Special Note: This foundational political analysis posted by Reality Analysis Notes is lengthy for a web posting. Nevertheless it has been published as a single post for convenience and ease of access. Numbered citations are included in the References section at the end of this document.
The advent of the most rightwing and stridently authoritarian U.S. federal regime in the modern era represents a seismic shift of imperialist American capitalism into a new and ominously more decadent mode. Donald Trump and his House of Horrors – ranging from mega-wealthy crooks, crackpots, shysters, and other miscreants of the Wall Street and corporate “power elite”, to extremist-right whackadoodles, to “Alt-Right” fascists and bona fide Nazis – have unleashed a veritable reign of terror on American society.
But Trump’s hard-right escalation of the class war against working people and the left has not materialized from thin air. This “nightmare from the fringe” seems to represent the logical outcome of the liberal left’s timeworn policy of doggedly following a “vote for the lesser evil” political model. Rooted in the deterioration of America’s “free market”, private-profit system as it’s been presided over by both Democrats and Republicans, this disaster seems also to be the logical result of not only decades of capitalism’s degeneration but also betrayals by the bureaucrats leading the U.S. trade union movement and the leaderships of an array of “progressive” movements on the left.
Within a larger social-economic panorama, Trump’s “Horror House” regime is merely another phase of political degeneration in an historical era characterized by the agonies of a dying capitalist system. Especially since the beginning of the 20th century (i.e., for more than 100 years), this pattern has become unmistakable in a variety of phenomena, particularly:
• Ever more disruptive economic crises (such as the recent Great Recession), inherent in the market and profit-driven vagaries of capitalism;
• Deteriorating or unstable capitalist rates of profit, jeopardizing both private and governmental financial resources, provoking attacks on established public benefit programs, and fostering decay of industrial and national infrastructure facilities;
• Wars and other military conflicts arising from imperialist competition for spheres of influence , market opportunities, resources (e.g., oil and gas, minerals, lower-cost labor), and associated efforts to exploit and suppress weaker nations;
• Increasing domestic oppression and repressive measures by capitalist state authorities as they strive to regiment the U.S. population within the framework of what is evolving into a competitive garrison state;
• Authoritarianism, and in some cases, fascism, as capitalism’s need for more stringent and ruthless control over the working class (and mass of the population) intensifies.
Fundamental degradation of U.S. society
The change in America’s political and social climate has been breathtaking. In place of the usual camouflaged racism concealed behind codeword dog-whistles, Donald Trump’s signature racist bigotry has been brazenly unshrouded and strutted – as aggressive, blatant, unabashed racism, anti-immigrant xenophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism, among other variants. Racist attacks and murders – targeting Muslims, blacks, Jews, other ethnic groups – have suddenly multiplied across the country. And especially among much of the nation’s immigrant population, communities are suddenly gripped by fear. 
While mainstream politics in the typical “democratic” functioning of America’s capitalist society has routinely played fast and loose with facts and truth, under Trump all forms of chicanery and bald-faced lying have become no longer a glitch but a feature. Unapologetic deception is now routine: blatant lying; the bold, absurd concoction of “alternative facts”; the resurgence of the Big Lie; the glib, sneering cynicism of “Lie, Lie, Deny, Deny”. As parodied on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, even routine White House press briefings have become a kind of Theatre of the Absurd. 
Likewise, rampant, huge personal “conflicts of interest” – a “live wire” previously avoided or concealed in capitalist political tradition – are now arrogantly flaunted, dismissed, and ignored. Trump himself seems to be proceeding to coopt the U.S. presidency and the lucrative opportunities it provides into his own business empire. 
Another of Trump’s “signature” issues has been a strident, authoritarian hostility to freedom of the press and speech (at least, as regards his opponents). During his campaign, violent attacks on protesters by Trump supporters were incited by Trump’s enthusiastic encouragement, even promises to “pay” any legal expenses needed to defend perpetrators of such violence.  Possibly more prominent has been Trump’s bitter hostility to established news media and their representatives – including thinly failed suggestions that reporters should be “killed” and ominous threats to suppress news investigation and reporting. 
But these developments are merely the backdrop for Trump & Co.’s preeminent political agenda, which seems inspired by a kind of Happy Days nostalgia for a somewhat mythical America (with supposedly more homogeneity and less turbulence) that, in a post-World War 2 era, posed as a nuclear-armed colossus among other nations shattered from the war. Under this agenda, Trump’s goal to “Make America Great Again” seems dedicated to bolstering the profitability of U.S. capitalism (and the prosperity of its ruling strata) at home while asserting grandiose “America First” imperialist hegemony over Planet Earth. 
From this deranged mythology flows a vicious policy overhaul unleashing a hyper-energized, concerted, frenzied, savage assault on the security, living standards, and quality of life of the mass of the U.S. population. With such policies as deporting undocumented immigrants at record rates, conducting assassinations and murders (particularly via drone aricraft) at whim, coercing rollbacks to union wage and benefit agreements, and plotting cutbacks in crusial social benefit programs such as Social Security and Medicare, the previous Obama administration had laid the groundwork (and the precedence) for the scourge to come. Trump’s approach has merely torn away the “gentlemanly” veneer and “politically correct” constraints of the Obama liberals. 
Earliest in Trump’s target sights have been Muslims and undocumented immigrants, beginning with a sustained Gestapo-style terror assault spearheaded by (ongoing) attempts to “ban Muslims” from entering the U.S., plus a nationwide barrage of unusually ferocious, brutal raids, captures, detentions, and deportations (particularly targeting Latinos). Launched by Trump’s newly reinvigorated Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, these raids have been distinctive in their appalling cruelty and ruthlessness, with parents yanked from their families and friends and neighbors literally kidnapped off the street. 
Concomitantly, the Trump regime launched its aggressive new “extreme vetting” campaign by U.S. Border Patrol agents. Under this policy, travelers into the USA (including U.S. citizens) are suddenly subject to prolonged interrogations and are even coerced into surrendering passwords so agents can poke through their electronic devices and peruse their private online information. 
And of course, the iconic centerpiece of Trump’s brazenly xenophobic-racist bigotry is his signature plan for a massive “wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico. Estimated to cost between $22 and $67 billion for 1,250 miles of infrastructure, this absurd “wall” project will (it’s now become clear) be paid for not by some kind of extortion of Mexico, but instead by plundering the U.S. budget – slashing essential public services and “safety net” programs in the bargain. 
While Trump’s initial actions have caused an uproar, triggering angry protests, and sparking a flurry of litigation, it’s now evident that they have been just the frontal assault of a more diabolical and comprehensive gameplan of class warfare. Together with the extremist-right lunatic fringe that is now the “mainstream” GOP (Republican Party), the Trump regime has launched a massive, frenzied political Blitzkrieg to advance an agenda that includes: Robber Baron-style ultra-exploitation of the working class; Ayn Randian hostility to even the meager legacy of federally sponsored public services and societal benefits; a psychotically authoritarian emphasis on bulking up the apparatus and resources of state repression; and a provocative military buildup to implement Trump’s bellicose signature America First military vision.
Clearly, this Trump/GOP Blitzkrieg aims to decisively smash the USA’s basic federal infrastructure of essential services and social-economic support policies and programs (even as meager as they already are). From earned-benefit services like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance, to so-called “safety-net” and supplemental programs like family nutrition, Medicaid, childhood education, and affordable housing, Trump & Co. want to destroy it all. Healthcare, public education, housing, childcare, women’s abortion rights, environmental protection, Amtrak and urban mass transit, public health, scientific and medical research, arts and public broadcasting – they’re all slated for the wrecking ball.
Concomitantly, and in glaring contrast to all the draconian budget cuts, Trump’s budget reflects his authoritarian, militaristic, fearmongering blueprint to more precipitously mold the USA into a frightened, regimented garrison state (tightly managed by a more strengthened ruling class). The Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs are all proposed to receive comfortable increases. And of course, also on Trump’s agenda are hefty taxcuts for the ultra-rich.
Bottom Line: A prevailing faction of the nation’s dominant class of powerful wealthy masters (assisted in this case by peculiarities of the political structure of American capitalism) have decided to hand the keys of the federal government to a dangerous, deranged sociopath. This has unleashed, empowered, and energized forces of reaction to a degree that will likely have fundamental longterm consequences for the U.S. political landscape.
How has this happened?
Trump’s ascendancy to power indeed appears to represent a decisive and particularly sinister change in the character of American capitalism – what this analysis above called a “seismic shift”. The onset of this unprecedented political miasma cannot be blithely ascribed merely to the impact of purported “Russian interference” in the 2016 election (i.e., the Wikileaks release of internal Democratic Party Email traffic), nor to then-FBI director James Comey’s “October Surprise” effort to resurrect the brouhaha over security issues with Hillary Clinton’s own Email.
Instead, Trump’s victory in winning formerly liberal workingclass voters in key electoral-vote states – a startling political swindle by this certified deceitful, reactionary, authoritarian mega-billionaire mogul of the capitalist elite – raises far more troublesome, deeply rooted issues. In particular, it glaringly exposes the role of Democratic Party liberalism – and its leftist camp followers – in facilitating this disaster. But – more importantly – it underscores the bankruptcy of the country’s pro-capitalist labor union leadership (and likewise the leaderships of an array of other movements on the left). The result of all such misleadership has been to hitch working people and leftist movement activists to the Democrats, which itself is the other major party of U.S. capitalism, basically representing the more “liberal” wing of America’s ruling capitalist class.
In contrast to far-right and “conservative” parties of capitalism’s dominant elite, liberalism seeks to buttress the capitalist system (and retard its ongoing deterioration) by trying to smooth its rough edges of exploitation, public hardship, and imperialism. For this, its major tools consist of sympatico rhetoric (abundantly applied) and a constantly mutating variety of reformist measures, from regulations to public services to popular benefit programs and subsidies. These are designed to mitigate the effects of systemic crises and alleviate the desperation of the masses of the population.
Relatively small in comparison to the vast resources of the system, these measures (mainly via taxes on capitalist profits) basically amount to “droppings” from the “table” of the fabulously wealthy and powerful capitalist elite. Nevertheless, these piecemeal transfers of resources do significantly contribute to the otherwise sputtering profitability of capitalism, the funding of essential infrastructure services and facilities, and a relatively meager, tenuous trickle of public benefit programs begrudgingly dolloped to the masses.
But, as Trump and his House of Horrors are now demonstrating, nothing about this dribbling “transfer of resources” is certain or secure. When a prevailing segment of the capitalist power structure decide they’re sick and tired of their precious profits being taxed to support government programs (other than law enforcement and the military) and to provide subsidies for those the elite regard as “moochers” (i.e., most of the other 99.99% of the population), all those liberal reforms – the entire intricate infrastructure – can end up on the chopping block …
… Or in the wrecking yard, in this case. That seems a more fitting image of what Trump and his demolition crew have in mind.
Meanwhile, as liberalism’s infrastructure of pitifully modest “welfare state” measures heads for the shredder, less than a third of the way into just the first year of this presidential term, Trump has not only launched a reign of terror domestically, but seems to be salivating for a national war mobilization – bombing a Syrian government airfield, turning confrontational against Russia, dripping sinister hints of targeting North Korea for nuclear attack, boasting about helping to unleash an internecine conflict among Arab states.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan seems to underscore his vision for shifting American imperialism into an even more brazenly expansionist and aggressive mode. Of all Trump’s reactionary policies, war and militarism appears to have the greatest success in attracting support from both factions – liberal as well as rightwing – of U.S. capitalism’s ruling class.
However – to emphasize once again – the Trump scourge has not emerged from a vacuum, or from some mysterious alien dimension. On the contrary, it’s been fertilized by conditions inherent in capitalism itself – intensifying exploitation, falling real incomes vs. higher prices, economic decay, deterioration of public services and benefits, industrial decline, job losses and downgrades, spreading racism and bigotry, and obscene widening of income inequality … much of this exhibiting a rising ferocity of class warfare waged by the “masters” of American capitalism against the working class and impacting wide swaths of the other 99.99% of the population. And all overseen, decade after decade, by both Democrats and Republicans – the two major major parties of U.S. capitalism. Although they’re different wings of the bourgeoisie (capitalist class), they’re equally committed to forcing working people to pay for the mayhem caused by the capitalist system.
Within this hostile context of not just the inherent depredations of capitalism but also the increasingly aggressive class war waged by the ruling elite, the working class is by far the key contender. Consciously or not, the working class has the greatest motivation to resist exploitation. Their position brings workers into constant conflict with the compulsive drive of capitalist production – the drive to accumulate more and more capital, and to generate more and more profit. This inherent conflict is the source of class struggle — the irreconcilable class conflict between the capitalist class and the working class (proletariat). 
Only the working class has the power to shut down production and the routine operation of capitalism’s basic institutions, and bring the whole capitalist system to a grinding halt. It’s the working class that uniquely has both the social power and the collective interest to challenge the capitalist class for control of society – and to spearhead a revolution to replace capitalism by reorganizing society on a socialist basis.
Yet, despite these instinctual workingclass motivations, a compelling case can also be made that American working people desperately have lacked something crucial to protect their interests: a fighting, anti-capitalist, class-struggle-savvy leadership that could rally an effective resistance against an increasingly savage onslaught … and ultimately advance forward toward revolutionary social-economic transformation.
Unfortunately – as the evidence seems to prove clearly – in the absence of that kind of leadership, the masses of the American public were set up to get clobbered. Labor union members, the working class generally, and virtually every other mass segment of the U.S. population have been sitting ducks for the steadily escalating onslaught against them. And the Trump government with its reign of terror is now the latest consequence.
There’s been nothing “inevitable” about any of this. It’s not a problem of just lacking effective leadership. It’s been a problem of having disastrously terrible leadership – misleadership – for decades. The evidence seems overwhelming that the path to Trump’s “wrecking yard” has been prepared by the role of the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy, and the leaderships of an array of other organizations on the left, in fostering allegiance to the capitalism system, capitalist politics, and the capitalists’ Democratic Party.
The dismal record of the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy – demonstrated by the performance of the labor movement, especially in recent decades – makes such a conclusion unavoidable.
► Plunge in militant labor action — The steep decline in strikes and similarly powerful solidarity weapons by unionized workers has certainly not gone unnoticed in the recent era. “The strike has almost disappeared from American life” bluntly stated a 2012 CNN report, brashly titled «America would be better off with more strikes». “Looking back over the last 67 years,” wrote the online labor site Northwest Labor Press in 2015, reviewing strike data back to 1947, “this data set tells a story – of the near total disappearance of the strike.” “American labor-union strikes are almost completely extinct” headlined the Qz.com website in a 2015 article on the decline of union power..
There’s an array of factors all involved in this decline in the use of the labor movement’s most powerful classwar weapon. Certainly, not least of these has been the imposition of legislative restraints on unions’ ability to strike and expand strike action, such as the Wagner National Labor Relations Act (1935), the Taft-Hartley Act (1947), and the Landrum-Griffin Act (1959) … all sponsored or backed by liberal Democrats. But based on extensive evidence – particularly from a devastated battlefield of defeated and aborted strikes – the consistent and preeminent reason for the labor movement’s retreat should be clear: The capitalists’ class war has been met, not with a fighting defense, but by craven bureaucratic surrenders, concessions, treachery, “gentlemanly” givebacks, and concern by pro-capitalist labor leaders to maintain business profits. 
Strikes and other powerful, effective work actions have been avoided at almost all cost in favor of reliance on U.S. capitalism’s legal system and courts – inherently business-friendly – as well as putative “friends of labor” among capitalist politicians. In several instances, huge mass anger among union members and supporters has been diverted into relatively harmless, brief protest demonstrations (or “one-day strikes”) that have achieved nothing except to dissipate momentum.
► Acquiescence on racism — The special oppression of the USA’s black population – an oppressed race-color caste – originated in early U.S. slavery and continues to be deeply entrenched in the economic, social, and political bedrock of American capitalism. Throughout the nation’s history, black workers have been leading forces of the working class and a particularly militant and class-conscious component of the organized labor movement. 
Thus there is a direct and inseparable connection between the struggles for the rights of working people as a whole and of the specially oppressed black population. For the top echelons of U.S. capitalism, racism has long been recognized as an invaluable weapon in dividing the working class and weakening their struggles against the capitalist elite. 
In the past – especially with radical-left leadership – trade-union forces have stood at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights and black liberation. They’ve also championed rights of Latinos and other oppressed ethnic/racial groups in opposition to discrimination, poverty, and state-sponsored terror. But in the more recent era, the reluctance and outright refusal of the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy to fight for black rights is quite likely the single most important factor in crippling class struggle against the USA’s racist ruling elite. On the whole, for example, the bureaucracies of the USA’s major unions have largely sat on their hands and done little to nothing in the face of major issues such as racist police violence and assaults on black and Latino voting rights.
The U.S. South today is still largely unorganized because the misleaders of organized labor have engaged in a policy of class collaboration (i.e., loyalty to the capitalists’ “sacred” private property system). This disastrous capitulation has also disoriented segments of the white working class, opening their vulnerability to the poisonous racism and bigotry of Donald Trump and other extremist-right elements of the class enemy.
► Breeding “America First” xenophobia — Chauvinistic-patriotic posturing, targeting other countries, foreign workers, and workers of other nationalities, is intrinsic to the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats’ role as the loyal labor administrators of the capitalist elite. This has included mobilizing protests against imports, flag-waving chauvinism against foreign-owned companies, calls for boycotts, and appeals to capitalist politicians for redress.
The trademark of these “labor lieutenants of capital,” who in the USA function routinely as a constituent part of the Democratic Party, is to enforce a sacred alliance of company management (and the U.S. ruling strata generally) together with segments of the working class against foreign companies and trade competition, seen as “the enemy”. This poisonous “cooperation” of workers with their actual class enemy is implemented through protectionism and its ultimate extension, workingclass support for the military escapades of America’s imperialist rulers.
Moreover, as radical-left writer Lenny Flank explains in a 2010 Daily Kos blog post focused on “The Labor Movement’s Failed Strategies”, “There are many reasons why ‘Buy American’ campaigns that appeal to patriotic nationalism have failed every time they have been attempted.” For one thing, Flank points out, “All of the large corporations are now global” – not only do they have factories and outlets in multiple countries, but even products “manufactured” in the USA typically have components fabricated in an assortment of other nations. 
But Flank is most on point when he zeroes in on how this patriotic chauvinism in effect is suckering U.S. workers:
There is simply no way to force business owners to continue to pay workers in America higher wages when they can easily move the entire plant somewhere else and make lots more money – and any attempt to entice the boss to voluntarily keep his factory in places where wages are higher, out of pure benevolent patriotism, is the height of idiocy.
And yet that is precisely the strategy that most labor unions practice, because they have fallen into the trap of believing that the employers and employees are partners with similar interests, and that one of the goals of the corporation is to give us all good-paying jobs. It’s not. The corporations aren’t in business to give us jobs. They’re in business to make as much money as possible – for themselves, not for us.
It’s also important to realize that this “America First” protectionism pours corrosive acid into international solidarity with foreign workers, making them scapegoats for the loss of jobs in the U.S. At the same time, such chauvinism sacrifices the class interests of U.S. workers to those of the union-busting, job-slashing American bosses, obscuring the fact that it’s the capitalist ruling class and their profit system that are responsible for the hardships and deteriorating working and living conditions being experienced by the working class.
► Muddled class consciousness — For working people, elementary class consciousness includes a basic understanding of their position as members of the working class and their relationship to the structure and operation of the capitalist system, as well as a sense of solidarity with other workers and the working class as a whole to defend and advance their interests within the context of class struggle against the dominant capitalist class in a contest over who should run society.
For most of the U.S. working class, the actions of the pro-capitalist liberal left and “America First” union bureaucracies have had the effect of blowing class consciousness to pieces. By and large, in today’s liberal/labor ideology, the concept of class struggle, and a working class defending itself in a vicious class war, is blurred and scrambled into oblivion. Instead, a liberalistic worldview deploys chauvinistic-patriotic posturing as well as outright xenophobia against foreign nations and working people abroad, inculcating and sanctioning bigotry and even racism – thus misdirecting the outlook of working people, and heightening their vulnerability to the predations of company bosses and the USA’s dominant elite. 
This misdirection includes the confused and inherently treacherous embrace of police organizations by the U.S. trade union bureaucracy. The role of the police was succinctly summarized in an anarcho-syndicalist commentary posted by an avowed member of the International Workers of the World in 2015 on the Twin Cities General Defense Committee website:
The police are the agents of the state and the bosses, who will preserve capitalism and all its oppressions at any cost. They are, therefore, our enemies, just as the bosses themselves are.
After workplace discipline, and the fear of unemployment, the police are the next tool in the bosses’ toolbox. They are also a deeply violent tool, as we know all too well.
The police are not on the side of any movement seeking to disturb the status quo. It is precisely their job – what they are paid for – to maintain the status quo.
“To organize our enemies is to oppose our goals themselves …” concluded the commentary.
A similar perspective was expressed by writer Tre Kwon in a 2016 Leftvoice.org article:
While labor unions in general play a formally reform-driven function, police unions and organizations of armed forces of the state carry a special function. If the role of the police is the everyday surveillance of the working class and oppressed to ensure conditions of capitalist accumulation, private property and the ruling order, then the role of the police union is to protect them as they carry out this assignment.
In this sense, “unions” of cops, security guards, prison guards and similar agents of repression for capitalists and their state fall into a similar category as organizations of factory managers or company owners. Definitely on the opposite side in the class war from the working class, these dangerously hostile and aggressive organizations should certainly not be considered “unions” or included as members of the labor movement.
► Plunge in trade-union membership — Diminishing class-consciousness and demoralization from union struggle defeats and leadership betrayals have made U.S. workers vulnerable to capitalists’ powerful anti-union propaganda campaigns. Added to this, legal and legislative constraints imposed by Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike have hobbled union recruitment. But the decline in militant action, leading to serious classwar losses (in wages, benefits, working conditions) has probably accounted for much disillusionment among many workers who’d otherwise welcome the opportunity to join a fighting union. This top-level refusal to mobilize labor’s power – including for the crucial battle to organize the approximately 90% of working people that are not union members – has almost surely been a key factor in the decline in union ranks.
As a result, membership in U.S. trade unions has been inexorably declining over approximnately the past six decades. By 2010, membership had plunged to about a third of its peak in the 1950s. Between 1983 and 2016 total union membership (as a percentage of all wage and salary workers) dropped from 20.1% to 10.7%. In other words, the ranks of trade unions have declined by just about half in that period. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.)
► Stagnating and declining wage levels — As class consciousness has deteriorated, and unions have degenerated from agencies of millitant solidarity to associations appealing to courts and politicians, union influence and membership have weakened perceptibly. The result has been a painful creeping disaster:
On average, inflation-adjusted pay rates for U.S. working people have stagnated or declined. After peaking over 40 years ago, the real U.S. average wage rate slid downward the 1980s and early 1990s, leveling into a shaky up-and-down holding pattern intp the 2000s. According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, “The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same purchasing power as $22.41 would today.”
Also, the problem of stagnant hourly wages has not been confined simply to working people with insufficient skills or education. As data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) underscores, “a four-year college degree has been no guarantee of decent wage growth.” For both males and females, inflation-adjusted hourly wages of young college graduates were lower in 2013 than in the late 1990s. “Thus, wage stagnation and erosion afflict even the one-third of workers who have earned a four-year college degree.”
► Vanishing benefits, worsening working conditions — While working people’s payrates have been trimmed and slashed, their benefits have also been pared and shredded, and working conditions made more onerous, to cut employers’ costs and boost profit margins.
• Healthcare benefits. According to a May 2017 report in the journal Health Affairs, “Employment-based coverage reached its peak sometime in the 1980s and has been declining since then.” The report cites data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) indicating that such health insurance coverage of workers in the 18–64 age bracket “fell 2.8 percentage points between 1987 and 1999.” The journal also cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing a drop in healthcare coverage for “full-time workers in the private sector” amounting to “fifteen percentage points from 1989–90 to 2003.” Basically, says the report, “Regardless of data source, it appears that the best days of employment-based insurance are in the past.”
For young workers in particular, both college and high school graduates, employers have been cutting healthcare benefits even more drastically. According to the previously cited “Wage Stagnation” report from the EPI, whereas in 1989 23.5% of highschool-graduate employees and 60.7% of college-graduate employees received employer-provided health insurance, by 2012, those rates had plunged to 6.6% and 30.9% respectively.
• Pension benefits. Retirement pensions have also been dwindling and in many cases disappearing entirely. Defined-benefit pensions have virtually become extinct, in favor of far-riskier 401(k) plans.
According to data reported online in a Wall Street Journal blog column, as of 1998 sixty percent of Fortune 500 companies were offering defined-benefit pensions to newly hired workers. By the end of 2013, that proportion had dropped to 24%.
Similarly, U.S. News & World Report reported that as of 2012 there were “just 30 companies currently in the Fortune 100 that continue to offer a traditional (11 firms) or hybrid (19 firms) pension plan to new employees.” The liberal website Thinkprogress.org relates that “The number of workers who receive pensions from their employers has declined precipitously over the last three decades. 84,350 pension retirement plans have been eliminated since 1985 ….”
• Work schedules. As trade-union power and influence have diminshed – and protection of working conditions along with them – employers increasingly have sensed they have a carte blanche to abuse constraints on overtime and impose other onerous conditions on employee work regimens. These include dispensing with regular, predictable working schedules and expecting employee subservience to fulfill constantly shifting, irregular hours.
According to an EPI report titled Irregular Work Scheduling and Its Consequences, “…there are about 17 percent of the workforce with unstable work shift schedules.” And, adds The Atlantic magazine in an article titled «The Very Real Hardship of Unpredictable Work Schedules», that seventeen percent “tend to be those who can afford instability the least.” According to the article, many companies have adopted “on-call scheduling”, a practice that “can make workers responsible for showing up at a moment’s notice, or leave them without a shift just as quickly.”
Employees can wind up spending time, and money, commuting to their job, only to be told to leave early, or that they’re not needed at all that day. A sudden call to work can mean scrambling for child care, or turning down much-needed hours. And a constantly shifting schedule can lead to uneven earnings, with income spiking in some months and plummeting in others, making it incredibly difficult to budget. For students using part-time jobs to make ends meet, schedule changes can mean making a choice between attending class and earning enough money to pay tuition. For workers with kids, it can mean a constant struggle to find and afford child care. The problem is bigger than mere inconvenience.
Erratic schedules “penalize” workers, says a report posted on the ScholarsStrategyNetwork.org website, which elaborates that “Unpredictable schedules are becoming the new normal for many U.S. employees – ranging from low-wage nursing assistants to well-paid physicians.”
For employers using disturbing new tactics, “flexibility” means that employees – especially low-wage workers – must come in whenever the boss wants and can be sent home whenever demand is slack.
About a third of young adults do not know their schedule more than a week in advance. But similar problems are faced by workers of all ages.
• Paid time off from work. Paid leave time for sickness and vacations has been another of the strongest gains won by union-organized working people in the class struggle … and now, as a result of concessions by labor bureaucrats and dwindling union militancy, these important benefits are also on the chopping block.
Nowadays, about 39% of U.S. private company employees have no paid sick days, and lack the option of staying home. Most work in the service industry or in various low-wage jobs. “Even if they wanted to take time off when they or their child had the flu, they would lose that pay or potentially their job …” says one report. 
As for vacation leave, while more than three-quarters of American employees are eligible, the proportion has been diminishing, dropping by 15 percentage points between 1992 and 2013. But even if they qualify for leave, many workers may be reluctant to take it, out of fear of accumulating workload in their absense, or being viewed as expendable. According to one study in 2013, just a quarter of employees with paid time off took all of their vacation time, and “the majority of those who did admitted to doing some work while on vacation.” Another study, for 2014, found that 42 percent of American employees did not take a single vacation day that year. 
► Anti-trade-union legislation — The serious weakening of trade-union militancy, membership, and influence over many decades – plus, undoubtedly, the lack of a militant, independent workingclass-based mass political party – has opened wide vulnerabilities to assaults on the conditions and rights of working people. According to a 2013 EPI study, the main thrust was launched in the 2011-2012 period, as “state legislatures undertook numerous efforts to undermine wages and labor standards:”
Ironically, the anti-union siege was particularly strong in such former state labor bastions as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. As described in the EPI report, “state legislators across the country have launched an unprecedented series of initiatives aimed at lowering labor standards, weakening unions, and eroding workplace protections for both union and non-union workers.”
The scale of this attack has been massive, according to EPI:
Four states passed laws restricting the minimum wage, four lifted restrictions on child labor, and 16 imposed new limits on benefits for the unemployed.
States also passed laws stripping workers of overtime rights, repealing or restricting rights to sick leave, undermining workplace safety protections, and making it harder to sue one’s employer for race or sex discrimination.
Legislation has been pursued making it harder for employees to recover unpaid wages (i.e., wage theft) and banning local cities and counties from establishing minimum wages or rights to sick leave.
Taking advantage of gerrymandering and other gimmicks available in America’s capitalist political structure, the GOP far-right succeeded in capturing state government control in state after state across the USA. Union-achieved rights of collective bargaining and union-shop rules became central targets.
In a devastating blow to organized labor, in early 2011 Wisconsin’s Tea Party-backed governor, Scott Walker, led the state’s GOP-controlled legislature to largely eliminate collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s 175,000 public employees. As described by EPI, this sparked a veritable tidal wave of harsh anti-labor legislation nationwide:
Fifteen states passed laws restricting public employees’ collective bargaining rights or ability to collect “fair share” dues through payroll deductions. …
Nineteen states introduced “right-to-work” bills, and “right-to-work” laws affecting private-sector collective bargaining agreements were enacted in Michigan and Indiana.
Increased workinglcass distress and vulnerability
With the withering of union protection, and having no mass workingclass party of their own to fight for them, working people have been made clay pigeons, even more vulnerable to both the devastating mayhem of the capitalist system itself as well as the greed-driven ferocity of the capitalists’ class war. So-called “middle class” industrial and office workforce jobs (with income levels able to sustain a modestly “comfortable” quality of life) have been largely heading toward extinction over approximately the last four decades.
As decades of “bipartisan” leadership in Washington by both major capitalist parties ensured political policies to maintain the hegemony and profitability of America’s capitalist-imperialist ruling elite, an economic upheaval, like a series of EF-5 tornados, gradually spread through the USA, destroying great swaths of industrial infrastructure and millions of solid, secure jobs as well. This upheaval – catastrophic to the U.S. workforce, but beneficial to capitalist profitability – was energized by a noxious confluence of factors:
• Desperate efforts by business management to compensate for continually eroding rates of profit
• Cyclical downturns and other “organic” economic crises of capitalism (particularly the Great Recession, beginning in 2007)
• Accelerating deployment of automated production and information processing technology
• Relocation of production facilities to lower-wage regions (e.g. U.S. Bible Belt, Mexico, Philippines, Bangladesh, China, India, Eastern Europe)
• Calculated “restructuring” and “downsizing”, particularly deploying “alternative work” employee methods
• Capitalists’ perceptions of the irresoluteness and pliancy of the American labor leadership, and current overall political vulnerability of the working class, with no class party of their own.
The results – which together with other ingrediients have produced the toxic soup that has nurtured the empowerment of Trump and his GOP House of Horrors – have been appalling. Between 1996 and 2016, in just six states alone – Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – manufacturing employment plunged 30 percent, wiping out 1.4 million manufacturing jobs. 
These states comprise much of the core of the Rust Belt – that vast swath of the Northeast and Midwest that has declined from being the USA’s heavy industrial powerhouse (and the base of higher-paying unionized employment) into a sprawling wasteland of abandoned industrial ruins and artifacts, from railroads to factories, plants, steel mills, textile mills, and other large industrial facilities. It’s the bitter fruit, over decades, of a significant segment of the U.S. corporate structure shifting chunks of production to ever-lower-wage opportunities – from the “Bible Belt” Southern states to Bangladesh.
“As foreign imports increased and manufacturing shifted to the American South,” says a 2014 report from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, “the Rust Belt’s share of manufacturing jobs and total jobs declined dramatically.” The report emphasizes that “vigorous competitive pressure in both product and labor markets is important for creating the incentives for firms to continuously innovate, create and grow …” and argues that “government policy should encourage such competition.” In other words, according to the report, wages in what is now the Rust Belt were too high for producers to remain “competitive” – a prevalent view within the capitalist power structure.
This myth of “greedy” unionized workers impairing the “competitive” position of American industry has consistently underpinned the policies of both Republican and Democratic administrations, and explains countless sellouts and strikebreaking efforts by liberal putative “friends of labor” to undermine union contracts and erode the industrial foothold of organized labor. Despite pious affirmations of the virtues of good “middleclass” wage levels, supposedly making possible the “American Dream”, the actual role of government policies at various levels has been to engineer a massive rollback of those very wage levels, thus making even bare survival difficult, if not impossible, for many.
A 2014 U.S. News & World Report article titled «The New American Dilemma» underscores the overall trend, highlighting an alarming downward shift underway from higher-wage industrial jobs to lower-wage, more marginal service-industry work:
High-wage industries have lost a million positions. Low-paying jobs are gaining and now account for 44 percent of all employment growth since the recovery started, with 3.8 million in food service showing the most growth by far. Higher-wage industries, which accounted for 41 percent of the jobs lost during the recession, have only recovered 30 percent of their jobs.
For many decades, particularly after World War 2, U.S. working people came to expect that, while there were ups and downs, if you had a job you could expect your pay to gradually improve. You expected your personal circumstances – your quality of life for yourself and your family – to get better over the years.
But now it’s like a switch has been thrown. A lever has been pulled into Reverse. The job-pay model seems to be going backwards.
As an autoworker, writing in Huffington Post, expressed it, “middle-class” manufacturing jobs are now paying at “fast-food” wage levels.
From 1976 to 2006, manufacturing workers earned more than the average U.S. worker. But by 2013, the median wage for manufacturing workers was 7.7 percent less than for the typical American worker.Nationally, one out of every four manufacturing workers makes $11.91 or less, and that doesn’t even count the growing number of temporary workers. It’s even worse for auto parts workers like myself who have seen real wages plunge 14 percent in the past decade.
According to the U.S. News “New American Dilemma” article cited above, by 2012 U.S. men working full time all year were earning less real income than in 1973. “So much for a rising tide lifting all boats” noted the article.
In an April Washington Post op-ed focused on “the real Rust Belt jobs problem”, researchers Josh Pacewicz and Stephanie Lee Mudge explain anther factor that has suppressed wage levels: competition among cities desperate to maintain some modicum of economic vitality and tax base, as heavy industrial infrastructure has departed from the scene, replaced by light industry and various “service” enterprises.
Since the corporate mergers and restructurings in the 1980s, most cities depend not on one or two large factories but on many small subsidiary operations — light manufacturing, food processing, professional service firms, call centers, hotels and retail. These smaller subsidiaries mostly move between struggling cities and towns rather than leaving for other countries.
But they offer few “good” unionized jobs. For instance, in the 1970s, the local meat packing plant hired thousands and paid $15 an hour. But the Tyson Foods or John Morrell plant that replaced it employs hundreds and may pay about $10.
According to authors’ research, the evaporation of heavy industry throughout the Rust Belt has dramatically destabilized the financial situation of both the mass of the population and urban economies – now immersed in a kind of “game” of Survivor run by large capitalist entities. Companies now conduct national “searches” – contests, in effect – playing cities and towns against one another, which now compete to offer ever more lucrative tax-supported rewards to the companies.
The fiscal benefits of this game are dubious, even for winners. Many corporations run national searches before investing in new locations, culling hundreds of cities to progressively shorter lists. Through rounds of interviews and site visits, promised incentives become astronomical.
In this cutthroat Survival of the Fittest competition,
… local leaders are forced to negotiate hard even for jobs offering little upward mobility — lest relocations result in a Detroit-like downward economic spiral. Economic development gets top billing.
The authors’ basic conclusion: “The Rust Belt’s real problem isn’t jobs fleeing the country; it’s jobs that do not pay well or offer the benefits they once did ….” They point fingers at “a lack of urban policies to prevent corporations from pitting cities against one another …” and argue
Only national policy solutions to these problems will help. Failing that, cities and towns will keep racing to the bottom, spending nonexistent funds to bring in uncertain, low-paying jobs that do not result in a healthy tax base.”
But far from policies to “help”, Democratic and Republican governments – protecting corporate profit-seeking interests – have provided the very policies that have facilitated this pitiful environment. It’s not hard to see why so many segments of this economically devastated Rust Belt working class became easy suckers for Trump’s “I’m not them” messaging.
Paralleling this downward shift in employment pay scales has been a possibly more deleterious transformation of the USA’s fundamental employment infrastructure: the expanding shift into “alternative work”. This is strongly substantiated by an array of data. 
According to an analysis posted on the Qz.com website,
… from 2005 to 2015, the proportion of Americans workers engaged in what they refer to as “alternative work” jumped from 10.7% to 15.8%. Alternative work is characterized by being temporary or unsteady—such as work as an independent contractor or through a temporary help agency.
Altogether, 94% of net job growth over the decade 2005-2015 occurred in the alternative work category.
Much of this “alternative work” market consists of part-time jobs. Scrutinizing official reports of job gains in 2014, the above-cited U.S. News “new American Dilemma” article pointed out that
The disproportionate number of the added jobs are part-time or low-paying or both. Part-time work accounted for more than 65 percent of positions added in the last year. Low-paying retailers, restaurants and bars have provided 61 percent of the nation’s job growth ….
And, reports another analysis from EPI, nearly 20% of workers are employed on a part-time basis.
This “alternative work” job environment – also increasingly being called “gig work” or the “sharing economy” – was the focus of an in-depth 2016 New York Times article, titled «With ‘Gigs’ Instead of Jobs, Workers Bear New Burdens», reporting that
… a key implication of new research that indicates the proportion of American workers who don’t have traditional jobs — who instead work as independent contractors, through temporary services or on-call — has soared in the last decade. They account for vastly more American workers than the likes of Uber alone.
As the Times went on to note,
Most remarkably, the number of Americans using these alternate work arrangements rose 9.4 million from 2005 to 2015. That was greater than the rise in overall employment, meaning there was a small net decline in the number of workers with conventional jobs.
“That,” said the article, ” in turn, raises still bigger questions about how employers have succeeded at shifting much the burden of providing social insurance onto workers, and what technological and economic forces are driving the shift.”
The cul-de-sac of American capitalism’s political system
After all these many decades of loyal service to the Democratic Party and voting for the “lesser evil” by the trade-union movement – and likewise by other left-leaning movements such as anti-racism, black liberation, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights – what has been gained? All these causes have suffered trenchant setbacks, and rights are under more intense attack than ever. The once-formidable power of the labor movement has been pulverized. The power, arrogance, and ruthless avarice of capitalism’s dominant elite have been strengthened. Lives and resources have been sacrificed – and carnage and destruction wreaked abroad – in imperialist wars and military actions that now seem unending. The gap in income and quality of life between the 0.01% and the mass of the U.S. population continues to widen. And now the “toxic soup” of misery, distress, and despair – described in the previous section – has provided a breeding environment for the era of the Trump Horror Show.
And, in response, now the Democratic establishment and their faithful courtesans, sycophants, and battalion of eternally-hopefuls in the leaderships of the labor movement and various liberal causes are exhorting working people and the American left to continue doing … more of the same. In this case, to support supposedly chastened Democrats now trying to “remake” their image and rebrand themselves as improved and more marketable “progressives”. 
In the midst of the capitalist power structure’s escalation of their class war against working people, the Elephant in the Room here is the debilitating absence of a bona fide, effective, class-rooted mass political force on the left – i.e., a revolutionary party of the working class. The need for an independent workingclass party should be more obvious than ever – particularly when today’s issues are viewed in a larger reality context.
Especially for multitudes of millennials and other young Americans, capitalism’s image in today’s American realities has come into disrepute. Indeed, somewhat amazingly, the notion of socialism (however fuzzy it may be) is no longer a fearful “dirty word”, but is regarded positively by an expanding segment of the U.S. population. 
So it’s within this context that the Democrats and their retinue of camp followers are pushing a purportedly “revitalized” capitalist Democratic Party. Included in this strategy are hijacking the (originally grassroots) “Resistance” movement, mounting an “Indivisible” organization to harass Republican lawmakers, and rallying support for newer, better-image challengers to GOP politicians in competition for political offices.
To understand all this, it’s crucial to comprehend clearly two key realities: First, the intrinsic purpose, program, structure, and control of the Democratic Party is capitalist. In contrast to the the GOP – the other major party of U.S. capitalism and imperialism – the Democrats are now dominated fundamentally by wealthy backers committed to the ideology of bolstering capitalism/imperialism, currently with liberal policies. And second, as massive evidence underscores, America’s entire political system and infrastructure are fundamentally undemocratic, contrived to thwart meaningful participation by the masses of people, and to facilitate the political needs of the wealthy ruling elite. It’s a “No Way Out” state structure and apparatus that must be obliterated, if the working class expects to prevail in this class war.
► Democratic Party — Liberal pundits, media writers, and leaders like to portray the Democrats as a blurry amalgam of assorted “constituencies” – organized labor, business interests, black rights, Latino rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and other “interest groups”, movements, and causes. But in reality, the Democrats are primarily organized and funded by the more liberal wing of Wall Street and the “power elite” of American capitalism, and beholden to maintaining the power of this ruling stratum, and the global hegemony of U.S. imperialism.
This particularly includes endeavoring to maintain the domination of global markets, resources such as oil and gas reserves, and militarily strategic positions. As political writer Paul Street has observed (in a book review of The Democrats: A Critical History by Lance Selfa), in global war after war and military escapade after escapade, “the Democrats have stood in the vanguard of U.S. militarism.”
Heavily bankrolled by “blue billionaires”, the Democratic Party has been described by former Richard Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips as “history’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party”. Street emphasizes that the Democrats have a “long history of serving the business and imperial establishments over and against the needs and aspirations of ordinary working people ….” The Economist magazine has quoted liberal economist Jeffrey Sachs, who laments: “On many days it seems that the only difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that Big Oil owns the Republicans while Wall Street owns the Democrats.” Even in the liberal Daily Kos website – a loyal workhorse for the Democrats – blogwriter DS Wright has acknowledged that “the Democratic Party is the Party of Wall Street.” Most centrally, as is crystal clear from its composition, activities, and track record, the Democratic Party is committed “heart and soul” to capitalism and the preservation, maintenance, and profitability of America’s capitalist system. 
While the GOP has been perceived as guardians of a more “conservative” (i.e., rightwing, and increasingly “hard right”, aka “fringe”) capitalist agenda, the Democrats tend to embrace a more liberal approach for preserving capitalist power and profits, as well as minimal support for some social issues favored by their constituent “camp followers”. As Street phrases the issue, “It is the Democrats’ job to police and define the leftmost parameters of acceptable political debate” – i.e., “acceptable” to the capitalist power structure.
At all costs, the Democrats are dedicated to ensuring the unity and coherence of the nation’s capitalist state. Even the most ardently liberal representatives of the Democratic Party have long emphasized a “big tent” strategy, welcoming a hodgepodge of more reactionary political activists into the party’s own right wing (exemplified well by the inclusion of Southern arch-segregationists and Ku Klux Klan leaders from FDR’s New Deal through LBJ’s Great Society era, and even beyond). Most recently, this has been illustrated by Bernie Sanders’ passionate effort to stump for an anti-abortionist Democrat, Heath Mello, for mayor of Omaha. Sanders’ effort was warmly backed by “Top Democratic leaders” who underscored “that their party welcomes people who are pro-life, despite the party being strongly defined by its support for abortion rights.” 
This instinctual compulsion to seek flag-waving unity behind American imperialism and “making America great” for business also explains why the leadership of the party has been so quick to “pledge allegiance” to the new Trump/GOP regime and has labored so assiduously to legitimize, enable, and normalize Trump’s agenda. This became clear in statements by outgoing President Obama and failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, made immediately after the November 2016 election. As reported by the British The Guardian paper in an article revealingly titled «Clinton and Obama lead calls for unity as US braces for Trump presidency»:
“That’s what the country needs – a sense of unity; a sense of inclusion; a respect for our institutions, our way of life, rule of law; and a respect for each other,” said Obama. “I hope that he maintains that spirit throughout this transition, and I certainly hope that’s how his presidency has a chance to begin.”
Clinton also called for a “peaceful transition of power” …. “We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought but I sill believe in America and if you do then we must accept this result,” she added in an emotional concession speech. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
Obama’s fervent desire to back “unity” to achieve Trump’s “success” was also clear in Obama’s statements the day after Trump’s electoral victory, reported in another article:
Conceding Hillary Clinton’s staggering defeat, President Barack Obama urged the nation Wednesday to join him in rooting for President-elect Donald Trump’s success. He said he was heartened by Trump’s election night call for unity and hoped it wouldn’t fade. Obama, in a post-election ritual meant to signal the peaceful transition of power, vowed to do all he could to ensure Trump would be well-positioned to run the country.
And other Democratic leaders have likewise offered Trump & Co. a hand of friendship and support. A Huffington Post report for example proclaimed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s assurance that “Democrats Could Work With Trump If He Ditches His Hard-Right Policies”.
Trump and other GOP extremists have made it clear that they would not be displeased if their liberal Democratic rivals were liquidated (i.e., assassinated or executed). Yet Democrats remain quite concilatory in the face of such de facto death threats. To understand why, it’s important to remember just how committed liberals – in this case, Democrats – are to the unity, stability, and profitability of capitalism. This also explains why Democrats are so willing to concede cutbacks and retreats on programs and issues crucial to the needs and well-being of the masses of the population (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, abortion rights) and to authorize and fund imperialist wars and military adventures (e.g., in recent decades, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria). 
The role of the Democrats and official labor bureaucracy in preparing the pathway for Trump’s victory – including the widespread disenchantment with both capitalist parties – was incisively and scathingly summarized in four paragraphs from an article in the revolutionary Marxist paper Workers Vanguard:
Sobbing Democratic Party liberals and the smug (though now temporarily chastened) bourgeois [capitalist] media, which overwhelmingly took up the banner “we’re with her,” are blaming Trump’s win on white workers and poor who don’t share what they call “our values.” To be sure, Trump cornered the market on white Christian fundamentalists as well as the former Confederate South and rural areas. But he also won a lot of the working-class vote in former manufacturing areas of the Midwest Rust Belt. Since many of these voters were part of the base that swept Obama to victory in the same states in both 2008 and 2012, it’s difficult to proclaim this was just a revolt of white racist “deplorables.” In fact, the Democrats and their lackeys in the union officialdom paved the way for Trump’s victory.
Upon coming to office following the 2008 financial meltdown, Obama, a consummate Wall Street Democrat, set to work saving the hides of the high-rolling bankers and hedge fund managers who authored the misery of so many. This time around, the Democrats countered Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” with boasts that “America is great.” Small wonder that this didn’t strike a chord among workers whose unions, jobs, wages and living conditions have been devastated.
Trump gained the support of many of these workers by promising to “save American jobs,” threatening trade war against China and further imperialist plunder of Mexico. Even if more overtly wrapped in racism against immigrants and foreign workers, this rhetoric simply echoed the protectionist poison peddled by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. The union tops have long subordinated workers’ interests to the profitability of U.S. capitalism and denounced foreign-owned companies and foreign-born workers, all the while presiding over the decimation of the unions.
Campaigning hard for Clinton, Obama told black people that anyone who didn’t get out and vote for her was betraying his legacy. While there was a sense of racial solidarity with the first black president, the truth is that during his administration conditions for black people continued to worsen: wages flatlined and the median wealth of black families crashed while cops continued to wantonly gun down their sons, fathers, mothers and sisters. In the end, many black people simply sat out these elections.
But why are American voters’ political party choices limited just to Democrats or Republicans? The reason has a lot to do with the USA’s peculiarly undemocratic governmental infrastructure.
► U.S.political system and infrastructure — The state apparatus of any capitalist country is primarily fashioned to buttress and facilitate capitalist class authority and rule. Basically, via a facade of periodic capitalist “democratic” elections, the wealthy elite ruling class allow the masses of the population to have a role in selecting which assortment of administrators will be the public overlords and run the state on behalf of the elite.
But the USA’s version is particularly undemocratic and ridiculously skewed to promote plutocracy. Of course, to fully grasp this situation, it’s important to realize the extent to which societal functioning is dominated by capitalist “goodthink” (i.e., inculcation of a favorable mindset about capitalism and capitalist institutions and practices in the media, education system, religious institutions, social organizations, and other mechanisms throughout society).
With that as a backdrop, there is then the role of the influential power of wealth under the control of the 0.01%. Through this plutocratic power, the wealthy elite are able to mold and skew “public opinion” and attitudes; inculcate biases, bigotry, and racism; organize and fund political activities, organizations, and campaigns; typically play a decisive role in electoral campaigns; and wield immense influence over governmental legislation and policies.
And, in the USA, this example of “democracy for the rich” occurs within a political system incorporating inherent structural features favorable to plutocratic domination. First, there’s the “imperial presidency”, the strong powers accorded to the president by the U.S. constitution, including the power of “commander-in-chief” of the armed forces (now increasingly morphing into “commander-in-chief” of the nation, and its population, as a whole). Among other advantages, this facilitates a rapid deployment of national military resources and actions to help bolster imperialist hegemony abroad. It also provides a means for capitalist factions to obtain relatively rapid access to a single political leader who can exercise significant discretionary power to render outcomes desired by saliently influential segments of the elite.
Then there is the USA’s Electoral College system for electing the president and vice-president – a direct rebuke to democracy and originally a concession to slaveowners. As the 2016 election illustrated, the Electoral College system enables a candidate to be elected with a minority of votes – one of the most egregious violations of the supposedly “sacred principle” of “one person – one vote“ of any nation on Earth. 
But another little-recognized effect of the U.S. winner-take-all Electoral College system is that it has closed the door on a multi-party political system. In other words, except as a “spoiler” in presidential elections (i.e., siphoning a trickle of votes from one or both of the other two big parties), a third party can never succeed. This was concisely explained by a 2016 article in the New York City-based Observer.com website: 
Perhaps the biggest reason why third parties don’t do better, at least at the presidential level, is the fact that our system, as designed by the founders, doesn’t really accommodate anything but a binary choice.
To win the Electoral College, the article explains, requires a clear majority; otherwise the election can get complicated “So there has been a tendency, over the years, for voters ultimately to come home to either the Democrats or the Republicans as the election draws near.”
Even outside of presidential elections, this hurdle impedes the development of viable third parties. This has fostered state-level policies that have in effect institutionalized the Republican-vs-Democrat two-party system. As the Observer.com article explains,
Certainly another key reason that third parties and independents typically don’t do well is that the smaller parties and independents operate at a disadvantage. They often do not have the kind of automatic ballot access in states that the two major parties have, and they certainly do not have the kind of fundraising and organizational abilities that the major parties have. Smaller parties end up putting most of their meager resources into running presidential candidates, usually for a return on investment of less than 1 percent of the national vote, rather than building at the lower levels and fielding candidates for state and local offices.
Added to this infrastructural Chinese puzzle is another Gotcha of U.S. capitalism’s state-level political mechanics: the skewed mechanism for electing federal senators and representatives (with similar problems for state-level offices). U.S. senators, as is widely known, are apportioned the same (two per state) for the tiniest state (in terms of population) as well as the largest – another rebuke to “one person – one vote”.
The system for electing U.S. representatives has its own problems. For starters, with each representative supposedly representing on average more than 700,000 constituents, it’s a setup for corrupt, special access by an elite of influential, especially affluent, wheeler-dealers. But by far the most serious problem today is gerrymandering. As explained by the OpenDemocracy.net website, 
To gerrymander is to manipulate the boundaries of an election district so as to advantage one party. The American system is perfect for this trickery …. Gerrymandering is to cheat on democracy and to undermine the principle of one-person-one vote. In a district that has been manipulated, the election is reduced to a mere ritual to verify the pre-determined result.
Because of gerrymandering under GOP auspices (whereby districts are skewed to favor more conservative suburban and rural voters and to disfavor more left-leaning populations), in recent elections a number of states have experienced an aggregate majority of votes being won by Democratic candidates, but a majority of Republican candidates being elected (another instance of “one-person-one-vote” getting crushed). In summary, the electoral mechanisms of America’s political infrastructure now seem configured to favor the will of a minority of more conservative voters.
It’s important to recall that, in the past, Democrats have also deployed gerrymandering to their own advantage. It appears reasonable to conclude that whichever of the two major capitalist parties prevails through such a convoluted, corrupted, Byzantine political system, where Big Money invariably dominates, the winners inevitably will be the capitalist class. Think of it as a political cul-de-sac for capitalist rule.
And in this squalid mix must also be included today’s increasing policies to truncate and hobble the voting rights of blacks and Latinos. Thus further corrupting an already thoroughly corrupt system.
For workers disgusted with their trade union leadership’s close association with the Democrats, and for left-leaning “independents” and activists for various causes on the left, it must seems like there’s “No Way Out” . The image comes to mind of an M.C. Escher rendering of monks or reptiles trudging in an eternal, endless holding pattern.
The good news is: There is a “way out”. But the bad news is that it definitely won’t be easy. Reality suggests it will take hard effort, difficult struggle, and a “special ingredient”. The “special ingredient” is a revival of workingclass consciousness and class solidarity on a very wide scale.
The urgent need for a mass revolutionary workingclass party
More than ever before, it should now be overwhelmingly clear that working people in the USA need their own party, a class-based party, to confront the dominant capitalist class and their state, and to lead the way through the elimination of capitalism to the implementation of a socialist reorganization of society built on the basis of the mechanisms of workingclass democracy. This of course means a program of revolutionary socialism. And it cannot be done merely within the confines of the political framework of America’s capitalist state.
The case for such a transformative revolutionary upheaval is compelling, particularly in the context of a society – and world – in the grip of a tiny elite of “masters” with staggering wealth-based power. In the USA, that power is used for manipulation of the population as a whole, for upholding racist oppression, for maintaining the state infrastructure that ensures the preservation of the wealth of this elite and the continuation of their dominance.
Think about it: Even if a Democratic Party candidate far to the left of Bernie Sanders were to be nominated and then actually elected, the same wealthy 0.01% would still remain in power, basically calling the shots and exploiting the mass of working people. U.S. imperialism would still terrorize the planet. Moreover, rightwing elements of the ruling class would still control powerful media and propaganda resources, and still have the capability of bankrolling yet even more extreme rightwing and authoritarian regimes than Trump’s.
At best, liberalism may “succeed” in no more than continuing its role of helping to keep the working class pacified and tolerant of its exploitation and subordinate, precarious survival within capitalism, while maintaining the political polarization of U.S. society. But it’s worth betting that (while there may be transitory variations) further continuation of the rightward drift in U.S. political norms is more likely. An abundance of evidence argues that capitalism cannot be reformed, but must be abolished, and that the only socal-economic class with both the social power and the historic interest to do so is the working class.
As this analysis has extensively documented, playing nice with the class enemy has been leading to nothing but disaster after disaster for organized labor and the U.S. working class as a whole. A resurgence of more militant union activity would definitely be a crucial first step in reversing this trend of class-collaboration, deference, and defeatism.
Today, the need for the long-overdue revitalization of the labor movement is posed acutely. In the face of an increasingly aggressive class war and mounting crises that have impacted tens of millions of workingclass families, a class-struggle-focused labor movement would defy, combat, and seek to vanquish the wealthy parasites that comprise America’s ruling class. 
Despite the decimation of organized labor, there still remain powerful unions – some with particularly large contingents of black and immigrant memberships – representing thousands (and even tens or hundreds of thousands) of workers with tremendous social power that could be wielded on behalf of the general working class and oppressed masses of the USA and even more widely in North America. These include retail and food workers, warehouse workers, communication workers, longshore workers, school workers, health and hospital workers, public transportation workers, truckers, sanitation workers, construction workers, and many other collective workforces.
A class-struggle leadership can be forged and honed by waging a political struggle to replace the bureaucracy currently dominating the trade-union movement. Such a radical-left leadership would champion the interests of the oppressed, rallying support for black rights and defense of black people against state-sponsored terror, and for the full liberation of America’s black population as a whole; for women’s rights, abortion and contraceptive rights, and full LGBTQ rights; for full citizenship rights for immigrants; for an end to bloody wars, military adventures, and foreign occupations; for a revolutionary workers party that would advance the struggle for workingclass state power and a workers government. A high priority is to organize black, white, Latino, and immigrant workers into militant unions, unions that will fight for union-protected jobs, public works at union wages, and reinstatement of benefits, working condition protections, and union rights previously forfeited by the pro-capitalist labor leadership.
A preeminent task for the labor movement is organizing the unorganized, and especially challenging state and company “open shop” bastions (where unions are banned, union rights are truncated, and collective bargaining is prohibited). A prime target should be Southern states (including the Bible Belt), which have been a haven where much of the USA’s industry has shifted to enjoy a low-wage, anti-union environment with ideal conditions for intense workforce exploitation. But it must be recognized that integral to this goal is the crucial need to combat the race-color caste oppression of the black population that underpins the capitalist order in this country.
A revitalized union movement would take on other key class-struggle tasks as well, such as:
• the need to promote industrial unionism – the principle that workers in an industry should be organized into a single union regardless of their particular skill or craft
• the willingness to defy anti-labor laws such as the Wagner Act, Taft-Hartley, and Landrum-Griffin which hobble and criminalize effective, militant strike action by organized workers
• immediate action to disengage and dissociate from, and expel from legitimate trade-union membership all organizations of police troopers, prison guards, security guards, and other armed bodies in the service of the capitalist class and their representatives such as factory managers, executives, wealthy owners, etc.
• the need to mount a political struggle to mobilize that power to fight for gains like jobs, afffordable housing, and quality education that working people desperately need
• the need to strengthen international workingclass solidarity – workingclass struggle must be consciously waged as a fight on an international field.
And a revived labor movement, armed with a class-struggle program, could open up the road to a far broader struggle against America’s fundamental capitalist-imperialist system, rooted in exploitation, racial and ethnic discrimination, women’s oppression, and other forms of oppression and criminality.
However, it is clear that, to truly succeed, effective class struggle must go beyond trade-union struggle. A mass workingclass political party would need to lead an effective class-struggle fight on behalf of all workers. Furthermore, the goal of such a party must transcend merely attempting to “take over” U.S. capitalism’s skewed and flawed system of government.
Freeing U.S. working people and the left from the trap of the institutional two-party system, and dispelling illusions in liberal capitalist ideology and the Democrats, constitute a difficult but essential task. Already the Democratic Party has been trying to repackage itself as the lone “serious” alternative to the unsavory menace of Trump. Yet there is more evidence that, in accordance with the needs of Wall Street and big business, the Democratic leadership are moving further to the right, in eternal quest of the “center” (and the elusive “middle” and “independent” voters that they see as key to collecting those prized electoral college votes).  Likewise the supposedly “leftwing” mainstream (big business) media have similarly been drifting further rightward, helping to legitimize America’s “new normal” apparently in accommodation and deference to Donald Trump and his (formerly “fringe-right”) House of Horrors extremists.
What might seed the creation of such a mass workingclass party? Quite likely, it will emerge from militant, class-conscious activity within the organized labor movement. This implies a context of widespread, turbulent workingclass unrest and combative trade union activity – a far cry from the current “armchair” attitude typifying the entrenched organized labor bureaucracy, waiting patiently (and mostly in vain) for courts to rule in their favor or for “friendly” legislators to come to their rescue with pro-labor laws.
Instead, the scene to expect would be starkly different. Working people will be on their feet and in the streets – in almost continuous protests, waves of strikes, and perhaps even general strikes (e.g., total citywide shutdowns). In other words, a definite leftward and far more active shift in political awareness and militancy.
This would be a level of class-consciousness and mass workingclass solidarity not seen or approached in the USA for many decades, particularly since the earlier half of the 20th century. Rebuilding class-consciousness and an understanding of the power of solidarity in action is a crucial task facing the radical left within the working class – a task that may be boosted by upswings in mass discontent as America’s capitalist rulers and state apparatus continue to commit further outrages and engender further misery.
To have any chance of effectiveness and eventual success, from its inception a U.S. mass workers party will need a revolutionary focus. Running candidates in electoral contests should be regarded as purely a tactic to educate the public, raise class-consciousness, and rally morale and support within the working class. Any notions of “winning a majority” of voters and capturing control of the mechanisms of the capitalist state – even on merely a municipal or county level – with the aim of assuming “control of the government”, would need to be discarded. History has demonstrated the disastrous folly of that course.
The social-democratic model (particularly familiar in Europe) of becoming “more competent” administrators of the capitalist state has shown an outstanding propensity to lead the working class into continued distress and misery. And in some cases, bloody catastrophe (e.g. Germany and Bulgaria in the 1920s, Spain in the 1930s, Chile in the 1970s). 
Instead, a revolutionary workers party would have the obligation to make clear its hostility to the capitalist state as a whole, and emphasize the necessity for creating a new state directly under the control of the working class. Ultimately an insurrectionary upheaval by the working class will be necessary to prevail in this class war. The capitalist state apparatus must be shattered, and replaced with a workingclass-based state infrastructure with political and administrative mechanisms developed by and for working people. The preeminent model for this, of course, is the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia. 
This evokes other historical issues and implications. It’s extremely unlikely that, without some degree of special knowledge, insight, and know-how, working people would succeed in a revolutionary conquest of state power. The cumulative theory, experience, and understanding of the revolutionary Marxist movement – including its elaboration by Vladimir Lenin, the Russian Bolsheviks of the early 20th century, Leon Trotsky, and modern revolutionary communists – remain the most reliable de facto guidance manual in this regard. 
Confronting the toxic miasma of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the entire far-right freak show that is now clouding over the American political-social-economic landscape, many working people, concerned union leaders, and other activists on the left are facing some critical, momentous, and pivotally strategic choices. They must ask themselves whether they are willing to continue to “play by the rules” within the box of prescribed “mainstream” two-party, “lesser-evil” political action, or to challenge the system and fight for a future where they can implement what they truly believe in. Their choice could be historic; will they make the correct one?
 See, for example:
Here Are 16 Examples Of Donald Trump Being Racist
Donald Trump Is Just George W. Bush But Racist
Trump’s White House No Longer Gets Benefit Of The Doubt On Anti-Semitism
The Portland stabbing is the latest in a wave of racist attacks across America
SPLC Has Seen Rise In Hate Crime, Domestic Terrorism Attacks
2016 was a horrible year for anti-Semitic hate crimes. 2017 is much worse.
 See, for example:
The End of Facts in the Trump Era
Trump’s falsehoods are eroding public trust, at home and abroad.
Why Trump lies
All the President’s Lies
In Trump’s White House Press Briefings, No Degree of Accuracy Required
 See, for example:
Trump Trust Revised So He Can Take Profits From His Businesses At Any Time
White House of Grifters
Who Would Benefit From Water Rule Change? Trump And His Golf Courses
Trump’s White House Family Affair Looks A Lot Like The Most Corrupt Nations In The World
How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business
Rule-Benders Require New Rules
 See, for example:
Trump’s Authoritarian Vision
Experts on authoritarianism say Trump’s presidency ‘has gotten scarier’
 See, for example:
Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. ‘Leakers’
Donald Trump on reporters: ‘I would never kill them’
Trump lawyer: ‘No right’ to protest at rallies
Trump Allegedly Urged Comey To Consider Jailing Journalists
 See, for example:
Visions of Trumptopia
Trump’s ‘America First’ has ugly echoes from U.S. history
Why Is There So Little Protest Against Recent Threats Of Nuclear War?
Is The U.S. Prepared For A Two-Front War?
Trump’s Military Ambition: Raw Power as a Means and an End
Trump’s Syria Strike Puts America At The Precipice Of Another Middle East War
 See, for example:
Obama Has Deported More People Than Any Other President
Drone Strikes Under Obama Killed Up to 117 Civilians Worldwide, Intelligence Report Claims
The State of the [Labor] Union: The UAW and Modern Labor Law
Obama’s auto bailout: destroying the workers to help resurrect the auto capitalists
Reality Check: Obama Cuts Social Security and Medicare by Much More Than the GOP
 See, for example:
Donald Trump’s Modern-Day Gestapo
Fearmongering at Homeland Security
How Our Strategy Against Terrorism Gave Us Trump
Trump’s Executive Order Is An Existential Threat To America
Immigration Agents Discover New Freedom to Deport Under Trump
Who Will Watch the Agents Watching Our Borders?
‘They Treated Us Like Criminals’: U.S. Border Crossers Report Severe Reception
 See, for example:
Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’
Trump Administration Orders Tougher Screening of Visa Applicants
 See, for example:
Trump’s Border Wall Fiasco
Here’s Another Staggering Cost Of Trump’s Border Wall
Donald Trump’s Mexico wall: Who is going to pay for it?
Paying for Trump’s Wall: Don’t Let an Absurd Promise Distract Us from a Terrible Policy Decision
Trump Describes Zero Dollars in Border Wall Funding as “Down Payment” on Border Wall
 See, for example:
Who Wins and Loses in Trump’s Proposed Budget
Republicans Still Think Trump Will Cut Social Security And Medicare — Eventually
Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor
Trump’s Budget Proposal Is an Attack on the Working Class
The winners and losers in Donald Trump’s “America First” budget
Social Security Advocates Sound The Alarm About The Latest Trump Tax Plan
5 Points On House GOP Bill To Impose Major Cuts On Social Security
Trumpcare Raids Medicare To Enrich The Wealthy And Plant A Bomb
Trumpcare Would Be Devastating For Older Americans
Paul Ryan Still Talking Up The Idea Of Privatizing Medicare
6 Ways Seniors Lose Out Under Trump’s Budget
The Trumpcare Disaster
The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage
Trump Tax Plan Would Shift Trillions From U.S. Coffers to the Richest
This Isn’t Tax Policy; It’s a Trump-Led Heist
Trump Takes a Gamble in Cutting Programs His Base Relies On
Trump Voters, Your Savior Is Betraying You
Trump Gives States The Okay To Defund Planned Parenthood
Donald Trump Signs Anti-Abortion Executive Order Surrounded By Menhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-abortion-men_us_5886369be4b0e3a7356a7910?
Abortion Foes, Emboldened by Trump, Promise ‘Onslaught’ of Tough Restrictions
Trump Tax Plan Would Slash Corporate Tax Rates, Offer Breaks On Overseas Profits
Trump Administration Picks Strange Fight With Meals On Wheels
Public Broadcasters Fear ‘Collapse’ if U.S. Drops Support
Trump’s Budget Would Have Dire Effects On Local And Regional Arts Programs
Missing: Donald Trump’s Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Plan
Trump Cuts Leave Bridge and Rail Projects Hanging
Potential Big Cuts To Amtrak Are Bad For Everyone, Including Drivers
Trump Wants To Privatize Air Traffic Control In The U.S.
100 Days of Horror
Our Dishonest President
 See, for example:
The small but important group of super-rich funders of the Democratic party
Hedge Funds, K Street, and the Ugly Underbelly of the Democratic Party
The Real Party of the Rich: Democrats Have More Top Donors, Millionaires in Congress
Pelosi: Democrats are capitalists
The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought
 Information in this section has been derived from various sources, including:
The Awesome Power of the American Working Class
Why the Working Class?
The power to bring the system to a halt
Capitalist Barbarism and the Fight for Revolutionary Leadership
Capitalist Crisis Sparks Populist Protests
Students Must Ally with the Working Class
 Union Busting and Capitalist “Democracy”
Defend the Unions Through Class Struggle!
Defending Labor Against Capitalist Assault
 Black Liberation and the Fight for a Workers America
 Racist Cop Terror: Time for Labor to Take a Stand
 Also see, for example:
For Unions, Protecting Jobs Means Protectionism
Auto Workers’ Union To Launch ‘Buy American’ Campaign
Wall Street, Washington Shaft Auto Workers
For a Class-Struggle Fight to Organize Port Truckers!
The Pitfalls of “Buy American”
 See, for example:
Why hasn’t the American working class become class-conscious?
What Happened to the American Working Class?
How Racism Explains America’s Class Divide and Culture of Economic Cruelty
 About 39 percent of workers are without paid sick leave, data shows
Also see, for example:
Buddy, can you spare a sick day?
 Also see, for example:
Paid leave in private industry over the past 20 years
Workers Are Reluctant to Take Vacation Time and Instead Act Stealthily
When it comes to vacations, the U.S. stinks
 Democrats Don’t Have an Easy Answer for the Rust Belt
 See, for example:
Job Growth in Last Decade Was in Temp and Contract
The Upsurge in Uncertain Work
Temporary Jobs to Grow 13 Percent Over the Next Five Years, According to New Research from CareerBuilder
More Americans are stuck in part-time work
 See, for example:
Is There an Emerging Democratic Agenda?
The Single-Payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care
The Alliance Of U.S. Labor Unions and the Democratic Party
 See, for example:
Millennials are ripe for socialism: A generation is rising up against neoliberal oppression
This Is Why Millennials Favor Socialism
 Also see, for example:
Blue billionaires on top
Former Citigroup Trader Explains How Wall Street Came to Own the Clintons and the Democratic Party
Meet the wealthy donors who are pouring millions into the 2016 elections
The Real Party of the Rich: Democrats Have More Top Donors, Millionaires in Congress
 See, for example:
Top Democrats, Bernie Sanders Defend Anti-Abortion Members Of Their Party
 See, for example:
Donald Trump hints at assassination of Hillary Clinton by gun rights supporters
 See, for example:
The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists
 Also see, for example:
The electoral college, the two-party trap, and the presidential election
 Also see, for example:
Redistricting and Representation
It’s Time To Ban Congressional Gerrymandering
 Much of the information in this section is derived from:
Racist Cop Terror: Time for Labor to Take a Stand
Black Liberation and the Fight for a Workers America
 See, for example:
The Democratic party still thinks it will win by ‘not being Trump’
 See, for example:
The Media’s Latest Campaign to Normalize Trump
Public Rejection of MSM’s Continued Attempts to “Normalize” Trump
Trump, the Mainstream Media and the Search for Truth
 See, for example:
Marxist Principles and Electoral Tactics
A Trotskyist Critique of Germany 1923 and the Comintern
Trotskyism vs. Popular Frontism in the Spanish Civil War
Popular Front Paved Way for Pinochet Terror
Why We Reject the “Constituent Assembly” Demand
 A particularly succinct and insightful summary of the 1917 Russian Bolshevik revolution is presented in:
October 1917: The Bolshevik Revolution
A more elaborate overview is provided by transcription of Spartacist League classes on The Russian Revolution of 1917 published as a four-part 2006 Workers Vanguard series:
Also a useful guide to material on this topic, with online links, is available at the following site:
Reading Guide: The Russian Revolution
A relatively quick and simple overview of the massive, world-shaking achievements of the revolution (and of the resultant Soviet workingclass state, albeit with an uncritical portrayal of the role of the Stalin bureacuracy) is provided in a 17-minute YouTube video:
Achievements Of Socialism In The Soviet Union (YouTube video)
An in-depth analysis of the revolution’s liberating impact on the status of women is presented in the following 2006 article from Spartacist:
The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women
 See, for example, literature available from the International Communist League:
The following provides a useful list of classic, basic revolutionary Marxist readings (although the inclusion of Stalin and Mao is controversial and in dispute):
Basic Marxism-Leninism study plan
Some content has been edited slightly since it was first posted on 21 June 2017.