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The decline of US imperialism and the rise of Donald Trump.

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Nick G.

A reader has asked for our opinion on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  The reader observed that “he is not afraid of going to war to achieve his goals” and asked “If Donald Trump comes into power and is the same type of person as Adolf Hitler in historical context, what could it mean?”

Trump's ascendancy is symptomatic of an imperialist power in decline.  Unlike Britain, which was able to manage its decline by transferring much of its imperial power to the US after WW2, and accepting a “junior partner” role within global imperialism, the US has no "great and powerful friend" prepared to work with it in managing its decline.  That makes the option of a reassertion of power by means of war abroad and intensified repression at home one of the few open to the US ruling class.

“Is God an American citizen?” and why Americans don’t laugh about it

The culture promoted by a ruling class is that which helps keep it in power. The British may still formally declare that their monarch rules “by the grace of God”, but no-one takes that seriously.

In the US, by contrast, God enjoys national citizenship and is not to be laughed at by presidential hopefuls.  Trump’s Republican competitor Ted Cruz is fond of saying that the rights of Americans come not from man-made artefacts such as the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, but directly from God. “God’s blessing has been on America since the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet,” Cruz said in March 2015, a sentiment put forward again only last week. 

It is hard to imagine Winston Churchill, looking British imperialism’s decline squarely in the face, resorting to such quackery.  His quackery resided precisely in that tradition of man-made artefacts that have served the British ruling class so well – from the Magna Carta to universal suffrage and parliamentary “democracy”.

Whereas the British dealt with the humiliation of decline by learning to laugh at themselves, the US ruling class sees little option but to put forward as their head a person who everyone else laughs at. 

Trump pushes the US closer to fascism 

But his threat is real, and his recent promise of "making America great again" is reminiscent of the promise Hitler made to the German people in the wake of their defeat in WW1 and the subsequent Treaty of Versailles. It was not just in the content, but the arrogance of the delivery, that many saw a parallel with Hitler. Indeed, as our reader noted: “His speeches have a similar method of connecting as Hitler did.”

However, we should not dismiss the threat of fascism by believing that fascism will only reappear sporting a funny moustache and carrying the crooked cross. Many progressive Americans can see it coming sporting a funny hairstyle and a billionaire’s brand-name.

In truth, if we look at Dimitrov’s famous definition of fascism, we can see that there has always been an element of fascism in the practice of all capitalist ruling classes, and it is really only a matter of degree as to whether or not a complete resort to fascism is likely or not.  

Dimitrov wrote: "Fascism is an open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, the most chauvinistic, the most imperialistic elements of the financial capital... Fascism is neither the government beyond classes nor the government of the petty bourgeois or the lumpen-proletariat over the financial capital. Fascism is the government of the financial capital itself. It is an organized massacre of the working class and the revolutionary slice of peasantry and intelligentsia. Fascism in its foreign policy is the most brutal kind of chauvinism, which cultivates zoological hatred against other peoples."

The degree to which a President Trump would encourage “an open terrorist dictatorship” against the US people is unclear: he has so far avoided making too many pronouncements on this score. In claiming to speak for the “silent majority” he has had to go softly on how he will manage “law and order”, one of the few  exceptions being his promise to white Americans that he will provide “law and order” to make the streets safe.

However, on the issue of foreign policy, it is certainly the case that his “is the most brutal kind of chauvinism, which cultivates zoological hatred against other people.”  He has promised to “bring China to the negotiating table as a currency manipulator” and says he will be a President “who will not succumb to the financial blackmail of a Communist dictatorship”.  His recipe for making US imperialism competitive with China is to cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, a cut that can only lead to attacks on the living standards of his “silent majority”.

He played a very nasty race card with his depiction of Mexican “illegals”: They (the Mexicans) “are sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” His solution - to fence these “illegals” out of the US – is simply a cultivation of a “zoological hatred” against Latins.  In this context we must also place his proposal for a ban on Muslims from entering the USA.

Likewise, on the question of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) he has speculated about assassinating the leader of North Korea on live television and threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike (although he has also ruled that out and declared that the DPRK is “China’s problem”. He is nothing if not erratic!)   And he advocates nuking ISIS and “killing their families”.

The individual is important, but class is the deciding factor

Trump is certainly keen to take on the role of the spearhead of US imperialist finance capital.  His personality and character are certainly important if he ever reaches his goal of renaming the White House “Trump House”.  But even if he fails, his will be an individual failure.  It is inconceivable that any contender for the presidency of the USA will work against the fundamental interests of US imperialism. The hope that attended the so-called “progressive” candidacy of Barak Obama quite clearly underscores the reality that it is a class that holds state power, not a president. No doubt each of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would make their own personal mark on that presidency, but only within limits allowed by, and acceptable to, the US ruling class.

The great task facing the American people, as it does all people in capitalist countries, is not changing the spearheads of class rule, but rather, ending the class rule of the capitalists.  

This can only be done by raising the working class to the position of rule with its own independent socialist state apparatus.


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