Well the preprogrammed spectacle that has been the US Presidential election has finally concluded. The enormity of the result is staggering to behold, how exactly a buffoon with a third grade vocabulary can elevate himself to presumably the most powerful position in world politics boggles the mind.
Much political hand wringing awaits, as the punditry tries to make sense of their gross miscalculations, the nonstop media blitz, and the tacit realization that somehow, despite the protestations from the elitist high priests, a professional grifter has taken the top seat.
Accompanied by a rise of the correctly termed deplorables, a bolus of miscreants and malformed post-adolescent actors constituting a wave of lumpenproleteriat, swept the orange haired overlord into the center ring to claim his rightful throne. His superficial gaze ponders the land that he now lords over, a cornucopia of expansive panorama befitting a real estate baron. It is the jackpot, the mother lode, the penultimate land grab, a polity based version of accumulation by dispossession.
The alternative candidate was only marginally better.
So how does this happen? What possible explanation can be given for this outcome?
It turns out that the calculus of this is well understood, a narrative that goes back 150 years to elemental concepts of dialectic materialism and class consciousness. Viewed through the prism of class consciousness, the spectacle of Donald Trump and HRC makes perfect sense, for they are not opposites, not even opponents, they in fact occupy the same class structure. One is the unbridled face of capitalist excess, harkening back to the robber baron age of which he is a direct descendant, the other a sycophant of corporate dictate, a reliable war horse schooled in the art of fealty to the monied set. Both of the same class, he by inherited birthright and subsequent day job, she by studiously apprenticing to the political elites through a subservient career demonstrating pliability to corporate power.
Both textbook examples of the edict that money can be converted directly to social power.
But this is only part of the story, politicians are elected not by largesse and class membership, but by those that elevate them.
Irony in the extreme
It is fashionable for the left to publish scathing screeds denouncing the right wing deplorables, elitist rants that implore the gods to strike down those unworthy primates in their feeble mud huts. Why, they proclaim, we have turned the controls of the spaceship over to pooh flinging Neanderthals ransacking their disheveled Planet-of the Apes dioramas.
What is missing is a Margret Mead style field investigation to visit the deplorable on his home turf, to see him or her in situ, in their natural habitat. To do so is to witness a class decimated by opiate abuse, a cohort reduced to observer status in a consumerist driven economy-unable to participate at anything other than a token level as compared to their elitist contemporaries. A group asphyxiated by a toxic cocktail of service level jobs on the lower end of scale, counter balanced by a vastly underappreciated skilled labor component on the high end. It is this high skill level that is most misunderstood, much has been written about demeaning service jobs, the real story is not in this sector, the real story is in the upper level blue and grey collar worker. It is this group that has animated the Trump campaign
This cohort is typically not college educated, and often not exclusively white male. What it is though is productive skilled labor. On the purely blue collar side, they range from aircraft assemblers, machinists and other skilled craftsmen, to the iterant IT class, programmers, coders and mid-level technology workers.
What this group has in common is exploitation, alienation, and loss of the workmanship ideal. This coupled with an inchoate rage fanned by the fires of AM talk radio, Fox News, alt-right blogs and websites foments a misappropriated ethos of revenge, as an alienated cohort is forced to witness elites- decidedly unproductive workers- achieve high levels of undeserved success- at their expense.
These elites are living in the best houses, driving the nicest cars and fully reaping the bounty of a consumer class resplendent with trinkets and bobbles- and these people don’t know shit and they don’t do shit.
There is no greater insult in a capitalist economy than to see the spoils of plunder go to those who do nothing. And since time immemorial, this is the very essence of capitalist class exploitation, those that do the least get the most. Those of privilege subsume those without.
Deep State My Ass
Although an old story, we have at the same time amnesia and a new twist. We have lost the intellectual narrative of Das Capital, we have endured decades of abusive labor struggles, corrupted unions, and flat out wars with robber barons- and the left has lost. Labor has lost, collectivism has lost- and lost badly.
The New Deal set in motion a negotiated end to wildcat strikes and unruly pockets of labor unrest, in exchange for a social safety net and the newly formed principle of collective bargaining.
Labor disputes were to be centralized, and negotiated en masse to avoid any annoying (and costly) disruption to the capitalist class. Once so centralized, labor management was easy to co-opt, and in a few short decades was rendered impotent.
The intensity of these techniques remained vigorous during the 50’s, 60’s and early ‘70’s coinciding with the more or less chronic post war labor shortage while capital rebuilt and rolled out a highly networked system of value production. Tight labor markets confounded efforts to tamp down labor concessions- and the middle class prospered.
The laws of motion of Capital were not lost on the elites, as they moved to a neo—liberal agenda in the mid ‘70’s, specifically designed to offshore labor to low cost markets, and thwart a growing regulatory environment stateside.
This proved wildly successful (for Capital) by resetting the bar for socially necessary labor time to a new low, by using far eastern labor to dramatically undercut stateside salaries, effectively using soft power to bust labor unions. And, as any student of Marx knows, the cost of labor to Capital is driven by the cost of labor to reproduce itself, the availability of cheap foreign produced goods is consumed disproportionally by lower income workers, further enhancing the effects of globalization to benefit Capital.
These factors comprise the fundamentals of a superstructure that allows the accumulation of capital to purchase social power, and now the recipe is complete- hegemonic control over the political economy in Capital’s pursuit of unfettered value production.
This is an uncomfortable narrative for bourgeoisie economists and the punditry, they prefer to offer a new, pro-capitalist explanation for what we can observe, and they call this the Deep State. This supposedly is a secretive cabal of mysterious power brokers who operate behind the scenes to influence politics, the markets, foreign policy, and just about anything else that needs explaining.
There of course is no such thing, it’s just Capital operating with business as usual.
Early warning signs
I suppose you could trace the first spasms of the deplorables to Ned Ludd pitching his sewing machine out the third story window of 18th century England textile factory- as labor’s reaction to Capital’s scheming to suppress labor costs goes back centuries.
The first contemporary example, at least in the context of the Trump travesty, of the deplorables lashing out, is the appearance of Japanese cars in the parking lots of General Motors and Ford Motor Company, as (some) workers purchased imported cars that were better than what they were manufacturing at lower prices. The reaction from mainstream labor was swift and violent, cars were smashed by incensed co-workers as it was immediately recognized that jobs would be lost and collective labor bargaining defanged.
And of course Capital doubled down, immediately offshoring everything they could, first to the Japanese, then to the Chinese and other peripheral countries when Japanese labor rose to near US levels.
The current rise of the deplorable embodied by Trump’s supporters then is but a reconstitution of a very old sentiment, the lashing out of a cohort of the working class as they come to terms with a diffuse reality permeated with alienation, diminishing social power, and flat or declining wages. Their white collar managers are demonstrably incompetent, products of an overpriced university system turning out graduates with low level skill sets, high debt, and poor prospects for job opportunities.
To be sure, this group attracts truly unsavory subsets and species, these hangers on are not exploited worker class participants, the KKK and various and sundry white supremist groups do find common ground in the nationalist tendencies that are embedded in these movements, and one cannot discount the seriousness of these influences. But for the most part these nationalistic tendencies are reactionary, part of the inchoate response of alienation, and not deliberately predatory as is characteristic of hate groups
Much has been made recently of the role of the media in reporting, inaccurate polling data, the apparent rise of HRC, and the tendency to discount and even outwardly mock Trump’s rise. There are several areas to blame here, but inaccurate polling and disproportionate reporting of emails scandals are not really relevant.
One cannot forget that all the broadcast media accessible to mainstream voters are owned by Capitalist entities. They primarily make money through the sale of advertising, and nothing sells like conflict and controversy.
The instigating event to media complicity was the demise of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. This FCC policy insured that controversial subjects received fair and impartial converge by news media, and a full spectrum of competing viewpoints were to be presented by the broadcast media. The operating theory is that the airwaves were part of the publicly owned commons, and that the privatization of these airwaves could and would lead to capture of what would amount to a corporate owned propaganda tool.
Indeed, within a year of the act’s elimination, Rush Limbaugh’s show hit the AM talk radio circuit, sowing the seeds of a vast communication portal to the disenfranchised lumpen. (Limbaugh reportedly has a $70mm annual salary)
Ten years later we had the beginnings of Fox News, and the official genesis of corporate media capture for the express purpose of policy promotion and influencing elections.
The effect of these efforts was profound- the growing and increasingly vocal discontent of alienated labor was subjected to a propaganda intervention, the media tools were designed to focus this building angst to anti-government/pro-capitalist belief systems. Much of this onslaught revolves around conspiracy theories, and these media portals rely on the technique of fabricating preposterous stories, wrapped in the all knowing glow of insider only knowledge, to reassure the recipient that they are truly privileged thinkers, as they can see what only the wise can see.
All that was missing was the appearance of a strong man- preferably with television media bonafides- to step up and receive the mantle of authenticity from a fawning media hungry for click throughs and profits.
It is important to note the promotion of Stephen Brannon as a senior advisor in the Trump cabinet, this move insures that the alt-right media is directly plugged into the highest level of White House proceedings. The significance of this is that Brannon has now become a de facto Minister of Information for the Trump administration, specifically chosen to disseminate spin to the alt-right media, keeping his proto-Fascist base properly satiated.
The Trump Dominion
So what might the Trump “brand” bring to American governance? We can again view this through the lens of capitalist valorization, as without question Trump’s hyper-capitalist underpinnings will animate his presidency.
First, at the personal level we know that hyper-capitalists in powerful political positions become de facto kleptocrats, using their position to personally enrich themselves, their immediate families, and associated cronies. Look for foreign policy relationships with other kleptocrats such as Putin and Mexican president Enrique Nieto. His business entities are inseparable from his political responsibilities, so we can and should expect an explosion of cross pollinated corruption as he intermingles his empire holdings with American political gravitas.
We should expect these “leadership” qualities to normalize the prioritization of capitalist objectives over any other considerations, and this ethos will quickly trickle down through the entire business ecosystem.
Make no mistake, this election result is an unmitigated disaster for the environment, for social and financial equality, and for the planet. There may well be no recovery from this, as the take away is unbridled, runaway capitalist value production, ironically, that will have the largest negative impact on the deplorable base constituency which elected him in the first place.
To help visualize the form that his rule will likely take, we might look to Mainland China for an example of what happens when State Capitalism intersects authoritarian rule. China may be called a Communist country, but it is very clearly a State Capitalist political economy under authoritarian rule. The State is used to clear the way for capitalist expansion at all costs, no regulations for any initiative that creates value production, the deconstruction of labor into quasi-prison conditions, and plenty of accumulation by dispossession in the form of displacing rice farmers into labor camps dedicated to capitalist production.
Trump’s stated focus on trade policies contain contradictions, but we might postulate that at least some of these policies might mirror Chinese action which attempt to bias trade agreements to allow for one sided tariff systems as well as technology transfers.
A further characteristic of China’s trade policy was massive investment in internal infrastructure, a policy Trump is almost certain to pursue.
We might also expect attempts to repatriate US corporations offshore profits, stockpiled over the last 10 years as a result of quasi-legal tax dodges, as well as significant reduction in corporate tax rates.
Many of his campaign promises contain intrinsic contradictions, or outright measures not favorable to value production. This is almost always due to ignorance of the laws of motion of Capitalism, and will quickly prove untenable.
An example would be his infamous anti-immigration wall. Apparently unbeknownst to Trump, Capital requires a permanent underclass to process seasonal labor, such as migrant farm work. Other low margin industries also require an undocumented underclass that can be further exploited outside of the mainstream minimum wage and benefits systems- such as car washes, restaurants, domestic help and gardeners for the upper class.
None of these industries can support payroll at the prevailing fair market wage. You’d have $10 tomatoes and $100 car washes, which of course just won’t do. This was tried under the Reagan administration when ICE was first formed, workplace raids were soon discontinued at the bequest of Capital as soon as they proved effective. Expect the same results with Trump’s wall, which will be stillborn.
This pattern will continue with most of his campaign promises, expect tangible change only in areas where Capital is the clear winner, such as infrastructure spending which will benefit Trump’s construction cronies. The same fate awaits the vaunted unraveling of Obama care, this will be watered down and ultimately look very similar to what is currently in place.
When will the deplorables first acknowledge that they have been duped?
Revolutions and the decline of the left
This situation is directly attributable to the failure of the left. What passes for the left in this country is not really leftist, but rather progressive. This political energy has been misdirected to insidious social issues, such as whether or not plastic bags should be provided in supermarkets, Big Gulp soft drink bans, and an inordinate amount of attention to LBGT issues. I’m not suggesting these issues are without merit, just not at the current energy spend that is being allocated.
These tactics result in inflaming the value systems of the deplorables, they lash out (rightly so) at the prospect of behavioral overreach of the progressive movement, this coupled with their sanctimonious highbrow attitude delegitimizes progressive causes, and expensive political capital is expended on third tier issues.
This energy is misdirected and disproportionate, the left should stand for anti-Capitalist causes, first and foremost. The left should be demonstrating frequently and loudly with well-defined objectives and messaging, so as to become a thorn in the side of value production, and at the same time, persistently contradicting the alt-right media propaganda that tries to evangelize the Capitalist mode of production.
The center of mass of the right’s “deplorables” is largely alienated labor and this should be recognized and reinforced with consistency.
This cohort shares much in common with Bernie Sander’s coalition for example, but the media shapes the perceptions to create an adversarial identity politics. In the main, the groups share the same sensibilities, but are compartmentalized by fabricated ideologies that bear little resemblance to reality.
Certainly they do not reflect a fundamental understanding of the laws of motion of Capital value production- from either side.
Work still needs to be done by the left to comprehend new forms of value production that are rapidly materializing. Examples would be the emergence of cognitive capital, which is the production of use value without labor participation, and reputational capital, which is the occurrence of supra profits without commiserate labor value through the use of branding and vanity labeling of commodities.
Capital is rolling out new forms of exploitation faster than the left can process these changes into a coherent theory of value.
The right invests in this type of intellectual post processing through the use of corporate funded think tanks, but of course, this is not available to leftist interests for obvious reasons, so other methods must be employed, such as university level study into post Capitalist possibilities.
Much of the misdirection of the current election is due to the inability to recognize fundamental symptoms of alienated labor. The Democrats missed it, and so did the mainstream Republicans.
Alienated labor is unquestionably the domain of anti-Capitalist ideology, this is the only group that not only recognizes the depth of the problem, but has a narrative that explains how it occurs and what to do about it.
Any suggested corrective action at the political level is going to be cold comfort to those who recognize the complete collapse of the environment that is occurring around us. We must keep in mind that it took Capital 400 years to get to this point, and it will not be erased overnight excepting some planet scale calamity- which we cannot of course rule out.
But political level initiatives can prove effective in the meantime.
If the focus is kept on discouraging value production and dismantling socially necessary labor time, inroads can be made against the Capitalist mode of production.
Some tactics to achieve this are to shift focus to the point of realization, which is to attack Capital from the retail front. Some of these measures start out as Pollyannaish, such as don’t shop at chain stores, use credit unions not banks, do not use credit cards, look to buy commodity goods from businesses organized as collectives whenever possible.
But quickly we can see some areas that offer the potential for concrete change, if you feel you can start a business do so, but do so as a collective, e.g. structure the business to return profits in an equitable distribution to employees. This collapses the class structure and eliminates exploitation in a shift away from the principle of socially necessary labor time.
A compilation of such businesses at the community scale can then extend favorable conditions to supply chain partners that are also collectives, and non-favorable terms to traditional corporate models, whenever possible.
To promote these types of entities beyond a given community, state wide tax incentives can be used to encourage the creation and operation of collectives. One strategy might be to allow these businesses to operate tax free, while traditional corporate structures have to pay full freight.
Initiatives that support privatization in any form should be vigorously opposed- and protested. Examples would be the obvious attempts to privatize social security, national parks, etc., but awareness and activism should also extend to resisting privatization of intellectual property as well, such as attempts to extend the duration of protection on utility patents, new efforts to privatize internet IP, and drug compound monopolization- to name but a few.
This is a grass roots style build out, when successful at the state or regional level, this can expand to the national level, where with sufficient political strength, more substantial measures can be deployed to discourage traditional corporate value production. Examples might be limiting businesses to less than 500 employees maximum, by applying draconian tax structures when these employment numbers are exceeded.
Longer term, energy production should be nationalized, as well as the financial system.
Taken as an integrated system, these measures redirect, however slowly, towards a more equitable system that ultimately can be based on needs production, instead of the bottomless pit of value production.
Or we can just wait until the next election.