Tag Archives: Fascism

Morbid Symptoms: The Rise of Trump

The following series attempts to understand the rise of Donald Trump, particularly in the context of capitalist crisis and the emerging power of the populist and far right. Part one is below. Part two is here.

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The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.
– Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

The election of Donald Trump––despite his losing the popular vote––has come as a shock to many Americans. While most recognized that the campaign had tightened after the intervention of the FBI, it was assumed that Clinton would edge out Trump on election day. But even if the Democratic Party had narrowly won the presidential election, it would have told us nothing about the development of mass rightwing populism and white nationalism in the U.S. This force represents both an immediate threat and a long-term strategic challenge to those of us seeking liberation. How can we understand what has happened? And what can be done?

Capitalist Crisis and the Rise of Trump

Trump’s rise is a consequence of the ongoing and deepening crisis of global capitalism. Since the 1970s capital has faced the problem of falling profits, and the resulting crises have made it difficult for the political and economic order to reproduce itself in a reliable way. For decades capitalists confronted this problem by cutting costs, especially the cost of labor power: slashing wages, benefits, health care, education, and housing. In the former Third World this entailed gutting the developmentalist regimes that took power after decolonization. In the capitalist core (like the U.S. and Europe) it required dismantling social democracy.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, capital sought to remove any roadblocks to profitability, starting with institutions such as unions and labor parties, and the rights won through a century of worker, civil rights, women’s, and queer struggles. The great concentrations of industry and proletarian power were broken apart through globalization. Labor parties and nationalist governments were incorporated into the management of capital, and made partners in exploitation. In many countries, new technocratic politicians and managers came to control national governments, state bureaucracies, and major institutions like schools. This was the “neoliberal” elite.

The neoliberals operated on a consensus that cut across the political spectrum: the economy would only be sustained through capitalist globalization abroad and austerity at home. In the capitalist core, this meant abandoning sections of the working class that had previously enjoyed some political representation and economic benefits, largely through the inclusion of unions and social democratic voting blocs. The elites carrying out this program united former “progressives” alongside conservatives. Bill Clinton––who signed NAFTA in 1993, expanded mass incarceration in 1994, and gutted welfare in 1996––is a great example.
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Dirt Road Revolutionary: On Shutdowns and Party Politics

While Washington D.C. has arguably been experiencing a slow-moving constitutional crisis in the last few years, unknown in recent U.S. history, there has been something like a “counter-revolutionary” surge at the state level in which the rightwing of the Republican party has passed dozens, if not hundreds of laws targeting nearly every sector of the working class and the oppressed. Some of the most important laws have targeted reproductive and voting rights, as well as unions.

In order to advance our understanding of these critical developments, we are reposting a piece from our comrade over at Dirt Road Revolutionary.

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ON SHUTDOWNS AND PARTY POLITICS

by Dirt Road Revolutionary

Most “Millenials” today are a little too young to remember the last two shutdowns under Clinton, so the events that have unfolded over the last week are really a new experience for a group that has been much discussed and often maligned in recent weeks. What is absolutely, frustratingly familiar, however, is the wading pool shallow discussions parading themselves around as serious journalism and analysis. Professional loudmouths and hand wringers dance and shuffle around on cable news, the best print journalism maps only the surface technicalities and the worst tries to split the difference between cowardice and insanity. Of course, no one has anything approaching a serious practical – or even “impractical” by today’s bankrupt “pragmatism” – suggestion on what to do whatsoever to escape this trajectory of self-destruction.

The first, most obvious, most undeniable point to be made is this: the current shutdown in the Federal government today is a direct result of the rise of a new Tea Party faction in American politics. While the mainstream media has largely been obsessed with the theatrics of the debacle, the U.S. Left has failed to provide even a glimmer of an analysis that is compelling or practical in any way whatsoever.

The phrase that the two parties are “two wings of capital” has been repeated by fellow activists by rote so many times that it has become completely bankrupt. The Socialist Worker has largely hopped on this same trope in recent days:

So it will be all the more important for those who want an alternative to the status quo in Washington to remind themselves and others of a hidden-in-plain-sight truth about American politics–that the Democrats and Republicans agree about much more than they disagree.

The key problem with this kind of sloganeering is that it actually tells us nothing. It simply freezes capital into a seemingly eternal thing, with two wings also frozen in loyal opposition, only superficially different but ultimately homogenous and unchanging. This is cheap nonsense masquerading as analysis and needs to be recognized as such.
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