It is ironically appropriate that the man pulling the strings of President Trump, Stephen Bannon, come from Hollywood – that land of flashy special effects, shallow propaganda and cheap thrills. It is also frightening, including to the capitalists themselves. Bannon’s promotion to the inner circle (the “Principles Committee”) of the National Security Council “should send shivers down the spine of every American and our allies worldwide” says David Rothkopf, the executive editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, one of the foremost such magazines for the US capitalist class. Rothkopf explains the role of the NSC as being “the central nervous system of the US foreign policy and national security apparatus.” You couldn’t get more central than that.
Promoted to this Principles Committee along with Bannon was Reince Priebus, former head of the Republican Party and now Trump’s chief of staff. I used to think that Priebus’s appointment indicated that Trump was going to accommodate himself to the mainstream of that Party, but Trump knew him better (of course). Priebus has shown himself to be nothing but a toady for Trump, a willing go-between between Trump and the Republicans in congress.
Then there is Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, who according to this Washington Post article operates as “almost a shadow secretary of state.”
For any US president, personal security is important, especially so for Trump – probably the most unpopular president to hit the ground running in many, many decades, if not in all of US history. Normally, the President’s security is handled exclusively by the Secret Service. Not in Trump’s case, where his long time private security man, Keith Schiller and Schiller’s employees are also playing a role. Under the guise of security, according to reports, Schiller also partially controls access to the president. ‘Schiller mostly remains — as one former campaign aide put it — “the most important man no one has ever heard of.”
That influence comes from Schiller’s ability to essentially control access to Trump, acting as his liaison to everyone from staff and well-wishers to dignitaries — and even Secret Service agents. “Keith is kind of a consigliere,” said a transition team official.’
On the same day that Bannon and Priebus were promoted to the “Principles Committee”
of the “central nervous system” of the US government (the NSC), other key players were demoted. These included the top military officer of the US government – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – and the highest-ranking intelligence officer of the United States, the director of national intelligence. (Never mind that that latter position was held by a conspiracy nut, Michael Flynn.)
What are we to make of all this?
The framers of the US Constitution set up the federal government to ensure that they – the capitalist class of their day plus the slave owning class – could ensure that they (the ruling class) could keep the government under their control. One of the ways they envisioned this was through the system of “checks and balances”, among other things ensuring that the president did not escape their control. Part of those checks and balances was giving the Senate veto power over the key appointments of the president. Along with congress, the tops of the military, the State Department and the CIA also play a key role in maintaining the links between the government and the tops of the capitalist class and their strategists. And what has Trump done?
He removed the military tops from the Principles Committee of the NSC. He has more or less gutted the State Department of its top layer of bureaucrats, nearly paralyzing it. He has bypassed congress’s ability to approve appointments by making his key advisers ones who aren’t subject to appointment.
Consider their roles:
The toady, Priebus, is responsible for trying to keep congress in line. He is nothing but a Trump flunky.
A main role of Kushner is the bag man for what will almost certainly be one of the most corrupt presidencies in US history. His role as “shadow foreign secretary” will be to help organize the bribes from foreign governments and companies. Already, for example, there is evidence that a payment may have been made to Trump by the Russian state oil company Rosneft of $19 million. We should also note that Trump has evidently already filed for reelection in 2020, which is unprecedented at such an early date but will allow him to start collecting campaign donations – a means of accepting legal bribes.
Schiller evidently is playing the role of unofficial and partial chief of staff as well as the organizer of a private goon squad.
But we’re saving the best for last: Stephen Bannon. He’s the only one with a clear vision and strategy, and such he’s bound to be the most influential of all. And what a vision he has!
According to this article, which is based on an in-depth interview Bannon conducted, one of his main influences is the works of William Strauss and Neil Howe, who are known as “generational theorists.” Let us allow Bannon to explain what that means: ‘”This is the fourth great crisis in American history,” Bannon told an audience at the Liberty Restoration Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, in 2011. “We had the Revolution. We had the Civil War. We had the Great Depression and World War II. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”’
More explicitly, he said: “There’s a crisis of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo Christian West…. Rot at the center of the Judeo Christian West… There’s a fifth column in the US that we have to deal with… You have an expansionist Islam and an expansionist China and I think the Judeo Christian West is on the retreat… We’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal conflict… We’re only at the top of the first inning of taking our country back…”
The same article provides further quotes: “You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”
“We’re going to war in the South China Seas in the next five to 10 years, aren’t we?” Bannon asked during a 2016 interview with Reagan biographer Lee Edwards.
“We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he said in a speech to a Vatican conference in 2014. “And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”
(Note: In our previous article, we explained the developing actual crisis of US and world capitalism which forms the background to Trump’s accession to the presidency. In this sense, what Bannon is reflecting is a twisted, distorted vision of a crisis that actually does exist, like looking at the real world through a reflection in a fun-house mirror.)
Bannon/Trump’s Muslim Ban
This is the light in which we should see Trump’s Muslim ban. As several commentators have noted, it was not only a ban on Muslims, it was a test to see which agencies of the US government would be loyal to the president, vs. the US Constitution. For example, he found that immigration officials – employees of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — would obey him rather than a court ruling. It is also reliably reported that the letter from the head of the FBI just weeks before the election – the one which again raised possible legal violations of Hillary Clinton – came as a result of pressure from within that agency. In other words, there is at least a major wing of the FBI that would be loyal to Trump. Then there are the local police, the overwhelming majority of whom voted for him and who anyway operate as a gang of thugs above the law.
Clearly, Bannon is serious in his fanaticism (and what other word is there to describe it?) How far could he go?
Imagine this: There is a major terrorist attack. For example, a few weeks ago some woman snuck into a private gathering of all the top Republican legislators – including the vice president – in Washington DC. Nobody knows who she was. Imagine a suicide bomber doing something similar.
Wouldn’t Bannon/Trump use that as an excuse to crack down extremely hard? He would have on his side not only the official state forces mentioned above, but the rising far right, including the “open carry” gun nuts as well as the overt racist groups. They could be joined – fed information – through Keith Schiller.
And who is on the other side? Who would stop them? True, there is the main bulk of the ruling class, the capitalist class itself, but through what organ would they impose their opposition? The Democratic Party?
Please, can we get a serious response?
Some people have actually posed the possibility of the military removing Trump as a step in the right direction. In the first place, in the event of a major crisis like the one posed here, that is extremely unlikely to happen. And even if it did, that would simply be out of the pan and into the flame.
How about the working class as a whole? It is more fragmented than ever in many decades. It hardly exists as a cohesive political force.
Movement Bubbling Away
On first glance, it seems there is no force that could stand up to Bannon/Trump. But that doesn’t take into account what’s bubbling away beneath the surface.
Republican party federal legislators are reporting throughout the country that when they report back to their constituents at town hall meetings, they are being met with angry voters, nearly being overwhelmed to the degree that they are fearing for their own safety.
A woman who recently got reactivated politically in rural Pennsylvania (Trump country if there ever was one) recounted that in her area a woman called a meeting to talk about Trump. She expected a dozen or so people to show up. Something like 50 or 100 came. They all explained why they were there. It broke down into three main reasons: (1) I’ve been silent too long; (2) In response to the Muslim ban “This is not who we are as a country.” (3) Individual concerns such as possible loss in health care, or concern for a grandchild who is a trans.
This woman who reported said that she doesn’t think this group would crawl into a hole or be caught up in a reactionary patriotic wave in the event of a major terrorist attack. In that case, if there were a major, extra-Constitutional crack down, you could possibly see tens of millions out on the street overnight. It could eventuate into what could be a general strike and even a near pre-revolutionary situation.
A feeling of exhilaration would rein.
This, of course, would not be the end of it. In fact, it would probably peter out after a time. But this is one possible scenario.
But make no mistake: We had better take Bannon/Trump seriously when Bannon says:
Bannon: We’re gonna have some dark days”
“We’re gonna have to have some dark days before we get to the blue sky of morning again in America,” Bannon warned in 2010. “We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don’t have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you.”
“This movement,” he said in November, “is in the top of the first inning.”