Black silhouette of the back of a man pointing to a bright blue graph that shows a line going up and down

The struggle continues, but a battle has been won. The Trump administration, despite its “maximum pressure” campaign, has failed to crush Iran and Venezuela. There are signs that the economies of both countries have turned a corner. The Iranian rial has stabilized, rising “30%” against the dollar since early May according to Bloomberg. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has finally come to an end, as reported by economist Sergi Lanau.

Steps taken by the Iranian and Venezuelan governments to gradually unify the exchange rates -- to eliminate opportunities for speculators to obtain dollars at overvalued official rates and sell them at black markets for handsome profits, instead of using them to import necessities -- have certainly helped. So has defiance of the unilateral US sanctions on the part of major oil importers like China.

What has also helped, ironically, is what Trump, who desperately needs a booming stock market for re-election, clamored for: the Federal Reserve’s dovish pivot, suspending rate hikes and planning to endquantitative tightening” (i.e. to end the tightening monetary policy of not replacing the maturing US treasuries and mortgage-backed securities that the Fed had purchased to drive down long-term yields). The dovish pivot has ignited a rally of risk assets, from stocks to commodities (including oil) to emerging market currencies. Coherence is in short supply in Trump’s arsenal of imperialism.

Easy monetary policy alone, however, is no solution to structural problems of global economy. Among those problems are interrelated ones of secular stagnation of economic growth in the global North; decades of declines in labor shares of national incomes in the global North; and worsening terms of trade for many countries in the global South due to secular declines in commodity prices relative to manufactures.

Faced with economic stagnation, naked imperialists like Trump want US voters to embrace the deceptive and destructive idea of a zero-sum game: US-based multinationals can obtain a bigger slice of the global profit pie at the expense of their foreign rivals; and US-born workers can obtain a bigger slice of the global employment pie at the expense of immigrant as well as foreign workers. The idea, no matter how appealing it may be to Trump’s base, does not make sense even in capitalist terms. It is not possible to damage the Chinese economy by punitive tariffs without also damaging the US economy, nor is it possible to raise the wages of US-born workers by lowering the wages of immigrant workers through a threat of mass deportation -- just as it is not possible to boost the US stock market through a lower-interest, weaker-dollar policy without also boosting emerging market currencies including Iran’s and Venezuela’s.

Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders have a better idea: the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, student debt cancellationand free college tuition. Their program would raise the living standards of US workers and alleviate much of the economic insecurity that has made some Americans vulnerable to the fantasy of "easy-to-win" zero-sum games. Over a decade after the collapse of the housing bubble, the median sales price of houses sold in the United Stateshas recovered, but the homeownership ratehas not; and, “for the first time in more than 130 years,” more young people are living with their parentsthan living with their partners in their own households. Freed from the heavy burden of student loan payments and healthcare costs, more of us could afford what we want – even homes of our own. More disposable income in working-class hands, whether we spend it on better shelters or anything else, would greatly stimulate not only the US but also the world economy.

There is much to recommend in the democratic socialist program as far as domestic policy is concerned. Missing from the program, alas, is democratic and socialist foreign policy. Sanders, for instance, voted against the 2017 bill to impose new sanctions on Iran and Russia, but as he himself said in a statement explaining his vote, he had “voted for sanctions on Iran in the past” and he “believe[s] sanctions were an important tool for bringing Iran to the negotiating table.” It is neither socialist nor particularly democratic, in our humble opinion, to make workers of another country suffer in a mistaken belief that doing so would help bring their government to “the negotiating table,” treating our fellow workers abroad as a means, not an end. An injury to one is an injury to all, and an injury to workers in Iran, Venezuela, North Korea is an injury to all workers, including those in the US. What would a democratic socialist foreign policy look like if it were based on such a principle? Is there really room for one in the Democratic Party?

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