Do you really mean this?

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Comunero
Do you really mean this?
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In the last report, it is said:

> Secondly, Trump's election result shows that about half of the population shares his ideas and in particular his aversion to political elites.

Do you really mean this when you say it, or is just that the bourgeoise press hammering this kind of "deductions" day and night are succeeding?

First of all, only 239 million were eligible to vote, from a population of 328. That's 72.87% of the population. The turnover was 66.1%, which means only a 48% of the population voted. And from those, a 46.8% voted for Trump. Which brings us to a 22.46% of the population having voted for Trump, a far cry from "about half".

Second, and much more importantly, since when are democratic elections a faithful reflection of "what the population thinks"? Even many democracy apologists know very well that that's utterly false, and that there are many factors in play other than "sharing ideas", which likely is far from the main factor.

Can election results give an idea of current tendencies? Yes, that can't be objected to. Do election results show "the ideas of the population"? Only in the minds of the naive... And in propaganda.

It's in bourgeoise propaganda where I have met this idea once and again, very particularly in this case of "oh noes, half the US population agrees with Trump". Has this slogan inadvertently gotten into the article? Or the ICC really means what it's saying there?

As an aside, I would also like to know what those ideas are supposed to be, because apart from the hatred towards a certain specific wing of the bourgeoise (the "elites"), protectionism and blunt nationalism (as opposed to the more refined nationalism of his opponents), I don't see many ideological differences that would make worse if "half the population" supported his ideas instead of his opponents'. Yes, the attitude and ways of talking are very different, but the rest? Not so much. The famous wall was already started in the Obama era, the "kids in cages" about which the democratic party used to shed their crocodile tears six months ago are still there, and the most substantial differences are in exterior policy (that is, they differ in what they do to try ensure the preservation of US supremacy).

I just don't really understand why this specific bourgeoise leader would deserve constant extra condemnation, and I think that's playing right into the hands of leftist and not-even-leftist propaganda.

Comunero
Compare that reasoning about

Compare that reasoning about elections showing what "the population" (most of them, workers) thinks with this article from four years ago:

Quote:

May 1968, the largest strike since the Second World War, was followed a month later by the greatest ever electoral victory for the right in France. The reason for this discrepancy resides in the fact that the election of a deputy exists in a totally different sphere from that of the class struggle. The latter is a collective action of solidarity, where the worker is alongside other workers, where the hesitations of one are swept up by the resolution of the others, where the interests in question are not particular, but those of a class. In contrast, the vote calls on a totally abstract notion, quite outside of the reality of a permanent relation of force between two social classes with diametrically opposed interests: the notion of the “citizen”, who finds himself alone in the voting booth faced with a choice for something outside his daily life. It is the ideal terrain for the bourgeoisie, where the worker’s militancy has no possibility to really show itself. It is no accident that the bourgeoisie makes such efforts to get us to vote. The electoral results are precisely the terrain where the combativity of the mass of workers cannot be expressed at all.

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201706/14339/elections-and-dem...

To me, it's quite evident that the unfortunate phrase about the US election results and what that reasoning implies is in contradiction with what the ICC says and has always said about democracy. That's why, if that's how it is, I think it's very important to know how and why did that piece of bourgeoise propaganda end up there, in a report that is (very likely) a collective effort.

d-man
Election-results give only a

Election-results give only a partial picture (of whatever) you posit as a truism, but, if so, one still could say the ICC-report's mention of the Trump-vote (about half of the population) is perhaps even an underestimation of his support, since eg they were far more mobilised/active (than Biden voters), and so due to their determination their weight (influence in society) counts as more than their vote number. Btw, basically the WSWS' analysis of Trump was that his goal never really was even to win votes, but rather create an extra-parliamentary movement (and which they denouncd as fascist). The possibility of this strategy, that election campaigns are instruments for movement-building (and not vote-catching), is I guess what a lot of the analysis of the effect of political rallies (initially in neighbourhoods) before and during Nazism deals with, and one can dismiss the street fights or social media battle between rightwing Trump-supporters and Antifa (or whatever) as just little theatre, but it's still an indication that elections entail more than just a vote. If one were a cynic, one could say this is unfortunate; it would have been preferrable if elections meant only a simple isolated quiet vote in the ballot box, instead of being a month (in US more than year-long) barrage of noisy activism/mobilisation/media coverage. So I don't find the ICC-quote you give against the ballot-box fully sound. The ballot-box is said to be inadequate as a gauge of the mindset among workers, but what about as gauge of the mindset of non-workers (bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeosie, etc., the "people")? The reason to downplay the meaning of vote results was that workers exert their power, primarily, by sheer direct collective action. But non-workers also exert their power by direct collective actions (like protests), and why would these (non-socialist) protests be a better (or worse) gauge of their influence in society, than their mere vote at the ballots?

Forumteam
Populist support and elections

 

Comrade Comunero, in answer to your post we want to say the following:

With regard to the phrase which says that “Trump's election result shows that about half of the population shares his ideas”, we must admit that this is more an estimatate than an accurate calculation. Your calculation is certainly more accurate, i.e. that 22.46% of the population has voted for Trump. We did not make such a calculation when we wrote this report; therefore the report speaks of “about half of the population”.

But your second argument is indeed more important: that the elections are not a measure for what people really think or agree on. This means that there might even be many more people than the 22.46% that have voted for Trump, who shares his views. You speak about a turn-out of 66.1%, but of the remaining 33.9% many certainly share the same positions as Trump as well.

It’s true that the elections are not the terrain where the working class combativity can be expressed and the election results are not a measurement of class consciousness, but they do indicate what trends in bourgeois politics are gaining or losing ground. And here we are convinced that the support for “irrational” populist leaders has drastically increased in the past years in the U.S.. And this is connected to an absence of important working class struggle, which might have given another prospect and changed the social situation there.

The ICC does not discriminate in its denunciation of governments leaders, all are denounced as enemies of the working class. But what we want to make clear is the difference between the “more responsible” and “less responsible” way in managing the capitalist society. Why? Because the rush – even among the more “responsible” bourgeois factions - towards an increasingly irrational and chaotic management of the system, as an expression of the unprecedented advance of the tendency towards every man for himself, reveals a growing loss of control of its own system by the ruling class. And that is something we want to explain in our articles in the press, because this has important consequences for the conditions of the working class struggle.

Then you also write: “I don't see many ideological differences that would make worse if "half the population" supported his ideas instead of his opponents. Yes, the attitude and ways of talking are very different, but the rest? Not so much.”

The growing influence of hatred, of conspiracy theories, of irrational thoughts in society, and thus also in the working class, can hardly been considered as not worth mentioning. “The tendency for bourgeois ideology to become more and more openly irrational is one of the classical expressions of decomposing capitalism.” (Marxism & Conspiracy Theories) This tendency has a huge impact on the struggle of the working class: for its unification and its class consciousness.

Has Trump defended more or less, better or worse the interests of the U.S. state than his predecessors? On this point there is indeed no fundamental difference between Trump and Obama.

But one difference is that Trump has left a more ravaged and divided American society than all his predecessors. “The rise in social violence, crime, the fragmentation of American society, racist violence against black people, all show that the United States has become a concentrate and a mirror of the decay of bourgeois society.” (Introduction to the ICC’s online public meeting - Covid-19, political chaos in the US: expression of capitalism’s accelerating decay)

Another difference is that he has withdrawn from and even sabotaged some of the most important multilateral institutions and agreements. For example, in June 2018, after the summit of the G7 in Canada: after an an agreement was reached, he tweeted from the airplane that he had changed his mind. The G7 summit in June 2018 ended in acrimony, with Trump lashing out at host Canada and retracting his endorsement of the joint statement. With such behaviour he made all international treaties worthless.

The question is: would the US also have become “a concentrate and mirror of the decay of bourgeois society” if Trump had not been president? Probably yes. But Trump, instead of acting as a fireman and trying to put out the smouldering fire, has been an active factor in fanning the flames. Take for instance the growing disregard for public health. This “can only be fully explained in the framework of the phase of decomposition, which favours irresponsible and short-term responses by large parts of the ruling class”. (Report on the Covid-19 pandemic and the period of capitalist decomposition)

You “just don't really understand why this specific bourgeois leader would deserve constant extra condemnation, and I think that's playing right into the hands of leftist and not-even-leftist propaganda.”

At first we have written a lot about the irrational populist leaders at the moment, because they are advancing on a world scale (even in countries with the most experienced bourgeoisie) and tend to put the more responsible political leaders in the shadow. But do we play into the hand of the leftists? As you know very well the criticism of the ICC is fundamentally different from the leftists. As a solution, the leftists always add to their criticism that people have to vote for a “more responsible” leader or that we must defend “democracy” against the totalitarian inclinations and despotism of someone like Trump.  For the ICC Trump, as well as other populist leaders in the world, is the expression of decomposition and what we fight against is not this or that particular populist leader, but the capitalist system they represent.

Comunero
Thanks for your reply. I see

Thanks for your reply. I see most of the reply is for the "aside" about extra condemnation for Trump, which I shouldn't have probably brought up on the same comment/thread, as it's a wholly different point from my main one about the meaning of the electoral results.

About it, you say:

> But your second argument is indeed more important: that the elections are not a measure for what people really think or agree on. This means that there might even be many more people than the 22.46% that have voted for Trump, who shares his views. You speak about a turn-out of 66.1%, but of the remaining 33.9% many certainly share the same positions as Trump as well.

I hope you do realize what a faulty reasoning that is. If elections are not a measure for what people really think, it's certainly possible that "the remaining 33.9% ... share[s] the same positions as Trump", indeed. On that same grounds, it's also possible that much less than the percentage who voted for him share his ideas. 

As I said in the OP, "Can election results give an idea of current tendencies? Yes, that can't be objected to." I don't object to incorporating the electoral results into an analysis. What I do object to, and what I was referring to with "do you really mean this?" is the implied affirmation that the electoral results are a reflection of what the population thinks (and that's why you feel confident generalizing the percentage of voters to percentage of population, I assume). They are not, and as the ICC has said in the past, "the electoral results are precisely the terrain where the combativity of the mass of workers cannot be expressed at all".

You seem to agree when you say again more or less the same, and then you say "they do indicate what trends in bourgeois politics are gaining or losing ground". I do agree with that, which speaks of support and not of "sharing ideas". 

Then you say: "And here we are convinced that the support for “irrational” populist leaders has drastically increased in the past years in the U.S..", and I agree too! But I won't conflate "support for leaders" with "sharing their ideas". The anti-elitist sentiment is there and it's real, but it's barely an idea (that's why "sentiment" fits it), and it can and does take many shapes aside from "the ideas of Donald Trump".

So, to make it clear: I agree with most of what you are saying, but I firmly disagree with the underlying ideas that,

a) the elections tell us "what the population thinks". That's a fundamental part of the justification and propaganda for democracy.

b) half of the population of the US (over 150 million people!) share the ideas of Donald Trump. There's a big, big difference between a good chunk of the population manifesting and "anti-elitist" sentiment and populist affinity and "half of the population sharing the ideas of Donald Trump". With the latter being constantly claimed by both pro-Trump and Democratic propaganda.

About b), it's worth bearing in mind that even a sizeable amount of his far right voters, for example, don't share his ideas (calling him "Zion Don" and his movement "Make Israel Great Again"), but still voted for him as the lesser evil or "to stick it to the libs". And something similar can be said for many less extreme sectors of his voters. As even most bourgeoise analysts accept, there are many reasons for a vote apart from "sharing ideas".

d-man
You write that you're making

You write that you're making two points, one about leftist villification of Trump-voters, and the other is the more abstract point about elections. As you want to focus on the latter point, I will comment only on that.

Perhaps one can generalise your point about election results in general (that they don't indicate what people think), that is, to include herein also the results for the vote for certain representatives to soviets (and factory committees)? Workers may choose a certain candidate on the list for the soviet election, not due to this candidate's particular ideas, but for various other reasons. And then one could say, just because workers voted for this particular candidate, that doesn't yet give a true reflection of the workers' own mindset (of those who voted themselves, let alone those who didn't vote).

Moreover, even if elections (in general) were to reflect the ideas of voters, one could dismiss this as irrelevant for analysis of political trends in society, if one holds that the majority of the people's consciousness is not actually what determines politics/social forces.

Most of the appreciation for Bordiga's theoretical contribution hinges just on his one brief simple point, which is, if I remember, that the majority's opinion (and so by implication also the minority's opinion) is not a valid (in practice observable) criterion for planning/setting any policy of an organisation (in his example, the party's).

 

 

Forumteam
Comunero, in answer to your post of 31 July 2021 ....

 

As we said in the previous post, the ICC has not been very precise in the calculation of the percentage of population supporting Trump. It is probably much more than the 22.46% you have calculated, for of the remaining 33.9% who did not vote and of the 89 million people who were not eligible to vote many share the same views as Trump. But you are right: even if it is 40% then it is still “a far cry from about half”, as you said. We agree with you that “there's a big, big difference between a good chunk of the population manifesting and "anti-elitist" sentiment and populist affinity and "half of the population sharing the ideas of Donald Trump”.

Another question is your objection against the use of the expression “share his ideas”. The report does not suggest that the people voted for him on the basis of rational thinking. This is not possible if you know that the “ideas” of Trump are for a major part complete irrational: the hatred of the elite, the “each for himself”, the suspicion of the science, the embrace of conspiracy theories, etc. So, his ideas have not so much to do with what you call “reflection”, but much more with bias and prejudice, the ideology of “no future” and nihilism, in other words: the typical expressions of decomposition. And the people who voted - and even a certain part of the people who did not vote - for him follow the same approach: prepared to fight for their “ideas”, not with rational arguments, which they don’t have, but with their fists.