Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Has Trump Killed Neo-Liberalism?
- Symptoms of US decline
- Populist Ignorance in the USA
- Is It All the Deep State?
- Russia Aggressively Defending Itself
- Pet Nazis as Good Nazis
- Wear Your Poppy In Praise of Senseless Bloodshed
- Some Left Successes:
- Arctic Not Cold Enough
- A dog’s life
Has Trump Killed Neo-Liberalism?
Both Blair and Bill Clinton decided that Neo-Liberalism was here to stay. Economic dominance by the rich should not be challenged – better to join them. For them as individuals, it worked. For their parties, it has been a long-term disaster: “This race was for Hillary to lose and she lost it… Trump’s total votes are roughly in the same ballpark as Romney in 2012 and McCain in 2008. Clinton did win the popular vote, but Democrat turn-out collapsed compared to Obama’s numbers. How could the mighty Clinton machine lose against an entirely unqualified racist, sexist and populist? There seems to be a larger trend at play. US Democrats are reliving the trauma of the Dixie exodus, when they lost the South for a generation. Today, the exodus of the white working class reflects a trend which reshapes the electoral landscapes in all Western countries. Like no other, the name Clinton stands for the Third Way which has alienated centre-left parties from their historical roots.”[A]
Trump’s message was ‘back to the 1950s’. He won declining regions and declining white voters. Those who voted Obama for a false promise of change did not vote for Hilary, who offered nothing much. She wanted Callous Globalisation to carry on. People had had enough. Trump appealed to the lost privileges of the White Race and Male Gender. But he also defended the right to a decent living for the USA’s working mainstream. The rights everyone should have as a citizen. Saunders defended those same people as a democratic socialist. He would have won the election if he had been the candidate. But the USA hangs on to the old-fashioned system of first-past-the-post, which makes it enormously difficult for new political parties to emerge.
Also obsolete is the Electoral College. It was designed by the Founding Fathers to prevent the sort of populism that Trump represents. But they were over-keen to minimise bad influences: they created an elected body with no job at all apart from electing the President. So it was soon subverted by candidates pledged to a candidate. The system also favours small states, mostly Republican. The Democrats won the popular vote for both the Presidency and the Senate, yet the Republicans now control both. Hilary got over two million more votes: 64.3 million against Trump’s 62.3. Similar strange accidents have a way of favouring right-wing parties. In 1951, the British Labour Party got its highest vote ever, but Churchill won. Labour had 220,000 more votes, but the Tories had 26 more seats and an absolute majority.
Symptoms of US decline
“The failure of the American Dream, as we are told repeatedly, has produced a populist revolt of volcanic proportions… Between 1948 and 1973, productivity rose by 96.7 per cent and real wages by 91.3 per cent, almost exactly in step. Those were the days of plentiful hard-hat jobs in steel and the auto industry when workers could afford to send their children to college and see them rise into the middle class. But from 1973 to 2015 – the era of globalisation, when many of those jobs vanished abroad – productivity rose 73.4 per cent while wages rose by only 11.1 per cent. Trump argued that this was caused by unrestricted illegal immigration and the off-shoring of jobs, though these were only partial causes: the erosion of trade unions probably accounts for 25 to 30 per cent of the net loss in earning power. The 11 million unauthorised immigrants in the US form only part of the vast mass of non-unionised labour competing for jobs.”[B]
There was also the unbalanced fear of state power by 1960s radicalism. They had cause for discontent: state power was often technocratic, distant administrators deciding what was best for ordinary people. And quite often corrupt. But it was also a highly successful system that defended working-class interests within existing politics. In an imperfect world, the real choice has been between dirty politics dominated by politicians and public institutions, or dirty politics dominated by private corporations and the rich. Media owned by corporations and the rich give priority to exposing the faults of public institutions. They target politicians not sufficiently obedient to them. And 1960s radicals as they gained power often fell for this:
“Antiwar liberal reformers realized that the key to power in Congress was through the committee system; being the chairman of a powerful committee meant having control over the flow of legislation. The problem was: Chairmen were selected based on their length of service. So liberal reformers already in office, buttressed by the Watergate Babies’ votes, demanded that the committee chairmen be picked by a full Democratic-caucus vote instead.”
“Ironically, as chairman of the Banking Committee, Patman had been the first Democrat to investigate the Watergate scandal. But he was vulnerable to the new crowd he had helped usher in. He was old; they were young. He had supported segregation in the past and the war in Vietnam; they were vehemently against both. Patman had never gone to college and had been a crusading economic populist during the Great Depression; the Watergate Babies were weaned on campus politics, television, and affluence…”
“The Watergate Babies provided the numbers needed to eject him, it was actually Patman’s Banking Committee colleagues who orchestrated his ouster. For more than a decade, Patman had represented a Democratic political tradition stretching back to Thomas Jefferson, an alliance of the agrarian South and the West against Northeastern capital. For decades, Patman had sought to hold financial power in check, investigating corporate monopolies, high interest rates, the Federal Reserve, and big banks. And the banking allies on the committee had had enough of Patman’s hostility to Wall Street…”
“Not all on the left were swayed. Barbara Jordan, the renowned representative from Texas, spoke eloquently in Patman’s defense. Ralph Nader raged at the betrayal of a warrior against corporate power. And California’s Henry Waxman, one of the few populist Watergate Babies, broke with his class, puzzled by all the liberals who opposed Patman’s chairmanship. Still, Patman was crushed. Of the three chairmen who fell, Patman lost by the biggest margin. A week later, the bank-friendly members of the committee completed their takeover…”
“In 1974, young liberals did not perceive financial power as a threat, having grown up in a world where banks and big business were largely kept under control. It was the government—through Vietnam, Nixon, and executive power—that organized the political spectrum…Over the next 40 years, this Democratic generation fundamentally altered American politics. They restructured ‘campaign finance, party nominations, government transparency, and congressional organization.’ They took on domestic violence, homophobia, discrimination against the disabled, and sexual harassment. They jettisoned many racially and culturally authoritarian traditions. They produced Bill Clinton’s presidency directly, and in many ways, they shaped President Barack Obama’s.”
“The result today is a paradox. At the same time that the nation has achieved perhaps the most tolerant culture in U.S. history, the destruction of the anti-monopoly and anti-bank tradition in the Democratic Party has also cleared the way for the greatest concentration of economic power in a century. This is not what the Watergate Babies intended when they dethroned Patman as chairman of the Banking Committee. But it helped lead them down that path.” (How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul, [C])
Populist Ignorance in the USA
Too many poor under-educated US citizens distrust all elite except the rich. They can imagine themselves being rich. They know they will never be part of elites based on cleverness and education. And the media and entertainments industry feeds this foolishness.
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”[D]
Trump himself is ignorant but clever. He’s not the brilliant businessman he has sold himself as. His father was the brilliant businessman: little Donald inherited gigantic wealth and was able to play games with it. He may be refusing to release his tax returns because they’d show he has wasted a fair chunk of his inheritance. But he is smart when it comes to manipulating the ignorant. What he can’t do is give them what they want.
Trump can’t seriously move against China while the USA depends on China buying the USA’s treasury bonds. Trump did once mention this in passing, and said he wanted to fix it. But that would mean cutting the deficit, which Bill Clinton managed, but no recent Republican has been able to do. Bush Junior recreated the deficit. Trump has promised both tax cuts and big spending on infrastructure – and that appears to amount to yet more tax cuts. So expect him to fix nothing.
Is It All the Deep State?
Some leftists claim that the USA has a Deep State that runs things, whoever gets elected. I don’t believe it. A Deep State would not have thrown away the enormously strong position the USA had when the Soviet Union collapsed. Obama and Bush Junior both tapped into discontent, and didn’t meet expectations. But this was down to genuine False Beliefs. A belief-system that the business class have pushed since the 1980s, but not an ideology that lets a whole society flourish in the real world.
Rich people are often fools on matters outside of their own experience. I found immense foolishness in Sir James Goldsmith, who gave dire warnings of the Soviet menace shortly before their abrupt collapse. I found total shallowness in Bill Gates, though many of his shallow impulses are generous and useful. Steve Jobs showed brilliance in creating Apple Computers, but then failed to get conventional medical treatment in time to stop the cancer that killed him at age 56. I see no one who might be operating a Deep State.
The USA has been deeply incompetent since the Soviet collapse. They allowed chaos and theft in Russia, alienating a country that at the time wanted to be their friend. And blew their chances of winning over China, where Russia’s humiliation is seen as a terrible warning. They also went round knocking over dictators who were broadly pro-Western, often without having a realistic hope of getting replacements more to their taste. They got what they wanted in Romania and Indonesia. Created chaos in Zaire / Congo and Former Yugoslavia. Laid the foundations for a very dangerous extremism within Sunni Islam by their incoherent moves against Saddam, who could have been conciliated by easing his debts. Boosted Iran also, since it should have been obvious that Iraqi democracy would mean power for Religious Shia.
For Former Yugoslavia, a pro-Croat policy pleased Germany at a time when Thatcher wanted concessions within the European Union. It led to pointless destruction and a warning against any tolerance for Separatism.
Things are now slipping out of Establishment control. Right-wing populists are doing damage to business interests. And their version of Globalisation looks increasingly foolish. That’s not to say the state is a passive instrument awaiting the choice of the voters. A largely manufactured story drew fresh attention to Hillary Clinton’s carelessness with secure e-mails. It gave Trump a boost in the polls when he was fading. Probably gave him victory.
If people within the FBI decided to sabotage Hillary Clinton, they maybe had good reasons. Sabotaged her as someone unstable and unable to drop failed policies. Trump is dangerous, but Hillary Clinton was more so. Trump wants to end the most dangerous confrontation of all, that with nuclear-armed Russia.
Russia Aggressively Defending Itself
After the Soviet collapse, Russia retreated all the way back to its own borders. NATO chose to follow them and build a ring of hostile states around Russia. Encouraged anti-Russian elements in Ukraine, including actual Fascists. Then called it Russian Aggression when Russia refused to be pushed around.
Putin was put into office to save Russia, after Yeltsin finally realised that he had wrecked the society by following Western advice. Putin defended the status quo against Western aggression. When the West encouraged pro-Western forces in Ukraine to treat everything pro-Russian as criminal, he moved to secure Russia’s vital navel base in Crimea. He also had solid support within Crimea, which had elected regional politicians friendly to Russia. They had already been seeking to reverse Khrushchev’s eccentric 1954 decision to lump them in with Ukraine, where historically they had never been.
What I found worrying about Hillary Clinton was her belief that US interventions were working, and that Russia was a menace that must be faced. I am less scared of liars than of fantasists. Blair was both: a liar and a fantasist. He knew his 15 minute claim was dishonest, but he was also unable to foresee the predictable results of his war on Iraq. Hilary is as bad. Trump I see as just a clever liar: a man who repeats Ronald Reagan’s ingenious trick of sounding no smarter than the average elector. Now Russia is breaking the back of the Syrian opposition by helping the legal government recapture East Aleppo. It will be bloody and brutal, but it may bring peace.
Pet Nazis as Good Nazis
“UN General Assembly’s Third Committee passed a Russia-proposed resolution condemning attempts to glorify Nazism ideology and denial of German Nazi war crimes. The US, Canada and Ukraine were the only countries to vote against it. ‘The resolution was passed on Friday by the committee, which is tasked with tackling social and humanitarian issues and human rights abuses, by 115 votes against three, with 55 nations abstaining, Tass news agency reported’.”[E]
The nations of the European Union abstained. The Ukraine’s first Orange Revolution flopped, after it failed to fix anything. That led to the election of a President more sympathetic to Russia. The second Orange Revolution included outright Nazis, who achieved little and for the time have been shoved aside. But it did intentionally hype hostility to Russia. Showed strong sympathy for Ukraine’s historic Far Right:
“Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots. The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniversary of Petliura’s assassination in Paris. National television channels interrupted their programs and broadcast the image of a burning candle for 60 seconds, Ukraine’s Federal News Agency reported. A French court [in 1927] acquitted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the murder even though he admitted to it after the court found that Petliura had been involved in or knew of pogroms by members of his militia fighting for Ukrainian independence from Russia in the years 1917-1921. Fifteen of Schwartzbard’s relatives perished in the pogroms.”[F]
The people who made an enormous row about supposed antisemitism in the British Labour Party have let the matter be ignored in the West.
Wear Your Poppy In Praise of Senseless Bloodshed
Maybe one Briton in twenty wears the poppy. But 100% of those seen on British television wear them. At one time, I wore the poppy myself. I saw it as an expression of sorrow for a war that should not have happened. It has all been hyped since then. Part of a glorification of war that the establishment are pushing.
There were always some appalling sentiments. Such as:
- “They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old.
- “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
- “At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
- “We will remember them.”[G]
No, you fool, they are dead: and by now long decayed. Young men robbed of most of their lives, in a war that need not have been fought. They got no chance to mature and then grow old in peace. They were led off on a mad dance by politicians who saw a preventative war was the best way to deal with the rising German challenge to the British Empire. And probably speeded that Empire’s decline and fall.
Some Left Successes:
In Bulgaria, the Presidential Election was won by the candidate of the left. A candidate who wants to repair relations with Russia. In Moldova, a left-wing and pro-Russian candidate has also won.
In Iceland, results were mixed. The centre-right Independents got the most votes and seats. The left-anarchic Pirates Party did well, but not as well as once expected. Slightly more votes were won by the Left-Green Movement, formed mostly from elements of the traditional left who rejected Blair-style politics. The Blairite Social Democratic Alliance suffered an ignominious defeat, losing two-thirds of their seats and are now marginal.
Outliving your enemies is a kind of victory. Fidel Castro helped change the world, though most beneficiaries don’t know it. And with Trump, he may have seen the start of US decline and fall.
Arctic Not Cold Enough
Climate change has never been as simple as overall warming. It has included cold snaps, and currently has been doing little in Britain or the rest of Europe. But it is showing itself strongly in the most worrying place, the Far North. Gradual warming of the Arctic has been news for years, along with the loss of sea ice. But now it’s no longer gradual. Temperatures are 20 degrees out of line: around-5 degrees Celsius instead of the typical-25.
A dog’s life
“Dogs have been dining on human food scraps since the early days of their domestication, it appears. Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence. Scientists think dogs may have been domesticated from wolves when they came into settlements, scrounging for food. Modern dogs can tolerate starch-rich diets, unlike their wolf cousins, which are strict carnivores.”[H]
Previous Newsnotes can be found at the Labour Affairs website, http://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. And at my own website, https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/.
[D] Isaac Asimov, Column in Newsweek (21 January 1980). https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism