Do we need socialism to defeat Donald Trump?

10 February
27 February

Before understanding what we need to do in order to achieve a certain objective, we should first wonder why we want to achieve it. Defeating Trump has increasingly become a common objective of a vast and extremely diverse bloc not just in the US, but also at a global level. How can a misogynist, racist and xenophobic billionaire run the most powerful nation on Earth? Already during his campaign, Trump has been described by his critics as what Foucault would call a “political monster” (Michel Foucault, The Abnormal). The interesting thing is that he did very little to reject this label. On the contrary, he transformed his alleged monstrosity into an asset for his electoral campaign. All Trump’s efforts have gone towards this direction: a radical rupture with political normality, unique in his contempt for political correctness and etiquette, a monster that disrupts the democratic political scenario of which we all are a bit sceptical, if not completely fed up with.

But does Trump really represent a disruption to the regular course of American presidential politics? Is he really a monster? Surprisingly enough, we can trace a number of continuities between Obama and Trump, extending the comparison with what Hillary Clinton would have probably done if elected. The war on terror seems to remain one of the main axes on which Trump starts losing his monstrosity: the mask of the monster starts to fit also on his democratic and liberal counterparts. For instance, the highly contested Muslim ban rests upon the list of countries that the Obama administration flagged as hotbed of terrorism. There is definitely a slight modification of the narratives associated with these policies, but the ultimate rationale seems to remain quite unchanged. This pairs with the military activities that most likely will occur during Trump’s administration: targets and modalities might slightly change, but the imperialist agenda of the US will hardly fade off.

But there is an even more decisive and significant aspect that marks the continuity between Trump and the other presidential alternatives: capitalism. Private property, free market, the primacy of the entrepreneur and the cult of the self-made man are the cornerstones that put all American presidents in a sheer continuity. There might be contingent variations (more or less welfare, more or less tariffs on imports, more or less taxes), but the hegemony of the capitalist system is never challenged. In this sense, Karl Marx’s remarks on the state are still incredibly actual: “The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie”.

From this perspective, the entire presidential campaigns of the two candidates remains a duel internal to the capitalist class. Representative democracy has very little to do with the demos (the people) that the word ‘democracy’ evokes. The only material effect of an election is a modification of the relations of power within the capitalist class: some companies, industries and transnational corporations will be better served by one candidate, some others will see their privileges partly renegotiated. There is a clear example that can shed some light on this point. During the last Super Bowl, the million-worth commercials of transnational corporations, such as Airbnb, Budweiser and Audi, indirectly attacked Trump by endorsing a message against discriminations related to gender, sexual preferences and migration. Are these transnational corporations truly opposed to Trump? Perhaps, but definitely not for the reasons that we might think at first. There might be conflicting interests regarding taxation, subsidies and so on or, even more simply, these commercials might simply be the result of an exceptionally well thought marketing campaign. But overall we cannot fail to see how these corporations actively operate on the same capitalist logic that is responsible of these forms of discrimination they so dearly oppose. Is it not capitalism that has consolidated gender inequalities by transforming the family into a productive unit in which the man is the breadwinner and the woman is not rewarded for her housework? Is it not capitalism that keeps reproducing gender discrimination through a substantial difference in pay between men and women? Is it not capitalism that produces radical inequalities in wealth between countries? Is it not capitalism that through these inequalities forces people to migrate? Is it not capitalism that enjoys the advantages of a cheap labour force made of despised and vilified migrants? The difference between Trump and any other potential candidate to the presidency of the US is the extent on which they might be willing to endorse these policies of discrimination openly. Trump simply tells the unbearable and scandalous truth of the alliance between political power and capitalism. The same truth that all other candidates have strategically tried to conceal.

If we want to defeat Trump because of his imperialist, racist, misogynist and anti-egalitarian politics, we need to defeat also the system that has more or less openly sustained these policies. It would make little sense to defeat Trump in order to get him replaced with another alike of Trump masked as a Democrat or as a moderate Republican. In medieval times, the death of a sovereign was followed by the triumphant announcement of the persistence of monarchy: “The king is dead. Long live the king”. The mortal body of the sovereign is dead, but the role of the sovereign continues (Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies). Contemporary elections produce a similar announcement: “The president is deposed/dead. Long live capitalism”. This is why a communist revolution represents the only viable alternative for an egalitarian, borderless, libertarian and anti-discriminatory society. 

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