Wednesday, December 2, 2020
What can we reasonably expect from the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?
‘Biden has spent his career reflexively adopting his right-wing opponents’ position as his own… He has repeatedly worked with Republicans to advance [many of] their political goals, dismantling the legacy of the New Deal in the process… Biden has got swept up in every right-wing panic of the last few decades – crime, drugs, terrorism — often going even further than Republicans in his response’ (p. 6).
The day after the outcome of the American presidential election became clear, someone wrote on our party’s Facebook page: ‘I can’t help but feel a lot happier this morning, knowing that the odious vile strange orange man has been sent packing’. There can be no doubt that, on a visceral level at least, many other workers worldwide felt a similar sense of relief that the unspeakable individual in charge of America had been dismissed from office. When I wrote to my sister-in-law the same day to wish her a happy birthday, she replied that ‘getting rid of the monster is the best possible present’. On a political level too many people were relieved, in view of the widely expressed claim that, if re-elected, Trump would have proceeded to establish some kind of dictatorship stamping on all dissent and in particular taking draconian measures, Mussolini or even Hitler style, against all ‘progressive’ forces.
Yet could this actually have happened? There is no doubt that Trump showed psychopathic traits similar to dictators like Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin – arrogant, narcissistic, bigoted, racist, authoritarian, demagogic, etc. But could he have gone ahead and taken control of the American state in the same way as former dictators have taken over their state and wreaked havoc on those who they opposed or who opposed them even to the point of genocide? Part of the answer to that lies in what actually happened in the American elections. What happened was that Trump, would-be dictator or not, was dismissed from office via that country’s democratic electoral process, in much the same way as many other leaders have often been dismissed from office in advanced capitalist democracies. The point is that the US has a well-entrenched mechanism for doing that regardless of whether the incumbent leaves quietly or, as Trump, kicking and screaming. It also has a mechanism (many mechanisms) for preventing an individual, whether deranged or loathsome or anything else, from exercising personal unrestrained power. This means that, even had the result gone the other way and Trump had strutted on as before, he could not have installed himself as the kind of ruthless dictator who rides roughshod over all opposition as Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin did and as others still do today in places where capitalist democracies have not yet – or not yet fully – emerged.
So, continuing the comparison with Mussolini and Hitler, why then were those dictators able to take over in Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s? They were able to because Italy and Germany had not at that time reached the same relatively secure level of capitalist economic and political development of countries as the US (and others such as the UK, Germany, France, Holland, Sweden, etc.) has today. Italy and Germany in that era did not have the same well-rooted system of political administration that exists today both in those countries and elsewhere and so were always a possible prey to the nationalist demagoguery of a dictator promising to cure all ills while spreading division and crushing opposition.
That same kind of demagoguery has of course echoed favourably with the over 70 million Americans who voted for Trump. And that can only be dispiriting for socialists who see as a prerequisite for the kind of society we advocate – leaderless, moneyless, wageless, frontierless and entirely democratic – the active agreement and support for that society by the majority of the world’s workers. What has happened in the US seems aeons away from that, especially as even the half of the electorate that voted for Biden were only choosing at best a ‘lesser evil’. That ‘lesser evil’, the Democrat Party, will, by the very nature of the system it is in charge of, continue to run that system in a business-as-usual way, i.e. in the profit-seeking interests of the tiny minority who monopolise the majority of the wealth. And this will continue to be the case as long as most wage and salary workers continue to have a mindset that supports, or at least acquiesces in, capitalism and the profit-seeking force that drives it.
Yet, having said that, what the example of Trump’s fall from office has shown is that in the US, as in other advanced capitalist countries, there is a well-entrenched system of democratic voting in place which, when the time comes, can be used by a socialist majority to ‘vote in’ socialism when the necessary consciousness has spread sufficiently for that to happen. And when it does, no would-be demagogue or dictator will be able to do anything to prevent the majority from making it happen.
From the December 2020 issue of the Socialist Standard
Why not free meals for all?
That free meals for children during school breaks was ever an issue is surely a brazen example of the iniquities of capitalism.
The story ran like some synopsis for an updated staging of the musical ‘Oliver’, only it isn’t fiction. Why is it that the sixth largest economy in the world, that has borrowed, and will continue to borrow, many billions of Covid pounds, jibs at a few relatively measly millions to feed children plunged into poverty through no agency of their own?
A more pertinent question is, why should a resource that’s as vital to life as air be rationed by the ability to pay? A society that is struggling with the present pandemic to keep people breathing would not tolerate a system denying oxygen to those without the requisite bank balance.
Yet that is the logic of capitalism. Children, many of key workers on pathetically low pay who daily put themselves at risk of infection, are at the mercy of a squabble between national and local governments as to who will provide a meal a day for them.
The logic of socialism is that food will be available to freely supply the needs of everyone, adult or child. As it will be for all necessities of life. People will take what they need because they won’t have to take or hoard more, just in case. After all no one deliberately tries to breath in more air than they need.
Such will be the outcome of socially organising production to satisfy self-determined needs, rather than the capitalist need to satisfy profit taking and the restrictions on access this necessarily entails. Surprise, surprise, this option is not being promulgated in any of the media coverage of children and their inconvenient urge to eat between term times.