WHAT’S THE WORLD COMING TO? Billionaire Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States posing as an anti-establishment outsider. All the old certainties are disappearing.
Except, of course, for the certainty that American’s flawed electoral college system cannot be guaranteed to select the candidate chosen by the majority of voters. Hillary Clinton looks like beating Trump by over a million in the popular vote – and widespread voter suppression, particularly of the black vote, was practised in Republican states. Nor for nothing did hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country protest that Donald Trump was “not my president”.
Yet President Trump is a reality the world is going to have to deal with. And increasingly it looks like part of a worldwide phenomenon – the rejection of the political status quo and the splintering of political movements to right and left. Establishment politicians from the Clintons to Tony Blair and David Cameron are all seen to have failed. That’s because the system they relied upon – capitalism – has failed and continues to fail.
In the US since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households – for more than 40 years! The Great Recession of 2008 drove down living standards for working class people all over the world, including the US. What began as a crisis of finance capital turned into a massive attack on the working class and poor. Obama’s fundamental failure to tackle this and the perception of his designated successor as a captive of Wall Street fuelled an anger that Trump was quick to exploit, with divisive anti-immigrant rhetoric, misogyny and racism.
In office we can expect these traits to combine into a highly authoritarian presidency, helped by party majorities in both houses of Congress. Trump’s open admiration for Putin and recent developments – from the crackdown of basic freedoms in Turkey to the huge increase in extra-judicial killings in the Philippines, and the rise of openly neofascist parties across Europe – all point to a global rise of authoritarianism. Here too, Theresa May might have questioned Osbornomics at her party’s conference, but her alternative ‘vision’ for Britain entails a bonfire of civil liberties – witness the recent passage of the snoopers’ charter – a crackdown on immigration and the reintroduction of an education system designed to fail most children.
Recent ‘good news’ for the UK economy is likely to be short-lived and not just because of the uncertainties of Brexit. There is little sign of economic recovery being underpinned by anything other than a further increase in household debt – now standing at an unsustainable one and a half trillion pounds.
But the discrediting of the neoliberal order opens up opportunities for the left as well as the right. In the US it gave rise to the unprecedented campaign of selfdeclared socialist Bernie Sanders. In Britain it has produced mass support for Jeremy Corbyn in a revitalised Labour Party. Corbyn himself described the Trump vote as an “unmistakeable rejection of a political establishment and economic system that simply isn’t working for most people.”
The challenge for a determined and united left is to turn the mood of fury and despair into a mass working class movement to change society. In this endeavour, the ideas for a socialist transformation of the present rotten system can gain ground.
Indeed they have to. The alternative is the ‘war of all against all’ – those who work against the unemployed, native against foreign, men against women. Capitalism has the capacity to destroy the bonds of human solidarity, unleash nationalist and imperialist wars and pillage the planet’s natural environment. Trump’s hatefilled speeches, nationalist rants and climate change denial makes that very concrete. The choice really is socialism or barbarism.