The sixth of January 2021, the day set for the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the US presidential election of 3 November 2020, witnessed extraordinary events in Washington. In an effort to stop Biden’s certification by Congress going ahead, hundreds of supporters of outgoing president Donald Trump stormed the seat of the US Congress on Capitol Hill.
It was a motley crew, ranging from ordinary angry people to the most weird. A few carried confederate battle flags from the civil war; one was a QAnon Shaman (QAnon being an organisation that champions a conspiracy theory to the effect the a paedophile cult runs the deep state) – an Arizonan by the name of Jack Angeli who calls himself Yellowstone Worf, bare-chested, heavily tattooed and wearing a fur hat with buffalo horns; some were anti-government militia members wearing tactical gear; some were white supremacists. Some of the attackers carried arms; others waved ‘Make America Great Again’ (MAGA) flags; some wore bullet-proof vests over paramilitary outfits.
The attackers broke windows and looted offices (speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was trashed), and there were running battles in the halls of the Congress. Those taking part in the assault shouted slogans such as ‘Stop the steal’, ‘Heads on the pikes’, ‘God, guns and Trump’, ‘Our House, our House’, ‘We want our country back’, and ‘We want our freedom right now’.
Hours later, after the crowd had been cleared out of the building, five people lay dead, including a police officer, while other officers had suffered injuries. Among the dead was Ashli Babbitt, an air force veteran who was shot by a police officer as she tried to force her way into the building.
Pictures of the attack on the Capitol quickly spread across the world. Since the attack, two police officers have been suspended: one had allegedly been taking ‘selfies’ with the attackers while the second had put on a ‘MAGA’ hat as he was seen apparently giving directions to the protestors. A further 10-15 officers are under investigation.
These images go some way to explaining how it was that the Capitol building was so easily breached. This light-touch policing of the Capitol Hill incident – with hardly any police resistance – presents a stark contrast to the policing of antiracist Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors in Washington in June 2020, when heavily-armed police flooded the city and military helicopters buzzed overhead.
Photos show armed police lining up on the steps of the Lincoln memorial during the BLM protests, with protestors arrested, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed and shot at with rubber bullets for doing no more than taking part in a peaceful protest or taking up space-blocking intersections. The hypocrisy and double standards in US policing were all too obviously on show on 6 January.
Even Joe Biden was obliged to say: “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of BLM protestors yesterday, they would not have been treated very, very differently from the mob of thugs who stormed the Capitol.”
Biden was correct. The mob that stormed Congress was allowed to leave the Capitol complex without being charged. Not without reason do some refer to the Capitol police as ‘the last plantation’.
The crowd invading the Capitol consisted mostly of the angry left-behinds mobilised by Trump, who has skilfully tapped into their grievances and concerns. A few hours before they stormed the legislature, the crowd had been addressed by Mr Trump, who stood outside the White House and said: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Most of those participating in the assault believed that the election had been stolen by Mr Biden and that, therefore, its declared result should not be endorsed by Congress. They had been repeatedly told by Trump even before the election that he could be deprived of victory only by fraudulent and unfair electoral means. After losing the election, he persisted with his assertions through the courts, losing at each step.
Trump attempted to press the authorities in several states to nullify the results there. On 2 January he went to the length of urging Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes in his favour so as to overturn the result there. In a telephone conversation that was quickly leaked to the Washington Post, Trump attempted to persuade Mr Raffensperger through a mixture of cajolery and threats – but to no avail.
As a last resort, Mr Trump did his best to get vice-president Mike Pence to refuse to endorse the result. When that attempt failed, all he was left with was to incite his hardcore followers to interrupt the confirmation proceedings, which is just what some of them did on 6 January.
He told them: “We love you,” declaring that his supporters “will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form”.
After the 6 January events, Trump tried to row back on some of his rhetoric. As the national guard filled the corridors of the Capitol building ahead of the electoral college vote count, he announced in a brief written statement: “In the light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there be no violence, no lawbreaking and no vandalism of any kind.”
Many of his supporters felt betrayed by this concession, one of them saying that he felt as though he had received a “punch in the gut”.
Biden’s confirmation and inauguration
In the end, Biden’s electoral victory was endorsed by Congress and he was duly inaugurated as the 46th president of the USA on 13 January. His inauguration was accompanied by the militarisation of Washington – 25,000 army personnel, with khaki vans and full camouflage, swarmed over the surrounding area.
As a matter of precaution against the possibility that some national guardsmen might try to turn their guns on President Biden, the military was asked to confiscate their ammunition during the ceremony. Twelve members of the national guard were pulled from the force and sent home, such is the lack of trust of the establishment in the loyalty of this force.
Trump a symptom
While Donald Trump is being blamed for every ill by the media and by a large section of the imperialist establishment in the US and elsewhere, the truth is that Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause of the disarray that now characterises the US political establishment and US society in general.
Trump received 75 million votes in the election. These 75 million people voted for him notwithstanding his incompetence, his crudity and intemperate language, and his administration’s total mishandling of the covid pandemic.
According to a survey by YouGov, 45 percent of Republican voters supported the attack on the Capitol. Only 27 percent of them considered the 6 January attack to have been a threat to democracy. More than half (147) of Republican congressmen and eight Republican senators voted to nullify the presidential election after the Capitol attack.
Trump’s base remains in lockstep with him. As a result, mainstream Republicans face an open-ended struggle with the Trumpists inside the party – the very people they have flirted with for so long. Many of these party heavyweights are likely to be hounded notwithstanding their past services and servility to Trump when in office. Trump is certainly not planning a quiet retreat to the Florida sunshine. He has already amassed a $200m war chest to challenge his Republican adversaries in their primaries.
All the signs are that conditions of near civil war will erupt between Trump loyalists and his critics inside the Republican party. The latter have on their hands the problem of their relationship with Mr Trump and his family, who have threatened to crush any Republican who failed to support Trump’s attempt to overturn the election result.
With the corporate bosses and the very rich, having reaped the benefits of Trump’s fabulous tax cuts and deregulation, threatening to cut off campaign donations unless Trump is sidelined, the Republican ‘moderates’ are on the horns of a dilemma, knowing all too well that electoral success in the USA depends on big money. Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, meanwhile, the architects of the Senate revolt against Biden’s victory, are unrepentant.
As to relations with the Democratic party, the Republicans are divided between those who want to cooperate in Congress and those who want to obstruct and make the Biden administration fail.
Meanwhile, Trump is only too likely to continue to incite and enflame his followers and give leadership to his faction, thus rendering the possibility of Republican unity virtually impossible. Although his faction and the mainstream are in agreement on the questions of low taxes and deregulation, there is very little else that unites them.
Trump is by no means as weird or ‘outlying’ as he is made out to be by the corporate media. He is the latest in a series of people in authority in the US whose thinking and values can be traced back through the ages – even to the founding of the US republic, built as it was on slavery and genocide.
While native Americans were being hunted almost to extinction, tens of millions of Africans were torn away from their homelands and forcibly brought to the US, there to work on land stolen from the original inhabitants, thus creating through their blood and sweat fabulous riches for the slaveowners – including the ‘founding fathers’ of the USA.
Racism is inherent in US society, and the ruling exploiting class is both unable and unwilling to eliminate it.
Only a working-class victory in America will ensure the elimination of racism and of exploitation alike. It is only in conditions where the working-class movement is so weak that right-wing populists have been able to tap into the grievances and anger of Americans who have been left behind, with a standard of life that is either stagnant or falling fast while a tiny minority get richer by the day, enabling them to assume the leadership of this huge mass.
Those on the ‘left’ who seek salvation for the masses of the American people through the Democratic party are not only barking up the wrong tree; they are in truth reactionaries camouflaging their plausible lies behind ‘left’ phrases to mislead the working class.
In the immediate future, Donald Trump’s army of followers may disperse but it is unlikely to be disbanded. The Democrats, in their blind, foolhardy and self-defeating attempt to impeach Trump a second time, are only playing into his hands.
The more likely result will be to reinforce and strengthen support for Trump among his base, who feel he is being victimised. In the words of Trump, these proceedings are “causing tremendous anger … and represent tremendous danger to our country”.
Trump is often accused of weaponising the politics of racial division. No doubt he has. He positively praised racist marchers in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, equating them with their antifascist opponents and saying there were “very many fine people on both sides”.
In this, he shares the crown with the two political parties of the US bourgeoisie. Confining ourselves to the Republican party, the latter has since the mid-1960s been using dog-whistle racist tactics to attract electoral support so it can deliver tax cuts and deregulation to the rich.
Some sensitive souls were upset by the sight of one of the 6 January participants wearing a hat with buffalo horns. This was by way of tribute to ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, a white supremacist par excellence who earned his name in the 1870s when in a single 18-month stretch he claimed to have slaughtered 4,280 buffalo – with the sole aim of wiping out the native American population that depended on them for living.
This was done in accordance with plans drawn up by Major General Philip Sheridan – the man charged with forcing native Americans off the Great Plains and into the reservations, there to live in perpetual poverty, misery and destitution. Sheridan said: “Kill every buffalo you can. Every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”
This is how, following the American civil war, the west of the country was conquered and the US expanded all the way to the Pacific coast. By contrast with these criminals, someone wearing a buffalo hat today is a harmless caricature of the dreadful past that laid the basis for American capitalist expansionism.
Nor should anyone, especially those claiming to be ‘left’, fall for the actions taken by the tech giants to close Trump’s social media accounts. These monopoly capitalist hounds are, in the days to come as the class struggle sharpens – as it is bound to do – sure as hell going to be targeting the working-class movement and its leadership, in the US and all across the world.
Our ability to spread the truth amongst the masses must not be handed over to the whims of the likes of Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Larry Page and co.
Trump’s hollow promises
Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016 by promising to pull US troops out of America’s “never-ending wars”, to improve relations with Russia, to build a wall on the US-Mexican border, to reduce the US’s trade deficit, to repatriate industrial production and jobs to the US, to drain the Washington swamp, to ensure that the forgotten men and women of America would be forgotten no more, and to “make America great again”.
Most of his campaign promises were unrealised by the end of his four-year term. In the face of establishment opposition, he was unable to pull all US troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Equally, he failed to improve relations with Russia.
He was able to have built only 452 miles of the wall on the Mexican border with the US (using military funds, not making Mexico pay for it as he had boasted he would during his 2016 election campaign) – all but 47 miles of which are merely a replacement for existing lower security or dilapidated barriers. The full length of the US-Mexico border is 1,950 miles.
He waged a trade war against China that hardly dented the US trade deficit. With Republican support, he managed to enact $1.5tn of tax cuts, mostly benefiting the rich, and to deregulate the US economy to an even greater extent than before. Most of the money ‘liberated’ from the taxman poured into the stock market, causing a bull run instead of resulting in the relocation of industry to the US.
He pulled the US out of the World Health Organisation, the Paris Accord on Climate Change, and the nuclear deal with Iran, provocatively ordered the murder of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by drone, and gave a green light to the zionist crusade of aggression and annexation in the middle east.
The only positive thing to his credit is that he did not start a new war, the first US president many years not to have done so. For that he was also hated by the establishment, as he was for undermining the US’s military and economic alliances abroad.
Far from having brought prosperity to the forgotten left-behinds, Trump leaves office amid a rising tide of destitution that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans queuing up at food banks.
His handling of the covid pandemic was so grotesque that the US alone accounts for a quarter of global infections (25 million) and a quarter of global fatalities (430,000). Had his government dealt with the coronavirus competently and with concern for ordinary people’s health, then, notwithstanding his failure in other areas, there was a good chance that he would have been re-elected.
Biden’s likely trajectory
And so we come to Joe Biden. The ‘liberal’ establishment and its ‘left’ hangers-on are pinning their hopes on this new messiah, but they are soon to be cruelly disabused of their illusions, just as they were – or should have been – following the presidency of Barack Obama.
Biden will certainly be far better at coping with the covid pandemic than was Trump; he has signed executive orders to re-join the Paris Accord and the WHO. These are fairly non-controversial issues.
On matters such as US relations with Russia and China, Biden can be expected to further intensify hostilities against these two countries, albeit using slyer tactics and more temperate language than his predecessor.
Biden promised during his inaugural address to “restore the trust” of US allies; he could thus prove far more dangerous than Trump, who, whatever his intentions, undermined these alliances and weakened many of the positions of US imperialism. Whether he can succeed in this regard is far from certain, however, since the allies no longer trust any US administration after their experience with Trump.
The European Union’s investment treaty with the People’s Republic of China, concluded at the end of 2020 despite pressure from the Biden team to slow down negotiations, is indicative of the distrust of the US within the EU camp, and of the US’s waning influence around the world.
The determination of the German government, headed by Angela Merkel, to push ahead with the completion of the NordStream gas pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany, flying in the face of heavy US pressure and sanctions, is an equally eloquent proof of declining US power and influence, as well as of the mistrust now felt towards the US by this formerly staunch ally – and one of Europe’s most powerful countries.
Biden will be just as committed to supporting Israeli zionism as Trump was. Although during his campaign he promised to re-join the Iran nuclear accord (the JCPOA), it remains to be seen whether he will stick to this promise. It is our view that he is unlikely to do so.
Indeed, the new Biden administration has already started demanding changes to that accord, which will certain not be acceptable to Tehran. Besides, in the dying days of the Trump administration, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo designated Iran as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ – just another grenade thrown in the path of Biden pursuing the path of re-joining the JCPOA.
During his election campaign, Mr Biden referred to the leaders of Russia, China and north Korea (the DPRK) as ‘thugs’, which hardly augurs well for the likelihood of improved relations with those countries. His choice of personnel for important posts in the new administration likewise indicates that we are unlikely to see a lessening of international tensions and conflict. Besides, a few days before leaving office, Trump imposed extra sanctions on Chinese companies so as to make it more difficult for the Biden administration to row back on them.
During his confirmation hearing, new secretary of state Tony Blinken stated that Trump was right to be tougher on China, characterising China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang as “genocide” – something which even the Trump administration was not so lunatic as to suggest! On top of all this, Biden has appointed Kurt Campbell as an adviser on Asian policies – a man notorious for his hostility toward China.
Biden has also promised to restore public trust in the US government, to reduce income inequality and racial disparities; to unite people and end the ‘uncivil war’ ravaging the country; to improve health, education and infrastructure.
Neither economic nor political conditions will permit the fulfilment of these rosy promises. The USA is a power on the decline, and its economy is no longer as strong as it once was. The only things that keep it going are its military might and the power of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.
Waging as it does unjust and aggressive wars, the US is unable to win despite all its military hardware. From Korea to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has lost every war it has launched. People everywhere are rising up against imperialist domination and defying the imperialist war machines.
As for the economy, US indebtedness, and fiscal and trade deficits, are combining to cause a loss of confidence in the dollar. The US has been able for decades to spend with abandon through borrowing, but this merry-go-round now threatens to come to a juddering halt.
Today, government debt alone in the USA stands at $27.8tn and GDP growth is not keeping up sufficiently to enable payment of the interest, let alone the principal, on this gargantuan debt. The moment that cheap interest rates, created through quantitative easing, begin to be reversed, the truth will out – with fearful consequences.
Confidence in the dollar will continue to erode. Already a number of countries, including China and Russia, have begun to set up alternative modes of payment for their trading transactions.
These developments are contributing to the decline of US domination. It was far easier for Mr Biden to say during his inauguration speech that it was “time to reward hard work in America – not wealth” than it will be for his government to fulfil this promise.
In his inauguration address, Biden said: “We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” He ‘forgot’ to add that America’s power is declining rapidly, hand in hand with its ability to lead by example.
One need look no further back than the presidential election of November 2020: Trump, the losing candidate, claimed fraud on the part of the Democratic party and refused to accept the result, ending in the assault on Capitol Hill. If Mr Biden still thinks America is in a position to lead by the power of its example, he certainly has a strange sense of humour!
The ghost of Trump
Following Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election and his replacement by Joe Biden, the ghost of Trump will continue to haunt US imperialism.
Although every attempt is being made by a coalition of the deep state, the military-industrial complex, the media, the Democratic party’s leadership and some elements within the Republican party to turn Trump into a non-entity, he looks set to continue being a thorn in the side of the establishment.
The very people who tolerated, collaborated with, and heaped praise on Trump over the years have suddenly turned against him, including prominent Republican leaders such as Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan (former Republican leader in the Senate), and John Boehner (former Congress speaker).
The extremely reactionary National Association of Manufacturers called upon vice-president Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump as being unfit to hold the office of president. Steve Schwarzman, the powerful cofounder of private equity group Blackstone, has also jumped on the anti-Trump bandwagon.
Big business has threatened to withhold campaign cash unless the Republican party repudiates Trump, and New York city has cut its business ties with him. Twitter and Facebook had barred the former president from their platforms before he had even left office, while Apple, Google and Amazon have all taken steps to clamp down on Parler, the platform used by many of his supporters.
Trump had 88 million followers on Twitter, a position he objectively used, notwithstanding his contrary intentions, to undermine the power of America’s much-touted ‘democracy’. He thus did serious damage to the ability of the US to interfere everywhere abroad in the name of ‘promoting democracy and freedom’, the ‘rule of law’, ‘human rights’, etc – ie, its ability to interfere in the internal affairs of countries whose governments and policies it does not approve of.
It is not lost on the outside world that a country that cannot protect its own institutions and ‘democracy’ is hardly in a position to be lecturing others.
On 13 January, just one week after the events on Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives, with the Democrats leading the charge, passed a resolution in favour of impeaching Trump on a charge of ‘incitement to insurrection’ by a majority of 232 to 197. Ten Republicans voted for this resolution, including Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice-president and war criminal Dick Cheney.
The articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate on 25 January to initiate Trump’s trial. He is only the third US president in history to be impeached, and the only one to be impeached twice (the first time being in 2019). If convicted by the Senate, he would be the first US president to have met that fate. Since 17 Republican senators have to vote for his conviction, however, it seems unlikely that the prosecution will succeed.
If convicted, Trump would be barred from running for office in the future, which seems to be the only purpose motivating his opponents, since he has already vacated the White House and is no longer president. Not surprisingly, then, Donald Trump has characterised the proceedings, albeit hyperbolically, as a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt in the history of politics”.
The Democratic party has been after Trump’s impeachment ever since his election to the presidency in 2016. It first succeed in this endeavour in 2019, long before the January 2021 assault on the Capitol.
No such assault on ‘US democracy’ and its ‘democratic institutions’ was needed to justify the impeachment proceedings of 2019. Unable to explain or rationalise the defeat of the despicable war criminal Hillary Clinton in 2016, the Democrats embarked on a campaign to discredit Trump’s victory, attributing the result to alleged ‘Russian interference’ in the ‘democratic’ American electoral process. This time round, Trump obliged them with a return match, alleging that the election had been stolen by them from him!
It is a sign of the internal decay of US imperialism that the two main parties of US monopoly capital cannot agree with each other even on basic electoral rules and procedures.
The US economy is in decline – a decline accelerated by the covid pandemic. Its alliances abroad are falling apart, hand in hand with the disintegration of its internal cohesion.
“Financial growth built on asset bubbles” is not the way forward, wrote Rana Faroohar in the Financial Times after the Capitol assault, adding: “The future of US liberal democracy rests on the creation of a stable political economy – one that generates more and better jobs for the people who might otherwise be tempted to support the next home-grown autocrat.” (Why investors shrugged off the US riots, 11 January 2021)
If only imperialism were not imperialism! If only imperialism could provide peace, prosperity and happiness!
Penning the above, Ms Faroohar may have displayed her inordinate petty-bourgeois proclivities, but she has provided no answer to the crisis of imperialism.
The US is no longer the dominant and indispensable power in the world; it now has to share the stage with China, the EU, and even to a certain extent India.
The continuing decline of US power and dominance is furnishing excellent opportunities for workers in the imperialist centres and the oppressed peoples of the world. They must rise to the challenge of overthrowing imperialism, putting an end to the capitalist system of production and establishing socialism.
This is the only way forward to the liberation of humanity.