The U.S. Election and People’s Front Politics

A note on the stimulus

I will start with the “stimulus” proposal and how it will affect the evolution of the industrial cycle now beginning. In recent weeks, Trump has been all over the map on the stimulus proposal. In a tweet, he announced that he was ordering the Republicans to end the negotiations with the Democrats. Hours later, after a sharply negative reaction on the stock market, he announced that since the stimulus is desperately needed he is for an even bigger measure than the Democrats have offered.

Trump’s motivation here is obvious. The president, who is sharply down in the polls, sees the mailing out of government checks — with his name on them — as a way to use the vast financial resources of the federal government to buy votes. However, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans have emerged as the main opposition for the stimulus. McConnell is opposed to any aid to ordinary Americans, only to business.

A curious correlation has recently emerged in the financial markets. Whenever the passage of the “stimulus” seems more likely, the stock market rises but so does the dollar price of gold, which measures how much real money — gold — the U.S. dollar actually represents. The higher the dollar price of gold the lower the gold value of the dollar. When passage of a stimulus bill appears less likely, we see the converse. Both stocks and the dollar price of gold fall. That is, U.S. stocks lose dollar value and the dollar gains gold value.

It may seem at first glance that the capitalist class favors the stimulus since the stock market rises whenever passage appears more likely. So isn’t there a common interest between the capitalists — or at least the corporations listed on the main stock exchanges — and the workers, who can certainly use whatever money the government puts in their hands? Due to an accelerating turnover of capital and higher selling prices (to the extent the stimulus checks represent newly printed money that is then borrowed and spent by the U.S. Treasury), as well as higher profits and dividends, stock prices will also rise. Many progressives reason in this way. Only reactionary Republicans, according to them, drunk on their “conservative” or “neo-liberal” ideology are opposed to the stimulus.

Why then does Mitch McConnell, who directly represents the interest of capital as much as is humanly possible, oppose the proposal to put extra money into the hands of the workers if it is so good for profits, dividends, and stock market prices? Is McConnell turning against the interests of business? Hardly. Or is it that he and his donors are blinded by their reactionary conservative, or if you prefer neo-liberal, ideology? Again, the answer is no.

From the standpoint of capital, mass unemployment created by the COVID-19 pandemic provides a unique opportunity for employers to lower wages and increase the rate of surplus value. To the extent that the government feels obliged to put money into the hands of workers if only to damp down unrest caused by the U.S. government’s incredible mishandling of the pandemic, the opportunity to raise the rate of surplus value — the ratio of unpaid to paid labor — is “spoiled” because the workers then feel less desperate and therefore better able to resist the wage cuts.

Then why does the stock market rise when the passage of the stimulus appears more likely? The stock market “thinks” in terms of the short run. What will happen next quarter? If more money is put into the hands of the workers, the pace of business will increase — the rate of turnover of (variable) capital (1) will increase and price rises will be somewhat more likely because the increased business will reduce the competition for market share. Seeing the prospect of better business and higher profits and thus higher dividends in the next few quarters, the stock market rises.

But any reduction in the rate of surplus value will reduce the rate of profit in the long run. The stimulus by improving business also reduces the demand for U.S. dollars as means of payment for paying off debt. The reduced demand for the dollar is reflected in a rise in the dollar price of gold — a depreciation of the dollar. When the stimulus appears less likely, the reverse happens.

So Senator McConnell is quite right — from the viewpoint of the class he represents, the capitalist class. The working class has the exact opposite interest. McConnell and his capitalist patrons sense the less stimulus the higher the rate of surplus value, even if this means a lower rate of profit for the next few quarters. Therefore, in the long run, the less stimulus — in the sense of less help the government extends to ordinary Americans — the higher the rate and mass of profit will be. The interest of the capitalist class as regards the stimulus is thus diametrically opposed to the interest of the working class.

The people’s front and the U.S. election

Virtually every U.S. election cycle in which control of the White House is in play follows a familiar pattern. Before the Democratic nominee for the presidency has emerged, progressives in great numbers proclaim that this time they will not support the nominee unless she or he represents the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Or at the very least, the nominee supports at least one of the crucial points that separate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party from the always dominant corporate, or conservative, wing.

In this election cycle, the decisive issue was the struggle for health care as a human right rather than as a commodity. Health care as a human right, also known in the U.S. as “single-payer health care,” would end once and for all the employer-centered private health care system. In earlier election cycles, the decisive issue was often a particularly unpopular colonial war such as the war against Vietnam and the other peoples of Indochina in the 1960s or more recently the war against the people of Iraq.

As the struggle for the Democratic nomination for the presidency begins, progressives like filmmaker Michael Moore gravely warn the Democrats that if they nominate yet another conservative, pro-corporate candidate they will surely lose to the Republicans. Then the Democrats ignore the advice of Moore and other progressives and nominate the most conservative pro-corporate candidate in the field. But there is a brief hope that maybe the pro-corporate conservative nominee will choose a progressive or at least liberal running mate.

This year, that hope centered on the liberal senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren. But as happened in 2016, when conservative Democratic nominee for President Hillary Clinton chose as her running mate the conservative Democratic senator from Virginia Tim Kaine, this year conservative Democratic nominee Joseph Biden chose the pro-corporate conservative former prosecutor and current Democratic junior senator from California Kamala Harris.

Maybe this time, some but not all progressives say, we shouldn’t support the Democrats. By nominating pro-corporate conservatives, they are taking us for granted. But up to now, the Democratic leaders know that we progressives will always support the Democratic candidate. They, therefore, have no incentive to take our views into account.

So maybe we should refuse to support yet another corporate Democratic presidential and vice-presidential ticket. Then the Democrats will finally learn their lesson and start nominating progressives whose views represent the great mass of the people who consider themselves to be Democrats. But as election day draws ever nearer, the Republican ticket is so repulsive on the decisive issues, and indeed on all issues, most progressives first hesitate and then capitulate.

Filmmaker Michael Moore with all his considerable elegance warns that, despite his disappointment and profound disagreement with this year’s Democratic nominees, there is simply no alternative but to vote Democratic if the world is not to end. Linguist and progressive icon Noam Chomsky also explains that the future of the country, and indeed of the entire planet, is hanging on the defeat of the Republican candidate.

Manifestos appear, some signed by former Weathermen and similar radical leaders from yesteryear, explaining how the horrible Republicans must be defeated and the only possible alternative is the conservative corporatist Democratic presidential ticket. Now there is virtual unanimity, from 1960s “New Left” veterans, Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, the trade union leadership (who complain that many of their members vote Republican), the African-American leadership (no complaints here that their followers vote Republican), the U.S. Communist Party (the oldest socialist organization in the U.S.), and the extreme left Revolutionary Communist Party, that we must go all out to get out the vote for the Democratic presidential ticket and Democrats up and down ballot.

Finally, as he does every four years as Halloween approaches, the phantom of Adolf Hitler rises from the ghostly fires of his 1945 Berlin bunker. The Republican candidate represents fascism, proclaim progressives, 1960s-era New Leftists, and both the CPUSA and the RCP. The only way to defeat fascism in this most important election since elections began, they say, is to ensure the defeat of the Republican presidential ticket and all Republicans up and down the ballot. And the only way the Republicans can be defeated is by electing the Democrats since under the U.S. two-party system only the Democrats can win against the “fascist” Republicans.

To be fair to Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, veteran New Leftists, the U.S. Communist Party, and the Revolutionary Communist Party, the U.S. two-party electoral system is based on political blackmail. The electorate is offered two candidates and only two candidates who they are told can win. One is a Republican who is utterly repulsive if you are not a capitalist (or at least an aspiring capitalist), a racist, or some other type of bigot. Not that these types are lacking in the American electorate. The other candidate is a Democrat who in a few — but only a few — districts might be a “progressive” but far more often is a conservative and pro-business but appears slightly less repugnant than the Republican. Or as it is often said on the left, the Democrats are “the lesser evil.”

The undemocratic U.S. electoral system

In most U.S. elections for federal office and many local offices, it is not the candidates who get 50 percent or more of the votes who win but rather the candidates who win a plurality. In elections for federal posts, which include delegates to the Electoral College, federal senators, and congresspersons, there are no runoffs or any provision for proportional representation as is the case in most European elections.

Therefore, under the undemocratic U.S. winner-take-all electoral system, when a normally Democratic progressive instead votes “third party,” that vote in effect counts as a vote for the Republican. Therefore, progressive, African-American, Hispanic, Muslim, Native American, Jewish, LGBTQ, or any other voters belonging to a group threatened by the extreme right, whenever they consider casting “third party” protest votes, usually think the better of it and in the end cast their votes for the Democratic candidates

Occasionally, depending on state laws and local political circumstances, there are indeed third party, candidates. There are also occasions when there is only one candidate — either a Democrat or Republican — but this situation, without even pretense of a democratic choice, is the exception. Often, however, the third-party candidates are extreme right-wing libertarians or other types of extreme right wingers. But sometimes they are progressive Greens and even socialists running on a full Marxist program. Except for local elections, and even these rarely, only the Democrat or Republican ever wins.

Therefore, under the winner-take-all electoral system, the Democrats can always take the progressives’ vote for granted as long as the Republican is far enough to the right. And the Republican candidate virtually always is. The result is that the further to the right the Republican candidate is the more conservative and “pro-business” the Democratic candidate can be and still get the progressive vote. The further result is that over time both Republicans and Democrats move more and more to the right.

For example, from the 1930s until 1980, the Democratic Party platform supported health care as a human right similar to what we now call Medicare for All. Amid the “Volcker shock,” the Republican Party lurched violently to the right and nominated Ronald Reagan for U.S. president. (2)

As the Republican Party moved sharply rightward, the Democrats followed, dropping their demand for universal health care. When the Democrats under Barack Obama finally passed a health care reform in the form of the Affordable Care Act, they adopted in essence the Republican plan that carefully kept intact the employer-centered private insurance health care system. The Republicans for their part moved even further to the right, demanding the repeal of what was in effect their own health care plan. They attempted to do this through Congress, where they ultimately failed, and now are trying to repeal the ACA through the Supreme Court. (3)

The election cycle of 2020 is more of the same but also has unique features. President Trump refuses to answer the question of whether he will leave office if he loses in the Electoral College. This is, as far I know, without precedent in U.S. history. Trump is the most racist president since at least Woodrow Wilson and has outdone even Wilson, if not in his racist views — that would be hard to do — at least in terms of his public racist demagoguery.

Trump’s racism across the board

Trump has made racist statements at various times against African-Americans, Hispanics (especially Hispanic immigrants), and Muslims, and has dog whistled against American Jews. For example, Trump has repeatedly declared that Israel — by implication, not the USA — is the Jews’ country and that the (American) Jews’ prime minister is Benjamin Netanyahu. In recent weeks, he has offered support to fascists such as Kyle Rittenhouse, who murdered in cold blood two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Trump has frequently voiced support for both police and fascist violence against Black Lives Matter protesters. He has made racist attacks against Democratic politicians of color including vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris, describing her as a “monster” and a “communist,” among other things. Trump is attempting to rile up his racist supporters by running not so much against Biden, who like Trump is a white man, but rather against Harris, a woman of color.

Trump claims that mail-in voting, the only safe way to vote in the face of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, will mean that millions of “illegal aliens” will vote. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pro-Trump Republican postmaster general has removed postal mailboxes and dismantled sorting machines necessary for swift and accurate delivery of the mail.

Trump assures his supporters that as long as mail-in and other votes cast by “illegal aliens” are not counted, there is no way he can lose. He claims that he only lost the popular vote in 2016 to Hillary Clinton by almost three million votes because of such votes. And Trump has indicated that he will not recognize a “fake” election result that shows him losing to Joseph Biden.

At his so-called debate with Democratic candidate Biden, Trump when asked point-blank by Republican moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News to condemn white supremacy refused to do so. In recent weeks, he backed both police and fascists who shoot and even kill Black Lives Matter protesters and their supporters in the streets. And perhaps most ominously, when asked by Wallace during the “debate” whether he would condemn violence by the fascist Proud Boys instead told the fascists to “stand back and stand by.” The GOP has also announced that it will have an army of “poll watchers,” including both off-duty police officers and U.S. special forces, no doubt sprinkled with many fascists, to intimidate voters.

Post-election day scenarios

Observers have examined many scenarios that could emerge after election day if Trump after losing both the popular and Electoral College vote contests the election. The 2000 presidential election provides a precedent. In that election, Republican George W. Bush after narrowly losing the popular vote supposedly won Florida and thus the Electoral College by a handful of votes. Democratic presidential candidate Albert Gore then conceded the election and Bush was unofficially proclaimed the president-elect by the media. However, as the vote count continued in Florida, Bush’s margin of victory kept shrinking until it virtually disappeared. Gore withdrew his concession and Bush was stripped of his unofficial title as “president-elect.”

On election day, “police activity” in Florida had reduced the African-American vote. This should have been enough to disqualify Bush’s “victory” in Florida. The Democrats did not demand an investigation into this police activity if only to determine if laws were violated. Still, the vote was so close that a recount was launched. A right-wing Republican mob then staged a riot outside the building in Miami where ballots were being recounted and succeeded in stopping the recount.

This lawless mob action by the Republicans was followed up by the “lawful” action of the Republican fraction of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court on a strict party-line vote ordered the recount in Florida be stopped altogether. I am not a constitutional lawyer so I don’t know whether the Supreme Court has authority under the U.S. Constitution to halt a state recount. But it would seem to stand in blatant violation of the written U.S. Constitution, which leaves to the states themselves the method by which they select their delegates to the Electoral College. So, under what constitutional authority did the Supreme Court intervene?

The Democrats raised none of these questions. Instead, as soon as the Supreme Court handed down its partisan judgment against the recount, Albert Gore conceded the election to George W. Bush. Over the objections of the Black Congressional Caucus, the Democrats in Congress voted with the Republicans to certify the vote of the Electoral College, which included the votes of the Republican Florida electors that we now know despite the suppression of the Black vote, got fewer vote than the electors pledged to Albert Gore. Later unofficial counts of the Florida ballot indeed confirmed that Albert Gore had won the Florida vote. (4)

Therefore, the Democrats and the Party of Order of both Democrats and Republicans have no one but themselves to blame if Trump attempts to use everything from lawsuits to street violence to reverse what is expected in light of virtually all the October polls to be a decisive Biden victory in the November 3 election.

Trump’s assault on bourgeois democracy

Trump’s assault on formal bourgeois democracy is progressing along a broad front. His administration has attacked mail-in voting, even though ironically Trump and many other Republicans have now fallen victim to COVID-19 themselves. (5) Trump has declared that mail-in votes — as opposed to absentee votes, in effect the same thing — are fake. Despite Postmaster General DeJoy’s attacks against the post office — even though many people are dependent on medical supplies and drugs delivered through the post office — the Democratic House has refused to take any actions to impeach him.

Democratic voters are expected to vote largely by mail, while many deluded rank-and-file Republican voters believe Trump’s propaganda that the pandemic is some sort of “left-wing or Chinese hoax” are expected to vote in person. This has raised concerns about a possible “red mirage” on election day. Since in-person votes will be counted first, Trump may accumulate early leads in enough states on election night making it appear that he is carrying the Electoral College. Fox News might then declare Trump the winner. Trump could very well then call a news conference broadcast nationwide and declare himself the winner. He would then demand that Joseph Biden concede the election.

But in the days after the election, the mail-in vote comes in and Trump’s apparent victory in the Electoral College melts away. Trump declares that there has been massive fraud just as he predicted among the mail-in votes. He claims that many mail-in voters voted twice, once by mail and once in person, and that Democratic election officials allowed “illegal immigrants” to vote. Perhaps Republican majorities in state legislatures — mostly the result of brazen Republican gerrymandering — refuse to certify Biden’s victory.

The battle then moves to the courts where the Republicans have increasing control, and possibly to the Supreme Court where the Republican majority — reinforced by the seating of Trump’s latest ultra-right nominee Amy Coney Barrett — will, if the 2000 election is any precedent, then decide the election in favor of the Republicans. Joseph Biden — this would be consistent with his record as a champion of bipartisanship with extreme-right Republicans over many decades — will then concede the election, just like Albert Gore did in 2000. Trump against the will of the majority of the voters then wins the White House for four more years.

To add extra pressure, both Congress and the courts may remember Trump’s instructions to the Proud Boy fascists to “stand by.” This would be a repeat of the Republican riot in front of the Miami building where votes were being recounted in 2000 but on a much larger scale. Trump will then say to the Party of Order that if you want to maintain normal “law and order” and at least the appearance of continued constitutional rule, you better declare me the winner and be done with it.

Or perhaps tied up in the courts, no slate of electors will be chosen by December 14, the day according to the U.S. Constitution the Electoral College must assemble in their respective state capitols and elect the president. As a result, neither Trump nor Biden get a majority in the Electoral College.

The election under the 12th Amendment then moves to the House of Representatives. The result would then depend on the composition of the new House to be seated on January 3. If the House retains its present composition, the Democrats have a majority but the Republicans have a majority of House delegations they control. Under the 12th Amendment, the vote is not by the majority of the congresspeople, as in countries with parliamentary democracy, but the majority of the state delegations if the Republicans hold solid. Trump wins a second term in clear defiance of a majority of the voters just like he won his first term in 2016 and as Bush did in 2000.

If the House delegations are tied with 25 state delegations controlled by a majority of Democrats and 25 controlled by a majority of Republicans, nobody knows what happens next. Perhaps on January 20, when Trump’s and Mike Pence’s terms as president and vice president reach their legal end, Nancy Pelosi, the “corporatist” Democratic speaker of the house will become president under the constitutional order of succession.

President Pelosi would be the first woman president and she would then nominate a candidate for vice-president, who may or may not be Joseph Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. If the new Senate has a Democratic majority, it would be expected to confirm Harris or whoever President Pelosi nominates. If there is yet another Republican Senate, perhaps President Pelosi in the name of “bi-partisan unity” to end our “national nightmare,” to use a term from the Watergate era, might name a Republican vice-president and appoint a Republican-dominated cabinet.

Or perhaps there is no clear constitutional president since the archaic U.S. Constitution can be interpreted in as many ways as the Bible or the Koran. The action then moves to the streets. The streets are filled with protesters, some on the left furious that Trump might get another four years in office and on the right, though fewer in number but including heavily armed fascists like the Proud Boys and their police allies furious that their beloved champion Donald Trump might have to leave the White House on January 20. Would the military then be forced to step in? Top generals have indicated that they will be “neutral” citing the U.S. tradition of a “non-political” role of the military — meaning no military dictatorships or Latin American-style military juntas.

But the very fact that the generals have been obliged to issue such statements shows how far the political stability of the U.S. has declined. At no other time since the War of the Slave Owners’ Rebellion — usually referred to as the U.S. Civil War — has the possibility of a complete breakdown of constitutional rule seemed as great as it is today. Could the military even split with some units largely consisting of soldiers of color determined to fight the racist Trumpers and the fascists and their cop allies in the street while other units rally to Trump leading to full-scale civil war? Could there be geographical splits like there were in 1861 with military units loyal to Trump dominating in some areas of the country and those against Trump in other areas? All this still seems far-fetched to me and I am far from predicting it.

I still believe it is far more likely that if no clear constitutional president emerges from the Electoral College or the House of Representatives, the Democrats and the Republicans will cobble together some sort of compromise to preserve at least the appearance of continued constitutional rule. But the year 2020 has included the seemingly impossible such as a global pandemic leading to economic collapse with the U.S. leading in cases and deaths worldwide. I certainly did not foresee this on this blog. Can anyone be sure what the coming year has in store for us?

The left and the election

As things stand now the still small, though in some cases rapidly growing, U.S. socialist organizations are facing a growing political crisis that could conceivably lead to a breakdown of constitutional rule in the United States. To be sure, U.S. Marxists, especially since the Russian Revolution, have long believed that such a situation will arrive someday. Such situations have, of course, occurred in many other countries but never in the United States, the center of “the Empire.” But what happens when the inevitable future arrives? When it does, whether beginning next month or at some future date, it will require a sharp turn by the U.S. socialist movement.

United front and people’s front

In the early years of the Communist International — when Lenin was still alive and active — it put forward the slogan of the United Front. The united-front policy involved a policy whereby the Communist Party leaderships would propose to the Social Democratic leaderships joint concrete actions to defend the interests of the working class in specific circumstances. For example, if fascists attacked a trade union organization, the Communist workers would unite with the Social Democratic workers to defend the union. This did not mean that the Communist parties would moderate their criticisms of the Social Democratic parties in any way. Nor did it imply an electoral front with the Social Democrats. The Communist Parties as a general rule would still run their candidates against the Social Democrats and the bourgeois parties. (6)

At the Seventh — and last — Congress of the Third International held in Moscow in 1935, the slogan of the United Front was combined with a new slogan, the People’s Front — sometimes called the Popular Front — that was not used in Lenin’s day. The united front as before referred to united actions between the Communist Parties on one side and the Social Democratic parties on the other. The people’s front also referred to united actions between the Communist Parties and non-working class organizations. This broader front was called the people’s front to distinguish it from the united front, which involved actions only by working-class organizations.

For example, to put things in a contemporary context, let’s say fascists threaten a mosque in the U.S. attended largely by Muslim business people. The mosque is by no means a working-class organization. But we — the communists — must organize the broadest possible front to defend it. This, we hope, would include not only our own communist organization but all other socialist and social democratic groups, antiwar committees, civil liberties groups, women’s rights groups, LBGTQ organizations, student organizations, and people from churches and synagogues of many denominations. Perhaps activists drawn from all these groups would organize a round-the-clock watch to make sure no harm comes to the mosque.

The slogan advanced by the Industrial Workers of the World in the years before the Russian Revolution “An Injury to One is an Injury to All” is under Trump more urgent than ever. However, the slogan of a popular or people’s front began to acquire an additional meaning when the Communist International, beginning at the above-mentioned Seventh Congress advanced the perspective of non-working-class governments committed to fighting fascism and advancing other progressive policies. The problem is that non-working-class governments, no matter how progressive, are now always capitalist governments. And in imperialist countries such as the United States, any non-working-class government, no matter how “progressive” and left wing it might be, serves the interests of not only capitalism but also imperialism.

Popular fronts in the sense it was used by the Communist International from 1935 on therefore involved not only specific actions in which working-class organizations participate with non-working-class organizations but electoral fronts with non-working-class — bourgeois — parties in an attempt to elect or otherwise put into power a “progressive” but non-working class — that is, capitalist — government. The hope was that a capitalist government put into power by a popular front would fight fascism or carry out some other progressive policy such as establishing control over the banks and corporations. One early example of the policy of the popular front in action was the decision of the Communist International to have the Communists give back-handed support to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Democratic Party — which in those days included the Jim Crow racists of the U.S. South — in the 1936 U.S. election.

A common argument by opponents of the people’s front on the left is that in a revolutionary crisis the struggle to overthrow capitalist rule is diverted into a struggle to defend democracy, leading to the failure of the revolution. However, since in the U.S. the realistic possibility of a socialist revolution is not yet imminent — in the sense of the next weeks or even months — I want to examine another question. What is the relationship between the struggle to defend and expand bourgeois democracy against fascism and other forms of extreme reaction and the people’s front in an imperialist country? Isn’t our job to counter-pose socialism to capitalism? Why should we defend bourgeois democracy, which is after all the most perfected form of the class rule of the capitalist class?

Democracy, dictatorship and revolution

Democrats with a small “d” including democratic socialists, especially in the U.S., are taught to counterpose “dictatorship,” which is evil, and “democracy,” which is good. Marxists see things differently. (7) Marxists since Marx and Engels in the 19th century have believed that the contradictions of the capitalist economy that I have been examining for more than a decade in this blog are so sharp that sooner or later bourgeois democracy will have to be replaced by a proletarian dictatorship. Other names for proletarian dictatorship are socialist dictatorship, Communist dictatorship, or workers’ state. According to Marx, the transition period between capitalism and the first stage of communism, where people are paid according to their work, can be nothing but the dictatorship of the proletariat. (8)

Today, the great mass of the people not only in the U.S. but in most countries of the world would reject the idea of a communist — or proletarian — dictatorship. Even the growing numbers of young people who are for socialism will say, “Yes, we want socialism but we want democratic socialism.” Just look, they say, at the “excesses” — most (in)famously under Joseph Stalin, but at other times as well — of the Communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union. Despite this, we should never forget that there were also many amazing accomplishments. (9) But didn’t the proletarian (or Communist) dictatorship in the Soviet Union ultimately collapse and capitalism get restored? (See Che Guevara’s discussion of this issue beginning here.)

Or let’s take a more concrete example. If we were to explain to American workers how the Cuban health care system works and then give them a choice between the current employer-centered health care system in the United States upheld by both Trump and Biden, and Cuba’s health care, I think most workers would choose the Cuban system.

But if we then add that for the U.S. to replace the employer-centered health care system with a Cuban-style health care system it is necessary to replace the current constitutional democratic system of government with all its flaws with a Cuban-style Communist dictatorship — even if the Cuban Communist dictatorship is not associated with the excesses and crimes that occurred in the Soviet Union and contains many democratic features — with very few exceptions most Americans and American workers would say absolutely not! Democracy with all its flaws, they believe, is infinitely superior to all dictatorships, especially Communist dictatorships.

Therefore, many American workers even at their current level of consciousness would be ready to fight for a Cuban-style health care system but not a Cuban-style Communist dictatorship. This is true even if we explain that a Communist dictatorship that rules through democratically elected workers’ councils — the original meaning of “soviet” — is infinitely more democratic than the current caricature of bourgeois democracy that exists in the United States.

We also know that there is no way, despite all the anti-communist propaganda to the contrary, to create the dictatorship of the proletariat behind the backs of the workers through conspiracies, deceptions and maneuvers. As long as the vast majority of the people in general and the workers, in particular, reject the idea of a communist or proletarian dictatorship, there will be no such dictatorship. Until then, we have to fight for the broadest possible (bourgeois) democracy, even if we don’t forget for an instant that even the most thoroughgoing bourgeois democracy will not ultimately be able to deal with the explosive contradictions of the capitalist economy. We know, but the great majority of workers and their allies do not, that the contradictions between the capitalist class and working class will sooner or later blow up bourgeois democracy.

However, it is only through the struggle for democracy that the majority of the working class and the people in general will through people’s struggles to expand democratic rights and overcome racial, ethnic and other divisions finally come to realize the necessity of a proletarian dictatorship as the only means to make the transition to genuine majority rule and later a socialist society.

At some point in the struggle for democracy and social equality, the workers and their allies will create the organs that will later on function as the organs of state power under the proletarian dictatorship. Through political and economic arguments, maybe even on a modest scale with the help of this blog, we might convince a few people of the need to replace bourgeois democracy with the dictatorship of the proletariat. But the great majority of the working class and working people will only come to this conclusion by passing through the school of democracy.

U.S. bourgeois democracy

In my early days in the socialist movement, I learned that the U.S. was a formal bourgeois democracy. I now know that what I learned, though it had an element of truth, wasn’t entirely correct. In reality, U.S. bourgeois democracy has always existed in an extremely distorted and truncated form. Obviously, slavery and its aftermath not to mention the genocide of Native Americans were not exactly democratic.

But let’s look at only the formal side of things. Let’s begin with the U.S. Senate. Each state has exactly two senators regardless of population. The largely African-American citizens of the so-called District of Columbia, aka Washington, D.C., have no representatives in the Senate or the House of Representatives because they live in a “district” and not a proper U.S. state. A bill to recognize Washington, D.C., as the State of Douglas — named after Frederick Douglas (1818-1895), the famous African-American abolitionist — was recently defeated in Congress because of Republican opposition in the Senate.

This shows that the modern Republican Party is no defender, at least in this case, of formal bourgeois democracy. Certainly in a formal bourgeois democracy worth mentioning, the citizens of the capital city should have a right to vote for members of parliament! Though the Democrats voted for the bill to make Washington, D.C., a state, since the largely African-American voters of the new state would be expected to vote for Democrats under the present two-party system, they have not made a major issue of it. In this case, the Democrats are at best lukewarm defenders of formal bourgeois democracy. The early socialist movement advanced the far more radical demand for the abolition of the U.S. Senate because it is by design an undemocratic institution. However, the modern U.S. socialist movement has not, as far as I can recall, ever advanced such a demand.

The powerful autocratic U.S. president elected through the Electoral College is another undemocratic feature of the U.S. political system. While the other two branches of government, Congress and the courts, have many members, there is only one president. In 1787, when the U.S. Constitution was written, the British monarchy still held executive power, though it was checked by the power of the purse held by Parliament and the courts that could interpret the law. The “founding fathers” copied this system but replaced the king — in the absence of a titled aristocracy and with no good candidate for a king — with an executive president with a fixed term of four years chosen not by the people but by an Electoral College.

Under the notorious three-fifths doctrine, the Southern African slaves had no citizenship or indeed any rights whatsoever. But they were counted as three-fifth humans when it came to allocating seats in the House of Representatives and delegates to the Electoral College. This was the compromise between the slave owners who dominated Southern politics and the rising capitalist class in the North that exploited workers mainly through wage labor. The compromise gave disproportionate power to the slave owners in an attempt to keep the slave states in the new union. In the long run, the compromise failed, leading to the War of the Slave Owners’ Rebellion, which cost the lives of more than 700,000 Americans.

In today’s greatly transformed world, the Electoral College continues to play an undemocratic and reactionary role. The coastal states on both the East and West coasts have large populations of color. California now has a non-white majority made up of peoples of Mexican and other Latin American, African-American, Philippine, Polynesian, Native American, SW Asian, and East Asian descent. As a result, the Republican Party with its racist “Southern strategy” now has little support in the state.

However, like most states, the slate of presidential electors in California are chosen on a winner-take-all basis. Whatever party wins a plurality of the votes in the general election gets all the electors. Since the Republican vote is so small, the electors pledged to the Democratic presidential nominee on election night quickly accumulate a majority of the vote.

Beyond this point, the remaining California ballots may as well be thrown out because no matter how massive the Democratic majority is, the Democrats will get no extra votes in the Electoral College. The result is that a typical California voter who is a person of color gets less than one vote as far as the election of the president is concerned. This violates not only the essence of democracy, which would demand the members of historically disadvantaged groups get extra votes but the principles of formal democracy as well, which demands that all voters each get one vote.

In the deep South, which includes states like South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, the dynamics are different. In these states, centuries of racism going back to the slave time means that virtually all whites vote for the “white people’s party.” Historically, this was the Democratic Party but today is the Republican Party. African-Americans, though they are a large minority — except for Georgia, where a non-white majority is now emerging — have been voting solidly Democratic since they recovered the right to vote in the 1960s. Since just as is the case in California, the slates of electors that win a plurality are seated in the Electoral College, African-American voters in the Southern states effectively get no vote when it comes to choosing the U.S. president while Southern whites get extra votes.

In Midwestern “swing” states, virtually all African-Americans and most non-white voters vote Democratic while the majority — but not all — white voters vote Republican. A fairly small minority of whites sometimes vote Democratic and sometimes Republican. Therefore, a few white “swing voters” can shift a state’s Electoral College vote from Democratic to Republican. This is exactly what happened in 2016. Again, the principle of one person, one vote of formal bourgeois democracy is violated.

The early U.S. socialist movement demanded not simply the abolition of the Electoral College but the abolition of the executive presidency altogether and its replacement by a system where the House of Representatives — the undemocratic Senate being also abolished — would by a majority vote select the head of government — the president, the head of state, a prime minister.

The two-party system

The other massive violation of formal bourgeois democracy in the U.S. is the two-party system. Historically, the two-party system grew up because of the division between the slave owners, who based their system of exploitation on chattel slave labor, and the emerging capitalists of the North, who based their system of exploitation on wage labor. Today, however, the main class division in society is not between a slave-owning class and a wage labor-exploiting class but rather between the capitalist exploiters and the wage workers. However, the U.S. political system has only two “major” parties, both of which represent the capitalist class. There is, by European and world standards generally, the center-right Democratic Party — with a few socialists participating but always in a subordinate position — and the extreme-right Republican Party. This is a caricature of bourgeois democracy.

Other parties are allowed in the U.S. — though often subject to various forms of police surveillance — to publish newspapers and websites and organize demonstrations and other political activities but are severely circumscribed when it comes to participating in elections. The electoral system is designed so that only two parties, the right-of-center Democratic Party and the extreme right-wing Republican Party, have any chance of winning.

This is certainly not fascism — though some wrongly call it that — or even Bonapartism, but it also falls far short of formal bourgeois democracy. Though there are some genuine bourgeois-democratic features of the U.S. political system — such as the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution (10) combined with widespread but still not universal suffrage. However, there are many restrictions on the right to vote, such as the disfranchisement of people convicted of felonies, that violate the principles of bourgeois democracy. Another is the requirement of some states, especially in the U.S. South, that people must first present picture identification before they can vote.

No country today has perfect formal bourgeois democracy. But most European countries and most non-European countries come much closer to it than the U.S. does. For example, there are runoffs and proportional representation in most European countries, with only Britain like the U.S. having a winner-take-all system. In Germany, any party that gets 5 percent of the vote is represented in proportion to the votes it gets in parliament. In most European countries and many countries outside of Europe, a candidate for parliament or president must get 50 percent of the vote to take office. If none does, a runoff is held among the two candidates who got the most votes in the first round. The voters, therefore, are not blackmailed as in the U.S. into voting for a candidate they don’t support because the alternative is even worse. Voters in these countries, therefore, have the option to vote for parties based on the organized working class with the real prospect that these candidates will be elected and seated in parliament.

From the Marxist point of view, the bourgeois-democratic republic’s most important historical function is that it is the political form in which the class struggle between the capitalist class and the proletariat can be fought out to the end. The most important function of elections under bourgeois democracy is therefore to measures the political maturity and class consciousness of the working class. But as long as there are only two political parties, both right of center and openly capitalist parties at that, allowed to seriously contest elections, the U.S. political system will fail the test of formal bourgeois democracy.

Last but not least, there are severe restrictions on the right to form trade unions and the right to strike. These are known as “labor rights.” Polls show the majority of American workers would like to be members of a union. But under the Taft-Hartley Act and other legislation, they are effectively denied the right to form unions and elect the people they want to union office without government interference. No country that lacks labor rights can under modern conditions be considered in today’s world a full — or close to full — bourgeois democracy.

New attacks on democracy

In the last few weeks, there have been major new attacks on democracy in the U.S. by both Republicans and Democrats. The threats of President Trump to not respect the vote count, combined with the president’s increasingly open alliance with white supremacists and fascist groups such as the Proud Boys, have dominated the headlines. But there have been a few others that have not been mentioned in the largely Party of Order-controlled media that I want to review here.

One is the attempt to drive from office one of the few socialists to hold elective office in the United States, Kshama Sawant. Sawant is a city councilperson in Seattle, Washington, and a member of the Socialist Alternative organization. The recall petition has recently been upheld in court. Though I have serious criticisms of Sawant’s Socialist Alternative group as a current within the contemporary U.S. and world socialist movement, this does not affect my utter opposition to the refusal of the Democrats and Republicans and the capitalist courts to recognize the elementary right of the voters of Seattle to elect her as a socialist to the City Council. As long as such an outrage continues, the U.S. has no right to consider itself a full bourgeois democracy or anything close to it.

Another attack on basic democratic rights in recent weeks was the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to remove on a technicality the socialist Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins and his running mate African-American socialist Angela Walker from the Wisconsin ballot. Hawkins is a socialist running on the ticket of the non-socialist, left-liberal Green Party. This time it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who pushed for the removal of Hawkins and Walker from the ballot. The Democratic fraction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted for the removal of Hawkins and Walker while the Republican justice voted to uphold the right of the Green Party to remain on the ballot.

In this case, the Republicans were not motivated by any support for formal bourgeois democracy. They were merely hoping that Hawkins would attract just enough votes away from Democratic candidate Joseph Biden to throw the state electoral vote to Donald Trump. The Democrats, fearing this very result, pushed successfully for the removal of Hawkins and Walker from the ballot. The Democrats who opposed formal democracy in this case and the Republicans who upheld it were driven not by any allegiance to democratic principles but only by the most narrow opportunist political calculations.

And finally, there are the arrests of young Black Lives Matter activists including four members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Denver, Colorado. These arrests came in the wake of demands by Attorney General William Barr that leaders of the BLM demonstrations be charged with “sedition.” The Denver BLM and PSL activists are not charged with sedition but rather kidnapping police officers (for holding a demonstration in front of a police station) and other multiple felonies. This is not a case of sitting down on the road to block traffic and then being charged with violating some local traffic ordinance or other misdemeanors that carry a few hundred dollars fine and a few days in jail. The Denver BLM and PSL members if convicted face decades in prison.

Will a Biden-Harris victory hold off fascism?

The progressives, socialists and Communists calling for a vote for the Biden-Harris ticket claim that the Trump-Pence ticket represents fascism while Biden-Harris with all its flaws represents bourgeois democracy. This view, in my opinion, represents the failure to distinguish between Trump’s increasingly clear Bonapartist tendencies, which are indeed a major threat to us all, and actual fascism, which is another thing entirely. Hitler, Mussolini and Franco had to wage shooting civil wars against the workers’ movements and their allies before they were able to take power. In Spain, the civil war involved fighting between military units that occurred between 1936 and 1939. In Italy and Germany, the civil wars involved battles between large and highly organized fascist militias organized and centralized through the Fascist Party in Italy and the so-called National Socialist Party in Germany, respectively.

In Italy and Germany, it was only after coming to power that the Fascist and Nazi parties and the military and police apparatuses were thoroughly merged. With the merger of the fascist militias, the police, and the military and the folding into the ruling fascist parties the other reactionary bourgeois parties, Hitler, Mussolini and Franco ruled over countries where the working class had been militarily, politically and morally defeated. Even today these defeats leave their marks on the politics of these countries.

Though today’s U.S. fascist militias, such as the Proud Boys, are extremely dangerous, they are by no means as numerous as were their counterparts in Italy and Germany not to mention the organized armies commanded by Franco in Spain. In addition, the rapidly growing black-brown minority, which will soon become the majority of the U.S. people, are strongly opposed to Trumpism and even more so to the fascists. Indeed, many of today’s American fascists, despairing of ever winning the majority of the increasingly “brown” American people, are proposing the break up of the United States into white areas where they hope to eventually gain majority support with other areas reserved for the “lower races.”

Trump and the Republican Party see the fascist militias as allies, but neither Trump nor any other Republican politician at the current time commands a centralized fascist party and militia movement. Even if Trump were to establish a personal or family dictatorship around himself, such a dictatorship would be Bonapartist in character that, unlike a true fascist dictatorship, had not successfully waged a civil war against the working class and its allies before coming to power.

The present-day U.S. fascist movement is far too weak and decentralized and faced with the growing opposition from Black Lives Matter and other progressive mass movements to be able with or without Trump to establish a Hitler-, Mussolini- or Franco-type dictatorship in the U.S. Before a true fascist dictatorship can be established under present-day conditions in the U.S., not only would there have to be a breakdown of constitutional rule but a violent civil war that would exceed in violence even the Spanish Civil War. We are still very far from that. Therefore, while Trump does represent extreme political and racist reaction, he does not represent fascism.

That raises another question. Does the Biden-Harris ticket really represent bourgeois democracy? Just as the Trump-Pence ticket does not represent fascism neither does the Biden-Harris represent bourgeois democracy. First of all, we have to distinguish between bourgeois democracy and imperialist democracy. It goes without saying that if Joseph Biden were to replace Trump in the White House on January 20, 2021, the U.S. will remain an imperialist country. Indeed, much of the opposition of the Party of Order to Trump is based on the fact that he is not following a sufficiently aggressive imperialist policy. They expect that a President Biden will follow a more aggressive foreign policy in line with what they hold to be the interests of U.S. imperialism.

The argument for a people’s front

Far more serious than the arguments of such progressives as Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and 1960s-era New Leftists when it comes to the politics of the people’s front, are those of the Communist Party USA. The CPUSA has been developing popular-front policies for 85 years. And notwithstanding the origins of the people’s front policies in the Seventh Congress of the Communist International, which reflected the very real need to defend the Soviet Union (11) against the virtually certain attack by Nazi Germany, the Communist Party’s policies are now rooted in the present-day realities of U.S. politics. The question is whether the CPUSA is drawing the correct conclusions from the class realities of present-day American imperialism and its world empire.

Let’s examine their arguments.

Wouldn’t a Biden-Harris victory in November at least push back the fascist threat? Not really. One thing that would greatly reduce the danger of fascism for a prolonged period would be a major new economic expansion of world capitalism in general and U.S. capitalism in particular. For that to happen, there would have to be a major new expansion of the world market. Simply driving the wages of the workers down to the biological subsistence level would not accomplish that. In the absence of a dramatic new gold discovery on the scale of 1848-51 and 1896 (12), it is hard to see how this can occur without a new disastrous Depression with a capital “D”. The gold in asteroids is far away and will be very expensive to bring to Earth. (13) (For how the Depression led to the post-World War II expansion of the world market, see here.)

To have a new lease on life without a “Greater Depression,” world capitalism needs a major new expansion of the world market that can only be achieved with a major injection of cheap gold. Such an injection would raise in terms of gold the prices of production of almost every commodity. If that were to happen, a major new expansion of the world market and a new of acceleration of the capitalist economy would occur — assuming the environment can tolerate it — which would be the market’s way of raising market prices in terms of gold to the new higher prices of production of commodities. We last saw such a process occur between 1896 and 1913, a long time ago.

If no comparable gold discovery is in the works, that leaves the only route to a new major expansion of capitalism to be a Greater Depression. That would lower the “golden” market prices of commodities (measured in ounces of gold) so far below the “golden” prices of production that a new major expansion of capitalism would occur of the type that was last observed between 1945 and 1968. If this proves to be the case, before such prosperity arrives we would first have to pass through a Greater Depression that would greatly increase the danger of fascism. After all, Adolf Hitler came to power during the original “Great Depression.”

And that Depression led not only to Hitler but to a horrific world war. If a future Greater Depression also leads to a world war, it might very well be nuclear, whose consequences and aftermath would be far more horrible than even Hitler’s fascism or any conceivable Greater Depression. The outcome of such a war would likely mark the end of our civilization if not our species. And even if this does not happen, it is an open question whether the environmental consequences of a new major capitalist prosperity wouldn’t be in the long run as bad as the consequences of nuclear war.

Even if we take an extremely optimistic view and assume that a new wave of capitalist prosperity somehow unfolds without a world war or an environmental catastrophe, it would only be the prelude to a new epoch of capitalist crises. Therefore, even this “best-case scenario” offers no prospect of the permanent defeat of fascism. And finally, even a new major era of capitalist prosperity would not stop the decline of American capitalism relative to other capitalist countries. The law of uneven development is now working against the U.S. and will continue to do so for decades to come. This increases the dangers of the victory of American fascism.

There is virtually no possibility that a Biden-Harris administration will be able to reverse the long-run decline of American capitalism any more than Trump has been able to do despite his promises to reverse the “de-industrialization” of the United States and bring back the relatively well-paying “blue-collar” jobs in the basic industry of yesteryear. There will indeed be a short-term cyclical economic upswing whether under Trump, Biden, Pelosi, or whoever becomes president in 2021 as the current COVID depression fades — no pandemic not even the Black Death of the 14th century lasts forever. And this upswing in the industrial cycle may very well be briefly intensified if whatever administration assumes power after the election follows “stimulative” Keynesian economic policies — until a threatening or actual dollar crisis stops it.

However, the inevitable “post-COVID” new cyclical upswing, whether or not it is briefly intensified by Keynesian stimulative policies, will not defeat fascism and other forms of extreme political reaction for very long. To tell the workers to vote for Biden to defeat fascism and other forms of extreme political reaction is precisely to bet on the prospect of a major upswing of American capitalism. If the new major expansionary — beyond that of a “normal” industrial cyclical — upswing fails to take hold, the Democrats under Biden-Harris will once again be discredited. And if a mass party representing the wage workers still fails to emerge, what will prevent an even more reactionary version of the GOP roaring back into control of Congress and the White House in a few years?

This is exactly what happened in the 1980s with the rise to power of Ronald Reagan’s Republican Party, which swept both the presidential and congressional elections in reaction to the Carter “stagflation” years. Later, in the relatively prosperous 1990s, after the Clinton administration failed to pass a viable health care reform, the Republicans swept the Congressional elections in 1994, making possible the rise to power of George W. Bush in the stolen 2000 election. Then after Obama’s conservative presidency failed to pass single-payer health care or even a “public option,” the stage was set for the return to power of an even more reactionary version of the Republican Party dominated by Donald Trump. The question is, how are we ever to emerge from this vicious circle?

The people’s front and the struggle to defend democracy

Engels wrote in a letter to August Bebel dated December 1884: “At such a moment [of revolutionary crisis] the whole reactionary mass falls in behind it and strengthens it; everything which used to be reactionary behaves as democratic.” Therefore, the people’s front, designed to defend bourgeois democracy, will in the name of defending democracy against dictatorship attempt to abort the socialist revolution when the hour for it strikes.

This is exactly what happened in Germany in 1918. The Social Democrats of Germany followed what was in effect a people’s front policy — the term people’s front hadn’t been coined yet — and all opponents of the socialist revolution from the incipient fascists of the “Freikorps” (Free Corp) to left social democrats like Karl Kautsky and Rudolf Hilderding rallied behind the “people’s front” government. The defeat of the German socialist revolution in 1918-19 did not end the crisis of German capitalism. Fifteen years later, Adolf Hitler came to power. Far from defeating German fascism, the policies of the people’s front were a necessary pre-condition for the eventual Nazi victory.

Today in U.S. politics we are still some distance from a 1918-19-type turning point where the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat is an immediate possibility and necessity. Instead, we are faced with the task of defending what democracy does exist and expanding it. Is the people’s front, though useless for a situation where we are faced with the task of immediately overthrowing capitalist class rule and replacing it with the dictatorship of the proletariat, what we need under the present conditions to defend and expand bourgeois democracy?

The U.S. Communist Party, which has the most thought-out people’s front strategy, has not endorsed the Biden-Harris ticket — the party only endorses its own Communist candidates. It is, however, clearly doing all it can to encourage the people it influences to vote for Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris. The party is similarly involved in encouraging a vote for every Democrat up and down the ticket.

Many non-Communist progressives are supporting a vote for the Biden-Harris ticket not so much as a vote for Biden but as a vote against Trump. Trump, they say, must be removed from office as soon as possible, and given political realities, the only alternative to Trump is Biden. True, Biden and Harris are conservative corporate Democrats who will represent the continued domination of the Wall Street banks and the big corporations. But, the argument goes, we need an alliance with the less reactionary and chauvinist section of finance capital to defeat the most chauvinist and reactionary sections of finance capital (to paraphrase the 1930s Comintern leader Georgi Dimitrov) to defeat Donald Trump and the fascism he represents. Biden represents, the argument goes, sections of finance capital that prefer traditional U.S. bourgeois democracy with all its flaws, restrictions, corruption, racism and imperialist wars to the fascism of Donald Trump. Biden is, these progressives acknowledge, an evil, but he is the lesser evil.

Perhaps the U.S. Communist Party feels the same way. But as seasoned politicians, they also know that you cannot drum up much support to vote for an evil even if it is the lesser evil. Why bother to vote, especially during a pandemic, if all you can do is vote for an evil. Therefore, the Communist Party feels obliged to present Biden-Harris not as what they are but as a positive good.

In reality, Biden is the candidate of what I call the Party of Order. Who do Biden and Harris represent? Do they represent the African-American leadership, the AFL-CIO, liberal-progressive clergymen of various denominations, the Communist Party USA, or the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party? Or do Biden and Harris represent the Party of Order — aka the establishment, finance capital, the banks and corporations on the right?

In general, people’s fronts are controlled by their most conservative components. The reason is that, unlike united fronts, the people’s fronts are not organized around united actions but around governmental and electoral blocs. The people’s front government can therefore only agree to policies that its most conservative component is willing to agree on. That is why people’s fronts can never go beyond the limits of capitalism.

But, as we have seen, today’s people’s front includes the Party of Order — the establishment itself. The Party of Order, which includes both Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans, is not only the most conservative force in the people’s front, it is by far the richest in terms of money and capital and by far the most powerful. Originally, when the people’s front strategy was adopted by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935, the people’s front governments were seen as governments that though not workers’ governments would still be governments able to accomplish quite radical reforms such as establishing control over the monopoly corporations and the banks and would conduct a vigorous struggle against the fascist organizations.

Does anybody expect such policies of a Biden-Harris administration? Biden even opposes Medicare For All. Forget about the control of the corporations and banks. And what kind of struggle against fascism can we expect under Biden? True, if the fascists attempt crazy things like kidnapping and then killing the governor of Michigan, the FBI would be expected under a Biden-Harris administration to arrest them. But this is true even under Trump. To expect a more serious struggle against fascism under Biden and Harris is to whistle in the dark. Indeed, there is a real danger that workers and working people will falsely believe that the danger of “fascist dictatorship” has passed and will leave the streets. This will only increase the danger of both wars abroad as well as increased police and fascist violence at home.

Despite these realities, the CPUSA is painting up Biden-Harris, not as a lesser evil but a positive good as the only way to bring out the maximum vote for the ticket. Only in this way can the Communist Party USA maximize the vote for Biden and other Democrats among its members as well as the people it influences. Freed from pressure on the left, Biden will then be free to follow conservative policies such as continuing his opposition to Medicare for All, COVID-19 notwithstanding, and pursuing colonial wars and possibly even bigger “great power” wars abroad. This is one of the reasons the Party of Order prefers Biden to Trump, who provokes opposition and hatred at every step.

Howie Hawkins and the Green Party

The Communist Party has come out in support of the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to exclude the Green Party and Howie Hawkins from the Wisconsin ballot. To avoid any misunderstanding, I do not plan to vote for Howie Hawkins, though as a California resident and registered voter I have the opportunity to do so. Instead, I plan to vote for Gloria La Riva, a veteran trade unionist, anti-war activist, and a leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. In California, La Riva appears on the ticket of the electoral socialist Peace and Freedom Party. In 14 other states, La Riva is on the ballot of either the Party for Socialism and Liberation or electoral socialist formations similar to the California Peace and Freedom Party.

Why I plan to vote for La Riva rather than Hawkins

First and most importantly, the Green Party, though it has progressive stands on many issues, is not a socialist or a mass working-class party. Therefore, Howie Hawkins and his running mate Angela Walker, though they are avowed socialists, are running as the candidates of (to use the old-time Marxist terminology) a radical left-bourgeois party. La Riva, in contrast, is running as a candidate of either her own socialist organization, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, or avowed electoral socialist parties such as California’s Peace and Freedom Party.

I was frankly disturbed by a video Hawkins made to promote his campaign. In it, he praises the U.S. effort during World War II for fighting a war to defeat fascism. I find this unacceptable for two reasons. First, the U.S. was fighting a war of world conquest that established what I call the U.S. world empire — or “the Empire” as the Cubans call it for short — and not a war against fascism at all.

Also, Hawkins while praising U.S. imperialism for fighting a war against fascism says not a single word about the country that was fighting a war against fascism. That country was the Soviet Union, which at the cost of 27 million dead, both military and civilian, beat back the Nazi invasion and destroyed the Third Reich. Today the attempts of U.S. imperialism and its stooges to cover this up are greatly resented by the people of today’s Russia and other former Soviet nations that made up the Soviet Union. For a self-avowed socialist like Hawkins to play into this grotesque falsification of history is disturbing indeed.

La Riva would never describe the U.S. role in World War II as a war against fascism rather than as a war of world conquest such as it was, and she would never overlook the role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazi Germany. For these reasons, I personally urge class-conscious workers where they have the chance to do so to vote for La Riva and her running mate Sunil Freeman even if they have important differences with the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the tendency it represents in the U.S. and world socialist movement.

That said, I am completely opposed to the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to remove Hawkins’ Green Party ticket from the ballot in the state of Wisconsin. If, for example, there was a move to remove the Green Party from the ballot in California, I would oppose it even though the removal of the Green Party from the ballot would almost certainly increase the vote for the La Riva – Freeman socialist Peace and Freedom Party ticket. I defend the right of the voters in California, Wisconsin, and all other U.S. states to be free to vote for any candidate for president they wish to whether one headed by Joseph Biden, Donald Trump, Howie Hawkins, Gloria La Rivera, or any other candidate.

I also believe that given the changing composition and consciousness of the people of the United States, the more people who are motivated to exercise their right to vote and the greater the freedom of the people to vote for the candidate of their choice, the less likely extreme racist reactionaries like Donald Trump will have a chance of being elected.

But I also believe that the more restricted the franchise, the greater the restrictions on bourgeois democracy, the greater the chances of candidates like Trump and even worse will have of winning elections. Both Trump and the Republicans agree with me on this point. That is why Trump and the Republicans are trying so hard to suppress the vote. They know that (bourgeois) democracy is no friend of their extreme right-wing racist party, and they only support bourgeois-democratic principles in specific situations like Wisconsin where the GOP hoped votes for Hawkins would siphon off just enough votes from Biden to gives the state’s Electoral College votes to Trump.

The CPUSA’s view

However, as we know, the leaders of the U.S. Communist Party do not agree with me on this point. John Bachtell, a former party chairperson and still an important leader of the Communist Party, wrote an important article in the Peoples World, which reflects the view of the Communist Party USA, defending his party’s position of supporting Hawkins-Walker’s exclusion from the Wisconsin ballot.

Let’s follow his argument.

“The GOP has a long history of using the Green Party as a tool to siphon votes that might go to Democrats and of playing a spoiler role in our two-party, winner-take-all electoral system,” Bachtell wrote in the September 17 issue of the People’s World. “And,” Bachtell complains, “the Green Party leadership has opportunistically embraced the support [of the Republicans — SW] playing the role of what some describe as ‘useful idiots.’ They consistently equate Democrats and Republicans as two corrupt capitalist parties irrespective of the two parties’ social base and platform. Green leaders often even target Democrats as the greater evil.”

So to defeat the Republicans by electing Democrats, which he hopes will move U.S. politics to the “left” and defeat fascism, Bachtell supports a narrowing and not the expansion of an already narrow and constricted U.S. bourgeois democracy. True, the Republican Party’s support in this instance of expanding bourgeois democracy is, as Bachtell correctly points out, completely opportunist. However, this does not change the fact that Bachtell is supporting a narrowing, not the expansion of, bourgeois democracy in the hope that it will defeat Donald Trump, the Republican Party, and what he sees as Trump’s “fascism.”

But here comes the irony. The Communist Party itself has long supported the formation of a third progressive or people’s party that would be the vehicle for the realization of a people’s front government originally foreseen by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International. True, a year after the Seventh Congress, the U.S. Communist Party, though it ran Earl Browder (14), the then general secretary of the U.S. Communist Party for president, actually encouraged people under its influence to vote for Roosevelt.

Browder later claimed that leaders of the Comintern proposed that the U.S. Communists support Roosevelt openly but he, Browder, explained to them that that would be unwise. If the Communists had openly supported Roosevelt, the Republicans would then claim that Roosevelt was the Communist candidate. On the left, it would also, Browder explained to the Comintern leaders, run into opposition from opponents of any votes for capitalist candidates. Therefore, Browder proposed to the International that he run for president on the Communist ticket but use the campaign to encourage people to vote for Roosevelt and the Democrats. Browder, who by then was long expelled from the Communist Party, proudly claimed that the Comintern leadership accepted his proposal, which was indeed carried out by the U.S. Communist Party in the 1936 election.

In the current election, the Communist Party as it did in 1936 is not formally endorsing the Democratic candidate. But just as it did in 1936, it is doing everything it can to encourage people to vote for the Democratic candidate and other Democrats up and down the ticket. The difference is that in contrast to 1936 the Communist Party is not even going through the pretense of running a candidate of its own.

How can the Communist Party be for narrowing bourgeois democracy in the year 2020 in an attempt to defeat the extreme-right Trump-Pence ticket, which they equate with fascism, while at some future date be for an expansion of bourgeois democracy so a third progressive party can come to power and realize the people’s front program of … defeating fascism! Bachtell to his credit is well aware of this contradiction but offers no solution.

“In many state and local races,” Bachtell writes, “election rules mean that going the route of third party or independent candidacies is a way to build progressive power and beat back political machines and pro-corporate office holders in the two major parties. … ”

“A genuine people’s third party, one that reflects a broad alliance of working-class and democratic forces, will only be possible with electoral law reform, including a parliamentary system as exists in Europe or ranked voting. Or when these forces act in unison to either create such a party or become the Democratic Party’s dominant force.”

So Bachtell admits the “working-class and democratic forces” are not the dominant force in the Democratic Party today and that to fully realize real bourgeois democracy in the U.S. it will be necessary to introduce “ranked voting” or perhaps even a European parliamentary system to replace the current U.S. presidential system with its powerful autocratic presidency.

Only then, Bachtell is saying, will it be possible to realize a real people’s front government that will be able to defeat fascism in the future. But in 2020, we must further narrow bourgeois democracy so we can defeat fascism in the present. How and when we pass from the present need to narrow bourgeois democracy to defeat fascism in 2020 to expand it for a future struggle against fascism Batchell does not explain.

The problem doesn’t lie with Bachtell. He is doing the best he can. The problem lies with policies that attempt to defeat “fascism” (by which is meant the extreme racist political reaction represented by the Republican Party and Trump) through a policy of subordination of the working class to the Party of Order, also known as the establishment, finance capital, Wall Street, and the banks and corporations. These policies by subordinating the working class and its allies to its class enemies in the name of defeating fascism, only end up further restricting what bourgeois democracy exists and thus brings the victory of Bonapartism and eventually fascism itself that much closer.

To be continued.

Note on schedule

Due to the extremely unstable political situation, I will write a special shorter post on the election results that will be published on November 15. Assuming that the political situation stabilizes after the election, I will return to my normal monthly schedule after that, beginning with a focus on the economic situation that will confront the new administration.

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1 It appears to the capitalists and with them the economists who assume that commodities sell at their prices of production, that both constant and variable capital yield the average rate of profit. But once we convert prices of production back to prices that directly reflect labor values, it becomes evident that only the variable capital yields a positive rate of profit while constant capital yields a zero rate. Therefore, only an acceleration of the rate of turnover of variable capital can raise the general rate of profit. (back)

2 Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was a liberal Hollywood actor and a leader of the actors’ union. During the post-World War II anti-communist witch hunt, Reagan to save his acting career turned reactionary and switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party. After 1964, Reagan emerged as the political heir of Barry Goldwater and his “Southern strategy”. Reagan was elected governor of California as a right-wing Republican in 1966. Using the racist Southern strategy pioneered by Goldwater, Reagan won the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1980 and defeated Jimmy Carter in the November election. (back)

3 There is great fear that if Trump’s ultra-right nominee Amy Coney Barrett succeeds the late liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she will provide the decisive vote to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional and reverse Roe vs Wade. Barrett, if she is installed on the Supreme Court by November, could also play a crucial role in the selection of the next U.S. president if the election results are contested in the courts and the case goes to the Supreme Court. For this reason, Trump and the Republicans are determined to ram Barrett’s nomination through the Senate before the November 3 election. (back)

4 There seemed to be little difference between Albert Gore, himself a wealthy capitalist and conservative Democratic, and George W. Bush, also a wealthy capitalist and a self-described “compassionate conservative.” Gore had not yet won his later reputation as a fighter against the threat of global warming. A right-of-center Democrat himself, Gore made matters worse by choosing the right-wing Democrat senator from Connecticut Joseph Lieberman to be his running mate.

Lieberman was the first Jewish candidate to be nominated by either the Democratic or Republican parties for the vice presidency. But Lieberman was no Bernie Sanders. He was an extreme right-wing Zionist and later under Obama was a key force in getting the “public option” dropped from the Affordable Care Act. Disgusted with the choice of Lieberman for the vice presidency, leaders of the American Muslim community urged a vote for George W. Bush on the ground that Bush was the “lesser evil” on the issue of Palestine, an action they soon regretted.

The only issue of importance in the disputed election of 2000 was the question of formal democracy. Does the candidate who wins the majority of the popular vote, both in the country as a whole, and as it turned out in the state of Florida as well, assume office? Or is it the candidate preferred by the majority of the capitalists who gets to take office? In the case of the 2000 election, the preference of the majority of the capitalists won out over formal democracy. (back)

5 Unlike most Americans who have contracted the virus, Trump got the best treatment available. Trump’s medical bills were fully paid by the government. This is also true of members of Congress who have contracted COVID-19. This occurred as Trump continued his efforts to throw millions of people off health insurance through his efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. (back)

6 Lenin did advocate that the still very small British Communist Party support the candidates of the Labour Party since the British workers were then taking the first steps toward independent working-class political action, a stage long past in countries like Germany where strong Social Democratic parties existed. Lenin suggested, however, that in safe Tory districts Communists should run their own candidates since there was no chance that a Labour candidate would be elected. (back)

All Pages

7 In the years leading up to the Russian Revolution, Lenin advanced the slogan “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry,” sometimes shortened to “the democratic dictatorship.”

To most Americans, a “democratic dictatorship” is an oxymoron but not to Marxists. Lenin explained, “dictatorship means unlimited power, based on force, and not on law.” (See Lenin’s article “A Contribution to the History of the Question of the Dictatorship,” dated October 20, 1920.) A dictatorship might be historically progressive — such as the democratic Jacobin dictatorship in France in 1793-94 or reactionary such as the Nazi dictatorship in Germany in 1933-45. The Soviet Communists before the mid-1930s often referred to their government as “the dictatorship.” Therefore, to the early Soviet Communists, “dictatorship” was not a dirty word. (back)

8 Lenin at the time of the revolution described as a Marxist any person who supported the dictatorship of the proletariat. By Lenin’s definition, a great number of people, perhaps even the overwhelming majority of the people who over the years have described themselves as Marxists would not be Marxists. For this blog, I have deliberately employed a broader definition of who is a Marxist, which is all persons who consider themselves Marxists or who are widely considered to be Marxists. (back)

9 The capitalists who dominate the educational system and media keep the world’s people informed of the excesses and outright crimes committed under Soviet power in the Soviet Union. They are, however, not so forthcoming about the tremendous achievements that were made possible by the Soviet dictatorship. (back)

10 The First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press and assembly — demonstrations and association. As a result of the First Amendment, the U.S. government was unable to pass a law that outright outlawed the Communist Party and other left parties during the Cold War. And many of the laws they did pass to accomplish the same thing, such as the “Communist Control Act,” were eventually, in part at least, declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court because they violated the First Amendment, though not before they did considerable damage.

The Fourth Amendment prevents the authorities from exercising an unlimited right to search people’s homes or today their automobiles without a court warrant. It is based on the ancient legal doctrine that a man’s home is his castle — it was all about men in those days.

The Fifth Amendment protects persons from incriminating themselves. As a result, while the police have a right to lie to people they suspect of a crime, lying to police is a crime. People suspected by the police have a right to remain silent. As a result, people arrested or otherwise “detained” by the police have a right to “lawyer up” and demand an attorney. At that point, the police interrogation is supposed to end. Naturally, the cops hate this and try to convince detainees to give up their Fifth Amendment right to show their goodwill to the police. But anyone in such a situation is well-advised never to do this.

The Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of citizens to “bear arms” through a well-regulated militia, is more complicated. Originally designed to guarantee the slaveholders the right to form armed militias to protect themselves against runaway slaves and slave uprisings, it is today strongly defended by Republicans to protect their heavily armed fascist allies. Liberals and many progressives support “gun control” enforced by the federal government through federal police agencies such as the FBI to halt the growing problem of right-wing racist and fascist violence.

However, the right of citizens to bear arms and form militias is indeed an important democratic right. And the liberal notion that the police, whether local, state, or federal, should have a monopoly of firepower given the class nature of the police and the extremely racist nature of the U.S. police force is a bad idea. Today and in times to come, the workers, particularly workers of color, increasingly need their own militias to counter the deadly threat represented by the fascist militia movements. However, in the final analysis, any serious showdown between the police and their fascist allies on one side and the workers and other working people on the other can only be decided in favor of the workers and working people by the decisive intervention of the workers in uniform — the rank and file soldiers whose firepower exceeds the firepower of both the cops and fascist militias. (back)

11 This is not to say that the people’s front policies were correct for the 1930s. I don’t believe they were. But it is no secret that the authors of the 1930s people’s front, Joseph Stalin and Georgi Dimitrov, were motivated by the very real need to split the imperialist countries so they would be unable to attack the Soviet Union together. Today’s people’s front reflects no such need. (back)

12 The absolute amount of gold would have to be far higher because the total quantity of commodities produced today — not to speak of tomorrow — measured in terms of their total prices (quantities of gold bullion) is vastly greater. (back)

13 Some months ago, there was a wave of discussion in the bourgeois media about a possible collapse of the value of primary commodities including gold believed to be present in the asteroid Pysche that orbits the Sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter — with NASA now sending a probe to explore it — if those commodities were to be brought back to Earth. What the discussion left out is that even if one day these minerals including gold were to be brought to Earth, it wouldn’t occur through magic but only through a tremendous expenditure of human labor. But it is true that as long as the mineral wealth of Pysche remains on the asteroid, it has zero value. The reason is that such minerals only have value as a result of being products of human labor. (back)

14 Earl Browder (1891-1973) was the general secretary of the Communist Party USA between 1930 and 1945. During the New Deal and even more during World War II, he became associated with a policy of extreme class collaboration. For example, in the 1930s Browder described Communism as “Twentieth Century Americanism” and pictured the Communists as heirs to slaveholders like Washington and Jefferson. During World War II, he claimed that the wartime Tehran summit meeting between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, had opened up the prospect of an era of prolonged peace abroad combined with prosperity and class collaboration at home. With this perspective in mind, he dissolved the Communist Party, replacing it with the “Communist Political Association,” which was designed to work within the U.S. two-party system of Democrats and Republicans.

Browder was criticized in a letter published in 1945 by French Communist Party leader Jacques Duclos for his extreme revisionism and opportunism. Though the Duclos article reflected the view of the Soviet Communist Party leadership and Browder over the years has been praised by U.S. bourgeois historians for his “realism” and “moderation,” he had become generally unpopular among the rank-and-file U.S. Communists. He was replaced as general secretary by Eugene Dennis (1905-1961) and expelled from the party altogether in 1946. In the U.S. Communist and international Communist movement — the Third International had been dissolved in 1943 — the kind of extreme right-wing opportunism associated with Browder became known as “Browderism.” (back)


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