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Violence and elections in the US

2022-11-05 | USA
Violence and elections in the US

Is Biden right in saying that the US headed towards "chaos"?

Facing an election where he presents his party as the only possible brake to an institutional collapse as Biden did this week is usually, at least in countries with strong national capitals, little more than an alarmist and desperate strategy to drive voters to the polls in the face of a looming electoral disaster. Much ado about nothing.

But in the US it responds to a political crisis that expresses deep divisions in the ruling class. A divide that, far from closing, is deepening in all areas, reflecting increasingly contradictory interests and showing signs of growing violence. We should be concerned.

Do fears of a "civil war" have any basis in reality?

Assault on the Capitol in January 2021

Assault on the Capitol in January 2021

It is true that the escalation of political violence is significant and that beneath the political crisis there are material contradictions between sectors of the ruling class, but the real possibility of a civil war is practically nil as of today. What is undeniable is that there is an explosion in civil war rhetoric since the assault on Congress in January of last year.

The often wishful imagination of a civil war can be found in the ideologues and the advertising symbology of both parties. For example, viewers of the latest season The Good Fight outside the US have a direct window into the fantasies, delusions and mood of the Democratic party.

But a civil war, that is, a war between classes or between sections of the ruling class, requires much more than competing ideologies and diffuse violence to break out. No matter how many displays of desperation and ideological extremism we see among the petty bourgeoisie, and no matter how much the conflicts within the American bourgeoisie begin to show up aggressively in party programs, today the current contradictions are more likely to consolidate one of the few areas of common ground between the two ruling groups: the horizon of a war with China.

So why is finance capital taking these elections so seriously?

Trump wearing a miner hat

U.S. financial capital -and with it that of its allies- looks askance at these elections because a Republican triumph could put it in increasing contradiction with the policies promoted by this party in the institutions.

  1. The fear that a recession triggered by the Fed's rate hike will bankrupt the weakest investment funds is bringing a part of finance capital closer to the industrial and commercial petty bourgeoisie that is represented in Trumpism.

  2. Both inflation and adjustment are driving a drop in real wages which is the basis of the massive transfer of the incomes of workers to the profitability of capital. This is serving to raise the tone of the political confrontation and thus capture an important part of the working class, which sees its capacity to consume falling with a speed unseen since the Great Depression while the Biden administration denies the degradation of its living conditions... but it has no political referents of its own. Evidently what worries the Democratic strategists is that workers are being captured by the Republican party and not by them. But while painfully disastrous, the foreseeable outcome is not going to be worse or better, just harmful.

  3. The strengthening of the bloc of interests represented around Trump and the Trumpists is allowing them to make direct attacks on big finance capital linked to the Democrats. For example, ending the cancer of environmentally friendly investing may sound like mere provocation against the Green Deal, but for big funds like BlackRock it is an essential part of their profitability strategy.

  4. The Trumpist petty bourgeoisie has experienced the effects of Chinese competition firsthand and casts the Democrats as traitors for facilitating China's entry into the WTO and encouraging the flight of US capital to US industry. But they have no similar perception of European competition, let alone Russian. And yet the costs of the war in Ukraine is taking a heavy toll on them.

    That's why the Republican candidates in this election, many of them retired military and veteran NCOs, are openly opposed to to sustaining the Ukraine war and, in fact, Trump is already talking about "setting up immediate negotiations".

    When the Democratic left counterattacked by asking Biden for a change of course it was forced to retract in less than 24 hours. US finance capital is already winning with a war that is strategic for it, vis-à-vis Russia, of course, but above all vis-à-vis the aspirations of the European allied powers. There are things not to be trifled with... and US finance capital fears that the MAGA Republicans will forget this in their anti-Bidenite enthusiasm.

Why has Biden failed to "heal the wounds" of Trumpism?

Biden y el Pacto Verde

Behind Trumpism lies the interests of a part of the US capital that blames the deterioration and reduction of the internal demand on the loss of weight of the US in the global industry. That is why its original electoral base was the industrial, agrarian and commercial petty bourgeoisie and its objective was to capture impoverished workers and direct their anger towards the globalism represented by the old East Coast oligarchy of the Democratic party linked to finance capital, represented among others by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Biden himself.

During the Trump years however, finance capital, which had driven since the 1990s the offshoring of industries and the free trade agreements that made it possible, began to put the spotlight on Chinese competition and gradually align themselves with their own version of the reorientation of imperialist means and objectives that Trump was executing.

That is why practically all the governments of the rest of the powers expected that Biden would maintain the orientation of Trump's imperialist policy and reduction of trade deficits and would intensify the warmongering in his encirclement of China and Europe, although perhaps not with the violence and speed with which it has occurred (Ukraine war, technological war against China, etc.).

But even if he changed the axes of imperialist policy, everything pointed already two years ago to the fact that the fracture of interests would remain. Biden was not going to be able to heal the wounds simply because the interests of the petty bourgeoisie and local market-oriented industrial capital could not be satisfied with the anti-China strategy promoted by finance capital.

For example, the technology war with China, even if it succeeds in uprooting the chip industry in Taiwan, Korea and Japan and twisting the arm of their owners to bring their investments and factories to the US, will generate more costs for local industries and will have very little impact on domestic demand because they employ technologies that are capital-intensive and thus offer few job opportunities.

As Harvard Kennedy School economist Dani Rodrick, one of the Democrats' own economic references, pointed out to the New York Times:

I fear that will do little to create good jobs for U.S. workers without college or advanced degrees. Semiconductors and advanced manufacturing are among the most capital and skill intensive sectors in the economy and increasing investment in them, while worthwhile for geopolitical reasons, is one of the least effective ways to increase demand for labor where it is needed most.

And the same is true of the major wagers for the future of big US capital such as the Green Pact and its star product, the electric car, with fewer parts, less manpower and higher investments than its gas equivalent.

In other words, the objective of recovering industrial jobs as a driver of domestic demand and market is contradictory to the objectives and means of the big capitals that should lead it. Even if they repatriate industries, these are much more capital intensive than their predecessors and their impact on overall employment will not be significant.

And the other transformative element underway in business, mass automation through the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence into the service sector and administrative processes, is contradictory even to the interests of the Democratic party. The massive proletarianization of the sectors of the petty bourgeoisie that make up the base most sensitive to the identitarianism of which the Democratic Party has made its banner, is not good news for this party in the medium term. David Autor of MIT stated in a recent paper:

AI is likely to absorb many management and decision-making positions that previously required college-educated workers or even workers with graduate credentials, such as lawyers. Thus, AI is not "more of the same." While the last four decades of computerization have been very good for managerial and professional workers, and not good at all for blue-collar production and white-collar office workers/office clerks/administrators, the AI era may erode the college premium that has been high or rising since 1980.

The desperation of Biden and the Democrats, and the crisis of the political apparatus of the U.S. bourgeoisie is completely understandable.

What is the underlying problem and what are the dangers?

  1. The increase in polarization and political violence in the U.S. responds to growing contradictions between sectors of the ruling class.
  2. While the bourgeoisie linked to the domestic market demands policies that increase demand, the logic of capitalist accumulation leads finance capital to orient investments and imperialist strategy to internally develop capital-intensive sectors that will neither increase the security of the petty bourgeoisie nor the capacity to satisfy the basic needs of the workers.
  3. On the contrary, the needs of capital demand a redistribution of income from labor to capital and the lowering of real wages... which are damaging Democratic expectations as they are being rightly associated with their warmongering policies in Europe, their anti-inflationary policies in the US and the prospect of the "Green Deal".
  4. In other words, the interests of finance capital are less and less able to express themselves politically without simultaneously coming into conflict with the larger classes of society.
  5. Lacking political references of its own, a growing part of the working class is rallying around the increasingly outlandish and violent discourse of the "MAGA Republicans", which already began with broad sectors of the petty bourgeoisie and threatens to capitalize on the industrial transformations that will proletarianize a massive part of the corporate petty bourgeoisie.
  6. The political apparatus of the U.S. bourgeoisie is thus subjected to a violent contradiction that goes far beyond the ideological and that makes its own partisan and territorial functioning more and more violent and difficult.
  7. The main point of consensus on both sides of this contradiction in all its forms (finance capital vs. domestic market oriented capital, Democratic Party vs. MAGA Republicans, coastal vs. inland, Green Deal vs. fossil industry etc.) is the centrality of the imperialist conflict with China.
  8. It is highly probable that any rapprochement and attempt to overcome the internal contradictions of U.S. capital will pass through an acceleration and armed intensification of the direct imperialist conflict with Beijing.