Trump and Trumpism: Reflections on post US elections geopolitics

Nov 17, 2016

Trump’s victory is partly because of his own skills, but also partly because the world is changing. We are witnessing a civilizational shift – the slow, painful death of the Western Empire. Even in rich America millions of people go hungry and without shelter. In the new world, Africa will use its own resources and ingenuity to prosper.

This is the first instalment of a series of six weekly articles on my reflections on post- US elections geopolitics. Trump’s electoral victory is a good reason to reflect on a whole range of bigger issues that have been crowded out by the ear-splitting anti-Trump campaigns in America and liberal-left circles in Europe. The hysteria, no doubt, is a passing phenomenon. Some diehards will continue, perhaps even plot to assassinate him, but the rest will settle down to the demands of routine existence. We, on our part in Africa, need to make a cool, strategic assessment and consider what these elections mean for us.

  1. Trump and Trumpism

Trump is an avant-garde – unconventional but also, in some odd ways, innovative. To my knowledge there has never been a phenomenon like him in American political history – somebody who not only defeated all his 16 Republican rivals in the primaries, but also told his Party to go fishing whilst he prepared – without any real experience in government – to challenge the Democratic candidate.

Trump is, of course, not my kind of person. For one thing, frankly, I do not have his guts. Secondly, I do not share many of his values, and I find his language offensive and demeaning. He is described by his detractors as racist, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, and much else besides. I think these are exaggerated adjectives, but I understand where they come from, given the political climate and the degeneration of American democracy. It is difficult to say how much of these were expressions of Trump’s generally macho personality and “locker-room” talk [1] in order to attract media attention. Trump had a running feud with the mainstream media, but the latter could not take their eyes off him. He is a dramatist par excellence. Hillary Clinton was simply no match.

Trump is a capitalist, albeit a self-made capitalist; but – let us be clear – he is not part of the Establishment. Even Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK recognise this. [2] He was fighting the Establishment which was pre-structured against him right from ground zero. Some six weeks before the elections, on September 20, I had written my monthly blog in which I asked the question “Clinton or Trump: who is a better bet for Africa?” where I said, “I have no love for either Clinton or Trump, but as a ‘biased’ African I’d rather have Trump than Clinton”. [3] I stand by that position.

Trump is a “nationalist”; his campaigning slogan was: “Make America Great Again!” I am an internationalist (not globaliser), but I am also a nationalist – “Restore Africa’s dignity and self-reliance”.  But Trump and I represent different strands of nationalism, which I will explain in the second segment in this series. However, I can say a few things here.

If Trump defies the WTO and introduces protection for local American industries to create jobs, then he is on my kind of nationalism. We in Africa need to do the same. If he rejects (as he says) the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) pushed by Obama, then he can count on my support. He might scrape AGOA (which is divisive of Africa) and Obama’s “Power Africa” $7 billion initiative. That’s good too. These “initiatives” of Obama are to help corporate America, not Africa. If Trump talks with Russia, China, Iran and Syria, and defies Clinton’s war-mongering, then he could help forces of peace and reconciliation that the world badly needs.

Trump does not have Africa on his map. He has criticised the notion of “exporting democracy”; it is not his business, he says, to tell Africans how to run their countries. That’s good. We in Africa need allies, yes, but we do not need the Anglo-American Empire or Europe to tell us how to run our countries. Yes, we have problems – and these arise from centuries of exploitation and oppression, from the days of slave trade to today’s so-called globalisation. Yes, we have our share of corruption, leadership problems, divided communities, and civil wars.  But we also have Ubuntu, humanist, values. Africans are divided, but pan-Africanism vibrates strongly in the heart of all Africans. So, leave us alone; we’ll sort out our problems.

  1. Imperialism and revolution

The second part will seek to analyse “Imperialism, Nationalism and the National Question” – a central question of our times. We are witnessing a resurgence of nationalism the world over, especially in Europe where it has taken a virulent racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam expression. We need to understand where this comes from, and its consequences for Africa and for the rest of the world. Above all, speaking from an African perspective, we need to explain to our friends in America and Europe that unless they address the “National Question” (which, unfortunately, is not part of their political vocabulary), their solidarity support to Africa is only partial.

  1. Economic nationalism

The third part will look at the phenomenon of “globalism” (as distinct from internationalism), and its economic dimension, in the light of the US elections and Trump’s economic nationalism. We will leave it to the Americans to decide how the slogan translates into concrete policies. But for us in Africa it means moving away from the ideology of “free trade” (which has never, ever, existed since the rise of capitalism 500 years ago), and the ideology of “globalisation” under which all protective measures in the defence of our economies are torn asunder to enhance the profits of global corporations.

  1. The global military-security dimension

The fourth segment will look at the implications of Trumpism on the global military-security dimension. Trump has challenged the Europeans on the issue of contributions to NATO. He is not likely to dissolve NATO, but if he does, it will be a fundamental shift in global geopolitics, and we in Africa will welcome it. Already, NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the West is facing its “greatest challenge to security in a generation”, and America’s “going alone is not an option”. [4] The Europeans (possibly led by France and Germany) might work towards a pan-European security arrangement.  I doubt if they will succeed. This segment will deal with the military and security implications of the possible fragmentation of the North Atlantic alliance … and of Europe.

  1. Deep state and the Establishment

The fifth part will examine the phenomenon of the “deep state” and the prospect for revolutionary change nationally and globally. Trump may want to change America and the world, but can he?  Already the former presidential candidate Ron Paul has warned Trump that the “shadow government” will seek to undermine and destroy his plans for America. [5] The problem, of course, is bigger than America. In two earlier blogs [6], I examined the origin and power of “The Establishment” with its roots in the British imperial expansion in Africa.  Now it is represented by the global corporations that effectively control the world’s major resources (gold, diamonds, oil, etc.), banks including financial services, and the institutions of global governance (such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation).

  1. The future

In the last segment, I draw a few conclusions and my suggestions for a possible way forward mainly for Africa, but of possible relevance beyond Africa. I don’t know what the future holds. Who does? Nonetheless, I can say this: that if Africa loses the battle of today (as it does every day in the WTO, the World Bank, the IMF, the Security Council of the UN) …  then there is no future for Africa. It will remain an enslaved continent. On the other hand, we are witnessing a civilizational shift – a slow, painful demise of the Western Empire. Trump’s victory is partly because of his own skills, but also partly because the world is changing. Even in rich America millions go hungry and without shelter. In a new world, Africa will use its own resources and ingenuity, and produce its own food and fishing nets.

* Yash Tandon’s latest book is ‘Trade is War.’ @Yash Tandon

End notes

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-elections/athletes-s…

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/10/bernie-sanders-donald-tr…http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-responds-to-…

[3] http://yashtandon.com/clinton-or-trump-who-is-a-better-bet-for-africa/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/12/going-alone-not-option-n…

[5] http://yournewswire.com/ron-paul-trump-shadow-government/

[6] http://yashtandon.com/clinton-or-trump-who-is-a-better-bet-for-africa/ ;    http://yashtandon.com/the-consequences-of-jeremy-corbyn-for-africa/

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