The edge of the maelstrom

THE ELECTION of Donald Trump has underscored the widening splits within the global capitalist elite. Currently his declared policies are changing from day to day. Like a shuttlecock caught in a maelstrom he is bobbing about all over the place according to the strong undercurrents that are propelling him back and forth.

Initially Trump dismissed climate change as a hoax generated in China. Now he admits that human activity has had some impact on the climate. It is now only the degree of this impact that he questions.

On international trade agreements, Trump has rejected the neo-liberals’ Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) project and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) in order, he says, to protect American jobs and industry. This is a revival of a division within capitalism that dates back to its origins — the war between the free traders and the protectionists.

Karl Marx pointed out that in the long run neither side in this war is good for the workers; both sides are out to make themselves as rich as possible by exploiting as many workers — at home or abroad — as they can.

But Marx marginally favoured free trade on the grounds that it would speed the process of spreading global industrialisation and thereby creating a global working class that sooner rather than later would be able to topple the whole capitalist system.

Furthermore free trade speeded the process of monopolisation, concentrating the organisation and administration of production and distribution most efficiently, ready for the workers to take over and use to produce the abundance of things that people need as efficiently as possible in the early days of a dictatorship of the proletariat.

But that was before the top global capitalists started decentralising production and administration precisely to avoid concentrating employees in vast factories where, organised in trade unions, they could best fight back against being exploited.

And it was before the imperialist policy of deliberately de-industrialising the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America to prevent the development of a conscious and organised working class in those places — so that their vast wealth and resources could be plundered while the local populations were impoverished.

That policy is now being fought successfully in large parts of Latin America and investment from the People’s Republic of China in Africa and many other places is bringing industrialisation, infrastructure construction and the creation of an organised, conscious proletariat to these countries.

It is hard to predict exactly what Trump will do; his policy declarations are like bubbles that burst quite quickly. We will have to watch his deeds and so far his appointments to leading positions have been going to extreme right-wingers — racists, misogynists and homophobes — people harking back to the world of the 1950s when, according to their distorted memories, blacks and women knew their place and gays stayed fearfully in their locked closets.

In matters of international trade these people are firmly protectionist. The USA must protect its own industries and to hell with the rest of the world.

Trump has also attracted some serious hard-core fascists to his cause. In ebullient meetings they chant “Hail Trump!” and give Nazi salutes. They may be small in number but these groups, as we have seen in Kiev, literally punch above their weight in any government. They have no time for the niceties of proper democratic procedures — if they don’t get their way they start hitting and intimidating people quite openly. They are likely to terrify the neo-liberals and free traders.

They have only one fear — communism, the organised working class that can work together and punch back twice as hard — like the Red Army that punched back the Nazi legions and smashed the Third Reich in the Second World War.