Rosa Was Right
Reading Rosa Luxemburg’s “Reform or Revolution,” much of the book struck me as almost alarmingly applicable to our current situation, especially Luxemburg’s thoughts on the bourgeoisie’s readiness to “sacrifice” the “democratic forms” of government the minute they threaten to become instruments of truly popular rule:
“In this society, the representative institutions, democratic in form, are in content the instruments of the interests of the ruling class. This manifests itself in a tangible fashion in the fact that as soon as democracy shows the tendency to negate its class character and become transformed into an instrument of the real interests of the population, the democratic forms are sacrificed by the bourgeoisie, and by its State representatives.”
Trump is, of course, a far cry from fascism, despite the bluster and panic. Still, I can’t help but notice the development of anti-democratic sentiments among the petite bourgeois here in the U.S.A.:
1. On the class’s right wing, we have Trump supporters, a largely middle-class population who felt it necessary in this moment of crisis to elect a pseudo-strongman who has repeatedly made his disdain for democracy known. It’s not a principled disdain, mind you – Trump doesn’t dislike democracy so much as he dislikes the fact that democracy prevents him from doing what he wants when he wants.
2. On the class’s left wing, we have the middle-class liberals, some corners of which seem to be descending further and further into hyperbolic derangement. “Trump,” they insist with increasing urgency and decreasing self-awareness, “is a singular existential threat to civilization who must be stopped at all costs.”
The liberal middle class expresses its anti-democratic currents in subtler ways: They start by laying all the blame for Trumps’ ascendence on white working class voters. (It’s a myth.) Then, rather than analyzing what sort of social, cultural, and economic factors would drive people to vote for Trump, they precede to argue that support for Trump can only be understood as a moral and intellectual failure – a personal flaw, rather than a choice informed by material and ideological factors. Then, the middle-class liberals start tearing into the imagined “White Working Class Idiot Evil Racist Trump Support”:
Above are two screenshots of posts made in a “liberal resistance” Facebook group to which I belong (mostly for shits and giggles). Not every member of this group speaks this way; in fact, these sorts of posts are still in the minority – many of the other posts are increasingly outré conspiracy theories of the “Russia Did It” variety. Still, these posts are common enough to constitute a trend – a trend I’ve experienced in other liberal spaces as well.
The anti-Trump-voter discourse doesn’t explicitly disdain democracy the way some of Trump’s more fascist and fascist-friendly supporters do, but the sheer vitriol directed by many middle-class liberals toward white working class voters is disconcerting. This trend won’t necessarily develop beyond these largely ineffectual grumblings, but at the same time, the discourse isn’t too different in form from the way some Trump supporters talk about those populations whom they believe should be disenfranchised (i.e., everyone who isn’t a white cishetero man). I could see this anti-working-class rhetoric as the incipient stages of the ascendency of the liberal middle-class’s own strongman – though he probably won’t be a blowhard real estate tycoon. He’ll probably own a really cool tech company and wear Converse sneakers.