US Politics

Two Months that Set New ‘Normal’ in U.S. Bourgeois Politics; The Billionaires Who Backed Trump’s Bonapartist Course



By Argiris Malapanis and Geoff Mirelowitz

Feb. 3, 2021—In the article titled “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published Jan. 13 by World-Outlook.com, we described the Jan. 6 rightist mob attack on the U.S. capitol as the culminating step in a series of developments that posed serious dangers to civil liberties and the working class.


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These events, we said, “indicate that a not insignificant minority of the privileged classes at least considered sidestepping the legislative and judicial branches of government and handing all important policy decisions to the executive, run by an individual with extraordinary powers. One who would not act as a servant of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but who would instead be anointed to ‘rescue the nation,’ in order to finally ‘make America great again.’ This is what we mean by the term “Bonapartism.” [1]

Enough evidence is now established to detail further the extent of financial support from some sections of big business for former U.S. president Donald Trump. That backing, widespread and essential to his re-election campaign, did not end after Trump’s defeat at the polls. It diminished when Trump and his closest allies over-reached with the failed violent assault on U.S. Congress. Between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, plenty of bankers, merchants, industrialists, and other capitalists kept up their donations to Trump as he peddled outlandish and conspiratorial claims of a “fraudulent vote” and instigated street actions aimed at overturning the popular vote and holding on to power.

The ruling class does not gather together and take a vote on such issues. Members of individual billionaire families, acting on their own or in concert with others, offer substantial funds to back particular political figures and a political course. That is in part how Trump came to dominate the Republican Party in 2016 and since.  Some continued that course despite Trump’s defeat at the polls on Nov. 3, 2020. That included billionaires who are newer to the ruling class, who do not have the long history of super-rich families such as the Rockefellers, Mellons, or DuPonts. 

In the two months between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6, a series of events occurred, which, if not all unprecedented, were highly unusual in bourgeois politics. It is these developments that indicated the danger of Bonapartism even before a large and resolute section of the privileged classes supports imposing such an anti-democratic regime. Let’s walk through them.

The events between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6

Prior to the Nov. 3 presidential election, “Trump repeatedly explained there could be only two outcomes,” we reported in the Jan. 13 article. “First, he would win. Second, he would be denied a second term through fraud and conspiracy. Echoing his assertion he had been the victim of ‘the greatest witch-hunt in history’ while in office, he claimed that could extend to the election outcome. He publicly insinuated there was no chance he wouldn’t be the choice of the majority.” Trump thus laid the groundwork for the post-election, “Stop the Steal” campaign that then garnered substantial public support.

Trump loudly and repeatedly refused to concede that Joe Biden won the election. Moreover, most members of the Republican caucus in U.S. Congress refused to recognize Biden’s victory, either, by publicly acknowledging him as President-elect. Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate Majority Leader at the time, did not do so until Dec. 15, six weeks after the election. Another sign was that the vast majority of Republican State Attorneys General­—17—backed a “dead-on-arrival Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to discount 20 million votes,” as the New York Times put it. It added that the lawsuit “was secretly drafted by lawyers close to the White House.”

The still-sitting U.S. president and his supporters filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to overturn the election results in six states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. They were not deterred from pressing their claims of a “rigged” vote even after these legal challenges were rejected one after another.

As Trump’s legal objections kept falling like dominos, most House Republicans joined the former U.S. president’s effort to overturn the November election. By Dec. 11, 126 House Republicans and the 17 state attorneys general had signed amicus briefs sent to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a petition by Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general. Paxton argued that election results in four states—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—were fraudulent based on unsubstantiated claims of mail-ballot-rule violations. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently dismissed the case.

At the same time, Trump used the weight of the White House to pressure governors and other state officials, including state legislatures, to alter election results in the six “swing” states where the Joe Biden/Kamala Harris campaign had been declared the winner by state election authorities. He got nowhere in the six states in dispute. Officials in other states did respond positively, as the Texas lawsuit showed. Other Republican state officials, however, recoiled. The apex of this bullying from the Oval Office occurred in Georgia.

On Jan. 2, 2021, during an hour-long conference call, Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, to “find” more than 11,000 votes needed to overturn Biden’s win in that state and threatened him with “criminal charges” if he declined. The Georgia Republican refused to buckle. Raffensperger’s office subsequently publicized the transcript of that call, which made headlines across the country. Trump was in no way apologetic or deterred when it became public. To the contrary.

(Left) Dec, 5, 2020: Donald Trump, sitting president at the time, addresses crowd at Valdosta, Georgia, regional airport, where he peddled his claim of a “stolen election.” (Right) In a conference call on Jan. 2, 2021, Trump pressured Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, left, to “find” more than 11,000 votes needed to overturn Joe Biden’s win in that state and threatened him with “criminal charges” if he declined. Raffensperger refused to buckle and made public the transcript of the call. [Photos: (left) AP/Evan Vucci]

Next in this unprecedented campaign was Trump’s demand that U.S. Congress mandate state legislatures to decide election results in states where he disputed his defeat at the polls. Congressional approval of individual state Electoral College votes has been a ritual in bourgeois politics for almost 150 years. Trump insisted that Congress could refuse to accept those results, even though Congress lacks such constitutional authority. He demanded that his supporters take such a stand on Jan. 6, when Congress would convene for that purpose. More than 25% of members of U.S. Congress, including the large majority of House Republicans, pledged publicly to do so.

Jan. 6 can only be evaluated in light of previous two months

On Jan. 6, Trump—still the sitting president and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces—addressed a crowd of tens of thousands at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., demanding they act to “Stop the Steal.” In particular, he accused his own long obsequious vice-president Mike Pence of being “too weak” to exert the authority Trump falsely claimed Pence had to deny congressional recognition of the Biden/Harris victory. He then called on his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol where Congress was convened to certify the Electoral College vote. “[W]e fight,” Trump said in his closing remarks. “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

About 5,000 Trump supporters soon surrounded the Capitol. Hundreds of them, led by well-known members of ultra-rightist groups such as the Proud Boys, white-supremacist organizations like the Maryland skinheads, and right-wing militias such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, many of them armed, clashed with police guarding the Capitol.

Trump supporters erected wooden gallows near Capitol reflecting pool during Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C., where the former U.S. president pushed his “Stop the Steal” campaign and incited the attack on the Capitol. The noose is a symbol of the lynching of African Americans. (Photo: Shay Horse/Nurphoto)

The rightist mob scaled walls and scaffolds and broke windows, forcing entry into the building and prompting officials to suspend for half a day the joint session of Congress that was under way. The storm troopers included at least 22 active-duty cops and current or retired members of the U.S. military.

Capitol police were initially ineffectual or stood by. Some of them helped the rioters, taking selfies with the mobsters and showing them around as they roamed the halls of Congress. According to subsequent reports by D.C. police officials, U.S. military authorities refused for hours repeated Capitol police requests to deploy the National Guard for back-up.

Five people died in the melee, including a woman, who was a U.S. Air Force veteran, shot by the cops and a police officer who succumbed to injuries suffered in the fighting. Two other cops, members of the Capitol police who were on duty that day, later committed suicide.

As the mob attack was unfolding, Trump refused for hours to condemn the assault or urge the rioters to leave the Capitol. Under pressure from Republican leaders, he later issued a tepid statement. After repeating his claims of a “fraudulent vote,” and showing his affection for participants in the day’s events, telling them, “We love you! You are special,” he urged an end to the violent attack. Later that evening, however, Trump tweeted another statement that basically condoned the riot.

On Jan. 12, in his first public appearance after the Capitol siege, Trump expressed no remorse for inciting the attack on Congress. He insisted his remarks at the Jan. 6 rally had been “totally appropriate,” adding that the effort by Congress to impeach him was “causing tremendous anger.”

The outline of these events is by no means exhaustive. It establishes, however, that Trump went well beyond the accepted norms of capitalist democracy, with substantial ruling-class support before Jan. 6. Many Republican leaders took more distance from Trump as the rightist mob raged through the Capitol. More than a few, however, reversed course not long after. While accepting that the election results could not be altered, more and more in the GOP embraced Trump. As the New York Times reported on Jan. 27, “Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky carefully nudged open the door for his party to kick Donald J. Trump to the curb, only to find it slammed shut.” 

What happened on Jan. 6 can only be evaluated in light of what the former U.S. president and his supporters did in the two months leading up to it.

Big business backing for two-party system

We should note here that the politicians who jumped on Trump’s “Stop the Steal” bandwagon rely on financial support from wealthy capitalists when they run for office and seek to advance their political careers, as virtually all Democrats and Republicans elected to public office do. The idea they would act as they did without some backing from such moneyed families is not credible.

By mid-January, the New York Times and other big-business media were reporting that companies from J.P. Morgan Chase to AT&T and Walmart were distancing themselves from the Republican Party and pledging to cut off financial support from politicians who publicly backed Trump’s campaign to overturn the November elections.

What none of the big-business media reported is that historically, and up to this day, capitalists have financed and used the two-party system—individual capitalists often contribute to both parties—in order to continue enriching themselves at the expense of the vast majority. They also use it to exercise a stranglehold on U.S. electoral politics. As we pointed out in the Jan. 13 article, “The propertied classes have used the Democratic and Republican parties to absorb all dissent, to conciliate the lower classes, and to deny the working class a chance for an independent political voice.” Thus, it is no surprise that billionaires donated heavily to both the Democratic and Republican campaigns leading up to last year’s election.

Union organizers talk with warehouse workers at traffic light outside Amazon warehouse near Bessemer, Alabama. By late December, more than 2,000 of the 5,800 workers at the facility signed cards seeking representation by the Retail, Warehouse and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The National Labor Relations Board authorized a union election, which is taking place in February and March. If successful, it will be the first victorious union organizing drive at the retail giant, which employs more than 1 million workers. Big business uses the two-party system to deny workers like these an independent political voice. (Photo: Bob Miller/New York Times)

It is noteworthy, however, that big-business support for Trump did not substantially dip after his defeat at the polls and during the two months he pushed to overturn the election results.

In a Jan. 31 front-page article, titled, “77 Days: Trump’s Campaign to Subvert the Election,” the New York Times noted: “As traditional Republican donors withdrew, a new class of Trump-era benefactors rose to finance data analysts and sleuths to come up with fodder for the stolen-election narrative. Their ranks included the founder of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, and the former Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne, who warned of ‘fake ballots’ and voting-machine manipulation from China on the One America News Network and Newsmax, which were finding ratings in their willingness to go further than Fox in embracing the fiction that Mr. Trump had won.”

The billionaires behind Trump’s Bonapartist course

According to public records of the Federal Election Commission, a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, and articles in Forbes magazine and other news outlets, 63 billionaires with combined assets of nearly $244 billion bankrolled Trump’s election campaign and post-election push to stay in office. The list includes owners of gas pipelines, investors in pharmaceutical and cosmetics enterprises, communication and entertainment company CEOs, bankers and stockbrokers, as well as proprietors of casinos, software companies, and construction firms. This group is a fraction of the estimated 788 billionaires in the United States, but their steadfast support helped enable Trump’s unprecedented moves.

Topping the list of these billionaires, in terms of size of their financial contributions, are: Kelcy Lee Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, engaged in natural gas and propane pipeline transport; Isaac Perlmutter, retired CEO of Marvel Entertainment; Kenny Trout, founder of Excel Communications; Robert Duggan, former CEO of Pharmacyclics and investor in biotechnology firms; Sheldon Adelson, a casino mogul and founder of Las Vegas Sands Corp.; Diane Hendricks, co-founder of ABC Supply, a roofing materials company; Daniel Andrew Beal, founder of Beal Bank; David Duffield, co-founder of PeopleSoft and Workday; John Paulson, who made his fortune in hedge funds; Robert Wood Johnson IV, a heir of Johnson & Johnson, a U.S. monopoly in pharmaceuticals and medical equipment; and Ronald Steven Lauder, an heir of Estée Lauder Inc., a top U.S. manufacturer and marketer of cosmetics.

A small number of these capitalists, not only contributed to Trump’s re-election effort and directly or indirectly backed his post-election “Stop the Steal” campaign, but publicly supported Trump’s conspiracy theories and bogus claims of “election fraud.”

Julie Jenkins Fancelli, for example, heiress of the Publix Super Markets chain and daughter of its founder, paid the lion’s share of the $500,000 cost of Trump’s Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A number of wealthy donors to Trump and his most prominent congressional backers cried “betrayal” and vowed to cut off financial support to these Republican politicians only after Jan. 6, inadvertently revealing the extent of their backing for the crusade to overturn the popular vote up to that point.

On Jan. 13, for example, Ken Langone, a billionaire GOP donor and co-founder of Home Depot, told CNBC he felt betrayed by Trump in the aftermath of the attack on U.S. Congress. He pledged to switch his support to the Democrats.

Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, a major GOP donor, shown here on right during 2018 interview. Langone was among the billionaires who bankrolled Trump’s re-election campaign and his “Stop the Steal” crusade. Langone said he was “betrayed” by Trump only after the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. (Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Yass, a billionaire who had secretly backed Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator from Missouri, leaked to the media in mid-January through stockbroker friends that he felt “deceived” by his Republican protégé. Hawley led the effort in Congress to overturn the November election results—which in the end was backed by 139 House and 8 Senate Republicans, who voted to challenge the election outcomes in Arizona or Pennsylvania even after the Jan. 6 riot. Hawley is also considered a potential replacement for Trump in the 2024 presidential race.

Republican Party majority reaffirms support for Trump

As noted earlier, Republican Senate leader McConnell and others may have thought the party was done with Trump, but they quickly learned otherwise. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking House Republican, voted to impeach Trump. Nine of her Republican colleagues in the House joined her. Within days, Wyoming GOP state senator Anthony Bouchard announced his primary campaign for Cheney’s seat in 2022.

Bouchard is only the first to act on Trump’s directive to his supporters at the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. “I’m going to use the term, the weak Republicans,” Trump told the crowd. “If they don’t fight, we have to primary the hell out of the ones that don’t fight. You primary them. We’re going to let you know who they are. I can already tell you, frankly.” Bouchard has already won support from outside Wyoming. Florida congressman Matt Gaetz traveled to that state Jan. 28 to call for Cheney’s ouster, “underscoring the divisions in the GOP as it grapples with its identity in the wake of Trump’s presidency,” as Fox News noted.

Matt Gaetz (center), Republican U.S. representative from Florida’s 1st District, at Cheyenne, Wyoming, Jan. 28 rally to call for ouster of Liz Cheney. Wyoming’s sole representative in the U.S. House, Cheney is now attacked by many in her party because she voted for Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Cheney is the House Republican Conference Chair. (Photo: Cayla Nimmo/Caspar Star-Tribune)

Others needed no further encouragement. On Jan. 23, the Arizona Republican Party censured prominent members of the party—Governor Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake, and Cindy McCain, the widow of former Senator John McCain—for standing up to Trump. “The America First agenda is alive and well,” the state’s GOP chair Kelli Ward said in a video. “Are we going to continue to be an America First Arizona or are we going back to the dark days before Donald Trump?” she asked.

The Arizona state party organization is by no means alone. The Republican Party in Pennsylvania is among Trump’s most tenacious supporters in the country and continues to bolster his false claims of a “stolen” election. “Far from engaging in self-examination,” said an article in the Jan. 28 New York Times, “Pennsylvania Republicans are already jockeying ahead of the 2022 primaries to prove that they fought the hardest for Mr. Trump, who, in spite of the losses by his party in the White House, the Senate and the House, still exerts a strong grip over elected Republicans and grass-roots voters.”

In South Carolina, U.S. congressman Tom Rice has also come under fire for voting to impeach Trump. In an interview aired on National Public Radio, Rice acknowledged his long-time support for Trump. He added he was not in favor of impeachment charges being considered again by the House, because Trump was on his way out of office. But compelled to cast a vote when the charges were brought to the House floor on Jan. 13, he was one of the 10 GOP members who voted for impeachment. “The president stepped over a line,” Rice told WMBF News. “He violated the Constitution, that’s why I did what I did.” Condemnation from within the state GOP was swift. On Jan. 30, South Carolina Republicans formally censured Rice.

Signs that Trump is winning the battle inside the GOP go well beyond his strong support in state party organizations. It extends to the very top of the party as well, beginning with the setbacks dealt to McConnell and others. McConnell made clear to associates after the Jan. 6 attack “that he viewed Mr. Trump’s actions around the riot as impeachable and saw a Senate trial as an opportunity to purge him from the party,” according to the New York Times. His decision on Jan. 26 to join all but five Republican Senators in voting to toss out the House impeachment case against Trump as unconstitutional, seemed to be “a recognition that the critical mass of his party was not ready to join him in cutting loose the former president,” the Times said. “Far from repudiating Mr. Trump, as it appeared they might in the days after the Jan. 6 rampage at the Capitol, Republicans have reverted to the posture they adopted when he was in office—unwilling to cross a figure who continues to hold outsize sway in their party.”

GOP House minority leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to Mar-a-Lago to pay fealty to Trump and “mend fences,” as Fox News reported, “after the former president reportedly took offense to the fact McCarthy said he bore some of the responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol­—a stance McCarthy later reversed.”

New ‘normal’ in U.S. bourgeois politics

Trump’s campaign to overturn the 2020 election may have had the backing of many in his party but did not have a serious chance for success. Statements in December by most big-business leaders, the U.S. Secretary of the Army, and the 10 living defense secretaries—all reported in our Jan. 13 article1—made that clear, well before Jan. 6. Had it been successful, the drive to overturn the November election would have led to the de-facto imposition of a Bonapartist regime. That was its logic.

What is noteworthy is that, despite its minimal chance of success, Trump went ahead anyway, and his support from a not insignificant section of the U.S. ruling class did not begin to crumble until after the ultra-rightist mob stormed the Capitol.

In the end, Trump did accomplish this much: He firmed up his popularity among millions in the GOP base, maintained his standing as the most viable leader of the Republican Party, and kept alive the myth of a “stolen” election.

The political danger of Bonapartism was clearly posed, though not realized, by the events between Nov. 3 and Jan. 6. This is not unusual. The danger of new anti-democratic measures, be it Bonapartism, military dictatorship or fascism, is often posed well before the rulers are prepared to pay the political price of successfully imposing them. But new precedents have now been set for what is “normal” in U.S. bourgeois politics today. While most leading political figures have now distanced themselves from Trump’s “Stop the Steal” campaign, that will not prevent such charges from being raised again in future elections. Moreover, it can be expected that such charges will now go hand-in-hand with long-term efforts to restrict voting rights.

The Democratic Party and its heralds in the union officialdom will point to the growing danger of a more extreme right-wing in capitalist politics to persuade working people to stick to the lesser-evilism the two-party system rests on. That remains a political dead-end. The support Trump has won from working people is largely a result of the failure of bourgeois liberalism to remedy deteriorating economic and social conditions for the majority. The only way out of this bind is working-class resistance to the employers’ attacks that points the way toward working-class political action independent of the Democrats and Republicans.

Immigrants’ rights attorney Angela Fernández, left, stands with Teamsters Local 202 members Jason Mills, Darren Brenner, and Jamie Bermudez during strike at Hunts Point in Bronx, New York, on Jan. 21, 2021. More than 1,000 Teamsters union members work at Hunts Point, the country’s largest wholesale produce market. On Jan. 23, after a week-long walkout, workers “beat the owners,” as one of the union members put it. They approved a new contract with 10% increase in wages and benefits. (Photo: Natasha Lennard/The Intercept)

ENDNOTES

[1] For a thorough explanation of Bonapartism and its historic precedents, see “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” published Jan. 13, 2021, by www.world-outlook.com. Here’s the link to the article: https://world-outlook.com/2021/01/13/example-post-2/

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7 replies »

  1. 1. This discussion about Bonapartism, which focuses (and informatively) on divisions within the capitalist ruling class seems incomplete and one-sided. Why? Because it focuses on divisions within the Republican Party, but not enough on the underlying state of the class struggle and what the “Trump base” represents.

    As you have noted in other contributions, the class struggle in the US right now, despite the sharply accelerated attacks on the social wage and actual wages of the working people, has not shifted dramatically.

    Of course, there are important examples of “heat lightening” developing along the lines of issues relating to health and safety on the job in the time of COVID. There are extremely important examples of mass protests against racist injustice that you have also noted (as well as the continuing ability of the rulers to co-opt and disrupt them).

    It seems to me assessing this is critical to understanding to what extent decisive sectors of the ruling class are ready to abandon the time-tested machinery of the two-party shell game that has provided so much stability and co-optive power even as capitalism has entered an accelerated decline with the exhaustion of the post-WWII boom.

    2. One part of assessing where things are at in the class struggle is coming to grips with what the “Trump base” signifies. Some argue that it does reflect and even represent in some distorted way the growing anger among working people as a result of the crisis of liberal rule. It was certainly true that some section of working people supported Trump in 2016 because of his demagogic appeals to speak for their interests (although most Trump supporters were not so much workers as discontented strata of higher paid professionals and small businessmen). But after four years of Trump, many of those people sorted themselves out—rejecting his racist, chauvinist, misogynist demagogy. Those who stuck with him represent the most backward, reactionary layers of working people.

    The working class was polarized. And the actions of Blacks to defend themselves from racist cops and a campaign of voter suppression, and the support they got from many workers who are white, not to speak of widespread protests against Trump’s despicable immigration policies, and a growing resistance among so-called essential workers as noted above signaled that new forces are assembling with great potential.

    But this pole of the polarization, I don’t think has reached a social and political weight that would cause a significant section of the capitalists to abandon their tried and true methods of rule at this conjunction.

    3. I don’t think the list of pro-Trump billionaires you supply here is really all that impressive in terms of the US ruling class as a whole. The description “not insignificant” may be true compared to the amount of money in my pockets. But I don’t see a lot of the titans of industry, high tech, energy, agriculture, etc. on the list.

    4. On the other hand, 74 million people voted for Trump in the last election. That’s 7 million fewer than those who voted for Biden, though more than the number who voted for Trump four years earlier. Trump seems quite willing to mobilize his supporters to “primary” those in the Republican party who oppose him. This has provoked a political crisis in that organization which clearly threatens to split it. The tendency towards such a split is accelerating in the context of the impeachment charges now being considered and the loss of a Republican majority in the Senate.

    Destabilizing tendencies exist in the Democratic Party as well. But they seem less serious given the subservience of the so-called “progressive” wing to the Biden centrists. Biden wants to move to a “center” that itself is moving to the right, shifting the whole axis of ruling class politics in the opposite direction from which the masses of people need.

    This political landscape is a lush petri dish for Bonapartism for sure. I think you ought to locate your article on this issue in terms of these developments among masses of people. Whether decisive sectors of the capitalist ruling class will be happy about this, as opposed to worried about something that may weaken their stable rule through the two-party system remains to be seen. It doesn’t look like it to me at this point in the curve of capitalist development.

  2. Dear Pete,

    Thank you for your comment. We are glad you found our article(s) informative, even though you may disagree with part of our analysis.

    We tried to place both articles, “Radicalism, Bonapartism, and the Aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Elections,” and “The Two Months that Set New ‘Normal’ in U.S. Bourgeois Politics,” in the framework of world political developments. As the first article noted, in its introduction, Trump’s Bonapartist course and related political developments are “unfolding in the middle of the global capitalist economic and social crisis we are now living through, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The history of the last century shows that such steep economic downturns start breeding radical attitudes ahead of triggering significant class battles. Before large numbers of workers become receptive to class-struggle proposals and open to political action independent of the capitalist class and its parties—the Democrats and Republicans—radical attitudes get a hearing in the middle class and among layers of workers. The working class in the United States does not yet think and act like a class. Much of the political initiative today comes from right-wing currents. Ultra-rightist groups take advantage of their foothold within the two-party system and other ruling-class institutions. They tap into the loss of confidence in the government and suspicions of the most prominent, established politicians. Conditions are ripe for rightist demagogy and conspiracy theories to gain a wide reach.”

    We noted in passing in both articles that millions of working people voted for both the Republican and Democratic tickets, both in 2016 and 2020. Trump’s “base” includes not only radicalized layers of the middle class, that is, small business-men and -women and other sections of the petty bourgeoisie, but also layers of workers. As we noted in the first article: “His electoral loss notwithstanding, vote results showed that Trump’s support broadened and grew over 2016. This included winning slightly higher percentages among Latinos, and others of all skin colors, compared to four years ago. Biden, running as a Democrat, relied from the primaries through the general election, on overwhelming support among African-Americans. Yet even there, Trump seemed to have modestly gained strength.”

    Despite the crises both of major parties of capitalism face in the U.S., the ruling class has relied, and continues to do so to this day, on its two-party system to keep enriching itself at the expense of the vast majority and deny the working class and its allies an independent political voice, as both articles pointed out. There is no need to predict what may come down the road.

    What is new, which we highlighted in both articles, is the danger of Bonapartism, the first serious warning signs of a move toward imposing such an anti-democratic regime posed by the actions of a sitting U.S. president in the two months between his defeat at the polls and the inauguration of a new administration, a course that was supported by a not insignificant section of the ruling class. It is true that the overwhelming majority of the giants of industry, agriculture, and finance capital did not side with Trump in this dispute within the ruling class, as you point out. We noted that the traditionally most powerful ruling class families were not associated with Trump’s campaign. That is one reason, as we wrote, it had no chance of success. If more—and more powerful—ruling class families had backed Trump after the election, we may have had a very different outcome last month.

    However, we would add: Has something new and important happened or not? Was the “Stop the Steal” campaign unprecedented in modern bourgeois politics in the U.S. or not? We think it was and we explained why. The degree of support for Trump by an enormous number of GOP congresspeople and other political figures cannot be dismissed, even if some of the capitalists who also openly backed this unprecedented effort to subvert a national election are not yet household names.

    Furthermore, as we also explained, “The danger of new anti-democratic measures, be it Bonapartism, military dictatorship or fascism, is often posed well before the rulers are prepared to pay the political price of successfully imposing them. But new precedents have now been set for what is ‘normal’ in U.S. bourgeois politics today. While most leading political figures have now distanced themselves from Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign, that will not prevent such charges from being raised again in future elections. Moreover, it can be expected that such charges will now go hand-in-hand with long-term efforts to restrict voting rights.”

    You may find these points convincing, or not. In either case, we appreciate the chance to continue the discussion.

    Wold-Outlook.com editors

  3. This article does a useful service in stressing and documenting the extent of capitalist backing for Trump while acknowledging that his support from that quarter continues to erode. To be effective Bonapartism requires not only substantial ruling-class support but also a social base beyond the capitalist class. Among its key characteristics is the ability to balance atop a class coalition involving not only capitalists but also and especially large sections of the petty bourgeoisie. In times of economic crisis the latter are pressed to the wall by bankruptcy and other forms of hardship specific to their class situation. Such desperation, combined with hostility to workers – and in the US context, especially to African-American and Latino working people – can lead them into reactionary, anti-democratic political activity and support for demagogues such as Trump. Analyses of the January 6 crowd composition and of those arrested that day (see next comment) make plain the predominance of petty bourgeois elements among Trump’s mobilized base. As big capital takes its distance from the Republicans and Trump consolidates control (note the February 3 affirmation of House GOP support for extreme-rightist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene), this party may evolve into a more classic petty bourgeois formation similar to Marine LePen’s party in France (itself a re-edition of the poujadistes of the 1950s). Remaining moderate big-business Republicans such as Liz Cheney might coalesce with conservative Democrats such as Joe Manchin and fracture further the longstanding capitalist two-party system (the breakup of the Whigs and Democrats in the run-up to the Civil War in the 1850s are instructive in this regard – see Allan Nevins, Ordeal of the Union).

  4. References for 1:46 pm 2/4 post above –

    Thomas Watters, “Dressing the Emperor” Spectre 1/28/31
    https://spectrejournal.com/dressing-the-emperor/
    “Among the rioters identified thus far: a CEO of a small tech company, the owners of a chain of gyms, a real estate agent, a tattoo artist, lawyers, high-ranking cops, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, the son of a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge. These are not the toothless “rednecks” of “deplorable” lore; these are representatives of a specific and dangerous class fraction: the American petit bourgeois.”

    Vanessa Wills, “From the Lockdown Protests to the Capitol,” n+1 1/29/31
    https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/from-the-lockdown-protests-to-the-capitol/
    “Like other Republican candidates, Trump received significant support from poor and working-class whites in 2016 and 2020. But the Capitol attack confirmed in the starkest possible terms that he has found particular favor with an affluent, privileged layer of middle-class and petit-bourgeois whites; they have been at the forefront of the most visible and militant pro-Trump street organizing, of which January 6 was the most spectacular example.
    “The key figures in the Capitol attack seem drawn primarily from the ranks of small business owners, military and police officers, politicians’ families, and a familiar rogues’ gallery of petty grifters and violent far-right thugs that coalesced out of the dregs of the Tea Party. These are the representatives of a rapidly maturing vanguard of principled reactionaries within the petit bourgeois. They are members of the middle class who oppose democracy, whether in its mass, working-class form, or its liberal bourgeois one.”

    See also Erin Corbett, “The Rioters Weren’t All ‘Blue Collar MAGA'” Refinery 29 1/8/21
    https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2021/01/10254783/who-stormed-capitol-rioters-police-officers-ceo-lawyers
    and
    Jesse Myerson, “Trumpism: Its Coming From the Suburbs” The Nation 5/8/17
    https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/trumpism-its-coming-from-the-suburbs/

  5. Fred,

    Your comment sent me back to the article by George Novack, that we pointed to in our original analysis: “Bonapartism, Military Dictatorship and Fascism.” It’s regrettable that it is not available on line. One needs a copy of this book to read it:

    https://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Revolution-George-Novack/dp/0873481917

    Novack writes:

    “The Achilles heel of Bonarpartism lies in its lack of a broad mass base. Since it does not represent a significant social force, it is precariously posed and highly vulnerable to the shocks and setbacks at home or abroad. It provides a halfhearted solution to the crisis of the bourgeois order, because it does not carry through the civil war of big capital against the workers or the demolition of democracy to the very end. It can come to grief when the class antagonisms that it temporarily but not totally annuls flare up anew.”

    As the reply to Pete Seidman explains, the dangers of Bonapartism are posed before a more serious decision to attempt to impose such a regime is made. Neither I nor the other editors of World-Outlook.com are making any predictions about the future. We are trying to offer an analysis of what has already occurred and put that in the framework of earlier Marxist writing on this subject.

    You and I and others of our generation have been familiar with these ideas for a long time. But the deepening crisis of capitalism today poses these ideas in a new framework; less strictly a consideration for the distant future and more one that deserves thought now based on recent events.

    I am glad we are having that discussion now and it’s to be expected that people will come at it from different angles.

  6. an excellent article…
    I would add to your analysis of Jan 6 that the amalgam of rightists, QAnon etc. also included the president of the movement against vaccines from CA…speaking at the rally…and they continue to disrupt here in LA.—preventing people from getting the vaccine at Dodger stadium a mass vaccination site.

    “A leading anti-vaccine organization, Freedom Angels 2.0 banners it’s Facebook with: “We Will Not Comply with Tyranny.” “Health officials are Tyrants.” Denise Aguilar, Co-Founder, advocates restaurants violating the take-out only code, advises on how to counter the teacher’s union demand of safe school opening by forming your own school. “Public health is Public Enemy No. 1.” We shall come to your area and help you organize for a fee… We will teach you firearm training, help in keeping your business open by blocking CDC staff.

    The website is filled with conspiracy theories including that the pandemic is a communist conspiracy, the pandemic is no worse than the common flu and it promoted and spoke at the Jan 6 march and insurrection in Washington in support of Donald Trump.

    “We are here to recruit you”, said one of its leaders Denise Aguilar. “We are done with bills. We are done with newsletters…we are boots on the ground, and it’s our responsibility to take our government back.”

    I would refer people to this complete article article:
    Take the Vaccine. Reject anti-Science Vaxxers, Rightists, Conspiracy Theories.

    https://www.randomlengthsnews.com/archives/2021/01/29/take-the-vaccine/31529?v=7516fd43adaa

    mark.friedman@randomlengthsnews.com

  7. There’s a sense of deja vu around these discussions. In 1996, there was a discussion of the Pat Buchanan campaign on the Marxism list that preceded Marxmail. At the time, the Militant and much of the left described him in the same way that Trump is described today. I collected my posts on this thread and posted them under the title “Fascism and Neo-Fascism” (http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/fascism_and_war/fascism.htm) that might be of interest, especially the first:

    Fascism and neofascism

    1. THE EIGHTEENTH BRUMAIRE AND FASCISM

    Fascism is the most extreme form of counterrevolution. Counterrevolution itself only emerges as a response to revolution. Nazism, for example, didn’t arrive because the German people all of a sudden lost their bearings from an overdose of Wagner’s operas and Nietzsche’s aphorisms. It arrived at a time when massive worker’s parties threatened bourgeois rule during a period of terrible economic hardship. Big capital backed Hitler as a last resort. The Nazis represented reactionary politics gone berserk. Not only could Nazism attack worker’s parties, it could also attack powerful institutions of the ruling class, including its churches, media, intellectuals, parties and individual families and individuals. Fascism is not a scalpel. It is a very explosive, uncontrollable weapon that can also inflict some harm on its wielder.

    Fascism emerges in the period following the great post-World War I revolutionary upsurge in Europe. The Bolsheviks triumphed in Russia, but communists mounted challenges to capitalism in Hungary, Germany and elsewhere. These revolutions receded but but their embers burned. The world-wide depression of 1929 added new fuel to the glowing embers of proletarian revolution. Socialism grew powerful everywhere because of the powerful example of the USSR and the suffering capitalist unemployment brought.

    Proletarian revolutions do not break out every year or so, like new car models. They appear infrequently since working-people prefer to accomodate themselves to capitalism if at all possible. They tend to be last-ditch defensive reactions to the mounting violence and insecurity brought on by capitalist war and depression.

    The proletarian revolution first emerges within the context of the bourgeois revolutions of 1848. Even though the revolutions in Germany, France and Italy on the surface appeared to be a continuation of the revolutions of the 1780’s and 90’s, they contain within them anticapitalist dynamics. The working-class at this point in its history has neither the numbers, nor the organization, nor the self- consciousness to take power in its own name. Its own cause tends to get blurred with the cause of of other classes in the struggle against feudal vestiges.

    Marx was able to distinguish the contradictory class aspects of the 1848 revolutionary upsurge with tremendous alacrity, however. Some of his most important contributions to historical materialism emerge out of this period and again in 1871 when the proletariat rises up in its own name during the Paris Commune. The 18th Brumaire was written in the aftermath of the failure of the revolution in France in 1848 to consolidate its gains. Louis Bonaparte emerges as a counterrevolutionary dictator who seems to suppress all classes, including the bourgeoisie. Marx is able to show that Bonapartism, like Fascism, is not a dictatorship that stands above all classes. The Bonapartist regime, whose social base may be middle-class, acts in the interest of the big bourgeoisie.

    Robert Tucker’s notes in his preface to the 18th Brumaire that, “Since Louis Bonaparte’s rise and rule have been seen as a forerunner of the phenomenon that was to become known in the twentieth century as fascim, Marx’s interpretation of it is of interest, among other ways, as a sort of a prologue to later Marxist thought on the nature and meaning of fascism.”

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