flying in and out of Tehran.
The original travel ban was most likely to affect the Iranian (Persian), etc. diaspora already living in the US, which is sizable and exists far beyond the bounds of Fairfax County. It includes not only active anti-regime elements, but just normal everyday citizens--whose assimilation to daily life in the US is useful in the ideological confrontation with Iran. What is the goal of issuing an order preventing them from returning to the country? It doesn't seem like a great way to win the battle of hearts and minds. It simply was not in the interest of the US state in terms of promoting its image as a defender of democratic values and the rule of law--the shear transgressive authoritarianism of it all was quite unprecedented and not in line with what the main factions of the bourgeoisie wanted--which probably explains why it has been temporarily stopped. This belies a wider issue of how the so-called "democratic" states are addressing the refugee issue right now. Turning their backs on stuggling families from war torn regions is not making them look great.
Even Canada is experiencing some of this now, with hundreds of people from these countries already present in the US risking death by fleeing across the frozen tundra (which isn't so frozen this week!) to escape the US. This is making all the US's ideological claims about being a morally superior nation look increasingly bare, but also making Canada (and its boywonder PM) look heartless for remaining in the Safe Third Country Agreement with the US, which requires refugees to make a claim in the first of the two countries they land in, such that any refugee showing up at an official border crossing with the US claiming refugee status must be sent back, requiring them to walk miles and miles through the snow in sub-zero temperatures (again not so much this week, thanks to climate change) to sneak into Canada. Of course, if Canada pulled out of the STCA, one could imagine a real exodus from Minneapolis's Somali community towards the North, overwhelming Canadian authorities--with the typical talk from politicians of a public safety emergency and calls to "strengthen" the border (In fact, this has already started).
I agree with Demo that we should not lose sight of the unprecedently debased nature of the Trump administration, which appears to have a 31 year old neophyte crypto-fascist/authoritarian/something or the other (Stephen Miller) writing policy on the fly. It will be interesting to see what the "revised" travel ban will look like, but also the broader immigration policy this regime will enact. However, I also agree with Mikhail that a real opposition to all this cannot simply focus on how terrible Trump is and must seek to draw out the systemic nature of the forces that have produced his Presidency.