An exchange of views on: ‘Is Trumpism a temporary phenomenon?’

Part 1:

By Fred Goldstein posted on December 4, 2018.

The following is the first part of an exchange between Fred Goldstein and Manuel Raposo, a left-wing Portuguese communist and editor of the web magazine Mudar de Vida (

Fred Goldstein: Your question goes to the heart of a very important issue. Is the Donald Trump presidency a temporary phenomenon, or is his regime a symptom of a deeper malady in the organism of imperialism? Will things go back to “normal” once he is gone?

I have been thinking about this very question a lot. I have also been trying to arrive at a method by which to answer it.

First, I put the Trump victory in the context of the rise of political reaction in Europe and its decidedly anti-immigrant, racist emphasis, similar to Trump’s.

It cannot just be coincidental that the AfD in Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Viktor Orbán regime in Hungary, the right-wing government in Poland, the Brexit forces in Britain, the new right-wing coalition in Italy, the National Rally (formerly National Front) in France are all on the rise at the same time. We also see the recent gains by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democratic Party, the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece (an advanced version of Hitler-like forces) and other right-wing political manifestations in Europe.

Second, I think that the general crisis of protracted capitalist stagnation has caused sections of the ruling class on both sides of the Atlantic to move toward adopting a strongly reactionary option: They will use “divide and conquer” because they see no way out of their own crisis — that is, they do not see any significant renewed growth or revived capitalist prosperity in the future. They are all struggling to just stay afloat.

This is true for sections of the U.S. ruling class which have relied on tax cuts, deregulation of environmental protections and stock market speculation to bolster their profits. This class is acting like its situation is precarious and its members anticipate an economic collapse.

Third, the working classes in all the European countries, like the workers and the oppressed in the U.S., have all been subjected to the trauma of austerity early on, BEFORE the immigrant crisis struck Europe in full force.

In the U.S. there is no large influx of immigrants. In fact, there is a net outflow of migrants on the militarized southern border now. I think that the demoralized, alienated sections of the petty bourgeoisie and working class were predisposed to shift to the right after the failure of the Democratic Party and of European social democracy to come to their aid during the economic crisis of 2008, BEFORE the immigrant crisis.

The failure of social democracy and the historical communist parties to take an aggressive, class-conscious, class-struggle approach to fighting austerity left the masses open to a right-wing, anti-immigrant appeal.

Fourth, the right wing of the ruling classes — which are growing stronger and richer — are tempted to stoke the flames of anti-immigrant racism or are growing more comfortable with it. They mildly protest the more extreme anti-immigrant measures, but in the end the bosses are only truly concerned with the availability of a labor force and the impact of immigration policy on their international relations.

Finally, capitalism at a dead end forecloses the possibility of reviving capitalist prosperity. And capitalist democracy depends upon imperialist prosperity.

The bosses in the wealthy imperialist countries were able to afford a more developed form of capitalist democracy in the post-World War II period — that is, to buy off the discontented workers with crumbs.

The British imperialists were able to have their “democracy” when they had a world empire. Once the empire was lost, the British working class was subjected to Thatcherite austerity and now they have the Brexit forces in charge.

The French imperialists had their republics based upon having a lesser empire in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Now they have the growing right-wing orientation of President Emmanuel Macron, with the National Rally party breathing down the necks of the so-called “moderate” bourgeoisie.

And U.S. imperialism constructed a bourgeois democracy on the basis of having established itself as a world power during and after World War I and having taken over large parts of the British and the French empires out of the ashes of WWII. The bosses attained world imperialist supremacy. On that basis they were able to make concessions.

Cannot revive imperialist prosperity

While Wall Street and the Pentagon are still the dominant imperialist power, they cannot revive imperialist prosperity, which is the economic foundation of capitalist democracy. This is the fundamental point about the future after Trump. Capitalist democracy requires imperialist prosperity to finance it. Capitalist democracy in its more vigorous sense must be funded by concessions. This is true not only in the oppressed countries, but also in the big capitalist countries.

The Trump regime may be a distorted form of capitalist reaction, peculiarly shaped by Trump’s style and personality. But whatever the peculiarities of the Trump regime — and there are many — the underlying reaction that he has stoked and consolidated is not going away anytime soon.

The reaction may be slowed down somewhat if the ruling class removes him. There may be a temporary respite if he is driven out or defeated at the polls. But in the long run, capitalism is in a stage of decline, stagnation and austerity.

The only thing that can push back the reaction in the U.S. is the awakening of the proletariat and the oppressed. No one knows when this will happen or how it will develop. But then no one knew that the tremendous teachers’ strikes were coming. These strikes spread like a wildfire from West Virginia to Kentucky, to Oklahoma, to Arizona, to Colorado, to North Carolina.

These strikes took everyone by surprise — the ruling class, the labor bureaucracy, the educational establishment — and the educational workers, who were organized despite the resistance of the government and the union leadership. All the strikes were technically illegal, but the ruling class wisely decided not to enforce the law. This showed in a microcosm what the working class is capable of when pushed to the wall.

The teachers’ struggle has died down for now. But the resentment, the poverty and privation that drove it to burst the bounds of bourgeois legality and conventional subservience to the higher-ups is spreading below.

Marxism has nothing in common with economic determinism. It recognizes that many factors affect political outcomes. Leaders, parties, financial institutions, historical and cultural traditions, natural disasters, etc., all must be taken into consideration.

In the long run, however, Marxism regards the economic factor as the dominant factor. The crisis of capitalist austerity is determining the growth of political reaction, and this reaction must be fought tooth and nail by the workers and the oppressed. History is made by the inevitable awakening of the masses.

This is the hope to turn things around.

Mass protests, boycott specter make anti-LGBTQ laws bad for business

By Fred Goldstein, April 6, 2015

It is rare when the capitalist class openly reveals its relationship to its political servants. But in the cases of the bigoted so-called “religious freedom” laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. panicked in the face of mass outrage and protests and pressured two right-wing Republican governors to shift course.

Bosses get $243 billion subsidy for paying low wages

By Fred Goldstein

The capitalist class has found more and more ways to pay tens of millions of workers below-subsistence wages by shifting what should be the cost of wages onto government at various levels. This shift of wage and benefit costs off the payrolls of the bosses and onto the government amounts to a massive subsidy to many of the richest corporations and biggest employers in the U.S. for paying poverty or below-poverty wages.
Every dollar not paid by the corporations to keep their workers at a livable wage is another dollar in profit for fast-food and big-box billionaires, as well as other low-wage companies.

Between 2007 and 2011 the federal government spent $243 billion a year on supplements for poor workers, according to a University of California study published in 2013. (Think Progress, Oct. 13, 2013)

The study focused on fast food workers, who represent a typical segment of the low-paid workforce, but included a broader section of low-paid workers. It aimed to show the “last line of defense between between America’s growing low-income workforce and the want of basic necessities.”
The study limited itself to the cost of food stamps (SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers, and the TANF program (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, formerly known as welfare). It did not include Medicaid and subsidized housing.
This dramatic number, nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars to supplement below-subsistence wages, flows from the enormous growth of low-wage jobs and the drastic rise in forced part-time employment in the United States.

Fast food and big box workers paid below subsistence
Low-wage fast food workers were forced to apply for $7 billion in public assistance in 2013 for such programs as Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program), among others. Low-wage workers at a single 300-employee Walmart Supercenter are on average forced to apply for about $1 million in government benefits just to stay at the subsistence level.
A study by Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition of 400 groups, showed that Walmart workers in 2013 were forced to apply for $6.2 billion in food stamps, Medicaid, subsidized housing, etc. Walmart has 1.4 million workers. (Forbes, April 15, 2014)
Forbes reported that McDonald’s workers had to apply for $1.2 billion in government subsistence benefits and workers at Yum Brands (Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC) needed $648 million.

This situation has been intensified by the growth of involuntary part-time work. In 1968, 13.5 percent of U.S. workers were employed part time. In February it was 18.5 percent. There were 7.4 million workers subjected to forced part time when they need full-time jobs to survive. (, March 9)

Marx on wages and profits
Karl Marx gave a basic definition of wages in his analysis of capitalist exploitation which can help in understanding this situation. Under capitalism, every worker must sell their labor power to some boss in order to survive. The price of that labor power is the wage or salary.
But the wage received is far below the value created by the worker. The total value created by the worker belongs to the boss in the form of the product or service provided. The boss sells the product or service for money and gives the worker just enough to live on. A part of the money is paid out for materials, machines, rent, interest, etc. What is left is surplus value, that is, value created by the worker but for which he or she is not paid. This part is kept by the boss in the form of profit.

The way the boss raises profits is to take more surplus value. The main way to do this is to lower wages. The bosses get the government to pay for food through food stamps, Medicaid for the poor, subsidized health care, housing, etc. These are the basics of life that the bosses should pay for by giving workers a living wage.
By shifting their labor costs onto the federal government, the bosses raise their profits and can pay below-subsistence wages.
It is this that is fueling the low-wage workers’ campaign, a just campaign whose goal must be to force the capitalists to pay a living wage, not just a bare subsistence wage, but enough to cover the cost of having a decent life.