2020s >> 2021 >> no-1398-february-2021

Editorial

Chaos on the Capitol

Last month we looked at the chaos that has been engulfing the capitalist world in the twenty-first century. The chaos shows no sign of abating.

On 6 January, at a ‘Save America’ rally organised in Washington D.C., Donald Trump fired up a crowd of supporters, repeating the fantasy that the presidential election had been stolen from him and calling on them to march on to the Capitol. This they did and then went on to storm the Capitol building in a desperate attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as the next President. They met with little resistance from the police, indeed in some instances they appeared to have been assisted by them, in stark contrast to a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside the Capitol in the summer where the building was heavily fortified by the National Guard. Amid the chaos, five people lost their lives.

The rioters comprised a motley bunch of disgruntled workers, small business owners, armed vigilantes, highly paid professional workers, far-right groups like the Proud Boys, off-duty police officers, serving and retired members of the military. Many were followers of the QAnon conspiracy group. What had drawn them to embrace Donald Trump’s leadership?

Over the years many American workers have seen their incomes stagnate and their places of work and jobs being relocated to countries where the labour costs are lower. The influence of the labour unions has been dwindling and Democrat administrations, which purport to represent working-class people, have presided over this growing power of capital over the workers.

Many small business owners have been losing ground to the big beasts of capital. This has especially been the case since the 2008 financial crash, and now with the Coronavirus pandemic many small businesses have gone to the wall, whereas the large capitalists have gone from strength to strength.

In these circumstances, experiencing growing social powerlessness and, in the absence of an influential socialist movement, many have become attracted to right-wing nationalist populism and some are drawn to conspiracy theories propounded on the internet and social media. White supremacist and vigilante groups provide a sense of community and belonging. Donald Trump was able to harness this discontent for his opportunist ends by posing as the workers’ champion. He promised he would take on the ‘Swamp’ and bring back jobs to the US. Over the course of his presidency, he built his base by pursuing nationalist and xenophobic policies like beginning the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, implementing tougher anti-immigration measures and aligning himself with far-right groups.

The assault on the Capitol has been described variously as an attempted coup, an insurrection, an assault on American democracy, and an act of domestic terrorism. But it was no workers’ revolution, and socialists do not endorse reckless adventurism to try to advance working class interests. We say that, on the contrary, workers must organise globally and democratically to take political power to establish socialism, a worldwide society without classes, money and national frontiers. This revolution will be based on socialist consciousness and not on the leadership of a narcissistic egomaniac.

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