The US has just experienced a political insurgency. The system and structures of government have come under attack from within the political system. This is not a new phenomenon. Germany witnessed the same thing in 1933 when the populist incumbent for Chancellor rose on a tide of change and ensuring that the Aryan race and ethnic Germans retook the country from the hands of privileged elites, immigrants and foreigners. Its main campaign focus was on the effects of international capitalism. We would call that international trade today and big business. This is unsurprising since Donald Trump has admitted that he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches called “My New Order”, in a cabinet next to his bed.
More recently there have been populist revolts against the system of values and norms that uphold the structures of society- The Arab spring and the Brexit referendum with the most peculiar spectacle of the UK Government appealing against its own parliamentary sovereignty, which the courts have upheld. If it were not hysterically tragic it would be funny. The same dynamics are at play for the same reasons.
This new American Spring is akin to two other major political events- the French Revolution which gave us the guillotine for settling political differences which were class alienation and education based – the people vs the educated political and ruling classes and the October Revolution in 1917 which gave us the iron curtain and the ideological divide which split the globe in half based on political values along the same theme. Both these events are critical for us to recount at this moment in our history.
The world structure as we know it, teeters on its axis, perilously unstable. Each of these events Germany in 1933, Russia in 1917 and the ten year agony of France in 1789 all have a commonality with the second 9/11 of the United States. They were revolutionary in nature. They led to the destruction of existing cultural polity – the idea that societies of states share the same values. These values were rejected and in the rejection of these lay a rejection of the system of government and the bonds which tied countries together. The 1917 Bolshevik uprising, like the French revolution and the second US 9/11 was a revolution in every sense of the word.
Revolutions break systems and create upheaval. They destroy structure. They destroy the nature of social relations. They change the process by which states are governed. These words have been used extensively in the media coverage of the election of Donald Trump. The outcome has been characterised by the” destruction of the political map” and the extent of the ‘anger’ of the working classes and more pointedly and overwhelmingly, the white segment of the population. Trump has repeatedly indicated that the swamp of the governance system would be drained. The legitimacy of the law, judiciary and institutions have been excoriated with the ‘rigged system’ mantra and a refusal to accept the findings of investigatory institutions in a system designed for checks and balances to allay the abuse of power.
Ironically, the revolution underway is also an overthrow of the economic system which the world is intimately and delicately bound by. It is not bound by strings of gold but rather by the wisps of sentiment. In the case of the Trump election these whispers are more akin to stamping boots and sledgehammers announcing the threatened end of almost every existing international trade agreement in force and the re-examination of almost every allied partnership from social to defence arrangements.
Ironically the victory of Trump’s rhetoric is also representative of another revolutionary change-the violent overthrow of international capitalism. The violence – the force of the change- will be extreme in its impact as reverberations spread across the globe. Donald Trump theoretically represents the very embodiment of capitalism and yet the policies he is articulating are policies which repudiate some of the core values of capitalism. Capitalism is based on freedom, competition and the concept that some have more than others because they make better use of their abilities. Governments should not interfere with the rights of individuals to make their own living and should interfere in the economy as little as possible. His policies echo Keynesianism and his proposals to have the state prop up the rust belt echo those of FDRs new deal.
Pro-business politics which preceded FDR had alienated the unskilled population and agriculture. Unemployment was over 80 % in some areas during the great depression. FDR created a series of measures which involved the Government in the business of the economy. The public works administration created jobs through the building of bridges, roads and infrastructure. Jobs which kept the population dependent on continued Government hand out work rather than stimuluses designed to encourage entrepreneurship and good capitalist practice. The government became the giver of work. One of the main issues not considered is the fact that the rust belt is called the rust belt because the advance of technology has made large unskilled labour factories near obsolete. The workforce will have to be re trained to be made productive in the long run.
Change in the system is also on the cards. The international system and its balance is delicately nuanced and missteps create security dilemmas. Countries respond to the slightest changes in the status quo with efforts to ensure that instability of any form cannot destabilise their security. Understanding the intent of other states is critical to maintaining this balance. Trump has announced that there will be a realignment of American interests and relationships and that this will be immediate. As with the Russian and French revolution, this will destabilise the existing structures in the global system. It will change the nature of relationships in the international system. Structure is determined by the way states related to each other.
Structural change will mean that the world as we know it will forever be affected. Russia was plunged into isolation and its paranoia unfolded with its widening grasp. The familial comfort of European cultural relationships shattered forever with the outcomes of the French uprising. Today this process has already begun. The soft power wielded by American cultural norms ad practices tied together by social media and transnational social movements working toward the expansion of familiar norms, ethical standards and human rights is being violently shaken. Cultural norms like Global politics, state relationships and security partnerships need deft handling. Any single move reverberates like ripples in a pond, often unleashing outcomes which were unexpected and unintentional. Revolutions change the way communities relate to each other. Social, economic and political relationships are transformed. The French revolution unleashed revolution around the globe – pre social media. Consider the effects of a change in values in the US today and how this trend travels instantly around the globe. The Russian revolution changed the axis of the world and ultimately created two superpowers and a cold war.
There is a bull in the china shop and with its arrival comes untold destruction in global stability. The unease and discomfort will give way to an even bigger divide. Not only will states realign relationships but so too within the borders of the west communities will realign along ethnic lines. Already the assumption of the presidency by Trump is hailed as a white lash and social media is replete with the sentiment.
The ideas of the far right have softly penetrated the social fabric of the land of the free and suddenly Muslims, Mexicans, non-white women, immigrants, the African diaspora, LGBT, the disabled and the vulnerable are on the receiving end of the righteous might of Trump supporters. The protests which have begun in the streets of Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Denver and other cities around the US are not protests against democracy. They are protests in support of democracy. Democracy is only thus when the majority do not abuse the minority or the vulnerable. Democratic institutions were created to ensure that mob rule never again resulted in inequality and abuse. We are poised above the abyss of disintegration of the system as we know it and witnessing the birth of fifth generation warfare. Inter and intra community conflict based along ethnicity and identity where it is not ideology but ideas about equality that divide.
Featured Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-us-2016-37946231