Saturday, January 16, 2021

America Has Entered the Weimar Era: Walden Bello on How Neoliberalism Fueled Trump & Violent Right

McConnell and other Congressional republicans contributed to this by blocking almost all of Obama's initiatives to stimulate the economy, in order to win political advantage for republicans.  It was a big relief that both Democrats won the Georgia Senate runoffs, because Congressional republicans had made statements indicating they will try to do the same thing to Biden.


January 12, 2021


We speak with Walden Bello, an acclaimed sociologist, academic, environmentalist and activist, whose latest column argues the United States has entered a “Weimar Era,” in which democratic elections are increasingly delegitimized as street violence becomes the norm. “This is not something that’s unusual that has happened in the Capitol. Right-wing groups, when they begin to lose electorally, … they resort to the streets and to violence in order to stop that process,” says Bello.Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.



For an international perspective on the crisis facing the United States, we go to the Philippines to speak with Walden Bello, the acclaimed sociologist, academic, environmentalist and activist. His latest column for Foreign Policy in Focus is headlined “America Has Entered the Weimar Era.” Walden Bello is also a senior analyst at the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South, as well as an international adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Bello is the author or co-author of 25 books. Part of his book Counterrevolution: The Global Rise of the Far Right looks at the social roots of Trumpism. Bello served as a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 2009 to 2015. He’s the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.


WALDEN BELLO: Yes. Well, Amy, thanks a lot, and Juan, for inviting me to your program.

Well, let me just say that the first thing that came to mind was, of course, shock at this insurrection right at the very heart of the American political system. But, on the other hand, having studied counterrevolutions, it was sort of something that, although I did not expect it to take this dramatic form, you know, that this kind of street-type warfare, mobilization of the streets, you know, that the right wing, or the far right, in the United States would resort to this.


So, this is not something that’s unusual that has happened in the Capitol. Right-wing groups, when they begin to lose electorally, when they begin to see that their opponents are gaining the upper hand in terms of being able to win elections and electorally, they resort to the streets and to violence in order to stop that process.

So, those are the things that came to mind. It was very dramatic. But, on the other hand, it was something that I, having studied counterrevolutions, expected something like it would happen at some point in the United States, given the developments over the last few years, which has really resulted in this move to the far right of significant sectors of the population that are allied to the Republican Party.


WALDEN BELLO: Well, OK, I was referring to the fact, you know, that the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008 dragged on and on without any real resolution, because the steps were not taken to really control the banks, save homeowners and bring a significant employment back to the United States. You know, that was a very alienating process. So, that neoliberalism, as I said, you know, helped create this situation. So, if in 2008 you did not yet have the conditions for radicalization, by the time COVID-19 erupted in 2020, the conditions were there for this polarization, this radicalization, to increase even more.

Now, when I say that the extreme right has been the one that has been able to benefit from this more than the left, I mean mainly that — several things, you know, that there was this appeal to racism, a dog whistle-type Republican politics that started with Richard Nixon with the Southern strategy, you know; so, the second one was, of course, the impact of neoliberalism that created so much unemployment, deindustrialization. And especially among workers, including white workers, you had significant unemployment and deindustrialization hitting their communities, and then the fact also that so much of the working class, of the white working class, began to no longer see the Democratic Party as the party that was carrying their interests, because of a sense that somehow the Democratic Party had begun to buy into the neoliberal narrative, starting, for instance, with Clinton and up to Obama.

And so, there was this mass of people, white workers, that was ready to be mobilized someplace, and it was Trump and the right in the United States that took advantage of that, mobilized them, but in a right-wing direction, in a racist direction, basically.


So, on the other hand, when you look at the left, the left was the one that recognized the critique of globalization. And unfortunately, that came from the independent left. But the broad left, with social democrats in Europe, the Democratic Party in the United States, was pretty much seen as complicit with neoliberal, pro-Wall Street policies. OK? And so, you know, an alternative that would come from the mainstream left and the Democratic Party, that wasn’t coming at all. And so, what we saw happening in this process was, yes, there were great ideas coming from the left — you know, deglobalization, degrowth — fantastic ideas that were for an alternative society; the unfortunate thing is that it wasn’t gaining any political traction. Right down to the grassroots, it was just — you know, the progressives were just not gaining that kind of mass base that was very necessary.


 JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, if I can ask you about another issue that you’ve focused on? And you say that the COVID-19 pandemic has really accelerated the decline of the United States as a worldwide power and the rise of China as — the continued rise of China as the industrial heartland of modern capitalism.

WALDEN BELLO: Yes. Well, I think that, to link that to what I said earlier, so much of the deindustrialization, the shipping of jobs that took place, you know, was carried out by corporate America, and a lot of those jobs and industrial processes were shifted to China. And it was the U.S. corporate, transnational class that carried this out, you know? Now, of course, China played a role there, but China was seeking developmental objectives, whereas the TNCs, the U.S. TNCs, were using it purely for exploitative purposes.

So, what happened, basically, was China became the workshop of the world. You had a massive industrial base that was created, that produced value and became the new center of global accumulation, whereas what happened to the United States was deindustrialization, people thrown out of jobs, communities deindustrialized and the economy financialized, so that it became — the United States economy basically began to run mainly on financialization and speculation. So, that core of a healthy economy, that was centered on industry and the creation of value, that disappeared. And so, this is the background of my comment, that you had the creation of a strong center of capital accumulation in China that paralleled the collapse of the industrial capacity of the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And how has the failure of our government to deal with COVID accelerated that?

WALDEN BELLO: Well, you know, when you look at what happened with COVID, was when it hit, because so much of the supplies, even of personal protective equipment, had been sourced to China, and the United States was no longer capable of producing this because so much of its manufacturing capacity had been shifted over to China,



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