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Wednesday, February 24, 2016


I was about to write a response to Simon's impassioned critique of my anidmaversions against Trump when up popped replies by Tom and S. Wallerstein, along with Simon's rejoinder.  Let me add a few words to the thread [is that the right use of that term?]  I share Simon's dismay both at the Clinton clique and at the broader wing of the party to which they belong, but I am very much more fearful than he seems to be of the destructive and dangerous sentiments Trump has aroused and given voice to in contemporary politics.  I am old enough to recall Nazism in Germany and Fascism in Italy.  

I think it is too easy, albeit understandable, to dismiss my fears and doubts as expressions of upper class disdain of the unwashed lower orders.  To be sure, although I drink neither tea nor sherry, I am in all the ways that matter clearly a member of the privileged upper middle class educated elite in America.  I have only once, and then merely for a summer, held a regular eight hour a day job at which I was required to punch in at a time clock, and that, after all, was as a Copy Boy on the old Herald Tribune!

I do not believe that Trump is tapping into sentiments that could serve as the motivation for a genuine socialist working class movement, but I do think there is just a chance that Sanders is. Perhaps I should say, more forthrightly, that I do not want to be a part of a movement, working class or not, that cheers to the echo the proposal to round up eleven million men, women, and children and run them out of the country, nor do I want to be part of a movement that celebrates torture.  As for being unkind to TV journalists, be my guest!

What sort of president would Trump be?  I find that genuinely unanswerable.  He has no fixed beliefs about matters of public policy, so far as I can determine.  Indeed, it is entirely unclear to me whether, or why, he actually wants to be president.  I can imagine that in office he would be the passive figurehead of an administration whose major figures would shape policy for him.  I can imagine that he would be extremely hesitant to order the use of the American military, but I can as easily imagine that he would be reckless in ordering violent and disastrous military engagements.

Would Trump actually serve out his term?  Who knows?  Clearly, from his point of view, his best moment would be his triumphant election night declaration of victory.  He would have to put his holdings, such as they may be, in a blind trust -- an action that might be more painful for him than he now realizes.

A real working class movement will take time to develop, and at this point, I think Sanders is our best bet.  If there were a way that I could speak with him, I would beg him to transform his campaign apparatus into a standing movement, funded by the commitment of millions of his supporters to make small regular donations.  That is a movement I would embrace with joy.


Simon said...

Here are a few direct responses to consider.

1. Is Trump a Nazi or a Fascist? The evidence here is that he wants to build the infamous Wall and deport illegal immigrants. Well, here is another possible reason one might have for those policies. A larger pool of unskilled labor drives wages down, and gives employers more power over their employees. So the illegal immigrants who live in this country, and those who want to come into this country, add to the pool of unskilled labor, and thereby lower wages for workers here and give more power to employers here. So if I want to give workers in the US higher wages and more power, then I would shrink the pool of unskilled labor, and one way to do that is to deport illegal immigrants and prevent more from coming in. Is that morally right? Well, here is exactly the point at which high-minded liberals often tie their own hands behind their backs. A realistic Marxist who wants to transform society looks at the overall consequences of a policy, especially with respect to the balance of power between workers and capital. And from that point of view, deportation and guarding borders will shift that balance back to workers. The alternative policy floods the labor market with a large supply of cheap labor, and thereby empowers employers more. So Trump's positions on these issues need not be motivated by his deep admiration for Hitler. Does he exploit the xenophobic attitudes of some uneducated working people for his political purposes? Sure. But does that mean that the policies themselves will do more harm than good? No, not necessarily. Finally, has anyone thought about the way in which the easy flow of illegal drugs into the US has created a bloodbath in northern Mexico and the rest of Central America? Of course, the best way to solve that problem would be to decriminalize drugs, but if that's not going to happen, then here is another heretical thought to consider: what if the infamous Wall ultimately winds up protecting Mexicans from us, rather than us from them? If it actually shut down the drug trade across the border, then the horrible bloodbath in northern Mexico might just come to an end. Ever think about that?

2. Does Trump have any real policy positions at all? Yes, and here is the evidence. Trump has said things that are completely anathema in the Republican Party, and he has said them while running for the Republican nomination, and he has been viciously attacked for it. Honestly, no one could have predicted that these positions would be acceptable to the majority of rank-and-file Republicans: that Single Payer Health Care works beautifully in some places, that everyone should have health insurance, that he "likes the mandate," that George W. lied about the weapons in Iraq, and the war was a terrible mistake, etc, etc. Why would someone say these things in a Republican primary, when they are so unpopular in that party, if he didn't really believe them?

3. I would not ask you to "join the Trump movement." I, myself, wouldn't do that. But I do want you to see it accurately. Trump is not leading a socialist movement, but he could be sowing some of the seeds that will eventually contribute to one (just like Bernie). If the majority of Republicans accept Trump's views on trade and health and the wars abroad, then they are abandoning the neoliberalism of their party. No longer will Republican candidates be able to say "Free trade is always better," or "No socialized Medicine" and simply assume that they will be followed. Trump will have broken that pattern. He will have drawn those working class people away from the neoliberal establishment of that party, and that will leave them much more open to new ideas, or so it seems to me.

Tom Cathcart said...

Those sound more like reasons for hoping Trump wins the nomination than the election, a hope I share (I think, although it's scary.). I'd feel better about advancing the power of the working class if fewer of them were nativist or "pro-life" or religiously intolerant/evangelical or climate change deniers. Class interests are important, but they're not the whole enchilada.

s. wallerstein said...

The goal of any working class Marxist movement is socialism and whatever that means in the 21th century, it seems very distant from what Trump represents.

Trump, from what I gather of him, represents the worship of money, of success in the most conventional terms, of the apotheosis of "winners", of scorn for "losers" and that is the opposite of socialism as I (and others) see it.

Socialism, among other things, is a society where there are no winners or losers, where success means working together to achieve common goals, where money "withers away".

If the U.S. working class shares Trump's values, they are going to need a lot of political education before they can constitute a socialist society. If that sounds elitist, I'm not the first socialist who makes that observation. I know that it's in bad taste these days to cite Lenin (and Trotsky), but neither of them believed that the working class without the political guidance of vanguard (aka elite) could achieve socialism.

Anonymous said...

Simon, I believe your first point is too short sighted. The only possible way to supplant capitalism with socialism is through an international working class effort. Everything Trump is, everything he believes in, everything he represents to the people who believe in him, would only erode what scant internationalism there is at present.

This is not something that you can simply dismiss as elitism either. Eugene Debs, the only genuinely Socialist candidate we have ever had in the US, eventually transitioned from an insular view of socialism to a transnational one during his incarceration for his role in the Pullman Strike. Here's Debs:

Having just read the majority report of the Committee on Immigration. It is utterly unsocialistic, reactionary and in truth outrageous, and I hope you will oppose with all your power. The plea that certain races are to be excluded because of tactical expediency would be entirely consistent in a bourgeois convention of self-seekers, but should have no place in a proletariat gathering under the auspices of an international movement that is calling on the oppressed and exploited workers of all the world to unite for their emancipation. . . .

Simon said...

Most of these comments ignore the historical and political context, but the historical and political context is what matters the most. The Clintons represent Global capitalism in every way. They are its organizing committee (as are all governments in class-divided societies). In the present context, the consolidation of their power is the entrenchment of global capitalism If your fear of the great mass of unwashed Americans, with their backward, inappropriate attitudes, leads you to support Clinton, then you are diametrically opposed to any realistic prospect for socialism in the future. To think otherwise is to ignore the historical, political context of this election.