For four years now I’ve regarded Trump as the perfect personification of the country he’s been leading into its end-capitalist stage. The greed, the amorality, the boasting, the lack of regard for human life and welfare by the side of profit, the Barnum & Bailey showmanship, the mafia-like corruption, even the bankruptcies: all would feature in any fictional character one would like to invent as representing ‘The Way we Are Now’ (see https://bernardjporter.com/2018/10/26/philip-green/). Of course, it might appear unbelievable if this character were to appear in a novel; but that is – was – the nature of the beast. Trump was a larger than life president, a caricature of even the worst qualities of capitalism; but if the present time does represent the final stage of capitalism before it collapses under the weight of its own internal contradictions, as Marx predicted and some Leftists still hope (I don’t: I’ve too much to lose), Trump would be the perfect man to bring the curtain down on its Götterdämmerung.
But of course there are other Americas, one of which appears to have mercifully prevailed last week; and other forms of capitalism. Capitalism is (though this is an imperfect simile) rather like the rain: a force of nature, enormously beneficial at best, but easily perverted, and needing to be controlled and sheltered against if it is not to soak us and flood us all out. Both of its most distinguished historical theoreticians saw it like this: Adam Smith, whose free marketism was far more interventionist than Trump’s (or Reagan’s, or Thatcher’s), and Marx, who denied that any form of intervention – ‘bourgeois liberalism’, or what we would today call ‘democratic socialism’ – could ever finally stem the collapse. If Joe Biden lives up to his billing, therefore (Bernie would have been better!), we might see Marxism finally discredited. More Trump would have had the opposite effect.
Biden will be unable to do much but push back a little against the capitalist behemoth because the the US constitution permits little more than compromise, something he is good at admittedly. But compromising with capitalism always means it wins in the end, as it has the infinite capacity to reshape itself and re-emerge in new forms while remaining just as toxic. The eight years of the Obama government is a case in point.
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