Trump presidency: how far will the darkness spread?
Mohammad Reza Shalguni
Trump’s election to the presidency last November was not a normal event and in all likelihood will be remembered as a watershed moment in history. The victory of Trump was more than the victory of one of the sections of the ruling class in America. It was the signal of the deepening of general crisis that is taking our world towards barbarism. Below I will attempt to explain the reasoning behind this conclusion.
The November 8 election was not merely the victory of Trump in gaining the White House, but the total victory of the most right wing sectors of the American ruling class. The Republicans were not only able to attain the presidency but a majority of seats in both legislative houses – something rarely seen in the last century. This will make it easier to change the makeup of the Supreme Court in their favour, since two or three vacancies will appear during Trump’s presidency allowing a Republican domination for probably a number of decades in this very powerful organ. And finally it is worth pointing out that the vast majority of the states are also under Republican control. Thus the falling of all the key institutions of power into the hands of the most dangerous section of the ruling class in the most powerful nation on earth will prove be extremely costly for our world.
To predict Trump’s actions is hard. He is a demagogue who has no intention of carrying out all of what he promised during his election campaign. Moreover, many of his promises were openly contradictory and totally impractical. But his trajectory is clear enough to predict its catastrophic outcome. Let us concentrate on what is visible, tangible or at least likely. These are perfectly adequate to foresee the destructive potential of his policies. Trump may not want or be able to fulfill all his promises but even partial steps towards some of the more dangerous suggestions will have devastating consequences.
Just focusing on his climate change denial, and his oft repeated promise to reject the COP 21 Paris Climate Change Conference (2015) agreements: to reject, or even dilute, the agreed targets by the worlds top climate polluter (alongside China) will have dire global consequences. It was this that Chomsky referred to when he said that November 8 may be the most dangerous date in humankind’s history and that it “is a threat to the human species”. Or James Hansen, a leading scientist on climate change questions if we “will miss our last chance to save the world from climate change” and continues “we have not yet hit the disastrous level, but we are close.” Significantly, Scott Pruitt, one of the biggest enemies of the climate movement, has been appointed as head of the Environment Protection Agency (EPN). It is no surprise, therefore, that upon the victory of Trump the the world’s largest coal firm, Peabody Energy, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, saw its shares leap up on the following days.
One of the most prominent characteristics of the campaign for both candidates, noted also by most commentators, was the focus on the personal weakness of the opponent rather than their proposed policies. Some have ascribed this to the unconventional and aggressive character of Trump. The issue is that this phenomenon, particularly in a well-established liberal democracy, is a sign of deep crisis in which the victory of Trump is one of its results.
The point is that the USA faces a crisis of multiple dimensions. We need only look at three aspects: an economic crisis; a crisis of global hegemony; and deepening of cultural contradictions in America.
Economic crisis: The crisis in the economy of the USA is not limited to America. Indeed, the country can better deal with it than others through important levers at its possession that can allow it to part-offload the crisis to others. But critically the current crisis is not a normal or cyclical one – it is a structural crisis of global capitalism whose architect and hegemonic power is the US. Following the large recession of 2008, one of four great crisis of the history of capitalism, many (even neo-liberal) economist admit that capitalism faces a “permanent recession”.
Class inequality is deepening in virtually every capitalist country. Effective demand and purchasing power of the vast majority of people is weak and further weakening. Neo-liberal tax policies no longer work, but they deepen the crisis making it more chronic. Monetary policies, (nowadays the only lever of economic manipulation in practice) are reaching a dead end, and are making the widening gulf between financial transaction and investment in the real economy unbridgeable. All these leave no doubt that global capitalism has reached a neo-liberal, financial and globalisation dead end.
Crisis of global hegemony: Although the US remains the most powerful country in the world, there is no doubt that its hegemony is rapidly on the decline. For over a century (since 1913) the US has been the world’s largest economy. At the end of the second world war, the beginning of its global hegemony, it contributed to half the world’s industrial production. Today its gross domestic product (calculated as a purchasing power parity, PPP) is now third after China and the European Union.
The dollar continues to dominate the world’s currencies and it retains its control of the world’s financial and economic institutions. But all evidence points to the fragility of this dominance, just as the fragility of the global position of America in politics. For example the consequences of the US defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan have been more widespread than say the defeat in Vietnam. According to the Italian Marxist Giovanni Arrighi (1937-2009), neither was Iraq like Vietnam nor 2003 like 1968.
In East Asia the US faces challenges. Most analysts consider US control over the pacific (in addition to the Atlantic) as critical for the maintenance of US global hegemony. US military power is unrivalled and way superior to any other great power. But the US can no longer rely on it to force its enemies, or even its allies, to comply with its demands. Just as the disastrous crisis in the Middle East shows, after the strategic defeat in Iraq, the US can no longer single headedly plunge into another military adventure, and has been forced to rely only on its airpower in its military interventions.
Cultural contradictions: America is normally known as “the country of immigrants” because a large section of its people, for various reasons, keep their links with their mother country, or continue to be sensitive to their national, ethnic and cultural identity, or religious beliefs. Here identity politics has always played an important role and has become more active in the last three to four decades alongside globalisation and the dominance of neo-liberal policies.
Note that identity politics becomes important among those whose identity is under threat. Hundred and fifty years after the end of the civil war the US has not been able to overcome its racial prejudice against the blacks, mostly descendents of the former slaves. One in three black men in America have spent time in prison. Black men obtained the right to vote in 1880, 40 years after white men, and even then on paper only. It was not until late 1960s when black men and women obtained the vote everywhere – 120 years after white men!
This racism that the Swedish economist and social scientist Gunnar Myrdal called the American crossroad, while in open conflict with the so-called American creed, has such a deep and lasting roots in mass psyche and popular culture that it is not easily discarded. In the last decades these racial prejudices have extended from blacks to Latinos and Muslims.
Moreover the deep penetration of religion into American society has fanned huge contradictions in American culture. The US Constitution (First Amendment) clearly talks of the freedom of belief and hence the separation of religion and state. Yet the influence of religion in politics is greater and more pronounced here than in any advanced capitalist country. A gallop poll in 2014 found that between 40 to 44% of Americans still believe in the myth of creation – unchanged over the last three decades. These have an even greater influence in the southern states and there remains a stubborn resistance in incorporating the theory of evolution into the curriculum. Opposition to abortion too exceeds most countries of western Europe, and a similar high percentage oppose it, even resorting to bombing abortion clinics.
Even though the Trump phenomenon is a result of the crisis but it would be a mistake to see his victory and that of the most right-wing section of the ruling class as an inevitable product of the crisis. No crisis, no matter how deep, will automatically result in the victory of left or right. The large depression of 1930s gave rise to Hitler in Germany and the New Deal in America. Long before any European country, Roosevelt tackled increasing inequality with a courageously steep exponential income tax. As Thomas Piketty wrote in Le Monde: “between 1930 and 1980, for half a century, the rate of taxation applicable to the highest American incomes (over one million dollars a year) was on average 82%, with peaks at 91% from the 1940s to the 1960s, from Roosevelt to Kennedy, and it was still 70% when Reagan was elected in 1980.” It was only cut to 28% in 1985 by the Reagan ‘reforms’. So why did the current crisis lead to the victory of a quasi-fascist current?
We can divide the reason for Trump’s victory and that of the Republicans into a few categories
First, disenchantment: Indirect causes some of which may have even been coincidental. There is no doubt that the intervention of FBI director James Comey in the final days of the campaign by suddenly reigniting the issue of Hilary Clinton’s email was a blow on her credibility – an act that some observers have compared to electoral fraud.
After Trump’s unexpected victory, some analysts in the main press have insisted that Bernie Sanders would also have suffered the same fate. Whatever our view on this point we cannot ignore the fact that one of the direct causes of Trump’s victory was that he faced Hilary Clinton. Despite the fact that Clinton did poll more votes than Trump, there is no doubt that she was seen as a defender of the status quo while Trump presented himself as an anti-establishment candidate. This may have been enough to sway voters in critical swing states. Moreover while Trump was able to impose himself on the Republican Party, the Democrats through a series of plot and deceptions (some of which have come to light) blocked Sander’s path to the candidacy.
Thus in a era of crisis with a significant section of the population disillusioned by the status quo, one party puts forward a candidate that professes to oppose that, while the party that represents the left faction of the ruling class fields a candidate that epitomises the status quo. It is not surprising that a significant section of those who leant to the left and were unhappy with the establishment took a passive stance towards the elections.
While Clinton was able to have a clear majority in votes cast by women, the young, blacks and Latinos and those in the lowest 10% of earnings, she was unable to do as well as Obama in any of those categories. In terms of absolute numbers, the number taking part in the elections (relative to those eligible to vote) was lower last year than 2008 and 2012. The absolute number of women (including Latino women) who voted for the first female candidate was less than that cast for Obama. A similar drop in votes compared to Obama can be seen in the black vote (88% for Clinton versus 93% for Obama).
A further unmediated cause for the victory of the right was the partial depopulation of inner agricultural states of America to the cities of the coast. This population movement has been accelerated through the latest big economic crisis. As the Marxist thinker Daniel Lazar says about the US constitution “In the founders’ day, the ratio between the most and least populous state was twelve to one. Today it’s sixty-seven to one; by 2030, it’s expected to reach eighty-nine to one. As that gap widens, political equality will continue to wither. Because the Electoral College gives states an extra vote for each senator they send to Washington, a state like Wyoming enjoys triple the clout in presidential elections today and, according to census projections, will enjoy quadruple by 2030.” This totally disrupts the balance between the share of different states in the two legislative houses.
Based on this unbalanced population ratios some key states, especially the sates surrounding the lakes (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin) which in the past had been main centres of manufacturing and were now on the decline and nicknames the “rust belt” there was a big turn to the right and an important cause of Clinton’s defeat. These states had voted for Obama hoping for improvement in their condition and again in 2012 even though not much had changed. In 2016 they had lost all hope and turned to Trump.
Second, the US constitution: There are other causes emanating from America’s political and economic structure with effects extending beyond the recent elections. The most important, without doubt, is the Constitution itself.
In the current political system of the USA people are denied a direct vote in electing representatives in the key elected institutions of the country – Presidency, Senate, Congress, Supreme Court. This creates contradictions examples of which we saw last November. In November Hilary Clinton’s nearly 3 million more votes translated into a Donald Trump clear majority of 306 votes versus her 232 in the Electoral College. Even though Trump’s shortfall of votes was unusually large, before him four other presidents (including Bush Jr) ascended to the White House without a majority.
This paradox is even more pronounced in the more powerful Senate since each state sends elects two delegates regardless of population. Thus California with a population of 39.1 million has parity with Wyoming with only 586,107 inhabitants giving the latter a 66 fold advantage per voter. Indeed, according to Daniel Lazar, in 1810 a majority could be achieved in the Senate with 33% of the population of America. Today this has shrunk to 17.6% and by 2030 will shrink further to 16.7%.
The input of the people on the all-powerful Supreme Court is even less. The nine judges, all lifetime appointees, are proposed by the president and approved by the Senate. Since they are the final arbitrators of the interpretation of the Constitution a majority view there can freeze such interpretation even for several decades. The Constitution was the product of the war of independence and the decisions of the leaders 13 original states (most of them slave owners or merchants). It is effectively inflexible since a two third majority of both houses is needed for even the smallest change, which then needs to pass three quarters of the state legislatures. To see the difficulty you need go no further than look at the 27th amendment (deciding the conditions for a pay rise of Congress delegates) which took over 200 years to get through the hurdles – from 1789 to 1992! It got stuck at the state legislature stage. Mississippi did not ratify the 13th amendment that abolished slavery until 2013.
Moreover the first past the post election system effectively disenfranchises left and progressive parties. Thus the mean percentage of votes acquired by a delegate to the Congress is 31% of the votes cast in their constituency. Trump became president with votes of only 27% of the eligible voters and less than 50% of the actual ballots cast. As Maurice Duverger the French sociologist points out, the first-past-the-post system only strengthens the two party system by marginalising smaller parties. For example in the May 1915 parliamentary elections in the UK, the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) with 3.9 million votes obtained one parliamentary seat while the Conservatives with 34,222 votes per seat (37% of the votes cast) obtained a 51% majority in parliament – a 113 to one ratio of the value of conservative votes compared to UKIP.
Moreover the peculiarities of the two party system in America, one of oldest in the world, has had a major role in weakening democracy in this country. Indeed, the two main parties in America cannot be considered real political parties. In neither do we have registered members, membership cards, a program or any written party policy. The function of the party appears to be to support the election to office of this or that politician, who by formulating a policy or other about some current issue get themselves elected. In sum the party elite are all and the members, or more correctly supporters, nothing.
To this we must add the role of money and corruption money brings to the American electoral system. In this system every politician is an independent merchant and employer whose success is proportional to their skill in attracting donations. Not surprisingly most politicians are transformed into brokers and functionaries under the tutelage of the richest and most powerful. So far all attempts to confront this have failed. For example in 1974 the Congress had an amendment on the law the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, trying to limit the financial contribution towards political campaigns. It was put into effect after President Ford’s signature, but was abandoned a year later when the Supreme Court considered it contravened the First Amendment of freedom of speech. As Seth Ackerman (one of the editors of the journal Jacobin) comments: US elections have few rivals among rich nations, with the lowest number of participants, the least turnover among Congress delegates, where two established parties for one and a half centuries have in turn, with the help of courts, manipulated regulations to exclude rivals. This is something that if it happened in, say, Kazakhstan would in all likelihood be followed by official boycott of EU election observers.
Third, Obama’s economic legacy: These are causes that relate directly to the fundamental crisis (some of which has already been alluded to). These are elements that create the background to the current disquiet and turmoil that, while some of its features are prominent in the US, are nevertheless more general and are neither confined to the November elections or even to US policies alone.
a. The economy. The most important reason behind the victory of Trump was undoubtedly the worsening of the economy for the majority. Obama had often boasted that his greatest legacy was to prevent the crisis of 2008 converting to a big depression such as in 1930. He has often boasted (such as the interview with ARD television or Der Spiegel in Germany) that “It’s the longest period of job growth in the United States in our history.” If this is the case, why did Americans vote for someone like Trump? One cannot put the blame entirely on racism of the Trump voters. As I pointed out earlier, the states that ensured Trump’s victory has previously voted for Obama, the first US black president.
According to polls on the eve of elections the most important issue for voters was the economy (52%) while terrorism scored 18% and immigration even less. In short, class was beyond any doubt the defining issue of the November elections.
We should look for the real concerns of the electors in very way that Obama dealt with the 2008 crisis. Let us recall that 97% of the increase in the national income since 2010 went to the richest 1% of the population. Profits in the large US corporations doubled since 2009 and the value of shares in the Dow Jones Index trebled. Since 2010 over $5 trillion were distributed among the richest as rising shares and bonds. In order to help them keep these gains Obama extended George Bush’s tax cuts for companies and large investors to the tune of $6 trillion since 2009.
In addition to these unusual profits, the US Federal Reserve through issuing bonds and the policy of quantitative easing injected $3 trillion with an interest rate of near zero (i.e. free money) into banks and corporations. And of course they swallowed it all without investing them in manufacturing. The most immediate effect of injecting free money into the richest sectors was to increase the value of real estate, whose profits went into the pockets of the rich and its loss to working population. So what did those who had nothing get?
Jobs created in the Obama period were mostly part-time, temporary, contract, and casual. Most regular well-paid jobs have disappeared. Wages of those remaining have effectively stagnated and tens of millions of “millennials” can see no hope in the future. Almost 50 million pensioners (i.e. the grandparents) not only saw absolutely no benefit from the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, but saw a reduction in pensions while costs of health care rose.
Approximately 143 million houses were repossessed due to delay in mortgage repayments and those still able to pay have lost hugely in falling prices and face problems of repayment. The Obama administration up until 2010 saved the mortgage companies from bankruptcy but small home owners were left to grapple with their debt.
Student loans now exceeds one trillion dollars. Even the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) rather than being an health insurance turned out in practice to be a way of subsidising health insurance companies. With an annual cost of nearly a trillion dollars it covered only 15 of the 50 million without health cover (see left wing US economist Jack Rasmus’ Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few, 2012, Palgrave and Pluto Press))
Another aspect of the economic crisis that was important in Clinton’s defeat was the de-industrialisation that occurred consequent to the globalisation of the capitalist economy. Many of the manufacturing branches in the US were either wiped out or weakened. In those states with the greatest industrial concentration significant parts of the state’s population have been relegated to the forgotten of history. While Clinton barely dealt with this problem, Trump made defence of US manufacturing central to his platform, and thus gained ascendancy over Clinton in these states. In contrast to the view of the dominant media, it was not racist remarks, but these supportive policy suggestions that attracted a large section of the voters in these states.
There is no doubt that racism had a large part to play in the Trump propaganda machine and this would be attractive to some white voters. But it is difficult to ignore Clinton’s inattention to de-industrialisation. It was for the same reason that she lost to Bernie Sanders in the same states earlier. When it came to de-industrialisation Trump and Sanders had quite similar slogans. Sanders too had harked on the destructive effects of globalisation on manufacturing jobs in the US. As many analysts on the left have pointed out, it was not Trump who defeated Clinton but Obama’s policies in deepening globalisation.
b. Absence of an alternative left: Weakness, or more accurately, absence of a left alternative also played an important part in Trump’s victory. Interestingly, the majority of those who voted for Clinton were low earners (below $50,000 annual income) desiring change, like the majority of the American people. Both parties faced rebellion among their supporters, but only one set of rebels won. The Democrats were able to rein in their rebels. Yet Clinton was more a defender of the status quo than a challenger. The weakness of the left alternative has far deeper roots than a simple description of what happened to it at the hands of the Democratic Party.
In the first instance, the weakness as its roots in the confusion and dispersion of its social and popular base. An organised workforce, that is the backbone of the left, has been weakening since the beginning of the 80s, and more so since the 2008 crisis. For example, in 1983 20% of the US workforce was unionised. This was halved in 2013, with only 7% in the private sector. In recent years pressure on public sector unions, such as the union of teachers and municipal workers etc, has been unprecedented. With the upward surge in part-time, temporary and casual labour and with social security becoming effectively meaningless, the ability to unionise is now severely limited.
The percentage of unionised workers in the US has always been lower than most central capitalist countries. In Germany the figures are 18%, Canada 27% and Sweden and Finland over 70% with a European average of 23%. Undoubtedly enmity with unionised labour has always been much stronger in American capitalism in comparison with Europe. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, known as the “the slave-labour bill” passed by a two thirds vote despite President Truman’s veto (he called it a “dangerous intrusion on free speech”), and still in force, severely curtails workers’ ability to organise.
Moreover the position taken by the labour leadership has usually been conservative and conciliatory. This was particularly true in the Cold War period when membership of non-white and poor workers was particularly low. A large section of what should in reality be the social base of the left, victims of racial, gender and faith discrimination, became suspicious of most trade unions. And not without cause.
In the past the leadership of many important trade unions took an openly racist position. For example Samuel Gompers, founder of the largest labour federation, The American Federation of Labour (AFL), and perhaps the most important leader of the trade union movement of that country called blacks a “convenient whip placed in the hands of the employers to cow the white man”. The celebrated fighter and historian of the black movement, William E B Du Bois, wrote that in 1902 43 US unions had no black member and another 27 actively opposed any black membership. Du Bois constantly warned both unaware black and racist white workers of this racist trap set for them by capitalists.
After the second world war this racism continued in a different guise. The largest federation of US workers (AFL-CIO) agreed to stop black recruitment in the southern states under the reactionary pressure of McCarthyism. Even now some unions avoid expressing support for progressive movements – the reluctance of some of the most prominent to attend the Black Lives Matter movement is a case in point. Carl Finamore, a leftwing labour activists complains that American national unions have the most resources, the biggest staff and the largest bank accounts, than any other trade union in the world. Yet American labour is politically the weakest among the large economies.
In addition to the division in its popular base, the weakness of the left in America has another dimension: the absence throughout its history of a powerful socialist political party. Various currents have tried to address this issue since the end of the 19th century. Some – like Werner Sombart, who wrote a book in 1906 “Why is there no Socialism in the United States?” – believed it was due to the exceptionalism of US society, which is clearly incorrect.
The more important question, one that particularly surfaces in the critical conditions pertaining today is: can one have a left alternative without an independent mass left party, one based on a class conflict and the clear class platform? To understand the question more clearly, one must note that, as the recent election made clear, the left alternative not only has to face up to the existing situation, but increasingly the rising power of the alternative quasi-fascist right.
In American society there is no longer any class fluidity (which in the past was considered its special characteristic). The rich get richer and an increasing section of society poorer by the day. More than any advanced capitalist country the US epitomises the “one percent and 99 percent” society, with class inequality greater than all the major capitalist states. The Gini Coefficient, which measures social inequality, is 45 in the US (the higher the number the most unequal) and 31 in the EU (Spain 36, UK over 32, Italy under 32, France 30, Germany 28, Norway under 27, and Sweden under 25) and 36 in Japan. In other words the US may be exceptional, but its exceptionalism is the inverse of what Alexis de Tocqueville had in mind. Americans no longer are “born free”, and the younger generation can no longer be put to bed with the lullaby of the American Dream. Today the absence of an independent mass left movement is felt more than ever in American politics.
Predictions: The Trump presidency is the beginning of a period of turmoil, both domestically and at the international level, making predictions particularly difficult. Therefore, instead of guesswork as to what Trump “might do” let us concentrate on what “he can do”. As I said in part 2, the direction Trump will move is fairly clear and calamitous. Some console themselves that the post of presidency itself will force Trump to modify many of his policies.
Undoubtedly no politician, especially in liberal democracies, can impose all their plans on the system. The key question, therefore, is to what extent achieving, wholly or partially, his promises can be catastrophic? As many progressive analysts have pointed out, the overall trajectory of Trump’s plans are so dangerous that even if he succeeds to seriously progress on a just few points, it will be disastrous. Putting aside the potentially calamitous environmental crisis let us look at some of the issues:
Wars: Trump’s plans, no matter how limited, will inevitably provoke an international backlash and will probably result in widespread changes in the global order. The US is no ordinary government, but the hegemonic power and architect of the existing global order. Any important change in US global strategy can provoke huge storms in one corner or another. The sweeping crisis engulfing the Middle East in fire and blood are to a large extent the result of the younger Bush’s actions in the aftermath of 9/11 to change the “geography of the larger Middle East”. Patrick Cockburn [ix] was right in pointing out that the rise of Donald Trump and Isis are not unconnected. Moreover Trump’s nationalism will provoke varicoloured nationalisms across the world and may provoke local or proxy wars. Neither should we doubt that the policy of economic protectionalism will provoke counter-responses and may lead to destructive trade wars.
Spreading racism: Trump and his team are provoking a war against Muslims in the name of confronting terror. Statements and views by Michael Flynn (who recently resigned), KT McFarland, Michael Pompeo, Steve Bannon , and Jeff Sessions all of whom have important posts in the Trump administration, are spreading Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment. These can provoke an explosive atmosphere not just internationally but also in the US with its large Muslim population. Across the world there are one and a half billions who call themselves Muslim in various degrees and measures, and are estimated to exceed Christians in the second half of the 21st Race hatred has its own momentum and once out there can spread like an infection and create the ominous polarity of “us” and “them”.
Take Samuel Huntington, who published his book Clash of Civilisations, mainly as a means of highlighting the “danger” of Islam. In 2014 he went on to publish “who are we?” to expand his thesis to the confrontation between Catholics of Latino origin who are threatening Anglo-Saxon Protestants which he identified with “American Identity” and the “American creed”. This thesis became one of the main platforms of Trump and is the basis of his aim of building a wall between the US and Mexico. But the issue may go further. John Feffer has pointed out that the book The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies published jointly by Michael Flynn and Michael Ledeen (the famous neo-con) on the dangers of radical Islam, lists Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua alongside Iran, Syria, as supporters of radical Islam.
Military spending: All evidence points to Trump increasing the military budget and embarking on a new arms race. We know by experience how this leads to more wars and catastrophes.
Immigrants: Trump threatens not just to build a wall but expel all illegal immigrants – meaning 11 million Latinos. Many have lived for years in the US and had children there. Expelling this population would not only produce major problems and upheavals in many Latin American countries but would also provoke racial tensions within America. Let us recall that 15% percent of the population are Latinos.
Health: Trump has threatened to revoke Obamacare, which will take away health cover for 15 (some say 17) million of the poorest in society.
Taxation: If Trump fulfills his promise to lower taxes the present level of inequality will go to even more intolerable levels, and will increase government debt by another $11 trillion. This will in practice make it impossible to fulfill any remaining social commitments by the state.
Abortion: If Trump succeeds in cutting state subsidy for “family planning”, as he has promised, American women will be deprived of any right to abortion. We will witness another wave of misogynist acts against women by bigoted American Christians, not a small group.
There is little doubt that the presidency of Trump in the most powerful state of the world will help the spread and bolster the most right wing and rabid sections in other parts of the world.
But the capitalist world is entering a period of instability and a wave of such dark forces gaining power can inspire the awakening and rise of the deprived and downtrodden of our world. Antonio Gramsci says that any revolutionary crisis can at the same time be a counter-revolutionary crisis. We can rephrase Gramsci’s words thus: no large crisis and clash of opposing social forces can have a predetermined outcome.
Therefore the key issue facing us is how, and with what speed, the left and progressive forces can confront this darkness. The experience of the mass protest movement in the US itself and across the world against Trump’s presidency is heartening and hints at a relatively more hopeful outlook. Alongside Trump we also had Bernie Sanders, who with his campaign opened a new ray of hope for a whole generation of the young. Studies of the millennial generation have shown that many have put aside previous pre-suppositions of previous generations. The road for the left to advance may even be easier in Europe.
All depends now on how the left can reorganise itself, and with the right momentum, and instead of the current nonsense about making capitalism more tolerable, aim to go beyond capitalism. Instead of social democratic promises for ending neo-liberalism, the left needs to start the long walk towards socialism and the ending of capitalism.
February 17, 2017
First published in Farsi on February 1, 2017