I got very tired of writing and rewriting this piece with an eye to explaining the differences and similarities between Trump and Clinton, more or less addressing an audience of US citizens I know. There is no point to this. This is a Marxist-Leninist blog. There is a picture of Stalin at the top of my page. More or less anyone who can tolerate reading what I write here already assumes that the Democratic Party at large and Hillary Clinton in particular are strong proponents of US imperialism, and therefore the enemy. They understand that Trump being a fascist and head of a rapidly strengthening fascist movement does not make the US a fascist state yet (and if it did, the Democratic Party clearly “accepts” this fascism, as did the social democrats of Germany in their day, hence why Clinton was never a “popular front against fascism” candidate). Clinton is dead, Clinton-style politics is dead, and none of the Yankee worker aristocracy and petty bourgeoisie who are mourning it are reading this here.
On the other hand, however, we must be clear that the exposure of Hillary Clinton-style politics does not mean the end of the Democratic Party. Indeed, it is likely enough that the Democrats will embrace something akin to the social democrat Bernie Sanders to redeem themselves and be embraced as saviours. This is expected, as Bernie Sanders-style politics is the logical next step for the US at large. We must not, like the Trotskyites, simply “jump ahead” to a level of struggle for which the masses are not prepared. But neither can we patronisingly fall back on the assumption that the masses are not progressing. While there is much to criticise in Bernie Sanders, the fact that he is the point of reference for so many protesters shows that they are open to rather rapid development of their ideas about resistance: Sanders is popular while blaming the Democratic Party for its failure to mobilise the appropriate class politics against Trumpite fascism, and while encouraging the ongoing protests against it, just as he emphasised that even if he had won the presidency himself, progressive policies depended on mass mobilisation, for which he himself could only act as a cypher of sorts. This is extremely good and not to be looked down upon, even if his explicit desire is to institute a very normative social democratic order, his method involves (particularly by US standards) quite radical rethinking of the relationship of the masses to the state.
The shortcoming of all this, of course, is that Trump, and not Sanders, found himself as the cypher for opposition to the US’s imperialist foreign policy. Of course, Trump’s rhetoric on this point, like all other points, is empty. It is not tanks, but capital, which he worships, which creates imperialism. But it remains an important critique of Sanders that his foreign policy is effectively pro-imperialist. For this point, I am afraid all that can be said is to continually reemphaise to Sanders supporters that it is Sanders and Clinton and Obama who destroyed Libya, and who assist Saudi Arabia in destroying Yemen, and who have allowed Israel to continue to occupy Palestine. Given that, as I said, it is not the tanks which make imperialism but the capital which Trump stands for, the US’s foreign policy under Trump cannot be benevolent. Perhaps the (rightful) animosity towards Trump and all he represents will allow for a rearticulation of an anti-imperialist stance in the United States.
But the more general point, about class politics “internal” to the US being the answer to Trumpite fascism, while a decent “universal”, must be understood through various local particularities. Of course, “right deviationist” that I am [accused of being by EMEP and TÖPG comrades in Turkey], I refer to the national question.
The national question and Trump
One of the most repeated truisms about Trump’s victory is that “white supremacy” is responsible. Many respond to this by claiming that, since many non-whites voted for Trump (more than voted for non-fascist Republican candidates like Mitt Romney), this cannot be the case. Both are making a category error entirely expected in the US context of assuming the central issue to be “race”.
What is “race”? It is a pseudo-scientific concept which posits the division of humanity into discrete biological types, usually determined by phenotype and “confirmed” by “ancestry”, and frequently posited as an explanation for sociological phenomena.
Race is not real. Now, “real” social divisions (that is, divisions based on socialisation) are certainly reified and interpreted through physiological traits. But this is akin to saying that “race” and “racism” are what lies beneath the treatment of the Catholic Irish in the British Isles, simply because many English thought and continue to think that there are important physical and genetic differences between themselves and the Irish, although it is perfectly obvious to everyone that the British Isles is a mad genetic mixture in all corners.
When Marxist-Leninists in the United States refer to Afro-Americans, they refer to a cultural group (the nation, in fact) who have their own history and culture going back centuries which must be accounted for, just as is the case with, say, the Québécois in Canada. This group is mostly “black”, and “black” people in the United States are so stigmatised in “white” society that they mostly end up identifying with and becoming socialised in this culture (just as recent European immigrants are quickly socialised into mainstream “Yankee” national culture). This is why we must emphasise that the division is simply one of skin colour and “stereotypes”. There is a cultural division which is as real as that between the English and the Irish, which happens to have been reified most saliently through “racial” identification. However, the implications for class politics are similar: The Yankee bourgeoisie wishes to hold down the Afro-American bourgeoisie and directly exploit Afro-American labour, thus maximising profits for the dominant nation bourgeoisie.
Thus, when we find Afro-Americans voting for Trump, we can understand that they identify not with “white supremacy” but with the “Great American” ideology, and thus resemble members of any oppressed national group who identify with the oppressor nation because they (falsely) believe their subservience will be rewarded. The same may be said for “Asians” (a very diverse “group”), who “shocked” post-modernist race-theorists at my school by not running in fear of Trump’s “white supremacy”: Trump’s ideology is Yankee supremacy, which has white undertones, but is, at the end of the day, a nationalist ideology which has to remake its “genetic” composition constantly, and can therefore appeal to many assimilated bourgeois “Asians”… or even non-assimilated bourgeois “Asians” if their own nationalism corresponds with elements of the Trumpite worldview. All of this was ignored by post-modernists around me, who assumed the eternal radical-ness of simply looking “non-white” in the United States, and assured me that all non-whites who voted for Trump have sold out their “real” culture (which is voting for Clinton?), have internalised racism (or perhaps they benefit from anti-“black” racism themselves?), or some other hand-waving gesture to avoid the reality of bourgeois “non-whites” who have right wing views based on their class and national interests.
In any event, it is necessary to break down all “minority” politics (including those of Afro-Americans) in terms of their class interests when doing analysis: Are there sharp contradictions between the bourgeoisie of the minority group in question and the Yankee bourgeoisie? Is the trend towards more or less contradiction as the crisis deepens? What is the strength of the proletariat of the minority in question? Do their numbers and territory make them a nation, or a mere national minority within the United States?
This is all very well and good, but what of the white majority vote? After all, a spike in minority votes for Republicans or not, it matters that many white workers did turn out for Trump, and we cannot mobilise purely on oppressed nations and minority nationalities (although in the US, it must be said that this is not done nearly enough on the radical left). While it is not the case (and has never truly been the case and will, as history moves forward, likely become less the case) that the oppressor “Yankee” nation is “pure white”, the majority of “white” English-speakers in North America do belong to this national formation. Do they too support Trump “naturally” for being white?
Yes and no. Like bourgeois “Asians”, bourgeois whites everywhere ought to be expected, as a general rule, to support reactionary and imperialist nationalism as an ideology against a revolutionary internationalism and national liberation movements. They would have done this covertly through Clinton and many will do it overtly through Trump. However, bourgeois whites (including landowners and urban bourgeois) in areas with a large presence of an oppressed nation will be more quick to fall in line behind fascism as demographic trends dictate that suppression of minorities be scaled back if the niceties of bourgeois democracy are to be preserved. That is to say, one should not be surprised that the Apartheid South Africa-like environment of urban Atlanta pushes the urban bourgeoisie towards Trump (who overtly antagonises Black Lives Matter) while their Manhattan equivalent, not immediately “threatened” by a local oppressed nation, was comfortable voting for Clinton (who simply ignores Black Lives Matter). This trend of course applies in Texas and portions of the southwest where Chicanos and Native American nations and nationalities make the local white bourgeoisie “uneasy”, and indeed it is not surprising that landowning whites living in all areas near the various Native American nationalities consistently vote as right-wing as possible, fearing that any move towards a conciliatory tone will open a space for the articulation of grievances by these groups, who are the victims of a Yankee genocide and who rightly demand the restoration of their rights, including their land.
A very different picture emerges in Appalachia and the so-called “Rust Belt”. In Appalachia, it is the local and culturally distinct white population which is consistently left behind, finding itself almost as impoverished as Black America is. Accordingly, the US ICOR affiliate ROL has theorised the existence of an oppressed Appalachian nation. This national formation behaves very much like the multi-nationality region of the Eastern Black Sea in Turkey, or the North of England (which may be a separate nation from the South of England), where their apparent “closeness” to the oppressor nation allowed them to be easily swayed to the right after progressive movements which were once particularly successful in these regions collapsed. Like the Black Sea, it is our hope that in the North of England or Appalachia a new progressive movement can work to expose and replace the fascist trends which run rampant in these areas, held up as they are only by empty demagoguery and obfuscationism, and not by the concrete interests of the majority.
As for the “Rust Belt”, it has now been said almost too many times that there are many urban workers in the region that voted for Obama before turning to Trump in 2016. Living in the heartland of Yankeedom, where national contradictions are much less than in the southern regions of the country, or even slightly west in the Dakotas, this is perhaps the “purest” white proletariat. Since the 2008 crisis, the benefits they were meant to reap from the exploitation of these other groups are being pulled back, and they desperately crave change. This is why they were inspired by Obama, and indeed why many of them were inspired by Sanders. Having been robbed of inspiration “from the left”, they have nowhere to turn but Trump.
So, what is to be done?
Everywhere, Trump and the fascist ideology which seeps into the mainstream through him must be vigorously opposed in the streets. If this flashy but premature turn to fascism is not stamped out quickly, the US as a whole runs the risk of rapidly descending into the mire into which US imperialism has plunged so many other countries over the course of the Cold War and beyond.
Everywhere, workers and students must draw closer together and learn from each other. Every form of extra-parliamentary resistance put forth by the masses should be embraced and supported.
Everywhere, it must be emphasised that whatever our criticisms of Sanders, it was his unique (for the US context) “left” populism which was the correct response for the current conditions in which fascists are thriving, not an appeal to the status quo which is what angers the people and delivers them into fascism’s waiting embrace.
Progressives from areas where Trumpite fascism is already very unpopular should seriously consider relocating to the colonised heartlands of oppressed nations and nationalities to concretely aid those oppressed nations and nationalities in their struggle against colonialism. We must support the national resistance of the Sioux people exemplified at Standing Rock, we must push forward the struggle of the Navajo, we must work together with Chicanos against the ICE Raids.
We absolutely must defend the resistance of Black America against police violence and work towards the strengthening of communal institutions for Afro-Americans, in the Black Belt South in particular. This means first and foremost working to reengage the disenfranchised Afro-American population with day to day politics. If Afro-Americans were not so weak and demoralised in their own homeland, thanks to years of neo-Jim Crow politics (which could very well get worse under Trump), there could be many more Chokwe Lumumbas preaching and actually leading in community control for this oppressed national minority in the US.
When dealing with “white” proletarians in such regions, we must emphasise their common interests with the minority “poor”, and how they are robbed by the Trumps of the world, who are the real ones taking their jobs away, when the resources exist to feed, clothe, house, educate, and employ everyone. If a new progressive movement in Appalachia can be forged, now is the time, especially when Trump fails to deliver to this impoverished region the change they so desperately need.
Among proletarians in general, the falsehood of Trump’s promises may soon be exposed: The renewal for ordinary people cannot be accomplished through the methods Trump and the Republicans are prepared to employ, so they will be reduced to empty demagoguery and scapegoating. However, these are the methods which have been tacitly accept for years under Obama, who himself has deported more people from the United States than Bush. The system may not be 100% behind Trump, but it has nothing against continuing the slide that led to him and will one day lead far past him. The broadest possible front against this slide is necessary: We must find a way to draw together the proletariat and the oppressed together with political trends which have been weakly struggling in parliamentary politics (inside or outside of the Democratic Party, in either case suppressed by the capital forces which stand behind it). This is no time for sectarianism: We must work with anyone who understands that the people, and not the system, is the means by which the fascist slide will be stopped.