I started observing the elections in the United States the moment I realised that Ronald Trump was an unusual phenomenon in US history. I wrote a series of seven weekly blogs starting the first week of November 2016. In the first blog I wrote: “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 (and I might add, the global South) need to make a cool, strategic assessment and consider what these elections mean for us.”
Thus, I’m using Trump as an “emblematic peg” to raise bigger issues of civilizational shift, and the strategy and tactics of struggle by peoples of the global South.
Trump is described in the mainstream media as offensive, racist, narcissistic, homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, and much more. From an African and Southern perspective, the whole imperial system is racist, narcissistic, and so on… and above all, fascist. In the seventh blog – “What is Fascism in our Times?” I quote the famous historian Karl Polanyi: “Fascism is born from the incompatibility between democracy and capitalism in a fully developed industrial society…. Fascism constitutes the solution to this deadlock by allowing capitalism to persist.”
What interested me is that Trump is not part of the American “Establishment”. The US Establishment is at the core of the global imperial system. In the blog on “The Deep State & the Imperial Establishment”, I argued that among a section of the “liberal-left” in Europe and America there is scant understanding of the phenomenon of “the Establishment”. I traced it down to the creation of the British Empire towards the turn of the 19th Century, and associated with names like Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Milner, Lionel Curtis, Robert Brand and Adam Marris. A part of their strategy was to deliberately provoke wars – such as those leading to the British colonisation of South Africa. This is “the Establishment”. Rhodes died in 1902, but the Anglo-American Establishment lives on and has mutated over time. Now it is represented by the global corporations that effectively control the world’s major resources (gold, diamonds, oil, etc.), banks including financial services, the institutions of global governance (such as the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation) … and significantly, the mainstream Western media.
Another thing that interested me about Trump is that he is a nationalist – in his own way. Nationalism is another phenomenon that the Western “liberal-left” media and intelligentsia do not understand. Why not? It is because they look at it from an essentially Eurocentric perspective. In two successive blogs – “Imperialism, Nationalism and the National Question” and “Economic Nationalism”, I analyse these at some length. The NQ goes back to Lenin’s 1913 “Thesis on the National Question”, but it is missing from the vocabulary of contemporary Western “Marxists”. For them nationalism is a regressive, backward, force. In the blog on “The Politics of Resistance and Solidarity”, I describe two kinds of nationalisms – one offensive and the other defensive. The South’s struggle against the global imperial system is quintessentially defensive.
Don’t get me wrong – Trump is no Marxist, nor has he read Lenin’s thesis. But, as I said, he is a nationalist “in his own way”. He wants to bring industries back to America and create jobs for Americans. Whether he succeeds or not is a different matter. But it is significant that one of his first Executive Directives was to tear up the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) Agreement.
The “left” in Europe and America is very different from the “left” in global South. Western “left-liberals” have joined with their ruling classes to applaud “globalisation” … erroneously identified with “internationalism”. The two are very different, and I explain this in one of the blogs.
Trump won the Presidency partly because of his own skills, but mainly – in my view – because the world is changing. Trump is a product of a failed imperial global system. Western civilization is in the autumn phase of its life. This civilization began with the slave trade 500 years ago. Slavery as a system has existed for thousands of years, but “Slave trade” – treating human beings as “commodities” – began in the period of Capitalism’s “primitive accumulation”. The Capitalist “civilization” has brought havoc to two-thirds of humanity, and to the environment. This civilization is in profound crisis. I analyse this at some length in my book “Trade is War” (OR-Books, 2015, 2017).
My biggest worry is that the West might want to unleash wars to try and save this dying civilization.
This is the biggest challenge humanity faces today – the west’s system of violence. As Martin Luther King had said: “It is either nonviolence or nonexistence.”
Oxford, 3 March 2017