Letter to American friends and comrades

November 9, 2016 at 10:07 am (anti-fascism, civil rights, class, Democratic Party, elections, fascism, Jim D, misogyny, populism, Racism, reaction, Republican Party, tragedy, Trump, United States)

Image result for picture Trump victory

Dear Friends and Comrades,

Today is a terrible one for America and the world.

Unlike too many on the left, I’ve always been pro-American. Pro-American in the sense that I love and admire American culture, the the ideals of the founding fathers and the noble battle by black and white Americans to achieve Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness for all US citizens. Most of all, I admire the fact that America is a nation of immigrants – multi-cultural in the best sense.

Now all that appears to be at risk, with the election of a narcissistic, isolationist bigot who quotes Mussolini with approval and openly admires Putin.

Trump may not be a fully-fledged fascist, but he’s certainly giving the far right a major opening. “Trump has shown that our message is healthy, normal and organic,” one white nationalist leader told the New York Times.

Racist violence and harassment, whether or not it’s driven by organized groups, is already on the rise. The past two years have seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Muslims, and the month before the election witnessed a spate of anti-Black incidents in Mississippi–including an African American church that was set on fire and spray-painted with the words “Vote Trump.”

Now the left will have to figure out how to mobilize against the threat of a growing far right. As Dorian Bon wrote for SocialistWorker.org:

[T]he right wing can’t be shrugged off as insignificant, and protesting against it shouldn’t be dismissed as giving the right the attention it craves. The vile ideas of figures like Trump, just like the more developed reactionary filth of openly fascist parties, have to be named and confronted…

Equally important, the right wing’s politics of despair and scapegoating have to be countered with a positive alternative–one that stands for justice and democracy, in contrast to the prejudices of the right. This is why building social movements against all the oppressions and injustices faced by ordinary people is important–not only for winning change on particular issues, but in challenging the success of the right wing that tries to exploit these conditions.

Trump, the boorish, sexist, racist, tax-dodging mountebank, charlatan, billionaire, has been the unworthy beneficiary of working class and middle class disillusionment with both the Democrat and the Republican so-called “establishments”. The dreadful Hillary Clinton was the embodiment of the reviled “political class” that has left blue collar workers rotting in enforced idleness and industrial areas turned into rust-belts. She and her Democrat fixers had privately welcomed Trump as the Republican candidate, believing him to be unelectable. The reality was that Clinton was the ideal opponent for Trump. Much of what he and his supporters said about her was sheer sexism, but some of it was true – or, more importantly, it rang true: privileged, out of touch, uninterested in the day-to-day concerns of working people. Ironically, the self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders would have been a stronger candidate and quite possibly have beaten the charlatan.

Richard Rorty in his last book, “Achieving Our Country,” written in 1998, presciently saw where a post – industrial USA was headed.

Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Populist and fascist movements build their base from the politically inactive, the “losers” who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the mainstream political process . The sociologist Émile Durkheim warned that the disenfranchisement of a class of people from the structures of society produced a state of “anomie”—a “condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals.” Those trapped in this “anomie,” he wrote, are easy prey to propaganda and emotionally driven mass movements. Hannah Arendt, echoing Durkheim, noted that “the chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships.”

We have seen this in the UK in the form of “Brexit” and the racist carnival of reaction it has unleashed (some on the supposed “left” to their shame, even supported a “Brexit” vote!), so for me personally, the Trump victory is a second body-blow to come within a few months. Elsewhere, authoritarian nationalist populism is in power (Putin, Erdogan, Modi) or waiting, menacingly, in the wings (Le Pen, Golden Dawn, Wilders, etc).

I believe America will survive and eventually defeat Trump and Trumpism. Your democratic tradition and history of civil rights struggle is too strong to be permanently subdued by this creature. But it will take a revived left, embracing workers of all ethnicities and decent people of all classes an d backgrounds, willing to take on not just the proto-Fascist Trump, but the “respectable” Democrats so disastrously personified by Hillary Clinton. Joe Hill’s famous words to Big Bill Hayward have become something of a cliché over the years, but rarely have they been more apposite than now: “Don’t mourn, organize!”

23 Comments

  1. Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

    What a whinge.

    Trump is terrible but Clinton is the same.

    Trump is a friend of bigots; more big businesses support Clinton.

    Trump is isolationist inclined; Clinton is interventionist (as in ‘bomb them’).

    Their politics are not identical but they are just variations on the same tune.

    Unless you state you would have written in the same manner if Clinton had been elected, you have left class politics behind.

    There is one thing (and just one thing) better about one them being elected over the other – With Trump being elected, you get to see the liberals weep. Boo hoo hoo.

    • Jim Denham said,

      Third Period tosser.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        Clinton = SPD does she? An idiotic comment.

      • Jim Denham said,

        Learn some history, and some elementary Marxism, you Third Period Onanist

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        You are all bluster. In my reply to PPW I explain how the 3rd Period parallel is wrong. So go on, explain how my comment is 3rd Period – you can’t, can you

      • Jim Denham said,

        “After the Nazis … us”:

        Your moronic logic too.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        More obvious bluster. Yes, I’m obviously familiar with that key phrase from the 3rd Period. But there is no link between it and what I have said in any shape or form. You are just trying to muddy the water – and failing. Grow a few Left principles and withdraw your baseless remark.

  2. @pplswar said,

    ^That’s some recycled third period ultra-leftism right there (fascist=social fascist).

    Bernie Sanders 2020 and Our Revolution in the meantime.

    • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

      But it’s not though, is it. There were no social-democrats in play. And no actual fascists to compare to said social democrats – just two right-wing candidates. No revolutionary socialist (USA or elsewhere) ever advocates voting Democrat or Republican.

      • @pplswar said,

        Hitler vs. Hindenburg in 1932 was also ‘two right-wing candidates.’ Nonetheless they were not identical political quantities and you depart from reality-based politics by insisting otherwise.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        That’s just bogus. 1932 Germany was a fascist v a conservative v a ‘communist’.

        I dislike the national chauvinism of trying to translate something into ‘British’ but you did an international comparison when relating the USA election to Germany et al in your first comment.

        So let me use that imperfect solution. In ‘British’ Trump v Clinton was Tory v Tory or possibly UKIP v Tory. Workers have no interest in such and no vote should be cast for either candidate. Your problem is that you wrongly see Trump v Clinton as Tory (or UKIP) v Labour.

      • Southpawpunch (@Southpawpunch) said,

        Sorry I got that last bit wrong. Your problem is that you wrongly see Trump v Clinton as BNP v Labour, not as it is – Ukip or Tory V Tory. (or, if you like, wrongly see it as NSDAP v SPD when it is was Hindenburg v Hindenburg.)

  3. chris2011b said,

    but which way forward now?

    On Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 10:07 AM, Shiraz Socialist wrote:

    > charliethechulo posted: ” Dear Friends and Comrades, Today is a terrible > one for America and the world. Unlike too many on the left, I’ve always > been pro-American. Pro-American in the sense that I love and > admire American culture, the the ideals of the founding fathers a” >

  4. matthewblott said,

    I share your sentiments Jim. A worthy letter, thanks for posting 🙂

  5. Stephen Bellamy said,

    ” I believe America will survive” Well everything survives until it doesn’t. Dominant empires come and they go. Compared to Rome America is but a straw in the wind. And well…..

  6. Stephen Bellamy said,

    And just how funny is ” Dear friends and comrades,,,,,,I love America “

    • Jim Denham said,

      and your point is, Stephen?

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        Its not a complex one. I just find the idea of someone loving America mildly amusing.

      • Jim Denham said,

        And why is that?

  7. Political Tourist said,

    Funny there’s no mention of false consciousness when it comes to the Anerican working class.
    Come to think of it i don’t remember false consciousness getting mentioned at the Brexit vote.
    Or does it just apply to the Jocks, comrade?

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      Nat si idiot.

  8. ianmichael43 said,

    Excellent piece. Thank you. Shame about the (to me) meaningless and obscene comments that follow. How are the references to Third Period (not ashamed to say I don’t get it) going to be useful in appealing to the mass of working people we need to get on our side?
    That being said, I’ve been posting ‘Don’t mourn, organise!’ Wherever I can.

  9. Boleyn Ali said,

    “There is one thing (and just one thing) better about one them being elected over the other – With Trump being elected, you get to see the liberals weep. Boo hoo hoo”

    Which will certainly console the victims of the inevitable, post-Brexit styke, increase in hate crimes.

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