When the news broke that Steve Bannon, the racist “alt-right” adviser to Donald Trump, had been forced out of his job at the White House and was returning to his home at Breitbart News, it was easy to feel elated. (This writer confesses to blurting out “Yeah!”)
Bannon is a far-right ideologue who feels comfortable with the Nazis and the Klan. He advised the president to blame “many sides” in Trump’s notorious press conference equating these murderous, racist groups with the protesters who came out against them in Charlottesville, Va. Of course, Trump is perfectly capable of saying such vile and dishonest things without Bannon’s advice.
Bannon’s ouster came on Friday, Aug. 18. The country was in the middle of the biggest uprising against white supremacy and fascism seen in decades. It was easy to interpret Bannon’s departure as a concession to the militant movement against the right, which has sprung up all over the country and brought tens of thousands of Black, Brown, Indigenous and white people into the streets in militant rejection of the Nazis and Klan, often at grave personal risk.
So it’s great Bannon’s gone. But he was fired for the wrong reasons.
The White House is now largely in the hands of generals, both active and “retired.” The White House Chief of Staff is Gen. John Kelly. The National Security Adviser, and a major rival of Bannon, is Gen. H.R. McMaster (active duty) and his deputy is Maj. Gen. Ricky Waddell.
In addition, the position of secretary of defense, usually a civilian, has been given to Gen. James Mattis. Gen. Mark S. Inch has been put in charge of the Bureau of Prisons. And there are many more.
Why do the generals despise Bannon? Because besides being a racist, Bannon is an “economic nationalist,” who sees involvement in foreign conflicts as a drain on the U.S. capitalist economy.
What really got him in trouble with the generals was when he told a reporter at The American Prospect, a liberal imperialist magazine, while referring to north Korea: “There’s no military solution, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.” (Aug. 16)
This came at a time when the Pentagon was making daily threats against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea over its nuclear defense. And it was preparing for huge, expensive war “games” aimed at that country, which began on Aug. 21.
The generals in the White House certainly don’t want the public to think all this is futile, not when their buddies, the military contractors, are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars from the Pentagon war machine.
Another sticking point is the war in Afghanistan. Three days after allowing Bannon to be sacked, Trump got before the cameras and announced a big increase in U.S. troops to be sent to Afghanistan. Breitbart News, with Bannon now back at his desk, immediately attacked Trump for repeating the failed policies of his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
This whole struggle is a falling out among thieves. There’s only one way to fight racist reaction at home and imperialist war abroad: Build the mass movement, particularly based in the most oppressed sections of the working class, that has no stake in propping up this dying capitalist system.