By Fikret Akfırat
Latif Bolat, former representative of the Turkish daily newspaper Aydınlık in Washington DC, has evaluated the recent protests and assault on the Congress to Unitedworldint.com.
Bolat is a musician of international reputation who has been living and working in the US for decades. He has organized several national and international festivals and activities in the US, thus visiting nearly all of the 50 states and entering into contact with universities and a variety of intellectuals. During Trump’s election campaign 2016, Bolat has been on a tour throughout the US, observing the tendencies within the American population on spot.
Has the crowd that has assaulted the Congress a common class, ethnic and cultural basis? Or do we observe different groups from different milieus with different motivations coming together?
Based on the analysis of the past 10 years, one might state that, albeit different groups with different motivations were acting, they still have formed a coalition of those affected by the deep crisis the US has been going through. Just as it had happened in Turkey, different groups and parts of the society succeed to come together and demand solutions for their problems jointly. Let us remember the June Uprising from 2013 in Turkey, there were so many and so different groups involved that it took us years to fully understand the common purpose of the movement.
URBAN AND RURAL REDNECKS URBAN AND RURAL REDNECKS
What is the political orientation of the Rednecks who are said to dominate the protest actions?
Rednecks can be considered as the continuation of those Whites who had come from Europe following Columbus’ discovery of America. They can be evaluated as the part of the population that was “preferred” and had “wide privileges” in the first 200 years of the US. If we take a look at this period, than we observe that all Presidents, almost all politicians, all bankers, all owners of financial capital or their close working environment belonged always to this part of the population. But there is also a great White segment of the society that does not enjoy this “privileged position”. The latter can be called as “the unlucky Whites”, and fills up the ghettos around the big cities, the mountain hills or the deserts of Arizona”. These are “unlucky”, because they have not received a share of the great wealth that the economic development of the US has produced. So as you can see, there is a historical connection between the seemingly unrelated “urban redneck” and the “rural redneck”. Because these two were part of the same process from the founding days of the US to the Civil War and till the days when the US developed imperialist character and attended world hegemony. But the capitalist development has elevated the urban rednecks to the highest positions, meanwhile the rural rednecks were in masses pushed away from the centers and impoverished. Because it was these rural rednecks who always carried the weight, got killed, gone insane or joined the army of unemployed after having been used by American militarism from the Civil war to the wars of Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The society has digested this fact into a certain point, through occasional bribes, eye washing campaigns or Hollywood tales.
But especially the last 20 years brought up a huge crisis due to the economy’s relocation to China and Eurasia. In this crisis, the said portion of the population was pushed to the bottom of the society and was forced to decide. Interestingly, this process has produced Trump and his ideology. I am saying ‘interestingly’, because the fact that a multimillionaire like Trump has woken up this movement needs an analysis on its own. But at the end of the day, this part of population has gained the opportunity to raise its voice in the personality of Trump and thanks to the resources he owns. Neither the core of the Democrat Party nor the ones at the center of the Republican Party had ever focused on this part of population in the past 100 years. Now is the first time that this part of the population gains a chance to show presence independently rom political parties. And in our opinion, it is not wrong to say that this is just the beginning. Are those who participated in the Black Lives Matter protests and those who occupied the Congress opposite groups? If so, who s defending what position? Can we state a class difference or congruence between those who participated in these two different protests?
Yes, these two protest groups are definitely on two opposing sides. Interestingly, one would expect these two fractions to come together, struggle together and obtain their rights, because on the one side are the “White Rednecks”, on the other the Blacks and Latinos. Their common attribute is being economically on the lowest steps of the ladder. But the system acts very intelligently, uses historical differences and puts these two communities against each other. And today, it is almost impossible that they get together.
Are there any groups or fractions that participate in both protests with the same motivation?
Factually, both protests demand the same: getting a just share of the economic wealth, job security and basic needs like medical service. It is possible that in these main topics, their demands are fully congruent. But due to historical differences and the repeated pronunciation of prejudices on race and color, their unification s made impossible.
How can we analyze in terms of class the popular masses that carried Trump to power in elections?
These are the fractions that for a long time have not received any share of the economic wealth, have been marginalized, have consistently lost their jobs, and have been forced to move to the worst parts of the cities. But within their economic demands, there are also position that have been planted their within a divide-and-rule strategy, like hostility towards blacks or immigrants. The hostility towards immigrants is comparable to what we observe in Turkey towards the Syrians, where people demand the closing of borders and the expelling of immigrants is demanded. The Syrians in Turkey are the Mexicans in the US. Therefore, this is pretty understandable.
ELECTION OR COUP?
Can we state the existence of a political current of Trumpism independent from supporting the Republican Party?
Of Course! As I mentioned above, the Republican Party was from the beginning a bad copy of the Democratic Party. The American order had established the existence of these two parties as a systemic feature. And it had served well in the past 200 years. Every 8 years a party was given the opportunity to govern, the masses were satisfied by letting their emotions run free, but a profound change in the general situation was avoided.
Maybe the first time, a more radical segment within the Republican Party appeared and carried Trump to power 4 years ago. Both the Democrats as well as the Neocons within the Republican Party have united against this current and toppled Trump from power. If we consider the votes Trump has received, one might get the impression that he had won but was taken down. Because no matter what, Trump had to go.
What is the effect of the current US economy on the protests?
The US has an economy that since 1990s does not produce anything physical anymore and is dependent more and more on financial capital and high technology leadership. Even the production of the US’ symbol, the Levi’s trousers, had been moved away from the US in the end 1980s. I have personally witnessed the last workers’ strike in their facility in San Francisco. Since then, the American working class has always lost jobs to countries like China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, where high technology and cheap labor prevailed. In consequence, these Rednecks in the urban ghettos and the countryside were about to explode due to unemployment and living costs.
Considering the background, can we expect the rise of new protests in the future again? Or should we expect the end of protests because the American system in a way clears or pretends to have cleared their ground?
The strongest part in the US is not the military but the Think Tanks that produce theoretical solutions to all problems. Almost every university has a Think Tank that all the time produces some solutions for these kinds of problems. This includes social media solutions like Facebook and Twitter and also the use of cultural instruments like Hollywood and the TV. I am pretty sure that right now, several Think Tanks are debating and working tirelessly on how to overcome the current situation and provide a more peaceful atmosphere.
But in the long term solution does not seem possible with the given conditions and current policies. Quite the opposite, I project that the conflicts will continue deepening. There maybe a leap to create unity within the country by an external aggression, for instances an attack on Iran. You know that this is a 5000 years old game, first played by the Sumerians and than employed by every government since then; easily and effectively.
What happened to the white collars that lost their jobs in 2008? Did they return to work? On which side are those that didn’t return to jobs in the current protests?
Following that crisis, several industrial corporations that constituted the backbone of the US economy have moved production to Asia, where labor is cheap, taxes are low and producing is easy. Therefore, everyone affected by that crisis today faces less job opportunities and lower wages, with great masses finding themselves in an economic bottleneck. Especially for those who have lived and still remember the American Dream from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the current situation is unacceptable. These masses have therefore followed a multimillionaire like Trump, because there is no political leadership in the US that conducts a class analysis and builds up according alliances. Trump’s slogans in the election of 2016 were giving relief to these masses: Trump pursued a discourse that the US should order home first, take its hands from foreign interventions, relate itself to Russia and China as if they were two competing companies in the free market. These comparatively peaceful slogans have shaken the American system deeply. From this first days of his presidency, Trump’s policies were inverted – at least to a great degree – to their opposite by threating activities pursued under the label ‘Russia Investigation’. That means, here was a big war going on in the upper floors of the US the past 4 years.
What kind of role have the Neocons played, who have supported Clinton’s candidacy against Trump, during the Trump Administration? And now that they support Biden, what will be their future role?
Let us be clear: Trump did not belong to the Neocons. And the policies he presented to get elected promised a more peaceful world. Lessen US military’s presence abroad, retreat completely from the Middle East including Syria, govern the country like a profit-led company, these ideas were all quite mild, so to say, and pretty different from the Neocons who intended to hold world hegemony by arms. For this reason and led by the anger to have failed in getting Clinton elected, the Neocons from day one have attempted to neoconize Trump. And 4 years have gone by as such. Please note that the US policies in the Middle East have remained largely unchanged. That is to say, due to this dual situation, no major attacks or progresses were made. But the neocons within the system have continued to fulfill the needs of militarism silently.
We witness a period where separatism of federal states within the US also seems on the rise. Which federal state takes, based on which grounds and social/economic motivations separatist tendencies on the agenda?
The United States is as a federal entity anyhow a kind of community of states. Truth is that at last Hawaii joined the federal union a bit forcing. And we have seen in the one-year COVİD-19 epidemic how dysfunctional this federal system is. Long before, Texas and California had pursued activities to become independent states, but these attempts have not led to any results. The republican Governor of Texas just a few years ago said, “if the people of Texas want the separation, I would say ‘yes’”. That means, separation of states remains a true and realistic possibility. States like Texas, California, Washington, Florida and New York have enough population and sufficiently big economy to constitute an independent state on their own. And the populations of these states have been quite uncomfortable for a long with the fact that their high tax rates serve as income for the poorer, more agriculture based states like New Mexico, Louisiana or Nebraska. This discomfort will further rise during times of economic crisis.
A NEW NATIONALIST-CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT
What is the reason for the division between the ruling classes of the US? Can we state a front between finance, informatics and media sector on the side and industrial and agricultural producers on the other? Can the two-party-system of the US change?
In my opinion, true battle lines are best understood by taking a glance on the final days of the British Empire. One part of the ruling class had realized that the British Empire had arrived to its final days, and these sections defended the position that, instead of losing everything, the Empire had to save the day, decrease and thus maintain England’s existence. This sector corresponds to Trump and his followers. Another, more militarist part of the ruling class in contrast insisted on continuing the imperial tradition and caused new wars. This part corresponds to the US Neocons. At the end of all those British wars, the first fraction has prevailed and carried Britain to its current position. The British militarists have lost that battle, but continued their existence within the British state. They were sometimes capable of taking the country’s lead, turn into a puppet of the US and use it in new imperialist wars and adventures. Tony Blair’s government is the best example for remaining militarists.
There have been numerous attempts to change the two-party-system in the past years. But it was never possible to crush this 200-years-old system and install a new one. Lacking a new system, popular masses turned to prefer staying absent from elections. The elections that Obama won displayed a voter participation of 36%.
Additionally, one needs to mention that elections are held on Tuesdays since 200 years. It seems as if they were trying to avoid the working people’s participation. Even this custom of Election Day cannot be changed. This new political movement that Trump has mobilized within the Republican Party may create a new, nationalist-conservative organization.
On whose side are the American leftists? The mere existence of the Left in the US is so questionable that it is not very important to know on whose side they are. They find n every election a less-diabolic candidate with the Democratic Party, support him or her, and that candidate loses every time. As it happened in the last elections to Bernie Sanders. This fraction considers even a fanatic Neocon Hillary Clinton a “leftist”. In short, the American Left always faces the problem of theoretical depth and development. All the leftists that you meet there support the PKK, remember the analysis Noam Chomsky made of that organization. Their Leftism is mostly based on articles analyses from the New York Times. You can debate with them for days about the US attack on Iraq, and they will not stop defending it with the words of the New York Times. Unfortunately, this situation prevails even in the most developed parts of the Left. Therefore, the American Left appears on the scene as most anti-Trump pro-Biden fraction in the current situation. If in a debate you ask them about how it comes that Neocons like Colin Powell, Rumsfeld, John McCain support Biden, you will not receive an answer. There is a great lack of analysis capability. Comparable to our common Turkish Leftists superficiality.