Date finished: February 5th 2017
If you don’t follow Verso Books in some capacity, you really should. They’re a fantastic publisher, self-describing as “radical” and specialising in books of a left-wing political and philosophical bent. Their influence on the fringes of the publishing mainstream is more important than ever now; in a time of radically right-wing politics, they temper the influence of these insidious power groups.
Recently they published the free (as of writing ) eBook The Anti-Inauguration: Building Resistance in the Trump Era. If it’s no longer available for free, you can watch the speeches the volume was adapted from here. The Anti-Inauguration features short articles and writings from various prominent left-wing political commentators, including:
- Naomi Klein’s piece which furiously condemns the “takeover of the federal government by corporate America – the ultimate privatization, neoliberalism’s final frontier” summarising an idea I’ve tried and failed to express in one succinct sentence.
- Anand Gopal takes a look at American foreign policy past and present, and highlights in this sphere the ways in which the last three administrations paved the way for someone like Trump and how protest, past and present, can change this.
- The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill follows with an article on the militarisation of the US police (watch the brilliant documentary Do Not Resist for more info on this), as well as the worrying direction the US Army will take under Trump and defence secretary ex-General Mattis.
- This is followed by British journalist Owen Jones who delivers an incendiary polemic condemning the centrist parties of the world for not delivering on their promises to make things better for the working class, and putting the global right-wing populist movement into context, before arguing for a populist, progressive left-wing movement that addresses these inequalities and delivers on the false promises of the centrists, combatting the hateful rhetoric of the far-right.
- Finally, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, smashes the myths that the election of Trump can be reduced to a backlash from white America, that Clinton’s failure is down to sexism, that Trump’s victory is thanks to racism. He puts it best when he says “embedded inside every right-wing backlash is the failure of the liberal establishment to deliver a better way”. He then proceeds to analyse the consistent failure of the Democrats to deliver real change, instead allowing things to stagnate as they subscribe to the same neoliberal ideology as the Republicans.
What comes up time and time again is the idea that we don’t actually have opposition, both in the US and Britain. Since the 1980s and the leaderships of Reagan and Thatcher, every elected official has subscribed to an agenda of austerity, privatisation and the stripping back of worker’s rights. Inequality has risen hugely, wages have stagnated, and the situations of ordinary people have rarely improved. There have been exceptions but, broadly speaking, this is the trend we see in the USA and other western nations.
So the rise of Trump can be linked to a dissatisfaction with the establishment. Although Trump epitomises the establishment, he ran on an anti-establishment ticket, setting himself apart from the other politicians who had promised much but delivered little. This, in part, explains his terrifying rise to power. It’s indeed true that Clinton didn’t offer much other than “I’m not Trump” (a point worth emphasising), but failed to react to the obvious discontent of the public with mainstream politics.
Of course, the elephant in the room is Bernie Sanders. Sanders also ran on an anti-establishment ticket and his grassroots campaign gathered huge momentum, which was also seen in the UK with the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party. In fact, it’s been widely documented that many who would’ve voted for Sanders switched allegiance to Trump when Clinton got the Democratic nomination. The public weren’t thinking in terms of Left and Right – they rarely do. They vote with their gut, and their gut told them that Sanders and Trump were different to the status quo. Therein lies Clinton’s failure.
So, what’s next? As the various commentators remark, we need to react swiftly and intelligently to the phenomenon of right-wing populism. That means building a progressive movement that shirks the pointless and damaging in-fighting that the Left so often gives into, and presents a united front. It must address the concerns of the public, fighting for the rights of ordinary working people and then, crucially, deliver on those promises. That all seems pretty logical and easy, but our political system is so broken that the public have felt they have to take a chance on some of the most dangerous political movements since World War II. Trump and, to a lesser extent, Brexit, are the death throes of neoliberalism, which has reached its logical extreme, its final form. From this point, it seems that something new must take its place, before the ideology collapses in on itself and causes untold damage to society.
The Shock Doctrine – Naomi Klein
The Establishment – Owen Jones