So the neoliberal ruling classes are putting on a little revolution, to which you and I are cordially invited. The occasion is the takeover of the United States by Vladimir Putin and his Manchurian President or the official launch of the Trumpian Reich, whichever hysterical scenario you prefer. Dress is casual. Children are welcome, as this is a strictly non-violent uprising, which will take place on the weekends, mostly, so as not to interfere with school or work.
Colorful signage and puppets are encouraged, but you can leave your gas mask and welder’s gloves at home, as there won’t be any tear gas canisters or rubber bullets coming your way. Oh, and it will definitely be televised.
The rebellion began on January 21, the day after Trump’s inauguration, when the nation’s capitol was stormed by thousands of militant liberals in pink woolly hats. Michael Moore and Madonna were there, as was John Kerry, and his dog, apparently. Much of the mainstream media concurred. “The Women’s March will spark the resistance!“The Guardian assured its Jacobinian subscribers. “The Resistance Rises!” proclaimed Time‘s new cover.
Which, all right, credit where credit is due to the organizers of the Women’s March. Calling it a “Women’s March” (a) imbued it with a grassroots aura, (b) obscured the larger power struggle between the neoliberal establishment and the neo-nationalist Trump regime, and (c) rendered it impossible to criticize without coming off as a misogynist creep.
With a stroke of Trump’s pen he has simultaneously reassured his neo-nationalist base that Trump’s promises were not just empty threats and provoked the media and urban liberals into an understandable but mindless frenzy of unfocused anti-Trump “resistance.” The reason he has been so successful is that the Trump regime and the neoliberal establishment are playing to two entirely different audiences. The Trumpians are playing to “flyover country,” not just nationally, also internationally. The neoliberal elites are playing to their base, most of whom are no less misguided than the folks they deride in “flyover country.” This is mostly due to the identity politics that have been part and parcel of neoliberal ideology for going on the last fifty years, and is why the so-called “resistance” to Trump is centered around issues like racism and misogyny, rather than any kind of cogent reading of the global political dynamics at play here.
This is the problem with identity politics when divorced from a broader political discussion and over-simplified for mass consumption. By occupying the conceptual territory where any deeper or more threatening analysis of political dynamics might take place, it prevents the formation of such analysis. It answers the question “Who is fighting who?” in advance of the question being asked, in order to prevent it being asked.
So who is fighting who in this case, if it’s not as simple as the forces of Love fighting the forces of Racism and Hate?
What we’re experiencing throughout the West at present is a neo-nationalist insurrection against Globalism. People, unhappy with how capitalism has been restructuring their lives since the end of the Cold War, and aware that power has been gradually shifting from sovereign nations to supranational entities, multinational corporations, international institutions, and so on, are reaching for the only alternative on offer, Neo-nationalism, in one form or another. Which is what the Trumpians and the Brexit gang are promising, a halt of the spread of global Capitalism and the restoration of national sovereignty.
The irony is, the actual resistance is the one being waged by the neo-nationalists, who are in fact resisting something, namely Neoliberalism, which is clearly the dominant force in this equation. This doesn’t make them any more righteous, unless you’re in favor of racism, sexism, theocracy, and other such despotic values. “Resistance” is not a virtue in itself. Its virtue depends on who is doing the resisting, and what they’re resisting, and on various other sociopolitical and historical factors that won’t fit into a tweet or a sound bite.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘The resistance and its double’.