Not once in the nearly 245-year history of the United States of America has this nation’s government represented the People. 2020 was a stark reminder of that: not only did 300,000 Americans lose their lives to COVID-19 due to President Trump’s outright negligence in taking the virus seriously in the beginning and after he himself contracted the virus, but even with unemployment at a higher level than the Great Depression, Democrats and Republicans couldn’t even set their bickering aside to come together to provide real economic relief for the unemployed. In fact, the majority of Senate Democrats even voted to nuke debates on Americans receiving bigger stimulus checks.
In the first three months of the coronavirus outbreak, tens of millions of working-class jobs were vaporized, and thousands of businesses closed their doors. During this nightmare-turned reality, all we got was $600 and a pat on the back. Meanwhile, not only did America’s parasitic billionaire class benefit greatly from the pandemic, but the two ruling parties of capitalism decided countless billions of dollars from the laughable relief bill should go to foreign aid rather than their own fellow Americans. In addition to introducing an ungodly Pentagon spending bill, which Trump vetoed anyhow, Congress members received their regular paychecks while those dealing with economic hardships brought on by the pandemic couldn’t decide whether to buy food or pay their utilities. Even more heartbreaking is that starving Americans are resorting to shoplifting in record numbers. By the time you read these words, unemployment benefits for millions of working-class people will have expired. You couldn’t make this more dystopian if you tried.
We may recall the way Eugene Debs referred to the two parties in his presidential campaign speech for the Socialist Party on September 1st, 1904:
The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic Party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.
At 12:00pm on January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in, continuing the dictatorship of the oligarchy, with seemingly no real plan to combat the economic crisis at hand. Since his electoral victory, liberals have begun rushing to Biden’s defense early by demanding his most vocal critics on the left wait until he actually becomes president to start berating him. Unlike Trump, Biden isn’t a new player in American politics. He has a 48-year track record of corruption, furthering U.S. imperialism, and even racism—gaffes as they’re famously called. It isn’t difficult to see why people have such little trust in him. Biden has already backtracked on his “day-one” promise to overturn some of Trump’s most draconian immigration policies. During his campaign, Biden also threatened to veto Medicare-for-All if it made it to his desk. If you’re still doubtful, remember that Biden himself made his future administration crystal clear: “Nothing would fundamentally change.” However, it’s not just Biden and Harris that activists need to worry about.
There will more than likely be two simultaneous enemies to fight during the upcoming presidency: armed, far-right militias enamored by Trump’s words who swear up and down the Democrats stole the election—one can’t help but wonder what their paranoia will drive them to do—and the insufferable “Blue No Matter Who” crowd. For obvious reasons, BNMW folks will be less physically violent than right-wing Proud Boy-types, but their aggressive antagonism towards leftist organizers and voters was on full display throughout the entirety of the 2020 election.
BNMW voters used fear and intimidation, two familiar fascist tactics, to try and gain support for the Biden-Harris campaign, and they indeed will even after they’re sworn in. These included their constant use of marginalized people suffering under Trump, disregarding what those very people may endure with “Crime Bill” Biden, claiming Trump will turn America into a dictatorship, as opposed to doing it right now or anytime during his first term rather than after the 2020 election, and the usual anti-Russia xenophobia we’ve seen over the last four years; I recall an instance when a comrade of mine was told by a Biden supporter, “Go back to Russia.” Sound familiar?
It’s difficult to tell at this time what tactics BNMW’s will use to undermine leftist organizing. One accurate prediction we can make is that those who foolishly claimed we could “move Biden left” will sit back and do absolutely nothing over the next 4-8 years, but they’ll make noise when it’s midterms season. The question is, how will leftists mobilize against Biden? There was unprecedented mobilization against President Trump, but sadly, many self-described “socialists” once again went back to towing the Democratic Party’s capitalist line during the recent election cycle and, at times, resorted to voter-shaming talking points used primarily by democrats. Leftists have a long, long history of capitulating to their oppressors. It seems that cowardice is a colossal problem on the left.
It can’t be said enough that the left must be organized now more than ever. With the forthcoming neoliberal administration, leftists and their organizations can no longer afford to rely on the Democratic Party to be their saviors, especially with Wall Street’s favorite candidate mere days from taking office. The Phoenix chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) presented a resolution calling upon the National DSA to break with the Democratic Party and use their power and notoriety to form the basis of a mass socialist party. Only time will tell if the DSA decides to finally break from the democrats.
In recent months, several big-name political commentators, including Dr. Cornel West and Ryan Knight have been promoting the Movement for a People’s Party, whose founding members boast will be a real progressive alternative to challenge the duopoly in future elections. However, rather than a genuine left party, the People’s Party seems to have copied and pasted the presidential platform of Bernie Sanders, which boils down to milquetoast New Deal liberalism, rather than, say, giving democratic control of the major industries to the workers. And with many Democratic Party pundits and Hollywood celebrities present during the inaugural virtual convention, it’s clear that the People’s Party may very well look to simple reformism as a way of relieving the plight of America’s working class.
While reformism may seem incredible to the majority of Americans, even the most progressive programs would potentially be overturned by the next demagogue who assumes the highest office in the land. Reformist policies, such as those proposed by Bernie Sanders, pose a threat to capital and the same corporations that fund the two-party system, and those seeking to reform our system will be backstabbed by the establishment anyhow. Whether it be student or medical debt or battling a hellish economic crisis, the fact remains that reformism is nothing more than a temporary solution to a bigger problem. That problem must be named: capitalism.
The new decade has only just begun and is already looking to be the most turbulent in our nation’s history. To recap, 2020 brought about a global pandemic, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for American capitalism, as well as the nationwide social unrest, which is arguably only rivaled by the infamous “long, hot summer of 1967.” So, what’s to come following inauguration day? Truthfully, there seems to be no way to answer that question with any optimism. The short answer is more of the same. Biden was already in office as Vice President to Barack Obama. Perhaps Biden’s presidency will be an extension of the one he previously served, which brought about endless corruption and exacerbated U.S. imperialism. We can only hope there will be sufficient mobilization in the streets. Otherwise, this may very well be the longest 4-8 years of our lives.
Vince Ceraso is an activist and card-carrying member of the Socialist Party.