Mattis resignation signals a split in the capitalist class
President Trump and Defense Secretary Mattis. | Evan Vucci / AP

The resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in late December represents a qualitatively new stage in the split in the U.S. monopoly capitalist ruling class. There now are two distinct groups, differing in fundamental ways in their foreign and domestic policies.

First, there are the Trumpites. Their foreign policy is isolationist. They seek to withdraw U.S. imperialism from NATO, the wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, and possibly even the unresolved war in Korea.  On the other hand, Trump’s domestic policy is thoroughly anti-democratic, racist, steeped in corruption, and leaning towards fascism. It is tied to the fossil fuel industry and reckless towards the environment.

The anti-Trump group, including the leadership of the Democratic Party and traditional Republicans like Mattis, the late Sen. John McCain, and Robert Mueller, have opposite views. Their foreign policy is interventionist and aimed at preserving and, if possible, extending world dominance by U.S. imperialism and its Cold War alliances. Their domestic policy is to preserve capitalist democracy.

The outcome of this conflict is uncertain. Trump has unqualified support from pro-fascist elements in big business, many Republicans in the House, and to a lesser degree in the Senate. He also has the support of a significant section of GOP base voters, including the religious right. The anti-Trump coalition has a broader base of support but does not control the White House.

More to the point, however, is the question of what should be the attitude of ordinary working people and the growing mass progressive, grassroots movements, including Communists, to this split in the ruling class. It is clear that we must stand for both democracy AND peace. In other words, we must be independent of both contending groups of monopoly capitalism. We must oppose the domestic fascist-leaning policies of Trump AND the interventionist, regime-change policies of the anti-Trump coalition.

The Communist Party, as a revolutionary organization of the working class, must have an even more far-reaching position. Communists are not just for the defense and maximum expansion of democracy under capitalism; we are for socialist democracy, that is, democracy under the control of working people, not billionaires. We are not just for peace among the nations of the world; we are for working-class internationalism. We stand in solidarity with people and nations struggling to build socialism and are for ending the hostile policies of U.S. imperialism towards those efforts.

In this regard, Trump’s policies of withdrawal from foreign intervention should be welcomed. They reflect the deep, growing crisis of imperialism and the reality that it can no longer control the world. There are opposing players, both capitalist and socialist, armed with ICBMs.

This withdrawal and the decline of U.S. imperialism is not yet complete. The Trump regime has not fully broken with dreams of U.S. world domination. His administration continues to support the war in Yemen and the “pivot towards Asia,” both begun under President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

With Mattis as Secretary of Defense, the U.S. engaged in provocative military confrontation with China and resisted moves to end the Korean War.  Trump’s trade policies are aimed at blocking China’s development and emergence as the world’s largest and fastest-growing major economy. People like National Security Advisor John Bolton cling to the insane Cold War fantasy that it is possible to wage and “win” a nuclear war, even though scientists demonstrated by the mid 1980s that such a war, even if launched unilaterally and without retaliation, would generate enough smoke in the upper atmosphere to block the sun and extinguish all human and other major life on earth.

We are in a perilous moment, but there are ample grounds for optimism. Mass movements of resistance are growing among the people, the real makers of history. We must do everything possible to build the forces of progress and guarantee that peace, democracy, protection of the environment, and socialism will prevail.


Rick Nagin
Rick Nagin

Rick Nagin has written for People's World and its predecessors since 1970. He has been active for many years in Cleveland politics and the labor movement.