No one should have been surprised that in January 2021, an armed group marched to the US Capitol and entered the building by various routes. For in this case, it had been more than hinted at. The preparation for this ‘halt the Biden confirmation process’, began some time before the 2020 election. It had been clearly signalled by Donald Trump himself. He previously said the only way he could possibly lose was if the election was rigged. He also repeated that he would not accept the result of the election if it did not return the result he desired. He, had attempted by all means at his disposal, including intimidation to hinder voting and to ensure that the vote for his opponent was reduced as far as possible. What else was left on the ‘to do list’ of right-wing desperation?
Furthermore, as a motivational idea in right-wing circles, political coups pre-date the Trump Presidency by decades. In fact rioting, storming and damage to buildings to change what you don’t like has long historical precedents in the USA. They stretch back to the 18th century ‘Sons of Liberty’ disputes with the then English governing elite. Incidentally, in those pre-Independence days of intimidation a noose was also hung up (on the Liberty Tree) to intimidate opponents. Similarly stealing other peoples property (that time dumping it in Boston harbour) occurred as part of the founding reality of the United States of America.
Overthrowing governments even became a principle embodied in the American Declaration of Independence which asserted that “in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” the American people had “the right and duty” to “alter and abolish” government – “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends”.
This type of hostile bifurcation between the English governing elite and the entrenched Colonial elite was later replayed during the barbarity of the American Civil War following the South’s Ordinances of Secession in 1861. For, it transpired that in “pursuit of life, liberty and happiness” the Southern elite wished to live off exploiting slave labour, whilst in pursuit of exactly the same aims, the Northern elite wished to live off exploiting wage – labour.
At each one of those historical socio-economic high pressure points sections of the governing elite were divided into two main camps. Each were prepared to fight it out in order to impose their economic model and political will on the population of the entire continent.
In the US Civil War, the ordinary people by means of political forms of identity (ie, Confederates and Unionists) were persuaded by their respective elites to arm themselves and slaughter each other mercilessly. This they did for years until one side gave in and the winning, sides elite were able to dominate the whole country. Echoing a phrase in the Declaration, the Southern Government and its dominant economic base (slavery) was progressively “abolished” and by force.
So it would seem that any contemporary American citizen who, a) does still “hold such truths to be self-evident”, b) believes that the words in the Declaration are still valid, and c) considers Democrat Party governance is “destructive of these ends”, might decide to exercise such “rights and duties”. And in January 2021, by trying to interrupt the certification process, some did. But those rights and duties were being exercised on behalf of rival capitalist elites – not on behalf of self-governance of the oppressed and exploited!
Pointing out these precedents does not justify the Trumpists abortive political coup but it may help explain it. The contradictory and tortured similarity in thinking between the 19th century elites who wrote the Declaration and some of the 21st century elites (and others) who wish to implement it for their own ends, has been revealed.
Whether or not the obnoxious and frequently incompetent Donald knew that his supporters would go to the lengths they did is largely irrelevant. This is because their motive and his, (whether co-ordinated or not) were the same as the 74 millions who had voted for him. Not one of them wanted a Democrat led administration to take power in the USA. His followers were convinced that more years of Trump run capitalism would represent their best interests, or if not, that their interests would be undermined by four more years of Democrat Biden run capitalism.
So the real problem for a future Democrat run US capitalism is not the few hundred who stormed Capitol hill and are fairly easily dealt with, but the 74 million who still think their lives and livelihoods will suffer more under Biden’s capitalism than Trumps. And if they actually do, what will happen then?
Through the distorting lens of politics, some of the Democrat representatives seem to think their problems will be solved by impeaching and humiliating Trump – in as many ways as possible – to ensure that the 70 plus million who voted for him will also be silenced and neutralised. But, will that really work? It may actually make him a martyr and sooner or later rebound upon the Democratic Party elite and those who have been aiding in this silencing endeavour. Joined now by the Democrat inclined monopolists, who have banished Trump and Trumpism from their internet platforms. In this way ending a fragile commitment to what little was left of free speech.
We can see that, in pursuit of their elite interests, authoritarian tendencies arise naturally from within the Democratic wing of politicised capitalism. Looking ahead, who will they silence next? I pose that possibility and introduce the larger social picture because there are 80 plus million voters who ticked the Democratic box in 2020, many millions of whom were already far from satisfied with their current ability under capitalism to pursue “life, liberty and happiness”. And in view of the further crisis the capitalist system is now creating, a Democrat-led pursuit of these social aims could soon be seen by those voters as actually being “destructive of these ends”.
The question that remains for revolutionary-humanists – as distinct from reformist political activists – is the following. Will the existing political identities in the USA (as elsewhere) continue to be manipulated by the political elites so as to divide the mass of people into opposed and easily defeated sectional struggles or can these identities be united under the universal identity of oppressed and exploited human beings? If the latter is achieved, then the socio-economic capitalist cause of their collective oppression and exploitation can be eliminated and their lives collectively transformed. If the former, the future will be as the past – only far worse.
Roy Ratcliffe (January 2021)