The political crisis of the American bourgeoisie

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Today, there is a president in the Oval Office who wants to run the country like a capitalist business, and who appears to have no understanding of things like the state and statesmanship, or diplomacy. This in itself is a clear sign of political crisis in a country like the US. Since 2010, the political life of the bourgeoisie in the United States has been characterised by a tendency for the main protagonists to reciprocally block each other. Radical Republicans held up the budgetary planning of the Obama Presidency, for instance, to such an extent that, at critical moments the state was on the brink of being unable to even pay the wages of its employees. The mutual obstruction between the president and the Congress, between the Republicans and the Democrats, and within each of the two parties (in particular within the former) has reached a scale where it has begun to seriously hamper the capacity of the USA to fulfil it role of maintaining a minimum of global capitalist order. An example of this the reform of the structures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which became necessary in response to the growing weight in particular of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) in the world economy. President Obama recognised that, if  US-inspired and led international economic institutions were to continue to perform their function of providing certain “rules of the game” of the world economy, there was no way of avoiding giving the “emerging countries” more rights and votes within them. But this restructuring was blocked by the US congress for no less than five years. As a result, China took the initiative in creating the so-called Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Worse still: Germany, Britain and France decided to participate in the AIIB (March 2015). A major step had been taken in the creation of an alternative, Chinese-led institutional architecture for the world economy. Nor did the opposition within America even succeed in preventing the “reform” of the IMF.

Donald Trump wanted to put an end to this tendency towards a creeping paralysis in the American system of power by breaking the power of the “establishment”, of the established “elites”, in particular within the political parties themselves. Needless to say, this establishment has no intention of surrendering its power. The result of the Trump presidency, at least to date, has transformed this tendency towards blockage  into a full scale crisis of the US political apparatus. A furious power struggle has opened up between the Trumpists and their opponents, between the president and the judiciary system, between the White House and the political parties, within the Republican Party itself – which Trump more or less kidnapped as part of his presidential bid – and  even within the entourage of the president himself. A power struggle which is also being fought out in the media: CNN and the East Coast press versus Breitbart and Fox News. The courts and the municipalities are blocking Trumps immigration policy. His “health reform” to replace Obamacare lacks the support of his “own” Republican Party. The funds to build his wall against Mexico have not been granted. Even his foreign policy is openly contested, in particular his intention of making a “great deal” with Russia. The frustrated, hot headed, twittering president has been firing one prominent member of his own team after the other. Meantime, step by step, the opposition against him is constructing a fire-wall around him, composed of media campaigns, investigations and the threat of prosecution and even impeachment. His capability to rule the country, and even his mental sanity, are being questioned in public. This development is not specific to the United States. The past two years, for instance, have witnessed a series of mass demonstrations against corruption, whether in Latin America (for example Brazil), Europe (Rumania) or in Asia (South Korea). These are protests, not against the bourgeois state, but against the idea that the bourgeois state is doing its job properly (and of course they are protests against certain factions –often to the advantage of another faction). In reality, so-called corruption is but a symptom of deeper-lying problems. The permanent managing, not only of the economy, but of the whole of bourgeois society by the state, is a product of the decadence of capitalism, the global epoch inaugurated by World War I. The decline of the system necessitates a permanent control by the state with an increasingly totalitarian tendency: state capitalism. In its present form, the existing state capitalist apparatus, including the administration, the decision-making process and the political parties, are a product of the 1930s and/or of the post-World War II period. In other words, they have been in existence for decades. In the course of time, their innate tendency towards inertia, inefficiency, self-interest and self-perpetuation become more and more marked. This also goes for the “political class”, with an increasing tendency for politicians and political parties and other institutions to pursue their own vested interests to the detriment of those of the national capital as a whole. “Neo-liberalism” developed partly in response to this problem. It tried to make bureaucracies more efficient by introducing elements of direct economic competition into their mode of functioning. But in many ways the “neo-lib” system has worsened the illness it wanted to cure. The “economisation” of the functioning of the state has given rise to a gigantic new apparatus of what is known as lobbyism. Out of this lobby system has developed in turn the sponsoring, by private individual or groups, of what in the United States are called Political Action Committees (PAC): “think tanks”, political institutes and so-called grass root movements. In March 2010, the US Court of Appeals granted unlimited funding rights to such bodies. Since then, powerful private groups have increasingly been assuming a direct influence on national politics. One example is the “Grover Norquist Initiative” which succeeded in getting a large majority of Republicans in the House of Representatives to take a public oath never again the vote for tax increases. Another example is the Cato Institute and the Tea Party Movement sponsored by the Koch brothers (oil tycoons). Perhaps the most relevant example, in the present context, is Robert Mercer, apparently a brilliant mathematician, who used his mathematical skills to become one of the leading hedge fund billionaires (a kind of right wing equivalent of the “liberal” George Soros) and to create a powerful instrument for the investigation and manipulation of political opinions called Cambridge Analytica. The latter, along with his white supremacist news network Breitbart, were probably decisive in winning the presidency for Donald Trump, and have also been implicated in manipulating opinion for a pro-Brexit result in the UK referendum[1].

The clearest indication that the mutual obstruction within the US ruling class have reached a new quality – that of a full scale political crisis - is the fact that, much more than in the recent past, the imperialist orientation, the military strategy of the super-power has itself become the principle bone of contention and object of obstruction.


[1] For a more detailed analysis of the contradictions between the policies of Trump and the interests of the main fractions of the American bourgeoisie, see our article on the Trump election, which also develops on the context of the global decline of the United States and the still growing cancer of militarism which weighs on its economy.