Mainstream journalists and other commentators are quick off the mark to make comparisons between the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and the referendum vote last year in Britain to leave the European Union. An example of this is an otherwise interesting and informed commentary on November 9 by the Toronto Star's global economics reporter Tanya Talaga.
The comparison is wrong. The vote for Donald Trump was a racist and sexist backlash by privileged, white Americans (including 53 per cent of white women overall) joined by the votes of discontented working-class people being tricked by a right-wing demagogue. The Brexit vote in the U.K., on the other hand, was a vote against a key institution of capitalist, austerity Europe -- the European Union.
That's the same European Union that is backing a cruel civil war by an extreme-right governing regime in Kyiv against the people of eastern Ukraine and the same EU that has wrecked the economy of Greece and other European countries by imposing austerity policies. No wonder the people of Britain wanted out of such an institution.
Of course, many right-wing xenophobes in Britain animated the vote to leave the EU. But a lot of right-wing xenophobes campaigned equally for 'Remain'. The principal leaders of 'Remain' included the principal leaders of racist, sexist and imperialist Britain.
The polling numbers themselves of the Brexit vote don't sustain the comparison to Trump's election.
The higher up the social ladder in Britain, the higher the vote for the status quo, that is, to stay in the EU. By contrast, working-class people formed the large bulk of Brexit voters. In the U.S., the most oppressed voters cast their ballots against Trump. Black people voted overwhelmingly against him; a whopping 88 per cent voted in favour of Clinton, according to CNN. Latinos and people of Asian descent voted 71 per cent against Trump, mosty for Clinton.
In Britain, Black people voted by 27 per cent for Leave while people of Asian descent voted by 33 per cent. A powerful factor in that vote was the issue of labour mobility and otherwise unhindered travel to the European Union zone. No comparable, tangible economic policy was up for grabs in the U.S. vote (apart from the Green Party campaign, but that was excluded from the "official" campaign, including the televised debates).
Of course, another powerful factor animating the U.K. vote was the perception widely promulgated in mainstream media that the Leave position equaled racism and xenophobia. Labour mobility to Europe, by the way, was probably the main factor animating popular support for the 2013-14 'Maidan' (pro-European Union) movement in Ukraine, which is one of the poorest countries in Europe.
A writer at the London School of Economics wrote an analysis examining why so many people of Asian descent supported Brexit. He explained, "Outside London, nearly every constituency with a double-digit South Asian population voted Leave." (See recommended readings on Brexit, below.)
A new foreign policy under Donald Trump?
There was a lot of discussion during the U.S. election attempting to identify specific policies distinguishing the Democrats and Republicans. The effort was overrated. As Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein correctly argued, the two parties are largely indistinguishable in their main policy planks. (Read Jill Stein's post-election statement of November 9, 2016 here.)
Stein and her party are predictably coming under fierce attack by the Clintonites for "splitting the progressive vote." This is a convenient way for the Clintonites to avoid attention focusing on their miserable, hawk of a candidate and their earlier sabotaging of the Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party nomination. Sadly, the official Sanders campaign ended with a whimper, backing Clinton.
Many well-intentioned liberals and anti-imperialists are hoping against hope that a new, Trump-led administration in Washington will tone down the militarist and pro-war course of the outgoing Obama administration. That is a vain hope.
Military spending doubled during the Obama years, compared to the preceding George W Bush administration. Drone assassinations have become standard fare. President Obama meets ghoulishly with his military advisors each week to approve the latest "assassinate-by-drone" list. "Regime change" continued as standard operating procedure under Obama, personified by Clinton's murderous performance in Libya in 2011.
Since 2011, the U.S. has been arming and otherwise supporting extreme-right jihadist forces seeking the overthrow of the Syrian government. Meanwhile in Ukraine, the U.S. has been training, together with Canada and Britain, the killers of the revamped Ukrainian army and extreme-right paramilitaries for the civil war in eastern Ukraine. Across eastern Europe, the U.S. and the EU are playing a threatening game of nuclear roulette against Russia.
Hillary Clinton represented all of this and more. but there is not a single reason to believe that Donald Trump will act any differently.
Ignorance over the Trump war danger is fueled by the likes of reporters at Canada's state broadcaster, the CBC, all of whom repeat like parrots the lying claim that Russia and its president favored the election of Trump over Clinton. The false claim is made even fouler by lumping President Vladimir Putin's name in with the (accurate) reporting that Trump's election is being welcomed by leaders of far-right parties in Europe.
The leaders of the Kremlin would have to be stupid and naïve to believe that NATO's threats and military posturing against Russia will now lessen as a result of Trump's election. They are not stupid. They are not naïve. The NATO threats against the Russian people will not diminish.
Militarism and the threat of war and nuclear weapons will not diminish until and unless a powerful antiwar, anti-nuclear movement is once again a factor in the politics of the United States and its allies.
The leaders of Cuba know this. The country is going ahead with five days of military defense exercises, to take place from November 16 to 20.
The military-industrial complex knows where Trump stands. Stock prices of military manufacturers rose following the U.S. election, buoyed by Trump's election promises to boost military spending.
To understand the election of Trump, look to former Italian PM Sylvio Berlusconi, commentary by Roger Annis, Nov 9, 2016 (with related readings)
Brexit and building a new politics of the left in Britain, video and report of a left-wing public forum in London on July 8, 2016 discussing the meaning of the June 24, 2016 referendum vote in the UK to leave the EU (Several essays welcoming the ‘Leave’ result of the Brexit referendum were published also on A Socialist In Canada; find them here and here.)
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