United Public Workers for Action

Trump Election Exposes Crises of United States Capitalism and Imperialism; Creates Historic Political Opening for Radical Change

UPWA Editorial
United Workers for Action
Editorial Board
November 30, 2016

Most people in the United States and the rest of world were stunned by the election of Donald Trump as President. That outcome was not supposed to happen.  But it did!   Trump, who is a bullying-demagogic non-politician developer-billionaire, in fact, stole the nomination from the Republican Party “establishment” and, then, defeated the Democratic Party “establishment’s” Presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.  Why did Trump get elected?  What does Trump’s election mean? And, what must be done?

Background to Why Trump won the Presidency

The background to why Trump won the Presidency starts with the fact that the United States “ruling class” and its aligned bi-partisan Democratic and Republican “establishments” have been carrying out Neoliberal policies for 40 years. [1] Those policies consist of tax cuts and public bailouts and subsidies for the wealthy; deregulation of the economy; slashing the public sector while privatizing it; and, smashing organized labor.  The objective of Neoliberalism is to eventually squeeze every ounce of surplus (profit) out of the public sector and the working class in order to facilitate capital accumulation for the capitalist and managerial classes without any concern for social, political and environmental implications.  Neoliberal policies have also contributed to the deindus-trialization and financialization of the economy.

The result of Neoliberalism domestically has been historically unprecedented wealth and income disparities; unemployment and underemployment; stagnant and declining wages; the weakening of private and public sector unions; the corporatization and privatization of public education; the destruction of the New Deal-Keynesian social “safety net;” and, growing social dislocation and alienation.

In addition, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has implemented a bi-partisan aggressive and costly (in terms of human lives and resources) interventionist military project in its effort to gain “absolute global hegemony.” That project is committed to: 1.) maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency; 2.) pursuing the military encirclement of Russia and China, with the objective of “regime change;” 3.) shielding the interests of Israel and the Gulf monarchies, particularly Saudi Arabia; 4.) “regime change” of any Third World nation whose policies are independent of the United States; 5.) sustaining a stranglehold over European and South East Asian allies through military alliances; and,  6.) controlling the world’s natural resources, including oil, natural gas and fresh water.  The project also involves promoting “free trade” agreements (the North American Free Trade Agreement; the Trans Pacific Partnership; etc.); agreements that only benefit United States corporations, the investor class, and the collaborating class in the respective nations, at the expense of the, petty bourgeoisie and working class as well as the environment.

While carrying out this objective the United States has produced chaos, death and destruction where ever it intervenes, such as in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  Those interventions have also fostered ever more anti-United States anger, hostility and resistance; thus, generating a permanent cycle of violence with no end in sight. Furthermore, in the face of United States aggression, China and Russia, among other nations, have acted to resist United States domination by protecting their “national sovereignty” and “national interests” through defensive actions and increased political, economic and military cooperation and coordination. The latter can be seen in the formation and operations of international organizations, such as the BRICS; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; and, the Eurasian Economic Union.  (To shape public opinion and to justify interventions, the United States claims these “defensive” actions are “offensive” and aggressive;” while the increased cooperative resistance to the United States has only intensifies aggression towards those nations.)

The contradictions caused by the Neoliberal project and increased international instability and resistance has caused the heightened crises the United States faces.  This is witnessed by, 1.) the accelerating political and economic crises of Neoliberalism; and, 2.) the relative, but persistent, decline of the United States economic position in the global system and in its reckless drive for “absolute global hegemony.”  In turn, this reality has caused an urgent panic on the part of the “ruling class” and bi-partisan “political establishment” in its never ceasing pursuit of capital accumulation.

The 2016 Election and the Challenge to the Political Establishment

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, the symbiotic “ruling class,” the Democratic Party “establishment” and the corporate-owned media backed Clinton’s candidacy.  Their motivation was the belief that if Clinton was elected she would maintain “Obama’s” electoral coalition while accelerating Neoliberal policies domestically, and military aggression and “free trade” policies overseas.  Clinton said, or implied, as much during her campaign.  Clinton’s record as “First Lady,” Senator and Secretary of State as well as her close ties with Wall Street reinforces that assessment.)

Moreover, the “ruling class” and the Democratic Party “establishment” assumed that Party’s use of “Identity Politics” and token support of social issues, such as “a woman’s right to chose” and LGBT rights, and appointing “moderates” to the Supreme Court and the fact that Clinton would be the first woman President, would rally the Democratic Party’s electoral coalition to enthusiastically vote for her.  Once Clinton was in office, they also assumed that that tactic would pacify the Democratic electorate; thus, thwarting them from “taking-to-the-streets” to protest Clinton’s Neoliberal polices and war-making.  (That tactic was one of the roles that Barack Obama has played for eight years; while he systematically expanded Neo-Liberal policies and military aggression.)

If Clinton had been elected President, she was primed to accelerate Neoliberal policies, including tax cuts and subsidies for the rich; privatizing entitlements and education; increasing military spending; militarizing the police, and, deporting Latinos.  History also tells us that she was going to reverse her campaign position on Trans-Pacific Partner-ship, and support it.  While Clinton’s foreign policy was aimed to accelerate the military encirclement of Russia and China; expand war-making in the Middle East, with a concentration on Syria, and North and West Africa and Ukraine; and, carry out “regime change” in Third World nations that resisted the United States dictates.  All Clinton had to do was defeat Donald Trump, a task, which was assumed to be assured.

However, a challenge to the Republican and Democratic “establishments” emerged during the early stages of the Presidential primaries, when Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders opposed the Democrat “establishment” from the Left and Trump did the same against the Republican “establishment” from the Right.  Both did extremely well during the primaries. Sanders made as his singular focus the extreme income and wealth disparities that exists in the county, disparities that are a direct result of Neoliberal policies.  Highly popular among “Progressives” and the Liberal Left, particularly young people, and many independents, Sanders ended up with 13 million votes during the primaries.   However, in their debates Sanders did not forcefully expose Clinton’s political vulnerabilities, and eventually supported her candidacy. [2] While Trump surprised the “ruling class” and the Republican “establishment” (and most of the rest of the country and the world) by winning its nomination.  Ironically, it is on record that the Democrats actually wanted to run against Trump, because they thought he could be easily beaten.

Trump campaigned on a program that generally ran counter to the “ruling class” and “political establishment.”  His slogan was “Make America Great Again.”  By that he meant an “America First”-protectionist policy, which flew in the face of the United States’ 70 year commitment to “Free Trade.” He claimed that would be carried out by scraping the TPP treaty and renegotiating North American Free Trade Agreement.  He also stressed that he was going to revive exhausted sectors of the economy, such as the coal industry, to provide jobs for underemployed and unemployed workers; a promise that resonated with many Trump supporters.  He did, however, advocate tax cuts for the wealthy and increase deregulation, central components of the Neoliberalism.

Trump also utilized a demagogic nativist, xenophobic, misogynist campaign to rally Right-wing support. This was amplified by his claim that he would prohibit Moslems from entering the country; deport eleven million undocumented Latinos; and, build a “big beautiful wall” along the Mexican-US border while demanding that Mexico pay for it. He also said that he was going to increased support for the militarization of the police.  Clearly, Trump’s rhetoric was a transparent called for “White’s Only” electoral support.  Moreover, Trump’s central foreign policy proposal was that he would normalize relations with Russia, while cooperating with Moscow on mutual concerns such as defeating ISIS.  This position directly challenges the foreign policy establishment’s (Neo-conservatives and Liberal-interventionists) drive to militarily confront Russia for the purpose of “regime change.”  He did claim that he would defeat ISIS using increased military intervention, including using “enhanced interrogation” (ie. torture) tactics.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ran an incompetent, lack-luster, cynical and neo-McCarthy-like campaign against Trump.  The Clinton campaign assumed all she had to do was: a.) rally support from union bureaucrats and Liberal women, Blacks, Latinos, the LGBT community, and the disabled; b.) demean and ignore [Andrew Jackson’s] “Common-Man [and Woman],” whom she called, “a basket of deplorables.”  (She also stated during the campaign that Trump’s supporters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic”); and, c.) carry out a “negative” campaign by attacking Trump from the Right.  She emphasized (correctly) that Trump was “sexist and unfit to be President” and that (without any evidence) President Vladimir Putin was intervening into the electoral process to undermine her candidacy.  Moreover, Clinton never spelled out how she was going to provide jobs for the besieged working class.  The Clinton campaign also completely ignored the “anti-establishment” mood of the country and the fact that the majority of the electorate wanted “change.”  This oversight was despite the obvious electoral successes Trump and Sanders were having during the primaries.

A significant segment of the White working class, including women, voted for Trump. The Trump supporters voted for him for a complex mix of reasons.  Some were staunchly Right-wing, such as members of the Tea Party, the Christian Evangelicals, and the Racist-right, who are hostile not only to the Democrats, but also towards the Republican “establishment.”  Some voted for Trump as a reaction to the increasing a multi-racial demographics of the United States, a development which they feel is a threat to their “white-skin privilege.” In fact, some interpreted Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” as meaning “Make America White Again.” Some voted against the Democratic Party because of its use of Identity Politics as an electoral strategy; a strategy which amplifies the reality of racial and ethnic diversity in the country.  Some also voted for Trump because Clinton is a woman. And, some voted for Trump because of nativist, racist and xenophobia attitudes, attitudes that Trump vigorously cultivated with his virulent anti-Latino and Moslem pronouncements.

However, the central reason they voted for Trump was because of anger to both the Democratic and Republican “establishments” due to the devastating economic realities they are facing, such as high rates of unemployment, stagnant or declining wages, and the high costs of health care and education, conditions directly a result of Neoliberalism.  More specifically, those conditions seriously effects their economic position and future life chances.  Certainly, many voted for Trump because for more that one reason.   Further, what must be noted is that most of the Trump voters (as well as Clinton voters) have never heard of the word “Neoliberalism,” or have any idea what that ideological project means. Furthermore, they did not understood that much of what Trump proposed to do actually will intensify Neoliberal policies.

The Meaning of the Trump Victory

Trump’s election has exposed the combined crises of United States domestic Neoliberal policy and imperialist aggression.  The manifestation of those crises includes: 1.) The “ruling class” and the “political establishment” has no solution to the domestic economic situation, because it can not be solved with in the framework of capitalism; 2.) the commensurate growing “de-legitimation of the political establishment by the vast majority of the populace; 3.) the inability of the United States to gain imperialist control over the world, largely due to the growing resistance of nations to the United States’ drive for “absolute global hegemony.”  

(Also, the election, once again, exposed the anti-democratic character of United States politics.  Three weeks after the election, it is clear that Clinton won the national popular vote by over 2.5 million votes; two million more than any of the four previous Presidential candidates who lost the electoral vote, but won the popular vote.  In this instance, Clinton lost owning to the archaic Electoral College.  It is estimated that she lost three mid-West states—Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio—by a total of 110,000 votes. Nevertheless, playing by the existing rules, Clinton lost the Presidency owing to the nature of her campaign as commented on above; in fact, by appealing to the interests of the multi-racial-and gendered working class, she should have won by a proverbial landslide.

Furthermore, despite Trump’s claims that he was conducting a “Populist” campaign against the “establishment,” he would help the working class and bring the country together, in actuality, his election will intensify the domestic and international crises the United States is facing. This is partly because Trump and his cabinet represents the most debased and reactionary forces to ever take power in the United States.  Most of his appointees are billionaire or multi-million businessmen and women, who think that government should be a business.  Moreover, most of them, including Trump, view the opportunity to command the state apparatus as a means to further enrich themselves.  They also are all ideologically committed to completely privatize the public sector, taking the country back to the pre-civil war “laissez nous faire” period.  Therefore, if not held in check by the working class, the Trump administration will take the country into an even more extreme authoritarian stage than where it has been in the past sixteen years (possibly even Fascism). Their modus operandi will be to brutally accelerate privatizing the public sector; provide the “ruling class” massive tax breaks, subsidies and deregulation; and, expand domestic repression.

But the crises will intensify also because the “ruling class” and the Republican and Democratic “establishments” are now eagerly supporting Trump. This is partly indicated by the response of the stock market to Trump’s victory. The Democratic “establishment,” which took a (understandable) disastrous hit, rather than seriously assess why it lost to Trump and move to the Left, has already capitulated to Trump, stating that they wish him “success” and that they are willing to work with him!!!!

Therefore, Trump’s victory will not address the needs of the working class who voted for him (and certainly the rest of the working class who did not). In fact, much of what Trump wants to do is already in place due to the Bush and Obama administrations.  This includes, the militarization of the police; massive illegal domestic surveillance; deportation of “illegal” Latin immigrants; the erosion of constitutional rights privatization of education; etc.  Even Trump’s proposal to rebuild the country’s infrastructure is a boondoggle that will benefit the investor class, and not the working class.  Moreover, Trump’s attempt to move to an “America First” stance, will provoke trade wars, thus, intensifying global instability, and possibly provoke inter-imperialist war.  Even Trump’s claim to normalize relations with Russia is based on the United States dominating any negotiations with the Kremlin; a stance that will, at best, only temporarily slow down eventual military confrontation with Russia.

Moreover, Trump’s election is not unique to the United States.  It is integral to a global political pattern that is increasing, particularly in the Western “democracies.” The working classes, rural sectors, and petty bourgeois interests are rebelling against the bi-partisan Neo-Liberal policies that have been in place for the past 40 years.  This is seen in populations voting against Center-Left/Center-Right parties which are politically responsible for Neoliberal policies.  The most dramatic example, prior to Trump’s election, was British voters supported a referendum in June calling for Great Britain to “exit” (“Brexit”) the Neoliberal-committed European Union. In Europe, the oppositional response also consists of both Left and Right political formations, with both generally considered “populist.” Left formations include Syriza in Greece, Podemas in Spain, Die Link in Germany; the Five Star Movement in Italy, and the Left Party in France; while Right formations include the UK Independence Party in Great Britain, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Party for Freedom in The Netherlands, the National Front in France and Golden Dawn in Greece. Only Syriza controls government, while all but the Left Party have representation in their legislatures. Whether on the Left or the Right, these parties cater to citizens that are increasingly angry with the Center Left/Right parties, whom they see as responsible for their social dislocation.

Where the two formations differ is that the Left-wing parties articulate Social Democratic and Keynesian redistributive policies, regulation of the private sector, investment in public services and infrastructure, and environmental protections; while the Right-wing parties are ultra-nationalist; thus, anti-Globalization; protectionist; “Eurosceptic; nativist/racist/xenophobic and promote anti-immigration policies.  Their constituencies differ as well.  The Left parties are oriented towards the petty bourgeoisie and professional classes who feel threated by austerity; while the Rightist-wing parties are aligned with national capitalists (rather than international capitalists), the working class and the rural sectors, forces that see Globalization and immigrants as the cause of their dislocation.  

Moreover, since the Right-wing parties called for a nationalist project to deal with the crisis of capitalism, the dominant capitalist class in the respective nations allow space for those parties to succeed. On the other hand, since the Leftist parties call for a redistributive agenda based on a nationalist solution and are fearful of aligning with the working class, they can not break out of the strangle hold that the banks (finance capital) and, in Europe, the European Union, have over them.  Thus, they find themselves in a conundrum that they cannot escape. The experiences of Syriza in Greece provides an perfect example for that situation.  If this model seems similar to the Sanders-Trump phenomena, it is not a coincidence.

Finally, Trump’s election has also created a historic “political opening,” where anything is possible, including radical change for Socialism.  The “opening” exists because the veneer of “democracy” has finally been completely shed to where the real interworkings of the system are visible for all to see, including the rest of the world. Thus, the “opening” provides the working class an opportunity to not only oppose Trump, but to recognize that supporting any Democratic candidate will only make things worse.  This is because the Democratic Party is completely dependent on (and beholding to) to the largess of Wall Street, the other sectors of the internationally oriented capitalists, as we’ll as the foreign policy establishment and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Moreover, owing to those structural connections the Democratic Party cannot be reformed.

The United Public Workers for Action, therefore, calls for the working class to consolidate and form a multi-racial-gendered worker’s party aimed to defend their interests, while promoting a program to transform the United States.  That program includes: nationalize the productive sectors and establish worker-management labor processes; establishing a truly progressive tax structure to where the propertied class pays 90 percent of their income in taxes with not loop hole for them (the was the tax rate for the rich in the 1940’s and 1950’s); ending all wars; cooperate with the international community in solving problems peacefully; severely cut the military budget; convert military production into domestic production; a massive “public” works project to re-build the country’s infrastructure; nationalize Wall Street banks into public utilities; establish a comprehensive “Single-Payer” health care system; make the electoral system democratic, open and publically financed; and, transform public education so as to prepare for a sustainable future and promote the arts, humanities and cultural diversity.  The “political opening” also provides an opportunity to establish solidarity and direct links with the international working classes who are struggling against the same forces that United States workers are.


George Wright
UPWA Editorial Board

[1] Neoliberalism was formulated in the 1970’s by Nixon and Carter; institutionalized by Reagan in the 1980’s; and supported by every Republican and Democratic President (and politician) since. The Neoliberal project has also been forced upon the nation’s of world by United States-dominated international financial organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, and so-called Free Trade Agreements.
Among many see: David Harvey (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism.
The “ruling class” consists of owners of the internationally oriented banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, arms production and real estate sectors as well as the investor class.

[2] The Democratic National Committee (DNC), headed by Democratic Party cronies Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Donna Brazile, actively worked to undermine challenger Bernie Sanders candidacy, a development confirmed by the Wikileaks released e-mails.   This was because the Democratic “establishment” could not allow Sanders to win the nomination because he many have disrupted its commitment to the Neoliberal-Free Trade policy trajectory; policies dictated by Wall Street, the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry.  Related to foreign policy, Sanders views do not differed much from Clinton’s agenda.  His Presidency may have given the Progressives and Liberal-left influence in the Democratic Party apparatus, which was something that could not be tolerated.