Thursday, March 24, 2016

Marxists against Trump

Jonathan Chait connects the protesters harassing Donald Trump to the  increasing prominence of Marxism on the left, especially as expressed by the trendy magazine Jacobin:
The efforts to shut down Trump reflect the growing influence of Marxian politics, and these ideas merit study. A Jacobin column defends “impair[ing] the circulation of Trump’s hate-filled message.” What about free speech? Well:

Free speech, while an indispensable principle of democracy, is not an abstract value. It is carried out in the context of power disparities, and has real effects on peoples’ lives. We can defend freedom of speech — particularly from state crackdowns — while also resolutely opposing speech that scapegoats the most vulnerable and oppressed people in our society. 

Free speech is for people on the wrong end of “power disparities” — which is to say, the oppressed and their allies, or, put more bluntly, the left. Free speech is not for a candidate who “scapegoats the most vulnerable and oppressed.” This principle denies the right of free speech not only to Trump but also to the entire Republican Party (whose analysis of poverty, crime, terrorism, and so on constitutes scapegoating of the oppressed) but also large segments of the Democratic Party as well. It is highly unlikely that the illiberal left gets its hands on the machinery of the federal government within our lifetimes, but if it does, repression would be a foregone conclusion.

In the meantime, obviously, Trump poses a far more dire danger than his would-be censors. But it is important not to succumb to the panic that the far left is inculcating around Trump. Trump would threaten American democracy if elected, but all evidence suggests his election is highly unlikely. Trump is disliked by a massive, landslide majority. A majority actually fears him. There is no strategic reason to believe that preventing Trump’s election requires direct confrontation or anything other than normal campaigning. In fact, there is more reason to believe that confrontation helps Trump than to believe the opposite. A poll found the Chicago conflagration made Republican voters, on net, more rather than less likely to support Trump. A reporter I know on the trail met two voters who told him they switched from John Kasich to Trump in response to Trump canceling his speech. That reporter also conveyed the same impression described by Seth Stevenson: Trump’s barking ejections of protesters at his rallies are their emotional apex, the one point in the generally rambly and often boring soliloquies where Trump can demonstrate the atavistic qualities of command. It stands to reason that supplying evidence for Trump’s claim to be the victim of political correctness helps rather than hinders him.
I am not sure if Marxist theories have much influence in America, but there has always been a strong anti-democratic strain on both the far left and the far right in America, so maybe Chait is right that it is never too soon to attack any Marxist seedlings wherever they arise. And I agree completely that the protesters are actually helping Trump; as Lenin would say, they are objectively on his side, no matter what they believe.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Marxist history is bizarre to me, because it so often contains such terrible decisions from people who ostensibly ought to be capable of knowing better.