Can Unacceptable Compromises Prevail?

Commentary No. 492, March 1, 2019

Every compromise has losers.

Every compromise has dissenters.

Every compromise includes a betrayal. Yet no political struggle can end without a compromise. Compromises do not last forever and often only briefly. Yet there exists no alternative to making them in the short run.

In the short run, we are all seeking to minimize the pain. Minimizing the pain requires a compromise so that assistance to those who need it can be given. But the compromise does not solve any problem in the long run. So, in the middle run (more than three years) we have to pursue a solution without compromise. It is all a matter of timing – the very short run versus the middle run.

If we don’t compromise in the short run, we hurt the people who are weakest. If we do compromise in the middle run, we hurt the people who are weakest. It’s an impossible game which we all have to play.

How to Fight a Class Struggle

Commentary No. 491, February 15, 2019

Class struggles are eternal, but how they are fought depends on the ongoing state of the world-system in which they are located.

World-systems have three temporalities. They come into existence and this needs to be explained. Secondly, they are stabilized structures and operate according to the rules on which they are founded. And thirdly, the rules by which they maintain their relative stability cease to work effectively and they enter a structural crisis.

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The Big Five: Clinging to power

Commentary No. 490, February 1, 2019

When the United Nations proclaimed its Charter in 1945, it included therein a special privilege for five member states – the power of the veto in its Security Council. Why these five states? There was a different reason for each of the five. No matter. The Big Five – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the U.S.S.R. (now Russia), and China – still have this privilege today, and are unlikely to lose it in the foreseeable future.

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Withdrawing troops: The Impossible choices

Commentary No. 489, January 15, 2019

It was I believe Colin Powell who said that sending in troops in a dispute was easy, but extracting them almost impossible.

The present situation in the Middle East illustrates this axiom perfectly. President Trump, like his predecessors, promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. And he renewed this promise just recently. Then he found, again like his predecessors, that fulfilling his promise aroused so much opposition, from all political quarters, that he had to renege on the promise. He did this by redefining how long it might be before he actually withdraws the troops.

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The Desperate mr. trump, or Trump says he matters

Commentary No. 488, January 1, 2019

Donald Trump is using all his rhetorical skills to keep everyone’s eyes focused on him and on him alone. He is trying so hard precisely because it is increasingly evident to most politicians and public figures, in the United States and elsewhere, that he is constantly losing ground. More and more actors are ignoring his demands. This is most of all clear to donald trump himself.

So he does hurtful things to all and sundry simply to prevent others from assembling the votes for things that exclude mr. trump from the center of worldwide action.

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When Trump Visibly Crashes

Commentary No. 487, December 15, 2018

As the 2020 U.S. elections begin to be the major front-page concern of the media, there is increasing speculation about what will be the form it takes. Could Trump really be impeached? Will the Democrats move still further left or rather move back to the center? How strong is Trump’s base, and how faithful?

As someone who has argued for a long time that the United States has been in a steady and irreversible decline, I am constantly asked: “Well then, why isn’t Trump crashing?” And if he is, will the crash become more visible? And if it does, will it be a sudden smash, or simply a steady downward slide?

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Is Trump Scared?

Commentary No. 486, December 1, 2018

I get this question all the time. The answer is: of course. He has been running scared all his life. It started with his sense that he was a disappointment to his father and continues until the present moment.

This sense of fear for his future is the most fundamental element in Trump’s psyche. It explains almost everything he does – the meanness and cruelty; the endless bullying; and his obsession with tweeting where he doesn’t share the platform with anyone else, so to speak.

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Mexico Confronts the Future

Commentary No. 485, November 15, 2018

I was just in Mexico for several days. I went to speak at a celebration of the victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), the president-elect. The meeting was held at UNAM, Mexico’s national university.

The meeting was intended to stimulate a critical and open reflection about where Mexico goes next. Not every supporter has the same vision of the future.

Many members of AMLO’s cabinet attended. But the ministers restricted themselves to chairing sessions rather than giving papers. It was as though they didn’t want to be challenged publicly about their views.

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