The ‘Trump moment’ in a shifting international relations


OorlogIsGeenOplossing.nl (War Is No Solution) in its statement of principle of 2013 maintained that the West is losing ground economically in the world, but tries to compensate that by violent means. Such violence covers a broad spectrum, from electronic surveillance, interference with political development (colour revolutions, blackmail and assassinations, coup d’états), economic warfare through sabotage or sanctions, and military violence. 

Hillary Clinton would certainly have pursued this policy further, but with Trump we cannot be so sure. 


Will he then be the embodiment of a moment in historical development in which the West under American leadership gives up the attempt to compensate its decline by violence? This would mean, that if this is the case, with the emphasis on ‘if’, Trump’s authoritarian, populist side only becomes more significant.

For many the relief that the ‘Queen of Chaos’, as Diana Johnstone calls her in the eponymous book on Hillary, has not been elected, is so overwhelming that by default they think Trump won’t be so bad after all.

Yet here we should be reminded that Trump is an American ‘oligarch’, the 156th richest man in the US, something he achieved by real estate deals, exploitation of illegal, underpaid labour, and so on and so forth. Trump’s friends have comparable backgrounds. From the world of big capital, Bernard Marcus, the owner of Home Depot hardware and convenience stores, a ferocious opponent of trade unions and workers’ rights, or Steven Mnuchin, former partner of Goldman Sachs, the bank that is represented in every American government and also plays a big role in the EU.

Then of course there is a line-up of extreme right politicians such as Newt Gingrich, former chair of the House of Representatives and repeatedly involved in scandal; Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York who had the debris of 9/11 shipped off to the Middle East before it had been properly investigated for evidence, and John Bolton, an extreme opponent of weapons control.

Ron Paul, the ultra-liberal former candidate for the presidency but also a militant anti-war activist, last week expressed the hope that Trump would not allow himself to be hemmed in by the ‘shadow state’, the forces that will never be elected by exercise real power: big capital, the military-industrial complex, and the world of the intelligence services and the FBI and the big social media corporations providing them with data. However, one cannot evade the shadow state—the composition of the transition team and of the cabinet that will have to enjoy the confidence of these interests, will both be traceable to the shadow state, or the ruling class or however one wants to label it. Congress will test each cabinet appointment in this respect.

But then, Trump’s significance is not in that area. Just as Ronald Reagan, for many a completely marginal figure until then, became the figurehead of a broad bloc of interests which wanted to roll back, across the globe, the left advance of the 1970s, Trump might become the symbol of the consolidation of what has been achieved in that respect. Here domestic authoritarian capitalism, the capitalism of the Patriot Act, and the world position the United States has lost in the last few decades, come together.

Postwar capitalism was based on compromise, nationally and internationally; under Reagan, the counterattack was launched against the left, but even then financial capital, which called the tune, still had an ally with a certain ‘mass’, that is, the asset-owning middle class with its real estate and stocks. Thus a class compromise continued to lend a social basis to the Reagan offensive against the workers, against the Third World, and against the Soviet bloc.

After 1991 capitalism has been radicalised into a system which no longer mobilises social support through material compromises, but at best with what Gramsci calls ‘corruption/fraud’—so stealing and lying, something our media have developed into a real art form, because it still appears as if we get to hear the news.

So the news about the terrorist threat, the Russian threat, and so on, with human interest stories making up the rest.

That is how people are being mobilised for all kinds of political projects, not because they gain anything from them, but by playing on their fears and emotions. At the same time contemporary capitalism has produced extreme inequality—read Piketty, Capital in the 21st century. ´Capital´ then means speculative financial capital, which has thrown us into the crisis of 2008 and which has then been enabled, at the expense of society, to reconstruct the entire house of cards all over again. Because this ultimately rests on fearmongering and no longer on a real, viable project as was the case from, say, 1947 to the 1980s, it must be covered by surveillance, suspension and restriction of rights, etc. Trump and his friends will not change that, on the contrary.

Everywhere in the world oligarchs come to power, either directly (e. g.. Berlusconi orf Trump) or via professional politicians who earned their trust and then are allowed to have a share (just think of Tony Blair, confidant of Murdoch, and meanwhile good for £ 12 million a year) who advocate an authoritarian policy.

Hillary Clinton also wanted to wage war and push ‘Putin’ with his back against the wall. But Trump recognises in Putin a fellow politician who also represents an oligarchic capitalism in trouble. If all oligarchs and their servants join forces to support a system that is showing signs of collapse, both in Russia and China and in the US and the EU, and collectively ‘fight terrorism’ (read: the uncontrollable mass of humanity slowly expanding to 10 billion), there may still be hope (for them).

Thus the authoritarian policy of the oligarchy and the unrest among the population triggered by the austerity policies, and which expresses itself in anger at the existing order, come together in a single development. Can it really be a peaceful one?

Kees van der Pijl

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