FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Universalizing Resistance: How to Trump Trump

Who is the best teacher about how to resist Trump and challenge the failures of global capitalism? Ironically, Trump himself. All the mind-spinning news about the Russian investigation, Trump’s lies, and his legislative failures should not distract us from how he won the Presidency and the crucial lessons for progressives.

Trump built a right-wing populist movement claiming to represent ordinary workers against corrupt global elites. His movement for the “forgotten” people reflected a primal truth: that the US is a militarized capitalism stacked in favor of global US-led corporations. His “disruptive” solution was shaking the system to its core by “universalizing resistance” among vast numbers of left-behinds.

Universalizing resistance unites diverse grassroots groups fed up with the system, mobilizing millions into electoral politics and on the streets, It unites class politics with identity politics and builds “united fronts” of activist movements with political parties.

Right-wing universalizers such as Trump bring people together under the banner of  nationalism. His economic nationalism promises to create new and better American jobs, offering a right-wing class politics uniting  US workers and businesses against liberal global elites who shift jobs to foreign workers and illegal immigrants. Trump links his class politics to a hyper-nationalist right-wing identity politics that brings within the GOP tent the “forgottens” with the military and corporations fighting for “America first.” Making America great gives “deplorables” cultural pride and self-worth, tying their identity to a politically incorrect celebrity billionaire posing as one of them.

Like Trump, progressives must universalize against the ruling global system that he lambasts but helps perpetuate. The bottom line:  build and unify their own class and identity politics inside and outside of the Democratic Party.

Earlier progressive movements including the 1890s populists, the 1930s New Dealers and 1960s student activists all developed universalizing anti-system agendas. But after the sixties, the Left fragmented and “de-universalized,” breaking into silos organized into cultural identity movements of race and gender, and separate peace, labor and environmental movements.

Mostly white males, especially on college campuses, led universalizing 1960s movements, but they marginalized women, people of color and other oppressed groups, leading them to form their own identity movements.

The new identity politics achieved major gains for women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and others. But as silo movements, they lost the universalizing spirit and the  focus on the capitalist glue linking capitalism with racism, sexism and other social crises.

One result was that identity movements benefited the privileged in their communities, breaking “glass ceilings” while leaving behind their own poor and working class majorities. Moreover, workers learned to focus mainly on identity issues rather than capitalism, eroding the universalizing struggles seen in the Gilded Age and the New Deal.

In the 1980s, the devastating assault of Reaganism on unions and on the New Deal social welfare systems was another huge factor undermining universalizing progressive class politics. The Democratic Party shift away from the New Deal toward the business-friendly, “third way” of the Clintons and Obama was also profoundly damaging, perpetuating corporate globalism and turning more and more workers Republican.

While the Tea Party helped right wing universalizers colonize the GOP,  universalizing progressive politics fell by the wayside, opening a void that the New Right and Trump filled. Democrats who trucked with the corporate global elites thus bear their own responsibility for Trump and the brutal GOP-led system now threatening democracy and even human survival.

Fortunately, in the 2016 election, a new phase of universalizing resistance began. Bernie Sanders ignited a new class politics on the Left and in the Democratic Party that attracted millions of millennials and workers to his “democratic socialism.” Progressive identity movements—while under dire threat from Trump—are now talking more about class. Leaders of Black Lives Matter and many feminist and LGBTQ groups  are joining with Leftist unions representing nurses and hotel workers fighting for public investment in jobs, better education and job-training, and even a Sanders-style socialist transformation.

Universalzing progressives jamming town halls and rallying at mass protests are now colonizing the Democratic Party and helping prevent disasters like Trumpcare.

Labor groups, identity movements with class awareness, and new efforts to transform the Democratic Party can peel many workers away from Trump and the GOP. And Trump himself may be the ultimate catalyzer of progressive universalizing, since nothing unites progressives quite like the threat of Big Brother Trump.

Charles Derber is a life-long activist, author of 20 books, and professor of sociology at Boston College. His most recent book is Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times.

More articles by:

November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail