Steve Bannon has gone but the threat remains, argues Vladimir Unkovski-Korica
Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was forced out of the White House on Friday in the latest sacking from the President’s team.
The move comes following widespread criticism of the US administration’s pathetic response to violent white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville last weekend.
In the aftermath of the shocking killing of anti-racist activist Heather Hayer and injuries to dozens by an attacker ramming his car into crowds of protesters, Trump effectively equated racist and anti-racist demonstrations.
Bannon has often been credited with injecting a vitriolic tone to Trump’s right wing agenda: the Muslim travel ban and the anti-immigrant wall on the Mexican border to name a few policies. Before he took up his post in the Trump campaign, Bannon was at the far right website Breitbart News.
In the days before his ousting, Bannon was trying to dissociate himself from the far right, downplaying their influence in the US. Desperately, he hoped to shift attention to his struggle against enemies in the defence and foreign policy establishment.
He even phoned up a left-leaning journalist, stating implausibly that he was pleased there was so much discussion of an irrelevant far right threat: "If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."
The truth is, though, that the methods associated with the Trump-Bannon duo have been pushing the United States to dangerous global and domestic confrontation, which much of the mainstream establishment fear will jeopardise Washington’s position as the world’s leading imperialist state.
The long decline of the United States has in any case been accompanied for decades now with escalating global projection of military power in an elusive attempt at preventing largely regional competitors from taking a more international role.
Increasing domestic polarisation reflects the fact that the rot has not just affected foreign policy. Progressively, more frantic right wing circles, often bankrolled by billionaires, have been clamouring for a more authoritarian solution to the crisis at home in order to more effectively project power abroad. This is what allowed Trump and Bannon into the White House in the first place.
But their sudden and unexpected seizure of power unnerved the more conventional elites, who fear not just foreign policy miscalculation but the return of mass demonstrations, race riots and labour militancy of eras past, as Washington’s global role would be just as jeopardised if it had to deal with domestic strife as costly conflagrations half a world away.
This is what explains the fact that senior businessmen, military generals and media moguls in the US have taken to the air waves in recent days to denounce racism and fascism. Some have even questioned Trump’s stability and leadership.
Had their motivations been truly progressive, one would wonder where they have been hiding over the past few decades as their governments have fought calamitous wars and laid waste their own country.
But the truth is that their agenda is motivated by fear that the chaos of the Trump administration will fuel the rise of movements from below and strengthen America’s left. Recent news that the Democratic Socialists of America now stand at 25,000 strong and have left the effectively Blairite Socialist International, for instance, must have caused discomfort in establishment circles.
When we look at who will now steer the White House, we should be sanguine about the direction of travel. The man to finally push Bannon out was Trump’s recently appointed White House chief of staff, retired Marine General John Kelly. Trump’s chief economic adviser, former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, survives, as does Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil.
These faces remain acceptable to the American ruling class. So we should celebrate the power of America’s rising movements from below, which made Bannon’s further tenure impossible and demonstrated that the US is a far cry from a fascist take-over. We should however also be clear that there is still a threat in the White House. It is the power behind Trump, the broader alliance of the US military with Wall Street: the pillars of the 1%.
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