Why do Social Democrats do what they do?

November 13, 2016

Trump Didn’t ‘Win’ – It Was Clinton Who Lost, 12 Nov 2016. Kevin Ovenden, Morning Star, Nov. 12, 2016


We should not be so surprised that the US working class – including women and black people – rejected the politics of neoliberal capitalism and war. They are best-placed to see its iniquities, writes KEVIN OVENDEN

"Much is in flux. One fixed point is the potential reach of the radical left. More than half of young people in the US in a recent survey said they believed in some alternative to capitalism, but could not name it.
In such circumstances, the talk from those who put their eggs in Clinton’s basket now of inventing a “left populism” falls short.
The issue is not to dilute the thinking of the left. It is to popularise it."

“THE crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
Those words by the great Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci are perhaps even more resonant with our times in their Greek rendering.
Instead of “morbid symptoms,” the translation in Greece is “thus begins a time of monsters.” Donald Trump.
How could it be that this monster has won the White House?
It is not playing with words to say: he did not — Hillary Clinton and the political confection she stands for lost it.
With the exception of the Greek referendum last year, I do not know of a major national poll in the last three decades which so comprehensively confirms the viewpoint of the radical left and equally refutes the liberal capitalist ideology which has dominated the world for more than a generation.
With 59.7 million votes, Trump stands sixth in a list of total votes cast for the six mainstream candidates in the last three presidential elections — 2008, 2012 and this year.
He got fewer votes than John McCain and Mitt Romney, the Republican candidates defeated by the now outgoing Barack Obama.
Instead of a tidal wave of reaction powering a surge by the monstrous Republicans, they did not even hold their absolute number of votes, despite the fact that the US population has grown by 47 million — almost the population of Italy — since 2000.
Trump won because Clinton’s Democrats lost even more votes. She was down 10 million on the vote secured by Obama in 2008 and over six million compared with four years ago.
Even then, she is just ahead in the total number of votes cast. The vagaries of the US electoral system mean, as in Britain, that it is possible to win a general election without having the most votes nationally. Trump has only one of four of those who were eligible to vote.
None of this should be surprising given the consistent evidence that Clinton was, along with Trump, the most unpopular candidate in a US presidential election for decades.
The Democrat machine, which had politically assassinated Bernie Sanders in the primaries, shrugged all that off. Faced with the bullying racist and sexist Trump, they figured that the multiracial working-class base of the Democrats had nowhere else to go other than to get behind the candidate of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, neoliberal capitalism and war.
We know from leaked emails that they even boosted Trump’s prospects earlier this year because they and their clever pollsters thought he was the Republican candidate most likely to galvanise out of fear the Democrat base.
Well, working people in the US did not, indeed, feel this week that they had somewhere else positive to go. So they stayed at home.
All working people. Black, white — men, women. Clinton lost the votes of 1.4 million black women compared with Obama four years ago. That is nearly as many as the number of votes she lost among white men.
In the three most heavily black voting districts in Detroit, her vote plummeted by 14 percentage points.
It is not difficult to see why. The city that in the 1960s gave us the uplifting optimism of Motown now resembles a rusted chassis in a wrecking yard.
Knackered too, beyond repair, lies the voodoo politics which has dominated the labour movement’s and progressive thinking on both sides of the Atlantic for a generation.
It was born with a Clinton. It is interred with a Clinton.
Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992, coming at the end of the cold war and the vaunted end of history herself, ushered in the doltish imitators.
Tony Blair in Britain, Lionel Jospin in France, Costas Simitis in Greece, Romano Prodi in Italy, Gerhard Schroeder in Germany…
The titanic clash between labour and capital was over. And with it the ideological combat between left and right. Instead, progress was to come through being a ginger group upon an unshackled globalising capitalism.
The deregulated City of London plus child tax credits and civil partnership for same-sex couples.
A prostrate labour movement was easy prey for this quackery. And for a time it seemed to work — so long as we averted our eyes from what is now, belatedly, spotlighted in human interest features as “the forgotten class,” those upon whose labour by hand and by brain the entire casino depends.
Just as corporate PR men raided the radical zeitgeist of the 1960s to repackage Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream as if it were a continuation of the volcanic eruption against the Vietnam war, so the New Democrats, New Labourites, New Pasokists presented the emancipatory aspirations of the black, women’s and LGBT movements of 40 years ago in a deradicalised, pro-corporate parody.
It has all come crashing down — shattered on its own hypocrisy. Hillary Clinton spoke of “the greatest glass ceiling of all” — a woman becoming commander-in-chief of the biggest military arsenal in history.
Evident now: for vast numbers of women in the US, theirs is a different world. Their glass ceiling is not the White House.
It is $15 an hour, the gender pay gap, systemic misogyny — in real life, not just online from Neanderthals trolling Clinton’s social media accounts.
They did not see the advance of the billionaire class’s candidate as their advance. Some 53 per cent of white women who voted did so for Trump.
Despite his Bullingdon Club sexism, they could find no affinity with Clinton. Why should they? There is none.
So in woeful crisis also this weekend are so many of the pundits and commentators who from without have sought to keep the labour movement on the failed path of the Clintons and Blair.
Trump is a racist and a misogynist. But those who seek to explain his victory upon that basis do manifold disservice.
Above all, they insult the working-class women and black people in the US who are in a better place than any to know the  iniquities of the biggest capitalist power in the world but who, on account of knowing that to its fullest, did not vote for its official representative: Hillary Clinton. 
In abject bankruptcy stand politically also the hangovers from the Clinton-Blair period in the British labour movement.
These are the people who prophesy that it requires someone more like Clinton to beat the Tories in Britain electorally. At just the same time even Republican commentators are concluding in the US that it was Bernie Sanders who was the candidate who could have stopped Trump.
Sanders endorsed Clinton. His enthusiastic base of 12 million voters did not. Now he is suggesting revamping the Democrats to become a part of the forgotten multiracial working class.
But the young people he energised show little sign of playing again by the conventional rules that led to this disaster.
They are protesting, as they have done over the systemic police murder of black people that has continued these last eight years despite a black man in the White House.
Much is in flux. One fixed point is the potential reach of the radical left. More than half of young people in the US in a recent survey said they believed in some alternative to capitalism, but could not name it.
In such circumstances, the talk from those who put their eggs in Clinton’s basket now of inventing a “left populism” falls short.
The issue is not to dilute the thinking of the left. It is to popularise it.
The US election this week was an epochal event. I’m reminded of the great crises of the US political system over the last century. They appear to come from nowhere. Their resolution depends, as has all written human history, upon the course of great struggles.

As the martyr to US labour August Spies put it to his trial in Chicago in 1886, the powers that should not be may try to efface the struggles of working people, but: “Here we will tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.”

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