Photo: Joseph Biden Sworn in as US President (Source: C-SPAN)
By the Editorial Board
A chauvinistic, melodramatic display ushered in the new president of the United States, Joseph R. Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris, marking little more than a change in the guard for US imperialism. Despite the hysteria of the bourgeois majority with their panic and handwringing over Trump’s reactionary riot two weeks ago—which they laughingly portray as a coup or an insurrection—the machinery of US imperialism held its presidential inauguration ceremony as planned, without disruption. All it took was mobilizing 25,000 National Guard troops, erecting checkpoints at every corner, and locking down the U.S. capital with all the resources of the world’s most powerful military.
Heavily policed ‘First Amendment Zones,’ limited to 100 people each, were designated across Washington, D.C. outside of a vast, fully regulated ‘Green Zone’ paralleling the US’s imperial enclave in Baghdad. The First Amendment Zones saw little use on Inauguration Day, but signaled the state’s readiness to regulate all civil demonstrations. US imperialism used the stage of the inauguration for a necessary propaganda purpose—to demonstrate control, that it remains steady and retains its military might domestically and worldwide. It will be business as usual under President Biden.
There could be no clearer message: Biden is making good on his intention to promote the ‘law and order’ of the reactionary state, and future inaugurations will likely be just as militarized and restricted. The sight of hundreds of thousands of celebrants or protesters gathering on the National Mall and lining parade routes will remain in the past as the decay of imperialism is reflected in its need for hyper-militarized control over its every move. Imperialism understands that the people and proletariat despise it. The people know this pageant is not for them, but for the managers of misery who desperately cling to their rule.
The massive, reactionary display of military force is credited for discouraging more Capitol riots and keeping Trump’s base at home, many of whom boast of their readiness to fight ‘government tyranny’ but backed down after one short round of battle with the state’s repressive apparatus. While Trump’s ‘Patriots’ counterpose themselves to the Black Lives Matter movement, the continuous summer uprisings against police violence faced larger forces overall, more intense repression, and thousands more arrests, yet charged forward with the mass spirit of rebellion, only waning after months of robust activity.
Yet Trump’s stunt serves all sides of the bourgeoisie in their need to repress the people entirely. Every protest and every crowd will invoke a cause for alarm and call for police control, especially when it is ‘not civil,’ words that liberals use to characterize anything that offends their extremely limited bounds of ‘proper’ protest.
The Democrats will rely on the threat of ‘domestic terrorism’ to tightly control protests, and will severely limit democratic rights in the name of protecting the ‘people’ and ‘democracy,’ but only seek to protect their own ruling-class hides. The universal trajectory of the reactionization of the US’s bourgeois democracy will not be reversed with Biden’s ascent but will only quicken its pace. The masses, however, cannot and will not be restrained and will only invent and discover creative means to rebel en masse.
The inauguration was marked by the propaganda display of the unbroken march of imperialism with the attendance of living former presidents, Democrat and Republican, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, only missing Jimmy Carter. Former vice president Mike Pence stood in for Trump’s predicted absence, and together, all these politicians constitute a criminal roster of US imperialism, regardless of which of the two main bourgeois parties they hail from.
Trump exited the presidency going down flailing, riling up his supporters to cause a temporary delay to the empty ceremonies of the bourgeois process. He ended his speech on January 6, by launching waves of petty-bourgeois business owners, small-time CEOs, propertied professionals, and a small minority of disaffected workers against the Capitol, where they were literally waved in by some police officers. But the real invitation was the minuscule police presence which was always planned. The reactionary police forces knew what was coming but chose to allow it in deference to Trump, whose base is heavily composed of law enforcement.
But these Capitol police leaders overestimated Trump’s ability to protect them and retain his standing, and now face dismissals and sanctions as the Democrats and liberals move to ‘diversify’ police forces and the imperialist machinery. The inauguration ceremony was an opportunistic celebration of token ‘firsts,’ primarily Kamala Harris, the first woman in the vice presidency, of Black and South Asian descent, giving identity politicians and opportunists a field day to celebrate the wretched self-proclaimed “Top Cop.” All one has to do is remember the false hope and crimes of Obama to understand that imperialism is a ravenous monster no matter the heritage of those in charge.
Harris is joined by a highly curated cabinet that blatantly shows the bankruptcy of all identity politics and imperialism’s adaption to include tokenized identities: the first Black secretary of defense; the first Latino leader of the Department of Homeland Security; the first all-female White House press team; the first ‘openly gay’ cabinet member (failed presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, leading the Department of Transportation), and many others. The Democrats will have Latinos jailing and hunting immigrants from Central America, Black police chiefs murdering the Black proletariat and poor, women CEOs exploiting women workers, and a Black general raining bombs on the world. These are the crimes they shamelessly celebrate as ‘firsts.’
Like the Capitol police leaders, Trump’s reactionary loyalists also overestimated his ability or willingness to protect them. Their movement is beginning to split and fray as the state’s intelligence services, who are operating more out of embarrassment than anything else, track down the highest-profile participants in the riot. There were no pardons handed out for riot participants, but the longtime agitators of the movement, such as Steve Bannon, who was facing charges for grifting the same reactionary base, received a presidential pardon.
The progressing disarray of Trump’s base is providing ground for fascists to recruit further, some predictably denouncing Trump as weak. Trump’s actions since the riots, despite his long history of bluster, prove this in practice, as he has been cast into the corner by a mostly unified bourgeoisie.
Trump was put into time-out by Twitter and Facebook, and can only release scripted, more measured missives that leave his reactionary base unsatisfied and turning away. As they have done to Trump, the tech companies are moving to control right-wing speech on their platforms, but this only reflects their capacity to do the same against leftists, and signs of this are already happening. The bourgeoisie’s monopolized social media do not belong to anyone but them and should never be mistaken as forums for the people.
The riot resulted in the quick consolidation of the vast majority of the US imperialist bourgeoisie to swiftly impose its control over the state and society, after giving Trump four years to use the state as a sandbox for concentrating further power in the executive and test reactionary policies.
The inauguration was an attempt to dazzle and distract the people from the fact that Trump was as enabled and tolerated as all of imperialism’s scoundrels, until he wasn’t. With Trump gone, the bourgeoisie trotted out its millionaire celebrities, who lent their talents to exalt the rotting husk of the US’s bourgeois democracy. Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Garth Brooks sang chauvinistic anthems and appropriated folk songs as the bourgeois politicians swooned over their cultural figures. The obsequiousness was mutual, emphasizing the inauguration as nothing more than a VIP party for the highest echelons of US imperialism, complete with possibly the biggest door security force ever assembled. One imperialist in, one imperialist out.
The stock market hit another meaningless ‘record high’ on Inauguration Day, its up-and-down dance a reflection of capitalism’s anarchy, and only masking the worsening overproduction crises which preceded the pandemic and are inevitable as imperialism decays. The imperialists can continue to assemble their security forces to defend their empty ceremonies, but the people are at the door, and will inevitably tear down all of the pomp and circumstance built on their blood and daily exploitation.
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