US an oligarchic republic masquerading as a democracy
Published: Nov 07, 2022 08:23 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

The 2022 US midterm elections kick off on Tuesday.US domestic politics is increasingly polarized and violent and different interest groups can barely compromise to push forward policies that truly benefit social development. Through the lens of her research focus, Deborah Veneziale (Veneziale), an American journalist based in Italy, discusses with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wenwen the dangerous impulses of American political elites and the crumbling US democracy. This is second of this series.

GT: You once wrote that the so-called democratic institutions of checks and balances are completely incapable of restraining the belligerent policy toward China from spreading. Why? Has US democracy become a tool for oligarchs if decisions cannot be made in the interests of the American majority?

Veneziale: The US is a country that was originally built on slavery and genocide. It has been an oligarchic republic, masquerading as a democracy since its founding. So-called democratic checks and balances were originally instituted to prevent a democratic majority representing the poorer sectors of the population from coalescing and gaining control over the state. 

To paraphrase Lenin, imperialist monopoly capital can buy off a large portion of the proletariat within its borders from the super profits extracted from the Global South. A significant section of the US population has benefited directly or indirectly from the expansion of US imperialist hegemony, but to different degrees. 

The peaceful rise of China threatens the excess profits the US has captured globally. The US uses manipulative double-speak such as "rules-based international order" to continue its hegemonic control of the world economy by political, military, and economic needs.

GT: You once pointed out that the American political elite has the will, resources and power to launch two wars against China and Russia at the same time, and is not afraid to use nuclear weapons. Their danger is not lessened by their stupidity and arrogance. The US is currently mired in multiple crises. What can stop the dangerous impulses of the American political elite?

Veneziale: I work closely with many other comrades to jointly conduct theoretical research to understand the current conjunctural moment. But we are all drawn to the words of the famous German scholar Goethe who said, "All theory, dear friend, is grey, but the golden tree of actual life springs ever green." We must not overestimate our ability to predict the specific aspects of the future.

The US political establishment will only be restrained if it thinks it may lose a struggle. I believe that three factors are needed to force the US elite to rethink and change its insane hegemonic expansionist behavior. 

First, the US would have to suffer a serious defeat, like the ones they suffered in Korea or Vietnam. 

Second, a critical mass of countries of the Global South must be successful in seeking independent development and find a way to achieve real national sovereignty [for example] the ability to stand up as China did in 1949. 

Third, the consciousness of the working class as well as of the lower and middle strata of the petty bourgeoisie inside the US must be raised significantly. This is not an easy task for those inside the US fighting for peace and socialism. 

Above all, the strengthening of China itself, with good relations between a strong China and Russia, and between China and the countries of the Global South, can stop the warlike impulses of the American political elite.

American liberals today are displaying a deep lust for war. The Democratic Party is misnamed. It is legally constructed and also behaves as a private corporation. It is no longer really defined by a sharp ideological project and is without any mooring. It is largely constrained by political campaign donors from the capitalist class despite its putative role of representing the working and lower middle classes. 

We should not assume that a possible 2024 Republican President or even Trump 2.0 will be a repeat of 2016. The Republican elite is now dominated by the far right, it is jingoistic and very dangerous.

The American empire is entering a long, slow period of decline. US consensus, or the internal "subjective" factor however is based on the idea of "American exceptionalism" (that is, it is America's destiny to dominate the world in perpetuity). 

For the first time in 400 years, the world order will, hopefully, not be essentially based on the continuation of a "white" monopoly. The rise of China is not just a short-term, economic, and tactical threat to white supremacy, but an existential threat that shakes its very foundation.

Deborah Veneziale Photo: Courtesy of Veneziale

Deborah Veneziale Photo: Courtesy of Veneziale

GT: US domestic politics is increasingly polarized and violent. Different interest groups cannot make compromises to bridge divergences. What do you think of this ungovernable trend in US domestic politics? Will a civil war break out or even lead to the division of the country?

Veneziale: In my opinion, it is highly unlikely there will be a civil war or division of the country. Certainly not any time soon.

Yes, today's US society is deeply fragmented, divided class-wise and racially. There is a serious breakdown in social trust and decline in social morality. But it does not follow that the US, as a nation, will be physically divided. Texas and California will not become independent. For one thing, the bourgeois elite will not allow it. Moreover, the so-called "red states" and "blue states" should not be imagined in an oversimplified way, as the differences between the states are not as great as they appear outside the US

The US economy remains strong, possesses the most powerful military in the world, and retains global strength in areas like currency and soft power including media.

China is now a demon to a large swath of the American public. Anti-Russian/Slavic hysteria also flourishes. Despite animus bickering over domestic matters, the overwhelming majority of Americans are, sadly, quite united in their fundamental views on military and foreign policy. US mainstream media is now fully embedded in the functions of the state. Modern day McCarthyism is rapidly growing.

On Ukraine, for example, the large majority are in favor of striking at Russia. The brave anti-war forces who call for an end to the new Cold War and accuse NATO of hegemonic expansion are only a small and very marginal group. They often receive anonymous death threats. Other reasonable voices like Jerry Brown and Jeffery Sachs are outliers. 

We should not be confused by the growing section of far-right Republicans who are complaining about the well over $60 billion allocated to the US-led NATO war in Ukraine against Russia, as they can easily return to their normal war-like posture if they regain the presidency. Moreover, the Republicans are no less militant in relation to China.

But I am optimistic for the long term. I feel that comrade Mao Zedong is correct, and history will find that the US is indeed a paper tiger!

GT: The handling of coronavirus directly reflects the different governance concepts of China and the US: protecting people vs protecting capital. Judging from the results, not only did the US rank first in the world in the number of deaths and infections, but the economic recovery also fell short of expectations. At present, there is no sign of the end of the pandemic. What long-term impact do you think the pandemic will have on the governance and economy of the US?

Veneziale: The direct impact is minimal because, to put it bluntly, the American elite does not care if a large number of people die.

The US is able to absorb all kinds of talent from all over the world, so the US has a surplus of labor. The attitude toward COVID-19 today, sometimes called "let it rip" or "survival of the fittest" is an offensive immoral stance. Allowing COVID-19 to run free allows the US elite to intentionally eliminate parts of the surplus labor force. 

The difference in mortality rates between blacks and whites is enormous. Residents of low-income counties in the US have mortality rates four times higher than those of high-income counties. The high-income whites, those social elites, do you really think they're looking at the death toll of over a million and reflecting on the failure to fight the epidemic? They're celebrating. Because it's cheaper to let blacks die than to put them in jail.