WE don’t know with any certainty which representative of the contending factions in the US ruling class will be head of state for the next four years and thus commander-in-chief of a military force that is larger than its biggest rivals combined.
This question matters greatly to people in the US who are the victims of a mismanaged, even sabotaged, public-health response to the Covid-19 crisis, who face runaway unemployment, continuing racist violence, a renewed assault on their union rights, civil liberties and women’s reproductive rights and a sordid system of migration controls that leaves tens of millions in precarious and low-paid jobs subject to arrest and deportation. And voteless.
It matters less to billions of people throughout the world for whom the choice of which imperialist warmonger resides in the White House make little difference to the way in which the US affects their daily lives.
Whether they live in a Latin American barrio, a bombed out Middle-Eastern village or scratch a living from a scorched patch of African savannah the fine distinctions that appear so great to the liberal commentariat in the western press appear trivial.
The liberal consensus about US democracy and the ridiculous rhetoric about this imperial behomoth being the “leader of the free world” looks even more shaky as Trump insists that before the vote is counted he has won, that not every vote can be counted and if it is it is thus fraudulent.
As this election demonstrates, despite the illusions that liberals harbour about US democracy, the presidential electoral system – devised originally to provide a firewall to protect slavery – is not designed to give a perfect expression of the popular will.
What is distinctive about this, and the previous election, is strikingly similar to the situation in our country.
The binary nature of the political system is breaking down under the impact of the structural crises of the capitalist system and the consequent divisions in the ruling class.
In both Britain and the US, elements in capital have struck out to assert class interests that depart from the priorities the biggest sections of monopoly capital regard as inviolable. In doing so they have sought, with some success, to win over more working people than traditionally align themselves with any section of the ruling class.
The US election turns on the working class in mid-western industrial states that voted twice for Obama on the expectation of a change that did not come — and opted for Trump last time because his rhetoric on jobs and incomes resonated more than did Clinton’s neoliberal class arrogance.
Julius Nyerere, the first president of independent Tanzania, is said to have remarked that the US was, like his own, a single-party state, “but with typical American extravagance it has two of them”.
The two capitalist parties of the North American bourgeoisie are shape-shifting creatures that, as do all parties, reflect the way in which capital reorganises production and thus social life.
Workers’ jobs are outsourced to low-wage economies and sacrificed to Wall Street and the City of London and this has changed the ground on which class and political struggle is conducted.
In both the US and in Britain capital temporarily set aside its own divisions and asserted its corporate and ideological power to marginalise the challenges that Sanders and Corbyn both represented.
On both sides of the water the prospects for the left depend critically on the re-entry of the working class into politics in its own interest and not as the auxiliaries of either tendency in the ruling class