Crisis of America’s reactionary ruling class

BY:Bernie Cylich| June 23, 2020
Crisis of America’s reactionary ruling class


Why has our country, the richest in the world—with the largest concentration of billionaires and a bloated, $2 trillion defense budget, greater than those of all other industrialized nations combined—become the epicenter of the Covid-19 crisis? The paradox is all the more striking when we realize that the United States represents only 5 percent of the global population. Nevertheless, the United States—home to many of the world’s top scientists and medical facilities—heads the list of nations most affected by the pandemic: we have had over 125,000 fatalities, 28,000 in New York City alone.

The nation remains incapable of producing sufficient personal protective equipment, even of the least sophisticated type. Shortages of PPE have been claiming lives across the country, especially among frontline workers battling to save lives. Because of the do-nothing approach in the White House, some federal agencies and state governments have resorted to buying PPE from China.

Why isn’t our country producing enough test kits, ventilators, and essential drugs for ventilators? Is the reason for such a public health catastrophe simply that Trump and his administration are inept and negligent?

At every step of the way—when Trump dismantled the office set up under Barack Obama to predict and contain pandemics; cut the CDC budget as late as February; ignored all warnings; refused to invoke the National Defense Production Act, which would have enabled the president to direct civilian industries to increase or begin production and distribution of essential items, including PPE, during the emergency; refused to invoke nationwide stay-at-home orders; failed to fund and organize nationwide testing—was Trump constrained by incompetence? If he had acted promptly and decisively, wouldn’t thousands of lives have been saved? The answer is yes; as the Boston Globe charged, Trump has “blood on his hands.”


Trump Is No Accident

Far from being inept or a fool, Trump has clearly demonstrated that his actions are calculated to serve the most reactionary elements of transnational monopoly capital.

Under the pretext of dealing with Covid-19, Trump helped facilitate the biggest transfer of wealth from the American people to the 0.01 percent. As nearly 50 million workers have lost their jobs, the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured have swelled to 120 million, and tens of millions are threatened with eviction from or loss of their homes. At the same time, the most powerful corporations, including health insurance and mass merchants like Amazon, are racking up record profits. While millions of children and their families face hunger, farmers are plowing crops back into the soil and draining milk into sewers.

Trump and his minions have exposed the ugly underbelly of ruthless predatory monopoly capitalism driven by profit. His anti-working-class, pro-monopoly actions are raising the social and political consciousness, and conscience, of the American people.

Trump could have mitigated, and still can mitigate, the toll of the pandemic by supporting and invoking a number of actions, including these:

  • In early January, he could have enforced the National Defense Production Act. He still refuses to appropriate funding for test kits.
  • Expand Medicare to serve all.
  • Distribute $2,000 weekly stimulus funds to every family.
  • Expand food stamps to all who need them, relieving starvation and saving small farmers and grocery-store owners from ruin.
  • Freeze small-home owners’ mortgage payments; freeze all rents and utility payments.
  • Grant financial relief to the US Postal Service, to forestall its closing, and take action to facilitate mail-in voting in November.
  • Grant billions to debt-burdened states, to prevent millions of layoffs.
  • Roll out massive infrastructure projects, putting millions to work.
  • Cancel all student debt.
  • Provide free tuition at public colleges and universities.
  • Provide universal free day care.
  • Stop deporting undocumented workers.

Trump and his Republican allies in the Senate not only oppose taking these measures but are working feverishly to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, privatize the Postal Service, diminish workers’ rights, and eliminate labor and environmental regulations. These folks are using the pandemic as a cover to attack our democratic rights.

The American working class is witnessing the open thievery by big business while receiving only crumbs. An overwhelming majority of families are in distress, fearing infection by the virus and loss of jobs, health benefits, and other essentials.

This pandemic has exposed the crisis of capitalism. It has debunked many myths that have misled the working class into supporting policies that are hardly in their best interest. Here are some of these myths:

  • The bloated military budget and militaristic, provocative actions supporting brutal dictators are necessary to keep the American people safe.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic is a great equalizer.
  • Neoliberal policies, aimed at gutting “unaffordable” social programs, are necessary to keep our nation’s budget under control.
  • Systemic racism has been overcome.
  • The border wall along Mexico will protects us.


Fractures in the Ruling Class

The heart-wrenching, brutal murder of George Floyd—an unarmed African American—on Memorial Day, in broad daylight, by four Minneapolis police officers has unleashed multiracial, multigenerational demonstrations of long-pent-up anger, led chiefly by young people, across the nation. Most Americans view Floyd’s asphyxiation as yet another modern-day lynching of a person of color, condoned by a justice system.

When the ruling class in the United States must resort to armed confrontation—by police, National Guard, or military—to quell peaceful protests, the economic elites are revealing their inherent desperation and weakness. When armed gangs invaded state capitols across our nation, challenging the governors’ health directives (mostly originating at the CDC), these thugs were not stopped by the police even as they threatened to kill elected officials. Yet unarmed demonstrators are brutally attacked by those same police.

The use of police repression as a ruling-class tactic to intimidate the poor and people of color and to divide the working class is facing its demise. Numerous city councils and chiefs of police have taken unprecedented action in firing and then indicting police officers for brutality. District attorneys in New York City have refused to indict arrested peaceful demonstrators. The New York legislature and Governor Cuomo quickly adopted numerous measures to rein in police brutality; the use of choke holds is now a felony.

Challenging Trump, Washington mayor Muriel Bowser called on governors to withdraw their National Guard from the capital, directed crews to paint the street facing the White House with a brilliant-yellow banner announcing “Black Lives Matter,” renamed that street Black Lives Matter Plaza, ended the city’s curfew, and condemned the use of unidentified armed personnel against demonstrators.

Across the country, the uprisings by millions of multiracial, mostly youthful protesters have fractured the ruling class and forced notable retreats. Former Republican president George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell announced they will not vote for Trump—in fact, Powell declared he will vote for Biden. Even the CEO of the National Football League acknowledged the league’s error in ignoring systemic racism and said that he would take steps to correct it. And Nascar will no longer display Confederate flags at its events.

But this rebellion is just the beginning. It is likely to intensify when, in the coming months, millions will lose their meager benefits and face eviction, starvation, and disease.

The political lineup of forces is rapidly shifting. Many Republicans acknowledge that Trump’s leadership is endangering their control. His opposition to voting by mail has threatened to cost Republicans on Election Day, when many of their supporters will take a cue from him and avoid or discourage mail-in voting.

The rats are jumping ship.

Trump’s impulse to deploy active-duty troops to wage a war against American citizens is unsettling, even for the Pentagon. Military leaders fear that such confrontations will provoke mutinies among soldiers, of whom 43% are people of color. (Even now, many spouses of frontline soldiers have been marching in Black Lives Matter demonstrations.) Such an about-face among service members threatens to undermine military and civilian elites seeking to enforce imperialist policies throughout the world. General Jim Mattis and 400 former ambassadors and generals—hegemony proponents all—have sent open letters to Trump, admonishing him for deploying military forces against peaceful demonstrators. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Mark Milley, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have distanced themselves from their participation in the brutal clearing of peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Park to make way for Trump’s infamous photo-op, where he awkwardly held a Bible in front of a church. Many of his high-ranking supporters are like rats jumping ship.

Other supporters such as white supremacists (“very fine people” according to Trump) are facing backlash. In their efforts to discredit the peaceful protesters, police agent provocateurs and right-wing, white neo-fascists have been torching police cars and stations and other buildings in minority communities. But in Nevada, ultra-nationalist provocateurs—Trump supporters—were arrested and exposed while they attempted to toss Molotov cocktails at police while marching with peaceful demonstrators.

Trump’s debilitating strength is exemplified by his cowardly seeking refuge in the White House bunker, his ongoing fear of facing a press conference, and the poor showing at his campaign rally in Tulsa.

The ground underneath him is rapidly shifting. It’s up to us to ensure an earthquake on November 3.

The opinions of the author do not necessarily reflect the positions of the CPUSA.

Image: Geoff Livingston, Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND 2.0).



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