We have seen that Asin Shivani’s, in “This Is Our Neoliberal Nightmare: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Why the Market and the Wealthy Win Every Time” (Alternet, June 8, 2016), sees the candidacy of Hillary Clinton as the full expression of neoliberalism, understood as the reshaping of everything in accordance with market principles. In contrast, Bernie Sanders (like Ralph Nader and Howard Dean before him) formulates a humane alternative to neoliberalism, whereas the discourse of Donald Trump suggests an authoritarian alternative (“Neoliberalism and presidential elections” 6/23/2016).
Shivani would like us to consider what will happen after the Sanders campaign: “It is existentially imperative to ponder what happens beyond Sanders, because neoliberalism has its end-game in sight, letting inequality continue to escalate past the crash point (meaning the point where the economy works for most people), past any tolerable degradation of the planet (which is being reconceptualized in the shape of the market).” He believes that a much will depend on the extent to which the people will be capable of thinking outside the neoliberal perspective. He writes: “What remains to be seen is the extent to which the millennial generation might be capable of thinking outside the neoliberal paradigm, i.e., they don’t just want more of what neoliberal promises to give them yet fails to deliver, but want things that neoliberalism does not or cannot promise. On this rests the near-term future of the neoliberal project.” He asks: “to what extent will Americans continue to believe that the self must be entrepreneurially leveraged toward maximum market gains, molded into mobile human capital ever ready to serve the highest bidder?”
I believe that in reflecting on the future of neoliberalism, we must begin with consciousness of the fact that neoliberal policy and philosophy is unsustainable in the long term. This is the conclusion to which we arrive if we understand what neoliberalism is and how it came to be. Neoliberalism emerged in the 1970s as a desperate response by a global elite that was experiencing stagnating profits and was losing political control of the world-system. The neoliberal project is a war against the formerly colonized nations as well as the popular sectors of all regions, developed in response to the unresolved contradictions of the world-system, particularly the contradiction implied by the fact that it must expand by conquering new lands and peoples on a planet with finite limits. It was intended to restore profit margins and to reestablish political control. Its benefits to the elite were short-term. In the long run, it has functioned to deepen the economic financial, political, and ecological crisis of the system. Placing the market and profits above all else, it can resolve none of the problems that humanity confronts, such as climate change and other symptoms of ecological imbalance, high levels of poverty in vast regions of the world, uncontrolled migration, criminal gangs, trafficking in drugs and persons, and the delegitimation of the political system of representative democracy. The neoliberal czars can only conceive of wars, the imposition of policies, and economic sanctions, cynically proclaiming that its actions in defense of its particular interests are defending democracy in the world. Neoliberalism has resolved nothing, and it cannot. It can only lead to either a continuing spiral of disorder and chaos, including the possibility for the extinction of the human species; or to the continuing mobilization of the people in the construction from below of an alternative, more just, democratic and sustainable world-system. Either scenario would involve the end of the neoliberal project, which seeks to preserve the exploitative structures of the neocolonial world-system through aggressive actions against the governments and peoples of the world (“What are the origins of neoliberalism?” 6/17/2016).
Fully exposing the unsustainability of the neoliberal project necessarily would involve delegitimizing the global elites who have created and defended it, including the directors of corporations and their representatives in the executive and legislative branches of governments, the conservative think tanks, and the mainstream mass media. All who have forged careers in these institutions have fostered and have benefitted from the neoliberal project, and their immoral conduct would stand exposed by a thorough analysis of the neoliberal project.
Our people must come to understand not only that the neoliberal project will resolve none of the problems that humanity confronts, for it was not intended to do so; but also that those who occupy positions of leadership and responsibility, who have formulated and implemented the neoliberal project, have demonstrated their moral and intellectual unpreparedness to lead the nation in this time of global crisis. Such “leaders” must be cast aside by the people; and others with alternative life trajectories, dedicated to understanding the true and doing the right, must be lifted up by the people to occupy positions of responsibility in the institutions of the nation
How can the people come to such an understanding, which implies recognition of themselves as a revolutionary subject, seeking to place their delegates in power, replacing those who have represented the particular short-term interests of the powerful? We can be assured that the people will not come to understand it by themselves, without help. They tend to live in the world of day-to-day concrete problems, and they are manipulated and confused by an educational system that fragments and news reporting that ideologically distorts. Thus, it must be the role of the intellectual to formulate the comprehensive historical and global understanding that the people need to grasp in order to liberate themselves from domination.
Accordingly, intellectuals and activists must liberate themselves from the pervasive ideological distortions, attaining their liberation through sustained encounter with the movements that have been formed by the peoples of the world. Intellectuals and activists must work together to present an alternative to the people, explaining to the people the sources of their rejection and exclusion, and calling them to act in their own defense.
Sanders points in the right direction, but his humanist discourse is not enough. More of an historical and global analysis, beyond what he has offered, is needed, including an anti-imperialist component. Moreover, what is needed is not a presidential candidate, but an alternative political party that educates and organizes the people and that seeks to capture, as a long term plan, the executive and legislative branches of the government. For a fuller formulation of the characteristics of a future revolutionary party of the people, see “Presidential primaries in USA” 8/25/2015.