Remarkable events during the first few days of Donald Trump's administration, with his use of presidential power stretched to its constitutional limit. Incredible range of executive orders, many of them based on promises he made on the campaign trail. If nothing else, Trump has kept his promises. Or perhaps it is better to say that he has kept his promises in a theatrical way with little sign that any of these policies will provide the kind of relief that his voters sought.
For instance, on the question of the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At Alternet, I have an assessment of this in some detail, making two basic points. First, that the real culprit for the hemorrhaging of jobs in the United States has not been 'China' and 'Mexico', but has been the normal process of capital accumulation as firms seek lower wages (global labour arbitrage) and seek to substitute machines for people. In other words, Trump's jeremiad against trade regimes - however flawed they are - will not be able to answer the historical slide in employment not only in the United States but around the world. Lacking a general political economic framework, and constrained by the tax strike of the propertied, Trump descends into demagogy. It is the only place for the Right to go after it has riled up the people. The second point is that TPP and TTIP, the deal with Europe, are more about geopolitics than trade. Trump's withdrawal from the TPP and the drift away from the TTIP should not imply that the US is prepared to have a new relationship with China.
The Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung asked me to continue the work I had done with them on the BRICS (also in my book The Poorer Nations) and write about Trump's geopolitical world. This brief essay - which can be read here - suggests that Trump, like Obama before him, is going to have to negotiate the slow decline of US power. He is more brusque, hoping to reverse the trend, but nothing in his policies suggests that this is going to be possible. The idea that the Trump administration will be able to break the growing alliance between China and Russia is illusionary. Henry Kissinger has long called for a return to his method of the early 1970s - to bring China into a binding alliance with the US and to isolate Russia. Obama went on the rampage at both ends of Eurasia, trying to pressure both China and Russia on military, diplomatic and economic lines. Trump might reverse Kissinger's vision, to cozy up to Moscow and isolate China. I doubt that he will succeed. Putin's clique will not fawn on Washington as Boris Yeltsin and his Semibankirschina did.
The picture above, by the way, is from a set of haunting photographs taken by Daniel Barter and Daniel Marbaix of New York State's rust belt.
Finally, a very short report in today's The Hindu on the International Meeting on Syrian Settlement in Astana (Kazakhstan), which shows - in a few hundred words - how the process is ongoing and what are its obstacles. It appears that Turkey's entry into the 'peace camp' suggests that much of the armed opposition has decided that they will not get sufficient help to overthrow the Syrian government. That the proxy of Saudi Arabia led the way is an indication that the Gulf Arabs have also begun breath in the stale air of futility. But the way ahead is difficult and optimism is unwarranted. ISIS and the al-Qaeda proxy remain obdurate and the Syrian government could very well decide - from a position of relative strength - to abrogate the ceasefire deal. But, given where we were a year or two ago, this is a serious advance towards some kind of peace. You can read my report here.
Above you can see pictures of Teesta Setalvad's memoir, which we released on 26 January - Indian Republic Day. I did a brief video for our LeftWord blog - talking about what it meant to edit this terrific book. Please visit our blog here. There is information there on how to order the book.
Take some time out to smile this weekend. In the essay on Trump's economic policy, I call for a new campaign on the Four Hour Day. Four Hours of Work, Ten Hours of Sleep and Ten Hours of Fun. Wish we could all live under the regime of that slogan!