A very healthy debate has been taking place in the pages of Solidarity on how socialists should relate to the forthcoming US presidential election. Having written a number of articles on the subject recently, I think it necessary for me to give my take on things.
I was taken aback by one reader who found it “objectionable” for me to say that bourgeois democracy was under threat in the US. Trump’s gang have done their utmost to trash its institutions, codes and conventions. He’s gone out of his way to capture the Supreme Court for the reactionary right and also thanks to his henchman, Attorney General Bill Barr, removed several District Attorneys investigating Trump. Numerous Inspectors General — oversight officials there to stop overreach by the executive branch — have been sacked. In late spring Trump got rid of five in the space of six weeks.
All of this could have escaped most people’s attention, but we have a President who says he refuses to accept the result of the November election unless it shows him as the victor. Additionally he has called for the arrest of his political opponent, Joe Biden, along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, in the middle of the election campaign. Voter suppression has also been taken to a new level with the deliberate sabotage of the US Postal Service.
As if this wasn’t enough, we’ve had Trump flattering the various white supremacist and neo-Nazi “militias” and calling on them to stand watch at voting stations where they will be no doubt armed to the teeth. This comes on top of FBI arrests of 13 far right terrorists charged with various plots against the state of Michigan, including one to kidnap its Governor, Gretchen Whitmer.
Given all of this I would like to know what more it would take as evidence that bourgeois democracy is not imperilled? Perhaps those who believe this way have a touching regard for the US Constitution and its ability to withstand all challenges, but they shouldn’t count on it! Of course, if you believe that bourgeois democracy is not in danger, then who to vote for doesn’t matter. A democratic system will broadly be in place even if Trump emerges victorious. That’s why denying Trump is a fascist follows on with this line of thinking.
If fascism is a form of far-right authoritarian ultranationalism which craves for dictatorial power and the forcible suppression of opposition, then Donald Trump is a fascist. He might not have a fully worked out political ideology, parade around in uniform or sport a silly little moustache, but Donald walks like a duck and talks like a duck.
Not all fascist regimes came to power on the backs on mass fascist movements. General Franco was not an ideological fascist when he launched his coup against the bourgeois-democratic republic in 1936, but an old-style pro-church, pro-landlord, pro-monarchy reactionary. He utilised the Spanish Falange as auxiliaries during the civil war then merged them into a one state party with the Carlists afterwards. I doubt if anyone reading this newspaper would describe his regime as anything other than fascist, however.
In the case of next door neighbour Portugal, there wasn’t even a mass fascist movement behind Salazar, and he didn’t set up his fascist state until seven years after a military coup. Again I doubt there’d be many takers for calling Salazar anything other than fascist.
Trump has the backing of numerous right wing terror groups including the KKK. The adulation teenage killer Kyle Rittenhouse has received in Republican circle implies that these groups believe they have a license to kill.
A Trump victory will embolden both Trump’s drive for authoritarian rule and raise white supremacy once more to dominate American life. Should “handmaiden” Amy Coney Barrett get onto the Supreme Court, women’s rights are going to get trashed also.
Which brings us to the question of how to vote in November. I do not have a problem with people wanting to vote for Green candidate Howie Hawkins in states like New York and California, where Trump has no chance of winning. In swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, however, anything other than a vote for Biden would be a criminal dereliction of duty.
If your political position is wanting to see Donald Trump defeated at all cost they there is no logical reason for splitting the anti Trump vote and letting him win. Jill Stein, the 2016 Green candidate, got a bigger vote in all three states mentioned above than the margin between Clinton and Trump. There’s no way of telling if with Stein not standing the outcome would have been any different, but there’s no proof of the opposite either.
Many on the American left, supporters of Bernie Saunders and AOC included, have never forgiven the Greens in respect to the way the votes panned out in the Mid West. They aren’t going to be too happy with a similar outcome this time and won’t look too kindly on those who advocated it!
Some readers have argued that calling for any vote for Biden is a form of “popular frontism”. Trotsky was of course opposed to popular fronts with bourgeois parties and instead called for a United Front between the two mass workers’ parties, namely the Social Democrats and the Communist Party, to defeat fascism in Europe.
Today there aren’t two mass workers’ parties in the USA. Historically there’s never even been one. Independent working-class organisation is of course needed. Some of it will come from struggles happening in the street of American towns and cities. Other elements will come from the left of the Democratic Party and its supporters in the trade unions.
We cannot cut ourselves off from these people by enabling another Trump term.