Beginning a discussion on US events

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KT
Beginning a discussion on US events
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Beginning a discussion on US events whilst waiting (or not waiting) for an ICC response.

I think we are witnessing (or participating in) the first major social upheavals (there have been others) of a new and largely unprecedented situation, within which and totally governed by the period of decomposition:

  • the entire globe, almost without exception, is dislocated on the social and economic level by the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • the ruling class has little perspective to offer other than violent repression (police, national guard, curfews in over 25 cities) and a return ‘at a lower level’ of the way ‘things used to be!’. In many cases (though not all) the ruling class has lost credibility in the eyes of the populations through its inept handling of the pandemic and the evident social gulf between exploiters and exploited which the latter has illustrated and widened
  • unemployment has only just begun to become a major factor animating proletarian struggles and unrest within other non-exploiting strata – such struggles lie ahead of us as do the further repercussions of the economic depression currently unfolding;
  • the proletariat, due to the general period and the specificities of the unfolding of events in Minneapolis has a great difficulty in expressing itself on a class terrain. We could suggest that a refusal to be cowed by police brutality and overt racism, the solidarity shown across racial divides (including bus drivers refusing to transport those arrested; the presence of many white protestors amongst those furious at the latest death at police hands of an unarmed African American and minoritarian calls to turn the unrest into a strike movement to push back the state) are positive elements (see also the ICC articles on 'the class struggle forging the future' and also the specific US struggles under the pandemic in a separate article). These are outweighed by the problems presented generally by the retreat in class consciousness which is the hallmark of and contributing factor towards the decomposition of society; the specific difficulties, already highlighted by the ICC, of self-organisation in the pandemic period; the overt racial overtones of the origins of this coast-tocoast protest engulfing 45 cities; the illusions in Democratic rather than Republican ‘solutions’; the weight of a crushed petty-bourgeoisie and the appearance of rioting and looting as the over-arching, immediate response to racist police activity including the murder of George Floyd, are among the negative factors.
  • inter-imperialist tensions have not ceased during this period (US-China, The WHO; the G7, Sino-Indian border build-up, etc, etc)

The comrades of the North American section of the federated ICT have issued a statement (see link below) which in my view adheres to basic class positions, makes some good points (particularly on the weight of the petty-bourgeoisie) but which a) takes no cognisance of the period we’re in (unsurprising) therefore b) raises the perspective of turning the present situation towards revolution and c) appears to argue that part of the ‘white working class’ has been ‘bught off’. I’ve only read it once and stand to be corrected in these impressions.

For the ICC, the task is to intervene at whtever level possible, show solidarty with the resistance to state attacks and emiseration, while explaining why things are unfolding as they are and the only way forward.

http://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2020-05-30/on-minneapolis-police-brutality-class-struggle

zimmerwald1915
I think the point about

I think the point about "illusions in Democratic rather than Republican solutions" could be more clearly and specifically framed. Democrats are in power in both Minneapolis and in Minnesota and are making their allegiances strikingly clear. The danger for the workers is not illusions in the Democrats generally, but the twin illusions 1) that the party can be captured by leftists and 2) that capture of the Democratic Party by leftists would aid in (or worse, amount to the same thing as!) the reconstruction of the working class and the recovery of its capacity to struggle for its own interests.

NB: the extent to which the ongoing mobilizations are not founded on a class basis can be seen from the towns (including Ferguson, MO) where police have joined the demonstrators, sometimes at the urging of their unions. This is not the case in Minneapolis, where as KT (and his source) point out, transit workers have refused to aid the police, and I would add, in defiance of their union which urged bus drivers to volunteer for overtime to transport police in chorus with the agency bosses. But some portion of the bourgoisie can sense that this most militant-seeming mobilization can be co-opted.

baboon
I agree with the way that KT

I agree with the way that KT has framed the question above and the positive elements as well as the underestimation of the difficulties of class struggle by the ICT text which is accompanied by an overestimation of these protests leading to revolution in any sense. It isn't a class movement but it is a response that has to include the working class, because it's bearing the brunt of it, to the growing repression of the state. In the year before covid, class struggle in North America, like in other areas of the globe, was gearing up after its long disorientation and even during the stages of the virus, workers in the US continued to fight. While a pandemic is certainly not good conditions for class struggle we can't rule out its possible development that's on a distinct class basis. One of the themes that were evident from many of the protesters was their concern about the spread and effects of the virus, yet they were out on the streets.

 

There was quite a large demonstration in London (and other cities around the world) that went to the US embassy and, interestingly, went in their thousands to Whitehall and Downing Street. All the placards and slogans were hand-written and on bits of cardboard and, like the US, there was little leftist paraphernalia in sight. During the recent increase in repression in the UK, young black and Asian workers have been disproportionally targeted.

 

As capitalism decays, the US continues to self-destruct and becomes more diminished in the world by the day. A Chinese spokesman said that Trump should come out of his bunker and talk to the demonstrators face-to-face; precisely what he told them about Hong Kong.

KT
Not a Civil War. Not a class war.

Agree with Zimmerwald 1915 (post 2) and note that there are many nuances of US culture, politics and class struggle that escape me. The purpose is to discuss the situation with a view to forging an orientation. The following was written before Baboon's post 3 and after a discussion with some comrades and sympathisers of the ICC.

On Facebook (1) the following quote from Lenin (no reference) is recalled…

"We have always taught that it is the class struggle, the struggle of the exploited part of the people against the exploiters, that lies at the bottom of political transformations and in the final analysis determines the fate of all such transformations. By admitting the complete failure of the pettifogging police methods and passing over to the direct organisation of civil war, the government shows that the final reckoning is approaching. So much the better. It is launching the civil war. So much the better. We, too, are for the civil war. If there is any sphere in which we feel particularly confident, it is here, in the war of the vast masses of the oppressed and the downtrodden, of the toiling millions who keep the whole of society going, against a handful of privileged parasites. Of course, by fanning racial antagonism and tribal hatred, the government may for a time arrest the development of the class struggle, but only for a short time and at the cost of a still greater expansion of the field of the new struggle, at the cost of a more bitter feeling among the people against the autocracy." -Lenin”

And it was followed in the same post by this quote from The Byline Times (2) of June 1:

"More than 200 (US) cities in nearly 50 states are now confronted with a fury...

As of Saturday night, 25 cities are under curfew and the President has promised to unleash “ominous weapons” and “vicious dogs” as he tries to convince his supporters that the protestors are a product of the “radical left”.

As heavily armed, anti-lockdown protestors and far-right militias take to the streets at the same time as hundreds of thousands protest against police brutality and racial injustice, an already traumatised American public and outside observers are now wondering if the US finds itself on the brink of another civil war."

This is how the situation is being posed, I believe, by many on ‘the left’. By conflating Lenin’s analysis (made at what point, in what period?) with today’s protests and riots, we are posed with the immediate possibility of ‘civil war’ (not class war, mind). And by ignoring Lenin’s important qualification “Of course, by fanning racial antagonism and tribal hatred, the government may for a time arrest the development of the class struggle”, what Lenin rightly sees as an obstacle to the struggle – the focus on racism – is turned on its head to become the be all and end all of the struggle. In this vision, the ‘anti-racist struggle’ becomes the class struggle. The reality is the very opposite.

The push-back by protestors against state violence witnessed initially in Minnesota is one thing. Widespread rioting and looting, blind rage, a thirst for revenge and fights with the cops, an almost ‘psychotic’ explosion of pent-up anger in the context of a pandemic and often enacted by those most at risk of the virus, is the opposite of consciously controlled class violence – the kind that blocked the tanks from Moscow from the gates of Gdansk in Poland, 1980. It mitigates against the ability of the working class to re-acquire such a lesson, to re-appropriate what it historically has learned.

Against the majority of anarchists, the ‘anti-fascists’ and others, today the US is not witnessing a promising movement which might be transformed into a class-conscious rebellion. On the contrary, it’s a moment of danger for the class and for revolutionaries. who must again 'swim against the tide'.

(1) https://www.facebook.com/elliott.eisenberg

(2) https://bylinetimes.com/2020/06/01/is-the-united-states-on-the-brink-of-another-civil-war/?fbclid=IwAR2QR24whL5XfyR5xTDvg5j_jvPeANl1EWnh5mDb0IO--wOwxX4L6oa1EiA

 

zimmerwald1915
KT wrote: Lenin’s analysis

KT wrote:
Lenin’s analysis (made at what point, in what period?)

Bear in mind not everyone is well-versed enough to know that it was made in March 1905, at around the intoxicating height of the revolution and before the "fanning of racial antagonism and tribal hatred" was the mobilization campagin for World War I (to say nothing of the various incitements to racial pogroms within Russia itself). I wasn't. Needless to say, these measures "arrest[ed] the development of the class struggle" for more than a decade. The American working class can ill-afford another setback of that magnitude.
jk1921
I agree with KT's last post.

I agree with KT's last post. To be blunt, the more likely beneficiary of these events is Donald Trump rather than the working class. However much, we may sympathize with the indignation over the killing of George Floyd, the protests have been firmly situated on a racial grievance terrain that completly obscures the class basis of state repression. The riots, distinct from the initial protests perhaps, are little more than an expression of lumpenized rage, leading to an all too predictable self-immolatory masochism: first, from the destruction of stores and the infrastructure of daily life (hard enough as it was under the Covid restrictions) and second from the seemingly flippant disregard for the fact that there is a global pandemic of a deadly viral disease that in 3 months has killed more "people of color" than racist cops have in years. if the scientists are right, the mass gathering (masks or not) will lead to an increased spread in the contagion precisely in those communities that have already been devastated it. There is no class perspective here at all, no class method, which would require a careful reflection and discussion of how to proceed in the conditions dictated by the pandemic. Instead, we have two factors at work: lumpenized rage and the tired, but more calculated, schemes of the professional leftists like Antifa, who are exploiting the indignation for their own political aims, again in complete disregard for the communities they claim to represent. While there is likely to also be some level of manipulation by the state and other less savory right-wing actors, this does not account for the level of violence and destruction we are seeing, which appear more to be a directionless release of pent of anger manipulated by elements whose vision of "class struggle," is that of a cos-play military-guerilla event, in the aftermath of which the very vulnerable communities supposed to liberated will be subjected to the full force of the state. This will be followed by its withdrawal as it lets them stew in the juice of the ensuing economic asnd social devastation.

All of this raises the question of the depths to which decomposition has already advanced and how that has mapped itself onto the class struggle and the "class composition" of the proletariat in the United States, which appear to be marked by a progressive lumpenization, through the casualization of work, permanent unemployment and semi-employment and the progressive failure of the system to integrate the younger generations into something like a "normal" proletarian life, evidenced by the collapse of legitimacy in the ideological pillars of American "democracy," but also the emergence of semingly nihlist politicized elements, whose vision of politics is that of a street fight with police that they cannot fail to lose. The masochism of the moment is palpable.

baboon
I think that the first thing

I think that the first thing that communist organisations need to do in situations like this is to denounce the violence of the capitalist state, in this case a democratic capitalist state, and express solidarity towards its victims and their unbearable living conditions. We have to be careful to avoid running behind the bourgeoisie in its propaganda about riots and its claims of "outside agitators" which are always suspect. We should also remember that capitalism is based on violence, uses violence as a matter of course and is a master of looting, theft and destruction.

As opposed to the protests against state repression and the solidarity of others towards them there is no potential for the advance of class struggle in outbursts of looting and destruction. It's not just a matter of destroying one's own neighbourhood, which is bad enough, but of the obscuring of the needs of the workers by such actions in general. Engels talked about the weekly clashes of workers with the police in Manchester seeing this as part of the collective struggle moving forward but denounced the individual attacks on "rich" targets as entirely counter-productive. Class violence can take the struggle forward but these expressions of despair, resentment, destruction and no future, while we understand them, offer no perspective to the class struggle; on the contrary.

The position of the ICT above, very similar to that expressed by the PCI, Le proletaire, over the riots in France a while ago, sees the possibility of a class struggle dynamic emerging from these present upheavals in the United States - just like it saw the possibility of class struggle in France emerging from the reactionary yellow vest movement. But the perspective for class struggle in the US must come from a break with this current outburst just like the re-emergence of struggle in France recently came from a complete break with the backward tendency of the gilets jaunes.

 

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

Against the majority of anarchists, the ‘anti-fascists’ and others, today the US is not witnessing a promising movement which might be transformed into a class-conscious rebellion. On the contrary, it’s a moment of danger for the class and for revolutionaries. who must again 'swim against the tide'.

Its important to attempt to understand the origins of the anarcho and antifa elements at this moment in history. Whatever their self-understanding, it seems likely that they are as much an expression of the process of decomposition as the lumpenized violence of the urban underclass itself. Even if they couch their own existence in a kind of messianic virtue narrative of the heroic resistance to fascism, it seems that they are themselves an expression of a different kind of lumpenization--the educated lumpens, unable to gain any traction in a neo-liberal economy. Incapbale of progressing through the stages of "normal adulthood," they form a kind of excess reserve of educated un or under employed unable to integrate into the productive process in any consistent way. They are thus a social element in need of a self-theorization, which imparts to themselves a virtuous mission of opposing the rise of "fascism" though heroic acts of resistance in the streets. It is a kind of performace art, in which the emphasis is on the moral action of the moment rather than the theoretical understanding of the totality of the historical epoch. The politics therefore become quite shallow, as evidence by the virtual lack of any real demands other than symbolic, but ultimately meaningless and inchoherent calls to "smash the state," or abolish the police.

The latter slogan is itself completly devoid of any depth of understanding. How do you abolish the police, without presupposing some kind of state authority that does the abolishing? And what happens after you abolish the police?  Does everyone just live in harmony in a world that this stil marked by capitalist social relationships. This is patently absurd, if not just putting the cart before the horse. Ask the residents of Brazillian favelas, certain Northern Mexican states or the fictional housing project run by the Cash Money Brothers in the film New Jack City what happens when there are no police? Some entity, some force will ultimately fill the void and become a new informal police, often unrestrained by any notion of the "rights of the accused," and from which there is no right of appeal. Thus, it is clear that the demand to "abolish the police," is a completely empty form of virtue signalling nonsense. The police cannot be abolished until the social conditions which necessitate them have been transcended. The police can't so much be abolished as they have to "wither away" with the rest of the state.

Of course, there is another possibility--beneath the call to abolish the police is really a will to power; not so much a desire to abolish the police but to replace the existing police apparatus with some other repressive force subservient to the political aims of the righteous anti-fascists. This would not so much be abolishing the police as it woud be to take them over an use them for other instrumental aims. This would at least be more honest if it were admitted to, but it would still raise the problem of having only reconstituted the state in a different form and lead one to ask from whence the enlightened warriors derive their moral authority to rule? If not from democratic consent, apparently impossible to achieve when the mass of humanity are "bought off," then from where?

KT
8 Days Later

Eight days on and the degree of decomposition gripping the world’s leading nation is both astonishing and sobering in the context of the pandemic and mass unemployment…

Will Trump gain from all this? Probably too early to call. Biden was making a good show of empathy – until his proposal for police to shoot protestors in the legs rather than the head!

But the ruling class as a whole, whatever its very real divisions, and without under-estimating the further, global loss of its prestige and moral authority – which are aspects of power on the world stage - would rather deal with the current situation in which the issues are posed on the terrain of race and of law and order v the democratic right to protest than with an organised working class movement.

Denounce first and foremost the violence of the state? Most certainly. There are obviously many levels to this, both immediate and historical, globally and in the context of the US.

For example, It has been suggested that the HD filming and world-wide distribution of George Floyd’s disgusting murder at the hands of the racist cop was no accident: was, in the context of 40 million unemployed and divisions over stay-at-home orders, a ‘gift’ to the ruling class and has produced the intended result. I’m unconvinced this was a set-up job.

However, more convincing are the widely distributed videos showing ‘bad actors’ smashing shop windows and fleeing the scene while protestors yell after them: ‘Are you a cop’? And when state agencies aren’t actually doing the looting, they are perfectly happy to let it unfold … prompting calls for more ‘law and order’.

jk1921
KT wrote:

KT wrote:

For example, It has been suggested that the HD filming and world-wide distribution of George Floyd’s disgusting murder at the hands of the racist cop was no accident: was, in the context of 40 million unemployed and divisions over stay-at-home orders, a ‘gift’ to the ruling class and has produced the intended result. I’m unconvinced this was a set-up job.

However, more convincing are the widely distributed videos showing ‘bad actors’ smashing shop windows and fleeing the scene while protestors yell after them: ‘Are you a cop’? And when state agencies aren’t actually doing the looting, they are perfectly happy to let it unfold … prompting calls for more ‘law and order’.

Yes, there are clearly agent provacateurs afoot at some level, but that does not explain what we are witnessing, which is approaching a complete collapse of public order--at least in many big cities. This is not all down to the protestors, as there are clear signs of "police riots," in many cases, which only worsen the situation. But I am not sure the police response is itself entirely coordinated. There appears to be an element of panic working there also. Trump can run on "law and order" in response to the unrest, but at some point he has to make good on it and he hasn't yet. Moreover, its not clear the extent to which he can; in his mind law and order equals repression, but in reality this could make the situation worse. There doesn't seem to be anyone who can rise to the moment at restore any legitmacy in the instutions: everything is politicized in the context of the culture wars, in which different political and state actors don't even appear to inhabit the same reality anymore: For Republicans, this is all the work of antifa "terrorists," for Demorats (including the state authorties in Minnesota) the disorder is the work of "white supermacists" exploiting the chaos. While there are elements of truth in both statements, the inability of anyone to seemingly grasp the bigger picture by is astounding. Politicians and the media only seem to fan flames. Depending on what network you watch, either the country in under attack from hostile domestic terrorists or the entire white race is complicit in the state murder of black people.

In Minnesota, proseuction of the cops involved in George Floyd's killing has been given over to Keith Ellison the state Attorney General. Already a divisive figure, he has already indicated an intention to prosecute in a way that criminalize the police general, while this may appease the blood lust of the mob, it likely will not go over well among constituencies that are most likely to hit the ballot box in a critical purple state in the fall. There appears to be no way out of this morass, as soiety degenerates into warring camps, while not entirely defined by race and ethnicity, neverthless use collective racial guilt to sort themselves into virtue communities.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders--whom many of the protestors likely supported in the primary--has seemingly lost his voive, unable to offer any alternative that does not just parrot back the woke rhetoric of racial grievance--a short sighted political necessity that ignores the broader need to restore something of the legitmacy of the national state and the national project.

It is also necessary to situate this within the context of the pandemic: almost overnight the humming "Trump economy" has come to a screeching halt. 40 million have been thrown out of work, not through the mysterious working of the invisible hand in a series of private layoffs, but all at once at the hands of the state shutting the economy down. Many of the protestors now have no normal life to go back to when this is over, which raises the question of when this might actually end. But the irony (and even hypocrisy) is astounding. two weeks ago the media was lambasting rednecks who partied at a lake as anti-social monsters, while anyone who said the economy must be reopened in the greater good, even if it mean some viral spread were described as a death cult. The need to stay at home, some said until a vaccine was available, was paramount. Now, that narrative has collapsed, nullified even, not by right-wing militas, but by the urban mass and social justice activists, who have curiously adopted the same moral logic as the "reopeners," some viral spread (and therefore death) is acceptable, because eradicating racism and police violence is in the "greater good." This was even theroized by a University of Washington epidemiologist, who said that mass gathering to fight against racial inquities where an appropriate exception to the stay at home mandate, bcasue they could help address the underlying health disparities fueling the Covid crisis.

Of course, the insanity of this remarkable. There will be no elimination of racial disparities under capitalism. These things are locked in features of capitalist development at this point. Thirty years of identity politics may have produced a professional managerial class of "people of color," who push the racial grievance politics for their own benefit, but alot of good that did George Floyd, whose misfortune (allegedly attempting to pass a counterfeit bank note) has more to do with class.

American socity is at a precipice with no Obama figureyet on deck to set things right. What will happen the next time there is video of a bad encounter between a cop and a black person--an inevitability, even as the police will likely pull back and let minority communities stew in their own juice of economic ruin in the aftermath of all this.

baboon
I don't know what the reasons

I don't know what the reasons are for it - there's a lot going on - but I think that the ICC is correct not to rush to any specific position on the current protests and the responses to them over events in the United States and those reverberating in Britain. The ICC has the essential tools to come to a comprehensive position and should take its time doing so because this is not quite a simple question and there are elements here that need close examination and scrutiny within a historical perspective. I don't have any off-pat answers and I'm not entirely sure what the right questions are to ask but I don't think that this is a simple question of black and white.

Many thousands arrested and beaten up in US jails; brutal force used by the state; cocktails of chemical weapons used against peaceful protesters as well as police vehicles driven into them at speed (a favourite tactic of terrorists); armoured vehicles and serving military on the street; curfews, etc. While he makes some good points about the present situation and the response of the ruling class, jk above has nothing at all to say about this state terror. Instead his emphasis is on "lumpenised rage" and bemoaning "the level of violence and destruction that we are seeing" (from some elements); he tail-ends the bourgeoisie's lines about professional agitators from the outside and talks about charges against murdering police officials as appeasing the "blood lust of the mob". There are lumpenised elements involved, there is rage, looting and violence from what seems to be a relatively small number of protesters (or outright thieves) but all this is nothing compared to the looting, violence and theft by the capitalist state and no amount of blaming the victims of capitalism and its state structures will alter that.

The "Black Lives Matter" campaign has been strengthened by all this (which was part of its raison d'etre anyway) but while it comes down to the extra "exploitation" that black and immigrant peoples face under capitalism this is not a racial issue. Similarly with the question raised by the pandemic around the extra risks of BAME people (what an odious acronym); here it's not a question of biology or genetics, there's no real scientific construct to "race" apart from some secondary expressions, and the real issue is one of class, of living and working conditions. People are not more susceptible to this illness because of some biological reason associated with being black or Asian or an immigrant - it's because you are a worker at the bottom of the pile. It is a similar reason why, in the US and Britain (and many other states) for example, blacks, Asians and immigrants live in fear of the police and the state, are abused by the latter with impunity, hassled, stopped, interrogated, arrested, sent to prison, dying "in custody" or blatantly killed by the police - and this is in the democratic states. This is a complex issue that's not black and white. Jk says that the number of people protesting and their proximity to each other shows a "flippant disregard for lock-down" as if the greater deaths among black people from the virus and greater deaths among black people by the hands of the police were separate issues.

Jk denounces this movement as lumpen and showing "the blood-lust of the mob" but he wasn't so backward in supporting the nationalist and xenophobic yellow vest movement as "genuine class struggle", a jumping-off point for a "genuine class response"... it had some problems of course, racist and so on, but this is "part of the time we live in" and we should accept it. The PCI (Le Proletaire), various anarchists and Dyabas of the ICT in response to myself on libcom, all shared the "jumping-off" idea defended by jk but instead of that happening the analysis of the ICC was confirmed over a year later where the petty-bourgeois elements of the yellow vests were literally put to the back and taken in tow by the strength of the class struggle. Just as there had to be a complete break with the yellow vest movemen and its ideology for the class struggle to re-emerge with strength in France, so any genuine movement of the class in the US has to break with arguments along racial lines and towards class lines. And despite the elements of the petty-bourgeois and certain lumpen elements of "no future" involved here, the violence and repression of the capitalist state is a class line defended by communists and "no future" is a perspective that entirely belongs to capitalism.

d-man
Iraqi protests

If some comrades were critical of the Iraqi protests (2019), against apparently the ICC's predominantly positive view, then there is all the justification to remain "sceptical" in this case. I'd be interested to hear from those comrades, if they see these US protests as more positive perhaps, or less (surely in Iraq there is plenty to protest against).

As a side-note, since the yellow vests are mentioned, these did not have endorsement by bourgeois liberal/left media; they did have context/spread/reverberation beyond France (and started on Réunion island, overseas). Of course in itself the international aspect is not a workers' hallmark, since the bourgeois groups are international too.

 

 

KT
The Three Points

First, a response to D-Man (above): What is your position on these events? As full a discussion as possible is necessary for us all to understand how best to frame our response.

In this regard, I don’t agree with Baboon’s attitude to JK’s intervention (#11) which says the comrade’s post ignores the brutality of the US state. I think we can and must discuss different aspects of these events without at each and every moment making explicit our opposition to state terror. It’s not just the future that is informed by confidence in the working class: these present discussions should proceed in the knowledge that we (ICC members and sympathisers) share common conceptions of and commitments to the struggle. I felt the same way when the positions (of the ICC) defended by Baboon in the discussion on ‘Herd Immunity’ and the British bourgeoisie tended to be undermined (IMO) by other comrades.

Second: This weekend, June 6-7, has confirmed two aspects and hidden a third:

  • That the mobilisations following the murder of George Floyd have reached global proportions, with the weekend seeing the largest, predominantly peaceful protests against this killing in particular and ‘racism in general’ in the US (1), many of the western world’s cities, and beyond (including Australia).
  • That this wave of revulsion at or criticism of the heavy-hand of state repression finds echoes all along the bourgeois political spectrum, from The Sun newspaper in Britain and 89 former or current officials in the US Department of Defence, to the panoply of ‘humanist’, liberal’ and leftist groups, leaving at this moment (it may change) a hardcore around Trump in The White House and his armed vigilante supporters on the ground as the only elements still baying for troops to put down the ‘terrorist threat’. In short, the economic crisis, the issues of criminal class negligence and murder by neglect raised by the Covid pandemic and the class divisions underlying capitalism and its destructive trajectory have been almost completely buried. This movement is a blow against the nascent emergence of the class struggle into open combats.

Third: Almost buried, but not quite. The weekend also saw protests with a different orientation, even if they were inevitably cocooned within or shrouded by their own mystifications or corralled by leftist organisations:

            In Beirut: “Protesters have poured on to the streets of the Lebanese capital to decry the collapse of the economy, as clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of the Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah. Forty-eight were wounded in the violence, 11 of whom were hospitalised, while the rest were treated at the scene, the Lebanese Red Cross said. More than 35% of Lebanese are unemployed, while poverty has soared to engulf more than 45% of the population, according to official estimates. ‘We came on the streets to demand our rights, call for medical care, education, jobs and the basic rights that human beings need to stay alive,’ said a 21-year-old student. Lebanon is also one of the world’s most indebted countries with a debt equivalent to more than 170% of its GDP. The country defaulted on its debt for the first time in March.” (2)

        In Italy, including Genoa, Modena and Bologna, “Thousands of proletarians went down to dozens of Italian squares to the cry: ‘Make the masters pay for the crisis.’” (3) While many of the protests were organised by leftist groups or bass unionists, and some also doffed their caps to the ‘anti-racist’ rallies elsewhere, the main concerns were non-payment of monies promised by the state to those laid-off during the lock-downs, and the re-instatement of workers fired in its aftermath.

 

(1) The historical evolution of the class struggle in the US and the conscious use of racism by the bourgeoisie is well documented – and worth revisiting - in the series of ICC articles staring with Notes on the Early Class struggle in America: https://en.internationalism.org/worldrevolution/201303/6529/notes-early-class-struggle-america-part-i

(2) https://www.facebook.com/haringey.solidaritygroup/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARCTy_ZHY1Wia3lj_ZUZzY1xxeGPLAF0HvEB61XPvgW5iyWVIpxOgHas_9njs6aiVlnhc3WtP-ch8LwV

(3) https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=Cobas&epa=SEARCH_BOX

baboon
Inherently and ultimately

Inherently and ultimately racial struggles are not only a dead-end in themselves for the working class but are a fetter on the development of proletarian struggle and consciousness. The current protests over state repression in the US and elsewhere, assailed as they are by the triple dangers of inter-classism, democratic demands and blind violence (IR 163, "Popular revolts are no answer to world capitalism's dive into crisis and misery"), contain a class issue and are a potential ground for proletarian reflection (along with elements arising from the pandemic) for future struggles.

This reflection and consolidation and strengthening of positions is vital because of the difficulties the working class has faced and will face, and because of continuing but small expressions of the struggle of workers during the health crisis. For decades the working class has been disorientated and battered to the ground and while it was just getting up off its knees (a more appropriate symbol of the class struggle) the potential for the development of struggle has been hit by the unexpected blow of a capitalist virus.

The expression of the class struggle in France over the pension "reform" are important because they show a clear development of the class fighting for itself, seeing itself as part of a class and, to some extent, taking control of its struggle. Much of the left, anarchists and some left communists and others, saw the yellow vest movement (a nadir for the working class) as a solid foothold, a step forward, a route to a higher level of class struggle, rather than the reactionary trap set-up, organised and run by the petty-bourgeoisie and some elements of the French state. Much earlier than we expected, I guess, the validity of the ICC's position was expressed in the beginnings of the re-emergence of a class as a class, the strength of which in workers' demonstration againt the pension cuts, saw them putting the yellow vests who tried to influence the movement in their place; that is, if you support us, if you want to support us, get behind us because we are leading this struggle. The effects of decomposition are there on one hand, effects "favourable" to the petty-bourgeoisie and lumpen elements, but this small but important example shows the necessity for the proletariat to pull these elements behind it, negating its use by the bourgeoisie and negating much of these element's own self-destructive drive.

Although it seems a long way off at the moment, particularly given the difficulties the class has and is facing, at some stage and at some time in the future, the self-organised working class and its revolutionary minorities will have to confront and overcome a bourgeois state (and then others) that will defend their positions tooth and nail. This struggle will be played out at the historical theoretical level of all the contradictions of capitalism and the revolutionary nature of the working class. It will also be played out by material forces that will include proletarian organisation and perspectives with its necessary violence against the state. As Marx indicated (from memory) it will come down to a case of 'force against force' with the strongest triumphant.

d-man
It seems Baboon is willing to

It seems Baboon is willing to credit these protests with a potential to stimulate reflection (not granted to the yellow vests), whereas KT sees these at best as a lightening rod demobilizing/defanging a more radical trajectory. I had some thought about the jejune kind of media reporting, but it might just be that there's nothing insightful to report upon.

Forumteam
Contribution from the Forum Team

We welcome the discussion the events in the US, and the contributions that have been posted on this thread.  While the anger and indignation of the protesters is completely understandable, protests characterized by “the overt racial overtones of the origins of this coast-to-coast protest engulfing 45 cities; the weight of a crushed petty-bourgeoisie and the appearance of rioting and looting as the over-arching, immediate response to racist police” (KT) can only be negative for the working class struggle.

 

Nevertheless as revolutionaries, as an exponent and a vanguard of the working class, we have the responsibility to express ourselves clearly on the terror of the bourgeois state, on our solidarity towards the victims of this state terror, “while explaining why things are unfolding as they are and what is the way forward”, as KT emphasized

 

At first it is important to dwell on the violence of the bourgeois state in the US, a violence which is inherent to the capitalist mode of production. “We should also remember that capitalism is based on violence, uses violence as a matter of course and is a master of looting, theft and destruction.” (Baboon)

 

The way the violence expresses itself in the US at the moment is a clear manifestation of the decomposition unfolding in the leading country of the world, where the wild west scenes (armed militias, massive killings in schools and other public places, etc.) have returned in daily life of the exploited layers of society. We fully endorse what has been written further on this thread. The recent events in the US show

 

•      “The depths to which decomposition has already advanced and how that has mapped itself onto the class struggle and the ‘class composition’ of the proletariat in the US, which appear to be marked by a progressive lumpenization, through the casualization of work, permanent unemployment and semi-employment.” (jk1921)

 

•      “How many thousands arrested and beaten up in US jails; brutal force used by the state; cocktails of chemical weapons used against peaceful protesters as well as police vehicles driven into them at speed (a favourite tactic of terrorists); armoured vehicles and serving military on the street; curfews, etc.” (Baboon)

 

•      “There are lumpenised elements involved, there is rage, looting and violence (...) but all this is nothing compared to the looting, violence and theft by the capitalist state and no amount of blaming the victims of capitalism and its state structures will alter that.” (Baboon)

 

No matter how much we are opposed to the bourgeois state and the violence it exerts, as revolutionaries and workers we can only agree that “against the majority of anarchists, the ‘anti-fascists’ and others, today the US is not witnessing a promising movement, which might be transformed into a class-conscious rebellion.” (KT).  They have no perspective of their own but are doomed to end in a complete impasse.

 

In fact it is a dangerous illusion to think that these protests can show us the way out of the conditions of exploitation and repression, the main elements on which the domination of capitalism is based. Whatever the slogan under which the protests take place, it is a protest of citizens against certain excesses of ‘their’ system and for democratic demands, such as ‘defund the police’. It is not a protest of the proletariat against system that is completely foreign to its existence as a revolutionary class, but a protest on a completely bourgeois terrain. As was said by Jk“The protests have been firmly situated on a racial grievance terrain that completly obscures the class basis of state repression.” (jk1921)

 

“Anti-racism constantly calls on the state to curb racism, tackle racists, and uphold justice. Look at the protests in the US against the killing of black people by white cops. The call is always for justice. And yet the state remains the apparatus of the ruling capitalist class.” (“Immigration: xenophobia right and left”; ICCOnline) Indeed anti-racism, as well as all other expressions of partial struggle only tie the protesters to the bourgeois state and are used by the bourgeoisie to counter the development of class consciousness.

 

Apart from the ‘peaceful’ manifestations and lumpenized rage in these protests we also have seen“the tired, but more calculated, schemes of the professional leftists like Antifa, who are exploiting the indignation for their own political aims” (jk1921) Be it anti-racism, anti-fascism, or anti-populism, all these protests take place on a terrain that is easily to manipulate by the leftist fractions of the bourgeoisie to use them to good effect in the preservation of the social order.

 

In the long run certain aspects of the covid-crisis might be favourable for the development of the class consciousness since they tend to open the eyes of the workers about the bankrupty of the capitalist system, with the massive redundancies taking place all over the world leaving hundred of millions of proletarians unemployed and without means of sustenance.  In that framework the present anti-racist protest are a welcome gift for the bourgeoisie, for they deflect the attention from the historic crisis of the present system, focussing on particular aspects of capitalism while preserving the system as a whole.

 

The discussion on this thread has made some important points and even if not everything has been clarified, the first stones have been laid to arrive to a more profound understanding of the events in the US in this discussion on the forum.

 

Therefore it is regrettable to establish that in this thread also produced a false note, which is a real obstacle for a further fruitful discussion on this subject. This obstacle concerns the charge by comrade Baboon about the alleged backwardness of comrade Jk1921 in failing to denounce the criminal violence of the bourgeois State in his post (#11). Such an allegation is inappropriate and does not bring the discussion forward, on the contrary...  it tends to smother the discussion and to turn the exchange of views about what is the best response and what are the best arguments into a fight over who is right.

 

We completely agree wih the criticism of  KT concerning Baboon's negative attitude to JK1921's intervention on the forum: "It’s not just the future that is informed by confidence in the working class: these present discussions should proceed in the knowledge that we (ICC members and sympathisers) share common conceptions of and commitments to the struggle." (KT)

 

Finally this criticism of Baboon’s post is no way an endorsement of charges made against his debating style on the herd immunity thread. We are appealing to all comrades to help us raise the quality of the debates on this forum and will be making further statements on this question in the near future.

 

The ICC ForumTeam

 

 

d-man
Here's an example of a sit-in

Here's an example of a sit-in of a government building in the US:

Quote:
The more successful sit-in occurred in San Francisco (and) ... lasted until May 4, 1977, a total of 25 days, with more than 150 people refusing to leave. It is the longest sit-in at a federal building to date. Close to 120 disability activists and protesters occupied the HEW (United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) building.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/504_Sit-in

 

Forumteam
continue!

Just a short post to welcome Noah to the forum. We hope other comrades will reply to his post, and to our statement on the protests. No need to start a new thread. https://en.internationalism.org/content/16874/answer-racism-not-bourgeois-anti-racism-international-class-struggle

zimmerwald1915
Noah Lennox wrote: I've seen

Noah Lennox wrote:
I've seen a lot of anti-revolution defeatists pose the question of whether or not the modern, well-equipped police force of modern times can be overwhelmed by numbers and determination like in the 19th and 20th centuries.

I don't think it's so clear at all. The police withdrawal was not forced militarily by the demonstrators, but was the product of a power struggle between the mayor and the police chief over control of police deployment and tactics. It seems that the mayor had ordered deployment of tear gas to cease, the police chief ordered its continued deployment, and in response to its continued deployment the mayor ordered the precinct evacuated and street barriers removed. The latter were re-appropriated, and the former was occupied, by the demonstrators in a wholly opportunistic way, and their control can only last as long as there is no firm effort to extirpate it. Capital Hill has so far not been reoccupied by the forces of order because of similar jurisdictional kerfuffles between the mayor and governor on the one hand and the president on the other. 

Sources:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53017776
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/06/12/seattle-protest-chaz-capitol-hill-autonomous-zone-police-free/3173968001/

That said, it wasn't so clear that the forces of order could be "overwhelmed by numbers and determination" in the 19th century either. Engels was famously pessimistic about the possibility, and recommended a parliamentarian turn to the social democrats on the basis of that assessment. And it may well be said that few of the working class's victories even in the heyday of the revolutionary wave were won on a wholly military basis. And the wit and wherewithal to exploit divisions within the ruling class is commendable in itself, as far as it goes (which is not very far at all unless coupled with a proletarian perspective and strategy that checks the tendency to merely become caught up in the ruling class's factional squabbles as part of its extended apparatus).

baboon
I take the point made by KT

I take the point made by KT and the forumteam above on my response to jk. It was negative, putting him on the spot for not emphasing elements when he was trying to develop elements for discussions. It was inimical to the development of discussion. There were also residual elements of rancour from myself from a previous discussion and I want to apologise to jk for that.

I wasn't sure about this whole issue of protests at the outset. I didn't see it as an expression of the proletariat and even less a "jumping off" point for proletarian struggle but I wasn't at all clear about how to situate what seemed a "complicated" phenomenon. But you can only have a "springboard" to class struggle from class struggle and not from a bourgeois mobilisation, which is what this protest movement has rapidly and consciously been turned into by states that are perfectly aware that the best policy in the face of the economic and social traumas to come, and those ongoing, is to keep the working class divided and racism/anti racism is one of the well tried methods for doing this. More than that, the ruling class has taken this well-tried method to different levels in the face of the stakes.

 

This campaign of anti-racism has taken on such deep and world-wide proportions and is particularly aimed at the major centres of capitalism and at its working class

d-man
lumpen proletariat

The question of insurrection (though interesting, and perhaps best relegated to an existing old thread about insurrection) is I think not relevant in the present protests (which rather feature eg sit-ins). However, as it was evoked, and also because rioters are said to express "lumpenized rage", I will quote Marx on the Paris 1848 revolution, which was crushed by the lumpen proletariat:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/ch01.htm

The February Revolution had cast the army out of Paris. The National Guard, that is, the bourgeoisie in its different gradations, constituted the sole power. Alone, however, it did not feel itself a match for the proletariat. Moreover, it was forced gradually and piecemeal to open its ranks and admit armed proletarians, albeit after the most tenacious resistance and after setting up a hundred different obstacles. There consequently remained but one way out: to play off part of the proletariat against the other.

For this purpose the Provisional Government formed twenty–four battalions of Mobile Guards, each a thousand strong, composed of young men from fifteen to twenty years old. They belonged for the most part to the lumpen proletariat, which in all big towns forms a mass sharply differentiated from the industrial proletariat, a recruiting ground for thieves and criminals of all kinds living on the crumbs of society, people without a definite trade, vagabonds, gens sans feu et sans aveu [men without hearth or home], varying according to the degree of civilization of the nation to which they belong, but never renouncing their lazzaroni character – at the youthful age at which the Provisional Government recruited them, thoroughly malleable, as capable of the most heroic deeds and the most exalted sacrifices as of the basest banditry and the foulest corruption. The Provisional Government paid them 1 franc 50 centimes a day; that is, it bought them. It gave them their own uniform; that is, it made them outwardly distinct from the blouse-wearing workers. In part it assigned officers from the standing army as their leaders; in part they themselves elected young sons of the bourgeoisie whose rodomontades about death for the fatherland and devotion to the republic captivated them.

And so the Paris proletariat was confronted with an army, drawn from its own midst, of 24,000 young, strong, foolhardy men. it gave cheers for the Mobile Guard on its marches through Paris. It acknowledged it to be its foremost fighters on the barricades. It regarded it as the proletarian guard in contradistinction to the bourgeois National Guard. Its error was pardonable.

--

In today's protests it is said (whether by the rightwing or reformists) that rioters are unhelpful to the largely peaceful protests. There is a joke by anti-imperialists, that the US government should give armed support to the antifa protests, just as it does abroad in colour revolutions. There is rumor that some of the rioters are undercover provocateurs. There is the claim (among the rightwing) that the liberal deep state is supporting the rioters.

But let's take these ideas serious. Given the example of the 1848 revolution, it's possible that sections of the bourgeoisie will instrumentalise today's lumpen rioters in order to crush a working class movement. Armies throughout history have called upon reserves of foreign, oppressed "backward" minorities in order to crush workers. And though the rightwing demonized (though perhaps now merely mocks) the "antifa" rioters (even as being actually fascists), the rightwing "party of law and order" could turn around and enlist these same rioters that it denounces today. There is mention of the so-called Boogaloo militia, apparently libertarians/reactionaries/nihilists that just want to see the world burn.

 

baboon
I think it important for

I think it important for communists to express solidarity with the victims of state repression who are not workers. Communists are also aware of the situation of the petty-bourgeois and lumpen elements as they should be aware of the necessity to negate the particular use of these elements by the state. Further to d-man's example of the Paris Commune, the early months of 1919 of the revolution in Germany saw wide elements of the petty-bourgeoisie and "middle-class" elements coming behind the intensifying struggles of the working class. After the defeat in Germany and as the counter-revolution was becoming entrenched we see similar elements behind the state with a bloody vengeance. The obvious difference, as with the strikes over pension reforms in France recently, is the strength of the proletarian struggle that the petty-bourgeoisie can be taken in tow behind.

Not all demonstrations and protest movements take place on ambiguous or outright bourgeois grounds. Yesterday in France reports say that hundreds of thousands of health workers (and others) rallied and demonstrated for pay rises and better conditions. The response by the state to these "angels and heroes" of a week ago in Paris was tear gas, the cosh and arrests; clearly hard policing is still very much on the agenda. Some of the slogans and banners on show in the protests are a world away from the anodyne, divisive and culpable expressions from Black Lives Matter and while not revolutionary, had much more of a proletarian edge.

There's no real contradiction between the repression of the cosh and the idea of "better policing"; one complements the other. These elements of "police reform" that have appeared recently, were encouraged and defended a few years ago by libertarian and anarchist  elements on libcom, some of them administrators, making them something of a far-sighted faction of the needs of the state.

Finally, another word about the idea of a proletarian "jumping-off point" for the class struggle from inter-classist demonstrations and protests. Firstly, the anti-racist protests, while originally expressing the legitimate anger of the population was easily recuperated by the bourgeoisie because this particular campaign of division was already underway before the George Floyd killing. The terrain was already divided and corrupted by the question of racism/anti-racism.

For a springboard to work there has to be a fundamental strength to it; in the case of the class struggle a proletarian strength (no matter how minoritarian at first). The springboard in the case of racism/anti-racism is riddled with defects which instead of projecting something to a higher level, dumps them flat on their face. Once again elements of anarchism and the Communist Left have fallen prey to this idea just as they did with the Yellow Vests. The ICC has said elsewhere that the ICT position on the Yellow Vest movement was ambiguous but within this ambiguity it clearly expressed - and subsequently defended - that this petty-bourgeois and state supported movement could be a jumping-off point for the workers' struggle whereas it buried it in inter-classism and led the workers by the nose.

This idea that there's "something" in these inter-classist movements that can take the struggle forward for the proletariat is widespread. The French section of the ICC reported in its press on a number of meetings across the country during the waves of the Yellow Vest movement with close contacts and sympathisers and virtually none of them (as far as I could see) agreed with the ICC position overall and heavily qualified what agreement they had. Very much against the tide then as now.

d-man
My example was that of the

My example was that of the June Days in 1848 (which AFAIK is not called the Paris Commune). There is apparently criticism of the claim that the Mobile Guards were mostly lumpen; apparently they would have been rather just regular workers: (Armies of the Poor: Determinants of Working-class Participation in in the Parisian Insurrection of June 1848, Traugott, Mark). Anyway the point stands, that part of the proletariat fighting against the state, in the next moment (a few months later) can help repress the (majority of) workers.

You (on the other hand) bring up the need to win over petit-bourgeoisie/middle class, and I guess your term of an "inter-classist" movement does not refer to the class composition of the movement. But if taken to mean composition, I find the term inter-classist also glosses over the difference between bourgeoisie and middle class. The Yellow Vests didn't get support of large corporations/bourgeosie, and your claim of state support (when eg in Réunion the army was called in against the riots) is without evidence (Macron's personal body guard iirc was filmed beating protestors).

When "inter-classist" refers to a movement's ideological orientation, and is contrasted to an economist/trade-union protests, you claim the latter is a better "jumping-off point". Movements that are "inter-classist" (specifically aligned with petit-bourgeois demands) could eg include anti-racism, anti-(state)corruption, anti-tax hikes, anti-war, anti-pollution (remember the ICC's initial support of climate protestors), anti-monopoly, etc. You have not given an argument that such "inter-classist" demands are inherently a worse (or are a more limiting) terrain/jumping-off point for the proletariat, than then terrain of mere trade-union struggles.

Being against both the Yellow Vests and today's protests is not unique to the ICC, but also the position of this French Maoist outlet. You mention that the ICC's stance on the Yellow Vests did not gather much support among its sympathisers, but in itself being "against the tide" (in this case of your own sympathisers) is hardly proof of the correctness (or convincing justification) of the stance.

 

zimmerwald1915
baboon wrote: I think it

baboon wrote:
I think it important for communists to express solidarity with the victims of state repression who are not workers. Communists are also aware of the situation of the petty-bourgeois and lumpen elements as they should be aware of the necessity to negate the particular use of these elements by the state. Further to d-man's example of the Paris Commune, the early months of 1919 of the revolution in Germany saw wide elements of the petty-bourgeoisie and "middle-class" elements coming behind the intensifying struggles of the working class. After the defeat in Germany and as the counter-revolution was becoming entrenched we see similar elements behind the state with a bloody vengeance. [b]The obvious difference, as with the strikes over pension reforms in France recently, is the strength of the proletarian struggle that the petty-bourgeoisie can be taken in tow behind.[/b]

Obviously. Equally obviously, nothing approaching the relatively compact and self-conscious proletariat of 1919, 1871, or even 1848 exists today, and as such the question of the proletariat being able to draw other social elements behind and into its struggle is largely moot. It is probably not a helpful framing for the current moment, which did not begin and has not (at least in the USA) strayed toward proletarian terrain.

baboon
I think that the situation

I think that the situation around the apparent Russian bounty being paid for the killing of US and other coalition troops is very dangerous for President Trump and, unlike any other crises he's weathered so far, this is likely to have further repercussions going, as it does, to the heart of the protection of "our boys" which is so popular with his base. There have been questions of a possible re-orientation of US policy overall given recent and the current disasters. North Korea has turned into a millstone around his neck, the US is losing its allies (his refusal to counter a military response for the Iranian attack on Saudi oil installations shook even MBS and his clique), his (and the USA's) gamble on the economy has come to grief, not least from the latest example of the President of the United State's complete ineptitude in the face of the covid-19 crisis.

 Whatever its crimes, the US has always put itself forward as a sort of moral leadership, a force for good where even its most bestial wars were against "evil". This force for good, this admiration for America has been a generally accepted factor around the world promoted not least by the depths of US culture; this culture is both real, certainly since WWI, and has been used as a tool of US imperialism.  There's no culture about Trump; there's nothing to export except bile and bitterness. Whether he's got rid of in an election is not yet known but he was a gamble for the US and I don't think it has paid off and, as a result, questions are being raised about the direction of the administration.

These revelations from intelligence are by far the most serious accusations against Trump, while taking in some elements of earlier ones. This could well be a move by a distinct faction of the US bourgeoisie or a collection of interests (Black Lives Matter is certainly involved in this "movement") from different factions who, depending on what way you look at it, are putting the boot in or laying the ground for putting the boot in on Trump in the electoral process. The intelligence leaks look genuine but a lot of it is supposition and percentage accuracy stuff. The real point is though; Trump ignored it or didn't understand what he was being told. The timeline is that after that Trump had several meetings with Putin and tried to get him on to the G7. It looks bad.

The Trump clique will fight back against this. There is now, by his appointment, a rabid Trump supporter on the intelligence agency that can block publications. This is interesting for Britain because the Johnson government clique has just got rid of a career civil servant (much respected in bourgeois circles) on a key intelligence body and replaced him with an appointed "chum". And Johnson went full Trump at the beginning of the pandemic in Britain treating it as nothing much, making no serious preparations and promoting the tens of thousands of deaths that needlessly followed. Like the US, Britain is fading fast at all levels. Will getting rid of Trump and Johnson make a difference? Not at all in the overall perspectives of capitalism but this is a serious problem for the Trump clique.