Biden's National Security Guidance Document Reflects The Old Imperialist Foreign Policy. By: Alvaro RodriguezRead Now
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indicated that when it comes to China and Russia he favors continuing the failed policies of confrontation with rather than cooperation with those countries. | Carolyn Kaster/AP
There was hope that after the world-wide pandemic, mutual cooperation and sharing would be the new normal among all the countries affected by the pandemic. And we have seen a few hopeful signs in this regard but there are serious concerns now that we may not see real international cooperation become the norm.
If we look at the Interim National Security Guidance document put out by the Biden Administration recently the indications are that in foreign policy, we are getting from this administration the same old U.S. imperialism and it will take a massive mobilization to turn that around.
While Trump’s slogan was “America First,” the Biden foreign policy might be characterized as “America is back.” There is a difference in tone but the foreign policy path the country is on is essentially the same.
Throughout the document, you see the word “strength” repeated constantly, 36 times. There are belligerent statements such as, “The United States will never hesitate to use force when required to defend our vital national interests.”
This document, even as it says it prefers to ditch confrontation, intends to continue a policy of strangling China’s technological advancement through “vigorous competition” which the administration has already shown involves lining up countries to help the US weaken China economically.
So far there is no rejection of the continued hot wars in the Middle East.
Biden calls Russia’s leader, Putin, a “killer” and threatens new sanctions against Russia, while only scolding “Bone-Saw Murderer” Mohamed bin Salman. MBS, as he is called, is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, identified by Biden himself as authorizing the killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate. Khashoggi was a columnist for the Washington Post and a permanent resident of the United States. Biden refuses to call MBS a killer.
Why the belligerency?
The aim of U.S. imperialism is to make the world safe for U.S. finance corporations to maximize their ill-gained profits. Other aims include setting international rules suitable to U.S. extreme right class economic and military interests, keeping the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency, protecting death merchants defending the fossil fuel industry, and defending the chemical/pharma industry’s assault on the health of the planet and our international working class.
These predatory aims require the invention of enemies. In the past, these used to be the Soviet Union and later, global terrorism. Now it is China, Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, and other countries trying to exercise their independence and their right to develop and choose their own economic paths.
This “national security” guidance document shows clearly who the main target will be – China. China is attacked at least 14 times. Russia is attacked five times. They are labeled as “biggest threats” and “antagonistic authoritarian powers.”
If we are to successfully achieve a world where everyone is cooperating to solve the problems of the planet these countries should be seen as partners rather than threats.
They are seen as threats because the U.S. security establishment sees them as an impediment to U.S. imperialism. As such these countries are described as enemies of “democracy” while the U.S. is held up as the epitome of democracy.
The reality is that the world is becoming more multilateral and U.S. imperialism is on the decline. That makes U.S. imperialism more dangerous. When the word “democracy” is mentioned, it is a code word for capitalism and imperialism. The U.S. intends to revitalize the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Indo-Pacific “Quad” Alliance – Japan, India, Australia, and the U.S., thus attempting to “contain” the rise of China and Russia.
In this document, Biden tries to connect the problematic foreign policy to the issue of “making life better for working families.” It is merely a cover for the promotion of imperialist policies, at odds with the true interests of the working class. Can we really have a progressive policy at home and an imperialist policy abroad? The answer is obvious. This is, in the long run, an impossibility.
In the document, Biden pretends to modernize the national security institutions while making life better for working families. It is the same old rhetorical argument made under Reagan, “Guns or Butter.” Reagan chose guns. It turns out that when this country promotes guns, little money is available for working families. What has happened to the income of working families since Reagan? There has been a significant drop in the working-class standard of life and more inequality!
More recently, a certain sector of the ruling class has decided that the higher level of inequality is an existential danger to the capitalist system itself. They are promoting a form of “inclusive capitalism” to avoid the pitchforks. “Inclusive capitalism” has no lasting substance, however, and cannot overcome the basic contradictions of capitalism.
During the pandemic, it has been easier to make the case for a Keynesian economic intervention to alleviate the worst of the pandemic-aggravated economic crisis (on top of the already existing capitalist crisis).
Underway are massive infusions of budgetary stimulus (fiscal stimulus) from the Federal spending budget plus a huge infusion from the Federal Reserve Bank (monetary stimulus). Combined between 2020 and 2021, they total about $6 trillion dollars.
The bottom line, however, is that imperialism has never been good for the country nor good for the working class. It has been very good for the stock market!
Biden’s interim national security strategic guidance, it turns out is a lot of smoke and mirrors!
Confrontation over values?
A populist leftist president in Latin America states that the main characteristic of conservatism (catchall phrase for capitalism and neoliberalist policy) is hypocrisy. By conservatism, he speaks of the ideology of resistance to change, of having to give up private unwarranted privileges and wealth. Most of this wealth is acquired through wage theft, corruption, tax avoidance, debt traps, and undemocratic practices.
While the national security guidance talks about “democracy”, “ U.S. values” and “universal” values, what they are really talking about is making the U.S. finance capital more profitable around the world.
The guidance document makes no mention of what happened during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
No mention is made of passage of laws that essentially take away the right to vote in many states.
No mention is made of the lies used to justify the war on and killing of the people of Iraq, the Afghan people, the Syrian people, the people of Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and many more nations.
No mention is made of the CIA rendition and torture programs around the world, including Guantanamo’s U.S. military base and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.
No mention is made in the “national security” strategic guidance document about U.S. “undemocratic” support for the coup that overthrew the elected President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, efforts to overthrow the elected president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, efforts to overthrow elected President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua or the U.S. supported coup that overthrew the elected presidents of Honduras, President Zelaya in 2009 (Biden was Vice- President then, nominated by Obama because of his foreign policy “expertise”).
Obviously, no mention is made of institutionalized racism in this country and the consequent political instability. No mention is made of the consequences of savage capitalism (neoliberalism) introduced in the 1980s under Reagan in the U.S. and Thatcher in the UK. This economic policy has resulted in the loss of good-paying jobs and a lower standard of life for the working class, not only in this country but around the world.
Confrontational meeting in Alaska
The U.S. and China had a joint meeting (March 18-19, 2021) between the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, U.S. National Security adviser, Jake Sullivan, Foreign Minister of China, Wang Yi, and chair of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office of the Chinese Communist Party, Yang Jiechi.
The U.S. sanctioned 24 Chinese officials the day prior to the meeting. The U.S. State Department also came ready with preconditions to improved relations.
The summit turned into a posturing and recrimination session on China and U.S. human rights. The facts point to this public confrontation as the real purpose of the U.S.- requested meeting.
“China urges the U.S. side to fully abandon the hegemonic practice of willfully interfering in China’s internal affairs. This is a longstanding issue, and it should be changed.” Yang Jiechi urged “the abandonment of Cold War mentality and zero-sum game.”
No communique was issued after this Biden Administration meeting with the Peoples Republic of China.
Hopefully, this is not a lost opportunity to advance solution to common problems like the pandemic, climate change, nuclear proliferation, global economic recovery after the pandemic, and to engaging in cooperation to help solve issues affecting developing countries.
Take the issue of vaccination against the pandemic. Ten developed capitalist countries are hoarding 80% of the vaccines. Mexico’s President Obrador, during an online meeting with Biden, asked the U.S. to share its vaccine. The reply by the White House press secretary was that “Joe Biden would not consider sharing its coronavirus vaccines.”
U.S. vaccines were denied in spite of hypocritical talk about the enduring partnership between the U.S. and Mexico “based on mutual respect and the extraordinary bond of family and friendship.”
Would you deny vaccines to your own “family”? Now, the U.S. plans to “lend” some of its oversupply of the AstraZeneca vaccines to both Canada and Mexico. This comes after some vaccinated Europeans experienced isolated blood-clot issues and many European countries temporarily suspended the use of that vaccine.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and African Union chairman has criticized this vaccine nationalism.
China, Russia, and other countries have sent their own vaccines to developing countries in Latin America, Africa, and other locations. Socialist Cuba has developed a new COVID-19 vaccine and, in contrast to developed capitalist countries, provided exemplary international health care solidarity. Mexico has received vaccines from Belgium, China, Russia, and India. Mexico also received the active ingredient for AstraZeneca from Argentina.
Later, under international pressure and condemnation, the U.S. pledged $4 Billion to the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
If history is a possible indicator of future actions, the Biden administration intends to continue U.S. imperialist hegemony in a world that expects more multilateralism in foreign policy, respect for the national sovereignty of nations, and more international solidarity on common issues affecting the globe, such as pandemics, climate change, war prevention, labor migration, refugees, weapons control and global poverty alleviation.
There have been some positive moves made by Biden including extension of the New Start Treaty with Russia and willingness to rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty with Iran. It didn’t help that Biden bombed alleged Iranian assets in Syria, however.
There is an internal conflict between Biden’s foreign policy intentions and his domestic agenda. Biden plans to pursue infrastructure jobs, raising wages, student debt forgiveness, economic recovery, and other domestic issues. There is a growing domestic mass opposition and new coalitions created to oppose a confrontational foreign policy and a bloated military budget; its slogan is – Money for Jobs, Not for War!
If you agree with this slogan, you are encouraged to join the coalition at moneyforhumanneeds.org.
Biden says he wants to work with Mexico and Central American countries in a joint economic development program initiated by Mexico to alleviate the poverty and insecurity that is driving the labor migration from Central America and southern Mexico to the U.S. Nevertheless, Biden intends to keep Trump’s original 4,000 National Guard members on the southern border with Mexico, while continuing immigrant deportations and caging of 5,000 immigrant children. Biden only offers to help Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, all of which have right-wing governments allied with the United States. Countries left out include left-led Nicaragua plus Haiti. The main reason for the labor migration and refugee exodus is poverty, an effect of global imperialist policy. Other contributing factors include climate change, wars, and gang violence.
Biden’s regional commanders (North America and Southern Command) also cautioned in a recent press conference about possible terrorists coming through the southern border. Sounds a lot like Trump’s racist and unfounded rhetoric! These outrageous remarks are an insult to Mexico.
Martin Luther King warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
The military budget in the U.S. takes about half the discretionary spending of the national budget, leaving little money to meet social needs. The U.S. spends (~$741 billion budgeted for 2021) more on the military budgets of the next 10 countries combined.
Alvaro Rodriguez is a long-time labor and community activist. He writes from Texas.
This article was first published at People's World
Biden, at the time vice president, right, speaks to Putin, then the Russian Prime Minister, second left, during a meeting in Moscow, March 10, 2011. The two are now face each other as presidents of their respective countries. | Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP
I want to start this critique of Biden’s developing foreign policy by stating clearly and unequivocally that his $1.9 trillion rescue plan deserves total support from everyone in our country. It is nothing less than a dramatic disavowal of the right-wing era launched by Ronald Reagan some 40 years ago.
Although Biden deserves praise for his domestic policy so far, his characterization on national television of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer” was just another indication of what is, unfortunately, turning out to be a dangerous trend in the foreign policy he is pursuing.
While his domestic policy radically departs from what we have seen in the U.S. over the last 40 years his, foreign policy—executed by stalwart representatives of the old establishment—is failed business as usual. And the unfortunate reality is that a continuation of the policy of military domination of the entire world will sooner or later require turning away from progressive domestic priorities.
As Biden begins his presidency, we are in a different and new world, one that did not exist in the Reagan-Bush-Clinton days of neoliberalism. The planet is in a very real climate emergency and is reeling under a global pandemic. Super recessions and depressions are crippling many countries economically. The wealth gap is growing day by day, and corruption in government, which has always been a problem, is even worse now, with scandals happening in almost every country in the world. Also worse than ever are the attacks on democracy happening in nations that have previously prided themselves as beacons of freedom.
Solutions for these unprecedented problems will require unprecedented international cooperation. This is not the time then for the president of the United States to be calling the president of Russia, the second-largest nuclear power on earth, a “killer.” There are indeed plenty of killers running plenty of countries these days, as there have been in the past, including in our own. But the crises of today require cooperation between the two largest nuclear powers.
Calling Putin a “killer,” however, reflects some real and far more dangerous trends in U.S. foreign policy. It reflects the control still being exercised by the old foreign policy establishment that played such a big role in bringing us the world-wide mess we have today.
The U.S., thanks to the old foreign policy establishment, has almost 800 military facilities around the world. The new domestic and worldwide realities of today require dismantling of that network of bases. That will require changing the thinking about what constitutes national security. That shift will have to be as big if not bigger than the change we have seen from the Biden administration when it comes to domestic policy.
For starters, the U.S. will have to stop military adventures around the globe, including the confrontational ones on Russia’s borders. Calling Russia’s leader a “killer” while the U.S. threatens that country with our troops along its frontiers is hardly helpful to the cause of re-ordering our priorities.
Likewise, U.S. military confrontation with China in the South China Sea will not be at all conducive to the necessary reordering of priorities. There is no real indication yet that Biden is moving in the direction of ending confrontation with either Russia or China.
In Afghanistan, the United States has been at war for more than 20 years. Trillions of dollars have been spent on that war. Many have died. Biden is now signaling U.S. troops will stay there beyond the date which Trump had claimed American forces would pull out. What amounts to institutionalized warfare, it seems, is something Biden is willing to continue. There is no hope of getting back what has been lost in Afghanistan. The only prudent course is to get U.S. troops out of there.
Biden, during his campaign for the White House, promised to revive the Iran nuclear deal he helped negotiate when he was vice president. He promised to also bring back the constitutional role of Congress in declaring war. But he instead ordered the bombing—over the objection of Democratic senators who called it a violation of the War Powers Act—of what he said was an Iranian-backed outpost in Syria.
In addition, he has delayed removal of 900 U.S. troops who are uninvited occupiers in Syria. He is maintaining troops in a sovereign country against its will and has ordered a bombing in that same country’s territory.
Biden said he is reviewing our drone policies, but so far, that review has resulted in more focused targeting and no indication that use of killer drones will be ended.
He is continuing U.S. support for regime change by continuing inhumane sanctions against Venezuela—sanctions clearly intended to overthrow its government. To no avail, the UN has called on the U.S. to end its cruel blockade tactics that deny medicine and food to the Venezuelan people.
And back to Russia, Biden is ratcheting up dangerous confrontation with that country. In the next few weeks, Biden said, in answer to a question on national television, that “we will see” how he retaliates for last year’s SolarWinds hack of U.S. cyberinfrastructure—for which Russia was allegedly responsible. Knowledgeable sources say the administration will approve still more sanctions on Russia and clandestine cyber actions against Russian state institutions.
Such an escalation is likely to trigger more and worse cyberattacks by both sides. Is that what we really want right now? In the long term, that will do no good at all for either the American or the Russian people.
On China, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has called relations with China “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century,” with the administration making a show of not just confronting China economically but also militarily in the South China Sea. U.S. naval maneuvers there continue.
As the administration does this, the Republicans put forward continued accusations in public congressional hearings that the “Chinese Communist Party” is responsible for both the pandemic and for economic problems in the U.S. resulting from the pandemic. Such anti-China rhetoric inflames the international situation while also fueling domestic anti-Asian hate crimes and attacks.
The United States cannot focus on and help solve the climate crisis, the pandemic, and worldwide economic disasters, including inequality and the wealth gap, by continuing institutionalized warfare, regime change, threats of military action, and maintaining 800 bases around the world.
No one pretends that the foreign policy of the U.S. can or will be radically changed overnight. The hope is there, however, that based on what we see happening in domestic policy, the Biden administration may yet begin to move in a better direction when it comes to foreign affairs.
You can start, Mr. President, by not grandstanding against the Russians. That’s so old, and it gets us nowhere.
John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.
Republished from Peoples World.
As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo Credits: Alex Brandon AP
United States Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown Jr. recently said that there was a need in the Air Force for a low cost, lightweight fighter jet to replace aging F-16 fighter jets (Axe 2021). Astute readers will know that such a jet has already been attempted, the F-35. Since 2001, the US government and Lockheed Martin have worked to create the next generation of fighter jets at a total cost of $400 billion as of 2020 (Grazier 2020). At $21 billion a year, the F-35 project alone is capable of paying almost half of the estimated cost of $48 billion a year for free college education in the United States as proposed by Senator Sanders (Golshan 2019). However, as President, Biden has within the first month in office already approved $200 million in weapons sales through Raytheon to Jordan, Chile, and a NATO agency (Mehta 2021). As such, we can likely expect the Air Force to get their wish as we once more return to Obama-era global interventionism. Whereas in the previous five years we have seen blunter edged, loud, bragging styles of military engagements through Trump, we are now more likely to see a return to what was aspired to by Donald Rumsfeld and perfected by Barack Obama: “A new kind of war,” one with “sustained engagement that carries no deadlines” is the perfect distillation and crystallization of the American Empire’s need for consumption of resources (Rumsfeld 2001). And now with President Biden we might see a proliferation of such acts.
American culture has long been critiqued for its consumerism. Post-industrial America and much of the West has been absorbed fully in consumer culture. As Americans, the concept of “freedom” can be seen most clearly in what we can purchase and consume. The right to bear arms is not a right to be exercised against tyranny, but rather a marketing tool to sell personal defense handguns. The right to free speech is the right for conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones to sell you snake oil. It is also the right for corporations to buy influence. Through Citizens United, money is equivocated by law to freedom. Even as other countries across the world entered mandatory lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19 there was intense backlash in America. This is partly because such a lockdown would deprive us of the one freedom that we exercise most often and care the most about: our freedom to make consumer choices. Due to this, we did not have a lockdown like many other countries did. Nowhere in America were things fully closed to the degree that you saw in nations like Vietnam, China, or Australia. We do not see the health and wealth of us all in common as an expression of freedom, rather we view ourselves in our personal kingdoms. We lack the culture and social structures that would allow us to define freedom or express it in any other way.
So, what happens when this rabid consumer culture is married with imperialism? What is unleashed when a society built on infinite economic growth and consumption must grow more and consume more? A Lovecraftian horror is thrust upon the world, its maw wide open and ready to engulf the planet. While conquest defined empires of the past, consumption is what defines the American empire.
President Joe Biden has already authorized bombings in Syria, citing Iranian backed militia groups, that have left 22 people dead (De Luce, Gains, Gubash 2021). This news comes the same day that Democrats capitulate to the Senate parliamentarian on a minimum wage increase (Linton, Segers 2021). Biden and the rest of the Democratic party have thrown their hands in the air in mock shock and disappointment over an issue for which they cared very little. However, the bipartisan support for war can be seen in the 93-2 confirmation for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, a man who was previously on the board of Raytheon and will receive close to $1.7 million in payments from Raytheon (Shabad 2021; Capaccio, Allison 2021). Beyond Secretary Austin we can see the White House’s appetite for war only grows with other nominations such as Neera Tanden to head the OMB. Tanden has previously stated that Libya should repay the United States in the form of oil after the removal of Gaddafi (Greenwald 2015). This is the model of empire as consumption. We liberated you, now give us your resources. This harrowing model of global politics is repeated endlessly by administration after administration.
This immediate move into warfare is not novel in any way. Trump’s first military order came in early February of 2017, and Obama’s first military order was a mere three days into his presidency (Merica, Brown, Zeleny 2017; Zenko 2017). Now as we move into the Biden presidency, we see the persistence of American imperialism taking precedence above all other policy matters. While elected officials and talking heads berate the left for wanting minimum wage increases, green energy, an end to foreign wars, or any other policy goal and speak about the difficulties involved they have no issue ordering and defending the death of people across the world.
We have seen once again the broken promises and empty words of the Democratic party. In our discussions with our fellow workers, we must draw attention to this betrayal. We must continue to further class consciousness with those around us. We must continue to develop our own infrastructure and organizations to more effectively combat these warmongers and imperialists. Ultimately it is capitalism that is the driving force for these horrendous acts of war. Through its overthrow we will see the day where all peoples of the world are liberated. Until that day comes, we must continue our work in solidarity and in strength. Day by day, more and more of the working class of this country sees how little the imperialist machine cares for them and how much they might gain from its overthrow.
Axe, D. (2021, February 25). The U.S. Air Force Just Admitted The F-35 Stealth Fighter Has Failed. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2021/02/23/the-us-air-force-just-admitted-the-f-35-stealth-fighter-has-failed/?sh=13cb405d1b16
Capaccio, A., & Allison, B. (2021, January 10). Biden Defense Pick to Get Up to $1.7 Million From Raytheon role. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-01-10/biden-defense-pick-to-get-up-to-1-7-million-from-raytheon-role
Golshan, T. (2019, June 24). Bernie Sanders's free college proposal just got a whole lot bigger. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/6/23/18714615/bernie-sanders-free-college-for-all-2020-student-loan-debt
Grazier, D. (2020, October 21). Selective Arithmetic to Hide F-35's True Costs. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.pogo.org/analysis/2020/10/selective-arithmetic-to-hide-the-f-35s-true-costs/#:~:text=The Navy spent a total, or $7.5 billion per ship.
Greenwald, G. (2015, November 05). Leaked Emails from Pro-Clinton Think Tank Reveal Censorship and Pandering to Israel. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://theintercept.com/2015/11/05/leaked-emails-from-pro-clinton-group-reveal-censorship-of-staff-on-israel-aipac-pandering-warped-militarism/
Linton, C., & Segers, G. (2021, February 26). Senate parliamentarian rules Democrats cannot include minimum wage hike in COVID-19 economic relief bill. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-covid-relief-bill-senate-parliamentarian/
Luce, D. D., Gains, M., & Gubash, C. (2021, February 26). Biden orders airstrikes in Syria, retaliating against Iran-backed militias. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/biden-airstrikes-syria-retaliating-against-iran-backed-militias-n1258912
Mehta, A. (2021, February 11). State clears first three foreign military sales of Biden administration. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.defensenews.com/global/the-americas/2021/02/11/state-clears-first-three-foreign-military-sales-of-biden-administration/
Merica, D., Browne, R., & Zeleny, J. (2017, February 03). How Donald Trump's first military action went from the Obama White House to deadly raid - CNN Politics. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2017/02/03/politics/yemen-raid-trump-obama/index.html
Rumsfeld, D. (2001, September 27). A New Kind of War. The New York Times, p. 21. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/27/opinion/a-new-kind-of-war.html
Shabad, R. (2021, January 22). Senate confirms Lloyd Austin as first Black defense secretary. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/senate-confirms-austin-first-black-defense-secretary-n1255322
Zenko, M. (2017, January 20). Obama's Final Drone Strike Data. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://www.cfr.org/blog/obamas-final-drone-strike-data
David Flora is a bartender living in the South with a bachelors in political science and is currently seeking a masters in public policy. Much of his organizational work and praxis involves fellow restaurant industry workers. He believes the restaurant industry in particular is an important part of a revolutionary workers movement.
As we engage in the struggle to create a cohesive and revolutionary leftist movement in the United States, it is crucial to use all rhetorical tools at our disposal to aid our fellow workers in radicalization. The Biden Administration represents another tool in the toolbox to highlight the crises of capital and liberal democracy as well as the ineffectual nature of electoralism.
If the Trump Administration was the first inoculation for many Americans to the need for structural change, the Biden Administration can be seen as a vital second dose. Already, we have witnessed the term “kids in cages” which weaponized the horrors on our southern border to get people on the left to vote for Biden transformed by the Biden Administration to “overflow facility for migrant children” (Alvarez 2021). What was once a rallying cry against the cruel policy of a cruel administration has now been rebranded by the same administration that was meant to end it. As such, we can expect more of this rebranding from Biden and his imperialist administration: a continuation of the evils of previous administrations under softer language.
A second example of Biden’s failures to uphold promises of change is with his proposed pandemic relief bill. When the fate of the Senate was to be determined by two races in Georgia the Democratic Party hammered home the message of $2,000 in a single stimulus check (Kapur 2021). Once the races had been decided, however, and Democrats gained control of the Senate the message shifted. As they are wont to do, Democrat elites elongated and obfuscated the original simple message to something with more wiggle room. “We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to the people who need it most,” said Kamala Harris, the incoming Vice President on January 14, 2021 (Harris 2021). A mere nine days after the race in Georgia ended, the Democratic Party began to walk back its promise to Americans. The pandemic relief has been walked back even further still, with the ineffectual and spineless Party now negotiating itself down to providing fewer checks to a smaller group of people to appease a second party who neither holds majority power nor views the Democratic Administration as legitimate (Konish 2021).
We as Marxists can use these failures as tools for discussion with our fellow workers. Many of my coworkers and friends have realized through the Trump Administration that politics can indeed have a material effect on our lives, particularly through the catastrophic inability in our country to combat the deadly virus that has seeped into every facet of our lives. Now, we must strike while the iron is hot. We must impress upon our fellow workers that they cannot rely on the Democratic Party for salvation. It is vital that we do not allow the conversation to fall into the all too common “both parties are bad, therefore engaging in politics is pointless” cliché. While there is truth in that statement, it is only true insofar as engaging in liberal democratic electoralism cannot yield true change.
We as leftists can provide answers to the failures of both parties from an outside perspective. Much of the working class considers themselves outside politics, and we can stand outside with them and offer a new perspective. When we are met with exasperation by the working class as stimulus checks are delayed, vaccine rollouts are fumbled, and the change that was promised is not delivered, that is the moment to respond with our message of liberation. That yes, both parties are ineffectual at providing real positive change, but positive change is not impossible. There exists ways in which to create that positive change outside of what we have been taught to believe is the avenue for systemic change. We can engage in positive discussion with our fellow workers about progressive change. We can highlight how socialist countries such as Cuba, China, and Vietnam have been more successful in containing Covid-19 than imperialist Western nations. Against the harsh background of the Trump Administration, we can draw parallels to the Biden Administration, rather than softening the blows that the new regime will bring.
During the November elections, many Democrat voters were urging leftists to join them to elect Biden with the promise that he could be pushed to the left. This is of course an empty promise, and a man who has sat in power for decades and supported some of the most atrocious acts of imperialism in the world will not be pushed left by Twitter posters. Biden holds all the institutional power he needs and as such does not need to make concessions to any left movement in the United States. However, we can use his presidency to guide others towards the left. Rather than push or pull, we can guide a quickly awakening working class towards solidarity and empowerment through the inevitable failures and shortcomings of the Biden Administration. Biden’s previous eight years as an executive were brought on by a wave of populism and grassroots organizing that was pushed back out to sea as soon as he and President Obama were sworn in. The Obama Administration was a response by the people to eight years of war and austerity under Bush, but the people were not granted the policies they had elected. The Biden Administration finds itself in a similar, yet stronger position. The only mandate required of them is not to be the previous administration. Where President Obama stands alone in American history as the first black president, and when first elected was seen as bringing about a new coalition to power, Biden is much the mirror of Trump. He is an old, white, conservative egoist with an ever diminishing grasp on reality.
Within this weak mandate, there is room for the left to be critical and provide alternatives in the form of direct action and community organizing. We can take heart in the growing membership of the DSA, SRA, and other local organizations. In fact, the very existence of this blog should help strengthen our resolve and add to the growing proof that a worker’s movement is possible and rapidly approaching in our country. As the left movement in this country grows, we can grow out of the current paradigm of the two major parties engaged in distinctions without difference. We can grow our own institutions and infrastructures and point to them as serious and viable alternatives to our fellow workers. We can use the Biden Administration as a pivot point to guide our fellow workers towards our cause. There is much to hope for in the coming four years. Not because of any liberation from the Democratic Party, but by seizing the opportunity in front of us to create a better tomorrow.
Alvarez, Priscilla. (2021, February 3). “Biden Administration Prepares to Open Overflow Facility for Migrant Children.” CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/02/politics/migrant-children-facility-immigration/index.html (February 12, 2021).
KamalaHarris. (2021, January 14). “’We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most. The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough.’ –Your next president, @JoeBiden” [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/kamalaharris/status/1349900088299188225 (February 12, 2021).
Kapur, Sahil. (2021, January 5). “In Georgia, Democrats Close with Populist Pitch Vowing $2,000 Stimulus Checks.” NBCNews.com. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/georgia-democrats-close-populist-pitch-vowing-2-000-stimulus-checks-n1252805 (February 12, 2021).
Lorie, Konish. (2021, February 8) . “How Soon New $1,400 Stimulus Checks and Other Coronavirus Relief Could Arrive.” CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/08/how-soon-new-1400-stimulus-checks-and-other-covid-aid-could-arrive.html (February 12, 2021).
About the Author:
David Flora is a bartender living in the South with a bachelors in political science and is currently seeking a masters in public policy. Much of his organizational work and praxis involves fellow restaurant industry workers. He believes the restaurant industry in particular is an important part of a revolutionary workers movement.