FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism

One of the most prominent election advertisements of Donald Trump’s campaign called on voters to “join the revolution”. Of course, in the context of American political rhetoric, anything passes as a “revolution”. However, many of Trump’s appeals indeed sounded extremely radical and resembled more the demands of the left than the usual agenda of Republican politicians in the United States. This radical rhetoric included calls to fight the Washington establishment, protect industrial production, increase the incomes of workers and put an end to the neo-liberal policies of the free trade that led to the destruction of millions well-paid jobs and loss of a significant portion of social gains of the democratic West. This rhetoric mobilized the working class voters, the provincial middle class and small businesses, and enabled Trump to enter the White House.

A year later, one can say that these promises have not been fulfilled, and the expectations of the majority of Trump voters are betrayed. In fact, Trump’s government turned out to be quite an ordinary republican administration, only less competent and less stable than the previous ones. It is significant that as the ineffectiveness of the new president becomes more apparent, the scandal around him subsides. The worse job the White House does the weaker and less frequent calls for impeachment become. There are no more mass demonstrations aiming to overthrow the president who have used politically incorrect expressions. The degree of Trump hatred have subsided in the liberal press. He now rather evokes laughter than anger. The liberal establishment has achieved its goal without resorting to radical means. Those who would like to preserve the political system the way it is do not need its destabilization. Rather, it could be the last argument of the oligarchy if it was losing its positions. However, there is no need for such argument; the power of the oligarchy has not been challenged. The tax reform carried out by the republican congress became a kind of a final line drawn under the debate. Candidate Trump did not say anything definitive about the issue of taxes, but the reform is fully in line with the traditional agenda of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. Trump supported it, and now it is associated with his name. In other words, the Republican Party coup did not take place; there will be no return to the times of Abraham Lincoln.

Trump did not start a conflict with the Congress, and now works constructively with the Republican majority – the one that fought him during the 2016 primaries. He reneged on his promises, including the scandalous promise of wall construction on the border with Mexico. A year has passed, but the wall is not there. The reform program is curtailed, while the president plays golf. Nothing has radically changed in the foreign policy as well, except for a few extravagant tricks like recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (plunging the Israelis into confusion). Even US withdrawal from the Paris protocol on cutting CO2 emissions can hardly be called a radical gesture – republican administrations have never been enthusiastic about the EU’s environmental programs. The expectations of workers who pinned their hopes of social change on Trump, and the apocalyptic forecasts of the liberals were never fulfilled. Business as usual rules in Washington.

It is easy to explain away this failure by the personality of the forty-fifth US president, an emotionally unstable person, a leader without strategy who exhibits confused and conflicting views, lacks his own team and political experience. However, would it be complete and satisfactory explanation?

The failure of Trump’s substantive agenda can be fully explained only through the prism of class contradictions within his electoral coalition. The ideology of the right-wing populism bears in itself an unsolvable contradiction between the promise of social change in favor of the working people and the intention to preserve the economic foundations of the system. According to this ideology, the structure of the dominant interests within the society cannot be radically changed. It calls for mere changes in policies, for the removal of the “bad elite” from power, while leaving the position of the ruling class unchallenged. Such approach reflects the contradictions and conflicts within the ruling class itself, but the trouble is that the conflict cannot be resolved within this system, within this class, without major changes that require participation of completely different social and political players.

Financial capital and the Washington establishment can triumph: an incompetent president plays golf; the hindrance on the right is eliminated. However, the problems that exist both in the American society and in the world economy have not disappeared. They remain just as serious. The social crisis continues to exacerbate. If Trump does not manage to solve the problems, then someone else will have to take up this task. The defeat of the right-wing populism, which became a fact in the United States in 2017, opens the prospect for a new upsurge of the leftist movement. It is no accident that despite his defeat in the presidential race, indecisiveness and inconsistency, Bernie Sanders has become the most popular politician in America.

The question remains whether the American and Western left wants to learn from the events of the past two years, and whether it will be able to develop a political platform based not on liberal rhetoric and politically correct discourse but on the class interests of working families. Even more pressing question is whether the leftists are ready to struggle for power or they still prefer to enjoy their pleasant and comfortable position within the framework of radical subculture.

More articles by:

Boris Kagarlitsky PhD is a historian and sociologist who lives in Moscow. He is a prolific author of books on the history and current politics of the Soviet Union and Russia and of books on the rise of globalized capitalism. Fourteen of his books have been translated into English. The most recent book in English is ‘From Empires to Imperialism: The State and the Rise of Bourgeois Civilisation’ (Routledge, 2014). Kagarlitsky is chief editor of the Russian-language online journal Rabkor.ru (The Worker). He is the director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, located in Moscow.

December 18, 2018
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail