by Nick Wright
Donald Trump has a remarkable talent for mobilisation. Millions of people in dozens of cities — in the country to which his family migrated, and in the countries from which they migrated — have taken to the streets in protest at his first actions in office.
This is no single issue protest. The millions who march against the ban on Muslims are mobilised as much by his misogyny as his chauvinism.
Theresa May’s rush to be the first foreign government head to meet him, compounded by a hasty invitation to parade down the Mall in a golden coach with our own head of state, smacks of unseemly submission. That Trump reached only for her hand is perhaps all that is left of the famous special relationship.
A tawdry trade deal is the rationale for her rushed visit but the deeper reason lies in the unbridled anxieties the core elements of our ruling class have for the future of their partnership of profit if, arising from a British withdrawal from the European Union, US capital begins to see less utility in the connection.
Trump’s travel ban is, despite the guileless denials of his officials, a racist act but one with a political logic. It is directed at travellers from a group of states that, from a variety of reasons, are obstacles to imperialism’s strategic partnership with the most reactionary Middle Eastern states.
Popular opposition to the ban and the state visit adds political punch to the broad movement against islamaphobia in our own country, the scape-goating of migrant workers and racist immigration measures. It has the potential to unite very wide sections of opinion, way beyond the political left.
An unusual feature of the early protests has been a generous media promotion — denied, of course, to last weekend’s Peoples’s Assembly demonstration — and unprecedented except perhaps for the Countryside Alliance protests of a few years ago or the pro-EU marches of the referendum campaign.
It makes sense to consider why.
The rupture with the European Union damages the interests of a narrow strata of very rich people who profit from the special relationship with the US and see Britain’s role in Europe as a bridgehead for the joint interests of US and British monopoly capital. They still entertain hopes of subverting the Brexit vote and aim to harness this largely spontaneous and unformed movement in this project.
That partisans of the ‘special relationship’ include some key figures on the parliamentary right of Labour should be no surprise. Some would like to harness this new mood in a renewed attempt to beautify NATO (and the EU’s) aggressive posture in East and central Europe.
Take the honourable member for NATO aka Mike Gapes, Labour Co-op MP for Ilford South, who worked himself into a crimson rage calling Theresa May “the Appeaser” over offering Donald Trump a state visit, and likening her to Neville Chamberlin’s appeasement of Nazi Germany. As an unqualified enthusiast for bombing Middle Eastern countries and for NATO’s expansion eastwards Gapes is just the least convincing of these new moralists.
Britain’s membership of the EU is deeply divisive. Our ruling class is divided. The working class is divided. Political parties are divided. Trade unions are divided. Generations are divided. Families are divided. Couples who disagree only over whether to listen to The Archers on this issue are divided.
It is not sensible to act as if on one side of this divide there exists a monopoly of political virtue and on the other guilt. This is why Jeremy Corbyn’s approach is so productive. Firstly, by committing Labour to respect the people’s will he put the party on the side of a new majority, one which includes many who voted to remain and which wants a Brexit in the interests of the people.
This is given extra substance by pledges on NHS spending, a reassertion of British popular sovereignty and an industrial and infrastructure strategy which serves the whole nation.
He recalibrated Labour’s approach to immigration with a serious attempt to put the national discussion on a rational footing in a manner which makes sense to both the Brexit majority and the very many Remain voters who have signalled that they too regard immigration policies as a matter concern.
Set against Corbyn’s overall approach is a significant section of the parliamentary party, much of the party apparatus, many in local government so clarity on the best way forward is vital.
We have to worry that even some elements on the left don’t understand the need for Labour to connect with the millions of working class people who fall on each side of these divisions but whose class interests run counter to the big business consensus. This not only includes the millions of Labour voters lost during the Blair and Brown years but many more who are not registered to vote, don’t vote or vote counter to their basic interests.
On Saturday’s demonstration some innocents carried an idiotic ‘Left Unity’ placard which bore the legend Brexit and Trump. Sound the alarm.
If the first principle of political propaganda is consider the nature of your target audience this placard is a mistake.
A referendum majority voted for Brexit. A new majority considers the matter settled and is opposed to a second referendum. Opinion polls show that a clear majority want policy positions on public spending, austerity and public ownership which cannot be reconciled with membership of the single market. Thus a narrow appeal to reject Brexit is unlikely to gain much traction and clearly meshes with a mainstream media narrative which is designed to either subvert the referendum result completely or to achieve an exit deal which preserves those elements of membership of the single market — free movement of capital and labour, the preeminent role of the City and finance — which big business regard as central to their interests.
Intuition guides me on this rather than opinion polling but it is probable that within this new majority Trump’s policies are unlikely to excite admiration.
Thus it is hard to see the political logic of a slogan which conflates the two issues in a way that narrows the appeal to a new progressive majority that likely holds Trump in contempt irrespective of their divergent views on Brexit.
It is worth taking a cool look at the Trump’s prospects.
The United States constitution, famously, separates the powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. It is a mechanism designed to maintain measure of equilibrium between states, that in a federal system, jealously guard their peculiar prerogatives.
The systems of dominance and submission in this complicated and diverse country vary from state to state and, as the systemic crisis of its economic system finds new and original expressions in the political and judicial superstructure, we are confronted with quite unprecedented ruptures.
How are we to understand a situation in which a US president is elected against the settled will of the political establishment and the main figures in what is, nominally at least, his own party?. Elected against the overwhelming media consensus in a country where the media is completely integrated into the system of political power. Elected against a spectacularly unpopular opponent yet with a minority of the votes.
Able to staff the security, intelligence, defence and judicial departments of state with his nominees but unable to implement his signature immigration policy because a single judge in a state remote from the capital is able to strike it down and immediately compel the entire state apparatus to disregard the presidential order.
These are the morbid symptoms of a system in crisis, struggling to reconcile conflicting priorities, having already lost the power to compel conformity from its voters and now unable to stabilise the operations of the state.
Trump came to office by mobilising a reactionary majority and allying to this bloc sections of the US working class that had earlier put their trust in promises of change from Obama. His victory in the electoral college was possible only because Hilary Clinton, as the representative of the most powerful section of US finance capital and of the military industrial complex, was unable to count on the support of those sections of the US working class and labour movement that previously put its trust in the Democratic Party.
Like Brexit, Trump’s victory represents the breakdown of the established order. Like Brexit it was a defeat for the main centres of capitalist power.
For the US it is hard to see how this can end except in the removal from office of Trump. He has already proved himself immune to the usual measures the deep state uses to compel compliance. Trump’s skeletons are not so much in the closet as on open display. He is scandal proof.
It wouldn’t risk any money on him staying in office whether removed by impeachment or by the more tried and trusted methods of assassination.