Dueling Banjos

Ascent of the Capitolio de Washington

It is complex to explain what happened on the afternoon of January 6 in Washington; in-depth analysis of the events should be and probably will be a matter of multiple studies in the coming days, months and years. It is complex to explain such an act, an attempt to reverse a legitimate political change in the United States by force. This is something we did not expect to see, in a context where cyclic processes of power alternation at a global level are conducive to the replacement of one leadership by another.  

It is also difficult to pose, without losing perspective, but calmly enough, the how and why of the concatenation of facts that led to the entry into the US Congress of a mass of citizens with the intention of stopping the session that ratified Joe Biden as president elect of the country. 

Donald Trump's mandate can be described as a tragicomedy; his final act was preceded in recent weeks by a flood of messages from the US right-wing media insisting, with the force of proximity, on electoral fraud, the theft of democracy and the delegitimization of the process and its results. At the same time, they encouraged citizens to demonstrate their rejection, throughout the country, by whatever means necessary, with the implications that such a message can have on a society like that of the United States, including marching on Washington to prevent an attack on democracy, using the rhetoric of the right-wing media.  

The first to be singled out: Micht McConnell, leader of the Republican Party in the Upper House, reported after rejecting the accusations of electoral fraud and admitting the Democrats' victory; and the president of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, one of the most belligerent politicians with the Trump Administration, but also responsible for the fiasco involving the investigation of 'Russiagate', Russia's alleged intervention in favour of Trump in the 2016 elections.  The houses of both political leaders were covered with graffiti between January 2 and 3. As a result of this incident and given the extremely tense political and social climate on January 6, thousands of US citizens gathered outside the Capitol, encouraged both by the right-wing media and politics. 

At this point we are once again faced with questions that are difficult to answer, as a result of the presence of the president in office, Donald Trump, and other prominent political leaders leading the meetings. They participated as ideologues and conveyors of a message that up to now had been disseminated through social networks and the extreme right-wing media in the United States, but they had long ago withdrawn their support for Trump's cause - social networks in particular, the president's means of expression par excellence.

Manifestantes pro-Trump escalan un muro mientras asaltan el edificio del Capitolio de Estados Unidos

A show of force in the vicinity of Congress, where political change in the United States was being legitimised at that time, with Giuliani haranguing his supporters in epic-historical, quasi-religious terms to resolve the situation through a trial by combat, with the connotations that this type of statement has for many of those concentrated in front of the Capitol, and Trump encouraging them to march against it in order to restore the Republican Party's lost value and reverse the election result; the masses acted as required. 

On television, Steve Bannon was charging Trump, because, according to the President's former communications advisor, he was unable to rally his people to reverse an act that would not only ratify Biden as the new President, but also give control of Congress and the Senate to the Democrats. 

In a sequence of events more akin to the first half hour of the film 'Deliverance' than a tragic comedy by Plautus or Euripides, arranged around political groups and organisations covering the whole spectrum of the American extreme right, hundreds of demonstrators overflowed the planned security system, forcing the suspension of the session in progress.

We are facing an attempt to subvert the election result by means of an act of force, both on the Capitol and in the seats of several state parliaments, which is no more than the consequence of four years of disruption and polarisation and social fracture encouraged by the government, supported by extreme right-wing and majority philo-fascist organisations such as Proud Boys, or the Boogalo Movement, reinforced by members of the Ku Klux Klan and sympathisers of minority Nazi groups.  There are also organisations such as QAnon, Iranian exiles organised around the Iranians for Trump platform, which is close to the MEK, of which Giuliani himself is a sympathiser, and prominent former members of the Trump government such as John Bolton.  

These organisations represent the practice of a twisted political message full of half-truths, lies and empty promises that hold the political opponent responsible for his failure to comply, making him a legitimate target for citizens who see their expectations dashed.  

Yet a message that is more deeply rooted in one half of the country, which for the other half is nothing more than the so-called 'white trash', toothless louts in disguise who dance to the tune of the banjos and paramilitaries who consider their right to wield a weapon the most important of a citizen's rights, the one that takes away and gives legitimacy to the decisions of a government in which they do not believe. While the other half of the country looks at them with a mixture of condescension and contempt, surprised by their capacity for action and mobilisation.  

A false message that conveys to a farmer in the 'corn belt', to give an example, that part of the economic and political elite, represented by Trump, is at his side. That it is the desire and ability to end the government's regularising oppression of this 'white trash' that will bring freedom in economic and social terms. That it is the freedom to exercise the legitimate right to defence and to bear arms that will guarantee individual freedoms. Freedom to dispose of their resources as they see fit, without having to do without them in order to, in the form of taxes, sustain a state in which they do not believe, without also noticing that, whoever transmits that message, has more resources and therefore has more coercive capacity, without the regulatory action of a government, when it comes to imposing its conditions.  

A message that makes use of the historical past deeply rooted in America's cultural heritage to appeal to the American citizen, to the lost cause. "We fought but we lost", "Go home in peace", Donald Trump said when the nonsense had already been committed. A message to the American citizen about the lost cause, which is that of the betrayal of the legitimate struggle of the common man by others; a message saying that the "corn belt" worker represents the same man who has been deprived of his government and his ability to make decisions. The war was lost, but the peace was won, because it is better to retreat to our homes than to condemn the country to a new conflict and, as God is my witness, another day will come.  

Un manifestante dentro de la cámara del Senado después de que el Capitolio de EEUU fuera asaltado
Pure demagogy

The question now is how we got here. How have the right conditions been created so that thousands of citizens, concentrated in Washington, have been able to burst into Congress, endangering the process of political alternation, which is key to the proper development of a democratic system.  

At this point we can put forward two plausible hypotheses, an act of force encouraged by Trump himself, backed by the 70 million people who voted for him and not for the party and supported by the large mass of supporters concentrated in front of the Capitol.  In itself this does not constitute a coup d'état, but we could at least describe it as sedition, as its ultimate aim would be to reverse the legitimate process of political alternation, and a coup d'état from the technostructure of the state, based on the foundations of the Republican Party, aimed at creating the necessary conditions to force Donald Trump out of office.  

The first of the hypotheses raised, the one that would have gained most strength both at home and abroad, would be the adoption of a solution of force, facilitated by the attitude of President Trump, channelled through the mobilisation of his bases in terms of non-acceptance of the results of the last elections. 

This solution would involve interrupting the session of Congress at which Joe Biden's election victory would be ratified by simple pressure from the president's supporters. An insufficient and lax security deployment in the measures to be taken with respect to the demonstrators who, overflowing the security of the Capitol, were able to invade the building, preventing the normal functioning of the chamber and preventing Biden's ratification. Throughout the afternoon, by means of an ambiguous attitude, condemning the events and justifying them at the same time, he would have tried not to intervene in the solution needed to guarantee the security of Congress, denying the deployment of National Guard units in the district of Columbia which would have guaranteed security in the capital and the normal progress of Biden's ratification process. Thus, with the situation apparently out of control, other players intervened unexpectedly, such as Larry Hogan, governor of Maryland, and Vice-President Pence, who, being openly hostile to the president, would have authorised the deployment of National Guard units in Washington, thus defusing the strategy of a solution based on force. Trump was eventually neutralised by the bipartisan one-party system and its support of the technostructure.

Partidarios armados del presidente Trump durante una protesta el 6 de enero de 2021 en Salem, Oregón

In the second case, the Republican Party apparatus, which began some time ago to gradually move away from the political message and practice of the Trump Cabinet, certified the definitive break with the recognition by Senator McConnell, the Republican leader in Congress, of Joe Biden's election victory. The coincidence between both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, on the need for an urgent political change that would remove the current president from the American political equation, thereby deactivating, in the future, a possible political project led by Trump himself on the fringes of the majority parties. These factors, together with the unpredictability of the current president, would make it possible, from within the state apparatus, first to facilitate the concentration of the president's supporters near the Capitol and subsequently to allow them to leave for the Capitol.  

Despite the severe security measures surrounding the US capital, the minimal deployment of police and security forces organised around the Capitol would facilitate an action of force by the assailants. 

The ministries of force within the state's technostructure would have provided the necessary conditions for slowing down the deployment of National Guard units in the capital, on the grounds that the ability to mobilise these units in Washington is the president's sole authority. In view of the president's and the Pentagon commanders' alleged refusal to order this deployment, they were disabled without a direct order from the president or vice-president. Two governors, Maryland (a Republican) and Virginia (a Democrat), who do have the power to mobilise the National Guard in their states, ordered the units to be deployed and mobilised towards Washington.  

Trump's apparently timid attitude to events inside and outside the Capitol, creating the sensation of a power vacuum, and the repercussions that the entry of military units into the country's capital, the epitome of Western democracy, could have would trigger the defection of VicePresident Pence, who, using the media and social networks to stage a position contrary to that expressed by the president, would have ordered the deployment of the National Guard in Washington, putting an end to the riots on the Capitol and definitively certifying Trump's defeat. 

As requested by various media and even suggested by Nancy Pelosi herself, this movement would have made it possible to apply Article 25 of the US Constitution in order to suspend presidential powers, which would be assumed by Pence provisionally until Joe Biden was sworn in as president on January 20. Once again, in this connection, voices have been raised at the highest political level calling for a solution in this respect, claiming the president's full ability to take binding decisions on foreign affairs and defence, and stressing the thorny issue of the so-called red button. It is hard to believe that even someone as explosive and unpredictable as the current US president would be capable of playing some sort of nuclear trump card, but, bearing in mind, there is no evidence of any foreign power intervening in this whole sequence of events.  

It is precisely foreign intervention, together with political provocation by extreme left-wing groups, that has been one of the most frequently used arguments to justify the riots on Capitol Hill. Both options represent what we have come to call easy solutions to complex problems; there is simply no empirical evidence, so far, of the involvement either of extreme left elements or foreign powers, not at least at the levels at which an analyst, alien to the highest political levels in the US, can operate.  

This is where we should ask ourselves whether everything that has occurred in the United States in recent months since the November elections, which culminated in the Washington riots and the invasion of the Capitol, is a symptom of instability resulting from the end of one hegemonic cycle and the beginning of another. It sounds extremely complex and distant and requires a much more thorough analysis than an article can provide, but let us remember that hegemony is cyclical. 

Un partidario del presidente Donald Trump porta armas mientras protestaba por las elecciones, el miércoles 6 de enero de 2021, en el Capitolio de Austin, Texas

It is likely that Beijing and the other capitals of countries that are at odds with the United States will rub their hands in the spectacle offered from Washington. For a power like China, which is in a position of strength vis-à-vis the United States, these events should not represent an increase or a decrease in the perception they have of the United States as a source of hegemonic dispute.  

China disputes US leadership in economic terms more than in military terms, on the basis of its own demographic and industrial weight and the capacity to mobilise resources, both material and human, which has led the Asian giant to complete the process of industrialisation and urbanisation of the country in less than 40 years, adopting a capitalist economic model that is sufficiently dynamic in its external action to be able to saturate the global market system with industrial surpluses.   

In this respect, we could say that, using academic terminology, China meets the conditions imposed by both Wallerstein and Modelski when it comes to positioning itself for change, which is more than plausible owing also to the increasing conditions of fracture and degradation of the social fabric in the US after four years of the Trump Administration. Technology dominance, commercial advantages and increasing control of the world economic system, including increasing control of strategic and energy resources and dominance of the pivotal region as postulated by Mackinder. Although extremely important factors remain to be determined; for example, the composition of the Biden Administration and the foreign policy and defence guidelines, it does not appear that the multipolar system of relations established over the past four years will be reversed in the short term. In the short or medium term, if certain plausible conditions are met, such as a realignment of the United States, recovery of the space ceded, and recomposition of the system of alliances, and if China's rearmament is completed, a shift to a bipolar system could take place; a step towards a change of cycle.

It is again extremely complex to determine what will happen the day after, taking as a day, an indefinite unit of time, sufficiently broad to ascertain the consequences of the assault on the Capitol, as well as who will benefit from the events at the Capitol on January 6. A macro analysis will help us to determine the causes and effects, determining factors and conditions available to us. However, a micro analysis, which will determine in one way or another the involvement of the State's technostructure, will be resisted by us due to lack of resources. Likewise, to approach the analysis of the facts from a comparative point of view, between clearly differentiated systems which, due to their economic, demographic and cultural weight, are at lower levels than the USA, establishing parallels between completely different social processes, would be a mistake that would lead to an image being obtained, if not distorted, then polluted to an excessive degree by the subjective element which, although impossible to eliminate, the lesser influence of this factor should be an objective one when addressing this analysis. Otherwise we would fall into one of the great errors that led to this concatenation of facts, that is, demagogy.