On 9 November 2016, Donald Trump was declared the winner in the US presidential race.
Trump’s victory stunned the US ruling class, as indeed it did the ruling classes in the entire camp of imperialism. The ideologues of imperialism, including what passes for the left in the centres of imperialism, have been waxing hysterical over it, characterising the result as a victory for prejudice, fear, ignorance, hate and spite; a victory for ‘nationalism’ over ‘internationalism’, and attributing Trump’s triumph to racism, misogyny and islamophobia.
Victims of globalisation
Undoubtedly these factors – especially his stance against immigration – contributed to Trump’s success, but by far the most important single factor that helped him win was that he skilfully tapped into the discontent felt by vast swathes of the working class who have been at the receiving end of what is euphemistically called globalisation – ie, the massive export of capital by imperialist countries that has resulted in the decimation of jobs at home, the stagnation of blue-collar wages, and declining standards of living.
Just as in the case of the June 2016 British referendum on EU membership, so in the US presidential contest, vast layers of the deprived working class delivered their verdict against those they perceive to be the cause of their misery.
Even some of the bourgeois journalists who are committed body and soul to the capitalist system of production and regard it as eternal, and who consider ‘free trade’ to be the ‘lifeblood of humanity’, have been forced to concede that the system does not work for huge numbers of people. Will Hutton, writing in The Observer, had this to say on this score:
“Both the US and Britain’s manufacturing sectors have taken disproportionately heavy hits [consequent upon export of capital]. This year, working-class voters across America and Britain’s rotting industrial heartlands delivered their verdict. No more plants moving abroad. No more closures because of cheap imports. No more sales of great companies to foreigners. No more stagnating blue-collar wages. No more immigration.
“It may be that there are jobs and great prospects aplenty in the burgeoning tech and service sectors in the big cities driven by global trade, but they don’t care. They are hurting and nobody has taken decisive action to help them. The votes for Trump and Brexit mark the end of an era and a new dark age of closure, protectionism and nationalism.” (Trade is the lifeblood of humanity. Closed doors lead to closed minds, 13 November 2016)
Just as it was with working-class voters in South Yorkshire and the west Midlands during the Brexit vote, so it was with the voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the US election. Responding to discontent among the losers of globalisation, Donald Trump promised to withdraw from the Nafta (the free trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico), which he claimed destroyed American jobs.
He promised to put an immediate halt to negotiations for Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific trade agreements (TTIP and TPP). He promised to impose swingeing 45 percent tariffs on Chinese imports, which account for half of the US trade deficit, ignoring the fact that such tariffs would violate the rules of the WTO and that China has the ability to take retaliatory measures. He also pledged to impose 35 percent tariffs on Mexican imports into the US.
In addition, he promised to build a wall along the long US-Mexican border to prevent Mexicans from entering the US, as well as to deport 11 million ‘illegal’ migrant workers. On day one of his residency, he said, he would declare China to be a currency manipulator.
Some of these proposals make no economic sense, and the Trump administration is most likely to fulfil them in the breach rather than in the observance. What mattered in the election was that US victims of globalisation believed Trump was speaking on their behalf and they therefore put their trust in his election pledges.
Some of his pledges are most likely to be realised, especially in the area of trade agreements.
“The US-led globalisation,” stated Mr Martin Wolf in the Financial Times, “is already fragile. Mr Trump seems likely to push it into its coffin. After his victory, the Trans-Pacific Partnership looks dead,” adding that it “might leave an opening for a Beijing-led alternative: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [RCEP] … The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was moribund and is now dead.”
The costs of Mr Trump’s pledges to impose import tariffs “to discourage companies from laying off their workers in order to relocate in other countries and ship their products back to the US tax-free” are only too likely to prove prohibitive to the US, world trade and the credibility of the trading system, said Mr Wolf, concluding ominously: “Make no mistake: Mr Trump’s triumph might destabilise the US and world economies.” (The economic consequences of Mr Trump, 11 November 2016)
Deeply concerned though the imperialist circles are about Trump’s stance on trade, they are positively in a state of apoplexy concerning his position on US-Russian relations in general and his views on Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in particular. On the campaign trail, Trump praised Putin and expressed a desire to have good relations with Russia so as to avoid conflict between the world’s most militarily powerful countries.
In reference to the Russian role in Syria, he remarked that, as Russia was fighting the jihadi terrorists in Syria, as were the Iranians and the Syrian government of President Assad, the US should join them in this fight. Far from being insane or immoral, as the crazy and paid mercenaries of imperialism are portraying them, Mr Trump’s statements in this regard are highly moral, contributing as they do to fighting the evil jihadi terrorists unleashed by imperialism on the Syrian people.
In his pre-election speeches, Mr Trump made it clear that America had no business going into country after country in pursuit of regime change. These statements of his attracted much condemnation and vitriol from the political and ideological representatives of the imperialist establishment on both sides of the Atlantic.
Here is just one example of the impotent rage with which his critics have attacked him. Writing in the Financial Times , a certain intelligent, yet stupid, Mr Gideon Rachman, turning facts on their head, expressed his wrath thus: “Allying with the butchers of Aleppo would involve a level of calculating amorality that will revolt many in America and Europe.” (Trump, Putin and the art of the deal, 15 November 2016)
It is none other than the likes of Mr Rachman who are guilty of monumental and calculating amorality for allying with the real butchers of Aleppo, namely, the vile jihadi outfits unleashed by US, British and French imperialism and their servants in the middle east – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. And in so allying, they present a truly revolting spectacle to the whole of progressive humanity, including the majority of people in America and Europe.
In response to a question about some journalist being killed in Russia, Trump responded by saying: “Our country does plenty of killing too.” If this kind of plain truth enrages the Rachmans of this world, all the better for it.
During the election campaign, Trump also questioned the value and usefulness of Nato, saying that it was a product of a different era which was in the past, and adding that America was not duty bound to protect free-loaders who were not prepared to invest in their own defence.
Trump’s stand on trade and defence caused great consternation, to put it mildly, among the apologists of imperialism.
“Trump is content to preside,” wrote – again turning facts of their head – Mr Philip Stephens, another intelligent, yet stupid, mercenary journalist, “over the dissolution of the US alliance system, leaving Europe vulnerable to Putin’s revanchism and east Asia to the ambitions of an assertive China.” (America can survive Trump, not so the west, Financial Times , 11 November 2016)
With Trump as the US president, he said: “cooperative internationalism is to be replaced by competitive nationalism”. In other words, our mercenary journalist bemoans the possibility of the replacement of US imperialist hegemony and a cohesive imperialist bloc by a return to state sovereignty and a word of multipolarity. Needless to say, Mr Stephens does not feel the need to provide any substantiation for his assertions about Putin’s ‘revanchism’ or the ‘ambitions of an assertive China’.
Mercenary lies in the service of imperialism
In an article written just one day after the election result in the US, the blessed Gideon Rachman made an analysis of this result, which, though penetrating, has to be deciphered, stripped of euphemisms and exposed to the public eye in its fervent advocacy of a united imperialist camp under the hegemony of the US. For that reason, it is useful to go through some of the details in this article even if the reader may find them irksome.
Mr Rachman began his article by saying that Trump’s election as the 45th president of the US came 27 years to the day after the fall of the Berlin Wall – “a moment of triumph for the US leadership”, which, he said, “ushered in a period of optimism and expansion for liberal and democratic ideas around the world”. That era, he added, “has been definitely ended by Trump’s victory”.
In the language of ordinary mortals, the fall of the Berlin Wall, followed by the collapse of the east and central European people’s democracies and the once great and glorious Soviet Union, which was a great historical tragedy for the peoples of those lands, as well as for wider humanity, definitely offered great opportunities for US-led imperialism to establish its complete hegemony and indulge in unbridled aggression, practising regime change in country after country, and in the process killing millions of innocent people and destroying entire countries.
It may please our amoral and mercenary journalist, with his wallet stuffed with crumbs from imperialist loot, to call the developments in eastern Europe “a period of optimism and expansion for liberal and democratic ideas around the world”, but his sordid opinion is not shared by the victims of those developments or by the vast masses of ordinary decent people around the world, including in Europe and America. Perhaps Mr Rachman should visit Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria to ask the people of those devastated countries – who received these ideas at the tip of cruise missiles and other merchandise of death – as to what they think of these ‘liberal’ and ‘democratic’ norms.
We cannot be sure at the moment if Trump’s victory marks the end of that 27-year-old nightmare – we can only hope so. If Trump follows through his campaign rhetoric in regards to questioning Nato and restoring good relations with Russia, these measures would certainly be a step in the right direction and bring some respite to the long-suffering victims of these ideas.
Trump’s victory, said Rachman, is “a profound blow to the prestige of US democracy – and thus to the cause of democracy around the world, which America has championed since 1945”. The truth is just the opposite of this assertion.
In the name of ‘democracy’, ‘rule of law’, ‘human rights’, and ‘liberalism’, the US has acted since the end of the second world war as a hangman of other countries’ democratic and revolutionary aspirations and movements. It waged predatory and genocidal wars against the Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian people, which together claimed the lives of 9 million people. It dropped more bombs during these wars than were dropped during the entire course of the second world war. It waged chemical warfare and sprayed vast areas of these countries with lethal defoliants, from whose results they continue to suffer even today.
Then there are the already-mentioned attempts by imperialism to spread democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, not to mention Palestine, where it spreads democracy through its zionist stooges. In the light of these facts, one cannot but marvel at the audacity of Mr Rachman’s barefaced lies.
Trump’s policies, said Mr Rachman, “threaten to take an axe to the liberal order [read the US imperialist hegemony]” led by the US, challenging in particular its two underpinning pillars: namely, “support for an open, international trading system” and its “commitment to the US-led alliances that underpin global security”.
Rachman, like the rest of his ilk, is horrified at the very thought of Trump questioning the US’s security commitments to Nato allies and to Japan and south Korea – unless they cough up more for their ‘defence’.
Even more horrifying to him is the spectacle of Mr Trump expressing “open admiration” for that ogre of imperialist propaganda, Russian president Vladimir Putin, which will raise fears that the US will put up no opposition to “renewed Russian aggression in Ukraine or eastern Europe”. He asserted this without a shred of evidence of Russian aggression, let alone “renewed” Russian aggression. This is fear-mongering, black propaganda and barefaced lies in the style of the Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels, according to which mere assertions and their constant repetition can transform lies into facts.
As to Asia Pacific, Rachman said that US’s Asian allies – Japan and south Korea – are alarmed at the thought that Trump’s “America First” policies could amount to “accepting a Chinese sphere of influence in east Asia”, obviously being of the view that this part of the Pacific is as much the backyard of US imperialism as the coastal waters of California, and that US imperialism has the God-given right to dominate east Asia to the exclusion of the countries, especially China, that are actually situated in that part of the world.
Mr Rachman concluded his article on a sad and pessimistic note, saying that the US presidency, an office “once occupied by giants … has been captured by a shallow huckster”, who has promised to make America great again, but “his ascension to the presidency is actually a sign of national decadence and decline”. (Trump and the dangers of America First, Financial Times, 10 February 2016)
At last, like a blind puppy (to use Lenin’s terminology), Mr Rachman has accidentally hit upon the truth. Doubtless, America is in an advanced stage of decline and decadence. This would still be the case if Hillary Clinton had captured the presidency. (See VI Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918, Chapter 4)
America’s decline is a blow to its ambitions for hegemony over the entire globe. This prospect may make its flunkeys sad but is an occasion for joy for progressive humanity at large. Under Trump, provided he sticks to his campaign promises, this decline may – just – take place under fewer wars of aggression for regime change. No one except the crazy admirers of the US, who have tied themselves to the war chariot of the neo-nazi Nato alliance, will regret such a development.
The decline of the USA has little to do with Donald Trump. The American-inspired and American-designed global system has been coming apart for some time. The worst-ever economic crisis of overproduction, resulting in the crash of 2008 and the near-meltdown of the imperialist financial edifice, income stagnation, austerity imposed on the working class to salvage the robber barons of finance capital, rising inequality, and disenchantment with free trade, have well and truly buried the so-called liberal economic consensus.
What is true is that the demolition of the political pillars of the old order, which Trump has promised, would, if carried out, accelerate the process of US decline – again, not such a bad thing as far as humanity in general is concerned.
Faced with this prospect, and panting after the fast-disappearing old order of US military and economic hegemony, reactionary defenders of this order see nothing but dangers and in great perplexity ask: ‘How much of a free Europe can survive the withdrawal of the US security umbrella? Will Russia be allowed to restore its influence over formerly communist states in eastern and central Europe? … Who will keep the peace in the East and South China seas?’ With Trump occupying the White House, they assert: “the west has lost its guardian, and democracy its champion”. (America can survive this. Not the west by Philip Stephens, Financial Times, 11 November 2016)
Why Hillary Clinton lost
Declaring that Trump’s lack of experience, character deficiency, foul temperament and ignorance make him unfit for the US presidency, the veterans of the establishment and the status quo attribute his victory to racism, prejudice, hate and fear. They cannot figure out how Hillary Clinton, supported by the powerful military-industrial complex, Wall Street, and the entire print and electronic media, failed to defeat Trump.
The best they can come up with is to attribute her defeat to the decision by James Comey, the FBI chief, to investigate Hillary over her emails, or to alleged Russian interference in the US election through hacks and leaks.
In doing so, this gentry stubbornly refuse to see the elephant in the room: namely, the alienation and disillusionment of large swathes of the electorate with things as they are – the status quo – and the skill with which Trump tapped into their disenchantment.
Undoubtedly, race and colour played some part in his victory. The far bigger factor, however, was the economic distress felt by those at the receiving end of globalisation, alongside the unpopularity of endless wars abroad, which cost ordinary Americans dear, in blood and treasure, but bring fabulous profits to the giants of US finance, industry and manufacturers of armaments.
Add to these the personal traits of the Democratic candidate – her total lack of charisma; her record as a congenital liar and a war criminal, responsible for monumental destruction and loss of lives in foreign wars; her plans for a confrontation with Russia; her shady connection with the Clinton Foundation, with its corrupt and terrorist connections; and her smug sense of entitlement.
Although it was a contest between the two most unpopular candidates in the history of American presidential elections, Ms Clinton was personally far more distrusted and disliked by the American people than Donald Trump.
She was not much helped by her party, either, which is presided over by a discredited and dishonest political establishment, for, in the words of Thomas Frank, the Democrats have gone “from being the party of Decatur [a down-at-heel town in Illinois] to the party of Martha’s Vineyard [home of the coastal elites. (The Republicans and Democrats failed blue-collar America. The left behind are now having their say, The Observer, 6 November 2016)
So sure was it of a Hillary Clinton victory that the Democratic Party appeared to take for granted its electoral base. Not only did the majority of white voters (who constitute 69 percent of the US electorate) turn out in large numbers for Trump, but African American and Latino voters failed to show up for Clinton in the numbers in which they had turned out for Obama in the last two elections. (A victory for rage and fear, The Observer, 13 November 2016)
The Democratic Party elite resorted to every dirty trick to deprive Bernie Sanders (who alone had the will and the ability to tap into the discontent of impoverished white workers with the status quo from the progressive angle) of the party’s nomination. Most polls show that, had he been the Democratic candidate, Bernie Sanders would have won easily against Trump. In the end, some 37 percent of union members and 41 percent of union families voted for Trump, including a large number of Bernie’s supporters.
The corrupt leadership of the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations – the US’s largest federation of trade unions), as well as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured Peoples) and most Congressional Black Caucus members, fronted for Hillary Clinton to block and cheat Bernie Sanders. So tightly was the whole process manipulated and controlled by the party elite that, at the Democratic convention, labour leaders were not allowed to say ‘working class’ or mention any of the big contentious trade agreements (TPP, TTIP or Nafta).
Against Trump’s slogan to “drain the swamp” of Washington, ridding it of political cronyism and corruption, the Democratic Party establishment’s response was to assert that “America is still great” and “everything is coming up roses” – smug slogans which nauseated and repelled a large number of voters.
In addition to the working class, there are 30 million small businesses in the US. They employ more than half the working population and make up 99.7 percent of all US employer firms, generating 33 percent of US exports. At the other end of the scale, there are 18,500 firms with more than 500 employees each.
The interests of small businesses diverge from those of big businesses, and they have the numbers and resources to mount significant political challenges to the traditional wings of political parties. They constituted a large segment of Trump’s supporters, as their interests do not coincide with those of monopoly capitalists. Nor do they benefit to the same extent from globalisation, championed by the leaderships of the Republican and Democratic parties, Wall Street and the military-industrial complex.
It is not for nothing that the entire establishment supported the candidature of Hillary Clinton – a leading warmonger, not to say war criminal, and a fervent supporter of TPP and TTIP (until her belated and half-hearted opposition to these proposed trade deals for reasons of electoral expediency). It is not for nothing that Mrs Clinton received from the Wall Street bankers $78m worth of campaign donations, whereas Trump received just under $1m from the same source.
In the effort to belittle Trump and his electoral success, and to portray it as simply the victory of racism and bigotry, his ideological detractors resort to the rewriting of history, in the hope that their readers will be too ignorant to notice their revised version. For instance, having pronounced Trump’s presidential win as the “end of the west and the demise of liberal democracy”, the writer of a leading article in The Observer went on to say:
“Trumpism has stormed the shining city on the hill, betrayed the founding fathers who stood for human dignity and universal rights and now presages an isolationist America made in Trump’s image – a beacon of discrimination and malice.” (Op cit, 13 November 2016)
Nothing of the kind! Whatever the ringing declarations and rhetoric of the founding fathers, they certainly did not stand for human dignity and universal rights, for every one of them, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin (the most radical of them) believed in and practised slavery, with each of them possessing dozens – in some cases hundreds – of black slaves.
The first American constitution described blacks as only three-quarter human beings; the American republic emerging from the war of independence granted them no rights. It took another nine decades and a civil war, which devoured close to 10 percent of the then American population, for the slaves to be emancipated. Even then, soon after, the benefits of abolition were all but closed owing to restrictive legislation in various states; and it took another nine decades and a powerful civil rights movement in the 1960s to sweep away these laws.
Even now, African Americans, along with the few native Americans who have managed to survive a series of massacres and holocausts, continue to be the biggest victims of this “beacon of discrimination and malice” – to wit, the American republic; this leader of the ‘free world’ and guardian of ‘democracy’.
It is an insult to the intelligence of his readers that the Observer leader writer should have dared to make such an outrageous assertion. Trump is no inventor of malice and discrimination, racial hatred and spite; these are an essential ingredient of the American body politic. At regular intervals, there has been anti-immigrant hysteria in the US over each wave of immigration – against the Italians, the Irish and the jews.
What Trump did was to identify a split between the Republican Party’s donors, who benefit from globalisation, and its rank and file, who feel victimised by it. And he took the side of the latter, attacking free trade and military intervention. As a result, he secured 70 percent of white working-class votes; he outpolled former Republican candidate Mitt Romney among both black and Hispanic voters; and he lost among white university-educated women only narrowly.
Those who until now have run the Republican Party gave Obama the authority to negotiate new trade deals, which are now dead in the water. With Trump’s election, contradictions within the Republican Party have now come to the fore; it remains to be seen whether Trump’s supporters or the Republican establishment will gain the upper hand.
Trump’s economic platform at home is a mixed bag. His proposals on personal taxation would bring only modest benefits to middle-income voters, whose interests he claims to represent, and very large gains to the richest. With lower corporate taxes, his administration hopes to lure companies to repatriate an estimated $1tn to $3tn that they have stashed abroad.
His proposed $1tn infrastructure investment, hand in hand with a looser fiscal stance, would add some stimulus to the US economy while repairing US roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals – something which Republicans in the Congress have vehemently opposed hitherto. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to overcome that obstacle.
Trump’s spending plans and unfunded tax cuts would add more than $5tn to the US federal deficit by 2026, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. What is more, his plans are likely to prove inflationary and result in increased borrowing costs, which in turn could oblige the Fed to raise interest rates and set the stage for slower growth.
Most controversial of Trump’s economic platform is his threat to slap 45 percent tax on Chinese imports into the US. China has a trade surplus with the US to the tune of $400bn a year, and China’s foreign exchange reserves presently stand at $3.1tn, much of it invested in the US treasury market. There is, thus, scope for devastating retaliatory action.
China could dump its US treasury holdings, setting in train a chain of occurrences, resulting in a precipitate fall in the value of the US dollar, leading in turn to a rise in US interest rates to protect the dollar, and on to a likely US recession. Such a chain of events would surely destabilise the bond market and inflict serious damage on the global economy.
The Americans have been borrowing from the poorer Chinese at dirt cheap rates of interest in order to buy the goods that the Chinese turn out in such vast quantities. These benefits have been brought about at the cost of US jobs. That, however, is in the nature of imperialism, one of whose chief characteristics is the export of capital, setting up of productive facilities abroad in the interests of the maximisation of profits. Whatever his rhetoric, even Trump will not be able to do much about that.
Needless to say, China too will suffer huge losses on its dollar-denominated assets, should the two countries be involved in retaliatory actions. Presented with the spectacle of the dire economic consequences of steep tariffs on Chinese goods – tariffs which would infringe WTO rules – Trump can be expected to step back from the precipice.
Burleigh’s critique of the liberal élite
It is interesting to note that, while a combination of neocons in the US and the ‘liberal’ left, including the incurably counter-revolutionary Trotskyites, have been stunned to the point of grief by Trump’s victory, detecting the “thud of the fascist jackboot behind the rise of Trump”, Michael Burleigh, author and historian, has brought to the issue a sense of proportion and a measure of sobriety and honesty, saying that Trump’s victory should be viewed as America’s and the west’s great escape.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, this is how he argued to devastating effect against those who have become grief-stricken at Trump’s electoral success: “It is telling that many on the ideological right are not happy with a Trump presidency either.
“These neocons don’t normally mind the thud of boots, preferably into Arab faces, and believed the hawkish Clinton would continue their evangelical warmongering. And just look how that turned out.
“Since 9/11, the US has acted as a ‘Globocop’ in the middle east, north Africa and Afghanistan. The result has been the death of millions, the rise of Islamic State, failed states, the spread of terrorism and a flood of refugees destabilising Europe.”
He went on: “This chaos has compounded the effects of ‘digitisation’ and ‘globalisation’ on ordinary working people and no one’s job is safe. Computers, industrial robots and outsourcing have destroyed many livelihoods.”
These are the reasons, said Mr Burleigh, why he believes that “the liberal hysteria about Trump is misplaced. With a promise to militarily intervene only when US national interests are at stake, he could be just the right president for our times. The outcome could be a new, multipolar world order.”
“Times,” he says, “have changed and international politics must change with it.”
He further said that Russia, China, India and Iran want their voices to be heard; and that their voice must be heard in order to reshape the global institutions that the victors of the second world war imposed in 1945. The US “underwriting of the defence of the western and Pacific world is becoming increasingly resented by the American public …
“Unlike Hillary Clinton, who would have clashed with Vladimir Putin from the outset, Trump says he wants to establish better relations with Russia. He is right that the Russians could join the US (and others) in destroying IS. With intelligent advisers he might discover that a relatively westernised Iran is a better ally than the Saudis, who have spent the past four decades propagating islamist extremism.
“But all this,” he concluded, “will come at a cost. We will have to accept that we can no longer export our ideas … to the rest of the world [it is not just ideas but the imposition of imperialist hegemony at gunpoint!]”
What Mr Burleigh is advocating in essence is non-imperialist conduct by imperialist powers. This will not happen. All the same, the desire, and the advocacy, of a world without imperialist brigandage and hegemony, even if not expressed in such clear terms, is laudable, coming as it does from such an unexpected quarter. It puts to shame the pseudo-left upholders or ‘democratic’ and liberal values who, in the wake of Trump’s victory, and distressed by it, have taken to special rooms with counsellors, puppies and soft toys to relieve their grief. (The great escape from Globocop, 13 November 2016)
Imperialist crisis deepening
Coming as it does on the heels of the Brexit vote in June, Trump’s victory is another blow at the imperialist system and the so-called liberal order. As such, it should be greeted with enthusiasm by the revolutionary proletariat and progressive humanity everywhere.