The choice facing U.S. voters on Nov. 3 is between the remnants of bourgeois democracy and an open terrorist dictatorship of billionaires, and it is heartening to hear the U.S. labor movement is choosing sides. A general strike in case of interference in the election—not by Russia but by Trump-led reactionaries—is starting to become the Order of the Day at some union meetings.
If there is any doubt that the U.S. election is about more than opportunist differences within the imperialist class, consider the question of what conditions the broad mass of workers would prefer to carry out the class struggle. Democracy is far more preferable as an option because it keeps the door open to resolve racism and all other forms of discrimination. It does not close the door to human rights like health care, education, the equality and friendship of nations, and the fullest development of the individual.
There are those on the left who determine their orientation strictly on the basis of candidates’ explicit policy positions; they cannot be persuaded even to hold their nose to vote for Biden. These individuals and groups might sometimes be intelligent about the ins and outs of policy, but they tend to forget about objective conditions of struggle and strategy; they forget about the balance of forces.
Even if we granted the claim that no “real change” would come from a Biden administration, the demand for change from the working class will represent a victory—not for Biden but for the working class itself, a victory that the Bidens and Pelosis cannot ignore.
Recall that pundits accused the Democratic establishment of promoting Biden’s nomination because they had no big stake in winning and were not serious about defeating Trump. One conclusion that will be reinforced by this election—whoever wins or loses—is that the working class is the standard bearer of democracy.
Workers are proving to be the leading force in the struggle to defend democracy’s tattered remains, not the anti-Trump sections of the capitalist class. Within months of Trump’s election, there were only three groups calling for a general strike. Now, a debate on that tactic is starting in many labor councils. This is political progress.
A basic question of strategy
Consider perhaps the most basic question of strategy: Is the working class on the defense or offense? The U.S. working class has fought increasingly defensive struggles since the end of the Second World War. Educated in the struggle to organize and forged by the anti-fascist war, the 1950s generation of workers was powerful enough to wrest economic concessions during the Cold War, concessions granted from an imperialist class engorged with war profits.
That working class went on to help win Civil Rights demands and to strengthen the anti-Vietnam war movement, deeply offending President Richard Nixon, who wanted a coup of his own. The next decade was a stalemate, reflected internationally by a policy of detente and arms control with the Soviet Union and growing economic turbulence and militant strikes, though these were not yet class conscious strikes combining political and economic demands.
Then came neoliberalism and the drive for military superiority in the late 1970s. The following decade saw the strengthening of the reactionaries in the U.S. imperialist class (later strengthened even more by the overthrow of Soviet socialism and newfound economic colonies in Eastern Europe) and the retiring of a generation of workers with very proud revolutionary traditions.
Still, there is heroism in defensive struggles and experience hard earned. And after 40 years of neoliberal arson, many feel the American Dream is burned to the ground. The working class and their unions have very little left to lose; many workers have nothing to lose.
Defeating Trump fascism
The battle between Biden and Trump could be viewed as factional dispute among representatives of the capitalist class, but it’s a battle with consequences serious enough for workers to choose the anti-Trump side.
On the one side are the ruling reactionaries pushing for fascism. This faction prefers, in the words of V.I. Lenin, “the method of force, the method which rejects all concessions to the labour movement, the method of supporting all the old and obsolete institutions, the method of irreconcilably rejecting reforms.” This faction is obviously instituting or threatening what the great anti-fascist leader Georgi Dimitrov described as “reactionary measures which directly facilitate the accession to power of fascism.”4
On the other side are the liberals who, it might be argued, can be trusted only as far as mass movements can throw them. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that honest workers sided with Britain’s Winston Churchill (a reactionary imperialist) to defeat Hitler because the Second World War was one of national liberation from fascism, especially after Hitler invaded the USSR.
Today, the U.S. working class is certain to become more prominent than imperialist-aligned liberals as the struggle for democracy unfolds—and as the need for socialism and working class political power becomes more apparent. The general strike tactic debate in the U.S. labor movement is proof of that already.
The only certainty of that happening soon, however, is the mass mobilization of millions to defeat Trump—for starters. The election is only an important artillery battle before the frontal assault. But make no mistake: The election is a crucial moment of a long strategic defensive struggle. A Trump victory will fuel the fire of fascism.
Fascism’s primary target would be the organized working class and any bourgeois liberals standing in the way.
Turning again to Lenin, we know that capitalism “develops, organizes, and disciplines” workers. It also “crushes, oppresses, leads to degeneration, poverty, and so on.”
This historic moment is an opportunity for U.S. workers to chalk up a victory on the way to seizing the strategic initiative for good, not settling for relatively minor concessions. There is of course also the danger that it could become a moment where workers could be crushed and further impoverished, erased from world politics for several more years.
The struggle to stop Trumpian fascism is the rational result of the long defensive struggle since 1945, as U.S. capitalist politics disintegrates and descends from one crisis to the next. The whole of the imperialist class still has the upper hand and enormous potential to do harm.
Failing to see the need for strategic defense at this moment amounts “to a tactic of waiting for the ‘great days’ and an inability to muster the forces which create great events.” The failure “hinder(s)… the concentration of the workers into big, powerful and properly functioning organizations.”
The struggle is increasingly defensive with ever higher stakes, including in recent years the prospect of war with China and Russia. It’s time for a handshake of peace between the U.S. workers and the workers of these countries.
It’s time for workers to defeat Trump and then keep moving ahead. Conditions do not need to get worse before they get better.
Trump’s ship needs to hit a rock. Be the rock.
Organize and be disciplined. Vote in many more millions.
We are pulling for you in Canada.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article represents the opinions of its author.
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