The US election
This issue of LALKAR is unusually late for the sole reason that we wanted to report on the US Presidential that took place on 3 November but whose result was delayed because of the time taken in processing the large volume of mailed-in votes in the crucial swing states. At the time of writing this article (7 November) the news has come in that, consequent upon his victory in Pennsylvania, Joe Biden has managed to cross the magic number of 270 electoral college votes and, as a result, has become the 46th President of the United States. At the age of 77, he is the oldest person ever to be elected to that office.
Donald Trump, for his part, has so far refused to concede and is threatening legal action on grounds of fraudulent and irregular electoral practice, claiming that the Democrats are attempting to steal the Presidency from him. As things stand, it is unlikely he would succeed in such legal action.
Be that as it may, let us look at what the two contenders and their parties stand for, the interests of which class they represent, and if there is any reason for the US working class and masses elsewhere to support either of them.
It has been our stance that whichever candidate wins the election, he will be the chief political representative of US imperialism, who will rule on behalf of the US monopoly capitalist class. The election has been an opportunity for voters to choose between two slave masters, each of whom represents the combined interests of Wall Street bankers, monopoly corporations, the military-industrial-prison complex and the national security establishment. It has been an exercise in legitimising US imperialism. There is nothing democratic about an electoral process if it costs $11 billion to finance – only the moneybags and their chosen and trusted flunkeys can hope to win such a contest.
Whatever their rhetoric, the Republican and Democratic parties are parties of US imperialism. They are both subservient to the American ruling class. The Democrats hide their subservience to US imperialism under the façade of identity politics, which serves to deceive and divide the masses, leading them astray and away from class politics. Even in this sphere, their practice contradicts their words. While talking about women’s equality and the rights of sexual minorities, they are fervent supporters of the Saudi monarchy and suchlike medieval regimes which oppress women and where homosexuality is a crime; while talking about the rights of immigrants, Democrat President Obama, under whom Biden served as Vice President, during his 8 years in office expelled more ‘undocumented’ workers from the US than did his three predecessors put together; while pretending to stand for social justice and equality, the Obama-Biden administration during its time in office was instrumental in the mass incarceration of large numbers of black and Latino youths.
Both the parties support the unjust and brutal war being waged by Saudi Arabia and the UAE against the people of Yemen – a war that has inflicted death, destruction and misery on the Yemeni people. Both these parties supported, and waged, criminal wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, killing millions of innocent people, displacing several million more, destroying their economies, overthrowing their legitimate governments and, in the case of Iraq, murdering their leader. Both parties support police brutality and internal oppression at home and wars abroad in furtherance of US imperialist domination.
Republicans use the American flag and the Bible as a means of covering up their free-market fundamentalism, at the same time appealing to the victims of exploitation, export of capital and outsourcing of jobs. In addition they appeal to racism and xenophobia in a society they helped to fracture. They stand for a completely privatised economy, reduction of taxes on the wealthy, elimination of social benefits for the poor, and elimination of regulations which stand in the way of unfettered exploitation of labour by capital.
In sum, these are two imperialist parties which alternate with each other to serve as executive committees to manage the affairs of US imperialism.
The fact that both these parties are imperialist outfits has not proved a hurdle to some ‘progressives’ seeking to characterise the Democratic party as being ‘left’ and supporting Joe Biden in the election. These contemptible creatures can only do so by ignoring the actual record of the Democratic party and of Biden himself who is an unapologetic warmonger. He is a self-professed Zionist and a fervent supporter of the powerful US Zionist lobby group AIPAC. He was Obama’s representative in the aftermath of the 2014 coup in Ukraine that yoked the country to the IMF and instigated a civil war. He supported the war against Libya which destroyed that country, in the process overthrowing and murdering its leader, Colonel Gaddafi. He was complicit in the war in Syria and the war in Yemen, and he supported the US pivot to Asia which is aimed at encircling the People’s Republic of China. As a US Senator, he supported Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia and Bush’s war in Iraq.
In the second Presidential debate, he characterised the leaders of China, Russia and the DPRK as ‘thugs’.
At home, his is a ‘law and order’ man. He also supports fracking. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Trump, for his part, was astute enough to exploit people’s hatred of Washington’s swamp of corruption, of immigrants and of endless wars abroad to defeat the despicable warmonger, Hillary Clinton. Having been elected, however, he failed to fulfil most of his promises. While his promise to bring back American jobs remains unfulfilled (and was bound to remain so, given that export of capital is one of the chief characteristics of imperialism), he did manage to secure $1.5tn in tax cuts for the rich and the giant monopoly corporations which would have to be paid for by cutting social security and Medicare if he were to have been elected for a second term. Under his watch, the Pentagon’s budget has seen a steep rise, now reaching $750bn. His economic policy is a byword for the defence of US monopoly capital on steroids and deregulation in the field of finance, food standards and fossil fuel, hand-in-hand with repression to control the rising anger against racial injustice and rising inequality.
His administration has made a hash of dealing with the deadly Covid-19 epidemic, allowing it to spread across the US. Of the 30 million people in the world infected with Covid, close to 7 million are in the US, and of the 1 million deaths across the globe, 230,000 are in the US. Thus with 4% of the global population, the US accounts for 20% of infections and fatalities.
The day after the election,, the US recorded 100,000 new Covid cases – a record – and more than 1,000 deaths.
By the time of the inauguration of the newly-elected President on 20 January, Covid is projected to have killed 350,000 Americans.
Trump s a fervent supporter of Zionism (no different from the Democrats), has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognised the Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights and brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE, pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord, imposed draconian sanctions on Iran and assassinated the formidable Iranian general Suleimani on Iraqi soil. He continues with his attempts to strangle Cuba and Venezuela. He has been waging an economic war against China in a vain attempt to thwart China’s rise. He is attempting to get Julian Assange extradited to the US for no other reason than that Assange exposed the war crimes of US imperialism.
Thus it is clear that the working class has nothing good to expect at the hands of the winner of this contest. The ‘American dream’ has truly turned into a nightmare. It is high time the US proletariat faced reality and jettisoned its faith in the illusionary bourgeois politics of falsehood and deception. Capitalism is the cause of its problems, which the two main parties in the US are unfit by their very nature to solve. And, no candidate representing the interests of the working class was on the ballot paper.
This election has been a tight race. If Joe Biden polled 74 million votes, more than any previous presidential candidate in US history, Trump too secured 70 million votes despite inflaming racial tensions, neglecting Americans during the Covid pandemic, presiding over Covid-related and other job losses that have caused an estimated 15 million Americans to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance.
Employment in the US stood at 141.7 million in September, representing a 6.4% drop compared with 12 months erlier, and 2.2% below the level when Trump assumed the Presidency. All this happened during the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, leaving the US with 10.7 million fewer jobs than in February this year. Unemployment in the US today stands at 7.9% of the workforce – 4.4% higher than in February. Blue-collar workers have, among other reasons, been displaced by trade, globalisation, automation and trade wars waged by Trump which have backfired. The US fiscal and trade deficits are higher than ever, and its infrastructure is in a shambles.
In view of all of the above, how are we to explain the massive electoral support for Trump; how is it that 45% of the US public support, and even admire, Trump who revels in divisiveness? The answer is that he unashamedly and unapologetically focused on his base into whose grievances he was able to tap. These are people who are victims of globalisation and the consequent job losses and reduction in earnings. The Obama presidency, while splashing hundreds of billions of dollars on the banks and large corporations after the 2008 near-meltdown of the economy and worst-ever crisis of imperialism, did nothing for the poor and middle sections of society. The Democrats’ obsession with identity politics – gay rights, same-sex marriage and the question of transgenders – do not exactly enthuse the working class to flock to their camp.
Trump was able to pose as an opponent of the endless wars waged by the US, especially by withdrawing most of the US troops from Afghanistan, a war with which most of the American public are fed up. In places like Florida and Texas he secured the support of Latino voters because of the latter’s rabid hatred of Cuba and the Maduro government in Venezuela.
Then there is the huge bloc of Evangelical votes, constituting the biggest section of Trump supporters who perceive the Democrats – wrongly in our view – as anti-religion, anti-Bible, anti-police and anti-everything they believe to be American. The Evangelists appeal also to a fairly large number of black voters who gave Trump twice as much support this time than they did in 2016, with 12% of them voting for him as opposed to 6% last time.
A large percentage of well-off people voted for Trump, as did those who did not hold college degrees. With his anti-China rhetoric and trade war, he was able to persuade the gullible that he was fighting to secure their livelihoods and bring back jobs to the US. The farming lobby supported him for he projected himself as their champion, as indeed he did with regard to coal miners.
On top of all this, the Democrats were stunned when in 1916 Trump defeated Hillary Clinton, that despicable warmonger, in the race for the White House. Instead of making a serious analysis of the cause of their defeat, they came up with the crazy idea that Trump only became President because of alleged interference in the American ‘democratic process’ by Russia. Starting from this false premise, they spent four years trying to frustrate Trump’s attempt to befriend Russia, withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and reduce their number in Syria, as well as to impeach him through the Russiagate and Ukrainegate witch-hunts whose dual purpose was to thwart détente and remove him from the Presidency. They succeeded in the first of these objectives but failed in the second because of the Republican control of the Senate. What the Democrats achieved by their stance was to solidify Trump’s base of supporters who felt that ‘their man’ was the target of partisan false allegations.
A beneficial side effect of the Democrats’ conduct was to impugn the American electoral process. Now Trump is paying them back by threatening legal proceedings against Biden’s victory on grounds of fraud which, he alleges, enabled them to steal the election from him. He has been preparing the ground for this challenge for quite a while, asserting that there was no way he could lose the election except on the basis of fraud, irregularities and malpractice. Thus the US, which has for decades interfered in the elections of dozens of foreign countries, arrogating to itself the role of arbiter of their fairness, finds itself in the midst of a hilarious row as to whether the 2020 election was free and fair, and whether or not it was tainted with fraud. The people of countries which have hitherto been the victims of US arrogance can be forgiven for enjoying the spectacle of the two major bourgeois parties of the foremost imperialist power quarrelling over the victory of the president-elect and whether it was secured by fraud.
A large number of Trump’s supporters are believed to be armed and ready to use their weapons against Trump’s opponents. Many shops and businesses, expecting trouble, have boarded up their premises.
The US has become a beleaguered and deeply divided society – more so than ever since 1945. Bourgeois democracy needs two parties which take turns to assume office through elections and thus give the appearance of change in order to delude the masses into believing that the change will be to their benefit. Serious bourgeois analysts are worried that the US might be in danger of losing the charade of the two-party system.
Failing Trump’s successful legal objection, Biden will be confirmed as the US President. He will inherit a country that will be hard to govern, particularly if the Republicans have a majority in the Senate, which is very likely. The likely Republican majority in the Senate will frustrate every piece of legislation sought to be enacted by Biden and the House of Representatives where the Democrats wield a majority. As a result of this, any possible attempt by Democrats to pack the Supreme Court with extra justices, confer statehood on Washington, or increase business taxes will get short shrift. Any idea (highly unlikely) that the Democrats would introduce legislation to give some minor relief to the poor will likewise be seen off by the Senate. Thus, the replacement of one president by another will produce nothing but stalemate.
One question that we must deal with in the last part of this article is that, considering what Trump has done for the super-rich during his term of office, why is he hated with such venom by the US Establishment and a number of other imperialist countries? While the Soviet Union existed, the hallmark of US presidents was anti-Sovietism, combined with a pro-European integration and pro-trade policy, hand in hand with military intervention abroad through organisations such as the warmongering neo-Nazi Nato alliance. In this Pax Americana there was cohesion in the imperialist camp. The American policy was clear and the US was a knowable master. Its allies and client states could plan accordingly. Since the collapse of the USSR, however, the former cohesion of the imperialist bloc has given way to volatility and fecklessness, thereby curbing the ability of the US to be its lynchpin and anchor.
Trump’s accession to the Presidency in 2016 greatly accelerated the process of the disintegration of the imperialist camp. Since the end of the Second World War, the US has been regarded in the imperialist camp as an exemplary functioning ‘liberal democracy’, a leader of countries that share its values; and as an indispensable participant in the resolution of any major global challenge. Trump’s four years in office have greatly damaged, if not completely undermined, these roles. Another four years under his Presidency, according to the defenders of US domination, would have been transformative – only not for the better – for the US’s hegemonic role.
The defenders of US domination assert, notwithstanding its criminal wars abroad, that its allies trusted the US because of its alleged adherence to the rules of ‘liberal democracy’. But Mr Trump, his critics maintain, rejects all that.
Mr Trump, wrote Martin Wolf in the Financial Times of 28 October 2020 (‘US global role at stake in this election’) “runs a corrupt, malevolent and incompetent government, lies more easily than he breathes and even campaigns against the notion that he could lose in a free and fair election. Thus he ransacks every norm of a decent democracy, on a daily basis.”
Further, wrote Mr Wolf, Trump is “… indifferent to past US promises, rejects multilateralism” and happily pulls out of commitments and institutions.
If Trump were to win in 2020, wrote Mr Wolf, “...US credibility would be shattered; its leadership of the alliance of democracies [i.e., junior imperialist powers and satellites] would be over”, just when “…US leadership is needed more than ever, given the rising power of the ‘increasingly autocratic China’.”
Towards the end of his article, Mr Wolf turns pessimistic, saying that even Trump’s defeat would not put an end to the “threat of US retreat” for the “marriage of solipsistic wealth to white middle class rage would persist. Whatever happens in the election, the US rule in the world wil remain in question”, for the reason that if it comes to be perceived that the People’s Republic of China has controlled coronavirus and escaped economic recession, while the US is engulfed by both, “the signal to the rest of the globe would be unmistakeable”, namely, that “autocracy” [Mr Wolf’s expression for the Communist Party of China which presides over an economy with a large state sector] is, in the words of Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times of the same date, a “surer source of prosperity and order” (‘Incompetence is the real threat to democracy’).
Other bourgeois commentators of Mr Wolf’s ilk agree that a Trump win could only be a harbinger of further disintegration of the imperialist camp; that it could be a crushing blow to the imperialist bloc (euphemistically referred to by bourgeois writers as ‘the club of liberal democracies known loosely as the West’); that it could only persuade other countries to align with a more predictable superpower, i.e., China; that they would contrast US perfidy with the stable nature of Chinese statecraft. They are all of the opinion that during his four years in the Oval office Trump has sullied what they consider to be the grandest office on earth, i.e., the headquarters of bloodthirsty US imperialism. They hate him because his foreign policy was unorthodox, impulsive and unpredictable; because he wanted to improve relations with the Russian Federation; because he held meetings with Kim Jong Un, the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; because he exposed the fake media in the US and in Britain.
Taking the long view, geopolitical considerations into account, and the interests of the proletariat and oppressed people, for exactly the same reasons expressed by Martin Wolf and other writers from the same stable, we come to the opposite conclusion. We believe a victory for Trump would have been better, for it would have better served to accelerate the unravelling of the bloc made up of a tiny group of imperialist bloodsuckers known as the ‘western democracies’ operating under the deceptive slogans of freedom, human rights and the rule of law, while stamping these under their jackboot at every turn.