Editorial Note: Don DeBar is the host of CPR Metro Radio out of New York, one of the finer broadcasts on the air today. He covered both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this summer on location alongside W.E.B. Du Bois scholar Dr. Tony Monteiro and broadcast some of the best diagnosis of the electorate produced thus far. Here are some reflections he recently composed that have been lightly edited for grammar and formatting.
The characterization of Trump and the working people who lifted his campaign as Hitler and neo-Nazis, aside from being wrong, is facile and ahistorical as hell.
The mish-mosh of historical artifacts that have been assembled to make Hillary some kind of modern day Paul von Hindenburg, above all else, ignores both the relationship of the candidates to the German (and, thus, the American in the analogy) bourgeoisie and, particularly and consequently, the outcome.
The SPD (German Socialist Party) advocated all-out for the aging General von Hindenburg to be re-elected in order to stop Hitler. He was re-elected, and promptly made Hitler chancellor, then, immediately thereafter, signed into law what was, in essence, the Nazi state.
In this election, it is no secret that the transnational elite is squarely behind Clinton. What is a secret is that the support that lifted Trump isn’t the white supremacists and fundamentalists who comprise the prime Republican vote – he certainly got a good part of that, but not the establishment of that group in the main, who supported Cruz and Rubio. (Nor did he get, in the main, the Republican donor group, who supported Cruz, Rubio and, mainly, Bush, with a few bucks for Kasich as the primary came to a close and, I strongly suspect, to Gary Johnson for a short period after Trump won, in the misguided belief that he would pull votes from Trump.)
Rather, the bulk of Trump’s support came from the white working class. The polls that attempt to obscure this fact need to be read very closely, with a critical look made at the contortions taken by Pew, Gallup and others in the very definitions of this group. Trump has also pulled some considerable part of the middle-income workers and petit bourgeoisie, who have been more or less pauperized, slowly but surely, over the past several decades.
It is clear that the objective conditions facing the working class have produced a strong sense of crisis. This has become clearest not to observers, but to the working class itself, which, unlike the Left academy and the media, has been suffering massive unemployment, foreclosure and/or eviction, student and medical debt, etc., with no relief on the horizon. This class, divided as it is as legacy of the racist and anti-labor history of this country, nonetheless is standing up in place, and this is evident in the Sanders and Trump campaigns in the electoral sphere and in the Black uprising (BLM, etc.) and other forces in the streets.
From the perspective of the ruling elite – who, having exhausted all of the tools in their bag of tricks to a point of near zero interest rates, near complete wasting of the wealth of the working and middle classes, etc., and in a world that is seeing competitive models struggling to be born in Asia, Latin America and, with (what’s left of) the BRICS globally, can offer nothing more than more austerity, more repression and more war, clearly a recipe for greater unrest and instability and, they fear, revolution – this is a crisis.
Their task was to take down these movements, which certainly required as a precondition prohibiting the development of class unity across the divides which unity, despite the centuries of contradiction and division, has been put on the agenda by the shared circumstance of desperation.
They succeeded in taking down Sanders by blocking a joining of the Black uprising with Sanders’ primarily white and young supporters, which allowed the appearance of a close vote and enabled the theft of the Democratic primary. (And they insulated that theft against challenge by having Clinton nominated not by a delegate count, which was done formally but not tallied, but by acclamation.) They have attempted – thus far successfully, and with the sometimes misguided assistance of some of our best organizers – to separate Sanders supporters and the Black uprising from Trump’s working class supporters by labeling them as unrepentant, un-salvageable racists.
Tony Monteiro and I were at both conventions. Many Left (and Democratic Party operative) organizers attempted to hold large protests against Trump in Cleveland. But only the organizers showed up, and their efforts to organize locally in Cleveland failed completely. Yet, there has apparently been no real attempt to understand WHY they failed. In my honest opinion, it wasn’t a lack of skill or resources on the part of the organizers, but, rather, the big picture of the objective conditions facing their would-be constituents. Cleveland has as a backdrop not New York’s – or California’s – Palisades, but empty factories where the people used to earn their living, the places where they made the money to pay their mortgages, their kids’ tuition, etc., etc. These ghost-like structures loom visually in the background as a reminder of their past and present condition. Flawed as he is, and regardless of whether he or any other American politician can be trusted to put deed to their word, Trump speaks directly and clearly to these concerns, as did Sanders, and, predictably, this is resonating with many of these people.
What was particularly noteworthy was not the absence of meaningful protest in Cleveland, but the massive protests against Clinton AND the Democratic Party generally in Philadelphia. Although these got little coverage in the media – and what was covered made it seem almost irrelevant – there were massive protest marches, teach-ins with huge numbers in attendance, and an inside-outside strategy that coordinated the streets with the convention floor, where a number of walkouts and shout-downs took place against Clinton’s supporters.
I am not certain what strategy is needed to produce the necessary unity of program and action required to advance the interests of the working class in this tangled condition, but it is evident to me that supporting Clinton is NOT it. Her election is the goal of precisely the forces that have been working to take down this working class uprising in each and all of its forms. In the face of that, it is obvious to me that our task is to take her – and, thereby, the elite assembled behind her – down instead.