By JOHN McCULLOUGH
In 1916, Rosa Luxemburg declared that a world ravaged by war, disease and the rise of far-right populist currents had two options: build a new system in which the working class could control its own destiny, or submit to fascist brutality. Put more concisely, the choice faced by this world was “socialism or barbarism.” While there are substantial differences between the Germany of 1916 and the United States of a century later, this central point holds true. The story of the 2016 Presidential Election was the failure of centrist liberalism to effectively counter right-wing populism. The inability of the Clintonian “third-way” to protect people of color, women, queer folks and the entire working class should stand as a reminder that political movements must address the pressing economic concerns of human beings if they seek to gain momentum.
Even a relatively modest insurgency against the ruling neoliberal order was considered intensely threatening by those in power. In the Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton’s most die-hard supporters in the media unleashed a flurry of baseless attacks on her opponent, Bernie Sanders. His platform, which essentially consisted of capitalism with a strong social safety net, was so unfathomably “radical” to centrist media figures that he was relentlessly accused of naivety and idealism. And yet, the holes in Clinton’s firewall, the states she lost that everyone had expected her to win, were almost all won by Sanders in the primary. There is little reason to doubt that a Sanders/Trump general election would have had a very different outcome.
While support for moderately left-wing social democracy will be vital in raising expectations of the American working class in their relation to politics, we must also keep in mind that it is not a permanent fix. Comprehensive welfare states have risen in many countries since the Second World War, and almost all of them are now falling under the siege of “free-market” ideologues and right-wing plutocrats. In response to this, a radically different system must be established, one that channels power away from an unelected economic ruling class once and for all. To empower the working class in a lasting way, the hierarchy and inequity of capitalism must be replaced with a socialist system characterized by working people’s control of the economy at the point of production. For a long-term solution to Trumpism, we must switch our thinking from mere redistribution of wealth, and begin to imagine a future in which wealth is created in an inherently democratic way. This future is possible, but to build it we need radical unions, accountable political groupings and direct action in the streets against the status quo. To create a dynamic political opposition in the age of Trump, we need to aspire to a bold vision of the future, one that is uncompromising in both its demands and its humanity.
Moving forward, it is fundamentally important that we reject the narrative that has reigned supreme since the fall of the Iron Curtain. With all our power, we must constantly fight the idea that it is impossible to create a better world. The situation we face today is not far from that of Rosa Luxemburg. Our choice now, as in her time, is simple: socialism or barbarism.
By ALEX SEYAD
Asst. Opinions Co-Editor
The conflict between opposing political ideologies was something that President George Washington warned against in his farewell address; a warning that has been lost in time. We see that the battle between left-wing liberals and right-wing conservatives has reached its climax in the recent election, but these sides have been given different labels. What many political pundits believe is that the answer to how our nation’s government can make progress and effectively serve the people lies in the middle. If leaders from both sides of the aisle reached out to find a median, then we wouldn’t be faced with the discussion of what congress has failed to do because of petty differences between parties. At a first glance, this idea is completely crazy. The notion that politicians can bury their pride for the greater good can be mind-boggling, but if we show our politicians that we are willing to remove them if they fail to adequately serve us then we, the people, will be in control.
To say whether socialism or conservatism is right will be a matter of personal choice. I personally side with the economic side of conservatism. They hold the idea that a capitalist system with minimal government interference will be the most beneficial for our economy. The notion of socialism can be daunting for baby-boomers and generations who view the ideology as a resurgence of communism and a call back to the cold war. What drove many away from self-proclaimed socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders, was that many weren’t willing to openly support a socialist. Others thought that from an economic standpoint, his policies would have a negative effect on economic growth and his targeting of Wall Street and large corporations would have significant effects on the economy and job market. His policies regarding raising the middle wage and granting free college education were very popular with younger voters, but lead others to believe that his platform was too idealistic and his policies would be too expensive.
The new face of modern conservatism washes away the golden reputation of Republicans in the Reagan era. While many criticize the implementation of trickle-down economics and social policies of this time period, modern conservatives have become even more right wing. The prevalence of Christian ideology in conservative decision-making has led many to question the separation between church and state. The social policies of conservatives make it very easy for many Americans, especially millennials, to turn their backs on them. Furthermore, many anti-immigration policies have cost conservatives a major voting bloc which they had in years prior.
If we can find a good mix of conservative economic policy with liberal social policies, then we can avoid having to chose between two sides. We have to show the people that it isn’t the working class versus the elites and it isn’t the government versus the people. It will be hard to reaffirm the American people’s trust in their government with a Trump administration that is hell-bent on establishing a record for most protest-causing policies. Moving forward, it is time for politicians to actually reach across the aisle instead of just talking about it.