In unprecedented scenes, reminiscent of events in Latin America, Asia or Africa, US capitalism plunged into a deeper crisis yesterday as thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Congress on Capitol Hill urged on by their leader Trump.
The incredible images of hundreds, some armed, entering the Congress building and debating chamber, as Congress discussed the certification of the election result, bear witness to the massive polarisation which exists in US society. The dramatic scenes flashed around the world are a graphic illustration of the decline of US imperialism. These events will further damage its credibility and standing internationally – especially in the neo-colonial world.
Trump, who had called for this protest weeks ago, was launching a desperate throw of the dice to try to cling to power. Some of his supporters in Congress in the Republican Party were already doing the previously unimaginable and seriously challenging the certification of the election result – something that has not happened since the 19th century. Yet 139 Republican Representatives in the House and 8 Senators were challenging the election results. Trump, by calling out his supporters, including far right-wing fascistic groups like the ‘Proud Boys’ and the conspiracy theorists like Q-Anon, then took the challenge to a new depth. The signing of a letter by ten former US Secretaries of Defence warning against military involvement in settling the election showed that it was common knowledge in Washington that Trump was preparing something.
The storming of the Congress and total lack of repression by the police and state forces is in marked contrast to the brutal repression deployed against the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Had BLM protestors attempted to storm the Congress building they would probably have been met with a hail of live bullets!
With Capitol Hill police officers taking selfies with the protestors inside the Capitol building and the absence of additional police, plus the delay in the arrival of the National Guard, it is clear that sections of the police and state are supporters of Trump. Whilst the vast majority of the ruling class and the tops of the military and state machine want Trump out, within the state machine, especially the police forces, a layer of his supporters are to be found. Even Biden has been compelled to change some of his security detail because they are Trump supporters. These elements of a division within the state machine will not simply evaporate with Trumps’ departure from the White House.
The ruling class in the US is fearful that this might not be the last throw of the dice by Trump. Many are fearful of leaving him in charge of the largest military power on the planet for the last few days of his Presidency. The anniversary of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the seizure of a South Korean ship by Iran are the sort of pretext Trump could use to launch a military adventure against the Iranian regime.
It is not excluded that the cabinet and Vice President Pence could invoke 25th amendment of the Constitution and remove Trump as many major capitalists like the National Manufacturing Association are now demanding.
Trump is increasingly isolated as sections of his previously loyal supporters in the Republican Party have dropped away from him during the dramatic events of the last twenty four hours, including Pence. This reflects various splits which have opened up in the Republican Party between Trump supporters and those around right-wingers like Bush or Chaney who now represent the “moderate” wing of the party. Now there are divisions within the Trump wing as a layer, like Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Senator, opportunistically fear being associated with the events of the last day and dragged down by Trump. They have an eye to the future and leading a right-wing populist Trumpian party or movement. A formal split in the Republican Party is posed as the crisis continues to unfold. Even the question of the future survival of the Republican Party as it is currently constituted is posed in this crisis.
However, the vacuum that exists in US society and the absence of a mass workers’ party to challenge capitalism have allowed Trump and the right to gain a base amongst some sections of the working and middle classes. This will not disappear under a Biden presidency.
The dramatic events in the US have brought forth an outpouring of condemnation from capitalist politicians around the world. They have denounced the protests as “insurgents”, “insurrectionists” and praised the “democratic institutions” of the US. Although thousands did join this protest it was not, however, a mass uprising or insurrection.
The international capitalist leaders’ denunciations of the events in Washington and the protestations by the leadership of the Democratic Party are sheer hypocrisy. The “democratic institutions” under siege by Trump’s supporters were the same ones that slaughtered millions in the killing fields of Iraq and the Middle East. For decades the US state has carried through military coups and assassinations throughout Latin America and elsewhere to overthrow “democratically” elected governments.
Despite the right-wing character of Trump’s protestors, the capitalist politicians are using this to attack and discredit the idea of popular uprisings against regimes that they support or collude with. They are also fearful that in the explosive and uncertain situation developing internationally, the idea of “storming Congress” might be echoed by workers and those who have suffered under their rule.
The Democrats now will have the Presidency and control of the House and the Senate, following the winning of both Senate seats in Georgia. Despite the capitalist character of the Democratic Party, the defeat of the Republicans in Georgia and the election of a black Senator from there, Raphael Warnock, is an indication of the changes taking place and the blacklash against the Republicans.
Biden will come to power following the catastrophe of the Trump regime and face the worst economic and health crisis for decades. It is likely that the sense of relief at Trump’s departure will mean most Americans adopt a “wait and see” attitude for a certain period. The depth of the crisis may even compel his government to introduce bigger stimulus packages and some concessions to workers and the poor. Bernie Sanders and others on the left of the Democrats have already indicated that they would be happy with this and offer no alternative. However, these measures will not solve the underlying crisis and the devastating effect it is having on the working class and the middle class. The Democrats are tied to capitalism and are now the main party of the US ruling class, given the wreckage of the Republican Party as currently constituted.
The capitalist nature of the party and its leadership is reflected in Biden’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Janet l Yellen who earned US$7 million in the last two years from speaking fees to major corporations and banks! Workers in the US can have no trust that the Democrats will do anything but act in the interests of capitalism. The failure of the Democratic left like Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) to offer an alternative and break from the Democrats and build an independent workers’ party has largely allowed Trumpism to step into the vacuum which exists. The timidity they have shown recently in not forcing a vote in Congress on the health care system because it would be “divisive” is not how an alternative to Trumpism can be built. This is now the crucial challenge for socialists and workers in the US – to begin the task of building a mass workers’ party with socialist policies that can offer a way out of the devastating crisis gripping US capitalism.