The USA presidential election in November 2020, is set to occur at a time when the capitalist mode of production will be in the throes of the most severe crisis it has ever faced. As the competing Democratic and Republican sides verbally arm themselves, for the electoral contest, that global fact has been consistently ignored. Most of the America media also seems to have decided that the defining issue of 2020 is not the disintegrating condition of the planet, the profound economic dislocation in the US or even the huge Covid-19 death toll there, but Donald Trump.
Democrats are vehemently against Trump, Republicans are vehemently for him. Both sides are pretending to see each other as the primary cause of the deep divisions, within US society, when actually they know they are but two sides of the same governing class. In fact it is the decades-long economic divisions working deep within US capitalism, which have given rise to this mostly sham contest between toxic Donald and sleepy Joe.
It is a sham contest because, despite small differences – hyper exaggerated purely for campaign purposes – most Democrats and Republicans (and their leaders) are dedicated supporters of the capitalist mode of production. Historically, both Democrats and Republicans have put the needs of capital and the pro-capitalist elites ahead of every other consideration. For the elites of both US parties, the present capitalist system comes first, second and never last.
Despite the vitriolic rhetoric on both sides, this fact has recently been verified by those such as Republican Jeff Flake et al. These right-wing Republicans, finally disillusioned by Trumps repeated paranoia and unpredictability, have decided to back Biden on the basis that Biden is right-wing enough and a better bet than Trump to guarantee the existing system will be protected.
Indeed, the real differences between Trump and Biden are far more to do with personal style, than substance, for both sides understand the capitalist system is in a complete mess and needs saving. They only differ in how this can be achieved. Both know there will be huge class struggles ahead and that working people will need to be divided against each other in order to weaken their struggle against the increasingly dysfunctional socio-economic system. How best to do that is what really divides them.
The Democrats in particular see the importance of accepting and encouraging political positions based upon the identities of gender, disability, sexuality and the falsified one of race. The representatives of these identities are promised reforms in return for peaceful assimilation (of a few) into the hierarchy of the existing and future capitalist system.
The essence of current Democratic electoral strategy is to represent US diversity by creating a Rainbow Coalition of legal, peaceful and loyal competing sectional interests (identities) which will redeem America’s dark Antebellum Slavery past. They hope the creation of a facade of ‘tolerance’ will ‘Make America Moral Again’. This strategy, if successful will serve to obscure and negate a class based campaign against all forms of exploitation and discrimination, thus ensuring the capitalist system has enough compromised supporters to survive the coming crisis.
In contrast, the Trump influenced Republicans, see re-establishing American ‘greatness’ in terms of aggressive internal and external measures. Consequently they put more emphasis upon directly playing off sections of the working class against each other. Blame for job losses are attributed to competition from other workers (and identities) not the deliberate decisions of capitalist enterprises to seek sources of cheap labour at home or abroad.
The future Trump (and prior Tea Party) defence strategy for the capitalist mode of production in America is to harness a coalition of dissatisfied workers who have internalised a nationalist agenda and identity and who judge their future well-being to lie with supporting a nationalistic Republican elite.
They hope these non-state nationalistic workers, currently with little viable alternative, will be drawn to the Republican political side and when the crisis eventually matures, act in concert with the capitalist states armed bodies of paid men (and women). Dress rehearsals of such joint reactionary activities against protests are already taking place in many states.
These two, state and non-state armed constituencies, are practical expressions of Trumps dream to ‘Make America Great Again’ which is ultimately a political strategy for stamping out opposition to the rule of capital. The two Biden/Trump political strategies are merely different views of how to defend the ‘establishment’ elites from the consequences of the coming financial, economic, ecological and medical crises facing humanity. But it is important to note that both of these visions are views of the world seen upside down.
The world seen upside down.
In the upside down optics of the representatives of capital, (and those who think like them), the bulk of humanity (working people) are born to serve the capitalist economic system. They imagine the capitalist system is unchallengeable. They think this way because they currently live in the world which superficially appears to be firmly set in that way. Moreover, their dualistic ideology assumes that a future economy adjusted to serve humanity rather than one adjusted to serve them – is neither possible or desirable.
Consequently, all politicians think that the form of politics determines the form of economics. In fact it is almost totally the opposite. The form of economic developments determines, to a greater or lesser extent, the form of politics. For example, the effects of the financial and economic collapse during and after 1929, determined the new-deal social welfare politics of the US for several decades as it did in Europe and elsewhere.
The economic effect of the Second World War (1939-45) also perpetuated a reform-based welfare based politics in the US and elsewhere. Economics more frequently dialectically determines politics, than the opposite. Furthermore, for those who work and live predominantly within one sphere of the mode of production, it is almost inevitable that the ideas dominating that section also dominate and cloud their individual thinking.
Thus those totally embedded in finance tend to think money makes the world go round; those immersed in religion, that some divinity is guiding the universe; educators, that the pen is mightier than the sword; and politicians, that politics determines what occurs in all other areas of life. The professional thinkers and writers within these super-structural spheres of human activity also influence and often dominate those who are sufficiently attracted to these disciplines.
This second layer of ‘disciples’, particularly those on the left, also begin to see the world turned upside down or inside out. They too think politics solves everything. The lefts general assumption of ‘Get rid of Trump and most problems will be solved‘, is an example of such inverted dualistic thinking. Those in the other spheres previously noted also tend to think, that money, god, learning or politics are the things which directly determine the production of the essentials for living – until!
Until a general crisis severely interrupts the flow of essentials. Then if food, water, clothing, shelter, and a number of other essential foundations to modern life, are not reliably delivered, money will be shown to be next to useless, prayer ineffective, knowledge unable to satisfy hunger, and politics a quickly evaporating cloud of hot air. In the current and future global Covid-19, economic, financial and ecological crisis period, we are nearer to such a general crisis, than many actually suspect given the widespread focus on the politics of entitlement and the politics of identity.
For in the USA, as elsewhere, those socio-economic identities which are currently deemed most important have arisen during the neo-liberal phase of entitlement capitalism and are invariably based upon politicised surrogates and lack a serious class analysis. In other words, in a world viewed upside down, symptoms of economic oppression are not seen as having fundamental causes – they are their own causes! Racism is seen as the cause of racism; sexism the cause of sexism; homophobia the cause of homophobia etc.
From such upside down perspectives on capitalist symptoms, solutions to serious problems of social distress are somehow to be magically spun out of themselves. Yet it is clear that politics is the problem not the solution to widespread social distress. Anyone who has seriously studied, the rise of authoritarian politics during the 20th century collapse of capitalism in Italy, Germany and Spain, will recognise that the above noted 2020 street fighting between different sections of the US working class over secondary issues and common problems, can be a prelude to a tragic set-back for humanism and humanity in general.
Furthermore, anyone, familiar with the outcomes of the Arab Spring uprisings, in Egypt, Syria, Yemen (among others), will recognise that even in the 21st century, political understanding can still misdirect general humanitarian struggles and steer them into political (or religious) sectarian cul-de-sacs. These are ancient dead ends down which lie tragic outcomes for all identities – including ones based upon class. Failing to learn from past experiences – particularly when 20th century history is so vividly and comprehensively recorded – is itself a tragedy, let alone the practical consequences of such repeated failures.
Roy Ratcliffe ( September 2020)