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Tear Gas at the Border: Trump and the Endgame of Capitalism

To dismantle Trump’s policies, we first have to dismantle the neoliberal society that created him.

Central American migrants run along the Tijuana River near the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, after the US border patrol threw tear gas from a distance to disperse them on November 25, 2018.

Toddlers scrambled alongside their parents on Sunday to escape sprawling clouds of tear gas. A mother attempting to scale a border fence fell and was impaled by a piece of rebar in front of her children. Thousands of desperate people, fleeing nightmares of brutality the US helped to cultivate, are met with a wall of militarism.

As many have stated, this is not new. The United States has committed unspeakable acts against women and children within its own borders, and far beyond, just as European countries have, in many instances, horribly abused migrants amid their own refugee crisis. And yet, here we are, living in our own unique moment of horror that must be reckoned with in its own right, regardless of what’s come and gone before.

Because this is the way the world ends, under neoliberalism or fascism. The reigning politics that preceded Trump’s xenophobic white nationalism — free market worship, paired with window-dressing reforms — and the catastrophes unfolding before us today offer different stories with the same conclusion.

The end-game of late capitalism, amid a slow-motion apocalypse, is a global consolidation of resources. This is true under both neoliberalism — as reflected in Obama’s expansion of AFRICOM and tough-on-immigration policies — and Trumpian fascism, which has enhanced and extended these policies. Hillary Clinton gained attention over the Thanksgiving holiday by arguing that European governments must be harsher on immigration issues in order to arrest the spread of right-wing ideologies. Many found alignment between Clinton’s statements and the nationalist, xenophobic policies of the Trump administration. Others found them to be out of touch, given that European countries are plenty tough on immigration. But these takes overlook an uncomfortable reality: Clinton is not merely attempting to out-right the right in order to win over Trumpian voters. She is also promoting a viewpoint that has always aligned with neoliberalism, and one that was shared by President Barack Obama.

Neoliberalism consolidates resources by way of privatization and by allowing the market to function mercilessly when the impoverished are ground under and generously when the riches of the wealthy are imperiled. Neoliberalism offers a slower burn than fascism does, but the big finish is the same: mass suffering followed by mass extinction.

What may be difficult for many liberals to reconcile is that both neoliberalism and fascism stand ready to repel and, if necessary, grind under the millions of refugees that climate catastrophe and imperialism have created. These systems have no alternative if they are to sustain themselves. To prioritize the survival of as many people as possible, we would have to accept that capitalism is not viable, that its maintenance will doom us all within decades and is already dooming millions. While Trumpian fascism must be stopped, we must not allow it to be viewed as a singular evil, one that, if thwarted, would give way to a kinder world where prosperity and justice would flourish. Instead, we need a more dynamic view of how we got here, and what it will take to bring these systems crashing down.

Donald Trump didn’t create this society. This society created Donald Trump. To dismantle the evil, we will have to dismantle the machine — and be willing to build something bold and new in its place: a way of living that reflects our values, and allows a future.

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