The class struggles in the United States of America and ‚Trumpism‘

Regarding the latest economic and political development of the United States

Note: On the occasion of today’s US presidential elections, PlotPoint publishes here a detailed paper in which the phenomenon of ‚Trumpism‘ is placed in the US-American development of the last decades. The paper claims to show that the structural problems of the bourgeois society in the United States of America manifested in this phenomenon arise from long-term economic development tendencies and trends of the production and accumulation of capital. Based on the critique of political economy and the historical materialism, which was scientifically developed by Marx and Engels, this paper provides an overview of these tendencies and the corresponding economic policies in the USA. In doing so, it criticizes the myth of the ‚white working class‘ as the decisive class basis of ‚Trumpism‘ as well as the widespread view on the left that this phenomenon is a sort of ‚Bonapartism‘ or even a form of ‚Fascism‘. In a concluding section, possible scenarios for the outcome and the aftermath of the election are then outlined.

Naturally, most of the literature used in this paper is written in the German language. The English reader may therefore be unaware of the some of the authors, while not of their arguments. Wherever possible, the English edition was given instead of the German one. This was unfortunately not possible with the statistical graphics, which is why they are mostly in German.

1. Introduction

Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States under the theme ‚Uniquely American’ on January 20, 2017, after having beaten Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Election the previous year, defying demoscopic predictions and the expectations of political experts. After his Election victory, the same experts had to perform the wildest contortions to explain why that which they deemed impossible had indeed come to pass. If their explanations are to be believed, Trump’s electoral victory in the most developed capitalist nation has finally brought to power the ‚populism’ that is on the rise worldwide.  Trump and ‚Trumpism‘, as the particular type of populism attributed to him, are thereby mostly and falsely understood not as a mere symptom, but as the root cause of a profound crisis of the American society. In fact, ‚Trumpism‘ has just catalyzed the crisis of the U.S. society, but has not caused it. Neither is ‚Trumpism‘ an expression of history that has once appeared as tragedy and now repeats itself as farce: Trump is no Bonaparte and certainly no Hitler in a new guise, to which parts of the Left have declared him. The phenomenon of ‚populism‘ can also not be explained by recurring to personal attributes of political characters (politische Charaktermasken). Otherwise, one would psychologize the economic and political foundations of said phenomenon. Finally, ‚populism‘ — which, at the latest since Trump’s election, is being discussed everywhere in the frames of prevailing opinion — is indeed only a symptomatic expression of structural problems, but not only such of the capitalist mode of production in the U.S., but of all historically developed communities in which that mode of production prevails.

As the present paper attemps to show, the structural problems of bourgeois society in the United States of America, manifested in the rise of ‚Trumpism‘, arise rather from long-term economic development tendencies and trends in the production and accumulation of capital. With them, certain centrifugal forces arise which, as conflicting tendencies, counteract the international entanglement of capitalist reproductive processes, commonly referred to as ‚globalization‘. The increasing assertion of these forces is expressed in the developed capitalist countries not only in an increased turn towards neo-mercantilist economic policy and nationalist world views, but also in an increasing disintegration of international economic and relations in the international political order which show a higher degree of socialization than the nation state based on total social capital.[1]

The forced assertion of tendencies directed against ‚globalization‘, as the following paper claims to show, threatens to disintegrate the existing unipolar world order under the leadership of the United States. This is accompanied by an increasing geopolitical shift in the balance of power between the existing global hegemonic powers. This shift, at least for the time being, is taking place at the expense of the global bloc of private capitalist countries with a corresponding liberal-democratic superstructure in favor of a geopolitical camp of global counterrevolution, which is led economically by China and militarily by Russia. That is reflected within the camp of the countries of the ‚Western‘ hemisphere based on a private-capitalist mode of production, where a political shift is taking place in favor of certain factions of the respective national bourgeoisies and their political representatives who seek to force through the circumstances functioning against ‚globalization‘. In doing so, they pursue either a neo-right to neo-fascist political program, commonly is mistakenly referred to as the political ‚drift to the right‘ (Rechtsruck), or a bourgeois-socialist agenda of a new stand-by ruling class, which, in contrast to the private-capitalist mode of production, aims to establish a state-capitalist reproductive totality under the regime of bureaucratic despotism. Both political wings and the bourgeoisie factions behind them are being deliberately promoted by the camp of global counterrevolution, and, in some cases, seemingly played off against one another, in order to politically squeeze and permanently undermine the private-capitalist reproductive totality and its corresponding form of liberal democracy in the capitalist centers of the ‚West’ from two sides.

The bourgeois ideologues cannot adequately grasp this historical movement which is taking place under our eyes, because they lack the necessary concepts and categories for it, especially with regard to the economic foundations of this movement. They must therefore be content either to meticulously dissect individual phenomena of the epochal upheaval we seem to be facing in one-track idiocy down to the last detail just to be able to describe them, or to, in a positivist data-gathering frenzy, accumulate certain empirical facts in which the fundamental historical development of our time are expressed. Accordingly, under the extremely fuzzy and generic term of ‚populism‘, they subsume disparate manifestations of this historical movement, expressed primarily in the sphere of bourgeois politics, without sufficiently exploring the essential inner relations of these phenomena. In addition, bourgeois-socialist and fascist (including Islamofascist) ideologues have made a wide variety of attempts to interpret this movement on the basis of its isolated and inverted phenomenal forms, using the most diverse conceptual apparatuses of false metaphysics and modelling them according to their respective political interest, for example by attributing it to ‚neoliberalism‘ and ‚finance capitalism’. The ‚empty breadth‘ is thus complemented by an ‚empty depth‘.

In contrast, this paper claims to work out the tendencies underlying the economic and political development of the U.S. on the basis of the original scientific communism as developed by the ‚Party Marx’. To this end, the text relies in particular on Marx’s critique of political economy and and the materialist conception of history, wich he developed in collaboration with Engels and wich is, among other things, contained in this critique. Only on this theoretical basis can a strategic orientation for an independent domestic and foreign policy of the proletariat in the various countries be formulated, which, as „revolutionary practical politics“ (revolutionäre Realpolitik, Luxemburg/Lukács), represents not the respective particular interests of individual parts but the overall interests of that class and, across national borders, aims at a modern communist revolution as the ultimate goal of the working classes of all countries. According to their own standards, communists as „the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others“, which „ have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement “[2] must still achieve such an orientation for the U.S. It cannot be fully elaborated here, but rather, against the background of the consideration of the essential economic and political developments in the recent history of the United States, only its theoretical prerequisites will be sketched out in its basic outlines.

2. Development of the total social capital of the U.S. before World War II

The rise of ‚Trumpism‘ cannot be directly explained by the so-called ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009, which developed in the wake of a cyclical over-accumulation crisis that escalated into a global economic crisis. Already Georg W. Bush Jr., who was in office at the time of the onset of this crisis, began to mitigate the recession through the ‚Economic Stimulus Act‘ of 2008.[3] Under Barack Obama, who took office as U.S. President in 2009 amidst the crisis, the economic stimulus program named ‚American Recovery and Reinvestment Act‘ passed in the same year succeeded in noticeably mitigating the consequences of the recession and finally initiated a cyclical recovery of the U.S. economy.[4] Contrary to the pessimistic forecasts of numerous bourgeois and ‚Marxist‘ or purportedly Marx-related economists,[5] this upswing led to a continuous growth of the national total social capital of the U.S. from 2010 onwards, which continued until 2017. This was the third longest period of growth in the country’s history. While the gross domestic product (GDP) still shrunk by about 2.8 percent at the beginning of Obama‘s presidency, it fluctuated between 1.6 and 2.6 percent during this ensuing growth period. This growth was also expressed in a decrease in unemployment by almost half, from 9.3 percent in 2009 to 4.7 percent in 2016. At the same time, government debt rose to about 105 percent of total GDP, mainly due to the economic policy measures taken. In 2016, it reached its highest level since the Second World War (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1

The Trump administration thus inherited, as Obama’s legacy, on the one hand a growing U.S. national capital with a falling unemployment rate and on the other hand an exorbitant national debt. Trump was therefore not elected U.S. president in an economic crisis, as the mechanical materialism of ‚Marxism‘ might have had us expect, but on the contrary in a phase of economic upswing. ‚Trumpism’ can therefore not be understood as an acute political reaction to an economic cyclical crisis, but must be explained against the background of long-term economic tendencies and trends. Central to this rise was the political agenda of the „America First“, with which the U.S. was to be helped to new greatness, according to Trump’s campaign slogan „Make America Great Again“. The alleged ‚decline‘ of the United States implied therein, however, did not refer to a poor economic development of the U.S. under Obama. Rather, the political agenda of ‚Trumpism’ was aimed at a return to the so-called ‚golden age‘ of capitalist production in the United States, that is, the long period of prosperity of the post-war period from 1950 to 1973.

The economic preconditions for this phase of long-term economic prosperity reached back to the interwar period. After World War I, economic trends that were merely catalyzed by World War II began to take hold for the long term. In terms of its natural conditions, the United States has always been rich in natural resources and fertile soils, while its location in a temperate climate zone is also advantageous. Already in the 19th century, U.S. governments have exploited these resources through their economic policies. With a sufficient population and a relatively high population density in the urban centers, the United States also had a sufficient number of individual consumers so that a domestic orientation of its national capital could be established. They also possessed a sufficiently large labor force that could be used for industrial production and from which, in accordance with the general law of capitalist accumulation, a reserve industrial army could develop as a relative overpopulation.[6] This relative overpopulation served as a reservoir of labor that could be absorbed by capitalist production in cyclical phases of economic boom and thrown back from the active workers army into the reserve industrial army in crises. As a result of these favorable natural and social conditions, the U.S. after World War I became the forerunner of a specific form of „modern industry“ (Marx) that rationalized the production process through standardization of mass production, progressive automation of the machine system, the establishment of assembly line production and a science-based (so-called ‚scientific management‘) timing of the production process, as well as a sharpened separation of material and mental labor. This form of modern industrial production became known under the term ‚Fordism‘ (Gramcsi), named after the automobile manufacturer Henry Ford. The production methods corresponding to this form, involving a sharpened division of the labor-process into material and mental labor, which intensified the mutilation of the worker into a monotonously repetitive partial individual performing partial work, and the subjugation of the worker to predetermined times for the labor-processes, were called ‚Taylorism‘ after the engineer Frederick W. Taylor.

The tendencies toward the development of machinery and modern industry, which are inherent in the capitalist production process, were fully realized with the ‚Fordist’ form of modern industrial production of capital. This marked the historical transition from modern manufacture to modern industry as the most developed method of producing relative surplus value by reducing the quantity of labour socially necessary for the production of a commodity. This form of production of surplus value thus became dominant over the production of absolute surplus value through the extension of the absolute labor time, i.e., the working day, in the U.S.[7] Mediated through the flourishing U.S. unions, which largely refrained from using their organized forces simultaneously „as a lever for the ultimate abolition of the wages system for the final abolition of the wage system“[8], a class compromise between labor and capital was simultaneously reached in a social partnership, while wages were increased to stimulate domestic demand for individual means of consumption. This was intended to create an instrumental attitude of workers toward industrial production and to generate an opportune attitude toward ‚Taylorist‘ production methods, which simultaneously tightened the command of labor over capital and required strict labor discipline. This ultimately increased the development of the productive forces of social labor and thus the productivity of industrial production to such an extent that by the 1920s, the United States had become the world’s largest industrial producer. Under the Republican President Warren G. Harding, newly elected in 1921, who campaigned under the slogan ‚return to normalcy‘, the United States returned to foreign policy isolationism (‚Monroe doctrine‘) after its intervention in World War I under the previous Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. At the same time, it developed into the leading commercial power on the world market under the Harding administration , advancing from a former debtor nation to the largest creditor nation. The economy experienced thus a cyclical upswing, which was reflected in rising share prices.

With the rise of the United States to become the world’s largest industrial producer, the tendency to concentrate and centralize capital permeated on a progressively increasing scale. This led to the increased establishment of large corporations as a new form of enterprise: the successive stages of a production chain, previously performed by individual companies, were now concentrated under the command of a single hierarchically structured corporation, which meant that production was increasingly planned systematically. Thus, on the basis of competition between individual capitals, monopolies and oligopolies in leading branches of production increasingly developed, but these were relativized in the long term by the equalization of profit rates mediated by competition. At the same time, state interventions in the economy grew to such an extent that the state no longer only guaranteed the framework for the accumulation of the U.S.’s national total capital only as an „ideal total capitalist“ (Engels), but became an economic actor itself by intervening in production through nationalizations, subsidies and political regulation of prices and in circulation through a systematically pursued financial policy. As a result, not only did the state’s influence on capital accumulation increase, but an independent public economic sector emerged, with which a „mixed economy“ (Mattick), i.e. a privatecapitalist-state mixed economic system was established as a historically new form of capitalist mode of production.[9] The resulting increase in productivity of the overall national labor of the U.S. economy led to the U.S. dollar becoming the strongest currency internationally, gradually taking over the functions of universal money previously performed by the British pound sterling as the lead and reserve currency.

The incipient ‚Roaring Twenties‘ in the U.S. eventually led to an increased demand for individual means of consumption, as a result of the rising general wage level that corresponded to the ‚Fordist‘ form of industrial capital production and the accompanying class compromise between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. The acquisition of these means resulted not only in a relative decline in the inequality of incomes but also in the inequality of wealth, and thus in increasing economic prosperity in general. This in turn led to to a strongly increasing relevance and modernization of target-group-specific advertising due to the growing economic significance of demand. The growing possibility of individual consumption and the associated increase in demand led to a diversification of the manifold offers of goods, which had to be advertised accordingly in order to gain an advantage in the intensified competition, e.g. by establishing ‚brands‘ of the individual industrial capitals competing within the same branch of production.[10] The development of proletarian living conditions corresponding to this particular historical form of modern industry was favored by the intercultural composition of the U.S. working class, which expressed the cosmopolitan character of the population of the United States as a cultural ‚melting pot‘. In addition, as the ‚Fordist‘ form of big industry was established, many African American workers from the South were absorbed by the production of industrial capital and immigrated to the booming industrial centers of the North. As a result, even before World War II, the U.S., globally, played a leading role not only economically but also socio-culturally.

In the course of the U.S.’s rise as an international commercial power in the interwar period, Wall Street in New York City also rose to become the world’s most important financial center alongside London. On October 25 (so-called ‚Black Friday’), a stock market crash in New York occurred: within a few weeks, stock market values amounting to 30 billion U.S. dollar were destroyed, causing millions of private individuals and thousands of banks to become insolvent. This crash subsequently escalated into an extraordinary world economic crisis (the so-called ‚Great Depression‘) that lasted from 1929 to 1932. In the United States, this ‚Great Depression‘ began in the summer of 1929, but the downturn rapidly worsened and lasted until early 1933. The gross national product (GNP) shrank from over 100 billion U.S. dollar to less than 60 billion between 1929 and 1932 alone, and unemployment jumped to 25 percent.[11] A wave of bankruptcies rolled through the country, in the course of which hundreds of thousands of farmers and small entrepreneurs went bankrupt. Industrial production also collapsed, and deflation occurred due to a sharp drop in prices. Several U.S. citizens, especially workers and petty bourgeoisie, became homeless and starving. Suicide rates soared to 30 percent and homeless settlements were formed, named ‚Hoovervilles‘ after then-president Herbert Hoover.[12] Due to the lack of an expanded welfare state, neither local social assistance nor private charity could cushion the social consequences of the crises and alleviate the glaring need. The crisis was aggravated by protectionist measures such as the increase in customs duties through the ‚Smoot-Hawley Tariff‘ and an austerity policy of public finances. In response to the consequences of the crisis, then-U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, newly elected in March 1933, enacted economic and social reforms, dating from the year he took office until 1938, which historically became known as the ‚New Deal‘. These reforms were intended to alleviate the economic and social hardship of the working class resulting from the ‚Great Depression’, to increase the demand for individual means of consumption by means of credit payments and wage replacement benefits, thus stimulating the economy, to expand the infrastructure, fight the deflation that set in during the crisis by concentrating gold reserves at the U.S. Federal Reserve (‚Fed‘) and fix the price of gold, but also to regulate the ‚financial markets‘.[13] Thus the ‚New Deal‘ made a decisive contribution to the establishment of a new class compromise based on social partnership and to the stabilization of the U.S. economy, laying and expanding the foundations for a rudimentary welfare state. Overall, the ‚New Deal‘ accelerated the assertion of the mixed economy system as a character of the capitalist mode of production in the U.S., as demonstrated by the nationalization of banks and energy companies, among other things. But it also contributed significantly to the social generalization of the specifically ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry and its corresponding ‚Taylorist‘ production methods. Politically, the reforms were carried out by a coalition of various class segments and social groups such as political organizations and activists of the Democratic Party, ethnic minorities such as Jews and African Americans, industrial workers, farmers, unemployed workers, artists and intellectuals. This coalition persisted until 1967.

3. The ‚golden age‘ of post-war prosperity

In the course of World War II, the development of the U.S. into the into the „demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos“ (Marx)[14], which had already begun in the interwar period and was then accelerated by the war, was definitively able to assert itself. Both the loss of human life, which totaled less than 0.5 percent of the entire U.S. population,[15] and the material damage caused by the war remained low in the United States as a whole. The low material damage included that constant capital, and especially its fixed component, which gives off its value to the goods produced only over several turnovers of capital, was hardly devalued or destroyed. In the course of the war, the U.S. became the largest financier of inter-allied war debt, making it the largest creditor nation in the world. However, the decisive factor in the emerging dominance of the U.S. over other national capitals on the world market was the far-reaching transformation of its ‚mixed economic system‘ into a war economy. As a result of this transformation, industrial production roughly doubled, since the rapid increase in arms production had led to an expansion of the means of production, a rapid rise in the active workers’ army and an immense wartime increase in the productive forces of social labor. The rise in labor productivity led not only to a significant growth in GNP, which almost quadrupled from 56 billion U.S. dollar at the beginning of Roosevelt’s presidency in 1933 to about 211 billion by 1945,[16] but also to an increase in the general rate of profit of the national total capital of the United States, which during both of the war years of 1943 and 1944 rose by 33 percent to its highest level ever.[17] The number of „soldiers of industry“ (Marx) increased by 20 percent to 64 million by the end of the war in 1945, as the unemployed from the relative overpopulation were absorbed into armaments production, the legal working age was reduced, and women’s labor force was increasingly put in value. In addition to the increased production of relative surplus-value through the development of the productive forces of social labor, the production of absolute surplus-value was also increased by raising the weekly working hours for the production of industrial capital to an average of 45.2 hours.[18] This initially brought an end to mass unemployment and, in the course of the war, even led to full employment (see Fig. 2).

Figure 2

However, this full employment was not due to a recovery of the national total capital of the United States, but was based on the Keynesian method of deficit-financed government spending, especially in the arms industry. The price for this was an exorbitantly rising national debt, which by the end of the war in 1945 had grown to the historically unprecedented level of 258 billion U.S. dollars, 50 billion of which went to the war allies of the U.S.[19] In the course of this development, the productive aggregate labor of the United States during World War II climbed, on a global scale to the highest level of development and thus reached the top of the international hierarchy of the various national economies, whereby its national total capital emerged from the war with a significantly strengthened leadership position on the world market. Because of its role as the world’s largest creditor nation, which held most of the bonds issued by other countries, the United States also determined the specific international division of labor inherent in this hierarchy. This dominance of the United States in the world market was reflected, among other things, in its partial monopoly positions in certain branches of production, such as technology, and a share of about 20 percent of the worldwide export volume in the 1950s.[20] Although the U.S.’s foreign trade was, relatively speaking, not highly intertwined internationally, because of the domestic orientation of its national total capital, the U.S.’s business cycle became — also due to the relative weakness of the national total capitals in Western Europe, but above all the unequal share in world trade — the determining factor in the cycle of world market economies and other capitalist nations under its dominance. Because the accelerated accumulation of U.S. total capital could not keep pace with the expansion of the world market, though, the share of this total capital in word exports steadily declined.

Following the U.S. as the demiurge of the bourgeois world, the developed capitalist countries entered a period of accelerated capital accumulation after the end of World War II, which resulted in historically unprecedented prosperity with, until then, unparalleled rates of economic growth and rising social well-being. The conditions for this period of long-lasting post-war prosperity, known in the U.S. as the ‚Golden Age‘, in France as the ‚Trente glorieuse’ and in Germany as the ‚Wirtschaftswunder‘, varied, however. In contrast to the U.S., Europe had experienced an immense devaluation and destruction of capital during the war. This, together with the long duration of the economic depression from the 1930s onwards, created extraordinary historical circumstances under which the economic trend of accelerated capital accumulation could establish itself internationally in the long term. Thus, although this trend encompassed all developed capitalist nations, the growth rates of the various national capitals differed, in some cases dramatically, due to uneven development of their national accumulations. The long duration of this trend was aided by the Keynesian economic paradigm that had established itself in these nations, according to which ‚deficit spending’ was used as an anti-cyclical economic policy to mitigate economic recessions. In fact, however, this economic policy had only a catalytic function, i.e. it was not the cause of the long-term trend of accelerated capital accumulation.[21]

In the early post-war years, however, the restoration and recovery of the economy was still limited to the U.S.[22] Its total national capital had to be dismantled as a war economy and made usable again for the civilian purposes of capitalist production. In addition to repairing the overall minor property damage caused by the war, this included the material restructuring of production, especially from defense industry to heavy civilian industry, and the reintegration of former military personnel into the civilian corpus of the U.S. working class (so-called ‚demobilization‘). As a first result, the industrial production of capital collapsed and unemployment rose rapidly. But as early as 1946, a revival of the U.S. economy began, characterized by increasing productive investment in the fixed component of industrial capital and an expansion of infrastructure, primarily real estate. Subsequently, industrial production experienced a renewed upswing, which led to an increase in GDP and employment. As a result of this decline in unemployment, but also because of the relative strength of the unions, which registered their highest-ever membership levels in the 1950s, the U.S. working class began to participate in the development of productive forces and social wealth. This was expressed not only in a relatively lower inequality of income and wealth, but also in a sharp increase in individual consumption of the necessary means of subsistence.

Due to the accelerating accumulation of U.S. national capital based on the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry, further promoted by growing world trade after World War II, this economic upswing turned into a prolonged period of prosperity. This phase was characterized by consistently high economic growth rates and comparatively weak cyclical downturns, as not only the duration but also the fluctuations of economic cycles were significantly reduced. Female workers in particular poured into the labor market, which further stimulated individual consumer demand, while the qualifications of future workers were enhanced by an increase in scientific degrees from higher educational institutions such as colleges and universities. Agricultural production was increasingly capitalized, leading to the dismantling of family-run farms in favor of the industrialization of agricultural production and a strong internal economic migration of former low-paid farm workers to the urban centers, where they took better-paid jobs. This accelerated the already existing trend toward urbanization. As a result, the so-called ‚suburbs‘ emerged as outer quarters for families of mainly white workers who commuted to work in the metropolises. In addition, after the end of World War II, a veritable ‚baby boom‘ began in the capitalist developed countries, which lasted until the introduction of the pill in the mid-1960s (so-called ‚baby bust‘) and, since the 19th century, represented the only period of a continuously rising fertility rate in these countries. This created an immense reservoir of potential labor, especially in the U.S. Until the early 1970s, these factors led to an absolute increase in the number of productive wage laborers of U.S. national capital, therefore an increase in the „productive collective laborer“ (Marx) as a method of producing absolute surplus-value. This finally led to full employment in relatively secure employment relations. The downsides of the accelerated accumulation of U.S. total capital in the post-war era, however, consisted in an economic depravation of the rural South, an increasing concentration of slums and a heightened socio-cultural segregation within the metropolises, affecting mainly African Americans and Latin American migrants.

The post-war prosperity based on accelerated capital accumulation was institutionally accompanied by the further development of the international monetary and currency system, which in turn contributed significantly to stabilizing this period of prosperity. Before World War I, the international monetary system consisted of a gold standard or, for those countries that held gold-convertible currency reserves instead of gold reserves, a gold currency standard. This gold standard existed throughout the interwar period, but after World War II, a historically more advanced form of monetary system was established, known as the ‚Bretton Woods System‘, in order to enforce the long-term trend of accelerated capital accumulation internationally. This system established fixed currency parities, i.e., exchange-rate relations of the various national currencies into gold, thus determining the gold convertibility of these currencies. In this process, the U.S. dollar, in accordance with the position of the U.S. total capital as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, functioned as the international lead and reserve currency, which represented a fixed gold quantum and was thus backed by gold. By means of their foreign economic ties to this leading currency, the currencies of the other national capitals were indirectly convertible into gold, so that the U.S. dollar served as the external measure of value of these currencies. Accordingly, the ‚Bretton Woods system‘ was a gold-dollar standard.

Historically, this monetary system was embedded in a multilateral free trade system, which in turn pushed the liberalization of U.S. foreign trade necessary for the U.S. dollar to take over the function of universal money. Accordingly, U.S. foreign policy in the post-war era was aimed at establishing a liberal world order under unipolar U.S. leadership. Together with the Bretton Woods system, the ‚International Monetary Fund‘ (IMF) and the ‚International Bank for Reconstruction and Development‘ (World Bank) were created as institutional pillars of this order, both of which are therefore also referred to as ‚Bretton Woods Institutions‘. They were conceived as international instruments for controlling the monetary and currency system, with the IMF promoting foreign trade and the World Bank financing the reconstruction of Western European countries. In this way, the ‚Bretton Woods System‘ contributed significantly to the reciprocal international promotion and stabilization of the accelerated accumulation of national total capitals in the capitalist industrialized countries. Domestically, working class organizations such as unions and labor parties, including the stalinized Communist Parties, committed themselves to an informal consensus, keeping wage levels low in these countries and not opposing the relatively hard working conditions. This shifted the balance of power between the classes, particularly in the United States, in favor of the bourgeoisie. This shift was legally cemented by the enactment, only two years after the end of the war, of the ‚Labor-Management Relations Act‘ (known as the ‚Taft-Hartley Act‘) to reorganize the legal relations between workers and capitalists. This law significantly worsened the unions’ bargaining position with the capitalists and legally secured the wage restraint of the U.S. working class. It thus optimized the conditions for the accelerated accumulation of U.S. national total capital through the average reduction in the cost of labor and thus the cost price of capitalist-produced goods, which in turn stabilized the general price level, fighting inflation. At the same time, the national debt of the United States declined steadily and significantly throughout the entire period of the ‚Bretton Woods System’, primarily due to historically unprecedented high economic growth (see Fig. 3).

Figure 3

4. The end of post-war prosperity

The ‚Golden Age‘ of the post-war period did not last too long in spite of all the promises. The general rate of profit of the total national capital of the United States after World War II reached its highest level in the entire period of post-war prosperity and then, in accordance with the ‚law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall‘,[23] fell continuously. Already in the early 1960s, it fell to a comparatively low level of about 6 percent, essentially continuing its fall in the following economic cycles despite isolated fluctuations.[24] The reason for this development was a tendency for the general rate of surplus-value of U.S. national capital to fall, while, as a result of increased industrial productivity, the means of production grew relatively in relation to the number of workers, which, in terms of the value composition of capital, was reflected in a relative increase in the constant part of capital invested for those means of production at the expense of the variable part, which was laid out in labor. Thus the economic law of the „rising organic composition“ (Marx)[25] of capital prevailed for the total national capital of the United States. The increase in this composition could not be compensated for by the general rate of surplus-value, since it would have had to grow faster than said increase. Consequently, the tendency of the general rate of profit to fall held sway throughout the entire period of postwar prosperity up into the mid-1970s.

As the general average rate of profit declined, the dynamics of accelerated capital accumulation in the United States began to slow. Thus, economic growth in the United States also began to shrink, while in Europe and Asia, particularly in West Germany and Japan, it increased significantly. The basis for this was a relatively more dynamic course of accelerated capital accumulation in West Germany and Japan. This also tended to level out the United States’ international productivity gains, as a result of which the United States gradually lost the competitive advantages on the world market based on these gains. This was evident from the fact that its share of the world market fell and the export of its industrial goods declined relatively to other types of goods, especially agricultural and semi-finished products. As a result, the U.S. increasingly lost its role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, which, from 1971 on, was expressed in the fact that the economic cycle on the world market was no longer determined by the accumulation of U.S. total capital. As a result, the role of the U.S. dollar as a global money substitute was also undermined, i.e. it lost its monopoly position as the sole global reserve currency and became increasingly weaker against competing currencies, leading to speculation. At the same time, the slowdown in reproductive capital accumulation had accelerated the accumulation of money-capital in the U.S., further fueling the rising speculation with the U.S. dollar. This development was exacerbated by the establishment of an expansive monetary and fiscal policy that not only aimed at full employment but also served to finance the Vietnam War and the sociopolitical reforms of the ‚Great Society‘ programs from 1964 to 1969 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. But instead of a decrease in economically motivated social and political conflicts, the second half of the 1960s saw a political polarization of U.S. society. The disastrous course of the Vietnam War for the United States and the internal tensions in its bourgeois society gave rise to the narrative of the impending decline of the U.S. as a world power, which is still being zealously rehashed today by both the political right and the left. The state reforms did not create a stable ‚Great Society,‘ as was particularly evident in the civil rights laws that failed to solve the problem of anti-black racism in the United States. Thus, in the mid-1960s, civil-war-like uprisings occurred in the segregated black ghettoes (so-called ‚race riots‘) of the urban metropolises in the North and West of the United States, led in particular by the precarious and pauperized segments of the black U.S. working class. These repeatedly resulted in several dozen deaths due to massive violence by the police and National Guard.

The Keynesian economic policy pursued until then had led to increases in nominal wages along with rising employment. As a result, inflation occurred, which threatened to spread to other developed countries with capitalist modes of production through the ‚Bretton Woods System‘.[26] At the same time, the inherent constructional flaw in this system of a reserve currency dilemma (the so-called ‚Triffin dilemma‘) led to rising balance of payments deficits of the U.S. national capital.[27] The resulting increase in the United States’ trade deficit undermined confidence in the U.S. dollar as an international reserve and reserve currency. As early as the late 1950s, the U.S. dollar reserves held by foreign central banks far exceeded the gold reserves of the United States, meaning that the dollar was no longer able to fulfill its function as an international reserve currency. Thus, the fundamental contradiction between the uneven development of the accumulation rates of the various national capitals and the fixed currency parities became apparent. Subsequently, in 1968, the obligation to convertibility of the U.S. dollar into gold was limited to the central banks of the nations that had joined the ‚Bretton Woods System‘, before President Richard Nixon, in office at the time, abolished the official gold convertibility of the U.S. dollar on August 15, 1971 (the so-called ‚Nixon shock‘). In March two years later, the entire system finally collapsed completely, whereupon it was also officially repealed for good.[28] Subsequently, the gold dollar standard was replaced by flexible exchange rates, and the international monetary context thus developed into a monetary policy mosaic of different exchange rate practices. This lack of a unified international monetary order, which continues to this day, is an expression of the fact that since the mid-1970s there has been no demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos and thus no clear center for the world market. Instead, polycentrism exists between the leading capitalist centers of the U.S., Europe under the economic leadership of Germany, Japan and China. This polycentrism provides the economic context in which the current geopolitical shifts between the world powers are taking place.

Along with the U.S., the other leading capitalist countries, too, have tended to see a decline in the average rates of profit of their national total capital during the post-war prosperity based on accelerated capital accumulation. The fall in the rate of profit was thus by no means confined to U.S. national capital, but was rather a general phenomenon of the developed capitalist centers that caused the end of the long-term trend of accelerated capital accumulation worldwide. The end of post-war prosperity was finally marked by the economic over-accumulation crisis of 1974 and 1975, which was simultaneously experienced as a world economic crisis in all developed capitalist countries. This crisis, which began as early as 1973 and became known as the ‚oil crisis‘, led to the worst economic slump since World War II in the developed capitalist nations.[29] This was reflected not only in a partial decline in their exports, but also in a downturn in world trade. Due to the tendency for their national average profit rates to fall, the advanced capitalist countries not only saw a significant reduction in business investment in productive capital and a rising unemployment rate, as in previous economic over-accumulation crises, but also saw rising inflation. In the U.S., industrial capital production collapsed in 1974-75, resulting in increased layoffs and a marked rise in unemployment. Moreover, the accumulation of total national capital and international trade in the United States declined in absolute terms. However, the long-term economic consequences of the crisis were again cushioned by political stimulus measures at the expense of the U.S. state budget, especially to promote the production of necessary means of subsistence, armaments and services for individual consumption, but also by welfare state transfers to private households. This helped to avert a prolonged depression and led to a severe but relatively short-term recession of U.S. national capital.

In the long term, however, the mitigation of the 1974/1975 crisis through economic policy measures meant that the subsequent economic upswing was also relatively limited. A long-term economic recovery would have required the devaluation of a significant amount of fixed capital. Yet this was precisely what the state interventionism based on ‚deficit spending‘ was intended to prevent. Those individual industrial capitals that, without the stimulus measures, would have been devalued as fragments of the total national capital of the U.S. due to lack of profitability were now not able to recover permanently in the course of the renewed economic upswing. As a result, numerous industrial capitals were lost over the long term, as demonstrated by the transformation of the ‚Manufacturing Belt‘, once a key region for modern industrial production, into the ‚Rust Belt‘. Likewise, the overall share of industrial production in the U.S. in total industrial production worldwide began to decline.[30] This historical development was later generally misinterpreted as ‚de-industrialization‘, in the wake of which a ‚post-industrial accumulation regime‘ is said to have established itself. In reality, although modern industry lost some of its macroeconomic importance in the course of this development, especially in relation to the emerging sector of capital-productive services, it did not reach its historical end as a developed method of producing relative surplus-value. On the contrary, in the U.S. modern industry continues to play a decisive role in the export of commodity-capital and the employment of wage laborers.[31] With the demise of a number of individual industrial capitals, which were no longer able to recover permanently after the crisis of 1974/1975, it was thus not modern industry itself, but only its specific historical form, referred to by the term ‚Fordism‘, and its corresponding ‚Taylorist‘ production methods that came up against a historical limit: the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industrial production and its production methods no longer led to a further increase in the social productive forces of labor, making them historically obsolete.[32] As a result, not only did many U.S. industrial workers lose their jobs, but the end of the particular historical form of modern industry also led to a social upheaval within the U.S. proletariat, as these dismissed former industrial workers were torn out of their former postwar industrial-proletarian milieu. On the one hand, this led to increased individualization through the detachment from a previously relatively rigid network of social relationships in favor of increased mobility and growing possibilities for individual consumption. On the other hand, it also led to the loss of the former industrial-proletarian identity and an increase in social alienation, primarily forced by the intensified competition among the workers. Something similar applies for the educational sector in the United States, in so far as on the one hand, there was a social opening of educational institutions for socially marginalized groups such as African Americans through political reforms, but on the other hand, academic education was increasingly adapted to the requirements of the immediate production process and thus technocratized, resulting in a tendency toward a proletarianization of the academic intelligentsia.

The end of the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry was followed by new branches of production and thus also jobs, especially in the so-called ‚financial‘ and the ‚private services‘ sectors, although these jobs were precarious in contrast to the comparatively secure employment relationships in the specifically ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry. For those industrial individual capitals whose rates of profit had not yet fallen so far that they were lost to the intensifying competition that came with the weakening of the accumulation of U.S. national capital, the decline in their individual profit rates could be partially compensated for by the government’s economic stimulus measures. This did not, however, change anything significant about the long-term trend toward a fall in the general rate of profit. As a reaction to this trend, the money-capital made available by state interventionism was not used by the industrial capitalists to invest in new productive capital and thus to accelerate reproductive capital accumulation again, but to increase the profitability of existing industrial production. To this end, the development of social productive forces, especially technology, was pushed forward, resulting in a further increase in the organic composition of capital. This increase, in turn, reinforced the tendency for the rate of profit to fall. In addition, not only in the U.S. but in all developed capitalist nations, as a method of producing relative surplus-value, labor was intensified, especially by increasing the pace of labor, and as a method of producing absolute surplus-value, the working week was extended. In addition to the newly created insecure and poorly-paid jobs, precarious employment in industry was expanded through temporary work or labor leasing. These factors contributed to the reduction of the general wage level, so that the wage ratio measured against GDP in all developed industrialized countries decreased significantly compared to the post-war period of prosperity. Thus, while wages fell on average, the costs of education or even health care had to be borne by a large part of the U.S. proletariat because of the expanded but still rudimentary welfare state in the United States. This led to increasing private indebtedness, which was exacerbated by the increased opportunities for individual consumption and relatively cheap consumer loans.

5. The era of ‚globalization‘

Since the end of accelerated capital accumulation and post-war prosperity, caused by the tendency for the rate of profit to fall, the main drivers of economic and economic policy developments in the U.S. and the other capitalist centers have been reactions to said fall. One of the crucial attempts to compensate for the slowdown in reproductive capital accumulation within the capitalist industrialized countries by raising their rates of profit was to help the „propagandist tendency“ (Marx) of capital to form the world market to gain ground.[33] The tendency in the advanced capitalist nations for the general rate of profit to fall was to be compensated for by an increased turn to foreign trade, thus initiating a new phase of expansion in world trade from the late 1970s onward (see Fig. 4).

Figure 4

In the process, world trade grew faster than the respective growth rates of reproductive capital accumulation of the developed capitalist centers. This led to a marked intensification of competition not only for world market share but also for the most favorable production conditions for industrial capital. Moreover, since the early 1980s, new national total capitals, commonly referred to as ‚emerging markets’, have risen to become major players on the world market. Against the backdrop of low rates of profit and intensified world market competition, which in turn led to an intensification of the class antagonism between the national bourgeoisies and working classes, there has been a comprehensive exodus of capital. Individual industrial capitals, which could no longer be reproduced profitably enough within its corresponding national economy, migrated to other countries, especially to ‚emerging markets‘. This expansion of individual industrial capitals beyond the territorial limits of its national total capital was not due to the fact that it was absolutely impossible to apply it domestically. Rather, the national average profit rates in the developed capitalist countries fell so far that industrial capital could be employed abroad at higher profit rates. This expansionary movement of industrial capital, which led to the opening of new markets, was a form of attraction of capitals to each other. This led to an increasing interweaving of national reproduction processes, despite the increasing competition on the world market.

Central to this development was the saving of wage costs necessary to compensate for the fall in rates of profit in the capitalist centers, for which individual factories or even entire branches of production were outsourced from the highly developed industrialized countries to so-called ‚low-wage countries‘ with relatively cheaper labor in order to reduce the share of wage costs in the cost price of produced commodity-capital. As a result, there was a long-term rise in unemployment in the Western industrialized nations, which led to the then historically new phenomenon of ‚structural unemployment‘, of which the ‚Rust Belt‘ in the U.S. provided eloquent testimony. Even where this shift did not take place, industrial capitalists threatened their workers and governments with exodus in order to depress wages and enforce cuts in social benefits. This „depression of wages below the value of labor-power“[34] was another counteracting trend to the decline in the rate of profit. Through this wage depression, wages, especially in the U.S. and Europe, could be reduced on average and the rates of profit of individual industrial capitals increased. As a result, did not only the social average wage increase in the U.S. fall (if inflation is taken into account, the weekly income of U.S. workers actually fell significantly), but so did the average household income of U.S. citizens.

Subsequently, private debt increased through personal loans and mortgages, which were also subsidized by the state to stimulate the economy of U.S. national capital. At the same time, as a result of the rise of the new emerging countries, individual industrial capitals established international production and value-added chains and a new international division of labor. This historical development of an intensified worldwide interweaving of capitalist reproductive processes, which followed the end of the long-lasting prosperity phase of the post-war boom, is commonly referred to under the extremely vague term ‚globalization‘. This historical development not only started in the U.S., but was also largely determined by it, due to its still existing dominant leading role within the unipolar world order that had been established after World War II. The ever-increasing „entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market“[35] thus appeared, not least driven by the ‚cultural industry‘ (Adorno/ Horkheimer) historically established in the U.S., to be an internationalization of the ‚American way of life‘ and thus also of the bourgeois promise of happiness of the most advanced capitalist nation.[36]

However, the increasing economic, social and cultural integration of the various nations via the world market was by no means a new phenomenon, as the term ‚globalization‘ suggests. Rather, the world market forms „the very basis and the living atmosphere of the capitalist mode of production“[37], thus representing an important historical precondition for the emergence of this mode of production. The opening up and colonization of new territories in the so-called ‚age of European expansion‘ from the 15th to the 17th century were decisive main components of what Marx called the ‚primitive accumulation‘ of the historical emergence of the capital-relation (Kapitalverhältnis), which ushered in the „rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production“[38]. They led to great upheavals in trade and thereby accelerated the development of trading capital, so that the rapid expansion of the world market, the accompanying increase in world trade, the intensified competition among European nation states for transcontinental trade advantages, the development of modern means of transport and communication, and last but not least the colonial system, substantially increased the breaking of the historical shackles of the feudal mode of production. After the capitalist mode of production had developed into a concrete totality, the world market shifted from one of its historical preconditions to its result, with which bourgeois society fulfilled its historical task of creating a specifically capitalist world market, in that industrial capital conquered the most distant regions of the world with its goods.[39] World trade thus became the means for the production of industrial capital, whose condition of existence was in turn the constant expansion of markets into the world market. Thus, trade also took on increasing political significance, because the developed capitalist nations entered into a universalized competitive relationship and divided the opening world market among themselves through protracted struggles.[40] With this exploitation of the world market, the bourgeoisie shaped capitalist production and consumption in a cosmopolitan way, i.e. it created the „international character of the capitalist regime.“[41] The world market is thus not an accidental, marginal result of the capitalist mode of production, but the tendency to create it is „directly given in the concept of capital itself“[42] because the necessity of accumulation inherent in capital drives the constant expansion of exchange beyond the respective national borders of the social total capital. The tendency to establish the capitalist world market, which propagates the capitalist mode of production globally, is thus only the flip side of the tendency of capital to create more and more surplus labor. The territorial borders of other countries and the historical restrictions of pre-capitalist modes of production, thereby the borders of the world market itself appear to capital only as restrictions to be overcome, which are broken by flooding this market with the goods of an expanding modern industrial mass production, which is restricted only by the size of the functioning capital and the level of development of the productive forces of social labor.

However, the propagandistic tendency of capital to create a world market in its own image has historically not been uninterrupted, even and without counter-tendencies, as assumed in the term ‚globalization‘. Already from the second half of the 19th century on, this tendency gained momentum in a first push, which was expressed in an expansion of world trade, a high international mobility of money-capital and an increased transnational migration. The developed capitalist countries exported an ever larger share of their total social product, which led to a significant increase in their average export quotas, while conversely they became increasingly dependent on imports from other countries. The basis for this was not only a revolution in the technical basis of the mode of production through the real subsumption of labor under capital in the capitalist centers and the development of new resources such as raw material deposits and soil, especially in countries on the ‚periphery‘ of the world market, but also a reduction in circulation costs, especially transport costs, through a revolution in international transportation through rationalization and technical innovations (the so-called ‚transportation revolution‘). Overall, world trade in this period up to World War I, with an annual average of 3.4 percent, grew significantly faster in the long term than global production.[43] The international transfer of money-capital from the capitalist centers to the countries on the ‚periphery‘ of the world market led to a relatively high degree of integration of the international ‚financial markets’, with London as the international financial center.[44] In addition, the first ‚globalization surge‘ led to a mass migration that is still unprecedented today, extending beyond territorial state borders and even across the oceans. The dominant migration movement was a mass exodus from Europe to the ‚New World‘ of North America. A total of about 60 million people migrated overseas from Europe, about three-fifths of whom immigrated to the U.S.[45] The main form of migration consisted of labor migration, which was caused by a lack of jobs due to the productivity gap between the European countries and the U.S. and led to an increase in the labor supply in the U.S. with corresponding wage increases. Here, too, the basis for this was a revolutionized transportation system, the development of new means of communication, the establishment of a, by trend, global labor market around the 19th century as a result of the increasing integration of transatlantic labor markets and, last but not least, the attractiveness of the ‚American Dream‘ and the United States as the most advanced capitalist nation.

With the World War I, in which world trade collapsed to a large extent and capital movements and migration declined sharply due to the sealing off of markets, this period of the first surge in the propagandistic tendency of capital to form a world capitalist market came to an abrupt end. A disentanglement of world trade took place, which was intensified by the ‚October Revolution‘ in Russia and the ‚November Revolution‘ in Germany. With the ‚Great Depression‘ beginning in 1929, the gold standard as an international monetary system finally collapsed. The world economic crisis led to a further decline in exchange relations (which increased again only with the establishment of the ‚Bretton Woods System‘) before collapsing again in World War II. It was only in the wake of post-war prosperity in the developed capitalist countries, based on accelerated capital accumulation, that there was a renewed economic integration of national reproductive processes through world trade.[46] This integration originated in the United States, in so far as its industrial capital expanded into international markets where there was a great demand after the war for means of production and individual consumption for reconstruction and economic recovery. Historically new about this ‚globalization surge‘ — which took place in response to the tendency for the rates of profit to fall and the resulting slowdown in capital accumulation in the capitalist industrialized nations — was that the exchange of capital-productive services on the world market increased and the international circulation of money-capital, especially short-term speculative money-capital transactions, intensified extraordinarily. In the U.S., this ‚globalization surge‘ also encouraged a migration movement from Central and Latin America, which has continued largely uninterrupted to this day and is leading to an increasing diversity of the U.S. population. While around 15 million Hispanics lived in the U.S. in 1980, their number had already risen to 58 million by 2016, the year Trump took office. According to demographic estimates, white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the total population in the mid-2040s, making them the largest minority (so-called ‚majority-minority‘).[47]

6. Neoliberalism and ‚finance capitalism‘

The developed capitalist nations initially responded to the world economic crisis of the mid-1970s with expansive monetary and cyclical policies based on the Keynesian economic paradigm to cushion the economic impact of the crisis. This resulted not only in a significant increase in national debt, but also in rising inflation. The rising inflation was exacerbated by the lower rate of profit, as individual industrial capitalists attempted to reduce real wages and, by comparison, raise commodity prices more sharply to compensate for the fall in the rate of profit. In the U.S., inflation rose to 11 percent in 1974 alone.[48] While on the one hand the inflation rates of commodity prices rose, on the other hand, economic growth lost momentum, because the tendency of the rate of profit to fall led to a decline in investment expenditure: As money-capital was invested less and less in productive capital due to deteriorating conditions for the utilization of capital in the course of the fall in the rate of profit, accumulation of capital stagnated. As a result, between the late 1970s and early 1980s, the then historically novel phenomenon of so-called ‚stagflation‘ developed n the most advanced capitalist countries, among them the United States. As a reaction to this stagflationary development, economic policy in the capitalist centers fundamentally turned away from the failed, historically delegitimized Keynesian economic paradigm in the 1980s and turned to the so-called ‚monetarist‘ paradigm. This was intended, on the one hand, to break the inflation that had risen in the wake of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall and Keynesian economic policy and, on the other, to create locational advantages in the intensified competition on the world market that accompanied the renewed ‚globalization surge’ since the 1970s. The implementation of this turnaround required pressure from the respective national bourgeoisies, especially the money-capitalists embodying interest-bearing capital, on the governments in the leading capitalist countries. But the individual industrial capitalists also sought to increase rates of surplus-value to their individual capitals through the intensification of labor as a method of producing relative surplus-value and a tightened command of capital over labor, in order to compensate for the fall in rates of profit through a higher degree of exploitation.

This monetarist paradigm, known as ‚neoliberalism‘,[49] which became established in Great Britain from the late 1970s under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (so-called ‚Thatcherism‘) and in the United States from the early 1980s under Republican President Ronald Reagan (so-called ‚Reaganomics‘), based its economic and fiscal policy primarily on the assumption that the capital and labor markets would be self-regulating (so-called ‚supply policy‘). The core of ‚Reaganomics‘ in the U.S. were massive tax cuts to stimulate investment in productive capital and individual consumption. For this purpose, tax cuts were passed in Congress in 1981, which could not be compensated for despite sharp cuts in social spending. U.S. national debt subsequently grew from 79 billion to over 220 billion U.S. dollar between 1981 and 1986.[50] In accordance with the orientation towards a so-called ‚supply policy‘, the remaining ‚Fordist‘ regulations on the labor market and the ‚public economic sector‘ were reduced and a comparatively restrictive monetarist monetary policy of the central banks was established. Thus, the Federal Reserve Bank’s permissive monetary policy led to a price increase of 13.5 percent until 1980,[51] before switching to a restrictive monetary policy, which resulted in falling inflation and thus to a lower devaluation of the purchasing power of U.S. currencies, which had been a major feature of rising inflation rates into the 1970s. This monetary policy shift, however, did not take place only in the U.S., but was carried out in all developed capitalist countries from 1980 onward, in accordance with the monetarist paradigm established in the capitalist centers, and led to lower rates of inflation. This break in inflation, however, came at the expense of soaring unemployment and declining living standards not only of the reserve industrial army but of much of the respective national working classes in the capitalist centers. The U.S. initially experienced a brief but severe recession in 1981 and 1982, with unemployment rising to 10 percent. Industrial capital was particularly hard hit. It was not until 1983 that a renewed economic growth of 10 percent set in, and unemployment declined steadily as new jobs were created.[52] At the same time, the class division between the U.S. bourgeoisie and the working class intensified, as expressed in a shift in income distribution in the wake of ‚Reaganomics‘. So while fewer and fewer workers were able to participate in the development of productive forces and social wealth, the profits of the economically strongest factions of the U.S. bourgeoisie grew.

The root cause of this was an increasing reduction in the general level of wages in the wake of the monetarist paradigm, which in the U.S. as in the other developed capitalist countries was one of the decisive strategies of the national bourgeoisie to compensate for or even reverse the fall in its national average rates of profit, hence to initiate a renewed rise in the general rate of profit of its national total capital. In return, the bourgeoisie, especially in the United States, revoked the class compromise with workers’ organizations such as unions or workers’ parties, which had been established in the post-war era through social partnership, in favor of a ‚class struggle from above‘ whose long-term conditions had shifted in the bourgeoisie’s favor through the enduring containment of the workers’ organizations. The compromise had been accompanied by material concessions made by the bourgeoisie to the working class (wage increases, expansion of the possibilities for individual consumption, etc.), which were then withdrawn with the transition to ‚neoliberalism‘. However, this move was by no means, as is often claimed by bourgeois-socialist critics of ‚neoliberalism‘, based on some political caprice, but rather this withdrawal was aimed at lowering the cost price for the production of capitalist commodities and thus compensating for the reduction in profits that occurred as a result of the slowing down of accumulation. On the other hand, precisely because of the privatization of state functions and public sectors of the economy, ‚neoliberalism‘ enabled large segments of the U.S. population, and especially the working class, to enjoy unprecedented mobility and autonomy. This led to an increasing individualization of the workers, which in turn also boosted social alienation. At the same time, these ‚privatizations‘ also shifted former tasks of bourgeois governments, especially the social and welfare state protections of certain segments of the proletariat, to the individual, who was now morally taken into responsibility by ‚neoliberal‘ ideology. In this process, the original U.S. ideology of the ‚pursuit of happiness‘ was readopted, originally including the bourgeois promise of happiness of the most advanced capitalist nation. This promise of happiness was now used to attribute the class position of workers to a lack of certain, mostly Protestant virtues (diligence, discipline, thrift, etc.) and to make the workers themselves morally responsible for their living conditions arising from this class position. In contrast to other capitalist nations, ‚neoliberalism‘ in the U.S. was therefore ideologically legitimized not by the logic of ‚practical constraints‘ but by a so-called ‚rugged individualism‘ stemming from the country’s history as a settler nation.

In the course of the establishment of ‚neoliberalism‘, the importance of so-called ‚multinational companies‘ decisively increased, making them the dominant form of enterprise. This was based on the renewed surge of the propagandistic tendency of capital, which began as a reaction to the crisis of 1974/1975. Although ‚multinational enterprises‘ had already existed since the late 19th century, their significance in terms of the economy as a whole had remained relatively low until said surge, since they were only able to establish themselves in individual branches of production and their development was decisively hampered by the two world wars. It was only as a result of the almost explosive upswing in world trade based on the accelerated accumulation of capital in the context of post-war prosperity and the associated increase in foreign direct investment that this form of enterprise gained in importance, a trend that was further accelerated in the course of the ‚globalization surge’ that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a reaction to the tendency for the rate of profit to fall.[53] On the other hand, ‚multinational companies‘ in turn crucially drove this new phase of ‚globalization‘ by catalyzing the increasing integration of the world market in their role as global players. Although relatively speaking, the capital movements of these companies emancipated themselves from the restrictions of the territorial limits of their respective national total capital, they remained bound to the corresponding nation states due to the territorially fixed part of their fixed capital.[54] The global rise of leading technology companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Apple, starting in the U.S., played one key role in this increasing importance of ‚multinational companies’. As a result of the ‚globalization surge‘ that took place as a reaction to the prevailing tendency for the rate of profit to fall, there was a simultaneous increase in the productive force of technology from the late 1970s onwards, which contributed to crucial innovations in the field of information and communication in the developed capitalist nations. This catalyzed the increasing entanglement of national reproductive processes through international trade, which in turn promoted the development of the productive force of technology into production for the capitalist world market.

The turn to foreign trade and outflow of industrial capital, which occurred during the ‚globalization surge’ during the period of ‚neoliberalism‘, affected the total social capitals of the developed capitalist countries as an intensification of the tendency toward concentration and centralization of capital. As a result of the relocation of individual production processes or entire branches of production to other countries, monopolies and oligopolies increasingly formed in the remaining branches of production due to the reduction in internal economic competition caused by the outflow of capital, but these were always limited by the equalization of the rates of profits caused by competition. The increasing concentration and centralization was also expressed in an increased movement of money-capital, which was politically flanked by the extensive removal of regulations on the money and credit markets. As a result, the ‚financial markets’ of the advanced capitalist nations, which had a highly developed credit and financial system, as in the U.S., were once again strongly internationalized, as they had been in the first ‚globalization surge‘ from the second half of the 19th century onward. This led to an increase in the relative independence (relative Verselbständigung) of the accumulation of money-capital, which is accompanied by interest-bearing capital and the doubling of functioning capital into real and fictitious capital, and thus to an increase in the significance of the ‚financial markets‘. However, this did not in any way lead to a ‚decoupling‘ of these markets from the accumulation of reproductive capital, nor did it lead to a ‚finance-driven accumulation‘. Rather, the accumulation of money-capital remained fundamentally dependent on the accumulation of reproductive capital. The different sub-markets, on which different forms of fictitious capital such as stocks, currencies and bonds were traded, remained ultimately determined by the production and accumulation of industrial capital, which as a modern form of capital dominates the other forms of capital such as interest-bearing capital in bourgeois society.[55] Certain developments on these sub-markets, which suggested an apparent ‚decoupling‘ of the ‚financial markets’, were in fact based on, in addition to technological innovations, the accumulation of productively functioning capital. Thus, for example, increasing turnover on individual stock markets was merely the result of increased mergers of stock corporations as „associated capitalists“ (Marx), which expressed the growing tendency towards concentration and centralization of capital. In the U.S., the Dow Jones Index, which measures the development of the U.S. stock market, showed a marked rise since the beginning of the 1980s in comparison with previous losses,[56] but this rise was by no means exceptionally high, but always remained within the scope of previous stock market rises and corresponded to previous historical price patterns. Analogous to the rise in Dow Jones stock prices, stock market capitalizations also grew significantly towards the end of the 1980s, reaching over 60 percent of U.S. GDP, before peaking at 180 percent in 2000 and finally declining continuously as the importance of the U.S. stock market for the total national capital of the U.S. began to dwindle.[57]

7. ‚New economy’ and digitization

After the end of post-war prosperity, the late 1970s saw a renewed worldwide economic upswing, which was induced by the U.S. but ended again with the recession of 1981/1982. As a result, not only did the accumulation of U.S. national capital slow but world trade also declined in absolute terms. However, as early as 1983, the U.S. economy rebounded, followed by an upswing in the world economy, before the fall of so-called ‚real socialism‘ in the early 1990s was followed by a recession in the U.S. economy in 1991/1992 and a marked downturn in the world market. In 1993, the United States finally experienced an economic upswing, which ushered in a period of prosperity that lasted more than ten years and was characterized by sustained economic growth, rising incomes and declining unemployment combined with low inflation. Productivity growth since 1995 was more than twice as high than during the economic period that followed the end of post-war prosperity from the mid-1970s, including the ‚neoliberal‘ phase of ‚Reaganomics‘.[58] At the same time, the number of welfare recipients fell by half, and, towards the end of the 1990s, the proportion of U.S. citizens living below the poverty line dropped to its lowest level since the crisis of 1974/1975.[59] Household spending on individual consumption grew dramatically during this decade of economic prosperity, with private consumption acting as one of the driving forces for sustained economic growth. Even tax revenues rose so sharply during this period of prosperity that the U.S. budget deficit of 290 billion U.S. dollar in 1992 was not only reduced, but actually turned into a surplus of 236 billion U.S. dollar in 2000.[60] In terms of foreign trade, this upswing in the U.S. economy was stabilized by the fact that the U.S. government under the then incumbent Democratic President Bill Clinton established the ‚North American Free Trade Area‘ (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in 1993 against the opposition of trade unions and environmentalists, and by forcing a progressive liberalization of world trade through the World Trade Organization (WTO) founded in 1995. Since economic growth in the U.S. was comparatively higher than in the other developed capitalist countries,[61] despite the loss of its role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, it still functioned as the growth engine for the international economy. Accordingly, in 1994, one year after the economic upswing that began in the U.S., the world economy also recovered. However, the growth rate of world trade was significantly higher than that of the capitalist centers, since international economic interdependence increased significantly once again as a result of the rise of new emerging countries from the 1980s onwards and the integration of the world market, which was pushed forward by the collapse of state-socialist despotism of the ‚Eastern bloc‘ in the 1990s and led to a corresponding increase in world trade including foreign investment.[62]

This historical development became famous under the name ‚New Economy‘, meaning an allegedly new phase of the capitalist mode of production, which is said to have been characterized by a structural change away from an ‚industrial society’ to an ‚information society‘. The basis for this was to be the development of information and communications technologies (so-called ‚ICT‘) and their application in various branches of production as ‚cross-sectional technologies‘. In fact, the ICT sector, although it represented only a relatively small branch of production in the U.S. economy, was responsible for about one-third of the productivity growth between 1993 and 1999.[63] The reason for this, however, was not the establishment of a post-industrial society through ‚informatization‘, but rather the fact that the shortening of turnover time of capital through the development of the productive forces of information and communication technologies considerably amplified a tendency that counteracts the fall in the rate of profit.[64] The boom in these technologies reduced the turnover time of industrial capital in the United States to such an extent that it not only clearly counteracted the fall in the national average rate of profit, but even partially reversed it. A central role in this process was played by ‚multinational companies‘ of the ‚technology sector’, which had already gained immense importance by the end of the 1980s and had become the dominant form of enterprise under ‚neoliberalism‘. Within a relatively short period of time, the market value of these IT groups overtook that of the previously leading companies in the transportation industry, especially in the automotive and aircraft construction sectors.

The economic growth of the United States, induced by the renewed rise in the general rate of profit, led to hopes for a new ‚golden age‘ of the ‚information society‘ as a new long period of prosperity in the capitalist centers where ICTs began to take hold. In keeping with the pioneering role of the U.S., this society was supposed to be characterized economically by an increase in productivity and economic growth, rising consumption, a moderate inflation rate, rising wages, a tendency for unqualified labor to disappear, and falling unemployment. According to the theoretical representatives of the ‚New Economy‘, the establishment and social generalization of ICT represented a new ‚industrial revolution‘, which is why the ‚digitization‘ mediated by this technology was also referred to as the ‚third‘ or ‚digital revolution‘, which was supposed to not only revolutionize the immediate production process of capital but also people’s everyday lives.[65] Since information and communication technologies are computer-based high technologies, the economic boom in the computer industry was intended to create the material prerequisites for this ‚digital revolution‘. In fact, the boom of this industry led to an immense spread of computers, whereby the almost explosive expansion of access to the Internet as a means of information and communication significantly strengthened the propagandistic tendency of capital to produce the world market. Thus, historically, the mutually reinforcing interaction between the propagandistic tendency of capital and the development of technological productive forces was reasserted: the rising ladder of capitalist production led to the development of modern information and communication technologies, which reinforced the tendency of capital to produce for the world market, thus driving the rise of these technologies. Although the U.S. played a pioneering role in the boom of the ‚New Economy‘ in international comparison, economically, it developed more slowly than Western Europe and other countries in which the ICT sector was established, with growth in communication technology declining more than in information technology. In the course of the 1990s, these other countries caught up with the productivity lead of the United States, which finally even started to lag behind from 1998 onward. This was accompanied by a decline in the U.S.’s world market shares in the ICT sector.[66]

Along with the upswing of the ‚New Economy‘ in the U.S., a privatization of innovation ideas increasingly prevailed, although this had already occurred before: capitalists invested their money-capital to secure ‚innovative ideas‘ in order to gain competitive advantages in establishing new branches of production in information and communication technologies and in opening up new markets. At the same time, the spread of ICT revolutionized business organization by enabling optimized control and management of companies through improved information and data processing as well as means of communication: Production was first broken down into individually managed work processes as parts of a value-added chain, which could then be outsourced, thus allowing circulation costs to be economized through the establishment of effective networks with suppliers and more direct sales relationships with end consumers. The representatives of the ‚New Economy‘ therefore, in contrast to the preceding political economists (so-called ‚Old Economy‘), strove for mass production that was not standardized as in the modern industry of the ‚Fordist‘ type, but rather individually tailored to the respective customers (so-called ‚mass customization‘). They proclaimed an end to the economic cycle, or at least to economic crises and inflation.[67] Instead of the industrially produced and standardized mass products with material values, an ‚information economy‘ of ‚digital goods‘ with ‚immaterial‘ values was allegedly emerging, i.e., the material production process of capital was to become secondary or even historically obsolete in the course of the ‚digital revolution’.[68] In fact, however, ‚digitization‘ did not lead to the decline of material production, but only to the development of the modern productive forces of information and communication technologies, which, through their application to the immediate production process of capital, led to an economization of the means of production through digital networking, a higher level of cooperation and an advancing automation in modern industry. The ‚digital revolution‘ of the technical basis of the capitalist production process, but also of everyday life, did not take place independently of ‚physical goods‘ at all. ‚Digitization‘ was only possible where a certain technical infrastructure was given as a material prerequisite. On the other hand, the significance of the services associated with information and communication technologies increased immensely with their social generalization in the various branches of production and in people’s everyday lives. This applied not only to services for the provision of these technologies, but also to services for acquiring the skills necessary to use these technologies (so-called ‚product-skill complementarity‘), such as training. At the same time, ICT in the United States was again primarily used in the ‚service sector‘ that was flourishing owing to these technologies, particularly in the consulting industry.

This was accompanied by a structural transformation of the working class in the capitalist centers where ICTs became prevalent and socially generalized. This change by no means led to the ‚end of the working society‘ proclaimed by sociologists and journalists; rather, it merely unfolded the tendency inherent in modern industry to the relative emancipation of labor from the natural forces of human labor-power. The emancipation of the means of labor from the „the restraints that are inseparable from human labour-power“[69], which already began with the machinery in modern industry, was intensified by ICT to the extent that the worker himself now became increasingly obsolete as a living appendage of the machinery and instead stepped to the side of the labor-process as regulator and controller of the capitalist production process. This was accompanied by labor market policy demands for an increasing ‚flexibilization‘ and ‚optimization‘ of the human labor-power, which was to be trained and encouraged to adapt to the changing requirements of capitalist production in the course of the revolution of its technical base. At the same time, labor partially emancipated itself from its restriction to firmly confined spaces such as the factory and became increasingly mobile, although this did not in any way lead to an ‚absolute uprooting‘ of labor through boundless mobility.[70] As a flip side of this emancipation, various forms of formally independent labor developed, which in fact, however, where they were not pursued within the framework of non-capitalist commodity production, remained subsumed under capital and resulted in an expansion of precarious employment relations. This expansion, along with the increase in regular employment in the wake of productivity growth, was a crucial factor in the decline of unemployment in the United States. Nevertheless, class antagonism between the U.S. bourgeoisie and the proletariat continued to intensify. This, as under the Reagan administration, was again expressed in a shift in income distribution in favor of the bourgeoisie‘s economically strongest factions at the expense of the worst-off sections of the proletariat. Nevertheless, against a background of rising incomes and declining unemployment with low inflation rates, social problems temporarily receded into the background for many U.S. citizens. It was no coincidence that during this decade of economic prosperity, catalyzed by the disappearance of ‚real socialism‘ as an external enemy with the end of the ‚Cold War‘, so-called ‚culture wars‘ over ideological issues (such as homosexuality, abortion, gun rights, secularism, etc.) between liberals and conservatives increasingly came to the fore, leading to a political polarization of the United States.

The new ‚golden age‘ of a digitized ‚information society‘, which the followers of the ‚New Economy‘ proclaimed as prophets of a new development of technological productive forces, proved already to be an illusion, however, with the devaluation of the shares of Dot-com companies (so-called ‚pennystocks‘) and finally with the bursting of the speculative Dot-com bubble (so-called ‚New Economy Bubble’) in March 2000. This burst showed that the ‚start-ups‘ once considered ‚future companies‘, whose business models had been doomed to fail due to fundamental conceptual flaws, had been overvalued and weren’t profitable enough to meet investors’ profit expectations. On the basis of the apparent doubling of their industrial capital into reproductive and fictitious capital, the stock market values of the Dot-com companies were inflated speculatively, as investors wanted to participate in the expected future profits of the ‚start-ups‘ with dividends or profitably resell their own shares in these companies in the course of rising stock market prices. In addition, the stock market valuation of the Dot-com companies rose exorbitantly due to a rapidly increasing demand from retail investors newly entering the stock market. While the savings rate of U.S. private households fell from 8 to 2 percent between 1991 and 1999, their debt, measured in terms of income, rose to 90 percent.[71] These debts were used not only to buy goods for individual consumption, but also to buy shares. In addition, as a result of the reorganization of corporate structures, employees and workers held shares in the listed capitals under whose command they worked. The withdrawal of fictitious capital by large investors at the first signs of a fall in the prices of listed Dot-com company shares caused panic among these small investors and an immediate sale of their shares, which led to a rapid fall in prices and ultimately to a collapse of the entire stock market for Dot-com companies (see fig. 5).

Figure 5

The correction in the stock prices of Dot-com companies necessitated by this plunge in prices showed in practice that information and communication technologies were by no means based on ‚immaterial values’ of ‚digital goods‘ but still on material values of the individual capitals that function reproductively in the ICT sector, to which the size of the speculatively inflated securities was realistically adjusted when the bubble burst.[72] With the transition of the U.S. into a recession that followed this bursting, and a persistent stagnant phase of accumulation of U.S. national capital, both the expectation of an end to the economic cycle or at least economic crises and a new, long-lasting prosperity phase induced by the ‚New Economy‘ proved to be a myth. Since at the center of this myth of the ‚New Economy‘ was the stock market boom in the 1990s, which ended with the bursting of the Dot-com bubble in a stock market crash, the entire myth lost its former legitimacy with this crash. The bursting of the Dot-com bubble did not, however, render obsolete the development of the productive force of technology in the field of information and communication.[73] It merely showed that the ‚New Economy’ and the ‚digital revolution‘ did not at all invalidate the fundamental laws of the capitalist mode of production, let alone overcome this mode of production by itself. Likewise, the distinction between the classical industrial economy and the ‚New Economy’ proved to be invalid. In retrospect and overall, the long-term effects of the historical development subsumed under the ‚New economy‘ on economic growth in the developed capitalist countries, especially the United States, remained relatively limited. The computer industry increasingly lost economic importance in the United States, which was reflected in extremely low productivity gains. Although the entire ICT industry led to a historically exceptional transformation of everyday life, particularly through new technological means of information and communication and individual consumption (e.g., via ‚social media‘ or apps on smartphones), it has played a comparatively minor role compared to the economic consequences of other industries (such as the electrical and chemical industries at the time). Although it led to temporary productivity growth and a prolonged upswing in the U.S. economy, in the end it could not provide a new stimulus for a renewed accelerated accumulation of capital, because even in the course of the ‚New Economy‘ boom, the rate of profit of the national total capital of the United States did not reach the level of the ‚golden age’ of post-war prosperity.[74]

8. The U.S. economy in the course of the ‚Great Recession‘ 2007-2009

Since the mid-1970s, the United States had kept the world capitalist economy in fragile equilibrium by creating the necessary demand for exports, first from Germany and Japan and later from China. Had it once become the world’s largest creditor in the wake of World War II, it subsequently evolved into the world’s largest debtor nation. This was demonstrated by the fact that the capital movements of the United States abruptly reversed from 1980 to the following year. There was a sudden shift from a large surplus of capital exports to the build-up of a large trade deficit through capital imports. The underlying cause of this was the de facto loss of the U.S.’s role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, with the rapid build-up of the foreign trade deficit further exacerbated by the transition to free-floating exchange rates due to the collapse of the ‚Bretton Woods System‘. In 1986, the net external position of the United States finally became negative for good, i.e., the United States went from being a net creditor country to a net debtor nation, with the tendency toward net indebtedness becoming increasingly prevalent from 1988 onward. As a result, the U.S. net debt to foreign countries amounted to about 650 billion U.S. dollar in 1991.[75] Accordingly, the trade balance of the U.S., especially from the 1990s on, fell rapidly due to the tendency to increase net debt abroad. Attempts were made to compensate for this indebtedness by importing foreign money-capital, i.e., monetary foreign debt. Besides direct investment in productive capital, part of the imported money-capital was used to stimulate domestic consumer demand. Also, attempts were made to compensate for the current account deficit in foreign trade by investing foreign capital on the U.S. stock exchanges, whereby the exorbitant growth of the trade deficit was contrasted with relatively high purchases of U.S. securities.[76] The foreign money-capitalists attempted to make spread profits through their capital invested on the U.S. securities exchanges due to differing interest rates and expectations of flexible exchange rates. This manifested itself in the bull market of the U.S. securities exchanges until the stock market crash on October 19, 1987 (so-called ‚Black Monday‘). Against the historical background of long-term falling rates of profit, the investment ratio measured by GDP in the U.S. therefore fell from the mid-1980s onwards, while net foreign debt increased in the same way as the purchase of U.S. securities.[77]

After the Dot-com bubble burst in 2000, there the economy in the U.S. and the world market briefly recovered. The supporting pillars for this were the indebtedness of private companies, growth in demand based on credit through private debt, i.e. the credit-financed purchase of individual means of consumption, and rising public debt. The upturn in the construction industry, which was stimulated by low interest rates and credit-financed demand for real estate, was central to the recovery of the U.S. economy after the turn of the millennium, which was largely driven by demand for individual consumer goods. This demand was based on mortgage loans totaling 5.8 trillion U.S. dollar, which accounted for approximately 40 percent of total private debt in the United States. Despite rising house prices, the generous granting of personal loans by U.S. mortgage banks also enabled financially weak sections of the overall population, especially the economically relatively poor sections of the U.S. working class, to afford to buy real estate, primarily to buy houses and apartments as owner-occupied homes.[78] However, the granting of these loans was not the cause of the upswing in the U.S. construction industry, but merely catalyzed it. Rather, the boom in construction was caused by an increasing investment of excess money-capital, released as a result of the long-term trend of falling national average rates of profit and accelerated accumulation of money-capital, into the real estate sector.[79] Since the tendency for the rate of profit to fall during the period of post-war prosperity was established not only in the United States but in all developed capitalist nations, the investment of excess money-capital in the real estate sector was also a common phenomenon in the capitalist centers. Accordingly, the real estate boom fueled by mortgage lending was by no means limited to the U.S., but took place in Europe as well. As a consequence, a speculative real estate bubble formed, especially in Great Britain and southern European countries such as Spain (see Fig. 6).

Figure 6

In the long term, however, the investment of excess money-capital in the real estate sector led to an increase in the organic composition of the capital operating in this sector, which in turn exacerbated the decline in the rate of profit. As a result, first signs of an economic downturn in the U.S. real estate sector showed by the end of 2005, which then took full effect at the beginning of 2006 and accelerated progressively. In retrospect, this showed that there had been a partial overproduction crisis in the real estate sector: although the population in the U.S. increased by about 20 million between 2000 and 2007, i.e. by almost 1 percent per year, too much real estate had been built in relation to the solvent demand.[80] As a result, the real estate market was oversupplied, which led to a decline in construction production. This led to layoffs in the construction sector and supplier industries and a corresponding increase in unemployment. This loss of jobs not only led to serious wage losses, but against the backdrop of the largely stagnant real wage trend since the 1970s, the segments of the U.S. working class that had become unemployed had not built up any reserves. The sections of the proletariat previously employed in the real estate and construction industries were therefore no longer able to service the mortgage loans for their own homes themselves, leading to a wave of foreclosures and evictions. As a result, homelessness also rose, increasing the price pressure on the real estate market. Many U.S. citizens lost their jobs, then their homes, and finally their wealth, made up of few savings.

As the crisis in the real estate sector spread to the banking and credit sector of the U.S. economy, the bursting of mortgage loans, i.e. the defaults on real estate loans taken out by financially weak private households of the U.S. proletariat, led to the collapse of the market for mortgage loans with low credit ratings (the so-called ‚subprime market‘).[81] Thus the crisis spread to U.S. banks, which acted as creditors for these mortgage loans. At first, the two private but state-sponsored mortgage bank ‚Fannie Mae‘ and its competitor ‚Freddie Mae‘ got into financial difficulties. They could only be saved from bankruptcy by financial aid from the U.S. government and were eventually placed under government supervision. The threat of the sudden collapse of the credit system into the monetary system in the interbank trade, which would have meant that banks would no longer have borrowed money from each other in the form of bank loans, could only be prevented by the Fed stepping in as ‚lender of last resort‘ and preventing a wave of insolvencies of numerous U.S. private banks by guaranteeing the liquidity of the interbank trade. This prevented a looming credit crunch. In the course of this development, the Fed eased its previous restrictive course in monetary policy. Making matters even more acute was that credit risks had been internationalized through their global resale by means of certain credit instruments such as ‚collateralized debt obligations‘ (CDOs) and the trade in credit derivatives through insurance companies for these securitizations (so-called ‚credit default swaps‘, CDS). This catalyzed the long-term economic trend of growing indebtedness of private companies and the public budget as well as increasing financial speculation with low profitability since the ‚globalization surge‘ from the end of the 1970s on. The growth of financial speculation through said new instruments was expressed in an urge for fiscal ‚deregulation‘. This ‚deregulation‘ was thus not, as countless bourgeois and also ‚Marxist‘ ‚analyses‘ claim, the cause of the so-called ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009.[82] The decisive cause for this recession to take on the character of a ‚great crisis‘ was ultimately the end of the phase of accelerated capital accumulation marked by the ‚oil crisis‘ in the mid-1970s owing to the assertion of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in the developed capitalist industrial nations. After its end, the governments of the capitalist centers tried for over thirty years to use their economic policies to delay a deep and prolonged severe depression. Through their state interventionism, in the long term, they prevented rectification of their national total capital by devaluing its fixed capital component, thereby creating long-term overcapacities of this capital, leading to over-cyclical disproportions between the production and circulation of capital. The historical context of the ‚Great Recession‘ therefore consisted in an increasingly assertive secular, i.e. long-term, tendency for the accumulation of capital to slow down in the developed capitalist nations.[83] From mid-2008 on, a general crisis of reproductive capital accumulation, including a corresponding trade crisis expressed in the form of a credit and banking crisis, finally occurred in the developed capitalist countries, due to an overproduction of fixed capital in all key production sectors of the world market. This general crisis of overproduction, rather than the increasing financial speculation and its political accompaniment by a ‚deregulation‘ of the ‚financial markets‘, was the cause of the cyclical downturn of the world economy. As a result, the initially only partial crisis in the U.S. real estate sector, which had already developed into a national banking crisis in the U.S., expanded into a global economic crisis, which in 2009 led to the biggest economic slump in the entire post-war period. For the U.S., this was expressed, among other things, in a serious reduction in the negative trade balance. The large capitals of the developed capitalist countries exporting to the world market were particularly hard hit by the over-accumulation crisis, which meant that their creditworthiness was at the disposal of the banks and they were only given loans at restrictive conditions. This again threatened a potential collapse of the credit system into the monetary system, but this time not only in interbank trade but also in trade credit. As a result, the Fed’s already loose monetary policy was expanded and eventually turned into an extreme form of expansionary monetary policy (so-called ‚quantitative easing‘). Through this ‚quantitative easing‘, which was de facto an exaggerated form of monetary Keynesianism, the capital of large corporations could be saved by accepting risk of inflation, whereas the ‚neoliberal‘ monetarists demanded a ‚stable money supply policy‘. In addition, banks in serious financial distress were nationalized in order to avoid a collapse of the banking sector (‚too big to fail‘). This ‚bank bailout‘ was indeed economically necessary because this sector is not only an integral part of the capitalist mode of production, but it also plays a relatively more significant role in advanced capitalist nations, such as the U.S., than in other capitalist countries. Thus, as in the U.S., the central banks of other developed capitalist countries stepped in as ‚lenders of last resort‘ to provide an exorbitant amount of banknotes for interbank trade by easing their monetary policies and ensuring liquidity for the circulation of capital as a whole. At the same time, the capitalist centers and emerging countries on the periphery of the world market launched state rescue and economic stimulus programs of varying size. Although the crisis interventions of the central banks and governments were ultimately able to prevent a collapse of the credit into the monetary system, they also shifted the credit risk to the national budget, which led to a national debt crisis in the economically weaker countries of the E.U., among others.[84] Flooding the money market with the banknotes of other developed capitalist states with a developed capitalist mode of production would not have been sufficient in itself, however, to stabilize the liquidity position of the respective national credit and banking sectors. Since most of the claims were denominated in U.S. dollars because of the U.S. dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency, the Fed had to act as a kind of international ‚lender of last resort‘ to avert the collapse of these sectors globally. To this end, between December 2007 and August 2010, the Fed provided the world’s most important central banks with 4.5 trillion U.S. dollar of U.S. currency through liquidity swap lines.[85]

Just as the competition of individual capitals in economic crises turns into a „struggle of enemy brothers“ (Marx)[86], since the opposition between the individual capitalists and the entire capitalist class asserts itself through the sharing of losses, so in every world economic crisis, such as the ‚Great Recession’ from 2007 to 2009, the competition between the national total capitals on the world market functions as such a struggle. Therefore, the economic policy reactions to said crisis had a national character in the developed capitalist countries, which was particularly evident in protectionism as an integral part of the respective national economic stimulus programs. In the U.S., even before Trump’s political agenda of ‚America First‘, under Obama, a ‚Buy American‘ clause was laid down in the ‚Recovery and Reinvestment Act‘ of 2009, according to which only raw materials from U.S. manufacturers were to be used for public infrastructure programs, provided that this did not increase the costs of infrastructure projects by more than 25 percent. This protectionism played a decisive role not only in the context of the government rescue and economic stimulus packages, but was also aimed at accelerating the economic stabilization that began in the U.S. in March 2009 and the subsequent renewed economic upturn. In September 2009, for example, the Obama administration imposed punitive tariffs on tire imports from China in order to boost domestic tire production even before the trade war with China under Trump was to begin. Underlying this was the fact that the focus of the renewed economic upswing was the revival of industrial production, which in the U.S. did its former peak from before the ‚Great Recession‘, albeit later than in some OECD countries such as Germany and the BRIC states.[87]

The global economy experienced a temporary but relatively strong upturn from 2009 to 2012, followed by a brief interim slump in 2012 and 2013, which was followed by a long-term upturn up to the to the ‚Covid-19 recession‘ since the beginning of this year. The main factors behind this upswing after the ‚Great Recession’ were the uneven development of the world market, with emerging markets being less affected by recession than the developed capitalist centers, the dampening of the effects of the crisis through successful government rescue and economic stimulus programs, which were carried out in a temporary economic policy shift to the Keynesian economic paradigm, and the intervention of central banks. As a result of this renewed economic upturn, world trade recovered relatively quickly and grew again rapidly. As a result, the trade balance of the U.S. economy also fell significantly again from 2009 onwards, until it reached a historic negative value of around 946 trillion U.S. dollar in 2018 (see Fig. 7).

Figure 7

Unlike the E.U., which under Germany’s economic leadership turned away from the Keynesian economic paradigm relatively quickly and turned again to the monetarist paradigm of a ‚neoliberal‘ austerity policy with harsh austerity measures, the U.S. continued its economic policy course of state-supported stimulation of the renewed upswing of its national total capital. However, despite massive devaluation processes, there was no profound rectification of overproduction through the devaluation of fixed capital, which could have led to a renewed long-term stimulation of the rate of profit and, based on that, a new long-term phase of prosperity through a lowered organic composition of capital.[88] The intervention of the central banks and the bourgeois states had prevented the development of the ‚Great Recession‘ into a second ‚Great Depression‘, which could have acted as a decisive remedy for the lack of profitability of capital. Thus, although the ‚Great Recession‘ was the most severe crisis since the Second World War, nothing fundamentally changed in the long-term economic conditions for reproductive capital accumulation. The ‚regulation‘ of the financial markets, which was sought internationally shortly after the crisis, did not go beyond initial approaches. The U.S., like Britain, opposed it, though by no means because of national ‚egoism‘ but because of the crucial importance of the ‚financial sector‘ for the total capital of these developed capitalist nations. As a result of the ‚Great Recession‘, the pre-existing debt not only of private companies but also of public budgets in almost all developed capitalist countries had risen massively, leading to historically new highs in indebtedness. The national total capital and state budgets in the developed capitalist countries reacted to this immense economic pressure to reduce debt with cuts in public spending in order to restructure the state budget, which was particularly successful in Germany.[89] At the same time, however, these cuts inhibited public and private consumer demand. The resulting gaps in demand in turn led to a relative reduction in investment in productive capital, which partially inhibited the stimulation of the rate of profit in favor of a period of prolonged economic upswing. Nevertheless, some countries again experienced a flourishing accumulation of capital, albeit well below the level of the period of post-war prosperity based on accelerated accumulation of reproductive capital.

9. The rise and class base of ‚Trumpism‘

The November 2016 election victory of Donald Trump, nominated by the Republicans as their presidential candidate, came as a political shock to most liberal bourgeois. They had stubbornly clung to the demoscopic predictions that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would win the election by a solid margin. Although Clinton had won most of the popular vote, she lost the election because the electoral college votes were in favor of Trump.[90] Trump’s victory was particularly notable in that he was elected to the office of president as a complete political outsider: Trump was regarded as a representative of ‚big business‘, a businessman who was particularly well versed in the construction business and who promised to run the national economy of the U.S. like a major entrepreneur. Against this background, Trump presented himself as an incorruptible ‚anti-politician‘ who was part of a counter-establishment (so-called ‚fringe establishment‘) and denounced the allegedly corrupt political ‚establishment‘ of U.S. democracy, but also hedge fund managers and business lobbyists (‚Drain the swamp!‘). Emulating Richard Nixon’s election strategy and with his own experience in ‚show business‘, Trump staged himself in classic populist style as a genuine representative of a ‚silent majority‘ of the U.S. population, especially its allegedly ‚forgotten men‘. The U.S. media was taken in by this ‚Trumpist‘ spectacle from the beginning and gave Trump several opportunities to propagate his political program extensively. Also unusual about Trump’s election victory was that he even had to assert himself against the establishment of his own Republican party, which he attacked, sometimes aggressively, in his election campaign. Accordingly, Trump’s election campaign program was not composed exclusively of Republican political positions, but rather of various positions from the entire spectrum of bourgeois politics in the United States, which were eclectically combined to form a specific variety of populism known as ‚Trumpism‘. These particularities eventually propelled Trump to electoral victory, surprising even part of the conservative wing of the U.S. bourgeoisie.

The immediate economic background to Trump’s election victory was the growth of the U.S. economy with falling unemployment, which was the result of an economic upswing that had already begun under the Obama administration, and a rising national debt, which was further exacerbated by the economic stimulus and rescue measures that were enacted under that administration during the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009. The debts of private households had also risen sharply as a result of the preceding crisis. In addition, the negative trade balance also rose sharply again due to the recovering global economy and the upturn in global trade. At the same time, the ‚prosperity gap‘ between North and South America, which was based on an increasingly divergent development of productive forces and the level of development of relations of productions, forced migration to the United States from Central and Latin America. Accordingly, the political agenda of ‚America First‘ represented by Trump combined, in terms of trade policy, a kind of ‚neo-mercantilism‘, which was primarily characterized by protectionism represented by more aggressive means, with a restriction or end to migration to the United States, which stood to the right even of the Republican party and was legitimized by racism. This intended immigration policy was spectacularly tied to the construction of a wall to Mexico (‚Build the wall!‘). Trump also praised the social and welfare state in other countries and announced that he wanted to implement health care with more options than ‚Obamacare‘. At the same time, he promised not to make any social cuts, but instead announced massive public spending to launch an economic stimulus program to increase the real wages of especially the two-thirds of low-skilled and precariously employed workers in the United States. This planned social policy was in turn clearly to the left of the Republican establishment.[91]

Trump adopted the now infamous campaign motto ‚Make America Great Again‘ from his political role model Ronald Reagan, whose campaign for the 1980 presidential election ran under the slogan ‚Let’s make America great again‘. In keeping with his eclectic political program, Trump’s supporters, although he did target a right-wing electorate,[92] were by no means united by conservative dogmatism, but rather a diffuse rejection of the current style and state of bourgeois politics in the United States. The election campaign itself was marked by the attempt of a massive Russian military-intelligence interference in favor of Trump: the communicative infrastructure of the United States was interfered with by hacker attacks, the digital election system was attacked by spying on the operating programs, and targeted false reports (so-called ‚fake news‘) were launched.[93] The culmination of this Russian operation, which the U.S. secret services retrospectively called the ‚Grizzly Steppe‘ and whose goal was to undermine the presidential elections and thus democracy in the U.S. in favor of ‚Trumpism‘, consisted in the theft and publication of numerous data and documents from Clinton’s campaign staff, especially e-mail exchanges between Clinton and her campaign manager John Podesta.[94] In the aftermath of the election, it turned out Donald Trump’s campaign team even cultivated illegal contacts up to the top of Russian despotism, mainly through the Russian lobbyist and head of Trump’s campaign staff, Paul Manafort.[95] The background to this political cooperation consisted in Trump’s entanglements not only with the ‚official‘ Russian business world, but also with the Russian mafia and Russian secret services — in other words, with the Kremlin. Not only did Trump’s real estate[96] in the former Soviet Union and later Russia serve to launder billions of dollars in money, but without this money laundering Trump would not have been able to run his business successfully in the long run either: when Trump was on the verge of bankruptcy in the mid-1990s due to debts of about 4 billion U.S. dollar, the Russian mafia and Russian secret services stepped into the breach for him by securing the liquidity of his company,‚The Trump Organization’, inherited from his father, by granting loans. Since then, Trump has been de facto financially dependent on Russia. In addition to partial ideological and political agreements, his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin results, above all, from this dependency: even if Trump is by no means a political puppet of Putin in a direct personal sense, in ultimately he represents a kind of ‚secret service agent‘ for the Kremlin.[97] Only through the Russian loans was he able to continue his career as a ‚businessman‘ and finally enter U.S. politics, which is why in this respect, ‚Putinism‘ was a decisive prerequisite for the rise of ‚Trumpism‘.

In retrospect, however, Russia’s influence on the election was seen as less decisive for Trump’s victory. Rather, it was commonly claimed that the decisive factor in this victory was an ‚uprising‘ by the ‚white working class‘ in the U.S. that was to have elevated Trump to the presidency. Trump, in turn, the argument goes, was able to win over the ‚white workers‘ and especially their lower strata, who had been economically and culturally left behind in the course of ‚globalization‘, by addressing their racism and nationalism in a kind of ‚identity politics‘ of ‚white supremacy‘. In fact, according to post-election polls among the white working-class population, which after all makes up about 42 percent of all eligible voters in the United States, Trump had gained a lead of 39 percentage points over Clinton among this voter group.[98] A closer look, however, reveals that Trump won the election primarily because the usual core Republican electorate voted for him: among all white voters, he received only one percent more votes than Mitt Romney, who ran against Barack Obama for the Republicans in 2012.[99] The white section of the U.S. working class played a relatively important role in Trump’s presidential election only because Clinton lost significant shares of the vote among the so-called ‚Obama coalition‘, meaning African-American, Hispanic, Asian and young voters, while Trump, contrary to demoscopic predictions, was able to win the majority of potential swing voters. The U.S. working class votes Trump received came primarily from the white former industrial workers in the ‚Rust Belt‘ counties of the Midwest who had voted for Obama in the previous elections. For this clientele, because of their dissatisfaction with the social status quo in the U.S., the ‚America is Already Great‘ narrative of the Clinton campaign was no alternative. It may have been racially and socio-culturally motivated in Trump’s election in terms of ‚white identity’, but ultimately economic issues were central to this segment of the U.S. proletariat. Like the Republican electorate as a whole, the white former industrial workforce agreed economically with the political program of ‚Trumpism‘, primarily because it was concerned with industrial job creation and long-term economic prosperity. While they wanted more jobs, they also rejected state intervention by the U.S. government. Therefore, it relied on the apparent solution of the ‚migration problem‘ through territorial isolation and a stronger domestic anchoring of industry through ending free trade agreements and introducing protectionist measures such as import and punitive tariffs. Although this clientele, comprising several hundred thousand voters, was important for Trump’s victory, it was a phenomenon that was as local as it was limited in quantity.[100] This phenomenon is usually confused with the fact that long before Trump’s election, and at the latest since George W. Bush Jr. was re-elected U.S. president in 2004, crucial sections of the white U.S. industrial workforce were among the Republicans’ regular voters.[101] Trump’s electorate thus also consisted of members of the ‚white‘ part of the industrial reserve army, who had been economically depraved in the course of what was wrongly called ‚de-industrialization‘ at the end of the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry and who were attached to nationalist ‚welfare chauvinism‘ due to an alleged or actual threat to their precarious living conditions through increasing migration, but mostly of economically relatively saturated white ‚blue collar‘ and ‚white collar‘ workers).[102]

By blending the Republican core white workers’ electorate with the defection of the previously Democrat-voting former white industrial workers in the Midwest, the liberal U.S. bourgeoisie was not only taken in by Trump’s spectacular self-staging as a representative of the ‚silent majority‘, but this blending was itself based on a spectacular false image of the U.S. proletariat: the declassed former industrial workers of the ‚Rust Belt‘, as the white part of the ‚lazarus layer‘ (Marx) of the U.S. working class, were directly equated with this class as a whole. This was a false generalization of the historically specific phenotype of the white industrial worker, and at the same time disregarded the fact that the composition of the U.S. working class as a whole was fundamentally diverse at the time of Trump’s election. The working class in the U.S. was thus ‚whitewashed‘ by disregarding crucial parts of that class whose attributes (e.g., colored, migrant, female) did not fit into the narrative of the ‚white working class‘ as the class base of ‚Trumpism‘. This was true not only for the U.S. working class as a whole, however, but also for the rural regions ostracized as ‚Trump Country’, in which not least of all migrant, highly qualified women worked under precarious conditions but were not allowed to vote. Thus, although the separation between town and country did play a role in Trump’s electoral victory, explaining this victory by means of an absolutized contrast between the ‚disengaged precariat‘ in the interior (so-called ‚heart land‘) of the U.S. and the ‚liberal elites‘ in the urban metropolises of the East and West Coast, which expresses an elitist social chauvinism of the liberal U.S. bourgeoisie toward the proletariat, is false. On the part of leftist populism, ranging from the Social Democrats to the U.S. bourgeois-socialists, the myth of Trump’s election victory as an expression of a white ‚workers revolt‘ (Sanders) has been circulated in order to win over the supposedly ‚forgotten‘ and ‚disconnected‘ white industrial workforce as a political pawn for their own agenda and use it as voting cattle for the Democrats, according to their vanguard ideology. They overlooked that many workers who did not fit the image of the ‚white industrial proletariat‘ did not vote at all in the 2016 presidential election. One of the main reasons for this segment of the U.S. proletariat’s decision not to vote was the electoral restrictions imposed on non-white, primarily African and Latin American U.S. citizens in a total of 25 states since 2010.[103] In addition, parts of this segment of the U.S. working class did not vote due to a lack of alternative candidates.[104]

Above all, however, the myth of the ‚white working class‘ as the supposedly decisive force for Trump’s electoral victory, propagated by both supporters and opponents of Trump, obscured the actual class base for the rise of ‚Trumpism‘. The typical Trump voters were in fact older, whiter and wealthier than the average population. Thus, unlike Clinton, Trump was able to win votes primarily from households with incomes of more than 100,000 U.S. dollar per year, and, overall, about two-thirds of Trump voters earned more than the average population.[105] At the same time, however, the hard core of Trump voters differed from other Republican voters: they were somewhat less educated and, relatively speaking, had lower incomes than the other Republican voters, even though they were financially secure and their standard of living was on average significantly higher than that of precarious and pauperized former industrial workers from the Midwest. Accordingly, these staunch supporters of Trump were by no means a ‚Trumpenproletariat‘ (derived from the German Lumpenproletariat). In fact, Trump received support not so much from the ‚white working class‘ as from the suburban petty bourgeoisie: the capitalist petty bourgeoisie was the decisive mass base for the rise of ‚Trumpism‘. This was also evidenced by the fact that the largest amount of identifiable donations to the Trump campaign, after retirees, came from small to medium business owners. Even a decade after the ‚Great Recession‘, they were still suffering from a lack of liquidity, while they had to contend with rising costs for both health care and their businesses. They believed that the United States’ best years were part of the past and saw little reason to believe that their own children would one day be better off than they were, although this had always been a central part of the ‚American Dream‘. The members of this petty bourgeoisie were not acutely affected by declassification, despite a long-term decline in living standards, but were potentially confronted with it. Such a declassification would have meant a fall into a bottomless pit due to the residual welfare state in the U.S. For this reason, they had little political sympathy for a possible dismantling of this welfare state, for example through the privatization of the pension system, for which, however, members of U.S. conservatism had been politically warming up to for decades. Likewise, unlike many large capitals, they rejected global free trade under the leadership of the United States, while they were racist at the same and considered immigration to be the most important problem of the United States.[106] Trump’s election was thus not an expression of a ‚white workers revolt‘, but rather of a conformist revolt by the U.S. petty bourgeoisie against both the liberal U.S. bourgeoisie politically represented by the Democrats in the metropolitan areas and against the lowest strata of the working class, who were imagined as migrant colored people dependent on the welfare state and therefore potential competitors. It is therefore not surprising that, just as most of Trump’s supporters were ‚white‘ in the 2016 election, so the capitalist petty bourgeoisie in the U.S. is predominantly ‚white‘ because it is largely Caucasian. Thus the myth of the ‚white working class‘ that is said to have helped Trump win the election in some ‚insurrection‘ masks the fact that the real class and mass base for Trump’s rise was the predominantly ‚white‘ U.S. capitalist petty bourgeoisie.[107] This is the true core of the sociologically and politically dressed-up characterization of ‚Trumpism‘ as a specific form of ‚populism‘ because the latter ultimately describes nothing more than such a conformist revolt: Like any ‚populism‘, ‚Trumpism‘, where it is a movement, is not about a revolution of fundamental social conditions, but about a return to an idealized past of the United States through the struggle against the political ‚establishment‘ and the purge of ‚corrupt‘ elements from the commanding heights of the U.S. economy and its politics.

In contrast, from the very beginning of his campaign, Trump was rejected by a number of leading entrepreneurs, who are economic personifications of the leadership function of large capitals in the United States. Even to those among them who, traditionally, were the Republican Party’s major donors, Hillary Clinton appeared as the ‚lesser evil‘ compared to Trump, who they considered too ‚radical‘ and unpredictable for the economic stability of the United States. In particular, Trump’s proposed economic stimulus package to raise the real wages of the precarious section of the U.S. proletariat contradicted the interests of these businessmen and thus also to the agenda of the largest U.S. economic lobbies that had long supported the Republican Party. Trump’s isolationism in foreign policy and his neo-mercantilist protectionism were rejected, above all, by export-oriented large capitals, who feared a trade war with China and a deterioration in trade relations with Europe. Trump was particularly unpopular with the capital fraction of ICT companies in Silicon Valley, which is traditionally considered to be politically liberal and is dependent on a liberal foreign trade regime due to the inherent tendency of information and communication technologies to internationalize capital movements. This faction of the U.S. bourgeoisie was usually represented by the more pragmatic wing of the Republicans. Many Republicans belonging to this wing had claimed during the primary elections that they would never support Trump, but voted for Trump almost unanimously on Election Day. The reasons for this may have been party discipline on the one hand and popular support for Trump on the other. Thus Trump did by no means toe the Republican party line, but rather subjugated the party until, in the course of his presidency, there was no longer any serious internal party opposition left. On the other hand, Trump did not launch a ‚hostile takeover‘ of the Republican party, but rather radicalized the right-wing populist narrative against the ‚liberal elites‘ represented by the Republicans themselves, which he extended to the entire ‚political establishment‘. In terms of class, Trump received support primarily from the faction of the U.S. bourgeoisie that saw itself as ‚economic libertarian‘ because his economic policy program held out the prospect of lowering corporate taxes and ‚deregulation‘ in favor of U.S. companies, support for the energy sector through an energy policy combining renewable and non-renewable resources (so-called ‚all of the above energy policy‘), a ‚re-industrialization‘ of the U.S. economy through an active industrial policy, and finally a sinking trade deficit through protectionist measures. Trump was therefore advocated in numerous sectors of the U.S. economy, from aviation to competitive sports. He received special support from major capitalists in the real estate and ‚financial‘ sectors, which was reflected not least in the fact that the largest sums of money for his election campaign came from these sectors. In the ‚financial sector‘ in particular, asset management companies, investment and venture capital firms, and hedge funds are betting on a dismantling of state regulation and tax breaks.[108] Thus, while the protectionism of the ‚America First‘ agenda referred to industrial capital, which was thus to be banished to the territorial boundaries determined by the national total capital of the United States or forced to relocate there, Trump promised far-reaching measures for ‚deregulation‘ in the circulation of fictitious capital and its various forms of investment. Through these two points of his economic policy program, ‚Trumpism‘ received, along with the petty bourgeoisie as the class and mass base, the decisive economic and political support of large capital for its rise and Trump’s final victory in the 2016 presidential elections.

10. ‚Trumponomics‘

The economic policy pursued by Trump after he took office has been called ‚Trumponomics‘, in reference to the economic policy of his political role model Ronald Reagan, which was known as ‚Reaganomics‘. Trump and his followers considered the upswing of the U.S. economy after the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009 as a genuine achievement of these ‚Trumponomics‘. In fact, however, this upswing, which was specifically promoted by economic policy measures, already began under the Obama administration. The economy grew at an annual rate of about 2.2 percent between 2009 and 2016 during Obama’s term in office, and unemployment fell noticeably, which was reflected in a strong increase in nominal GDP of 42 percent since the end of the ‚Great Recession‘. Ultimately, therefore, it is estimated that around eighty percent of the economic boom from which ‚Trumpism‘ benefited was due to the economic recovery process under the Obama administration.[109] Actually, however, the economic upswing in the U.S. economy that had already begun under Obama not only continued under Trump, but accelerated significantly from the beginning of 2018 on, especially in the manufacturing sector. In the second quarter of 2018, the U.S. economy grew by 4.2 percent and the unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent, its lowest level since the late 1960s, before it even dropped to an all-time low of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019.[110] This not only let the economic growth rates of more than 4 percent predicted by Trump during the election campaign come true, but also led to full employment. In the course of this upswing, the large ICT groups in ‚Silicon Valley‘ in particular, which had positioned themselves against Trump during the elecion due to the announced protectionist trade policy, recorded billions in profits and increasing investments. In total, corporate profits of U.S. individual capitals rose by more than 16 percent from April to the end of June 2018, the largest jump in profits in six years.[111]

A crucial factor in this acceleration of economic growth under Trump was the ‚Tax Cuts and Jobs Act‘ enacted in 2017, the year he took office, which was intended above all to make industrial capital in the U.S. more ‚competitive‘ internationally. It contained labor market policy measures that created about 6.5 million new jobs in industry. Considering that only about 14 percent of the active U.S. labor force works in this sector, this increase in jobs was relatively high. The increase in the number of workers, and thus in the absolute mass of productive labor employed by capital as a method of producing absolute surplus-value, also increased the productivity of the manufacturing sector, the volume of which consequently grew faster than the much larger ‚service sector‘ of U.S. national capital. At the center of this growth was not only the manufacturing industry with a comparatively low organic composition of capital, but also those branches of production that were more strongly represented in the states known as ‚Trump country‘. For example, employment in mining and forestry increased by 9 percent in the first 1.5 years of the Trump presidency, whereas in the final years of the Obama administration it had shrunk by almost 14 percent. Above all, the U.S. population in the rural areas and small towns of the ‚Rust Belt‘ benefited from this positive development in labor market policy: it took hold precisely where Trump, with his political agenda of ‚America First‘, was able to achieve seemingly surprising victories among economically depraved, former industrial workers of the ‚white working class‘. In doing so, Trump purposefully addressed the consequences of what was wrongly called ‚de-industrialization‘, such as the loss of jobs and industrial proletarian identity, of the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry. This was also the source of the spectacular images, for example of the ‚white U.S. coal worker‘ as a profiteer of ‚Trumponomics‘, which Trump deliberately pushed in the course of his actively pursued industrial policy: the proles in yellow neon vests and protective clothing were instrumentalized by Trump in order to stage himself as a genuine representative of the ‚forgotten men‘ in the Midwest. On the other hand, with the decline in unemployment toward full employment, which led to a shortage of labor and a correspondingly ‚strained‘ labor market, the number of labor conflicts also increased, especially in the form of strikes. From August 2017 alone to the same month of the following year, there were a total of 633,000 days in which U.S. workers stopped work due to strikes.[112]

Another crucial role in accelerating the recovery of the U.S. economy under Trump was played, next to the active industrial policy, by a ‚deregulation policy‘, dubbed ‚radical’ by bourgeois-socialists, with extensive measures such as the dismantling of environmental protection laws, the abolition of numerous regulations on consumer protection and a reduction in bureaucratic restrictions imposed by regulatory authorities on U.S. companies after the ‚Great Recession‘. In addition to agriculture, whose farmers supported Trump because of his dismantling of conservation laws, these ‚deregulations‘ primarily benefited the energy sector and the ‚financial sector‘, two areas of the U.S. economy in which large individuals capitals had strongly supported Trump during the election campaign. Particularly in the ‚financial markets‘, tax cuts and the reduction of bureaucracy and regulations resulted in high gains. Share prices rose to record highs, as evidenced, for example, by a 40 percent increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index, which measures the shares of the 500 largest U.S. companies.[113] The tax cuts and ‚deregulations‘ were due in particular to the tax reform passed under the ‚Tax Cuts and Jobs Act‘, with which Trump continued the traditional fiscal policy course of the previous U.S. governments.[114] Obama had already cemented the tax cuts enacted by George W. Bush Jr. at the time, with the exception of taxes on tobacco products and capital gains from ‚high-income earners‘ to finance ‚Obamacare‘. The tax reform passed under Trump did not, contrary to his campaign promise, economize the income tax brackets, but did provide significant tax relief. For example, the corporate tax rate was permanently reduced from 35 percent, which de jure was one of the highest corporate tax rates in the capitalist centers,[115] to 21 percent, the lowest rate since World War II.[116] Thus, in addition to the various possibilities for writing off corporate taxes that still exist, the United States has transformed itself from a high-tax country to a national economy with a significantly low corporate tax: it is not only below the corporate tax rate of about 30 percent in countries such as Australia, France, Germany and Japan, but even below that of the low-tax countries of the E.U. such as Luxembourg or the Netherlands. At the same time, the corporate tax rate for internationally operating U.S. capital was reduced by 15 percent, thereby flanking the protectionist trade policy of the ‚Trumponomics‘ in terms of fiscal policy.[117] This was intended to make it more attractive for U.S. companies that produced their capital abroad and also posted their profits there to avoid U.S. taxes to relocate their corporate headquarters or at least central corporate functions and investments back to the United States. In addition, there were tax cuts for foreign corporate assets and means of production brought back to the U.S. Likewise, the top tax rate was reduced from 39.6 percent to 37 percent, which benefited large capitals.[118] The tax reform also brought benefits for buyers in the real estate sector, as it set a limit on the tax levy on interest on mortgages, which caused real estate prices to fall.[119] So, here too, Trump gave the large capitals supporting him, which were invested in the energy and financial sectors as well as in the real estate sector in particular, a ‚big, beautiful Christmas present‘ (Trump). The income tax was temporarily reduced by 2 to 4 percent for all tax classes, with the exception of the so-called ‚low earners‘, from which above all the capitalist petty bourgeoisie, which represented the class-like mass basis of ‚Trumpism‘, profited in the short term.[120] Overall, the reduction in income tax initially benefited almost all tax brackets, although the tax relief for the higher income brackets was comparatively greater from the outset. However, the tax relief for the economically saturated sections of the U.S. proletariat and the capitalist petty bourgeoisie, along with other tax breaks such as higher child contributions and the depreciation benefiting these classes or class segments, will be collected again as early as 2025. Temporarily, the reduction of tax rates since 2018 has brought tax relief for all tax brackets, but it is big capitalists, as economic personifications of highly concentrated and centralized individual capitals, in the upper income brackets who have benefited most and in the long run from the tax reform: the richest percent of the U.S. population has benefited from about 83 percent of the total tax cuts, while by 2027 more than 53 percent of U.S. citizens will pay higher taxes.[121] The reason for this is that the tax burden for the petty bourgeoisie in particular is increasing in order to finance the tax cuts for the big bourgeoisie. Contrary to the hope that the tax cuts under the ‚Tax Cuts and Jobs Act‘ would increase the economic growth of the U.S. national capital in the long run and create a sustainable higher level of employment, they were rather a kind of ‚flash in the pan‘ induced by economic policy: Although the reforms accelerated the upswing of the U.S. economy in the short term, in the long term they will lead to a massive increase in the debt and deficit of the U.S. state budget as a result of tax shortfalls totaling 1.5 trillion U.S. dollar, which is likely to apply in particular to the permanently and substantially reduced corporate tax. As a result, already during Trump’s term of office, in addition to government investments in an only partially implemented infrastructure program, the national debt increased from 18.9 trillion to 23.2 trillion U.S. Dollar between January 2017 and January 2020.[122]

Despite these tax breaks, much of the U.S. bourgeoisie was concerned about the neo-mercantilist trade policies of ‚Trumponomics‘. Since the establishment of a multilateral world trade regime after World War II, which was under its unipolar hegemony from the outset and remained under its leadership despite the loss of its demiurge role, the United States has always been a representative of global free trade in foreign trade. Even after the collapse of the ‚Bretton Woods System‘ in 1973, the multilateral world trade system with its liberal trade order remained relatively stable, not least because of the continuing existence of the ‚Bretton Woods‘ institutions. In this respect, Trump’s agenda of ‚America First‘ broke with previous U.S. administrations, for example by terminating multilateral trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) immediately after taking office, even before they were passed by Congress, or by renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada in favor of the United States. Trump also called into question the U.S. membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). He believes that these multilateral trade agreements and corresponding institutions such as the WTO would limit the economic policy sovereignty of the U.S. government and cheat the U.S. out of a trade policy advantage. According to his neo-mercantilist views, foreign trade for Trump is always a ‚zero-sum game‘, with one nation gaining a positive balance of trade that the other loses by building up a trade deficit. According to ‚Trumponomics‘, international trade has therefore always been essentially a cold economic war or, conversely, economic wars are merely the continuation of foreign trade by other means. Contrary to this neo-mercantilist ideology, the negative trade balance of the United States was in reality the result of the previous fiscal and monetary policies of the U.S. governments, but above all of specific structural peculiarities of the U.S. national economy: the functions of the U.S. dollar as an international reserve and reserve currency arising from its role as universal money, and the discrepancy between a low overall propensity to save and a relatively high long-term investment ratio. The latter led to an imbalance between overall economic savings and domestic investment (the so-called ‚savings gap‘), which was to be compensated by the import of foreign money-capital.

In accordance with the neo-mercantilist views of the ‚Trumponomics‘ on trade policy, the economic policy under Trump, in contrast to the Obama administration, focussed increasingly on national defense capability. The U.S. economy itself was thereby placed in the context of the national defense capability of the United States, which at the same time enabled Trump to distinguish himself among the precarious white former industrial workers in the states of the ‚Rust Belt‘ as an ‚American patriot‘. In this way, the economic nationalism of ‚Trumponomics‘ was taken to the extreme. However, ‚Trumponomics‘ were by no means the cause of this apparent turnaround in the trade policy of the United States; they merely brought about this turnaround. Already towards the end of the 1980s, long before the rise of ‚Trumpism‘ and the election of Trump as U.S. president, there was an increasing strategic reorientation of U.S. trade policy: more emphasis was placed on regional free trade agreements, which was expressed not least in the founding of the ‚North American Free Trade Agreement‘ (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in 1994. From the presidency of George W. Bush Jr. at the latest, trade policy focussed on bilateralism through renegotiations of bilateral free trade agreements in various regions of the world (such as Latin America and Asia) that were intended to safeguard the multilateral world trade regime. At the same time, Bush Jr. began criticizing multilateral agreements and the corresponding institutions. This course, which in contrast to the trade policy under Trump did not yet represent a fundamental break with the previous trade policy of the United States, was continued under the Obama administration, which wanted to expand the TPP and free trade with the E.U. through the ‚Trade and Investment Partnership‘ (TTIP) agreement. The latter in particular was harshly criticized by Trump since the beginning of his election campaign, because the TTIP allegedly would put the U.S. in a disadvantage in comparison to the E.U. economy. Against the historical background of China’s rapid economic development, especially since its accession to the WTO in 2001, the governments of Bush Jr. and later also of Obama already criticized unfair competition and trade procedures as well as currency manipulation, against which they took protective measures such as the restriction of price dumping and imposing countervailing duties. In addition, both Bush Jr. and Obama exerted economic policy pressure on their trading partners during the negotiations of bilateral free trade agreements in order to improve the U.S.’s negotiating position. Thus, even before the Trump presidency, catalyzed by the rise of despotic state capitalism in China, a neo-mercantilist tendency toward protectionism began to take hold in U.S. trade policy. The growing trade deficit of the U.S. economy and the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009 have only served to reinforce this tendency.[123] Thus, on the one hand, Trump is continuing existing tendencies toward an isolationist trade policy, which is increasingly based on protectionism, even before he took office. On the other hand, however, he makes use of other, hitherto frowned upon trade policy instruments. While Obama increasingly resorted to indirect protectionist measures by means of so-called ‚non-tariff trade barriers‘ (NTBs), Trump decidedly relied on punitive tariffs as a protectionist means of U.S. trade policy. In this respect in particular, his trade policy differs from that pursued under previous U.S. administrations.

For example, as early as March 2018, the Trump administration imposed high tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum for reasons of ‚national security‘ in accordance with the embedding of the U.S. economy in the framework of national defense capability, in response to the flooding of the world market with low-priced steel from China (so-called ‚steel glut‘). From June of the same year on, punitive tariffs on imports from the E.U. as well as Canada and Mexico, which are not only among the most important trading partners but also political allies of the U.S., followed. The Trump government accuses particularly China of intellectual property theft, especially technology theft and violations of investment protection. For this reason, in addition to import duties on steel and aluminum imports, it issued tariff measures to protect industrial capital in the United States by levying import duties on imports from the Chinese ICT sector. In addition, protective measures were announced for U.S. capital from the ICT sector to prevent it from being taken over by Chinese investors. In total, customs duties of about 60 billion U.S. dollar were imposed on over 800 Chinese goods. This triggered a trade war from which only relatively small branches of production in the U.S. economy have profited to date, while the total social capital of the United States suffered noticeably. The imposition of these protective tariffs and even the mere threat of import duties, however, already led to a partial relocation of industrial production back to the United States, confirming the neo-mercantilist character of U.S. trade policy under Trump. In keeping with this character, the Trump administration threatened to withdraw subsidies of individual industrial capitals such as General Motors if they would cut jobs within the United States in favor of relocating production abroad.[124] All in all, Trump’s trade isolationism aims on the one hand at protectionism, primarily through protective tariffs on domestic goods, with which imports of commodity capital from nations with relatively high balance-of-trade surpluses vis-à-vis the United States (such as China) are to be restricted, and on the other hand at stimulating industrial capital in the United States itself, whose ‚competitiveness‘ on the world market is to be improved by this protectionism. In addition, however, this isolationism also appears to be a kind of negotiating strategy. Thus Trump himself sees tariff protectionist measures as a negotiating instrument with which he wants to achieve an improvement in the U.S. negotiating position.

However, not only the protectionist trade policy, but the economic nationalism of ‚Trumponomics‘ as a whole was merely an expression of long-term economic tendencies, which led to growing political opposition to the propagandistic tendency of capital and, accompanying it, global free trade in the U.S. Thus, economic nationalism was not only a central political point in Trump’s own campaign program. Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the hope of bourgeois-socialists around the world, and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed the same sentiment: they picked up the growing skepticism toward free trade agreements (such as NAFTA and the then-imminent TPP trade agreement) and promised to oppose the results of these agreements if they were at the expense of the U.S. working class. The economic background to this was by no means just the growing U.S. trade deficit, but rather a break in the enforcement of capital’s propagandistic tendencies, leading to a backlash against what is commonly referred to as ‚globalization‘. Already since the beginning of 2007, there has been a marked decline in the tendency of the United States to internationalize its economic interweavement. This was evident, for example, in the ‚Globalization Index‘, which measures the quantity index of global imports of goods against the index of industrial production worldwide, thus indicating the integration of the world market. According to this index, the assertion of the propagandistic tendency of U.S. national capital and its entanglement with other national reproductive processes already declined with a slight negative trend under the government of George W. Bush Jr., although it fell sharply from 2008 on, at the latest, in the context of the ‚Great Recession‘. Under Obama’s presidency, this trend largely stagnated and only picked up again in the first quarters of the Trump presidency, before collapsing again mid-2018 (see Fig. 8).

Figure 8

The structural cause of this break in the economic trend toward ‚globalization‘ in the United States was its loss of its role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, with the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009 merely acting as a direct trigger for this break, since it led to an acute weakening of the United States’ position as a world market leader (especially vis-à-vis China). The economic nationalism of the ‚America First‘ agenda of ‚Trumpism‘ is thus, in the long run, only an expression of this loss of the demiurge role and the increasing weakening of the U.S. hegemonic position on the world market, leading to a protectionist trade policy and a growing departure from the international free trade system. The Trump government’s trade policy can therefore not at all be understood merely as a strategic maneuver by the ‚deal-maker‘ Trump, but must also and above all be understood as an expression of a structural shift in the distribution of economic power between the various hegemons of the world market and the associated changes in world trade. All in all, the economic nationalism of the ‚Trumponomics‘ promises to give back to the United States the political sovereignty over its own economic development that was supposedly lost under the previous administrations. To this end, Trump is relying not only on protectionist trade policies, fiscal policy reforms and economic measures, but also on restricting migration from countries south of the United States and pushing ahead with defense and security policies. Although the slogan of Trump’s ‚Make America Great Again‘ campaign from the 2016 election campaign aims to establish a new ‚golden age‘ of long-lasting economic prosperity, a return to such a ‚golden age‘ is rather unlikely, given that a renewed accelerated accumulation of capital is not foreseeable in the U.S., at least not at present, and even the rate of profit of U.S. national capital, rising after the ‚Great Recession‘, remains significantly below its level after World War II. At the very least, ‚Trumponomics‘ are not suited to induce such a new, long-lasting prosperity phase of the U.S. economy, but rather, due to their isolationist agenda, they force the increasing disintegration of the existing unipolar world order under the domination of the United States and thus also intensify the geopolitical shifts in the balance of power between the existing hegemonic powers to the U.S.’s own disadvantage.

11. The Covid-19 pandemic and the demise of ‚Trumpism’

Since the second half of 2019, there has been a veritable cascade of ‚national traumas‘ in the United States, which are commonly perceived as symptoms of a worsening, inevitable decline of the United States as an economic and political world power. Because of its hostility to the private-capitalist reproductive totality, which the U.S. embodies as the most advanced capitalist nation like no other country, the familiar narrative of the ‚decline‘ of the United States is popular, especially in the radical sections of the political left, right up to the outer wing of the political right. This narrative is being pushed geopolitically by countries like China, Russia and Iran, which belong to a global camp of counterrevolution. This camp seeks to counter and ultimately destroy the conditions for the proletariat’s class struggle and the perspective of its modern communist revolution worldwide, especially by undermining the private-capitalist mode of production of the ‚Western‘ type and the liberal democracy that corresponds to it as its political superstructure. Against the background of polycentrism among the leading capitalist world powers, based on the loss of the U.S.’s role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos and the consequent lack of a clear world market center, this camp seeks to destroy the existing unipolar world order under U.S. domination. Its alleged goal is the introduction of an, again, allegedly ‚multipolar world order‘, which is supposed to be more geopolitically ‚balanced‘, ‚harmonious‘ and ‚conflict-free‘ and would therefore also be in the interest of those countries in which a private-capitalist reproductive totality prevails. In reality, however, the ‚multipolar order‘ being sought is an ideology and a strategic milestone on the long march toward the establishment of a new ‚unipolar world order‘, which China, above all, aims at, as it wants to assume the role of demiurge of the bourgeois world in the long term. To this end, it is exploiting, along with Russia, left and right ‚populism‘, especially in the countries on the ‚periphery‘ of the world market. Even if this ‚populism‘ subjectively strives for such a ‚multipolar world order‘ in those countries that see themselves as allies of China and Russia, its function objectively consists in the destruction of the existing liberal world order under the unipolar aegis of the U.S. on the way to the establishment of a new ‚unipolar world order‘ under the domination of China’s state-capitalist despotism.

A crucial part of this strategy of the geopolitical bloc of global counterrevolution consists in exploiting the recent ideological, political and cultural polarization in the United States for destabilization. Although this polarization began well before Trump, since the rise of ‚Trumpism‘ it has intensified to an extent unprecedented in the recent history of the United States and has developed into a kind of ‚cold‘ civil war.[125] Particularly characeristic is that in what was once considered a largely ‚unideological‘ and politically pragmatic United States, political conflicts over factual problems are increasingly receding into the background in favor of the fundamental questioning of legal and political institutions and processes of U.S. democracy as a whole, such as the legality of offices and elections, the authority of the constitutional organs within the separation of powers of liberal democracy, the rights of the Trump government and its opposition, among other things.[126] This shift reflects an impending deterioration of the democratic institutions that are a central material part of the bourgeois-liberal superstructure of the U.S. as the most advanced capitalist nation in the world. This intensifying polarization reached a crucial escalation stage against the background of Donald Trump’s abuse of office, known as the ‚Ukraine Affair‘: in late September 2019, an anonymous whistleblower accused the U.S. president of trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyi to start investigations against Trump’s domestic political rivals in the upcoming presidential election campaign, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, on charges of alleged corruption. In addition, Selenskyi was also supposed to publicly support the conspiracy theory launched by the Kremlin that it was not Russia but Ukraine that was behind the interference in the 2016 election campaign. In return, Trump promised to release military aid to Ukraine, which he had withheld shortly before. In the face of this ‚quid pro quo‘ to blackmail Ukraine, the Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, initiated impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in the U.S. Senate: Trump was to be charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In February 2020, the House of Representatives finally voted to impeach him, with the Republican majority in the Senate acquitting Trump. After Trump had already denounced the whistleblower as a ‚spy‘ and ‚traitor‘, he used his acquittal to stage himself as an infallible president of integrity in view of the upcoming election. In fact, however, he had narrowly escaped possible charges of abuse of office and removal from office, which was a first symptom of the decline of ‚Trumpism‘. At the same time, the trial and its outcome reinforced the already deep partisan rifts between the Democrats and Republicans.

Only three months after Trump’s impeachment trial, the largest riots the country had seen in fifty years broke out across the United States. The immediate occasion was the murder of George Floyd, an African-American, by police in Minneapolis, MN, on May 25, which was observed and filmed by witnesses. The riots resulted in curfews in 200 cities and the declaration of a state of emergency in several states. In several dozen cities, the National Guard was mobilized and eventually, Trump moved as many as 1,600 soldiers from the regular armed forces to Washington, D.C. In all, about 14,000 people were arrested and about two dozen people lost their lives.[127] These riots were reminiscent of the ‚race riots‘ of the 1960s, but what was new about them was that they were carried not only by the lowest strata of the black part of the U.S. proletariat, but also by other strata such as parts of the active workers army, petty bourgeoisie and students. What was also special was that the participants were by no means limited to black U.S. citizens, but included white Americans as well. Finally, in the fall of this year, Trump had federal officials (‚Feds‘) from various police agencies (including the FBI) dispatched to several cities, sometimes against the will of local governments, and even threatened to use the military against his own civilian population. In doing so, he was less concerned with pacifying the unrest than with fuelling it, in order to be able to promote a ‚law and order‘ policy, adding it to the heart of his election program on the daily political agenda. Although Trump’s reactions expressed the tendency for the state executive branch to become independent (Verselbständigung), which is a decisive characteristic of authoritarian states, ‚Trumpism‘ is still limited by the historically relatively highly developed system of democratic checks and balances in the United States. However, the riots reached a new, decisive stage in the escalation of violence when, over time, armed counter-demonstrators recruited from right-wing to neo-fascist militias increasingly appeared on sites of the protests and demonstrations under the pretext of ‚preventing violence‘ and ‚protecting property‘. In fact, these counter-demonstrators, among whom many were staunch supporters of ‚Trumpism‘, contributed decisively to the escalation of violence themselves. Since the riots broke out, they have caused several hundred incidents, such as intimidation or the use of violence, in about 300 U.S. counties. While the use of force was initially limited, the supporters of such militias did not hesitate to shoot at demonstrators, ultimately killing several people.[128] The ‚cold‘ civil war, which had developed as a result of the political polarization of the U.S. and which had intensified to an extremely high degree since Trump had taken office, thus threatened to turn into a ‚hot‘ civil war, albeit always short-lived and limited. Trump was partly deliberately putting the fuse on the powder keg and toying with the outbreak of a ‚hot‘ civil war: he provoked the increasing escalation of violence through his statements and his open advocacy of the counter-demonstrators, whose reactionary worldview and exercise of violence he blatantly relativized.

The economic background to Floyd’s killing and the ensuing unrest was the Covid-19 recession and the government measures to try to contain it in the United States, which particularly affected the black section of the U.S. proletariat. As early as November 2019, Trump was informed by U.S. intelligence services of the Covid-19 epidemic that had broken out in Wuhan and warned of the imminent danger of its spreading into a worldwide pandemic. Not only did he ignore the warning, but he publicly downplayed the danger of Covid-19. On January 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the agency responsible for public health protection in the United States, finally reported the first case of coronavirus in Washington State by a returnee from Wuhan, followed by other cases of travel returnees from this Chinese region. Subsequently, the pandemic quickly took hold in the United States with virtually no restrictions. The reasons for this were inadequate preparation of the U.S. health care system, especially of medical institutions such as hospitals, 118 the appeasement policy of the Trump administration, which was accompanied by relativization and ignorance and in some cases even targeted medical experts and the CDC,[129] and the extremely close economic cooperation of the U.S. with China (so-called ‚Chimerica‘), from which, along with his own failure in the face of the pandemic, Trump tried to divert attention by calling the virus a ‚China virus‘. However, a true core of this term was the fact that China held the main political responsibility for the development of the pandemic because it tried to cover up the outbreak of the epidemic in Wuhan. Due to the failure of Trump, however, the U.S. itself became a world-leading ‚hot spot‘ for the Covid-19 pandemic, as the infection rate is still rising almost exponentially and the death rate is comparatively high (see Fig. 9).

Figure 9

The pandemic finally reached the White House in May, when first, Katie Miller, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary became infected, followed by Trump himself and his wife Melania.[130] Finally, the virus also spread to those parts of the Republican Party that formed Trump’s closest social and political allies. Until then, the Republicans, following in Trump’s footsteps, had always relativized Covid-19 and the pandemic, behaving accordingly under the eyes of the U.S. public: while numerous U.S. citizens were killed by the virus, the Republican elite celebrated garden parties in the White House without any hygiene measures such as masks and social distancing. This ignorance now not only took personal revenge, but also threatened to plunge the entire country into a veritable leadership crisis, illustrating the incipient decline of ‚Trumpism‘. While in June infection rates in other capitalist centers finally dropped significantly before rising sharply again in the wake of the currently unfolding ‚second wave‘ of the pandemic, they remained consistently high in the United States. There are now over 8.5 million confirmed infections, over 220,000 deaths nationwide, and nearly 900 Americans die of Covid-19 every day. Psychological problems of a part of the U.S. population have increased and intensified. The number of people suffering from affective disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders jumped to up to one-third of the entire U.S. population,[131] while at the same time the number of drug-related deaths rose exorbitantly. Partly against this background, but also due to a general social insecurity, not only the purchase of necessary means of subsistence for individual consumption, primarily basic food, but also the purchase of weapons increased to such an extent that, in September of this year, it reached the sixth consecutive monthly high ever recorded.[132] These phenomena, however, are by no means symptoms of an irreversibly declining world power, as the enemies of the U.S. as the most advanced capitalist nation claim all over the world, but rather acute reactions to the historically exceptional situation of a worldwide pandemic, which, due to the failure of the Trump administration, is having devastating consequences for the U.S. population, especially the precarized and pauperized section of the working class. This failure is likely to accelerate the decline of ‚Trumpism‘.

The economic crisis in the US. will only accelerate this decline, too. Even before the Covid-19 recession, an incipient cyclical over-accumulation crisis was already apparent in the U.S. from September 2019 onwards, which initially manifested itself on the money market, from which leading commercial banks withdrew due to expected credit defaults. As a result, literally overnight, the interest rate on the U.S. repo market, the money market for financial trading with repurchase agreements for the short-term bridging of liquidity shortages of private commercial banks or companies, unexpectedly shot up. By rule, the repo rate usually corresponded to the key interest rate of the U.S. Federal Reserve, but in the night to September 17, 2019, it initially rose above its then interest rate policy guidelines to a maximum of 1.75 percent and also above its key interest rate itself to 2.3 percent. Shortly thereafter, it literally exploded to almost 10 percent, reaching its highest level since 2008, i.e. in the middle of the ‚Great Recession‘.[133] Largely unnoticed by the public, a liquidity bottleneck occurred, which almost led to a collapse in interbank trading. This threatened, as it had already done during the ‚Great Recession‘, a collapse of the credit system into the monetary system on the interbank market. For the first time since 2008, the Fed was therefore forced to intervene in this market again: on four consecutive days, it flooded the U.S. money market with a total of almost 280 billion U.S. dollar to guarantee its liquidity. Only in this way could it avert the collapse of an important part of the U.S. financial market and the global financial system. In order to prevent interest rates on the U.S. money market from shooting up again and to keep them in line with interest rate policy requirements, the Fed presented a comprehensive package of measures from mid-October onwards, even in addition to the emergency program it had launched, to stabilize this market with further injections of liquidity and reassure it in the long term. This was de facto a ‚light version‘ of the expansive monetary policy of ‚quantitative easing‘, from which the Fed, however, deliberately distanced itself in order to avoid panic on the money market. The cyclical over-accumulation crisis that was heralded on the U.S. money market by these turbulences was catalyzed by the Covid-19 recession and the measures taken to combat it. As a result, the U.S. economy experienced its worst slump since World War II in the first quarter of 2020, before collapsing more severely than ever before in the second quarter. The real GDP of U.S. national capital plunged by an unprecedented 32.9 percent.[134] From retail trade to manufacturing, transportation, extractive industries such as mining, and real estate, nearly all branches of production in the U.S. economy collapsed. Countless, mainly smaller capitals and many other, even renowned companies had to file for bankruptcy. The economic backbone of the capitalist petty bourgeoisie in the U.S., which had formed the class-based mass foundation for the rise of ‚Trumpsim‘, was thus broken. In the wake of this veritable wave of bankruptcies that swept over the United States, the official unemployment rate rose temporarily to 14.7 percent within a few weeks until April.[135] This was the highest level since records began since World War II, although the number of unreported cases is likely to have been much higher.

In light of this situation, the Trump administration felt compelled to launch the largest aid package in the history of the United States to date and, at the beginning of April, passed an economic stimulus package worth 2.2 trillion U.S. dollar under the title ‚Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act‘ (CARES Act).[136] The aim of this was to subsidize the U.S. health care system on the one hand and to provide financial assistance to U.S. citizens and companies, especially smaller capitals, on the other. The latter was not only intended to stimulate consumer demand, but also corresponded to the interest of ‚Trumpism‘ to economically stabilize its class-based voter base. However, the rules for business aid were circumvented or softened with the help of economic lobbies by large capitals, so that the aid fund was exhausted relatively quickly in favor of these large capitals and many small businesses left empty-handedly. Similarly, in the face of the devastating economic, social and medical consequences of the Covid-19 recession, the 1,200 U.S. dollar granted to U.S. citizens by the government was only of little help, if at all, and more of a populist maneuver than an actual state aid measure. Most recently, unemployment benefits of an additional 600 U.S. dollar per week have already expired again. In addition to the U.S. petty bourgeoisie and the pauperized part of the industrial reserve army, the precarious segment of the active workers army was also confronted with the serious consequences of the crisis, due to poor employment conditions and the rudimentary welfare state in the U.S. These include above all the workers concentrated by capital in the urban metropolises, who live from one paycheck to the next. They belong to more than half of the U.S. population, which has no savings, receives no government assistance and is not even on short-time work. Many of them are acutely threatened by homelessness or have already been thrown out of their homes due to the financial hardship caused by the crisis. But the crisis has not only plunged the lowest strata of the U.S. proletariat into even greater material misery, but at the same time certain factions of the U.S. bourgeoisie have also benefited from it. These include in particular the large capitals in the ICT sector, which have been able to reap high profits as a result of a surge in ‚digitization‘ triggered by the pandemic. In particular, new start-ups of ICT companies drove share prices on Wall Street to new record highs, which was celebrated by Trump. The Covid-19 recession thus further intensified the already exacerbated class divide, making the contradictions between classes and class segments in the United States even more acute, while at the same time tearing a large part of the U.S. population away from their accustomed routine of everyday life and confronting them with existential uncertainties in the face of the pandemic.

Due to a relaxation of the restrictive measures imposed in May to curb the pandemic, the forecast increase in unemployment did not materialize. Nevertheless, many workers continued to receive unemployment benefits and in August, the recovery in the U.S. labor market finally weakened. Despite this lack of recovery, the U.S. economy grew at a record pace in the third quarter of this year at an annualized 33.1 percent, an increase of 7.4 percent over the previous quarter. The reasons for this were a relatively strong increase in individual consumer demand in the summer, especially for services in the restaurant and hospitality industry and for commodity capital such as vehicles and clothing, but also a significant rise in exports and imports. Measured against the third quarter of the previous year, however, the growth of the total national capital of the U.S. fell by 2.9 percent.[137] Above all, however, the national debt of the United States jumped to an enormous level due to the 47 percent increase in government spending in the wake of the Covid aid-packages. Compared to the previous year, the budget deficit tripled to more than 3.1 trillion U.S. dollar, more than double the previous historic high in 2009 after the ‚Great Recession‘.[138] The U.S. economy is thus recovering to some extent shortly before this year’s presidential election, but the economic upswing is extremely unstable and need by no means lead to a long-term growth trend. Without further government measures to stimulate the economy, the economic recovery is threatened: a renewed sharp downturn with a collapse in production and consumption, which in turn would lead to growing unemployment. Thus, under these economic conditions and circumstances will the elections for the U.S. presidency take place.

12. The presidential election 2020 and outlook

Trump was re-elected as candidate for the presidential office at the Republican Nomination Party Conference in late August. In contrast to the 2016 election, the party has stood united behind him from the outset in this election. The reasons for this are, on the one hand, that numerous opposition Republicans (so-called ‚Never Trumpers‘) have already withdrawn from politics and, on the other hand, that the party was able to push through its political program, such as far-reaching ‚deregulations‘ and tax reform, in the last term of office under Trump. Against the backdrop of the pandemic and the Covid-19 recession however, this support for Trump seems to have increasingly dwindled. This was mainly due to the fact that Trump initially denied the danger and full extent of the pandemic and its consequences in view of the election. Instead, he repeatedly referred to the economic growth and lower unemployment in the course of the previous economic upswing. To this day, Trump does not even have an elaborated election program, but according to his official statements at campaign events and in interviews, he is focusing, as in the 2016 election campaign, on a restrictive immigration policy to limit migration, an active industrial and trade policy in line with the ‚America First‘ agenda, and last but not least, personal attacks against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. At the same time, in the face of the violent unrest that followed the assassination of George Floyd, Trump staged himself as a ‚law and order‘ president in a caricatured imitation of former U.S. President Richard Nixon in order to address his core electorate by emphasizing alleged ‚republican values‘. To this end, he used targeted provocations to fuel the already tense mood in the country, calling on his supporters to ‚take back‘ certain cities and counties from the demonstrators and ‚clean up‘ the streets. His election campaign itself, despite the persisting pandemic, consisted of numerous events that resembled entertainment shows and risked ‚superspreader‘ events again and again.

In May of this year, Trump began, without any evidence, to deliberately raise doubts about the validity of the postal vote, which, due to the pandemic, is being used by Democratic voters in particular. In doing so, he attempted to undermine confidence in the election in advance and to delegitimize its possible outcome.[139] Trump even warned against an alleged threat of manipulation of in-person-voting and called on his supporters to monitor the polling stations, which can certainly be understood as a call to intimidate Democratic voters. If the Democrats were to win the election, Trump said it could only be the result of one of the greatest electoral frauds in the history of the United States. Therefore, Trump emphasized time and again, he would probably not accept the election results and would not resign from office in the event of an election defeat. If, due to doubts about the election results, the federal judges at the Supreme Court should come to a decision about the future U.S. president, as happened 20 years ago in the election campaign between the Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, Trump already made provisions by filling the federal court with the conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett. He openly admitted that he had appointed Barrett as Supreme Justice to stay in power: she would be the decisive vote for him if the allegedly imminent ‚electoral fraud‘ of the Democrats ended up before the Supreme Court. Trump portrayed the Democrats as infiltrated by the ‚radical left‘ who wanted to destroy civil law and public order. Of his Democratic challenger Biden, Trump painted the picture of a senile and demented man who is a compliant instrument in the hands of these radicals.

In this way, Trump not only attempted to split the Democratic party base in a political maneuver into a radical wing that showed solidarity with the recent unrest and a moderate wing that strongly opposed this radicalization. At the same time, it forced Biden to distance himself again and again from ‚radical socialism‘. In reality, however, the political polarization between the Democrats and the Republicans by no means took place unevenly only on the side of the Republicans, as was generally assumed for a long time. Rather, under the lee of the Republicans‘ ‚shift to the right‘, the Democrats, too, clearly radicalized themselves ‚to the left‘.[140] This was evident not only in an increasing political homogeneity of the party, but also in a radicalization of its ideological program. The radical left now exerts its influence in large parts of the Democratic Party. In the name of ‚identity politics‘, as the politics of an alienated representation of oppressed and ruled minorities, the radical left turns against the universalist values of the ‚West‘, which are embodied above all by the United States as a progressive capitalist nation, and denounces these values as fundamentally ‚racist‘. The Democratic program itself, due to its ideological radicalization, now even contains crucial elements of a state-socialist agenda such as the nationalization of health insurance. This would not only mean nationalizing about one-seventh of the private-capitalist mode of production in the U.S., but with the elimination of private insurance, 500,000 workers would lose their jobs. All in all, such a nationalization would cost twenty trillion U.S. dollars within ten years, thereby driving up the national debt enormously.[141] Although the Democrats deliberately nominated a candidate considered ‚moderate‘ in the person of Joe Biden, instead of the left-wing populist Bernie Sanders, Biden‘s election program also takes the radicalization of the Democrats into account. In keeping with his image as a ‚moderate‘ Democrat, Biden stages his election campaign as a kind of ‚contrast program‘ to Trump‘s campaign by holding only relatively small events under strict hygiene regulations. Most recently, the Biden campaign organized several ‚drive-ins‘, in which the audience remains seated in the car as in a drive-in movie theater, and Biden speaks to them from a safe distance. In this way, his election campaign attempts to create the image of Biden as a security-conscious and predictable candidate who is more responsible and less ‚toxic‘ than the ‚right-wing populist‘ Trump: in the election campaign, Biden is built up, so to speak, as the political representative of the rest of reason in the U.S. Already before his election campaign, Biden was considered a kind of embarrassing choice among Democrats because of his advanced age, and he described himself as a „man of transition“.

But in terms of content, Biden‘s political agenda has moved significantly to the ‚left‘, starting from the Democrats‘ previous center-left positions. This ‚shift to the left‘ was further intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing crisis. When Biden announced his candidacy in April 2019, the question of the moral integrity of the United States was still at the center of his agenda, which he pathetically called the „battle of for the soul of America“. The background for this was the accelerating upswing of the U.S. economy, which did not make the economy a Democratic campaign issue of prime importanec. This changed with the onset of the Covid-19 recession: now the rescue of the U.S. economy moved to the center of Biden‘s agenda. Biden‘s ‚shift to the left‘ is therefore particularly evident in economic policy issues, where he is not only clearly ‚left‘ of the moderate former ‚mainstream‘ of the Democratic Party, but also more left-wing and more willing to change than in his entire political biography to date. This was also evident in his election program, which bears the signature of prominent representatives of the left wing of the party such as Elizabeth Warren or even Bernie Sanders.[142] Biden not only advocates a political concept for climate protection through a climate policy in favor of clean energy, even if he does not want to abolish fracking, and for investments in ‚green‘ infrastructure totaling 2 trillion U.S. dollar. From Warren, he has also directly taken over the proposal to prohibit U.S. companies from using equity to buy their own shares instead of using it for investments in productive capital or distributing it as dividends to shareholders. In addition, he wants to revise the tax cuts enacted under Trump, from which the U.S. bourgeoisie particularly benefited, and even introduce a wealth tax. Last but not least, Biden would like to expand the role of the state in the health care system and subsidize nursing and care in the ‚care economy‘ with 775 U.S. dollar billion.[143] Furthermore, he advocates strengthening U.S. unions. The condition for the successful realization of this program, however, is that the Democrats win back not only the presidency but also the Senate in order to avoid a legislative stalemate with the Republicans.

The distancing of parts of the Republican party from Trump that began against the backdrop of Trump‘s handling of the pandemic and the crisis politically reflects the departure of part of the capitalist petty bourgeoisie, the money-capitalists of interest-bearing capital but also functioning capitalists of ‚Corporate America‘. Not only is the capitalist petty bourgeoisie more and more beginning to understand that the Trump administration‘s tax reform will be at its expense in the long run in favor of large capital, it is also groaning under the Covid-19 recession. Many small capitals went bankrupt or are on the verge of ruin during the crisis. Although the Trump administration tried to sell the state financial aid for the petty bourgeoisie in the wake of the CARES Act as a success, the fact that this aid tended to benefit large corporations may have further reduced support for ‚Trumpism‘ among small business owners. Both Trump and Biden‘s campaign are aware of this, both of whom emphasized the urgency of aid for capitalist small businesses during the election campaign. But while Trump promises tax breaks and a continuation of the ‚Paycheck Protection Program‘ (PPP) enacted under the CARES Act to enable small entrepreneurs to continue paying the wages of their workers and employees, Biden wants to reform the PPP and place it under stricter supervision, establish a new investment fund for small capital, and relax the rules for small businesses in the hands of social minorities. At the same time, Biden plans not only to introduce a wealth tax and raise income tax for ‚high-income earners‘ but also to increase corporate income tax, which would result in a higher tax burden for small businesses. On the other hand, under Trump, the PPP already led to numerous problems for the U.S. petty bourgeoisie, since the process of applying for grants or suspending borrowed debt through grants was far too complex and opaque. As a result, countless small entrepreneurs had to apply to the U.S. Treasury Department‘s ‚Small Business Administration‘ for debt relief. This was compounded by the increased burden of tariffs waived by the Trump administration as part of its protectionist trade policy for those small capitals that were involved in overseas trade. Despite the growing aversion of Trump’s capitalist petty bourgeoisie, the president‘s campaign still receives more donations from small businesses than Biden‘s. One reason for this is that the capitalist petty bourgeoisie in particular benefits from the incipient recovery of the U.S. economy in so far as it hires new workers and employees or at least can make reliable plans for such hires. Nevertheless, many petty bourgeoisie continue to struggle against the threat of bankruptcy and by no means have a secure future perspective, especially since the Covid-19 recession has exacerbated capital‘s tendency to concentration and centralization to an extraordinary degree. On the other hand, the fear of unrest, and even of the possible outbreak of a ‚hot‘ civil war, is particularly great among the petty bourgeoisie, which is therefore likely to feel impressed by Trump‘s staging of a ‚law and order‘ president.

Even more so than from the capitalist petty bourgeoisie, Trump is increasingly losing the support of the U.S. bourgeoisie, as evidenced not least by the decline in major donations from leading entrepreneurs of large capital. This is unusual, not only because big business in the U.S. has traditionally been the Republicans‘ main major donor and donates comparatively little to the Democrats, but also because many large capitals have benefited from tax reform and ‚deregulation‘, and in some cases even from the protectionist trade policies of ‚Trumponomics‘. Perhaps their dwindling support for Trump is a political decision on the one hand, but on the other hand they probably also see the United States as a business location increasingly endangered by ‚Trumpism‘. Biden, on the other hand, receives significantly more donations than Trump, especially from the U.S. ‚financial sector‘, especially from large owners of fictitious capital such as securities and investment funds. The background for this is that Biden, as a former senator from Delaware, which is an important center for credit business and bank capital in the U.S., was able to establish close ties to money-capitalists, which should now be useful to him in supporting his campaign. At the same time, Biden‘s reputation as a pragmatic realpolitiker and moderate Democrat, which despite his clear ‚swing to the left‘ still clings to him by ideological conventions, gives him at least some sympathy among the big capitalists of ‚Business America‘ as opposed to radical representatives of the party‘s left wing such as Warren or Sanders. In addition to the U.S. ‚financial sector‘, Biden receives support in particular from large companies in the ICT sector, with whom Trump was unpopular from the outset because of their traditionally liberal political orientation and their rejection of a protectionist trade policy. This was demonstrated, among other things, by the fact that leading entrepreneurs from technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple almost unanimously donated to Biden‘s campaign. This support was cemented and even strengthened when Biden formally nominated Democratic Senator Kamala Harris from California, who has long-standing and close relationships with key Silicon Valley board members and business leaders, for vice-president.

Trump is also steadily losing support among industrial workers. Some of the former industrial workers from the ‚Rust Belt‘, who played an important role in Trump‘s victory in the 2016 election, remain steadfastly loyal to ‚Trumpism‘. This is especially true of that white section of the U.S. working class that has benefited from the revival of certain industries such as mining through the active industrial policy of ‚Trumponomics‘ and has been reintegrated into the active workers‘ army. But even this industrial policy was unable to halt or even reverse the long-term trending decline in many branches of industrial production in the U.S. economy that began after the end of the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry. The protectionist trade policy under Trump further aggravated this trend. In the period between 2016 and 2018 alone, some 1,800 U.S. industrial plants disappeared, including those of several renowned firms in the ‚swing states‘ of the Midwest.[144] A part of the white labor force of the ‚Rust Belt‘ that was not reabsorbed by industrial production and therefore did not receive new jobs or even lost its former jobs and slipped into the industrial reserve army has therefore turned away from Trump. Biden, for his part, secured the support of key unions early on, including deliberately and purposefully in the steel industry. Thus, although Trump continues to enjoy support among white industrial workers, some of whom may even still belong to the hard core of his followers, sympathy for ‚Trumpism‘ is also dwindling among them. In any case, Trump, who had won the 2016 election only through the ‚electoral college‘ and lost the ‚popular vote‘ against Clinton, never had the majority of the U.S. population behind him. Since World War II, no U.S. president has been more unpopular among his own people than he was. This lack of popularity has continued to decline in the wake of the demise of ‚Trumpism‘. While Trump is still popular among white Americans, especially men, he is increasingly rejected by women, especially in the ‚suburbs‘, young people and members of non-white minorities. In addition, more and more older U.S. citizens, who are traditionally politically conservative and therefore vote Republican, are turning away from Trump as a presidential candidate because they feel left alone with the Covid-19 pandemic and its consequences.

Against this background several possible scenarios for the election arise. A Trump victory would revive ‚Trumpism‘ as a movement to unforeseen strengths and could also significantly invigorate the political right, from Republican conservatism to neo-fascism. Trump would then be likely to remain invincible and untouchable, i.e., continue his ‚America First‘ agenda even more aggressively and uninhibitedly than before. Above all, however, Trump is likely to view the election in the event of his victory as a kind of ‚plebiscite‘ on his own person and play it off against the country‘s democratic institutions and processes, if deemed necessary. In the long run, this would undermine the system of ‚checks and balances‘ and thus undermine democracy in the United States. On the other hand, given the immense political polarization between the two parties, the Democrats are likely to doubt Trump‘s election victory and probably even question the legitimacy of the election itself. These doubts would be entirely justified: starting with Trump‘s warnings against manipulation of the postal vote and his own manipulation of the postal service, through the methods of ‚voter suppression‘ practiced in some states, such as reducing the number of polling stations or making it more difficult for black Americans to vote, to possible intimidation of Democratic voters by supporters of ‚Trumpism‘, it is questionable whether the election can actually be held in a regular and legitimate manner at all. It is also difficult to predict what role foreign interference will play and whether this role will be large enough to have a decisive influence on the outcome of the election. According to the U.S. intelligence services, it is no coincidence that China, Iran and Russia – the leading countries of the geopolitical bloc of global counterrevolution – have already attempted to meddle in and influence the U.S. election through covert and sometimes even overt operations. The Kremlin, in particular, is likely to be interested in more or less direct support for Trump by disparaging Biden, although Trump‘s campaign is an easy target due to his close ties to the Kremlin.[145] Moreover, Russia‘s main strategic goal of electoral interference is primarily to promote polarization in the U.S. through targeted deception, the spread of ‚fake news‘, political and ideological manipulation, and the creation of confusion, thereby destabilizing U.S. democracy in the long term. Ultimately, it even seems possible that Putin is deliberately working toward a worsening of this polarization, even to the point of the outbreak of unrest or even a ‚hot‘ civil war after the election. Provided that ‚voter surpression‘ and the interference of foreign powers will not have a significant influence on the outcome of this year’s presidential elections in the United States, Biden‘s election victory seems likely due to the emerging change of mood and opinion among the U.S. population. Numerous surveys and demoscopic forecasts are already pointing in this direction, even if, as the 2016 election has shown, Trump should by no means be underestimated against the background of such predictions. At any rate, if Biden wins the election, Trump would be the first president since George H. W. Bush seventeen years ago not to be re-elected. Given that parts of the capitalist petty bourgeoisie and large-capitalist ‚Corporate America‘ and, eventually, former industrial workers in the U.S. Midwest have broken away as the class base of ‚Trumpism‘, Biden might even be in a position to win by a landslide. This is the scenario that Republicans fear the most, because it could lead to a similarly dramatic slump in votes for them as after the ‚Watergate Scandal‘ around the former Republican President Richard Nixon. In this case, there would either be an abrupt change in the Republican Party‘s general opinion within a few months, which would then be almost unprecedented in history, or a severe, long-lasting crisis of legitimacy. A clear victory for the Democrats could at best even counteract polarization in the U.S. and strengthen the political ‚center‘ in the U.S., which in turn, despite the party‘s ‚shift to the left‘, would strengthen the moderate wing of the Democrats and undermine the radicalized Republican faction, which right now openly sympathizes with neo-fascism.

It is also questionable what will happen immediately after the election in the U.S. if Biden wins. In any case, this will be a litmus test for the democracy of the United States. Trump‘s statements that he might not accept defeat, which according to him can only come about through electoral manipulation, and his fueling of doubts about the legitimacy of the election could be indications that he will not give up power peacefully and voluntarily. Instead, he may try to use legal and illegal political and legal maneuvers to delay the transfer of power and the new government‘s arrival until the country‘s polarization has led to chaos and a serious political crisis. He could then stage himself as the only legitimate and capable savior of the U.S. nation from its impending demise in order to hold on to power permanently. In this case, a tangible constitutional crisis would ensue. It would also be possible, however, for the Republicans to question the election results and sue in the Supreme Court, which would then have to decide on the next U.S. president. Trump would have then already installed Amy Conney Barret as new Supreme Justice, which might tip the scale in his favor and secure his presidency and another four-year term in office. Almost certainly, though, Trump will at least not stage an actual ‚coup from above‘, not only because he is not able to think strategically enough for such a coup, but also because such a plan might be doomed to failure due to the still existing, complex system of ‚checks and balances‘ in the U.S. Presumably, Trump would not even have the majority of Republicans behind him for such a frontal attack on U.S. democracy, let alone the state monopoly on the use of force such as the police and the military, let alone the intelligence services, which despise him anyway. It is more likely that in the event of an electoral defeat, Trump will challenge the legitimacy of the election to the very end, and that there will be an explosive atmosphere between the hostile political poles and an immense upsurge of right-wing conspiracy theories, but that he will ultimately hand over his office peacefully.

The last and certainly most serious scenario would be a shift from a ‚cold‘ to a ‚hot‘ civil war, i.e. the outbreak of an open civil war. For decades, this scenario has been the wet dream of militant right-wingers in the U.S., who are feverishly awaiting it in an apocalyptic yearning for a state of emergency. In the meantime, talk of civil war has even reached the political ‚mainstream‘ and as early as 2018, 31 percent of all Americans stated that the outbreak of a new civil war was very likely.[146] In any case, it should be indisputable that the potential for violence within the hard core of ‚Trumpism‘ is enormous. The political polarization that has been intensified to a maximum in the recent history of the United States, especially the political and ideological radicalization of Republicans ‚to the right‘ under ‚Trumpism‘, has increased the danger of a ‚militarization‘ of ‚mainstream‘ politics. Until the rise of ‚Trumpism‘, for example, most militias in the United States operated on the fringes of bourgeois politics and were clearly condemned by the majority of ‚mainstream‘ politicians. Since Trump‘s inauguration, however, the militias, of which the right-wing to neo-fascist ones see themselves as a militant wing of ‚Trumpist‘ struggle against the ‚political establishment‘, have experienced the greatest upswing in the U.S. since the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, ‚mainstream‘ politics has now been ‚indirectly militarized‘: the militias still have no formal ties to any political party, including the Republicans, but they have already shifted politics in their favor. Although the militias in the United States have different political goals and are by no means all Trump supporters, nor even necessarily have a consistent ideology, the focus of right-wing or ‚radical right-wing‘ militias under Trump has increasingly shifted to Democratic politicians and actual or perceived opponents of ‚Trumpism‘ as well as socially marginalized minorities who do not fit into the racist vision of a revitalized ‚white Great America‘. The basis for this shift was not only a rhetorical change that led to an increasing militarization of the language of political discourse, but Trump also gave targeted moral and ideological support to right-wing to neo-fascist militias such as the ‚Proud Boys‘. Above all, however, he exerted systematic and targeted pressure on the Department of Homeland Security in order to give such militias greater room for maneuver by relativizing the danger they pose. Against the backdrop of the fragmented structure that the security system in the United States has due to its political federalism, the local police ignored or tolerated the threat posed by militias or even expanded existing ties to them: right-wing militias in particular have close contacts with the armed formations of the state monopoly on the use of force, such as the military and the police, or even have former military officers in their own ranks. This shift, made possible by ‚Trumpism‘, and in part deliberately encouraged by it, has not only led to the manifestation of practical violence and even the planning of a hot civil war by these militias,[147] but has opened up the option of their militant influence on the outcome of the upcoming presidential elections in the first place.

Nevertheless, the danger of an open civil war in the immediate aftermath of this year‘s U.S. presidential election remains relatively low. Certainly, the mass paranoia, especially on the political right, which has increased in the course of the intensifying political polarization, should not be underestimated: if enough people consider a certain situation to be real, they act accordingly and real consequences follow. On the other hand, the real conflicts of interest between the supporters of ‚Trumpism‘ and the Democrats are not so serious as to justify a civil war. Above all, the majority of U.S. citizens who voted for Trump in 2016, despite his political and ideological radicalization, also have nothing directly to do with the militant milieu of right-wing or even neo-fascist militiamen. From a military point of view, even if mistakenly perceived as a homogeneous bloc, the militias could hardly win a civil war. On the one hand, they are not subject to a supreme command and are therefore not capable of organized strategic action, but on the other hand they are probably hopelessly inferior to the armed formations of the U.S. government. The exact number of Americans organized in militias is not known and estimates vary extremely, but even the largest umbrella organization of militias, the ‚Oath Keepers‘, according to their own statements, has no more than 30,000 members.[148] In addition to the sudden outbreak of an open civil war by turning the existing ‚cold‘ into a ‚hot‘ one, however, a longer, continuous path to civil war would also be conceivable. The probability of this option is, however, already low because the conditions for a civil war are likely to become significantly worse once the dust stirred up by the presidential election has settled again. In addition, Biden might even succeed in defusing the political polarization in the United States, at least to some extent. But this would make a ‚long march‘ into civil war increasingly unlikely during Biden‘s term of office. Rather than a civil war, therefore, a wave of right-wing terrorist attacks and a spread of right-wing terrorism in the United States is a realistic option. Another possible option would be the continued use of low-threshold political violence by militias. The probability of this ‚low-level political violence‘ has increased significantly under ‚Trumpism‘. This has also promoted the danger of a ‚direct militarization‘ of ‚mainstream‘ politics in the United States, through which militias could ultimately formally associate with political parties, which could lead to low-threshold violence even in ‚mainstream‘ politics and in the long run undermine democracy in the United States. In any case, it is likely that after Trump‘s foreseeable electoral defeat, a new dimension of violence in the United States could emerge, which might even overshadow the recent riots over racist police violence against African Americans.

Whatever the change of government and the practical answer to the question of political violence in the aftermath of the election, the demise of ‚Trumpism‘ seems to have been sealed. This demise, however, will not change anything significant about the economic tendencies and trends that have prevailed in the United States for decades, which ‚Trumpism‘ has merely catalyzed. Due to the tendency for ist national average rate of profit to fall, the phase of accelerated accumulation of the national total capital of the U.S. seems to be over for the foreseeable future. A rise in this rate of profit and an end to the slowdown in capital accumulation, which would be the necessary condition for a new, long-lasting period of prosperity for the U.S. economy, is at least not in sight. Even a newly launched economic stimulus program under a Biden administration, which could only be enacted either against the bitter resistance of the Republicans or with a Democratic majority in the Senate, would at best stabilize the economic recovery process in the U.S., but would probably not lead to a long-term stimulation of the U.S. economy through rising profit rates. In view of the exorbitantly high national debt, Biden would, in the event of an election victory, have to continue the neo-mercantilist trade policy of the U.S., whereby the means of protectionism employed by him would only differ from ‚Trumpism‘ in their aggressiveness. Therefore, he will in all probability continue the trade war with China, albeit perhaps tactically smarter and with tricker methods than Trump. Against the long-term historical background that the U.S. has, for decades, lost its role as demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos, even a Biden government will continue to pursue economic nationalism and continue the course of foreign policy isolationism already embarked upon under Obama and significantly intensified by Trump. It is possible, however, that an administration under Biden would act somewhat less isolationist than the previous one under Trump. In particular, it is likely to turn more strongly to international allies, above all Europe, in order to forge a geopolitical bloc against the global camp of counterrevolution as a „coalition of democracies“ (Biden). In all probability, Biden will take a more offensive stance toward Russia in the interest of U.S. national security, since, unlike Trump, he is not economically linked to the Kremlin. This could at least somewhat hinder the worldwide offensive of the geopolitical bloc of global counterrevolution, with Russia at the military forefront. In view of the loss of its demiurge role, the U.S. under Biden would nevertheless probably become much less involved in world politics and intervene less, for example, in possible geopolitical conflicts in favor of the camp of private-capitalist countries in the ‚West‘ than in previous epochs. Thus, partly because of the immense U.S. budget deficit, Biden would probably continue to press, as Trump has already done, in military alliances such as NATO to socialize the costs of the U.S.‘s increasing withdrawal from world politics and to press the other countries to bear greater costs or to keep their earlier promises about spending more. Nevertheless, unlike ‚Trumpism‘, a government under Biden is unlikely to represent an ‚America First‘ agenda overall, but rather would bring the United States closer to its European NATO partners. Despite his economic and social policies, some of which are even influenced by the party left, which rely on a much stronger state interventionism than ‚Trumpism‘, Biden will not be able to defuse, let alone resolve, the sharpening economic contradictions and the escalating class antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in the United States. The alleged ‚decline‘ of the U.S. as a world power, which has been propagated again and again for half a century as inevitable and imminent, will not take place in the long term. To the regret of the anti-Americans on the political left and right, the U.S. will thus remain the supreme world power for the foreseeable future, economically, politically and militarily, even after ‚Trumpism‘. Thus the liberal world order, which remains under the unipolar leadership of the U.S. – although the geopolitical camp of global counterrevolution will continue to do everything it can to destabilize the U.S. as the most advanced capitalist nation of ‚Western‘ type, thereby destroying that order as well. Nowhere is the private-capitalist mode of production historically so advanced, and therefore nowhere have the „elements for the formation“ (Marx, Capital I, Ch. 15, p. 329, Moore/Aveling) of a communist society and the „forces for exploding the old one“ (ibid.) of the old bourgeois society matured as far as in the U.S. Hence the immense enmity of all those forces who want to prevent a revolutionary sublation (Aufhebung) of this old society by subverting the conditions for this sublation. Not only does the U.S. proletariat find the relatively best terrain for its class struggle in the world‘s most advanced private capitalist reproductive totality in the United States, but as the center and leading power of the liberal world order, the U.S. also guarantees the crucial economic and political conditions for the world proletariat to carry on its revolutionary struggle for the liberation of labor from the shackles of capital. Thus, the geopolitical camp of global counterrevolution, in its struggle against the U.S. as a ‚world power‘, ultimately aims not only at the most progressive capitalist nation, but at the same time and even more so at the conditions for the revolutionary party-building process of the proletariat, which has always been international in its content and finds its best starting point in the existing liberal world order. The material conditions for a higher social formation based on the common ownership of the social means of production and of subsistence by a „community of free individuals“[149] on a world scale, the increasing development of universal social intercourse and all-encompassing relations of people to each other, the progressive formation of the essential powers of the human species (gattungsmäßige Wesenskräfte), and the steadily growing conditions for a free development of individuality stand and fall with this liberal order. Its persistence means the persistence of the conditions and possibilities of a modern communist revolution of the international proletariat, whose main enemy in every respect will be the counterrevolutionary camp led by China, Russia and Iran.

[1] This applies, for example, to the centrifugal forces that have prevailed within the E.U. in recent years, which threaten to disintegrate the common economic and monetary union and were catalyzed by the ‚Great Recession‘ of 2007 to 2009. These forces were not only evident in the rapid rise of ‚right-wing populist‘ to neo-fascist parties within individual countries of the EU, but have so far culminated in the departure of Great Britain, known as ‚Brexit‘.

[2] Manifesto of the Communist Party, Ch. II: Proletarians and Communists, transl. by Samuel Moore and Friedrich Engels, online at:

[3] This regulation consisted of a package of economic policy measures ranging from tax breaks to encourage investment in productive capital to raising maximum amounts for mortgages for state-subsidized companies. In total, it amounted to 152 billion U.S. dollar in 2008, with a further 124 billion to be made available over the next ten years.

[4] The 787 billion U.S. dollar economic stimulus package passed by the Obama administration included tax cuts, an education reform, infrastructure investments, state subsidies for health care and financial expenditures to help reduce unemployment.

[5] See, for example, Stephan Krüger‘s prognosis that „capitalism“ after the „financial and world economic crisis 2007ff.“ will survive only „at the price of its evolutionary development and tendency to dissolve by relativizing its private forms of socialization both externally and internally“ (Stephan Krüger: Allgemeine Theorie der Kapitalakkumulation. Konjunkturzyklen und langfristige Entwicklungstendenzen, Hamburg 2010, p. 882) – or must perish. Ernst Lohoff and Norbert Trenkle even claim that a „fundamental structural crisis“ has expressed itself in this global economic crisis as a „crisis of value utilization“ and warn of „a great catastrophe as the crisis continues to intensify.“ (Ernst Lohoff, Norbert Trenkle: Die große Entwertung. Warum Spekulation und Staatsverschuldung nicht die Ursache der Krise sind, Münster 2012, p. 18). In contrast, Guenther Sandleben, who rightly criticizes this „value-critical“ crisis theory as a variation of the „finance-capitalism“-theory (see Guenther Sandleben/ Jakob Schäfer: Apologie von links. Zur Kritik gängiger linker Krisentheorien, Köln 2013, pp. 79-90), argues that the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009 marked the beginning of a „period of decline of capital“, which was characterized by a „period of general chronic overproduction, tending towards low accumulation and overall increased instability“ (see Guenther Sandleben: Finanzmarktkrise – Mythos und Wirklichkeit. Wie die ganz reale Wirtschaft die Krise kriegt, Norderstedt 2011, p. 95), thus representing a variant of the genuinely bourgeois-socialist thesis of the „structural over-accumulation“ of capital. In contrast to Sandleben, Paul Mattick Jr., despite his relatively pessimistic assessment of the future not only of the capitalist mode of production, but also of the human species, at least realistically concedes that for the problems manifesting themselves in the ‚Great Recession‘ there is in principle the solution of a ‚deep depression‘ and that it is „conceivable“ that such a development could give capitalism a new impetus as in the past. (Paul Mattick: Business as usual. The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism, p. 86). In contrast to Krüger, Mattick also does not play the role of chief physician at the ‚sickbed of capitalism‘ (Tarnow) and does not link this possible development to the establishment of a „socialist market economy“ through „radical reformism“.

[6] The „general law of capitalist accumulation“ (Marx) states that the higher the ladder of expanded reproduction, and thus the accumulation of capital rises, the larger the reserve industrial army becomes, and the larger the reserve industrial army grows relative to the active workers‘ army, the more precarity and pauperism spread. While this law is always „modified in ist working by many circumstances“ (Capital I, Ch. 25, transl. by Moore/Aveling, p. 451. If not noted otherwise, this translation of the first volume of Marx’s ‚Capital‘ is the one used. Page quotations are taken from the following edition:, it is universally valid because it cannot be repealed on the basis of the capitalist mode of production.

[7] The particular historical form of production of industrial capital called ‚Fordism‘ is thus not a new ‚mode of operation‘ (Betriebsweise) that followed modern industry as a ‚mode of operation‘ supposedly limited to the 19th century, as the structuralist ‚regulation theory‘ assumes in its mechanical materialism. Rather, it is a certain historical phenomenal form of „modern industry“ (Marx) as a developed method of production of relative surplus-value, which is constitutive of the capitalist mode of production in general.

[8] Karl Marx: Value, Price, Profit, XIV. The Struggle between Capital and Labour and ist Results, transl. by Eleanor Marx Aveling, online at:

[9] This development was wrongly interpreted in Marxism and Marxism-Leninism as the establishment of a ‚state monopoly capitalism‘, which was supposed to represent a higher developmental type of capitalist mode of production than ‚free competition‘. This view was based on a misinterpretation of Marx‘s method in ‚Capital‘ as a ‚historical-logical‘ one, with which allegedly ‚free competition‘ was presented as an early developmental phase of the capitalist mode of production in the English community. In accordance with this misunderstanding, first Karl Kautsky and later Rudolf Hilferding formulated the schematic stage theory of a historical-deterministic development, in which the necessary connection between monopoly and competition was torn apart and both were subsequently assigned to different historical stages of the capitalist mode of production. In this process, competition was conceived exclusively in negative terms as the absence of barriers such as monopolies, whereby the ‚inner nature‘ (Marx) of capital was misunderstood as the result of competition, and not the other way round, competition as a necessary phenomenal form in which the immanent tendency of capital is realized. Therefore it wasn‘t understood either that with the high development of the tendency towards concentration and centralization of capital, wrongly conceived under the term ‚state monopoly capitalism‘, which led to the nationalization of the means of production, only the attraction of capital to each other prevailed, without, however, cancelling out its repulsion from each other in competition.

[10] It is no coincidence that in the economic context of the specifically ‚Fordist‘ form of large-scale industrial mass production and the associated increasing scope for individual consumption, the ‚culture industry‘ (Adorno/ Horkheimer) also developed as an economization of culture for the purpose of industrial mass production. As a result, cultural goods not only increasingly took on the form of commodities, but also increasingly developed the possibilities for the ‚technical reproducibility‘ (Benjamin) of works of art.

[11] See Manfred Berg: Geschichte der USA, in: Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte, Band 42, München 2013, p. 62.

[12] See ibid.

[13] Among the most important measures were the ‚Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Recovery Act‘, which were intended to reduce overproduction in agriculture and industry and combat deflation. A rudimentary welfare state was established with the ‚Social Security Act‘ of 1935, which introduced, among other things, unemployment, work accident and pension insurance. The ‚New Deal‘ also gave legal recognition to unions at the national level for the first time in order to strengthen them in a targeted manner, giving U.S. workers full freedom of association.

[14] Marx, Class Struggles in France 1848 to 1850, Pt. IV, online at:

[15] See Jürgen Heideking, Christof Mauch: Geschichte der USA, 6. Auflage, Stuttgart 2008, p. 283.

[16] See Bernd Stöver: Die Geschichte der USA. Von der ersten Kolonie bis zur Gegenwart, 2., aktualisierte Auflage, München 2017, p. 430.

[17] See Stephan Krüger: Profitraten und Kapitalakkumulation in der Weltwirtschaft. Arbeits- und Betriebsweisen seit dem 19. Jahrhundert und der bevorstehende Epochenwechsel, Hamburg 2019, p. 303.

[18] Vgl. Herman van der Wee: Der gebremste Wohlstand. Wiederaufbau, Wachstum, Strukturwandel der Weltwirtschaft 1945-1980, in: Geschichte der Weltwirtschaft im 20. Jahrhundert, Band 6, München 1984, p. 20.

[19] See Bernd Stöver: Die Geschichte der USA, l.c., p. 430.

[20] See Krüger: Profitraten und Kapitalakkumulation, l.c., p. 117.; see id.: Allgemeine Theorie der Kapitalakkumulation. l.c., p. 829.

[21] Keynesians, who attribute this trend to Keynesian economic policy, reverse the interdependent relationship of economic policy through the economic structure of bourgeois society, in which this structure forms the overarching and ultimate determining factor, in favor of a ‚primacy of politics‘: they turn the relationship between the economy and politics upside down. However, it was not Keynesianism, which as a macroeconomic paradigm dominated the economic policy of the United States at the time, that induced postwar prosperity; conversely, it was this economic framework, given the historically specific conditions of the postwar period, within which Keynesianism was able to achieve its economic policy dominance at the time. With the end of this long period of prosperity, the Keynesian paradigm has therefore also reached its historical limits. Since then, it has been reduced to being used in phases of economic over-accumulation crises as the ideological legitimation of state interventionist economic policy or as a propaganda tool of left-wing bourgeois-socialists. Because of the continuous periodicity of the cyclical pattern of capitalist accumulation, which expresses the general tendency for the average profit rate to fall, this policy is therefore propagated regularly, but always only temporarily, as a recipe for solving cyclical crises.

[22] In contrast to the U.S., there was initially no economic recovery in Western Europe, as this region, like the rest of Europe, was largely destroyed. Accordingly, industrial production, was significantly lower measured against the pre-war level, especially in Germany and Italy. Against the historical backdrop of the Soviet Union‘s expansion of the state-socialist despotism into Eastern Europe and Asia, the U.S. endeavored to cement its newly won influence in Western Europe. The geopolitical bloc confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which later culminated in the Cold War, led to economic policy support measures for Western Europe, integrating it economically and politically into the Western bloc (so-called ‚Westbindung‘). At the center of these efforts was West Germany, for which the way for the regaining of economic hegemony in Europe was cleared, and which was also economically promoted by the ‚Marshall Plan‘. In total, 16 European countries received aid for economic reconstruction through the Marshall Plan, investing in industrial capital and especially in its fixed component, which had been devalued or destroyed by the war. This was intended to revive the accumulation of total national capital in Western Europe.

[23] This law is the most important law of political economy, especially from a historical point of view, because it manifests the historical relativity of the capitalist mode of production. It expresses that the productive forces of social labor developed by capital at a certain historical level of development come into contradiction with the capitalist relations of production. The continued development of the productive forces then becomes a limit to the development of capital and tends to sublate (aufheben) the self-expansion (Selbstverwertung) of capital rather than continue to realize it. This means, conversely, that capitalist relations of production become a limit to the further development of the productive forces and the richer development of individuality. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall therefore expresses that historically the material conditions for a higher, more developed form of production have already been formed. In the face of this contradiction between the productive forces of social labor and capitalist relations of production, the political programs of the bourgeois-socialists are aimed at saving these relations of production in the form of the state through the bondage of those productive forces. Ecology is therefore their favorite hobbyhorse, because here the shackling and ‚deconstruction‘ of the productive forces seems to be an absolute necessity. However, this only applies if the existing forms of energy production and consumption are historically set as absolute.

[24] See Stephan Krüger: Profitraten und Kapitalakkumulation in der Weltwirtschaft, l.c., p. 315.

[25] Marx, Capital III, Ch. 13, transl. by Ben Fowkes, p. 318.

[26] While the role played by the Keynesian economic paradigm in the collapse of the ‚Bretton Woods‘ system is overemphasized by neoclassical economists under abstraction from the underlying economic causes, Keynesian economists in turn relativize this role or abstract completely from it in order to counteract the de facto delegitimization of Keynesianism with the collapse of the ‚Bretton Woods‘ system.

[27] This dilemma was that, as the developed capitalist nations increased the amount of money in circulation in their respective domestic circulations, they also had to increase their dollar reserves, since the U.S. dollar was directly convertible to gold, but the other currencies were pegged to the dollar through fixed parities. With growing world trade, however, the U.S. was no longer able to issue additional U.S. dollars backed by gold, which were needed in addition to gold as a currency reserve to cover the increasing quantities of circulating money. As a result, a steadily increasing amount of U.S. dollars could no longer be covered by gold, which ultimately meant that the liquidity needed for world trade could only be guaranteed by releasing additional uncovered dollars.

[28] Thus it has been shown historically that international coordination of monetary relations and institutional control of world trade is always possible only to a limited extent because it is based on the capitalist mode of production, whose economic laws prevail haphazardly (naturwüchsig): capital accumulation cannot be ‚controlled‘ by economic policy in the long run because of the haphazard character of this mode of production, contrary to the assumptions of the apologists of state capitalism, such as the representatives of a ‚socialist market economy‘.

[29] The cause of the crisis, however, was neither the rising oil price nor a wrong economic policy, as its name suggests and is claimed by numerous ‚Marxist‘ economists in addition to bourgeois ones. Rather, the sharp rise in the price of crude oil was only the trigger for the cyclical turning point in the economic cycle of the developed capitalist countries towards a severe recession. The fall of the national average rate of profit into this formed the long-term economic background for this crisis and its expansion into a world economic crisis.

[30] In 2002, the U.S. share of global industrial production was still 28 percent, while fourteen years later it was only 18 percent. As a result of the decline in this share, the U.S. was replaced by China as the world’s largest ‚industrial nation‘ in 2010. While the share of the so-called ‚industrial sector‘ in the overall economic output of the U.S. was still 32 percent in 1979, it had fallen to only 19 percent by 2016 (see Daniela Arregui Coka et al.: Learning from Trump and Xi? Globalization and innovation as drivers of a new industrial policy, in: Bertelsmann Stiftung (Ed.): GED Focus Paper, Gütersloh 2020, p. 9, online at:

[31] In 2018, their share of the country‘s total economic output amounted to 3.62 billion U.S. dollar, which accounted for 63.5 percent of total merchandise exports. Some 20 million wage laborers worked in modern industry, representing 13 percent of the entire U.S. working class (see Daniela Arregui Coka et al.: Learning from Trump and Xi?, l.c., p. 9).

[32] In view of the historical redundancy of the ‚Fordist‘ form of modern industry, the structuralist ‚regulation theory‘ proclaimed a transition to ‚Toyotism‘ – based on the specific production methods of the Japanese automobile manufacturer ‚Toyota‘ – as a new ‚postfordist mode of operation‘. However, this transition never took place, which meant that the theory was historically debunked by reality. History has shown that industrial mass production, as a developed stepping stone of capitalist production, is by no means a historically temporary ‚accumulation regime‘, but rather the most highly developed method of producing relative surplus value, which despite the introduction of modern production methods remains essential for the production and accumulation of industrial capital.

[33] Marx had already pointed out that foreign trade, by reducing the price of constant capital and the necessary food for which variable capital is exchanged, can increase the rate of profit by increasing the rate of added value while reducing the value of constant capital. Moreover, Marx emphasized that foreign trade generally leads to an increase in the rate of profit because it allows the extension of the ladder of production and thus accelerates accumulation. This possibility of increasing the rate of profit is, however, at the same time limited by the fact that foreign trade helps to enforce the law of the rising organic composition of capital by allowing the relative to the constant part of capital to fall, thus forcing the tendency for the general rate of profit to fall (cf. Capital III, Ch. 14, Section V, p. 168, online at: Again, if not noted otherwise, we follow the translation in the given edition).

[34] Capital III, Ch. 14, Section 2, p. 167.

[35] Capital I, Ch. 32, transl. by Moore/Aveling, p. 542.

[36] This is also the reason why ‚globalization‘ is denounced by both the ‚globalization-critical‘ left and the right as ‚Americanization‘ that was supposed to lead to an alleged loss of national identity and a trivialization of autochthonous cultures. Accordingly, behind this ‚critique of globalization‘ is not least a classic anti-American resentment.

[37] Capital I, Ch. 6, Section II, here transl. by Ben Fowkes, p. 205,

[38] Capital I, Ch. 31, transl. by Moore/Aveling p. 533.

[39] The relations of the capitalist world market are the most developed phenomenal forms in which the economic conditions of the capitalist mode of production are represented. The material and economic conditions for the „civilizing mission“ (Marx) of capital crystallize on the world market, since the world market is the precondition for the universal development of productive forces and the universal social intercourse of individuals who are indifferent to one another in their interdependence. Through the accompanying dissolution of the original isolation of individual nationalities and the natural division of labor between different nations in favor of a social division of labor between the ‚metropolises‘ and the ‚periphery‘ of the world market, history becomes world history. At the same time, in the form of the world market, the alien power of capital over workers now appears in its universality.

[40] This new phase of historical development was misinterpreted in Marxism of the Second International, in accordance with the historical-deterministic stage-theory advocated by it, as the „highest stage of capitalism“ (Lenin) subsumed under the term „imperialism“.

[41] Capital I, Ch. 32, transl. by Moore/Aveling, p. 542.

[42] Grundrisse, Notebook IV, Section Two, Reproduction and Accumulation of Capital, online at:


[43] See Cornelius Torp: Die Herausforderung der Globalisierung. Wirtschaft und Politik in Deutschland 1860-1914, in: Kritische Studien zur Geschichtswissenschaft, Band 168, 2005 Göttingen, p. 29.

[44] This fact is readily overlooked or withheld by representatives of the ‚finance capitalism‘ theory, since it historically contradicts its assertion of an interweaving of the international ‚financial markets‘ that is unprecedented in this supposedly new ‚type‘ of capitalist mode of production.

[45] See Cornelius Torp: Die Herausforderung der Globalisierung, l.c., p. 43.

[46] Once again, practically, it proved that the propagandistic tendency of capital to form a world market specifically shaped by it stems from its own internal necessity for accumulation.

[47] See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg. Wie ein Land seine Mitte verliert, Darmstadt 2020, p. 35.

[48] See Manfred Berg, Geschichte der USA, l.c., p. 80.

[49] The term ‚neoliberalism‘ has long become a mere container term and political buzzword for a left-wing bourgeois socialism aimed at state socialism, under which the most disparate phenomena of the private-capitalist mode of production are subsumed in order to undermine this mode of production in favor of the establishment of a state-capitalist reproductive totality under the leadership of a new ruling class and to harass the old private-capitalist bourgeoisie in preparation for the seizure of power by this new bourgeoisie.

[50] See Manfred Berg, Geschichte der USA, l.c., p. 83.

[51] See Stephan Krüger, Profitraten und Kapitalakkumulation in der Weltwirtschaft, l.c., p. 139.

[52] See Manfred Berg, Geschichte der USA, l.c., p. 83.

[53] In the course of expanding world trade, ‚multinational companies‘ developed into so-called ‚transnational companies‘, which are characterized by a cosmopolitan corporate culture including a certain self-image (so-called ‚corporate identity‘) and a network-like corporate structure (so-called ‚network economy‘). Such ‚transnational corporations‘ now account for one-third of global production and control about two-thirds of world trade. They therefore currently dominate not only the world market but also the global economy as a whole.

[54] This role of ‚multinational corporations‘ for ‚globalization‘ made this form of enterprise a popular target of the ‚globalization critique‘ from left and right. The ‚globalization-critical‘ view that ‚multinational companies‘ could absolutely emancipate themselves from the territorial borders of the nation-state, disregards both the tendency of capital to repulse from each other, which is becoming increasingly prevalent in world market competition, and the economic limits of their international interdependence. These limits are given by the constitution of a national total capital, which are formed by the individual industrial capitals as independent fragments. The claim of a boundless ‚globalization‘, which makes the separation of the world market into national economies and nation states historically obsolete, is therefore just as misguided as the hope nourished by the left and right that ‚globalization‘ could be contained by political control, using nation-state borders as a barrier against it. The borders of nation-states are not independent of the capitalist mode of production, but are constituted by the social total capital. This also applies to the bourgeoisie as a ruling class, which is by no means a globally active world bourgeoisie. Rather, the general class interest that the bourgeoisie possesses as a common interest, despite the competition of the individual capitalists, is always directed inwardly against the working class of its respective nation-state and outwardly against the bourgeoisie of other countries. The nation-state remains the territory on which the bourgeoisie conducts the class struggle against the proletariat of its own country and from which it leads the foreign struggle against other countries. The class position of the bourgeoisie is thus always determined by its total national capital and nation-state (cf. Manifesto of the Communist Party, Ch. I: Bourgeois and Proletarians). In contrast, the proletariat‘s class struggle is national only in form, since it is directly confronted with the bourgeoisie of its country, but international in content (see ibid.). From this follows the necessity of an „own foreign policy“ (Marx) of the nationally separated working classes.

[55] This increase in the importance of the ‚financial markets‘ was wrongly interpreted by those bourgeois-socialist leftists who were attached to the logical-historical stage theory of traditional Marxism as the establishment of a ‚finance capitalism‘ (Finanzmarktkapitalismus), which represented a ‚new stage‘ or ‚new type‘ of the capitalist mode of production and was also called a ‚financial-capitalist accumulation regime‘ according to the theory of regulation. The central thesis of this theory consists in a ‚dominance‘ of the ‚financial sector‘ over the capitalist production of commodities, which is supposed to control the reproductive accumulation of commercial and industrial capital on the basis of an alleged ‚hierarchy‘ between the ‚financial market‘ and the ‚goods market‘. In this process, the internal necessary connection between commodity and money is suspended by separating the monetary value forms of the capitalist mode of production from the material production and circulation of commodities, taken in by the money-fetish. The function of money as money is mixed with money-capital as a form that industrial capital assumes in its circulation, and through this, the interest that is thrown off the interest-bearing capital is understood as the direct product of money. In this way, one is fooled by the fetish character of interest-bearing capital in vulgar economics. Consequently, the profit of commercial and industrial capital is not supposed to be a form of surplus-value, but is derived from interest, which in reality, however, only as an independent form of surplus-value, forms a part of the industrial profit paid by the industrial capitalist to the lending capitalist for the money-capital borrowed by the latter. With this false derivation of profit from interest, the alleged dominance of the ‚financial sector‘, whose economic characters (Charaktermasken) are supposed to ‚dominate‘ the reproductive accumulation of capital through yield specifications for the loans they grant, is also justified over the capitalist production of commodities, which in turn is naturalized to the mere production of use-value (so-called ‚real economy‘). In terms of history of ideas, the theory of ‚finance capitalism‘ stands in the tradition of the ‚classical dichotomy‘ already criticized by Marx in the vulgar economist Jean-Baptiste Say, in which the capitalist mode of production was naturalized to produce mere ‚products‘ and the capitalist exchange of commodities was naturalized to an exchange of purely material use-values, thus denying the contradiction between use-value and value inherent in the commodity. The Keynesian variants of the ‚finance capitalism‘ theory, especially the monetary ones, are also part of Silvio Gesell‘s anti-Semitic ‚free money theory‘, in which the interest rate is derived from a postulated dominance of money over the commodity, which is supposed to give the constant capital, which is reified with the means of production as its material content, its capital character. But not only theoretically, but also empirically, the theory of a ‚finance capitalism‘ is not tenable, since the financial markets are not exorbitant, as is claimed in the thesis of ‚finance capitalism‘, but only partially ‚bloated‘, if at all. A closer look, for example at the relative and long-term development of capitalizations on stock markets and the price development on stock exchanges measured by the development of GDP, shows that most prices on the stock markets, for example, show volatile stagnation rather than a permanent increase, while the derivative markets are growing dynamically, but are by no means undergoing a disproportionate development decoupled from the ‚real markets‘. In addition, no uniform formation of a ‚finance capitalism‘ can be dated as a new type of capitalist mode of production in the developed capitalist countries. This applies all the more to BRICS countries, whose economic development is by no means ‚financially driven‘ or ‚finance capialist‘.

[56] In the long term, the Dow Jones trended upward until the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 onwards hit, without this development being attributable to the historical emergence of a U.S. ‚finance capitalism‘. Rather, it was always owed to the turnover opportunities of the stock exchange companies and was not only due to cyclical phases of an upswinging U.S. economy, but also to the long-lasting over-cyclical trend of accelerated accumulation of reproductive capital during the period of post-war prosperity in the United States.

[57] See Krumbein et al: Finanzmarktkapitalismus? Zur Kritik einer gängigen Kriseninterpretation und Zeitdiagnose, Marburg 2014, p. 27f.

[58] See Economic Report of the President, January 2001, Washington D.C. 2001, S. 22, online at:

[59] See Manfred Berg, Geschichte der USA, a.a.O., p. 86.

[60] See ibid., p. 87.

[61] From the first quarter of 1993 to the third quarter of 2000, real GDP in the United States grew by 4 % on average, which was not only about half as much as during the period from 1973 to 1993, but also well above the productivity growth of the other OECD countries (see Economic Report of the President, l.c., p. 19). This was evidenced by the fact that the U.S. had the highest per capita income and fastest income growth of all capitalist centers.

[62] In contrast to the disintegration of the former ‚Eastern Bloc states‘ and especially the Soviet Union, which led to the appropriation of numerous means of production and a portion of social wealth by oligarchs in the course of the partial privatizations under Yeltsin‘s economic reforms beginning in the early 1990s, the Chinese economy was gradually opened up to foreign private capital, initially primarily from overseas Chinese, under Deng Xiaoping‘s reforms beginning in 1978. This reformist opening process was strictly regulated and controlled by the Communist Party of China (CCP) and thus remained under the control of Chinese state despotism. In 1990, Deng opened the Shanghai Stock Exchange, before there was an immense acceleration in the privatization of companies beginning in 1992 and China finally joined the WTO on December 11, 2001. In the course of this historical development, a ‚mixed economy‘ also established itself in China, although the state still retains de facto control of the private sector through the distribution of financial resources, indicative planning and the participation of party cadres in corporate management.

[63] See Economic Report of the President, a.a.O., p. 25

[64] The turnover time of capital represents a „negative limit“ (Marx) for the expansion of surplus-value, since during this time capital is bound in circulation and cannot function as productive capital, thus cannot produce any surplus-value. The shorter the turnover time, the longer capital can be used in production and the greater its self-expansion (Selbstverwertung).

[65] Just as the „new economy“ did not represent a new ‚mode of operation‘ of capitalist production, the ‚digitalization‘ that accompanied it did not lead to a ‚digital capitalism‘ as a new ‚stage‘ or new ‚type‘ of capitalist mode of production. Digitized goods and services and the ICT sector as a whole are also non-neutral instruments for technocratically implementing socialism from the computer, or self-regulatory transitional forms through which the capitalist mode of production is virtually automatically abolished. Rather, the historical process referred to as ‚digitization‘ is merely the formation of new productive forces within the framework of the general tendency inherent in modern industry itself to constantly revolutionize its technical base, which, with this base, also revolutionizes the function of the workers and the combination of the social total worker, i.e., the division of labor within the various branches of production.

[66] Nevertheless, despite China‘s rapid catch-up, the U.S. is still by far the undisputed world market leader in this industry.

[67] Radical representatives of the ‚New Economy‘ theory rejected any value-theoretical foundation of political economy and assumed that the value of ‚goods‘ in the ‚New Economy‘ was determined by their universal availability, which constituted their utility in the first place (so-called ‚general purpose technology‘). With the ‚New Economy‘, therefore, the capitalist mode of production lost its previous mode of operation and thus also its existing economic laws, and in the end it was even almost automatically overtaken by itself, because industrial mass production was historically losing its importance.

[68] The value-critical thesis of the ‚melting away of the value substance‘ and an accompanying ‚abolition of labor‘ in the course of an alleged ‚microelectronic revolution‘, which was formulated during this period, thus essentially rested on the ideology of the ‚New Economy‘. This thesis is not only theoretically incompatible with the critique of political economy scientifically elaborated by Marx, which starts out from labor as an ontological basic category, but in view of the progressive growth of the absolute number of capital-productive workers worldwide it has empirically embarrassed itself in reality.

[69] Capital I, Ch. 15, Section IV, p. 284.

[70] Such unrestricted mobility of labor is already impossible because of the part of fixed capital that is territorially fixed. Added to this are the limits to mobility set by the respective level of development of the transport industry, as well as the territorial limits of the nation-state determined by social total capital, the crossing of which by labor-powers is always politically regulated and by no means absolutely unrestricted.

[71] See Sachverständigenrat zur Begutachtung der gesamtwirtschaftlichen Entwicklung: Chancen auf einen höheren Wachstumspfad. Jahresgutachten 2000/01, Stuttgart 2000, p. 29,

[72] As the Dot-com bubble burst, the U.S. technology exchange NASDAQ, the largest financial market for technology companies, also collapsed. The largest index traded on this stock exchange, the Nasdaq Composite, bloated from 1990 onwards through an exponential rise in prices before collapsing as the Dot-com bubble burst. To this day, it is still bobbing along below its former highs. The development of the Nasdaq therefore also empirically contradicts the theory of ‚finance capitalism‘.

[73] The technical potential of ‚digitization‘ is also far from exhausted, as evidenced by the fact that it has recently become the decisive technological basis for establishing electronic interaction via network-based platforms. The difference between these platforms and other means of production in modern industry is that they are consumed by different individual capitals simultaneously as a common condition of production and circulation, thus linking a certain number of different production processes with one another (so-called ‚platform economy‘). With the establishment of the network structures necessary for these platforms and the associated revolution in the social division of labor, which includes a new combination of social labor-processes, the conditions for the utilization of the individual capitals functioning in the ICT sector are improving. The tendency toward concentration and centralization of capital, which is also becoming prevalent in this sector, increases the productivity of labor and reduces fixed costs. At the same time, there is also a tendency here to separate the capital function from capital ownership, which has already been implemented in publically listed companies, leading, among other things, to a reduction in the capital invested in the fixed capital component through shared use or leasing (so-called ‚equipment leasing‘), which is further economized by the online processing of the lease (so-called ‚sharing economy‘). In this way, the constant capital is economized for the users of the corresponding means of production, which initially leads to a stimulation of the profit rate. Ultimately, the establishment of the ‚platform and network economy‘, like any increase in the productive power of social work, also leads to a reduction in the amount of work required by society to produce the goods or services in the ICT sector. Overall, this reduction in socially necessary labor increases the general rate of value added, while the investment of capital in constant capital is reduced by the economization of the means of production and the mass of value added is increased by an economization of the costs of circulation. Thus these factors counteract the tendency fall of the profit rate. However, the increasing automation of the capitalist production process with digitization leads to a rising capital intensity and thus also to the expansion of the infrastructure required as the material basis for the ICT sector, which in turn leads to an increasing organic composition of the capital functioning in this industry. Unless this increase can be compensated for by an increase in the rate of added value, the general rate of profit will therefore continue to fall.

[74] However, this failure to stimulate a renewed, long-term phase of accelerated capital accumulation through ICT in the developed capitalist nations in no way substantiates the genuinely state-socialist thesis of ‚structural over-accumulation‘ since the crisis of 1974/1975, as representatives of the ‚finance capitalism“ theory claim. On the contrary, this shows that an over-accumulation of capital cannot be ‚structural‘, but is always cyclically limited. A possible increase in rates of profit and the resulting long-term economic upswings within new economic cycles cannot therefore be ruled out from the outset. This also proves that the law of the tendency for the rate of profit to in reality is never ‚pure‘, but always only modified by counteracting causes.

[75] Cf. Stephan Krüger, Allgemeine Theorie der Kapitalakkumulation, l.c., p. 866; here, however, it must be taken into account that due to the dollar‘s function as an international reserve currency, the liabilities of the U.S. itself are denominated in dollars. Therefore, for the creditors of U.S. foreign debt, at least as long as the U.S. dollar does not lose its role as universal money and the U.S. foreign exchange is not devalued internationally, it is not the risk of a liquidity bottleneck that is decisive, but rather the exchange rate risk due to a high debt ratio.

[76] The purchased securities consisted of various forms of investment, primarily bonds, investment certificates and shares, which can be collectively referred to as ‚U.S. securities‘ under the common name for securities of U.S. issuers.

[77] This development was wrongly used by bourgeois-socialist critics of ‚neoliberalism‘, such as left-Keynesians and representatives of a ‚socialist market economy‘, as empirical evidence for the theory of ‚finance capitalism‘. In doing so, they overlooked or ignored the fact that the foreign money-capital invested in the U.S. securities exchanges represented only one, albeit temporarily significant, part of the total money-capital imported into the U.S. and that the investment ratio compared to GDP declined only temporarily. Therefore, this phenomenon does not constitute ‚proof‘ of an alleged ‚flight‘ of capital, which according to the ‚finance capitalism‘ theories can no longer be productively invested into the ‚real sector‘ due to ‚structural over-accumulation‘, into interest-bearing forms of investment in the ‚financial markets‘, i.e. in the ‚financial sector‘.

[78] The servicing of these mortgage loans was jeopardized from the outset by an increasing increase in rents and purchase prices for houses in the wake of the real estate boom, but also by potentially long-term wage declines.

[79] The real estate market is predestined for the absorption of surplus and investment-seeking money-capital, because real estate is not a work product of „discrete nature“ (Marx) that can be divided, but rather is a long-term, continuous labor-process required for its production. The production period of real estate and thus the turnover of the capital productively invested in it therefore exceeds the reproduction period of the fixed capital part in the construction industry, which consists of the means of labor. Like other branches of production in which profit is only produced in the long term, the construction industry therefore serves to create demand without being able to increase supply directly at the same time. Herein, and not in character deficiencies such as a particular ‚greed‘ of the economic characters (Charaktermasken) in the construction industry and on the real estate market that are morally denounced as ‚real estate sharks‘, lies both the reason why the construction and the renting or sale of real estate is predestined for speculation with idle money-capital and why the construction industry is one of the branches of production of the capitalist mode of production that is particularly susceptible to crises.

[80] See Guenther Sandleben: Finanzmarktkrise – Mythos und Wirklichkeit, l.c., p. 11.

[81] In September 2008, write-offs on subprime loans as a result of payment defaults were estimated at 900 billion U.S. dollar (see Guenther Sandleben: Finanzmarktkrise – Mythos und Wirklichkeit, p. 14; see also Sandleben: Politik des Kapitals in der Krise. Eine empirische Studie, p. 19)

[82] This over-accumulation crisis has been commonly interpreted – not only by bourgeois ideologues but also by ‚Marxists‘ – as a ‚financial crisis‘, by turning the spectacular manifestations of this crisis in the ‚financial markets‘ to the cause of the crisis and by ignoring the general over-production of fixed capital as the real cause of the crisis. The notion that an endogenous ‚financial market crisis‘ had spilled over to the ‚real sector‘ subsequently became a common good circulated in public opinion. The various varieties of ‚finance capitalism‘ theories contributed to this. This interpretation of crisis is not only incompatible with Marx‘s theory of crisis as a theory of cyclical over-accumulation crises, but also proves empirically untenable on closer examination of the chronological course of the ‚Great Recession‘.

[83] However, the increased assertion of this tendency in no way justifies the separate historical epoch of a ‚structural over-accumulation‘ of capital or a period of decline of capital, as bourgeois-socialist ideologists claim. Rather, the renewed long-term upswing of the U.S. economy after the ‚Great Depression‘, as during the ‚New Economy‘ boom in the decade before the turn of the millennium, showed that an accelerated accumulation of capital cannot be excluded per se by a renewed rise in rates of profit. The denial of this possibility is based not least of all on the fact that the materialistic conception of history of Marx and Engels is perverted in left-wing bourgeois-socialism to a deterministic philosophy of history, which corresponds to an economistic misinterpretation of Marx‘s crisis theory as a theory of collapse, as it was already popular within classical Marxism or Marxism-Leninism. This misinterpretation, which has led to the proclamation of a final collapse of the capitalist mode of production in every crisis, has sufficiently discredited itself in view of the continued existence of the capitalist mode of production. The thesis of a ‚structural over-accumulation‘ is essentially just a rehash of this economic collapse theory, i.e. ‚old wine in new wineskins‘.

[84] In practical terms, this proved that the shift in the crisis did not mean that it had been resolved in the respective preceding sectors, but rather that it potentiated itself in a cascade.

[85] See Stephan Krüger: Profitraten und Kapitalakkumulation in der Weltwirtschaft, p. 147.

[86] Marx, Capital III, Ch. 15, transl. by Ben Fowkes, p. 362.

[87] The economic recovery induced by this upturn in industrial production also showed that the crisis by no means had its origins in ‚financial markets‘ supposedly decoupled from the ‚real economy‘: the renewed economic upturn did not take place on the basis of dynamic growth in the ‚financial markets‘, but despite their continued disruption.

[88] However, neither in the United States nor in other developed capitalist industrialized nations after the ‚Great Recession‘ did the trend toward ‚secular stagnation‘ prevail, as was expected by certain bourgeois-socialist ideologues (see Bischoff et al.: Learning from Capital. Die Aktualität von Marx‘ Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Hamburg 2017, pp. 157-161).

[89] The renewed shift from the temporary Keynesian crisis intervention of ‚deficit spending‘ to the ‚neoliberal‘ paradigm of budgetary consolidation in the E.U. through austerity policy was mainly due to this objectively existing economic pressure and did not result, as state-socialists of all forms complain, from a politically arbitrary change in economic policy.

[90] The ‚electoral college‘ was originally introduced by the founding fathers of the United States and its constitution to limit the power of the executive branch and to prevent possible abuse: The president should not be elected directly by the population, but instead the population should first appoint electors of a body, which would then elect the president. This not only suspended the radical democratic approaches of the ‚American Revolution‘, but this anachronistic conceptual flaw in U.S. democracy also proved to be dysfunctional throughout the history of the presidential elections, as in the 2016 election.

[91] In response to this ideological syncretism, which according to the former chief strategist of ‚Trumpism‘, Steve Bannon, was intended to bind the white U.S. industrial proletariat to the Republicans in order to achieve cultural and political hegemony, the left-liberal section of the U.S. bourgeoisie responded by accusing ‚Trumpism‘ of being as ideologically inconsistent as it was politically erratic, though this missed the thoroughly coherent agenda of ‚America First‘.

[92] The right-wing populist ‚Tea Party‘ movement in particular, which emerged in the course of the ‚Great Recession‘ from 2007 to 2009 under Obama‘s presidency, had ensured the long-term establishment and consolidation of this clientele.

[93] In ‚social media‘ alone, millions of contributions were manipulated in favor of Trump. This was not only done by the Russian troll army ‚Internet Research Agency‘, but also by Trump‘s own election campaign team, which used five times as many bots as their Democratic opponents. Every day they disseminated up to 50,000 pro-Trump advertising messages in ‚social media‘ and, through the company ‚Cambridge Analytica‘, carried out target-group-specific advertising (so-called ‚strategic targeting‘), with which they attempted to manipulate voting behavior through individual messages (so-called ‚microtargeting‘). The regional target groups were the swing states and the key districts decisive for the election (see

[94] The ‚Clinton leak‘ was not only intended to damage Clinton‘s political image, but also to denounce her as a person without any integrity. The theft itself was carried out by Russian hackers, the publication by the platform ‚WikiLeaks‘, held by Julian Assange, who allegedly cooperates with Russia. ‚WikiLeaks‘ had already been conspicuous for years for its bias in favor of the despotic camp of global counterrevolution, and had already made several ‚leaks‘ that threatened the national security of the U.S. as the most advanced private capitalist nation and undermined the U.S. population‘s confidence in its democracy.

[95] Since Putin took office in 2000, the Russian mafia and intelligence services have increasingly and systematically infiltrated various lobby groups in Washington.

[96] In addition to the ‚Trump Tower‘, opened in 1983, Trump‘s casinos, such as the then largest ‚Taj Mahal‘ (Atlantic City), which was financed with junk bonds and ultimately went bankrupt, served Russian money laundering.

[97] See Craig Unger: Trump in Putins Hand. Die wahre Geschichte von Donald Trump und der russischen Mafia, 2. Auflage, Berlin 2018.

[98] Leon Fink: Deliverance Revisisted: Der Triumph von Trump, die liberalen Eliten und die weiße Zombie-Arbeiterklasse, in: derslb. Deliverance Revisisted: Der Triumph von Trump, die liberalen Eliten und die weiße Zombie-Arbeiterklasse, S.5-24, Oldenbourg 2019, p. 8.

[99] See ibid.; see also Sarah Jaffe: Whose Class Is It Anyway? The ‚White Working Class‘ and the Myth of Trump, in: Jasmine Kerrissey et al. (eds.): Labor in The Time of Trump, Cornell University Press 2019, p. 87-105, p. 88.

[100] Contrary to what Clinton claimed at a September 9 fundraising event in 2016 this clientele, which she called a ‚basket of deplorables‘, did not make up nearly half of the Trump electorate.

[101] In historical retrospect, the decisive collapse of the white U.S. labor force as the Democratic voter base actually took place as early as 1967, before the shift from the Keynesian to the ‚neoliberal‘ economic paradigm. Not coincidentally, this was two years after the productivity of the U.S. national labor force as a whole began to decline and the average rate of profit of U.S. national capital fell to its lowest level in the entire ‚golden age‘ era, heralding the end of the accelerated accumulation of capital and the long period of post-war prosperity. This also called into question the social class compromise of the ‚New Deal Coalition‘ that had existed since the U.S. government under Roosevelt. This coalition, in which the unionizing and politically consolidating U.S. working class functioned across ethnic lines as the Democrats‘ permanent voter clientele, was wrongly regarded by the liberal U.S. bourgeoisie, even after its historical dissolution, as the norm for the electoral behavior of the white part of the U.S. proletariat in particular. In fact, the Republicans became the majority party of the ‚white working class‘ in the U.S. as early as the election of Richard Nixon as U.S. president in 1968.

[102] In this respect, it is wrong to characterize ‚Trumpism‘ as a form of ‚Bonapartism‘, because the latter is based on a class-spanning basis, unlike the first one, which consists of declassified parts of all classes. Moreover, although ‚Trumpism‘, like classical ‚Bonapartism‘, has tendencies to make the executive branch independent and to strengthen it, on the one hand, and to weaken democratic organizations and institutions, on the other, it is not a political dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, as ‚Bonapartism‘ is. Rather, ‚Trumpism‘ itself is an expression of the political rule of a certain section of the U.S. bourgeoisie, which was democratically legitimized by the U.S. presidential election. This is overlooked by a section of the bourgeois-socialist left, which, in a historically overused and therefore false analogy, readily subsumes ‚Trumpism‘ under ‚Bonapartism‘.

[103] These restrictions, which de facto were measures to suppress votes (so-called ‚voter surpression‘), were a legal reaction to Obama‘s election to the U.S. presidency. They led to the 2016 presidential election being the first in 50 years in which the 1965 ‚Voting Rights Act‘, which prohibits racial discrimination in federal elections, no longer fully applied. This was one of the most underestimated factors for the election of Trump.

[104] Even of the 18 million voters who considered both candidates too unsuitable for the presidency, 69 % ultimately voted Trump (see Sarah Jaffe: Whose Class Is It Anyway?, op. cit., p. 93).

[105] See Sarah Jaffe: Whose Class Is It Anyway?, l.c., p. 91.

[106] See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg, a.a.O., p. 73f.

[107] This class base is indeed shared by ‚Trumpism‘ with classical fascism, which, especially in its beginnings as a mass movement, was based on the capitalist petty bourgeoisie. However, this by no means implies that the NDSAP was a ‚middle-class party‘ and that National Socialism, which differs from fascism primarily in its eliminatory anti-Semitism, was a ‚purely‘ petty-bourgeois movement, as is sometimes claimed by ‚Marxists‘ to deny the cross-class character of the German Volksgemeinschaft as a murder collective of the Shoah. Despite this commonality, it is wrong to characterize ‚Trumpism‘ as ‚fascist‘, as is done by parts of the left. ‚Trumpism‘ has no external fascist characteristics (mass marches, reliance on paramilitary fighting units, etc.) and is not a ‚modernized version‘ of classical fascism: Trump‘s racism and misogyny do not make him a ‚fascist‘ and his ‚America First‘ agenda is not directed outwardly in an aggressive imperialism, rather is an isolationist foreign policy central to it. Likewise, convinced neo-Nazis are likely to form only a marginalized part of Trump‘s following. Even the circumstances under which Trump was elected president, such as the booming U.S. economy, contradict a historical analogy with the Weimar Republic. The crucial difference, however, is above all that classical fascism and National Socialism were at once archaic and modern, reactionary and ‚revolutionary‘ movements that used the means of modernity to turn against modernity itself and to regressively revolutionize bourgeois society. This is not true of the Trumpist program ‚Make America Great Again‘.

[108] Since ‚deregulation‘ and ‚tax cuts‘ are among the crucial elements of the ideology of ‚economic libertarianism‘, it was not surprising that Trump‘s most important financiers and supporters in the election for U.S. president in 2016 were the conspiracy theorist, racist computer scientist and hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who are among the most politically influential big-capitalists in the U.S. The Mercer family adheres to ‚minarchism‘, which seeks to reduce the state to a minimal state guaranteeing private property according to the model of a ‚night watchman state‘, as a particularly radical variant of ‚economic libertarian‘ ideology. For decades it has been striving to destabilize the political ‚establishment‘ in Washington, D.C. In the 2016 presidential election campaign, it used the ‚Make America Number 1‘ lobby group to support Trump, which, as a so-called ‚Super-PAC‘, could accept donations in legally unlimited amounts, as long as these donations were not formally forwarded directly to a political candidate or his campaign. The board of directors of ‚Make America Number 1‘ included Rebekah Mercer as well as Trump‘s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who acted as political advisor to the Mercers and was specifically placed on Trump‘s team as head of the presidential election campaign by them. At Bannon‘s suggestion, the Mercers invested 10 million U.S. dollar in the website of the ‚Breitbart News Network‘, for which Bannon was in turn appointed to the board of directors and finally took over as chairman from 2012 onwards, before it became the leading platform of the American ‚old right‘ under his leadership. The Mercers also financed the data analysis company ‚Cambridge Analytica‘, which used microtargeting to manipulate voting behavior in Trump’s favor during the 2016 election campaign, with approximately 5 million U.S. dollar. After the election, Rebekah Mercer was appointed to Trump‘s transition team that supported and helped govern the change of administration from the Obama to the Trump administration (see Jane Mayer: The reclusive hedge-fund tycoon behind the Trump presidency, The New Yorker, March 27, 2017, online at: https://www.newyorker. com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency) Trump’s outsider position not only in the political ‚establishment‘ as a whole, but also within the Republican party was evidenced by the fact that most of the donations went into ‚Super-PACs‘ that sought to secure Republican control of the Senate, rather than the convoluted collection of competing groups in support of Trump‘s presidential candidacy. The notable exception to this is the Mercers, who were Trump’s largest donors overall. Trump himself denounced ‚Super-PACs‘ in his pre-election campaigns and always emphasized the self-financing of his campaign, which gave him the appearance of independence from the economic and political ‚establishment‘ and strengthened his image as an ‚anti-politician‘. But as soon as his nomination as a Republican candidate was finalized, his leading advisers began soliciting donations from Republican lobbying organizations.

[109] See Thomas Jahn et al.: Boom auf Pump – die große Trump-Illusion, Handelsblatt, 12. Oktober 2018, online at: See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg, a.a.O., p. 73.

[110] See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Job market remains tight in 2019, as the unemployment rate falls to its lowest level since 1969, April 2020,

[111] See Thomas Jahn et al.: Boom auf Pump, l.c.

[112] Ibid.

[113] Vgl. Harm Bandholz: Did He Make America Great Again?, in: Die USA vor dem Wahlkampf: Die Spuren Donald Trumps in Wirtschaft und Politik, ifo Schnelldienst, 1 / 2020, 73. Jahrgang, S. 6-9, S. 7,

[114] Since the Reagan administration, the United States, with the exception of the Clinton administration, has pursued a federal policy of tax breaks in favor of capitalist enterprises, primarily at the expense of the working class and petty capitalist bourgeoisie

[115] This former tax burden on U.S. companies was, however, already relativized at that time by the fact that an immense part of the company costs could be deducted from taxes, which meant that the real company tax was de facto 15 percent below its nominal level (see Michael Dobbins: Trump’s domestic policy in the shadow of Obama. Standstill or a Shift to the Right?, in: Christopher Daase, Stefan Kroll (eds.): Attack on the Liberal World Order, The American Foreign and Security Policy under Donald Trump, Wiesbaden 2019, pp. 101-121, p. 116)

[116] See Philip Wallmeier: Trumps organisierte Verantwortungslosigkeit. Ein Deutungsvorschlag zur Krise der liberalen Weltordnung aus der Perspektive der Kritischen Theorie, in: Christopher Daase, Stefan Kroll (Hrsg.): Angriff auf die liberale Weltordnung, Die amerikanische Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik unter Donald Trump, Wiesbaden 2019, p. 77-97, p. 84

[117] See Michael Dobbins, Trumps Innenpolitik im Schatten von Obama, l.c., p. 117.

[118] See Philip Wallmeier: Trumps organisierte Verantwortungslosigkeit, l.c., p. 84.

[119] One exception to this was real estate in highly taxed cities in, for example, New York and California, which, not coincidentally, happen to be strongholds of the Democrats, who can no longer deduct their high real estate taxes indefinitely from the national income tax (so-called ‚federal income tax‘).

[120] See Michael Dobbins, Trumps Innenpolitik im Schatten von Obama, l.c., p. 117.

[121] See Tax Policy Center (2017): Distributional Analysis of the Conference Agreement fort he Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, online at:

[122] See U.S. Department of the Treasury, Fiscal Service und Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (2020): Federal Debt: Total Public Debt, online at:

[123] Not only the U.S., but all developed capitalist nations have adopted much more protectionist trade policies since the end of the ‚Great Recession‘.

[124] Contrary to the Trump administration‘s protectionist trade policy, the vast majority of U.S. entrepreneurs support a liberal free trade policy, especially in the form of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements (NAFTA, TPP, etc.). This applies not only to the internationally oriented ICT industry, but also to the automotive industry in the United States, for example. The opening of foreign sales markets on the one hand and the reduction of production costs through international production and value chains on the other play an important role. This opening of foreign markets is also largely in the interest of the U.S. agricultural industry, especially the beef industry. The ‚financial sector‘ is also counting on liberal foreign trade by ‚deregulating‘ the financial markets. In contrast, import-oriented branches of production such as the steel industry, which is comparatively small and without influence in relation to the total national capital of the United States, are opposed to the free trade legally established by trade agreements. Like a large part of the U.S. economy, the majority of the U.S. population continues to support free trade despite growing skepticism.

[125] Among the phenomena of this polarization that have become an integral part of U.S. political discourse are the dehumanization of political opponents, the increasing militarization not only of the language in which this discourse is conducted, but also of the forms of practical political debate, and the rapid increase in collective forms of delusion, especially paranoid psychoses.

[126] See

[127] For example, demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that broke out after African American Jacob Blake was shot in the back by police on August 23, 2020, resulted in the murder of two protesters by 17-year-old Trump supporter Kyle Rittenhouse.

[128] The U.S. has fewer hospital beds per capita than virtually any other developed capitalist nation, and good medical care can only be afforded by parts of the high-income U.S. bourgeoisie because of the rudimentary welfare state. In general, medical care for large sections of the U.S. population has deteriorated rapidly with the abolition of ‚Obamacare‘, which the Trump administration had undertaken without an elaborate alternative to health insurance.

[129] As late as February, Trump accused the CDC of unnecessary scaremongering about the corona pandemic in view of the beginning slump on the U.S. stock markets.

[130] After Trump‘s contagion, as with the pandemic in general, a placatory tactic was used to conceal his actual state of health, which turned out to be more serious than claimed by the White House. This tactic eventually culminated in sometimes grotesque public appearances by Trump to convince the public and his supporters of his sound health and robust constitution. Finally, Trump used the ‚hot phase‘ of the election campaign to stage even his recovery in a spectacular way.

[131] See Alyssa Fowers, William Wan: A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression, Census Bureau finds amid coronavirus pandemic, Washington Post, 26. Mai 2020,

[132] See Daniel Nass: How Many Guns Did Americans Buy Last Month? We’re Tracking the Sales Boom, The Trace, 3. August 2020,

[133] See Sriya Anbil, Alyssa Anderson und Zeynep Senyuz: What Happened in Money Markets in September 2019?, FED Notes, 27. Februar 2020,

[134] See Astrid Döner, Annett Meiritz, Dr. Jens Münchrath: Minus 32,9 Prozent: Historischer Konjunktursturz in USA, Handelsblatt, 30. Juli 2020,

[135] See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Unemployment rate rises to record high 14.7 percent in April 2020, 23. Mai 2020,

[136] Carl Hulse, Emile Cochrane: As Coronavirus Spread, Largest Stimulus in History United a Polarized Senate, New York Times, 25. März 2020,

[137] See U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis: Gross Domestic Product, Third Quarter 2020 (Advance Estimate), 29. Oktober 2020,

[138] See tagesschau: Corona-Krise verdreifacht Haushaltsdefizit, 17. Oktober 2020,

[139] A month later, he appointed the businessman Louis DeJoy, who is a close confidant of his and a major contributor to his election campaign, as ‚Postmaster General‘. Under the pretext of economizing the postal service, DeJoy had several mailboxes and letter-sorting machines dismantled and reduced costs by banning overtime and tips for mail delivery staff. The resulting backlogs and delays in the delivery of letters led to a crisis in the U.S. postal system, which became known as the ‚United States Postal Service crisis‘.

[140] On the other hand, the increase in polarization among political parties in the United States is also only partially representative of the political attitudes and worldviews of the American population, which is comparatively united, particularly with respect to key economic and social problems (health care system, climate change, study conditions, etc.). However, this relative political consensus is not adequately reflected in the U.S. political system, which consists of only two parties, i.e., the political ‚middle‘ in particular is not adequately represented democratically: A numerically quite relevant but moderate block of U.S. citizens does not feel addressed by either political pole and is increasingly inclined to reject bourgeois politics in the United States as a whole. This, in turn, strengthens the political extremes of the two poles from left and right.

[141] See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg. Wie ein Land seine Mitte verliert, Darmstadt 2020, p. 112

[142] Both were involved in drawing up Biden‘s election program to avoid the political error of intra-party trench warfare after Hillary Clinton‘s nomination as presidential candidate for the 2016 election, and have quite realistic prospects for a post in a cabinet under him.

[143] Astrid Dörner: Hoffnungsträger Joe Biden: Was sein Wahlsieg für die deutsche Wirtschaft bedeuten würde, Handelsblatt, 30. Oktober 2020,

[144] Michael Sainato: ‚It’s all fake‘: Trump’s manufacturing jobs promises ring hollow in midwest, The Guardian, 16. Oktober 2020, online at:

[145] Josh Rogin: Secret CIA assessment: Putin ‘probably directing’ influence operation to denigrate Biden, The Washington Post, 22. September 2020,

[146] See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg. Wie ein Land seine Mitte verliert, Darmstadt 2020, p. 153.

[147] On October 8, the FBI dismantled a right-wing terrorist cell known as the ‚Wolverine Watchmen‘, which was planning to kidnap and execute Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and then storm the state legislature and start a hot civil war. Whitmer was targeted because she ordered a strict lockdown in her state in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, whereupon Trump, among others, called on Twitter to ‚liberate‘ Michigan. Triggered by these tweets from Trump, on April 30 this year, militias stormed the Michigan Parliament and temporarily occupied the Michigan State Capitol.

[148] See Torben Lütjen: Amerika im kalten Bürgerkrieg. Wie ein Land seine Mitte verliert, Darmstadt 2020, p. 192.

[149] Marx, Capital I, Ch. 1, transl. by Moore/Aveling, p. 51.