Is Trump a maverick facing the US shadow state on his own?

This article is a translation of "Staat Trump alleen tegenover de ‘schaduwstaat’?"

With Donald Trump’s inauguration approaching, the spectacle of intense infighting, including the blackmailing of the president-elect, is unprecedented. But let us acknowledge two basic facts here.

First, a US president is not all-powerful, far from it. He chairs a permanent convention in which hundreds of separate interest groups take part. Many are represented in Congress, and in the case of the most powerful among them, in the cabinet. Whenever a president resists the preferences of a major player in this power structure, say, the military-industrial complex, he is in mortal danger. J.F. Kennedy found that out in 1963, when he was assassinated; Richard Nixon did so a decade later (and was forced out of office).

Secondly: the crisis of 2008 was not a dip in the business cycle but a world-historic turnaround, inaugurating a period of decline of Western capitalism. When the population was presented with the bill for the speculative practices of the super-rich and the banks and investment companies working for them, the simmering resistance against neoliberal globalisation and austerity exploded with full force.

In this light the election of Trump should not have come as a surprise, and neither should Brexit, or the rise of Wilders and Le Pen. But is Trump also in mortal danger? My thesis here is that whilst powerful interests are behind the anti-Trump campaign, the forces behind Trump are no less formidable.

Trump may have been elected on the waves of the popular insurrection against globalising capital and the increasingly warlike imperialism it generates, but he will not govern for the people. His administration will first of all serve the interests of a capitalist coalition with its own foothold in the intelligence services and the FBI, in the media and in academia. The military-industrial complex, too, has a role to play here—but different from the one it played under Obama.

David T. Martin, a Canadian activist studying in Mexico (I know him from his contribution to a book on international production) has proposed to see the coalition behind Trump as a bloc composed of the big energy companies who want access to Russia’s resources; and Wall Street, which wants to deepen financial deregulation. This bloc intends to refocus military and intelligence assets on China, to prevent its ascent as a contender to the West. Since Trump wants to bring back jobs to the US, he is less interested in low Chinese labour costs. Martin highlights that this bloc too has its own foothold in the intelligence services. Thus the appointment as Secretary of State of Rex Tillerson, ex-CEO of ExxonMobil, was suggested to the president-elect by Robert Gates, who since the 1970s has been the representative in the CIA of the Bush dynasty and Big Oil (he became Secretary of Defence under Bush Jr and was kept on by Obama).

The Clintons and the Obama White House represent the globalising/interventionist bloc, as did the Bush Jr administration in between. Bill Clinton expanded NATO right to the Russian border, George Bush Jr set the Middle East on fire, Hillary had Gadaffi murdered, and the Obama administration went on to bring anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists and fascists to power in Kiev and support the insurrection against the Assad regime in Syria.

This is the war party, which wants to escalate the conflict with Russia and depict Putin as the devil incarnate. All to maintain NATO discipline, raise defence expenditure and sell US planes and arms (Trump on the other hand is critical of several new war planes including the flying coffin, the F-35). James Clapper, who one would think completely discredited by the exposure of NSA surveillance, yet was given the chance to produce a laughable report on Russia’s supposed hacking of the US election campaign (only after Hillary lost). CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post and many other mainstream media are the obvious mouthpieces of this line.

The second component of this bloc, still according to David Martin, are the high-tech and media companies behind the TPP and TTIP projects, who want to reduce labour costs by offshoring jobs to Asia and integrate China into the US-centred world economy.

However, the Hillary campaign was fatally compromised, first by strangling Bernie Sanders in the primaries. Sanders would have given the anti-globalist popular insurrection a left(-ish) voice (and he would have thrashed Trump). A disaffected Sanders supporter in the Democratic campaign leaked the e-mail password of party chairman John Podesta (who is also a registered lobbyist for Saudi Arabia), and WikiLeaks then made public how Sanders had been undermined by the Hillary machine in his own party. This was later blamed on Russian hacking.

So was the FBI’s last-minute intervention that torpedoed Hillary’s chances. Trump’s campaign manager, Stephen Bannon, has a background in military intelligence; he then went on to work at Goldman Sachs, after which he got into media, joining Breitbart News, a Far Right, pro-Israel website. One of its scoops when Bannon was manager there, was to expose New York politician Anthony Weiner’s sexual improprieties on social media. Because he continued sending pictures, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, whom Weiner married in 2010, demanded a separation two months before the 2016 election. This became the occasion for the FBI to again publicly announce it was delving again into Hillary’s e-mails in October, reminding voters of her untrustworthiness.

In ascribing these machinations, first by the Democratic Party against Sanders and then by the FBI against Hillary, to ‘Putin’, the war party did little else than make a last, desperate attempt to keep the US and via NATO, Europe too, on the anti-Moscow track. To what extent this bloc also commands European politics and media, can be established day in, day out. A US journalist visiting the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs was asked, how long before Trump will be impeached?

However, the new president is not a lone maverick. The new administration too represents a powerful bloc, composed of big energy companies and Wall Street, and has his own hawks poised for war in the Pentagon.

Not against Russia though. If Trump will be drawn into a military adventure, it will be against China, or, with Israel, against Iran.

That too is a terrifying prospect.

Kees van der Pijl

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