US President Donald Trump. REUTERS/ TOM BRENNER
US President Donald Trump. REUTERS/ TOM BRENNER

Bubbling in the background of the upcoming US presidential election are issues far greater than a visceral dislike of Donald Trump. The Wobblies are back.

In the 1880s, after a period of unrestrained capitalism interspersed with financial crashes, socialist and anarchist worker groupings under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) went on strike for an eight-hour workday. Business fought back using the immigration, and latterly, sedition acts to deport undesirable foreigners, and by making socialist thought anathema to God-fearing America.

The Red Scare of the 1920s was followed by the 1950s’ McCarthyism. Once communist Russia had fallen in the early 1990s, terrorists became the new bogeymen and left-wing thought retreated to academia, where its incubation is described by Alan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind. After the great financial crash of 2007/2008, after another interlude of rampant capitalism, a new generation of Wobblies, under the guise of Antifa, Black Lives Matter and Resist, has resorted increasingly to direct action where, figuratively speaking,  “a pound of dynamite is better than a bushel of ballots”.

Until now, the US political elite was largely opposed to anything that smacked of Godless socialism, with even President Roosevelt almost being removed in a planned 1934 coup over his New Deal. But the Democrats, never accepting their 2016 defeat to Trump, have bent the knee to the Wobblies in a Faustian pact for support.

On the one side, you now have the Great America, individual gun-secured rights and a carbon-based capitalist economy. On the other, community rights, globalisation, a green revolution and a revolving door for Mexican immigrants, all heated by the continuing deleterious effects of Covid-19.

As the two sides appear evenly matched, November 3 is unlikely to result in a decisive victory, and the US will teeter on the abyss of its complicated cultural heritage.  

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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