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On What Basis An Anti-Establishment Coalition?

On What Basis An Anti-Establishment Coalition?

By Dennis Loo (7/2/16)

“I don’t care if … [Trump’s] racist!” he shouted at a [bar] room by then nearly empty but for us. “If you’ll just bring back one [expletive] steel mill!”

(From “Donald Trump, American Preacher,” by Jeff Sharlet, The New York Times Magazine, April 12, 2016)

The preceding quote from a Trump supporter captures the essence of Trump's wide appeal. Trump's racism and sexism are not what mainly characterizes his attractiveness to his legions. He would be dead in the water were he not pitching an economic populist line. He has no shortage of followers who are knuckle draggers, but this would not be a mass following without the anti-globalization appeal.

David Brooks predicted yesterday at The New York Times that an open/closed political alignment is coming and that Trump’s popularity is a harbinger of that world political shift.

It’s certainly possible, indeed, very likely that Brooks’ prediction will come true, irrespective of whether or not Trump wins the coming election – a highly unlikely scenario - although who, including Trump himself, could have foreseen his decisive Republican primary victories?

Probably Hillary Clinton will win but no matter who does, pro-globalization elites will prevail for a while, a few more years, even under a Trump presidency because he is incapable of transforming the entire bureaucratic/institutional edifice that has been building for so many decades, even if Trump sincerely wanted to. Can you imagine a narcissist’s narcissist as he is, applying his painstaking and determined, complicated and protracted efforts, to lead a mass movement to do that? He’d have to replace the institutions from top to bottom and have the people capable of taking over…

See this article:

Contrary to most people’s understanding, however, what keeps a system a system is not the individuals who occupy them deciding whether or not to adhere to the system’s norms. Systems do not collapse because a certain percentage of the individuals within them decide roughly simultaneously to stop behaving in the ways that the systems expect. Nor do systems come into being because a certain percentage of people simultaneously agree to behave a certain way without acting in a consciously collectively directed fashion. Systems do not come into being and they do not pass out of existence through individual action. Systems exist through and because of a collective set of factors and can only be replaced by another system that is governed by a different set of collective factors.

You do not change systems, in other words, by changing the faces of those who occupy the statuses and roles in those systems. You do not change the essential character of the US Presidency, for example, by electing a different individual to be the US president. The reason for the continuity between the Bush White House and the Obama White House is because the US president is still the leader of the sole imperialist superpower in the world today. His actions are fundamentally determined by the nature of that system: imperialism, which is governed by the logic of expand or die.

The only way you could change US public policy would be if the statuses and roles that characterize this imperialist system were to be radically transformed and such a transformation could only occur through a massive movement that overthrows the old system and replaces it with a radically different one in which statuses and roles are dramatically different and the logic of the system was radically different. This is not something that an individual or even several individuals could do, no matter how highly placed they were, absent a movement that sought directly to overthrow the old system.

The neoliberals like Clinton will glory in their (expected) win and the right will gain in other places outside of America too, but the writing’s on the wall: globalization's discontents will win, but what will that win look like? Hillary will wish she had not won the presidency, the clashes that will occur under her expected presidency are going to be agonizing and extraordinary. 

As far-fetched as what I’ve been writing about lately may seem, remember that the present scenario in which the very institutions and their leaders in charge in the world are in danger of toppling was unthinkable to almost everyone in leading positions a few months ago.

On what basis could the less likely but quite possible alliance emerge that could actually result in something other than the open/closed alignment where nativist trends take over?

This is a question that is going to take some real delving into because it is very complicated. But let me try to sketch out here some broad outlines initially.

First, the issues the world faces are not the fault of immigrants, women, or minorities. It is due to capitalism and imperialism. That is a fact. This is true regardless of the fact that most people do not fully or in many cases, even partially, understand that right now. What people will come to understand is up in the air and contingent. Anyone who thinks the masses of people are too dumb or too bigoted to understand do not realize how the fundamental elements that need to be understood are present in everyday life. The raw material to grasp this understanding is everywhere we look and everything people and nature are dealing with.

Second, the situation now is not due to public opinion. Public opinion and what the status quo is are two different phenomena that overlap a bit but only a bit.

Third, if points one and two are true, then it is also true that the same deception that authorities have been using and are still using (e.g., mainstream media) to mislead the people about the goodness of neoliberal policies (remember that neoliberalism = the political expression of globalization) is no longer working. It worked for decades and it still has some hold over some people but it’s breaking down before the objective reality of peoples’ lives and the state of nature. What does this tell you about elites’ ability going forward for demagogues such as Trump and others to win in the long run? Objective reality is going to come up against Trump’s repeated declarations that he is going to “win” and keep on winning and that he can make “America Great Again.”

Fourth, the only path that holds out the prospect of not being decimated by objective reality is a radically different logic and a radically different system. In other words, it has to be truly revolutionary, not some faux version of that word. It is on that basis that a difficult to imagine but wholly possible alliance can be forged between the revolutionary left and what are at this time misled elements on the right. As to the latter, I mean those many, not all, of those who are working class and middle class followers of Trump now. And this has to occur with their transformation from being nativists to internationalists. This will obviously not be easy, but it is possible and it is the only way that the troubles the world faces now can be resolved. If you're thinking "Well, that's never going to happen," consider the improbability of the current situation and consider the factors leading so many to be nativists. Who is giving them these ideas in the first place? Are those subject to that thinking doing it all by themselves without any help? If the planet is being exploited and the people are being mistreated, does it not also stand to reason that the people are also being twisted in their understanding by the dominant ideas and by misinformation dissemination? The ruling ideas of any epoch, as Marx pointed out, are the ideas of the ruling class. The real enemy of the working class and middle class that they are angry about is not their fellow discontents among immigrants, women and minorities but capitalism and imperialism. That is not mere rhetoric but the truth, Ruth. 

As part of the article that I link to here states:

Life does not come with an answer key. The correct and best answers to all questions are not always definitively known in life at any given point before the fact, and incomplete and indirect information is the norm rather than the exception. Primarily due to the influence of the privateers, the educational system is increasingly becoming one in which the main emphasis is memorization and giving back to the teacher what the teacher has dispensed as the answers in order to pass the tests. Students are not being properly and adequately taught how to analyze, weigh information, think holistically, decide between competing claims, and make wise choices based on frequently incomplete information. This grows all the more significant when there is a growing storm of false or misleading information emanating from people and organizations trying to seduce people into buying their wares, whether those wares are commodities or ideas. Should this trend persist it will mean that our society will become increasingly intellectually impoverished, because its citizenry has become vulnerable to being manipulated by hucksters, opportunists, and those who have more ready access to mass media by virtue of their owning media, possessing a lot of money, and/or having friends in high places.

It doesn't need to be this way and the way that it is currently can only continue by twisting what people are capable of and more naturally inclined towards. As a former student put it in this same article:

As part of our SOC 305 class syllabus we all received instructions on the two basic stages to cognitive development as described by Benjamin Bloom; after reading it carefully I knew I would really learn from this class, and I knew that the professor … must really care about his students, education, and the future enough to have that be a part of his curriculum. I honestly wish I would have been made aware of Guantanamo sooner, but at this point I cannot keep blaming others, from now on I have to take the responsibility to inform myself and to take the appropriate steps towards achieving a solution. 

Many of the questions raised at the event, such as the number of minors in these prisons and the drones, were other issues I was unaware of. It was shocking information. For many years I have chosen to stay out of political issues, sometimes it just seems better not to know, but that needs to stop, because there are people in need who are suffering and waiting for someone, anyone, to take a stand and fight for equality and truly make this country a better place.

Standing on the sidelines and expecting others to do all the work will not eliminate the problem, instead it adds to the problem. Once a person is knowledgeable about an issue such as Guantanamo, they become an accomplice by allowing it to persist. It is frightening that while the United States government might think they have everything under control, there may be groups of people brainstorming ideas on how to counterattack. It would be foolish to think that our actions will not bring consequences. People are very likely to seek revenge. We cannot expect the victims to simply sit back and accept everything the United States is doing and not want to do anything about it. It becomes a never-ending cycle of violence. It is imperative to understand that it is completely unacceptable for the United States to abduct people and torture them solely because they “might” be dangerous to us. The government tells us that they are protecting us and that they are keeping our country safe from terrorists, and we are expected to believe them without any questions. [Editor's note: The links in this are not in Edith's paper but have been added for the readers' convenience as additional material.]

 Read this essay by another former student to give you a further sense of what is possible.


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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12