Dilemmas of the Radical Left

Commentary No. 455, August 15, 2017

In what I call the pan-European world (North America; western, northern, and southern Europe; and Australasia), the basic electoral choice for the last century or so has been between two centrist parties, center-right versus center-left. There have been other parties further left and further right but they were essentially marginal.

In the last decade however, these so-called extreme parties have been gaining in strength. Both the radical left and the radical right have emerged as a strong force in a large number of countries. They have needed either to replace the centrist party or to take it over.

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North Korea: Outmaneuvering Everyone Else

Commentary No. 454, August 1, 2017

It is evident that North Korea is the most unpopular regime in the world today. Virtually all other regimes would do anything they could to force North Korea to change its policies, both internally and externally in the modern world-system. Yet they cannot seem to be able to do very much about North Korea’s policies – indeed, almost nothing at all.

How has this regime been able to ignore all the punitive measures the United Nations, the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea have voted, and even implemented? The basic consideration of all those hostile to the North Korean regime has been fear of what North Korea might do if pushed too far. We need however to distinguish between fear of its possible actions internally and fear of its actions externally.

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The U.S. Election in 2018: Enthusiasm Gaps

Commentary No. 453, July 15, 2017

If one looks back at the 2016 elections in the United States, there is really a quite simple explanation as to why Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. The so-called hard core of Trump’s supporters was extremely fired up by the possibility that he might win. They were enthusiasts. They campaigned vigorously. They made sure that their voters voted. They put pressure on other Republicans and Independents (and even on some Democrats) to work for Trump, even if they had reservations.

The story with Hillary Clinton was quite different. Her hard core was less hard and worked less hard for her. Many of her voters and possible voters supported her only because they were anti-Trump. There was little enthusiasm, and it showed. Even if they voted for her, they spent far less energy on mobilizing others. They put less pressure on potential voters. They were sure they would win, and could afford therefore to do less.

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Poor Donald Trump: His Unresolvable Dilemma

Commentary No. 452, July 1, 2017

You have to give Donald Trump credit for superb public relations. No matter what he does or says or what is going on anywhere in the world, he manages to remain a constant center of attention in the United States and throughout the rest of the world. People may love him or hate him, attack him or defend him, but they talk about him incessantly.

There is a joke circulating about him. An anti-Trump voter reminds us that Trump said during the electoral contest that if voters elected Hillary Clinton, they would find the United States governed by a president fighting constant criminal charges from Day One. The voter continues: Trump was right. I voted for Hillary and I find the United States governed by a president fighting constant criminal charges from Day One.

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Top Priority in the Trump Era: The Search for Office

Commentary No. 451, June 15, 2017

In the circles of family and friends in which I move, I don’t believe there is anyone who voted for Donald Trump. This is probably equally true of most middle-class professionals in the United States. Furthermore, a very large percentage of such people are obsessed with Trump and cannot wait until he ceases to be their president.

I am regularly asked to project for them how long he can survive in office. My standard answer is two days to eight years. This never satisfies those who pose the question. They cannot believe that this is a serious assessment. Those who pose the question see Trump as an “evil” person and find it difficult to believe that this view is not widely and increasingly shared by a majority of the population, even including those who voted for Trump.

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India: The In-Between Great Power

Commentary No. 450, June 1, 2017

I have the impression that, of all the “great powers” in the contemporary world-system, however one defines “great power,” India is the one that receives the least attention. I admit that this has been true of me, but it is true as well of the majority of geopolitical analysts.

Why should this be? India after all is rapidly approaching the point where it will have the world’s largest population. It is respectably high on most measures of economic strength and improving all the time. It is a nuclear power and has one of the world’s largest armed forces. It is a member of the G20 which is the imprimatur of being a great power. However, it is not a member of the G7, which is a far more restricted group and a far more important one.

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Global Left vs. Global Right: From 1945 to Today

Commentary No. 449, May 15, 201

The period 1945 to the 1970s was one both of extremely high capital accumulation worldwide and the geopolitical hegemony of the United States. The geoculture was one in which centrist liberalism was at its acme as the governing ideology. Never did capitalism seem to be functioning as well. This was not to last.

The high level of capital accumulation, which particularly favored the institutions and people of the United States, reached the limits of its ability to guarantee the necessary quasi-monopoly of productive enterprises. The absence of a quasi-monopoly meant that capital accumulation everywhere began to stagnate and capitalists had to seek alternative modes of sustaining their income. The principal modes were to relocate productive enterprises to lower-cost zones and to engage in speculative transfer of existing capital, which we call financialization.

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France: Anyone but LePen?

Commentary No. 448, May 1, 2017

France is about to have the second round of its presidential election. The two candidates are Emmanuel Macron, the En Marche! candidate and, with slightly less votes on the first round, Marine LePen, the candidate of the Front National (FN). Now a week in advance of the election, it looks like Macron will win but, as we have learned, nothing is less sure than the predictions of pollsters and politicians.

This has been a wild fluctuating campaign, in which the first round’s outcome seemed almost impossible to predict. The principal reason was the enormous number of persons who were unsure how they would vote. There were persons, many persons, who were not sure as they entered the poll booth whom they would choose.

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