As a fascist mob laid siege to the capitol building on January 6, American media pundits expressed their shock and horror by applying a set of criticisms that many since have remarked were shockingly out of touch and completely inappropriate. Absolutely devoid of the type of analysis that was required in order to make sense of the situation that confronted them the media instead chose to resort to what can only be described as a semi-deluded and grossly ignorant portrayal of the American political climate. What could have been a sober analysis quickly turned into a racist orchestra launched outward with the events in Washington being compared to the standard political model pursued by those countries where they supposedly just don’t know how to do democracy. For the people who make up those nations in Latin America, Africa, the Middle-East and Asia, it’s not hard to imagine the anger they must have felt as they were basically being described as savages, once again, by a gangster state who up until now have done their utmost to forbid those same nations the rights granted by a fair democratic system.
As historian Gerald Horne remarked in an interview recently, the uprising itself shouldn’t come as a surprise. Marxists should be familiar with the behaviours, chants, and slogans that were present that day and recognise them clearly as the gasps, not just of severely weakened Trump administration aggressively clinging to power, but also that of a desperate American white supremacist outlook which has found a place of sanctuary within the toxic political climate that was cultivated under his presidency. That mob which was composed of neo-Nazis, Proudboys, Qanon conspiracy theorists, and other right-wing groups, is the true face of America. The American economic system of imperialist capitalism that has for so long dominated the global stage and incited chaos in nations across every continent, has in fact, only been accelerating these past few years. It is that same racist imperialist aggression which has been forced onto other nations now instead turned inward. For those media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and a whole host of others to simply cry out this isn’t how we do things in America they evidently have no idea that it is in fact what America does, and has been doing since its foundation.
For years we have been told by the political establishment that the United States (US) is a shining beacon of hope, a country that sets an example and a nation leads the way with its lofty principles of freedom and finely tuned democratic structures. With the rest of the world coveting them so dearly. What needs to be understood on a deeper level is that the US functions as the centre of the world capitalist order. It has used the veneer of political stability to impose its dominance on vulnerable nations. This has been done with a comfortable level of bi-partisan support that US foreign policy has traditionally enjoyed. The idea of a healthy democracy has all the verisimilitude in the US as the Democrat and Republican camps sustain the impression of being at loggerheads with one another. Yet when it comes time to vote on the military budget, as was done recently, there was no disputing over what had to be done. Now that those who are suffering under a decaying economic system will only be given a meagre $1,400 rather than the $2,000 that was initially promised, it seems as if Joe Biden has been listening to the like of Larry Summers again, rather the many cries of desperation that continue to reverberate throughout the nation.
In William Blum’s book, America’s Deadliest Export, he correctly pointed out that America’s deadliest export is in fact its “democracy”. To call the US a democracy is to equivocate rule by money with a system that is actually ran by and for the people. The US political model is exported because it ensures that a wealthy class will be maintained as the vast majority of the working population suffers. The United States is the antithesis of democracy. Trump’s main sin was that he redirected the chaotic policies which the US usually initiates abroad, and turned them inward. With a surprising lack of foresight, the Democrats and Republicans have themselves been sowing distrust in their own political structures. When Barack Obama ran, he was called a terrorist by the Republican camp. When Trump won, the baseless accusations of Russian collusion started to surface. Now with Joe Biden’s victory we had the “stop the steal” movement. Trump had clearly crossed a line in the sand of respectability politics, and for that reason he had to go. The message being sent out is one of stability and order. That in order for the US to recover from the years spent under Trump’s presidency there will have to be a return to at least some semblance of decorum within Washington. Investors are no doubt watching, and for them to continue supporting political parties and candidates they need to see a return to the “respectable normality” of American capitalism.
As for the deep divide that now characterises US society, and whether there is potential for more violent demonstrations by white supremacists, these cannot be ignored. Failing on both fronts the US has not addressed its own issues with structural racism and has instead adopted what Gerald Horne calls “integration without transformation”. Mistakenly believing that once a black president took office the US could wipe its hands clean of its past crimes. Clearly that hasn’t been the case. Barack Obama was so wedded to the ideas and aspirations of those on Wall Street that conditions in fact only got worse. Most seem to have forgotten that Black Lives Matter (BLM) sprung up under Obama.
Rather than seeing the growth of the American far-right as being symptomatic of a fractured society in a faltering empire, the far-right has simply been used as a scapegoat for the problems that are inherent in the American system. Unless these flaws are recognised, it’s hard to imagine how the US can change. One way of ensuring this is to follow the example set by the media and to continue to deflect and point to other countries as places where the real crises are. It seems that the US is in such a state of panic that any criticisms directed towards it are dismissed as only an insecure society might do. If the US actually wants to change it should start by ditching its scapegoats and start addressing the issues that have persisted for far too long now.