Thoughts on the upcoming US elections

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ICC Introduction

We are publishing two letters sent to us by close sympathisers who took part in an ICC meeting with US contacts, focused on the upcoming US elections and the growing divisions within the US ruling class. We fully endorse what the comrades say regarding

  • the need for communists to denounce the mystification of capitalist elections, which can offer no real “choice” faced with a global system heading towards destruction. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have anything to offer the working class except more intense exploitation and rising levels of poverty, above all given the necessity for US capitalism to militarise its economy more and more;
  • the rejection of the argument, mainly from the liberals and the left, that voting in these elections is vital in order to defend democracy against the threat posed by Trump and his followers. As the letter from B points out, Trump’s populism has in many ways given an enormous boost to the whole lie of democracy;
  • the understanding that, when it comes to imperialist strategy, all factions of the American bourgeoisie are agreed that the USA’s most dangerous rival is Chinese imperialism. At this level there is a real continuity between the foreign policies of Obama, Trump, and Biden.

However, we should also be aware that populism is essentially an expression of the profound irrationality that is being aggravated by the decomposition of capitalism. It is the principal factor in undermining the bourgeoisie’s control over its own political apparatus, since populism embodies most clearly the bourgeoisie’s inability to develop a perspective for the future of its system and is incapable of grasping the overall needs of the national capital. This is abundantly clear at the level of foreign policy. Even though Trump has some understanding of the threat posed by China, his “business-like” attitude to Russia runs directly counter to the current policy of the US state, which has attempted to use the war in Ukraine as a means of weakening Russia and thus, in the longer term, of depriving China of its most important military ally. His threats to vandalise the NATO alliance and to allow Israel free rein in the Middle East would be equally destructive to US imperialist plans.

Finally, on Russia: we agree with B that the elimination of the Prigozhin clique has strengthened Putin's position both domestically and abroad (integration of Wagner Group into more controllable military structures, especially in Africa) but Putin's policy of systematic elimination of his political opponents is not a permanent cure to the underlying tendency towards disintegration, leading to a possible collapse of the Russian Federation, which would be yet another factor in the spread of global chaos.


Letter from B

The comrades at the meeting were rightly concerned with the coming election and the possibility of a Trump return to the Presidency and what the consequences of this would be. But it was important to state that the election of either Trump or Biden – neither of them exactly inspiring candidates – is not going to alter the fundamental perspectives of capitalism’s descent into decomposition a great deal. In fact apart from some secondary elements it’s unlikely to affect that already engaged dynamic hardly at all.

As for Trump launching a campaign against democracy, it could be argued that Trump has done more to bolster democracy in the USA (and beyond) than anyone else. About a decade or two ago – and the ICC noted it several times in its publications – there was some fatigue among western populations, and the workers in particular, over the democratic process with the idea that politician were “in it for themselves” or that there was “no real difference between them”. Although basically correct, this mostly expressed a cynicism that in the circumstances of the period (last two decades say) was entirely negative for any development of class consciousness. This cynicism was a reflection of the passivity and impotence of the class in the face of increasing attacks. In the US and beyond, the first Trump candidacy fed on and responded to that cynicism and regenerated the democratic circus with some vigour, mobilising massive meetings and generating a political enthusiasm while drawing many disgruntled workers into supporting his campaign. On the other hand, it also bolstered “the oppositional forces” which also mobilised many workers in the defence against the “Trump menace”.

Trump can be broadly described as an expression of populism – a phenomenon which has affected the majority of western democracies. Trump’s a populist but democracy (elections, voting, the citizen, etc) is an essential and vital part of populism and populism is part of the democratic system. Trump is not against democracy but on the contrary embraces and uses it to good effect. In this way Trump continues to deliver for the bourgeoisie animating the electoral circus, mobilising the Left and campaigns around identity “issues”. In this circus some anti-Trump performers are now accusing Trump of wanting to be a dictator, of wanting to let Russia invade Europe and of being “authoritarian” (as if a Trump-less America would be any the less authoritarian); a useful mobilisation for anti-Trump forces in the democratic process.

However, while no faction of the ruling class can stop the descent of capitalism into its decomposition, the policies of the Trump faction present particular difficulties for US imperialism both “at home” and abroad. This faction represents the dangers of what the ICC’s “Theses on Decomposition” explains as the “loss of control” of the bourgeoisie over the political game and the expression of “every man for himself” (see points 8 and 9). Within the historical weakening of the US, this represents a further weakening and while the first Trump administration was largely (and with some difficulty) held in check by the US state a further Trump term threatens all sort of problems not least in relation to Russia and the war in Ukraine and in relation to Israel in the growing chaos in the Middle East. And while Trump’s insistence that its allies “pay up” to the Godfather for their defence is fundamentally in the interest of the US, the main factions of the ruling class would prefer this procedure to be accomplished through the established diplomatic channels that Trump largely abuses and threatens. This breakdown of diplomacy and protocols is becoming more and more of a global problem, inviting further chaos and loss of control and could be particularly damaging with a second Trump term.

Trump felt hard done that he didn’t win the 2020 election (“I just need 17,000 votes”) and his whipping up of his supporters to attack the Capitol in early 2021 was in continuity with his agenda and general belligerence, marking a particular expression of decomposition in the “beacon of democracy”. But, in this context, twenty years earlier, with hardly a peep from the Democrats, the election was “stolen” from them, when George W. Bush was announced as winner of a very close election by the Republican Governor of Florida – his brother.

The meeting raised the question of Russia and it was briefly mentioned that the success of bringing the Russian state to its knees was now open to some question. So briefly on this, it looks like Putin has reconfigured the war economy and despite heavy losses of men has, through a policy of providing work and widespread repression, succeeded in keeping the working class quiet. The main clique around Putin has certainly succeeded in strengthening its position since the 2023 Mickey Mouse March on Moscow (cheered on by the West and greatly inflated as a real threat to the regime) by Prigozhin and his clique. The elimination of this clique greatly strengthened Putin’s position as well as pulling Belarus back into line and firming up the support of the Chechens. The vast majority of the Wagner Group has now been re-integrated into the Russian war machine; they are mercenaries after all.

In reference to the situation of the working class in Russia at the moment: there have been some small demonstrations and expressions of protest against the war but none of these have taken place on a class basis and the working class here has been severely weakened. This can only emphasise the importance of the proletariat in the west in the longer term.

B. 21.6.24


Letter from K

Dear comrades,

I was very pleased to participate in the meeting. Arising from it, here are some brief thoughts on orienting future articles on the US.

As in all ‘democracies’, but arguably more than in most, the working class in the US is being bombarded with ceaseless campaigns around electoralism, the nomination of party candidates the Presidential election process itself, etc, etc.

The bitter and deepening divisions within the US ruling class are being presented back to the proletariat as the only ‘choices’ to be made in determining the future – for Biden and the ‘caring, inclusive, supportive’ Democrats or for Trumpist Republicanism, the American isolationist revival and freedom from big government. Augmenting the mainstream, conspiracy theorists, religious fundamentalists and the identarian leftists present their own false alternatives which, more often than not, feed back into support for the main parties when they don’t head off into nihilism and individualist, survivalist or insurrectionist fantasies.

The ICC is well equipped, it seems to me, to follow and frame these events internationally and historically (the reality of decomposing capitalism) and understand the implications going forward of an increase in chaos and further attacks on the producer class whichever faction of the US ruling class heads the next government. How to hone this understanding to the immediate and middle-term needs of intervention?

Rosa Luxembourg said the most revolutionary act was to tell the truth – in American parlance, tell it like it is.

There are deep divisions and differences within and between the ruling class – particularly on how best to cling on to America’s military and economic dominance over their international rivals. These paralysing, competing visions can only contribute to further domestic decay and chaos at a level not seen before. But within this destructive whirlwind, these capitalist factions have interest in common.

All factions will fully participate in dying capitalism’s burgeoning ‘forever wars’ – in Ukraine, in the Middle East, in Africa and closer to home by the strengthening of US borders with Mexico and even Canada. Biden and Trump, Republican and Democrat, disagree over the quantity of immediate aid to Ukraine or who should pay for the upkeep of NATO (and surely Trump’s insistence that the ‘Europeans’ should fund more of their own defence is entirely in line with US interests, even if his attitude toward Russia is not?). But from Obama, through Trump, to Biden and whoever comes next, there’s an implacable will to confront and contain China. This is not in dispute: these rival capitalist factions all want to bleed the proletariat dry to defend the national capital.

This implied and real hike in (global) military spending – and wherever it disbursed – can only be paid for by the working class in increased exploitation, reduced income and services, the decay of infrastructure and by embedding inflation into the global economy.

The Social Democratic propaganda of state spending to cohere and protect ‘citizens’ has foundered on the reality of the demands of imperialism, global, national and individual debt and inflation. Trump’s apparent and impossible dream of pulling up the US drawbridge and letting the rest of the world rot solves none of this and ignores two centuries of growing capitalist inter-dependence in trade and production, not to mention its more recent dance of death that is economic competition-turned permanent inter-imperialist confrontation.

So: for the working class in America, the elections, the politicians’ promises, bluffs and bluster are not the solution – they are part of the problem, and one which will remain after the electoral circus has left town, in preparation for the next show.

The only viable future lies in the hands of the workers themselves, their willingness to organise and struggle to oppose (and eventually to overthrow) the crushing rule of capital as workers in the US and throughout the world have begun again to do in the last two years.

In short, I am arguing for an orientation which, while recognizing the serious divisions within the US ruling class, its lack of control over its own political game, nonetheless ‘goes back to basics’ to demonstrate that whoever wins, it’s the working class which pays and which truly holds the future in its hands.

Fraternally, K







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