- by Seamus Carey
- The Guardian
- Issue #1947
The basic implicit promise of the Biden campaign has been a “return to normal” relative to the Trump years. There were no radical promises of progressive developments, merely a return to certain features of the Obama administration, in many cases even less ambitious. Make America Normal Again – but what on earth is this normal?
The very idea that there is a “normal” situation for a country like the US to exit or re-enter according to the choices of political leaders is an illustration of liberal metaphysical-idealist delusion, which fails to understand events in the course of their development and change according to material processes.
As far as most Democrats are concerned, the characteristics of the Trump administration were largely a product of the personal qualities of Trump and his cohort. There is only a dim understanding of how the political force of Trump developed out of the needs of the disordered, crumbling domestic economy, as well as the changing balance of economic power internationally. Trump’s “isolationism” and “protectionism” tend to be seen as his personal whims, rather than a direct outcome of the necessity for the US economy to attempt to restructure internally and externally as the hold of US imperialist pre-eminence over the world begins to weaken.
That US imperialist pre-eminence is exactly what “normal” actually means, and in fact Democrats and pro- and anti-Trump Republicans are all united in this goal. The fact that both candidates’ rhetoric depended upon imagined pasts is a clear sign that the US system is past its use-by date.
The ideological debate between them often takes the outward form of a debate over what America represents. Depressingly, this ridiculous conceit is to be found in Australia as well.
ALP leader Anthony Albanese delivered a speech 20th January (no doubt a deliberate symbolic choice to coincide with Biden’s inauguration) entitled “US-Australia relations under a Biden administration.” In it, he criticised PM Morrison’s attachment to Trump and co., and insisted upon developing strong relations with the new Biden government. In doing so, he unintentionally laid bare the sad fact that Australian political discourse is an embarrassing echo of Washington’s vanities.
Some excerpts from Albanese’s speech:
“The great tragedy of the recent past is the power of America’s example has been diminished from within. It is in Australia’s interests as a US ally to encourage the restoration of that power. Also because the world is weaker and more uncertain, when America is weaker.”
“Under President Trump, we saw the first steps in a retreat by the US from its historical role as the leader of the post-War international order; an order whose underlying values are those which Australians hold dear. It appeared the US was no longer interested in being the indispensable power. So, I welcome Joe Biden’s strong commitment to US leadership in the world and the desire to bring together US allies to face the challenges I identified earlier.”
Such sickening grovelling cannot but be disheartening to hear from a “Labor” leader, however unsurprising it might be to us. But as Albanese pointed out:
“The [US-Australia] alliance was forged in World War II under Labor […] and we have deepened it each time we have been in government. Labor’s support for the alliance will remain stronger than ever under a government I lead.”
The bipartisan doctrine of the US’ position as “indispensable power” with a “historical role” as leader of the world shows clearly what interests command Australia’s parliament. The two-party system is simply an efficient way for the one-class dictatorship to play both sides of any contradiction in bourgeois affairs, and gauge how much the people are willing to take. This can be seen clearly in both Australia and the US.
A majority of the American people were not willing to take another four years of Trump. Of more consequence though, a majority of the US capitalist class didn’t want it either – while Trump’s anti-worker policies gave temporary boost to profits, features of the period such as the mass unrest, criminally negligent mishandling of the pandemic, and diplomatic failures, are recognised as not sustainable by those of the bourgeoisie who can think a few moves ahead.
The Biden presidency is expected by many to restore good relations with the EU countries – in other words, to reunify the fracture-ridden imperialist camp under US leadership, which in the imperialist outlook (demonstrated by Albanese) is supposed to be a good thing. However if this happens, it is likely to be a prelude to new wars and military interventions.
Some have pointed out that Trump, unlike every other US president of recent times, did not start any new wars. However, this was certainly not due to lack of trying: Trump and his government threatened military action against the DPRK, Venezuela, Iran, China and others. These efforts failed in part due to the inability to unite the imperialist camp around these adventures. The failed attempts to get Europe on board with a war against Iran were particularly glaring.
President Biden is likely to continue US interventions around the world, the build up towards war with China, and the deadly sanctions and other aggressions towards countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria, and the DPRK. There is no indication that US foreign policy will soften in any way, only return to being more competently criminal.
It is shameful that the Australian Labor Party leader sees fit to beatify such an “example,” such “leadership,” such “values.”