Raposo is a Portuguese Marxist and analyst. This article was published March 28 on the website jornammudardevida.info. Translation by Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto.
On the way to his three years in office, it can no longer be said that Donald Trump is a simple adventurer hoisted to the presidency of the world’s largest imperialist power by a voter craze or a coup at the polls. His path, which has been a bit unreliable, has demonstrated the firm purpose of the U.S. ruling class (or at least a decisive part of it) to impose itself on the rest of the world in a different way than what it had done until now, in an attempt to recover the dominant U.S. position that is now in jeopardy.
The systematic way in which Trump’s government has acted on the international stage, as well as internally, appears anything but erratic if we look — not at the personal way in which he arrives at political decisions — but at the result of those decisions.
On the foreign front
The U.S. has broken the agreement with Iran. This step directly targets the main threat to Israel and indirectly targets Washington’s European competitors, as well as Russia and China. The U.S. is openly betting on Israel and Saudi Arabia, putting an end to the illusion that it would be an arbiter in the Middle East.
The U.S. threatens to leave NATO’s European partners behind. Far from despising NATO, however, Washington seeks to extend the alliance to intervene in Africa (as Obama did, too) and Latin America. It brazenly supports Brexit, with the obvious purpose of dividing and weakening the European Union. The U.S. rulers support the formation of a fascist international in Europe without any great disguise, doing this through the energetic action of the former strategic advisor to the president, Stephen Bannon.
The USA revoked multilateral trade agreements in order to impose its unilateral will on yesterday’s partners. It has withdrawn from U.N. bodies and devalues the organization itself (along the lines that began in 2003 with the war against Iraq), so that it does not have to submit, not even formally, to common rules of international law.
It tore up the Paris climate agreement, so that Yankee capitalism would have its hands free for the savage exploitation of resources and make old technologies still profitable.
It is betting on being able to subvert the progressive Central and South American governments. This is not only to make Latin America the U.S. backyard again, as the U.S. rulers have always sought, but also to try to break the legs of the so-called BRICS [five emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], thus hitting Russia and China.
The U.S. has certainly lost the war in Syria and seems on the verge of losing control of the Korean issue. But that may be the price that a declining power has to pay if it is able to reinforce itself in its safest strongholds.
Ditto on the domestic front
Donald Trump is also pursuing a persistent policy of strengthening the extreme right, seeking unopposed power and promoting white supremacy in particular. He has attempted to test the resistance of state institutions or of the media or of prevailing moral values. Whenever he finds favorable ground, he imposes his right-wing extremism, as in the case of appointments to the federal Supreme Court; he disregards democratic standards and seizes more authority; he discredits anyone who opposes him in the media; and he defends the most retrograde moral and civil values.
In this process, he appeals in a calculated manner to the neofascist elements in the ruling classes and the population. And, of course, he grants the dominant classes much of what they want: lower taxes, fewer legal limitations, unrestricted access to natural resources, theft of the remaining lands of Indigenous peoples.
At the heart of this vast maneuver is — if we look not only at the figure of Trump but at the whole entourage that supports him and defines his policy — the intention to attack the most powerful international competitors, both economically and in political and institutional terms. It also aims to guide the United States and the world toward a system of social regimes in which collective and individual freedoms are ultimately eroded.
It has become clear that Trump’s USA is seeking to establish a “new international order,” as George W. Bush and his cronies declared in the 2000s. This quest can be perceived if we understand that U.S. imperialism today feels limited in its movements and its ambitions by the web of international relations that it itself promoted following World War II.
The growth of major competitors such as the European Union, Japan and, more recently in particular, China — as well as, on another level, Russia’s re-emergence — has weakened U.S. power, not only economically but also politically. That web, which at first created the environment for U.S. hegemony in the Western world, is now perceived by U.S. imperialist capital as a straitjacket.
Breaking these balances, made unfavorable by historical evolution itself, is then a goal of U.S. imperialism and not a simple product of Trump’s head. We are therefore witnessing a turning point in the strategy of U.S. imperialism, which is being consolidated with Trump, and not a comical interval. And this shift is most evident when one realizes that, in several cases, Trump’s action reflects the affirmation of previous tendencies that were only outlined in the past.
The U.S., of course, needs new allies for this new crusade. Such allies can only be found among the most regressive elements, those willing to embrace the class violence of international capitalism. In Brazil, in Colombia, in Eastern Europe and among the European far-right forces are the natural allies of today’s USA. The U.S. thus tends to become the epicenter of a wave that seeks to subvert what remains of the capitalist democracies (already emptied and therefore vulnerable) of Europe and the rest of the world.
Bankruptcy of the capitalist democracies
This abandonment of democratic precepts by an imperialist power that, at one time, presented itself as the greatest champion of them is further proof of the decadence of world capitalism as a whole. It is not surprising that the spearhead of this “rejection of principles” is precisely its most developed representative.
The capitalist democracies of the last 70 years have been able to survive thanks to the environment of economic prosperity of the post-World War II period. The ruling classes have realized for the last 30 years that they will not be able to recover the prosperity that will allow them to pay for the well-being of the working class and thus buy social peace. The stagnation and decline into which the capitalist world has irreversibly entered are the death certificate of these democracies. What is left to the ruling classes then is their violence.
Nothing to look forward to
It is not to be expected, therefore, that the ruling class in the United States will want to discard Trump or Trumpism (unless someone less ridiculous presents themself to accomplish the mission). Nor should we expect that a new individual in the presidency would alter the fundamentals of the course now being taken. The serious hypothesis of a second term of Trump’s mandate (in this case, he will certainly be better advised from the beginning) will represent, on the contrary, the consecration and consolidation of this course.
If, since the second postwar period, the U.S. was already the head of international imperialism, then deployed in the form of a triad, with Japan and the EU — with all that this meant for the peoples of the planet — now the U.S. is concentrating on itself, its goals out in the open. This is the worst that can be expected of an imperialist power. Destroying it is the central task of our time.
Everything to look forward to
In its enterprise for survival, U.S. imperialism is forced to shake the foundations of the order that it itself has established and around which the world has organized itself in recent decades. This means that, through the threats posed to the peoples, an era of disarray of the entire imperialist system is opening up, since it is the backbone of the same system that is disintegrating.
With this, the conditions for a new revolutionary cycle on a world scale are opened.
Everything will depend on the response. Above all, there will be the development of the class struggles of the working masses against a bankrupt capitalism, the fight against fascist forces in each country and against all forms of imperialism, the search for independence of the peoples dominated by the imperialist powers — and, particularly, the capacity of the North American workers to overcome, on the internal front, the fascist drift of the ruling class.