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Perry Anderson on the prospects for a renewal of US radicalism under Trump


The newest issue of the New Left Review contains a series of articles reflecting on the geopolitical consequences of Trump’s election in the US. Although many, many publications have addressed this question in the months since the election, the NLR’s take benefits from sustained reflection rather than knee-jerk reaction. It also boasts a clear-eyed materialist analysis. Perry Anderson’s piece in the issue, entitled “Passing the Baton,” is especially compelling. Among other things, it argues that if the US is to experience a revival of left-wing radicalism under Trump, it must eschew the cult of Obama that has arisen since he left office. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

There is a further, obvious obstacle to reconfiguring the Democrats with even the weakest ‘social’ and hyphen before their name. Standing in the way of that is not only the whole history of the party since the inception of the Cold War, and its contemporary machinery of billionaire donors and fixers, but its principal icon. Obama, still resident in Washington, will be active—behind the scenes or from a cloud above them—in lending the party he neglected in office suitable guidance and energy to ensure the Democrats remain a congenial, avowedly middle-of-the-road vehicle for capital in 2020. He, not Trump, is likely to be the leading impediment to any expansion of a Sanders-plus insurgency uniting downwardly mobile millennials, hard-pressed workers and restive minorities on any more radical and genuinely internationalist platform of a sort that would merit the term left. Without keeping him steadily in its sights, there is small chance of that. Not only because of the position he will continue to enjoy within the party, but the legend that has accrued around him. The panegyrics of his departure, combined with the execration of his successor, risk a political padlock on anything better than what he supplied. The traditional reason always given for left accommodation to the DP was that it was a lesser evil. With Trump converted into evil of an unimaginable magnitude—fascism round the corner, if not already in charge—the halo around Obama annuls the argument: this is good against evil, pure and simple. How far this ideological effect reaches, and how long it persists, are beyond current calculation. But certainly, penitent nostalgia for a ruler criticized in power, now rued out of it, is liable to afflict much of the left for some time.

Image via Washington Post.