Waiting for Watergate

By Tim Horras

Elements within big bourgeoisie are gunning for Trump. A significant section of the capitalist class doesn’t like the administration, because it’s seen as insufficiently deferential to the wishes of international finance capital, and due to some protectionist and anti-globalization stances within the administration which would potentially hurt multinational corporations.

Most recently, this came to light with the announcement that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and business partner Rick Gates had surrendered to the FBI after being indicted in relation to supposed financial and political connections to the Russian government, according to the New York Times.

To get at Trump, they’re dusting off an old law that, according to a recent Politico story by journalist Ken Silverstein, has “been under-enforced or not enforced at all for ages.”

Although Silverstein has reported on foreign lobbying and Manafort for over 20 years, he only ever witnessed “a handful of cases brought against people or organizations accused of not registering as foreign agents.” Silverstein concluded that it was “quite likely that had he not been Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort would be kicking back and enjoying his allegedly laundered cash at this very moment.”

This is bourgeois legality in action: selective prosecution for political purposes. Every once and awhile our betters throw down one of their own as a sacrifice to the mob, so as to better safeguard immunity for the majority of criminal politicians and corrupt lobbyists.

No tears for Manafort, Gates, or other ruling class jackals. But at the same time: no faith in a corrupt justice system. We won’t subpoena our way to freedom.

The only thing palace intrigue offers the working class is the potential to confront an enemy divided among itself. But given the weak state of the left, and the enormous distance between ourselves and political power, our primary goal needs to be cohering a mass base for socialism among the dispossessed classes through agitation, education, and organization.

We can and should oppose Trump and his cronies, but we should have no illusions that the left is in the driver’s seat in this conflict and the resulting Special Counsel investigation. For the moment at least, the working class is a passive spectator in a battle between the moderate and conservative wings of the big bourgeoisie.

Our movement today wastes precious time and energy waiting for Watergate.

We would do well to remember that Watergate didn’t lead to working class rebellion, mass resistance, or regime change. In fact, by the end of the decade, the US electorate had chosen Ronald Reagan as president. The scandal was neither created by nor contributed to working class revolt. If anything, Watergate was a testament to the fact that the immune system of the US government was beginning to figure out how to best counteract the rebellions from below which began in the 1960s through a coordinated strategy of repression, cooptation, adaptation, and structural reform.

We might easily imagine future breakthroughs in the class struggle may hinge upon any one of what are likely to be increasingly frequent constitutional crises provoked by the inflexibility and irrationality of our regime’s fossil-like legal and political apparatus. But today is not the day of judgement and thank God, because our side is absolutely not prepared to press the advantage. In what promises to be a protracted struggle, we socialists must patiently gather our strength, consolidate and expand our forces, and advance on our enemy with a hundred small skirmishes from below.

For revolutionaries, hope is our most precious resource. Let us not spend it down frivolously.

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