The recent change-over in the White House will not lead to major changes in American politics. On the domestic front the moderate Biden will be forced to concede something to keep his electorate quiet, but in foreign policy very little new will be produced by the new Democratic president.
The arrogant old tenant of the White House was obliged to pack his bags and go off to play golf at some of his private mansions on the Atlantic Ocean. It was an unwanted move and impossible for such a disturbed personality to accept, one whose ego is so abnormal that it can only be depicted in psychiatric works. Politically, his defeat will leave indelible traces for many years. Certainly members of the new administration face an avalanche of problems, from economic to social and environmental ones, and a country fiercely split in two.
Before he left, Trump threatened everyone, including four-fifths of his party, that he will found a new one, all his own, aimed at the most violent scum of his followers: the same ones who, arms in hand, had laid assault on the Capitol, throwing the "beautiful minds" of the democratic bourgeoisie into dismay. "Beautiful minds" who never expected such a situation, having understood nothing of the political personality of the Tycoon and the violent determination of his reactionary followers. These people have always seen him as the "duce": the defender of American interests against all other countries, the one who would lead them by the hand out of the present crisis. Nor, much less, have they understood the gravity of the crisis and of the deep malaise that is affecting American society. So the defeated Trump manages to maintain his image of "leader" of the rich, of the social climbers, of the self-made men, of a party of the petty bourgeoisie who are terrified of ending up in the lowest circle of social hell. The "leader" against the ever increasing tide of the poor, even if he even managed to convince a good chunk of them to support him during the election campaign. Always in favour of whites against blacks, of “documented” Americans against immigrants. All this guarantees, according to his own personal expectation, that he will form a new party; a party of "patriots", which will allow him to wash away the shame of defeat and to return to the next election more aggressive than ever.
In addition to this, he has left an impressive economic and social disaster for Biden and the Democratic Party. It’s a disaster that is only partly attributable to the Covid crisis. After firing all his collaborators, whom he himself had nominated, and even threatening the virologist Fauci with the same punishment when he did not act in line with his fluctuating paranoia, the ‘unmasked’ president did his best to pay billions of dollars to the big industrial and financial bourgeoisie, hardly bothering to pretend to do what he’d promised in the election campaign to solve the problems of the less well-off, employed and unemployed. On the contrary, he dismantled what little health coverage Obama had introduced, reintroducing the principle that, in the event of serious illness, only those who have the money to pay can access treatment. For the rest there is only suffering and death. Not surprisingly, of the more than 400,000 deaths from Covid, 70% belong to the most underprivileged classes and the black population. He also bequeathed 9 million more unemployed than those who already existed, without having implemented even a minimum of social protections other than those that existed before the crisis. Not simply because of him — because the negative trend had already been underway for years — but Trump made his own contribution to making American society the most indebted in the world. According to the Financial Times, at the end of 2020 total US debt (state, businesses, families and university students) reached the historic figure of $253 trillion, not to mention the foreign trade deficit which, despite the customs duties put in place to cover the weak internal market have reached unsustainable heights. Thus, as billionaires have further enriched themselves, social pauperisation has increased tremendously, fuelling discontent and leaving the country on the brink of civil war.
For Biden this heavy legacy is not going to go away, simply because the financial means to restore decent health care, to provide work for such a large and growing mass of unemployed, do not exist. Because, in the greatest crisis in the history of post-war capitalism, the first in line for treatment must necessarily be the wounds suffered by industrial and banking capital. Despite substantial state subsidies since 2008 these wounds have not completely healed. If they are not to completely gangrene the economic system, Trump's policy will have to continue. This does not mean that the new president will not do something so as not to lose face. He will put his hand to a mini-health care reform which gives the impression of a great change but which in reality will leave things, if not as before, only slightly improved. (Obama already had to downsize his project to give healthcare a popular dimension, due to the insuperable pressure of the insurance companies that dominate the health market, from first aid to operating theatres, from the purchase of syringes to highly technological medical equipment.) Thus Biden will engage in an extensive campaign against the rampant pandemic to demonstrate the criminal ineptitude of his predecessor. He will introduce "pro tempore" a sort of redundancy fund and a minimum wage for the most deprived. A few remaining coins for social assistance (overnight shelters and canteens), which have traditionally been created and managed by private associations. There is nothing much else on the real agenda as opposed to the phantom agenda packaged for use and consumption in this first post-election phase.
In terms of foreign policy, things are even more complex. First of all, the Biden administration will try to get out of the international isolation in which Trump has placed the US. As a first step, he will try to mend the splits with Europe, restore NATO’s role under the aegis of the US and resume, but under strict conditions, negotiations with Iran on the controversial nuclear issue. He has already promised to return to the "environmental protection" project, complete with domestic investments in the "green economy". Good projects, but all to be confirmed at the same time as the urgent needs of traditional capitalism are caught in the grip of a crisis as never before.
For the rest, the foreign policy programme will not differ from Trump's except in how it’s presented. According to statements made the day before Biden's official inauguration in the White House by Anthony Blinken, the new head of American diplomacy and proposed by the new president as Secretary of State, American attitudes towards the major problems of international affairs should remain the same without, it is said, the arrogance and one-sidedness of the former overseer of American imperialist interests.
Anthony Blinken began by criticising the Trump-Pompeo duo not for what they did in terms of foreign policy, but for the crude ways in which they did it, placing the US in a critical position towards traditional NATO and European allies. So the "new" management will have to be more attentive about "how to do" rather than the "doing", because the latter remains essentially the same. In terms of strategic alliances, the new head of American diplomacy will have to reconnect the threads broken by Trump in order to restore a hegemonic role to American interests without offending the sensitivity of the allies. No more unilateralism but "collaboration" is the new slogan. Formalities are being tactically changed in order to maintain the same strategic content.
That said, President Biden’s spokesman officially spoke out in the US Senate in support of last year’s killing of Iranian General Soleimani by a US drone in Baghdad. Soleimani was one of Tehran's major military exponents, chief of al Quds special forces. Justifying his murder meant endorsing US imperialist policy against Iran even in the most brutal forms. As if this means that, if there is an opening for the resumption of dialogue with the republic of the ayatollahs, it will be on very different tracks from those previously travelled by American diplomacy.
As for the Middle East, everything will remain as Trump's strategy intended, designed and enshrined in the facts. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel. The settlement of colonies on the West Bank will continue undisturbed and with the backing of the American government. Meanwhile the old project of the two peoples and two states has disappeared from the White House agenda. This means that, even for the new US management, the safest way for American imperialism in one of the hottest areas of the Mediterranean passes via unconditional support for Israel and in key aspects is anti-Russian and anti-Iranian, troubling for the pro-Russian regime of Bashar el Assad.
Attitudes have not changed, nor will they change, on the delicate and by far the most important problem of "China". In the same announcement in the Senate, Blinken strongly underlined that "Donald Trump has often been right about China". The continuity between the two Administrations is more than obvious, cemented by the same problems of imperialist hegemony between the two powers in the four corners of the world. China has long since conquered the world market for low-cost consumer goods. Now it declares itself to be a "competitor" in the field of high technology. It holds a significant portion of the American public debt. Xi Jinping dared to challenge the US on the international currency market by demanding no more dollars, but yuan to pay for its exports. In addition, there is the clash in the China Sea over the long-standing dispute over the island of Taiwan and over the merchant shipping routes between China and the rest of the world. The Chinese project to build the new "Silk Road", a "high speed" economic and financial channel, which will run from Beijing through Europe and North Africa and then connect with Central Africa, supplanting the French and US presence, is enough to shake Washington to its foundations. Hence the inevitable imperialist clash (complete with sanctions against the Beijing government), smuggled in by means of the necessity to condemn China for its violation of human rights against Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang and in defence of demonstrations for Hong Kong's autonomy.
This should be a reminder to democratic reformists and leftists that imperialism does not depend on the political choices of the administration in question. Imperialism is not the impromptu fruit of a bad government which, if it had been replaced by a ‘good’ one, would have behaved differently under the same conditions, in content and not just in form. Imperialism and its aggressiveness depend on the need to offend in order to defend their interests. It depends on the depth of the economic crises, on the incurable contradictions of capitalism that make it more aggressive and deadly in its actions against everything and everyone in order to enable the underlying economic system to survive.
There is no change of administration in the US, or in any other country in the world, that can alter the indissoluble link that binds the unfair relationship between capital and the labour force from which all the contradictions of the system originate, not least the looming environmental catastrophe, which also includes imperialism. Like all previous crises, this one is increasingly deep and voracious. As are the increasingly intense and devastating wars arising to solve the problems created by the contradictions of capitalism; wars which pit proletarians against other proletarians for the sake of interests that are not their own but those of the class adversary. A system that only the international proletarian revolution, led by our class party, can erase from history.