(Part of an ongoing debate: see here for all the contributions)
For Joe Biden and his cabinet it’s all about “getting back to normal”. They regard the Trump presidency as an aberration, and now Washington politics can return to the old ways of wheeler dealing and horse trading between the two traditional parties of American capitalism.
Yet such wishful thinking flies in the face of the attempted insurrection of 6 January and socialists who once dismissed the notion that what passes for a democracy in America is fragile need to reconsider that stance.
The Biden administration is likely to face a concerted campaign against it by white supremacist terrorists who have been emboldened by Trump and have very much come out into the open. How Biden deals with this threat is a major concern for the future of the American working class.
One Representative newly elected to Congress is Marjorie Taylor Greene. She has called for the assassination of Nancy Pelosi, propagated QAnon conspiracy theories, and maintained that school shootings are fake. Greene sits alongside many Republicans in the House who are responsible in one way or another of encouraging an attack on the most important democratically elected body in the country. The inspiration for this is obviously the behaviour of Donald Trump.
Stephen Wood in Solidarity 579 doesn’t think we should be bothered so much about this as to demand Trump stand trial for the numerous crimes he has committed.
Trump faces trial for encouraging an insurrection against a democratically elected government. He also faces criminal prosecutions for much more than tax evasion. The list includes money laundering, fraud and rape. There are probably numerous other charges which may be uncovered through covert investigations.
How can we turn away elements in the mass of Trump supporters away from him? Exposure in court for his crimes is one way to make the scales fall from the eyes of some deluded followers. That Biden wants to surreptitiously stitch up a deal to let Trump get away with most of it must be exposed.
Stephen makes a wrong-headed claim that Biden has “little interest in extending democratic norms,” because the existing norms “have served the Democrats well.” That doesn’t square with the fact Democrats won the popular vote in five of the last six Presidential elections but only got three Presidencies. Neither does it fit with the domination of the Senate by the Republicans even though they represent States with much lower populations. Or with the Senate’s filibuster power, left over from the Jim Crow era, which effectively prevents much Democrat legislation going through.
I understand Stephen’s main concern about the need to build working-class grass-roots organisations to fight for workers’ rights and racial justice, but it’s a false dichotomy to counterpose this to demands Trump and Co should be brought to justice. Rather, the failure of the Biden administration to do so must be exposed, as well as the half-heartedness of attempts to suppress white supremacist terrorism.
Barrie Hardy, Liverpool
Israel’s is not the worst vaccine nationalism
Daniel Randall’s rejoinder ( Solidarity 579) to John Nihill ( #578) would make sense if Nihill had been arguing for Israel to be excluded from a series of articles criticising vaccine nationalisms across the world.
But no. The fault that Nihill was criticising was not of the writer of the article but of the editor (myself). We gave a page to denouncing vaccine nationalism in Israel but none to any other country, as if Israel were the only or main factor in the “vaccine-nationalist” almost-monopoly for richer countries of timely vaccine supplies.
The UK-EU vaccine row instructs us otherwise. The USA, the EU, and the UK have made vast advance purchases, and also hold most of the production sites. Thus most poorer countries have had no or almost no timely supplies — even those with high current Covid death rates, such as Lebanon and South Africa (until 1 Feb).
The EU has a scheme (working poorly) for equalising supplies between richer and poorer countries within the EU. The WHO has a vaccine-sharing scheme, Covax (underfunded). Otherwise “vaccine nationalism” rules.
The socialist answer is requisitioning of the “intellectual property” and production facilities and expertise of Big Pharma, and levelling-up.
The first reason why Israel has got special coverage is that, perhaps uniquely, it has had a vocal internal lobby criticising its vaccine nationalism and demanding aid to a neighbouring nation. So the Israeli government (although very right-wing and chauvinist) was pushed into a first consignment to the Palestinian Authority in mid-January, and more now. The Israeli consignments to the PA are small, as are the donations from three other countries (that I know of) to neighbours or other worse-off places: Norway, India, China. Not Britain! Norway and China have low Covid tolls, and India one in strong decline, while Israel has had a fast-rising toll, only tentatively levelling off.
The “give vaccines to the West Bank and Gaza” campaigners in Israel are our comrades. They say, reasonably, that they want Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and stop blockading Gaza — to allow the creation of a real independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — and as long as Israel doesn’t do that, it should at least give help like vaccines, even if the PA health people don’t request them. (For “diplomatic” reasons, they haven’t, and expect their main supplies from Russia and from Astra Zeneca, starting about now).
The issue is with the transmutation, in wide circles of the British left, of news of an anti-nationalist campaign in Israel into proof positive that Israel is not only the world’s hyper-imperialist, but also its no.1 vaccine bad guy. I had that at my local Labour Party meeting last week: attacks on Israeli policy were dropped into the talk about vaccination, but no criticism of British (or any other) nationalism.
Israel is surely very nationalist. History makes it impossible that it will become otherwise until after a settlement stabilises in which other states in the region drop threats to conquer or erase it and it concedes an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
We endorse no nationalism, but we should steer clear of everything which singles out Israeli nationalism as a world-scale super-evil way beyond its real proportions.
Martin Thomas, Islington