By Jack J.
You’ve got two arms of the main-stream media (MSM) the right and the supposedly centre-left. The right arm gets people fired-up with a mixed message of overt racism (typically anti-immigrant) and jingoistic nonsense, with anti-establishment narratives thrown in as sweeteners (typically anti-EU). The left arm then points out the despicable nature of the former (‘the racists’) denies any anti-establishment content and presents the status-quo/free-market-capitalism as the only alternative, championing the freedom of movement and identity. So, they get an opposing group of people fired-up about the idea of opposing hard borders and restrictions on travel and marrying whoever you want to.
Divide and Rule
They thus divide the vast majority of the population, who have an interest in fundamentally reforming society, into two conflicting groups, both of which they control to a large extent through the two arms of the MSM; one through racist threats (‘they’ are taking all our welfare and jobs, ‘they’ are going to impose sharia law) and the other through the threat of racists (surely, we are better than these far-right lunatics? They are the only alternative to us).
So, society continues to get more and more unequal, and more and more people at the bottom are more and more desperate, whilst increasingly few ridiculously rich people keep mercilessly plugging this idea that’s its immigrants fault on the one hand, and the EU on the other, or that whatever we have is better than the mess we would be in if ‘the racists’ had their way, epitomised by Brexit.
What are the parallels with the US situation?
The UK and the US:
- Both enjoyed a golden era of increasing equality from the end of the second world war until at least the late 70s, then a ‘renewed triumphalism’ with the end of the cold war.
- Both have been dealing with a distinct lack of legitimacy from the 2003 invasion of Iraq through to the destruction of Libya; all these wars and military spending more broadly have been backed by both parties but have been unpopular with the electorate. In fact it was necessary to lie and to break international law in order to wage them.
- Both have been champions of the neo-liberal agenda for many decades, and austerity since the 2008 financial crisis.
Brexit is an all-encompassing issue which has no equal in the US, but if we take a broader look at what’s playing out in the UK surrounding Brexit over the same time period as the rise of Trump a number of commonalities are apparent:
In the UK:
(A) Brexit wasn’t meant to happen, and certainly not its implementation by a minority government plus the DUP, and (B) now the Tory Party (the Party of the elite) is weak and turned in on itself about what Brexit means in theory, in practice, in law, in costs, causing (C) a chaotic and confusing situation. (D) Reactionary reforms are being carried out in the meantime, at a rapid pace.
(E) Corbyn wasn’t meant to be there and Remain may have won it with the complicity of a the labour leadership. Furthermore, even if they hadn’t, the Tories may well have improved their majority in the 2017 general election and thus be able to get on with a Brexit of their choosing instead of farce we are currently witnessing.
In the US:
(A) Trump wasn’t meant to be there as a candidate nor as President, and as a result (B) there is now a vicious conflict amongst the higher echelons of the US, (C) even as reactionary reforms are being carried out even faster than before. (D) That translates in practice to a lot of chaos and confusion.
(E) Sanders wasn’t meant to be there either and its plausible that Clinton could have won the Presidency without the damaging narrative of her stealing the primaries and crushing the possibility of change within the Democratic Party.
So, in both the UK and the US:
- Democratic event pitched side A against side B, where side A was the status quo and side B promised various changes. The level of debate was an all-time low.
- Event/politician(s) C happened, unexpectedly, bringing in issues not previously part of the publicly consumed political discourse.
- A ended up losing narrowly to B, thus precipitating open war amongst the ruling establishment and a highly-polarized general-public.
- B’s victory over A was arguably due to the loss of the control of the narrative by character(s) C. (The margin was small, and C was significant.)
- Subsequently, character(s) C survives various efforts to remove them and thus becomes stronger a) within their Party, b) through increased grassroots support/favourable public opinion and c) by effectively countering / weathering the hostile MSM.
In other words:
- Brexit referendum: various changes promised, many mutually exclusive, some outright lies. Trump: changes promised, some unspecific (make America great), some ridiculous (the wall) others important (ending foreign invasions, reconciliation with Russia).
- Corbyn fought for a Brexit based on opposition to austerity and worker’s rights. Also, Sanders promised to redistribute wealth and normalised the term ‘socialism’ in the US. Trump ran on an anti-war platform and pledged to ‘drain the swamp’.
- Brexit winning meant that Cameron had to step down and combination of Leave and Remain Tories have been pitted against each other over what to do about it. Trump has reneged on most of his promises but has attempted a reconciliation with Russia (on hold until Russia-gate implodes) and hasn’t started any new wars yet. Regardless of why, there are many powerful people determined to remove him.
- A) Brexit was largely a right-wing initiative, but it was supported by some sectors of the Left with the ostensible exception of Corbyn who was pro-Remain but not pro-status quo (unlike so many big wigs). When a Tory Brexit went head-to-head with Corbyn’s version of change they lost their majority, and had to go running to the DUP. B) Clinton was forced to tack left by Sanders (and it looked to many like she had to cheat as well) whilst Trump offered a mixture of ‘far-right’ and ‘change’. She might have been able to beat either of these challenges but the combination thwarted her, because she is so obviously the status quo that few want.
- Corbyn has survived numerous challenges and emerged stronger each time. He now has decent control over all levels of the Labour Party, whilst he and Labour are riding high in the polls, and the MSM has already given him all their best shots. Trump’s future seems to depend on the collapse of Russia-gate and how FBI-DOJ-DNC-gate plays out in the run-up to the mid-terms. He could well emerge with the GOP and much of the electorate behind him. Meanwhile, his showdown with the MSM rolls on.
The Brexit-Trump Era
Brexit is still happening, as are many reactionary reforms, but May isn’t pulling either off with anything like pinnace. A large part of the reason for that is with Corbyn in charge of the Labour Party, everything is always about the opposition to neo-liberalism/austerity and war-mongering. The other part is that Brexit was always going to be a nightmare. Incredibly, it looks likely that Labour will take power at the next election. However, as long as that looks likely, the Tories will do their utmost to prevent one.
Trump is still there, and although he is doing what he is ‘meant to be doing’ (concentrating wealth in the hands of the very rich) he isn’t pulling it off with anything like the pinnace of Obama, or even Bush. The US is losing allies and soft power at a rapid pace. Sanders is also sniping from the side-lines. It’s possible that Trump may win another term due to the lack of reform of the Democratic Party, and the fallout from the botched coup against him.
Symptoms as well as causes?
Perhaps these similarities are coincidences, or are unimportant. Or perhaps the strain of maintaining the American empire has led both the US and its UK sidekick towards a breaking-point where financial, political and economic crisis are colliding with military defeats abroad and public relations problems at home. Key western alliances are being destroyed by both Brexit and Trump, however it could be that Brexit and Trump are a result of the profit-driven war-mongering actions of these western alliances. Brexit and Trump are undermining US hegemony and speeding up the transition to a multipolar world order, but may also be driven by that process.
A resolution to the UK’s various problems is conceivable: Corbyn as Prime Minster, a ‘Green New-deal’ alongside some federalization of the UK and a relationship with the EU that is based on social democratic priorities. How the US could possibly resolve its multi-faceted crisis is an open question.