Understanding Politics in the Biden Era: A Left Perspective from the U.S.

By Max Lane

Red Ant readers will likely be trying to follow American politics. In this post, Red Ant republishes six pieces from Liberation, the newspaper of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) in the United States. The six articles are listed immediately below. The first is entitled The Rehabilitation Of Donald Trump: Who Is To Blame? And dated January 29, 2021. The others, comprising Party Statements and articles, are reprinted below in chronological order starting from January 6 until January 29.

The PSL is one of the groups organising as an activist and cadre socialist party attempting to intervene in U.S. politics. Previously, there was also the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), but this group voted to liquidate itself in 2019. There are other small revolutionary socialist groups and parties but none with the spread and level of activity of the PSL – although the PSL is still a small organisation.

Red Ant thinks that readers should find what is published below interesting. While there is much published on U.S. politics from a range of left perspectives, it is important to follow and analyse what those struggling to build a party formation are saying.

Red Ant also publishes articles written by Barry Shepherd and Malik Miah, both of whom have long experience in socialist party and activist politics in the United States.

List of articles reprinted below:

The Rehabilitation Of Donald Trump: Who Is To Blame?
By Walter Smolarek, January 29, 2021

PSL Statement: Trump Incites Fascist Insurrection Against Congress — What Comes Next?
January 6, 2021

PSL statement: Assault on the Capitol, 24 questions and answers
January 19, 2021

PSL Statement: Biden in office, capitalists in power
January 20, 2021

Biden’s climate orders: 9 things socialists should know
By Tina Landis, January 29, 2021

Biden stimulus bill: What will it take to really ‘Rescue America?’
By Jordan Woll, January 21, 2021

The rehabilitation of Donald Trump: Who is to blame?

Walter Smolarek
January 29, 2021

By January 12, six days after the fascist-led assault on the U.S. Capitol Building that imperiled the lives of top leaders of the U.S. government, it appeared that Donald Trump’s political future was coming to a crashing end. The Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a letter pledging allegiance to Joe Biden and calling the attack sedition and insurrection. Big banks and corporations broke ties with Trump. Segments of the Republican establishment started to distance themselves from him.

Three weeks later, Trump is hosting the most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives at his Mar-a-Lago resort to discuss fundraising and strategy for the midterm election, and looking forward to a virtually assured acquittal at his impeachment trial in the Senate. How did Trump’s fortunes turn around so dramatically after he incited a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, and who bears responsibility for this extremely dangerous development?

The meeting yesterday between Trump and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the highest ranking Republican in the House, was the most direct embrace yet between the former President and his party’s establishment since the Jan. 6 putsch. McCarthy was pleased to report at the conclusion of the meeting that, “President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022” and lauded the Trump administration for delivering “historic results for all Americans”. A statement from Trump’s political action committee expressed similar determination for 2022 and boasted that “[Trump’s] endorsement means more than perhaps any endorsement at any time.”

McCarthy then launched a fundraising website for the midterm election called “Trump’s Majority”. Its homepage is superimposed over an image of Trump and McCarthy shaking hands. A report in Politico claims that Trump has also been invited to attend the Republican National Committee’s high-profile spring donor meeting in April.

On Jan. 26, 45 Republican Senators voted to declare the impeachment proceeding against Trump unconstitutional. While the 55 “no” votes technically carried the day, it revealed that there are more than enough Trump supporters to block the two-thirds majority needed to secure a conviction. 17 Republican Senators would have to vote with every Democrat to convict Trump, but only five even think that it’s legal for them to consider the question. Rand Paul, who introduced the motion to dismiss the impeachment trial as unconstitutional, proclaimed, “This vote indicates it’s over. The trial is all over.”

Democrats now seem to want to just get the trial out of the way as soon as possible, and are unlikely to even call witnesses. “To do a trial knowing you’ll get 55 votes at the max seems to me to be not the right prioritization of our time,” lamented Virginia Senator and 2016 Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine on Jan. 27, “Obviously we do a trial, maybe we can do it fast”. Exactly three weeks earlier, top Democrat Chuck Schumer was giving a speech on the floor of the Senate comparing Trump’s actions with the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.    

Why does the Republican establishment want to resurrect Trump?

Donald Trump staged a hostile takeover of the Republican Party in 2016, and following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol many Republican elites were anxious to put an end to his domination of the party. Their decision to reverse course and do just the opposite can be explained in part by the utter failure of the Democrats’ strategy in the aftermath of Jan. 6, which revolved around an attempt to sideline Trump through impeachment.

As Liberation argued on Jan. 25:

“Because the most severe punishment under consideration if Trump is found guilty is being barred from seeking the presidency again in the 2024 election, it will be easy for him to spin the trial as an anti-democratic effort by his political opponents to deprive the American people of their right to elect whoever they choose as president … If they continue on this path, it makes Trump the center of attention and also allows him to reinvigorate his currently demoralized base of hardcore supporters by casting himself as the target of persecution by the political establishment — the same thing he did during the farcical 2020 impeachment.”

Instead of arresting Trump immediately for seditious conspiracy, something that would absolutely be warranted for his effort to overturn the result of the 2020 election by force, the Democratic Party elites chose to engage in what was essentially an act of political theater. The optics and political dynamics of an impeachment trial seemed tailor made for Trump. Most Republican Senators chose not to walk into this trap.

Besides the Democrats’ bumbling incompetence, the other main advantage Trump had was the threat that he could form a far right third party, which news reports claim he wanted to call the “Patriot Party”. Because the United States has a winner-take-all electoral system, the Republican Party would be facing a wipeout of historic proportions if a newly-formed Patriot Party was able to siphon off even a minority of Republican voters.

Short of an outright split, the enduring popularity of Trump among Republican Party voters means that any politician who defies him has to consider the possibility that they will face a formidable primary challenge. A Morning Consult poll published on Wednesday found that 81 percent of Republican voters have a favorable view of Trump. Only 23 percent said they think Trump should “no longer play a role” in the party. A poll released this week by YouGov and The Economist found that 72 percent of Republican voters agree with Trump’s assertion that Biden’s election was illegitimate, the baseless claim that motivated the assault on the Capitol.

The Morning Consult poll found that 35 percent of Trump voters would defect to the “Patriot Party” if it were formed, and only 31 percent were sure that they would stick with the Republican Party.

Not only is Trump back on the scene politically, his rehabilitation lends further legitimacy to a new crop of fascistic elected officials making waves on the national scene such as Representatives Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Republican establishment may grow to regret their decision to make peace with Trump. It is a mistake frequently made throughout history by conservative ruling class factions who believe they can use an increasingly unhinged and violent far right to their advantage. 

Biden’s play for “unity” with the right wing

The core strategy of the Biden administration is to forge an alliance with as large a section of the Republican Party as possible. The hope is that such a maneuver would lower tensions between elite factions and facilitate a “return to normal” that would recuperate the legitimacy and prestige the U.S. ruling class lost both at home and abroad over the course of Trump’s chaotic tenure in office. In his first days in the White House, Biden signed a number of executive orders implementing progressive policy changes in the hopes of placating the liberal wing of the Democratic Party until they can be sidelined by a broad “centrist” coalition united around fundamentally right wing politics.

But the debate over Biden’s proposed stimulus package shows that there is little appetite among Republicans for this alliance. This approach has been made even more farcical by the re-entry of Trump to the political scene. Trump will undoubtedly seek to use his re-established influence to shoot down any substantive cooperation with the man he insists stole the presidency from him through massive voter fraud.

Biden could have taken advantage of Trump’s momentary isolation to have him arrested for seditious conspiracy while simultaneously advancing a package of sweeping reforms that could be passed without a single Republican vote in Congress. Measures like the introduction of a living wage, the cancellation of student debt and universal healthcare would appeal to many who have been taken in by Trump’s demagogic anti-establishment posturing.

Instead, the Democratic Party elite’s timidity has created a dynamic where Biden will always be racing to catch up with an ever-rightward moving Republican Party whose de facto leader is Donald Trump.

PSL Statement: Trump Incites Fascist Insurrection Against Congress — What Comes Next?

January 6, 2021

Today, a fascist mob — called to action by Donald Trump and acting in obvious collusion with elements of the Capitol Police, the Department of Defense, and possibly other armed forces — stormed the U.S. Capitol building and dispersed Congress. Trump himself spoke at today’s main protest rally outside the White House as part of his campaign to desperately hang on to power. The extreme right wing that assaulted the Capitol today is united above all by the figure of Trump. Shortly before the mob marched on the Capitol he declared, “You’ll never take back the country with weakness. You have to show strength.” Trump more than anything else wants to avoid criminal prosecution once out of office, and retain his political control of the Republican Party.

The heavily armed Capitol Police put up almost no resistance as the fascists pushed over barriers, smashed windows and invaded the chamber of the Senate. One woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol Building. But at the end of the mayhem, after they had accomplished their goal, the mob was calmly escorted out of the building instead of being arrested. If an action remotely like the pro-Trump mob’s dispersal of Congress had been attempted by anti-racist protesters this summer, for instance, they would have undoubtedly been met with deadly and overwhelming force.

Today’s events could not possibly have transpired without some level of cooperation between the fascists and the police. It is inconceivable that the police were not monitoring the communications of the pro-Trump protesters travelling to D.C. and that they were simply unaware that there was any possibility that an assault on the Capitol Building was being discussed.

The role of the Pentagon in this crisis is another central question. The National Guard in Washington, D.C. is under the control of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, not the mayor of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested yesterday that the Department of Defense deploy the D.C. National Guard, but her request was ignored. Now the Guard is reportedly being sent into the streets, but only after the fascists succeeded in storming the Capitol.

The conflict within the ruling class

The Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, is not an independent figure. He was a relatively low-ranking Special Forces officer before being elevated to a place of central importance by Donald Trump, who he owes completely for his current position of authority. Last Sunday, all 10 living former Secretaries of Defense issued a joint op-ed in the Washington Post demanding that the military not intervene in the transition of power to Joe Biden. They wrote that “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates” must “refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.” The group of co-authors includes figures like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Mark Esper — who served as Secretary of Defense until less than two months ago. There must be a profound reason why a group of highly influential figures from disparate ruling class factions united to put out this remarkable statement. It suggests that they already were aware of discussions within sections of the state about precisely this type of plot or action.

The events that transpired today are a serious embarrassment for the U.S. ruling class on the world stage and weaken the global position of U.S. imperialism. Governments that have traditionally played the role of junior partner to the United States, including Germany, the UK and Canada, have issued statements condemning the mob that stormed the Capitol building. Jen Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, said, “Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.” A broad ruling class coalition could come together to take down Trump, who has trampled on a key pillar of the stability of capitalist class rule in the United States — the “peaceful transfer of power”. Key CEOs, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and other pillars of corporate America have spoken out condemning Trump. Congress reconvened several hours after it was dispersed by the fascists, and the pro-Trump mob was condemned by Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell at the re-opening of the session.

In a brief and weak statement today, Joe Biden made an appeal to the fascist mob to withdraw and offered empty platitudes about patriotism. What really must happen is that all those responsible for today’s historic act of fascist aggression be brought to justice. This especially includes Donald Trump, and those in the military and police hierarchy who used their positions to facilitate today’s events. A coalition built on collusion between the police, elements of the Department of Defense, and a fascist mob has launched an unprecedented attack. The menace of the far right can only be decisively defeated by a militant, united front of the multinational working class.


PSL statement: Assault on the Capitol, 24 questions and answers

January 19, 2021

What was Trump trying to accomplish on Jan. 6 by organizing a massive march on the Capitol just as Congress was preparing to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory?

Trump was desperate to overturn the election outcome. He lost the popular vote by more than 7 million, but only narrowly lost several battleground states, which allowed Biden to win the Electoral College. Trump’s team had filed hundreds of lawsuits at the federal and state level to overturn the election outcome in those states. Every one of those lawsuits has failed even though many of them were heard by conservative and right-wing justices, including the Supreme Court.

Trump’s main fear in losing the White House was that his immunity from criminal charges and other legal actions that he thought were likely to be brought against him and his family at the state level would be removed. Trump fears that once having left the White House he and his family would be subject to criminal prosecutions for financial crimes, fraud and the like, similar to the offenses that Paul Manafort was convicted of and for which he is now in prison. The Trump Organization, like many corporate entities, especially in the real estate industry, is being investigated for a litany of financial crimes over the course of its existence that Trump and his family is potentially liable for. Trump is (arguably) able to pardon himself for federal crimes before leaving office, but not for state crimes.

The Jan. 6 march was alternatively billed as a “March to Save America” or a “March for Trump” and Trump was hoping to delay or stop the certification process. There can be no other explanation for why he called this particular protest, this particular action, and this particular rally and march in the middle of the day and in the middle of a work week and just two hours prior to the certification vote in Congress.

Contesting the election result — and asserting his win — would also allow him to retain control of the Republican Party in a way that a loss would not and provide him with a significant fundraising opportunity and slush fund. But it turned out to not just be a ploy. He spent the days up until Jan. 6 browbeating Pence, who presides over the certification process, to overturn the election results.

Was this a coup attempt?

This was an attempt to overturn the 2020 election outcome at the moment Congress was in session to certify the election results, as is mandated by federal law. The election took place on Nov. 3. Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million. He won the Electoral College vote by 306 to 232. The Electoral College vote was certified on Dec. 14, 2020. Congress was in session on Jan. 6, 2021, to formally certify that Biden won the election so that he could be inaugurated, in accordance with federal law, on Jan. 20.

The violent takeover of the Capitol Building was designed to stop the election certification. Congress was dispersed. The president of the Senate, Mike Pence, was rushed out of the Senate Chamber and into hiding just moments before he would have been captured by a violent mob chanting “Hang Mike Pence, Hang Mike Pence.” This prevented the certification of the election outcome. Only after the mob was cleared from the Capitol Building was Congress able to reconvene to do this. While the Congress was dispersed and in hiding, Trump made calls to members of the Congress to pressure them to help stop the certification. More than half the Republicans in the House of Representatives voted “no” on the certification when Congress was eventually able to reconvene later that night.

Was the breach of the Capitol a spontaneous action by a grievance-driven mob or was it a planned operation?

The crowd contained Trump supporters who were caught up in the moment, but the vanguard of the fighters were prepared to fight. Military-style planning and tactics were employed by the attackers. The Associated Press reported on Jan. 15:

“As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.

The formation, known as “Ranger File,” is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did. … Stewart Rhodes, an Army veteran who founded the Oath Keepers in 2009 as a reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama, had been saying for weeks before the Capitol riot that his group was preparing for a civil war and was “armed, prepared to go in if the president calls us up. … Adam Newbold, the retired Navy SEAL from Lisbon, Ohio, whose more than two-decade military career includes multiple combat awards for valor, said in a Jan. 5 Facebook video, “We are just very prepared, very capable and very skilled patriots ready for a fight.”

Robert Glover, the D.C. police commander on the scene at the Capitol, said, “We were literally taking 15 to 20 minutes to get each stair back … many appeared to be on a mission,” and they launched what he and the police chief described as a coordinated assault: “Everything they did was in a military fashion.” Glover said he witnessed rioters apparently using hand signs and waving flags to signal positions, and using what he described as “military formations.” They took high positions and talked over wireless communications. (Washington Post, Jan. 14)

Why was the mob chanting “Find Mike Pence, Hang Mike Pence” when they marched through the Capitol Building?

If they had gotten hold of Pence, they likely would have killed him. Pence is Donald Trump’s vice president and had never publicly criticized Trump. But Pence had told Trump that he could not use his position as president of the Senate to stop the certification of the election of Biden. Trump whipped up the crowd against Pence for being weak at the rally at the White House right before he called on the crowd to march on the Capitol Building.

Lin Wood, an attorney who filed numerous lawsuits with Trump lawyer Sydney Powell to overturn election results in Michigan, Georgia and other states, had already publicly announced that Mike Pence could “face execution by firing squad” for “treason.” Prior to the rally Trump tweeted on the morning of Jan. 6: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify, USA demands the truth!”

What exactly was Pence’s sin that provided the rationale for Trump backers to seek his execution?

Pence wrote that it was his “considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

Were bombs found in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6?

Yes. Powerful, functioning pipe bombs were discovered at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Bombs were also confiscated from members of the pro-Trump crowd by police as demonstrators gathered in the city. If these had gone off, the situation in Washington on Jan. 6 would have become dramatically more chaotic and deadly.

Did people in the crowd possess firearms? Could this have led to major armed combat if shooting had started from either side?

Yes, many of the attackers possessed guns. The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department (a different force than the Capitol Police) battled with the attackers for three hours and prevented the largest contingent from breaching the Capitol Building at the West Terrace entrance. Many of these MPD officers were badly injured and yet didn’t fire their weapons. Why not? Because they thought they would be outgunned in a firefight. The Washington Post wrote on Jan. 15:

“’I didn’t want to be the guy who starts shooting, because I knew they had guns — we had been seizing guns all day. And the only reason I could think of that they weren’t shooting us was they were waiting for us to shoot first. And if it became a firefight between a couple hundred officers and a couple thousand demonstrators, we would have lost,’ stated Daniel Hodges, injured MPD officer.”

Videos with hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok in the days prior to Jan. 6 also encouraged rally attendees to show up armed, according to NBC News. “Take your motherfucking guns,” one TikTok user declared. “That’s the whole point of going.” (Huff Post, Jan. 6, 2021)

In D.C., you must be licensed to carry a concealed firearm in the District, while open carry is prohibited.

How have the events of Jan. 6 impacted the standing of the United States as a world power?

The seizure of the Capitol was a humiliating event for the U.S. ruling class. The United States is an empire, and projecting an image of strength and stability helps the U.S. government maintain “legitimacy” as the anchor of the global capitalist system. The dispersal of an ill-guarded Congress by white supremacists and fascists, with the obvious complicity of powerful elements of the state, promotes just the opposite perception.    

The Global Times, an influential Chinese publication that frequently reflects the views of the government, ran an editorial on Jan. 7 titled, “Capitol mob represents an internal collapse of US political system.” China’s Central Political and Legal Work Conference, an important annual gathering of top law-enforcement officials, concluded several days after the Capitol storming that “China’s rule is in sharp contrast with the turmoil in the West.”

The assault on the Capitol Building also damages the United States’ authority among the world powers that have functioned as its junior partners. The governments of France, the UK, Canada, Australia and others put out statements expressing their dismay at the attack — which of course was instigated by the U.S. head of state. The secretary general of NATO tweeted on Jan. 6: “Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.”

Did the police at the Capitol facilitate the capture of the building by the mob?

Yes and no. There were two different police agencies at different entrances to the Capitol. They acted differently. The attackers had little problem gaining access to several entrances of the Capitol Building, which were “defended” by the Capitol Police, but on the west side of the building at the most important entrance in the area known as the West Terrace, they battled for hours with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police and were unable to overcome them and breach the entrance. This was important because the largest contingent of about 15,000 people were backed up behind the attackers at the West Terrace entrance. If those 15,000 people had entered the building the situation would have been made far more difficult.

How and when was Ashli Babbit shot and killed by Capitol Police?

Babbit was the first person of a larger crowd to breach the House of Representatives Chamber through the Speaker’s Lobby, where members of the House hold their meetings once they are called into session. Members of the House were trapped and hiding in the Chambers behind desks. The attackers had smashed in the windows of the doors that led into the Chamber. The doors could not be opened because Capitol Police inside the Chamber had barricaded the doors with furniture. As Babbit was climbing through the broken window, the first attacker to enter the Chamber, she was shot in the neck.

This had a big impact on that contingent of attackers and they started to retreat and were actually escorted outside by Capitol Police. “As soon as it happened, obviously, everybody was in a different mood,” Steve Baker, one of the attackers who was close to Babbit at the entrance of the House Chamber, told a local CBS News affiliate. “I was actually led out by a young female cop. And, she said, ‘I’m going to keep you safe, but you’re coming out with me.’” (wusa9 News)

Why did the Capitol Police force not prepare by establishing a cordon around the Capitol once they were being assaulted? Was it because the crowd was mostly white “conservatives”? Why in this incident was there such an obvious contrast with policing towards progressive or Black-led demonstrations?

Given the level of awareness that an attack was coming, it is shocking that Capitol Police and other law enforcement bodies did not prepare more robust defenses around the Capitol Building. It is undoubtedly true that many individual police officers harbor political sympathies for the pro-Trump mob and personally hold white supremacist views, and would therefore not be inclined to resist with much force the seizure of the Capitol.

But in addition to this, there was clearly a premeditated conspiracy high in the ranks of the police, military and Congressional hierarchy. Why were so few officers deployed to the Capitol and with such inadequate equipment? Why were pleas to deploy the National Guard ignored? How did the attackers have such detailed knowledge of the notoriously difficult to navigate Capitol Building? A thorough and independent investigation is required to answer these questions and bring all the conspirators to justice.

Were the Trump White House and federal law enforcement aware that forces in the march for Trump were planning to breach the Capitol and use violent means to stop the certification of the 2020 election outcome that would result in Joe Biden replacing Trump as president?

Yes. The Department of Justice, the FBI, and various police agencies, including the Capitol Police, were monitoring social media, transportation hubs bringing people to Washington, and using all of their surveillance capabilities to monitor both the size of the crowd, and the mood and the intent of those coming. This in fact is routine; it takes place before all mobilizations coming to the nation’s capitol. More information is coming out every day revealing that different law enforcement agencies and the federal government knew people were planning on coming to Washington, D.C., to breach the Capitol.

While the FBI and other federal law enforcement initially denied having foreknowledge of the plans to storm the Capitol, there is now vast evidence that they knew with certainty that this was the plan of many people coming to Washington. Here is one of many known reports — the Washington Post on Jan. 12 wrote:

“A day before rioters stormed Congress, an FBI office in Virginia issued an explicit warning that extremists were preparing to travel to Washington to commit violence and ‘war,’ according to an internal document reviewed by The Washington Post that contradicts a senior official’s declaration the bureau had no intelligence indicating anyone at last week’s demonstrations in support of President Trump planned to do harm.

“A situational information report approved for release the day before the U.S. Capitol riot painted a dire portrait of dangerous plans, including individuals sharing a map of the complex’s tunnels, and possible rally points for would-be conspirators to meet in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and South Carolina and head in groups to Washington.” Moreover, the FBI and police forces were fully aware that the Proud Boys and other fascist organizations have been engaged in extreme violent actions in the nation’s capitol since the election and that they and other fascists were mobilizing.”

Why was the request for National Guard and other reinforcements at the Capitol denied the day before the assault and even delayed for several hours after the Capitol had been seized by the attackers?

The refusal by federal authorities to send reinforcements to the Capitol before the attack and even during the attack on the U.S. seat of government is inexplicable unless there was collusion with the attackers. The AP reported that Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said at a press conference on Jan. 7 that “he immediately mobilized state police and National Guard members when asked to go to Washington to help protect the U.S. Capitol, but the state was repeatedly denied permission … by a defense official.”

The AP report continues:

“Hogan said he was in the middle of a videoconference with the Japanese ambassador to the United States when his chief of staff came in to tell him that ‘the U.S. Capitol was under attack.’ Hogan said he immediately excused himself from the videoconference and convened an emergency meeting to mobilize state troopers and the National Guard.

“Hogan said he received a call in the middle of that meeting from Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat. Hogan said Hoyer told him that he was with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York Sen. Charles Schumer ‘in an undisclosed bunker they’d been spirited off to.’

“Hogan also said Hoyer told him that the U.S. Capitol Police were ‘overwhelmed.’ The governor said Hoyer ‘was pleading with us’ to send the National Guard, but Hogan said he had not received authorization.”

The AP also reported:

“The District of Columbia submitted a direct request for help, Hogan said, and he immediately mobilized state police and the National Guard. However, Hogan said the state was repeatedly denied approval.”

The AP article also states:

“‘I was actually on the phone with Leader Hoyer, who was pleading with us to send the guard,’ Hogan said. ‘He was yelling across the room to Schumer and they were back and forth saying we do have the authorization, and I’m saying, ‘I’m telling you we do not have the authorization.’”

“Hogan said Maj. Gen. Timothy Gowen, the adjutant general of the Maryland National Guard, was repeatedly rebuffed by the Pentagon. ‘The general . . . kept running it up the flagpole, and we don’t have authorization,’ he said.”

The now resigned Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund says that “he called the Pentagon six times pleading for National Guard assistance during the riot.” NNY 360, a website serving local newspapers in northern New York State including Watertown Daily Times, near Ft. Drum, reports:

“Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, a former commander of Fort Drum and now serving as the director of Army Staff, has come under fire that the Pentagon dragged its feet to send the National Guard to assist with last Wednesday’s Capitol riots.

“Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund accused Gen. Piatt of refusing the deployment to the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday because the general — former commander of the 10th Mountain Division — didn’t like the optics of sending the National Guard while pro-Trump rioters sieged the building, according to multiple media reports on Monday.

“In an interview, Mr. Sund told the Washington Post the Pentagon refused to act immediately to send the National Guard reinforcements in numerous calls while the rioters were about to storm the Capitol.”

The New York Times reported Jan. 11:

“On a call at around 2 p.m., about the time the complex was breached, Mr. Sund and local officials in the district pleaded with Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff, for help, only to have the general say that he could not recommend the deployment to his boss, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy.

“‘I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing in a police line with the Capitol in the background,’ General Piatt said, according to Mr. Sund.”

It would be more than three hours before any National Guard troops arrived, well after several people had died, after the Congress was dispersed prior to the certification vote and after parts of the Capitol had been ransacked.

Why did the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House of Representatives and the Sergeant-at-Arms for the Senate deny the Capitol Police Chief’s request for additional military assistance before the assault and after the assault had breached the Capitol?

This is inexplicable given that a primary role of this position is to guarantee that the orderly proceedings of both houses of Congress are sustained, and yet they declined critically-needed support to accomplish this task. Now-resigned Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said that House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving told him he was concerned about the “optics” of a major show of force around the Capitol. But, of course, the “optics” of a fascist mob dispersing Congress are much worse. Mysteriously, the Washington Post reported on Jan. 10:

“Irving could not be reached for comment. A cellphone number listed in his name has not accepted messages since Wednesday. Messages left at a residence he owns in Nevada were not immediately returned, and there was no answer Sunday evening at a Watergate apartment listed in his name. A neighbor said he had recently moved out.”

Why did the Joint Chiefs of Staff, composed of all eight top generals from the various military service branches, send a letter to 1.3 million members of the armed forces on Jan. 12 denouncing the Jan. 6 assault as an attack on the U.S. government and an act of sedition and insurrection?

The paralysis that gripped the U.S. capitalist establishment in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Congress and the continuing threats from armed fascist organizations came to an abrupt halt on Jan. 12 with the public letter signed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The statement read: “The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol Building and our constitutional process … [and was the result of] sedition and insurrection.”

This unprecedented letter is a clear sign that they were worried that military forces were being drawn into or participated in the seditious conspiracy. This letter came after the extraordinary Jan. 3 statement from all 10 living secretaries of defense warning the officials in the Pentagon to not allow the military to be used to alter the 2020 election outcome.

The letter also pledged the military’s loyalty to the incoming Biden administration, rebuking Trump’s false claims that he is the true winner of the election and should remain in office. The top brass of the armed forces have always gone to great lengths to preserve their “non-partisan” image, and it is extremely rare for them to issue a statement, much less a letter to all members of the military, that directly comments on domestic politics.

Were some members of the U.S. Congress who support Donald Trump colluding with the attackers by giving guided tours to the attackers the day before (Jan. 5)?

Yes, according to several members of Congress, which would point to the existence of a broader conspiracy involving in some capacity some of the more extreme rightwing politicians in the Republican Party. On Jan. 13, over 30 members of Congress led by New Jersey Representative Mikie Sherrill wrote a letter to the Sergeants-at-Arms of the House and Senate as well as the head of Capitol Police:

“The tours being conducted on Tuesday, January 5, were a noticeable and concerning departure from the procedures in place as of March 2020 that limited the number of visitors to the Capitol. These tours were so concerning that they were reported to the Sergeant at Arms on January 5.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day … Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.”

Donald Trump was indefinitely suspended from using Twitter and other social media platforms and Twitter suspended 70,000 QAnon-related Twitter accounts. Given that the PSL has in the past warned against the growing aggregated power of big privately-owned capitalist tech companies that are censoring speech on social media platforms, does the PSL support or oppose the ban against Trump after the Jan. 6 assault?

This question must be framed properly. Twitter and other tech companies stated that Trump violated their terms of service by using their platforms to incite violent attacks. There is no question that Trump was doing just that. If progressive or socialist groups or organizations advocating for Black liberation had used Twitter to organize a violent mob attack on the seat of government, there would be no question that not only would those social media platforms shut down our accounts, the leaders of those organizations and people engaged in the attack would have been likely killed and/or already imprisoned. In contrast, right-wing and pro-fascist accounts along with the personal account of Donald Trump being shut down is the subject of great consternation and hand-wringing by tech executives and the media.

Of course, the PSL opposes the aggregation of power by private technology corporations. This power has already been used to suppress people on the left from using Twitter, Facebook or other social media platforms. We believe that these private capitalist corporations should become public utilities subject to democratic control and regulation.

Trump and all others who were involved in the fascist-led assault against the seat of Congress in order to prevent the lawful certification of the election results on Jan. 6 should be arrested and face heavy charges for their crimes — including seditious conspiracy. It would be natural that as part of this process the conspirators would lose access to social media. When a rampaging racist mob is actively using violence and intimidation to overturn an election by disenfranchising millions of Black and Latino voters, the top concern of leftists should be how to stop the mob — not whether the mob’s inspirer has the unlimited right to social media.

Deutsche Bank and Signature Bank, the two biggest lenders to the Trump Organization following its repeated bankruptcies, have announced that they will no longer provide Trump with loans, and other major corporations are cutting all ties with Trump-affiliate businesses. How significant of a problem is that for Trump’s businesses and future?

This is a major problem for Trump, who has always narrowly prioritized his own personal interests above all else. Despite all of his boasting to the contrary, Trump’s businesses have been in multiple bankruptcies. Most U.S. banks refused to do business with him. Deutsche Bank bailed him out with more than $2 billion in loans. Losing access to his most reliable sources of credit, coupled with the loss of vendors and partners to the Trump Organization, deals a major blow to Trump’s business options going forward.

The PSL is characterizing the Jan. 6 attack as a fascist-led assault on Congress and making the argument that Trump was the instigator of this assault. Does the PSL believe that Trump is a fascist? If Trump had won the 2020 election, would the United States have become a fascist government?

Donald Trump is a political opportunist who entered into a relationship of convenience with fascist forces. He is using them and they are using him. Trump is not an ideological fascist per se — he has adopted few consistent political positions throughout his life — but he is willing to align himself with those who are in pursuit of his retaining power.

Trump would have preferred to stay in office by either winning the election outright or overturning the election results by judicial order. It was only after failing in the courts that Trump turned to a strategy centered around fascist mass mobilization and street fighting. Trump would not have felt that this was necessary if he had won the 2020 election, and in such a scenario the United States would not have necessarily become a fascist government.

On Jan. 13, Trump abandoned his fascist allies and announced that the attackers on Jan. 6  would be prosecuted. Trump’s sudden reversal and change of heart took shape immediately after his isolation by a coalition of ruling class forces, culminating on Jan. 12 with a letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an FBI press conference that announced that they were pursuing seditious conspiracy charges, and announcements by big banks and corporations that they were cutting all business ties with Trump.

Why did Trump promise the crowd that he would join them at the Capitol when they were marching on it, but then did not show up? What happened? Why did he not come?

In a characteristic display of double-dealing, Trump promised his supporters while speaking at the rally the morning of Jan. 6 that he would “be there with you” as they marched on the Capitol, but instead withdrew inside the White House. While they were hiding or sheltering in place, Trump was calling members of Congress urging them to switch their position on the election certification vote. He may have planned on going to the Capitol at some point that day but he got cold feet as the situation descended into bedlam, chaos and death. Trump retreated, releasing a video message later that afternoon telling the mob that he loved them, that they were right, that the election was stolen based on fraud, but it was time to go home.

Some groups on the left minimize the significance of what happened on Jan. 6 and argue along the lines that this was simply an amped up crowd of Trump supporters who impulsively came inside the Capitol Building and left the building just as easily. The PSL, however, characterizes the event as a very significant fascist assault on the seat of U.S. government with the intent to overturn the 2020 election outcome. Why do we say it was a planned, fascist-led assault?

It is extremely dangerous to downplay the events of Jan. 6. The fascist movement in the United States reached new heights on that day by forcefully dispersing Congress as it was carrying out one of its most important functions. If there are not serious criminal consequences for all those involved in this attack — including those who facilitated this through their actions or inaction — then the fascists will be emboldened to carry out even more brazen acts of violence.

It is clear that the seizure of the Capitol was not a spontaneous act. Members of Congress were seen giving “reconnaissance tours” of the Capitol Building to people associated with the mob the day prior to the assault. As they were hiding from the mob, staffers in Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s office — a favorite target of the far right — found that the panic buttons they had installed had been mysteriously ripped out. Although plans to storm the Capitol were well known to law enforcement, woefully insufficient police resources were directed towards protecting the building. Police officers were also videotaped directly facilitating the entry of the mob into the building. The secretary of defense and secretary of the army ignored pleas to deploy both the D.C. and Maryland National Guard. This cannot all be simply a coincidence. What happened on Jan. 6 should be understood as a serious, fascist-led assault with the aim of keeping Trump in office despite his loss in the November election.

The incoming Biden administration says they want to pass a new anti-domestic terrorism law in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on Congress. Does the PSL support the adoption of a new anti-domestic terrorism law?

We oppose the adoption of a new domestic terrorism law. The existing laws on the book are sufficient to prosecute Trump, the members of the fascist mob, and all of their co-conspirators on charges including seditious conspiracy. Similar to the passage of the Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks, some elements of the ruling class are opportunistically seeking to use this situation to strengthen the repressive capacity of the state. If it actually materializes, whatever measures are included in a new domestic terrorism law would in all likelihood be employed much more aggressively against the left than against the fascist movement. 

How does the PSL politically characterize the crowd that came to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6? Is the Party saying that the entire crowd is fascist or that some elements are fascist? Does the PSL seek to win over the Trump political base or parts of it to a socialist, anti-racist, working-class program?

The front-line fighters of the pro-Trump crowd can be accurately characterized as fascists. They are the ones who led the charge into the Capitol and forced Congress to flee. Photos and video from Jan. 6 indicate the presence of known fascist groups. Organized fascists such as the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and the Oathkeepers had some level of involvement. The iconography of the extremely bizarre but widespread QAnon movement, which holds that Trump is locked in battle with a satanic ring of pedophiles who control the “deep state,” could be found throughout the crowd. Historically, it is common for outlandish conspiracy theories to play an important role in the development of fascist movements.  

Much of the crowd that attended the pro-Trump rally the morning of Jan. 6 did not march to the Capitol. While they might be sympathetic to fascist views, they have not yet been fully won over to this camp, and many undoubtedly disapprove of the seizure of the Capitol. According to some initial surveys, 55 percent of Trump voters opposed the attack on the Capitol, while 45 percent approved. It is important to understand the fault lines and divisions within the right-wing camp.

People from the middle classes, who perceive correctly or incorrectly that their position in society is slipping, form the backbone of the political movement around Trump. The frequently repeated assertion by liberals that Trump’s support comes primarily from the “white working class” is not supported by data from public opinion research nor does it make logical sense. The people who stormed the Capitol traveled from great distances in the middle of the workweek despite the absence of a robust grassroots organizing effort to transport people. However, that does not mean that there are not a large number of working and poor people who have been swept up by Trump’s populist appeal. A significant number of Trump voters could in fact be won over to progressive and socialist politics on the basis of persistent explanation and a working-class program and the struggle of an anti-racist, class-conscious movement. But those who are actively mobilizing as Trump’s shock troops, and those who form the core of the organized fascist movement, should be treated as nothing other than avowed opponents of workers and all oppressed people.

What should the socialist and progressive movement do to stop fascism in the United States?

Fascism will not recede unless it meets fierce resistance, and bourgeois liberalism and the Democratic Party have proven time and again to be incapable of leading this fight. An effective anti-fascist movement must be led by socialists and be anchored in the working class. Fascism offers a false solution to the very real problems facing society, principally the economic dislocation caused by the deterioration of living standards under capitalism. A socialist program can drown out fascist demagoguery by building a multi-racial, progressive movement aimed at breaking the power of the Wall Street and Washington elite and united around demands like the cancellation of rents and mortgage payments, free health care for all, free education and the cancellation of student debt, and a jobs or income guarantee.

Throughout its existence, the PSL has many times organized mass actions to confront and counter the fascists. We believe that this is a superior tactic to fighting by small groups that seek to substitute themselves for the masses. For example, the PSL helped take the lead in organizing a mass rally of many thousands of people in Washington, D.C., on August 12, 2018. This mass mobilization marginalized and humiliated a collection of fascist groups that were planning a rally to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville terrorist attack that killed Heather Heyer.

Everyone in this country has the legal right to defend themselves when confronted by fascist violence.

What is PSL’s attitude towards the incoming Biden administration?

Joe Biden’s politics can be summed up by his infamous June 16, 2019, pledge to campaign donors at a fundraiser in New York: “Nothing would fundamentally change” if he were president. Biden has spent his half-century-long tenure within the political elite serving big business and the military-industrial complex. He was close personal friends with some of the most notorious Jim Crow segregationists in the Senate. He was a valued leader of segregationist causes in the 1970s because he represented a northern state. He would later go on to author key legislation creating the system of racist mass incarceration.

Biden voted in favor of the murderous 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that led to over 1 million deaths. As the occupation of Iraq dragged on, he even floated the idea of the colonial-style partition of the country. Biden was a reliable ally of the war profiteers in the Senate and played a key role in the imperialist exploits of the Obama administration.

To the extent that Biden implements progressive measures in the future, they would function as a concession to pressure from mass movements and mass struggles. Winning any major reforms during the Biden administration that address core demands of the working class will require a sustained and militant struggle from the people and people’s organizations.

Our opposition to Biden is completely distinct from that of the right wing. The Republican Party, including its Trump-ist and fascistic wings, oppose Biden based on the hallucinatory assertion that he is a tool of “radical socialists.” We are real radical socialists, and we oppose Biden because he is a tool of the big corporations and the Pentagon war mongers.


PSL Statement: Biden in office, capitalists in power

January 20, 2021

Today, just as has happened every four years since 1789, an avowed defender of the wealth and power of the ruling elite has been sworn into office as President of the United States. While a great many people are understandably relieved that Donald Trump is leaving the White House, Joe Biden’s Inauguration on its own will do nothing to remedy the urgent crises facing the working class and will do nothing to rein in the destructive role of the U.S. war machine abroad.

Having spent almost his entire adult life as a member of the political elite, Biden has accumulated a clear track record as a reactionary politician at the service of Wall Street and the Pentagon. Biden launched his career as an opponent of school integration and went on to employ viciously racist rhetoric as he pushed the laws that would form the core architecture of the system of mass incarceration. He has helped deregulate the finance industry, notably with his vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 and his role passing the 2005 bankruptcy law. Biden was a dutiful steward of U.S. imperialism in the Senate and as Obama’s vice president. He voted in favor of the blood-soaked 2003 invasion of Iraq, and even proposed the colonial-style partition of the country as a means of putting down the resistance to the U.S. occupation.

In his acceptance speech, Biden emphasized the need for national unity, reconciliation and bipartisanship. With the Republican Party embroiled in turmoil following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, some elements may be inclined to take up Biden on his offer of cooperation. And they would do so knowing full well that historically “bipartisanship” has always meant that the liberals adapt themselves to the program of the far right, not the other way around. The Democratic Party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress, the only reason that they would seek “bipartisanship” at this moment is that they prefer the program of the right wing to the program of the left.

But politics is dynamic, and the intervention of the masses of people can make all the difference. The struggle of the working class has the power to force even the most reactionary politician to offer concessions. Biden knows this, and there are indicators that some of his first acts in office may be designed to head off opposition from the left.

For this struggle to be effective, it must be independent of the Democratic Party and develop its own, socialist leadership. Under Biden it will become ever clearer that the dire problems facing the world are rooted in the capitalist system itself, not the individual politician who holds office. It will become ever clearer that revolution and the complete reorganization of society is the only way out of the multiple and intensifying crises of capitalism. The Party for Socialism and Liberation will redouble its efforts towards this end.


Biden’s climate orders: 9 things socialists should know

By Tina Landis
January 29, 2021

The Biden administration’s recent executive orders on climate action and environmental protections at first glance may inspire hope. Digging deeper, it becomes evident they lack substance.

1. The language in the White House statement takes no strong stand against extractive industries: “The order directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible …” In other words, they will take a break in issuing new leases for oil and gas wells, if possible. But the “pause” only applies to federal lands where only one quarter of the extraction occurs with the majority taking place on state, private and tribal lands. Plus, it does not revoke leases already issued. Only half of the extraction applications approved between 2014 and 2019 have been used yet, and those applications will still be honored — meaning drilling will continue on federal lands.

2. Biden’s temporary moratorium on Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling is a far cry from the permanent ban he campaigned on, and even this partial victory is in large part due to the pressure from the conservation movement. A recent lease auction for refuge drilling was a complete flop with only three bids submitted, signaling a hesitancy of corporations to undertake long wait periods and lawsuits that would surely come due to public opposition. Big Oil in reality has lots of easier options to drill in Alaska, a state abundantly pockmarked with oil and gas wells on state and private land.

3. The permit revocation for the Keystone XL pipeline is also a reflection of the strength of the Indigenous-led movement that has fought against it for years. This should be seen as a people’s victory, but what about the other pipelines carrying dirty tar sands crude like Line 3 and Sandpiper? Frontline communities are currently fighting the abandonment of leaking Line 3 and the construction of the replacement Sandpiper pipeline that threatens vital water sources and ecosystems in Minnesota as it transports crude from Canada to Superior, Wisconsin., across several Native reservations.

4. Biden’s reentry into the Paris Agreement, which is a non-binding agreement, will be used as an imperialist propaganda tool against China and other developing nations of the Global South with Biden already stating that he will pressure the so-called big polluters to do their fair share. The U.S. government has never honestly addressed this country’s historic contributions to the problem that far surpass all other countries, nor the fact that the U.S. has by far the largest per capita emissions today — with China coming in 10th. As the White House statement says, “ … the United States will exercise its leadership to promote a significant increase in global ambition.” This means continuing to use imperialist tactics to demonize others for the problem and not truly to make the changes needed at home, although China has by far had the largest investments in wind and solar energy than any other nation for many years.

5. Biden’s plan to shift to a carbon free energy sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050 will rely heavily on nuclear, which is not truly renewable and has the third highest lifecycle emissions after scrubbed coal-fired plants and natural gas. The nuclear industry is heavily subsidized and very profitable for a few, while poisoning frontline communities through the entire process from extraction to waste disposal.

6. Biden also plans to greatly expand the electric vehicle market and build “clean energy commercialization.” This means selling more stuff to individuals who can afford it, rather than making a truly sustainable shift in how the system functions. The plan never mentions zero-emission public transit and high-speed rail, which would greatly reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle ownership and overcome the class divide of who can afford EV’s. But efficient and widespread public transit would hurt the profits of the corporations who prefer to keep selling individuals vehicles that need regular replacement. Studies have shown there are literally not enough rare Earth minerals on the planet needed for the batteries to replace every gas-powered vehicle.

7. The plan also calls for good-paying union jobs in the clean energy sector as well as equity for communities disproportionately impacted by pollution. However, unless Biden plans to fund jobs directly through the federal government, like the New Deal of the 1930’s did, corporations will continue to keep labor costs as low as possible absent a mass workers movement demanding unionization and fair pay. And never before has the EPA — even before Reagan and subsequent administrations weakened its authority — truly addressed the use of poor communities and communities of color as sacrifice zones for big polluters. How do you address this inherent aspect of capitalism that puts corporate profits above people’s lives and the planet without systemic change? How do you make binding federal mandates to protect communities when states’ rights supersede federal — i.e., Cancer Alley is allowed to exist because the state of Louisiana sets its own emissions standards that are lower than the EPA’s.

8. Biden has a long 50+ year career as a reactionary politician serving big business and Wall Street. Support for Big Oil has always been a bipartisan position, one side is just more vocal about it.

9. Executive orders are a far cry from binding legislation and can be overturned easily by the next administration as Biden is now doing with many of Trump’s orders. And considering Pelosi and establishment Democrats’ cynical dismissal of AOC’s Green New Deal — which Biden borrows heavily from — it is unlikely that any significant change will come of this.

These are issues that need to be addressed as we push for follow through on the goals of these executive orders. We cannot go to sleep now that Biden has issued this climate agenda. Progressive change under capitalism only comes through mass sustained people’s struggles that threaten the profits of the corporations. Native communities are on the frontlines of fossil fuel extraction and transport; we must stand with those blocking Big Oil from continuing to plunder the planet at the expense of our future. And we need to build a mass anti-capitalist, pro-socialist climate justice movement because socialism is the only mechanism that will once and for all take control away from the billionaire class that is driving us to extinction.

Tina Landis is the author of the book Climate Solutions Beyond Capitalism, which can be purchased here.


Biden stimulus bill: What will it take to really ‘Rescue America?’

By Jordan Woll
January 21, 2021

Joe Biden’s recently-announced pandemic relief package, the so-called American Rescue Plan, is the new administration’s top legislative priority. With the bar set tragically low by the Trump government, any action at all by the Biden administration may feel like a welcome improvement. But the severity of the pandemic in the country and the threat of emerging, highly-transmissible new strains of the virus requires radical solutions to address the urgent daily needs of working and poor people.

The Democrats control both houses of Congress and the executive branch. The filibuster that requires 60 Senators to vote in favor of closing debate on a measure is not a law, but an internal Senate rule that the Democratic majority can simply decide to do away with. But despite having the power to pass laws without any Republican support, the Biden administration has introduced another bill that fails to measure up to the scale of the crisis facing the working class.

If the United States had just inaugurated a socialist government instead of a pro-corporate Democratic Party administration, it would move to immediately cancel all rent and mortgage payments along with any debt accumulated to landlords and banks. Everyone would be guaranteed a dignified income that allows them to stay home and contain the pandemic. The insurance industry would be abolished and the pharmaceutical giants expropriated to ensure universal access to healthcare, including the vaccine. Despite the eye-catching $1.9 trillion price tag on Biden’s proposal, it does not contain any of these or other sweeping measures necessary to resolve the public health and economic crisis gripping the country.

Healthcare, housing and food

Opinion polling has consistently shown high levels of support for a universal healthcare system along the lines of Medicare for All. Rather than using this historic moment of suffering to put into place what would be an incredibly popular and much-needed reorganization of the U.S. healthcare system away from the for-profit model, Biden refuses to ditch the parasitic insurance companies. The administration’s proposal is to continue to rely on the patchwork system of private insurance markets, but cap premiums at 8.5 percent of one’s income.

Tens of thousands of families have been kicked out of their homes since September 2020 despite the Centers for Disease Control’s national moratorium on evictions issued that month. Biden’s plan calls for an extension of this measure through September 2021 and additionally creates a pool of funds for states and localities to use to assist those who are at risk of homelessness. It remains unclear how Biden’s rental assistance funds would be distributed, except that a minimum of $200 million will be guaranteed to each state and that money in excess of this minimum will be based on population rather than specific need for rental assistance in a state.

This could lead to insufficient assistance in very rental-dense, high-cost areas like the major cities of the country. Also of concern is the fact that funds are intended to be paid directly to landlords, which suggests that it may be difficult for renters to figure out if their back rent or future rent is being covered by the program. States will develop their own application processes and may add restrictions, leading to another patchwork, hard-to-navigate response to this urgent national problem.

Approximately 50 million Americans experienced “food insecurity” — meaning hunger — in 2020, including one in four children. This grave crisis will not be remedied by the bill’s proposal to boost the already-gutted, means-tested food stamp program (SNAP) by 15 percent. Right now most states are issuing the maximum SNAP benefit amount as an emergency measure in response to COVID-19, and the proposed 15 percent increase would result in about $100 extra for an average household of four. But some research has found that especially single-adult households may need more than $100 extra per week in excess of the maximum SNAP benefit to meet basic nutritional needs. Furthermore, increases in emergency federal unemployment assistance will continue to count as income in SNAP eligibility testing, meaning that individuals may find themselves losing their food benefit as a result.

Direct and indirect payments

Biden has faced criticism even from more liberal members of his own party for promising $2,000 direct payments and then really proposing $1,400 checks — which would equal $2,000 when added to the Trump administration’s final direct payout of $600.

Federal unemployment aid could be raised by $100 per week to a total of $400 under Biden’s plan. This figure is less than the $600 per week that the Trump government offered in mid-2020. The enhancement to unemployment benefits would expire in September — unless dramatic improvements are made to the so far shambolic vaccination drive it is highly unlikely the crisis will be over by then.

Federal assistance to state and local governments — amounting to $350 billion under Biden’s proposal — could help large numbers of public sector workers keep their jobs. The same could be true of increased funding for small business assistance programs. But strict oversight will be necessary to ensure that government entities and businesses that receive aid do not find backdoor ways to conduct layoffs, or that highly profitable companies do not exploit loopholes to access aid meant for struggling small businesses. 

The new President’s plan to address the needs of children and the deeply impoverished is not to offer direct payments or guaranteed income and employment. Instead, Biden will extend and increase individual tax credits. This will delay the receipt of aid that is needed right now, ensure the disqualification of many undocumented workers, and create barriers to access what is necessary for people whom the capitalist system has failed or excluded.

If we fight, we can win

Part of Biden’s stimulus includes a proposal to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage, end the degrading and outrageously low tipped minimum wage, and do away with the sub-minimum wage that has hyper-exploited the labor of workers with disabilities and made them akin to second class citizens. The increase to $15 would more than double the current federal minimum, up from $7.25 where it has been stuck since 2009.

The demand for a $15 an hour minimum wage has entered the mainstream thanks to the determined fight led by service industry workers that began during the Obama-Biden administration in 2012 and has won victories in many localities since then, including at the state level in Florida as a result of a referendum in the November election. Workers have gone on strike, staged mass demonstrations and popularized a demand that was once scoffed at but is now considered common sense by large sectors of society.

The impressive progress made by the Fight for $15 offers a glimpse of the power of the organized working class. It can serve as an example for how to not only demand but also win more of the reforms that are necessary and overdue for the survival of working and poor people. That same model of determined class struggle can win a monthly income guarantee of at least $2,000 per person, a return-to-work guarantee, a ban on layoffs, a program where the government pays non-essential workers to stay home to reduce the spread of the virus, and so much more.

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