The US election: what does it mean for Marxists?November 7, 2016
Around the world, millions of people are waiting nervously for the upcoming presidential election in the United States on November 8th. Will Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump become the most powerful person in the free world? Comedians and economist alike foretell of impending political catastrophe, social ruin, and the fall of the world economy, should there be a Trump victory. What will the capitalists of the U.S. do if Trump wins? With the current global trends of protests, strikes, and the rise of anti-establishment political parties, it is clear what the masses will do. The famous American Dream has ended and no matter the results on Tuesday, the next president will be faced with a crisis that cannot be resolved on the basis of capitalism.
The post-war boom that allowed for reforms to be made in crisis-ridden capitalist countries around the world has ended. The masses will revolt against a Trump/Clinton Presidency and they will strike when the impending worsening of the economy occurs. Capitalism is prone to crisis and the worst is yet to come. For Marxists however, the work is just beginning!
Clinton, from the beginning, was the clear choice of the ruling class. The ruling class fears that Trump would be reckless and hard to control. They see him as out for himself, not for their collective interest. When Trump announced his run for the Republic Party nomination, many Americans laughed it off. Now, most rue the jokes they once made. Trump’s ludicrous and obvious sexism, xenophobia, and racism are distracting from the true nature of Clinton and her campaign. What is even worse about the Clinton campaign is that, while Trump shoots his mouth off about “loving war”, Clinton actually has blood on her hands already. Her record shows how she has helped cause destruction in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Ukraine, Honduras, Venezuela, Greece, and many more. The focal point of the Clinton campaign is that she is not Donald Trump. She has refrained from making empty promises of progress and economic recovery. Instead, her campaign revolves around how the economy and the American democratic system will remain “intact” if she is elected. Electing Clinton as President will not avoid the economic crisis that is already on the horizon.
If the ruling class supports Clinton, then who supports Donald Trump? It seems to be predominantly the enraged “petty-bourgeoisie”, not the mass of class-conscious workers, although in the absence of a Left alternative, Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric has also tapped into the anger of a layer of ordinary American workers as well. Trump uses slogans such as “the system is rigged” to draw in those who watch as their neighbors succumb to the economic crisis. As mentioned in previous articles, Gallup’s August survey of 87,000 Americans shows Trump’s supports are more likely to have higher incomes, be self-employed, live in areas of white poverty and low intergenerational mobility, and be employed outside of manufacturing dependent sectors. They are also less likely to be unemployed, educated, or directly affected by outsourcing and income immigrant populations. This layer of society represents the fictitious middle class. This layer sees his ‘balls out’ approach to politics as common sense. After all, Trump is a business man who knows how to make money and get things done! This only makes sense when talking about profits for Trump and his empire. When it comes running the United States, Trump will be looking out for himself first, the ruling class second, but never the working class.
The ideas of what is “Right” and “Left” are very skewed, especially in the United States. For Marxists though, the distinction is clear. Those who are “Left” defend the “living, historical progressive interests of the working class”. Those on the “Right” are the “defenders and beneficiaries of capitalism based on oppression and exploitation”. The difference between Left and Right is firmly rooted in the question of class.
Populism, however, can take both the form of both “right” and “left”. Right populism attempts to direct the focus of the workers away from the root of societal problems. It convinces people to vote for political parties who do not have their class interest in mind. The Democratic Party is liberal-right and the Republican Party is conservative-right. Both are bourgeois parties looking out for the interest of the ruling class. During his campaign, Sanders often mentioned the need to reform the Democratic Party. As an article from the US section of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) rightly pointed out: “If the big-business Democratic Party needs to be transformed then obviously it is not a party of the working class!” When the Democrats were in power and had the ability to push through any reforms they chose, there were only counter-reforms. This can be seen throughout the Obama administration and the Carter administration.
There are those who fear that Trump is a fascist, but this is an inaccurate representation of him and his policies. Fascism comes only when the working class shows complete incapacity to take into its own hands the fate of society. The American working class has not suffered such a defeat at the present time. Furthermore, fascism is all about defending the interests of the ruling class when there are no other options. But far from embracing Trump, the decisive sectors of the Republic Party and the military hierarchy have rejected Trump and fear the consequences of his winning. So far, 11 Fortune 100 CEOs have donated to Clinton compared to Trump who has not received donations from a single one. Nor has he received editorial support from a single major newspaper. More than three dozen governors, senators and US representatives have decided not to vote for their party’s nominee. This clearly shows the massive forces prepared to stop Trump, even in the camp of the bourgeoisie, not to mention the organized working class. Really, the biggest threat that Trump presents is that he could galvanise politicians of the Right to gain under a Clinton Presidency, because her administration will only bring further cuts, military adventures, and a brutal approach to protest of all kinds.
Many people are asking: why won’t Americans vote for a third party? But in response we say: what third party? There is nothing on offer in these elections for the majority of working class Americans. What is required is a mass workers’ party which openly stands in defence of the interests of the working class. Such a party would face all kinds of difficulties, but the enormous pressure of the ruling class against the development of a mass workers’ party would be countered by the millions of US workers who would rally to its banner. That such a party could be created cannot be doubted after witnessing the Sanders movement. And that there would be a revolutionary wing of such a party, basing itself on Marxist ideas and fighting for the fundamental transformation of society, is also guaranteed.
Young people and conscious workers around the United States are radicalizing. More and more of these layers are becoming politically conscious and active in the wake of movements such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter. The movement around Bernie Sanders’ campaign is one of them. He brought to the fore that the 62 richest people on planet earth own as much as the poorest 3.6 billion; the top 1% owns more than the bottom 99%, and the top one-tenth of 1% own almost as much as the bottom 90%. These types of statistics have radicalized youth around the globe. But Bernie Sanders was unable to offer a real alternative, partly because he maintained that capitalism could be reformed into something better, which flies in the face of the facts about the nature and depth of this crisis and the experience of Syriza in Greece and Hollande in France. This is in addition to his betrayal and capitulation to the Democrats by endorsing Hillary Clinton. By doing this he has embraced the establishment whose corruption he exposed to hundreds of thousands across the Unites States. Just like Pandora’s Box, the lid cannot be closed on the political movement that erupted around Sanders and his anti-establishment ideas. There will be new waves of protest with a much higher political consciousness thanks to the Sanders phenomenon.
We should not allow this farce of an election to distract us from our task. Democracy in the United States is hardly real democracy at all. At the end of the day the Electoral College will decide who will become the next President of the United States, with no obligation to vote the same way their various constituencies voted. We should not look toward Tuesday with fear and regret, but see it as evidence that this whole rotten system needs to be swept away.
Marxists should be filled with burning revolutionary optimism while keeping their eye on the prize. To ensure success, revolutions need political and theoretical education, organization, and active participation in the struggles of the working class. That is what we are doing in the Marxist Student Federation and the International Marxist Tendency. With many sections and student organizations around the world, we are educating ourselves and others to prepare and build up our forces so that the coming revolutionary movements will be successful in changing the world. So join us in the fight for Marxist ideas.
“Without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.” – V. Lenin
by Danielle Anderson, Socialist Appeal (USA)