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Gramsci on US President Trump: "Delicate and Dangerous"
The rulers integrate the ruled in their "hegemony," Our party's task consists in conquering power for the working class. The phase we are going through is a transition phase in the struggle for power, a phase of agitation, propaganda, and organization. I believe life means taking sides. Indifference is apathy, parasitism, cowardice and is the opposite of life.
GRAMSCI ON US PRESIDENT TRUMP: “DELICATE AND DANGEROUS”
By Marx 21 editors
[This article published on January 24, 2017 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.marx21.de.]
The Marx 21 editorial staff presents an interview with the Marxist Antonio Gramsci who died eighty years ago. Trump’s assumption of office, hegemony and the tasks of the left are the themes.
Marx 21: Donald Trump’s speech upon assuming office was a challenge. He continued where he left off in the election campaign. What are your thoughts on Donald Trump as president?
Antonio Gramsci: What we need is sobriety. We should not despair in view of the terrible shock or become enthused by stupidity and ignorance. Pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will can lead us forward.
Before Donald Trump won against the democrat Hillary Clinton, he won against all the rivals from the ranks of the republicans. How do you explain Donald Trump’s rise?
The political parties are the reflections of social classes. They arise, develop, dissolve and are renewed… The social classes are subject to shifts, see their conditions of existence and development radically changed and gain greater and clearer consciousness of themselves and other vital interests. The social classes break from their traditional parties at certain points of their historical lives. The traditional parties in their organizational forms with persons representing and guiding them are no longer recognized as the real expressions of their class.
You speak of an “organic crisis” as the background of this process – unlike the cyclical economic crises to which the economy in capitalism is subjected. With the term “organic crisis,” you describe the compression of different crisis moments into greater contradictions and conflicts that show the political and economic system does not function as smoothly as it sometimes seems.
Yes, the immediate situation becomes delicate and dangerous when such crises appear because solutions are left to violence and the activity of dark powers of charismatic persons or persons chosen by Providence.
In the US, Donald Trump plays the role of the charismatic leader. How can a crisis encourage figures like him?
This develops because either the leadership class suffered a setback and asks or forces the broad masses for consent or because broad masses suddenly pass over from political passivity (…).
You call this the “hegemonial crisis of the leadership class.” Can you explain the term hegemony more exactly?
The “normal” exercise of hegemony is marked by a combination of pressure and consensus that balance each other…
The coercive machine in the US is gigantic. The police, military and the secret services have enormous powers. Rule in modern capitalist societies is not only upheld by force and repression, you argue. Rule is politically organized and guarantees the inclusion of subordinate groups. The rulers integrate the ruled in their “hegemony.”
Right. The supremacy of a social group appears in two ways, as domination and as intellectual and moral leadership. A social group is dominant when it subjugates the opposing groups and leads allied groups. A social group can and must assume leadership before the assumption of power. When it is in power, it becomes dominant and must continue leading.
The rulers must enforce their ideas, values and norms as leading to gain a social consensus. For the US, the idea of the American dream is a good example for this. Acceptance of the principles of competition and striving for profit underlie that dream. These ideas are accepted by wide parts of US society in their daily self- and world understanding and are part of their everyday understanding. However that promise “dishwashers become millionaires” has crumbled on account of the real experience of poverty, unemployment and descent for millions of people in the US. Is there a hegemony crisis in the US?
Yes. When the ruling class loses the consensus, that does not mean it is not “leading” any more. it means the great masses have become estranged from the traditional ideologies and no longer believe what they once believed. The crisis consists in the fact that the old dies and the new has not yet come to the world.
Does the crisis open up a chance for the left to reach the consciousness of people with anti-capitalist arguments?
However the crisis develops, we can only hope for an improvement of the political positions of the working class, not for their victorious struggle for power. The essential task of our party consists in conquering power for the working class. The phase we are going through is a transition phase in the struggle for power, a phase of agitation, propaganda and organization.
But isn’t it already too late? Donald Trump has radical projects and a large majority in the houses of Congress.
The republicans gained their majority in the Senate with the US congressional election. Thus Trump as the future president has good prospects of realizing his political projects without great resistance thanks to majorities in both chambers.
Some weep repentantly and others flee (…). I believe life means taking sides. Indifference is apathy, parasitism, and cowardice and is the opposite of life. (…) I live; I am partisan. Therefore I hate the one who doesn’t intervene. I hate the indifferent.
How can the left take sides?
Good question! How can one oppose a class that strives for renewal and has a powerful complex of trenches and fortifications of the ruling class? The spirit of breach must be extended from the ruling class to the potentially allied classes. This necessitates a complicated ideological work whose first condition is the correct knowledge of the realm from which the human masses must be rescued.
What does this mean for you concretely?
The first task of our party is to arm corresponding to its historical mission. In every factory and every village, there must be a communist cell that represents the party that knows how to work politically and has the initiative.
A certain passivity in our own ranks and the tendency to humiliate our party must be tackled.
We must become a large party. We must try to attract as many revolutionary workers and farmers to our organizations as possible, to educate them for the struggle and make them organizers and leaders of the masses and lift them up politically. (…) The governed should be intellectually independent of the governing.
About the author: Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was a revolutionary socialist and co-founder of Italy’s Communist Party. Under the fascist rule, he spent more than ten years in prison. His famous “prison letters” arose in that time. The answers to our questions are largely taken from them.