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Issue #1757      November 16, 2016

Trumpism, the class struggle and Australia

Statement, Communist Party of Australia

The election of reactionary billionaire Donald Trump as president of the US is a clarion call to the progressive people of the world. It is time to organise and counter-attack. The hand wringing and analysis has begun but it is clear that the outcome is the result of class issues, not identity politics. People in the US (and elsewhere, including Australia) feel disenfranchised by the political establishment – those who manage the two-party system on behalf of the ruling class – and are hurting badly as a result of capitalist crisis and globalisation. Unfortunately, in the absence of a united left with a consistent program, people are looking in the wrong places for answers.

The Trump ascendency has many lessons for Australians.

It would be wrong to downplay the significance of Trump’s election. His populist campaign has delivered a stunning result. Notably, it bucked the editorial consensus of much of the corporate media. However, it would be wrong to over-emphasise the magnitude of the shift it represents. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both candidates pushing variations of the capitalist agenda and US imperialism. Their argument was about how to make both of those institutions stronger.

The results do not support the “landslide victory” conclusion, either. Hillary Clinton attracted slightly higher total of votes from US citizens than Donald Trump. In 2012, failed Republican candidate Mitt Romney received more votes than Trump did last week. The Electoral College system, to which all candidates are subject, played its part. So did the meddling of the Democratic National Committee, which made sure that reforming Democrat candidate, Bernie Sanders, never stood a chance. There is widespread speculation that Trump would have been defeated by the long-time activist Senator from Vermont.

While Trump’s victory may be less crushing than presented in the media that, up until last Tuesday, were happy to dismiss him, it does give encouragement to the most reactionary elements in society. Reports of racist attacks are coming in but people are responding. Recent days have witnessed massive protests against the election of Trump and the sorts of anti-people attitudes expressed during his election campaign. This could be the beginnings of what must become a people’s movement – a movement of workers and other exploited people against the sustained attacks on their basic rights and needs.

Much has been said about Trump’s erratic, idiosyncratic and contradictory approach to domestic and foreign policy. We should remember that in politics many a rooster has wound up a feather duster. The president of the US and his counterparts around the world head up a committee for the management of the affairs of the capitalist ruling class. Anybody seeking to buck that status will quickly find themselves an ex-president.

Time will tell if Trump will oversee the nuking of ISIS, the construction of a massive wall along the border with Mexico and a trade war with China. It is noteworthy that Trump has already indicated he will essentially retain the “Obamacare” health insurance arrangements he previously derided as disastrous.

The Trump ascendency has many lessons for Australians. The nervousness caused by his foreign policy pronouncements underscores just how subservient we are to US diktat. Many Australians who previously felt, incorrectly, that the deployment and activity of the US military was under stable and benevolent leadership will now question those assumptions. The recklessness, extreme danger and cost of US aggression in our region and beyond has been placed in question. The calls for an independent path in relations with nations in our region will get stronger.

Trump’s election says a lot about the sense of disenfranchisement and disengagement felt by people in the US, Australia and comparable countries. Trump sold himself as an opponent of the establishment and that appealed. Voter turnout was low and disenchantment was high. Former Australian PM Tony Abbott commented that disillusionment with the political system was already high in Australia.

As he pointed out during his Radio National interview, ten percent of registered voters didn’t bother to vote in the most recent federal election. Five percent voted informal. Twenty five percent voted for other than the two major parties of capital.

Abbott says there is the danger of a right populist figure or party establishing themselves in Australia politics. This ignores the fact that many of the right populist attitudes expressed by Trump – sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-working class – already have an elevated place in the Coalition parties. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and other right-populist groups do not yet have a large voter base.

Toxic messages like those of Trump and One Nation do encourage dangerous extremists to act on their bigoted ideas. That’s a danger to the community. These forces stand to get stronger because, as stated above, the left and progressive forces of this country are disunited and are not presenting a coherent, alternative program to the people of Australia. The election of Trump may not be as epoch-making as some pundits are claiming but we should extract the positive from this development. People are looking for political direction and engagement as a result. We must be ready to welcome and involve them.

The Communist Party of Australia calls for the formation of a broader alliance of working class, left and progressive forces working towards a new type of government in the interest of the people.

Next article – Taking Issue – The Popular Front – now more than ever

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