On Saturday, November 7, at about 11:30 a.m. eastern standard time, the Associated Press finally declared Joseph Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, the victors in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Biden is now the unofficial president-elect. However, he will not officially be the president-elect until January 6, when the newly elected Congress certifies the results of the vote in the Electoral College, which meets on December 14. Then, at noon EST on January 20, Biden and Harris will be sworn in.
Joseph Biden will be at 78 the oldest person by far to assume the presidency, breaking the record set by Donald Trump who was 70. Kamala Harris, 56, will be the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice-president of the United States.
Once the AP declared a winner in the presidential election, the losing candidate — this time the incumbent Donald J. Trump — was expected to offer within a few hours a concession speech. The speech Trump would have been expected to give if he were a normal president would have gone something like this: “The American people have spoken and made their choice. I have just telephoned president-elect Biden and sent him my heartfelt congratulations. Once again, American democracy has demonstrated its strength. Let no foreign foe be mistaken. We are one people and we will rally around President Biden, who is president of not only the those who voted for him but of the entire American people. God bless America and God bless the American people.”
However, in the hours following the AP’s unofficial anointment of Joseph Biden as president-elect, duly seconded by virtually every major capitalist media organization from the strongly anti-Trump New York Times to the staunchly Republican Fox News, Trump indicated that he would continue to pursue legal actions, which virtually all observers agree are hopeless, in a last-ditch attempt to reverse the outcome.
The importance of the concession speech
There is no written constitutional provision that the losing presidential candidate must concede. But it has become an unofficial part of the Constitution since Democrat William Jennings Bryan conceded the 1896 presidential election to Republican William McKinley.
Normally, the outgoing president and the incoming president and their advisers engage in a series of meetings to ensure a peaceful and smooth transition of power. But what happens if the outgoing president refuses to cooperate claiming that the election results are false and that he will still be the rightful president of the United States after January 20, 2021? This is the question hanging over Washington as of Saturday, November 7. If the outgoing president refuses to cooperate, it will make for a messy transition indeed.
As predicted by many before the election, something like a red (1) mirage appeared as the returns began to trickle in on Tuesday night, November 3. Trump in addition to carrying solid Republican states, mostly states of the “Deep South” with their centuries-long traditions of racism going back to slave times, many thinly populated “mountain states,” and some mid-western agricultural states, seemed to be prevailing by large margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The Republican Party and its fascist allies had been successful in turning out its voters on election day despite the dangers of contracting COVID-19. And since in most states the “in-person” votes are counted first, Trump jumped to a substantial lead in the rust belt “swing states” whose voters in effect decide the election.
But there was also a huge turnout — by U.S. standards — of anti-Trump voters, most of whom voted by mail. As of mid-day Nov. 9, Biden had 75,627,583 votes, or 50.64 percent of the total cast, while Trump had 71,223,138 or 47.69 percent of the votes cast. These are not final figures, but the basic facts won’t change. A clear majority of the American people rejected Donald Trump and all he stands for, but a large minority supports Trump. The American people are deeply divided.
Trump and the Republican Party, working through pro-Trump Republican Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, did all they could to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service. Sorting machines and postal drop-boxes were dismantled and removed. The usual GOP voter suppression tactics were fully deployed such as limiting the number of voter machines in working-class areas, especially working-class areas of color. Trump declared that mail-in votes were “fake” and should not be counted. Late on the evening of November 3, Trump declared victory. But as many predicted before the election, as the mail-in votes were counted Trump’s lead over Biden melted away in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. These were the states that went to Trump in 2016 by thin margins and would decide the 2020 election.
By Friday morning, Trump’s lead in these states and the Deep South state of Georgia had turned into small but definite Biden leads. Since the bulk of the remaining mail-in votes were most likely to go for Biden, who was leading by almost 4 million in the overall popular vote, it was pretty clear by Friday morning that Biden had indeed won the election, not only in the popular vote but in the Electoral College.
As Friday unfolded, the AP refused to call the election for Biden, and Trump still claimed victory. Emboldened by the failure of AP and other big capitalist news organizations to report the obvious and call the election for Biden, Trump supporters gathered at buildings where votes were being counted. They demanded either that all the votes be counted or that the counting stop immediately, hoping in both cases to repeat the success of the Republican mob that forced a halt in the recount of the Florida vote in 2000, which handed the White House to Republican candidate George W. Bush. Republican lawyers prepared to file lawsuits designed to reverse Biden’s victory.
However, unlike Gore in the stolen election of 2000, Biden was accumulating a massive victory in the Electoral College and more than 50 percent of the popular vote. It wouldn’t be enough for Trump to reverse the result in one state as Bush had done with Florida in 2000. He would have to overturn the result in many states.
Still, the Associated Press held off even though the remaining votes to be counted came from overwhelmingly Democratic areas. Were they giving Trump time to calm down, come to his senses, and play the role that a defeated president is supposed to play in the peaceful transition of power? If they were, it was having the opposite effect, encouraging both Trump and his followers to continue to resist. Finally, on Saturday morning, 24 hours after Biden’s victory had become apparent, the AP called the election for Biden and running mate Harris.
Liberals and progressives expressed disappointment and horror that the Trump vote and the vote for Republicans, in general, was as large as it was. They had hoped for a Republican collapse. Instead, the Republicans made modest gains in the House of Representatives though the Democrats maintained overall control. The control of the Senate now hangs on the outcome of a runoff election in the state of Georgia scheduled to be held in January.
While recent history indicates that the Republicans will probably win these elections, the fact that Georgia now has a majority non-white population and that the Biden-Harris ticket carried the state even if by a tiny margin indicates that the Democrats may have a chance of winning these elections. If they do, the Senate will be divided between 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats with Vice President Kamala Harris (2) having the tie-breaking vote.
If this happens, it will mean that the Democrats will control the Senate as long as the Democratic senators remain united. It will also mean that the most conservative Democratic senators will be in control because if even one Democratic senator votes with the Republicans on any issue, the Republicans will prevail. If the Republicans manage to elect only one senator in the upcoming Georgia runoff elections, the Republicans will control the Senate.
This means the chances of any remotely progressive legislation — such as a public option added to the Affordable Care Act, assuming the Supreme Court does not declare the Act unconstitutional — are virtually nonexistent. But such a declaration is now a real danger unless a massive movement in the streets scares the capitalist class enough to grant concessions they as a class have neither the economic interest nor desire to grant. Even if the Supreme Court does not declare the entire ACA unconstitutional the chance of any expansion of the ACA such as a public option appear unlikely without massive struggle in the streets and elsewhere.
I believe, by the way, that this is actually what Joseph Biden, throughout his political career a loyal servant of the U.S. capitalist class, wants. Once in office, the new president will say to the progressives: Even if I wanted to pass progressive legislation, I can’t because the Republicans and conservative Democrats won’t allow me to.
In reality, the majority of the American people within the extremely restricted confines of what passes for bourgeois democracy in the United States want a progressive agenda. We also shouldn’t forget the widespread voter suppression practiced by the modern Republican Party. If these factors are taken into account, the anti-Trump and anti-Republican vote would have been far larger. Estimating how much larger this vote would have been requires serious statistical work. However, the fact that north of 70 million people voted for electors pledged to Trump confirms that a significant minority of the U.S. people support Trump. This is true notwithstanding his disastrous mishandling of the biggest crisis during his term of office, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis with its mass unemployment.
Why they voted for Trump
Let’s break down the pro-Trump vote, since it is extremely important that as Marxists we understand from where it came. First, a portion of the pro-Trump votes was cast as would be expected by the capitalists themselves and their closest allies. (See last month’s post for a definition of what a capitalist is.) However, not all capitalists voted for Trump. Some were sharply opposed to him. These capitalists were part of the “all-people’s front,” to use the term favored by the Communist Party USA, which helped organize the larger mass vote for conservative Democrat Joseph Biden. However, the majority of the members of the capitalist class probably supported Trump and other Republicans.
Now let’s look at the portion of the population that are the closest allies of the capitalist class. First, there are the near capitalists. These are the people who belong to the upper-middle class — petty bourgeoisie in traditional Marxist terminology — who have accumulated an amount of capital enabling them to almost but not quite quit working altogether and live off profits, interest, or rents. To maintain their upper-middle-class lifestyle, these people still have to work either in high-salaried jobs or as managers in their own businesses where they are not quite rich enough to hire professional managers and still retain their upper-middle-class lifestyle. (3) These candidate members of the capitalist class identify with the class they expect shortly to join as full members. A large majority of these people probably voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Some people unrealistically expect to become capitalists in the future and thus identify with the interests of the class they will never in fact join. These range from people who “play the stock market” to small business people who lack enough capital to hire professional managers and therefore must work hard in their businesses to enjoy a “decent” middle-class lifestyle. It also includes workers who buy lottery tickets convincing themselves that if they keep buying lottery tickets they will win the jackpot sooner or later. Then there are those people who gamble away their meager earnings in the casinos of Las Vegas, Reno, and other places believing that if they keep betting they will eventually win the jackpot and enter the capitalist class.
Another group identifying their interests with the interests of the capitalist class are professional police officers. These are the men and some women who do the dirty work of the capitalist class. Virtually all the police “unions” in the U.S. endorsed Donald Trump. Also in this category are many professional soldiers. If these soldiers are forced to leave the military for any reason, they are likely to join and/or organize fascist militia groups where they can continue to practice their chosen profession as hit people for the capitalist class. In the U.S. under the present party alignments, these people vote for Republicans and adore Donald Trump. (4)
We should carefully distinguish these mercenaries from workers who join the military as the only way to acquire skills while earning room, board and income. It is a good thing that a section of the working class learns technical and military skills including the use of powerful weapons that will play a decisive role in the coming showdown between the capitalist and working classes.
There is also a layer of clergy and intellectuals who completely identify with the capitalist class and expect to become money capitalists themselves if they aren’t already money capitalists by becoming the ideologues of the capitalist class. While some of these people are “liberal” or “moderate” ideologues of capitalism, many are extreme reactionaries who strongly support the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Not least among these are a group of special interest to this blog — many professional economists. These are the kinds of people who voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans down ticket. However, even when added together they still do not account for Trump’s total of more than 70 million votes.
Workers who voted for Trump
Among Trump voters are many workers. Not all or even most Trump voters are workers and most workers either voted against Trump or didn’t vote at all. Among those workers who didn’t vote are those who for various reasons were unable to vote. These included workers with felony convictions or serving prison terms, immigrants who were not or not yet citizens, workers who were homeless or lacked government-issued picture IDs required in many U.S. states to vote. There were also many workers able to vote but who didn’t think it was worth the trouble to register, or if they did register, didn’t think it was worth the trouble to vote when the only alternative to Trump was the conservative Democrat Joseph Biden.
And we shouldn’t forget the tens of thousands (the exact number won’t be available for weeks after the election) who voted for socialist Gloria La Riva. Though still few, these workers are conscious of their position in U.S. capitalist society. As such, they have an importance that is far out of proportion to their numbers. Other progressive-minded workers voted for the Green candidate and socialist Howie Hawkins. In many states, workers could vote for Hawkins but not La Riva. If all the workers who did not vote for Trump are taken into account, the majority of the working class is against Trump and the Republican Party even at their current level of consciousness.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that a considerable number of U.S. workers, overwhelmingly white and disproportionately male but including many though again not most trade unionists, did vote for Trump and other Republicans. If these workers had voted against Trump and other Republicans, Trump would have lost overwhelmingly and the Republicans would have been largely wiped out.
Why, progressives complain, do so many U.S. workers keep voting “against their own interests” for anti-labor Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular? Of course, when liberals and progressives complain about workers who vote Republican and against their own interests, we shouldn’t forget that those workers who voted for Democrats and other non-socialist candidates also voted against their own immediate as well as historical economic interests.
The tragic fate of the modern coal miner
One group of workers who voted overwhelmingly for Trump and other Republicans are U.S. coal miners. This is tragic. The coal industry was the foundation of the industrial revolution and, beginning in Britain, the firstborn among the “heavy industries.” Coal miners were long in the vanguard of militant trade unionism. The state of West Virginia, the center of the U.S. coal mining industry, voted heavily for Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
West Virginia broke away from the slave state of Virginia at the time of the war of the slave owners’ rebellion to remain loyal to the union. West Virginia later became famous as the base of the United Mine Workers of America (5), which spearheaded the formation of what was first the Committee and then the Congress of Industrial Organizations — the CIO. West Virginia became such a solid Democratic State that when John D. Rockefeller IV (1937 – ) — known as plain Jay Rockefeller — ran for the U.S. Senate, he ran as a Democrat because he knew he couldn’t win as a Republican.
Today, virtually all climate scientists believe that we must stop burning coal if we are to avoid civilization-threatening global warming. (6) Science says that the coal industry must be shut down. The U.S. coal industry is already in steep decline while Britain’s coal industry, long a sick industry, is now a dead industry. Unfortunately, the decline of the coal industry has not occurred because of the findings of climate science but because it is becoming increasingly unprofitable for the capitalists to mine coal.
The reason, besides increasing stagnation — pre-COVID — of the U.S. and to a lesser extent global capitalist economy, is that burning natural gas (methane), extracted increasingly through fracking, is a cheaper way of releasing a given unit of energy than is the burning of coal. It is therefore, at the current level of technology, more profitable for the capitalists to extract natural gas than to mine coal. Capital, as we know, is always in search of the highest rate of profit. It has therefore been moving out of coal mining and into natural gas production. Coal mining as dictated by the profit motive is down and natural gas extracted from fracking is up. Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas if it gets into the atmosphere but it adds less carbon dioxide when burned to release energy.
Coal miners — and former coal miners — in the U.S., Wales and elsewhere who fought legendary union struggles against the coal bosses and inspired generations of progressives, socialists, communists, and artists — for example, the famous African-American actor and singer Paul Robeson — are bewildered that today’s progressives, socialists and communists are demanding that their industry be shut down. The final shutdown of the coal industry will end what is left of a way of life. Reactionary Republicans and above all Donald Trump — and Tories in the now-abandoned coal fields of Wales — have taken full advantage of the political opening this tragic situation has provided. Trump has become a champion of “clean, beautiful coal.”
The suggestion by some progressives that West Virginia and other coal-producing areas become centers for the production of solar panels doesn’t cut much ice with desperate coal miners and former coal miners. Mining coal and working in a solar panel factory have little in common besides the fact that they are both forms of human labor. There is no particular reason for the capitalists to produce solar panels in the abandoned coal fields of the U.S. or Britain when they can find cheaper labor elsewhere.
What is true is that a socialist planned economy, if science determines that a particular industry such as coal mining must be shut down, would safeguard the interests of the workers of the doomed industry. Older workers would receive generous pensions and younger workers would be retrained to work in other industries where their labor would make a positive contribution to the continued wealth and progress of humanity. There is no lack of possibilities. Still, even under a socialist planned economy, there would be friction, especially in an industry like coal mining that represents a whole way of life and whose struggles represent an entire epoch in the history of the workers’ movement.
But under capitalism, coal miners faced with the decline of the coal mining industry face unemployment, or extreme underemployment, as well as the end of a way of life rich in traditions of class solidarity. No wonder coal miners or former coal miners are falling victim to reactionary politicians like Trump who encourage “magical thinking” claims that their old way of life can somehow be brought back or at least what is left of it can be salvaged.
However, the problem of workers voting for Donald Trump — and other extreme right-wing capitalist politicians — is not confined to the increasingly abandoned coal fields. Many factory workers and former factory workers living in rust-belt states voted for Donald Trump and other Republicans. Trump did carry the rust-belt state of Ohio and won the vote of many trade unionists.
Why do these factory workers, many of whose unions formed the backbone of the CIO, vote for Donald Trump and other anti-union Republicans? We can blame this situation on racism and other forms of bigotry that have never been lacking among U.S. — especially white — factory workers. But this does not explain why racism has suddenly become so intense among white workers that they are now voting regularly for the arch anti-union Republican Party.
What I call Party of Order Democrats such Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden are generally seen as “free traders.” In decades gone by, the Democrats were associated with the era of Franklin Roosevelt and his so-called New Deal. It was under Roosevelt that the U.S. economy emerged from the Great Depression and transformed its industrial domination of the world market into military and political domination as well. In those days of yore, good-paying industrial jobs with benefits such as employer-provided health care plans were available in the industrial regions for people who lacked college and in some cases even high school educations but were willing to get their hands dirty working in basic industry.
Though the U.S. industrial unions were organized in the trenches largely through the leadership of the Communist Party USA, in the minds of the great mass of the workers (and their children) who engaged with these historic struggles, gains industrial unions made possible were associated with Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Back then, the move toward “free trade” that began with Roosevelt worked to the advantage of U.S. basic industry, which could produce commodities of a given quality with less labor than anywhere else in the world. It was not China but the United States that was the factory of the world.
The resulting super-profits made by U.S. capitalists through their global industrial monopoly were shared with the CIO — later AFL-CIO — workers in the form of much higher wages than anywhere else in the world, widespread home ownership supported by government programs for (white) workers where the appreciating value of homes — actually the land under the homes — compensated for the skimpy nature of the U.S. “welfare state.” Added to this were the employer-provided health care plans won through the struggles of the CIO unions (which for members of the industrial unions made up for the absence of health care as a human right), as well as private pensions on top of the skimpy pensions paid by the Social Security program. As result, several generations of union workers voted solidly Democratic.
But that world of numerous industrial jobs and strong industrial unions are now only a memory. This has opened an opportunity for reactionary politicians just as with the tragic situation of the coal miners. Trump by embracing high tariffs and economic protectionism has promised a revival of basic industry in the rust belt. True, the results of Trump’s protectionist program have been meager, to say the least. But at least Trump has a program to revive industry.
What is the alternative program offered by Joseph Biden and his fellow Party of Order Democrats? Well, exactly nothing. After all, it is the Party of Order Democrats who believe that — since it is more profitable to produce abroad — the U.S. doesn’t need nearly as much basic industry as in the past. The purpose of the capitalist economy, Biden and his fellow Party of Order Democrats know, is to produce a profit for the owners of capital. Industrial production is for the capitalists and their political representatives only a means to this end.
The young descendants of the factory workers of yesteryear are advised by the Bidens and their ilk to train to become “computer programmers” or “system administrators” or “electrical engineers” in the “high-tech economy.” It is up to you, Biden explains to the young workers of today, to gain the high-tech skills necessary to succeed. If you are not able to do this, the Bidens say, you should be satisfied with working at your local McDonald’s for the minimum wage. Biden does promise to raise that wage to $15 per hour sometime in the future, perhaps when inflation will have reduced the buying power of $15 to even less than today’s minimum wage. This way we can someday have a $15 minimum wage while safeguarding the rate of profit.
Regrettably, was it surprising that many desperate workers voted for Donald Trump, who promised to bring back the “good” industrial jobs of yesteryear through protectionism and economic nationalism, rather than a Clinton or Biden who promised them nothing? Interestingly enough, the one Democrat who did win support among displaced rust-belt workers was Bernie Sanders. Unfortunately, Sanders’ solution to the decay of U.S. basic industry was the same as Trump’s — and the reactionary trade union leaders — tariffs and other forms of economic nationalism.
The difference is that while Trump combined economic nationalism with extreme chauvinism and racism, Sanders supported Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. Interestingly enough, however, the very term “Green New Deal” looks not so much to the future as to the past of U.S. global industrial monopoly on which the old New Deal and the CIO industrial unions based themselves. This explains why a small but not insignificant percentage of Trump voters voted for Obama and then Sanders in the Democratic primaries of 2016 and 2020.
Finally, there is the problem that haunted the U.S. — and the white colonies that were to become the U.S. — of African slavery and the racism it has bred. If the working-class vote for Trump was not much higher than it was, it is because many and soon the majority of U.S. workers will be people of color. These workers are not immune from Trump’s siren calls of “beautiful clean coal” and protectionism. Some workers of color were tempted to vote for Trump and a few did. But most did not because they know that Trump is a racist and that his racism is a threat to their physical safety, their jobs, and even their right to live in the United States.
When industry booms and there are plenty of jobs, competition for jobs among workers declines while competition among capitalists for workers increases. But when industrial stagnation is the rule even between the downturns of the industrial cycle, competition for workers among the bosses declines while competition for jobs among the workers increases. If you are a white worker, your chances of getting a good job — or perhaps any job — are better if your “competition” is limited to white, native-born workers. Therefore, if a politician like Trump promises to eliminate some of your “competition” — your fellow workers — your chances in the labor market improve. It is the same logic that is involved in economic nationalism. Protective tariffs eliminate or try to eliminate competition from workers in other countries while racism eliminates competition from workers at home.
If socialism does not appear to be an imminent possibility — and if you are an American worker, especially a white American worker, you probably know nothing about socialism outside of what the reactionary capitalist media and Republican politicians tell you — racism appears to work to your advantage because it improves your position and those of your family members and closest friends in the labor market. In contrast, class-conscious workers — who are not the same as union-conscious workers — are always willing to put themselves at a disadvantage in the labor market if it advances the global struggle of the working class for a socialist world. For the class-conscious worker, the question is not the exact ratio between unpaid to paid labor. Rather, it is the struggle to end once and for all class society where a relatively few non-workers exploit the labor of the great majority.
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Donald Trump?
Under the U.S. Constitution, Donald Trump remains president and command-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces until January 20, 2021. (See here for explanation of perils of the transition period.) On Monday, November 9, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and over the following 24 hours other high-ranking Pentagon officials. The newspaper USA Today quoted an unnamed Pentagon official as saying, “These are dictator moves.” In other words, exactly the moves you would expect if Trump were planning a coup in order to seize dictatorial power.
Could Trump actually be planning to seize dictatorial power through a classical military coup? More likely he is hoping to cling to power “legally” by having states that are dominated by Republicans but voted for electors pledged to Biden refuse to certify the election results. If enough states do this, Biden would be denied the 270 votes he needs in the Electoral College. That would throw the election into the House of Representatives, where the Republicans control the majority of state delegations. These House delegations would then elect Trump to a second term as president.
Normally, the certification of the elections for the presidential electors is a mere formality. However, the decision is made state by state and Trump has leverage over the elected Republican governors, assembly people, and state senators who formally vote to certify the electors. Trump has been hinting that if he is denied a second term, he might run again in 2024 when he would be only slightly older than Joseph Biden is now. By threatening to run again, Trump is attempting to maintain his control of the Republican Party. He is saying to Republican governors, assembly people, and state senators that if you do not do my bidding I will urge the Republican electorate, which is personally devoted to me, not to vote for you in coming elections.
However, if the House were to hand the White House back to Trump for a second term, there would almost certainly be an explosion of protests in the streets that would likely exceed both the anti-Trump protests that occurred in 2016 and the Black Lives Matter protests — the largest in U.S. history — that followed George Floyd’s murder by Minneapolis police on May 25. During the Black Lives Matter protests, Trump ran into resistance by Pentagon officials, including then-Secretary of “Defense” Mark Esper, when he tried to get the U.S. military to put down the Black Lives Matter protests. In the event of a successful stealing of the 2020 elections, Trump doesn’t want to have to deal with resistance by Pentagon officials to his use of the U.S. military as his personal police force.
However, virtually the entire media including FoxNews whose boss, the billionaire press lord Rupert Murdoch, has reportedly turned against Trump, is united in demanding that the time has come for Trump to concede the election to Joseph Biden and then leave the White House on January 20. Attempting to steal an election where you have clearly lost the popular vote by more then 5 million votes would completely expose the claims of the U.S. before the anti-Trump majority of the American people to be a democracy, let alone the leader of forces of “democracy” in the world.
Even many capitalists who might have wished that Trump had prevailed in the election would consider this a risky course to follow. Is it really worth it, these capitalists must be asking themselves, to risk a possible breakdown of 231 years of uninterrupted constitutional rule and civil war simply to keep the conservative Democrat Joseph Biden out of the White Houses?
It therefore seems seems to me that the forces arrayed against Trump as well as the constitutional traditions of the U.S. are still sufficiently strong to ensure that there will be no Eighteenth Brumaire (7) for this would-be Bonaparte. But we must remain vigilant especially in light of Trump’s latest Pentagon shake-ups.
But before we celebrate the end of Trump’s presidency, we have to remember that the misrule of the Party of Order — the main party of U.S. finance capital — made Trump possible in the first place. It will through its current leader Joseph Biden once again bring the White House under its strict control. As a result, the danger of war has only increased, while the COVID-19 pandemic rises to new heights as winter weather sets in. Also — and this is important — the U.S. dollar and with it the international dollar system has been weakened by the Federal Reserve System’s response to the economic downturn associated with the pandemic. These are among the many problems Joseph Biden will inherit from Donald Trump.
Assuming the transition period now beginning between the Trump and Biden administrations unfolds relatively smoothly, I now plan to return to the normal schedule of a new post every four weeks. Assuming there are no surprises, the next post dealing with the economic and political prospects that face the working class as the Biden administration approaches will be published on December 13.
1 Why is the unofficial color of the far-right Republican Party red when everywhere else it is parties of the left that are associated with that color, while other parties of the right are associated with the color blue, the traditional color of the aristocracy? During the Cold War, U.S. Communists real and alleged were often described as the “Reds.” However, in Europe even the “center-left” though trade union-based British Labor Party, and the modern but still labor-based German Social Democratic Party, are still associated with the color red.
Since the Democratic Party is less right wing than the far-right Republican Party, and since the New Deal has relied on the trade unions as an important part of its base, it seemed natural to call the Democrats “the reds” and Republicans “the blues.” However, this would mean the Democrats would be considered the reds, which in the mind of Americans constantly bombarded with often crude anti-communist propaganda would mean that the Democrats could be confused with the “communists.” To avoid such misunderstandings, it was decided that the Republicans should be considered the reds because even the most fanatical anti-communist would not confuse the modern GOP with the communists, which left the color blue associated in Europe with aristocracy and political reaction for the Democrats. (back)
2 Under the U.S. Constitution, the vice president’s only official job, besides being next in line for the presidency if the incumbent president is for any reason unable to complete his or her term, is to preside over the U.S. Senate. This is usually a purely ceremonial job, but if the Senate ties, the vice president (normally not voting) gets to cast the tie-breaking vote. In a Senate divided between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, which will be the case if the Democrats win both of the Senate seats in the senatorial run-off election in Georgia this coming January, Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the tie-breaking vote, giving Senate control to the Democrats. Otherwise, the Republicans will control the Senate. (back)
3 Even if a business owner is rich enough to hire professional managers and retire from active management but chooses instead to continue to actively run the business, that business owner is still a capitalist as long as he or she has the possibility through the mere ownership of capital to live well without working. (back)
4 This category is especially dangerous. In Germany, Adolf Hitler belonged to this group. After Germany’s surrender in November 1918, Hitler as a non-commissioned officer had hoped to remain in the German military. However, Germany was forced under the Treaty of Versailles to radically reduce the size of its armed forces and Hitler was forced to leave the military. Before he left, he worked as a political spy, sent by the military to observe the meeting of a tiny right-wing political group called the German Workers Party. Realizing he was going to have to leave the military, Hitler decided to join the group. He soon became the group’s leading member and used it to begin to build the political party and brown-shirted militia movement that was to become the Nazi Party. (back)
5 The United Mine Workers of America and its legendary leader John L. Lewis (1880-1969) formed the Committee of Industrial Organizations within the American Federation of Labor in 1935. Unlike most AF of L unions, the UMWA was organized along industrial, not craft, lines. In an industrial union, unlike a craft union, both the skilled and unskilled workers working together in the same industry are represented by the same union. Starting in 1935, Lewis’s Committee of Industrial Organizations in opposition to the AF of L leadership championed industrial organization in all the basic industries. In 1938, the Committee of Industrial Organizations broke away from the AF of L and formed the rival Congress of Industrial Organizations based on industrial unions.
For many, Lewis symbolized the militant industrial unionism of the 1930s. However, in politics, Lewis was anything but a radical. He was, in fact, a Republican. Though he was willing at times to work with Communists in the drive to unionize basic industry, he did not tolerate Communists in his own UMWA or indeed any opposition. In 1936, the normally Republican Lewis supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the presidential election, but in 1940 he broke with the CIO and once again supported the Republicans. However, most members of his coal miners’ union became staunch Democrats and remained so for many years. (back)
6 About 252 million years ago, the Earth experienced the greatest mass extinction in its history. The extent of this extinction exceeds the better-known mass extinction caused by an asteroid that hit the Yucatan Peninsula in what is now Mexico some 66 million years ago, killing off all the (non-avian) dinosaurs, as well as many reptiles, mammals, avian dinosaurs (birds), and fewer but still a substantial number of plant species.
However, the extinction that occurred 252 million years ago was far worse. The basic cause of this greatest of all mass extinctions was a series of massive volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia Russia. The area had major coal deposits that were set on fire by the volcanic eruptions. The effect of this massive burning of coal — burned by nature not humans as is the case today — caused such an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the Earth’s temperature rose dramatically. In addition, an increase in the acid level of oceans dissolved the shells of sea creatures. According to Wikipedia: “It is the Earth’s most severe known extinction event, with up to 96% of all marine species and 70% of terrestrial vertebrate species becoming extinct. It was the largest known mass extinction of insects. Some 57% of all biological families and 83% of all genera became extinct.” The ancestors of everything alive today, including our own ancestors alive at that time, barely survived this mass extinction, the worst Earth has experienced up until the present. (back)
7 The Eighteenth Brumaire was the date on the revolutionary calendar in 1799 when Napoleon staged a coup that made him first the military dictator and eventually the emperor of France. Marx used the term Eighteenth Brumaire to describe the French coup of December 2, 1851, when Napoleon’s nephew Louis Bonaparte seized dictatorial power, which allowed him later to make himself Emperor Napoleon III. (back)