Sunday, November 06, 2016

Note Insurgency

The comrades at Insurgent Notes have published an editorial regarding the possible election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States.  The editorial is both confused and mistaken, and gives credit to the notion that Trump has attracted considerable support because of working class resentment and alienation, or at least in "white working class" resentment and alienation, as if there is even such a thing in the United States as a white working class separate and apart from the working class as a class.  Where it does exist "apart" or separate from the working class, where it does exist as "white" first and foremost, it exists as the legacy of the different historical processes that converged in the make-up of the class as a whole, and that different historical process for the most part is....segregation.

The issue is not if some  workers support Trump; just as it was not the issue that/if some workers supported Nixon, or Reagan, or Bush.  Of course, some workers support Trump.  Some support him based on real grievances.  Some support him based on imagined grievances.

The issues are the claims made in the editorial:

1. “Donald Trump is like no major candidate in living memory”–demonstrably wrong as a) Buchanan preceded Trump playing similar themes b) Trump has surrounded himself with the same “advisors” “consultants” who have been in the stable of every Republican presidential candidate since Nixon, c)what’s important isn’t Trump or not Trump but how and why Trump presents the absolutely logical extension to its “illogicity” of the bourgeoisie’s “strategy” since Nixon– “coding” for racism, suppressing voter enfranchisement, jerry-mandering– that point of extension being where the coding strips itself away. And why that appears at this moment.

2. “What is occurring is nothing less than a (very) skewed referendum on the past 45 years of American politics and society, and those who feel they got the short end of “free trade” and “globalization” think they have finally found a voice"– again absolutely not the story, at least not the whole story.

This isn’t a referendum of any sort on free trade or globalization– part of that 45 years was also the reduction in poverty rates until 1979, and then again prior to 2001; part of that 45 years where the were attempts to secure measures of equality for women in reproductive health care, in schools, in after school supports. Part of that 45 years is also the 30 years of attempted voter suppression, the corporate focus on state legislatures to dismantle protective legislation, and unions.

The “referendum” being held is whether or not white supremacy can dispense with the “code” a la David Duke dispensing with the white sheets .

Is there real economic distress in West Virginia? Sure thing. In the rural, and small town areas of Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, etc? Sure thing.

Was that distress caused by globalization and free trade? Absolutely not.

Trade may have reduced some jobs by some fraction, but the overwhelmingly loss of employment in the rural areas begins with Reagan/Volcker and the double-dip recession of the 1980s and the great asset stripping adventure of the bourgeoisie determined to offset the fall in profits. The loss of jobs has been the result of the advances in productivity coupled with reductions in profit margins and has almost zero to do with globalization.

Globalization and “free trade” is no less an attempt to obscure the class nature of this distress, the distress imposed by capitalism, than is Trump’s characterizing of Mexican migrants as rapists and murderers.

3. This: “It is perhaps remarkable that, in America’s supposedly “middle class” society, the white working class is being discussed and catered to as the ultimate arbiter of this election. So unprecedented are the politics of 2016 that mainstream ideology suddenly feels the need to talk openly about the working class it previously disappeared or took for granted. UAW bureaucrats and AFL-CIO blowhard president Richard Trumka scurry hither and thither to convince the union rank and file not to vote for Trump.”

…pretty much takes the cake. The media, the politicos, which have spent decades avoiding “working class” as a category, using “middle class” wherever and whenever possible, suddenly is now granted authority in deciding what, who is working class and what working class issues are. Priceless. Nothing fits the fantasy of an “enlightened section of the bourgeoisie”– of which there is none– than the concurrent fantasy of an ignorant, reactionary, brutish working class.

4. I’m sorry I made a mistake; (3) above doesn’t take the cake, this does:

“And why should we be surprised, when the main surprising thing is that for the first time a candidate of a major party has bothered to talk directly to such workers about what has happened to them in the past decades.”

Because Trump isn’t talking directly to workers about what has happened to them, since workers are, and as a class, include women workers, black workers, latino workers, migrant workers, the working poor, workers at the minimum wage. He is talking directly to the petty-bourgeoisie that make up the bulk, and the shock troops, of his campaign, as manipulated by the same people who manipulated the petty-bourgeoisie for Nixon, Reagan, Bush, Bush etc. He is directly not talking to the class, but appealing to reactionary, racists segments of various classes under the classic corporatist mantra of “unity” a shared “us” vs. “them.”

5. I’m sorry, (4) doesn’t take the cake, this:

"We should not overlook, when identifying the class fractures at work, the role of identity politics, so rife in the metropolitan centers, in fueling the rise of Trump. Identity politics always had and has an explicit or implicit “suspicion” of workers qua workers, just as they have been supremely indifferent to the dismantling of the old industrial heartlands, which ravaged communities of white, black and brown workers alike. The rise of Trump is in part payback for the decades of condescension and barely concealed contempt for, or at best indifference to, the fate of ordinary working people rife in elite academia, the corporate media and the higher-end publishing world of the New York Times and posh journals of the chattering classes”

does, really. Parroting Trump’s nonsense is not a revolutionary strategy, nor does it amount to a materialist analysis. Identity politics have had zero to do with the so-called “alienation” of the so-called white working class. Everybody, except the editors of IN apparently, knows exactly where this type of “critique”– a critique of the “corporate media” “academic elites” the “NYT” and “posh journals” of the chattering classes goes– it goes right into the pocket of reaction.  Actions, appeals, programs initiated by those subjected to extraordinary levels of exploitation or oppression or discrimination or mistreatment is not responsible for the actions of reactionaries, racists, scheming self-aggrandizing politicos. Tagging “liberals” or “liberal journals” as a problem without identifying their role in the reproduction of the regime of capital misses the point that the attacks upon them are triggered because they no longer suffice to meet those needs. Claiming, as the editorial does, that this is “payback” is schadenfreude…. and a mouthful of ashes.

Clinton represents the status quo for the bourgeoisie.  Trump represents the reality undermining the status quo.  Together they represent the precarious conditions surrounding the accumulation of capital, and the absence of class opposition, not its distortion.

November 6, 2016


  1. Excellent comment - especially debunking the notion that Trump is an expression of the "working class", narrowly defined as older white male industrial workers, and that the mass of black, hispanic, women, and young wage- and salary-earners belong to a "middle class" which is patronizing and victimizing them. Trump's base is, in fact, is very similar to the coalition which propelled the fascists to power in Europe. The difference in this case is that it is not necessary for the big bourgeoisie to dismantle democratic rights and support a one-party dictatorship since the present duopoly is their preferred mode of maintaining social control in the absence of a disruptive and threatening trade union and socialist movement.

  2. This is brilliant, a Marxian analysis at last.

  3. This is linked to here: (latest entry - 7/11/16, and it includes this link also: though, living in France, I'm not at all clear about many of the nuances of the contradictions of Trumpism; my understanding would be more something between your comments and those of Insurgent Notes, but I'm no expert at all. However, the bit about Buchanan seems a little spurious as Buchanan was never the final Republican Party candidate...

    1. Thank you. I think Sarah Smarsh is very good in the analysis of the forces at work. I recommend her website,

    2. I received a comment from SamFanto questioning what he calls my "uncritical endorsement" of Sarah Smarsh, given that she has written, among other things, pieces arguing the case for "more female cops."

      I'm not "endorsing" Sarah Smarsh. The recommendation of her website is in reference to her analysis of the forces at work propelling Trump supporters, the mis-characterization of "white" workers as the base of Trump support, the toll capitalism has taken on those living in smaller towns and rural areas, the sort of rolling dispossession that has reduced many to an itinerant status.

  4. Note to all: TWR will not accept comments from those linked with or using commercial, business websites. So if you are using a screen name X, and X is linked to Wombat Roofing Co., your comment will be rejected as spam.

  5. This, which I wrote over 10 years ago, has some connection to the rise of Trumpist “fascism”:

    “…daily life is overwhelmed by crazy behaviour on an unprecedented scale, a result of the implosion following the repression of the explosions against this society. The most obvious symptom of this is what might be called the “fascism of everyday life”, which is very far from classical fascism.

    For example, nowadays there are an increasingly significant number of 15 year olds (mainly male) whose idea of rebellion is to scare the shit out of their elders by playing around with handguns or other ways of being psychotic. There have always been psychos in the working class, but in situations of some margin of independent community psychosis was more tamed, and often evaporated pretty quick in times of mass struggle. Known paedophiles (though not those in the family circle) would get a thumping and that would be the end of it: none of these crazy murders of kids to cover up their sick ‘sexuality’ or these crazy vigilante groups attacking some crazy guy who just touched a kid (when often worse abuses of kids are quite legal). Highly tense blokes, over-jumpy explosive minefields of stress, would direct their aggression towards the right enemy – the cops etc.- in situations of class conflict, their generous human side also bursting through to those on their side. But nowadays madness manifests itself in switches from power-mad notions of individualist dignity to a vicious identification with a gang, a nation, a family, an ethnic grouping or whatever.

    There have always been gangs, scenes, cliques, milieus, Organisations, but in the past, in the 60s, 70s, 80s, these scenes had a far greater openness and fluidity between them. After all, there was a margin of freedom that had been won by 150 years or more of class struggle. In that margin separate from the immediate exigencies of work and money you could at least breathe a bit. You could find some ways to experiment independent of external authority. And you could recognise others because you and they were fighting for yourselves against the forces of external authority. The miners strike, for example, embraced people from all over – it was a crossroad of connections from squatting scenes, blacks, politicos, suspicions having been broken down in the practice of solidarity. But in the last ten years there’s been an atmosphere of being mopped up after a rout. The full implications of this rout have only sunk in, like a rock to the bottom of your soul, in the past 5 years or so: the mad world of the commodity is driving everyone mad.” (here: )