The Trump Circus: Don in Trumpton
And he went Trumpety, Trumpety, Trumpety, Trumpety, Trumpety, Trumpety, Trump! Trump! Trump! The ever predicable Trump was in inimitable trumpeting form during his – almost, but not quite – state visit to the UK. After a little warm-up trumpeting at the NATO conference in Brussels, demanding European countries increase military spending to 4 percent of GDP – none of that wishy washy 2 percent target of his predecessors – he was in trumpeting hyper-drive by the time Air Force One touched down on British soil, announcing: Theresa you’re fired! ‘I told her how to negotiate Brexit but she just wouldn’t listen!’ Boris you’re hired! ‘I think he would make a great prime minister!’ Sadiq Khan you’re fired! ‘I think he has done a terrible job as London Mayor.’
Trump came over to the Old Country determined to demonstrate that he was the Supreme Leader and hardly any of our feckless politicians put up a fight. His torrent of trumpeting generated the usual theatrical outrage amongst commentators and pundits. But why all the fuss? Trump was merely affirming the Special Relationship, whereby the UK is America’s poodle, but in more brazen fashion than former US presidents.
The highlights of the buffoonery
Trump’s trip amounted to a golfing weekend at his beloved luxury resort in Scotland, preceded by the berating of all and sundry in line with his idiosyncratic style of diplomacy: shoot first and ask questions afterwards.
On arrival Trump flew over London to the sanctuary of the US embassy fortress in Regent’s Park, the helicopter rotors drowning out the chants of protestors on the ground and the giant baby blimp grimacing at him through the porthole window; an organiser of the London demonstration excitedly proclaiming: ‘It’s going to swamp his Twitter feed!’ Revolutionary foment no less, but only of the virtual kind.
Then on to the reception at Blenheim Palace (but not a Royal Palace of course) with hosts Theresa and investment banker hubby kept waiting ignominiously in the courtyard, looking like a couple of schoolchildren nervously anticipating the arrival of the headmaster to give them a good spanking. Then on to Sandhurst the following morning to see the US and UK’s Finest in action; to Chequers in the afternoon for what was described as ‘bilateral talks’ – i.e. Trump gives Theresa May another good talking to – followed by a press conference, an opportunity for even more trumpeting; then afternoon tea with the Queen. Then to Scotland and down to the serious business of golfing, replete with a cordon of 700 Scottish Bobbies to contain a group of 50 placard waving protesters, including an impromptu fly past by a Greenpeace paraglider with banner streaming below displaying the incendiary message: ‘Trump, well below par.’ Early to bed on Sunday evening ready for yet more trumpeting with President Putin on Monday. And that was that!
After all the shilly-shallying around – would he, wouldn’t he, should he, shouldn’t he – it was all over in a flash; the millions of words of print and thousands of broadcast hours consigned to the wrappings of a fish and chip supper. But not before the mainstream media had dutifully spewed their superlatives to bolster the anachronistic spectacle of pomp and pageantry that sought to flatter The Man Who Would Be King; although, given the narcissist that he is, Trump will not forget the snub of the less than Regal welcome.
Notwithstanding the insipid character of this un-Regal occasion the mainstream media was at its obsequious best in the main, trying to whip the punters into a frenzy of adulation. This included on the BBC, where the woman commentator was almost orgasmic: ‘We now have the pictures of The Beast coming up the hill. Look at that! The Beast roaring over the horizon! If you want a projection of power around the world there are few better ways than…’ It wasn’t clear until the end that she was referring to the armour-plated limousine rather than its occupant.
Amid all the hyperbolic superlatives thrown around like confetti no one seems to have stopped to consider whether this mock aristocratic spectacle is any longer appropriate fodder for the public in the twenty first century. But what do the media care about such niceties. They are too busy using Trump as a cash cow, whilst berating him for his buffoonery; salivating like Pavlovian dogs awaiting the next early morning Tweet so that they can splash it around as click bait. One certain legacy for Trump is that he will have received the most media coverage of any person in history. Like the wicked witch in the pantomime he might get the most boos, but he also gets the most reviews. Whilst the media chew over every Trump morsel the man himself is deliriously happy, astride his monopoly board of world proportions, rattling the dice and taunting his opponents that he always throws a double six, with the dice suitably weighted of course.
His latest wheeze to fix the game is the flatulently named: Fair And Reciprocal Tariff Act (ordinarily referred to by its acronym, the FART Act) which if passed (no pun intended) by Congress will give Trump dictatorial powers to vary any US tariff on any country at will; thus effectively tearing up WTO rules. The other players in this giant monopoly game could be forgiven for throwing in the towel. Trump is a man who knows how to play hard ball. He cut his teeth in the days when he was building Trump Tower in New York, doing deals with the Mafia to secure the huge amount of concrete he needed to erect his phallic symbol. But those who describe Trump as an imperialist or a Fascist bestow upon him too much of an accolade. He doesn’t have the intellectual acumen or ideological inclination to be either. He is just a simple businessman – with all the pejorative connotations that the word entails – and a second rate one at that; albeit one that has some big toys to play with nowadays.
So what does all this Trumpery amount to?
Trump is a racist, a misogynist, a bigot, a sexual predator, a xenophobe, a homophobe, an Islamaphobe, a reprobate and, to cap it all, a birther to boot; with his incessant taunts about Obama’s pedigree. As the Yanks say: ‘he might be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch!’ and that makes all the difference. Trump is the 45th president of the United States and the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on Earth, with a multi-trillion dollar arsenal of deadly weapons at his fingertips which he is prepared to lever into any deal to make an offer that can’t be refused. Trump might yet achieve the ultimate legacy – if anyone is left to write it – as the president who, through nuclear Armageddon and/or climate meltdown, had the most profound impact on the world of any that came before him. No, Trump should not be written off as an irrelevance.
Putting these apocalyptic possibilities aside Trump is relevant in other ways too. In the early days of the presidential campaign the capitalist elite – the bankers, the military industrial complex and other ne’er-do-wells – realised the dangers of a Trump presidency. Like the drunken slob at a wedding they knew that he could embarrass them by exposing their game; especially when they had wallowed in the luxury of the smooth operating front man, Obama, for the previous eight years; a consummate performer capable of delivering the most bitter pills of capitalism with a sugar coating. On the other hand Trump, not being one for decorum, will say and do anything to make a fast buck, as will any good capitalist. But Trump does it with a megaphone. It is this raw meat characteristic of Trump that has the capacity to inflict damage on the capitalist brand.
But as all good entrepreneurs know every problem can be turned into an opportunity. Ironically, whilst Trump has been busy scapegoating everything in sight to explain away the ills of United States society, the liberal media, egged on by their corporate paymasters, have been moulding Trump into their very own scapegoat by branding him as the ‘unacceptable face of capitalism’ and thus subtlety inculcating the corollary: that there is an ‘acceptable face of capitalism.’ As with all marketing ploys it matters not that it is a fabricated concept, so long as it sells well. And it seems to be selling like hot cakes, as indicated by the burgeoning movement of anti-Trumpeteers. Under cover of this flak the ruling class hope to buy time to select, or manufacture, another snake oil salesman like Obama to re-launch the brand.
This is not to say that the demonstrators are wrong to protest against Trump. For some it might be cathartic. But they should not succumb to the fiction that Trump is the product of some evil gene. Some of the more discerning commentators are beginning to eschew this genetic interpretation in favour of a more nuanced position. Owen Jones, of Guardian columnist notoriety and an organiser of the London anti-Trump protests, is the latest to pick up this new baton, imploring us to: ‘don’t just protest against Trump, but protest against Trumpism’, which he loosely characterises as neo-liberal globalisation. But it’s not Trump or Trumpism, or neo-liberal anything. The problem is capitalism, pure and simple. Alternative explanations only lead people down blind allies and encourage them to take their eye off the ball.
Whether or not the establishment succeed in giving capitalism a temporary facelift its pernicious features are hardwired into the system and its apocalyptic course is set. Capitalism is incapable of taking into account the need to preserve and nurture the essential live-sustaining elements of our society. Its destructive force on humanity has been well documented over the years: the enslavement of people in a system of production where the wealth produced by the workers is creamed off by a decadent elite, thus perpetuating an antagonistic mode of existence which impoverishes the human spirit by chaining it to this perverse economic machine. But it is only in recent years that the full cataclysmic implications have been understood. Capitalism fetishises money by knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. The obliteration of the rainforest, the acidification of the oceans, the pollution of the air, the annihilation of species, the contamination of the soil and all the other destruction unleashed upon the natural environment are euphemistically referred to as ‘external costs;’ that is they don’t appear in the profit and loss account and so, as far as the capitalist is concerned, they are of a no consequence. The abolition of capitalism is no longer merely socially desirable, it is an ecological necessity.
Despite this the death cult of capitalism continues unabated, like a raging bull, oblivious to the destruction it leaves in its wake. The corporate capture of the faux democracies of the world ensures that our elected representatives shamefully step aside and allow the bull to stampede unhindered. Like a demented rodeo cowboy Trump is astride The Beast, digging his spurs into its belly and urging it to go ever faster. And the modern day Roosevelts – the Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyns – who promise to step into the path of the bull to slow it down or deflect its course will find that they are quickly trampled underfoot.
Is Trump good for socialism?
Trump should not be dismissed as a parody, or a caricature, or an aberration. He is the real McCoy. He is the manifestation of raw unadulterated capitalism. But Trump is only a carrier of the disease, he is not the disease itself. He is the child of the system, not the parent and, in this sense, Trump is a victim like everyone else. But it is not Trump or Trumpism, or any other contrived representation of our current malaise that ought to be the focus, it is the system of capitalism itself.
Trump helps the cause of socialism by ripping away the sticking plaster to expose capitalism in all its raw festering septic state. The capitalist elite is busy trying to put the sticking plaster back. The task for those who advocate socialism is to dig away at the wound to ensure it remains open and exposed. This should be made easier by the ever accelerating concentration of wealth amongst a tiny degenerate elite and the relative impoverishment of everyone else. As Marx argued, unfettered capitalism is potentially a revolutionary force.
But Trump’s usefulness, in exposing the raw meat of capitalism, is only one side of the coin. The other side is the opportunity he presents to promote socialism as a positive alternative and to ensure that it comes about before the social and ecological tipping point is reached and before people’s conception of life becomes so muted by the oppressive weight of capitalism that, like the caged hamster on the wheel, they can conceive of nothing else.
As a species we have the intelligence and the imagination to create a better society, if only we had the will to do so. Throughout history we have demonstrated our incredible resourcefulness and creativity and, in recent times, capitalism has been a significant driver of such progress, but always at an unacceptable cost to society and, we now know, with catastrophic consequences for the planet itself.
The alternative cannot be found under such fatuous labels as ‘liberal’ ‘progressive,’ or ‘radical.’ Nor is it going to come about by bandying around lazy slogans such as: ‘real change’, ‘real democracy,’ ‘change we can believe in’ or jingoistic calls to ‘make our country great again!’ Systemic failure requires systemic change and that change is socialism: a class-less, moneyless, borderless, state-less, society where private property is abolished in favour of being held in common for the benefit of all; where power is widely diffused to facilitate participative democracy; where work is an integral and enriching part of life, rather than a necessary chore to sustain it and where everyone can choose the way in which they contribute to the community: from each according to ability, to each according to need. Under socialism war becomes impossible because there are no nations to wage it and no private property to fight over. Without nation states and borders the so called ‘migrant problem’ evaporates. Without money there are no markets, no debt, no poverty, no financial hardship and none of the huge wasteful financial state and corporate apparatus through which the money system is controlled. Every person has the opportunity to become what they have the potential to be, rather than what the capitalist machine tells them that they are. This is the positive socialist message which the Trump era can facilitate. Trump bashing should be a side-show for therapeutic and recreational purposes only. It should not be the main event.
What of Trump and the rest of the capitalist class after the socialist transformation? They will be liberated from their chains like everyone else; free to take up more wholesome pursuits like painting and basket weaving and probably much happier and content for it. Trump might decide to learn to play the guitar and become a folk singer; in which case he could be welcomed back in his rehabilitated form. Until then it would be preferable if he stays away.