Divide and Rule

What we’re getting now, both in America and in Britain, is a very large disaffected working or lower-middle class, largely disillusioned with establishment politics and policies, but split between Right and Left. In Britain half of them go to Ukip, half to Corbyn’s Labour. In the USA almost exactly the same interest group is (or was) equally divided between Trump and Bernie Saunders. Look at Trump’s and Farage’s rhetorics when it comes to the economy: populist, anti-austerity, anti-globalisation and anti-privilege. These are essentially and traditionally left-wing causes, and ought by rights, therefore, to put these people on the social(ist)-democratic side. For a number of reasons, however, half of them are adhering to Trump and Ukip, which has the effect of fatally dividing the anti-capitalist majorities in both countries, so allowing the old establishment – Hilary, Theresa – to sneak through the middle and keep things as they were. That’s why politics on both sides of the Atlantic are so fundamentally unrepresentative of their peoples today.

The likeliest reason for these unnatural divisions appears to be immigration, which is the only obvious policy difference between the two anti-capitalist tribes. Persuade Ukip voters and Trumpists that immigration is not the cause of their economic and other woes, and there will be little to prevent their joining up with their left-wing soul mates in an irresistible movement against the late capitalist status quo. There are two ways of doing this: through reasonable argument – persuading people that immigrants are not to blame for everything; or alternatively by giving ground to the anti-immigration lobby to some degree. I would be sorry to see the latter, but it may be necessary; and there is after all nothing particularly anti-socialist about opposing free trade in labour, as well as in goods.

The thing is, Trump is tapping a genuine and understandable resentment among relatively poor Americans; is right about some things – trade agreements especially; and has a point when he claims that he has a biased press ranged against him. In Britain, Labour knows too much about hostile newspapers to dismiss that complaint as merely paranoid. In every other way, of course, Trump is a mean-minded, petty, ignorant, whingeing, childish, lying, amoral, unstable, sexist fool; which is why – and probably the only reason – Clinton will beat him. I’m not thrilled by that prospect; but of course Trump has to be pulled down, in the interest of the whole world.

My only hope for America is that a victorious Clinton also comes to see the force of the anti-capitalist/globalisation resentments of those who supported both Trump and Saunders, extricates herself from the embrace of big business, which is the main thing that makes people distrust her now, declares her independence from the Washington clique she is inevitably associated with, and pursues some bold new policies: of the kind that Saunders has been urging on her, and that her great predecessor Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented so successfully eighty years ago. A new ‘New Deal’. That would do it. I can hear Trump’s working-class support hissing out of the great orange-topped barrage-balloon now. Unfortunately I can’t see Theresa May doing the same thing, despite her gilded words when she took over as prime minister (https://bernardjporter.com/2016/07/11/st-theresa/). In which case the important thing will be to gather the anti-globalisers of Left and Right together again, and into power.

About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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1 Response to Divide and Rule

  1. TJ says:

    All the leaders mentioned support the maintenance of the capitalist status quo, with a little tinkering at the edges so long as core corporate interests are not affected. Immigration is a neutral issue for capitalist interests, except the more cheap labour the better, and they are content to let the disaffected focus on it as a object of their discontent, instead of the true source, which of course is their fate in the capitalist system. It’s a depressing prospect, stopping Trump and getting Hillary, the candidate of Wall Street, or stopping UKIP and getting Teresa and her brand of suburban populism.

    Liked by 1 person

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