US liberal consensus is broken – but the left’s real fight is just beginning

Submitted by Administrator on Wed, 01/11/2017 - 10:10

We must declare war on racists and misogynists like Trump – but we must also declare war on the system that created them too, writes BEN CHACKO

“A WORLD is collapsing before our eyes.” The swiftly deleted tweet from France’s ambassador to the United States typified the sense of loss and bewilderment felt by liberals the world over when Donald Trump was declared the next president of the most powerful country on Earth.

Progressives are right to be horrified by Trump’s victory.

Not because a Hillary Clinton win would necessarily have been preferable — the Morning Star could not endorse a vote for either candidate, given Clinton’s record of promoting violent US aggression abroad and willingness to escalate the wars that have claimed so many lives across the Middle East.

We’re hearing wishful thinking from politicians determined to make the best of things, such as Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s plea that Trump’s “racist and dangerous” comments were made “in the heat of battle.”

But the United States has indeed elected a racist who calls for “extreme vetting” of refugees, has said he would ban all Muslims from entering the country and claimed immigrants from Mexico are “rapists and killers” because their government “sends the bad ones over.”

It has elected a revolting sexist whose derogatory remarks about women are legion and who has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment.

It has elected a man who not only says he will maintain the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp on Cuban territory, which President Barack Obama was supposedly going to close — he’ll fill it with “bad dudes,” “bring back waterboarding ... and a hell of a lot worse” and try to charge the Cuban people for its upkeep.

Our task as socialists is to learn the lessons of his election and work out where we go from here.

Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely right to call it “an unmistakeable rejection of a political establishment,” a response to “escalating inequality and stagnating or falling living standards for the majority.”

Clinton was precisely the candidate of “a governing elite that has been seen not to have listened.”

Huge numbers have speculated that if leftwinger Bernie Sanders had been the Democrats’ candidate, he would have won.

And all polls suggested he would do far better than Clinton did against Trump.

Unlike Clinton, Sanders could have seen off the far right because he spoke to the majority whose living standards are falling: to workers whose real-terms wages are in steady decline, who find secure, well-paid work impossible to find, who struggle to pay the bills.

Unlike Clinton, he could have won because he understands that the system is broken. Modern capitalism is not delivering for increasing numbers of people, even in the richest countries in the world.

And people are furious about the fact that their lives are getting harder while a politically bankrupt elite continues to press ahead with policies which are impoverishing us all.

A pro-privatisation, pro-corporate consensus is being shattered. In Britain, Brexit was a vote against unaccountable elites and a government in hock to big business; in the US, the vote for Trump rather than the ultimate insider Clinton expressed similar rage.

Socialists might be pleased that the consensus is being broken, but as Corbyn also noted yesterday, too many people are seeking answers that are “clearly wrong.”

French fascist Marine Le Pen was quick with a retort to the ambassador’s deleted tweet. “Their world is collapsing,” she jeered. “Ours is being built.”

The bankers’ crash of 2008 and its aftermath have benefited the far right more than they have the left.

This should not be exaggerated; angry working-class people who voted for Trump are not all racists. Neither are the 17 million-plus Britons who voted for Brexit.

But parties of the far right are advancing across Europe. As a channel of anti-Establishment rage, the far right has one advantage over the left: it isn’t really anti-Establishment.

That means access to funding, a higher profile in the monopoly media and the collusion of the state can generally be relied upon by far-right “insurgencies.”

The left has a harder job of it. And we have a huge amount of work to do.

The wheels have come off Western liberalism, and it is being rejected by people after people in the developed world.

A common assumption among those who do not understand these developments (a category that includes, by his own admission, Tony Blair) is that this is because the benefits of liberalism are not being explained well enough.

People rejected the EU because they didn’t understand it, this argument goes; people would embrace globalisation if they were told about the benefits.

But people aren’t stupid. Any argument that tells them their problems aren’t real is going to fall on deaf ears.

There’s an important distinction here: socialists cannot and should not give any truck to the poisonous lies of the far right.

It is not the case that immigrants are “stealing our jobs” or “driving wages down.” But it is the case that decent jobs are hard to come by and wages are falling.

The right is trouncing the liberals because the liberals have their hands over their ears: the breathtaking arrogance of “it’s my turn to be president” Clinton finds its counterpart over here, in the wilful contempt for ordinary people’s views that sees the European Union force through the universally loathed Ceta trade deal or MPs talk openly of overruling the result of the referendum on membership of that august body.

Anyone who imagines Labour would be more “electable” if it picked a “centrist” who would parrot the usual pieties about welfare “reform” (privatisation, cuts) and the wisdom of the market needs to learn the lessons of Brexit and the US election: it would not. This is a time for radical alternatives to the status quo.

Nor is solace to be sought, as rightwinger Chuka Umunna believes, in “a solidarity that cuts across races, religions and classes to bring people together.”

All races and religions, yes. But not all classes.

Economists talk of “the market” as if it were a conscious entity, a fickle god whose whims affect human beings as the weather might. But working people are getting poorer because of decisions being made by human beings.

Most importantly, a deliberate war is being waged by the rich against the rest that has seen the share of GDP swallowed up in corporate profit rise for four decades while the share of wages shrinks and the cost of living rises.

All the solutions being pushed by our rulers, from unprovoked attacks on the trade union movement to anti-democratic trade treaties, are making things worse.

A left which presses workers to join hands with big business in the cause of some fictional “national interest,” which refuses to challenge the sacred cows of liberalism, is doomed.

We must avoid the temptation to plump for “lesser evils,” which, as much of the left’s grudging support for Clinton demonstrated, has a tendency to backfire.

Instead we must offer a full-throated opposition to the Establishment just as angry as the right’s and a good deal more sincere.

We must declare war on the racists and misogynists like Trump.

But we will never defeat them unless we declare war on the system that has created them too: a rotten, corrupt,

bankrupt political stitch-up that is ruining lives the world over.

  • Ben Chacko is editor of the Morning Star.