(Biannual - February 2017)
US Elections: a Surprise, Yes, But Not Completely Unexpected (ICT)
The arrogant Trump beat the repellent Clinton. The populist of the far-right beat the right-wing technocrat disguised as a progressive leftist. Speaking to the belly and the fear of the American electorate got the better of a cultured representative of the establishment. Populism has triumphed in the stronghold of world capitalism even bettering the other successes of the far right; as in Western Europe (in France, Scandinavia, Austria and, in part, in Germany), in Eastern Europe, such as Hungary and Poland, not to speak of Putin’s Russia, Turkey’s Erdogan and Duterte in the Philippines. We should also mention the Northern League in Italy and Brexit in the UK.
Is everything normal then? Yes, but only partially, if you don’t take into account some specific aspects of the American electoral experience. The first of which is the economic crisis. Just as they were wrong about polls which gave Clinton a comfortable victory, the analysts fraudulently lied about the alleged US recovery. Despite trillions of dollars spent by the State in favour of the banks and the less-trumpeted support for the pillars of industry, the US economy has remained below par. Production in heavy industry, including steel, is still stagnant. For decades foreign trade has been a black hole that draws in foreign, especially Chinese, goods. Manufacturing industry is in no better shape. The oil fracking boom has been deflated, after dragging in huge investments and penalising at birth the usual speculation, like a vulture thrown a supposedly tasty sweet only to find it was poisoned.
The increase in GDP has been mainly down to the supremacy of the dollar, financial manoeuvres and government accounting. There has been an increase in employment but it is minimal, and if you look at how the numbers are compiled you see the usual ’fake’ statistics, where people who work one week in any quarter appear as employed. Rather than an increase in employment, they should talk of rising underemployment; as they do in the rest of the world. The reality is that US unemployment is at least twice the stated amount. Wages are at historic lows and the speed of production, like the working day, has increased in intensity and duration. Wealth distribution has reached greater depths of inequality than ever before. Out of a population of 320 million inhabitants almost 50 million live below the poverty line. Infant mortality has increased and access to much-publicised health for all has remained a mirage.
In recent years significant segments of the middle class and petty bourgeoisie found themselves in a poverty equal to the proletarian army that do not have jobs anymore, or if they are in employment, it is precarious with derisory wages. When Trump took on the issue, he blamed the previous administration’s inconsistency making the Democratic Party responsible for what happened to workers in heavy industry. This allowed him to grab the votes of many of the workers in the Midwest.
In addition to the white working class jobs crisis the once stellar profits of manufacturing companies in Virginia, North Carolina, in the ’rust belt’ of the Mid West, was an easy target for Trump, as the mortified miners, or rather ex-miners of West Virginia, remained without work due to the ’green’ policy of another Clinton, the former president, who opted for the elimination of certain fossil fuels (coal) in favour of the oil lobby. This allowed Trump to attract a significant section of the world of work, constituted by the petty bourgeoisie in the process of proletarianisation, as much of the white working class, dissatisfied with the previous Democratic administration – as well as the old political system in general – without alternatives and without an anti-capitalist class perspective, it has fallen into the net of Trumpian populism. This network also dragged in many young people, short on hope and ’rich’ in unfulfilled expectations.
Next, of course, come the traditional right linked to racism (it seems that in North Carolina the Ku Klux Klan prevented many blacks from voting), the right to bear arms, to ’do it yourself’ justice and against immigration which would contaminate the white race ’endangering’ and ’stealing’ their already scarce jobs. In conclusion, Trump portrays himself as a champion of the ’old American spirit,’ the man from heaven (not of millions of stars, but of millions of dollars) who will remake America, bigger and more powerful than before. He will give work to everyone, will have a policy for the poor, will preserve the identity of white Americans and put up a barrier to immigration and then, there will be more guns for everyone. So much for domestic policy. For foreign policy the slogans are isolationism, protectionism and ’we’ll do our own thing.’ The third slogan, of course, is the cornerstone and includes and supports the first two.
While in living rooms all over the world they are weeping for poor Hillary’s shipwreck, the crisis continues to disrupt the old political order (see Brexit), producing an increasingly unstable ’political government of the world’, because it is based on an economic structure that is continuously faltering. It is not difficult to predict that social tensions will continue to rise along with poverty and social inequality.
The American elections show once more that the choice of ’Socialism or barbarism’ is more current than ever, although it is the second alternative, which for now, that is advancing.
The tragedy of our time is the decline of the proletariat, intoxicated by the poisonous fumes of the most aggressive forms of bourgeois and reactionary ideology. It is the almost inert victim of the economic and social attacks that the bourgeoisie has been unleashing for decades against us. Equally tragic is the absence of communist nuclei that can pull the strong discontent within the class together, but we would be fools if we stopped working to create them.