Today, North Korean state media expressed its support for Trump, calling him a “wise” and forward-thinking leader. Is Trump a socialist revolutionary disguised as a rich Republican douchebag?
Last week, Obama wrapped up a trip to Vietnam. He visited the two major cities, Hanoi, the more conservative capital in the north, and Ho Chi Minh City, the hyperactive business hub in the South (where my book takes place). Whilst there, he ended a decades-long lethal arms embargo, pushed for passage of a controversial globalization agreement (TPP), and of course, shilled for the empire with effortless style. He ate a $6 meal with Anthony Bourdain at a dirty noodle shack, beat-boxed for the “queen of Vietnamese hip hop”, and touted the importance of feminism.
This is Obama’s second recent trip to a communist country; significant because of the 196 countries on Earth, only five are still communist. If American politics hadn’t been recently upended by you-know-who, many conservatives would be nodding slyly and saying “I told you so,” satisfied that their early predictions that Obama was a secret socialist had come undeniably true.
But since the political world has been turned upside down, that criticism no longer makes sense. The Liberals have become the Conservatives, and the Republicans, somehow, are becoming the Socialists.
The staunchly communist Vietnamese might pay lip service to Obama, but who would they vote for if standing in the shoes of us Americans? Definitely not for his successor Hillary Clinton. Vietnam’s socialist values fall overwhelmingly in line with the candidate who is supposedly “on the right.” I think they would vote for the one-and-only Donald Trump.
“A table of values hangs over each people,” says Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, a foundational text of contemporary Western thought, “Behold, it is the table of its overcomings; it is the voice of its will to power.” What he means is that every nation is bound by certain principles, and those principles are tied closely to its core identity. The things it thinks are the hardest are the things that it holds the most holy. Nietzsche goes on to give examples of great nations and their core principles. For the Persians, it was “To speak the truth and to know well how to handle bow and arrow.” For the Greeks it was rabid, jealous nationalism. For the Jews it was “to honor thy mother and father.” For his own people, the Germans, it was loyalty at all costs, even if it meant doing evil.
I have lived in Vietnam. I have spent days surrounded by Vietnamese people and only Vietnamese people. I have lived their core principle from the ground up. A chapter of my book is dedicated to how their moral nature permeates every interaction. Every shared meal, every cramped bus trip, every construction site draped with sleeping workers like snoring Dali clocks is a tentacle of a singular essence.
That core value can best be summed up in one word: socialism. The Vietnamese did not adopt socialism as the Russians or the perhaps North Koreans did, and certainly not as the far flung Cubans did. No, socialism describes something in them that was already there.
Today, that value is codified in the central tenet of their latest constitution, written in 1980 (just after what the Vietnamese call the American War, perhaps socialism’s greatest head-to-head victory against capitalism). The document is centered around the concept of “collective mastery” of society, which advocates an active role for the common people as the chief governors of policy and culture. Indeed, the most basic definitional difference between capitalism and socialism, respectively, is whether the state subordinates the working class, or the working class subordinates the state.
I do not mean to suggest that socialism works. Vietnam’s table of values is entirely different than America’s, and ours has made us much greater (at least in terms of power) than the Vietnamese have ever been. But we are young and the Vietnamese are old. We could be no more than a flash in the pan, an empire for the ADD generation. We could explode while Vietnam limps slowly through history, unperturbed.
Socialism hasn’t worked very well (so far) because of the contradiction at its core: commoners can’t be in control. The nature of power relies upon the fact that there isn’t a lot of it, and you can’t stop people from trying to get it, however much you try.
But Americans, like the socialists, have a contradiction in our values that warps and erodes our own power from within. Our central value is not capitalism, but freedom. We are a country of immigrants, free in our own little corners of this vast territory to practice our strange little customs however we see fit. Yet what happens to a country of immigrants after a few generations? After a few hundred generations? Eventually the immigrants must become natives or they must leave. And if they become natives, their central principle can no longer be freedom. The ingredients in a melting pot must eventually become a stew.
Like the concerned-faced NGO workers who started coming to Vietnam to inject their values ten or twenty years before Obama did, Obama naively lectured the natives on our principles as if they don’t understand them. “Freedom of speech and expression fuels the economy,” the President said, “That is how some of our greatest companies began.”
He lectured on women. “The evidence is clear — I say this wherever I go around the world — families, communities and countries are more prosperous when girls and women have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
He explained why the United States is ending its lethal weapons embargo with Vietnam (so our arms manufacturers can now make even more money from violence!). The move was widely regarded as a show of force against China, and Obama’s opaque justification was that we are helping a small nation of 66 million (Vietnam) defend itself against one of 1 billion (China). “Nations are sovereign and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its territory should be respected…Big nations should not bully smaller ones. Disputes should be resolved peacefully,” said Obama.
This kind of rhetoric has become a trademark of Obama and Clinton’s style of global domination. Thomas Frank nailed it in his recent takedown of the Clinton Doctrine, calling it “Financial Feminism.” George Monbiot labels it the “millenarian faith of neoliberalism” in his book How Did We Get into This Mess. Indeed, it has the ring of religious rhetoric. “We represent the little guy, just like Jesus,” says the Church, as it slaughters millions for power, using its noble ideology as the shining excuse. As we learned from the final scene of Citizen Four, it’s Obama’s finger that’s on the drone button.
Obama summed up his visit by analogizing the U.S. and Vietnam to old friends who have had a bit of a tiff, but that was back when we were younger. We were totally different people back then! Now, since we agree on how the world works, it’s time to let go of an embargo “based on ideological divisions between our two countries” that are no long present.
What Obama misses (or at least appears to miss), is not that the Vietnamese don’t give two shits about his ideologies (though that’s true). I think both sides understand that this is not about doing the right thing. Vietnam wins two things from a better relationship with U.S.: a huge chunk of our labor dollars via the controversial TPP (which will continue the to gut our country’s wealth and jobs) and a bunch of new fun weapons to point at China. And Obama is thinking tactically by getting in good with Vietnam before World War III. I assume he doesn’t actually care whether Vietnam buys into his Financial Feminism or not.
What’s much more interesting is what Obama, and many reactive leftists who can’t bear to listen to what Donald Trump is actually saying, don’t realize is happening. Obama went out on a limb to re-establish relationships with leftist countries because, well, he’s a leftist right? That would only make sense. The Vietnamese poured out onto the streets to greet him, and we could imagine them doing the opposite for Donald Trump. They would boo and shout, right?
In the short term yes, but in the long term no. Trump is on the path to becoming a working class hero. Whether he intended it or not, he is a beacon of the commoner. There are two socialists in this race. Bernie, the Democratic Socialist, is may be further to the right than the national socialist, Trump. You are surprised to learn that in India, Hitler is a beloved historical hero. In 50 years, Trump will be a hero to the Vietnamese and the Cubans, at least whichever of them remain socialists.
Think Trump isn’t a socialist? Think again. Did you forget how Marx felt about walls, borders, and free trade? “In general, the protective system of our day is conservative, while the free trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point.” Marx wanted to increase free trade and break down barriers, because he thought it would lead to a complete breakdown of the global system, where the proletariat could rise up and take over. In terms of governing policy, Marxists, the ultimate leftists, love walls. They love them so much they built one right through the center of Berlin.
Others have recognized Trump’s potential as a socialist superhero. Yesterday, he was lauded by North Korea, the most hardcore socialist society on the planet, as a “wise” and “far-sighted [sic]” candidate. The Conservative Review wondered if Trump is “Running to Make Socialism Great Again?” and a Cuban newspaper equated him with Castro.
While his anti-PC manner of speaking appeals to the commoner in an intuitive sense, even his vaguely articulated policies reflect a socialist slant. To be fair, most of the following is taken from quotes he said a long time ago, before he hijacked the Republican Party, but I think it’s safe to assume that he will needle these ideas into his actual policies, if elected.
On November 9, 1999, Trump said, ”I would impose a one-time 14.25% net worth tax on individuals and trusts with a net worth of over $10 million.” While many criticize Trump for evading taxes himself, he outwardly admits that he has abused the system to his own benefit. His famous admission on the debate stage that he had himself bought some of the candidates standing on the stage with him (what first made me think twice about him), indicates the he may be able to stop the kind of corruption that causes income inequality, simply because he knows it so well.
Other socialist tendencies include his desire to raise tariffs, close the Hedge Fund loophole, make the healthcare system 100% transparent, and keep the retirement age where it is. Trump is both a physical isolationist (the wall), and a fiscal isolationist (tariffs). He staunchly opposes the globalizationist TPP. He calls himself a conservative, but that seems to apply to social issues only. Besides his own ruthless capitalism, which he has repeatedly hinted was a means to an end, and which could make him all the more qualified to stem its tide, there is nothing to suggest that Trump is not an economic socialist.
Donald Trump is a monster created by the establishment itself. It has dangled fame above our heads like a diamond carrot. It imputed the distractors with incredible power, which was fine as long as the distractors were dumb, docile, and sheep-like enough to communicate their shiny-stuff=happiness core message. But it inadvertently created weapon that, if used effectively by the right person, could be almost limitless in revolutionarily potential.
Like all the best monsters, Trump is one that’s here to kill his creator. Trump is not a Republican. He is not a Democrat. He is a socialist revolutionary that has manipulated the system, intentionally or unintentionally, the only way he could in order to incite a one-man revolution.
We thought it was dead, but socialism has found a way. And its host might just be Donald Trump.