- [ru] Товарищи из коллектива «Инфракрасные» о выборах в США
- [en] Comrades from «Infrared» collective about US election
The Infrared collective is a group of English speaking Marxist-Leninists significantly based in America and have international members.
«We are very critical of the American and Western left and think it is important for the West to learn from the experience of international Communists, and to learn common sense.We try to provide perspective and insight on current events from an objective and scientific socialist view, to understand American politics beyond propaganda of Democrats and Republicans» — they talk about themselves.
Is the institution of elections still at work in the "stronghold of democracy", or it is just a big show?
GRAYSON: The electoral institutions are still at work, but it is through them that it becomes a big show. The period between 2016 and today has been characterized by a delegitimization of this ‘stronghold of democracy.’ This has occurred in two primary ways.
First, the four years has outed the extent of the deep state existing apart from and beyond democratic accountability. By this I do not only mean the deep state in the form of US government operatives or faceless bureaucrats, but more importantly the intertwining of corporate interests with the Democratic and Republican Party elites. It is this deeper, non-negotiable reality of the American state which was made apparent in everything from the panic over Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaigns to the perseverance of “the swamp” despite Trump’s inclination to drain it. In this sense, the elections have a spectacular quality, but it would be wrong to conclude that they have no bearing on the orientation of American politics.
Second, it has shown the unreceptivity of the organs of American democracy to people’s power. The presupposition of the Democratic Party, for instance, is that voters are not to be won over by candidates, but are to fall in line behind those that party elites have vetted and selected. In this way, they are able to sidestep the interests of the people for the appearance of moderation and reaching out to ‘middle America,’ which they wrongfully associate with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. More specifically, it has meant the suspension of a second round of COVID relief, institutional gridlock at the highest level, and the deeply unpopular nature of both candidates among the American people – all despite being situated in the “stronghold of democracy.”
In sum, the chaos and disintegration of political institutions in America is not as simple as their hollowing out from within. True, Donald Trump has mentioned the possibility of postponing the elections, and there is uncertainty over whether he will concede if he faces a defeat. It is also true that Nancy Pelosi has pushed for impeachment before the election’s commencement, an arguably legal but highly brazen move in a growingly partisan arena. But on a formal level, the electoral institutions are still at work in their entirety, just as they were in 2016. There is no suspension of democratic processes in this sense. They still function as they did before.
The crucial difference is that they are now impressed with a limit they cannot effectively respond to. The debasement of the American presidency and the botched handling of coronavirus are testament to the fact that the political institutions of America have been made redundant by history. It has neither the wherewithal nor the flexibility to lead by example, and because of this it increasingly lashes out in paranoid fits of chauvinism and aggression. At this point, the implosion of American democracy is not a question of if, but when.
Do ordinary Americans believe in the effectiveness of the elections, and how actively do they participate in them? After all, the election system itself is indirect, while the choice is fixed on just two parties?
EZRA: The American people’s faith in the elections varies by their own intentions. To everyone, however, American liberal democracy and its institutions are quickly degenerating and losing legitimacy. This is due to not only Trump’s embarrassing image as the head of state but also the incompetency, hypocrisy, and arrogance of the “liberal and scientific institutions,” especially after the COVID-19 disaster. There is, however, a sense of genuine “urgency” for the upcoming Presidential election. This is not due to any faith in specific political changes but due to the current partisan division.
American politics are heavily divided between pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions, with both sides heavily invested in the presidential election to either terminate or extend Trump’s administration. But this division is a false one and does not represent the fundamental social and political antagonism of the America. Neither political party represents any real fundamental change, nor does any other party represents any genuine alternative movement for now. This political conflict functions like a theatrical play and is the only thing that encourages mass participation in the electoral process. The real site of political contention is beyond the ballot box and on various digital media platforms, which are becoming increasingly more important than not just the elections but various traditional political institutions of American “democracy.”
Who nominates the candidates, whose representatives are they, and are there any among them whom communists need to support?
EVAN: Nomination is by and large an internal affair. Candidates tend to be established, career politicians usually outside of public recognition. That is, unless you’re a political science student or close watcher of mainstream media. Otherwise, it’s as if the candidates appear out of thin air. This sort of appearance from nowhere, of course sows the seeds of conspitorialism within the people. It also corresponds to the baselessness and lack of popular appeal for the candidates, regardless of party affiliation.
Trump’s election in 2016 changed this somewhat. He was a popular public figure with no professional political ties prior to his presidential campaign. This general popularity, combined with the discontent surrounding Obama’s administration and the Democratic carnival, contributed to Trump’s presidential election. Now, what makes one ‘presidential’ is up for debate and doors have opened for more interesting candidates of various backgrounds.
The candidates represent corporatist-establishment interests, however, these interests correspond to different economic bases depending on the party. The Republican establishment represents the class interests of the American industrial economy, oil industries, and kulaks. The Republicans attract a lot of rural and blue collar workers. The Democratic establishment’s class interest has traditionally been in the parasitism of the industrial base, media conglomerates, academia, and now, the tech industry. They attract liberals, metro-socialists, PMC affiliates and the like. One the rare occasion, a candidate does emerge with some type of popular base, but those popular sentiments are usually compromised during the course of their campaign due to spinelessness and confusion within their respective camps.
As of now, there is no candidate whom communists need to support. A viable candidate could only emerge from outside the direct political sphere and would emerge with a deep, uncompromising connection to the people. Prior to this, the left must obtain new sense and commit itself to real, proletarian organization. From this, a popular candidate worthy of communist support will emerge.
How did the spring-summer protests affect the election race? Did they affect the rhetoric and programs of the candidates?
HENRY: The largest effect was seen rhetorically and symbolically. Neither party or candidate has promised or made any substantial concrete reforms.
One of the biggest effects has been seen in what I like to call the "youth wing" of the Democratic party. I am referring to white metropolitan leftist here. Immediately after the initial George Floyd protests, many of them begin to participate in the protest themselves. Their influence on the character of the protest was to bury its essence, a striving for justice and respect for human dignity in black communities, under anarchist cliches such as abolish the police or abolish the state etc. The leftist I refer to here are largely metropolitan in character, young, and a part of the Democratic political machine despite at times voicing false outrage at it. A few months after the spring and summer protest, these same people ended up pressuring others to vote for Biden, directly participating in and playing into the ideology of the American state that they claimed to want to "abolish."
The second effect seen in the Democratic party is parallel to this, but comes from the establishment of the Democratic party, mainly the media and entertainment industries that it has long had under its control. Using its influence it has dictated the ideological public appearance that the protest would take. Much like how the metropolitan leftist used social media to bury the striving of black peoples under the image of anarchism, mainstream media and the entertainment industry buried this striving under the guise of extreme political correctness and wokeness. The result of this being the cancellation of shows, brand names and a general kind of cultural censorship. So for example, the image or name of a syrup brand might switch from a black name and image to a white one. On the basis that the former image stereotyped blacks. Trader Joes might be criticized for playing on cliches with names such as "Trader Jose" used to label the hispanic food Isle. There were even some black shows that have been cancelled such as Nick Cannon's Wildin' Out on accusations of antisemitism. In all of these instances these cancellations came from "Above," either directly because of figures in the entertainment industry deciding they want to cancel a show(without any indication that this desire exist among their viewers) or indirectly due to the prevalence of liberal culture in the public discourse and the professional managerial class that identifies itself with it. Never is any of this the result of a popular opinion, or of blacks or other minorities taking offense.
This is a general problem that occurs in any recent black political movements or black protesting. The public appearance and cultural significance of it is completely assumed by the cultural apparatuses of the Democratic party and robbed of the potential to cause any change. Diverted away from concrete significance and into the psychodrama of white liberals and leftist. In order for the protest to have had success, black protesters would have needed to not only be the essence of the protest but also dictate the public appearance and political significance that it takes on and the Democratic party has for a long time been a big barrier to that. Otherwise the only practical result ends up being that in the name of justice for black people, anarchist establish autonomous zones that last only a couple weeks before completely breaking down and liberals advocate for changing how maple syrup looks.
There has of course also been an effect within the Republican party on the cultural level. It has more and more become a response to anarchist groups like antifa. Trump himself frames the discussion in terms of restoring the law and order that left wing radicals have disturbed. On the level of people you see instances of violence between far right groups and far left groups. This has dominated the public narrative over time and not much energy goes into the topics of police reforms or racial justice any more.
As for if this helps any candidate, I think the instability caused by it may hurt Trump's popularity. On the other hand if there isn't a clear election result, the protest may benefit Trump by having riled up some of his most passionate and militant supporters, who may not be willing to accept it if Trump is declared the loser. In the last analysis the main effect of the protests have been to energize certain elements of both political parties, without causing them to adopt any policies that might prevent police brutality in the future or benefit black people.
Will this year's elections be held peacefully, or mass turbulence is possible?
LUCA: In spite of the rumors of mass unrest fuelled by hysteria among the liberals and thinly-veiled desire for conflict among the petty-bourgeois leftists, there is not a high likelihood of violent clashes between supporters of opposing candidates. Trump supporters are likely to own and carry weapons, while liberal Biden supporters are neither loyal enough nor armed enough to confront them directly. There are not two equal blocs of armed, politically partisan opponents in America such that it would be appropriate to speculate about armed conflict. Joe Biden does not command the loyalty of a large proportion of Americans, and those who are loyal to his cause are more likely to support the police and the military than to take up arms themselves. The small section of American leftists who are armed are certainly not willing to use force in defense of Joe Biden, since they consider him an enemy.
What is more likely, however, is conflict at the polls between Trump supporters and Black voters. A number of black political organizations, including one spearheaded by advisors to the Bernie Sanders campaign, have encouraged black progressives to guard or protect their polling places against armed white intimidators. In response, right-wing militias have vowed to attend polling places on election day in Kentucky, Maryland, and Michigan. If the two sides were to meet, or if they were to settle into a stalemate as the vote counting continues, violence could ensue.
Is there any difference at all between the candidates, and how will the victory of one or the other affect the future of the United States and Washington's foreign policy?
TAHIR: Obviously our Russian comrades who are fighting against the government have our fullest support. However, the president Putin said something quite accurate about how it works in America. He was talking about what he discovered after Obama was elected.
“Presidents come and go, but the politics remains the same. The president will get elected, but then, dark men in suits come and tell him what to do.”
This analysis is completely correct. In the main, there is no difference between Trump and Biden in foreign policy. But there are small differences in how this same foreign policy may be pursued.
Who knows, but I think personally that meeting with Kim Jong Un was trump’s own idea. Then, he seems to do what he can personally to avoid conflict with Russia. There is also the withdrawal from Syria, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and the escalation of trade tensions with China. Some of these appear to be Trump’s special doing, but it is impossible to know for certain.
Regardless, the American deep state will not pursue any drastic deviations from American foreign policy as established.
Trump might seem more friendly to Russia as an individual, but, for example, in terms of Americans geopolitical strategy in Europe, nothing has changed. A president can only do so much. What most suspect is that Biden will try to escalate public tensions with Russia.
How popular are communist ideas in the United States today? Which groups are more sympathetic to these ideas (Indigenous, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc.)?
TAHIR: Communist ideas are still very foreign to Americans. In the past three years, as a response to Trumps election, there has been a superficial surge in popularity in the use, and symbolism of socialism and communism among segments of the youth. But one should not allow themselves to be fooled by this. The reason for this popularity is twofold.
On the one hand, since the Obama election the populistic Right – not any ‘communistic’ Left, which always failed doing this in America – has reintroduced the significance of phrases of Socialism, Communism, Marxism, etc. – which had been largely forgotten after the end of the cold war. They did this only for propaganda against the Democrats. So as you can see, the populist Right used these phrases precisely because from an American commonsensical perspective, they evoke something foreign, strange, and terrifying.
So that many youths have taken to identifying with these phrases is just a provocation – similar to Satanism. It has nothing to do with an authentic discovery of communistic ideas in the American context. These same youths are overwhelmingly metropolitan, anti-popular, and petty bourgeois.
Further, the American universities are partially responsible for this. They are largely loyal to the Democrats, and are instruments of controlling and managing dissent – something that became necessary after the student unrest of the 1960s. So, this also comes with it superficial sympathy to communistic phrases, but the real meaning is white-washed, and in concrete terms consists in submission to the Democrats.
Regarding other groups,
There is an established tradition of Marxism among black peoples in America. For some of the leading intellectuals, its vernacular, language, and theory come quite naturally. This is so much so that, it doesn’t seem to me that sympathy toward Communist ideas is an issue among American black peoples. This is almost a given. Instead, the question is what this means concretely, primarily at the level of the national question, which has primary significance.
Among others, in general their youth are more likely to be sympathetic than white Americans. Sometimes this reflects genuine interest. Other times, it is not uncommon that special ethnic backgrounds are instrumentalized for the purpose of advancing careers, and sympathy toward ‘communistic’ ideas often complements this, as a type of bluffing: “America, capitalism, is completely evil, therefore, the least you can do is fulfill my social interests.”
Protests in the United States have become a regular occasion. Do they influence citizens' awareness of the idea that it is impossible to change the situation by themselves in a “democratic” way? While the path of "struggle by means of force" of the organized masses seems to be much more effective...
TAHIR: No, not in a meaningful way. Wherever there have been any protests, including the ones after Trump’s election, some ‘radical’ phrase-mongerers (as Lenin called them) will say things similar to this, but it has no concrete meaning in relation to the course of present or future events.
It would be mistaken to overestimate the protests in America. They do not reflect any kind of revolutionary impulse. The factors behind them are twofold.
One, admittedly, does reflect a genuine striving of black peoples in America.
The other, I interpret, is just a response to the quarantine – people want an excuse to get out of their homes. The protests that are ‘violent’ are mostly just spectacles, they don’t reflect any structural violence. By this I mean – some shops or cars are burned down, but it doesn’t reflect a real breakdown in political authority. They are spectacles made to look like a big change is happening. In reality, nothing is really happening.
However, the majority of mainstream protests are, or now were mainly peaceful marches, consisting of urban and suburban white people, and there is distinctively no working-class element. They are more similar to street fairs and celebrations than protests.
So, in the first place, there is no real kernel of change in these protests in the first place, besides changing the president, from Trump to Biden. It does not reflect any real anti-establishment popular or democratic sentiment. Let alone anything that could possibly be led by any proletarian, or revolutionary element.
They reflect absolutely the interests of the Professional-Managerial Class, the metropolitan classes, led by the Democratic media, academic, and corporate establishment.