Divisions in the ranks of US imperialism?
The question must be answered: On what social and political base does US imperialism rest and how has it evolved to now?
That segregation was overturned in the US only by 1965 means that the rise and development of US imperialism to world domination took place based on the continued enslavement of the black working class and broader black masses. Since 1965 the black ghettoes have largely remained. Black people form a much greater number in jail than the proportion in the US population. These factors reflect an ongoing slave capitalist relation that is inherent in US imperialism. The question is thus if the abolition of slave capitalist relations can be achieved within a capitalist framework in the current stage of imperialist decay. Or looked at another way, is it possible, in this period of capitalist decay, for democratic demands of the masses to be attained even in the imperialist centres, within the capitalist framework?
It follows that the core of the base of US imperialism is the ‘slave holder’-minded/’overseer mentality’ white worker and white middle class. In the context of the slave capitalist relations in the USA, the white working class also played the role of a labour aristocracy.
It is this core of reaction that has underpinned many invasions and toppling of bourgeois democratic regimes in the semi-colonial world after world war 2. The ongoing class struggle in the US and around the world against slave capitalist relations, bringing with it greater democratic measures up to the point of having a black president and incorporating sections of the black workers and black middle class into the state apparatus has brought with it a tension with the reactionary white core that US imperialism historically rests upon.
There has also been a trend of rising use of private militia and paramilitary in the operations of imperialism around the globe. In the 1990’s the ratio of regular army to private contractor was 50 :1 but today it is 10:1. This is a 500% increase in the private military over the past 20 years. In 2003 in the invasion of Iraq the biggest occupying force behind the regular US troops were 40 000 private contractors. The US Intelligence is today made up of 29% private contractors, which takes up 49% of its budget.
To reflect accurately the current social and political reality we must recognise the de-industrialisation of America – a definitive and long process stretching back to Nixon, who oversaw that transition from “social democratic” post-war concessions to the white working class, towards the ushering in of neo-liberalism and the supremacy of speculative capital. If we say that US Imperialism rises fully after 1945, that it benefits greatly from war-industrial complex, becomes the bank roller of capitalist reconstruction and the global police-force for imperialism thereafter, what remains of that position today? It is still the global hegemonic power.
The American Age has in fact been incredibly brief in historic terms, yet enormously profitable (and destructive) at the same time. America’s manufacturing base has been decimated since the 1980s along with the relocation of US industries to low wage China. Banking and services sectors were followed by techonology-related industries which have become more and more dominant in the domestic economy of the USA. These have proven insufficient to maintain the white working class, who have increasingly and over a protracted period, been under-employed and left with little or no social safety nets. There are few jobs which semi and unskilled white workers can now get and here they compete directly with black and immigrant workers. Capital drives this division of the working class, and the rightwing politicians feed this sense of “injustice” on the part of the white male worker. America’s wars, which previously could be counted upon to at least create employment, has also become privatised and increasingly high-tech, leaving the white worker once more out in the cold. (Note how many law enforcement and military personnel are active Trump supporters)
Similar to the largess handed out in Europe after the war, the white American worker became welded to “his/her” national bourgeoisie, pitted against the neo-colonial worker in the former colonies and semi-colonies.This supervisor or foreman role was both domestic viz a viz the black and hispanic working class , as well as on an international level. It is the sharpening class contradictions in the USA which is at the heart of their political crisis. The road therefore opens up for a resurgence of the American working class on a revolutionary basis, or a strengthening of the neo-fascist elements cloaked in America First garb, seeking to return to their position of privilege within domestic and global dominance of US imperialism. The latter is of course the path to fascism, which cannot be understated as a real threat to the workers in America and around the globe. Capitalism is also frightened by this threat, recognising the grave dangers it poses to bourgeois rule. But we must remember that no matter how extreme fascism is, it remains an option for the ruling class if everything else fails, ie. If all “normal” bourgeois democratic means are exhausted and the threat of revolution becomes real.
There is a domestic capitalist crisis in the USA. There is an international crisis of profitability. The economic base of imperialism, which could buy-off large sections of the white working class, particularly during the post-war boom era (1945 – 1970), has been significantly eroded. American capitalism can no longer afford the keep the “overseers” in the kind of privilege their parents enjoyed. The highly technical and skilled workforce required in the technology economy is an impossible position for the mass of ordinary white workers to attain. They can neither transition into those economic sectors nor can they maintain the lifestyles and levels of material comfort historically achieved. American society is effectively a consumer society, still the richest country in the world but also the most unequal (note here that the US is one of the few countries NOT to collect data in terms of the Gini co-efficient, and they are thus often left off the analysis of inequality for this reason).
By 2016, when Trump was elected, there were already 276 private militia groups in the USA and private military contractors operating in over 125 countries. Many of the militias were started by white ex-military personnel. Several of the militias defend their old privileged position, thus posing as ‘anti-establishment’ from this angle. The main base of the private contractors and militia is the white , unemployed and declassed middle class, ex military type, typically from the right wing core that imperialism rests. These private contractors and militia would not have any life unless they were supported by finance capital. Thus over the past 20 years there has been a growing trend towards fascism in the United States.
Capitalism always maintains a core of reactionary forces within its repressive apparatus
There is a long history of the capitalist ruling class maintaining right wing reactionary forces as part of its repressive apparatus.
After World war 2 several of the top Nazi generals and army staff were retained within the military apparatus of Nato and Germany itself. Kurt Waldheim even became the Secretary of the UN while Adolf Heusinger became the head of Nato.
In Chile, despite the terrible destruction of over 30 000 activists at the hands of the Pinochet regime, the Pinochetist army officers were largely retained within the state apparatus, even after the dictatorship had been over thrown by the masses.
In South Africa, thanks to the sunset clauses proposed by Joe Slovo, the entire core of the reactionary apartheid military and security apparatus were kept in the state and paid for by the democratic regime. Even the over 300 blatant cases that even the mild and watered down TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) referred for prosecution, never even got started. There are many similar examples internationally.
The question is why are these killers maintained in the capitalist state apparatus? It is because in the final analysis the capitalist state is an apparatus of violence, of class rule. They are well aware that their system is irrational. When there is a life and death struggle against the masses who try, over and over again, to reclaim the fruit of their labour, the capitalist class needs a mindless mob of reactionaries that can kill the masses without questions asked.
This is why when the masses protest as in the Black Lives matter movement in May 2020, which was one of the largest uprisings in the USA in recent history, the state forces and their reactionary private militias were out in full force, ready to unleash violence on the masses in defence of the imperialist capitalist state. These protests, going on for months, and unifying the black and white masses, posed a fundamental challenge to the very essence of US imperialism.
But when the right wing protests the police and army are virtually absent, even sympathetic. These are kindred forces with the army high command, the capitalist class.
The left and right tendencies in the USA
2003 was the last time that US imperialism could invade any country on a mass scale. The US working class had lost their savings in the dot com bubble (when many US working class and middle class were encouraged to invest in technology firms and lost much of their savings) and were sacrificed in their tens of thousands on a fake pretext of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They had had enough. Mass anti-state protests were on the rise and there was a split in the military apparatus with even military veterans marching against the state, some even tossing their war medals away. Bernie Sanders and other ‘democratic Socialists’ were tasked with turning the mass anti-state movement back into the parliamentary route. Thus Obama represented this tactic of imperialism in 2009 to pose as left and channel the Socialist and democratic aspirations of the masses onto the electoral terrain, thus taming and neutralising it.
While being constrained by the rising consciousness of the US masses, the requirements of imperialism for continued violent suppression of the masses of the world, led to the greater rise of private militias and security companies on local and international scale. No longer could the US imperialist apparatus rely solely on their traditional armed forces. The tensions and splits within the armed forces of US imperialism is illustrated by the exposures by intelligence operatives Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Snowden points out that a recent law in the US criminalises any whistleblower who hands over information to a journalist irrespective if it is uncovering fraud and corruption or not. The curtailing of bourgeois democratic norms certainly did not start with the Trump era.
The 8 years of Obama 2009- 2017 helped to dispel the myth of a parliamentary road to even basic democratic demands in the US. The depth of the crisis of world capitalism meant that imperialism had to increasingly take away the gains of the masses and break the constraints of the legally enshrined rights that now held back their drive for continued profits.
So on the one hand the disillusionment of the masses in the system led to the leftward moving masses abandoning the parliamentary road. In some part a growth in despair but another part a search for an alternative beyond the options of the Democratic and Republican parties.
On the other hand imperialism required to tearing up of agreements that constrained them. Thus imperialism raised the option of Trump, which posed as anti establishment, resting on the ever-present right wing forces and the declining numbers of the left parliamentary forces.
Dumping Trump- splits in US imperialism?
The election of Trump came out of the rightward shift which Trump turned into an anti-establishment posture from the right. It also relied on leftward antiparliamentary shift, in other words, the right wing appeared stronger because many of the leftward moving masses had rejected both the Democrats and Republicans. There was also a big shift towards the development of a labor party to advance workers interests. This is reflected in the 2017 resolution 48 of the AFL-CIO, the biggest trade union grouping in the USA, with 12,5 million members, which called for the exploring of the setting up of a labor party. Thus the shift away from the Democrats was a leftward shift and not only a rise in apathy. Despite this resolution there have been no active steps to setting up this labor party as a party of struggle, as far as we know.
The rise in the rejection of both Democrats and Republicans can be reflected in the 15% approval rating that Congress had in 2014 (during the last Obama term). Trump tapped into the anti establishment element from the right while Sanders tapped into it from the left. The requirements for imperialism at the time was for a a continuation of undemocratic policies which are the hallmark of the Trump era.
Imperialism still needs the undemocratic mechanisms of Trumpism so why have they dropped him in favour of a Biden?
In 2000 imperialism used electoral fraud to oust Al Gore even though he won the election and installed George Bush. Imperialism needed a war and used all their connections in the apparatus to achieve that. So why did they not just use electoral fraud to keep Trump in the seat for a second term? After all, Trump had installed several judges who could have manipulated the results if imperialism so wished. Yet the Trump appointees did not unduly favour Trump. Why?
The answer lies in the Black Lives Matter movement on home soil in May 2020 which finally reached the point of black-white working class unity and was not only the biggest extraparliamentary uprising in recent US history but also threatened to spread throughout the world. Statues of slave holders and colonialists were being toppled in Britain while in France there was the still-strong yellow jackets movement as well as the black jackets immigrant movement. What the masses were challenging was the very foundation of US imperialism, namely its slave capitalist relations. The slave capitalist relations of French and British imperialism was also coming under threat. The widespread demand in the US to defund the police was a reflection of the revolutionary content of the movement to smash the capitalist apparatus. The national guard and private militias were deployed against the BLM movement and failed to crush it. The changing demographics in the US population impacts on the composition of its military. In 1990 about 25% of the military were not white. By 2015 this had increased to 40%. This in part explains why imperialism is now increasingly dependent on private security and militias to do their bidding and carry out its plans. The BLM movement of May 2020 would have resonated with the black and hispanic soldiers in the army. Faced with a potential split in the army and drawing the lessons of the split in the army during the Occupy Wall Street era, imperialism had to make democratic concessions. Faced with the threat of a revolutionary movement US imperialism was forced to make democratic concessions. In some counties the police were actually disbanded and in others funding was reduced. On the electoral terrain imperialism had to try to incorporate it. The Democratic party has been the recent home of the unions and black masses. A section of the leadership of the BLM was coopted into the Democratic party, hence Biden and his platform as the choice of imperialism. To have gone forward with Trump would have meant the continuation of BLM as an extraparliamentary movement and a greater split in the armed forces than had been seen during the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Based on the Al Gore experience in 2000, several unions mobilised and threatened to call general strikes if the results were manipulated in favour of Trump. The threat of resistance from the broad BLM movement at grassroots level must have been hanging over every Trump-appointed judge. The turning of the BLM movement to support an election of Biden was more of an anti-Trump than a pro Biden vote. At one stage there was a poll that called 40% of Biden’s supporters as being anti-Trump and not necessarily pro Biden. This showed an understanding among the masses that the democratic space for advancing the fight against slave capitalist relations in the US would be more freely pursued under a Biden administration rather than a Trump-led one. (a point correctly identified by the LRP). In fact the Trump administration was trying its best to remove black voters from the voters roll in many states. Anti-Trump sentiment and anti-slave capitalist sentiment among the masses is what swelled the vote against him and the policy of imperialism. The League for the Revolutionary party (LRP), and others correctly called the need to vote against Trump and thus for Biden in the Nov 2020 elections. They fully recognised the imperialist character of the Democrats while recognizing that a vote against Trump did not equate to the political support of Biden but would open the space for advancing the fight for greater democratic gains. Many of the fascistic aspects of the Trump regime was based on immigration policy separating children from parents; deliberate removal of black voters from the voters rolls; dependency and encouragement of right wing militias; his acceleration of trampling on the struggles of the Palestinians with his so-called final solution; his tearing up of gains made through struggle on the environment, etc.
The 6th January 2021 armed right wing assault on the Capitol- a split in imperialism?
Weeks ago, armed right wingers took over and dispersed a sitting of the state government of Michigan. A plot to kidnap and kill the Democrat governor of Michigan by armed right wing thugs was thwarted by the state. Despite this, the thugs were not treated in a hostile way at all. The crackdown on the rightwing forces behind these actions was minimal, in keeping with the ethos that the capitalist state needs rightwing forces as part of its reactionary armour to crush working class rebellion and revolt. Emboldened by this attack in Michigan, 15 000 middle class and some ex and current police and some armed militia, under Trump’s direction converged on the Capitol building, occupying it and trashing parts of it. Some had zipties and some had erected a gallows outside. ( to symbolically execute those who did not want to manipulate the election results). Some of the Congressmen had organized Facebook tours in advance, showing the layout of the building. The Capitol had its own force of 2000 officers, most of whom were not on duty and were not even called up during the siege. Some of the police even took selfies with the protestors. 29 of the Capitol police are being investigated for aiding the right wing mob. Federal backup was denied for 2 hours. Some protestors waved the Israel flag. Another protestor had a T-shirt lauding Aushwitz. These 2 were not in contradiction at all given that Aushwitz was a fascist tool of exterminating those deemed opposing finance capital. The state of Israel is based on the extermination of not only the Palestinians but the crushing of the working class masses in the Middle East.
Only 10 out of 211 Republicans voted to impeach Trump, with another 4 abstaining. Thus 197 voted against it. Does this show a split in US imperialism itself or merely that they were testing the use on home soil of their standard methods of lies and brute force that they use around the world?
US imperialism is not a uniform bloc. Their long, almost 100 year total dominance of the world may lead or has led to competing blocs of US monopolies within it. A (capitalist) state represents competing trends and factions of big capital. The threat of armed right wing protest at 50 state capitols and at the Washington Capitol from the 17th January 2021 is something to observe. If this is a split in imperialism it means support for the right wing attack of the 6th January go right up in all sections of the US apparatus. To have achieved 74 million votes meant that US imperialism or a substantial section of it supports Trump and his methods. Will imperialism go to the extent of assassinating Biden and Harris, steps which are quite routine when US imperialism wills it on foreign soil? Either way, the attack shows that US imperialism or a part of it seriously considered the option of fascist rule in the USA.
US Imperialism seems to have re-united their ranks and stepped away from the fascist option for the moment. Fascism brings with it dangers for the ruling class as well. It could lead to a split in the armed forces and a decisive section of the armed forces allying themselves with the inevitable mass revolt against fascist measures. Imperialism could not crush the BLM movement with brute force. They were forced to make democratic concessions to try to neutralize the movement against slave capitalist relations. The lockdowns internationally do not remove the class conflict nor does it create ‘family unity’ between the masses and the capitalist state. Revolts are inevitable against lockdowns which are carried under the guise of fighting the pandemic. Especially in the wake of mass hunger and starvation. The so-called stimulus package of $1,9 trillion by the US state is to ward off revolutionary threat of the masses. The composition of the Cabinet and committees are to try to neutralise the BLM leadership and to incorporate them into the state. The BLM movement is not so easily neutralised. A set of transitional demands to challenge the still-existing slave capitalist relations needs to be developed. Imperialism chose Biden this time, to neutralise the threat of a break in equilibrium on home soil. A politically conflicted USA has weakened imperialism both locally and internationally. A major split on home soil would weaken its rule internationally . It would inspire revolt against slave capitalist relations not only in the USA but around the world. The entire working class in the USA is armed. Thus a break in equilibrium on home soil threatens to break out into armed conflict on home soil, raising the threat of working class revolution. The state measures to prevent armed right wing protests around the inauguration of Biden is more an act of self preservation of the imperialist capitalist apparatus, than a move to crush the core of the right wing reactionary forces that imperialism depends upon.
In the case of armed right wing assaults on the 50 state capitol and Washington capitol, what are our tasks as revolutionary left? It is to organise independent, grassroots committees, building and extending on the BLM movement, to act independently and suppress and disperse the fascist forces. The AFL -CIO and other working class formations should mobilize grassroots committees to prepare a general strike against the right wing attacks. Let us set up grassroots BLM committees, subject to instant recall, suppress and disperse the armed right wing groups and set up councils of delegates based on 1 rep per 20 000 people, subject to instant recall and earning the average wage of a skilled worker, to discuss measures to abolish slave capitalist relations and setting up a workers’ democracy. The rank and file soldiers should elect their own leaders and send delegates to such local, state and national councils. Even if the right wing is neutralised for now, there still needs to be built and expanded extraparliamentary BLM grassroots committees. The Democratic party is an imperialist party. Not one iota of political support to it. Imperialism faces an insoluble contradiction. It cannot abolish homelessness of the black masses nor the exploitation of the black and hispanic masses as their rate of profit depends on mass homelessness and super-exploitation. An updated programme of struggle needs to be drafted.
The Biden victory represent a temporary reprieve from the harshest realities facing the white working class and to a lesser extent the black working class too. Unregistered immigrants are excluded from the bail out package. It is significant that Biden gained the Rust Belt states which swung back to the Democrats in 2020 (Pensylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin). And this contrasts the Trump v Biden paths: Trump sought to appease American capitals’ desire for a resurgence as the dominant force in global capitalism, isolating and keeping China in subjugation and creating a deregulated national economy with enormous tax breaks for the billionaire class, record profits in the stock market and share-holder value, while misdirecting nationalist sentiment against foreign workers. Biden on the other hand is offering capital a revised social compact, a reduction in social and political strife, a normalisation of international relations and a new “buy-off” of the working class. It is not even Keynesian, but that appeasement approach to the domestic working class has clearly gained traction in sections of the American bourgeoisie. We should look more deeply into this and related questions.
We also need to examine the role of imperialism in using China as its global factory which has been the core of de-industrialisation across the rest of the world and how it has weakened the world industrial proletariat. We also need to examine the various mechanisms by which imperialism keeps China subjugated as a neo-colonial capitalist regime. We need to also examine the inter-relation of the greater rise of fictitious capital over the past 20 years and the implications for class struggle.
Considering also, the call for the setting up a Labor party, our task is not to stand aside from this process but to join it with the objective of winning it to a revolutionary Socialist programme based on democratic centralism. This is a central task of the coming period. It follows that the revival of a revolutionary International on a Socialist Programme goes hand in hand with this task.
The building of Labour Party in the US must also be fundamentally predicated, as all national struggles must be, on a practical, principled internationalism and a rejection of “American exceptionalism”. A workers party must seek to unite the class in common struggle around a Programme of Action – healthcare, unemployment benefits, justice reform and key democratic rights, labour and environmental standards, equal education, etc. but must be clearly internationalist in orientation to more effectively expose the rotting foundation of America capitalism and imperialism.
Here is an opportunity to make America great…….
16.1.2021 amended 19.1.2021