Joe Biden finally assumed the presidency on Wednesday, January 20th. In the midst of a pompous show of Hollywood and music industry stars, which failed to hide the militarization of the protocol act with the presence of 25,000 members of the National Guard, Biden and his vice Kamala Harris were sworn into office. The challenges of the new administration are enormous: after the failure of previous administrations, it will try to reverse the decline of US hegemony in its role as the world's leading imperialist power. We should not forget that Biden was part of the Obama administration as vice-president, and previously, from the Senate, he supported Bush Jr.'s warmongering and other imperialist adventures of both parties. The situation is urgent, so the first measures are aimed at curbing the economic crisis accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, trying to bring the health situation under a minimum control and continue with the stimulus policies. All this, in the midst of the deterioration of relations with the rest of the world determined by the economic antagonisms established by the crisis and by Trump's erratic foreign policy and, most recently, in the urgency of facing an unprecedented crisis of the institutions of imperialist democracy left by 2020 and the occupation of the Capitol on 1/6.
Pandemic and economic crisis
The curve that the imperialists are looking at is not so much that of contagions and deaths due to COVID-19, but that of the variation of GDP and the employment of workforce. The recovery, after the abrupt fall between February and April 2020, started relatively strong, but has been moderating until reaching a quasi-plateau. GDP growth in the last quarter of 2020 barely exceeded 1%. The country has recovered just over half of the 22 million nonfarm jobs lost between February and April 2020. The latest January number yields the creation of a meager 49,000 new jobs, and a downward revision to the previous 3 months' data. The balance sheet for the Trump era as a whole shows a red of 2,100,000 jobs lost since he took office in early 2017 (Washington Post, 2/6/2021).
(See chart 1)
Equally alarming is the accumulation of debt that has been recorded as a result of the imperialist policies to try to find a way out of the 2008 crisis, which has been raised to the nth power with the stimulus policies implemented by the various imperialist states to face the pandemic and through the mechanism of the private financial system, leading to twin bubbles between stocks and official debt. The tendency to weaken the dollar, expressed in the rise of the so-called commodities (generic goods used as raw materials and traded in bulk as metals, oil and grains) and of the money-metals (gold and silver), is another face of this crisis of indebtedness as well as of the deterioration of the world hegemony of American imperialism.
To size up the problem, a Bankia study from last December indicates that "according to a recent report by the Institute of International Finance (IIF), global public and private sector debt grew by $15 trillion, to a total of $277 trillion in 2020, the highest since the beginning of the historical series. As a percentage of GDP, the IIF projects global debt to jump to 365% this year, up from 320% at the end of 2019 and 315% five years earlier." It continues, "Of particular note is the US, which implemented a fiscal stimulus package of 13% of GDP, as well as the availability of multiple corporate credit windows from the Fed. The country accounted for about half of the debt increase in the group of developed countries, with the government debt ratio at around 125% of GDP, levels not seen since World War II."
(See chart 2)
Among Biden's first measures the continuity of these fiscal and monetary stimulus policies, with a new $1.9 billion stimulus plan for coronavirus assistance stands out. The package was enabled with the approval of the budget in the Senate on Friday 2/5, the first legislative initiative of the new legislature, which included the tie-breaking vote of the Vice-President (after the elections, the Senate was formed 50/50 by representatives of the DP and the RP). The difference is that Biden intends to give this stimulus by combining it with an aggressive health policy, ranging from the ridiculous "100 days of face mask" which he launched as one of his first presidential executive orders, to the massive vaccination plan, which is at the same time a big wink to the pharmaceutical industry, one of the main imperialist lobbies.
In this field, there’s a continuity in the aggressive line towards China, which the Democrats had already launched with their "Asian pivot" under Obama. There is a "state agreement" between both parties and the entire imperialist establishment on the need to advance on China, the differences have to do with the how. Trump's trade war based on tariffs to negotiate foreign trade agreements has not been positively assed by the bourgeoisie, which is betting on an even harsher policy, which includes an offensive on third semi-colonial countries, to displace the influence that China has been winning through finances and infrastructure projects (new silk road). The policy towards Latin America maintains its hostility towards Venezuela and a carrot and stick policy to support the restorationist measures in Cuba, while seeking to discipline the entire region through a greater influence of the IMF (Chile, Argentina, Ecuador). As for the Middle East, it’s a more difficult tangle to untangle, but for the moment Biden has suspended the policy of withdrawal that Trump had been implementing. This can be seen in the re-evaluation of the line towards the Israeli enclave (which was strongly supported by Trump in the last 4 years), which tends to lean again on alliances with other bourgeois factions in the region, reviving Obama's policy, while supporting, veiled or not, Israel's reactionary offensives on Syria and Palestinian territory. So is the security policy towards Europe based on NATO. Closely related to the latter is the major offensive towards the Russian government, to which Biden came out to exert strong pressure due to the Navalni case. Many definitions are lacking in relation to foreign policy in Asia, although the coup d'état in Myanmar/Burma has accelerated the confrontation between the Sino-Russian bloc with the US and its allies in the UN.
In general terms, we maintain that the multilateralism that Biden is rehearsing by going back on all Trump's measures of rupture with the post-war international institutions such as the WHO, the Paris agreement, the questioning of the WTO, lacks for the moment a strategic axis. It’s impossible to turn back history, even less so when the accelerating effects of the decomposition of imperialism since 2008 have continued their sapping work, and continue to do so to date. In any case, although the advance on the assimilation of the former workers' states -above all China, and to a lesser extent Russi- and the establishment of a new capital-labor relations to increase the rate of exploitation trying to reverse the fall in the rate of profit are general aims, they appear as unresolved tasks that U.S. imperialism must face if it intends to stop its own fall. These are not easy tasks and it faces the resistance of the anti-imperialist struggles of the working class and the oppressed peoples who have been shaking the planet, from Tunisia, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, India and Lebanon, passing through Belarus, France and Italy, to Chile and all Latin America.
The erosion of the institutions of imperialist democracy, mirror of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois sectors, of the semicolonies and of the former workers states that undertake the program of assimilation as their own under the garb of the promises of bourgeois democracy, is the main concern for Biden and his new administration. He must face the impeachment of Trump under this optic, which is not simple, but even more serious is the problem of the deterioration of the powers of the State and the relationship of the military-bureaucratic apparatus with the masses in the midst of the prevailing crisis and social decomposition. For the moment, the first measure has been to advance in the anti-terrorist agenda, with the support of the Republicans, something that should not surprise us since it was Bush (Jr.) who initiated this policy after the attack on the twin towers. The advance in the repressive policy of the State seems to be the way out, confirming that the Bonapartist tendencies generated by the immanent dynamics of capitalism are deployed over the personalities of the personages of capital. The fact that the first measures have been taken through decrees (executive orders), something that attracted the attention of Biden's staunchest supporters, goes in the same direction. And the fact is that the institutional recomposition of imperialist democracy cannot go through any other path, contrary to the illusions of the so-called progressives, the supposed left wing of the DP. As Engels indicated in his letter to Marx of April 13, 1866, "... Bonapartism is after all the real religion of the modern bourgeoisie". And the last 4 years of Trump's government in the US have served to expose the character of that imperialist democracy managed by an elite, which reassured many because "it was not going to let Trump do whatever". Bonapartism does not mean personal rule, although it can take that form. We take here another quote from Engels: "... in the modern Bonapartist monarchy the real governing power lies in the hands of a special caste of army officers and state officials.... The independence of this caste, which appears to occupy a position outside and, so to speak, above society, gives the state the semblance of independence in relation to society" (F. Engels, The housing question). Let us recall that, in the political theory of the enlightenment that underlies the American constitution, the President fulfills this role of monarch.
After the counterrevolutionary action of January 6th, an important part of the centrist left at the international level has fallen into the error of focusing the tactics on the need to confront fascism, coups or proto-fascism embodied in the pro-Trump forces: this is a serious mistake because the greatest danger is the way in which the forces of the political elite, which directs the apparatus of the Yankee State, will use the events to rearrange its structures in search of a bestial offensive against the working class and the oppressed peoples of the planet. Any anti-fascist united front or similar with sectors of the bourgeoisie is nothing more than a capitulation to the class enemy.
The challenge of rebuilding the institutions also implies facing the political and social polarization that has its origin in the economic-social bases, collapsed by the capitalist crisis. To this end, Biden's stimulus plan includes an increase in the minimum wage and a check of US$ 1,400 per person, which still generates debate between the government and big business, as well as within the divided Democratic Party (DP). These concessions are not only the result of the impulse of a sort of faded neo-Keynesianism, but are a response to a series of struggles that the American working class has been sustaining. The reasons are plentiful, all related to the deterioration of living conditions since the 2008 crisis and the recession generated by the pandemic: for health and safety conditions in the workplace, for wages, for unionization in companies and unorganized industries and companies. The large mobilizations against the police and racism after the assassination of George Floyd also had an important influence, especially in manufacturing industries where African-American and Latino workers are prevalent.
The last months of 2020, the influence of the reformist/counter-revolutionary leaderships of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the so-called progressives of the DP leaded these movements behind the electoral campaign, attributing to their main figures (Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar) who serve as the left wing of the ruling bloc in the House of Representatives of Congress (lower house), the victory in the Midwestern states reversing the results of 2016. In terms of class struggle, this led to the apparent paradox that while the right wing of the Democratic party, with Biden at the lead, won the presidency and the reactionary supporters of Trumpism showed muscle in the streets, its maximum expression being the 1/6 capitol takeover, while the anti-police and working-class movements turned to electoral expectations. This should not be seen as a snapshot: at the beginning of 2021, things have changed and we are witnessing new and important strikes, such as that of the workers of the fruit and vegetable market of New York, who through a strike of a little less than a week achieved a wage increase (although not of U$S 1/hour as they demanded) and stopped the employers' intention to increase the cost for health care. Union organizing processes are also taking place in companies such as Amazon and the German auto parts company Borgers in Ohio, and an important struggle against the return to on-site classes without adequate health and safety measures in several states.
It’s possible that the rank and file workers who are part of these conflicts may consider that Trump's exit from the government poses better conditions for struggle, but the vanguard should not be fooled by the DSA and other counterrevolutionary leaderships that offer as an orientation to "dispute" the Democratic government from within, pressing on the one hand for greater concessions from Biden, while on the other they defend a united front against fascism and the extreme right, putting emphasis on the institutional recomposition under a supposedly democratic prism. This is a deadly trap for the proletariat and the impoverished mass sectors, for the youth, minorities and immigrants in the US. The vanguard of our class must face the struggle to break the tutelage of that political elite of imperialist democracy in putrefaction over the North-American proletariat, tutelage exercised through the DP and the trade union bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO. The challenge is to conquer class independence on the basis of a workers' program of a way out of the crisis and of a revolutionary leadership that confronts the State and proposes strategic unity with the oppressed peoples of the world behind the banner of the anti-imperialist struggle. It will be a decisive step in the reconstruction of the Fourth International and its North American section. With this aim, we propose to the revolutionary currents that defend the program of the dictatorship of the proletariat on a world level that we promote in common an international conference for the reconstruction of the Fourth International, the world party of the socialist revolution.
COR Chile - LOI Brasil - COR Argentina