US President Joe Biden delivered a speech on Thursday evening that has no precedent in the history of the country. After removing all the evasions and circumlocutions, Biden essentially acknowledged that the US is on the brink of fascism and dictatorship.
“There is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated and intimidated by MAGA [Make America Great Again] Republicans, and that is a threat to this country,” Biden said. “Trump and the MAGA Republicans,” he added, are promoting “an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our Republic.” They “do not respect the Constitution” and do not “recognize the will of the people” or “accept the results of a free election.” They are “working right now … to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.” They see the failure of the January 6 coup “as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.”
Consider for a moment what this means. The United States has a politically institutionalized two-party system. Biden is saying that one of these parties—comprised of the same individuals he has repeatedly referred to as his “friends” and “colleagues”—is dominated by a fascist who is attempting to establish a dictatorship.
The Republican Party already exercises enormous institutional power. It controls the governorship in 28 out of 50 states and the state legislatures in 30. At the federal level, the Republicans control the Supreme Court, 50 out of 100 seats in the Senate and 211 out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
Beyond direct political institutions, the Republicans exercise dominant control over police departments throughout the country and are entrenched in the military, which is riddled with fascist-minded generals and lower-ranking officers. It controls as well significant sections of the corporate media, which is an auxiliary institution of the state and its political parties.
Having acknowledged this extraordinary fact, however, Biden offered no explanation of how the United States has reached such a point or what social forces are behind it.
He made, moreover, no effort to win over the substantial numbers of Americans, including many workers, who have become vulnerable to Trump’s demagogy.
Unable to say anything about the origins of the growth of a fascistic movement in the United States, Biden could not provide any credible explanation for how it can be fought. He was left with nothing but a moralistic appeal that implicitly blames Trump’s voters for the danger of dictatorship. They are motivated, he said, by “fear,” “division” and “darkness,” and have rejected the “light of truth” in favor of the “shadow of lies.” Somehow, “Trump and the MAGA Republicans” emerged out of this “shadow” and will be cast away with Biden’s semi-infantile oratory and, of course, by voting for Democrats in the next election.
Biden began his remarks last night with the pledge to “speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face.” He could not, but the World Socialist Web Site can.
The American political system is dominated by two parties. The Republican Party is working to develop a fascistic movement. Trump, the billionaire scion of the New York real estate market, postures as a “man of the people,” but the program he is advancing is that of the financial oligarchy. It aims to rip up every social program and every barrier to the exploitation of the working class. While in power, the Trump administration pursued a pandemic policy of mass infection, killing more than one million Americans while devastating the lives of millions more.
The policy of the financial oligarchy is incompatible with democratic forms of rule. To the extent that growing social anger and opposition cannot be contained, the ruling class is preparing to smash it with an iron fist.
The Republicans have been able to build up broader support only because the other party, the Democrats, have rejected all measures that have anything to do with improving the conditions of the working class. It is a party of Wall Street and the military, mobilizing behind it sections of the upper middle class based on racial and gender politics. Since coming to power, Biden has pursued, in all its essentials, the same policy as the Republicans, including on the pandemic.
Biden and the Democratic Party are nervous about the political and social implications of what the Republicans are doing. They realize that once such extreme actions as overturning the Constitution are taken, they cannot be undone, that the entire system of class rule is being destabilized.
The Democrats, however, are far more fearful of the growth of a social movement from below than they are of dictatorship. Moreover, the Democrats’ central preoccupation in their conflict with Trump has always centered on foreign policy. Notably absent from Biden’s remarks on Thursday was any reference to the expanding US-NATO war against Russia. This is for two reasons. First, they are aware that the war is deeply unpopular. Second, the Democrats are relying on the Republican Party, “dominated” by “extremists,” to help carry this war out.
Trump received more than 74 million votes in the last election, but there are not 74 million people who want a fascist dictatorship. In America’s entrenched two-party system, sections of workers and the middle class back the Republican Party not out of conviction but by default. To the extent that Trump has a base, it is because the Democrats have nothing to offer and the Republicans are expert at manipulating grievances and discontent.
The Democrats have paved the way for this reactionary dynamic by telling workers they are “deplorable,” by saying white workers are racist, and by denouncing Abraham Lincoln and the revolutionaries of 1776 as a bunch of bigots. For all their moralizing about the past, the Democrats have spent the last 50 years getting rid of social programs and slashing taxes for the rich.
The danger of a fascistic dictatorship is ongoing. An extended process is reaching a turning point. The threat of dictatorship is rooted, fundamentally, in 1) The extreme growth of social inequality; and 2) unending war abroad that, since Biden came to power, has developed into the opening stages of a global conflict. Both these factors are rooted in the nature of the capitalist system. Trump is a symptom of these deeper processes, not the cause.
The answer to the danger of dictatorship is the development of the class struggle. Only to the extent that the working class breaks out of the restraints that have been imposed upon it can the real class alignments come to the fore. This must be connected to a political program that can appeal to the broad mass of the working class, that has real solutions to the economic and social crisis. Only in this way will the forces behind the Trump movement be exposed and its broader base undermined.
The solution to the growth of fascism is not the moralistic claptrap of Biden and the Democrats, but the turn to the working class, unifying its struggles over inequality and exploitation, developing independent organizations through which these struggles can be waged and building a socialist and revolutionary leadership.