Introduction to “Whither America?” Discussion

Last summer, we circulated a call for articles that report on and critically assess the current state of anti-Trump, pro-immigrant actions that were then going on across the country.

Unfortunately, we did not get much in the way of responses. We were pleased when Matt Lyons submitted an insightful analysis of the difficulties being encountered by the alt-right that we initially posted on August 4, 2018.

Later in August, however, we received a submission from Floris D’Aalst that far exceeded the expectations we had when we sent out the call. We believed that D’Aalst’s essay, titled “Whither America?” provided a provocative and wide-ranging, but intricately linked, analysis of the making of the emerging American crisis that deserves careful consideration and serious discussion.

In consultation with D’Aalst, we decided to invite a group of ten individuals to participate in a collective discussion of that essay in Insurgent Notes. We agreed that after we received all the contributions, we would forward them to D’Aalst and provide him with an opportunity to respond before posting everything.

Six individuals were able to contribute. We are now pleased to publish D’Aalst’s original essay, six responses and one additional one from us, and a response to all of the comments from D’Aalst. The contributions are listed in the alphabetical order of the contributors’ names, except for our comment which is listed last.

We should note that none of the contributors have yet seen or read the contributions of others. Some of them may now want to add further comments. That will, of course, be welcome and we also hope that readers of the discussion will submit comments.

As you will see, D’Aalst addresses the long-term predicaments of the American capitalist economy (grounded in the steady displacement of labor by technical innovation); the origins and development of a right-wing political/cultural block; the role of Donald Trump and his capitalist and popular right-wing supporters (as well as his ideological supports) in the context of those predicaments; a working class composition that defies most classical prescriptions; the changing role of race in the shaping of the American political environment; the perhaps quite unexpected potential role of millenials who face a future of proletarian precarity; the civilizational challenge posed by climate change, and, in spite of it all, the possibility of a revolutionary alternative. There’s a lot to make sense of.

We would, of course, not have considered publishing Floris D’Aalst’s ambitious essay if we thought that it was of little value. Indeed, we continue to think that its arguments are provocative, important and worthy of debate. It may well be that the best outcome of this discussion will be that, over time, Floris’s arguments will get better and the arguments of those who challenge him will do so as well. Better still, they might make a positive contribution to revolutionary politics in these grim times.

D’Aalst has a personal stake in a number of issues raised here. He is a European who came to the United States in the mid-1990s. He lives in the American Southwest and is active in immigrant worker struggles. We’re grateful to him for the time and effort he has devoted to this exchange.

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