Only socialism can defeat Trumpism


Nicole Aschoff and Bhaskar Sunkara, ’Only socialism can defeat Trumpism’ The Nation, 07.11.16

…the past year has shown that millions of ordinary people are ready for an alternative, one pointed to by the success of Sanders and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. These leaders have tried to articulate a humanist, social-democratic vision—a platform with concrete demands that, if met, would improve the lives of the poor, restore dignity and means to workers, and assure young people that their efforts are not in vain. This vision resonates with voters. This is the vision that must be built on—and expanded—by any party that wants to be relevant in these times.

Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party would do well to take the popular demand for an alternative seriously. Americans—especially young adults and minorities—don’t see Sanders as a dinosaur trading on nostalgia or harking back to an irredeemable past. Instead, they see capitalism as a key source of their troubles. A recent Harvard University poll of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 found that 51 percent did not support capitalism, compared to only 42 percent who said they did. This doesn’t mean a socialist majority is right around the corner—only 33 percent offered it up as an alternative—but the poll indicates a significant shift in attitudes from just a few years ago.

Results like these fit within a broader picture of discontent. A majority of young Americans, including college-educated millennials, saddled with debt and dealing with bad jobs or no jobs, identify as working class—60 percent, more than any other group of Americans, suggesting that a class-based politics is increasingly salient. Even before Sanders ran for president, 66 percent of Americans saw “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor, and recent data show that the wealth gap between middle-class Americans and elites has reached a record high. The vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the status quo, and most are willing to pay higher taxes or tax the rich for programs to improve public education and fund Social Security and Medicare.

Most Democratic politicians appear unwilling to acknowledge the extent of these shifts. But in this post-2008 climate, replete with anger against the establishment, the Clintonist approach of winning over moderates and drawing in reluctant leftists presupposes the existence of an ideological center that increasingly cannot hold. It might not be apparent on the eve of their November 8 triumph, but it will soon be.

As with the collapsing social democrats in Europe, the Democratic Party’s best bet is to move left and embrace a platform that speaks to the real needs, fears, and aspirations of working people. This doesn’t mean looking back with rose-colored glasses on the New Deal; it means building a coalition of young people, working-class whites, and minority voters around a new politics.

Those of us to the left of Clinton and the Democrats don’t have all the answers. But we have a good idea of where to start.

First, call for single-payer healthcare and free, quality public education—including higher education—for people of all ages. Fight for robust maternal and paternal leave and universal pre-K to help young families. These policies, despite debates on how to pay for them, are easily grasped and popular. The widespread support for Bernie’s broadsides against the “millionaire and billionaire” class shows that Americans are tired of handouts to Wall Street and the elite, and are ready for a new, progressive tax scheme to foot the bill.

But gains like single-payer and free higher education wouldn’t just be about giving a handout to working people instead of the rich. They would be part of a social movement demanding a decent life for all Americans. This movement would have a broader vision, one that includes the demand for a national job guarantee. Giving everyone a decent job isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a logical way to address pressing social problems and it’s achievable, through a robust expansion of public employment with an eye toward addressing social needs like infrastructure, education, and scientific research and scholarship in the public interest.

Policies like these will not only help alleviate material suffering, they will eventually help unite a divided electorate. Programs that benefit all Americans will foster the sense of solidarity and political engagement necessary to building a lasting progressive coalition in this country.

The alternative is more anxiety and inequality, a further decline in the Democratic Party’s base, and the continued growth of a Trump-like far right that is actively positioning itself to pick up the pieces. For the Democrats, no less than their peers in Europe, where the neoliberalisation of social democracy has opened up space for a populist right, the choice on offer might well be either socialism or irrelevance.

My thought: Trotsky articulated ‘the choice on offer’ far more accurately – socialism or barbarism


I recommend the following for your consideration. That the Chinese Communist Party has learnt the lesson of the necessity of financial reward for individual initiative and has so far managed that very well within a socialist framework at the same time as the global crisis of capitalism which is so clearly reflected in the current US Presidential election gives even greater emphasis to Engels’ words :

‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’

Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451


8 thoughts on “Only socialism can defeat Trumpism

    • Hi Kristin,

      Team C (the most powerful sections of the US capitalist class). Trump (contrary to the full-moon barking and howling) is correct in saying that ‘the system’s rigged.’ It’s called ‘class domination’ and ‘capitalist ideology’ – nothing new.

      He is also correct in accusing Clinton of ‘giving us Iraq’. She voted for waging war on Iraq and is totally aligned with those who advocate the use of the military (paraphrasing her words from one of the debates: ‘I’m proud to say I was there when we took out bin Laden’??!!).

      Trump’s statement ‘If I (as President) could get along with Putin that would be good’, a most important statement which he repeated in the debates – at an increasingly dangerous time – went repeatedly unanswered by Clinton who simply kept referring with utter contempt to ‘Putin’ and those ‘evil’ Russians.

      On this week’s Four Corners an Afghan leader said that the problems in Afghanistan cannot be resolved without the Russians.

      Yesterday I put on my blog an interview by John Pilger of Julian Assange who has been taking refuge in the London Ecuadorian embassy for four years. Assange (on the basis of the emails he has) pointed out that Clinton’s Foundation is funded by the Saudi govt. which is also funding ISIS. It was also pointed out that the US funds radical groups, one of which morphed into ISIS.

      The middle-class commentariat of the capitalist media (particularly in utterly servile Australia) has been totally focused on Trump’s attitude to women, other races and Islam as a way of avoiding the profound crisis of capitalism which is at the bottom of all of this (which brought Trump, Clinton and Sanders to prominence) and for which capitalism, now that the money’s run out, has no peaceful answer and of avoiding the consequential increasing threat to the world of the US military machine.

      And where were those same egalitarians when the US military put bombs into the Amiriyah air raid shelter in Baghdad killing more than 400 men, women and children?

      Leaders, as Tolstoi wrote, are ‘thrown up’ by the times.

      What do you think will be the election result?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I voted for Dr. Jill Stein rather than throw away my vote on the other three. Yes, I voted earlier for Bernie, but had my doubts about his foreign affairs stance; his support for Clinton has chilled any support he will get from me in the future. Actually, both votes were against rather than for. I conclude that any attempt to promote “rational” socialism would lead into a swamp because it could never touch the deep state and could only flop around and look foolish. Anarchist syndicalism, my preference, can cut the legs out from under the bosses by refusing to play their games and by building communities from the bottom up. Notice what is happening in Syrian Kurdistan: cf. To Dare Imagining: Rojava Revolution by Murat Bay; also
    “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any except for the most elemental ones. The whole thinking of such voters is done in terms of emotion…(and the) dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost…All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre – the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken – known as the “Sage of Baltimore”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Don,

      thank you for your comment. I used to be the union delegate representing about 50 people at a warehouse.

      Great lessons I got from doing that were the importance of honesty and respect towards those I represented, the power of trust and whenever an issue arose and I made a point of consulting every one I represented, I got a new perspective on the issue from every one of them, every time. I thought of it as cutting facets on a raw diamond (the issue).

      I have heard the most disparaging comments by the liberal middle-class commentariat, both in the US and Australia. I just listened to an earlier Australian political leader being interviewed about the US election and the bile and spite (distinct from rational criticism) that poured out of his mouth regarding Trump (who appears to have won the election).

      What all these people miss is that (in my view) the majority of those who voted for Trump not only did so because they see him as the vehicle to express the depth of their anger to all those who look down on them, who patronise and exploit them (particularly ‘the ‘establishment’) but because they consider that making that point is more important than anything else (the continuation of Obama’s health care plan, cheaper college education etc.).

      It was a very risky thing to do but they may well have done what was was required – time will tell.

      By this I mean that Trump’s election, which clearly shatters any complacency, not only in the US but around the world could have the potential to put socialism on the agenda in the US and, as a consequence, elsewhere.

      While I don’t think Sanders is a socialist, he got an excellent response, particularly from young Americans and is a pointer towards socialism, towards what I think the US will have to become – not because I like socialism, but because of necessity.



  2. I would put $1 on Clinton. Rather over the whole thing actually. We’ve had this campaign stoved down our throats by our media since enduring our own elections….yawn…..😆 Think I’d like to hear about new technological advancements we’ve made in space travel, or newly discovered species on earth. 🌏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kristin,

      It’s now 5.30pm Wednesday and it appears that Trump may have won. I have read that the US election got 2x the coverage of the last Australian federal election.

      In my view, the amount of reporting of it and the manner in which it has been done so clearly indicate how servile Australians are to ‘our best friend’ – get ready for the B1 bombers and the carrier battle group.

      I just listened to Beazley being interviewed about Trump’s apparent victory. What he said was not rational criticism but free-wheeling spite (‘Trump should be so grateful to Putin’ etc.).

      Expect much more in the same vein. The liberal Ozzies seem to feel the pain even more than Clinton.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Glad I only put $1 on that bet Phil. Good grief, now we have to hear every Tom Dick and Harry analysing the results. Thank goodness for foxtel’s, documentary channels and SciFi. I’d rather watch the 100,000th re-run of star trek next generation 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Listening to the commentary, the Aussies, true to style, are really letting loose with the bile. You’d swear the election had just been for the president of Australia. Maybe it had been.

        I notice that Clinton didn’t make a concession speech congratulating Trump – she left the talking up to Podesta who didn’t congratulate Trump either but only told her supporters to ‘wait until tomorrow’ – she only gave Trump a private call.

        Certainly noteworthy for someone who made so much of ‘going high’ etc. when others (Trump) ‘go low.’ Trump acknowledged her at the beginning of his speech.

        While I see his potential politically, I don’t like him – I think he is a capitalist thug – but I note the hypocrisy of his opponents, ‘experts’ and the liberal commentariat.

        Watching as they manoeuvre for position in a ‘new world’ will be entertaining.

        Liked by 1 person

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