Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The main question remains: how does a programme which is so clearly pro-rich and anti-social succeed in appealing to a majority of Americans as it did in 1980 and again in 2016? The classical answer is that globalisation and cut-throat competition between countries leads to the reign of each man for himself. But that is not sufficient: we have to add the skill of the Republicans in using nationalist rhetoric, in cultivating a degree of anti-intellectualism and, above all, in dividing the working classes by exacerbating ethnic, cultural and religious divisions.

As early as the 1960s, the Republicans began to benefit from the gradual transfer of part of the vote of the white and southern working classes, unhappy with the civil rights movement and the social policies, accused of benefitting primarily the Black population. This long and in-depth movement continued with the crucial victory of Nixon in 1972 (faced with the Democrat, McGovern, who suggested implementing a universal basic income at federal level, financed by a new increase in estate duties: this was the summit of the Roosevelt Programme), Reagan in 1980, and finally Trump in 2016 (who had no hesitation in racially stigmatising Obamacare, as Nixon and Reagan had done previously).

In the meantime, the Democrat electorate focussed increasingly on the most highly educated and the minorities, and in the end, in some ways resembled the Republican electorate at the end of the 19th century (upscale Whites and Blacks emancipated), as if the wheel had turned full circle and the Roosevelt coalition uniting the working classes over and above racial differences had ultimately only been a parenthesis.

Let’s hope that Europe, which in some ways is threatened by a similar development with the working classes having greater faith for their defence in the anti-immigrant forces, than in those who describe themselves as progressive – will be capable of learning the lessons of history. And that the inevitable social failure of Trumpism will not lead our “Donald” into a headlong nationalist and military rush, as it has done others before him.
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Slavoj The Bear defends Corbyn and bourgeois decency against petty bourgeois moralism (left and right).
Unfortunately, the leftist-liberal public space is also more and more dominated by the rules of tweet culture: short snaps, retorts, sarcastic or outraged remarks, with no space for multiple steps of a line of argumentation. One passage (a sentence, even part of it) is cut out and reacted to. The stance that sustains these tweet rejoinders is a mixture of self-righteousness, political correctness and brutal sarcasm: the moment anything that sounds problematic is perceived, a reply is automatically triggered, usually a PC commonplace.

Although critics like to emphasise how they reject normativity (“the imposed heterosexual norm”, and so on), their stance is one of ruthless normativity, denouncing every minimal deviation from the PC dogma as “transphobia” or “fascism” or whatsoever. Such a tweet culture which combines official tolerance and openness with extreme intolerance towards actually different views simply renders critical thinking impossible. It is a true mirror image of the blind populist rage à la Donald Trump, and it is simultaneously one of the reasons why the left is so often inefficient in confronting rightist populism, especially in today's Europe. If one just mentions that this populism draws a good part of its energy from the popular discontent of the exploited, one is immediately accused of “class essentialism”.

It is against this background that one should compare the Conservative and the Labour electoral campaigns. The Conservative campaign has reached a new low for the political battled in the UK: scaremongering attacks about Corbyn as a terrorist sympathiser, of the Labour party as a hive of anti-Semitism, and all of this culminating in Theresa May joyously promising to rip off human rights – a politics of fear if there ever was one. No wonder Ukip disappeared from the scene: there is no need for it, since May and Johnson have taken over its job.

Corbyn refused to get caught in these dirty games: with an outspoken naivety, he simply addressed the main issues and concerns of ordinary people, from economic woes to terrorist threat, proposing clear countermeasures. There was no rage and resentment in his statements, no cheap populist rabble-rousing, but also no politically correct self-righteousness. Just addressing ordinary people’s actual concerns with a common decency.

The fact that such an approach amounts to no less than a major shift in our political space is a sad sign of the times we live in. But it is also a new confirmation of old Hegel’s claim that, sometimes, naïve outspokenness is the most devastating and cunning of all strategies.
Sam Kriss replies
Kriss' about page includes blurbs from various people, praise or criticism.
"Swiftian. A joy.”
Peter Hitchens 
“Far too odd to easily classify.”
Nick Land
In the end it all dovetails

New tag for Zizek.

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