Trump, Russia, and Hacking Elections: The Ruling Class Shitstorm, the Battle in the Streets, and What Humanity Needs Right Now
January 14, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As Donald Trump and his cabal of Christian fascists, white supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes, and war mongers hungrily stretch their fingers out to grasp the reins of power on January 20, and as the anger and anxiety of millions who are horrified by this prospect starts to take shape as protest, resistance, and outright rejection of a new fascist regime, a struggle of a very different kind is unfolding and sharpening, right within the halls of power.
In fact, a veritable shitstorm has broken out in Washington. Trump’s critics (including some prominent Republicans as well as Democrats and key institutions of the state such as the CIA) claim that Trump was the chosen candidate of Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has long been viewed by the dominant forces in the U.S. ruling class as a bitter foe. Some go further and hint that Trump himself was actively working with Russia, even that Trump’s people and Russian intelligence were exchanging information about each other’s adversaries.
Trump in turn, backed by his hard-core fascist allies (including powerful forces in the repressive apparatus) lashed back at his critics—mocking the CIA, saying they are either incompetent or lying, comparing them to Nazi Germany, and publicly denouncing and slapping down CNN, a major mainstream media outlet, as “fake news” for even reporting that Trump and Obama had been briefed that Trump was under investigation in relation to these allegations, a fact which had been leaked to CNN.
Multiple investigations are ongoing, being launched, or threatened. The FBI has apparently been “investigating” links between the Trump campaign and Russia since last summer, but kept this explosive fact secret throughout the election campaign, while in the same period FBI director Comey staged several public events to ruminate over Hillary Clinton’s (non-criminal) “carelessness” with her personal emails, thus maintaining a constant aura of criminality around her, which clearly helped Trump win the election. Now Comey is being investigated by the Justice Department’s inspector general for that and a leading congressional Democrat has called for a “9/11 Commission-style” congressional investigation of Trump’s links to Russia.
Republican senator Lindsey Graham said on Meet the Press last week that if Trump didn’t admit that Russia was involved in the email hacking, he would lose all confidence in Trump. And Republican senator John McCain said that Russian hacking was “an act of war”—flying in the face of Trump’s “it didn’t happen, and if it did it’s no big deal” stance.
In the face of all this, Trump made some conciliatory noises, seeming to admit that Russia was behind the hacking. But then he said that “if Putin likes Donald Trump [enough to hack the election] I consider that an asset, not a liability,” and in this and other ways has been continuing to make clear that he sees Putin and Russia as friends and allies. This led to bizarre confirmation hearings for some of Trump’s cabinet appointees, where Republican senators were demanding that nominees go on record with their disagreement with Trump’s views of Russia and some other questions as well.
In the midst of this, the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics took the unprecedented step of publicly stating that Trump’s refusal to divest his vast holdings is a major ethical violation, and “unpatriotic” to boot. Then John Lewis, a longtime Black congressman with roots in the civil rights movement, told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that in light of the role Russia is alleged to have played in getting him elected, Trump is not a “legitimate president,” and a number of other congressmen proclaimed they would not attend Trump’s inauguration. (See “Rep. John Lewis and the REAL Reason Trump Is Not Legitimate.”)
Yet Trump is not backing down. In fact, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on January 14, Trump suggested that he might do away with the sanctions that Obama just recently imposed on Russia for allegedly interfering in U.S. elections. Trump said, "If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?" Trump has also signaled a strategic break with existing U.S. policy towards China, which will almost certainly escalate political—and military—tensions in Asia, and which may go hand in hand with a policy of alliance with Russia.
Struggle Over How Trump Should Rule
To be clear, this is a struggle over how Trump should rule and not whether he should rule. In fact, the top leaders in the Democratic Party have made very clear that their goal is “a seamless transition of power.” “We are on the same team,” Obama said of Trump and himself right after the election. “It’s over,” Joe Biden shouted at lower-level Democrats protesting the “victory-by-Electoral College” of this hated and largely unpopular new ruler. “I committed to President-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me,” Obama said in his farewell speech.
As Bob Avakian has brought out in his writings (see, for example, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era), as sharp as the Democrats’ differences may be with the fascist forces within the ruling class, their greatest fear is that turmoil and division at the top, especially in a period of transition of power, could lead to the masses of people no longer leaving the running of society to the powers that be but taking independent political action in the streets and in other ways ... to social instability, rebellion, maybe even revolution. And while, for the Democrats, fascism may not be their preferred form of capitalist-imperialist rule, as long as it serves to keep their oppressive system in power here and dominant in the world, they will find “common ground” with the fascists—and train and lead the masses who look to them to do the same!
Nonetheless, these differences are extremely sharp, exactly because other ruling class forces fear that Trump’s program and ideology could end up being disastrous for U.S. imperialism, leading to isolation in the world, military defeats, and to greater turmoil and instability within the U.S. And while there are many things in the mix here, including Trump’s volatility and lack of self-discipline, the infighting is mainly concentrated now around how different forces in the ruling class see their rival imperialist power, Russia.
On one level, Trump disagrees sharply with the formerly dominant view in the ruling class that Russia under Putin is fundamentally a foe, even if at times and in limited ways it can be worked with to solve particular problems, like restoring imperialist order in the Middle East. Trump has indicated that he sees an alliance with Russia—to oppose Islamic fundamentalism and perhaps to combat China—as a major feature of his approach to the world. On this level, Trump presents his view as imperialist “realpolitik”—all the U.S. should care about is whether Russia can be an ally against a bigger problem (the jihadists). And in the wake of the recent uproar, Trump went so far as to say—referring to his ruling class critics—that “only ‘stupid’ people” disagree with him on this.
On another level, Trump does seem to have a strong affinity with Putin ideologically. Some of this probably does have to do with their common character as posturing misogynist macho bullies (or “strongmen,” as it is politely put). But it may also be tied in to the fact that Putin is closely allied with the resurgence of white, Christian, European identity movements and governments in Europe, which are very similar to the white supremacist “alt-right” forces in the U.S. that Trump is closely tied to, particularly through his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, a major promoter of the alt-right. It is possible that Trump and parts of his core see an international alliance with Putin against Islamic Jihad as inextricably bound up with their mobilizing of a fascist social base in the U.S. that is cohered around a view of white Christians of European descent being the “master race” that needs to fully and openly take the reins in the U.S.
Conflicts Among U.S. Rulers in the Face of Intractable Contradictions
Whatever Trump’s precise “vision” is (and whether any or all of the allegations about Trump “conspiring” with Russia to win the election are true or not), the point to grasp is this: U.S. imperialism faces, and has faced for decades, an interlocking web of intractable problems, both internationally and at home, including major economic dislocations, the demographic shift to becoming a majority nonwhite country, the emergence of rival global powers like Russia and China, and, at the nexus of much of this, the rise of hostile Islamic fundamentalist forces in the strategic Middle East as well as other parts of the world.
Some sections of the U.S. ruling class have tried to resolve these contradictions more or less from within the existing framework and norms of a “liberal, democratic, and diverse” U.S. society, and a certain strategic approach abroad, developed over decades or even centuries. But Trump spearheads those ruling class forces who want to resolve those contradictions through a sharp break with that old framework, involving the forging of a full-out fascist and much more blatant, unapologetic, and viciously white supremacist regime within the U.S. and a much more aggressive posture internationally.
But there is deep anxiety among other forces in the ruling class, both about this shift as a whole and about many particular components of it. In addition to profound differences about how to view and relate to Russia, Trump’s stream of “disparaging” attacks on the U.S. intelligence agencies that are a core part of the imperialist apparatus for dominating people at home and the whole world is another “danger” sign to some ruling class forces. As one mark of this, former acting CIA chief Michael Morell wrote an op-ed in the New York Times stating that Trump was doing disastrous damage to these agencies.
But even beyond these particulars, there is broad concern in the ruling class that the extreme changes Trump aims to bring about are simply too dangerous—that they could open up the whole system (and not just one leader or government) to a loss of legitimacy in the eyes of the masses in the U.S., and could make the U.S. more vulnerable to imperialist rivals and other foes internationally, as well as to “accidental” wars and other fiascos. Coupled with doubts about Trump’s experience, judgment, and self-discipline, there is real fear that, if left to its own devices, a Trump regime could prove disastrous to the U.S. empire at home and abroad.
All these differences are weighed against the need of the entire ruling class for an orderly transition and a strong executive at the helm of their system, in order to keep the masses in check and to navigate the many contradictions their system confronts, as well as to project an air of stability around the world and to be able to continue to crow about how THEY are able to have “peaceful transition.” And so, at this point, the character of the struggle does not seem to represent an effort by a section of the U.S. ruling class either to derail Trump before he comes to power or to cripple him once he does. As Senator Graham put it on NBC’s Meet the Press, “I want President Trump to be a good president.... I want to help him where I can.” In other words, he wants to get Trump on board with the rest of the U.S. ruling class on what they consider crucial to imperialist interests.
But there is a battle to “reshape” the policies and even the personnel of the incoming administration to be more in line with U.S. imperialist interests as they see them. And the forces waging this are posing to Trump that either “you are with us or against us,” hinting that if Trump refuses to come around on key questions, it could throw the legitimacy of his administration into question. On January 6, Obama said of Trump that “I said that after the election—we have to remind ourselves that we're on the same team. Vladimir Putin is not on our team.” Or as Graham put it on Meet the Press, “If after the briefing [by the intelligence agencies] he is still unsure [about Russia’s role], that will shake me to my core about his judgment.” (emphasis added)
And it is worth noting that a major article in the influential New York Times on the exposure of Russia’s alleged support for Trump said that this “undermines the legitimacy of the president who is about to direct them” (i.e., the intelligence agencies).
The Dynamic Between Infighting at the Top and Upsurge from Below of the People
None of this infighting in the ruling class is coming from a good place, to put it mildly, in relation to the interests of humanity. All of it is about strengthening a deeply oppressive system, and much of it raises the specter of a deepening spiral of aggression between the two major nuclear powers, the U.S. and Russia, that could lead to nuclear war, by design or by accident. It is not even about “fascist” vs. “liberal democratic” rule—none of the major ruling class figures are, for example, wailing on Jeff Sessions (Trump’s nominee for attorney general) for his long history of virulent racism, or on Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a woman-hating Christian fascist who is dedicated to eliminating abortion and rolling back gay marriage and other rights. In fact, the core reasons that actually (from the standpoint of the interests of humanity) make Trump-Pence illegitimate are virtually off the table in the current Washington shitstorm.
Nonetheless, there is an important potential interplay, a dynamic, between this struggle within the ranks of the rulers and the struggle from below of the masses. The more the rulers fight among themselves, the more masses broadly who are in anguish about the coming of Trump Nation, but who also feel it is inevitable, could start to think that maybe it is not, to sense vulnerability on Trump’s part and disarray among other ruling class forces. All this can contribute to a sense that there is at least a possibility of winning and, since there is, that this fight is worth throwing down for.
And the more people are drawn into the streets, and elsewhere, in determined struggle based on REFUSAL to accept a fascist America, the more forces at the top start to think that the rise of the Trump regime, rather than stabilizing the rule of their class as a whole, may actually strip the system itself (and not just one or a few leaders) of legitimacy in the eyes of the masses, setting loose increasing loss of stability, influence, and control, perhaps even setting the stage for a revolutionary transformation of society. As the Call to Action of Refuse Fascism notes, millions need to act “outside normal channels” and “[e]very faction within the established power structure must be forced to respond to what we do—creating a situation where the Trump/Pence regime is prevented from ruling.” If that dynamic gets going, the tenor of things at the top could switch to looking for some “mechanism” to remove Trump, as the ruling class did when Nixon was driven from office in the early ’70s.
At this crucial juncture, a key question for the Refuse Fascism movement is to continue to be grounded in and to even more deeply proceed from the core understanding that brought it together: that the illegitimacy of the Trump-Pence regime rests fundamentally on its fascist character... that this is a regime pledged to demonizing all people of Muslim faith, reducing women to subservient appendages of men, repressing and crushing Black and Brown youth, tearing apart millions and millions of immigrant families, forcibly silencing all opposition even from within the ruling class and brutally crushing any resistance from the masses... and being ready to go to—and perhaps over—the brink of nuclear war and environmental destruction as part of that... that all this will mean incredibly greater levels of horror for ALL of humanity—and this is why this regime must be stopped before it starts.
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