Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Trump as Morbid Symptom

Our thinking about Trump's victory in the American presidential elections must be located within the wider framework of the rolling crisis in global capitalism.  This enables us to think the rise of Trump, the Brexit vote in Britain, the coming ascendancy of the right in France (embodied either in Marine Le Pen, or a returning Nicolas Sarkozy), and the growth of the far right in Germany, together.  These are alarming developments, but must be viewed dialectically as potentially part of ultimately positive changes.  'The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying', Gramsci famously noted in his discussion of political authority, 'and the new cannot yet be born.  In this interregnum, a great variety of mordid symptoms appear'.

Here are several articles culled from the Verso website.

Firstly, Mike Davis - virtuoso historian of Los Angeles, of disaster, and of the American working-class:

Not a Revolution – Yet

And second, Wolfgang Streeck, theorist of the end of capitalism:

Wolfgang Streeck: Markets vs. Voters

Third, Alain Badiou, unreconciled revolutionary philosopher:

And some historical comparison, from Johanna Brenner and Robert Brenner:

Wednesday, 9 November 2016


Donald Trump is the president-elect of the United States.  The liberal media in Ireland, as elsewhere, is lashing itself into an agonised froth of fury, fear, and self-loathing.  In the Irish Times, Fintan O'Toole's hermeneutical skills have risen to the level of telling us that America has told the rest of the world to fuck off.  A maudlin fool who passes as a feminist, Una Mullally, is wailing that white American women have 'failed Hillary Clinton': it doesn't seem to occur to Ms Mullally, from her redoubt on Tara St, that perhaps the real problem might be the other way around: that Mrs Clinton failed American women.

We'll all be absorbing this result for some time, but we must get away in the meantime from the idea that this was an enormous surprise.  Apart from anything else, the polling information showed that the two candidates were very close as we came up to America's election day.  A Trump victory was always on the cards.  But liberals are as capable of self-delusion as most of us, and the leadership of the American Democratic Party, along with middle-class urbanites on America's coasts and their equivalents in Europe, just could not countenance the idea that the American electorate overall could vote an authoritarian, racist misogynist ignoramus into office.  Alas, democracy, like sex, is for everyone, and the democratic process can only be less than itself if we allow such persons to be excluded from it.  

Nevertheless, the result is momentous, for America and for the international political and economic system.  And the date on which this result has been declared is one which resonates across the last century.  November 9 was the date of Kristallnacht, the pogrom in Germany against Jews and Jewish property and businesses that exposed the real character of the Nazi weltanschaung in 1938.  November 9 was also the date of the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, in 1989 - a hopeful moment whose potential has been betrayed by the putatively liberal leaders of the West over the last three decades.  With the space for an expansive and humane 'New World Order' coming in the wake of the collapse of state communism, the United States and its allies in Europe had an extraordinary opportunity for peaceful development.  Instead, in what the late Peter Gowan termed a 'Faustian bargain', the United States, under the 'liberal' and 'peacemaking' Clinton presidency, sought global dominance via its control of the world financial system, producing the conditions for a bloated and unequal growth in the 1990s and early 2000s, and laying the ground for financial turbulence and collapse in 2008.  Make no mistake: we may argue over who voted for Trump (or for Brexit in the United Kingdom), but the conditions of possibility for the new neo-authoritarian and aggressively nationalist politics were laid down in the midst of the Clinton-Blairite-EU hegemony.   

Finding intelligent reactions to the Trump victory is as yet difficult.  Here are some articles that are worth a look: 

First, Jeffrey StClair on Counterpunch:

Next, the editors of Jacobin

Adam Shatz, on the London Review of Books blog:

The Nightmare Begins

Naomi Klein on the Guardian website: 

Juan Cole from The Nation website: 


Monday, 7 November 2016


Good evenin' listeners, as the great Tommy O'Brien used to say.   At some point on November 4, while I was out of internet range in a lonely mountain valley in the West of Ireland, my number of pageviews for this blog passed the 20,000 mark.  And you aren't all bots, either!

Thank you for reading me, and if you like the blog, please pass it on to your friends or to anyone you think would be interested!  And always feel free, if you're on my occasional mailing list, to ask me to take you off it.