As the US presidential race nears it’s final days, it appears from many who have expressed an opinion on which they favour, that the United States electorate are almost equally divided between the two candidates. The press cannot make up their minds whether Clinton will ‘trump’ Trump, or whether Trump will ‘trump’ Clinton. As a consequence there is a great deal of hopeful or fearful guessing. Leaving aside (for the moment) the dubious qualities of both candidates an important question remains to be posed. Will either one seriously help the blue or white-collar workers who are currently mired in the ruins of yet another systemic crisis of the capitalist mode of production? The answer is almost certainly – no!
Despite the rhetoric of ‘making America great again’ (Trump) or ushering in ‘a brighter future’ (Clinton) something entirely different is certain. Before and during this competition for the top post in the lucrative gravy-train they are both aspiring to, promises and obligations have been made. They will be the kind of promises and obligations, which will, to a greater or lesser extent, determine what follows. Despite appearances to the contrary, whoever, gains this presidential office will become the political puppets of those who control the complex web of economic, financial, political and military strings to which they are attached in one way or another. In addition, they will be unable to significantly influence the underlying problems facing America. The five-fold crisis of the capitalist mode of production (economic, financial, social, ecological and moral) in the 21st century, cannot be adequately addressed, let alone solved by the political class or under the economic system they uphold.
Those who onced pinned their hopes on Obama, had them dashed for exactly these multifaceted reasons. Those who are now persuaded into thinking that Trump and Clinton represent a radical difference, are similarly mistaken. Disillusionment is bound to follow. This is because the splits in the ruling elites of America revealed again by the current presidential campaign are only superficial. They represent the Janus faces of the neo-liberal advocates of 21st century capitalism which are being replicated throughout the world.
The reaction of much of the white and blue-collar citizens in the USA will probably fall into one of four probable patterns. Some may well vote for Trump simply to stop Clinton gaining office whilst others vote for Clinton just to prevent Trump getting into the oval room. Many others, disgusted with both candidates, may vote for one of the alternatives. It will also not be surprising if considerable numbers just abstain from voting at all, whether from disillusionment, disgust or disinterest.
Yet these four probabilities will doubtless serve to disguise the fact that, as was the case in the Brexit vote in the UK, the vast majority of the working classes are wanting radical change for the better rather than more of the same. Two fundamental problems face the vast majority of working people in any attempt to realise this common ambition. The first is the existing, religious, ethnic, and gender divisions within the working classes. These manufactured identities of social divisiveness were created precisely to ensure exploited human beings would be impeded from recognising their common humanity and the commonality of their economic exploitation by an elite. The second fundamental problem is of more recent origin. It is the deliberately orchestrated illusion that the politics of bourgeois democracy are the only realistic means to achieve any improvement or amelioration of the conditions experienced by those who are exploited.
During the last few weeks, during a vicous and prolonged attack by a flu – like virus, I took the opportunity offered by long boring periods in bed with honey, hot lemon and paracetamol tablets to re-read that excellent book, ‘A people’s history of the United States’, by Howard Zinn. More people should read it. In it I was struck by the following pertinent lines concerning the period of 1830 to 1840.
“Both major parties were controlled largely by men of wealth and ambition. Lawyers, newspaper editors, merchants, industrialists, large landowners and speculators….It was the new politics of ambiguity – speaking for the lower and middle-classes to get their support in times of rapid growth and turmoil. The two – party system came into its own at this time. It gave people a choice between two different parties and allow them in a period of rebellion to choose the more slightly more democratic. It was an ingenious mode of control.” (‘A people’s history of the United States’. Howard Zinn. Chapter 10.)
How little has changed from this assessment of 19th century American politics by Howard Zinn. We can now add that a few female members have established themselves among the elite and bankers have enthusiastically joined the speculators, but otherwise it is the same ‘modus operandi’ established by the elite over 100 years ago. We are undoubtedly in a period of turmoil and rebellion and we can witness the same mode of control is being exercised – and not only in the USA. It has been said that if we do not learn from history, we are bound to repeat it. Let’s hope enough people do learn from it to a least challenge if not overcome the religious, ethnic and gender divisions of working people and to finally disperse the illusion that bourgeois politics are part of the solution to what faces the human species.
Roy Ratcliffe (November 2016)