On Wednesday 9th November the “free world” woke up to find it had a new leader: Donald J. Trump. The establishment and its parties were shaken to the core. But this phenomenon is not confined to the United States. As the Economist stated, in reference to Francis Fukuyama and the fall of the Berlin Wall: “History is back—with a vengeance.”
On Wednesday 9th November the “free world” woke up to find it had a new leader. Donald J. Trump had been elected the 45th president of the United States of America. The shock waves immediately spread across the world at this news, which contradicted all the confident expectations of the polls.
The establishment and its parties were shaken to the core. Hillary Clinton, the preferred candidate of the establishment in the USA and internationally, had said that if Trump were elected president, “I would no longer recognise this country.” But Hillary Clinton and the rest of her class never recognised the real situation that exists in the United States, and that in reality exists in every other country in the world.
The election of Trump is commonly described as a political earthquake. The analogy is a precise one. Beneath the surface of society, there is a seething discontent, anger, rage and frustration. Just as beneath the surface of the Earth there are unimaginable forces seeking to find a way out, so in society these forces are seeking an expression, which they do not find in the existing parties and leaders.
This phenomenon is not confined to the United States. We already saw this in the result of the British referendum on the EU. But this election is a thousand times more important than Brexit. What we are witnessing is neither more nor less than a major turning point in world history. The Economist compared it to the fall of the Berlin Wall, commentating: “History is back—with a vengeance.”
Attitude of the ruling class
The ruling class sees Trump as a threat, partly because he is a maverick and difficult to control, but mainly because his demagogic appeals to the working class and denunciations of the Washington establishment created dangerous illusions and aroused millions of people on the basis of opposition to the status quo. That is why the establishment used every means possible to block his road to the White House. They threw everything at him, and they failed.
Belatedly, the strategists of the ruling class are waking up to the facts of life. This was a protest against inequality, which has reached unprecedented levels; against unemployment and job insecurity; against the rule of a corrupt elite of super rich individuals who ran Washington like a family business; against the Bush and Clinton political dynasties that handed political power down in the same way that they left an inheritance in a will and treated political power as if it were their personal property. Above all, it was a protest by people who felt that nobody was listening to them or concerned about their fate.
A similar point was made by the Financial Times, the most representative organ of the British ruling class, in an article with the title “Donald Trump’s victory is a mandate to blow up Washington”:
“The larger implications of Mr Trump’s election will take a while to sink in. Every pollster in the land misread the US public. By electing a man whom voters knew to be disrespectful of US constitutional niceties, America has dispatched the electoral equivalent of a suicide bomber to Washington. Mr Trump’s mandate is to blow up the system. His forecast of ‘Brexit times ten’ was an understatement. The UK may have cut itself adrift but the consequences of its decision are largely parochial.
“The US, on the other hand, is both creator and upholder of the post-war global order. Mr Trump ran on an explicit pledge to walk away from that order. Precisely how he carries out his ‘America first’ agenda is secondary at this point. The US public has sent an unmistakable signal. The rest of the world will act accordingly.”
Donald J Trump does not seem overly interested in the rest of the world. But the rest of world is very interested in him. Trump’s election provoked consternation, not to say panic in governments all over the terrestrial globe. Normally a victorious candidate in the US presidential elections could expect to be immediately congratulated by foreign political leaders. But this election was greeted by a deafening silence, broken only by Marine Le Pen – who congratulated Trump on his victory three hours before the result was announced – followed a little later by Vladimir Putin.
The press headlines in Germany were full of gloom and doom. One paper proclaimed in apocalyptic terms: “the self-destruction of the West continues.” The German Foreign Ministry said bluntly that this was not the result desired either by the government or people of Germany. Sadly, however, it is not the people of Germany but the people of the United States that decide who sits in the Oval Office. Angela Merkel was obliged to deliver a congratulatory speech, which was notable for its frosty and formal tone.
In complete contrast, the reaction in Moscow was one of undisguised delight. The deputies in the Duma loudly applauded the news and Vladimir Putin lost no time in sending his personal congratulations to Mr Trump. The reason is no secret. In general, foreign policy will not be among Trump’s key priorities. The one area where he has expressed himself with extreme clarity is that he wishes to establish better relations with Russia.
Putin expressed his wish that the new occupant of the White House would take steps to improve American-Russian relations, while naturally safeguarding the interests of both nations – that is to say the bankers and capitalists of both nations. Whether Trump’s expressed desire for better relations with Russia actually materialises is a matter of speculation, since the interests of “both nations” are fairly antagonistic.
In any case, the man in the Kremlin will undoubtedly take advantage of the present political turmoil and confusion in Washington over the next few months to press his advantage on the world stage, beginning with an all-out offensive in Syria. Obama grumbles about it but does nothing. Trump has so far said nothing.
America, Russia and Syria
Trump has promised to step up the fight against Islamic State in Syria. But that means closer coordination between the USA and Russia, which is now the dominant force in that country. Those people, including some “Lefts”, who constantly cry “something must be done,” are appealing for a no-fly zone “for humanitarian purposes”. But this is impossible without a serious military commitment on the ground, which only the USA is in a position to provide.
To demand that the imperialists intervene to solve the problems of the people of Syria is not merely stupid but criminal. Have these people forgotten that the present mess in the Middle East was caused by what was created by the criminal invasion of Iraq by American imperialism and its allies? Have they already forgotten the disasters that were caused by imperialist interventions in Afghanistan and Libya? And are they not aware that the same imperialists they are calling upon to “save Aleppo” are actively collaborating with their Saudi allies in the bombing of schools and hospitals in Yemen, slaughtering civilians and deliberately using death by starvation as a weapon of war?
But let us leave this foolishness to one side. The fact of the matter is that America’s options in Syria are extremely limited. There are only two possibilities. The first is a full-scale military intervention – with boots on the ground – to try to reverse the position. That is ruled out for both military and political reasons. The lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan is that it is very easy to get involved in a war in the Middle East but very difficult to extricate oneself afterwards. And after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American public is decidedly unenthusiastic about new foreign adventures.
The second option is to do a deal with Russia. In reality, that option has already been accepted, albeit reluctantly, by the Obama administration. Trump merely says in public what is understood by all serious people in private. In Syria it is Russia that decides now. It is therefore quite likely that Donald Trump will try to arrive at some kind of a deal with Putin. The man in the Kremlin will propose an agreement that would leave them in control of Ukraine and guarantee that NATO will not make any further encroachments on the former republics of the Soviet Union or former Soviet spheres of influence, including Syria.
In return, America could be given a free hand in its own spheres of influence, including Latin America. This would have serious implications for Cuba and Venezuela. Recently Washington’s attention has been focused on the Middle East and the Far East. But it will now turn its attention once again to Latin America. If he implements his campaign promise, Trump will use the Republican majority in both houses of Congress to sabotage the liberalisation of relations with Cuba carried out by Obama.
In Venezuela the situation is becoming critical, where the counterrevolutionary opposition is taking advantage of the economic crisis, hyperinflation, food scarcity and extreme insecurity to go on the offensive. So far they have not succeeded in overturning the government, but things appear to be nearing a climax. The longer the Bolivarian leaders dither while hanging onto power, the more desperate the situation will become. Trump’s presidency will coincide with the moment when Venezuela reaches its crisis point.
The emergency measures taken by the Venezuelan government will not be sufficient to avoid a default on its sovereign debt, probably in the next twelve months. The threat of bankruptcy will give the opposition new opportunities to launch mass protests that can end in bloodshed and violence. The whole situation is on a downward spiral that can only end in a direct confrontation between the antagonistic forces. Trump’s victory will undoubtedly give heart to the counterrevolutionary forces, which can expect more support from Washington for their aggressive actions.
Everywhere one looks, Washington faces a turbulent situation, with explosions being prepared at every level. But as much as Donald Trump would love to turn his back on the rest of the world and close America’s door in order to focus on tackling domestic problems, the flames that have flared up beyond the borders of the United States will demand his attention. If he does not do so, those flames can threaten to burn down the door of the house, or even the house itself.
Trump and NATO
Trump’s victory has set the alarm bells ringing in countries like Poland and the Baltic states, who fear Russia’s new assertiveness on the world scale. Trump, who has already expressed his scepticism about the role of NATO, is demanding that Europe, South Korea and Japan “pay their way”, that is for the bill for defence. That means forcing them to increase spending on arms, and therefore to further cut living standards. This is the “America first” policy expressed in hard cash.
Naturally, the response has been howls of protest from America’s “allies”. The Europeans fear that an American retreat into isolationism would seriously weaken NATO, leaving front-line eastern European states vulnerable to Russia, although contrary to the scaremongering propaganda put out by the Poles and Estonians, Russia has no intention of trying to take them back by force. What Putin wants is to be left alone to control his own backyard.
The Europeans have been grumbling about Russia’s actions in the Ukraine, ignoring the role of western interference in provoking the mess there in the first place. Moscow would like to reach an agreement with the Americans and Europeans that would leave it in control of that region. Trump has let it be known that he is willing to allow Russia to keep Crimea. That is something that probably cannot be reversed and the Americans know it.
Europe is in a very weak position. Its leaders are talking about the creation of a European army. But this is out of the question. The national interests of each state will come first, and it would be impossible to establish a joint command. The launch of Brexit negotiations and elections in Germany and France will weaken Europe still further. There is therefore no question of a united Western front that can pressurize Moscow to do anything.
Consequently it is very likely that a Trump administration will end sanctions against Russia, or at least permit some easing of the pressure in order to facilitate a deal with the Kremlin. Trump will twist arms to place limits on NATO expansion in the former Soviet sphere. And the Ukrainians will soon discover the truth of the statement: “nations have no friends, only interests.” Washington’s European allies will not like it, but they will have to swallow hard and accept it.
Britain’s “special relationship”
The British Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her fervent hope that Britain’s “special relationship” with the USA would continue and be consummated by a trade deal at the earliest convenient moment. Since Britain may soon be outside the European single market, the prospect of a fat and juicy trade deal with the USA is naturally very close to her heart. But in matters of trade, it is the head, rather than the heart, that is the more useful organ.
These illusions were swiftly and brutally dashed. The reality of the so-called special relationship between Britain and the USA was immediately exposed by the fact that the President-elect only remembered to telephone the British Prime Minister after he had already rung the leaders of nine other countries – including Ireland and Australia. That was a calculated affront to the British establishment. But worse was to come.
When Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson was in New York during the election campaign he made some very choice remarks at the expense of the Republican challenger (who he clearly believed could not win the election). Nowadays Boris is loudly proclaiming his boundless admiration, respect and affection for the 45th President of the USA. He now sees huge opportunities for British business under the new Trump administration and hopes that everybody will forget the past (more particularly, that the new President will forget Johnson’s offensive remarks).
But Donald J. Trump is not the kind of man who forgets things like that and the illusions of May and Johnson that Britain could get a good trade deal with Trump’s America have been deflated like a tyre running over a six-inch nail. They overlooked one small detail: Trump’s policy is “America first”. Trump aims to “make America great” – and he aims to do this at the expense of the rest of the world. That is the real cornerstone of his policy. And Britain can expect no favours, “special relationship” or not.
To rub salt into the wound inflicted by that belated phone call, of all the politicians in the world, the President Elect chose to meet Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s right-wing Ukip party – a man who is not even a member of the British parliament, let alone a representative of its government. Grinning from ear to ear, Farage was photographed together with his hero in a gold elevator, resembling a third-class pimp who has unexpectedly received an invitation to the Vatican for a private audience with the Pope.
For one hour, no less, the big-time Godfather and his small town sidekick had a most agreeable conversation. The details of this intriguing encounter have not been vouchsafed to us. But Mr. Farage came out like a man walking on air. His mind obviously slightly befuddled by this encounter with Greatness, Nigel gracefully informed Her Majesty’s government in London, that, if Mrs. May so wished, she could rely upon his services as a go-between with the Man in the White House and arrange contacts with his entourage.
Farage’s kindly offer was received first with a stony silence from Number Ten Downing Street and later by a firm rebuttal. Mrs. May and her advisers could scarcely conceal their utter mortification at the fact that the very first politician to be invited to meet the Chief in Washington was that horrid little man from Ukip. Nothing could have been so designed to offend the Tory grandees, or to make it plainer that Great Britain is now seen on the other side of the Atlantic as Little England.
The economic consequences of Mr. Trump
The markets, which wait for no man, wasted no time to express their shock at the election result. It immediately provoked sharp falls in the stock exchanges of Asia and Europe. Vast amounts of money deserted the stock markets in search of safe havens such as gold, which registered sharp rises, the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc.
In reality, Trump’s economic policy is not new. It is a mixed bag of confused and contradictory ideas, in which Keynesian deficit financing is combined with monetarist tax cuts. From the capitalist point of view, this is economic illiteracy. A fiscal stimulus coupled with a big increase in public investment in the infrastructure of the world’s largest economy will act as a stimulus that might temporarily boost the economy. But it also brings its own problems and dangers.
Tax cuts, which would benefit the rich, combined with huge increases in expenditure on infrastructure, will lead to soaring deficits. According to some estimates the debt-to-GDP ratio would rise by 25 percent by 2026. In the end, this is a finished recipe for a new economic crisis. The verdict of The Economist was clear: “After the sugar rush, populist policies eventually collapse under their own contradictions.”
However, the real content of his economic programme is protectionism. Donald Trump is an isolationist, following an old established American tradition. When he says America first, he means it. When he promises to make America great, he means to do it at the expense of the rest of the world.
Trump’s advocacy of protectionism threatens the entire fabric of the capitalist world economic system. It is regarded with horror by politicians and economists everywhere who correctly warn that if implemented it would lead to not just a recession but a deep slump on a world scale. Far from protecting jobs, it would lead to mass unemployment on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Ever since the Second World War, the real motor force of world economic growth has been the expansion of world trade. The great depression of the 1930s was the result of protectionist policies, competitive devaluations and a beggar-my-neighbour approach to economics. And history can repeat itself.
Trump is threatening to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement and tear up the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU. This was already in serious trouble before, but with the arrival of Trump, it is now dead in the water. Trump’s victory also signals the death knell of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was projected to boost Japan’s GDP by 2.7% by 2030. And the Japanese economy is one of the key elements in Asia and the world economy.
The Mexican peso plummeted when the result was announced. If Trump acts on his promise to pull out of the NAFTA agreement, such a move would deal a mortal blow to Mexican exports, plunging that country into a deep crisis with explosive social and political consequences. Trump also has Brazil, for which the US is the second largest foreign market, in his sights as one of the countries with which commercial arrangements must be “readjusted”.
Trump accuses China of “raping” America. Now the world’s second-largest economy, China accounts for roughly a half of America’s net trade-deficit. Trump threatens to slap punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, 45% on Chinese steel, for example. The imposition of punitive trade tariffs would hit Chinese exports, particularly in the electronics sector. That would inevitably result in Beijing retaliating with tit-for-tat trade barriers that could end in an all-out trade war with China. That too would create a situation similar to that of the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Even if Trump avoids an open trade war, there are a thousand ways of introducing protectionist measures through the back door: passing laws that demand a certain percentage of goods sold on the American market must be produced in the USA, or laws on safety and hygiene or to “protect the environment” and so on. That would also lead to retaliation. Either way, the effect will be to depress world trade and growth and heighten all the contradictions on a global scale.
Europe is even more vulnerable than China to the cold winds of protectionism blowing from across the Atlantic. Around 14% of the euro area’s goods exports go to America. While this is less than China’s 18%, America accounts for about 40% of the Euro zone’s recent export growth. Thus, American protectionism presents an even bigger threat to Europe than to China.
After eight years of recession, from which the capitalists have struggled unsuccessfully to extricate themselves, the world economy remains in a fragile state. The single currency remains extremely shaky. After years of austerity and falling living standards, nothing has been solved. Obama recently visited Greece to express his “solidarity”. There is a suggestion that he would be prepared to help pay for that country’s debts. But it would be very surprising if the isolationist Trump will pay a single cent.
Britain’s vote in June to leave the European Union was a first warning of anti-establishment sentiment. But similar centrifugal tendencies exist in France, Germany, Italy and other countries. The repercussions of Trump’s victory will be felt in the Italian referendum on constitutional reform on December 4th, where Prime Minister Matteo Renzi may well face a similar revolt.
A defeat may mean the fall of Renzi and help boost the populist Five Star Movement, which advocates Italy leaving the euro. The implications for the future of the Eurozone and even the EU itself would be most serious. If, as seems inevitable, the demand for referendums on membership gathers pace, not only the future of the single currency but that of European Union itself will be in danger.
Does Trump mean a danger of fascism?
The immediate result of Trump’s success will be a boost for right-wing anti-immigration parties such as the National Front in France and the party of Geert Wilders in Holland. Marine le Pen seeks to emulate his success when France elects a new president in April/May 2017. As a result, we can expect the usual noisy campaign of sections of the left, shouting about the alleged “danger of fascism”.
Marxism is a science, and like any other science uses a precise terminology to characterise phenomena. Fascism is a very specific form of reaction. In the classical sense it is a mass movement of the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpenproletariat that aims to destroy the Labour movement completely, and is able to do so because of its mass base.
Hitler not only destroyed the workers’ parties and trade unions, but even closed down the workers’ chess clubs. Under the rule of the Nazis, bourgeois democracy was replaced by a totalitarian dictatorship. The workers’ movement was crushed and the working class completely atomised. With an army of spies and informers in every block of flats, the Nazis were able to do this.
It is true that Donald Trump is a rabid reactionary, a racist bigot and a sworn enemy of the Labour movement. But he is not Adolf Hitler or Mussolini. He is a right-wing demagogue, but he bases himself on the structures of bourgeois democracy. His aim is not to overthrow the system, or even to “drain the Washington swamp”. It is to promote himself, his family and his business interests. This will soon be revealed in practice.
We have to maintain a sense of proportion. Those people who are constantly shouting about “fascism “are playing a negative role, confusing people and ultimately disorienting the masses, such that when there is a real threat of reaction, they will be unable to respond adequately. It is like the little boy who cried wolf so often that when the wolf really did put in an appearance, nobody responded to his cries for help.
The false idea of “lesser evilism” leads straight into the swamp of class collaboration, as we saw in the United States when certain people on the left supported the candidature of Hillary Clinton, on the basis that she was the “lesser evil” when compared with the “fascist” Donald Trump. Let us also remind ourselves that the victory of Trump was prepared by Obama, who eight years ago galvanised huge support on the slogan of “change” but who did not deliver any change.
This approach is false in theory and disastrous in practice. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent precisely the same class interests. They stand for the rule of the banks and monopolies. They are in fact the left and right boots of the same system. Let us also remind ourselves that it was Hillary Clinton who did not defeat Donald Trump. In fact, her campaign was doomed to failure precisely because many people thought – correctly – that one was just as bad as the other. Many have said that they voted for Trump because they thought that he was “the lesser evil”!
The reactionary nature of Trump’s programme is clear and does not need to be further elaborated here. With a Republican controlled House and Senate, Trump will pass legislation that restricts civil rights. He has said that he will strive to appoint judges to overturn rulings that favour marriage equality and abortion access for women. And he will reduce or liquidate the access of millions of poor people to health care. All this represents a reactionary right-wing agenda that must be resisted by all means possible.
Of course, it is necessary to conduct a serious struggle against Trump, Le Pen, and other reactionaries. But the only force in society that is capable of conducting such a struggle is the working class. What is required is united action on the part of the trade unions and workers’ parties to fight reaction in all its forms. But what is not admissible is to advocate the unity of all allegedly “progressive forces” in order to “defend democracy”, including bourgeois parties and politicians. That is a sure recipe for defeat. The American election was the clearest confirmation of this.
“America has voted not for a change of party so much as a change of regime.” (The Economist)
The real meaning of this result is that the political centre is disintegrating before our eyes. American politics is becoming sharply polarised between right and left. This is what most alarms the ruling class and its strategists. Of course, Trump, a property tycoon and billionaire is very much part of the capitalist system and does not represent a real threat to it. But the forces he has unleashed do indeed represent such a threat.
For generations American capitalism has been based politically on two main pillars: the Republicans and the Democrats. For as long as anyone can remember political power passed from one to the other without anyone noticing any substantial difference. In the words of the American writer Gore Vidal, “our Republic has one party – the property party, with two right wings.” Now this comfortable arrangement has been upset.
It is significant that for the first time in these elections, politicians in the USA began to realise the existence of the working class. The very expression working class had disappeared from the American political vocabulary. Hitherto, they only spoke of the “middle class”. But the plight of millions of dispossessed and alienated voters in the rust belt states of the North forcibly drew their attention to the existence of the class that produces everything and owns nothing. One concerned political commentator noted with alarm: “there is a lot of anger out there.”
A skilful demagogue, the billionaire Trump succeeded in connecting with the mood of revolt that was spreading, particularly in the depressed industrialised states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. He posed as their champion, or their “advocate”, as the above quote pointed out. In reality, Trump is only the advocate for himself. But by appealing to this mass of discontented working class people, he was implying a strategy that is very dangerous for the American ruling class. It is one that he will live to regret.
The present period is one of deep capitalist crisis, characterised internationally by violent swings of public opinion both to the right and to the left. The masses are seeking a way out of the crisis, looking first in one direction then another. Eight years ago Obama benefited from this by standing under the banner of “change”. That got a tremendous response. But the hopes for a change under Obama have been dashed.
This is what provoked a sharp reaction and a swing to the right, which, however, contains many contradictory elements. In his final pre-election speech Trump deliberately appealed to the working class of America finally to make their voice heard. He appealed to the “forgotten Americans” – the millions of unemployed, disenchanted and disenfranchised people in the rustbelt and other depressed areas that have been ravaged by the crisis of capitalism.
That message did not fall on deaf ears. States such as Wisconsin that have traditionally voted Democrat now switched to the Republicans – or more correctly, to Donald Trump. This is an expression of the desperation felt by the forgotten millions, the victims of capitalist crisis. Many of Trump’s supporters were impressed by Sanders’ socialist message and would have been prepared to vote for him, but never for Hillary Clinton, an Establishment politician who stands for everything that most Americans detest.
President Trump will soon discover that a big victory brings with it big responsibilities. The problem for Trump is that he must now deliver on his promises. He no longer has any excuse for failing. He will not be able to blame an obstructive Democrat controlled Congress. He will be under pressure to deliver on his promises, and deliver quickly.
The problem Trump will face is that the ruling class has many different ways of controlling politicians and presidents, and has sufficient levers in its hands to make sure that Trump does not escape its control. On paper, he has tremendous power in his hands. Not only do the Republicans now control the White House, they also control the House of Representatives and the Senate. They are in a far more powerful position than Obama was eight years ago.
The outgoing President, not without a note of malicious anticipation, predicted that Mr Trump will have to adapt his more extravagant electoral promises to the realities of power. That is the fervent hope of the American and international establishment. Whether this hope will materialise is a matter of speculation. The first indications already indicate that Trump is backtracking on his electoral demagogy.
Only yesterday he was threatening to put Hillary Clinton in jail; after the election he praised her for her courageous campaign and thanked her for all that she has given the American people. He promised to expel eleven million illegal immigrants, but now says that the figure is more like two to three million. The famous wall he was going to build along the Rio Grande turns out to be more like a fence. Even Obamacare, he says, will not exactly be abolished, but only “reformed” (although that probably means the same thing).
Trump’s proposal to reverse the Paris agreement on climate change has provoked a general outcry. But apart from its effect on the environment, it would not deliver the economic results he anticipates. His promise to revive the US coal industry is completely hollow, since it is unlikely that anyone will provide the necessary investment for it to take place. Nor is Trump, the representative of big business, likely to take measures that would harm the lucrative non-fossil energy business that has flourished in America in recent years.
Trump said: “this was not a campaign but a great movement.” But this movement has now propelled him into government, and the government, as we know, is not a movement at all but a smart business proposition. The draining of the Washington swamp, a key pledge, has immediately been contradicted by his choice of collaborators, which includes a fair number of political alligators who have spent their entire lives swimming happily in the said swamp. Naturally, he has not forgotten the members of his own family who occupy important positions in his team at the same time as running his lucrative businesses.
In 19th century America salesmen went from town to town in the Midwest carrying cases full of medicine in covered wagons. This medicine, popularly known as snake oil, was supposed to cure all ills. Lacking proper medical advice, many people purchased the said snake oil and consumed it, eagerly anticipating a quick and efficacious result. Since, however, this miraculous medicine consisted principally of coloured water, their hopes were soon dashed. Either their condition did not improve, or it was made considerably worse, depending on what other inventive ingredients had been added to the coloured water.
The degree of indignation that ensued corresponded to the hopes that preceded it. In many cases, the travelling salesman found himself tarred and feathered and driven out of town. Donald Trump has sold the Trump brand to an electorate desperate to change, and anxious to believe the unbelievable. But they will find quite soon that the goods they have been sold are not fit for purpose.
In the end Donald J Trump will turn out to be just another right-wing Conservative President, upholding the interests of big business. Already the political pundits are predicting that President Trump will be a very different animal to the Trump of the election campaign. This will produce the same kind of disenchantment among Republican voters as was experienced earlier by those who placed their hopes in Obama.
The Economist sees that Trump will fail and its conclusion is significant: “The danger with popular anger, though, is that disillusion with Mr Trump will only add to the discontent that put him there in the first place. If so, his failure would pave the way for someone even more bent on breaking the system.” (Our emphasis)
This process will take time. The exaggerated hopes of a sizeable section of American society in the new administration can last for some time. In the words of the poet, “hope springs eternal in the human breast.” But events will gradually wear this down, producing a powerful reaction. In politics as in mechanics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Slowly but surely the wheel will turn. The way will be prepared for an even bigger swing to the left in the future.
Many of those who voted for Trump were impressed by Bernie Sanders’ socialist message and his call for a “political revolution against the billionaire class”. They would have been prepared to vote for him, but not for Hillary Clinton. But Sanders was pushed out by the intrigues of the Democrat Party machine. His subsequent support for Hillary Clinton (as the “lesser evil”) disappointed his supporters, who either did not vote, or voted for the Green party or even for Trump.
Trump succeeded because he adopted a defiant attitude towards the Republican establishment. If Bernie Sanders had adopted a similarly intransigent attitude towards the establishment of the Democrat Party, he would now be in a very strong position. But that would have meant breaking from the Democrats. And that remains the only way forward.
We have entered a period of tremendous turbulence, chaos and uncertainty on a world scale. The US election is only a symptom of that fact. The old order is tottering and is heading for a fall. The masses are awakening to political life. In the initial stages there will inevitably be confusion. The masses do not learn from revolutionary text books. They can only learn from experience, and it will be a very painful experience. But learn they will. The masses in the USA are finding their feet. The new layers of workers and youth are fresh and untainted by generations of reformist and Stalinist leadership. They are wide open to revolutionary ideas – the Sanders campaign proved that beyond doubt.
This process will take time. There will be many ups and downs: periods of great struggles will be followed by defeats, disappointment, even reaction. Let us not forget that even in Russia in 1917, the February Revolution was followed by the defeat of the July Days and Kornilovite reaction. But that in turn only prepared the new and victorious upswing that led to the October Revolution. Sooner or later this movement will find its expression in a genuine movement in the direction of social change: that is to say in the direction of socialist revolution. Great events are being prepared. What a joy it is to live and fight in such times!
Published on In Defence of Marxism
Images by Gage Skidmore, Flickr, CC-by-2.0