The Trump election and the crumbling of capitalist world order

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baboon
The Trump election and the crumbling of capitalist world order
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: The Trump election and the crumbling of capitalist world order. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
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baboon
I think that this position is

I think that this position is fundamental for understanding the Trump election, associated events, and the stakes involved. Some affirmative points from the text: the result wasn't just symbolic of the decline of the US but of the whole international system of capitalism. But, specifically and despite its power, there is a decline in the US that, as the ICC immediately recognised, was implicit in the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. If the world order was called into question by the events of 89 (what the bourgeoisie optimistically called "the victory of capitalism") then this is even more so today with the Trump result and the exacerbation of the war of each against all. There's a recognition in the "dynamism" of the Trump clique and its "Make America Great Again" of the decline of US power and this was already recognised by the NeoCons at the turn of the century in their project for the "New American Century" and in the latter's case the Twin Towers bombings were a gift to them. In both cases, with the NeoCons and Trump, the US has cast itself as an "underdog", wronged by the world that it had made and it was protecting to its great cost. But if there are similarities between the two there is also a development of the "erosion of the cohesion and control of the ruling class" which opens up a "dangerous" phase as the text puts it.

This is a real gamble for the US bourgeoisie that has, in great part, been foisted on it by its own inability to present a political coherence at the same time opposing Trump with a candidate who represented everything about an arrogant elite. But this disaster was already woven into the fabric of a rotting social system. If civilisation is the "war of the rich against the poor" (Fourier and Marx), then decomposing capitalism is the war of each against all and the text notes how with globalisation, an attack on the working class and nature itself definitely, this has also contained an attack on significant sectors of the bourgeoisie with a loss of prestige and power.  The apparently unhinged Trump himself exemplifies this. As the text says, the gamble may pay off in some way for the US bourgeoisie but the stakes are high for capitalist order and the world economy.

While there's a continuity to this decline there is also a further regressive step downwards that is expressed by this election, the Brexit vote, right-wing populism and various strong arm regimes in volatile regions. And while hatred and division has been played up by the bourgeoisie (no-one more so than the relentless British demonisation of muslims and "immigrants" over the last 15 years) there's a qualitative increase in violence and incipient violence from the promotion of the fear of "others" that filters into collective hatreds and insecurities. It's a testament to the bankruptcy of democracy that this sort of violence, hostility and the pogrom mentality is whipped up by its "free and fair" elections. The text is correct to warn against the dangers for the working class of the democratic "anti-violence", of anti-Trumpism which could be a means of corralling the disaffected back into the electoral process. The first anti-Trump demonstrations against the immigrant and muslim crackdown seemed to be largely spontaneous in the US but the potential is here for its mobilisation by the left of capital. I think that one could see this in the quite large anti-Trump demonstrations in Britain around the same time which seem to be organised and mobilised by the left and leftism. In relation to immigration, what Trump stands for isn't much different from the practice of the British bourgeoisie for well over a decade. It will be dangerous for the working class to get mobilised on these grounds (the two-hundred thousand strong pro-immigrant demonstrations in Spain recently look slightly different).

After promising to "Make America Great Again" Trump has announced the "biggest military build-up in history". His appointments of senior military officials to his administration and his statement about previous administrations unable to win a war, strongly suggest that the thrust of US imperialism will be far from "isolationist". The Pentagon has already presented Trump with a plan for greater involvement in Syria and Iraq but, apart from tentative attempts at a Sunni "bloc" aimed against Iran, the administration is likely to go along with the foreign policy of previous regimes (pivot to Asia, etc.). The danger will come when this administration is confronted with a "new" situation, a new "challenge".

Overall, the illusions in the US as the "Land of the Free" and a "melting-pot" have been greatly diminished by its turn to domestic repression and division and this can only impact still further on the decline of the US as a global power
 

jk1921
Unions in the Age of Trump

The unions in the age of Trump: Supposedly the goal here is to break the Democratic Party's hold on the unions by splitting the manual trades unions off from the public employees unions--enroll the former in the "nation-state populist" coalition and defeat the latter (which tend to have more minority and female members). Seems to be working.....

https://buffalonews.com/2017/03/09/ice-border-patrol-not-ones-seeking-removal-undocumented-workers/

baboon
In general, from their nature

In general, from their nature in the state, one would expect the unions to support the "American jobs" position of Trump and jk gives a good example of it. The AFL-CIO boss, previously a Clinton supporter, has met with and praised Trump's positions. Trump has already given the US border force individuals, who are also active in airports in Iceland and beyond, carte blanche to turn away who they want, to the delight of the guards union. There were some reports of some guards disquiet about this.

baboon
Trumps revised "travel ban"

Trumps revised "travel ban" continues to put Iran in the frame as part of some sort of 'crescent of malfeasance'. The wilful ignorance of the Trump clique was shown in the original ban affecting Iraqi's, the US's closest ally in the war against Isis whose military personnel and intelligence officials flew previously unhindered back and forth to the United States.

Trump, under pressure from the Pentagon, has just sent an extra 400 troops to Northern Syria where their main purpose looks to be keeping their YPG Kurdish allies and Turkish Free Syrian Army forces apart particularly around the Syrian town of Manbij. There are great dangers here for the US. Ronert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria, called this "a huge policy change" that was "fraught with risk".

It now appears that the US raid on al-Qaida elements in rural Yemen at the end of January was a complete disaster. Obama refused to sanction this raid but Trump backed it. Everything that could go wrong went wrong. The Special Operations group panicked when they were fired on and bombed and shot up the whole village. The Pentagon admitted "up to" 14 civilians killed but local medics say it was more than 30, mainly women and children. One navy Seal was killed and 3 others seriously injured and a $75 million attack helicopter had to be destroyed on the ground as the US forces fled for their lives. No intelligence was gained as the Pentagon first claimed. The result has been a strengthening of support for AQAP in this region. Trump called the disaster "a success". Further US intervention in Yemen, which the Trump clique see as an Iranian proxy war (they are wrong, but that doesn't really matter) is also fraught with risk.

jk1921
Here is an interesting piece

Here is an interesting piece arguing against the idea of a "crumbling world order" and even against the idea that US hegemony is in serious decline:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/obama-trump-mattis-united-states-empire

On Trump: "In short, the establishment, at least for now, seems confident that it can continue having its way with the world. Despite all of the post-election quaking about Trump, which was greased by the ongoing concerns about Russia, China, and ISIS, establishment officials and their supporters seem to believe that Trump is starting to understand what they mean when they say that the United States is indispensable to the world order. As always, they are speaking the words of empire, and they are determined to keep it."

 

jk1921
So Trump's second travel ban

So Trump's second travel ban has now also been blocked by the courts, with the judge sighting Trump's own advisors' public statetments about the executive order as evidence of discriminatory intent. One wonders if this really is total incompetence or if they, on some level, got the result they want allowing them to campaign against unelected, liberal, elite judges--a classic target of populist outrage and a long time right wing whipping boy. Of course, nobody should have any illusions that even if the de jure travel ban is ultimately permanently dispensed with by the courts, this is unlikely to change much in terms of the practical operations of the border security apparatus, which has always maintained very broad discretionary powers to deny anyone not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident entry to the country (and very broad powers to interrogate and search even citizens--have a "smart phone"? Well, you just might be asked to hand it over along with your social media passwords. What 4th ammendment?). So, there are other ways to do a Muslim ban that do not require a legal order, if this really is the policy objective.

But Trump and his team must be getting hungry for an actual policy success they can claim as a political victory. They appear to have been hoping to push through the Republican replacement for Obamacare before anyone figured out it would strip 24-26 million people of healthcare coverage, but resistance from Republican hardliners (who think it doesn't go far enough) has stalled it and it looks like it will have a difficult time passing without major changes. It seems like the perfect time for President Trump to put on his "Let's Make a Deal" hat and start negotiating (perhaps even with Democrats) to demonstrate to his voters that he is not just another Republican with an extreme austerity agenda and that he actually meant what Candidate Trump said about not cutting health care (could you imagine Trump-Sanders care?), but that seems unlikely given the political dynamic in Washington at the moment, in which Trump still needs the adherence of the Republican caucus and movement conservatives in the electorate.

Still, Trump and Paul Ryan clearly are not fans of one another and Breitbart's release of a conference call in which Ryan announces his disdain for Trump would seem to signal that the White House will attempt to saddle the GOP establishment with the political fallout from the likely coming healthcare repeal debacle--either its collpase or its "success" in throwing millions of Trump voters off the insurance rolls.So whatever their alliance at the moment, the tensions between the movement conservatives and the populists seem difficult to ultimately reconcile. And even though Trump's approval ratings are historically low, they are still higher than Ryan's, the Democratic Party's and Hillary Clinton's! Interesting times!

jk1921
Health Care Debacle

Now the Republican Health Care bill has failed in spectacular fashion in what the media tells us is a devastating early blow for Trump and the GOP. The bill was clearly a creature of the Republican establishment--it fulfilled conservative goals of slashing Obamacare's subsidies, while maintaining parts of Obamacare that remain politically popular--like preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bill appears to have been largely crafted by Paul Ryan (Speaker of the House), Reince Priebus (Former RNC chairman and Trump's Chief of Staff) and Mark Price (the new Secretary of Health and Human Services)--the latter of whom was himself a member of the so-called Freedom Caucus that ultimately sank the bill on Friday. Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to take credit for the bill's failure having organized a series of "town hall" protests to save Obamacare. In reality however, the bill only failed because there was a group of Republican legislators in Congress who did not think its massive austerity was harsh enough. Remember the Tea Party--the faction that the media suggested was yesterday's news in the wake of the rise of Trumpian populism? Well, no--they appear alive and well at the heart of the US state and have just delivered to Trump a rude introduction in the difficulty of governing a state in which there is a faction of the bourgeoise that appears committed to not governing. It appears the skills laid out in "The Art of the Deal" aren't of much use when dealing with a faction that has an ideological commitment to not making any deals.

Of course, the politics of how this all went down are confusing. Why in the world were Trump and Bannon lobbying so hard for a bill that cut against the entire thrust of Trump's campaign promise to provide insurance to all and central features of Bannon's supposed populist ideology? Why would the Tea Party miss a shot to deliver a massive austerity blow and leave Obamacare in place and why would Democrats attempt to take credit for this when they didn't have all that much to do with it and when Obamacare is far from unproblematic (politically and policy wise)?

Trump has predictably blamed everyone but himself for the failure of this misdaventure. There is much speculation that Ryan's days as Speaker are numbered. This morning Trump called out the Freedom Caucus--revealing the rift between the populist deal maker and the hard right ideologues. It appears that even in victory, the massive dysfunction that has gripped the Republican Party for years will continue. But it would also seem now that the political pressure moves to Democrats as Obamacare faces very real threats from the so-called insurance "death spiral" that appears to be affecting it in many markets. Will the Dems double down on Obamacare and continue to try to defend it as fundamentally sound, needing only a few tweaks? Or will they move left around some version of universal health coverage? Already Trump has signalled that if the Republican Party is too compromised by ideology to govern, he might try to split the Democrats and create some kind of "coalition government." How will the Dems respond?

jk1921
"The problem of all the

"The problem of all the Republican candidates who tried to oppose Trump, and then of Hillary Clinton, was not only that they were not convincing, but also that they did seem convinced themselves. All they could propose were different varieties of 'business as usual'. Above all, they had no alternatives to Trump's 'making America great again'. Behind this slogan there is not just a new version of the old nationalism. Trump's Americanism is of a new kind. It contains the clear admission that America is no longer as 'great' as it used to be."

This is interesting. The idea that populism embodies this kind of "underdog nationalism," in which the political rhetoric is no longer about how great the country is, but about all the insults it has suffered. In a way though, the establishment in the US is practicing a form of this discourse that is exponentially more dramatic--they are actually proferring the suggestion that the US's last Presidential election--the election of the leader of the "greatest democracy ever seen"--was really determined by a hostile foreign power. The guy sitting in the oval office is not there because he was legitimately elected by the people, but because a devious foreign actor from a stange and incomprehensible culture conspired to corrupt and usurp democratic insitutions and put him here. In their attempts to discredit and delegitimize Trump, the establishment is actually undermining their own ideological language about the greatness of American democracy.

How can democracy be so great if it leads to Trump? How can a strong democratic system be so perverted by a foreign power? Not only is America an underdog power, but democracy itself is under threat. Its fighting from behind, with one hand tied behind is back. Thus, the hunt is on for the actors that perpetrated such crimes against democracy--both foreign and domestic. While the rheotoric is aimed today at defending and restoring democratic instiutions, in suggesting that Trump is a product not of democratic will but of foreign scheming, the establishment has (perhaps unwittingly) discredited the very institutions it profers to base its and America's legitimacy on. Not only is America a weakening power, but Democracy itself has been dealt a serious blow. All the institutions have failed--the establishment has been reduced to celebrating the FBI and the intelligence apparatus as the last vestiges of democratic institutions (the same FBI that just months ago was also pegged with causing Trump's victory). A strange universe we now inhabit.

baboon
Good points from jk above. On

Good points from jk above. On the question of Trump's "America First" and its contradictions for the administration: calling it "a bad deal for American workers" and withdrawing from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific trade deal, not only has Trump done a bad deal economically for the United States, he has also opened up the possibilities for further US weakening in the Pacific. "Americ First" has cut off its nose to spite its face. And the US will still have to provide security for the region, as the North Korea tensions show. It allies in the region could be nervous and a turn towards China, which has its own trading bloc agreements, is better than no deal at all. At any rate it's an indication of the weakening of the US and a move away from Obama's "Pivot to Asia", which also had a strong economic element.

Just at the time that China has announced it new Silk Road project, "One Belt, One Road" (or "Globalisation 2.0"). At a projected $900 million it comes in at more than the Marshall Plan and investments (with strings) will go through 60 countries, including those in Central Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Another big gamble and its raises the stakes for the United States.

jk1921
Interesting point from Baboon

Interesting point from Baboon about Trump's executive order to withdraw from the TPP. Its about the only "populist" thing he has done and it was cheered by Sanders when he did it, to the total disdain of the rest of the bourgeoisie. Other than that, Trump's populist campaign promises have so far proven quite hollow. Even his actions on immigration have likely been dissapointing to his base. News came out this week that although deportations are up some 40 percent from the last year of the Obama Presidency, the Trump administraton has managed to deport only 41,000 illegal immigrants so far--leaving something like 11,959,000 to go. If we assume the current pace continues and we ignore new illegal immigration, it would take something like 120 years to get rid of all the illegal immigrants in the country (going with the probably conservative figure of 12,000,000 illegal immigrants).

Following the news of this week, the bourgeois media has pretty much concluded that Trump's days are numbered. The only question left is when will the Republicans decide to cut their losses and allow him to be impeached. But what about Trump's populist base? The ones who already think Paul Ryan is a total sell out? Will they rally around their man? Are they already dissapointed with his inability to accomplish what he said he would do? Will they blame him or the rest of the bourgeoisie? Meanwhile, it seems increasingly likely that the Democrats will make some kind of comeback, perhaps in the 2018 midterms or perhaps they will win the Presidency again in 2020 by default, but it is also clear that the political mood that led to both Trump and Sanders has not been vanquished by establishment politics just yet.