20th January 2018
US President Donald Trump – the absurdity of shutdown
The absurdities of capitalism seem to be manifest in a myriad of different ways at the moment. From the government shutdown in the United States, to the inability of the Germans to form a government due to the rise of the far right, and the recent UK poll suggesting that more 18 – 24 year olds see big business as a bigger threat than communism. This is not why the Cold War was won, exclaim disillusioned liberals the world over!
One year into the Presidency of Donald Trump and the US Senate cannot agree a budget. The self styled great ‘deal maker’ in the White House is on the brink of seeing the wheels of administration stop. In all normal circumstances this would be characterised as an embarrassment for the President. For Trump, there appears to be no such thing.
The fact that many federal government employees may be on unpaid ‘leave’ from Monday, that government services will cease to function, does not appear to be of major concern to Trump. His response has been to blame Democrats who are attempting to mitigate some of the worst excesses of Trumps’ immigration policies. The Democrats are demanding protection from deportation for 700,000 illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children.
The Republicans are looking for more border security, funding to build the wall along the border with Mexico and more spending for the military.
For Trump this is a case of the Democrats being “far more concerned with illegal immigrants than they are with our great military or safety at our dangerous southern border”.
This particular absurdity is not one confined to having a “very stable genius” as President, although it will not help. The last government shutdown, under Barack Obama in 2013, lasted 16 days and resulted in around 850,000 employees being off work each day, at a cost of $2bn in lost productivity to the economy.
The US budget must be approved by 1st October which is the start of the federal financial year. Congress often fail to meet this deadline and negotiations continue well into the new year, with the previous year’s funding to federal agencies extended on a temporary basis.
With Congress failing to agree an extension that would have maintained government funding through to 16th February, it means many federal agencies effectively close for business as of 00:01 Saturday (05:01 GMT).
Still, we know the US is off beam, thank goodness for Europe eh?
That would be the Europe of Emmanuel Macron in France, most famous for “on the other hand” being his most used phrase, due to his inability to take a position on most things.
That would be the Europe of strong economic German stability, immobilised by the rise of the far right Alternativ fur Deutschland, modern days Nazis holding the balance of power and the country to ransom, while that famous economy and quite possibly the EU with it, burns.
While the Germans struggle to form a government there is every chance that Italy will find itself in the same position with elections there, on 4th March, likely to see the far right hold the balance of power. A coalition which includes Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the notorious right wing Northern League and the fascist Brothers of Italy is at present leading the polls.
The collapse of construction and services conglomerate, Carillion, in the UK has resulted in the absurdity of Prime Minister Theresa May claiming that she will be on the side of workers betrayed by their greedy bosses in future if another major company was to go under. Needless to say such ‘meddling’ will alarm Tory backers in the City of London, as well as hardliners within her own Cabinet, so the chances of May getting to the point of delivery are slim.
It is almost embarrassing to point out the absurdity of a Tory Prime Minister railing against a policy which has been a central plank of Tory ideology for over 40 years, just because it has been exposed as being unfair but, worse still, unpopular!
Much more plausible is the position taken by Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, consistent with his long standing opposition to the “dogma of privatisation”, who has pledged that Labour will halt the “outsourcing racket” which the Carillion collapse has helped expose.
As Corbyn quite rightly stated,
“Theresa May exposed the failure of the outsource first ideology at prime minister’s questions when she said the government was ‘a customer’ not ‘the manager’ of Carillion. I’m sorry but if these are public contracts we should be the manager and not have a middleman like Carillion creaming off the profits.”
So it should come as no surprise when Fiona Lali, president of the Marxist Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, defended the Soviet Union in a Radio 4 interview this week. The interview was on the back of a ComRes poll last week which showed that 9% of 18-24 year olds thought communists were “the most dangerous in the world today” while 24% thought it was “big business”.
While the apologists for capitalism trot out the hoary old reds under the beds propaganda whenever their interests are threatened, it is becoming increasingly clear that such tactics do not work.
For most young people the Cold War is history, while the day to day absurdities of capitalism are all too real on a daily basis. Whether that is the absurdity of Donald Trump, the resurgent right wing across Europe, or the crime of private companies making profits from public projects, it does not paint a very convincing picture.
It is little wonder that young people are looking for an alternative. It is vital that Marxism is the alternative they recognise if the future is to hold out real hope for them.