War between Trump and FBI reflects divided ruling class

The war between the Trump Administration and the FBI reflects a deep division in the U.S. capitalist ruling class that could have far-reaching consequences for the progressive movement. The immediate cause stems from the investigation by Robert Mueller into Trump’s ties with the Russians, his collusion with their effort to interfere in the 2016 election, and his efforts to “obstruct justice” by sabotaging Mueller’s probe.

The question is: What is the motivation of the Mueller forces, including the FBI and possibly other intelligence agencies, for going after Trump? What is really at stake here?

There have been many examples in the past of sharp divisions within ruling classes which have had profound, even revolutionary consequences.

Consider, for example, the crisis in the ruling circles of Great Britain in the 1930s, when the pro-Nazi King Edward VIII was ousted by the British ruling class. The king, before his abdication, appeared ready to have the U.K. cooperate with the fascist powers of Europe. He refused to sanction Mussolini’s Italy after its invasion of Ethiopia. He was influenced as well, many among Britain’s ruling elite believed, by his mistress and would-be wife, Wallis Simpson, who was closely affiliated with Hitler’s British ambassador, Ribbentrop.

During World War II, the Nazis went so far as to plan reinstalling Edward, who reportedly leaked Allied military plans to them, as king after they defeated Britain. Other elements of the monarchy and the government were not necessarily reliably anti-fascist, but surrendering the empire to Germany was beyond the pale. It was something, as a proper English grammarian and dedicated British imperialist would say, “up with which they would not put.” The Simpson marriage provided the way out—no King of England could be allowed to marry a divorced American.

Does not a similar situation prevail in the case of Trump? Trump is hopelessly enmeshed with the Russian gangster oligarchs. They are apparently all partners in a crime syndicate involving massive theft, embezzlement, fraudulent real estate deals, and money laundering. Furthermore, it appears that Russian intelligence exploited Trump’s sexual interests, according to the Steele dossier, by providing him with the services of prostitutes.

The proof of Trump’s criminal activities and supposed sexual proclivities, including videos, is probably in Russian hands. That explains why Trump is so desperate to discredit and stop Mueller’s investigation. Like King Edward, Trump is a willing accomplice.

On the other hand, just as it was to the British ruling class, such collaboration is obviously unacceptable to U.S. imperialism and its foreign policy and intelligence agencies.

They have had their way in the world pretty much unilaterally since the overthrow of Soviet socialism and do not intend to give up that privilege because of Trump. This is a falling-out among thieves, playing out as a battle between the president and law enforcement.

The division in the U.S. ruling class is reflected in the political rivalries between the two parties of capitalism, with the dominant Republicans circling their wagons around Trump and the opposition Democrats allying with Mueller, the FBI, and the intelligence and foreign policy establishment.

For the working class and progressive people, the two sides in this fight cannot be equated because Trump and the Republican Party are committed to anti-working class, ultra-right, racist, and militarist policies that threaten living standards, world peace, and all democratic rights. The effort of the Democrats to take Trump down and thereby weaken the right-wing section of corporate power must be supported. Support for the Democrats as a whole in their resistance to Trump or support for labor and progressive forces who use the Democratic Party as a vehicle to push a progressive agenda does not mean however that there is not a need for Communists and socialists to make their independent position known. The need for their independent organization and their revolutionary outlook is as great now as it has always been.

Former FBI Director James Comey, fired by Trump, tweeted this week that Trump and his backers are likely to go down in history the way of the late Sen. Joe McCarthy. “There are no streets and monuments named after McCarthy,” he said.

It must be remembered, however that throughout the Cold War the FBI, and along with it many Democrats, were willing and active accomplices in the anti-Communist hysteria, the repression of progressive movements, the wars against the people of Korea and Vietnam, the multiple CIA actions to overthrow progressive or even independent governments, and the preparations for nuclear war against the Soviet Union. The capitalist class, as is to be expected, is willing to use both of the two major political parties to achieve its aims and will work through whichever party gives it the better opportunity to preserve the system at a given time in history.

It should be patently obvious to all progressives as well that the FBI and the foreign policy establishment are anything but reliable defenders of democracy. For much of their history, they have served as agencies to suppress and disrupt progressive movements for labor, civil rights, peace, and social progress in the United States and around the world. They can’t be relied upon to save democracy and defend the rights of working people.

So what is to be done? The power of the left and all progressive forces lies in their ability to mobilize the grassroots. In fact, it is the massive, but, as yet, spontaneous mobilization of the people ever since Trump was elected that has given the Democrats the spine to resist the right-wing danger and laid the basis for the current crisis in the government. So this must continue in terms of mass lobbying, demonstrations, and “street heat,” but also, especially, in terms of the effort to defeat the right in the November 2018 elections.

At the same time, it is essential to show the masses of people how this crisis exposes the blatant and fundamental flaws in the capitalist system, prepare them for the struggle to end it and establish a real democracy, one run not by the exploiters, but by the exploited. In other words, working class power—socialism.

This is what Lenin and the Russian Communists did in 1917, another time of sharp division in the ruling class. The split in Russia pitted those fighting to hold onto the tsarist dictatorship against the liberal bourgeois forces trying to establish capitalist democracy. Lenin and the Communists actively supported the overthrow of the Tsar, but warned correctly that the liberals could not be trusted to carry through the people’s demands for “peace, land, and bread” and insisted that these reforms could only be secured by a revolutionary working-class government. In fact, the liberal “provisional government” that took over in February 1917 continued the Tsar’s policies causing the people to move sharply to the left. When the socialist revolution came in November, the liberals all defected to the counter-revolutionaries and foreign interventionists in the Russian Civil War.

In today’s situation, a government led by Democrats would certainly be preferable to the Trump-Republican regime, but no one should have illusions that it would fully meet the urgent demands of millions demonstrating throughout the country or end the exploitation and oppression of the working people.


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.