Peoples' movements and protests




Trump, Berlusconi and the return of the charlatans



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By Jan Wiklund



Donald Trump's success should not have come as a surprise. In fact, he is part of a broad trend, says Ian Buruma – newly rich, preferably from the FIRE sector, who feel looked over by the more established capital and therefore find it easy to communicate emotionally with others who also feel slighted. Trump, Berlusconi, Wilders, but also Erdogan and Thaksin. The FIRE sector, because it is the only one that has flourished during the current period of capitalism's decay – and it doesn't hurt at all that it is mainly parasitic. The observation has something that speaks for itself, but it also raises questions.

Above all: how is it that today's lower and lower middle class have such low self-confidence that they allow themselves to be tamed by obvious pranksters. Did they have it before?

Perhaps one can turn here to Karl Marx and his explanation for the fact that another mountebank, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte, could come to power on loose talk. This was because, Marx believed, his main support the peasants had no way of communicating with each other. They depended on Bonaparte's one-way communication, the value of which they had no way of judging.

During the height of the popular movements around 1880-1940, an impressive network of cross-communication was built up. There were trade unions and farmer cooperatives. There were formation movements whose only purpose was cross-communication and which proved to have a mindless ability to provide both more conflict-oriented organizations and state administrative bodies with personnel.

Recently I read a piece about how this worked in the UK - Jonathan Rose's The intellectual life of the British working classes, and it was easy to recognize the Swedish ABF and the Scandinavian folk high schools in his story. Behind the aspirations was a desire to get a more interesting life for oneself as well as ambitions to change society at large – usually so mixed that it was difficult to see what was what.

The system began to decay already in the 30s, says Rose, and by 1960 there was not much left. Between the lines, it is clear why: commercial and state one-way culture out-competed the jointly created thanks to superior resources, the most committed were separated from the less interested with rewarding careers within the framework of the system, and the professional intellectuals did their best to gradually change the rules of the game, judge out the cross-culture built on traditional goods as "half-education" and establish new codes, so-called modernism or postmodernism.

And the charlatans appear again.

It follows that it will not be easy to deprive the charlatans of their lifeblood. Appealing to common sense will not be enough – especially as those who usually do this are often themselves based on irrationality and prejudice.

Instead, a rebellion is needed against the suffocating neoliberalism's political action ban, where the divided audience comes together and creates new cross-communication and learns to trust itself. The task is enormous, but it has been done before.

And unlike then, we know in advance how we do it.

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