This is reprinted from the Communist Workers’ Group of Aotearoa/New Zealand
The fear and loathing of the triumph of Trump has called forth the usual load of garbage trying to fathom the causes and consequences. Was it endemic white racism? (Is there any other kind?) Was it the criminal Clintons? No, it’s not about race, or the Clintons, it’s ‘about the economy stupid’. The low turnout, the refusal of progressive Bernieites to get in behind Clinton, the switch of the rustbelt deplorables from non-voting to Trump, created the perfect storm for the Stormtrooper.
But these ‘facts’ cannot be understood unless the deeper causes of the crisis of US capitalism are made clear. These explain why Trump is no more than an evil clown in the circus that is electoral politics, and that he cannot solve the problems of US capitalism dying on its feet. Trumped means Stumped. As Marx pointed out more than a century ago bourgeois elections every four years allow the subject citizens the right to vote for one or other faction of capitalist to rule over them until the next election. The very nature of the bourgeois state is that it is founded on a constitution that defends private property, the essence of capitalism. Because of its ownership of private property capitalists can force workers to work for them and create the surplus-value that becomes their profits. Enforcing that class exploitation is the state’s mission.
Therefore, whoever is periodically elected to government rules in the spirit if not name of private property. This charade will repeat until the subject citizens form a class conscious majority and overthrow the capitalist state itself. And the essential aspect to that class consciousness is seeing right through the charade of bourgeois democracy to recognize the necessity to replace it with workers’ democracy and a workers’ state.
Make America Great Again
Trump won because the working class was divided and subordinated by the Democrats, the unions led by the labor bureaucrats and the fake left that always sucks up to the Democrats. Being locked into electoral politics prevents the working class from uniting around an independent class program to overthrow capitalism.
Yet since politics is no more than applied economics, we can see in Trumps triumph the beginnings of the break of workers from the Democrats. Some of those who backed Bernie did not vote for Clinton. They risked Trump because they hated Hillary’s role enforcing institutional racism and practicing imperial warmongering. But now that Bernie has ‘united’ with Trump, those who are already on the streets against Trump cannot look beyond this double betrayal to any revival of “progressive” Democrats. Michael Moore is pissing in the wind.
Other workers in the de-industrialised rust belts have not voted for the Clinton Democrats for 20 years. That is where the rhetoric of ‘jail her’ comes in. Many came out for Obama when US finance capital played the race card of cosmopolitan liberal democracy, before switching off again as Obama turned into another Clinton. So they went for Trump because he promised them a return to the time when America was great not just for the bosses but for the ‘middle class’.
The slogan in their minds meant the return to the time when they had secure, well paid jobs in manufacturing and mining before ‘globalisation’, and before ‘neo-liberalism. The so-called ‘middle class’ workers, is itself an oxymoron. In reality high paid workers in America in the post-war boom were not a ‘middle class’ but high paid workers who benefited from US imperialism in a period of capitalist expansion.
The ‘middle class’ in America is a state of mind not an economic category. Especially when the frontier bourgeois ideology of the ‘free individual’ is designed to write class out of history. Yet classes are constituents of capitalism. We have the self-employed, farmers, small business owners, etc., who are petty bourgeois in the classic sense of living off one’s own labor. Of course many are disguised wage workers or even slaves when exploited by big business as “independent contractors.”
The ‘middle class’ workers in America are really labor aristocrats, well paid workers whose wages reflect in part the super profits that the US can extract from its exploitation of labor in developing, or emerging economies. Since labor aristocrats are paid at a rate beyond the cost of reproducing their skill they share in imperialist superprofits. Their wages are subject to rises and falls depending on the economic cycle of boom-bust. Just as they benefited from the US empire in its prime during the post-war boom, so they are the victims of the decline of US imperialism since the 1980s.
As we will see, there can be no going back to the ‘golden age’ of post-war capitalism, not in the US or in any other country. The Rate Of Profit has fallen in the US since the 1980s apart from a rise in the 90s that never regained the post-war level. Since the 2008 recession, the US economy has stagnated, along with most of the rest of the world. Moreover, that Long Recession failed to restore the conditions of profitability so that the global economy faces a major depression to destroy labor costs and plant and machinery. While such a ‘recovery’ is possible, that of the labor aristocracy is not.
So can Trump deliver on his promises to Make America Great again? No he cannot. The reason is that the export of jobs from middle class America followed the export of capital away from falling profits to the developing countries to super-exploit cheap labor and raw materials. This is what neoliberal globalisation means; the export of capital from the imperialist countries to open up and economically dominate these oppressed economies in order to pump out super-profits to compensate for the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall (TRPF) of US finance capital.
Without globalisation, US capitalism was trapped by high wages at home and further pressure on the TRPF. That is why the New Democrats adopted neoliberal globalisation with gusto because their constituency is the new labor aristocracy, employed in the new tertiary knowledge, digital and media ‘industries’ driven by the logic of globalisation to reap super-profits. That is why the Democrats have overseen the export of capital to China to take advantage of its rapid capitalist development since the 1990s.
Therefore Trump’s whole retreat to isolationism as a solution to the destruction of manufacturing effects of globalisation will cut off the sources of superprofits from offshore that US capitalism needs to survive. A trade war with China will end this flow of US superprofits taking advantage of cheap labor and consumer goods. His is a deluded circus trick that will blow up in his face and in the face of those who voted for him. Trumped is Stumped by those who own and control the US state – finance capital– and sooner or later he will be Dumped by the angry deplorables unless he mobilizes them as fascist fodder to smash the rise of a militant labor movement.
Caught in a Contradiction
Trump cannot break with the ‘establishment’ any more than the Clinton new Democrats could. The reason is that the US state is not under the control of politicians, even those who do the rounds from Wall Street and the corporate headquarters to Washington, but by the ruling class of finance capital. That ruling class has already proven that it will not reinvest in US manufacturing unless it can cut wages to a China Wage or raise the rate of exploitation by employing robots. Neither can meet the needs of full employment at a living wage of the abandoned “middle class.” Thus the ruling class committed to globalisation to survive will force Trump to break the promises to his constituency. And this is where the racist, sexist rhetoric comes in.
When it becomes clear that Trump cannot return America to the golden age because his policies cannot restore jobs or profits, this will exacerbate the class struggle greatly. The radical left that is already mobilizing against Trump will be forced to mobilize also against the Democrats who back Trump .These young, multiracial students and workers have already started, and pose a challenge to the state at all levels, on the streets, campuses and in employment. To divert attention away from his economic failures Trump will use the racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic rhetoric that he has employed in the election race to blame these activist minorities for all the economic ills of US imperialism.
Trump in the White House has a Republican Senate and House behind him. Even so he can act independently by invoking the “terror” state created by the Bushes and Clintons to declare a ruling class ‘war on terror’ at home ‘over the head’ of Congress. He can build his symbolic wall, boost the police and military, quarantine and deport Latinos and Muslims, ban protests and strikes, etc., and unleash his state forces as well as his paramilitary storm troopers against the attempts by “progressive” forces to defend the rights of minorities and labor.
Trump will be in the position to expand his executive power from that left him by Bush and Obama, and become a Louis Bonaparte standing above the classes to rescue the nation from “terror” at home and abroad. If that fails he is in the position to stage a fascist coup against the constitution drawing on the support of reactionary elements of the petty bourgeois and labor aristocracy against a militant mass labor movement. This means that already Trump poses the question of power rhetorically to a mass working class divided and subordinated to a treacherous labor bureaucracy aligned to the bourgeois Democratic Party.
To overcome these divisions it is necessary to urgently build a working class party that advances a revolutionary action program to lead every struggle against the power of capital concentrated in the Trump Presidency. That party will have to become the leadership in the unions, in all workplaces, in the schools, on the streets, linking all the many, various social movements into one massive united front, creating the organs of workers power, workers councils and workers militias, capable of defeating the state and paramilitary forces, smashing the bourgeois state and putting in place a workers state.