Assault on the Capitol: Questions and Answers

7 January, 2021

Before anything else… why such journalistic enthusiasm?

At the current rate of vaccinations, the most efficient region of Spain would take four years before having all the population inoculated, Madrid would take decades. In Germany there is open talk of a fiasco. In France, where the campaign is proceeding even more slowly, of scandal. The reality: the European health systems, slimmed down by many years of austerity and overwhelmed in terms that the figures hide rather than reveal, cannot cope anymore. The Christmas relaxation in order to encourage sales was simply criminal and the vaunted hope of a rapid mass vaccination, a chimera given the means actually available.

Viewed from the ruling class, moreover, its incompetence at vaccination turns out to be a sign of systemic weakness: it is a failure of the industrial policy of Brussels, of its capacity to organize the population and of the action of the state. All in one stroke, a pandemic Dunkirk that must be understood in a context of growing imperialist rivalries: the comparison with a way more successful China is not very flattering.

So the media all over Europe are delighted to be able to provide an eye-catching news item with which to distract attention, lower internal tensions and bleed the weaknesses of their competitors.

But… in any case it’s serious, isn’t it?

Yes, as a symptom, and soon we will see of what. But we are neither facing an insurrection, nor facing a coup d’état nor the start of a civil war. Trump was sticking to López Obrador’s (AMLO) script: refusing to acknowledge his defeat in order to, on the basis of the denial of reality, maintain leadership over the mobilized masses… and to build a victimizing discourse that would allow him to continue as leader in successive elections.

The mobilization and the assault were rather a buffoonery than an insurrection: costumes, parkour, transgression of symbolic spaces… and the usual social network game. The limit: breaking the police line and entering the space of the Parliament. But… not a fire, nor wrecking, not even a sad barricade. Instead, hundreds of selfies, of group photos. An atmosphere of student hooliganism. Nothing that in Europe or Asia would not have been resolved with a better police cordon and, at most, a couple of riot police charges; but in the USA it necessarily ends with dead people on the ground given their police traditions. However, we are light years away from the scenes we have seen so many times in Spain, France, Italy or even Germany in all kinds of mobilizations: from the burning of the Murcian Parliament in 1992 to the recent assault on the Catalan Parliament or the denialist show in the Bundestag this summer. In itself it does not constitute world news.

What does all this really mean?

The symptoms of the US decline as a world power go far beyond the more or less disastrous withdrawals from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. They can be felt in all areas. The US is suffering a serious scientific decline, for instance. To name just two highlights: they have been reducing NASA’s budget, the symbol of the Cold War, for more than 30 years, to the point of abandoning historical structures and investments, and the panic in the face of Chinese competition has given rise to a true witch-hunt against chinese scientists that does not seem to be abating anytime soon.

The impossibility of really winning a war or scientific decline are symptoms of an imperialism that cannot maintain its competitive position unchallenged. During the Obama years, years of radical continuity, it became obvious that the United States was losing ground in the very structure of international relations it had imposed to ensure its dominance. And a part of the U.S. bourgeoisie, the one most closely tied to the domestic market, decided to break the game. The important thing is the break itself. The fact that it was pushed forward by riding on the revolt of a part of the petty bourgeoisie and the rejection of the Democrat identitarian delirium, is the less important part. Once the ruling class breaks, that fracture ends up generating serious cracks in the whole institutional juggernaut of the state. Today, the fractures even reach the inside of the army: we saw it these days when the Nimitz fleet carrier received conflicting orders over and over again. This is really dangerous.

Viewed from a distance, the Trump years have an air of perestroika: they were basically an attempt to shift the balance of trade at all costs, converting the maintenance costs (not only the military) of the imperialist order into a cheap argument to force sales and restrict imports. It worked in the main and Biden has no other intention than to give it a multilateralist patina that would develop a more coherent but no less assertive strategy against China and the EU. The strategy will become more sophisticated and the internal fracture will remain. The AMLO-like stunt of yesterday and the ghost of a third party in the making -just as AMLO did- are only ideological products of the underlying fracture of interests.

What causes so much disgust at trumpism?

Trumpist demonstrator takes a selfie in a congressman’s office after the assault.

Beyond its class background, there is something in trumpism that does not cease to draw Europe’s attention and which the media play with. Trump and his followers -it was obvious yesterday- are really grotesque, intellectually delusional and morally deplorable. With them around it is very difficult for the ruling class to keep that Camelot image so essential to post-war ideology. Much of the democratic outrage is based on this, and inevitably expresses itself in forms of contempt hitherto reserved for the working class. Neither American TV nor its European mirror images are lacking today in the disqualification of impoverished and uneducated white men, a category to which identity politics reduces most unskilled workers.

It is not a question of whether politicians are politically competent or incompetent nor of moral quality. The pandemic has made it clear that there is no difference in moral quality between trumpists and democrat stars. It is a question of ideological quality. To feed denialism and the most delusional theories as a way of keeping motivated some bases to which little is really offered in the material, is in itself a danger for the state’s capacity of political control. The state recognizes it as such because it attacks its conservative and cohesive function squarely, which is why the anti-fake news laws and the appeals against populism are so heavy-handed. But there, if we do not immediately recognize the Democrats as delusional, it is simply because we are not looking closely enough: we need only look at the recent history of how American feminism has ended up generating a state ideology that is exported all over the world in order to find levels of true antisocial delirium.

That is, Trumpism is Dorian Gray’s picture of the American bourgeoisie, the symptom it refuses to see of its own decay as a class, of its inability to sustain its dominance over society without fracturing it and confronting it at every turn. And that is scary because it is neither an exclusive disease of the Republicans, nor is it limited to the U.S.