The Democrats’ impeachment of Donald Trump
The public impeachment inquiry hearings held in November by the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives brought into the open the increasingly bitter rift between Donald Trump on one side and the professional apparatus of U.S. imperialism on the other. Left in the lurch was the Republican faction of the “Party of Order.”
Witnesses called by the Democrats were members of the imperialist apparatus — called the “deep state” by some. These include diplomats such as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Russian “expert” Fiona Hill, military officer and White House National Security advisor lieutenant-colonel Alexander Vindman, among others. These people have all made careers advancing the interest of U.S. imperialism and its world empire.
The impeachment inquiry finally allowed these men and women in the “trenches” of the U.S. world empire to unveil their bitterness and even hatred of Trump and his aides such as his personal attorney and former Republican Mayor of New York Rudy Guiliani. For these “professionals,” Trump, Guiliani and the others are corrupt blundering amateurs who are in well over their depth when it comes to defending the interests of U.S. imperialism.
It seems that Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress plan to draw up articles of impeachment against Trump centered on bribery, an impeachable offense mentioned as such in the U.S. Constitution. The bribe was Trump’s unsuccessful attempt to withhold the arming of the Ukrainian government until Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenksy opened up an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joseph Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
As it turned out, before Zelensky had opened up an investigation into either the Bidens or the origins of Russia-gate, the resistance Trump met with in the U.S. state apparatus forced him to release the military supplies, approved by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, that had been only briefly withheld. Trump also wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate the role that Ukrainian politicians, possibly along with Biden senior, had played in the origins of Russia-gate. In Russia-gate, the Democrats charged that Trump had “colluded” with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign but then failed to prove their case.
The so-called Mueller probe found that there was no evidence that Trump violated any U.S. law in his relations with the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. Many progressives were deeply disappointed because they had hoped Mueller’s findings would lead to impeachment and removal — or a Nixon-like resignation — of Trump.
The class character of the impeachment of Donald Trump
What is the essence — and as Marxists we must ask what is the class character — of the charges it seems at the time of this writing will soon be formalized in articles of impeachment against Trump? And what relationship do they bear to the hatred held by countless millions of ordinary working-class and other Americans — and people throughout out the world — for the same Trump and all he stands for? The workers include all class-conscious workers, a very small category at this time (1), and the most oppressed workers, including African-American workers, Hispanic workers, women workers, and Native Americans — a large and growing category that overwhelmingly despises Trump and everything he represents.
These workers hate Trump’s racism and racist rallies and demagoguery, which have encouraged violence by deranged individuals against African-Americans, Hispanic people, Muslims, Jews, and non-Christians in general. They hate Trump’s locking up of men, women and children fleeing violence in Central America, not only in concentration camps but in cages, which has led to deaths among children.
Trump has on numerous occasions offered encouragement to fascists, most notoriously with his “there are good people on both sides” comment following the Charlottesville, Virginia, fascist demonstration. This racist, anti-Semitic demonstration led to the running over and death of a young woman anti-fascist demonstrator by a fascist.
The most recent example was Trump’s pardoning of Navy Seal Edward Gallagher. Gallagher was turned in by his fellow Seals, a group hardly known for their progressives tendencies. He was charged with murder but acquitted on that charge by a military jury. However, he was convicted of photographing himself with the corpse of a young ISIS fighter. Anybody who has ever studied the origins of Italian fascism and German “National Socialism” knows that deranged soldiers like Gallagher were the first recruits to the fascist movements and formed their basic cadre.
There is also the not-so-little matter of Trump’s repeated physical assaults against women, his use of anti-gay/trans bigotry, and his attempts to kick people off health insurance and food stamps.
All this explains why Trump is hated by around half the American people, according to polls, and probably considerably more if we don’t just count citizens that are likely to vote but residents of the U.S. as a whole. They don’t want to wait until January 20, 2021, which would give Trump more than another year in office.
The Democratic impeachment inquiry is now raising hopes among the Trump-weary masses that Trump will soon be gone, long before January 20, 2021, but by then at the very latest. Millions of workers and their allies who are still far from having achieved full class consciousness don’t particularly care whether Trump leaves the White House through Russia-gate, Ukraine-gate, the front gate of the White House, or the back gate. They simply want this racist demagogue and all he represents gone.
Many other Americans, mostly white, would like to see Trump replaced through the 2020 elections. They believe he should leave the White House through the “front gate” on January 20, 2021 to be replaced by a “moderate” Democrat. In European terms, this means a right-of-center bourgeois politician. However, another third or so of American people, overwhelmingly white, have a cult-like attachment to Trump because he speaks to their prejudices and yearning for the good old days of “white America,” when women were satisfied with their traditional role, black and brown people knew their place, and gays stayed in the closet.
This is the America you see in old 1940s movies you can watch for free on YouTube. In these movies, almost all the characters are white, and if African Americans are shown at all, they are the loyal personal servants of the white heroes and are completely satisfied with their lowly role. Trumpers tend to be aging baby boomers who were by-passed by the 1960s rebellion, retaining instead the values passed on by their white “great generation” parents.
There are, however, younger Trumpers who are outright fascists, or could move in the direction of real fascism if as they see it Trump is betrayed by the Republican Party and/or the economic situation takes a radical turn for the worse. These hardcore Trumpers hope and expect that Trump wins re-election in November 2020 and that he holds office until at least January 20, 2024, if not beyond — which would be illegal under the present U.S. Constitution unless amended. Though a minority, this is a dangerous and not insubstantial part of the population.
We see that many — though by no means all — of the capitalist ruling class is opposed to Trump. It is also clear that many members — by no means all — of the state apparatus are also opposed to Trump. Trump is a polarizing figure who people from different classes tend to adore or despise, but for different reasons.
So what is the class character of the impeachment of Donald Trump broadcast live on TV and all devices and brought to you by the Democratic Party? The short answer is that the Democratic Party’s campaign has a thoroughly capitalist-imperialist character. This is the case not only because the Democratic Party is a capitalist party in general and a monopoly capitalist-imperialist party in particular, but because of the nature of the charges that are expected to be formalized as articles of impeachment.
The Democrats charge Trump with subordinating “national security” of the United States to his personal political and perhaps financial interests — above all his interest in winning a second term as U.S. president. To fully grasp the class character of this operation, we first have to grasp what is meant by the “national security of the United States.”
Let’s begin with what this phrase does not mean. It does not mean the defense of the North American territory of the USA from a military attack and invasion by some foreign power such as Russia or China. The United States, unlike other imperialist countries, is and has always been extraordinarily well protected by geography against a serious attempt by a rival power to invade and conquer it by military means.
For example, Germany is surrounded by other imperialist and potentially enemy states — for example, France, Great Britain, Poland, and Russia. During World War II, once the Soviet and U.S and British forces reached the borders of Nazi Germany at the beginning of 1945, it took only four months before Germany was completely overrun. Japan, which is made up of a series of relatively small islands, also offers a relatively easy target for invasion and occupation, as the events of August-September 1945 illustrate.
In contrast, to invade and conquer the U.S., a foreign invader would not only have to overcome the obstacles of the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. They would then face the barriers of the Appalachian, Rocky, Sierra Nevada, Cascade and lesser mountain chains. Neither Canada nor Mexico, both of which border the U.S., can invade the U.S. in the foreseeable future, though the opposite could happen.
The U.S. like every other country on Earth is prone to attack by nuclear weapons, which would completely devastate the country. But it would be suicidal for any foreign power to attempt this. Therefore, the current “enemies” of the U.S. such as China, Russia, Iran and so on cannot even consider invading and occupying the U.S. any more than Germany and Japan could seriously consider attempting it during World War II. The truth is that today and for the foreseeable future, no rival state represents a serious danger to the U.S. in the sense of either invading it or reducing it to a satellite or colony.
In class terms, even if the U.S. could be invaded, the “national security” of an imperialist state can only mean the collective interest of the capitalist ruling class of that nation-state. National security in this sense boils down to the ability of the capitalists to continue to appropriate ever more surplus value and transform it into still more capital to appropriate still more surplus value. As long as the current system lasts, the “national security” of the United States can have no other meaning.
However, while there is no prospect of the United States being invaded and occupied by a rival nation-state for as far ahead as we can reasonably see, the ability of the U.S. capitalist class to exploit the working class of the entire globe — what is really meant by “national security of the United States” — is under constant threat. This threat arises, above all, from the global working class itself, including its U.S. section and also to a lesser extent from rival capitalists. If the workers were to overthrow the class rule of the U.S. capitalists, it would be all over for them — and for rival capitalists. While no foreign army can invade the United States, “cheap commodities” can and indeed have “invaded” the U.S. home market. To an industrial capitalist, cheap commodities can be a far greater threat to “national security” than even an invasion by a foreign imperialist army.
U.S. capitalists preparing to seize Ukraine’s ‘black earth’
What has been overlooked not only by Democratic Party propagandists — no surprise here — but also by progressives is the extent to which (since the Euro-Maiden coup) Ukraine, which is incredibly rich in natural wealth, has been transformed into a U.S. semi-colony. Though almost completely ignored by the U.S. media, the pro-U.S. President Zelensky is trying to push through Ukraine’s parliament a law that will allow the free sale of land. This law is designed to allow U.S. agricultural corporations to buy up the “black earth” of Ukraine, much like German corporations did during the relatively short-lived but nightmarish occupation by Nazi Germany.
No leading Democrat, from Joe Biden and “Mayor Pete” on the right to AOC and Bernie Sanders on the ”left,” has said a word about this crime nor expressed any solidarity with the Ukrainian people now struggling against Zelensky’s law. Yet it is an elementary duty of all true progressives to express solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters against the attempts by U.S. agricultural corporate monopolies to buy for a song the “black earth” of Ukraine.
More on the Democrats’ charges against Trump
To show its “good will” to the new colonial masters of Ukraine after the 2014 Euro-Maidan coup, the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors. Now Hunter, like many people of all classes, has had personal problems in his life including a battle with drug addiction. This makes Hunter what President Donald Trump likes to call a “loser.” What seems to have happened is that bosses of Burisma — who themselves we should not forget are in possession of stolen Soviet property created by the labor of generations of Ukrainian and other Soviet workers — agreed to pay what amounts to Hunter’s allowance — about $50,000 — per month, though the exact size of the “allowance” varies according to the source. However, estimates all agree that Hunter’s allowance paid by Burisma far exceeds the size of wages earned by even the best-paid U.S. workers, not to speak of what it pays its Ukrainian workers.
The Biden family only became “card-carrying” members of the U.S. ruling class through Joseph Biden’s successful political career. Biden was elected as a Democrat senator from the “border state” of Delaware, and was a presidential candidate in his own right, and then vice-president of the United States under the administration of Democrat Barack Obama. He has now emerged as a leading candidate to replace Trump in the White House on January 20, 2021. It seems that at the very least Burisma’s agreement to pay Hunter what amounted to an allowance of around $50,000 a month through the device of making him a member of its board of directors was a gesture of goodwill by Burisma to the new imperialist overloads of Ukraine.
Was it something more? Was a “quid quo pro” involved, which would be illegal according to U.S. law? Trump apparently suspects there was — that’s how he would do things after all — and was determined to find out so he could use it against Joe Biden if he should end up as the Democratic nominee. He therefore apparently attempted to order the U.S. puppets who now rule Ukraine on behalf of U.S. imperialism to announce a public investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. It is also possible that there was no formal quid pro quo but an informal understanding between the Burisma bosses and the Obama-Biden administration that Hunter Biden’s appointment was simply a gesture of “good will” by Burisma toward the new masters of the Ukraine.
However, Trump’s attempts to launch an investigation into the activities of the Bidens could do more than simply embarrass Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign and perhaps lead to his defeat in the 2020 election. It could endanger the puppet Zelensky government just as it attempts to push the bill that authorizes the sale of Ukrainian land to U.S. agribusiness corporations. Had Zelensky agreed to Trump’s demand, it would have exposed him as a puppet not only of the U.S. empire, which he certainly is, but also of Trump personally. This would endanger not only the Zelensky government but U.S. control of Ukraine. Continued control of Ukraine is far more important to U.S. imperialism than what representative of U.S. imperialism sits in the White House.
No wonder the U.S. foreign policy apparatus rebelled against Trump’s attempt to use Hunter Biden’s “service” on the board of directors of Burisma not to, as they see it, advance the interests of U.S. imperialism but Trump’s own political aims.
With discontent within the apparatus of the U.S. empire already fueled by what is seen as Trump’s dangerous protectionist economic policies and his threats to interfere with the operation of the Federal Reserve System, it is not surprising somebody in the CIA — or a group of people in the CIA — “blew” the whistle on Trump’s attempt to get the Ukraine puppet government to investigate the Bidens, since such an investigation could endanger the drive of the Empire to consolidate its grip on Ukraine. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party speaker of the House, who had been resisting an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, was now under pressure from the state apparatus itself to move against Trump.
The Trump-Republican counterattack
Trump and his supporters insist that Hunter Biden’s “service” on the board of Burisma was corrupt, which seems reasonable though no specific quid pro quo has come to light. Perhaps Joe Biden is too much of a professional to do something that violates U.S. law in this respect, though there is always the possibility that something could come to light. Some Republicans are trying to use the involvement of Euro-Maidan-Ukrainian government functionaries in the 2016 U.S. elections to claim it was Ukrainians who “stole” Hillary Clinton’s emails and sent them to Wikileaks in an attempt to “frame” Russia.
Republicans seek to get to the bottom of Russia-gate
Since the end of the Mueller investigation, the Republicans have emphasized that the investigation failed to find that the Trump campaign had done anything contrary to U.S. laws in its relations with the Russians. Trump has therefore claimed that in addition to digging up the truth about Hunter Biden’s appointment on the board of Burisma he was simply “fighting corruption” in Ukraine. The Democrats and their “deep state” allies are making the same claim. In reality, it is the job of the Ukrainian people to fight government and other types of corruption and not the job of Trump, the Democrats, the U.S. Embassy, or any other part of the U.S. state.
Now, William Barr, Trump’s current attorney general, has announced that his department has opened a criminal investigation of the “origins of the Mueller probe” and “Russia-gate,” which they charge allowed the Democrats to attempt to frame Trump as some kind of Russian agent. The real crime is not Ukraine-gate, Trump and the Republicans charge, but the decision by the Democrats to launch Russia-gate and the Mueller probe.
The real origins of Russia-gate
We don’t have to speculate about the “clock and dagger” aspect of Russia-gate — I do not know this aspect — when its political origins are in plain sight. And it is the political origins of Russia-gate that we should be interested in. To justify to the American people their drive for political and military domination, leaders of U.S. imperialism have to picture the U.S. as being threatened by a demonic enemy that is opposed to “democracy,” supposedly represented by the U.S.
During World War I, the “anti-democratic” enemy was Germany and “Kaiser Bill.” In those days, the story went, “democracy” represented by the pro-Jim Crow racist Democratic President Woodrow Wilson was under attack by Germany and its Central Power allies Austria-Hungary and Turkey, determined to replace “democracy” with “autocracy.”
During World War II, the job was far easier thanks to Adolf Hitler. The U.S., it was claimed, was fighting fascism, represented by Japan (2), Italy and Germany. It should be mentioned that when it came to attacking the people of the Axis powers, the main target was the Japanese because they were non-white. Adolf Hitler hardly needed to be demonized. In his case, the truth — or rather a portion of it — was more than enough.
During the Cold War, the “demonic enemy” was the Soviet Union and the international communist movement — called the “international communist conspiracy” by more right-wing politicians — which was, it was claimed, controlled by the Kremlin. Russia — the Soviet Union — was charged with attempting to replace “democracy” represented by the U.S. by a worldwide totalitarian Communist dictatorship run out of Moscow.
During the Vietnam War, “Red China” was pictured as the demonic enemy bent on world conquest through “world revolution” to impose a totalitarian worldwide communist dictatorship to be run out of Beijing. The Vietnamese government in Hanoi and the Vietnamese resistance — dubbed the “Viet Cong” in the U.S. media — were pictured as mere “puppets” of China. That story began to change only after Nixon flew to Beijing and shook hands with Chairman Mao, the supposed master of Red China’s drive to impose a worldwide communist dictatorship.
Finally, in the final stages of the Cold War the U.S. allied with the People’s Republic of China against the Soviet Union — called the “evil empire” by Ronald Reagan and once again the demonic force that threatened “democracy.”
With the victory of bourgeois counterrevolution in the USSR and Eastern Europe, it was declared that, with the “collapse of the Soviet Union and Communism,” history in the Hegelian sense (3) had ended with the final victory of “Western-style democracy” and the “free market.” Though this was indeed the greatest victory from the viewpoint of our class enemy since the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class had begun, it ironically created a problem for U.S. imperialist propaganda. Who now was supposed to be the “demonic enemy” against which the U.S. had to defend “democracy” now that the countries of the former Soviet Union and East Europe had embraced U.S.-style “free-market democracy” and all hopes for a future socialist transformation of society were supposedly dead?
Today, unlike was the case during World War I, World War II, and the various stages of the Cold War (really a global class war between the socialist camp headed by the Soviet Union and world capitalism dominated by U.S. imperialism), the Democrats and Republicans are now diverging on exactly who represents the “demonic enemy” plotting against the forces of “democracy” led by the U.S. The only thing the Democrats, Republicans and Trump agree on is there has to be such an enemy.
The Republican Party has, since the reshuffling of the parties that grew out of the New Deal and Civil Rights Movement, organized itself as an increasingly racist party. Republican politicians claim that the enemy of the “democratic” U.S. is not so much a country or a particular “dictator,” as in the past, but rather black and brown people as a whole. Sometimes Islam or “Islamic terrorism” is pictured as “the enemy” of “democracy.”
Not for nothing did Republican President George W. Bush, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the 9/11 attacks, declare war not against a country but rather “terrorism,” understood to mean “Islamic terrorism.” Like in the days of the medieval Crusades, Islam was the enemy. But other Republican politicians are saying through various code words that the “enemy” is not so much Islam per se but black and brown people in general.
For example, immigrants fleeing violence in Central America are not Muslim but are brown. The main struggle in the world that extreme racist Republicans are relying on is race against race. The emigration of black and brown people to Europe as well as to North America, Australia and New Zealand is threatening the very existence of the white race, they say.
Zionism, anti-Semitism and racism
The race-against-race argument implies that behind black and brown people and Islam are the Jews, the oldest scapegoats of all. But not the “good Jews” who are Zionists and racists themselves, support Israel, and preferably live in Israel. To criticize, let alone oppose Israel, is “anti-Semitic,” which Trump and the other Republicans loudly denounce. Rather, it is the “bad Jews” who are the power behind Islam and Islamic terrorism. They allegedly control “Hollywood”; the “liberal media,” or as Trump calls it “the fake media,” though his anti-Semitic supporters call it “the Jew media”; the banks; and the left. (4)
In reality, the Trump administration has not only been more tolerant of anti-Semitism than any recent president, he has been the most pro-Zionist and anti-Palestinian president ever. Some who do not know the real history of Zionism, anti-Semitism, and the Nazis think this a contradiction, but it is a continuation of classic pre-World War II anti-Semitism where support for Zionism among non-Jews went hand in hand with support for anti-Semitism.
Trump has moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights, and most recently approved all the settlements controlled by Israel in the West Bank, which even the United Nations has declared illegal. Trump “loves” Israel — and here Trump does not appear to be faking it — since Israel is the most openly racist state in the world.
Today’s Democratic Party is also a strong supporter of Israel. Indeed, Democratic politicians have long engaged in a competition to show who is the most pro-Israel — and anti-Palestinian. However, today’s Democrats cannot use racism in the same way the Republicans can, because their current electoral base is made up of virtually all non-white and/or non-Christians as well as the many anti-racist white Christians. If the Democrats were to try to compete with the Republicans in their increasingly racist game, it would be the end of the Democratic Party. Even Joe Biden, friend and associate of the last Jim Crow Democrats, realizes this. So the Democrats must find another scapegoat to picture as the enemy of “democracy.”
The Democratic leadership has chosen to demonize Russia. Why Russia? Well, what other candidate do they have? They can’t demonize Japan and Germany because they are our “allies” — at least for now. Russia is far less powerful in the world economy than China, which is the only other possible candidate. The Chinese own a huge quantity of U.S. dollar-denominated government debt built up by years of trade surpluses, and despite Trump’s trade war many U.S. corporations remain dependent on the labor of Chinese workers to produce their surplus value. In contrast, Russia owns far less U.S. government — and other debt — and Russian workers produce far less surplus value for U.S. capitalists than Chinese workers do. So making the Russians angry does not represent as great a threat to profits as angering China.
However, Russia is large and does have nuclear weapons and the rockets to deliver them — which can totally destroy the U.S., though it would be suicidal for Russia to do this. Therefore, the Democrats figure, Russia can plausibly be presented as an enemy of the U.S. and its people. The decades of Cold War after World War II and the “anti-red” hysteria before and after World War II have created a deep-rooted hostility, or at least distrust, toward Russia among the American people that the Democrats feel they can exploit.
Claims that Russia “attacked our election” — itself a vague formulation — boils down to the Russian government, Russian individuals like “hackers,” or Russian political parties exercising their right of free speech to express their views on the 2016 election. Democratic leaders and spokespeople in the media like to charge that “the Russians” are attempting to “change our form of government.”
But what form of government does the present-day Russian government — which itself is largely modeled on the U.S. — a presidential as opposed to a parliamentary system — want to replace “our” government with? Is it the rule of the Soviets — workers’ councils — or is it an autocracy, much like was the case with “Kaiser Bill” during World War I? The Democrats like to keep things vague on that score since they aim at deceiving a large number of people with different degrees of knowledge and political views.
If some ignorant people believe that the Russians are “really still communist” and want to replace “American democracy” with the “rule of the soviets,” that’s fine with the Democrats. Other, more knowledgeable, people may buy into the claim the Russians are attempting to replace “democracy” with “autocracy,” much like “Kaiser Bill” supposedly did during World War I. The Russians can then be portrayed as backers of Trump’s autocratic and Bonapartist tendencies.
Ironically, the Democrats’ demagogic anti-Russian campaign is helped by the fact that today’s Russia unlike the USSR in the days of Soviet power has little attraction to African-Americans, Hispanics, and other victims of “white Christian racism.” Gone are the days’ when W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, and many other African-American intellectuals, cultural figures, and trade union leaders rallied to the Russian Revolution and the Soviet cause. Because the Democrats’ anti-Russian campaign is so broadly drawn, many progressives, even those who should know better, tolerate it. After all, few outside of Russia at least are enthusiastic about the capitalist government of Vladimir Putin.
We should never forget that both the Democrats and the supposedly more pro-Russian Republicans are representatives of the American capitalist ruling class — not the far less wealthy and powerful Russian capitalist ruling class — and want to reduce Russia just like they are presently doing with Ukraine to the status of a U.S. colony. This is the very nature of imperialism in general and U.S. imperialism in particular. If there are still Russians left at this late date who think that Trump and/or the Republicans are their friends, they are deluding themselves.
Finally, both capitalist parties interpret “free speech” enshrined in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution peculiarly. They say the First Amendment means Americans have the right to hear the opinions of their fellow Americans but not of foreigners. If some foreigners are friends of U.S. “democracy,” for example the Israelis, they can be listened to. But this, both Democrat and Republican leaders agree, does not extend to the Palestinians. Americans have the right to hear the opinions broadcast by six media monopolies but not Russian-sponsored media such as RT or Sputnik, which are run by the “anti-democratic” Russians.
The Republicans answer the Democrats by claiming that Americans have no right to hear the opinions of some Ukrainians who happen to support the Democrats either. The Ukrainians are also foreigners, after all. As I pointed out in previous posts, the Democrats — but also the Republicans — support undemocratic laws that make it illegal to accept donations in money or in kind by foreigners in support of political campaigns, though the U.S. government and capitalists shamelessly finance the campaigns of pro-U.S. imperialist candidates in countries — not least in Russia — around the world.
The working class and impeachment
Do we in the working class have any interest in the capitalist-imperialist Democrats’ impeachment of Donald Trump? A class-conscious worker will answer that we have the same interest we had with Russia-gate, which is none whatsoever. What if Trump received propaganda and financial help from the Russian government or Russian capitalists? Let’s grant, a class-conscious worker would say for the sake of argument, that he did. Is that worse than the financial and propaganda help he received from the far richer and more powerful American capitalists?
Our class enemy, our class-conscious worker will explain, is the capitalist class as a whole and the U.S. capitalist class in particular. True, the Russian capitalists are our class enemies as well but they are vastly less rich and powerful than their far more dangerous U.S. counterparts. Why should we as class-conscious workers mind if Trump undermines the U.S. imperialist control of Ukraine, whether through his personal venality and criminality or his incompetence? For example, if as a result of Ukraine-gate Zekensky’s “land reform” plans fail, that would be a victory for our allies in Ukraine and therefore for us as well! What we do have a vital interest in is defeating Trump’s brazen racism, his misogyny and anti-LGBQT bigotry. We want to see the full exposure of the crimes of the sexual predator now occupying the White House. We want to see the full exposure of his — and the Republicans in general — ties to fascists.
We do not want the capitalists to see Trump as a successful president like they came to see Ronald Reagan. If the capitalists come to consider Trump a successful president, who despite his quirks and corruption succeeded in advancing the class interests of the U.S. capitalist class against the world working class and other working people, the oppressed nations, and their capitalist competitors, they will be emboldened to support even worse monsters in the future. If an Adolf Hitler was possible in Germany, an Adolf Hitler or worse is fully possible in the U.S.
Instead, we want the capitalists to rue the day they allowed Trump — after , he was rejected by a majority of the American people in the November 2016 election, with all the limitations of elections under capitalism and the U.S. two-party system — to assume the office of the presidency of the United States. The U.S. capitalists who supported and those who still support him believe they can control Trump and use him and his deluded followers to push through their neo-liberal — straight out of the pages of Marx’s “Capital” — economic policies. We have a vital interest in seeing this capitalist monster end his ill-starred political career covered in shame and disgrace.
But we can’t allow Democrats — and a growing number of Republicans — of the Party of Order, though most of these will not yet admit their opposition to Trump, to carry out the struggle against Trump and all he represents for us. Here lies the danger of the Democratic capitalist-imperialist impeachment of Trump. We can’t ignore the Democratic Party leaders’ support for the current imperialist enslavement of Ukraine and only complain that Trump is not doing a proper job of it. The Democrats did not oppose the January 2019 attempted coup in the Venezuela. Instead, they supported it, nor did they oppose the coup in lithium-rich Bolivia in November 2019. They support that racist coup as well.
The Democrats were in power when the Euro-Maidan coup was carried out in Ukraine. No Democratic leader that I know of has spoken out against it. Nor have they spoken out against the current U.S. corporate land grab in Ukraine. They support that as well. The land question is a far more important question for the Ukrainian people than whether the Ukrainian government opens an investigation of the Bidens as Trump demands or whether some Ukrainian politicians aided Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Ruling-class opposition to Trump
Significant sections — though by no means all — of the ruling class believed from the beginning that Donald Trump was a poor president from the viewpoint of their class rule. I have dubbed these people the Party of Order because they defend the current “world order” that emerged out of U.S. victories in World War II and the Cold War. That “order” forces the majority of working people around the world to perform vast amounts of unpaid labor — produce surplus value — for the U.S. capitalist class and capitalists of the U.S. empire’s imperialist satellites.
A reason that many capitalists — by no means all — oppose Trump’s presidency is his apparent personality disorders. His extreme narcissism and apparent psychopathic personality traits — though I do not have the training to make any diagnosis here — make it extremely difficult for him to take into account any interest beyond his own immediate personal interest. This makes it difficult for him to keep separate in his mind his personal interests and the general interests of the U.S. ruling class.
A perhaps more significant factor than Trump’s apparent personality disorders is his training, or rather lack of it, to serve as president and CEO of the U.S. world empire. The career path of past U.S. presidents includes service either in the U.S. Senate (the upper house of the U.S. Congress) or the governorship of a U.S. state — preferably a large U.S. state, such as New York (Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example) or California (Ronald Reagan). Holding a major cabinet post or serving as vice president (Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush) is also considered important training for the presidency.
Another career path to the White House is to serve as a general in the armed forces. The last president to follow this path was Dwight Eisenhower. This path has not been followed recently because all recent U.S. wars have been colonial wars, which have not exactly covered their military commanders in glory.
What unites, U.S. senators, governors, vice presidents, top cabinet members, and leading military commanders is that these positions train the people who hold them to take the view of the U.S. ruling class as a whole. For active capitalists such as Donald Trump, things are different. They are taught by their capitalist parents and by experience that they must “look out for number one.” This is what Donald would have learned from his father, the capitalist real-estate shark Fred Trump.
The capitalist mode of production needs such capitalists, since the capitalist competition that drives the system requires that each active capitalist looks out for his or her individual interests as capitalists and nothing else. Donald Trump inherited a real-estate empire, a combination of buildings and landed property — the land the buildings are built on. The Trump Organization is not a widely held “public company,” where the CEO has to keep in mind not only his personal interest as a money capitalist but the interests of the stock holders that he represents as an active capitalist. Rather, it is a “family company” controlled by one capitalist family — the Trumps.
Family enterprises are generally ruled dictatorially by a patriarch — who considers himself responsible for “number one,” or at most the family — but no one else. There is nothing in Trump’s pre-presidential training, spanning almost 70 years, that in any way has prepared him to think in terms of the U.S. ruling class as a whole. He has never learned how to be responsible to a broader body, even a corporate board of directors.
Within his realm, since the death of his father Fred, Trump has operated as the absolute ruler. His managerial style has therefore been shaped along authoritarian lines. As we saw in last month’s post, these authoritarian tendencies can be dangerous, including for the capitalist ruling class itself, when combined with the great power concentrated in the modern U.S. presidency.
The only careers Trump has pursued other than active capitalist and landowner are those of entertainer and racist demagogue. For example, he demanded the death penalty for the “Central Park Five,” African-American teenagers charged with the murder of a young female investment banker in New York’s Central Park. Trump sponsored newspaper ads demanding the death plenty for the African-American teenagers.
The New York City police succeeded in extracting confessions from the teenagers through their customary methods. It was eventually proven beyond all possible doubt, with the help of DNA evidence, that the teenagers were innocent of the crime and the real criminal was arrested. Despite this, Trump has failed to apologize. As a result, he became hated — not merely disliked — in the African-American community.
Indeed, due to his role in the Central Park Five case and many other examples of his racist demagoguery and actions in the notoriously racist real-estate industry over the years, Trump commands majority support only among white Christian Americans. In a world where most people are neither white nor Christian, it is dangerous for the U.S. empire to be ruled by a man so thoroughly hated among virtually all non-white and non-Christian people.
The other reason many capitalists are opposed to Trump is that they consider his economic policies to be dangerous to their interests as capitalists. For example, Jeff Bezos, who regularly trades the title of world’s richest man with Bill Gates, depending on the movement of the stock market on particular days, is most famous for being the head of the online retailer Amazon, though he also owns the strongly anti-Trump Washington Post. Amazon is a trading (merchant capitalist) and warehousing company. It makes its profits by buying commodities produced largely outside the U.S. and selling them at far higher prices within the U.S. In other words, the great bulk of the surplus value — not all of course — that Bezos realizes in the form of profit is produced by non-U.S. workers. Trump’s trade war is therefore a deadly threat to Bezos’s profits. Is it a coincidence that the pro-war Washington Post is strongly anti-Trump?
The same is true of other merchant capitalists who have gained wealth and influence during the decline of the U.S. economy relative to the industrial capitalists and their banks that in the heyday of American capitalism dominated the U.S. economy. On the other hand, the remaining industrial capitalists who are obliged to exploit U.S. workers because they are too small to move their production abroad are inclined to support Trump. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” policies aim at reviving the power of industrial capitalists who operate within the borders of the U.S. The pro-Trump industrial capitalists also approve of Trump’s huge tax cuts, designed to benefit the capitalist class as a whole, his “deregulation,” and his mocking of the deadly dangers of climate change.
How Donald Trump became U.S. president
Trump — and this should not be forgotten — is not the democratically elected president of the United States. He was elected president by the Electoral College, though just as was the case in 2000 the candidate who won the Electoral College — Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 — lost the popular vote. And Trump lost the popular vote by a much larger margin than George W. Bush did in 2000. He lost the popular vote by a 49 to 46 percent margin.
The biggest problem confronting the U.S. founding fathers — not mothers, but then again it was the 18th century, after all — when they drew up the U.S. Constitution was to reconcile the interests of the slave-holding South, where the dominant mode of production rested on plantation African slavery, and the North with its widespread small-scale commodity production in transition toward capitalist production based on wage labor. Both the mode of production where the workers own their own means of production — such as small farmers who do not exploit wage labor — and the growing system of wage labor were dubbed the “free labor system.” (5) The free labor system, therefore, became a short-hand term for what Marxists call the capitalist mode of production.
At the time the Constitution was drafted, African slavery existed in the North as well as the South, but Northern slavery was based mostly on personal service rather than deeply rooted in the mode of production as it was in the South. The job confronting the “founding fathers” as they saw it was not establishing “democracy” but rather reconciling the interests of two competing modes of production — plantation slavery and capitalist “free labor” — within a republican form of government.
The incipient industrial capitalists in the North were hungry for wage labor partially because they could not hire African-Americans as workers as long as they were owned quite literally by the Southern slaveholders. The slave owners in the South suspected for their part that the Northern capitalists would find ways to undermine slavery to transform “their” African slave workers into proletarians or — as the capitalists call them — free wage workers.
To assure the Southern slave owners that their interests would be well protected in the emerging republic, the founding fathers wrote a constitution that made it extremely difficult to achieve a radical change in the social order. As a result, the founding fathers did not aim at a bourgeois democracy, despite claims to contrary constantly repeated in the media. To the founding fathers, those of the North as well as those from the South, the term “democracy” was much like the term “communist” today. If there was a genuine democracy, the founding fathers and virtually all political thinkers — at least in the white European world — of the time agreed that the very institution of private property would be in mortal peril from “mob rule.”
At the time the U.S. Constitution was written, no countries — only tribal peoples such as the Native Americans — had a form of government that was democratic. The vast majority of the countries in the world at the time the U.S. Constitution was written, including Britain were monarchies, where the monarch was expected not only to reign but to rule.
To elect the “chief magistrate,” or president, the founding fathers created the Electoral College. The state legislatures, elected by a limited electorate of white male property owners, chose the electors. The theory was that only property owners — naturally all white and all male — deserved to have a voice in the government because only they paid taxes. The electors would then choose the U.S. president. The Electoral College was created in part because the existing conditions of the time made it impractical for every individual state legislator to vote for president.
Members of the U.S. Senate, whose name was inspired by the aristocratic Senate — Council of Elders — of ancient Rome but also by the British House of Lords, were picked by state legislatures, with each state getting two senators regardless of population. A lower house, the House of Representatives, inspired by Britain’s House of Commons, where the seats were apportioned based on population — though the vast majority of the population couldn’t vote either because they lacked sufficient property or were female. The House of Representatives was designed to give the smaller property owners a voice in the government. As a compromise, the African slaves in the South, though not allowed to vote, were each to be counted as three-fifths of a person, which was to become infamous.
Why the original U.S. Constitution failed
On its original terms — the attempt to peacefully reconcile the “free labor system” with African chattel slavery — the original U.S. Constitution was to prove a failure. In the late 18th century, many of the Southern leaders foresaw that they would eventually shift from slave labor, which even at the time was condemned by advanced bourgeois thought that men like Thomas Jefferson upheld in words, admitting that slavery was bad and that sooner or later it would have to disappear. But they added that the time was not yet. For Jefferson, that time never came. Just as Jefferson never freed a single slave, not even his mistress Sarah “Sally” Hemings — or even his children by her — the Southern ruling class not only didn’t move to wage labor, they became more and more intent on preserving African chattel slavery.
Under the U.S. Constitution, private property in human beings was to be protected just as much as private property in capital and land. The hope of the founding fathers — those from the North and even those from the South — was that over time the South would shift from chattel slavery to wage labor. Slavery was viewed as an unfortunate but necessary stage toward an eventual “free labor system.” The founding fathers, many of whom were well schooled in the emerging science of classical political economy, knew that in the long run the exploitation of workers in a market economy was best carried out by “free” wage labor.
The problem that faced the founding fathers from the South and the class they represented was that there was no available proletariat — that is, an impoverished population forced to sell their labor power “voluntarily” under pain of starvation to the owners of the means of production. Such a class of people was largely absent in the “New World,” as the European colonizers called it. In the absence of such a class, the largely English colonists who developed large-scale plantation agriculture in the U.S. South saw the importation of chattel slaves from Africa as their best option.
As the white European colonies that were to become the U.S., and then the U.S. itself, developed along capitalist lines in the North, the emerging capitalist class was able to recruit proletarians from the ranks of impoverished European emigrants leaving Europe for a better life in the New World. These European immigrants, however, shunned the stagnant slave owner-dominated South, preferring to take advantage of the far greater opportunities offered them by the “free labor North.”
As a result, the hope for gradually transitioning from slave to wage labor in the U.S. South never occurred, which was to doom the original U.S. Constitution. Instead, more white colonies in the form of U.S. territories were created as the U.S. spread westward at the expense of the Native peoples. As a result, a fierce competition developed between the Northern states, which wanted to create more states based on the “free labor system,” and the Southern slave states, which wanted to create more slave states once the territories were emptied of their original inhabitants.
The question of “slave labor” versus “free labor” therefore became the axis around which all U.S. politics revolved between the founding of the republic and 1865. The number of “free states” versus “slave states” was crucial because the balance between them determined control of the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College.
Chattel slavery and wage labor required a different pattern of U.S. expansion
Plantation slavery was an extremely exploitative and wasteful mode of production, not only in terms of the human beings — the men, women and children it sucked the life blood out of — but also the land. As the land of the slave plantations became exhausted, new territories with the necessary subtropical to tropical climate were required to keep this monstrous mode of production alive. This required an expansionary foreign policy aimed at acquiring new territories that had the necessary climates. Cuba, the “Jewel of the Antilles,” was much sought after, and before the Civil War Democratic administrations attempted more than once to wrest it from Spain.
However, such a foreign policy could lead to wars with both the European colonial powers poised to take these territories and the local populations. Such wars would be costly in terms of soldiers who for the Northern capitalists would be better employed producing surplus value in their factories and mines as well as treasure — money — that could be transformed into industrial capital to produce still more surplus value.
From their point of view, the Southern slave owners feared that if the Northern capitalists gained the upper hand in the U.S. Senate and the Electoral College, and thus gained control of the White House, they would move to halt the creation of new slave states. Once this occurred, the exhaustion of the soil on the existing plantations would mean the end of plantation slavery.
Realizing that they were bound to win in the long run, the capitalists of the North were willing to make compromise after compromise as long as the basic territorial integrity of the United States and its common market free of internal tariffs and other trade barriers was preserved. The Southern slave owners, realizing that the long-term trend of economic development was moving against them, became more and more aggressive in their defense of chattel slavery. By the middle of the 19th century, the ideologues of the slave owners were proclaiming slavery as a positive good and better for the workers than capitalist wage slavery. Perhaps instead of wage slavery, the more aggressive ideologues of the slave-owning class said, the benefits of chattel slavery “enjoyed” by Africans should be extended to white workers.
Earlier, in the days of Andrew Jackson (Trump’s favorite president after himself), the slave owners took advantage of expanding white male suffrage in the North to build the Democratic Party. The slave owners’ allies in the Jacksonian Democratic Party claimed that Southern slave owners and Northern white workers had common interests in maintaining slavery. As long as African workers were enslaved, they could not compete for the dirtiest, most dangerous work with white workers. As a result, many white male workers, who under “Jacksonian democracy” gained the right to vote for the first time, unfortunately cast their votes for the Democrats.
But once the Southern ideologues began to talk about extending chattel slavery to white workers, an increasing number of white workers began to turn away from the Democratic Party. A bloody war in the Kansas Territory between the supporters of slavery, who wanted to bring the territory into the union as a slave state, and supporters of the “free labor system” opened the eyes of many more whites in the North.
Former Whig Abraham Lincoln disliked slavery though he held strongly racist views toward Africans. Strongly opposed to the creation of new slave states, he was elected president on the new Republican ticket, and the Southern slave owners rebelled. The banner of the Confederacy was slavery forever. It is no wonder that today’s fascists, as the scum of humanity they are, consider both the Third Reich of the 20th century and the Confederacy of the 19th century their models for white rule. During the Euro-Maidan coup in Ukraine in 2014, the Stars and Bars — the flag of slavery itself — was displayed.
After the slave owners’ rebellion
Much in the U.S. was changed by the defeat of the Southern slaveholders’ rebellion, including the U.S. Constitution. A series of amendments were passed that outlawed chattel slavery (except for persons convicted of a crime). The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, whatever their limitations, changed the very essence of the document, creating in effect a new Constitution based on capitalist rule, which now meant the domination of wage labor.
More changes in the U.S. Constitution were made reflecting democratic struggles — for example, the 17th amendment, which established the popular election of senators. Then, after the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia, which among many other things extended the suffrage to women, the 19th Amendment finally allowed women to vote. Later, as a result of the Civil Rights Movement, male African Americans regained the right to vote they briefly had during Reconstruction and African-American women gained the right to vote for the first time.
Due to the transformation of the mode of production both in the U.S. and the world that has occurred since 1787 — the impact of the Great French Revolution 1789-93, the defeat of the slaveholders’ rebellion, then the Russian and Chinese revolutions — the U.S. Constitution itself has changed dramatically compared to the original document written by 39 white men, many of them slave owners, in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia.
Despite these changes many archaic features of the U.S. Constitution have taken on new reactionary significance in the world of the early 21st century. Let’s begin with the U.S. Senate. In the Senate, the thinly populated mountain states — where much of the electorate consists of capitalist ranchers who exploit Mexican and other brown “temporary” workers who are not U.S. citizens and have no right to vote — have many extra votes when it comes to electing the U.S. Senate compared to increasingly brown coastal states. In the U.S. South, where white people have for several centuries been trained to “vote white” as a bloc, white racist voters have extra votes compared to states where whites are less racist or are not racist at all and divide their votes among several senatorial candidates. (6)
The continued existence of the now completely archaic Electoral College works in the same way, though the mathematical mechanism is somewhat different. This is most clearly illustrated in California, where most of people are not white and despise Trump. Polls show that Trump has about 30 percent support in the nation’s largest state, where virtually all Trump supporters are made up of a now shrinking white minority though many whites in California voted against Trump in 2016 as well. However, as soon as the vote count guaranteed a plurality to Hillary Clinton all additional votes, many cast by African-American or brown people, were in effect thrown out.
However, in so-called swing Midwestern states and “border states” — which still have white majorities — every vote counts. In 2020 — unless Trump is forced out of office as a result of the current impeachment drive — it will come down to whether there are enough “enlightened” white voters who can be added to African-American and the growing Hispanic vote against Trump. The balance of power is therefore in the hands of white voters who in effect are given extra votes.
Recently, Nancy Pelosi warned progressives within the Democratic Party — supporters of Bernie Sanders — that to win “we” must carry the Electoral College. What Pelosi is doing is hiding behind racist Republican voters to explain why the American people can’t have, among other things, health care as a right.
In reality, Pelosi and other Democratic Party leaders are themselves opposed to health care as a right for their own class reasons. Rather, they oppose health care as a right because it would end the ability of employers to kick workers off health care by terminating their employment greatly strengthening the position of the bosses in the labor market and making trade union organizing more difficult. But if Pelosi and other Democratic leaders were to give the real reason they oppose single-payer health care, it would be the end of the modern Democratic Party. Instead, they hide behind the Electoral College and the Republican Party with its racist electoral bias.
If the coming 2020 election were instead carried out on a democratic basis — I am not talking about “democracy of the Paris Commune type” but plain ordinary bourgeois democracy — Trump would have virtually no chance of election and many fewer Republicans would be elected, giving the Democrats solid majorities in both houses of Congress as well as the White House. But how then would Pelosi and other Democratic leaders explain their continued opposition to health care as a human right?
Here we are confining ourselves within the limits of formal democracy where every person who has reached a certain age has a right to vote. A case can be made that it is more democratic to give extra votes to historically disadvantaged brown and black voters. But we don’t need this argument to show that whatever Trump may claim to be he is not the democratically elected president of the United States. The most he can claim to be is the constitutionally elected president.
How Obama and Democrats handed presidency to Trump in 2016
As the votes were counted during November 2016, it became clear that Trump would carry the Electoral College, but it was far from clear that he would win the popular vote. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution, archaic though this document is by the standards of the 21st century, that requires that the Electoral College follow the votes of their state electorates. The U.S. Constitution as written simply gives the electors the power to choose as president any qualified person as defined by the U.S. Constitution as amended — that is, a U.S. citizen over 35 years of age who is native-born and who has not previously served more than one and half terms as president. That’s it. Why can’t the Electoral College simply act as a ceremonial body similar to the British monarchy and the House of Lords and simply ratify whoever wins a plurality of the popular vote? Some Democrats say they support this, though predictably the Republicans strongly oppose it.
The Queen (or King) of Britain still has more than enough power — power greatly exceeding the powers granted to the U.S. president by the U.S. Constitution — to not only reign but to rule. But the recent queens and kings of Britain “choose” not to exercise their theoretical powers. Instead, they “choose” to yield to the majority of the House of Commons to select the actual government of Britain, the prime minister and cabinet. For example, it can be assumed that British monarchs considering the class and caste from which they come prefer the Tories to Labor. But that doesn’t prevent the king or queen from appointing a Labor prime minister when the Labor Party wins a majority in the House of Commons. The House of Lords has gradually surrendered its power to the House of Commons as well.
Why can’t the Electoral College, an archaic institution rooted in another epoch, much like the British monarchy and the House of Lords in Britain, “choose” to elect as president the candidate that receives the greatest number of votes? But the Democrats and the Republicans have decided that electors in the Electoral College must follow their state electorates — an archaic idea stemming from the 18th-century view that former white colonies were at least potentially separate white nations — rather than the vote of the people on a national basis. Let’s see how this works in practice.
In 2000, it became clear that the Democrat Albert Gore had won a small but definite majority of the popular vote. This does not take into account the many cases of voter suppression that today strongly favor the Republicans. But it seemed that George W. Bush won the electoral vote by less than a dozen votes in Florida. As the networks reported that Bush had won the electoral vote, Albert Gore at once conceded to Bush. But as the count progressed, Bush’s “victory” in the Florida popular vote came increasingly into doubt and Gore felt obliged to withdrew his concession.
Then as a state-ordered recount was underway, the U.S. Supreme Court, along a strictly party-line vote, suspended the recount, handing the presidency to Bush. Later examination of the Florida vote revealed that Gore had won the Florida popular vote. This was not taking into account “police activity” on election day that made it impossible for certain African-American voters to cast their ballots. This “police activity” alone should have voided Bushes victory, but in this case we do not have to even make this argument.
According to the laws of the U.S., Albert Gore was the legal 43rd president of the United States between January 20, 2001 and January 20, 2005. However, it was George W. Bush who served as president in defiance of these laws. The five Republican members of the Supreme Court, acting as a disciplined fraction of the Republican Party, had reversed the election.
Bush as president made a series of disastrous decisions — disastrous, that is, from the viewpoint of the ruling class itself. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan — a war that has still not ended — and Iraq. Today, it is the consensus of the ruling class that the invasion of Iraq was a “well-meaning” mistake. From the viewpoint of the working class and the peoples of the world, it was a crime.
Gore later said he would not have invaded Iraq, though we don’t know whether he actually would have stood up to the pro-war pressure from the large pro-war sections of the ruling class and its “opinion makers.” We don’t even know whether Gore would have opposed the war, but it is at least possible he would not have invaded Iraq. We do know that Bush did. Bush also supported a huge tax cut, which contributed to the extreme severity of the Great Recession. By the time he left office on January 20, 2009, Bush was one of the most hated presidents in history.
In any event, basic (bourgeois) democratic principles should have required a thorough investigation of the 2000 election and how it went so wrong. The resignation of the Supreme Court justices would have been expected once it became clear that their purely partisan decision had in effect reversed the results of an election. Under any remotely (bourgeois) democratic system, they would by their reversal of the results of an election have been stripped of their moral authority to be the supreme interpreters of the Constitution and law of the land.
This would have opened — in theory anyway — the way to the appointment of young progressive Supreme Court justices in their place so today there would be no Republican majority on the Court threatening the right to abortion or what is left of the Affordable Care Act. Action would have been taken to abolish by constitutional amendment the Electoral College, or at least reduce it to a ceremonial body. If this had been done, Donald Trump would not be president today. But as we all know, none of these steps were taken or even seriously considered.
Obama hands the presidency to Trump
As the votes were counted in November 2016, it became clear that Trump had won the Electoral College but the popular vote — how the American people had voted — was another matter, since the West Coast states had not been counted. This did not prevent Barack Obama — who it has recently been revealed plans to intervene if necessary to stop Bernie Sanders from being the Democratic presidential nominee — from getting on the phone demanding that Hillary Clinton immediately concede to the racist Trump (7) even though basic democratic principles would have required that the Republican-controlled Electoral College recognize Hillary Clinton’s victory when it became clear that she had received almost three million more votes than Trump.
An unhappy Hillary Clinton — she, after all, really wanted to be president — did so almost at once. Obama put the “security of the state power” above the most basic principles of formal democracy — the principle that the candidate who wins the most votes takes office. Obama went further and wished Trump success, saying words to the effect that when Trump succeeds we all succeed, and then was rewarded by many personal attacks from Trump. Obama behaved this way because he is a loyal defender of his class first of all, and after that a loyal Democrat.
Why didn’t the Democrats seriously attempt to abolish or strip the Electoral College, which gives the Republicans a great advantage by in effect giving extra votes to white people who are far more likely to vote Republican at the expense of brown and black people, who under present political conditions are far more likely to vote Democrat?
In reality, the Democratic Party is not so much interested in winning elections — however much individual Democrats want to win — as serving the U.S. ruling class. The U.S. system of class rule, as it has evolved from the end of British rule until today, requires a two-party system, unlike countries that have more fully implemented the principles of bourgeois democracy. As the U.S. evolves from a “white country” of colonial-settler origin, with an African-American minority along with a small Hispanic minority, to a “brown-black” country where brown and black people will be a majority, the continued existence of the Republican Party as the party of the white backlash is imperiled.
Under a two-party — not multi-party — system, the Republican Party cannot survive as a splinter party. It must be able win at least occasional majorities in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and most importantly the presidency. But as things stand today, the Republicans are increasingly toxic to any voter who is not white and not Christian. By Christian, I mean not necessarily those who believe in the Christian religion but people born to parents who were at least nominally Christian, as opposed to people whose parents were Muslim, Jewish, or followed some other non-Christian religion.
The Republican Party acknowledges the problem, and it periodically announces that it is working to increase GOP support among non-white and non-Christian people. But events from Goldwater and Nixon in the 1960s to Trump today keep going in the opposite direction. Never in its history has the Republican Party been as unpopular among non-white and non-Christians as it is today. It is also rejected by the majority of younger white people who unlike many of their elders reflect the ideals of the sixties rebellion.
Until something can be done about this problem confronting the two-party system — not merely the Republican Party — the Democrats and Republicans have agreed the Republican Party needs a series of electoral supports to remain viable. This as we see requires maintenance of the Electoral College and the reactionary traditions of the “white South” rooted in slavery and Jim Crow, along with the Senate. All these institutions greatly magnify the power of the Republican Party.
The Democratic Party fears that despite its continuing electoral successes the Republican Party will die as the U.S. shifts from a white to a brown-black country over the coming decades. Therefore, the Democrats are doing everything possible to keep the Republican Party alive.
Democratic leaders explain that U.S. “democracy” requires a strong two-party system and a Democratic Party with the only alternative to its rule coming from a party even further to the right, the Republican Party. Naturally, the capitalist ruling class the Democratic Party serves likes it this way because this way it can never lose an election.
There is another example in U.S. history where one of the two parties in the two-party system — in this case the Republican Party — went to the rescue of what appeared to its dying opponent, the Democratic Party. The U.S. Civil War — or the war of the slave owners’ rebellion — is usually described as a war between the North and the South. But this view is false. It ignores the fact that many Southerners, first of all the African slaves themselves but many whites as well, were on the side of the “North” and many in the North were on the side of the “South.”
It is more accurate to see the conflict as a war between the new Republican Party, representing the emerging U.S. industrial capitalists, and the Democratic Party, representing the class of slave owners plus sections of the banking and merchant capitalists whose interest were connected to the slave holders. The Democratic merchants — and the bankers who financed them — sold the cotton produced by slave labor to the industrial capitalists of Great Britain.
Cotton was the chief raw material for the British textile industry, the leading industry of 19th-century industrial capitalism. The U.S. exchanged cotton for British manufactured textiles and other finished goods, which at that time could be produced much more cheaply in Britain than in the North. Therefore, the interest of merchants and Wall Street bankers were aligned to the slave owners and their Democratic Party.
The Northern “Jacksonian” Democrats had convinced many white workers, particularly the most exploited white workers newly arrived from Europe, that their interests were the same as the Southern slaveholders because slavery prevented African workers from competing with them for the hardest and worse-paid jobs.
After the slave owners’ rebellion was defeated — a question of life and death for the emerging U.S. nation-state — it seemed that the Democratic Party would disappear. Routed from its Southern stronghold during Reconstruction, the Democrats were not strong enough on their own to function as the second party within a two-party system. If the South had been reorganized along (bourgeois) democratic lines, the Republican Party could have established itself there among both blacks and whites.
For example, it could have implemented a land reform that distributed plantation land benefiting not only the freed African slaves but poor white farmers as well, combined with a thorough re-education of the white population explaining that the Confederacy was not a glorious lost cause but an engine of oppression by a slave owner class that oppressed if in different ways not only the enslaved Africans but the poor white farmers as well. A victory for Reconstruction would have been a victory of the Republican Party — a very different Republican Party than the party now bearing that name — and virtually destroyed the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party would have been reduced to a splinter party of far-right Southern die-hards dreaming of restoring a slave owner past and white Northern racist demagogues trying to pit immigrant workers against African Americans. But all the “serious” Northern Democrats — meaning serious about getting elected and lining their pockets from the spoils of office — would have turned Republican, and the Democratic Party would have died out in both the North and the South.
But this would have created a problem for the U.S. system of capitalist rule, which requires a two-party, not one-party, system. The more the Republican Party became the all-encompassing “American” party North and South, the more the basic class conflict between the working class and capitalists that had replaced the old conflict between the “slave labor” versus “free labor” systems would have been reflected within the Republican Party. This new irreconcilable conflict would have caused the Republican Party to split into a party representing the capitalists and a party representing the wage workers.
The Republican Party and the new wage-workers’ party would have competed with each other for influence over the still very large but shrinking class of farmers and other small commodity producers. This was the last thing the leaders of the Republican Party, and more importantly their capitalist masters, wanted. Instead, no matter how much individual capitalists preferred the Republican Party — which was generally but by no means universally the case — they needed to preserve the Democratic Party as the second party of the two-party system to stave off the rise of a workers’ party.
The Democrats far more than the Republicans contained politicians skilled at claiming to represent the interest of the white workers. Before the war, the “Jacksonian Democrats” of the North had built up influence in urban white immigrant communities. They led trade unions — craft unions — that did not allow African-Americans to join and represented only the narrow economic interests of (some) white workers. Much more than the “pro-business” Republicans, they could “sound” anti-capitalist if that were necessary. Thus, a form of “Jacksonian Democracy” — without a separate slave-owning class — was more important than ever to the capitalist class that now ruled the U.S.
Saving the Democratic Party
But to save the Democratic Party, the Republicans had to restore it in the South. This required that African-American males — women regardless of race had no right to vote — be progressively disenfranchised, shades of today’s GOP voter suppression but on steroids. Whites were drenched in rhetoric that pictured the slave owners’ rebellion as a noble “lost cause” that went down in the face of “Northern aggression.” Even in the North, leaders of the revolt were pictured as great patriots rather than the pro-slavery and pro-British traitors they were.
But all this was not enough. It required the creation of terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, made up of Confederate war veterans, which foreshadowed in many ways the rise of fascism in post-World War I Europe. Above all, it required that the white population — North and South — be thoroughly indoctrinated in racist ideology. Indeed, the racist ideology reaching Germany from the U.S. played no small role in the formation of the German National Socialists, the Nazis themselves.
To accomplish all this, Reconstruction had to be ended once and for all. The Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, handing over the fate of former Africans slaves to the tender mercies of the proto-fascist KKK terrorists, acting as the terrorist arm of the revived Democratic Party.
With the Democratic base in the South thus restored, the ties between the Southern and Northern Democrats — like New York City’s infamously corrupt Tammany Hall political machine — could now be fully restored. Instead of two classes — capitalist purchasers of labor power versus slaveholders who owned their workers as private property — with two parties to represent their conflicting interests, two parties were representing one capitalist ruling class, though in different ways.
The evolution of the post-Civil War two-party system
Between the betrayal of Reconstruction by the Republicans and the super-crisis of 1929-33, the Democrats were able to win the presidency only under exceptional circumstances — for example, after the split between Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in the 1912 presidential election. The Democrats, because of their lock on the Jim Crow South, were just strong enough to function as the second party within the two-party system.
But then began the decline of the Republicans and the rise of the modern two-party system. The decline of the Republicans began with the super-crisis of 1929-33, when Democrat Franklin Roosevelt was able to easily defeat Republican Herbert Hoover. The only program Roosevelt offered — leaving aside hints that he would devalue the U.S. dollar — was his promise to balance the federal budget. He quickly abandoned this program, though he went ahead with his plans to devalue dollar, raising the official dollar price of gold from $20.67 to $35 an ounce.
FDR’s New Deal developed as a series of pragmatic maneuvers and concessions in response to the growth of the Communist Party USA — the U.S. section of the Third (Communist) International — and a wave of strikes demanding basic labor rights. These strikes and the still small but fast-growing Communist Party climaxed in the rise of the Congress of Industrial Organizations — the CIO.
Roosevelt won the majority of most Northern African-Americans, while Southern African-Americans were disenfranchised by the Jim Crow Democrats. African-Americans supported the “progressive” aspects of the New Deal more strongly than the white population did. These reforms included Social Security, unemployment insurance, and the Wagner Act, which legalized unions — though it tied them hand and foot to the apparatus of NLRB, which has played no small role in the decline of the unions since the New Deal.
Another factor was that after the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, held in Moscow in 1935, the U.S. Communist Party helped overcome any hesitations that African Americans may have had in supporting the historical party of slavery and what was still very much the party of Jim Crow in the U.S. South. Roosevelt never said a word against Jim Crow and was determined to keep the Jim Crow Democrats in the Democratic Party. However, in light of the Republican Party’s betrayal of Reconstruction and Herbert Hoover’s refusal to do anything to help the victims of the Depression, especially African-American victims, by the mid-1930s African Americans had had enough of the “party of Lincoln.”
Between the New Deal and and the 1960s, the so-called Roosevelt coalition, which stretched from African Americans on the left to Jim Crow Democrats on the right, dominated U.S. politics. But the coalition couldn’t last.
The first sign that it was breaking up came in 1948. Roosevelt’s vice-president between January 20, 1941, and January 20, 1945, was Henry Wallace. He had been dropped from the ticket in 1944 because he didn’t support the plans to launch what became the Cold War against the Soviet Union and was generally considered too far to the left. Wallace was a former Republican who supported civil rights, while Truman was a reliable “border state” (Missouri) racist Democrat. In response, Wallace teamed up with the Communist Party USA to create the new Progressive Party.
The entire Communist Party-oriented left was galvanized by the Progressive Party campaign. Wallace, at least by the standards of a white politician of the time, in addition to opposing the Cold War held advanced views on civil rights – perhaps because of his Republican Party past and pressure from his Communist Party supporters. For example, he refused to address segregated audiences during his campaign in the South.
This enraged the Jim Crow Democrats. It also created a possibility that African Americans would defect from their very recent alliance with the Democratic Party and support Wallace’s Progressives. If this had happened, it would have meant that there could have been a real opposition to the Cold War within organized American electoral politics and within the African-American community, where it was never popular to begin with.
Because of this, Harry Truman, Roosevelt’s racist successor, was forced to offer concessions to the African-American population on civil rights. The Civil Rights Act of 1948, essentially repealed the extension into the U.S. federal government of Jim Crow under the Democratic Woodrow Wilson administration. The U.S. armed forces, which were organized along strictly Jim Crow lines, had remained segregated right through World War II, a war supposedly fought against racist fascism. The armed forces were now, formally at least, desegregated.
Though Truman’s civil rights bill didn’t touch Jim Crow in the South, it served its purpose in preventing major defections to the Progressives from the Northern African-American community in the 1948 election, leading to the collapse of the Progressive Party. However, the Jim Crow Democrats saw the writing on the wall and organized the states’ rights Democrats – dubbed the Dixiecrats – to ran the arch-segregationist South Carolina Democratic Senator Strom Thurmond for president against Harry Truman and conservative Republican Thomas Dewey.
The Democrats facing splits on their left (Henry Wallace) and their right (Strom Thurmond) were widely expected to lose to Dewey. However, due to the strong Northern African-American vote and support for Truman organized by the AFL and CIO unions controlled by fiercely anti-Communist supporters of U.S. imperialism, Truman managed to get elected. What the election of 1948 did show was that African Americans had had enough of the “party of Lincoln” while white Americans had had their fill of the “party of Herbert Hoover.”
In 1952, the Democrats nominated conservative racist, pro-segregationist former Governor of Illinois Adlai Stevenson for president. The Jim Crow Democrats were satisfied with the pro-segregationist Stevenson, and the Roosevelt coalition was reassembled. However, though popular with intellectuals, Stevenson was not popular with the U.S. people and Republican General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was considered a war hero and who promised not to repeal the New Deal, defeated Stevenson twice. Eisenhower, however, was the only Republican elected to the presidency during the era that the Roosevelt coalition dominated U.S. politics. Since the Republicans were out of “war heroes” to run, the GOP was now in deep trouble.
The Republicans decided they would rebuild the GOP by tapping into the “white racist backlash” to the gains made by African-Americans due to the Civil Rights Movement. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, effectively ending legal Jim Crow and restoring suffrage to Southern African-American males – and for the first time to female African Americans – previously lost due to the Republican betrayal of Reconstruction.
Right-wing Republicans like Richard Nixon and Senator Barry Goldwater – who unlike Eisenhower did favor repealing the New Deal – saw an opportunity to appeal to Southern whites based on defending white racism. Also, much of the traditional support for the Democratic Party in the North was based not only on support to New Deal reforms but also on racism – the lingering influence of “Jacksonian democracy.” The present-day Republican Party was in effect born when Barry Goldwater decided in opposition to the congressional Republican leadership to form a bloc with the Southern Democrats and oppose the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. The new Republican Party combined the businessperson core of the historical Republican Party with the “white backlash” in the South and the North.
So deep is racism in U.S. society – its colonial-settler origins combined with the heritage of African slavery – that the Republican Party has maintained its position as the more dominant of the two parties within the two-party system since the election of Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1968. However, to maintain its position, the Republicans increasingly depend on Democratic toleration of and backhanded support of Republican dominance.
To maintain its seats in the House of Representatives and state legislatures, the Republican Party has increasingly relied on a combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression. Due to its two senators in all states regardless of population, the GOP is vastly over-represented in the Senate. As more voters have voted for the Democrats than Republicans in House and Senate races, the Republicans more often than not have controlled the U.S. Congress. The Democrats have failed to seriously struggle against any of this, even though it has been reduced to the role of the second party within the two-party system since 1968.
In this century, the Republicans – again not taking into account voter suppression – have won only one presidential race based on the popular vote. That was in 2004 when George W. Bush was still basking in the aftermath of the events of 9/11.
Now a slew of Democratic presidential candidates, backed by the media, have launched a major attack on single-payer health care. These include Joseph Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bloomberg (the former Republican mayor of New York), with Hillary Clinton preparing to jump back in as a “compromise” candidate if none of the other conservative Democratic candidates proves viable, as appears increasingly likely. As a result, the Democrats are losing the one big advantage they had over the GOP in the 2018 elections, the health care issue.
However much Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may personally believe in single-payer, their party, the Democratic Party, as loyal servant of the capitalists, is opposed to the idea. In the unlikely event that Sanders is actually elected president and the Democrats keep their majority in the House and gain a majority in the Senate, President Sanders will still not have the votes needed to establish single-payer health care as a right, because his party is opposed to it. The winner of the current Democratic Party assault on single-payer health care – besides the capitalist class – is the racist Republican Party.
However, as white America gives way to brown-black America over the next few decades, something more than the current voter suppression, the U.S. Senate, and the Electoral College will be necessary to keep the Republican Party alive. Either an open apartheid-like system will have to be established with only whites having the right to vote – this would imply the victory of something pretty close to outright fascism – or the Republican Party will finally have to find a significant base of support in a portion of the “brown-black” population. But since the 1960s, things have been going in the opposite direction and Trump has made the problems of the Republicans in this regard considerably worse.
What if the Republican Party dies?
If the Republican Party finally dies as white America gives way to brown-black America, the modern Democratic Party as sole ruling party will increasingly be torn apart by the basic class contradiction of U.S. society. The Democrats no longer having the Republican Party will stumble on the irreconcilable conflict between the wage-earning working-class majority and the capitalist exploiters represented by the Democratic leadership. This is exactly what would have happened with the old Republican Party if the Republicans had not betrayed Reconstruction, but with this difference.
The post-Civil War era represented the era of rising U.S. capitalism. A working-class party formed at that time would almost certainly have been a bourgeois reformist labor party – along the lines of the Australian Labor Party. We in the U.S. would enjoy health care as a right much like the Australians, the British, and indeed the citizens of every other advanced capitalist country do, and we would have many more labor rights, so the trade unions would be far stronger. But we would still be plagued with all the basic contradictions of capitalism in its imperialist monopoly stage.
A new party of wage workers will arrive in the era of the decline – and sooner or later the downfall – of the U.S empire, and now that capitalism has captured Asia, we are also in the era of the decline of capitalism as a world system. Unlike in the era of rising U.S. capitalism and rising capitalism as a world system, a wage-workers party formed in the U.S. in the future will be under great pressure to aim for the overthrow of capitalism and not simply reform it.
Perhaps then the U.S. capitalist class – or after its overthrow its last diedhard supporters – will regret its decision to revive the Democratic Party after the Civil War as a racist substitute for what would have been a bourgeois reformist labor party, which would have protected U.S capitalism in its rising phase against its own worst excesses. They may also regret the move to create the modern Republican Party as a party of the “white backlash” in the 1960s.
Barack Obama’s decision in November 2016 to get on the phone and demand that Hillary Clinton immediately concede the election to the racist demagogue Donald Trump when she had won by almost three million votes – not taking into account GOP voter suppression – may also be viewed as Obama’s single biggest “mistake.” We can imagine that these last bourgeois historians, faced with a victorious U.S. socialist revolution, will complain that as a result of these “errors” the U.S. political system lost the flexibility required to stave off revolution much like the reactionaries after the French and Russian revolutions complained about the lack of flexibility shown by the Bourbon and Romanov monarchies. We were so greedy and shortsighted, these final defenders of the overthrown capitalists will complain, we didn’t want to give up anything and as a result we lost everything.
But revolutions don’t happen automatically, they have to be made. For now, the Democrats continue to do everything they can to to keep the racist Republican Party alive, even as they carry out their capitalist-imperialist impeachment of Donald Trump, broadcast on all TV channels and devices – except Joe Biden’s record players. They are skillfully keeping the progressives off the streets by raising hopes that Trump will be removed by impeachment or the 2020 elections. It’s time to return to real struggle – in the streets, the factories, the mines, the campuses, the school rooms, and other work places – to begin to build a real party of wage workers that unlike the Democrats will wage a real struggle against Trump and all he stands for and his imperialist Democratic Party enablers.
1 Political class consciousness as opposed to trade union consciousness has always been the exception among U.S. workers due ultimately to the colonial-settler origins of the country and heritage of slavery. The counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that occurred 30 years ago, combined with the rapid development of capitalism in what was previously seen as socialist China and Vietnam, has led to a decline in class consciousness among the workers worldwide in comparison with the previous epoch dominated by the victory of the Russian socialist Revolution. However, the degree of class consciousness can change rapidly — you only have to look at Cuba in the 1950s, when anti-Communist ideology had a tight grip on all classes including the working class, compared to the 1960s. (back)
2 Japan, though a monarchy and dominated by the Japanese military, was not a fascist dictatorship in contrast to Italy and Germany. However, Japan was an imperialist power – though a weak one – that was building a colonial empire of its own in Korea, Taiwan and southeast Asia. (back)
3 According to Hegel’s idealist dialectic, world history went through a series of stages that were right for the time until finally it reached its climax in the constitution of the Prussian state, the goal all history was tending toward. The reactionary American political scientist Francis Fukuyama, using the conservative idealistic side of Hegel’s dialectic — the opposite way Marx and Engels used it — claimed that the victory of U.S. imperialism in the Cold War with the Soviet Union showed that “Western-style democracy” and the “free market” — capitalism — was the final stage of human history. In the future, governments would come and go but the social order — capitalism — and its political expression — U.S.-style democracy — would endure as long as humanity did. The U.S. system played the same role in Fukuyama’s “dialectic” that the Prussian state played for Hegel. (back)
4 Before the Third Reich, most shades of anti-Semitism distinguished between “bad” Jews, who were allegedly behind the workers’ movement, and “good” Zionist Jews, building their bourgeois state along racist settler-colonial lines in Palestine. Even the Nazis, who took anti-Semitism to unheard-of extremes during the 1930s, still made this distinction to a certain extent. At a time when all other “non-National Socialist” organizations were illegal, the German Zionist Organization was perfectly legal and encouraged to operate within the German Jewish community. The really bad Jews, the Nazis claimed, were those who wanted to assimilate, pretend to be Aryan and German, or worst of all support the left, particularly the German Communist Party. The reason the Nazis encouraged the Zionists and allowed them to maintain a legal organization in Germany was that the Zionists shared the Nazi goals of getting the Jews to leave Germany and Europe.
Only during the final stage of National Socialism did this distinction between the “good” Zionist Jews and “bad” pro-working-class Jews disappear. During the war, Germany never contested British control of Palestine, which made it impossible for Germany under wartime conditions to ship European Jews to Palestine. The only practical way left to make Europe “Jew free” was to physically exterminate them. (back)
5 These are in principle quite different. The system of small commodity production is a system where the workers own their means of production though on a private property, individual basis. Wage labor, on the other hand, is a system where the monopolistic owners of the means of production exploit a population that owns only its ability to work. But it is also true that when commodity production develops to its highest stage it transforms itself into capitalist production. Therefore, the “free labor system” that dominated the North was driven by its inner laws – the law of value – to give way to the wage-labor system – capitalism. (back)
6 The early socialist movement demanded the abolition of the Senate altogether due to its undemocratic nature, as well as the presidency of the United States because it represented a dangerous concentration of executive power above Congress. If the Electoral College were abolished, it would leave the president as the only official who was elected by the votes of all the people. Marx pointed out in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” that this was used by Louis Bonaparte to make himself dictator and then emperor.
To avoid this, the early U.S. socialists said the House of Representatives should choose the chief executive. The result of this reform would be, at least on paper, the full establishment, of bourgeois democracy in the U.S. As long as the majority of the working class and the people in general are not yet convinced of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat – a state of the Paris Commune or Soviet type – Marxists support the struggle for full bourgeois democracy, which provides the best conditions under capitalist rule for the working class to wage its struggle for liberation. (back)
7 Trump with all his Bonapartist tendencies is sensitive to the fact that he did not win the majority of he popular vote. He falsely claims that he did win the majority and that he lost the official vote tally only because millions of non-citizens — his followers think “brown” Hispanic people — voted illegally. Trump would indeed have won the popular vote if only the votes of white people were counted. (back)