Comey’s testimony and the Big Lie: Elections, democracy and the FBI
Assuming that the FBI is ‘nonpolitical’ with respect to the capitalist political parties, all its neutrality goes out the window when it comes to the masses.
June 12 — Marxism can shed light on the June 8 testimony by ex-FBI Director James Comey to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with Donald Trump. The best way to unravel what took place last week is to begin with the concept of the antagonisms within the ruling class, the meaning of “democracy” and the role of the state.
The so-called “Russia investigation” is a diversion from the fundamental issues that concern the mass of the people. They care about jobs, wages, health care, social security and so on. This Russia debate is a way to sideline all these vital issues.
The Comey testimony, and all the publicity surrounding it, can best be understood in terms of the antagonisms within the ruling class. The majority of the bosses and bankers were opposed to Trump — until he won the election.
Big business quickly shifted gears. They backed this racist, sexist real estate mogul who is an authoritarian bigot. The ruling class was anxiously awaiting his tax cuts for the rich, his deregulation of industry and banking, and other giveaways to the millionaires and billionaires. But soon his policies began to unfold.
Muslim travel ban hurt U.S. business
His Muslim travel ban provoked national and international protest. In addition, it has made tens of thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America decide not to come to the U.S. Tourism has declined, and applications for U.S. colleges and universities have dropped, with many foreign students going to Canada. Corporations are having trouble getting talent from overseas.
In short, Trump’s travel ban hurt U.S. big business.
Trump then struck a blow at the long-standing NATO alliance, between U.S. imperialism and European imperialism, by going to Brussels and calling the European countries deadbeats who don’t pay their “fair share” of military spending.
Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, defying Europe, China and the entire world. By doing so, he tried to put an end to these completely insufficient and nonbinding accords. This removed the cover under which U.S. big business had expected to bask in the light of seeming “environmentally correct” while being free to continue getting rich off oil and natural gas. Trump also put the U.S. ruling class at a disadvantage in the growing global race for markets in renewable technology, such as solar panels and wind power.
Trump lashed out at Seoul during Korean crisis
Along the way, in the midst of a military-political crisis caused by U.S. aggression against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Trump told the south Korean government, Washington’s major ally in the struggle against the DPRK, that Seoul would have to pay a billion dollars for the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system, which Washington had earlier agreed to pay for.
Trump’s latest policy disaster, from the imperialist point of view, has been to attack Qatar during its struggle against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Trump had gone to Riyadh to cement a Gulf State, anti-Iranian alliance, headed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and Egypt broke with Qatar, mainly because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring.
Once part of the Gulf State alliance, Qatar is home to a large U.S. military base in the Middle East, with 11,000 U.S. troops. The Pentagon flies numerous missions from Qatar to carry out aggression in the region. Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State from ExxonMobil, was trying to calm the dispute when Trump openly contradicted him.
Trump and the Republicans have prepared a health care bill that would strike at broad sections of the masses, leaving 23 million now covered without healthcare coverage as it guts Medicaid and threatens nursing homes, drug clinics and rural hospitals, among other vital medical institutions. This comes at a time when healthcare is the single most important issue among the population, including Trump supporters.
In short, the Comey testimony must be seen in light of growing concern in large sections of the capitalist political establishment, as well as the military and sections of big business, that Trump is doing damage to U.S. imperialist interests at home and around the world.
Time to strike at the roots of capitalism
The differences within the ruling class over Trump are important. Trump, with the backing of his Republican flunkies, is dangerous. But the Democratic Party leaders, including both the Clinton wing and the Sanders wing, are fighting to revive the Democratic Party as a capitalist party that defends exploitation, a party that is supported by big business. Nevertheless, they want to regain office by promising to ease the hardships of the masses.
Marxists are for easing the hardships of the masses, but in a substantial way, first and foremost by struggle, by pushing the bosses and their political machine back. The way forward is in the streets, the factories, the offices, on the campuses and in the fields to threaten the profits and hence power of the rich. Marxists need to take advantage of the current contradictions among the bosses, when the establishment is becoming more and more discredited, to strike at the roots of capitalism and ultimately dispossess the rich of their property.
FBI not neutral when it comes to the people
The state, according to Marxism, is an instrument of compulsion, of force, created by the ruling class to keep the oppressed classes down. Comey was head of the FBI, which is an essential part of that oppressive state apparatus.
The premise of the hearings on Comey’s conversations with Trump is that the FBI director is supposed to be nonpolitical and neutral, to carry out investigations and let the facts lead where they may. Furthermore, the FBI director is not supposed to be partisan to any political party, Republicans or Democrats.
Comey was praised by the media as a man of honor who would not lie and who had remained neutral. He attacked Hillary Clinton just as much as he attacked Trump.
Assuming that the FBI really is “non-political” with respect to the capitalist political parties, all the neutrality goes out the window when it comes to the masses. The FBI has a long and inglorious history of racism, persecution of communists, liberation fighters and radicals of any sort. (See May 18 Workers World, “The FBI is a racist sewer,” at workers.org.)
The FBI was behind the Palmer Raids and deportation of thousands of radicals during the 1920s. It was key to the 1927 execution of anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti, despite worldwide protests. The FBI hounded and harassed communists and anyone suspected of any connections with the Communist Party during the Cold War. FBI persecution resulted in the imprisonment of the top leaders of the CP and the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
The FBI infiltrated progressive trade unions, the teachers’ unions, Hollywood, all progressive cultural organizations, the television industry, and in general blanketed the country with a layer of fear and intimidation in an attempt to wipe out all progressive thought and activity during the 1950s and early 1960s.
With the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Struggle, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover turned his attention to defaming and hounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Hoover regarded as the “most dangerous” Black leader in the U.S.
The FBI initiated COINTELPRO, the murderous operation designed to break up the Black Panther Party. The FBI’s tactics included the outright murder of Fred Hampton and other Panther leaders. The FBI sent fake letters to different parts of the organization designed to create splits and antagonisms. It spied on the anti-war movement, the revolutionary youth movement and the Native movement, particularly the American Indian Movement, and was behind the frame-up of Indigenous leader Leonard Peltier.
There should be little doubt that FBI spying includes the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigrant rights movement. That is their stock in trade. They are a vital part of the enforcement arm of the capitalist state.
Together with the cops, the courts, the prison-industrial complex, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its parent Department of Homeland Security, and other institutions, the FBI is a key part of the instruments of compulsion that work for the ruling class at all times, in every venue where the masses organize resistance to capitalist oppression and exploitation.
They are anything but the “essence of honesty and integrity,” as Comey is being widely described.
‘Our democracy’ equals democracy of big business
For months now, and especially during the Comey testimony, senator after senator talked about the Russians allegedly “interfering with our democracy” or “interfering with our elections.”
Lenin, in “State and Revolution,” quoted Karl Marx, who really gave the last word on capitalist elections: “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!”
This of course does not mean that the working class should not use capitalist elections as a platform to promote their own interests, as long as they see electoral intervention as a stepping stone to overthrowing capitalism.
Democracy is a political form; it has a class content. The Greeks, who initiated the term “democracy,” held democratic assemblies of Greek citizens to debate policy. But the Greek citizens who participated in these assemblies were slave holders. Ancient Greece was a slave society.
In the same way, capitalist democracy is a society dominated by exploiters, a society of bankers and corporate millionaires and billionaires who live as parasites off the labor of the masses. These bankers and bosses dominate the capitalist political parties. They call the shots behind the scenes.
Lenin on capitalist democracy
V.I. Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, in 1918 wrote a polemic against Karl Kautsky, a leader of the German Social Democratic Party, entitled “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.” Kautsky had denounced the Bolshevik Revolution, making the axis of his polemic the failure of the Bolsheviks to establish “pure democracy.” Lenin gave the Marxist position on democracy:
“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor. It is this truth, which forms a most essential part of Marx’s teaching. …”
“Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or ‘equality of all citizens before the law,’ and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violation of public order,’ and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner.”
Just as in the days of Lenin and Kautsky, “democracy” in the abstract is a deception. It must have a class characterization. In the U.S. it is the democracy of monopoly capitalists. In Cuba, on the other hand, it is workers’ democracy.
So when the mouthpieces of Goldman Sachs, Citibank, ExxonMobil, GE, GM, Aetna, Johnson & Johnson, etc., start moaning about interference in “our democracy,” the “our” stands for their corporate paymasters. That is whose democracy it is, the democracy of the rich, who pull the political strings and get their legislation passed, while the masses are supposed to stand on the sidelines and let these corporate masters run the show.
It is high time to get off the sidelines and confront the billionaires in the class struggle.