I had originally planned to deal with the current state of the industrial cycle in this post. I assumed I would make a few passing comments on the U.S. mid-term elections and then go into the economic analysis. However, it became clear that the political crisis gripping the U.S. has reached a new stage. At the same time, the industrial cycle that began with the Great Recession of 2007-09 has now entered its terminal stage.
I have therefore decided to begin with the political crisis this month and, events allowing, examine the terminal stage of the current industrial cycle next month. One way or another, the interaction between the political crisis represented by Trump’s rise to power and the developing cyclical economic crisis will dominate national and global politics between now and the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
This blog has centered on capitalist economic crises, especially the periodic crises of overproduction. The industrial cycle with its periodic crises of overproduction and the political crises and wars that can turn into revolutions – or counterrevolutions – are closely intertwined in ways that are not always obvious.
For example, I have examined the hidden relationship between the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 and the Great Depression of the 1930s. I concluded that World War I by raising the already high “golden” market prices (1) of commodities relative to their “golden” prices of production radically depressed gold production for about 15 years. This development led to the transformation of the cyclical crisis beginning in 1929 into the Great Depression of the 1930s. (2)
I have also examined the close relationship between the changes in the industrial cycle and the rise of fascism in Germany in the early 1930s. The size of the Nazi vote responded in lockstep to the changes in the industrial cycle between 1928 and 1933. In 1929, the Nazi vote rose in local elections as the German economy began to weaken in direct response to the growing money crunch on the New York money market caused by the U.S. industrial and stock market boom. The Nazi vote then exploded in 1930 as the money crunch gave way to a deep global recession that hit debt-ridden Germany especially hard.
The American-Central European banking crisis of 1931 transformed the 1929-30 global recession into what I have called the “super-crisis.” (3) The super-crisis continued to deepen in Germany until about July 1932. (4) As the economic catastrophe deepened in Germany, the Nazi vote continued to rise. The Nazis made an initial breakthrough in the national election of September 1930, where they gained 18.3 percent of the vote. In the election held in July 1932, their vote reached 37.3 percent, which proved to be the electoral high point of the Nazi movement.
In November 1932, the last election held in Germany before Hitler came to power, the Nazi vote dropped to 33.1 percent. By then, the cyclical low point of the super-crisis in Germany had passed. However, the political crisis gripping Germany instead of easing reached its climax. The resolution of the German political crisis to no small extent determined the course of the global – not just the German – class struggle for the rest of the 20th century.
The election of November 1932 brought both a drop in the Nazi vote and a rise in the Communist vote. In the July 1932 election, the Communists won 14.6 percent of the total, while in the November election they won 16.9 percent. Even in the distorted mirror of the elections, the relationship of forces had begun to shift away from the Nazis toward the Communists.
Within the German working-class movement, the relationship of forces also shifted from the Social Democracy toward the Communists. In the July 1932 election, the Social Democrats won 24.5 percent of the votes cast. But in November, their vote dropped to 20.4 percent. As the economic upturn gained momentum, the Communist Party was poised to replace the Social Democratic Party as the largest labor-based party in Germany. The reason was that many radicalized unemployed working-class youth joining the Communist Party, or at least strongly attracted to it, were being drawn into the factories that were were beginning to step up production.
The German capitalist ruling class now desperately wanted to form a “strong government” capable of waging war on the Soviet Union and on any imperialist country that sought to interfere with Germany’s coming showdown with the Soviet workers’ state. But it was unthinkable that German imperialism could wage an anti-Soviet war if there was a strong pro-Soviet working-class party in Germany. If the German Communist Party wasn’t crushed, a war with the Soviet Union would likely be transformed into a class war within Germany that would end with a German socialist revolution.
For this reason, the German capitalists had encouraged the Nazi movement, which was waging war on the German Communists. It became increasingly obvious that the German capitalists could not form a strong government without Nazi participation. However, the German ruling class was reluctant to hand over power to the self-educated Hitler and his “plebeian” and violent mass fascist movement. With the economic recovery beginning, the German ruling class realized that the fascist movement would continue to ebb while the Communist Party would grow stronger as the new generation of radicalized young workers found industrial jobs.
Hitler took advantage of this situation by demanding the chancellorship. When the Nazis were brought into a coalition government, the labor-based parties were the majority, but Hitler had the chancellorship and a mass movement behind him that the traditional reactionaries lacked. We all know what happened next.
Both the current economic and political situations differ from the conditions that prevailed in 1933 when Hitler came to power in Germany. However, the installation (5) of the far-right demagogue Donald Trump and the election of other far-right figures in a whole series of capitalist countries – most recently in Brazil – has raised the question of whether a new wave of fascism is sweeping the world.
Economically, we are not at the bottom of a “super-crisis.” On the contrary, we are in the midst of a cyclical boom that followed the Great Recession of 2007-09. Another key difference is that the Soviet Union was destroyed 30 years ago by counterrevolution, so the U.S. ruling class does not have to worry about waging a war against the Soviet Union. But this doesn’t mean that the U.S. world empire is not facing serious problems. On the contrary.
Differences between today and the 1930s
The rise of Donald Trump to the presidency has thrown U.S. politics, and increasingly world politics, into crisis. Trump’s victorious campaign for the presidency occurred against a background of “de-industrialization” that affected to varying degrees the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. This was combined with the consequences of the counterrevolutionary destruction 30 years ago of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialist countries on the workers’ movement. The combination of these two developments has resulted in the decline of the Communist parties that once belonged to the Third International and the weakening of the Social Democratic parties as well as the trade union movement, all of which have pushed global politics far to the right.
Another crucial difference between today and the 1930s is that in the world’s strongest imperialist power the 1930s Roosevelt’s New Deal was in power and the trade union movement was rapidly growing. This made the U.S. appear as a “democratic” alternative to the far-right and outright fascist parties coming to power in Europe. The current situation in the U.S. is far different, with the trade union movement in decline and democratic rights under attack.
It is against this background that the Nov. 6 mid-term elections were held in the United States. They are called midterms because they are held in the middle of the president’s term. In addition to the elections to the House of Representatives, where all 350 seats were in play, one-third of the 100-member U.S. Senate was elected. While members of the House face reelection every two years, senators face reelection every six years. There was also a slew of elections held for offices ranging from state governors and legislators down to local mayors and city councils.
In the U.S., there is not even a (bourgeois) reformist labor-based party, and the small (though now growing) socialist groups that do exist have great difficulty getting on the ballot. Even when socialist candidates manage to get on the ballot, they are largely ignored by the media. While in other countries, bourgeois elections measure to some extent the degree of the class consciousness of the workers, this is not the case in the U.S.
Where labor-based parties do exist, elections reveal how many workers are class conscious enough to vote for those parties as opposed to the capitalist parties. Just as important, when there are both reformist and revolutionary labor-based parties on the ballot, we see how many workers vote for the former versus the latter. In the absence of labor-based parties in the U.S., the results of U.S. elections have little actual significance.
In many ways, the results of the 2018 November election fit into this traditional framework. As expected, the Democratic Party took control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans, who had previously controlled it by a small margin. In the Senate, the Republicans slightly increased their small majority but only because many more Democrat-held Senate seats were up for election than Republican-held seats.
However, in the senatorial election, many millions more voted for Democratic than Republican candidates. This is possible because each U.S. state, whether thinly populated Rocky Mountain states like Montana or heavily populated coastal states like California, gets exactly two senators. This is how U.S. federal elections often turn out. One party wins the popular vote while the other party “picks up seats.”
The net result of the election is that the Republicans have lost their monopolistic control over the legislative branch of the U.S. government but retain the control through Trump – to the extent that the GOP can be said actually to control Trump – of the most powerful branch of the U.S. government, the executive branch. The fact that the Republicans maintained and strengthened their grip on the Senate means that Republican control of the judicial branch, headed by the Supreme Court, will only grow over the next two years. The reason is that the Senate alone gets to vote on Trump nominations to the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.
Again, we see U.S “democracy” in action. The voters in the Senate races vote against the Republicans by a large majority but the Republicans will only increase their stranglehold over the entire federal courts’ system. In addition, the Republican Senate has the power to approve – or reject – any nomination that Trump makes to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
However, the Democrats – assuming they vote as a unit – have, starting in January 2019, the power to veto any legislation proposed by Trump or the Republicans. For example, neither Trump or the Republicans will be able to repeal what is left of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – or slash spending on Social security, Medicaid and Medicare unless a substantial number of the Democrats agree.
For a bill to become law, it must pass with a simple majority in both houses of Congress and be signed into law by the president. The president can veto a bill, but the veto can only be overridden if a super-majority of two-thirds or more of the members in both houses of Congress vote to override.
If the U.S. were a modern parliamentary democracy on the European model, the results of the Nov. 6 election would have resulted in the far-right Republican government headed by Donald Trump being replaced by a center-right Democratic administration, presumably headed by soon-to-be House Speaker the “corporate” Democrat Nancy Pelosi – though some progressive Democratic congresspeople are trying to replace Pelosi with a more “progressive” congressperson. (6) The world would be breathing a sigh of relief at the end – at least for now – of far-right rule in the U.S. But the U.S. is not a parliamentary democracy, and Trump remains very much in power.
A few facts to be noted
A few facts should be noted about this election. First, voters turned out in unusually large numbers for a midterm election in the U.S. About half the eligible voters cast ballots. Usually, turnout is much lower because not very much is at stake. People of color and young people and women who in their great majorities despise Trump and all he stands for indicated their opposition, to the extent U.S. politics and parties made it possible, by in effect voting against him.
Unfortunately, the only way to vote against Trump was to cast votes for the Democrats. As a result of the anti-Trump “wave,” the number of women elected to Congress increased. For the first time, Muslim and Native-American women were elected to the U.S. Congress – all unfortunately as Democrats.
The election of the first Native-American women is particularly significant considering that Native-American people have been living in what is now the U.S. for more than 13,000 years. This striking fact shows the extent of the genocide that befell the Native peoples throughout the Western Hemisphere. On a more positive note, it also shows in the distorted mirror of U.S. elections that a lot more has been happening in U.S. politics than the rise to power of Donald Trump.
Also notable was the election of 29-year-old Latina Democratic Socialist of America member Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez as a Democratic representative of the state of New York to the U.S. Congress. The victory of Ocasio-Cortez in the November election was itself expected. What was a surprise was the defeat by her of the pro-Wall Street Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary. Crowley was not just any Democrat but a key part of the Democratic Party leadership around “corporatist” Nancy Pelosi. He had been considered a likely future speaker of House. But now not only will Crowley not be the speaker, he also won’t even be a member of Congress.
However, the election of soon-to-be congresswomen Ocasio-Cortez immediately raised the question of whether it was a good idea for socialists to be running for public office as Democrats. Many DSA members objected to her endorsement of the “corporate” Democratic governor of New York Andrew Cuomo in his successful bid for another term. After all, as a Democrat, it would indeed have been difficult for Ocasio-Cortez not to endorse the candidate of “her party” for the governorship of her state. This is exactly the kind of trap socialists fall into when they run as Democrats rather than using elections to educate U.S. workers on the need to build their own party.
Changes in the U.S. ‘Deep South’
Another result of the midterms is the growing signs that the Republican Party, in many ways the continuation of the old Jim Crow Democratic Party, may at long last be losing its grip even in the Deep South. The racist Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, won only a narrow victory over Democratic African-American candidate Stacey Abrams, through brazen electoral fraud. Kemp “won” the election because he served as secretary of state during the election, the office that organized the election, using various pretexts to purge the voter rolls of African Americans.
If anything like bourgeois democracy existed in Georgia and the U.S., Kemp would be heading to prison – not the governor’s mansion – for his criminal attempt to deny African Americans the right to vote. Kemp’s “victory” cannot disguise the fact that the Republican Party is losing its political stranglehold over Georgia politics. In the past, Kemp’s brazen rigging of the election would not have been necessary. Appealing to the racism of the white majority would have been enough to guarantee a Republican victory.
In the Mississippi special election to replace a retired Republican senator, African-American Democrat Mike Espy, was locked in a recount with his racist Republican opponent. Even if the Republican, as seems likely, is ultimately declared the victor, the fact that it was close shows change. Similarly, far-right racist Republican senator from Texas Ted Cruz – a state with notoriously reactionary politics – only narrowly defeated a Democratic challenger. In the past, it would not have even been close.
This follows the defeat in a special Senate election in Alabama – perhaps the most racist state next to Mississippi in the U.S. – of the extreme racist Republican Roy Moore by Democrat Doug Jones. The Alabama election was considered a special case because not only was Roy Moore considered an extreme rightist and racist even by the standards of the U.S. Deep South, he was credibly charged with being a pedophile. All the same, Trump campaigned for Moore saying that he needed more Republicans elected so that he could pass legislation – for example, repealing Obamacare.
Results in Georgia, Mississippi and Texas indicate that the Republican Party is in serious trouble in the U.S. Deep South. The problem for the Deep South Republicans flows from a growing number of “brown” Latinx voters reinforcing the anti-Republican African-American vote, combined with the fact that many of the younger generation of whites reject the dyed-in-the wool racism of their elders that dates all the way back to the days of slavery.
If the Republicans were to lose their grip of the “solid South,” the continuation of the Republican Party as a national party would be put into question. If the Republicans collapse – which if current trends continue – will occur as “white America” transitions to “brown America” over the coming two or three decades, the Republicans will no longer be a viable electoral party and cease to exist. The U.S two-party system of Democrats and Republicans will then be thrown into crisis. The two-party system requires two – not just one – parties more or less equal in strength that regularly succeed one another in power.
In general, U.S. liberals were pleased with the results of the elections and are looking forward with optimism about the prospects of the election of a solidly Democratic House and Senate as well as a liberal Democratic president in 2020. The Trump nightmare, the liberals believe, will then be over.
However, progressives who are to the left of the liberals were not so pleased with the election results. Though they were more or less pleased that the Democratic Party made gains against the pro-Trump Republicans, the Democratic Party as a whole remains in the hands of the “corporatist” Democrats. Nancy Pelosi immediately indicated that she wanted “to reach across the aisle” and work with the ever more reactionary and racist Republicans. If the Democrats are really a progressive party in any sense at all, shouldn’t they use their electoral gains to fight against and not work with the Republicans?
Week of terror precedes the elections
Overshadowing the elections themselves, however, was the wave of terrorist attacks that occurred in the last week of October, about two weeks before the elections. The terror included the murder of two African-Americans, bungled attempt to assassinate much of the leadership of the Democratic Party by a fanatical supporter of Trump, and an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue by a neo-Nazi – the single largest violent attack against Jews in the entire history of the United States. In all these cases, it appears that the terrorist acts were carried out by deranged individuals acting alone.
Such attacks, though they can kill many people, do not necessarily have a broader political significance as long as they are isolated incidents. But these incidents took place against a background of racist rhetoric by President Trump and other Republicans, which gives the week a different importance altogether.
Trump encourages political violence in the weeks leading up to the midterms
The terror is important not because Trump and the Republicans organized it – they did not – but rather because Trump, in order to “energize” his racist base to turn out in large numbers for the 2018 election, encouraged political violence by his rhetoric. For example, he went out of his way to praise Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for body-slamming Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Manchester Guardian when Jacobs asked Gianforte about his views on Republican moves to repeal Obamacare. In a special election to replace Trump’s secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, who had previously served as Montana’s sole congressperson, Gianforte faced an unusually strong Democratic challenge in the highly conservative, thinly populated state from a “Berniecrat” Democrat who supported a “Medicare for all” single-payer health-care system.
Gianforte, who planned to vote to repeal Obamacare, was furious about Jacobs’ question, because he feared that his election to Congress might be endangered if the voters became aware of his plans. Losing his cool, Gianforte body-slammed the Guardian reporter. He was forced to plead guilty to misdemeanor assault charges and pay a $300 fine and $75 in court costs, not much of a financial hardship for the wealthy Republican businessman but politically embarrassing all the same.
What is significant is not that Trump supported Gianforte’s re-election – that would be expected of a Republican president – but he went out of his way to praise him for his violent assault on the reporter. The message was clear. Unlawful political violence is fine as far as the president is concerned as long as it advances the cause of Trump and the pro-Trump Republican Party.
The week of terror started on Monday, Oct. 20, when pipe bombs were sent to top Democratic figures of the “Party of Order” faction that includes former President Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, the billionaire businessman George Soros, and former CIA chief John Brennan. Fanatical Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc, whose van was covered with pro-Trump stickers, was arrested and charged with the crime. If the van was not enough, photographs of Sayoc at Trump rallies soon appeared online. Trump complained that Sayoc’s terrorist acts broke “the great momentum” the Republicans were experiencing going into the elections.
Then, on Oct. 24, white racist Greogory A. Bush, after unsuccessfully attempting to break into a Kentucky African-American church, proceeded to kill two African-Americans, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones. While Trump clearly was not involved in this particular act of racist terrorism, his constant attacks on African-Americans both before and since he assumed the presidency helped create the atmosphere that made this monstrous racist crime possible.
Then, on Saturday, Oct. 29, came the shocking murder of 11 Jewish Americans at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa, at the hands of fanatical neo-Nazi, anti-Semite Robert Bowers, which shook the nation and sent a chill down the collective spine of American Jews. Bowers’ crime was the single greatest act of violence against Jews in the entire history of the United States.
Trump, of course, was not involved in this attack. Indeed, Trump visited the synagogue to express his solidarity with the victims – something he most certainly did not do in the case of the murdered African-Americans in Kentucky – though thousands of people, both Jews and non-Jews, staged a demonstration that he was not welcome in Pittsburgh in general or at the synagogue in particular.
The president denounced anti-Semitism, and his defenders pointed out that unlike Sayoc, who was a Trump supporter, Bowers, who was active on the far-right social media outlet the Gap, denounced the president as a tool in the hands of “the Jews.” Indeed, Trump’s powerful son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is Jewish and is married to Trump’s favorite daughter, Ivanka. Ivanka herself has converted to the Jewish religion, though this does not make her Jewish in the eyes of the neo-Nazis who define Jews as a race and not a religion. In their eyes, Ivanka is an Aryan woman being racially defiled by a Jewish man.
If this is all that happened, the incident might be dismissed as an isolated one by a mentally deranged individual. But the problem is that it isn’t. This has raised the terrifying question within the U.S. Jewish community whether it could someday face the fate of the apparently prosperous and powerful Jewish communities in European countries – for example, the Jewish community in Germany. What was the background to the Pittsburgh incident?
Trump both before and since the events in Pittsburgh has continued to attack major media organs, especially the mainstream CNN as “enemies of the people” – a language that is way outside that used by “normal” U.S. bourgeois politicians. If enemies of the people have gained control of the media, shouldn’t the government move against these media organs in order to protect the American people against its enemies?
Increasingly, bourgeois journalists who work for the organs of the Party of Order, like The New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, and so on, fear that they may be facing physical attack and even murder at the hands of some fanatical supporter of the president or somebody even further to right such as Bowers. Jewish journalists have been showered with anti-Semitic tweets. And as members of the far right “know,” the media is “controlled by the Jews.” When they decided on journalism as a career, these reporters didn’t think they would have to risk their lives, at least in the U.S., if they wrote something that the president didn’t approve of. Now they aren’t so sure.
Could things go further? Could even the organs of the Party of Order, the mainstream media, actually be gagged by the Trump government? True, that would be against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which specifically bans Congress passing a law abridging freedom of the press. But what about an Executive Order issued by the president that would override the First Amendment?
Trump hasn’t – at least not yet – threatened to override the First Amendment by an Executive Order. But he did brazenly indicate that he was planning to issue an Executive Order to override another amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the Fourteenth, which guarantees citizenship to all people born within the United States regardless of the legal status of their parents.
The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1866 in order to nullify the earlier ruling of the Supreme Court in the infamous Dred Scott decision. The majority “opinion” was written by Chief Justice Roger Taney. Chief Justice Taney, speaking for the 7-2 majority of the court, ruled that African-Americans have no rights that a white person had to respect, certainly not the right to U.S. citizenship.
Since the Supreme Court has the final word on what is or is not constitutional, a constitutional amendment was necessary to override Taney’s infamous decision – probably the worst single decision in the entire history of world jurisprudence.
Trump, supported by some – not all – GOPers, wants to annul citizenship of people whose parents were in the U.S. illegally when they were born. He has in mind mostly Latinx people who have an annoying habit of not voting Republican. This was too much for even outgoing Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who stated that the U.S. president has no such power. Virtually all U.S. constitutional scholars agree with Ryan on this point.
If Trump were to get away with annulling the Fourteenth Amendment with an Executive Order, what other parts of the Constitution would be secure? The clause in the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the press is one obvious possibility considering that the majority of the U.S. media is now under control of “enemies of the people.” And who exactly are these “enemies” anyway? The far right would answer, “the Jews.”
What other parts of the U.S. Constitution could be nullified by executive decree? If a president can annul any part of the Constitution – the basic law of the land – that he finds inconvenient, and he gets away with it, he would become a full-scale personal dictator.
Trump, the caravan, racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism
Though Trump denounced anti-Semitism after the Pittsburgh killings, he has continued through dog whistles to stir the anti-Semitic pot. For example, days before the Pittsburgh events, he proclaimed himself a “nationalist,” which he counterposed to “globalist.” Trump explained that he put the interests of America first while the globalists put the interest of the “globe” first. To anti-Semitic ears, “globalist” is a synonym for “Jew.” But this wasn’t the only anti-Semitic dog whistle from “the racist-in-chief” as the 2018 election approached.
For some weeks, a caravan of Central Americans fleeing violence in their own country has been slowly moving toward the U.S. border, where they plan to ask for political asylum. Desperately looking for an issue that could win votes for Republican candidates in the 2018 election, Trump and other Republicans have painted the caravan as nothing less than an “invasion” of the U.S. that merits a military response.
But exactly who is threatening to invade the United States? Trump has indicated that he believes that “Middle Easterners” may be in the caravan. This is a hardly veiled form of Islamophobia. So Trump and the Republicans hinted that brown people, not only brown Latinx people but brown Muslim “terrorists” from the Middle East, are part of the invasion. But who is actually organizing the invasion that has forced the United States government to deploy troops to repel it?
Republicans, including Trump, have hinted that they believe that the billionaire Jewish liberal George Soros is financing the caravan. So we have a billionaire Jew financing an “invasion” of the U.S. by brown people that include both brown Latin American and Middle Eastern people, as well as brown “Muslims” – presumably terrorists, since according to the far right, aren’t all Muslims “terrorists”?
It would be hard to find a more classic example of anti-Semitism than this. Is it any wonder that Bowers felt he as a patriotic white, or Aryan, American had to take action against the people who are organizing nothing short of an “invasion” of his country requiring a military response by the U.S. government – the Jews?
In a sinister development, far-right U.S. militia groups have announced that they will be sending their armed thugs to the border to confront the brown invaders being financed by Soros. It is against this background of racist and dog-whistling anti-Semitic agitation by no less than the president of the United States that the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue was carried out. The attack on the synagogue was no isolated incident
Putting the Holocaust back into history
One of the many crimes of Zionism has been that it has taken the Holocaust of the European Jews out of history. Hitler’s policy of murdering every European Jew to the last man, women and child as a step toward the eventual extermination of the Jewish “race” throughout the world – he succeeded in murdering six million of them – is described as a crime so great that it defies rational explanation. This unique crime was then used as an excuse by bourgeois politicians from right to left to support the colonization of Palestine by Jewish refugees after World War II and the consequent expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland.
Normally, bourgeois politicians will say that we don’t support the expulsion of whole peoples from their homelands. But the holocaust was so unique, they explain, that we have to support an expulsion of an entire people from their homeland in this one case. No, not the people who actually committed the crime, rather the Palestinian people, who had nothing to do with the crime.
Imagine if an especially evil murder is carried out. The government arrests and executes a person, not the person who actually committed the murder but another person who had nothing to do with it. After all, the crime must be avenged and since we can’t execute the real criminal we must execute another innocent person. This is the insane – and murderous – logic of our bourgeois politicians, not only racist reactionaries but even many otherwise “progressive” politicians.
In reality, since the beginning of capitalism in the 16th century, many peoples have experienced holocausts and Nakbas – for example, the transatlantic slave trade and the holocaust of Native Americans, which occurred “at the rosy dawn” of capitalist production, to use Marx’s words. These holocausts over centuries claimed far more victims than the European Jewish holocaust – which in no way mitigates the gravity of that crime. All these crimes have unique characteristics, but they have one thing in common: Capitalism in its various stages of development and decay lay behind all of them.
The racist worldview
In fact, if we are to fight racism in all its various forms, including Zionism and anti-Semitism, we must put the Holocaust of European Jews back into history. Religious-based attacks on Jews is at least as old as the rise of Christianity, which occurred in the first century CE. The roots of Christian anti-Judaism can be traced back to numerous passages in the New Testament that denounced “the Jews.”
The Christians attacked the Jews for rejecting Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of the Jews themselves and of sinning humanity as a whole regardless of nationality. However, according to the New Testament, all the founders of the Christian church were Jewish. These included Jesus himself, who was born of Mary, a virgin Jewish woman. All the apostles of Jesus were also Jewish, as was St. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles (meaning the apostle to the non-Jewish nations).
According to traditional Christian teachings, Jews who stubbornly resist acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior cannot be saved. As far as salvation is concerned, the Jewish religion is worthless. However, if Jews – as many have throughout history – accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will achieve salvation, just as their fellow Jews, the disciples (except for the traitor Judas Iscariot), and St. Paul himself and Jesus’s human mother, the Virgin Mary, were saved.
Indeed, St. Paul in one passage in his “Letter to the Romans” predicted in the end that all of Israel – meaning in this context the entire Jewish people, not the “state of Israel” – would be saved. Not all Christians have been as optimistic as St. Paul regarding the salvation of all Jews, but traditional Christianity is clear that Jews can be saved as long as they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
It is true that religious Jews – and even non-religious Jews – find the views of St. Paul and traditional Christians extremely offensive in this regard. But these are religious differences. It is in the nature of the monotheistic religions that they encourage their followers to believe that their religion is the only true one and all other religions are false and must be defeated in order to achieve “salvation” for the greatest possible number of people by recruiting them to the one true religion.
As Marxists – historical materialists – we know that religious differences reflect in the final analysis conflicting economic interests. The conflict between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church was rooted in the conflicting classes these two religious organizations represented in Roman and later medieval Europe. The wealth of the rich Jews who dominated the synagogues was based on money – merchant and money-lending capital – while the wealth of the rich Christians who dominated the church was based on land – feudal ground rent.
For those interested in further exploring the economic roots of the origins of Christianity from ancient Judaism and the economic basis of the conflicts of Christians and Jews over the centuries, I recommend beginning with the writings of Karl Kautsky, who wrote more on this subject than any other Marxist. There are also many websites with material from other Marxist writers, non-Marxist atheists, and other critical thinkers that updates Kautsky in the light of more recent scholarship.
The wave of colonialism that followed the crisis of 1873 was accompanied by an upsurge of racism in Europe and reinforced racist thinking that was already dominant in the United States. In the U.S., racism was rampant from the beginning, because the U.S. nation was created out of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the genocide of Native Americans. However, before 1873, American racism was largely free of anti-Jewish elements and Jews could be found among the leaders of the slave owners’ rebellion.
It was only with the crisis of 1873 that traditional Christian anti-Judaism began to morph into racist anti-Semitism. The mirror of anti-Semitism within the Jewish community was the equally racist Zionist movement, which holds that the conflict between Jew and Gentile is an eternal one that can never be overcome. Zionists like to use the word “eternal,” much like the Nazis did, reflecting the fact that both movements are rooted in post-1873 Europe. Like the marginalist economists who emerged around the same time as the anti-Semites, who were eager to refute Marx on questions of political economy, the “anti-Semites,” as the racists called themselves, were determined to refute Marxist historical materialism.
Marxism versus anti-Semitism
According to Marxist historical materialism, it is the struggle of classes that explains the course of history. The racists “refuted” Marx by claiming that it is not the conflict of classes but the conflict of races that drive history. Just as Marx found the conflict between the two main classes of modern society – capitalists versus wage workers – as underlying the political struggles within capitalist society, the racists “discovered” that the main conflict was the “eternal” struggle between the two main human races – the Aryan race, also known as the white or Caucasian race, and the Jewish race.
The post-1873 racists invented the term anti-Semitism to distinguish themselves from traditional Christian anti-Judaism. Arising in a time when the belief in the historical truth of the Bible was in sharp decline, the anti-Semites claimed that unlike the traditional anti-Jewish Christians they did not object to the Jews’ religion. Rather, they objected to Jews themselves. Therefore, they drew the conclusion that it is not Judaism that has to be eliminated but Jews. The roots of the Holocaust are found in this idea. (7)
The racists claim that the “spiritual and creative” Aryan race and the “materialist” Jewish race are contestants in a racial struggle for world domination. The Jews aim, according to the racists, to destroy the Aryan race through interbreeding them with the lower “colored races” that are fit only for manual labor and slavery.
Thousands of years ago, people called “Aryans” invaded and conquered India. According to the racists, these Aryans were white, blue-eyed Nordic peoples, just like the people of Europe – especially northern Europe – are today. True to their “racial” nature, the Aryans established a great civilization in India. Beginning in the late 19th century, the racists adopted the swastika – which was used in India and elsewhere for thousands of years – as the symbol of the alleged blue-eyed white Aryan master-race.
The racists claim that following the conquest of India the Aryans there made a disastrous mistake that led to their downfall. They interbred with the dark-skinned Dravidian people, who, in the view of the racists, are like all other dark-skinned people, fit only for manual labor and slavery. The result, according to the racists, was the modern dark-skinned Indians, who are fit only for the slavery they were indeed reduced to – and properly so, according to the racists – under British colonialism.
However, in the late 19th century the Jews had, like the racists, learned the “lesson” of Aryan India. In order to achieve the downfall of the Aryans, the Jews, following the logic of the racists, determined that they would have to “brown” Europe and America by breeding the Aryan peoples with people of color. If this were done, the Jews would have won the struggle with the Aryans. Now we know – if we follow the logic of the racists – why George Soros is really funding the caravan!
Jews are, according to the racists, particularly gifted in business. They have been able through the House of Rothschild and other Jewish bankers to gain control of the world money market. As part of their war against the Aryan race, Jews used their control of the world money market to organize the crisis of 1873 and later the much greater crisis of 1929-33. Today’s racists believe that the Jews were behind the 2008 crisis as well. The Jews, according to the racists, used their control of world finance to cause World War I. By pitting the two great modern Aryan nations, Germany and Britain against one another, the Jews weakened both.
But Jews also work from the other side of the class divide in their war against the Aryan race. The Jews used the French Revolution – which according to the racists was organized by Jews (8) – to spread the false idea of the equality of the races. If, according to the racists, the interbreeding between white Aryan Europeans and the lower brown and black races occurred, the Aryans of Europe would go the way of Aryan India and the Jews would win.
Then, in the 19th century, Karl Marx (9) working on behalf of his fellow Jews carried out a major escalation of the war against the Aryan race. He developed scientific socialism to spread civil war in the form of class struggle within the Aryan nations to prepare the way for the victory of his fellow Jews. Marx, as part of this stepped-up war against the Aryans, further deepened the concept of equality in order to encourage the interbreeding of Aryans with “colored” races.
Marx developed complex economic theories in “Capital” that could only be understood by his fellow Jews but not by the “spiritual” Aryans. Later, Albert Einstein, who like Marx was of Jewish origin, did the same thing in physics with the special and general theories of relativity. Who, the racists ask, but a Jew could possibly understand Einstein’s theory, which defies common sense?
In order to combat Einstein, the Nazis encouraged the development of a “German” physics in order to refute the Jewish theory of relativity. As a result, Nazi Germany failed to develop atomic weapons, though, before the Nazi takeover, Germany led the world in the branches of physics and engineering that led to the atomic bomb. Sigmund Freud, according to the racists, who was also of Jewish origin, did with psychology what Marx and Einstein had done in their fields as his contribution in the Jewish war against the Aryan race.
Then, according to the racists, the Jews took over Russia through the Bolshevik revolution, which overthrew the Aryan ruling class. In order to achieve the victory of the Bolsheviks, the Rothschilds and other wealthy Jewish bankers in Europe and America financed the Bolshevik revolution. However nonsensical this seems, this view is affirmed on right-wing websites today.
The Jews then used the Communist International to spread civil war along class lines within the Aryan nations and stir up the “non-white” people to rebel against their Aryan colonizers. In the U.S., the Jews encouraged “the Negroes” to demand equal rights and interbreed with white Aryans.
In reality, the racists “explain,” the real interests of the non-white peoples of the world is to accept their role as slaves to the Aryans, who are alone capable of leading humanity forward and saving it from destruction. The non-white peoples should agree to this since this is, after all, the eternal order of things if only the Jews are defeated.
The Jews themselves, the racists hold, are not an inferior race like the brown and black races but rather a demonic race that logically has to be exterminated if humanity under the leadership of the white Aryans is to survive. For example, Donald Trump often describes African-American political opponents like Congresswomen Maxine Walters as “low IQ,” but he would never describe George Soros as “low IQ.” Trump “knows” that Jews are “smart,” and that is why he employs Jews as his accountants and lawyers but would never think of hiring an African-American as an accountant or lawyer. This is something that Trump “knows” in his racist bones.
Just like neoclassical marginalism emerged in the late 19th century as a bourgeois answer to Marxism in the economic sphere by proving that the classes have common interests, racism/anti-Semitism emerged as an answer to Marxism in the sphere of political theory. Just like the racists, marginalism rejects class struggle. The marginalists “prove” that the social classes of capitalist society have the same interests, a view strongly supported by the racists. It goes without saying that any form of anti-Semitism, just like other forms of racism, is the deadly enemy of Marxism and the workers’ movement.
After the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany and the exposure of the horrors of the holocaust, racist/anti-Semitic ideology received a strong blow. The oppressed “colored” nations at least got their formal political freedom and in some cases considerably more than that. Under the pressure of the Civil Rights Movement, and to “combat Communism,” the U.S. ruling class finally – though not without a struggle – had to give up the formal legal racism of Jim Crow.
However, the fading memories of the horrors of European fascism, the crimes of the state of Israel, the “collapse of Communism,” and the subsequent setbacks to the entire workers’ movement, followed by the rise of the Internet and then the 2008 economic crisis – which in many ways has played a role in our time similar to the 1873 economic crisis – has allowed racist/anti-Semitic ideas to stage a comeback.
Trump and most Republican politicians, unlike Adolf Hitler, almost certainly do not personally believe in the whole body of racist/anti-Semitic theory. For example, they don’t believe that Jews have to be exterminated. Jews are obviously good at finance and law. But because many middle-class people believed in all or part of the racist/anti-Semitic theory, the German fascists were able to build a movement that conquered power, with all the consequences including the Holocaust of the European Jews that followed.
In our time, Donald Trump, by appealing to the same racist theories in thinly veiled but unmistakable ways, has succeeded in building a personal following. This following has allowed him to establish his domination over the Republican Party and propelled him all the way to the White House. Therefore, no matter what Trump personally believes, racist/anti-Semitic beliefs are not a fading relic of the past but remain a deadly political danger. What is to prevent a successor to Trump from going much further down the racist path and like Hitler take things to their “natural conclusion”?
Let’s examine the events leading up to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. As the 2018 midterm elections approached, all polls indicated that the Republican Party faced major midterm losses despite the supposedly “great economy” with “record low unemployment.” The organs of the Party of Order recommended to the Republican Party that they run on the “great economy.” Wasn’t the Republican program of “deregulation” and massive tax cuts for the rich bearing fruit in the form of an economic boom that has reduced unemployment to the lowest level since 1969? Isn’t the African-American and Latinx unemployment rates the lowest ever. (10) Why is the GOP appealing to racism when it has such great achievements to boast about in the economic field?
The owners and journalists who write for Party of Order organs such as The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN and so on look at their stock portfolios and the value of their real-estate holdings – landed property – and are convinced, as they were just before the 2008 debacle as well, that the U.S. and global capitalist economies have never been better. Some progressive journalists – who perhaps also had stock portfolios and real-estate holdings that are doing quite well – have repeated these claims. Stock market quotes don’t lie, do they?
But down in the political trenches, the Republican political operatives know better. They know that if the GOP ran on its economic record and its economic program and “ideas” such as repealing Obamacare, the GOP would be wiped out. For example, as we pass through the high point of the industrial cycle, how many of the idled rust-belt factories have come back to life? While the stock market is indeed at – at least until recently – record highs, how many relatively well-paid industrial union jobs of yore have reappeared? The rust belt is still covered with the remains of dead factories.
This is the reality that Republican operators who were tasked with energizing the Republican base had to deal with as the 2018 midterms approached. In order to get Republican supporters to “turn out” for the 2018 elections, they had to appeal to racism! The only question was how to appeal to racism under the concrete economic and political conditions of 2018. Here the racist-in-chief in the White House took the lead.
Trump and the Republicans decided to grab onto the caravan of Central American refugees slowly making its way to the U.S. border. The carvanistas plan to request political asylum when they reach the border. Trump and the Republican politicians decided to whip up a hysteria over the caravan, made up of brown-skinned people – which Trump announced “may include Middle Easterners” and be financed by George Soros. You never know, do you?
In order to meet the brown hordes – both Latinx and perhaps Muslim “terrorists” financed by Soros – that is, “the Jews” – threatening the U.S. with invasion, Trump announced that he would send 5,000 U.S. troops to the southern border. He then announced that he wanted 15,000 sent. In the end, about 5,900 were deployed.
At one point, Trump indicated that he might have to order U.S. troops to fire at the carvanistas. In a sinister development, right-wing militia groups – genuine fascists – announced that they to would be deploying their forces along the border as well. There is now a real danger of violence as the carvanistas arrive at the border. If there is violence, the responsibility will lie with the Trump administration and its fascist allies.
Trump and the Republicans counted on middle-class and working-class whites influenced by the racist-in-chief to rise to the bait and vote Republican. (11) Many did – aided by the uninspiring campaigns of the Democrats, most of whom do not even support single-payer health care – but not nearly as much as Trump and the Republicans hoped, not even in the Deep South with its long tradition of racism.
The Republican fear that as white America fades into brown America, their party, which since Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon have followed the racist “Southern strategy,” will face extinction. Their fears are well-founded. They only have to look at “brown” California, where the race for the U.S. Senate was not between a Democrat and Republican but two Democrats.
But the GOP electoral machine, made up largely of white men in their 70s and 80s, is overwhelmingly concerned with how its politicians will win their next elections and retain their seats for one more term. After that, many aging Republican officeholders will be beyond caring. How the Republican Party will survive – and if it does – in brown America will not be a problem for them! Perhaps their successors will call themselves Democrats, or perhaps they will use some other label. What matters to these rich old white men is winning reelection one more time so that they can continue to enjoy their perks of office for the few years that remain to them. If that requires an appeal to racial fears, so be it.
The caravan, the Democrats, and the progressives.
But are Trump and the GOP the only ones responsible for October’s week of racist terror? It is true that in its current configuration the Democratic Party rarely appeals to white racism, though historically the party was largely built on white racism and indeed slavery itself. But today, an increasing number of Democrat officeholders – and those who vote for them – are black and brown people, women who are no longer willing to play their traditional role of domestic slaves for their husbands, and members of the LBGTQ community who are coming out of the closet. But is the Democratic party really the solution to an increasingly racist Republican party. What does the caravan say about this question?
The caravan is made up of mostly working-class people forced to flee the unbearable conditions in their Central American homelands, especially in Honduras. In Honduras, as well as El Salvador and Guatemala, they face not only extreme poverty but also violence at the hands of criminal gangs. This is why they feel forced to flee towards an increasingly hostile USA. To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at the recent history of Honduras.
In 2006, newly elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya created a wave of hope among the Honduran people that things might get better. Though Zelaya was himself a wealthy businessman and landowner, he advanced a progressive program and more importantly was serious about carrying it out. As part of his reform program, the Zelaya government established friendly relations with socialist Cuba and Bolivarian Venezuela. President Zelaya joined the ALBA bloc, which aims to achieve integration and cooperation among Latin American and Caribbean nations.
According to Wikipedia: “ … there were a number of significant achievements under Zelaya’s presidency. Under his government, free education for all children was introduced, subsidies to small farmers were provided, bank interest rates were reduced,the minimum wage was increased by 80%, school meals were guaranteed for more than 1.6 million children from poor families, domestic employees were integrated into the social security system, poverty was reduced by almost 10% during two years of government, and direct state help was provided for 200,000 families in extreme poverty, with free electricity supplied to those Hondurans most in need.”
When Zelaya was elected president, the right-wing, war-mongering Republican administration of George W. Bush was in power in the U.S. Then, in the wake of the election-year panic of 2008, the Democrats headed by Barack Obama – the first African-American to be renominated by a major party and then actually elected to the presidency – came into office backed by solid Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress. This led to an expectation that long overdue social and democratic reforms – such as a single-payer health-care system – would be carried out in the U.S.
It seemed – or so thought many U.S. progressives – that a new day was dawning, not only in Honduras but in the U.S. as well. What would have happened if a reform-minded Obama administration had joined hands with the administration of President Zelaya to improve the conditions of the people of both the U.S. and Honduras?
If the Obama administration had followed such a policy, Donald Trump would almost certainly not be president, the Democrats would be in solid control of both houses of Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts would be increasingly controlled by Democrats as well. And if Hondurans, El Salvadorians and Guatemalans had hope for a better future in their own countries, there would be no need for the caravan.
When it became clear that President Zelaya, unlike the Obama administration, was serious about carrying out desperately needed democratic reforms, the Honduran oligarchy, which privately owns the entire media, did everything it could to obstruct Zelaya’s reform program. Finally, Zelaya, backed by the workers, peasants and people of Honduras, moved to call a constituent assembly – the highest form of (bourgeois) democracy – to take on the oligarchy.
The Honduran oligarchy used their control over both the Honduran Supreme Court – shades here of the U.S. Supreme Court – and the Honduran military to illegally oust President Zelaya from power. On June 28, 2009, the Honduran Supreme Court issued an order to arrest Zelaya, and President of the National Congress Roberto Micheletti was declared president.
The coup was greeted with outrage throughout Latin America – by the people and governments alike. While President Obama denounced the coup in words, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton worked to give the coup government legal cover.
Wikipedia writes: “On 29 October 2009, the government of ‘de facto’ president Roberto Micheletti signed what United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a ‘historic agreement’ to let Manuel Zelaya serve the remaining three months of his term. ‘If Congress agrees”, according to Elisabeth Malkin of The New York Times, “control of the army would shift to the electoral court, and the presidential election set for 29 Nov. would be recognized by both sides. Neither Mr. Zelaya nor Mr. Micheletti will be candidates.’”
President Zelaya rejected this agreement brokered by Clinton that would have legitimized the coup.
If President Obama disagreed with Hillary Clinton’s move to legitimatize the coup that killed hope for so many Hondurans and other Central American people, he could have summoned Clinton to the White House and fired her on the spot. Imagine if at the same time President Obama had announced that he wouldn’t be reaching across the aisle to work with the Republicans anymore but would lead the fight for single-payer health care by fighting not only the reactionary Republicans but the numerous Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, who refused to support single-payer health care.
If President Obama had done this, the overwhelming majority of the American people would have rallied behind him, though in that case, much like President Zelaya, he would have faced massive opposition from the U.S. oligarchy represented by what I call the Party of Order. But President Obama, much to the disappointment of his many progressive supporters and the people of Honduras and the rest of Latin America, did no such thing. Instead, Obama turned out to be a card-carrying member of the Party of Order, which has both a Republican and a Democratic wing. Obama, like Clinton and the other Party of Order Democratic leaders, took the road of compromising with the Republicans instead of fighting for single payer. This course led to, among other things, the Republican takeover of both houses of Congress, the rise of racist-in-chief Trump to power, and the synagogue massacre.
Trump and fascism
Is Trump a fascist? To answer in the affirmative would be a great mistake in my opinion, because we can still fight Trumpism and all it represents legally. The bulk of the media is controlled by representatives of the Party of Order, which regularly blasts Trump in the printed media, TV, and the Internet. In Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, in contrast, the fascists totally controlled the media and allowed no opposition views to be expressed. There the media toed the line of Il Duce and Der Fuhrer.
Since the pro-Trump Electoral College was elected in 2016 by “the states” and it was clear that it would appoint Trump to the U.S. presidency, there have been many legal demonstrations against Trump and various aspects of his reactionary policies, whether on women’s issues, LBGTQ issues, climate change, or health care. Although Trump encourages violence by right-wingers who “take the law into their own hands,” he is not actually organizing mass extralegal violence. The size of anti-Trump demonstrations has far exceeded all the pro-Trump actions and rallies.
In contrast, Hitler and Mussolini organized mass militia movements – called the Black Shirts in Italy and the Brown Shirts in Germany – that waged civil war against communists, socialists, trade unions, and all other organizations opposed to their reactionary policies. In fascist Italy – once the fascists consolidated their control of the government in 1925-26 and in Nazi Germany from 1933 on – all political opposition was illegal. Because the fascists had emerged from a mass movement and not just reactionary electoral campaigns, they had mass organizations.
In Germany, these included not only the “National Socialist Party” but the SA and SS militia forces; the German Labor Front, which policed the factories and other workplaces; the Hitler Youth, which had organizations for both genders; as well as block committees. The sheer number of people in these organizations working with the political police – the notorious Gestapo – made even underground opposition extremely difficult. Trump has nothing like this.
In Germany, where the fascist regime was much stronger than it was in Italy, the workers’ movement inspired by Marx and Engels and led by such famous figures as August Bebel, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Karl Liebknecht, and Rosa Luxemburg has never recovered. Those who talk loosely about Trump’s “fascism” don’t know what the real thing was really like.
Trump and the Republican Party have, however, allied with fascist organizations. Recently, the Proud Boys – a fascist organization – “defended” a meeting organized by the Republican Party club in Manhattan. The fascists ended up beating anti-fascist demonstrators protesting the Proud Boys. The Republican meeting “defended” by the fascists was organized to celebrate the murder of a Japanese socialist in 1960 by a Japanese ultra-rightist.
The working of major parties with fascist – or proto-fascists like the KKK is nothing new – it is enough to look at the Democratic Party’s long relationship with the Ku Klux Klan. Today, an increasingly desperate Republican Party is stepping up its alliance with fascist organizations in its bid to cling to power as long as possible and recruit young energetic members from the ranks of the fascists in a bid to renew itself. Of course, the Republicans and Trump believe they are using the fascists as mere auxiliaries and expect to remain very much in charge.
What is new and very dangerous is Trump’s increasingly Bonapartist role as he encourages fascist and other right-wing terrorists. For example, Trump imposed tariffs by executive fiat using “national security” as an excuse, where traditionally tariffs had to be approved by Congress. And as we saw above, he announced that his plans to nullify the part of the Fourteenth Amendment to cancel guaranteed birthright citizenship to people in the United States by an Executive Order. Trump’s increasingly violent “base” is indeed a breeding ground for fascism.
Trump uses this base, which includes many fascists and potential fascists, as a club to keep the Republican wing of the Party of Order in line. If you cross me, he tells them, I can always tell my base, which is devoted to me personally or as you call it, a “cult of personality,” not to vote for you and that will be the end of the Republican Party. But as long as you toe the line, I will do my best to implement the policies that you – and your donors want – like huge tax cuts for the rich and the undermining and, if possible, repealing of Obamacare, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
If Trump gets away with issuing an Executive Order to override birthright citizenship guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment and then overriding other clauses in the Constitution that are inconvenient to him – such as the clauses that prevent him from establishing his control over the press – and that would oblige him to surrender the White House if he can’t prevail in the 2020 election, then he would have become a full-scale Bonapartist – but even in that event not fascist – dictator.
Fascist dictatorships differ from mere Bonapartist dictatorships not only in the extent of their repressive actions but because they are based on massive organizations that grow out of a mass fascist movement that fights for power in the streets. Bonapartist dictatorships depend on only their control – which fascist governments do as well – of the military and police apparatus.
Trump has his hands full trying to establish his control over the huge U.S. military and police apparatus, where he faces considerable opposition from forces allied with the Party of Order. For example, he has to worry about the FBI’s investigation of him in the so-called Mueller probe. Hitler did not have to worry about the Gestapo investigating him. As things stand now, Trump still has quite a ways to go before he establishes a full-scale Bonapartist dictatorship. And even if does, it would still not be a fascist dictatorship. It is far easier to resist a Bonapartist dictatorship, even if you have to operate underground, then it is to resist a fascist dictatorship. (11)
Political prospects and looming recession
It seems highly likely the U.S. and world economies will fall into recession sometime between now and the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Indeed, housing starts and sales and auto sales are already declining, and declines in these sectors typically lead the economy into a more general recession. If recession develops over the next two years, Trump and the Republicans will probably lose support.
But it is quite possible that as the Republican Party loses support, the Trump “cult of personality” will be further “radicalized” to the right. The younger Trumpers, seeing their hopes of “making America great” fading away, might turn toward fascist organizations in increasing numbers. This is one of the great dangers in the current situation.
Trump himself will likely blame the Federal Reserve System – which he already has begun to do even before the recession begins – and he may well become more overtly anti-Semitic. Trump has already complained that the Federal Reserve Board under his own appointee – the “Aryan” Jerome Powell – has been raising interest rates “too fast” causing recent falls in the stock market. How will Trump react not only to falls in the stock market, which affect mostly his wealthy Republican supporters, but actual recession, which will affect his “plebian” base? He could criticize Fed chief “Jay” Powell, hinting that he is not standing up to George Soros and “international bankers” who want his racist administration to fail. Things could get very ugly very fast.
On the other side, a new recession would stimulate the growing interest in socialism among the younger generation. However, many young progressives and socialists are involved in yet another effort to take over the Democratic Party. And some of the most radical of the new crop of progressives and democratic socialists are falling for the false promises of Modern Monetary Theory. When recession once again arrives, interest not only in socialism but Modern Monetary Theory is sure to grow. This means what Fidel Castro called the “battle of ideas,” both in society at large and on the left, will grow.
Next month – political events allowing in a way they did not do this month – I will examine exactly where we are in the industrial cycle. Indications are growing that the the end of the industrial cycle that began in 2007 with the onset of what eventually became known as the Great Recession is now very close. This is not surprising, since the current cycle has already lasted longer than most industrial cycles have. Indeed, why has it lasted as long as it has? This will allow us to contrast the Marxist perspective with the perspective of Modern Monetary Theory in light of the unfolding concrete economic as well of political developments.
1 Golden prices, following Anwar Shaikh, are defined here as prices calculated directly in terms of weights of gold bullion rather than conventional currency units such as U.S. dollars, British pounds, and so on. (back)
2 Golden market prices fell below the golden prices of production during the Depression. This explains the fact that so surprised Marxists of the time that though it was far more destructive and led to a far greater growth in government debts, World War II in contrast to World War I was followed by a prolonged economic upsurge and the consequent relative stabilization of the capitalist system, especially in the imperialist countries. (back)
3 The crisis of 1929-33 led to an upsurge of gold production that was comparable to a major geographical discovery of gold-producing lands. A possible definition of “super-crisis” as opposed to a simple “crisis” is one that is so severe that it stimulates gold production to an extent that is comparable to a major geographical discovery. Such an increase in gold production, whether from a “super-crisis” or a major geographical discovery, is followed by a major expansion of the market and consequently of capitalist production. (back)
4 The low point of the industrial cycle on a global basis appears to have occurred in July 1932. The U.S. economy, however, had a second dip that hit its low point in March 1933, just as Roosevelt assumed office. The reason for the second dip in the U.S. economy, which did not occur in Germany, was the contradiction between the policy of the outgoing Hoover administration of maintaining the gold standard at the dollar’s old value of $20.67 per troy ounce of gold and the policy of the incoming Roosevelt administration to devalue the U.S. dollar by raising the dollar price of gold. (back)
5 Trump was not elected president by the U.S. people. Indeed, he lost the “popular election” by almost 3 million votes to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. However, under the archaic state-based U.S. electoral system, the U.S. president is not elected by “the people” but appointed by an electoral college whose members are chosen by elections held in 50 states and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.). (back)
6 Here I am following the European political convention of describing the mainstream bourgeois parties like the Christian Democrats or Liberals as “center-right” while the Social Democrats and Labor Parties are described as center-left. The U.S. has a center-right party in the Democrats – with a few left-wing progressives and democratic socialists who are trying to move it to the left – and a far-right Republican Party. The lack of any type of mass labor-based party, among other things, explains the continued lack of single-payer health care in the U.S. and why the Republicans’ attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare could even have been seriously considered in the first place. (back)
7 But isn’t history driven by material economic factors and not ideas? The truth is, to be brutally frank, the holocaust of the European Jews in the broad sweep of history is a secondary event. It doesn’t really matter from the viewpoint of capitalism whether the Jews exist or do not exist. For example, Germany was not a more benevolent creditor during the recent European debt crisis because the Nazis eliminated the Jewish bankers. The economic laws that govern capitalism are exactly the same whether the Jews exist or they don’t.
As regards organized Judaism, the basic tendency of capitalism is to eliminate it, because unlike the declining Roman Empire and early feudalism, it has no need to maintain a special commercial caste that represents commodity-money relations in a mostly natural economy. Whether the elimination of organized Judaism occurs through a gradual and voluntary assimilation of the Jews or their violent physical extermination, the result is the same. In practice, up to now, capitalism has used both methods.
The creation of the state of Israel might seem to an exception to this rule. Indeed, the existence of Israel is often justified as the only way that Judaism can be saved in a capitalist society. However, even if we assume that capitalism is still capable of developing – a highly questionable assumption – racist apartheid Israel will be abolished one way or another as the Arab people organize their own bourgeois nation states.
If socialist revolution wins in the historically near future, as we must all hope, the racist apartheid state of Israel will also be abolished. And if the class struggle between the capitalist class and the working class ends in the mutual ruin of the contending classes, the fall of civilization will also take down the state of Israel, along with much else. In both cases, the state of Israel will not be able to “save” Judaism, which only survives as a relic of an earlier stage of economic development. The crimes of the state of Israel against the Palestinian people and its role as an attack dog of U.S. imperialism only make it easier for agents of the ruling class to spread the poison of anti-Semitic ideology even among “black and brown” sections of the population.
The point is that the economic evolution of society dooms the traditional closed-in Jewish community based on a commercial caste that arose in antiquity, developed further during the Middle Ages but has been in progressive decline since capitalism began to replace feudalism. Exactly how this process is carried out depends on the course of the class struggle, as is the case for so many other questions of vital interest to the working-class movement. Anti-Semitism, whatever form it takes, always has been and will remain a deadly enemy of the working class. (back)
8 In reality, people of Jewish origin played little or no role in the French Revolution, though many of the leaders of the Russian Revolution were of Jewish origin. What the French revolution did do in regard to the Jews was that it opened the door to the full assimilation of Jews into the French nation without demanding that they first convert to Christianity. (back)
9 Marx was indeed of Jewish origin but was actually raised as a Christian. This means nothing, however, to the racists who define Jews as a racial, not a religious, category. (back)
10 In reality, unemployment by any reasonable definition is nowhere near “record lows.” I will examine this question in my next post on the current economic situation. (back)
11 The problem the Republicans faced in 2018 was that while Trump’s racist demagoguery did mobilize many – though far from all, especially younger whites and white women no longer willing to be the property of their husbands – it also mobilized “black and brown” people to come out to vote against the Republicans. Unfortunately, given the political realities that still prevail, this meant voting for the Democrats.
In “brown” California, the Republicans lost many of their remaining congressional seats – the GOP California delegation to the next Congress will include less than 10 Republicans. In contrast, the Democrats have super-majorities in both houses of the state legislature and control of the governor’s mansion. This underlines the point that assuming current trends continue, the Republican Party simply will not be able to play the role of one of two political parties that regularly succeed one another in office once “brown America” arrives. The ruling class agrees that something has to be done to save the two-party system. (back)
12 Both Bonaparte and even more so fascist dictators are free of the many legal restraints that control normal presidents and prime ministers. Personal dictators are not checked by a media, can order the arrests of their political opponents, and face no opposition from parliament or the courts. But even the most powerful fascist dictatorship is subordinated to the money market. Under a Bonapartist and even more a fascist dictatorship, the capitalists are politically expropriated but continue to exercise ultimate control of the state not through politics but through their ultimate weapon the money market. (back)