Kosmodromio spoke with New York City University professor Danny Shaw, an international relations analyst for RT International and Telesur, and a COHA researcher on post-election climate and social movements in the United States, the foreign policy of the Biden-Harris presidency, the American Left and Puerto Rico.
How would you describe both the general mood and the political landscape in the US today, a few hours after the US elections? Could you give us the broader context and also tell us about the struggles that are currently happening in society?
Around 12 at noon yesterday the country experienced an explosion of joy and rejoicing, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. I was in New York, there was a mood of incredible joy and relief. Of course we understand that this is the first step in the class struggle, in the anti-imperialist struggle, but defeating the white supremacy movement is important. 71 million Americans voted for an outspoken fascist, sexist, racist, homophobic candidate. Trump is in the past now, although he will use all the legal tricks to win the election, but Trumpism is here, it goes beyond the same.
We also saw the reflexes of the ruling class, we saw a point from which there is no return. For the past 48-72 hours, conservative media outlets such as FoxNews or the Wall Street Journal, the conservative media establishment, have been reluctant to follow Donald Trump to his wreck. They abandoned the sinking ship. Right now on the Far Right of the Far Right, Breibart is shouting that Fox did not support Trump enough. Since Fox represents the real ruling class, the last thing it would tolerate would be for Trump to challenge the whole political system, which they call democracy, which has nothing democratic, it is a capitalist system, whenever they say democracy they mean capitalism. So, even though the Right abandoned Donald Trump, precisely because Trump played his role, he has nothing to offer. The fact that Fox and the Wall Street Journal, two of the main conservative opinion makers, have abandoned Trump is a resounding slap in the face.
In the field of social movements, the Biden-Harris presidency will have negative consequences. All we need to remember is the Bush era compared to the Obama era. On issues such as the war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq and the attacks on Venezuela, Palestine, Zimbabwe and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during Bush’s tenure, we have been able to mobilize millions of people on the streets. In the Obama years, when Libya was bombed and re-colonized, it was very difficult.
Therefore, I believe that the Biden-Harris presidency will have a negative impact because the world has the impression that the Democrats are more “left-wing”. That is not the case, we are talking about two essentially right-wing parties. But many people do not see it that way. We saw it on the streets yesterday, many liberals were relieved. For neoliberal capitalism, Biden is a more stable and secure solution. That’s why Trump is a done deal, nobody deals with him, Fox does not give him the floor to speak, he and his sons address via Twitter, but that does not matter. The ruling class is united behind Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
We have seen figures of the so-called leftist tendency within the Democrats, including Alexandra Ocasio Cortes, to support Joe Biden, to the point where they are still actively working on his campaign, thinking that they can push Biden to the left. Do you think this is a logical assumption? Is Biden likely to respond to future “progressive” pressure tactics?
This is the big debate right now on the Left. Those of us who are socialists and anti-imperialists understand very well that Clinton, Obama, Biden are politicians of the ruling class. They have no interest in programs like Medicare for All, providing amnesty to immigrants, they have no interest in stopping the wars that trample on any notion of sovereignty in Latin America and the Middle East, Asia, they do not have the slightest plan to limit AFRICOM ‘s activities. We will not see any significant change in foreign policy.
On the contrary, it will now be much easier for the ruling class to implement its agenda, because now they have imperialism with another, prettier face, calmer, more diplomatic. Take Kamala Harris for example, Harris is the American Dream doped with steroids, there is this narrative like with Obama that ” everything is fair, and this country is so democratic, that her mother is from India ” and all this liberal theater we saw on NBC by Van Jones.
Of course the issue of racism is extremely serious and my purpose is to make a cool-headed political analysis rather than criticize specific people on personal terms. We must recognize that issues such as white supremacy theories are a problem, gender divisions are a problem, and the military-industrial complex is a problem.
All these phenomena, racism and the white supremacist movement were evident under Trump, he was promoting such an agenda. That makes them (the Democrats) more dangerous. We must remember the famous and timeless metaphor of Malcolm X, that the fox is more dangerous than the wolf. Because now that the wolf has disappeared from our sight, they are trying to convince us that the American dream is alive and well, that Trump was a deviation that we got rid of.
Alexandra Ocasio Cortes, Ilhan Omar, these are fighters who, to make a reference to Lenin’s “What Must Be Done,” use the urban arena to advance a popular agenda. They themselves have tried to promote mild, moderate changes for the benefit of social life, but the demonization they have encountered is very strong. The Conservatives and Fox do nothing but demonize them, even threatening to kill them. And in the end, as was to be expected, the conservative and liberal ruling classes united against Bernie Sanders, especially the liberals in order to prevent him from winning the Democratic nomination, because Bernie Sanders, as we say here in the US, “keeps it true”.
In this climate, AOC and the rest of the Squad team, Omar, Ayana Presley and Sanders and Tulsi Gabard, came under strong pressure and crawled behind the lie of the lesser evil, supporting Joe Biden. This happens every four years. Every four years we choose who our oppressors will be for the next four years.
And so a case like Bernie Sanders is a case they should have gotten rid of completely. Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialist Movement in the United States have tens of thousands of supporters to note, and this trend is now quite strong.
Given the history of the Democrats and Joe Biden as Vice President, what can we expect from Biden in Latin and Central America, in terms of foreign policy?
A short answer is nothing, zero! Let us not expect any substantial change in the field of foreign policy. In terms of foreign policy, let’s go back to the Obama era, between 2008 and 2016. Let’s remember Honduras and the coup against Zelaya, who was considered a traitor to his country’s oligarchy and was ousted very quickly with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Libya, of course! Libya is the ultimate attempt at re-colonization, although it is not going as well as imperialism would like today in terms of profitability, Syria, where the Obama administration committed some of the worst crimes of the 21st century. The Obama administration demonized Lula and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and began the so-called “special period” with extremely brutal sanctions that made life difficult for the people of the country.
But now, in the Trump years, the resistance movement in Latin America is back in full swing. We have the extreme crisis of the Bolsonaro government in Brazil, we have the MAS with Luis Arce back in power in Bolivia, we have a massive movement in Chile against the other billionaire in Chile, Piñera. We have Alberto Fernándes and Cristina Kirchner back in the driver’s seat of the developments in Argentina. We have López Obrador, who is by no means part of the Bolivarian Revolution camp, but is a thorn in the side of American imperialism insofar as it has a kind of integration of the sanctioned states of Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. So we would say that the Obama years were better for American imperialism in Latin America.
There is a shift to the left in Latin America right now and this is creating big problems for imperialism. Let there be no doubt that the Biden-Harris duo will continue to suffocate Venezuela, threatening countries with ties to Venezuela, perhaps try the back door, with a Trojan horse logic, in Iran, as Obama did with Cuba, restoring diplomatic relations, because large sections of the bourgeoisie are thinking ” all these profits that await us in Cuba, in the tourism industry, in natural resources, in a market of 11 million people. Are we going to leave this market to China, Canada, Italy, Spain? ” Therefore the US liberal elite wants a piece of Cuba or Iran, and because European countries are already trying to do the same with Iran, we witness a battle between different sections of the ruling class at the international level.
It is of course ironic that they are supposed to be so interested in international trade, but as soon as an economic power like China manages to penetrate the markets and compete we see the truth behind their doctrines. All this demonization of China, the taxes on Chinese products, is the result of the fear they feel about the fact that China today is 17% of world production, in contrast to, say, the EU, which is only 16%. And as China begins to rise, the American empire is in decline.
And what is about to happen is the United States as it was during the Cold War, a global conflict that began in Greece with the abominable bombing of Greek guerrillas, the Greek revolutionaries who claimed power after WWII. The British and the Americans came to suppress the Greek Resistance and then did the same or tried the same in Korea, Vietnam, Angola. For the oppressors and the oppressed, the Third World was the stage of this global conflict established by the euphemism “Cold War”. We will see another Cold War as US capital can no longer compete with China and loses markets in Europe. The Chinese currency has a presence in Portugal, in Germany they have a stake in banks, so the US uses
South America as an escape valve to stop the Chinese advance. Something that will be very, very painful for the people of South America as the US will use more and more paramilitaries and its military bases in Peru, Panama, Aruba and of course Colombia; we must not forget that Colombia is Latin America’s Israel. I think this is the global panorama of what is happening now.
In terms of domestic policy, the BLackLivesMatter movement must continue to fight harder. Joe Biden said more money will go to the police, Kamala Harris has been rightly described as California’s top cop, all of this is a slap in the face to the largest mass movement in the history of the country that is in a sense a continuation of Marcus Garvey’s black movement, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. The term black liberation movement is an expression of all movements for the self-determination and real liberation of African Americans. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are not friends of these liberating pursuits whether they come from black America or the peoples of Puerto Rico, the still occupied Pacific islands, South America or the Middle East. So all these liberation movements will have to fight harder.
Of course some will fall asleep. Yesterday, in the monumental, massive demonstrations yesterday, we saw a lot of people celebrating and they have every right to celebrate the defeat of an openly fascist. But what will they do with white supremacy when capitalism is still in the lead?
Is it possible for the American Left to finally become independent of the Democrats? Because we saw all these movements that you described supporting the Democrats. Is there finally room for a third party, possibly even a revolutionary party?
There is room in the streets. Whether it exists in people’s consciousness is the biggest question. The ruling class, the dictatorship of the capital, has control over the media, the education system, the family structure, over every sovereign institution in this country. You will never hear from CNN or MSNBC or ABC or the New York Times anything to do with the socialist movement, Bernie Sanders said this in an inspiring way. And of course the ruling class will fight for its class interests, they want more surplus value and profits, they want to crush any international competition. That is why Sanders and Cortes will be their sworn enemies. But grassroots movements will continue to grow, and although BlackLivesMatter is not organized as a disciplined organization, each branch is autonomous; for example if you take to the streets of the Bronx today you will see the individual BlackLivesMatter named after the South or North Bronx.
The challenge before us is to instill unity, greater discipline and a political agenda in all these scattered movements. Resistance exists everywhere and in various forms. But how do we change people’s consciences, so that after the celebration – as I said, a celebration was welcome – to bring the world to the demonstrations, to building a popular education, how to restore concepts such as internationalism, anti-imperialism, communism, community, common world for men and women and how we fit these into the broader goal.
99% of us have no interest in the colonization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua. We have no interest in the existence of AFRICOM or the encirclement of China with 200 military bases.
The Black Panther Party asked the question “how can we survive until the revolution”. We must continue to fight for our immediate needs, having a greater vision for the social and economic revolution we need.
You have done an excellent job of uncovering American intervention in Puerto Rico. Can you tell us a few words about why Puerto Rico and what is happening there, since we know practically very little in Greece?
Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony, as were Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The people of Puerto Rico have their roots in the abducted Africans and the indigenous people who experienced their own Holocaust from the Spanish colonialists who represented a different kind of social hierarchy. But in 1918, as American imperialism took the upper hand first over the Pacific Islands and then at the so-called back door of the Caribbean, the Americans came as tyrants, not liberators in Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, all over the Caribbean and Central America – let us not forget that 1/3 of Mexico was stolen in 1848.
Thus, Puerto Rico is a colony of the American Empire, one of the closest geographically, for 122 years; it is an economic colony, it is a cultural colony, it is a political colony and a military colony. 14% of Puerto Rico land belongs to the US military, when you arrive in Puerto Rico first you see the US flag and then the Puerto Rican one. A referendum was recently held in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans voted to become a US state because they feel abandoned and forgotten. They feel this way because they are twice as poor as the poorest state in the United States, Mississippi, where 40-45% of the population is African American, and this is no coincidence that it is one of the poorest parts of the country. Puerto Rico is extremely abandoned and abused. We saw, for example, Trump slapping Puerto Rico in the face after Hurricane Maria. So we are dealing with an ongoing liberation struggle for independence from the neo-colonial economic, cultural and political control of the United States.