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Opposing Trump can unite the left after Brexit

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_4David Frum’s article in The Atlantic “How to Build an Autocracy” not surprisingly gained a great deal of attention because of the all too plausible way that it highlighted how the constitutional checks and balances of the US political system can fail, if those whose job is to exercise those checks and balances instead find that conformity to presidential power serves their personal ambitions better. But also because Frum is himself a Republican insider, a former speechwriter for President George W Bush, and has an insider’s insight into the processes.

In particular, Frum shows how strategy of delegitimisation of critical journalism is used to seek to silence dissent. For example Trump’s attempt to shut out CNN for having told the truth, by the staggering accusation that they were the purveyors of fake news. 

The article reads:

One story, still supremely disturbing, exemplifies the falsifying method. During November and December, the slow-moving California vote count gradually pushed Hillary Clinton’s lead over Donald Trump in the national popular vote further and further: past 1 million, past 1.5 million, past 2 million, past 2.5 million. Trump’s share of the vote would ultimately clock in below Richard Nixon’s in 1960, Al Gore’s in 2000, John Kerry’s in 2004, Gerald Ford’s in 1976, and Mitt Romney’s in 2012—and barely ahead of Michael Dukakis’s in 1988.

This outcome evidently gnawed at the president-elect. On November 27, Trump tweeted that he had in fact “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” He followed up that astonishing, and unsubstantiated, statement with an escalating series of tweets and retweets.

It’s hard to do justice to the breathtaking audacity of such a claim. If true, it would be so serious as to demand a criminal investigation at a minimum, presumably spanning many states. But of course the claim was not true. Trump had not a smidgen of evidence beyond his own bruised feelings and internet flotsam from flagrantly unreliable sources. Yet once the president-elect lent his prestige to the crazy claim, it became fact for many people. A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.

A clear untruth had suddenly become a contested possibility.

Chillingly, Trump has issued the following hardly veiled threat:

AT A RALLY Grand Rapids, Michigan, in December, Trump got to talking about Vladimir Putin. “And then they said, ‘You know he’s killed reporters,’ ” Trump told the audience. “And I don’t like that. I’m totally against that. By the way, I hate some of these people, but I’d never kill them. I hate them. No, I think, no—these people, honestly—I’ll be honest. I’ll be honest. I would never kill them. I would never do that. Ah, let’s see—nah, no, I wouldn’t. I would never kill them. But I do hate them.”

The significance of the massive outpouring of protest against Trump, both in the USA and internationally, is that that process of democratic engagement itself acts as a counterbalance, that incentivizes those with constitutional power to trim the ambitions of the presidency to exercise those powers. Had the American public been quiescent over the travel ban, had there been no wave of international reaction, then Judge James Robart in Seattle would have been less likely to declare the ban unconstitutional. And of course that action by the courts has itself given wings to the opposition to Trump.

That is why those who equate Trump and Brexit as parallel political phenomena are so wrong (though it is an argument more likely to occur on Social Media than in real life!).

The difficulty that many of us felt who supported the Remain campaign, but who had few illusions about the EU, was that we saw the actually existing Brexit campaign as being dominated by unsavoury rights wingers, and that the arguments for a progressive exit were coming from weaker and more marginal forces, who could not shape events. As such the referendum campaign did unleash a backlash of anti-immigrant sentiment; and the process of Brexit is in the hands of an untrustworthy Conservative government.

But for those of us who had not drunk the EU Koolaid, the EU is not itself inherently progressive, and leaving the EU, while this continues to represent a serious challenge in terms of jobs and employment rights, is still a political event susceptible to multiple outcomes. In the actually existing circumstances of 2016, the forces of the political right did get a boost by the Brexit vote, but that is not necessarily irreversible. Brexit is a political phenomenon which is not necessarily inherently right wing, even if it is most associated with right wing politicians like UKIP. The outcomes, while remaining pregnant with the possibility of disaster, can still be shaped by political and trade union action into something better.

In contrast, notwithstanding the anti-establishment populism which attracted many blue-collar Americans to invest hope in Trump, there is actually no possible progressive dimension to his successful election. Trump is inherently right wing.

Indeed, the foolhardiness of those who equate Trump and Brexit resides in the fact that their position can only weaken the unity of the left. In reality the opposite is the case, the mass movement that is growing against Trump, including the excellent leadership that has come from the Labour Party over this issue, has the potential of reversing the rise of racism that has grown since the referendum.

The tasks of the movement are clear. To argue for the strongest possible protection of jobs and employment rights during the Brexit process. To oppose racism, a task given a boost by the opposition to Trump; and to build and strengthen the unity of the left and the trade unions.

33 Comments

  1. Tim Pendry says:

    How to go down a blind alley in one simple article … this seems to be about trying to merge the cultural politics of the hysterical liberal left with the rising class politics of Brexit.

    Problem is the mass of the population really cannot get into a tizzy about Trump and the hysteria suurrounding him is alienating. If Bercow is taken as speaking for the Left, then we really are in trouble. We may as well all become untrustworthy whining Liberal Democrats.

    This looks like the next in a long sequence of wrong turnings on the British Left but no one is going to listen to what they don’t want to hear so I am just going to sit here and watch a lot of people get very excitable and achieve nothing.

    The cultural politics is the business of the American people (unless it is the legitimate fight against prejudice at home). The business of our ain folk is jobs and growth to feed our massive welfare commitments.

    Creating a bloc to oppose a strategic alliance to bring jobs and growth will go down like a lead balloon with the middle ground that we need to bring back into the Left fold and, worse, it makes the Left voice irrelevant in its real task – which is to ensure that all forthcoming trade deals of any sort protect our welfare arrangements.

    But activists need to act and the crude identity politics of gender and race seems to define the urban graduate Left today and that drag on intelligent Leftism, the ‘university vote’. So that’s, I suppose, where we are heading … more errors, more failure, more betrayal of the mass of the population.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Creating a bloc to oppose a strategic alliance to bring jobs and growth will go down like a lead balloon with the middle ground that we need to bring back into the Left

      What is this “strategic alliance” and who is trying to create a bloc to oppose it? Sounds like some major social movements have escaped my notice.

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        Yes I was puzzled by that “strategic alliance” as well.

        Can you explain what you mean by that please Tim?

      2. Tim Pendry says:

        A ‘liberal’ bloc more concerned with cultural and single issue politics – Liberal Democrats, Greens, Left-Liberals – that is alienating to a population more concerned with the sorts of issue that Corbyn tries to deal with when he does not get distracted by activist ‘populism’ and which May is recognising as issues hung over from the failed Cameron-Clegg era but where she has no solutions because of the ideology of austerity.

        1. David Pavett says:

          That doesn’t sound much like a “strategic alliance” to me. It sounds like using grand phrases with no real reference.

  2. John Penney says:

    All too true, Tim. I thought it emblematic of just how conveniently diversionary and lazily easy for the middle class liberal Left the hysteria over Trump is, to see the ultimate “Guardianista liberal pseudo Leftie, Owen Jones, putting himself about frenetically at anti Trump demos. No doubt seeing this empty showboating of his “progressive credentials” as a way to worm his way back to “left credibility” after his year of stabbing Corbyn and “Corbynism” in the back.

    As you say, the self identifying Left in the UK can best fight the radical Right populism represented by “Trumpism” by now fully accepting Brexit, but fighting for a Brexit which retains employment rights and blocks TTIP-type trade deal sell offs of the NHS, and rejects their current liberal moralistic shibboleth about unlimited Freedom of Movement. And overall once again embraces a SOCIALIST agenda , rather than the mish mash of identity politics and liberal nostrums (eg, “Citizens Income”) that has taken over much of the self identifying UK “Left” ideological mindscape over the last 30 years of neoliberal hegemony.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      I am having a friendly debate with an old friend privately and on Facebook about the reaction to Trump. It would be for him to say why he feels so strongly about the man (which I get) but, as I put it crudely, probably to his shock and horror, I really don’t care if Trump is the heir to Meyer Lansky himself. We were discussing the Blumenthal article in the New York Review of Books which (in my opinion) is merely an extended diatribe from a Clintonist attack dog.

      My more serious point is that, instead of being obsessed with Trump as ‘latter day Hitler’ (still not proven) or ‘gangster’ (Blumenthal works hard on that one), we should concentrate on three questions: what exactly are his policies as they are enacted and what do they mean for the lives of the majority of electors (and which policies matter most)?; how was it that Trump came to power in the first place?; and how does one ensure that the wave of politicians of the Right who came to power on mass discontent (May, Trump, perhaps Le Pen) are replaced but not with the sort of people who, like Blumenthal, failed the people first time around?

      This is why I get irritated with the likes of Bercow and Jones. They seem to want to attack Trump only to return, conservatively, to the situation ‘ante bellum’. I fear that emotional hatred of the man arising from defeated liberals is becoming a terrible distraction for the rest of us. The population deserves more than Bercow, Jones and the sentimentalism of liberals.

      1. prianikoff says:

        Dear me!
        What a pitiful load of nonsense this little exchange is!
        If you think the protests against Trump are just “liberal hysteria” you’re dim, Tim.
        And John is fishing in very polluted waters.
        You’ve both been watching too much bullshit on RT recently.

        The main criticism of Owen Jones is not that he’s been appearing at the anti-Trump protests, but that he’s turned into a spineless ninny with his puerile “no-platform” campaigns.
        Perhaps we need a campaign to no-platform “radical journalists” who write for the Guardian?

        As for Bercow, I’d defend him against the creeps to his right in the Tory party.
        But clearly the leadership of a campaign against Trump can’t be left to “liberals” (Tory, Labour , Green or Liberal) in Britain, or to the corporate Democrats in the USA.

        The issue is not, however, simply a matter of “liberal hysteria” about Trump’s behaviour towards women, or alleged racism.
        His appointments and his measures are a danger to all workers in the USA- Hispanic & Anglo; Black & White; Male & Female.

        His proposed “right-to-work” legislation and promotion of vouchers for private schools are simply taking the policies of the most reactionary States in the USA and making them national policy.
        His foreign policy is no better.
        Trump antagonised Mexico and China from day one.
        His foreign secretary wants to overthrow the Venezuelan government because Exxon’s assets were nationalised for a song.
        If he actually wanted to defuse the tensions with Russia, that would be cool.
        But, in fact, his UN ambassador’s opening gambit was to demand Russia hand back Crimea to Ukraine.
        Not exactly likely to happen.
        So , except to the bozos who go on about the “Soros-Crowd”, the benefits of a Trump Presidency are almost non-existent.

        Trump’s not welcome here and the more people who protest against him when he comes, the better.
        But the left needs to lead the movement.
        Same argument applies in the US.

        1. Tim Pendry says:

          Prianikoff. It is hard to argue rationally with someone who just rants. Posturing is not argument. There is simply no point in a campaign against Trump. It is misdirection. It plays into his hands. It blocks off thinking about the phenomenon and what we can learn from it. It strengthens the liberal wing of the Left at the expense of the socialist wing. It is not FOR anything – just when action should be directed at operations FOR increased housing supply, FOR social care, FOR peace and so on. Above all, it is self-indulgent … and self indulgence is what has ruined us since the 1970s.

          Much of what you say may be true (though it is not the full picture of a man who had the craft trades unions into the White House on the Monday after his Inauguration and who is the most LGBT-favourable Republican President in history) but that is a struggle for American socialists. Or rather it is a decision for American socialists whether to end up once again tail end charlies in the crazy B-52 bombing machine that is American liberalism.

          We have our own battles to fight and I do not see mass marches and petitions in Oakland to support our NHS – and they would be pretty futile if they happened. It is the utter futility of liberal cultural politics that irritates me. It does nothing useful now – it certainly did nothing to halt the coming to power of national populism.

          Really, you must go off on your silly little marches and the rest of us will get on with the business of transforming Britain. Frankly, Trump only matters to us if he does something to us and at this point in history he might give is a juicy trade deal.

          We should concentrate on ensuring that the trade deal does not do harm to any interests that really do concern us such as the NHS – and to do that, we should not be creating the conditions that allow the Government and the public to position us as mere wreckers.

          When we are in Government, we can do what we like – get rid of the airbases, quite the intelligence agreement, leave NATO, whatever we think we can get away with … but this conceptual art project called protesting things over which we have no power to change and which would be harmful to us if we did change it is getting utterly ridiculous. Basically, grow up!

          1. prianikoff says:

            “…silly little marches”

            The biggest marches in US history and the fact is, he’s coming HERE.
            And it’s just absurd to say I, or the people who would protest against the visit are not interested in Homes, the NHS and the Care Crisis.
            I’m doing far more on those issues right now.

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            Ah, you mean like that march in 2003 that decisively stopped the invasion of Iraq and halted the complete meltdown of the Middle East, that march. Yes, brilliant! You’ve won me over on that one. But it didn;t even lose Blair the next election!

            Marching on London when food supplies are running out with pitchforks to hand I get … marching to protest the visit of a foreign potentate (a less evil one according to liberal lore than a number of recent potentates who have visited our little Jerusalem), er … why?

            Really, this is just what those right-wingers call ‘virtue-signalling’ … and they have a point … the bulk of the population won’t be impressed, it won’t push up Corbyn’s rating one percentage point, any violence will work against the whole point of the protest and it is a distraction.

            But, go ahead, have a nice day out … like all those Remainers who equally futilely are ‘protesting’ soon on a done deal.

        2. John Penney says:

          Pray tell me more about these , apparently RT influenced “polluted waters”, Prianikoff ? A slur is only as good as the hard evidence comrade.

          I noticed in The Times today even some high end zillion pound clothing designer had his catwalk models dressed with a very tasteful “anti Trump pro diversity bracelet” thingy” at a show yesterday ! Sooo thrilling !

          Meanwhile for most of last year as the organised French working class fought , literally on the streets, against the Hollande government attacks on their basic, hard-won employment rights, where were the mass solidarity demos across the UK ? Where was the solidarity actions by the trades unions , or the Left ? Nowhere to be seen.

          As Tim says, there is generally , whether on the Left, or the liberal chattering classes generally, no attempt to really analyse the Trump phenomenum, any more than there is the phenomenum of mass support for Brexit. Unless support for Trump and Brexit are really , as Polly Toynbee constantly hints – just caused by the same thing, ie, letting the dreadful, smelly unwashed with their knuckle dragging ignorance and vile prejudices and inability to grasp the entirely beneficial outcomes of the neoliberal status quo, have the vote at all !

          1. prianikoff says:

            There are lots of analyses of Trump and his appointees on the left if you bother to look for them.
            The same people would demonstrate against austerity in France and blame Hollande’s govt. for the rise of the FN.
            The mistake you make is to take the media spin seriously.
            The liberal pro-Eu establishment in the UK & the corporate Democrats in the US want to control the opposition to Trump.
            But they don’t control the millions of people who want to protest.
            You simply want to ignore them, which is pure sectarianism based on trying to triangulate with the nationalist right.
            The same approach used by the Russian govt and RT, which has degenerated rapidly and is now the leading voice in the campaign to defend Trump!
            You and Tim are hopelessly deluded.

          2. Tim Pendry says:

            You can throw claims of being ‘hopelessly deluded’ about as you wish but they cut both ways. As I say, you go off on your piddly marches and protests.

            The real power operating to bring down Trump is the US mainstream media and its global allies which sees a real threat to its ability to control the narrative that is society’s operating system and that media is the front end of the old order – conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats united for once at the threat to their comfortable command of the system.

            Protests and petitions and all the flummery involved are, I suppose, quite useful to that alliance – after all, in war, you need grunts who are happy to expend their bodies, minds and labour on the hard slog of futilely throwing themselves against the enemy’s guns.

            And the outcome, apart from the fun of political war for career activists … well, the probable restoration of that failed system that got us into the mess in the first place.

            As I say, you go ahead and volunteer for the political Somme and perhaps you can think on the victory parade in Berlin as you go over the top for the generals.

            Meanwhile the rest of us will be plotting the revolution 🙂

          3. John Penney says:

            Gawd love a duck ! Still not able to back up your facile accusation of “polluted waters” eh ? and instead you say :

            “There are lots of analyses of Trump and his appointees on the left if you bother to look for them.”

            I’ve read em, and the closely related Guardianista stuff too. In the main, Prianikoff, with a few honourable exceptions, the liberal Left’s “critique” of Trumpism is just a sad whine of impotent outrage – saturated with identity politics and liberal moralism . And the recent opportunist anti Trump demos organised by the SWP , Stop the War, and Owen Jones, are utterly devoid of class analysis and socialist politics.

            And , you also claim:

            “The same people would demonstrate against austerity in France and blame Hollande’s govt. for the rise of the FN.”

            “Would demonstrate” ? Really ? But these same people simply DIDN’T demonstrate in support of the French working class’s epic moths long battle last year, Prianikoff ! Why was that now ? Have a think – relate the issue to what Tim and I have been saying . Got it now ? No ? Try harder – hint – it’s all about politics which merely reinforces the current ideological status quo – as against that (socialist class analysis) which confronts it.

            You really have to grasp reality, rather than your idealised fantasy version of it .

      2. Karl Stewart says:

        I see Tim, well I agree with probably most of your analysis, but you go a bit too far mate.

        I can’t stand that spoilt brat Jones either – and it’s a constant struggle for me not to knee-jerk to the completely opposite view whenever the self-obsessed little attention seeker spouts off.

        But Trump is worse. A lot worse. And it’s important to remember that.

        Let’s not get into “after Trump, our turn” ultra-nonsense.

        I think I’m closer to Prianikoff here. Yes, we need to oppose the liberals, but that doesn’t mean taking a tolerant attitude towards Trump or overlooking his racism, sexism and xenophobia.

        Having said that, I do agree with you and JohnP that opposing Trump is not the top priority for the UK left at this time, and that building for, for example, the national NHS demonstration on March 4th should be our top priority, along with fighting to construct a socialist Labour Brexit plan.

        Corbyn was absolutely right to impose a three-line whip on Article 50 and he was absolutely right to say after that vote that “The real fight starts now.”

        1. Tim Pendry says:

          Karl – I am not surprised by your reaction. It is the standard reaction on the Left. It is tribal. Any reasoning I offer (see my second longer explanation and contribution on this thread) will be ignored because the tribe had decided. This is no longer reason but emotion.

          Life long involvement on the Left-Labour Right borderlands and three or four generations of socialist activism in the family and there is no way I am going to disrespect the sentimental and emotional aspects of the Left – red flags, waving, songs sung at the barricades as one goes to one’s death, voting for middle class barristers because they press all the right buttons at the selection meeting.

          So I stand back and just let the futility and distraction of certain types of ‘campaigning’ continue. I still believe that sentiment has to be balanced with some hard thought about power, who has it, who manipulates it and who benefits from the raw sentiment of the tribe through their ability to manipulate it.

          As I say in my second thread, it is not that Trump is not a bad thing but that the liberal wing of the system is also a bad thing and, worse, it has failed abysmally in ensuring adequate redistribution, provision of welfare and ensuring peace in the world.

          Simply allowing that system to continue is in itself a crime … but what do I know. I am a minority in a minority so all that can be done is to watch history unfold in a zen state of acceptance 🙂

  3. Karl Stewart says:

    To be fair, Andy does make it clear that it’s wrong to equate Trump and Brexit.

    “…those who equate Trump and Brexit as parallel political phenomena are so wrong…”

    That’s pretty clear isn’t it?

    1. John Penney says:

      I was replying to the more general points made by Tim about the UK liberal Left’s “Trump Panic” , not to the detail of Phil’s article.

      I welcome the statement by Phil that :

      “But for those of us who had not drunk the EU Koolaid, the EU is not itself inherently progressive, and leaving the EU, while this continues to represent a serious challenge in terms of jobs and employment rights, is still a political event susceptible to multiple outcomes.”

      And wonder if this , politically accurate, position on the neoliberal EU has been heavily influenced by the reception/comments Phil has been getting on the doorsteps of Stoke Central from Labour’s overwhelmingly pro Brexit voters ?

      1. Karl Stewart says:

        It’s not Phil it’s Andy Newman, but yes I agree that that sentence is spot on.

  4. John Penney says:

    Oops, it is indeed by Andy, not Phil. I get so used to articles being from Phil that it’s an easy mistake to make . As you say, Andy seems to grasp the reality of the EU.

  5. Chris says:

    I don’t give a shit about Trump. He’s a twat, but he also opposed the PC-Nazis who are our real enemies. To hell with them all.

  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    I generally agree with Tim and John on this, but I would make two points.Firstly, that while Trump;s racism and sexism are of secondary importance they are still important and we should align ourselves strongly with the international opposition to them rather than dismissing it as not our problem.It is, but a liberal response to Trump is not enough. The two are not mutually exclusive.
    Secondly, there is an implicit assumption that this is basically just another right wing politician whose motivations and actions are rational. I cannot necessarily accept this, although it is early days, and I think there is a lot of reason to question Trunp’s rationality,and that of some of the strange and sinister people around him.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      Oh, he is perfectly rational. He just thinks in ways which most of us find difficult to comprehend … having worked in his world (in general terms) in the past, I know that it has its logic – executive action, deal-making, treating lawyers as functionaries, putting emphasis on the survival and growth of the ‘business’ (in this case ‘America’)

      I would dispute the narrative of sexism and racism altogether, not that there is not some racism and sexism implicit in the new right coalition but only that the narrative has been exaggerated for political purposes by ‘right wing’ liberal forces in order to try to position populism as totally other and an absolutely negative or ‘evil’ force.

      It reminds me of the narrative about Huey Long in Sinclair Lewis’ ‘It could not Happen Here’ of 1936. Without going down that rabbit hole here, I suggest you read the account of Huey Long’s actual populist policies in Louisiana in the 1930s in his Wikipedia entry (bearing in mind that Debs’ socialism had been systematically destroyed by Wilsonian ‘progressives’ in 1918-1919) and then read the account of the book in Sinclair Lewis’ entry.

      An alcoholic liberal intellectual attempted and succeeded in destroying the reputation of a populist who represented the working class poor in the absence of socialism and his negative narrative survived and prospered. Long, of course, was assassinated – much as the Kennedys (no Lefties) and MLK (just as he was moving to the Left) were to be assassinated later.

      Now, Trump is no Long. He is still a very reactionary force but I would argue that he is no more nor less a reactionary force than the urban liberal graduate class who are trying to preserve their privileges at the expense of the ‘great unwashed’ about whom they create a narrative of negativity – as ‘deplorables’.

      Furthermore, that narrative is also the developed narrative of the outgoing factions of the Deep State, conservative Republicans, Blumenthal in the New York Review of Books, the DNC and the East Coast MSM (notably the NYT and thE Washington Post) – it is a narrative that is basically one of ‘snobbisme’. This man is not ‘fit’ to rule … to which the liberal left then append simplistic narratives of sexism and racism based on carefully selected ‘facts’ which start to peel away on closer inspection.

      This is not to defend Trump – quite the contrary, he is merely a classic ‘split in the ruling order’ – but only to question why the Left is falling over itself to back the ‘conservative’ forces rather than the ‘radical’ forces in the split, standing back to let them fight to a stand still and move in with a viable alternative when they have ripped each other to shreds.

      Why buttress an aliance from McCain to Soros that has nothing to say to the vast mass of the American working class or to national independence across the world since at the least Trump is not engaging in the same imperialistic impulse of American administrations that has held sway since Truman?

      So, on his sexism, I see evidence that he is a very naughty boy and has not behaved in any way that I would expect anyone in this thread would behave towards women or indeed other men if only out of self respect but the cases of his personal behaviour are presumed to mean a negativity towards women that is simply not evidenced in his policies, in support for him from conservative and working class women or in his circle.

      On the contrary, judged from a historical perspective, he was an early supporter in his own business of transgender ‘toilet rights’ and the full video of his assertion of LGBT rights (which is conveniently ignored) is a staggering counter to the prevailing view, a rather ‘brave’ assertion in the middle of a campaign where received wisdom was that he would have to rely on the Christian Right to get into office.

      No previous Republican candidate ever got close to this. Sex workers too (working girls) seem to be a little happier with him that with the sour moralism of liberal feminism.

      The one major criticism that holds is his position on abortion but even this is not what it seems because it is really a conservative state’s rights argument and an argument about intrusion into the affairs of foreign countries (about use of funds) while there is some merit in the right-wing position that abortion is becoming an appalling choice for young women who are choosing it because of their socio-economic situation and not simply as a matter of ‘freedom’.

      In other words there is a liberal argument over freedom but also a more questioning socialist argument that the right has accidentally or opportunistically picked up on (certainly in France). This is a reasonable ‘single issue’ reason for women to oppose Trump but it is an abortion issue and women’s rihts issues and not a sexism issue and it should be debated on those terms. If you can’t see the difference then you really are trapped in the cultural politics paradigm.

      As for ‘racism’, this comes down in fact to the verbal attacks on Mexicans and Muslims which are eminently dislikable and to the assumed role of white nationalists in the Trump operation. Both are exaggerated.

      Trump appealed to racial resentments, This is unpleasant but the appeal has not resulted in many examples of actual racial policies since the ‘wall’ is actually a policy against illegal movement of persons (and popular with many working class people) and the ‘Muslim ban’, incredibly clumsy, is actually a national security operation against states already classed as problematic by the Obama Administration.

      It is not targeting the very many other Muslim states in the world which are not problematic from that perspective, nor is targeting Muslim-Americans at home. He has been challenged in the courts not on racism grounds but on trying to extend executive powers beyond their remit – which is a fair challenge.

      As for the white nationalists, a relatively tiny group that liberals enjoy ‘bigging up’ in order to frighten the children, the definition gets consistently extended beyond reason to anyone who stands against an intrusive and aggressive cultural political war on white working class people – put up a confederate flag and you arwe a ‘racist’ by definition. In fact, there is no necessary connection except in liberal theory.

      There is no evidence of racism in Bannon’s circle (he is a Judaeo-Christian communitarian with a rather right-wing Catholic universalism which most of us would find objectionable) and the fact hat white nationalists have tried to exploit the rise of Trump is like the loopier trots exploiting the rise of Corbyn in the Labour Party – fuel for conspiracy theory and op eds but little more than that.

      The rhetoric iis unpleasant, just as the past personal behaviour is unpleasant, and both should be called out where they appear but it is a big leap to go from a narrative of ignorant rhetoric and unpleasantness to claims of blanket institutional sexism or racism.

      This is a leap that suggests to me that what we have here is an attempt to grab the narrative for a particularly liberal vision of the situation that leads to the door of the DNC and its backers (against the rising tide of serious socio-economic critiques of the old order coming from the Left) and as points of alliance with the conservative Republicans (McCain or Bush to taste) looking for strategic means of creating Congressional resistance and eventual impeachment in a ‘war of position’.

      Now, don’t get me wrong. Trump is no Huey Long and he is one of the bad guys but the circle around the DNC and Soros are equally the bad guys, Both are two sides of the same coin. Both sets are inveterate liars or tellers of half truths and neither is really going to bring the good society.

      The Left have to decide whether they are liberals or socialists not only in observing the US but in action in the UK and in Europe and stop being mere out-riders to an utterly failed system that Trump has exposed as failed even if his variant cannot succeed in the long term.

      I know this is not a popular view on the Left but it is a reasonable view. The long run strategy for the left has always to be a coalition of socialists and liberals but, at this point in history, the brutal truth is that socialists have degenerated into little more than marginal players in the game.

      The Left must now demand equality with liberals because very many pretty decent working class people have, for very good reason, walked away from urban liberalism and sought support from national populists precisely because the liberals offered them nothing and the socialists were not there to pick up the pieces.

      It is not acceptable that, because they have done so, we connive in the narrative that positions them as racists, xenophobes and ‘deplorables’. They are not. They are rational actors grabbing at straws in an untenable situation created by the usual suspects in London, the universities, the media and the old party apparat.

      From this perspective, running around sucking up to incoherent self-serving narratives about a populism that is actually doing us the service of shaking up a bankrupt system is the worst possible strategy. It taints socialism with the very cultural politics that half the population has rejected and, if the liberals win, the first victim will be socialism as it was in America in 1918.

      1. prianikoff says:

        “Why buttress an alliance from McCain to Soros that has nothing to say to the vast mass of the American working class or to national independence across the world since at the least Trump is not engaging in the same imperialistic impulse of American administrations that has held sway since Truman?”

        This is just the most ludicrous of your claims.

        Only someone who is basing their analysis on the national interests of Russia could possibly see the resistance to Trump as part of an “alliance from McCain to Soros”
        It’s based on an insidious historical revisionism, which redefines the terms “working class” to mean “white working class” and national independence to mean the national independence of states which have already achieved self-determination.
        This methodology leads straight to reaction.

        For instance your picture of how socialism was side-tracked by liberalism in the US after 1918 completely fails to mention the Red Scare and the Palmer raids, which disproportionately targeted immigrant workers and “hyphenated-Americans”
        This methodology leads straight to reaction.

        On Iran, China and Mexico he’s been far more aggressive than the Obama administration.
        As the Flynn resignation shows, short of a major purge of the CIA and military, he won’t be able to defuse the tensions with Russia.

        What you fail to understand is that the mass of people who have been demonstrating against Trump are not doing so at the behest of the “liberals”.
        It’s the liberals who are trying to jump onto the bandwagon to gain control of the steering wheel.
        The socialist left can and must stop them.

        1. Tim Pendry says:

          Ah, a Russophobe … the new neurosis of the liberal Left. Or as I prefer to think of it – clutching at straws. Or is it foreign policy as dictated by Femen?

          When your only real hope of destroying Trump is a malign alliance with the mandarins of the State Department and the CIA, then you really have lost the plot. I don’t often agree with the Fourth International lot but they have got it pretty right in their last posting on Operation Valkyrie against an elected President.

          “The campaign against Trump is no less reactionary and militaristic than the new administration itself. It has a definite logic, leading to an escalation of the political and military confrontation with Russia, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the entire world.”

          Er, yes … listen and learn ‘useful idiots’! The only guarantee of future left-wing governments is the preservation of some degree of respect for constitutional forms and good order – the idiotic alliance of bureaucrats seeking to retain their jobs, a vicious mainstream media that has been caught telling porky pies themselves and highly hysterical liberals can only lead to the worst of all outcomes, an asymmetrical cultural civil war with a violent denouement.

          Get a grip!

          The source ofthe quotation is https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/02/15/pers-f15.html

  7. Peter Rowlands says:

    Your arguments are strong. On Trump’s rationality, we shall see. In terms of the liberal/socialist coalition you are right that the latter must assert itself if Trump and UKIP here are to be properly challenged.

  8. Karl Stewart says:

    Tim Pendry:

    “…put up a confederate flag and you are a ‘racist’ by definition. In fact, there is no necessary connection except in liberal theory.”

    Of course a confederate flag is racist. It’s the flag of slavery and the Ku Klux Klan. The confederacy came into being solely to defend the institution of slavery. That’s not ‘liberal theory’ that’s actual historical fact.

    Yes oppose the liberals politically, but no don’t excuse white supremacism.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      Category error driven by ideology. The American Civil War had two aspects – one was a defence of slavery (which we all abhor) and one was a defence of national self-determination (on which opinions clearly differ).

      The original impetus for the assault on the Confederacy was not to liberate the slaves – that came further down the line – but to hold together a profitable empire. The struggle was really about an advanced industrial civilisation toppling an agrarian, one which was doomed by history in any case.

      Now that was ‘progressive’ (on the surface) but it was undertaken in an exceptionally brutal manner with atrocities and concentration camps, followed by corrupt carpet-bagging, creating generations of resentment that emerged in the Jim Crow laws and possibly held back an organic end to slavery because white identity became associated with resentment.

      For someone who lives in the South, an attachment to the flag could be a white supremacist statement (this is true) or it could, over a hundred and fifty years later, be a sentimental attachment to a broader cultural identity and history that was crushed in the first of a series of American strategies of liberation by force, extending across the frontier to the Philippines and encompassing good and evil – the Normandy landings but also Vietnam and Iraq.

      My point is not that I would fly the flag but that I would respect the right of a working class Southern American to do so lightly for sentimental reasons without automatically assuming that he is a racist. He is not automatically a deplorable except to a cultural warrior determined to destroy the culture of his or her opponents.

      During the recent controversy (which I suspect had its effect on Southern views of the malice behind the liberal wing of the Democrats and so helped put Trump into power), instead of quietly letting a sentimental habit die with the generations, a series of radical activists decided to make an issue of it. They treated those who were not racist but sentimental as automatically racist and mere ‘deplorables’ who had to fit in with the prevailing culture.

      There is a world of difference between declining to accede to Southern sentimentalism and declaring war on it for partisan advantage in an act of intolerance equal to the intolerance of the KKK towards (say) black culture. Trump, in many ways, may be blow back from a concentration on identity politics and culture wars and I really can’t see any point in pressing the aggression further if it has effects the opposite to those intended.

      The problem for activists is that they are dealing with really existing people who push back against cultural bullying. They are not dealing with inert matter just waiting to be formed by these little sub-Gramscians … and it is often cultural bullying from a position of totally self-righteous narcissism.

  9. Karl Stewart says:

    “The American Civil War had two aspects – one was a defence of slavery (which we all abhor) and one was a defence of national self-determination (on which opinions clearly differ).”

    No.

    The US civil war was entirely about the future of the institution of slavery. Entirely.

    Don’t be conned by civil war historical revisionists who talk of ‘self-determination’, the ‘states rights’ aspect of the conflict was about the right of states to permit slavery.

    Initially, all the north wanted was to prevent further expansion of slavery into the areas newly stolen from the native people.

    But as the war went on, it became politically and diplomatically helpful to the north to ban it altogether. (As well as a means to boost military manpower).

    A confederate flag is a flag for slavery and for white supremacy. That’s why black people protest against its public display.

    1. Tim Pendry says:

      We should agree to disagree but ‘entirely’ is just idiotic. Reality is not to be constructed by what we wish to be the case but only by what is the case.

      Few wars are about single causes and much of the driver for the North certainly lay in different interpretations of the right of extension of slavery into the new states being carved out to the West (noticeably with complete disregard by both sides for the rights of indigenous peoples) because of democratic pressure in the North.

      But it would be naive to believe that the story was really one of a fit of idealism unless you are so naive as to believe that the Iraq war was about liberating the Iraqi people from a dictator.

      The trigger for the war was the attempt by the South to oust a federal force from a flashpoint on southern territory and the Northern Congress went to war on nationalist insistence that the United States was (in effect) one nation under God, a separate debate that was central to the struggles against the British only two or three generations before.

      It is not accidental that the South felt that it might get British assistance (and ironically would have had to change its policy on slavery) for geo-strategic reasons and because of the cotton trade (remember that mill workers were pro-Confederate seeing the struggle also as one of self determination but actually following their self interest as cotton supplies failed to reach the mills and caused serious unemployment).

      The North would have found itself geo-strategically contained very quickly if a strong south had survived – the British did not play ball with the South but the North was not to know that and the diplomacy of the day is worth looking at.

      Even the South gave self determination priority to slaveholding at every stage, finally making its own adjustments to slavery to deal with its existential manpower problems. It was not a nice regime, it was guilty of a fundamental crime against humanity but, as I say, anyone who knows the history would be naive to belief that Northern ‘idealism’ was not complex in motivation, that the North behaved unconscionably as invader and occupying power, that the former slave population saw very little benefit from the war other than becoming a lumpenproletariat of indebted sharecroppers and low wage workers treated like dirt even by white trades unionist for a century and that the primary beneficiaries of the war were the robber barons who emerged in the corruption of the Gilded Age.

      History is complex (as we see in the Russian Revolution thread) and simplified versions of it help no one. Tub-thumping a narrative from the roof tops does not change reality, it only invents a version of reality. It is the narrative we want to believe – I call it Fox Mulderism – but it is only a story.

      Jump to today and ask yourself what is actually going on with the confederate flag and the answer is that it is a liberal culture war and little else. The Deep South is no longer predominantly racist or at least no more than England (where mythic urban narratives portray all rural areas as filled with lumpen troglodytes and folk horror). Racial conflict is predominantly urban and based on class differences.

      Black identity is lauded but white identity disrespected. Personally, I loathe all identity politics but once you let the genie out of the bottle, then all identities have to be respected or none.

      When someone black asserts their identity as descendant of slaves, founder of jazz and the great American song book and follower of Martin Luther King, they can do it today without necessarily in any way blaming of disrespecting their white colleagues and white people certainly embrace the history and the culture. At the moneyed level, prejudice is virtually existent and that tells you something – the fundaments of all this are economic.

      Liberalism has become the ideology of the comfortable, picking and choosing which identities to prefer to build a coalition that will avoid having to undertake any fair redistribution of resources.

      MLK got this but was shot (coincidentally?) very soon after his last major speech which asked all the right questions about whether the problem was just black civil rights or whether it was a question of socio-economic rights for all. The alternative was to drive indentity politics in the direction of Malcolm X with whom I have much sympathy given the conditions of the time – another corpse made for his threat.

      But when someone white does the same as the black – the settler experience, their contribution to the founding of ther nation and so forth – then it is immediately cast in racist terms by liberal activists of all races. And yet he is only doing what the other is doing.

      In fact, most people just get along. Some are racists (including, in effect, black racists) because they have authoritarian identity-led personalities but the assault on the Confederate Flag, an irritant to blacks, may have been partly an assault on racists but it was also an assault on that other aspect of the case – personal identity and difference beyond racial politics. It was deliberate and calculated, part of a power struggle to ensure liberal hegemony over conservatives in a very obvious way in conservative territories. It was not an act against racism. It was an act for hegemony.

      1. Tim Pendry says:

        “virtually non-existent” of course

  10. Rob Green says:

    Stop Trump! Absolutely. But this needs to be a United Front against fascism or proto fascism not some (un)popular front consisting of Tory `wets’, Lib Dems, Greens and other corporate capitalist shills that can magically morph into some Soft Brexit alliance to shaft the working class and effectively end the Labour Party. The hard-won liberal social reforms of the past period often only conceded to make reactionary neo-liberal economics now collapsed appear progressive can only be defended on the back of a socialist economic policy. A liberal/socialist alliance that endangered the putting of such a programme at the very top of the agenda will be the shortest route to fascist victory. Capitalism must be defeated.

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