Ian Alan Paul on Sat, 4 Aug 2018 23:44:28 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> What does Trump get right?

The prognosis of the situation that has been outlined in this thread is unquestionably true. Certainly climate change, financial capital, and rising authoritarianisms/nationalisms/etc. require the greatest degree of concentration, stamina, and dedication from us all, regardless of your political camp or tendency.

What I find incredibly less convincing is the suggestion that the Democratic party is the only possible agent of any such response. Never has there been a time in the United States when less power was located at the polls. Citizens United, Janus, and algorithmic micro-targeted advertising have all but ensured that things will go the way that people with money want them to at the level of national elections. If a critique of contributing to facebook holds weight, I wonder why such a critique is absent of voting which also validates the state and all of its violence.

We all should prefer that the Democrats win in November for obvious reasons, but to curb our political horizon to their party (or even to the need for a political/hegemonic/cultural force that aims to influence their party) is entirely inadequate for the situation we find ourselves in.

I'd wager that what is clearer than ever is not that we need to "grow up" and "get realistic" by returning to state politics after the supposed failure of the antiglobalization movement, occupy, 15-M, arab spring, etc., but instead that we must continue to push further into the crisis and continue to develop our capacities that necessarily precede and exceed state politics. (Neo)Liberal democracy dooms us all. Only a continuance of past struggles, of all that we've inherited from communist and anarchist and decolonial traditions, with greater degrees of commitment, creativity, and intensity, have any chance of bringing down all that presently destroys the worlds around us. Let's hope that we continue to find ways to push in this direction, as Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, Antifascists, and others have done.

In solidarity,

On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 9:48 PM Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Michael, we fundamentally agree and yet it seems we also fundamentally disagree.

Yes, I too think November is pivotal and the defeat of the Republican party and the disempowerment of its chief is essential. Like yourself, moreover, I think this way because of the reality of climate change. Trump has worked on nothing so hard as dismantling every piece of environmental legislation achieved over the past five decades. He has been effective at it, despite tremendous resistance. I think this is a crime against humanity. We really don't have to disagree on that, I can assure you.

The question is how to win in November. This question is at the center of Democratic political strategy. Can the party win by throwing its support behind a surge of young candidacies responding to a massive conviction that the economic system has been rigged against the majority, that they have been denied a good life, duplicitously saddled with debt, relegated to precarious employment, swindled of their money by financial fraud, denied public services, shut out of health care, blocked because of the color of their skin, struck down by racist police? Or can the party win by going back to Clintonian triangulation and the soothing assurance that all is already for the better in the best of all possible worlds?

Those who want to take Option 2 represent the deeply rooted inertial faction of the Democratic Party. Those who want Option 1 - whose most accurate name is social democracy, and whose most rhetorically powerful name is socialism - can recognize momentum when they see it.

This is not about voting for a third party. This is about changing the only viable one we have.

The Republicans in their twisted way recognized this, albeit reluctantly, in the wake of 2008. Their activist donor networks supported the grassroots upsurge of the Tea Party and turned it into an electoral surge that disempowered Obama in 2010 (Theda Skocpol's book is the best story about this, but Jane Meyer's Dark Money fills in the gaps about the donor network's role). A right-wing critique of neoliberal capitalism thereby made its way into the Republican Party. Don't waste time explaining that this was no real critique, they don't understand the modern economy, etc. What matters in politics is the effectiveness. This critique grew and it was not fully instrumentalized by the usual Republican power brokers. In 2016 it shattered the traditional structures of the Republican party and of its policy elites to smithereens, unleashing the irrational fury of the present regime.

My claim is that this was achieved because Trump himself criticized the structure of the US political economy as it had evolved with effective bipartisan support over decades, calling out its injustices in a language that his constituency could understand and taking bold moves to change it. Nevermind that his moves are contradictory, incoherent, hypocritical, self-destructive. They continue to be far more effective politically than anything the Democrats have produced, including Obama, who despite his centrism was in many respects an outlier in his own party.

The Democrats need to repopulate their party with representatives who do not look, talk, act or cash in like the Clintons. They need to critique the political economy for its flagrant injustices and, because their constituency is rational, they need to propose radical but effective solutions to those injustices while also moving decisively ahead on the biggest injustice of all, climate change. To do this requires a shakeup equivalent to the one performed by the Tea Party. It requires an upsurge by the base. The keyword of the upsurge is socialism.

Now,  as Gary Hall just said on this list the other day, politics is about hegemony. Hegemony is not total power, nor is it the reconciliation of all political contradictions. It is about the temporary unification or suturing of contradictions so as to produce an effective unity within a specific conjuncture. Time is short. The strategic question is what are the contradictions, and how can they be overcome in November?

Those who are energized to win the November elections are divided into three camps. The first just viscerally hate Trump and think that the hatred of Trump is all that matters, don't worry, they will vote for any Democrat that makes it onto the ticket and no one will have to go knocking on their door and offering them a ride to the polls. The second camp wants a return to a version of common sense forged by Kennedy on the basis of FDR. They want a renewal of public institutions, an extension of public employment, economic planning to relieve hardship, the extension of civil rights, a return to ethical considerations in every profession and a renewed sense of community, social democracy in short. The third camp are the campers, the Occupiers, who gave up anarchy for electoral politics because of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They want the same things, but they see the situation as much more urgent, because they see the historical trajectory of the Democratic Party as culminating in the profound corruption of Clintonian neoliberal globalism. They are the most volatile of the three camps, by far. They're the people who will go out knocking on doors and offering a ride to the polls. And yes, they/we are given to writing screeds, it's true...

The election cannot be won on the basis of camp one -- Hillary already tried that. The current form of capitalism must be honestly critiqued, and those who are suffering from it whether economically or morally must be addressed directly and unambiguously. The key to the November elections is a language that can speak to camps two and three. Nevermind that there are contradictions between the two. Nevermind that it is extremely risky to rock the boat of an established political party. The tide that came in back in 2010 is now sinking us, precisely because of the false promise that neoliberal finance and communications would lift all boats. A risk has to be taken. The risk is to say the word socialism, and mean it -- while still speaking truthfully and persuasively to those who want social democracy.

We can do this. Or we can fail abysmally, as in 2016. Doesn't matter that Hillary won the popular vote, as you pointed out very energetically in the days after the election (I remember that one). What matters is overcoming the traditional Democratic Party's abysmal failure at the job of producing an egalitarian democracy under real political conditions.

David, you have always had such interesting and intelligent perspectives. Feel free to respond. This is not a flame war. I totally agree with you that we need to find a strategy that works. I have done my best to spell out what seems to a major strategy, currently under debate with the Democratic Party itself and within its donor networks. The strategy has to be immediate, aiming first of all in Novemebr, but it cannot be incoherent, self-defeating and violent like the Tea Party/Republican one. Because the point is not just to lurch from crisis to crisis as the Republicans are doing. The point is to really solve inequality in a way that generates enough consensus and resolve to face climate change.

all the best and thanks for your post, Brian

On Fri, Aug 3, 2018 at 1:29 PM, Michael Goldhaber <michael@goldhaber.org> wrote:
Brian, your cri de coeur is certainly evocative, but I don’t see why you had to title it "What Trump Gets Right". The elites he attacks are not primarily corporate leaders at all. His appeal has been fundamentally racist from the very start of his campaign. I know of no evidence that he gives a damn about automation.

Aside from that, your comments are unfortunately ahistoric and unrealistic in my opinion. Today’s socialists, whom I generally support, have no distinct model whatsoever of reshaping corporations. I don’t believe that have any coherent response to automation either. Nor, aside from self-serving predictions of tremendous AI success to come do we have any clear ability to predict the extent or effects of AI in the near future. 

Here is what we definitely must worry about in the near future: 
(1) the effects of climate change–Right now California is burning year round, there have been forest fires above the Arctic Circle, levels of heat too high for human survival are predicted relatively soon in heavily populated places around the world, etc; 
(2) Authoritarian regimes are on the rise, and companies like Google are eagerly aiding them (with its current plan not produce a censored version that will satisfy the Chinese “Communist “ regime [just try to advocate socialism in China]); 
(3) these authoritarian regimes disdain for ordinary people’s lives are even worse than those of American corporate leaders. Consider the devastation in Syria, and Yemen, among the Rohingya in Myanmar, etc., (of course, past tycoons had equal disdain).

Right now, any hope for any kind of decent future pivotally rests on a defeat of Trumpism this fall. Otherwise democracy in many parts of the world is quite possibly doomed, and the corporatist-authoritarian noose will grow ever tighter. 

Screeds like yours don’t help at all  right now, I’m afraid. They just help muddy the waters, when some clarity and singleness of focus is so much  needed. 



On Aug 3, 2018, at 12:04 AM, Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift@gmail.com> wrote:

What does Trump get right?

As a socialist, who votes Democratic but doesn't believe in it, I have been able to tell you the answer to this question for the last 20 years. Now that Apple is valued at $1 trillion, the New York Times finally agrees with me:


The shorty: Trump gets it that a mere 30 banks and corporations take half the profits of the US economy. These companies have emerged from the tech boom, they are so-called knowledge-based industries, their HQs and design labs are staffed by the hippest university-educated urbanites in the world, and their vanishing labor force is either located offshore (like Apple's) or paid the most abysmal wages imaginable, for example to pick products in warehouses so hot that employees are routinely carried out on stretchers and revived with salts before being sent home, wherever that might be (tent, trailer, SRO, nearby freeway bridge, you name it).

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