It makes it plausible that, despite the differences, all these events have something in common. All of them are distinguished by a significant weakening, if not a complete loss of authority by existing political classes and parties. As if people all over the world suddenly ceased to believe in the power of common sense, on which the political dominance of the last decades was maintained. As if they had lost faith in the honest intentions of the elites and went for new ideologies, organizations and leadership. Given the scale of what is happening, it is unlikely that this is a coincidence. Therefore, we can assume that we are facing a worldwide political crisis.
However globally this may sound, this is only part of the story. The phenomenon, which was mentioned, is only a political component of a broader, multilateral crisis, which also has other elements – economic, ecological and social. Taken together, they represent a general crisis. This far from narrowly focused political crisis can not be understood separately from the difficulties that it creates in other, supposedly non-political, institutions. In the United States, these difficulties include a growing financial sector; a sharp increase in the precocious sphere of makdak works; growing consumer debt, allowing the acquisition of cheap goods produced somewhere far away; increased carbon emissions, extreme weather and climate change denial, taken together; the general imprisonment caused by racial stereotypes, and systemic political violence; as well as increasing pressure on family and social life, in part due to increased working hours and a weakening of social support. All this actively influenced the social order for quite a long time, without leading to a political coup. Now, however, the bets are made. In today’s widespread and habitual denial of politics, an objective system-wide crisis has found its subjective political voice. The political component of our general crisis is a crisis of hegemony.
Donald Trump is a vivid embodiment of such a crisis. But we can not understand his elevation until we clarify the conditions that led to this. This implies the definition of a picture of the world, superseded by trampism, the path by which it passed. Indispensable for this purpose, ideas can be gleaned from Antonio Gramsci. “Hegemony” is his term for the process by which the ruling class naturalizes its dominance by establishing prerequisites for its own vision of the world as a common sense for society as a whole. Its organizational twin is a “hegemony bloc”, a coalition of disparate social forces that the ruling class is putting together and through which it claims its superiority. When they attempt to challenge such a vision, the dominant classes must construct a new, more convincing common sense, or “counter-hegemony,” and a new, more influential political alliance or “counter-hegemony bloc”.
To these ideas Gramsci needs to add one more. Each block of hegemony embodies a set of prerequisites about what is right and what is not. At least from the middle of the 20th century in the United States and Europe, the hegemony of capitalism was formed by combining two different aspects of law and justice – one focused on distribution and the other focused on recognition. The idea of distribution translates the idea of how society should distribute dividends, especially income. This corresponds to the economic structure of society and, indirectly, to its class division. Recognition expresses ideas about how a society should distribute respect and reverence, moral categories of participation and belonging. Focused on the distribution of social status, this aspect corresponds to the status hierarchies of society.
Together, distribution and recognition are a necessary regulatory component that constructs hegemony. This idea, together with Gramsci’s idea, gives us grounds to say that the success of Trump and trampism could be caused by the destruction of the previous block of hegemony, and the discrediting of its distinctive normative connection of distribution and recognition. Having analyzed the structure and destruction of this connection, we can clarify not only the trampism, but also the post-Tramp perspectives of the block of counter-hegemony, which can overcome this crisis.
Prior to the arrival of Trump, a hegemonic bloc that dominated American politics, there was progressive neoliberalism. This may sound like an oxymoron, but it was a real and influential alliance of two unlikely partners: on the one hand, the main liberal trends of the new social movements (feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, environmental protection movements and LGBTK rights); on the other hand, the most dynamic leaders of the new directions of the knowledge economy and financial sectors of the United States economy (Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood). Held this strange pair together, a characteristic combination of views on practices of distribution and recognition.
The progressive-neo-liberal bloc combined the expropriational plutocratic economic program with a liberal-meritocratic recognition policy. The distribution component of this amalgam was neoliberal. The classes that lead this block, aimed at freeing market forces from the heavy hand of the state and from the millstones “pay taxes and waste,” sought to liberalize and globalize the capitalist economy. In reality, this meant a transition to asset retention in financial form, financing, which led to the destruction of barriers to free movement of capital and protection from it; to deregulation of the banking sector and inflated predatory debts; to deindustrialization and weakening of trade unions and to the spread of unreliable, underpaid work. Often associated with Ronald Reagan, but carried out mainly by Bill Clinton, this policy undermined the standards of living of the working and middle classes by shifting up welfare and values, which mainly went to one percent, but also to the top of the professional-management classes.
Progressive neoliberalism did not dream of such a political economy. This honor belongs to the right: their intellectual luminaries – Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, their visionary politicians – Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, and among their wealthy companions, Charles and David Koch. But the right-wing “fundamentalist” version of neo-liberalism could not become dominant in the country, whose common sense was still determined by the New Deal ideas, the “rights revolution” and the many social movements that started from the New Left. For the triumph of the neoliberal project, he needed to create a new image, including a wider need related to another, non-economic desire for emancipation. Only being represented in the image of a progressive, the political economy has become the acting center of a new block of hegemony.
Accordingly, the “New Democrats” were to promote the creation of an integral ingredient: a progressive recognition policy. Relying on the advanced forces of civil society, they extended the ethos of recognition, which looked egalitarian and emancipating. This ethos was based on the ideals of “diversity”, “empowerment” of women and LGBT people, post-racism, multiculturalism and environmental protection. These ideals were interpreted in a special, narrow sense, which was fully compatible with the goldmansification of the American economy. The protection of the surrounding country involved the sale of carbon. Stimulating homeownership meant a whole bunch of mortgage loans, taken at high rates, and resold in the form of mortgages. Equality meant meritocracy.
Focusing on the ability to “break the path” and “break the glass ceiling”, led to the fact that its main beneficiaries could be only those who already had the necessary social, cultural and economic capital.
The reduction of equality to meritocracy was particularly important. Progressive neo-liberal program in terms of social organization was not going to abolish the social hierarchy, but “diversify” it, “giving opportunities” to “talented” women, colored and sexual minorities, so that they could climb up. And this ideal was, in fact, class specific: aimed at ensuring that “deserving” individuals from “underrepresented groups” could reach positions and they were paid on a par with the heterosexual white men of their own class. The feminist variant is eloquent, but, unfortunately, it is not unique. The focus on the ability to “break through the path” (leaning-in) and “break the glass ceiling”, led to the fact that its main beneficiaries could be only those who already had the necessary social, cultural and economic capital. Anyone else would be stuck at the bottom level.
Distorted as it was, this recognition policy worked to attract the representatives of the majority of progressive social movements to a new block of hegemony. Of course, not all feminists, anti-racists, multiculturalists and the like obeyed the progressively neoliberal agenda. But those who, intentionally or not, formed the largest, most visible part of their movements, while those who resisted it were marginalized. Of course, the progressives in the progressively neoliberal bloc were, of course, his younger partners, far less powerful than their supporters on Wall Street, Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, they also brought something important to this dangerous connection: charisma, the “new spirit of capitalism”. By spreading the atmosphere of emancipation, this new “spirit” filled neoliberal economic activity with enthusiastic trembling. Associated now with a progressive-minded and liberation, multinational and morally advanced, he suddenly turned from the dull to the spectacular. For the most part, thanks to this ethos, economic policy measures that contributed to a large-scale upward redistribution of wealth and income have acquired a patina of legitimacy.
Instead of a historic bloc that successfully unites trade unions, immigrants, African Americans, the urban middle class and some representatives of large industrial capital for several decades, they formed a new alliance of entrepreneurs, bankers, suburbanites, knowledge workers, new social movements, Latin Americans and youth, while retaining the support of African Americans, who felt that they had nowhere else to go.
But in order to achieve hegemony, the developing progressively neo-liberal bloc had to defeat the other two rivals. First, he had to suppress the significant remnants of the New Deal Coalition. Anticipating the “New Labor” Tony Blair, the pro-Democratic wing of the Democratic Party quietly sapyu dismembered this former alliance. Instead of a historic bloc that successfully unites trade unions, immigrants, African Americans, the urban middle class and some representatives of large industrial capital for several decades, they formed a new alliance of entrepreneurs, bankers, suburbanites, knowledge workers, new social movements, Latin Americans and youth, while retaining the support of African Americans, who felt that they had nowhere else to go. Taking part in the presidential campaign from the Democratic Party in 1991-92. Bill Clinton went around the rest, talking about diversity, multiculturalism and women’s rights, despite the fact that he was preparing to go on the way to Goldman Sachs.
Progressive neoliberalism was to defeat the second enemy, with whom he was united more than he could afford. In this case, his opponent was reactionary neoliberalism. Settled mainly in the Republican Party and less orderly than its influential rival, this bloc offered another link of distribution and recognition. He combined similar neoliberal distribution policies with excellent reactionary recognition policies. Demanding to encourage small business and production, the real economic project of reactionary neoliberalism focused on stimulating the financial sector, producing weapons and extracting energy – all for the benefit of a worldwide one percent. What was supposed to make it acceptable for the basis that it sought to unite was an exclusionary vision of a just social order: ethnonational, anti-immigrant, pro-Christian and, if not openly racist, then patriarchal and homophobic.
This became the formula that allowed evangelists, white southerners, Americans from rural areas and small towns, and the social layer of the dissatisfied white working class to coexist, albeit not too quietly, for a couple of decades with libertarians, Tea Party, the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers , plus several bankers, tycoons from commercial real estate and energy oligarchs, venture capitalists and hedge fund speculators. If we do not take into account some local features, in the most important issues of political economy, reactionary neoliberalism did not differ significantly from its progressively neoliberal rival. Of course, the two parties were arguing a bit about the “wealth tax”, on which the Democrats usually blown away. But both blocs supported “freedom of trade”, low corporate taxes, restriction of trade union rights, superiority of shareholders’ interests, compensation in the format “the winner gets everything” and financial deregulation. Both blocs chose leaders who were striving for “great deals”, aimed at reducing payments. As it turned out, the key difference between them was recognition, not distribution.
Progressive neoliberalism usually also won this battle, but a high price. Destroyed production centers, in particular, the so-called rusty belt, were sacrificed. This area, together with the newest industrial centers of the south, became famous due to the triad of the economic policies of Bill Clinton: NAFTA, China’s accession to the WTO (justified, in part, as a promotion of democracy) and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. These political decisions and their supporters devastated communities that depended on industrial production. During the two decades of neoliberal hegemony, none of the two major blocs took any serious effort to support these communities. Neoliberals considered their economies to be uncompetitive and that they should undergo “market correction”. Progressives believed that these cultures remained in the past, tied to obsolete, provincial values, which were soon to disappear in a new cosmopolitan order. No reason related to distribution or recognition was found in progressive neo-liberals to protect the Rusty belt and the southern industrial communities.
The political universe that Trump turned over was largely exclusive. Built around the opposition between two versions of neoliberalism, differing mainly in the features of recognition practices. Of course, anyone can choose between multiculturalism and ethno-nationalism. But what really aroused questions was financialization and de-industrialization. The proposed choice between progressive and reactionary neo-liberalism did not provide an opportunity to oppose at least something to the standard of living of the working and middle classes. At the same time, anti-neoliberal projects were strictly marginalized or simply excluded from the public sphere.
This left a significant part of the American electorate, who was the victim of financialization and corporate globalization, without a natural political cover. Given that none of the two main blocks addressed them, there was a break in the American political universe: an empty, unoccupied zone where anti-neoliberal and politicians who advocated the rights of working-class families could strengthen. Given the increasing pace of de-industrialization, a significant increase in unreliable, low-paid makdak work, an increase in predatory debt and a consequent drop in the living standards of the bottom two-thirds of Americans, the emergence of someone who will occupy this empty space and fill the gap has only become a matter of time.
Some suggest that this moment came in 2007-8. The world was still shaken by one of the worst international political catastrophes in the history of the United States, when it was forced to face the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which was almost destroying the global economy. Politicians, as usual, were left out. An African American who spoke of “hope” and “changes” became president, promising to transform not only politics, but the whole “way of thinking” of American politics. Barack Obama may have been able to seize the chance to mobilize massive support to move away from the policy of neoliberalism, even in the face of opposition in Congress. Instead, he entrusted the economy to the same forces of Wall Street, which almost destroyed it. Defined by the goal of “recovery,” opposed to structural reforms, Obama provided generous financial support to banks that were “too big to fail”, but did nothing remotely similar to help the victims: 10 million Americans who lost during their homes and lost the right to redeem the pledged property. The only exception was the expansion of the program of free medical care to the indigent – Medicaid – through the Law on Affordable Medical Care.
Another chance to fill the gap in hegemony arose in 2011, with the outbreak of Occupy Wall Street. Charter to expect changes from the political system and decided to take matters into their own hands, a part of civil society seized the area across the country in the name of “99 percent”. Accusing the system that robbed the majority of the population for the sake of enriching one percent, relatively small groups of young protesters soon received broad support – up to 60% of Americans, according to some surveys – especially from trade unions, students with credit for training struggling with the difficulties of a middle-class family and growing precarya.
However, the political consequences of the occupation were modest, mainly serving as the re-election of Obama. Having borrowed the rhetoric of this movement, he earned the support of many of those who later voted for Trump in 2016, thus defeating Romney in 2012. After winning another 4 years, he quickly lost his newfound presidential class consciousness. Restricting the desire to “change” the distribution of responsible orders, he did not bring to justice those who were guilty of loss of wealth, and did not use his position to unite the American people against Wall Street. Deciding that the storm had abated, the political class of the United States nearly missed the blow. Continuing to support the neoliberal consensus, they did not see in Okkupai the first signs of an impending catastrophe.
As a result, it broke out in 2015-16, when a long boiling discontent suddenly boils up, taking the form of a full-scale crisis of political power. In this election season, both major political blocs were destroyed. From the Republican side, Trump, agitating for populist themes, deftly bypassed (as he continues to remind us) 16 of his unlucky key adversaries, including those who were carefully selected by party bosses and key sponsors. On the Democrats side, Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, was a surprisingly serious competitor to the proclaimed successor to Obama, who had to use every trick and every opportunity for the party of power to get rid of him. The usual scenarios on both sides were reversed as soon as a couple of outsiders filled the void that had formed in hegemony, continuing to fill it with new political memes.
Both Sanders and Trump – severely criticized the neoliberal distribution policy. But their recognition policies were very different. While Sanders condemned the “corrupt economy” in universalist and egalitarian terms, Trump borrowed the same expression, adding nationalism and protectionism. Strengthening the familiar images that work for an exception, he transformed the barely perceptible signs into the rhetoric of racism, chauvinism, Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia, as well as anti-migrant sentiments. The “working class” created by his rhetoric was white, heterosexual, male and Christian, engaged in mining, drilling, construction and heavy industry. In contrast, the working class to which Sanders appealed was far more extensive, covering not only workers in the Rusty Belt, but also workers in the public sector and services, including women, immigrants and color workers.
Of course, the contrast between these images of the “working class” was mostly rhetorical. None of them exactly corresponded to the audience voting for the winner. However, Trump’s victory came from the devastated industrial centers that went after Obama in 2012 and for Sanders in the primaries of the Democrats in 2015. His voters also included habitual suspects from Republicans – including libertarians, business owners and others, who are not of much use to economic populism. Just as the most reliable voters of Sanders were young, educated Americans with higher education. But it’s not that. As a rhetorical projection of a possible counter-hegemony, it represented the broader framework of the working class of the United States, created by Sanders, which most clearly distinguished his brand of populism from that proposed by Trump.
They both outlined a new sense of common sense, but everyone did it their own way. Showing themselves from the best side, the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign proposed a new block of proto-hegemony, which we can call reactionary populism. It was a combination of an extremely reactionary recognition policy with a populist distribution policy: in effect, a wall on the border with Mexico, plus large-scale spending on infrastructure. The block represented by Sanders was progressive-populist. He tried to combine an inclusive recognition policy with a distribution policy that works for the families of the working class: reform of the criminal justice system plus a government program of free medical care for all, reproductive justice and free higher education, the rights of LGBT people and the destruction of large banks.
But none of these scenarios was implemented. After losing to Hillary Clinton, the progressively populist version of Sanders left the ballot, not surprising anyone. However, Trump’s subsequent victory over her was much less predictable, at least for some. Acting far from being a reactionary populist, the new president used the old publicity stunt, abandoning the populist distribution policy that his campaign promised. Of course, he left the Trans-Pacific partnership. But he tightened up with making decisions about NAFTA and did not move his finger to curb Wall Street.
Also, Trump did not take a single serious step towards implementing a large-scale, public infrastructure project creating jobs; his efforts to support production were instead limited to a symbolic demonstration of pressure and regulatory easing for the coal mining sector, whose successes were, to a large extent, fictitious. And all this is very far from the proposal of the tax reform beneficial for the families of the worker and middle class, under which he subscribed, coming from the Republicans, focused on the accumulation of even greater fortunes for one percent (including the Trump family). This shows that the president’s actions in the sphere of distribution were subject to significant influence of the clan capitalism and used the provision for personal interests. But if Trump himself became infected with Hayek ideals, the appointment of another Goldman Sachs graduate to manage the state treasury guarantees that neo-liberalism will in fact continue.
Having abandoned the populist distribution policy, Trump continued to focus on the reactionary recognition policy, significantly strengthened and even more aggressive. The list of his provocations and actions in support of outrageous hierarchies of status is long and frightening: all kinds of prohibitions on movements completely oriented towards countries with predominantly Muslim populations, with late badly disguised and cynical addition of Venezuela; the elimination of human rights provisions, the decrees on the use of consent and the order to stop control over discrimination by federal contractors in the Labor Law, the refusal of judicial protection of LGBT cases, the rollback of compulsory contraceptive insurance, the reduction of Section 9 for the protection of women and girls by reducing law enforcement officials, public statements in support of the police’s more rude treatment of suspects, the contempt of “Sheriff Joe” for the rule of law, and “are very good people “among the white racists who rioted in Charlottesville. The result of this was not any specific type of republican conservatism, but a hyper-reactionary recognition policy.
In general, the policy of President Trump disagreed with the election promises of Trump. Not only did his economic populism disappear, but his search for a scapegoat became much more aggressive. In short, what the voters voted for was not what they voted for. The result was not reactionary populism, but hyperreactive neoliberalism.
But Trump’s hyperreactive neoliberalism does not represent a new dominant bloc. On the contrary, it is chaotic, unstable and weak. The reason for this is partly in the specific psychological characteristics of the leader’s personality, and partly because of his incompetent dependence on Republicans, who were defeated when they tried to regain control and are now waiting, looking for a strategy to get out of the situation. We still do not know how it will certainly be played, but it would be foolish to exclude the possibility that the Republican Party will split into pieces. In any case, hyperreactive neoliberalism does not imply options for reliable hegemony.
But there is a more serious problem. Covering the economic-populist face of his campaign, Trump’s hyperreactive neoliberalism is effectively seeking to restore that dominance gap that he helped implement in 2016. Moreover, today he can not fill it. Now that the cat of populist politics was taken out of the bag, it is doubtful that part of the Trump electorate, belonging to the working class, was satisfied that it was fed with promises of (not) recognition for a long time.
On the other hand, at the same time, the organization of “resistance” is taking place. But the opposition is fragmented, and includes both conservative adherents Clinton and devotees Sanders, and many who can choose any of these options. The situation is complicated by the many newly created groups whose bellicose intentions attracted significant funding despite (or because of) the uncertainty of their programmatic ideas.
Particularly worrying is the revival of the long-standing leftist trend of opposing the race and class. Some resistanceists suggest that the policy of the Democratic Party be reoriented around the opposition to white supremacy, focusing efforts to win the support of blacks and Hispanics. Others defend class-oriented strategies, determined to win back the communities of the white working class that have moved on to Trump. Both approaches are questionable, because, by contrasting the class with the race, they play a situation in which the loser loses everything. In reality, both versions of injustice can and should be attacked simultaneously. It is impossible to defeat one while there is another.
In the current context, however, proposals related to class problems pending aside are particularly risky: they are likely to coincide with the efforts of the Clinton wing to restore the former position in a new format. In this case, the result can be a new version of progressive neoliberalism, one that combines the demonstrative neoliberalism of distribution with the militant anti-racist policy of recognition. Such a perspective should give respite to the anti-riot forces. On the one hand, it will attract many potential allies, running in opposite directions, justifying the Trump story and strengthening its support. On the other hand, it will be effective to combine forces with it to contain alternatives to neoliberalism – and thus, restoring the gap in hegemony. But what I just said about Trump can also be applied here: the cat of populism got out of the bag, and this is no longer concealed. To restore progressive neoliberalism on any basis, it is necessary to restore – and, moreover, exacerbate – the very conditions that led to the emergence of Trump. And this means preparing the ground for the arrival of future tramps – even more vicious and dangerous.
For these reasons, neither the revival of progressive neoliberalism nor Trump’s hyper-reactive neoliberalism are true candidates for the political hegemony of the near future. The links that unite each of these blocks are very painful. In addition, none of them is able to formulate a picture of a new common sense. None can not offer an authoritative picture of social reality, a narrative in which a wide range of social actors can find themselves. It is also important that none of the variants of neo-liberalism can successfully solve the objective systemic problem that underlies the crisis of hegemony. Since both are on good terms with the global financial system, none can challenge finance, de-industrialization, or corporate globalization. Neither is able to restore falling standards of life or solve problems of bloated debt, climate change, “lack of care” or unbearable pressure on public life. To establish – or restore – any of these blocks, it is necessary to ensure not just the resumption, but the intensification of the current crisis.
What then should we expect in the short term? In the absence of reliable hegemony, we are confronted with a period of unstable interregnum and the continuation of the political crisis. In this situation, Antonio Gramsci’s words sound true: “the old is dying and the new can not be born, during the interregnum there are a huge number of symptoms of the disease.”
Unless, of course, there is a viable candidate for counter-hegemony. It is most likely that this candidate will be one or another form of populism. Can populism still remain an option – if not right now, then in the long term? What speaks for this probability is the fact that the supporters of Sanders and Trump are close to the critical mass of voters in the United States who rejected the neoliberal distribution policy in 2015-16. The most burning question is whether this mass can merge into a new block of counter-domination. For this to happen, the supporters of Trump and Sanders from the working class must see each other in the other allies that have been on the opposite side of a single “falsified economy” that they could try to change together.
Reactionary populism, even without Trump, is the unlikely basis for such an alliance. Its hierarchical, exclusionary recognition policy can not be accepted by the greater part of the working class and the middle class of the United States, especially families that depend on salaries in services, agriculture, domestic employment and the public sector, including a large number of women, immigrants and color ones. Only an inclusive recognition policy has a real chance of uniting these indispensable social forces with other workers and middle class representatives, including communities historically associated with production, mining and construction.
This leaves progressive populism the most likely candidate for a new block of counter-hegemony. Combining egalitarian redistribution with non-hierarchical recognition, this option has a real chance of uniting the entire working class. Moreover, it can make this class, taken in a broader framework, a key force in the alliance, which also includes a significant part of the youth, the middle class and representatives of the professional and managerial stratum.
At the same time, there is much evidence against the likelihood, in any foreseeable future, of an alliance between progressive populists and representatives of the working class who voted for Trump in the last election. First of all, among the obstacles is the aggravation of disagreements, including hatred, long heated, but recently brought to the highest boiling point by Trump, who, as David Brooks insightfully noted, pokes “a nose in every wound of the political body” and without hesitation “sticks in [ them] red-hot poker in order to destroy [them]. ” This led to the creation of a toxic environment that convinces some progressives that all the voters behind Trump’s “dregs” are hopeless racists, chauvinists and homophobes. This also reinforced the opposite view that most reactionary populists held, that all the progressives are incorrigible moralizers and self-satisfied elitists looking down on them, sipping lattes and counting bucks.
Prospects for progressive populism in the United States today depend on a successful confrontation with both views. What is missing is a disengagement strategy aimed at overthrowing both. At first, the least privileged women, immigrants and colored people should be separated from career-oriented feminists, meritocratic anti-racists and antihomophobes, a multitude of corporatists and agitators of green capitalism who transformed their companies in accordance with neoliberal policies. In this direction the efforts of the recent feminist initiative are concentrated, which tries to replace the idea of “piercing the way” to “feminism for 99%”. Other liberation movements must follow it.
Secondly, it is necessary to convince the representatives of the “rusty belt”, the southerners and the rural working class community to leave their current secret neoliberal companions. It is necessary to convince them that forces promoting militarism, xenophobia and ethno-nationalism can not and will not provide them with the necessary material conditions for a dignified life, whereas a progressive-populist bloc is definitely capable of it. This can divide those who voted for Trump, those who can and should react to such treatment from open racists and ultra-right ethno-nationalists, and those who do not. To say that the former will be much larger than the latter is not to deny that the movements of reactionary populism rely heavily on dangerous rhetoric and encourage previously undetected groups of true white racists. But this refutes the hasty conclusion that the overwhelming majority of reactionary-populist voters are forever closed to calls from that vast working class, to which Bernie Sanders appealed. This point of view is not only empirically incorrect, but also counterproductive, because it is likely that it will become self-fulfilling.
I will explain. I am not talking about a progressive-populist block drowning out growing concern about racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and transphobia. On the contrary, the fight against this must become central to the progressively populist bloc. But trying to reach them through moral pretense in the form of progressive neo-liberalism will be counterproductive. This approach implies that this kind of injustice will be presented superficially and inadequately, greatly exaggerating the degree to which the problem is inherent in people’s consciousness, and omitting the depth of the structural and institutional forces supporting it.
This is especially important in the case of race. Racial injustice in the United States today is not the main reason for humiliation or bad attitude, but it still exists. The essence, rather, is the racial specificity of the influence of de-industrialization and financialization in the era of progressively neoliberal hegemony, as if refracted through the long history of systematic oppression. During this period, blacks and latinos, who for a long time were denied confidence, were confined to mediocre segregated places of residence and their work was paid so low that they could not afford savings and, systematically becoming consumers of subprime loans, were forced to buy their homes at the highest rates in the country. At the same time, the cities in which the minorities lived and their neighborhoods, which systematically lacked public resources, were crushed by the closure of enterprises in the decaying industrial centers. Their losses were measured not only by work, but also by the tax revenues that were required to maintain schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure, which eventually led to crises like what happened in Flint or, in another context, after a flood in the outskirts of New Orleans. As a result, black men who for a long time became objects of characteristic sentences and harsh prison sentences, forced labor and socially acceptable violence, including police violence, were massively mobilized during this period into a “prison-industrial complex”, fully staffed by the “war on drugs” “Which aimed at storing crack, and a disproportionately high level of unemployed minorities – all thanks to bipartisan legislative” achievements “carried out under management, obviously, Bill Clinton. It should be noted that the presence of an African American in the White House, although it was inspiring, but could not improve anything in this situation.
And is it possible? This only showed the depth to which racism has become stronger in modern capitalist society, and the inconsistency of progressively neo-liberal moralization aimed at its solution. They showed that the structural bases of racism depend on class and political economy as well as on social status and (not) recognition. It is also important that they demonstrate how the forces destroying the life opportunities of the colored are also part of a complex of factors that destroys the life chances of whites, even with something of a different nature. In the final analysis, it is necessary to discover the complex intertwining of race and class in modern capitalized capitalism.
The progressive-populist bloc should make such conclusions its guide. Rejecting the progressively neo-liberal pressure on personal convictions, he must focus his efforts on the structural and institutional foundations of modern society. It is especially important that the general causes of class and racial injustice in the financed capitalism should come to the fore. Representing this system as a single, integrated social community, it is possible to compare the damage to women, immigrants, color, LGBTK representatives and those experienced by representatives of the working class drawn into right-wing populism. In this way, one can lay the foundation for creating an influential new coalition among those whom Trump and his accomplices now betray, wherever they are – not just immigrants, feminists and colored people who already resist his hyperreactive neoliberalism, but also citizens from among working class, which it still supports. By combining the key elements of the entire working class, this strategy can, in all likelihood, claim victory. Unlike the other option already discussed here, progressive populism has the potential, at least theoretically, to become a relatively stable block of counter-hegemony in the future.
But encouraging progressive populism is not only its potential subjective viability. In comparison with its possible opponents, it has a chance, at least, a theoretical one, to influence the real, objective side of our crisis.
As I noted at the beginning, the outbreak of a dominance crisis is only one component of a more global crisis that encompasses the environment, the economy and society. This is also the subjective equivalent of an objective systemic crisis, to which it is the answer and from which it can not be separated. Thus, the two sides of the crisis – subjective and objective – live and die together. No subjective answers, even convincing ones, can guarantee a reliable counter-hegemony until it offers real solutions for the underlying objective problems.
The objective side of the crisis is not more than a number of individual dysfunctions. Not being able to form a scattered plurality, its various components intersect, and they have a common source. The underlying cause underlying our global crisis is multiple forms of instability, it is the active form of capitalism – globalized, neo-liberal, financially. Like every form of capitalism, it is no longer just an economic system, but something more, an institutionalized social order. It includes a whole set of non-economic basic conditions necessary for the existence of a capitalist economy: for example, unpaid activities for social reproduction that ensure the influx of wage labor for the needs of economic production, organized public administration apparatus (law, policing, controlling bodies and opportunities for management) that provides order, predictability and infrastructure for sustainable accumulation, and, as a result, a relatively viable organization our metabolic interaction with the rest of nature, which gives the necessary resource of energy and raw materials for the production of consumer goods, not to mention a planet that supports life.
Financialized capitalism is a historically concrete version of the organization of a capitalist economy in these fundamental conditions. And this is obviously a predatory and unstable form of social organization, liberating the process of capital accumulation from the necessary restrictions (political, ecological, social, moral) required to support it. Exempt from restrictions, the capitalist economy destroys its own basic conditions of existence. Like a tiger biting off its own tail. Social life is becoming increasingly subordinate to the economy, unlimited profit craving destabilizes those very forms of social reproduction, environmental sustainability and public authority on which it depends. Considered from this angle, financialized capitalism is a social formation subject to crisis. The complex crisis that we have faced today is an intensifying expression of the inherent tendency towards self-destabilization.
This is the objective face of the crisis: here the structural equivalent of the solution of hegemony is analyzed. Thus, today both poles of this crisis – objective and subjective – have manifested themselves in full. And, as already noted, they exist and are destroyed together. Solving the objective crisis requires significant structural transformations of the financed capitalism: a new way of relations between economics and politics, production and reproduction, human society and nature. No form of neoliberalism can be a solution to this problem.
The type of change that the people need can arise from somewhere else, from a project that, at least, will be anti-neoliberal, if not anti-capitalist. Such a project can become a historical force only if implemented within the framework of a counter-hegemonic bloc. Although this prospect may now seem remote, our best chance for a subjectively objective decision is progressive populism. But even it may not become a stable endpoint. Progressive populism can, as a result, become a transition – a half-step on the road to something new, to the postcapitalist form of society.
No matter how vague our notion of the end point is, only one thing is clear. If the States fail to achieve this opportunity now, they will only extend the current interregnum period. This means that the working class of people of all colors and beliefs will be doomed to increasing pressure and deteriorating health, swelling loans and overtime, to class apartheid and social instability. This means that they will also be exposed to a multitude of symptoms of the disease – hatred, born of resentment and expressed in search of a scapegoat, to outbursts of violence following seizure attacks, in the complete cruelty of the world where a man is a wolf and where solidarity comes to naught. In order to avoid such a fate, we must break with both the neo-liberal economies and various politicians of recognition that have lately supported them-dismissing not only excluding ethno-nationalism, but also liberal-meritocratic individualism. Only by combining an egalitarian distribution policy with an inclusive and sensitive recognition policy for the class agenda, will the US people create a counter-hegemony bloc that will lead us from the current crisis to a better world.
Commissar of the 11th Network Rate of ICSA “SOUTH-EASTERN STAR”