Biden’s cabinet picks: Ruling class politics or socialist revolution?

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By JEFF MACKLER

Insane people who study playing Russian roulette with a well-lubricated and seasoned six-shooter understand that the odds on survival are far greater than the expected 83.3 percent, that is, five out of six. That’s because the single loaded-bullet chamber is heavier than the empty chambers and is more likely, after a firm spin, to settle at the bottom, away from the striking pin at the top of the firing mechanism. In essence, you can cheat your fate a bit if you choose to engage.

Not so with engaging in the periodic electoral games orchestrated by the twin parties of U.S. capitalism. There the result is always 100 percent fatal. All chambers are fully loaded in advance by the ruling rich. Without exception, human needs are subordinated to capitalist profits.

Capitalism’s horses of the apocalypse

Capitalism’s never-ending imperialist oil and resource wars and sanctions kill millions. Its COVID-19 pandemic now kills 3,000 Americans daily. Its global warming climate crisis threatens near-term mass extinction and daily catastrophes. Its repeated and deepening economic depression cycles render increasing tens and hundreds of millions jobless and hopeless. Its systemic racism relegates countless more to poverty, police brutality and mass incarceration, and its sexism and homophobia subject women and LGBTQI+ people to the lowest rungs of the job market and to discrimination and violence. With this in mind, let’s have a look at what the “lesser evil” Democrats have in store for working people.

Biden’s “diversity” cabinet

Biden promised his Democratic Party supporters gender and racial parity in his cabinet appointments. Indeed, he boasted last week, “I’m not going to tell you now exactly what I’m doing in any department, but I promise you, it’ll be the single most diverse cabinet, based on race, color and gender that’s ever existed in the United States of America.” 

Biden, the racist bigot of yesteryear and friend of Strom Thurmond, went further a day earlier, with CNN reporting that he “plans to meet with the board of the NAACP to make it clear he’s listening to their myriad concerns as he plays a complex game of chess.” “Chess,” in the view of the ruling rich at the moment, is their version of “identity politics” conducted exclusively among and between the elite few, in which female, Black and Brown trustees are chosen to guard and promote the pure interests of the ruling class.

Four-star General Lloyd J. Austin III, recently retired from the Army in 2016, is president-elect Joseph Biden’s choice for Secretary of Defense, vetted by Biden’s transition team which includes at least four retired generals or admirals and a host of representatives of the billionaire elite. Biden no doubt appreciated the fact that his campaign prominently featured lengthy lists of well-connected military and national security specialists as well as billionaire contributors that dwarfed those who signed up for President Trump.

Austin is a member of the private equity fund Pine Island Acquisition Corporation that invests big time in defense contractors and also serves on the Board of Directors of Raytheon Technologies, the world’s third-largest defense contractor.

A Black man, Austin apparently beat out Michèle Flournoy, who was originally slated to head the Pentagon and would have been the first woman to do so.

Democratic Party’s wars led by Clinton and Obama

Michèle Flournoy, in accord with gender balance, was originally slated by Biden for the Secretary of Defense spot. She served as a senior defense advisor to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Under the latter, she helped mastermind the escalation of the war in Afghanistan that took the lives of 500,000 people, mostly civilians. U.S. forces there reached 120,000 under Obama, half of which were private mercenaries of the Blackwater type – the largest number and percentage in U.S. history.

In a 2017 Washington Post op-ed calling for increased military spending, Flournoy argued that President Trump was “right to raise the need for more defense dollars.” She posited that Obama didn’t use military force enough, particularly in Syria. Enough? 500,000 Syrians died in the course of that U.S.-led, NATO and Gulf State-monarchy-assisted, imperialist regime-change slaughter! Flournoy supported the wars in Iraq and Libya, waged in the name of “weapons of mass destruction” that did not exist (Iraq), and on falsified “humanitarian” grounds (Libya).

With lucrative ties to defense contractors, she serves on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, the global strategic and technology consulting firm with more than $2 billion in Defense Department contracts and employing 14 former senior Defense Department officials and Pentagon generals. Literally millions died under her stewardship. But sadly for her, she will not be installed for this mass-murder post.

Then there’s Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State and another Obama-team veteran, having served as deputy national security adviser and deputy secretary of state. War hawk Blinken supported the U.S. slaughter and obliteration in Libya and praises to the high heavens the Zionist apartheid state of Israel, including its every atrocity against the Palestinian people.

Bailing out the corporate elite

Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chair under Obama, is today Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary. She is praised for her advocacy of “extraordinary fiscal support” for the corporate elite during the pandemic. Slated to preside over negotiations over the next version of the bi-partisan CARES Act, which gifted unprecedented trillions of dollars to the ruling class, Yellen, under Obama, pioneered “quantitative easing” on steroids, that is, near-zero-interest-rate loans to the super-rich that they reinvested in speculative stock market and related ventures and in time drove financial indexes to record highs while promised “infrastructure” investments were non-existent.

But Yellen is a woman, whose record, according to the now-identity-politics-conscious New York Times, included a remark in a 2014 Boston speech referring to the unprecedented “wealth gap” in the U.S. Bless her soul! Yellen noted that the bottom half of the population receives just one percent of the nation’s wealth. She suggested that perhaps the bottom half might work harder to improve their state, or perhaps get some financial assistance to improve their educational opportunities. It never happened. Bottom line? Under Yellen, the top one percent’s share reached historic proportions!

Climate catastrophe and oil wars

The best that liberal pundits could utter with regard to Biden’s appointment of former Secretary of State John Kerry as special envoy for climate was that “at least he recognizes the science.” Kerry, a carbon tax and cap-and-trade advocate, replete with corporate loopholes galore to be sure, championed Obama’s drive to advance off-shore drilling and to become the world’s number one fracker. During the Obama years the U.S. for the first time became energy independent, in significant part due to the U.S. imperialist oil wars against Iraq, Syria and Libya.

It was Kerry who presided over the U.S.-orchestrated Riyadh, Saudi Arabia conference, wherein a combination of overtly terrorist groups in concert with the U.S.-backed “coalition” cabal gathered in a failed effort to dismember Syria at a time when some three-quarters of that beleaguered nation was occupied by U.S., NATO and Gulf State monarchy armed, financed and organized jihadist murderers.

Drone wars and torture

Avril Haines, a former Obama deputy CIA chief, is another Biden-proposed cabinet appointee. She’s slated to be Biden’s Director of National Intelligence. Haines was among Obama’s top drone program experts, through which murder, execution-style, was delivered from the heavens with impunity, including against U.S. citizens, not to mention at an occasional Yemeni wedding turned into a funeral. The Daily Beast reported in July that Haines was involved in the sham “accountability” process that shielded CIA officials from punishment for their involvement with torture. CIA director Gina Haspel’s nomination was supported by Haines despite Haspel’s direct supervision of U.S. Middle East torture programs.

Sanders opts for Democratic Party payback

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, the Democrats’ leading “progressive,” who pledged absolute loyalty to Biden’s campaign, was reduced to pleading for the post of Secretary of Labor during a late-November interview with CNN. Sanders pathetically pledged, should he be appointed, that he would work for legislation to increase the percentage of union membership, as if the corporate rich who run the country, having reduced union membership to a 100-year low, would consider such a proposition for a split-second. The notion that real union power emanates from the independent and united mobilizations of the broad working class in alliance with all the struggles of the oppressed and exploited, is alien to Sanders, whose vision of progress resides exclusively in transforming rapacious capitalism from within.

And Elizabeth Warren? She too is looking for a cabinet appointment, perhaps based on her service to Biden in remaining in the Democratic Party primary contest through the Super Tuesday spectacle that saw the entire party apparatus unite to trash Sanders’s drive for the nomination. Glenn Greenwald reports that Warren’s final primary campaign received some $50 million in dark money to keep her in the running, despite her repeated primary failures, including in her own state of Massachusetts.

AOC and The Squad counsel Biden caution

As Sanders and Warren maneuver for some Biden payback recognition, other “progressives” like CNN White House reporter Jeff Zeleny offered up a thumbnail sketch of the “liberal” capitalist mindset. Zeleny noted that that “Congressional super star Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez understands why the Biden team has been cautious in some of their picks so far – because GOP control of the Senate makes the confirmation process more difficult – but she urged the Biden team to adopt a more aggressive strategy if Democrats sweep the Georgia Senate runoff.”

To date, a record $300 million has been pumped into Georgia’s two Senate runoff races, with the Democrats again outspending the Republicans. But the notion that a Democratic Party majority in the U.S. Senate will open the door to any significant change is fundamentally flawed. The Democrats had a majority in both houses of congress under Obama with zero positive results for working people. When it comes to serious politics the so-called progressive congressional Democrats are joined at the hip with their blue dog, “centrist,” more-overtly reactionary counterparts. Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad” supported every Democrat, blue dogs included, in the 2018 mid-term elections and again in 2020!

Sanders bites the bullet

“Party loyalty” found the Democrats united, not only among themselves, but with the Republicans, in passing last year’s tax bill that gifted $1.5 trillion to the ruling rich. The details, hundreds, if not thousands of pages, were worked out behind the scenes by a coterie of ruling class specialists skilled in advancing their masters’ interests. The same with the $6 trillion CARES Act and the new NAFTA accord. The same with the $4.79 trillion 2020 U.S. budget and, in fact, with regard to every significant piece of legislation that touches on ruling class interests.

Biden’s appointment of Neera Tanden as Director of the Office of Management and Budget raised some “progressive” eyebrows. A Hillary Clinton staffer in 2016 and in Biden’s 2020 primary campaign run, Tanden’s focus was on branding Sanders and his supporters as “crazy leftists.” She led the pack is making clear that Sanders’s tepid “Green New Deal” and “democratic socialism” had no takers among the party’s elite.

Biden himself was decisive on this matter when he faced Trump in their one-on-one debate. He responded to Trump’s consciously planned provocative red-baiting charge that the Democrats were socialists by proclaiming, “I beat Bernie. I am the Democratic Party.” A grinning Trump, satisfied that he had made his point, responded, almost under his breath, “You just lost the left.” Sanders, in turn, made sure that his “left” would stay the Biden course, including, I estimate, when the day comes, approving Tanden as OMB head.  

As Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Tanden’s task is the construction for Biden and the ruling rich of an expected $5 trillion 2021 U.S. budget proposal. This annual multi-thousand-page tome, replete with innumerable charts, graphs, references to myriad previous allocations, includes incorporated budget proposals from all the departments in the executive branch of the government (Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs).

The budget constitutes the ruling class’s central economic, social and political objectives and priorities. It is and has always been the ruling class bible – the sacred scroll that guarantees their absolute ownership, control and distribution of the nation’s wealth. None of the 100 Senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives is likely to have read this tome, drafted by literally hundreds of bureaucrats overseeing the nation’s 15 executive departments, all of whom are beholden to the final approval of the select few chosen by the ruling elite. (See Larry Shoup’s book Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2019 and Peter Phillips’s Giants: The Global Power Elite.)

Media trivia disguises capitalist reality

Today’s sound and fury over whether the Democrats will win in Georgia and thus capture a majority in the U.S. Senate (51-50, including the vice president’s tie-breaking vote), or whether Trump’s Senate Republicans will veto Biden’s cabinet nominees, is nothing less than the idle chatter generated by corporate media pundits assigned to sanctify and legitimize the daily machinations of ruling class politics. Will Biden keep his promise to appoint “the most diverse cabinet in U.S. history?” Will Bernie vote to approve his “arch enemy” Tanden as OMB director? Will the nation’s government be paralyzed due to the split congress? Will Trump return victorious in 2024?

Those who dabble in such trivia, not to mention those who promote the Democrats as the necessary “lesser evils,” exist to justify and support capitalist minority rule. Those who are among today’s ever-questioning and engaged social and economic justice fighters, including the growing majority of 18-34 year-old youth – 58 percent – who state in poll after poll that socialism, not capitalism, is their preference, are humanity’s future. These are the youth, Black, white and Brown who mobilized in the tens of millions last summer in the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, to defend Black lives in the face of systemic racism police terror, who are the movement’s future, the socialist future.

In time, they will bypass the Bernie Sanders Democratic Party sheepherders and those too-many on the left that have abandoned challenging the capitalist beast. They will rebuild and transform today’s moribund trade unions, unite all social justice struggles and join in the construction of a disciplined, democratic mass revolutionary socialist party to end capitalist rule. Join us! Join Socialist Action! socialistaction.org  socialistaction@lmi.net

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