Monday, March 6, 2017

"Trump is a threat to global stability—only a new Left international can beat him"

Slavoj Zizek, "We Must Rise from the Ashes of Liberal Democracy"
Donald Trump's January 20 inaugural address was ideology at its purest, its simple message relying on a series of obvious inconsistencies. At its most elementary it sounded like something that Bernie Sanders could have said: I speak for all you forgotten, neglected and exploited hardworking people. I am your voice. You are now in power. However, beyond the obvious contrast between these proclamations and Trump’s early nominations (Rex Tillerson, the voice of exploited, hardworking people?), a series of clues give a spin to his messaging.

Trump talked about Washington elites, not about capitalists and big bankers. He talked about disengaging from the role of the global policeman, but he promises the destruction of Muslim terrorism. At other times, he has said he will prevent North Korean ballistic tests and contain China’s occupation of South China Sea islands. So what we are getting is global military interventionism exerted directly on behalf of American interests, with no human-rights and-democracy mask. Back in the 1960s, the motto of the early ecological movement was “Think globally, act locally!”

Trump promises to do the exact opposite: “Think locally, act globally.” In the 20th century, one need not proclaim “America first!” It was a given. The fact that Trump proclaimed it indicates that in the 21st century American global interventionism will go on in a more brutal way. Ironically, the Left, which has long criticized the U.S. pretension to be the global policeman, may begin to long for the old days when, in all its hypocrisy, the United States imposed democratic standards onto the world.

Yet, the most depressing aspect of the post-electoral period in the United States is not Trump’s policies, but the Democratic Party establishment’s reaction to its historic defeat: an oscillation between two extremes, the horror at the Big Bad Wolf called Trump and its obverse, the normalization of the situation, the idea that nothing extraordinary happened. On the one hand, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said he detected in Trump’s inaugural address something “Hitlerian.” On the other, Politico’s John Bresnahan reported that Nancy Pelosi “repeatedly brings up the events of a decade ago. For her, the lesson is clear—past is prologue. What worked before will work again. Trump and the Republicans will overreach, and Democrats have to be ready to jump at the opportunity when they do.”

In other words, Trump’s election is just another reversal in the normal exchange of Republican and Democratic presidents—Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and now Trump. Such a stance totally ignores the real meaning of Trump’s election: the weaknesses of the Democratic Party that rendered this victory possible and the radical restructuring of the entire political space that it announces.

But what if his project of moderate protectionism, large public works and job creation, combined with anti-immigrant security measures and a new perverted peace with Russia, somehow works and gives some short-term results? That is what horrified left liberals really fear: that Trump will somehow not be a catastrophe.

We should not succumb to such panic. Even if Trump will appear successful, the results of his politics will be ambiguous at best for ordinary people, who will soon feel the pain of this success. The only way to defeat Trump— and to redeem what is worth saving in liberal democracy—is to detach ourselves from liberal democracy’s corpse and establish a new Left. Elements of the program for this new Left are easy to imagine. Trump promises the cancellation of the big free trade agreements supported by Clinton, and the left alternative to both should be a project of new and different international agreements. Such agreements would establish public control of the banks, ecological standards, workers rights, universal healthcare, protections of sexual and ethnic minorities, etc. The big lesson of global capitalism is that nation states alone cannot do the job—only a new political international has a chance of bridling global capital.

An old anti-Communist leftist once told me the only good thing about Stalin was that he really scared the big Western powers, and one could say the same about Trump: The good thing about him is that he really scares liberals.

After World War II, Western powers responded to the Soviet threat by focusing on their own shortcomings, which led them to develop the welfare state. Will today’s left-liberals be able to do something similar?
Slavoj, my friend, doubling down on the "Stupid of the Elites" is NOT the answer.

42 comments:

Jersey McJones said...

Well, that's what a lot us on the Left are hoping for - that reaction to Trump and the GOP one party state, will lead to more responsible government and perhaps bring us more toward things like universal healthcare and education, reining in the police and military states, etc.

JMJ

FreeThinke said...

That settles it. ZIZEK is NUTS.

I've tried to avoid saying that, because there is something oddly LIKABLE about him, but he just won't let g0 of that vile leftist orientation, despite his oft expressed disenchantment with REALPOLITIK as practiced by the Left.

And DAMN he is such a WORDY cuss!

Jersey McJones said...

I never understood the fascination with Zizek coming from the American right. He seems politically, a lot like me! But on some particular issues, we're very different.

JMJ

FreeThinke said...

I believe he appears deliberately enigmatic, even self-cintgradictry at times. He's certainly no carbs copy of anyone's idea to a "TYPICAL" leftist, but I believe he has learned that the best way to garner –– and hold –– public attention is to appear mysterious and plainly abnormal.

People are bored to tears with normality. What they love and long for most next to bloody spectacle is ABERRATION.

Zizek is a past master at the game of Always Keep 'Em Guessing.

Jus when you thi[nk he's really on your side after all, he does a sudden back flip or a adroit allemande left and a do-si-do, and Bob's your uncle ...

Gert said...

I don't even need to read this to know Zizek is right on this one.

The Left needs a Reformation. Trump could trigger that. Here's hoping!

Gert said...

I never understood the fascination with Zizek coming from the American right.

Partly for the same reasons some on the Left really don't get him? ;-)

-FJ said...

I agree with Zizek on everything BUT the means to the end. I don't think that it can be found in "experts". I prefer the "wisdom" of "crowds" (via the invisible hand).

Yes, we need "experts" to set the "limits" as to how the invisible hand will operate. But once you've set them, no tweaking until the "cracks" develop.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Whether Trump closes the borders or grants amnesty and makes everybody a citizen, he's still slinging a stinking mix of Hooverian protectionism and Keynesian / methhead spending. He is still pushing rules on how and with whom Americans can make financial transactions. Nothing free market about Trump.

It isn't really news that Trump is a dipshit leftist, is it?

Speedy G said...

At least he's not pitching neoliberal internationalism of the kind your pal Newt "used" to worship. Reagan may have been a genius before the end of the Cold War and before the corporatists shipped all of America's jobs to China and India, but he doesn't look quite as prescient today. Pat Buchanan and the paleo's were right. The sound jobs being sucked south w/NAFTA should have been obvious to all.

Speedy G said...

As a wise Greek once said, "None too much!"

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Newt is an opportunist, as most on their third wives are. I don't hold him in the regard I once did. Support for Trump pretty much waives the right to be taken seriously.

Speedy G said...

Since he's the President, how foolish would you have to be to NOT take him seriously?

Speedy G said...

:p

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

I don't take his supporters seriously.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Guy steps out of the shower after scrubbing with a turd and says...

"At least it's not Hillary!"

Thersites said...

That's okay beamish, like all politicans, I'm sure that HE doesn't take them seriously, either.

Thersites said...

btw - have you found the star of your new movie, yet?

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

That's easy. Find the guy that has a 30 year record of funding leftist Democrats and...

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

...call him a conservative.

Joe Conservative said...

Paleo's ROCK! Neo's BITE. End of story.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Nice story. Trump is a notaconservative.

-FJ said...

Conservative is a "relative" point on a spectrum of beliefs. And according to you, you're the world's only conservative.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Nope. Im not a conservative either, since Trump is one lol

Gert said...

So Trump is a leftist conservative who hates the free market? Cockadoodledoo!

Gert said...

I wish I could vape my arse off on TCP now!

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Not your fight, Gert. While you're trying to get the left back on the rails, figure out how there can be an International Women's Day if gender is a social construct.

FJ, it's going to be difficult to illustrate the spectrum of beliefs and affix Trump to the conservative side of any of those. I welcome your attempt to do so.

Gert said...

Whatever you're smoking, Beamish, I'll have some of that! ;-)

-FJ said...

Two points on the "spectrum", beamish, Karl Marx/DJ Trump. Which would you label the "more conservative". Put 'em on a line like the one below:

The world according to beamish...

[Leftist (everyone else)]<----------------- [beamish (conservative)].

Gert said...

I think the political spectrum is closed: so far to the right, one becomes left! ;-)

Thersites said...

The vanishing mediator... ;)

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Karl Marx's beliefs are obviously further to the left of Donald Trump's leftist beliefs. This does not make Donald Trump a conservative, as both are left of center.

But, note I'm reiterating your parameters. A spectrum of beliefs, not a spectrum of people. Donald Trump's beliefs: which ones are conservative, exactly?

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Gert, I don't think Turkish tobacco will help you find a difference between the progressive left and the alt right, other than the alt right being leftists with a sense of irony and humor.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Gert, I don't think Turkish tobacco will help you find a difference between the progressive left and the alt right, other than the alt right being leftists with a sense of irony and humor.

Gert said...

Must be hard Being The Only True Conservative in the World...

-FJ said...

Economic nationalism formed a "core" aspect of paleoconservative belief. Tariffs always formed a part of that pogrom. Once upon a time, Pat Buchanan, an acknowledge conservative, formed an alliance with the Left against economic globalism and was denounced by "neo-cons" for it. Donald Trump "continues" this CONSERVATIVE tradition against unrestricted/unlimited global trade. In this "specific" economic sense, he is a "conservative". He is NOT a "social" conservative. And in the same sense, Neo-cons are not economic conservatives, they are much like their neoliberal economic twins in the Democrat party (like Billary).

-FJ said...

Republicans have always been the "tariff" party. It's what caused the War of Northern Aggression! ;)

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Trump is a conservative because he's aping the rhetoric of a guy that ran for President with a commie and latched onto the anti-trade left-wing sewage you can find at anti-globalization riots in Seattle.

You don't want to sound like a blithering idiot, do you? 'Coz thats how you sound like a blithering idiot.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Trump's depression won't be Great, it'll be Yooooge.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Trump's depression won't be Great, it'll be Yooooge.

(((Thought Criminal))) said...

Trump is a conservative because he's aping the rhetoric of a guy that ran for President with a commie and latched onto the anti-trade left-wing sewage you can find at anti-globalization riots in Seattle.

You don't want to sound like a blithering idiot, do you? 'Coz thats how you sound like a blithering idiot.

FreeThinke said...

When SHIT and PISS start to compete with VOMIT for The Prize, it's time for ICE CREAM and STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE to vacate the premises.