Against Trump and the Democrats – Build a Workers Party
Impeachment Crisis: “Deep State” vs. Bigot-in-Chief
Internationalists at Washington, D.C. protest against Trump inauguration, 20 January 2017.
An abbreviated version of this article was published in The Internationalist No. 57 (September-October 2019).
OCTOBER 30 – So the Dems finally did it. After months of agitation by liberals and the Democratic (Party) Socialists of America, and months of resistance from the Democratic Party establishment, on September 24 House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the lower house of Congress would open an official impeachment inquiry against U.S. president Donald Trump. The charges being investigated would be “betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections.” The president, who always relishes being the center of attention, crowed that this will be “a positive for me.” The New York Times (25 September) foretold “an epic struggle that will test the limits of the Constitution and the balance of power in the American system.”
Donald Trump is certainly guilty of numerous crimes, of sadistic murderous cruelty against refugees at the border, of vicious persecution of immigrants in the U.S., of whitewashing anti-Semitic fascist killers, the list goes on and on. But that is not what Trump is being charged with. The Democrats are wrapping themselves in the flag, vituperating about national security, inveighing against Russia and complaining about the Republican “dirty tricks” against them, the other main capitalist party. Both are parties of U.S. imperialism, of the system of war, poverty and racism. If Republican Trump is immigrant-basher-in-chief, Democrat Obama was deporter-in-chief. The president incites racist terror against black people while across the country Democratic mayors preside over the racist killer cops who gun down black people in the streets.
The impeachment investigation has certainly thrown Washington politics into crisis. It goes right to the heart of the state apparatus. But class-conscious workers, defenders of black rights, immigrants’ rights and democratic rights in general, and certainly revolutionary Marxists, have no dog in this fight. Or rather, we are against both sides in this dogfight among capitalist politicians over who is betraying and who is upholding the class interests and national security of the U.S. bourgeoisie. Trump is being brought up on charges by the wrong class for the wrong crimes. While various opportunist leftists have climbed aboard the impeachment express, we in the Internationalist Group are fighting to build a revolutionary workers party against Democrats, Republicans and all capitalist parties.
Donald Trump rails against a “Deep State” that he says is waging a conspiracy to oust him. The phrase stems from Turkey, where it referred to the security apparatus that ran the country for decades, whether carrying out coups d’état or operating behind the scenes, independent of which political party was/is in office. It is certainly true that top-level military and intelligence officials – in the Pentagon, Langley (CIA) and in the White House itself – are behind the revelations that sparked the impeachment inquiry. The idea that it was the work of a lone courageous CIA “whistleblower” is ludicrous.
It’s quite clear that the “national security” apparatus up to its very top levels decided to launch the operation, and evidently someone was picked to deliver the message. The military and spy agencies have decided that Trump is far too erratic, and is a threat to the interests of U.S. imperialism. Whether the tipping point came with the July phone call with the Ukrainian president, or Trump’s merry-go-round of appointments and dismissals of top Pentagon and intelligence officials, or his capriciously altering a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather map with a Sharpie to show Hurricane Dorian heading for Alabama, as he had (falsely) claimed – the powers that be, that actually run the country on behalf of capital, decided that enough is enough.
“Deep State”? The force that has turned on Trump is at the core of state power – those “special bodies of armed men,” the military and police, along with their auxiliaries such as courts and prisons, which serve as the key “instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class,” as Friedrich Engels noted in The Family, Private Property and the State (1884) and V.I. Lenin spelled out in The State and Revolution (1917). Under imperialism, this apparatus expands enormously, the Bolshevik leader wrote. Since the dawn of the 20th century:
“military and naval armaments have grown fantastically and the predatory war of 1914-17 for the domination of the world by Britain or Germany, for the division of the spoils, has brought the ‘swallowing’ of all the forces of society by the rapacious state power close to complete catastrophe.”
What left-liberals like Gore Vidal referred to as the “national security state” expanded further as the United States became the top dog among the imperialists after World War II, and reached an apotheosis as the U.S. became the world’s policeman in the post-Soviet “new world order.”
Impeachment Crisis: Calculations and Consequences
So getting the go-ahead from the military/intelligence agencies was the key reason why Democrats in Congress – who include a significant and increasing number of former intelligence and military personnel – launched the impeachment inquiry, and why they launched it now. After all, the shenanigans by the sinister clown-maniac Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine, looking for dirt on the Bidens, father and son, on behalf of Trump had been known since last May. But getting into a brawl with the president – especially this one, who will stop at nothing – when he is in control the apparatus of repression is a risky business. Let’s not forget that from the outset of Trump’s presidency, the Democrats have looked to the Pentagon and CIA/NSC, hoping that the generals and spy chiefs could rein in the maverick. Those are some of the most sinister, murderous forces on the face of the planet. And they failed.
A second main reason for the impeachment gambit, and the particular charges, is electoral. Desperate to oust Trump at the latest by the 2020 elections, the Democratic Party establishment would like to nail down Joe Biden as the candidate. Pelosi's pitch is, how can you abandon Biden when he is the object of Trump’s attack? Democratic Party leaders want to counter Trump’s attempt to “marry” the Democrats to Bernie Sanders and “The Squad” of first-term Congresswomen as purported “socialists,” but also to head off the “progressive” Elizabeth Warren, whom the Clinton/Obama “moderates” consider “unelectable.” And by making Trump’s dirt-digging on the Bidens the focus of the impeachment, they can deflect his attack on son Hunter for corrupt connections in Ukraine. Their problem is that Biden Sr. is in several ways a weak candidate, and getting weaker.
Getting a two-thirds majority in the Senate – the proportion needed for impeachment to result in actual removal of the president – would require at least 20 Republicans voting to oust the Republican president (and weathering the backlash from his most fanatical Tea Party/evangelical supporters). This is highly unlikely unless he totally flips out, which is not impossible. But as things stand now, the Democrats can’t be counting on actually convicting Trump. What they are aiming at is keeping up the steady drumbeat of investigations, and hopefully getting a majority vote declaring him “guilty.” But this continues their misreading of Trump’s 2016 election victory as solely due to Russian meddling and racism (Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of his followers as a “basket of deplorables”). Trump’s Electoral College margin came from former Obama voters in industrial states who saw the Democrats’ policies as enriching Wall Street at their expense.
What the impeachment process will certainly do is further polarize an already politically and socially polarized country. It would likely trigger the fascist fringe and enrage the right-wing racists at the core of Trump’s support. Many are armed, and not a few are unstable. When Trump tweeted a quote from a notorious Southern Baptist pastor, Robert Jeffress (“If the Democrats are successful in removing the president from office” it would “cause a Civil War-like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal”) this was no idle threat.1 Another prominent evangelical preacher, Franklin Graham, said the same last May. Hard-core racists are “only” about a quarter of the electorate – maybe not a civil war, but violent attacks against immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, leftists, women, gays, trans people, protesters and others are highly likely.
The first round of the impeachment process was the “Russiagate” investigation, in which the Democrats hoped that former Federal Bureau of Investigations director Robert Mueller, a conservative Republican, would find Trump guilty of collusion with the Russians in the 2016 elections and of obstruction of justice. When Mueller, testifying to the House Intelligence and Judiciary panels on July 24, would only say that Trump “was not exculpated,” the president tweeted triumphantly, “NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION!” The day before, Trump told ABC News that “Article II [of the U.S. Constitution] allows me to do whatever I want,” including fire Mueller. The day after, an exultant Trump made his phone call asking the Ukrainian president to “do us a favor” by investigating Democratic ties to Ukraine.
As the investigations proceed, the stakes are rising. Republicans try to storm a closed-door hearing in the House of Representatives’ “secure room.” Trump orders administration personnel not to heed subpoenas from House committees, claiming executive privilege. His lawyer argues (repeating Trump’s earlier boast) that the president could shoot someone outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and he couldn’t be prosecuted for that, or anything else. The Democrats threaten to add contempt of Congress to the potential articles of impeachment. Both sides threaten to use the apparatus of state repression against the other. News is leaked that at Trump’s direction a criminal investigation is underway into the FBI’s investigation of the Republican campaign in 2016. How would that end? With Department of Homeland Security agents dispatched to arrest FBI agents?
“We the People”? Not
Donald Trump claims Article II of the U.S. Constitution would let him do anything. That is a slight exaggeration, but the foundation document of the government of the United States does provide for a very powerful executive. In civics classes and bourgeois politicians’ speeches, the Constitution is worshipped as a kind of civic religion. It’s as if they are the equivalent of Moses’ tablets, that god spoke unto the hallowed “Founding Fathers” – and sayeth, “Thou shalt write a Constitution that shall be the rock of legitimacy through the ages.” This document, even by the standards of bourgeois democracy, is deeply undemocratic. As Marxists understand, it enshrines one form of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie – and it could be replaced by another, such as a military dictatorship, if the capitalist rulers deem it necessary to uphold their class rule.
The Senate, which sits in judgement on articles of impeachment presented by the House, is also deeply undemocratic. Historically known as a “Millionaires’ Club,” by giving equal weight (two senators each) to states with small rural populations and large, heavily urban states, it greatly increases the political power of conservative interests. Thus a vote for senator in Wyoming (population 577,000) counts 69 times as much as a vote in California (population 39.6 million). The same with the Electoral College. This disparity was built in to the Constitution in order to increase the political power of the slavocracy (the Southern slave-owning class). Likewise with the rule that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a person in the census in order to increase the weight of the South in the House of Representatives. Thus pro-slavery forces dominated Congress right up to the Civil War.
It’s well-known that “We the People,” as the preamble to the Constitution starts out, excluded black slaves, Native Americans, women and even poor whites and working people generally. The right to vote at the time was largely limited to white men of property. In fact, the entire structure of government established by the Constitution was molded by slavery and the rulers’ fear of the plebeian masses generally, black and white. After slavery was uprooted in the Civil War, the institution of Jim Crow segregation meant that black people were excluded from voting through poll taxes, literacy tests, and sheer terror. Even today, the “one person, one vote” electoral system supposedly guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution (the result of defeating the Confederate slave masters on the field of battle), as well as Supreme Court decisions, the 24th Amendment and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, has been deeply eroded. Mass incarceration of African Americans combined with state laws banning ex-prisoners from voting have disenfranchised millions of black people.
And, of course, immigrants are excluded – not only those lacking the papers required by the racist ruling class and who are demonized by Trump, but also immigrants with legal residency but not citizenship – even though they represent a very large percentage of the workforce that keeps the country going. They toil in sweatshops and sleep in the fields, are continually persecuted, living in fear with the constant threat of deportation hanging over their heads. Parents are separated from their U.S.-born children, families are put in concentration camps, children locked up in cages and traumatized. The I.C.E. Gestapo terrorizes immigrant communities, both under Democrat Obama and Republican Trump. As liberals call for “gun control,” kill-crazy cops gun down over 1,000 civilians a year, one-third of them black, with near-total impunity. And throughout the history of U.S. imperialist wars, Democrats have as a rule been in the forefront.
These are (some of) the real crimes of the U.S.’ rulers, for which they will never be accountable so long as capitalism reigns and its political representatives and military/police enforcers hold the reins of state power. So are their imperialist wars that killed millions, from Korea and Vietnam to Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Trump is boasting about a U.S. hit squad assassinating Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled caliph of the Islamic State (I.S.), recalling how Barack Obama launched his 2012 reelection bid by announcing the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Now the Democrats have lined up Republicans in Congress to slam Trump for ditching the Pentagon’s Kurdish “allies” in the U.S. war on the I.S. by green-lighting Turkey’s invasion of Syria. We call to drive the imperialists out of the Middle East.
Charged with the Wrong Crimes by the Wrong Class
Would-be strongman Trump loves Article II of the Constitution. Article I (Sections 2 and 5), however, allows for the impeachment of the president, as well as other high federal officials, senators, congressmen and judges. The House of Representatives brings articles of impeachment, but an official is only removed from office upon conviction by the Senate. It should be emphasized that impeachment is not a criminal but a political trial. (The Spanish translation is juicio político.) Alexander Hamilton, that proponent of a strong federal government so beloved of liberals today that they flock to a musical about him, wrote in Federalist Paper No. 65 (7 March 1788) that impeachment should deal with “offenses” that stem from “the misconduct of public men,” from “the abuse or violation of some public trust,” and thus are eminently “POLITICAL.”
Impeachable offenses include “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (Article II, Section 4). What such other “high crimes and misdemeanors” might consist of is not specified. They could be trivial: Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a sexual affair. They could be against capitalist political rivals: Richard Nixon was impeached for lying about the break-in of Democratic Party offices at the Watergate complex, but not for the innumerable FBI break-ins against leftists and black radicals under the FBI’s COINTELPRO (which led to the murder of at least 38 Black Panthers and imprisonment of countless more), or the murderous war on Vietnam. But it is exceedingly difficult to remove a U.S. chief executive. None have been removed by impeachment. Only three presidents have ever been impeached, only two (Andrew Johnson and Clinton) have been tried by the Senate (Nixon resigned instead), and both were acquitted.
Since Trump is not being impeached for his real crimes, what
are the Democrats accusing him of? The sole charge so far is
holding up military aid to Ukraine’s military in order get its
president to announce an investigation of the Democrats’
activities there. The Ukrainian Army wants Javelin missiles in
order to fight Russian-backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s military and police are shot through with fascists
and ultra-nationalists who have staged pogroms.2
The Azov Battalion of the Ukrainian National Guard, which
sports a Nazi-like symbol and is led by fascist nationalists,
were shock troops for the assault on Donetsk in eastern
Ukraine and have reportedly trained white supremacists from
the U.S. The House of Representatives has passed resolutions
blocking aid to the Azov Battalion, but they were lifted
because of Pentagon pressure.
Democrats charge Trump with withholding military aid from Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Shown here: fascist-nationalist Azov Battalion, incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard, financed by the Pentagon. Battalion flag features version of “wolfsangel” symbol worn by Ukrainian unit of Nazi SS that fought Soviet partisans in World War II.
The regime in Ukraine was the result of the 2014 Maidan fascist/nationalist uprising, which was aided, advised and in good part orchestrated by the United States under the Democratic Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy met repeatedly with Maidan fascists. The Democrats – and the Clintons in particular – have been intimately bound up with the Ukrainian post-Soviet nationalist/fascist regime for years. That is surely why Biden Jr. got up to $50,000 a month for sitting on the board of the largest Ukrainian natural gas company. If the Ukrainian military with U.S. backing were to win the war on eastern Ukraine, it would result in mass murder in the Russian-speaking region. The League for the Fourth International has called for autonomy for eastern Ukraine and military defense of the pro-Russian Donetsk rebels.
Donald Trump is a grotesque xenophobic, racist, sexist, homophobic pig guilty of countless crimes against working people and the oppressed. He is surrounded by grifters – rip-off artists – like the pair of Ukrainian associates of Rudolph Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested on campaign fraud charges as they tried to skip the country. (Their company was curiously named Fraud Guarantee.) But Trump is not alone, or unique. He was in fact earlier closely associated with Democrats. His mentor Roy Cohn, the right-hand man of witch-hunter senator Joe McCarthy, was a registered Democrat. He hobnobbed with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and many another pillar of the Democratic Party.3 Donald Trump is a truly bipartisan product of decaying capitalism, which elevates bizarre and sinister fraudsters, like the moribund tsarist empire produced a Rasputin.
But the Democrats are in some respects even more dangerous. In this impeachment they are relying on the Pentagon generals and CIA spymasters whose crimes far exceed anything that even Trump has done. Democrats have deported millions, put child refugees in cages, napalmed Vietnam, imposed murderous sanctions in Iraq and elsewhere. Talk about “election interference”: continuing the long tradition of U.S. imperialism under both parties, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state removed and installed governments in Haiti and Honduras. The Dems have aggressively pushed for war with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, they denounce Trump for negotiating with North Korea, they are war hawks against China. Meanwhile, the Democrats have pushed “free trade” pacts which have devastated peasants’ livelihoods from Haiti (in favor of Arkansas rice) to Mexico (dumping Iowa corn), and destroyed workers’ jobs while lowering wages in all the countries involved.
Unlike the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil in 2016 which was aimed at – and succeeded in – pushing through anti-working-class “reforms,” including literally legalizing slave labor,4 and which we opposed while calling for no political support to the bourgeois popular-front government, the workers and oppressed have no class stake in the current impeachment brouhaha, and in fact must oppose both sides in this ruling-class squabble. Needless to say, “progressive” Democrats have been pushing impeachment from the get-go. DSA Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were among the first in Congress to call for impeaching Trump. And when Republicans and Democrats united to pass a House resolution on October 16 denouncing Trump for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, the whole “Squad” voted for it.
Assorted reformist leftists have joined the impeachment drive, such as Socialist Alternative (30 September) which headlined an editorial “Democrats Begin Impeachment Proceedings: Build a Movement to Drive Trump Out!” and bragged that they have called on Congress (i.e., the Democrats) to oust Trump from the beginning. No wonder, as SAlt has been up to its neck in pushing “democratic socialist” Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders to build a “party of the 99%.” These social democrats have always acted as a “left” tail on the Democratic donkey, chasing after every “mass movement” that arises among liberals, whether it is antiwar alliances with Democratic politicians or mobilizations for (racist) gun control. Independent class politics are anathema to such dyed-in-the-wool opportunists.
The Task of Revolutionaries
So where is it all going? Trump, who last year lashed out at those who questioned his mental stability by declaring himself a “very stable genius,” responded to the near-unanimous ruling-class denunciation of his announced pullout of U.S. troops from northern and eastern Syria by tweeting that “if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!)”5 He followed up this piece of megalomania with a downright demented letter to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying:
“Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will….
“I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down….
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Trump continued. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
He ended: “I will call you later.” Erdoğan reportedly tossed the letter in the wastebasket. At the Pentagon, CIA and State Department, officials were aghast at such insanely stupid arrogance.
Will Trump manage to engineer his impeachment? Who can say? But the task of proletarian revolutionaries is to raise the consciousness of the oppressed and exploited about the true source of their oppression, in order to take forward the struggle to overthrow it. As Lenin wrote in his 1913 essay “The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism”:
“People always have been the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics, and they always will be until they have learnt to seek out the interests of some class or other behind all moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises. Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realize that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes. And there is only one way of smashing the resistance of those classes, and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can – and, owing to their social position, must – constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organize those forces for the struggle.”
The forces that can sweep away the decaying capitalist system and its political representatives are the working class at the head of its allies among the downtrodden and oppressed. The key task is to help free them from the stranglehold of the Democratic Party and its camp followers on the left, to unchain the power of proletarian class struggle.
The focus of our efforts must be to build a workers party in struggle against all wings of the bourgeois rulers, which can break the chains binding the oppressed to the sinking capitalist system and lead the struggle to free the victims of all forms of social oppression through international socialist revolution. ■
- 1. See “Dangerous Racist Provocations in Pre-Election Maneuvering,” The Internationalist, July 2019.
- 2. For example, burning down trade-union headquarters in Odessa as police stood by, killing almost 50 people trapped inside (see “Fascist Pogrom in Odessa, And the Aftermath,” in The Internationalist No. 37, May-June 2014).
- 3. A vivid account is provided by Frank Rich, “The Original Donald Trump,” New York magazine, April 2018
- 4. See “Brazil: No to Impeachment! For Workers Mobilization Against the Rightist Bourgeois Offensive, No Political Support to the Bourgeois Popular Front Government,” The Internationalist No. 43, May-June 2016.
- 5. See “For Workers Action Against U.S./Turkey Attack on Kurds!” The Internationalist, October 2019.