Impeach Trump — and the System That Spawned Him

trump-impeach

One of the biggest challenges of activism in the Trump era is just keeping up with the constantly shifting developments of the daily news cycle. Indeed, every day seems to bring a new White House scandal.

Only four months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s first (and perhaps, last) term has devolved into its own warped reality TV show, replete with escalating plot-twists, Nixonian cover-ups, and plenty of drama. Binge-watch this real-life House of Cards at your own risk.

In the last week alone, Trump abruptly fired the FBI director, James Comey; nonchalantly disclosed classified intelligence to Russian government officials; and we learned he may have personally attempted to pressure Comey to drop his investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go—to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to the then-FBI director’s own internal memos. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

I have raised serious doubts concerning the validity of the dubious “Russia-stole-the-presidential-election” narrative, and these recent developments do little to alter that overall skepticism. Not only is there still no concrete evidence that Russia covertly influenced the 2016 election in order to ensure Trump’s victory, but the accusation is quite hypocritical given the United States’ own decades-long role in intervening—subtly or with open military force—with the democratic elections of nations throughout the world when their citizens voted the “wrong way.”

Rather, I think Paul Street’s theory that Comey was fired due to his lack of loyalty to the narcissistic Trump, is more plausible.

“Lack of outward devotion to the new commander in chief is what got Comey canned,” Street writes in a May 15 piece for Truthdig.com. “His sin was insufficient fealty to Herr Donald.

“… Comey was shown the door because he failed to obsequiously kiss the ring of the orange-haired beast, who shows great admiration for authoritarian strongmen like Vladimir Putin (Russia), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (Egypt) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).”

Nonetheless, Trump’s firing of Comey has, as Street concedes, “poured fuel on the Russiagate fire.”

Thus, all the liberals and Democratic apparatchiks who already believe that Trump is a Manchurian Candidate-style Russian puppet are only going to view Comey’s dismissal as further confirmation of this silly conspiracy theory. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have gleefully embraced this neo-Cold War narrative as a convenient cover for their party’s (and, more specifically, Hillary Clinton’s) staggering ineptitude in defeating arguably the most vile, least qualified Republican presidential candidate in modern history.

(Comey, incidentally, deserves little sympathy from leftists. The now-former FBI director is no hero, and the agency he oversaw is certainly no friend of the left. Indeed, since its inception, the FBI has devoted more resources and manpower to undermining, surveilling, infiltrating, sabotaging, provoking, arresting, physically attacking, and otherwise destroying left-wing groups, activists, and sympathizers, than it has to investigating actual terrorist threats or serious crimes.)

While we may never know the truth about Trump’s Russia connection, there is little doubt the Predator-in-Chief is guilty of obstructing justice. Many Democrats are now even openly talking about impeachment.

Are we really witnessing the beginning of the end of Trump’s presidency?

It is difficult to say. As has become increasingly clear since he first emerged as the GOP’s presidential nominee last year, Trump has a frustrating habit of stubbornly defying expectations. (Indeed, it may well be the man’s only discernible talent.)

While I would like nothing more than to see this Cheetos-skinned ignoramus “fired,” to use his favorite phrase, I remain skeptical of the Democratic Party’s willingness to actually initiate impeachment hearings, should they take back the House in the 2018 midterm elections.

Recent history shows the Democrats have an almost allergic reaction to the very word “impeachment,” even when party leaders are faced with incontrovertible evidence of unconstitutional abuses of power.

House Democrats—most notably then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—refused to impeach George W. Bush or Dick Cheney after re-taking Congress in the 2006 midterm elections, claiming, at the time, that impeachment would be a “distraction.” Given that the Democrats proceeded to spend the next two years campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, it is difficult to understand what, precisely, holding the deeply unpopular Bush accountable for war crimes would have “distracted” from.

Thus, it would be a mistake for the left to pin its hopes of removing Trump from office on the “dismal dollar Dems,” as Street dubs the party. And even if Trump were impeached, that would leave us with … President Mike Pence—a Christian evangelical zealot, and white nationalist. Not exactly an improvement, if you ask me.

This brings us to the problem of approaching anti-Trump resistance through the narrow lens of impeachment or other legislative maneuvers. At the end of the day Trump, loathsome as he is, is not really the problem. Trump is merely a symptom of the larger disease—the disease of capitalism. Trading one capitalist president for another amounts to little more than a cosmetic reform. The whole system needs to be impeached.

As Danny Katch and Alan Maass write in a May 19 article for Socialist Worker:

“Masses of people are disgusted by Trump, but their eyes are being opened wider about the system that spawned him. Or at least they can be. There is a danger that those masses of people will remain spectators—looking on as the battle plays out within the narrow limits of mainstream politics.”

In other words, it is not enough to just be anti-Trump. The left must put forward its own vision of organizing society—one rooted in Marxism and social and economic justice. We must offer working-class people a path to a world free of sexism, racism, xenophobia and other forms of oppression, and free of capitalist competition that pits workers against one another.

I believe such a world is within our grasp. A majority of young Americans are more open to socialism now than at any other time in the last 30 years. But that world won’t be achieved merely by impeaching Trump. Nor, for that matter, will it be won by signing on to the tepid, narrow reforms the Democrats are offering.

In the meantime, there is a very real possibility Trump could attempt to distract from his deepening scandal by launching another military strike on Syria or even starting a full-scale war with North Korea. Such an action would almost certainly change the national discourse virtually overnight. And we all saw how obsequiously the “liberal,” “opposition party” media proudly cheered the president on during last month’s surprise missile strike on Syria.

As Street observes, though the United States prides itself as the “world’s greatest democracy,” few of our nation’s institutions can accurately be called “democratic.” The U.S. is essentially an oligarchy.

“Impeaching or otherwise removing [Trump] won’t alter that basic reality,” he writes. “The United States doesn’t need a new and 46th president as much as it needs a democracy, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutions—including its frankly absurd and plutocratic election and party systems.”

 

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The Failure of Identity Politics

Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham, star of the HBO series, “Girls,” shows off her support for Hillary Clinton with a dress emblazoned with the Democratic presidential candidate’s first name.

I maintain, as I have previously argued on this site, that one of the greatest obstacles to developing a mass, diverse working-class movement to fight not only the Trump regime, but also the system that spawned it in the first place, remains the scourge of identity politics.

This political orientation, along with its associated practices of “privilege-checking,” and “calling out,” has rendered the left atomized, devoid of a concrete political vision, and largely incapable of joining together in solidarity. Indeed, even that word, “solidarity,” is quite threatening to practitioners of identity and privilege-politics, who regard it as a sort of “whitewashing” of real inequities in race, gender, and sexual orientation.

The absence of a clearly articulated class-oriented approach to social justice, combined with a generally low-level of class-struggle (recent resistance to Trump’s election, notwithstanding), has allowed the nebulous, postmodernist dictates of identity politics to fill the void. As a result, in places like Portland, Maine the framework of identity politics has become the default orientation of left-wing groups.

According to liberal identitarians all white people are inherently—and perhaps, irredeemably—racist, simply by nature of being white. And no amount of education, enlightenment, commitment to social justice, or personal growth can alter a “privileged” white person’s racist, prejudiced views. Thus, identity politics casts White People or even just “whiteness” as the enemy of the oppressed, rather than the structural racism intentionally perpetuated by the wealthy elite.

As the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass observed of the twisted genius of the capitalist ruling class in pitting white workers against black workers, “The slaveholders, by encouraging the enmity of the poor, laboring white man against the blacks, succeeded in making the said white man almost as much of a slave as the black himself.”

“Both,” Douglass adds, “are plundered by the same plunderer.”

Proponents of identity politics, likewise, insist Donald Trump was elected president based purely on racism—and nothing more. They point to exit-poll data suggesting a majority of white voters—including a majority of white women—voted for Trump.

But this data is misleading. A majority of white Americans did not vote for Trump. A majority of the whites who voted did. This is a crucial distinction. Nearly 50 percent of eligible voters stayed home on Election Day or were barred from voting.

And, while racism no doubt played some role in Trump’s election, many of the working-class whites who voted for him did so out of legitimate economic grievances. As Jacobin’s Adaner Usmani puts it, “All Klansmen are Trump supporters, but all Trump supporters are not Klansmen.” It is crucial those of us on the left understand this if we are to have any hope of winning some of those working-class Trump supporters–many of whom voted for Barack Obama, at least once–to our side.

This is in no way meant to diminish the very real and insidious role of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and ableism in Trump’s electoral victory. It is merely to acknowledge that his ascension is more complicated to explain—his supporters’ motivations more complex and often contradictory—than the easy scapegoat of “racism” suggests.

Furthermore, it was the slave-owning Founding Fathers’ Electoral College which handed Trump the presidency—not the voters. If we lived in an actual democracy, where candidates were elected based on the popular vote (or, for that matter, if we had more than two candidates to choose from), then Hillary Clinton would currently be sitting in the White House.

But proponents of identity politics conveniently overlook all of these nuances, preferring a simplistic (and decidedly cynical) understanding of society and human nature as governed by nothing more than fear, hatred, and naked self-interest.

As such, Maine activist and blogger, Shay Stewart-Bouley, claims in a recent post on her “Black Girl in Maine” blog that a “fear of the declining value of whiteness is what brought us Trump.”

Stewart-Bouley goes on to admonish her white readers that people of color do not need their “white guilt” in anti-racist activism, only to then proceed to remind them that “racism is largely a white problem.” Sure seems like a guilt-trip to me.

But rather than explaining how white leftists can be better “allies” in the fight against racism, Stewart-Bouley echoes the familiar identitarian doctrine that black and white activists conduct their work in separate circles. This, she explains, is so white people can “have a space [of their own] to work out the kinks on their journey without harming me and other POC [People of Color].”

This insistence of separate spaces for black and white activists flows from the identitarian concept that it is “not the job” of oppressed people to educate others. White progressives, in other words, must “do the work” of educating themselves.

“Seriously, I am not Oprah or Mammy,” Stewart-Bouley writes, “and for my own well-being, I want people to know what they don’t know and work on it without being expected to have their hand held by me while they do it.”

As someone who has worked (albeit, briefly) in education, I can assure you: Dismissively telling students to “go educate yourselves,” with no additional guidance or direction from the teacher, is a surefire way to ensure the majority of them do not take the class seriously, spend the semester slacking off, and ultimately fail the course. And, when it comes to eradicating racism, and building a viable, multi-racial, multi-gender, multi-ethnic working-class movement, failure, as they say, is not an option.

Telling people to “educate yourself” or just “Google it” in response to legitimate questions about unfamiliar phrases, jargon, or histories, merely reproduces “neoliberal atomization,” as one of my comrades in the International Socialist Organization (ISO) phrased it in a recent internal document. That is, “sit by yourself in front of a computer and figure it out alone.” And this is to say nothing of the generally contemptuous tone of telling people, “It’s not my job to educate you!”

Part of being a revolutionary means being willing to educate, discuss and patiently debate with others—even those who may not be as radical as you are. Reading, studying, and debating collectively are indispensable components to building a sense of solidarity, and coalescing around a unified, cohesive political orientation.

Contrary to the dictates of identity politics, just because an individual does not personally experience a particular form of oppression does not mean he or she has no interest in fighting to end that oppression. Indeed, the system of capitalism—a system that is inherently exploitative— oppresses all workers to some degree. The ruling class has its proverbial thumb on all workers—though it presses down with greater force on some particularly oppressed workers (African Americans, women, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities), than others.

But all workers have an interest in cutting off the bourgeois thumb (if not, indeed, the entire hand it is a part of) and dismantling the system that keeps us all down.

As socialist author, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in her 2016 book, From Black Lives Matter, to Black Liberation:

Solidarity is standing in unity with people even if you have not personally experienced their particular oppression[.] The reality is that as long as capitalism exists, material and ideological pressures push white workers to be racist and all workers to hold each other in general suspicion. But there are moments of struggle when the mutual interests of workers are laid bare, and when the suspicion is finally turned in the other direction—at the plutocrats who live well while the rest of us suffer.

While the inclusion of more people of color, women, and gays in the corporate and political arena is certainly a welcome trend, the folly of multiculturalism is in viewing this diversity alone as a form of progress. The fact is, one can be gay, black, female, or trans and still be part of the bourgeoisie. Take figures like Caitlyn Jenner, Clarence Thomas, Oprah Winfrey, or warmonger “feminist,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, for example.

As left-wing professor Adolph Reed, Jr. writes in a stinging rebuke of liberal identity politics:

[A] society in which 1% of the population controlled 90% of the resources could be just, provided that roughly 12% of the 1% were black, 12% were Latino, 50% were women and whatever the appropriate proportions were LGBT people. It would be tough to imagine a normative ideal that expresses more unambiguously the social position of people who consider themselves candidates for inclusion, or at least significant staff positions in service to, the ruling class.

None of this is to suggest that class is “more important” than race or other aspects of identity. Rather, as Karl Marx observed, class and race are inextricably intertwined.

“In the United States of America, every independent movement of the workers was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic,” Marx wrote in Volume One of Capital. “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.”

The left must rekindle the old labor slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Only through solidarity—through a shared sense of class-struggle among workers of all genders, gender-identities, races, and sexual orientations—can we hope to fight the right, rebuild the left, and win nothing less than the self-emancipation of the working class.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

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The Democrats: History’s Second Most Enthusiastic Capitalist Party

Sanders Portland, Maine
Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd at the State Theater in Portland, Maine on April 17, 2017.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ recent appearance in Portland, Maine highlighted the structural disorganization and lack of strategic vision that continue to plague the American left—particularly in the wake of the demoralizing election of Donald Trump.

Over 1,500 people packed the State Theater on April 17 for the first night of Sanders’ and newly-elected DNC chairman, Tom Perez’s post-election pick-me-up tour, “Come Together and Fight Back.”

But make no mistake about which of these two politicians attendees showed up for: Mainers loudly booed Perez, who recently beat out the more progressive, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), to head the DNC. Sanders, meanwhile, remains the most popular politician in the country, according to several polls.

One young woman, waiting in the interminable line, seemed to speak for the crowd. “I’m here to see Bernie!” she announced. “Not the DNC!”

I joined four other comrades from the Portland branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) to sell copies of our newspaper, the Socialist Worker, and talk to people in line. (Full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of the ISO.)

While we did sell a lot of papers, and had some quality conversations with a few folks, most people seemed rather indifferent to our presence. A few even audibly scoffed at the word “socialist,” which is completely baffling to me. Were these people unaware they were waiting in line to hear a self-professed “democratic socialist” speak? Sanders certainly made no secret about his identification with socialism on the campaign trail. He even gave a whole friggin speech on the topic.

One of my comrades ventured into the crowd to talk to people one-on-one. He opened by asking what they thought about the “state of politics, today.” Most people groaned or laughed cynically in response.

“I’m actually feeling optimistic,” my friend countered. “The Women’s March and airport protests have all given me hope.”

Upon reflecting on these recent anti-Trump protests, people suddenly shifted their tone. “Oh yeah!” they said. “That’s right!”

While these informal conversations can hardly be granted the weight of a Gallup poll, I think they are nonetheless informative. They suggest a demoralized left that is unsure how to proceed in the wake of Trump’s election.

Indeed, the initial, seemingly daily protests and rallies that greeted Trump’s inauguration have subsided in recent weeks. And early talk among Democrats of impeaching Trump based on alleged Russian interference with the election have failed to yield any substantive evidence—and, given the overall dubiousness of the claims, are unlikely to.

Instead, the Democrats have resigned themselves—and their liberal supporters—to waiting for the 2018 midterm election where they hope to re-take Congress. (Hence the Sanders/Perez rally.)

Thus, a noticeable sense of despair and demoralization has overcome much of the left—right at the time when we should be ramping up our resistance to Trump’s racist, xenophobic, imperialist policies.

Many of those at the State Theater rally had understandably pinned their hopes on Sanders’ presidential campaign and his social democratic platform. But Sanders’ campaign was ultimately sabotaged by the Democratic Party, which remains opposed to all of his policies.

As such, any path forward for the left cannot come through the Democratic Party. Progressives’ long-standing fantasy of “taking over” the Democratic Party from within remains just that.

The history of left-wing activism is rife with examples of progressive reformers–from Jesse Jackson, to Dennis Kucinich, to Howard Dean, and Sanders–who have attempted to “re-take” or “recapture” the party through “insurgent” presidential campaigns. And not only did each of these efforts fail, but the Democratic establishment was able to pull these candidates’ supporters back into the party fold, every time.

Little wonder the Democratic Party has been dubbed the “graveyard of social movements.”

“The question remains: Can progressives take over the Democratic Party..?” Lance Selfa asks in his 2008 book, The Democrats: A Critical History.

To answer that, one has to consider that the Democratic Party really represents one of the two main parties of corporate rule in the United States. Despite its name, it is not a democratic organization whose members control it. So any activist or trade union or popular attempt to take it over always faces a counter-attack by the people who really control it—big business interests, who will use every underhanded trick in the book to maintain their hold.

In other words, despite their traditional posturing as the party of labor, women, immigrants, and minorities, the Democrats are at heart a capitalist party—just like the Republicans. The Republicans are merely more up-front about their servitude to corporate interests.

While the Dems pose as the “party of the people,” the truth is they are responsible for some of the most grievous ravages against the working class—the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the elimination of welfare, and the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), all facilitated by President Bill Clinton—in modern history.

Indeed, no less a lionized “progressive champion” than Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed his greatest achievement as president was that he “saved capitalism.”

But don’t take my word for it. House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi recently conceded as much during a CNN town-hall style special. In response to a college student’s question about millennials’ growing preference for socialism over capitalism, Pelosi answered, “Well, I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we’re capitalist. That’s just the way it is.”

Straight from the donkey’s mouth, if you will.

No, the Democrats will not save us. The working class needs its own political party—one that truly represents our interests.

I maintain that the tragedy of  Sanders’ presidential campaign was his decision not to challenge Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party as an independent candidate. Had he done so, he may well be sitting in the White House, today.

(And can we please drop this mantra that Sanders would have had “no chance in hell” running as an independent or with the Greens? In an election in which a record number of Americans were disgusted with both the frontrunner candidates, it is no far-fetched stretch of the imagination to see Sanders winning the presidency as a third-party candidate. At the very least, he would have been able to continue his campaign through the general election, having avoided the DNC’s nefarious underhanded schemes that ultimately undid his primary campaign.)

But then, Sanders has always been a nominal member of the Democrats. It all goes back to Sanders’ longstanding deal with the party: He faithfully tows the party line, and they will not challenge his Senate seat in Vermont. As such, CounterPunch’s Paul Street calls Sanders a “de facto Dem.”

Worst of all, Sanders by running within the Democratic party structure–and, ultimately, endorsing Clinton when his quixotic primary bid was inevitably foiled–failed to build an enduring, politically astute left-wing movement that can continue to push for his campaign demands. Instead, his supporters find themselves disillusioned and uncertain how to proceed. Some of them have ditched the Democrats for good, but others are all too willing to give them “one more chance.” And with Trump in office, those of the latter mindset are likely to have greater sway over the direction of Sanders’ “political revolution”–or whatever remains of it.

On the other hand, Sanders has convinced hundreds of young people to identify as “socialist,” which in of itself is pretty awesome. This means there is an audience out there for socialists. Our task is to tap into that audience, discuss socialist politics with its members, and try to pull them to more radical views.

But if the formation of a viable, militant working-class left is to ever take hold, leftists must disabuse themselves of the misguided notion it can use the Democratic Party as a vehicle for that end. It cannot.

The Democratic Party is and always has been a party for capital, empire, and corporate interests. It has never been a party for the working class. Any successful socialist revolution can only come, as Hal Draper observed, “from below.”

Many readers are likely to scoff at this analysis, dismissing it as “unrealistic,” or beyond the realm of the so-called “politically possible.”

Yet, as Selfa writes:

It’s said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. If that’s true, the partisans of such “realistic” strategies of fusing with the Democrats or “taking over” the Democratic Party–both of which have failed generations of progressives–are really the ones who are out of touch with reality.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

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Small Business Owners — Not the Working Class — Elected Trump President

Trump Supporters

The narrative that has emerged in the months since Donald Trump’s seemingly improbable election last November—that of a “Rust Best revolt” among disaffected, white working-class voters—has been, in the words of left-wing writer, Paul Street, “badly oversold.”

It is not, in truth, an accurate, nor an especially insightful, lens through which to view Trump’s election.

If the left is to mount an effective campaign against Trump’s xenophobic, misogynist, racist, bourgeois policies—a campaign that can win real victories for the working class—it is imperative that we understand how the Predator-in-Chief and his cabinet of swamp monsters oozed their way to the White House, in the first place. And in order to do that, we must push back against this rather misleading narrative that white working-class voters are responsible for Trump’s victory.

Trump basically received the same amount of support as Mitt Romney did in 2012. His election should not be taken as evidence that the nation’s proverbial political pendulum has swung suddenly to the right. Trump’s victory is due less to Republicans gaining support among working-class voters as it is to Democrats losing that support.

As CounterPunch’s Anthony DiMaggio observes, the 2016 presidential election result was “more about growing working class and white voter disgust with the Democratic status quo than it was about being enamored with the Trump candidacy.”

He adds,

“If the Democratic Party had fielded a real progressive candidate who had a meaningful history of seeking to help the working class—Bernie Sanders, for example—the outcome of the election may have been very different.”

Then again, Sanders had the option of challenging Clinton and the Democratic machine as an independent. Likewise, the Green Party’s Jill Stein extended numerous invitations to Sanders to join her presidential campaign. She even offered to take a back seat on the ticket, as Sanders’ vice president.

But Stein’s calls to Sanders’ campaign went unanswered. Sanders, with his history in third-party politics, knew full well what he was getting into when he signed on to run as a Democrat. And no—I do not believe that Sanders would have had “no chance in hell” of winning as an independent. Voter disgust with both capitalist parties is at a record high.

But DiMaggio’s point is well taken.

Hillary Clinton proved utterly tone-deaf to the legitimate economic concerns of working-class voters—many of whom turned out in droves (twice) for the considerably more charismatic, Barack Obama.

Clinton’s empty response to Trump’s inane campaign slogan, “Make America Great, Again,” was that America is “already great.” Not only did this rebuttal fail to clearly differentiate Clinton’s brand of technocratic neoliberalism from Trump’s faux-populist nationalism, but it rang completely false to the hundreds of laid-off workers whose jobs had been shipped overseas, largely as a result of her husband’s policies.

Faced with the “choice” of two bourgeois, corporatist candidates, nearly half of eligible voters (46.9 percent) opted to stay home on Election Day. Indeed, both candidates registered record low approval ratings, even before emerging as their respective party’s nominee.

As embattled WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange put it, choosing between Clinton and Trump is like picking between “cholera and gonorrhea.”

“Personally, I would prefer neither,” Assange acidly told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman.

And several million voters—primarily people of color or those with disabilities–were prohibited from voting due to onerous voter ID laws, incarceration or felony status, ridiculously strict voter registration deadlines, or GOP gerrymandering of voting districts. Those most affected by these punitive laws—which essentially amount to a modern day poll tax—are traditionally more inclined to vote for Democrats.

Yet, despite the depressed turnout and Clinton’s inability to excite the traditional Democratic base, she still won the popular vote by a significant margin—nearly three million votes. This makes Clinton the recipient of more votes than any other losing presidential candidate in American history, according to CNN.

It was the Electoral College–an antiquated relic of the slave-owning Founding Fathers, designed to artificially boost the influence of slave-states in elections–that ultimately handed Trump the presidency.

Trump, despite what he and his spokespeople may claim, has no popular mandate. Only three months into his presidency, Trump’s approval rating is already well below 50 percent. And his recent failure to “close the deal” on Congress’s repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, throws many of his other legislative promises into question.

So, if it was not the “white working class” that elected Trump, as the capitalist media claim, then who did?

With most of the capitalist class throwing its weight behind the more experienced, reliable Clinton, Trump drew his support largely from middle-managers, self-employed workers, and small business owners. According to the Socialist Worker‘s Lance Selfa, Trump’s supporters have a median household income of over $50,000, while Clinton generally drew from voters with less than $50,000. In keeping with the Republican Party’s general makeup, Trump voters are primarily middle-aged, white, middle-upper class, and do not have a college degree.

In other words, Trump’s support came from what Marx and Engels called the “petit bourgois,” (“petty” or “small” bourgeois; the term was intended as something of an epithet). These right-leaning small business owners and middle managers generally hate taxes and subsidies (hence their dislike of “Obamacare”), higher minimum wage laws, and government regulation of any kind.

And many of these voters were receptive to Trump’s racist, xenophobic rhetoric, which blames their economic struggles on immigrants, Muslims, and African Americans. Indeed, a CBS-New York Times post-election exit poll found an alarming 84 percent of Trump voters support deporting undocumented immigrants from the United States. Eighty-six percent, likewise, support building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Meanwhile, a similar post-election poll by the Pew Research Center reveals only seven percent of Trump supporters view sexism as a “very serious problem,” just 21 percent said the same about racism, and a mere 14 percent view climate change is a “very serious problem.”

This is not to suggest Trump voters were not at all motivated by legitimate economic grievances, including the adverse affects of global “free-trade” deals. Many of them certainly were. Nor should we dismiss them outright as irredeemable racist, sexist, ignorant “deplorables.” As Jacobin‘s Adaner Usmani aptly puts it, “All Klansmen are Trump supports, but not all Trump supporters are Klansmen.” Rather than writing these voters off (or worse, mocking them for “getting what they deserve”), the left’s goal should be to hold out an alternative vision of organizing society, one rooted in economic and social justice, that is worth fighting for.

That said, as the findings clearly show, most Trump supporters are not truly hurting economically. Many of them are doing quite well, thank you very much. As such, the media’s narrative of a “white working class uprising” at the ballot box, begins to fall apart upon closer scrutiny.

“The fact of the matter is that Trump supporters represent a perverse fusion of economic discontent and hateful, right-wing bigotry and nationalism,” DiMaggio writes. “We ignore the latter part of Trump’s support at our own peril.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Thanks for reading!

 

“Centering” is Tokenism

Solidarity, Not Centering

Though well-intentioned, the practice of “centering” oppressed voices in left circles threatens to become an end in of itself.

Anyone involved in activism during the last five-eight years is likely familiar with the practice of “centering” marginalized voices at rallies, protests, and demonstrations. This practice entails placing the voices of oppressed people—African Americans, Muslims, women, immigrants, LGBT people—front-and-center during speeches or pre-march rallies. The practice is sometimes referred to as “Passing the mic.”

In theory, “centering” is a well-intentioned concept designed to give space to oppressed individuals who often are denied a platform to speak publicly or whose voices are generally ignored.

But, alas, the “road to hell…” as they say…

The problem with “centering” is its complete disregard for the actual content of the speakers’ speeches. Protest organizers often assemble their multi-ethnic/multi-racial/gender-“non-conforming” panel of speakers with little to no concern for what, exactly, they are going to say at the event, or how a panelist’s views may differ from those of the host organization.

As a result, you wind up with black speakers who encourage participants to divest their money from corporate banks like TD, Bank of America and the like, and participate solely in “black banking,” or only patronize businesses owned and operated by African Americans.

Again, this is an understandable and well-meaning idea. But as a socialist I have to ask: How does shopping exclusively at “black businesses” in any way threaten or undermine the system of capitalism?

Answer: It does not.

Indeed, this strategy strikes me as all too similar to the naïve liberal belief that shopping exclusively at “small businesses,” or “buying local,” can create a more egalitarian world. While I certainly prefer shopping at a locally-owned coffee shop rather than at Starbucks any day of the week, the small businesses in my neighborhood are no less motivated by profit than a giant corporate chain is. Likewise, the baristas at the local coffee shop are no less exploited as workers than those at Starbucks.

(Voters in Portland, Maine defeated a referendum in 2015, put forward by the Portland Green Party, to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Most of the opposition came not from chain stores or corporate retailers, but from the city’s myriad “small” businesses and restaurants.)

But, as a white male, I am prohibited from offering this counter-argument to the “black business” strategy. That is because the practice of “centering,” in its effort to raise the voices of marginalized people, often excludes those of white, straight men, entirely. Protest organizers tend to be quite explicit about this. Your role at these demonstrations if you are white, male, straight or all of the above, is basically to sit down, shut-up, and defer entirely to people of color, women, LGBT folks, etc.

Other times, the speakers assembled will not express any coherent political philosophies or strategies at all. They will just rant.

The need to rant about racism, homophobia, sexism and “The System” at large, is no doubt an entirely natural, human desire—especially for those who must endure such pernicious forms of oppression on a daily basis. We all need to rant at some point. It is, I suppose, a necessary form of catharsis.

But merely ranting about the system will not change it. In order to do that, we need carefully thought out political theories, philosophies, strategies, and views. And we should debate those views among each other in a comradely fashion. Selecting speakers based on their gender, gender-identity, race or sexual orientation, rather than their political views, denies leftists this opportunity. As a result, leftists are less knowledgeable about how, precisely, to go about creating a world devoid of sexism, racism, ableism, and capitalist exploitation.

Finally, if the goal of centering is to provide a platform for those routinely denied one, why are poor or homeless people (of any race, ethnicity, gender, etc.) rarely among the speakers featured? Poverty is, after all, a form of oppression.

Socialists are often accused of “class reductionism,” or focusing exclusively on class while ignoring or downplaying the significance of other forms of oppression. This was the chief complaint among liberal women and people of color about Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Yet, these accusations of sexism and racism were—particularly in the case of the former—cynically stoked by the Hillary Clinton campaign, in order to discredit Sanders and his platform of democratic socialism.

Leaving aside the fact that socialists have historically been at the forefront of struggles against sexism, racism, homophobia and the like, identitarian liberals are rarely accused of class reductionism’s inverse: identity politics. The point is, just as oppression based on identity cannot—and should not—be ignored, neither can class.

As Sanders said in a widely mischaracterized speech during a post-election book tour last November, “It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans—all of that is enormously important, and count me in as somebody who wants to see that happen.”

“But,” Sanders went on:

“… It’s not enough to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!’ No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

These limitations beg the question: At what point does centering become little more than a politics of representation at best—or a cynical form of tokenism, at worst?

This is not to suggest there is no value in sitting back and listening more—especially for those of us (white men, mostly) who, admittedly, tend to do most of the talking. And marginalized people should tell their own stories, and lead their own movements. But centering—like all forms of identity politics—threatens to become an end in of itself.

It is time for the left to move beyond the practice of centering and toward an orientation of solidarity. Our orientation should be the old labor slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

This is not to suggest we abandon the practice of centering, altogether. I do believe it has some value.

But if we are serious about ending racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia—and, ultimately, the capitalist system that perpetuates such forms of oppression in the first place—then we need to, in the words of the rap group, The Coup, “pick a bigger weapon.” And that weapon, in my opinion, is socialism.

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Beyond Identity Politics: It’s the Economy, Stupid!

identity-politics

If there is a lesson to be gleaned from the wreckage of the 2016 presidential election, it is that the left needs to move beyond the narrow limits of identity politics and embrace a broad, class-based orientation of solidarity.

Hillary Clinton’s empty appeals to a corporate faux feminism failed to win over struggling working-class voters—including, ironically, at least 50 percent of white women who cast ballots for Donald Trump despite his repugnant history as a misogynist sexual predator.  And brow-beating women and Bernie Sanders supporters (“Bernie Bros”) by claiming, as Madeline Albright did, that there is a “special place in hell” for sisters who did not fall in line behind Clinton, did not help matters.

Even Sanders seems to understand the dead-end that is identity politics. During a recent stop in Boston on his current book tour/post-election-pick-me-up rally, Sanders urged progressives to “move beyond identity politics.”

“It’s not good enough for someone to say, ‘I’m a woman! Vote for me!'” Sanders told the audience. “No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”

It is safe to say identity politics—along with Clintonian neoliberalism—died on Nov. 8. And I for one say good riddance.

But before explaining why I view the death of ID politics as a good thing, it is worth explaining what, exactly, is meant by “identity politics,” as there seems to be some confusion among leftists over the term itself.

Contrary to the argument put forward by Marcus H. Johnson in a recent story for The Establishment, identity politics are not the same thing as civil rights. Nor, for that matter, is Johnson’s oversimplified definition of identity politics as encompassing the “political interests of women, minorities and other marginalized groups in American politics,” completely accurate.

(Indeed, it is striking how poorly informed Johnson’s entire liberal article is, to the point where he lumps Sanders–a New Deal Democrat, essentially–into something called the “alt-left.”)

Rather, ID politics—which has its roots in academic postmodernism and, as such, is decidedly anti-Marxist in nature—suggests that not only do all members of an oppressed group share the same interests, but that only those members have a stake in ending that oppression. Identity politics argues, furthermore, that all whites benefit materially from racism and, as a result, have no interest in uniting in solidarity with black Americans to end racism—or sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.

(A more ultra-leftist strain of ID politics goes even further, suggesting that all whites are racist, or all men are sexist, simply by virtue of being white or male.)

To be certain, as a white male, I can only imagine the hardships of enduring racism or sexism on a daily basis. I can never fully understand the lived experience of a black person in this country with its long, savage history of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation.

But just because an individual does not personally experience a particular form of oppression does mean he or she has no interest in fighting to end that oppression. Indeed, the system of capitalism oppresses all workers in some fashion through exploitation, wage-theft, income inequality, and surplus labor extraction.

As Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in her recent book, From Black Lives Matter to Black Liberation:

Solidarity is standing in unity with people even when you have not personally experienced their particular oppression[.] The reality is that as long as capitalism exists, material and ideological pressures push white workers to be racist and all workers to hold each other in general suspicion. But there are moments of struggle when the mutual interests of workers are laid bare, and when the suspicion is finally turned in the other direction—at the plutocrats who live well while the rest of us suffer.

For too long now, the left has defined itself by what Chris Hedges calls the “boutique activism” of identity politics, multiculturalism, and political correctness. While these well-intentioned trends no doubt have called much needed attention to the previously ignored histories and narratives of traditionally oppressed groups, they have come at the expense of structural critiques of the capitalist system that causes this oppression in the first place.

As a result, the left has become atomized, disoriented, and rendered all but ineffective. Where the left once stood firmly opposed to war, empire, and economic inequality, it now agonizes over who has more “privilege.” Multiculturalism has become an end in of itself.

As Hedges argues in his 2010 book, Death of the Liberal Class, “Making sure people of diverse races or sexual orientations appear on television shows or in advertisements merely widens the circle of new consumers. Multiculturalism is an appeal that pleads with the corporate power structure for inclusion.”

While the inclusion of more people of color, women, and gays in the corporate and political arena is certainly a welcome trend, the folly of multiculturalism is in viewing this diversity alone as a form of progress. The fact is, one can be gay, black, female, or trans and still be part of the bourgeoisie. Take figures like Caitlyn Jenner, Clarence Thomas, Oprah Winfrey, or warmonger “feminist,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, for example.

Consider, furthermore, that black Americans have lost ground in every economic category eight years after the election of the nation’s first African American president. This is because Barack Obama has done virtually nothing for the black working class. He promptly bailed out the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks, while leaving Main Street to further drown in debt, low-wage jobs, lay-offs, and home foreclosures.

Understand that in critiquing identity politics, I am in no way attempting to downplay the struggle of marginalized groups. Indeed, socialists are often accused of emphasizing the importance of class over race, gender or gender identity. (Curiously, liberal identitarians are rarely accused of the converse–ignoring or diminishing class.)

In fact, Marx himself correctly understood the complex interconnectedness of race and class. “In the United States of America, every independent movement of the workers was paralyzed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic,” Marx wrote in volume one of Capital. “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.”

Marx understood racism as an inseparable byproduct of capitalism. Bourgeois capitalists intentionally stoke divisions of racism, sexism, “ableism” and the like in order to keep members of the working class fighting among themselves rather than turning their ire toward the capitalist system itself and the wealthy elites who profit from it.

But the contemporary left is disconnected from a Marxist analysis of society rooted in class struggle. Sanders’ campaign did a lot to renew interest in socialism particularly among young people–even if his central message was ultimately undercut by his unwavering commitment to the capitalist Democratic Party.

But we still have a long way to go to create a robust, organized socialist movement to counteract both the shallow superficiality of identity politics and the newly emboldened racist right. The sooner the left jettisons this academic trend–as well as its torturous unwavering commitment to the Democratic Party–the better.

Are there groups that will endure greater threats and forms of oppression under the incoming Trump administration…? Without a doubt.

But rather than limiting our focus to only those particular groups (immigrants, women, Muslims) while sneering at those who seemingly may not face as direct or immediate danger, “This isn’t about you!”, our motto should be the old labor slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” And let’s not kid ourselves: All working-class Americans–black, white, gay, straight, female, male, trans, disabled–are going to get viciously screwed in the coming years.

Only when workers unite and fight can we hope to obtain our freedom. Now is the time for solidarity. Now is the time for socialism.