Celebrating the end of “Trumpism” after the Midterms is a deadly mistake. 

by Davey Heller, 21st November 2022

An edited version of this article was published on Independent Australia

The failure of the Republican Party to achieve a “red wave” in the US Midterms has heralded yet another round of “Trump is finished”  pieces in the bourgeois press. It’s true that a few of the candidates backed by Trump did not get over the line and the Republicans “only” won the House and not the Senate. However, we have reached a parlous state of affairs when the failure of fascists to win a landslide is a cause for celebration. 

The central problem with this triumphalism however is that it  analyzes the Midterms as if Trump and the Republican Party were just another bourgeois party “playing by the rules”. It’s as if the last seven years of watching Trump and his allies building a violent  fascist movement have been erased including the Jan 6th coup attempt and attack on Congress. The significance of the Mid-terms is not the failure of the Republicans to win big but that a fascist party of coup plotters are still in a position to compete for power electorally at all. 

The reality is that every day that Trump has stayed out of jail has strengthened his faction’s hands and demonstrates the weakness of his opponents and the bourgeois democratic order. . Despite the revelations of the January 6th Committee that included that Trump was only stopped from personally leading the mob into Congress by his own security detail, there has still been no consequences for Trump other than losing his Twitter account. Nor have any of the other coup plotters gone to jail. Nor have any of the police, military and intelligence figures who knew what was going to occur on January 6th and allowed or even facilitated it to occur. Nor has there been any consequences for the Republicans who voted en masse against certifying the election result in 2020 or have continued to push the “Big Lie” the election was stolen.

Instead, Trump and the Republicans have doubled down and become even more openly fascist in their policies and rhetoric. Trump rallies are full of Q Anon imagery. Trump makes violent threats against all his “enemies” from his bully pulpit on his social media platform “Truth Social”. Threats to “end Pelosi” manifest in a deranged MAGA fascist taking a hammer to Pelosi’s husband in an failed attempt to take Nancy hostage. Trump’s campaign launch was full of anti-Marxist rhetoric, promised summary executions of drug dealers, included anti-semetic references to “globalists” and threatened to send in Federal troops in defiance of State Governors. Trump also plans to purge the public service if reelected using “Schedule F’ regulations to ensure next time there is no internal resistance to his rule.

Trumps supporters giving a one fingered “Q Anon” salute at a Trump rally in September 2022

Even though the section of US capital that wishes to maintain the trappings of bourgeois democracy is still in the majority it faces a serious problem. The key issue is that in order to tackle a problem you must first admit you have one.  The political price of admitting that a “fascist problem” exists in the US is too high. To admit this problem would admit that the two party system that has maintained the stability in the US for over 150 years is finished. To admit the problem would undermine the post-World War justification for US Hegemony, that it is the “world’s policeman” fighting for democracy against tyranny. To admit the problem would risk alerting the working class to the dangers it faces and risks bringing it into struggle.

So rather than take the steps necessary to effectively stop the fascist faction which is either to crush it with the full force of the law for its role in trying to overthrow the Constitution in 2020 or to mobilize the working class against it, we have the political equivalent equivalent of “programming will return to its normal scheduling soon”. We have been told in one form or another that Trump is finished ever since he launched his campaign for Presidency in 2015.

The level of delusion that is required is particularly acute from the Democrats and their liberal supporters who have tried to elevate the likes of General Milley, Liz Cheney and Mike Pence as the “true defenders” of the Republic. After the Midterms we are being asked to believe that Rupert Murdoch and Ron De Santis will save us from Trump! 

Trump’s bourgeois opponents appear to be celebrating Trump’s political demise based almost purely on how much the rest of the mainstream media is in furious agreement that Trump is now finished. How many times do they need to learn the lesson that Trump’s tens of millions of MAGA supporters not only don’t care what the mainstream media thinks, they hate them. However to admit the corporate press would have to admit that a large swathe of the population quite correctly sees them as cynical liars who serve vested interests. This is part of  the anger against “fake news” that Trump has been able to harness behind his fascist project.

Scaffold erected on Jan 6th 2020 on day of coup attempt

The insistence on treating Trump as just another bourgeois politician and insisting the Republicans can “return to normal” is of course suicidal. Trump fully embraces the imagery of the Q Anon “storm” which involves a violent fantasy of all the “treasonous enemies of the people” being arrested and strung up. The threat of violence against Democrat politicians is real as the recent attack on Pelosi’s husband has shown.Trump and the fascists in the absence of an organised mass Marxist movement have instead created an alternate reality where the Democrats are the Socialists who threaten to destroy America. None of this should be dismissed as hyperbole.

Of course the ultimate aim of a fascist movement is not to destroy  the Democrat Party or even bourgeois democracy but is to annihilate  the ability of the working class politically.. This is why capitalism turns to fascism in times of deep crisis. Fascism was born in Italy in 1922 as the capitalist classes sought to head off the Russian Revolution spreading. Fascism was also turned too as a way of reorganizing society to prosecute imperialist war, a process we saw particularly acutely in Germany and Japan in the 1930’s. Economic crisis deepens the contradictions of capitalism and the 1930’s also saw a crisis in the rate of profits as the capitalist global economy slumped into Depression. 

The dynamics driving the turn to fascism around the world today are similar. The rate of profit has never recovered from the Global Financial Crisis. Whilst there is no mass organised socialist resistance in the imperialist centers at least, the ruling class knows that they are sitting on a powder keg. Swathes of his working class have been impoverished since Reagan and  this process has been accelerated by the GFC and Covid19 pandemic. The endless bail outs of Wall St require the working class to be pumped for ever greater exploitative levels of surplus value. When the gamblers at the casino of Wall St can never lose, it’s the working class that must pay.

Imperialist rivalries are growing. The US itself grows more reckless militarily as it tries to maintain its global hegemony in the face of its economic decline. It faces not just capitalist rivals but from China which despite its large capitalist sector remains a workers state and therefore also poses an ideological threat. War on Russia has effectively already been launched by the US and its NATO allies in Ukraine. Tensions with China are being ramped up economically and militarily. All factions of the US ruling class are united in their determination to prepare for The US “great power conflict” eg World War 3, however it is not surprising that a section of the US ruling class has decided that in order to fight total war, which will likely be nuclear, a total dictatorship will be necessary.

The main bridge to Crimea blown up by Ukranian forces backed by Washington in October 2022

Of course on top of these geopolitical and economic crises also sits the growing ecological collapse. The resource oligarchs and corporations understand that the fossil fuel capitalism also cannot be continued under democratic forms of rule, particularly in the face of the impending youth rebellion that is brewing in the face of this existential threat to their future. 

The drive to fascism under crisis of course can be seen across the world. The number of capitalist countries where fascist or proto-fascist forces are either already in power or waiting in the wings is too many to mention. The Trump faction of the US is also hoping to use a network of fascist or protofascist regimes in Europe in particular to wage its war against Russia as a replacement for the multilateral framework that has existed since WW2.

One of the most persistent acts of chloroforming by Leftists is that to raise the alarm that fascism is about to come to power in the US is to engage in “lesser evilism”. Of course the Democrats are bitter capitalist enemies of the working class and vicious imperialist war criminals. It is also true that the Democrats have played their role in hollowing out what was left of US bourgeois democracy over the last few decades and have helped the Republicans erect the outlines of a militarized authoritarian police state. 

However whilst the Democrats are a fully fledged party of Wall St and imperialism, unlike the Republicans they rest upon the illusions of the working class that they will defend their interests. An important component of this is the support the Democrats receive from the Trade Union bureaucracies. So whilst the Democrats have no real commitment to either democracy or anti-fascism and in fact have drifted increasingly into militarised authoritarianism they cannot cross over to morph into a fascist party that tears down bourgeois democracy altogether.

The Republicans in contrast have no such constraints and therefore have become a useful vehicle for the fascist faction of the US ruling class. Whilst Trump and his MAGA movement have greatly accelerated this process the Republicans started down the path of basing their success on mobilising the most reactionary layers of US society decades ago. They did not become the chosen party of “Christian nationalists” out of no-where. 

Those who say it makes no difference to the working class  if the last trappings of bourgeois democracy are shredded under the feet of the Fuhrer Trump are stating that it makes no difference whether the working class has any space to organise or not politically. Of course whilst bourgeois democracy is the dictatorship of capital, the limited space it gives to the working class to organise matters. In contrast, whilst the working class can still fight under fascism, the price for this fight is of course much higher and bloodier and more difficult. As Marxists we want to maintain and expand the political space necessary for the right to overthrow capitalism itself.

On a global scale whilst the Democrats also plan for World War, the world is yet to experience what happens when the largest military the world has ever seen is put in the hands of the most reactionary and ruthless representatives of finance capital. I for one would prefer not to find out!

Trump has correctly stated that the crisis in the US driven by war and inflation will worsen by 2024. This gives him confidence that even more of the electorate might turn to him as their “savior” or in desperation at least. Lets not forget Trump already won the largest vote for a Republican candidate in 2020 despite losing by millions more votes to Biden. Trump is confident he can posture as an anti-war candidate who cares about the “man on the street” and the reactionary politics of the Democrats including their anti-Russia war fever and their refusal to even enact the mildness of social reforms only feeds this process. It is entirely possible Trump will win a majority in 2024.

However Trump is also confident that if that fails he can simply attempt another coup. Under conditions of deepening crisis, he expects and hopes that an increasing section of the ruling class will turn to him to save them from the working class. Lets not forget that Hitler was not the German ruling class first choice but they eventually gave him the keys to the Chancellery. Trotsky stated ““The big bourgeoisie likes fascism as little as a man with aching molars likes to have his teeth pulled”, that is an unpleasant necessity. Just because the headlines decry Trump today, the big bourgeoisie may change its tune tomorrow.

Of course none of this is meant to promote the slightest illusions that a vote for the Democratic Party will do anything to stop fascists coming to power. The Democrats are incapable and unwilling to oppose the fascist threat. It falls to the working class to defend itself. This is why every time a Leftists downplays the threat of fascism in the US they contribute to the disarming of its only real opponent, a conscious and mobilised working class. 

Davey Heller

Davey Heller is a Trotskyist from Melbourne and long-time campaigner for Left-wing causes including anti-war, refugee rights, environmental protests and workers' struggles. He is a former secondary teacher who studied history at Monash University and currently works in the environmental field. You can follow him on Twitter at @socialist_davey

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