Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Don't resist Trump, resist capitalism

The capitalist ship is sinking fast. That's just what we radicals have been waiting for, n'est ce pas? I've been arguing for a long time that a radical transformation of society is moral only if the inevitable pain and suffering of such a transformation is outweighed by the pain and suffering of the status quo. President Trump gives this argument considerable weight.

It is important to resist, but we should not resist Donald Trump per se. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. Trump is not some sort of weird aberration of neoliberal capitalism: his presidency is the outcome of the actually existing institutions created by the actually existing members of the bourgeoisie and the professional-managerial technocrats. Trump is what capitalism does: we know this because we are capitalist, the capitalists have near total national hegemony, and Trump is what we actually did.

It is important to resist, but it is more important to resist in the right direction. We will do humanity no service if we resist Trump just to restore superficially bland (but deeply vicious) technocratic neoliberalism. The technocratic neoliberals gave us Trump and the coming authoritarianism. The technocrats assisted the authoritarians in undermining our republican institutions, thinking that they could control the authoritarians. They could not. They have decisively failed.

Although the technocrats have failed, they retain considerable power. They hate socialism more powerfully than they dislike authoritarianism. In this antipathy they are absolutely united with the authoritarians. The workers must not gain power, come what may. And by calling themselves "progressives" for throwing a few crumbs to the workers, they will erode support for socialism.

The few socialists who have been clinging desperately to intellectual legitimacy have an opportunity, but it is important to use the opportunity correctly. If we simply ally with the technocrats and progressives, we could at best return society to 2008. Not only would such a rollback be completely undesirable (economic depression, a half-dozen wars, torture, mass murder of black people by the police, etc. ad nauseam), it is impossible: too many people have decisively rejected that society (and their rejection is right, even if we might disagree with their alternative) and its reimposition would require exactly the kind of authoritarianism that we reject in Trump.

We must focus on one thing and one thing only: all power to the workers. The rest is commentary.

Such a goal is feasible. The authoritarian strain in the workers is both shallow and thin. It's big enough that a leader of great charisma and iron will could ride it at least a temporary success, but Trump does not have sufficient charisma to inspire adulation, and he is especially weak-willed. We should fear who comes next, but we are fortunate that American authoritarianism has begun in such a ridiculous way. (Not that I am deprecating the harm Trump will do, but in the hands of someone with real charisma and real will, authoritarianism could be much much worse; Trump at least does not have world war and mass extermination in him.)

The authoritarian strain is not so great that it cannot be opposed. The workers want to be listened to, and no small few workers voted for Trump, and vote for the Republican party, not because they want an authoritarian ruler, but because they thought Trump would disrupt the authority that they rightly believe just ignores and belittles them.

We must convince the workers that no one, not Trump, not the capitalists, not the technocrats, not the Republicans, will listen to them. They must struggle not for attention but for power.


  1. When you say "workers," who exactly do you mean? Anyone who performs paid labor? Anyone under a certain income threshold? Anyone in a certain industry or set of industries?

  2. Steve: At a first approximation, I mean "workers" in the ordinary sense of the English language word. At a second approximation, I mean those who are economically oppressed and exploited by Capitalism.

    Why do you want a more precise definition? If you want to get deep into Marxian theory, we can do that.


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