Saturday, May 28, 2016

The hammer of the state

Perhaps the word "rant" in the title of A rant on socialism, authoritarianism, and welfare was not enough of a clue, but the post was not intended as a thorough exploration of the role of the state and the obligation to work. Since the post has been cited by LK (On the Value of Work in a Social Democracy) and has attracted a couple of comments, let me be a little more expository.

First, by "the hammer of the state," I simply mean ordinary state coercion, with "state" in the Weberian sense of the institution with a monopoly on the use of coercion. I've lifted the colorful metaphor from Nathan Burney's The Illustrated Guide to Law. I don't like to sugarcoat ideas or use too many euphemisms (unless they're funny or ironic): when the state uses force, it's force, i.e. violence. I don't like to bury the use of violent force under layers of abstraction, until it takes on the character of natural law. Violence is always a choice actual human beings make in actual, concrete social situations. If we're going to use violence, let us look it squarely in the face.

Second, I didn't mean that literally everyone must work. As noted in the post, people should retire, and people who are completely disabled shouldn't work. We can add to that list small children: based on my cursory and intermittent amateur reading on educational science, we should not try to push children to learn to read before about age 7. Of course, after about age 7, school is a child's work, and they should work. And finally, if someone wants to live in the forest and live on roots and bark and berries, well, good for them; we don't have to force such people to take paying, socially useful jobs.

Also, most people want to work, both because when it is not forcibly degrading or pointless, most people enjoy working, and because it is rational to work in a cooperative society and gain the benefits of cooperation.

Finally, I am directing my ire not so much at lazy slackers, but rentiers, people who live off the work of others by virtue of ownership of the means of production. Those people are the ones who should really fear the hammer of the state.

Friday, May 27, 2016

What is Marxism?

Chris Dillon has an interesting article: Bad Arguments against Marxism. Quite aside from the actual content, Dillon says, "You might object here that my Marxism is idiosyncratic. Certainly, it owes more to the Marx described by Jon Elster than to the one portrayed by Leszek Kolakowski. But frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn." But Dillon misses a crucial point: everyone's Marxism is in some sense idiosyncratic.

The problem with "Marxism" (and similar terms such as socialist or communist) is that there really isn't anything that actually "is" Marxism. Marxism is a genetic or self-identifying label: if your work or ideas derive from Marx's, then you're a Marxist; if you call yourself a Marxist, then you are a Marxist. Pretty much every mainstream sociologist and anthropologist is a Marxist. There are some restrictions: if you want to call yourself a Marxist, and almost all other people who call themselves Marxists don't buy it, then the label probably won't stick. But people who call themselves Marxists (which I myself do only with great reluctance) are a pretty pluralistic group.

In a sense, calling yourself a Marxist is like calling yourself an American: I call myself an American because I was born here, I've lived here all my life, and my beliefs and preferences were shaped in no small part by the predominant culture. But the label does not constrain my beliefs: I can believe literally anything at all (save that I don't want to call myself an American) and I would still be an American. The label refers to nothing ideologically essential.

One could create statistical measures of what Marxists believe, as one could create statistical measures of what Americans believe, but those measures would not define Marxism: they would be posterior measures, not prior definitions.

First, it is more useful to talk about socialism rather than Marxism for the same reason that nobody calls physicists "Newtonists," and evolutionary biologists don't like being called "Darwinists": the label encourages an undue reliance on the work of a single author, however seminal. Although they offered groundbreaking insights that are still in use today, Newton was mistaken on many points, Darwin was mistaken, and similarly, Marx was mistaken (or some now disagree with him). But so what? Newton, Darwin, and Marx were not prophets. Moreover, people who follow in Newton's, Darwin's, and Marx's tradition, who employ their insights, disagree about many important points. This is as it should be.

Second, it is not just pointless but pernicious to talk about socialism as some political-economic system with a particular essential (but arbitrarily designated) definition. To do so creates a false dichotomy: all we have is capitalism and socialism (if you're neither capitalist nor socialist, you're nothing at all), and socialism is bad because reasons, therefore capitalism. It's a move designed to defend capitalism without actually defending capitalism.

It is more useful to talk about socialism not as some specific system but as a project. Socialism is first a project to engage in radical criticism of capitalism, i.e. to carefully and ruthlessly (i.e. without sentimentality or fear) examine capitalism at its roots, at the private ownership of the means of production. Socialism is second a project to imagine a society that functions for the benefit of the people, all the people, and not for the benefit of some elite. The rest is commentary.

But, oh! what commentary! Just within the above constraints, there is vast disagreement. Do we impose socialism from above with a vanguard party seizing state power? Do we let it "bubble up" from below? Is socialism inevitable — all we have to do is wait, and it will spontaneously emerge — or does socialism require definite, intentional action? Given that capitalists will defend capitalism to the death, how far should we go to oppose it?

How do we deal with macroeconomic issues in a national and global economy? Should we industrialize further or deindustrialize? What importance should we place on specifically material well-being? Are washing machines, air-conditioners, computers, synthetic insulin, and (relatively) painless dentistry worth having in the first place? Should all live in small self-sufficient rural communes?

How do we deal with discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, and religion discrimination? How about religious extremism? How do we deal with ordinary crimes, such as rape and murder?

All we can do is engage in the social process of criticism and argumentation to wrap our heads around all these issues. People will disagree, dominant ideas will change, and if we finally do end capitalism, at least our grandchildren will have a rich, albeit internally contradictory, body of thought to employ in solving concrete problems.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Seven Rules for Running a Real Left-Wing Government

Seven Rules for Running a Real Left-Wing Government

There are actually more than seven rules:

  1. It’s Not You, It’s China (or, the World System)
  2. Don’t Run Your Economy on Resources
  3. Your First Act Must Be a Media Law
  4. Take Control of the Banking Sector
  5. Who Is Your Administrative Class?
  6. Take Control of Distribution and Utilities
  7. Reduce Your Vulnerability to the World Trade System
  8. Be Satisfied with What You Can Grow and Make
  9. Obey the Laws of Purges

The last is the most important. On the one hand, the bourgeoisie will do anything to maintain or regain power: murder, torture, slavery, rape: no atrocity is beyond them. This utter amorality is not license for revolutionaries to emulate it: brutality cannot be defeated by brutality. However, the power of the bourgeoisie can be utterly broken without atrocity, in part by simply making their atrocities clear. For example,

Assume Obama was really a left-winger. He gets into power in 2009, and he really wants to change things. He needs to take out the financial elite: Wall Street and the Big Banks.

They’ve handed him the opportunity. Here’s part of how he does it: He declares all banks involved in the sub-prime fraud racket (all of the big ones most of the small ones) conspiracies under RICO.

He then says that all the individual executives’ money are proceeds from crime and confiscates it. (This is 100 percent legal under laws as they exist). He charges them, and they are forced to use public defenders.

They are now powerless. This is the second law of purges: Anyone you damage, you must destroy utterly. If you take away half their power, and leave them half, they will hate you forever and use their remaining power to destroy you.

Destroy them utterly, but with justice. No murder, no torture, not even show trials. One critical weakness of the bourgeoisie is that they depend on popular legitimacy, so the letter of the their own law, interpreted reasonably, can be used against them. Were the bourgeoisie were to write their interests explicitly and directly into law, they would compromise their legitimacy. They must depend on extra-legal measures to maintain their power under their own legal system.

(Note that the bourgeoisie is actually working to make the law more explicitly in line with their own interests, and they are making substantial progress: the Trans Pacific Partnership is a notable example. But this project is self-defeating: as the law becomes more explicitly protective of bourgeois power, the bourgeoisie, and the concept of law itself, loses popular legitimacy.)

The first law of purges is to do it all at once and then stop; otherwise, you risk creating a climate of fear and paranoia, which will undermine your project. Hard to do. You have to get it almost exactly right the first time. Still, it's doable: the first purge is basically political; any subsequent adjustments can be traditionally legal.

All of this will make many readers uneasy. It seems “mean.”

Get out of the game. You aren’t fit for it. This is all mean. Millions of people die every year and millions more are ruined by the current system. If you’re in this game to win it, rather than feel good about yourself, you will have to play real power politics by the actual rules of the game.

Too many left-wingers try to play by what they think the rules are. “We have a fair election every X years and the losers accept the result and don’t sabotage the winner (or do a coup).”

Those aren’t the real rules. If the right is really losing, they will cheat and cheat massively. They will think nothing of running death squads, making a deal with the US to support guerrillas, and so on.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Democratic party cannot be reformed

I see a lot of people looking at Bernie Sanders' campaign and thinking that his support shows the Democratic party might be reformed to become a true (or at least better) progressive, pro-worker party.

Ain't gonna happen.

Bernie Sanders won't win the nomination, If Sanders wins the nomination, he won't beat Trump: the neoliberal elite would rather have Trump than Sanders. And even if Sanders were somehow to become President, he wouldn't be able to actually do anything. (None of these arguments are reasons not to vote for Sanders.)

The retribution will be obviously facilitated if Clinton wins, and especially severe if Clinton loses to Trump: Sanders and his supporters will be blamed for the loss.

In 2019 and 2023, no one of Sanders' caliber will run against Trump or Clinton. The neoliberal wing of the Democratic party will get its shit together and make damn sure that no Sanders can even run, much less win. Anyone who supports Sanders now will be squeezed out of any meaningful role in the Democratic party. The neoliberal elite has too much power, and they're not going to give it up without a fight.

The only way to defeat neoliberalism is to defeat it all at once worldwide. It is certainly possible to defeat neoliberalism locally, but if a locality makes inroads against neoliberalism, it will be co-opted (Podemos) or brutally crushed (Syriza).

The neoliberal elite will retain its grip until the system fails catastrophically. The question is not how to defeat or even ameliorate neoliberalism politically: that train left the station in 1980. The question is: when neoliberalism fails catastrophically, who will pick up the pieces? The race is on between fascism and communism, and fascism is winning.

Happily, I don't expect to live until 2024.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The secret shame of middle-class americans

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans by Neal Gabler

Since 2013, the federal reserve board has conducted a survey to “monitor the financial and economic status of American consumers.” Most of the data in the latest survey, frankly, are less than earth-shattering: 49 percent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours at their current wage; 29 percent of Americans expect to earn a higher income in the coming year; 43 percent of homeowners who have owned their home for at least a year believe its value has increased. But the answer to one question was astonishing. The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all. Four hundred dollars! Who knew?

Well, I knew. I knew because I am in that 47 percent.

A spoonful of stupidity

The first problem with Saurabh Jha's essay, "A Spoonful of Inequality Helps the Medicine Go Down," is the title. If we really had a spoonful of inequality, he might be talking about something meaningful; however, we presently face inequality in industrial quantities. And the comparison is deeply confused: the original metaphor is "a spoonful of sugar..." Inequality is sugar? Economic growth is the bitter medicine? Jha's title makes no sense.

Jha begins his essay by blatantly poisoning the well: people worried about inequality are "pro-Hillary, morally conscious, happy bunnies who pretend to specially enjoy French wine, and opera"; they treat economists as religious figures" "Pope St. John Paul Piketty" and "Bishop Paul Krugman." Clearly, anyone thinking about inequality must be shallow and irrational, right? We don't have to engage their arguments, just show that the whole concept of worrying about inequality

Jha attempts to rebut worries about inequality by masterfully demolishing an obvious straw man, using a "thought experiment" of breathtaking inanity. In his eople starving during the Bengali famine were all equal — equally starving — but Capitalism (and presumably only capitalism), personified by Mukesh Ambani (presumably referring to this man) will swoop in and save the day. Never mind that India, including Bengal, was already capitalist, a possession of the arch-capitalist British Empire, hardly the epitome of egalitarianism. And never mind that Ambani's company, Reliance Industries Limited, has a Wikipedia page devoted to the company's corruption and The Economist calls Reliance "a rotten role model for corporate India . . . not a national champion but an embarrassment." No, the real problem is that no one argues for equality of starvation. No one argues for a Harrison Bergeron caricature of equality. No one argues that we want absolute equality of everything, and that a world of equal suffering is preferable to a world with the smallest inequality but abundance and prosperity. The (left capitalist) argument is that we have too much inequality, and we have the wrong kind of inequality. But Jha cannot be bothered to engage to know even what the argument actually is. No, to Jha, all arguments about inequality are just the vacuous religious platitudes of latte-sipping moochers.

Jha tries to enlist science to his argument, citing The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014* (2016) by Raj Chetty et al. According to Jha, the authors "found that the life expectancy of the poor depended on where the poor lived, not the degree of income inequality per se." Well, no. Jha cannot employ basic logic. The first part is correct: Chetty et al. (2016) do find that poor people who live in high income areas (e.g. New York) live longer than poor people in low income areas (e.g. Detroit). But the second part is not correct: holding income constant (comparing poor people against poor people) means that we are ignoring variation in income; it absolutely does not mean that the authors find variation in income is not correlated with variation in mortality, holding location constant. According to Chetty et al. (2016), there is, for example, a 4.5 to 5.0 difference in mean life expectancy between the richest and poorest quartiles in New York, the wealthiest area in the study. Yes, where you live affects how long you live, but it is also true that even holding location constant, how much income you have affects how long you live. Indeed Jha actually admits this fact: "he richest 1 % men live, on average, 15 years longer than the poorest 1 %" but there is a "difference in life expectancy for men of 5 years" between the richest and poorest areas. Fifteen minus five is ten, which is not zero.

*What an awesome study. 1.5 billion tax records? I would kill for that kind of data.

Jha claims that the study "finds that life expectancy doesn’t correlate with amount of medical care. Which means that the poor aren’t dying sooner, en masse, because they can’t access the emergency rooms on time, or because they lack insurance. Sorry Obamacare." Even the first part is suspect, because the primary data that makes

Technically correct, but Jha overstates this conclusions. First, the "Sorry Obamacare" dig is utterly specious: The PPACA has been in effect only since 2010; it is far to early to asses its impact.

Second, there's a huge problem with the external validity of the study: it is probably an accurate picture of the United States from the mid-twentieth century to the early twenty-first, but the United States is a highly developed nation, and there are differences between the United States and other countries that affect the relationship between access to medical care and mortality rates. This study (awesome and valuable as it is) tells us literally nothing at all about the impact of and means to alleviate global inequality. Jha is clearly talking about global inequality — otherwise why mention Bengal — but Chetty et al. (2016) are talking about inequality in the United States.

Jha lists "a few things which won’t help the poor: hospitals, bicycle helmets, screening, millennials fretting about names associated with historical wrongdoing, and occupying Wall Street. Sorry social justice warriors – all of that righteous rage may be for naught." Jha does not even try to justify this statement; it certainly doesn't follow at all from Chetty et al. (2016). And really nothing on Jha's list except occupying Wall Street has anything to do with inequality. These items are (to take the quotation egregiously out of context) just Jha's "personal prejudice[s]."

I kind of agree with Jha on one point: the poor need "schools with top quality teachers who care. They need public parks. They need the government to invest in public works to revive jobs." Fair enough. Who is going to provide those things? The rich? Well, we've been waiting, a long time. Indeed, we've been waiting too long. The rich are not going to provide schools, parks, public works, jobs out of charity or altruism. The rich are "segregated in enclaves where they self-flagellate about inequality drinking Dom Perignon" for a reason: they don't want to actually help the poor, or even see them, but they don't want to feel bad about not helping them. And that's just the few rich people who will hang out with a religious apologist propagandist like Jha. Most of the rich are just "segregated in enclaves . . . drinking Dom Perignon," without the self-flagellation: they don't care about the poor at all. Why should they? They're not poor. No, we don't want to wait on the capitalist class to grow a heart. If we want to stop dying young, being oppressed and exploited, so that the rich can drink their Dom Perignon and spit on us, the working class will have to take back what the rich have stolen. I nominate Jha for first donor.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Against the universal basic income

I am not in favor of the universal basic income as advocated by Philippe van Parijs in Basic Income And Social Democracy. Within a couple of years, a universal basic income will just be sucked up in land rent and profit, and, since it will be offset by taxes on middle-income workers, it will result in a net upwards redistribution of real spending power, as rents and profits will come from the middle deciles to the top 10 percent of landlords, stockholders, and CEOs. (Much is true also of the $15 minimum wage.)

To have any lasting effect, a universal basic income must be complemented by public ownership of most housing (with some owner-occupied housing) as well as public ownership of basic necessities: electricity generation, water distribution, food, and education.

More importantly, as charity (and charity it will be) from the bourgeoisie, a universal basic income should be morally repugnant to the working class: it is the working class, those who make what money buys, who should be in a position to be charitable (or uncharitable) to the parasitic bourgeoisie.

The only way we're going to have a reasonable standard of living for the working class is to take political and economic power. The bourgeoisie will not, and indeed because of the structure of capitalism, cannot do otherwise than to exploit the working class to the maximum extent politically possible, and to always try to make as politically possible as much exploitation as is materially possible. There is no middle ground.

I'm pleased, however, that bourgeois intellectuals are starting to talk about things like universal basic income and a higher minimum wage. This means they're scared, and the bourgeoisie is nothing if not cowardly. If the bourgeoisie offers a universal basic income, a $15 minimum wage, the working people should take it and demand more. And when the bourgeoisie offers more, take it and demand yet more. And more again, until the working class has it all.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A rant on socialism, authoritarianism, and welfare

We socialists have to tell a story. That the story is true is helpful, but truthfulness is not the key; the key is to make the story itself compelling.

Trump's popularity (and likelihood of winning the Republican nomination) is probably not entirely due to authoritarianism, but authoritarians seem to strongly support him. A lot of (neo)liberals look at authoritarianism as some sort of aberration or ideological disease. But it's not. Authoritarianism is the displacement and reaction formation of an ordinarily healthy and respectable impulse: the idea that there should be rules and that people should follow them. Authoritarianism and fascism result from the displacement of anger from the ruling class, who are not following the rules (since condemning the ruling class is usually unthinkable) to some ethnic or other social group. Since half of our rules (if not more) are just shibboleths, we can always find "rules" that the black people are breaking (wearing their pants in that ridiculous fashion) or gay people are breaking (makeup? on men!?), etc. ad nauseam.

The most obvious and pernicious of this displacement is anger towards poor people: people are poor because they are breaking the rules — people should work hard, earn a paycheck, and pay their bills — and, instead of punishing them for breaking the rules, we are supporting them, enabling their bad behavior. Outrageous!

Socialism should appeal to the healthy feelings underlying authoritarianism. First, is directing the anger and anxiety where it belongs: the people, poor and not-quite-poor, are following the rules (as best they can; many rules are impossible to follow by design): it is the capitalist ruling class who are breaking the important rules, and we are not punishing but supporting them. It is the capitalist ruling class who are working us harder and for less, who are exporting our jobs, who are allowing our homes to decay, poisoning our water and air. It is the ruling class who are throwing people into abject poverty, and giving them no realistic choice but drugs and welfare. People have to live, and they have to work and be productive to be healthy, and without jobs, people go quietly (or noisily) crazy.

Most notably, we must tell the story that socialism is ninety-nine percent against welfare. Welfare is fine for the completely disabled, and of course people who work have to support our retired elders, our parents and grandparents, but beyond that, no welfare. No food stamps. No TANF. Yes, universal health care, but universal health care is not welfare, it is paid for* by our labor and our taxes.

*In a sense, MMT notwithstanding.

Under socialism, everyone who can do something, anything, productive (or reproductive) works. Nobody gets to laze around on the public dime. And nobody gets to pretend to work. Hedge fund managers and lawyers may spend 14 hours a day at the office, but they're not working; they're just planning their next heist, their next con. Fuck those guys. Everyone works a real job, and everyone gets paid a real paycheck. A socialist government is not going to beat around the bush: if you can work and you don't, fuck you: here's a job, whatever it takes, you will do it.

Socialism is about reestablishing "law and order"; not the pretend capitalist "law and order" which is just straight-up predators' demonization of their prey, but real law and order: people being civilized human beings. Socialism is not about putting everyone on the dole, but putting everyone to work, doing work with dignity, respect, honor, satisfaction, and human fulfillment. Not everyone wants to work. Not everyone wants to be a civilized human being. Those who don't want to work, those who want to be predators, they will feel the hammer of the state, hard enough to satisfy any authoritarian.

But the socialist hammer is different from the capitalist hammer. First, the capitalist hammer is in the hands of the bourgeoisie; the socialist hammer is in the hands of the proletariat. (And fuck the Soviet Union and China for taking the hammer out of the hands of the proletariat and giving it to the faux-bourgeois Communist Party.)

Second, the socialist hammer is that you will have a job, you will do your job, and you will get paid, whatever it takes.

Anyone, anywhere, can walk into the employment office and walk into a job the next day. Not a shit job — the shit jobs pay enough to encourage people to take them voluntarily — not a dream job, but a good, decent job that won't kill you or make you sick, and that will pay you enough to live like a civilized human being and raise a family.

If that's not enough, a police officer will, in essence, pick you up from your home in the morning, take you to your job, and stand behind you while you work.

If that's not enough, well, what should we do? I guess we have to lock you in a building and put you to work there. You won't be tortured. All you have to do to get out is get a regular job (which everyone can get) and keep it.

(We have to keep people who enjoy killing or harming people away from others, but such people have a medical condition, and we have to lock them up, not to punish them but to keep them from perpetrating further harm and to try to treat them, to try to make them productive citizens who can restore their harm as best they can and contribute to everyone's well-being.)

But but but!!! That's so totalitarian! People forced to work! Slavery!

First of all, what the hell do you want? You want to demonize people who "won't" work (even though the capitalist system intentionally creates fewer jobs than there are people), but you don't want to make people work? How does that make sense? Either it is morally right (on whatever basis you like) that people should work, and morally wrong that a person who can work does not, or it's not. If it's morally right, then we get to coerce people to do it; if we shouldn't coerce people, then in what sense is it morally wrong? What, you want to coerce other people to work, but you don't want to be coerced?

Second, who do you think you're fooling? We're already forced to work. However, under capitalism, that force is exercised by the plutocracy, the capitalist ruling class, who are entirely unaccountable to the people. You say you want democracy, right? Why, then, do you shrink from making democratic what is fundamental to civilized society.

I appreciate that you're voting for Trump against the neoliberals, but Trump is a capitalist, and he's not going to give you what you want. The "unproductive" will be off the dole, but they'll be in prison or criminals, and that'll cost you, a lot. The illegal immigrants will be sent home, cheap foreign imports will cease flooding into WalMart, and then Americans (even some white people, oh my!) will be $1 per hour wage slaves. We might get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and Syria, and Libya, and wherever else, but do you think Trump is going to just disband the army? (Well, he might, a little, flooding the nation with even more cheap labor). If the Army is not overseas, it'll be here; an army presupposes an enemy, and you, my gentle white lower-middle-class reader — along with all the women, black people, Hispanic people, Muslims, gays, etc. — will be its enemy.

No one will give us liberty and prosperity, not the neoliberals, not the professional-managerial class, not the bourgeoisie, not the strongman. If we want liberty and prosperity, we have to seize power ourselves, and hold it, not give it up ever, to anyone, however well-meaning and sincere.

You can stand for more of the same shit, and vote for Clinton. You can stand for a "change", and live in poverty enforced by a police state, and vote for Trump. Or you can work for justice, for law and order, for a civilized society, a society that is moral, decent, productive and wealthy: you can work for socialism.

It's your world. How do you want it to be?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A socialist analysis of the 2016 presidential election

According to Marx, only the proletariat is capable of a revolutionary transformation of society, not because people in the proletariat are somehow better, but because the contradictions of bourgeois society create the proletariat — and only the proletariat — in ways that will eventually make them capable of revolutionary transformation. Only when the proletariat has lost everything under capitalism will they find the will and the power to overthrow capitalism.

The bourgeoisie has been far more clever than Marx expected in clinging to power, but the contradictions remain, and for a variety of reasons, the bourgeoisie is running out of tricks.

The proletariat must, however, learn to seize power, and learn to exercise it. What makes them a revolutionary class does not make them a good ruling class: there is nothing about the proletariat that makes them especially wise, clever, or efficient. And thus with any ruling class: the landed aristocracy and the bourgeoisie had to learn to rule as well. There is no way to learn how to actually take power but by trying and failing to take it; there is no way to learn to actually rule without trying and failing to rule.

The 2016 Presidential election raises some interesting issues.

First, neoliberalism is facing real problems. Although he's a racist (or playing one on TV), his racism is not why Donald Trump is popular. He's popular because he's anti-neoliberalism. And if he does beat Clinton, Trump will beat her precisely because he's anti-neoliberalism, at least on paper. (Trump doesn't have the will to actually fight neoliberalism as President.)

Sanders should be beating Clinton like Trump is beating Cruz, right?. He should be beating her even more soundly: the bourgeois left is supposedly more against neoliberalism than the right, n'est ce pas? Hardly. Neoliberalism is a creature of the bourgeois left, not the right. The bourgeois right is much more mercantilist/realist than neoliberal. Socialists should never count the bourgeois left as allies; the bourgeois left would rather risk fascism than socialism.

There is nothing about the proletariat that automatically disposes them to socialism. When they are being oppressed, they will pick whoever offers them the best story about escaping their oppression. The bourgeois right and the fascists are telling a better story than the neoliberals and the socialists. What is encouraging about Trump's popularity is that the proletariat is starting to fight back, on its own terms and not on the terms dictated by the neoliberals. They are fighting back poorly, unwisely, ineffectively, but they are fighting.

It really doesn't matter whether Trump or Clinton wins the election. Both will kill a bunch of brown foreigners and black Americans. The economy will continue to stagnate and decline under both. Neither will do shit about global warming. People in Flint will still drink filthy water. We will continue to imprison people, especially black people, in numbers that would make Stalin blush. Middle class white women will probably do marginally better under Clinton; middle class white men will probably do marginally better under Trump, but everyone not in the top 0.1%, the actual ruling class, or the top 10%, their servants, will be worse off four years after the election.

Indeed, it is possibly better if Trump wins the election. First, Trump is a buffoon, without the will to actually be a real fascist. If he's elected, he will quickly expose the emptiness of the nationalist/realist agenda. If Clinton wins (or if Trump is denied the Republican nomination), then the forces of reaction will just get stronger, and whoever follows Trump could well have the will to real fascism.

Socialists have an historic opportunity, one not seen since the aftermath of the First Global Imperialist War (a.k.a. WW I). Neoliberalism is collapsing, and the forces of reaction have only (for now) a clown to represent them. We have the perfect opportunity to tell a better story (better in no small part because it's true). Neoliberalism is weak, and, losing hegemony, the American neoliberals can no longer buy off even the labor aristocracy, much less the proletariat as a class.

Trump's weak-tea fascism-lite, if quickly exposed, will not have the force to satisfy the proletariat. However, if current conditions are a great opportunity for socialism, they are a great opportunity for real fascism, which holds a lot of appeal for the still-maturing proletariat.