There is an old Chinese saying that “Lookers-on see more than players.” Hundreds of articles have been written about the tragedy that happened in Charlottesville; however, as a foreigner, I will try to see this issue in a different way.
On August 16th, the former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon had an interview with American Prospect. He said: “If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Economic nationalism is the key phrase. As we all know, Trump promised that he would adjust the global trade policy, giving more chances to American workers. Global capitalism has developed rapidly in the 21st century, while the majority of the people didn’t benefit a lot through this system because it makes the wealth gap grows bigger and bigger. It only benefits the rich industrialists, allowing them to use cheaper labour forces to make the maximum profit.
Workers are brought into the global production and consumption process, and their countries are partly forced to take part in this process, which gives the illusion that they benefit from it. However, if we look at the statistics, we should discover that the benefit is limited; moreover, it brings many problems such as pollution.
Imagine there is a supply chain. Some countries set their industry outside the territory to where the labor is cheap, while others need to accept those relocated factories. People of the former one can enjoy good air quality, but the latter one, like China, need to struggle with air pollution. But this is a dynamic process and winner-loser positions change. After continuous industrial relocation, those countries who enjoyed demographic dividend, which means they have a huge amount of workers and use them to raise GDP, have turned themselves into high-technology and financial industry dominated countries. For example, we can clearly see the thread in the past decades of years. It went from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan after WW2 to Mainland China and India in the past thirty years, and now it is other southeast Asian countries like Thailand and Indonesia. For Japan, the bombardment of allies army left nothing but ruins after WW2, but using the the substantial military orders from USA, Japan’s economy burgeoned afterwards and now it the third largest economy which mainly focuses on tertiary industry.
There must be something sacrificial in this process e.g. workers of countries that make cheap products for others. But we need to make it clear that workers of countries like USA could also suffer because of unemployment. Capitalists are unwilling to hire native workers because they could pay a lower wage to those workers from poor countries. So workers are all victims. The winner is those guys who use cheap labor and make big money.
It is not hard to understand why Trump was elected. The statistics of voters of Trump and Marine Le Pen, leader of the French right-wing party Le Front National, have all shown that they share some key common backgrounds, like low household income and living in rural areas. Their voters are suffering from the inequality inside the global capitalism. They saw rich people at Wall street making a lot of money, but they tend to lose their jobs!
Marx said, “The workers have no fatherland.” Every worker shares the same interest. However, the biggest problem that left-wingers are facing nowadays is that workers of all lands are not united any more. Capitalists deceive them, letting them believe that the reason of their poverty is a country across the ocean or people of other races, turning them into nationalists or racists. They take an imaginary enemy and want to get their contributions back from a innocent bystander.
After the collapse of USSR, the communism idea that scared Western countries disappeared, and social democratic parties of Europe failed one by one; neoliberalism makes the living conditions of the poor worse and worse (Thatcherism and Reaganomics. It was Bill Clinton who solved the problem like giant wealth gap Reagan left). There are still some social democratic ruling parties now, but once the economic crisis appears, the welfare system will fail because of lack of public finance. Then the society tend to be unstable. For example, after the great depression torturing the whole world in late 1920s, Japan, Germany and Italy had coup d'etat and riots, and they turned to fascism because fascists promised people a better life. If the capitalistic society is running well, the left wingers or social democrats can be a good pressure valve, using welfare system to keep the society stable. However, when the paradox of the unbalance between production and consumption, namely, overproduction, occurs, the left wingers cannot maintain the stability. Hence the long-existing conflict, namely, the tension of class antagonism, cannot be simply dissolved but triggered. In a society where a wealth gap exists, everyone will not be totally equal to each other. Jean-Jacques Rousseau pointed out that the original source and basis of all inequality is private property in his masterpiece Discourse on Inequality nearly three hundred years ago.
We need to remember that it was communists who defeat Nazism in the history, and explicitly speaking, Nazism is a freak that is made by capitalism’s self-adjustment to confront communism because communism provides the way that capitalists don’t like to solve economic crisis. Let’s look back into history. Hitler and Nazi party once promised that they are purely worker’s party, and their affiliated organization Sturmabteilung(meaning storm detachment) is kind of a left wing organization using people’s power. But after Hitler was elected, he launched operation called the night of long knives (Nacht der langen Messer) to destroy Sturmabteilung and kill every left winger in Nazi party. Then Hitler cooperated with old Junker aristocrats, big industrialists and old empire army to establish a right wing country. Hitler lied to people that it was Jews who caused the economic depression, shifting the class conflict to race conflict, making them believe that it were Poland, USSR, France, UK and Jews etc. who stole German’s living space. The same thing is still happening today.
Charlottesville’s tragedy told us that this country is being tore inside. People of different races should unite together for common good, but now there are neo-nazists that blame other races in the period of economic recession. The history is like a circle. But we need to have it changed.
Now it is urgent for leftists to earn the people’s trust. If you cannot describe a bright and certain way for people, some of them will turn to the far-right for alternative solutions. If we continue letting people divided, nothing will change. The tragedy of Charlottesville is not the first in the world and will not be the last. Workers and farmers, and all those who do not possess the means of production, including new proletariat e.g. white-collars, are friends and allies of those who lie on the left of the political spectrum.