The world was shocked by the images of extreme-right activists invading the Capitol in Washington. An outgoing president who refuses to concede electoral defeat and calls on his supporters to march on “The People’s House” has been the sad privilege of dictatorships in poor countries up until now. This time, it happened in the world’s leading imperialist power.
This should really make us think, particularly since the rot that is eating away at the United States also exists here in France: the rise of far-right arch-nationalist tendencies that are racist and xenophobic as well as dangerous for the working class.
Tendencies like these have always existed in the United States—the Ku Klux Klan murdered blacks and terrorized the population in the southern states for decades. But today these groups are multiplying, and they don’t just stem from a racist past. Some are based around new conspiracy theories, and they’re all inflated by the economic, social and health crisis.
In the United States, as elsewhere, company closures, unemployment and poverty have increased since the 2008 financial crisis. Scapegoats have been invented because fear of downward mobility, hatred of the ruling elite and an entrenchment in religion and nationalism to an extreme degree, have all been exacerbated. Trump played on these feelings in order to be elected and then to increase his electoral base after four years in power. If workers don’t react or offer prospects that could change their lot, these feelings and prejudices can only feed the development of the far right.
The people we saw in action last Wednesday represent a minority. The rally that Trump had called for in front of the White House brought together some tens of thousands of supporters. On a nationwide scale in the US, it’s hardly a drop in the ocean. The actual invasion of the Capitol only involved a few hundred people and, even if there were several deaths, it looked carnival-like. But it’s not a laughing matter.
Today’s comedy can quickly turn into tomorrow’s tragedy. Behind the disguises and ridiculous posturing, there are women and men who are convinced of the racial superiority of white people. There are paramilitary groups who have increased their number of violent actions, including murder, in recent months.
Trump is obviously in part to blame for these events. But we would be burying our heads in the sand if we thought that the social and political forces didn’t exist independently of his personality and his political future.
Only a minority of his 74 million electors share the reactionary and anti-poor prejudices of those who are nostalgic for bygone segregation and Nazism. But 25% of his Republican electors apparently approve the invasion of the Capitol and 66% aren’t shocked by it, so the extreme-right wing has a vast reserve.
A number of leaders, including Macron, appealed to the institutions and to democracy. As if subversion hadn’t come from inside those very institutions, from the presidency and from inside the Republican Party! The actions or rather the inaction of the police shows that some insiders were happy to let the outsiders in.
Police are at the ready and trigger-happy when faced with black and antiracist demonstrators. But what we saw at the Capitol was surprise, leniency and even complicity. Some attackers themselves were former military and police officers.
Biden has promised to reconcile America. But neither the crisis nor the impoverishment of a growing number of Americans will just disappear when he takes over. Obama’s eight years in the White House clearly showed that the Democrats, just like the Republicans, are faithful servants of the interests of big capital and the stock market.
The future is not yet written. What happened in the Capitol may perhaps just be a warning with no lasting consequences. But the ingredients for the development of a fascist far right are there. And not only in the United States!
Capitalism and its political system are experiencing the same crisis everywhere, bringing about the rise of extreme-right-wing demagogues. A political force coming to power by relying on those reactionary tendencies would be both dictatorial and anti-worker.
The danger is real and shouldn’t be underestimated by the workers, nor should they remain on the sidelines. They must get ready both morally and politically to face the danger by organizing on the basis of their class interests and prospects.