After 72 hours of agonizing scrutiny, Trump came out defeated in the most polarised and most participated elections in US history. The results show that there is a deep and open wound in the biggest capitalist power in the world, and that wound keeps bleeding. Trump has resisted, but in the end was overwhelmed by both the popular uprising that engulfed the whole country, protesting against racist police violence and a health, social and economic catastrophe that heralds the end of the American dream. No matter how many defying tweets he writes, in a few weeks he will pack his bags and leave the White House.
The results provide us with numerous clues to understand the present and future of the class struggle in the US. Firstly, the solidification of a massive electoral basis for Trumpism and what it represents, which will influence future events and will put enormous pressure on the Democratic Party government. Secondly, it shows that the majority of the population is willing to fight against the far right populist reaction and the causes that lead to it, a willingness that transcends the 3rd of November elections.
Biden can claim he is the most voted candidate in history, but Trump’s defeat has happened in spite of him and the Democratic establishment. The lessons from the past few years have not been ignored, and the advance in the consciousness of millions of oppressed has been one of the main mobilising factors.
The main reason for the defeat of the new yorker millionaire needs to be found in the extraordinary mobilisation that has been developed a thousandfold since his inauguration. The mass women’s marches that started his presidential term, the massive struggle of the youth against the anti-migrant legislation, climate change or the use of guns and, first and foremost, the social rebellion against the racist and supremacist violence of the police apparatus, a struggle which has unified under class lines tens of millions of white, african-americans, latinos and latinas and young people from all diverse communities, has had a clear translation in the ballots. The uprising of the masses was what pushed Trump out of the White House, not the mediocre campaign of a candidate like Biden, who was unable to weaken the social basis of his adversary.
More than 16 million Americans who did not vote in the 2016 elections have done so this time, placing the turnout at around 67% of the census. Biden's candidacy has obtained 75,010,459 votes (data from Sunday, November 8), 50.63% of the total and could exceed 300 electoral votes at the end of the count. Regarding the results of 2016 (65,853,514) it means an increase of 14% and 9.1 million. Trump gets 70,686,229 votes, 47.71% of the total and possibly around 230 electoral votes. In relation to 2016 (62,984,828) their vote has increased by 12.2 points and 7.7 million. The candidate of the green party, Howie Hawkins, who was supported by different organizations of the socialist left, obtains only 349,470 votes, 74.8% less than in the 2016 elections (1,457,218), and his worst result since 2008.
This results need to be analysed through the optic of an undemocratic electoral legislation, which includes an electoral college that decides who is elected President (and not the direct universal suffrage) and that is also able to suppress the rights of millions of voters, as happens in numerous States with the majority of persons in prison and a big amount of formerly imprisoned people.
The most relevant part of the campaign was the fact that Trump repeated over and over again his incendiary speeches against socialism. The words socialist, far left, communism… were never so repeated in a campaign trail, by a President seeking reelection. Trump accused Biden of being the same as Castro and Chávez, used the slogan “Vote Trump against socialism” in various cities, called on his followers to organise armed resistance against the far left and finally challenged the recount a few hours before it was started.
None of this is a coincidence. Trump is not, as many have said during this election, an adventurer without a sight, nor a loose canon acting on impulses that need medical attention. His apparent madness follows a ruthless logic. His discourse reflects the decomposition of the north-american society and the despair of wide sectors of the petty bourgeoisie, which have lost the certainty of the past and are feeling an hysterical fear of an uncertain future. These layers, that traditionally have had an enormous social weight, do not want to renounce to a way of life that has brought them enormous privileges and view the surge in class struggle, the growth of the left and the influence of socialist ideas over workers and youth with horror. Trump has offered them a banner to fight for.
In this social combustible pot there are also millions of backward workers, demobilised and utterly demoralised by deindustralisation and chronic unemployment, low wages and the loss of status that gave them a prospect at stability that was not lost forever. Completely sceptical of what the Democratic establishment offers, they have kept their support for Trump with the hope that he would improve their economic situation.
This block, fanned by counterrevolutionary despair and resentment, has shown its violent streak. They are a very serious threat to the democratic, economic and social rights of workers, young people and all the oppressed that suffer from excruciating inequality. But this block, which has been relentlessly fought in the streets with a tireless struggle in the last four years, has came up defeated, in spite of an electoral system dominated by the big parties of the ruling class.
The masses which have risen against Trump have had no option but to use the only tool available at that moment to defeat him in the ballot boxes, especially since Bernie Sanders, who was supported by millions of people during the democratic primary, retreated and capitulated to the party’s apparatus. Yes, the masses in struggle have voted on Biden just in order to defeat Trump, but they have not placed the smallest amount of trust in Biden’s politics. The majority knew perfectly well that the Democratic candidate is part of the problem, not of the solution.
It is more than obvious that the Biden campaign has not created any hope. He has been a mediocre opponent who has made public his commitment to big corporations, refusing to include any of Sander’s proposals in his campaign. This explains why Trump was able to keep his electoral power and even reinforce it in some states.
A class struggle with revolutionary features
According to the polls, 97% of the 2016 voters have repeated their vote in the same party. The north-american media said that 82% of Biden voters thought that “Trump will probably turn the country into a dictatorship” and that 90% of Trump voters believed that the Democrats wanted to turn the US “into a socialist country”.
The immense polarisation in the ballots reflects way more than a “simple” support for the system candidates. An assessment like this - after everything that happened in the last four years - apart from being sectarian, it only hides the reality: the masses have not stopped of looking for an independent path in their actions.
The elections are only a part of a series of factors that measure the temperature of class conflict and - taking into account the antidemocratic character of the US’s electoral system and an absence of a worker’s party - the real correlation of forces and the enormous potential which exists to change society can only be reflected in a very distorted way.
Lenin explained the question in this manner: “To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. Which are, generally speaking, the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule as they used to (…) For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes are unnable” to keep on living in the old way; (2) when the suffering and the misery of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in “peace time”, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.” 1
Does the objective situation in the US contain revolutionary features? The answer is yes. The catastrophe that is being lived by more than wide layers of african-american, latino, native american and white workers and also the youth of the impoverished middle layers, explains the character of the social explosion we have witnessed- The popular uprising which erupted after Geroge Floyd’s death - with all it might have had of spontaneity - has been brewing over years of accelerating inequality, attacks on the democratic rights, police brutality and systemic racism. The movement has united as a whole and directly targets the economic oligarchy, the political establishment and the state apparatus.
This social abyss is the petrol that has set fire to the class struggle and led to the left turn. This dynamic started four years ago, when the Bernie Sanders campaign broke through with a discourse of “political revolution” against the 1%, and followed up with the election of candidates to the left of the Democratic Party apparatus. What is really tremendous, and few have noted, is that in spite of Sanders capitulation the movement has continued, creating new channels through which to express itself. The uprising against racist police violence is much more than a casual event. It represents the independent historical action of the masses which Lenin talked about.
Trump and the sector of the bourgeoisie who supports him, correctly identified the substance of the events, leading them so unleash all their open hostility against the drivers of a struggle that forcefully pushes consciousness into socialist ideas. Faced with White House policy, the Democratic Party apparatus tried by every means to channel the rebellion to the electoral path, trying to empty it from any revolutionary and class-based content. On this basis they launched Joe Biden’s candidacy, also being able to get Sander’s support to surround it with the credibility it was missing. But they did not fool the millions of workers and young people, who know perfectly well that the democratic establishment has the same perspectives as the republicans in the fundamental issues, from the trade war, to the Banks and Wall Street bailout or their non-existent social policy. Their vote has not been for Biden, but a vote against Trump.
It would be a mistake to make a mechanical and reductionist reading of the electoral results. We need to remember that just a few months ago the President hid in his bunker at the White House and called for protesters to be shot, by enacting a curfew. What happened then? In spite of the police violence and the deployment of the National Guard, the movement did not falter, just the opposite. According to statistics from The New York Times, more than 16 million people participated in the demonstrations in hundreds of cities of the enormous country. There is nothing like it in recent history!
Can we compare the momentum of this movement with the far right street protests, from the proud boys to the other groups that Trump has relentlessly courted? Obviously we do not want to underestimate the danger presented by these groups. But they are much weaker than the masses in action, especially if the masses follow the program of revolutionary socialism.
It is precisely this threat - understood by millions of young people, women, migrants, african-americans, of workers - what explains that, in spite of being a mediocre candidate and being completely disconnected for the radical aspirations that this struggle has brought to the fore, Biden achieved the biggest vote share for a presidential candidate in history (and Trump the biggest vote share of a defeated candidate):
The great distortion in the US is that there is no independent party of the working class, and that space has historically been held hostage by the Democrats. Although a bourgeois party, they always tended to their relationship with the union bureaucracy and the bureaucracy of the community and civil rights movements, in order to appease and integrate them into a policy of class collaboration. This being said, the dialectics of the process of development of working class consciousness and organisation do not end there.
The tremendous irruption of Black Lives Matter movement and Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, as well as the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America - which are nearing 70.000 members - show that the conditions to create a workers’ party have matured. The defeat of Trump, far from putting a brake on this process, will speed it up.
Trump forcefully resists
Has we have said before, polarisation is an objective process expressed in both directions. The political leadership of the Democratic Party was counting on benefiting from the inertia created by the extraordinary mobilisations against racism and the appalling management of the pandemic by Trump. As with Hillary Clinton four years ago, they expected a huge “blue wave”. But Biden’s campaign, far from hurting his opponent, has managed to lend him growing support.
Trump has kept many of the depressed areas of the famous Midwest “Rust Belt”, composed mainly by working-class communities. It is true that Biden has recovered Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by the skin of his teeth, but he is further away from the past Democratic majorities and keeps giving Ohio to the Republicans.
Some analysts have mentioned that Trump is getting the best results from any republican candidate in the african-american demographic, but the rise in support is limited and it would be an overreaction to consider it a fundamental issue. In any case his best polls in these layers can be explained through similar reasons that the ones in the more backward and demobilised layers of the working-class: the hope that the economic situation will improve quicker with Trump in charge. Anyways, the examples that contradict this trend are overwhelmingly numerous and relevant, from the landslide majority against Trump in Clayton, the african-american town adjacent to Atlanta that has been key to give the Democrats their first victory in Georgia in the last 24 years.
There has been a lot of guesswork regarding the hispanic/latino vote, but the most serious analysis shows a division through class lines. In Florida the polls forebode a tight race, but the balance swung for Trump when the Miami-Dade county votes were counted, where a 30 points difference between Hillary and Trump in 2016 was reduced to a 7 point difference for Biden. This result was key to award the 29 Florida Electoral College votes to Trump. According to an exit poll by NBC News, Trump got the majority of the Cuban, Venezuelan and Colombian vote in Miami, after a campaign that focused on denouncing Biden as a socialist. Even this event cannot hide the fact the Florida voters approved a resolution to increase the minimum age to 15$/hour.
The vote of the poorest latina and latino working-class, working in domestic jobs, hostelry and the big farming industry explains the historical turn in Arizona and the notable republican retreat in Texas, although it is true that the democrats have lost ground in some counties in New Mexico and California who have a latin majority, especially when compared with the big advantage that Clinton had in 2016.
As the Edison Research’s exit poll shows, a crucial point is that Trump’s electoral base has barely changed since 2016. He gets his biggest support from white men, older than 65, with high income- more than 100 000 dollar per year- in rural areas, who identify themselves as catholics, protestants or evangelicals. This layer of the middle class has fully understood Trump’s message during the pandemic: the economy is more important than the life and health of the workers. That is why, although the victims of the pandemic are over 240 000 people and that there are more than 5 millions of people infected, this sector worry about their profits has decisively weighed in their vote.
Millions of petty bourgeois - and there are a lot in the US - have turned to the far right, terrified by the change in times they are living, because they feel their privileges threatened by a social mobilisation that achieved victories such as the 15$/hour minimum wage, builds labor unions and social organisations that fight against the macho, misogynist, sexist, racist, reactionary thought that has prevailed on the big and middle owners. Trump solidifies a firm social basis on this layer, which are stoked and cheered in his rallies and also between layers of the white middle class of the US interior which have suffered greatly from the crisis.
Proclaiming himself has a guarantee of survival against both internal and external threats- Against China, America First!- he has been able to mobilise significant social reserves, but has been unable to stop the decaying of United States capitalism, to bring the factories back to the country or to bring the technological and productive power of China to heel. His demagogy aims against the political establishment and the mainstream media, but the finance oligarchy has been getting rich without comparison during his term.
A deep crisis in bourgeois democracy
The republican candidate has played with fire when he used an extremely reactionary discourse to consciously intensify polarisation. But that is no more than an expression of an objective phenomenon, reflecting profound political change. The US bourgeoisie is divided about the best way to safeguard its interests and about the best way to secure its class rule. Now that Biden has won, many, even amongst republicans, have demanded “respect for the institutions” or the return to an agreement that can “heal the wounds of a divided country”
Trump insists on his formula, denouncing the illegitimate character of the count and swearing to use the courts to dispute the result. But it does not seem that his maneuvers will be successful. Even sectors that have supported him for the past 4 years, giving a platform to all his actions and supporting his excesses- such as Fox News- have hit back against fraud accusations, although it is obvious that the US bourgeoisie is not averse to use this strategy, as the 2000 elections stolen from Al Gore showed, when courts stop the count in Florida and awarded the victory to George W. Bush.
Now we are facing a very different situation. If they support Trump in his complaint and freeze the electoral system, the crisis of bourgeois democracy in the US would enter an uncontrollable spiral. The masses would never accept it. It is possible that the scale of the resulting mobilisations would increase tenfold compared with the uprising after George Floyd’s killing. The movement would come back to the fore, not to congratulate Biden, but to face up against Trump and what he represents with extraordinary force. It would be a “second turn” in the streets that few amongst the bourgeoisie want.
For the short-term interests of the ruling class, things need to go back to normal, become stable and reach a “consensus” to face the next unpredictable period, taking into account the scale of the world crisis. Inside the Republican Party there are already those who show the fear of reawakening the social mobilisations. When three Tv channels cut the live broadcast of the president, they did over strict orders. To put into question the electoral system, the institutions and the “American style democracy” is not good for Wall Street!
The voice of the big capitalists represented by the Democratic Party is trying to weather the storm and forcefully dampen the spirits with conciliatory messages: our democracy is strong and our institutions work. Their problem is that the Republican Party has fused itself to Trump or, more clearly, Trumpism has become their social and electoral basis, and far from decaying, Trumpism has shown its consistency.
The immediate future is therefore grim for the ruling class. All the features that led to the extreme polarisation are not only not disappearing, but intensifying. The divisions and social tensions will not melt in the air as they express the deep seated crisis of the capitalist form of domination which afflicts the first world power, also spreading to other nations. The bourgeoisie is fighting to keep control of the situation whilst the tools that they have used to do it are seriously compromised and are no longer fit for purpose. This is the result of an ill and rotten system.
Prepare our forces for new struggles. For a workers’ party with a socialist program
The next term will look much more like a nightmare than a cushy walk for the most voted candidate in history.
When Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2008, in the break of the financial crisis, there was enormous trust on him. He outvoted the republican John McCain by more than 10 million votes (69.5 million against 59.9 million), but his eight years in the White House led to tremendous frustration due to the retreat of the main reforms he had announced, especially universal healthcare and the fight against systemic racism. He was reelected in 2012 but lost 4 million votes.
Obama´s Administration sowed ground for two big events: Bernie Sanders impressive campaign in the Democratic Primaries of 2016, with his “political revolution against the Wall Street 1%”, and leaving a poisoned legacy that led Hillary Clinton to lose the elections against Trump.
Things are much different now. The new world recession will have even more catastrophic effects over the US economy, and will deepen the war with China. Poverty, inequality and the destruction of public services in the US is much greater now than it was 12 years ago. Biden does not have neither the popularity nor the credibility that Obama enjoyed. He is a decaying leader placed next to Kamala Harris, to prepare her for the 2024 presidential elections and keep an hypocritical pandering to the african-american community. Both are set in continuing capitalist policies whilst avoiding new social uprisings and trying to sow back a completely torn social fabric, but that is more than unlikely in the current circumstances.
Trotsky wrote the following lines about the 1929 economic crisis: “In an organism with their blood poisoned, every small illness will become chronic; in the rotten organism of monopolistic capitalism, crisis assumes a particularly malignant form”. These words are fit perfectly on the US’s current period
Forbes magazine has stated that there are 607 north-american plutocrats with a personal fortune of over a thousand million dollars (925 million euros) and, according to data from the Institute for Policy Studies, these multimillionaires increased their wealth by 282 000 million dollars in the three worst weeks of the pandemic, from 18th March to 10th April 2020. 22 million people joined the unemployment roll in the same period.
Will Biden solve these major problems? Obviously not. The Covid19 pandemic has led to more deaths of US people than both the Second World War and the Vietnam War put together. It has left lasting horrifying images from the richest country in the world, with queues of poor people to get food and mass graves in public parks. But Biden looked the other way and barely criticized Trump for his management of the health crisis, not questioning the objective factors that led to this massacre. It is evident that the impoverishment of the working-class and wide layers of the middle class did not start with Trump, but it is a legacy from previous democrat and republican administrations.
Biden will keep lavishly assisting the big monopolies, approving their “bailout” plans and buying all the corporate debt needed to keep their balance sheet intact, as Obama did. And he will completely abandon the millions of people that have taken him to the president’s seat. The future White House incumbent has made his priorities clear: he will fan the trade war with China, using economic nationalism to divert attention from the serious domestic problems that will keep piling up, as was done by Trump. He will not purge nor defund the racist police and he will not touch the billion dollar businesses of private health- unless class and mass struggle forces him to. He will also not wipe out student debt, a debt that his now over 1.5 billion dollars, or do anything to halt the degeneration of public education or the lack of affordable and dignified housing. He will make symbolic gestures towards ending racism but will keep the african-american working-class and youth under the same inequality conditions.
Therefore, the question of the forefront is now how to proceed after Trump’s defeat. The left turn in wide layers of north-american society is obvious, but the absence of a political organisation of the working class and youth is an hindrance for that transformative power to be turned into a mass anticapitalist alternative.
Experience has shown that the Democratic Party never was, and never will be the weapon we need in this battle. It is a tool of the bourgeoisie, it's made to serve it and, therefore, it won’t be usable to defeat the social cuts, racism and police violence. To think that by working inside of the Democratic Party it is possible to join together the forces necessary to raise a worker’s party is just a reactionary utopia. The lessons from Sander’s candidacy have been conclusive. The difference is that, unlike Sanders, who has wasted all the wide support he received by refusing to build an independent party, the organised left can take the necessary consistent steps to join together millions of workers and youth. It is not an easy task, but defeating Trump was not easy either.
For this strategy to work we need to abandon parliamentary cretinism and understand the limitations of the electoral system. A party of the working class and youth will never renounce participating in local or general elections, fighting to use them as a platform for propaganda and organisation. However, it is not about creating an electoral machine but to build a party for the class struggle, rooted in the streets and communities, the workplaces, the factories and schools, in the labour and union movement, in the community and neighbor mobilisations, in the antirracist organisations, in the feminist movement,... and doing it by defending a working-class, socialist and internationalist program that can give answers - and also victories - to the aspirations of millions.
Such an alternative could win over layers of the middle and working class which are now hostage of Trump’s demagogic speech, as no one has given them a way of solving their urgent problems. The conditions to cross this path are clear, set up by the struggle of recent years. The movement supporting Sanders has left clear that an alternative is possible, and the same is made clear by the growth in members and influence of the DSA.
Biden aides have already proclaimed to all corners of the world a new era of “national unity” and they will be fully supported by the media, including layers of the most traditional republicans. But the ugly truth of the crisis will quickly tear down this bait and keep agitating the consciousness of millions of people, who will advance even further in their political conclusions.
Nothing happens automatically in the class struggle. The US has indeed a period of turmoil and the task of the tendencies and organisations that claimed to be on the revolutionary left is not to complain about lost chances, nor adopt sectarian messages and focus that separate them from the activists. It is necessary to establish a common language with the millions that have mobilised in the streets and also in the ballot boxes in order to raise their understanding of the coming tasks and the need to build a revolutionary marxist organisation.
Everything that happens in the first world power has immediate consequences in the rest of the world. Trump’s defeat is very bad news for Bolsonaro in Brazil, Salvini in Italy, Johnson in the UK and AfD in Germany, as well as for the far-right party –Vox- in the Spanish State. But the threat of trumpism is still alive and it can resurge, even stronger in the future, because it feeds on the organic crisis of capitalism
The most important task for our class in this period is to prepare for this battle. To do entails building the revolutionary alternative that we - the oppressed in the US and in the whole world - need to be able to win.
|District of Columbia||92,46%||6,53%||90,91%||7,28%|
|District of Columbia||90,48%||4,07%||93,00%||5,00%|
1 ( Lenin’s Collected Works- The collapse of the II International, retrieved from marxists.org on 10/09/2020).