Return to bulletin menu
The dynamics of Trumpism

Breaking the system or part of the system?

Internally the ruling class in the USA has faced a major difficulty - the lack of popular support for the major parties. This is especially true of the Republican party, seen as the party of big capital but is also true of the Democrats, also directed by capitalism and seen as betraying promises to defend the poor and people of colour. Large swathes of the working class struggle for work, housing and healthcare. Stories of working three jobs and living in your car do not raise an eyebrow.

Popular resentment has been kept at bay by the lack of democratic institutions, baked in at the writing of the constitution. An unelected Supreme Court has final say about defining law. The Senate gives a veto to underpopulated rural states over the working class in the coastal cities.  Gerrymandering and voter suppression are rife. History is full of state witchunt and massacre.

The state apparatus has a reputation for savage coercion. An alphabet soup of organisations spy on the population. Since the 9/11 twin towers attacks surveillance is everywhere and new government organisations such as ICE and Border patrol, freer in operation and more heavily tainted with fascism, have come to the fore. The icing on the cake is the police, heavily militarised with little control and
effective impunity overseen by District Attorneys.

But no state can run simply on coercion. The parties, especially the Republican party, have always been willing to give a wink and a nod to populism and racism. The religious right have grown in influence. The race dogwhistle has become a foghorn.

The forces that the Republicans rely on have become ever more extreme, with the Tea Party and Sarah Palin indications of the move to the right. The standard ploy was to give these groups encouragement but to back off from implementing their programme. However as these forces grew so to did their hold on the party.

Then came Trump. He had already established himself politically as an unashamed racist, leading white supremacists who simply refused to believe that Obama, a black man, could be the legitimate president. He cemented his base by promising to deliver what they wanted, for example the border wall, absolute support for Israel and a mass ban on Muslims entering the US, law and order aimed at
Black people and promises to manipulate the courts to restrict abortion rights. The Republican party rallied behind him, as he would deliver much of their programme for Wall Street. The Democrats were hampered by the stench of corruption from the Clintons and their objections to Trump based more on his boorishness than on policy.

So Trump has ruled unchallenged, but the result has been the growth of youth and working class resistance with a new solidarity of black and white workers, especially in the major cities. The concessions to industry on wages, health care, privatisation, deregulation and pollution can only lead to much greater confrontations to come.

Foreign policy is deformed to a certain extent under Trump because of the massive personal loans held by other governments and his personal instability. However many elements of state policy remain in place. The centrepiece of the US International stance has been a shift in the application of military force. Rather than invasion the threat of force is refracted through proxy forces and is now used alongside the dollar and control of the global banking system to intimidate friend and foe alike.

The key example of this is the tearing up of the Iran nuclear deal. The belief was that building a military noose alongside a blockade of supplies and freezing out of the banking system would bring Iran to its knees. The Iranian population have suffered, but the policy has not worked. It involved bullying Europe into enforcing the blockade or facing sanctions themselves. The outcome was humiliation for the US when it attempted to reimpose arms sanctions at the UN.

The support of Israel may seem like new policy but the shift is a limited one. Obama wanted to keep the "two state solution" alive, but this was pure hogwash. It, along with the Iran nuclear deal, was designed to put the middle east to sleep while the US made a pivot to encircle China. The new policy of rounding up Arab regimes to support Israel will in the long term weaken nationalist illusions among Arab workers and awaken class war. The attacks on China risk total disruption of the global market. In any case, although the US retains massive global military dominance, their own analysts concede that the Chinese already hold regional military dominance in the South China Sea.

The background reality is that while the US can bombard any area of the planet, they are unable to win any wars. Winning involves occupation, and the defeat in Vietnam and the ending of conscription means they have not got the forces to achieve this and proxy forces don't have the enthusiasm to win for them. They have fought for 16 years in Afghanistan and have clearly lost. In Iraq and Syria they have sought to balkanise the conflict - sowing division in the absence of a victory. Even in Latin America, where coups organised by the CIA were routine, they have faced humiliation in Venezuela and more recently in Bolivia.

This reality is the substance of discussion in the US military. The direction of travel is more of the same. While they tear up existing nuclear treaties their research is towards the development of battlefield (tactical) nuclear weapons that they expect can break resistance to the use of such devices.

The Republicans were willing to use populism to gain power. Now a populist is in the White House and smashing the furniture, but the core interests of the capitalist class are not under threat and much of their domestic and foreign objectives are being met. Those who base their case on Trump's exceptionalism are both inflating the novelty of his policies and ignoring the surveillance state at
home and the drone murder machine used abroad.

We have already left the absolute US hegemony of the past behind us. The imperialists are using up financial, technical and economic structures to hold their own. In the absence of the US regional powers are asserting themselves and seeking alternatives to control through the dollar.

Both decaying hegemony and inter-imperialist chaos offer nothing but threat and chaos for the working class. The issue for socialists is advocating for a party of the working class and building for a socialist future.

Return to top of page