This is Back in the USSR, I am Siegfried, and welcome to the “new era” my friends. Trump is gone, the “adults” are back in the room, “sanity” has won through and everything is good…right? Well no. But there are plenty of powerful interests that want you to believe that right now and the PR blitz is nothing short of breathtaking.
Last week, in my first show of the new year, I went into the details of the present situation and the literal catastrophe that capitalism has unleashed on America and many other countries that fundamentally failed to come to grips with the pandemic. And the reason is because these countries, Canada included, placed profits before people. This fundamental fact isn’t going to change, regardless of how many times Biden repeats that he is going to act “according to the science”.
Let’s unpack that for a moment. Biden just promised to vaccinate 100 million people by the end of his first hundred days in office. And no doubt that’s some impressive rhetoric after all the nonsense Trump was spewing over the course of last year. But it is equally nonsensical. The United States doesn’t have a functioning healthcare system right now. There is no mass testing, no targeted quarantines, no effective effort to stop the virus at its source, no shutting down of non-essential workplaces, no adequate income support for workers, and no debt relief. Beyond a slight expansion of the food stamp program and an extension on the repayment of student loans, there might, and I stress MIGHT, be a $1400 federal cheque for each person rolling out sometime in the first half of 2021 IF Biden’s stimulus bill is passed unaltered, which is unlikely given that he’s committed himself to working with the Republicans and Wall Street Democrats. In this environment, even if 100 million vaccines could be distributed to the public, which, once again, seems to be to be administratively impossible given the state of American healthcare, it wouldn’t stop the pandemic. For it to end the pandemic, the virus would have already have had to be contained before the vaccination campaign began. China is in a position to do this, but America is not. Vaccination is only the last step of containing the virus, not the first.
Biden’s “health strategy” is basically too little, too late. And the same could be said for virtually every single one of the fifteen executive orders that he signed on his first day in office and which some people have been hailing as great progressive victories. As I mentioned earlier, he extended the already existing freeze on student loan repayments until September. That’s not debt relief, that’s just delaying the inevitable. The same goes for his extending the moratorium on evictions until March. Rent and student debt are both deep points of crisis in America, amounting to trillions of dollars, and neither of these executive orders will do anything to solve them. And the fact that one of the laws that Biden championed in his recent legislative career was a federal bankruptcy law that denied people the ability to file for bankruptcy because of student debt says it all. That law is still on the books. Too little, too late.
You might say the same thing about Biden’s cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. I’ve seen certain activists almost reduced to tears of thankfulness over this one. And while it does open up a certain avenue to put pressure on Canadian politicians, who continue to press for the construction of pipelines on stolen indigenous land, it’s hardly a radical decision and in many ways serves to mask a much deeper problem. Keystone XL was already dead in the water by 2021. It had been held up by judicial orders, administrative red-tape, public pressure, indigenous resistance, and the loss of prominent investors. I think even the Koch brothers finally abandoned it as a dead-end. Jason Kenney and his goon squad in Alberta were about the only ones still holding out hope that it would be finished. So, this is an easy move for Biden to make in order to give him environmental street cred, and it’s the same thing with re-joining the Paris Climate Accords. It doesn’t mean that he has to do much or make greater commitments. You’ll notice that the Dakota Access Pipeline, resistance to which led to the Standing Rock protests and a massive crackdown on indigenous land defenders, isn’t touched in this executive order.
Tar-sands oil was never all that profitable, let’s face it. Fracked natural gas on the other hand is very, very profitable and America has been going crazy with it. It’s highly unlikely that Biden is going to move against this industry, critical if America is going to do anything to cut greenhouse gases substantially, and threaten the profits of his Wall Street backers. Especially when he said he was going to ban fracking during the primaries and then completely reversed his position when it came to the actual presidential election. But it doesn’t take much to appear environmentally conscious after Trump.
As I said last week, China already has 3.5 times more installed renewable energy capacity than the United States does, possesses the majority of the world’s green transit systems, and has made firm commitments to go carbon neutral by mid-century. A country that is addicted to fracking and beholden to the demands of Wall Street for short-term profitability isn’t likely to make much of a dent in its carbon emissions unless revolutionary change occurs.
Biden’s act of simply rejoining the Paris Climate Accords is window dressing, especially seeing that the UN and leading scientists are all saying that the goals of those accords are far from enough. And it doesn’t inspire confidence that, in a list of American politicians who received money from the fossil fuels industry, Biden was second only to Trump in the amount that he got. That means some folks in expensive suits are going to be calling in favors pretty soon.
At best, what you’ve got here in a long list of half-measures. Biden just raised the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, but that’s largely a symbolic gesture given that there’s nothing to prevent employers from cutting back on their staff or limiting the number of hours they work. Nor will the majority of workers be affected by the change and it certainly won’t have the effect of reversing the wave of poverty that we’re seeing in America today. Nor is there anything in the list addressing mass incarceration or the prison-industrial complex that Biden did so much to expand through his crime bill in the 1990s. Are prison laborers going to get a fifteen-dollar minimum wage in federal penitentiaries? I don’t think so.
Getting into foreign policy. One of the things Biden was hailed for is reversing the racist Trump-era travel ban on seven Muslim majority countries. Except he didn’t reverse the December 2015 Visa Waiver Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act signed by Barack Obama, that designated Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia as “areas of concern” and heavily restricted travel to and from these countries on the basis of racially profiling Muslims as “terrorists”. Trump’s total ban on travel from these countries was based on this law and it looks like it isn’t going anywhere. Like everything on this list of executive orders, the promise falls apart when you dig a little deeper.
For example, merely ending Trump’s border wall won’t get those kids out of those cages in the ICE concentration camps and re-unite them with their families. This is the most powerful man in the world, and he could free those kids at the snap of a finger. Just like he could snap his finger and cancel student debt or ensure adequate healthcare. But he won’t. And remember that the Obama/Biden administration was responsible for more deportations that any other US administration, including Trump’s. It’s a whitewash.
And where is the firm commitment from Biden to end the war in Yemen that he helped to start in 2015? Where is the firm commitment to end the crippling sanctions against the Syrian, Iranian and Venezuelan peoples? Where is the commitment to pull occupying US troops out of the sovereign countries of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria? Where is the commitment to end military brinkmanship with China and military provocations in the South China Sea? Where is the commitment for a constructive dialogue with China and Russia? I haven’t seen anything and I think all the nonsense around Russiagate, a fraudulent and utterly futile attempt to bring down Trump by attacking him from the right, will seriously undermine the prospects for world peace, not to mention the utterly racist demonization of China in US politics and media.
The most that the guardian of the capitalist system will give to workers and the oppressed are crumbs, half-measures and empty promises. It’s a masquerade. The president serves Wall Street and the Fortune 500, not the people and Biden’s already promised his real constituents that nothing would fundamentally change after his election. He’s leaving neoliberalism and hypercapitalism fully intact and only rolling back some of the things that Trump did that the capitalist state considers superfluous. And they want you to drop your guard and shut up. Don’t fall for it. This is the equivalent of giving a galley slave a little vinegar to revive him just enough to keep rowing his master’s ship. That’s “stimulus” for you.
It comes down to this, I will not apologize for this new emperor of the American Empire. I will not blindly accept him as “better than Trump” or be thankful for “the lesser of two evils”. I fight for a world without emperors or empires. Without exploitation and systemic oppression. I am a communist and I do not support these blatant attempts by the new administration to whitewash a fundamentally monstrous system. It’s the same old carrot and stick approach that the capitalist class has always used to maintain its power and hegemony over everyone else. Trump was not an “anomaly” or a “mistake”. He was the product of an evil system, the same system that Biden is trying to normalize and rehabilitate in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis brought about by the profit motive’s unsustainable drive for expansion. And this is after he stole the primaries and stomped all over Bernie Sanders and his supporters, blocking any meaningful attempts at reform.
Joe Biden promised to be an effective chief salesman of capitalism. And the last thing the world needs is another champion of neoliberalism who sells exploitation with a smile the way Obama did. The only silver-lining is that Biden is unlikely to be able to convince a majority of Black people in America to support imperialist war in the way Obama did.
What I’m seeing in Joe Biden’s election and replacement of Donald Trump at the head of the American Empire is continuity rather than change. Speaking as a non-American, I hope that America remains mired in domestic disputes and infighting for a long time to come. A strong America is not in the interests of working class and oppressed people both internally and internationally. A disunited America in disarray means more peace for the rest of the world and more space for alternative systems to grow.