The international crisis of capitalism is currently playing out in an extreme way in the U.S., the homeland of world imperialism. Uncertainty about the future is greater today than at any time since the Great Depression of 1929. Social tensions are at a breaking point given years of spiraling state repression and the abominable government record in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. The eruption of mass protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder means that legions of the exploited and oppressed have witnessed the solidarity of collective action. This hopefully will serve workers and the oppressed well in the battles that lie on the horizon.
The economic situation
The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) at the end of last year predicted that an economic downturn was overdue. Yet we could not predict when it would happen. It was not surprising however when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and became the catalyst for a sharp worldwide plummet. Unemployment has skyrocketed here and remains high with millions of workers facing financial disaster as Congress stays locked in so-far fruitless negotiations for a second round of emergency pandemic aid. Wall Street and the financial sector have protected themselves through deregulation and generous tax cuts. The U.S. stock market has recouped all its losses since its sharp downturn at the outbreak of the pandemic. This is due to generous bailouts for big business engineered by the Trump administration with the consent of Congress. The uber-rich are flying high and several tech sector corporations are raking in unparalleled profits. For example, Amazon registered a monthly profit of $90 billion dollars at the end of June, a 40% increase over the same period in 2019.
Overall, the profiteering of a sliver of the population at the expense of the majority of the working class and small businesses has produced a sharp drop in both production and real wealth. Not since the Great Depression of the 1930s has the U.S. economy faced such a precarious situation.
Women have lost jobs at a rate more than twice that of men. This is the result of the shutdown of female-dominated industries like hospitality, education, and entertainment, and even some parts of the healthcare sector. Along with high unemployment, women now face the demands imposed by the Covid pandemic such as a lack of childcare and the needs to homeschool their children, nurse the sick and care for the elderly.
Black, Latinx and other people of color workers, many of whom are immigrants, are concentrated in the same low-paid workforces as the majority of women workers. Due to the pandemic, they are facing increased unemployment. Many of them are front-line workers in essential services such as healthcare, agricultural production in the fields and food processing in meat and poultry plants. Immigrant workers constitute a large part of the workforce in the delivery sector which has expanded with the pandemic. All these workers, employed and unemployed, face heightened rates of Covid mortality due to lack of access to decent healthcare compounded by institutional discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and immigration status.
The small business sector has been severely impacted by the economic crisis. Small businesses predominate in three of the industries most affected by the pandemic: accommodation and food service; healthcare and government social assistance; and retail. Federal assistance passed in March provided only short-term and minimal help to small businesses, such as guaranteeing only eight weeks of wages to their workers. As a result, small businesses have been shutting down all around the country.
Unemployment among youth has also skyrocketed since their entrance into the job market is often at low wages in the same service sectors most affected by the pandemic. Furthermore, youth as a group are carrying a double-barreled debt burden: an unprecedented $1.26 trillion dollars of student debt as well as a high level of consumer debt due to the challenge of survival in a low-wage job market.
The political fallout
Political polarization has skyrocketed over the almost four years of the Trump administration. Protests began with the airport demonstrations to defend immigrants from Muslim countries. Over the same period there has been an escalation of racist and anti-Semitic murders as well as abuse and assassinations by police.
The murder of George Floyd combined with the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic provided both the spark and the fuel for a level of sustained mass protest never witnessed in the history of the U.S. In the first three months of Black Lives Matter mobilizations, there were a total 10,600 reported protests, the majority against police murder. Insecurity about the future, especially among youth, gave birth to this outpouring into the streets. After literally decades of a full-scale epidemic of police abuse and murder, disproportionately targeting the Black community, the multiracial solidarity of the protests against racist state repression presented a direct challenge to the political establishment.
However, the limitation of the Black Lives mass protests continues to be the lack of a clear, anti-capitalist program with a nationally coordinated leadership. At the initial outpouring of the movement, anarchist forces tended to predominate. Recently, reformists forces have been scrambling to channel the energy of the movement into voting for the Democratic Party in the upcoming election.
At the same time, Trump has launched a broadside political attack against the Left and anarchists.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” election campaign is whipping up anti-Left hysteria that recalls the worst aspects of the McCarthy era of the 1950s. His law-and-order campaign and fear-based rhetoric is attacking the Democratic Party for its supposed radical, socialist agenda — a complete falsehood.
In Seattle, third-term Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant of Socialist Alternative is facing a recall campaign that is a direct result of her opposition to Amazon’s political power-brokering in the city of its international headquarters. This campaign, initiated in August, is also tied to Sawant’s support of the BLM mobilization and political solidarity with the anarchist-led CHOP (Capitol Hill Organizing Project).
Rightwing vigilantism is on the rise along with armed militias and killings such as those carried out by the teenager who killed two antifascist protesters and wounded a third. Recently, it has been revealed that federal police agents assassinated the Antifa activist who in self-defense killed an armed Proud Boy supporter in Portland last month. Earlier this month, 13 members of a vigilante group were indicted on domestic terrorism charges after plotting to kidnap the Democratic governor of Michigan, Gretchen Witmer, who for months has been the target of President Trump’s campaign ire.
Nationally, violence against women and a backlash against the emergence of #MeToo feminism are growing. Ultra-right groups are breeding grounds for sexism and misogyny that endanger women’s lives. Current statistics reveal that 1 in 4 women has experienced domestic violence at the hands of an intimate partner. After declining for four decades, homicides between partners is increasing with female victims in the clear majority.
State repression and strengthening of a Bonapartist regime
The last four years have been characterized by a heightened militarization of police forces around the country and the terroristic mistreatment of immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico. Trump continues to appeal directly to racists and ultra-right nationalists by scapegoating immigrants for the problems of capitalism.
Today the Department of Homeland Security, created after the 2001 passage of the U.S. Patriot Act, employs over 240,000 people. This agency is rife with Trump supporters who are sympathetic to white supremacists. Trump caters to bigots as a key component of his electoral base. This was abundantly clear in the first presidential debate when Trump refused to denounce white supremacy and instead asked a vigilante group (the Proud Boys) to “stand back and stand by” in anticipation of an undecided November election outcome.
For decades, the capitalist class has resorted to empowering the executive branch to counter all manner of social upheavals here and around the world. Faced with the current mass street mobilizations, the regime is strengthening Bonapartism and the repressive state machinery.
With the support of a Republican majority, Trump has appointed an unprecedented number of Catholic archconservatives and anti-labor judges to the federal judiciary, including Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Over the last four years, the Republican Party with its billionaire backers like the Koch family has managed to orchestrate a type of judicial coup that will have an overarching influence on life here which workers and the oppressed will be forced to address.
Standing at the head of the Justice Department is William Barr who openly supports an autocratic, authoritarian model of government. He is aligned with a rightwing, ultra-patriotic sector affiliated with the conservative ideology of the Roman Catholic Church and closely collaborates with a sector of evangelical Christians who share a reactionary anti-abortion, anti-LGBQT+ agenda both here in the U.S. and abroad. These religious conservative political forces are firmly embedded in the machinery of state repression and in the leadership of the U.S. military.
An important development is the lack of confidence in the government to handle any aspect of the current crisis. Debates around how to deal with the pandemic have focused on the importance of science in the popular consciousness. This is significant because it counters the dangerous, irrational rightwing ideologies that threaten the lives of workers and the oppressed.
The upcoming elections
We will soon know the outcome of the vote on November 3. Given the current situation, it is difficult to guess which candidate — Trump or Biden — will win. It is possible that Biden will win by a landslide. However, even this scenario doesn’t mean that this election will be decided any time soon after November 3, given the large number of mail-in ballots and Trump’s continuing unfounded allegation of massive voter fraud.
Our recommendation is to vote for Socialist Action’s write-in candidate, Jeff Mackler. The “lesser evil” vote for the Democrats this year has an even greater hold on the Left than in previous election cycles. For example, the Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party that has abstained from electoral politics for decades is calling for a vote for Biden. This flows logically from its four years of campaigning that the Trump regime is fascist. A Trotskyist group, the League for a Revolutionary Party, that has abstained from participating in the electoral arena is now doing the same and supporting Biden. Meanwhile the U.S. Communist Party for decades and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) over the last few years have both operated within the confines of the Democratic Party.
Anticipating controversy around the outcome of the election, the FSP has called on other left groups to come together to build united front contingents against all forms of political reaction in the current political situation. This includes state repression, voter suppression, and attacks on labor, women, immigrants and all the oppressed. We initiated a national effort which is showing modest advances in this time period. Three Zoom meetings of this united front effort have taken place to date, with about 20 different organizations represented, plus several individuals. Groups are expressing a strong sense of needing and wanting to work together. The name “United Front Against Repression” was chosen and points of unity are now being developed. The goal is to strengthen the Left by acting together. We hope this formation can continue beyond the elections to organize and resist the inevitable coming attacks, given the continuing economic and political crisis here in the U.S.
Not since the civil rights and anti-war protests of the 1960s and ’70s has there been any uprising on U.S. soil to parallel the Black Lives Matter protests. There have been mobilizations in over 60 countries where international solidarity with Black Lives Matter demands became the catalyst for denunciations against racism, corruption, and police terror in protesters’ own countries. This international solidarity has reverberated here in a further erosion of U.S. exceptionalism in the consciousness of workers and the oppressed. The current crisis of bourgeois democracy as a regime in the heartland of U.S. imperialism points toward strengthening international working-class solidarity as the solution to the challenges we face here in the U.S. together with those of our class allies around the world.