With the election of Biden to the post of “leader” of the so-called “free world”, many are celebrating. The US ruling class are, of course, delighted to see the back of Trump whom they accuse of having made a complete mess of protecting US interests. The embarrassment of the previous four years can now be swept under the carpet and business as usual can recommence.
However, for the US working class there is nothing to celebrate since nothing will fundamentally change. Trump and Biden represent different wings of the same ruling class, but are united with respect to the basic questions facing US capitalism. Differences between them are tactical. The new leader, Biden, was recorded assuring wealthy party donors that “nothing would fundamentally change” in the event of his election!
Generally Democrats consider Trump to have undermined US imperialism worldwide. Examples are his repudiation of the Paris Climate agreement, withdrawal from the World Health Organisation, paralysing the World Trade Organisation, withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and weakening of alliances. Leaving the TPP, for example, handed the initiative in East Asia to Beijing. While Biden may reverse some of these things, and though he may pursue US interests through the language of human rights, for example in regard to the persecution of the Uighur minority in Xinjiang, Taiwan sovereignty, repression in Hong Kong, etc., the general thrust of policy to re-energise US imperialism remains the same. Both Trump and Biden see China as the main threat to US economic and military hegemony over the world, and both think the Chinese juggernaut must be stopped, by force if necessary. Preparations for doing this will continue under Biden.
Impoverishment of US Working Class
The situation of the US working class has become steadily worse over the last 4 decades, and it made no difference whether the administration was Republican or Democrat. There are now more than 550,000 homeless in the US and 11% of the population live in poverty while the real unemployment rate is around 25%. Some calculations, which include those who have stopped looking for work, put the unemployment rate as double this number. Neither party offered any unemployment assistance in their election promises. They saw no point in assisting surplus people whom they could no longer exploit and who were heading for homelessness and destined for the tent cities, which sprung up after the 2008 recession, and now exist in at least 27 major US cities. Since the Covid crisis began, many workers are being forced to work without proper PPE for low wages, adding to the atmosphere of seething discontent. In this period there have been many wildcat strikes over inadequate protection at work and pay. Police murders, like that of George Floyd, added a spark to this tinder box resulting in riots across the country.
As usual, the ruling class has used the election to attempt to channel all this fury into the democratic charade. Both sides never stopped going on about the importance of voting and the dire consequences if the other side won. In a direct appeal to the working class the so-called “radical” Bernie Sanders tried to direct working class discontent into support for the Democratic Party. But in reality the election was only to select which section of the ruling class continues to administer the bitter medicine. All the songs of praise we are now hearing about the wonders of democracy and how Biden represents the will of the people are hypocritical nonsense. Even by bourgeois standards the election system is a shambles. The person who gets the most votes does not always win and the result is sometimes decided via a packed court. This is exactly what Trump is now trying to do. In fact both Republicans and Democrats try to prevent people registering to vote if they think they might vote for the opposition and they shamelessly gerrymander voting boundaries for congress and senate elections. 20 million are simply prevented from voting for one reason or another. An estimated 5.2 million can’t vote because of their felony record, while the present prison population is about 3 million – something Biden himself helped to establish through his 1994 crime bill. Our rulers are ecstatic about the large numbers voting. They tell us this proves US democracy still works. In fact, the large numbers are because the electorate has increased in size and the turnout was only 62%, 3% up on 2016. Even so, the numbers who didn’t bother to vote still exceeded the votes cast for either candidate; hardly a ringing endorsement of bourgeois democracy!
Capitalist democracy is in reality the fig leaf which camouflages the dictatorship of the capitalist class over society. It legitimises the rule of the ruling class and our exploitation. In elections the exploiters want to con us into thinking that the passive act of voting will solve the problems foisted on us by a system loaded against us. It is an attempt to induce our passivity. The causes of discontent for the US and world working class, are the result of an insoluble and chronic global economic crisis. Workers’ struggles were on the increase before coronavirus bought the system time but they have not gone away. But many of these struggles have been defensive or simply demanded crumbs from the rich man’s table. We have to go further. The answer to capitalist elections is the self-activity of the working class everywhere in a mass movement across all sectors and all countries. Faced with a decaying social system this struggle has to aim to dismantle the capitalist state and replace it with a system of workers’ councils. These will be composed of elected recallable delegates which will end exploitation and create a society in which long-term human needs not short term production for profit will be the determinant of all decisions taken. We have a world to win.
The above article is taken from the current edition (No. 53) of Aurora, bulletin of the Communist Workers’ Organisation.