We must fight for an alternative to barbarism, argues Lindsey German
1 The victory of Donald Trump speaks volumes about the totally broken system which the US presidential election system represents. Funded by millionaires for millionaires, who also provide the candidates, it is a travesty of democracy, where nominations are stitched up behind the scenes, where money talks, where the level of debate sinks to that of allegations and counter allegations of sexual assault. The electoral college system is against real democracy, as we see by the fact that Trump won a lower share of the popular vote but is still president.
2 This was an election which Clinton and the Democrats lost, rather than Trump winning. After all his vote was lower than the two previous Republican candidates, but Clinton lost far more votes in comparison with Obama. Why did this happen? Because too many people in the US are sick to the back teeth of what has been happening to them over recent decades, and they wanted to take it out on the establishment, of whom Hillary Clinton is an appropriate symbol. Never mind that Donald Trump was born into a life of wealth and privilege, is himself a billionaire - he was seen as representing the outsider to Washington and to big business. The rust belt states of America voted for Trump, against Clinton’s expectations, having seen massive deindustrialisation, the moving of jobs out of the US and an appalling decrease in wages which leaves working people much worse off than in the 1970s.
3 Trump is a vile demagogue whose racism and sexism is never far from the surface. His policies on building a wall on the Mexican border and on keeping Muslims out of the US are racist in the extreme. They mark a man whose policies are much more hard line than previous Republican candidates. His likely nominees for his cabinet will probably include some of the most right wing Republicans such as Newt Gingrich, John Bolton and even Sarah Palin. This is not an administration that should be worked with and compromised with, as some among the Democrats are suggesting. It has to be opposed from day one and it has to be forced to retreat on every issue. It has no legitimacy.
4 The desire of the US ruling class to contain and coopt Trump is already clear. If he goes along with that (as there are already some signs he is doing), then so much greater will be the disappointment of his supporters. Many voted for him in the expectation that there would be change. The biggest single reason given by those who supported him was that they wanted economic change, in other words well paid jobs and a future for their children.
5 We need to properly understand why Trump was able to succeed. Undoubtedly many who voted for him did so for racist motives. There can be no compromise for the left with racism. It is not only divisive and dangerous in itself, it also is one of the main ways that the ruling classes internationally hope to weaken the working class. So there have to be strong arguments and campaigns against Islamophobia and the scapegoating of immigrants. The millions of Americans who do not agree with his racism have to stand up to be counted. It is heartening that so many have demonstrated against him in the days since the election.
6 But campaigning over racism is not enough. On its own, it is important, but it has to be linked to other campaigns where the grievances evinced in the election are taken up by the left, and solutions provided which are about collective solidarity and organising, not about scapegoating. It is also a mistake to see the Trump vote as just about racism, and not to see it as a cry of rage against what has happened under the system of neoliberalism.
7 The result is also an indictment of Obama’s failure in terms of policies, given that so many votes were lost to the Democrats in states such as those in the Midwest this time round. Obama has also presided over the killing of many young black Americans, and has been responsible for many deportations of migrants. The policies of the Democrats have in many ways presaged the policies Trump now calls for, just as the policies of social democrats in countries such as France have opened the door to the right.
8 The Trump victory represents a sharp shift to the right in US politics, and of course influences politics elsewhere, but it is not fascism and it is foolish to think this is the case. Trump is a right wing demagogue who has used unpopularity of politicians and employers to gain support. He is not a fascist. Fascism is an extreme form of capitalism where the ruling classes are prepared to throw their weight behind fascists organisations in order to smash working class organisation. They do so when there is no way out of their crisis. We are not at that stage anywhere yet. That doesn’t mean things can’t change: far right parties have taken heart from his victory. But there is still a massive polarisation in society where the left can also grow, as we have seen with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour.
9 The French writer Daniel Guerin wrote that fascism is the price that the working class pay for not having made the revolution. We are not having to pay that price now but the left has got to be relevant and organised within the working class. We also have to recognise the contradictory level of working class opposition to governments and the establishment. Those who denounce the Trump vote as all racist (as many of them do with the Brexit vote) are simply ignoring this reality.
10 Capitalism and its liberal representatives are not a bulwark against racism _their system perpetuates racism while at the same time embracing a token identity politics which leaves structural oppression intact. Its present neoliberal form has come to a dead end and it can see no way out of the crisis. We have to connect the struggles against Trump and against the Tories here with an argument which says that we need an alternative to barbarism, and that requires revolutionary change.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
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- Boris the bully comes up short – election briefing 20 November
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- Immigration: it’s not about statistics, it’s about racism – election briefing 15 November
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- Bolivia: whose side are you on? - election briefing 13 November