Trump: A Weak Bonapartist Government
The Trotskyist Fraction explains a key definition of Trump's government as a form of weak bonapartist.
July 16, 2017
Given the unexpected victory of Donald Trump, the Trotskyist Fraction organized an emergency conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in March of 2017, to discuss new definitions about the shifting international situation. Representatives from Argentina, France, Chile, Brazil, México, United States, Spanish State, Germany, Bolivia, Venezuela and Uruguay attended. The conference began by discussing Trump’s victory and its global implications. Afterwards, representatives discussed the specific political situation in each country and the challenges ahead for each group.
At this meeting we reaffirmed the strategic basis for the Manifesto for a Movement for an International of Socialist Revolution (Fourth International), which we published in 2013. You can read it here.
The following text summarizes some of the primary definitions and resolutions voted at the meeting of the Trotskyist Fraction. It is the second of several parts.
The first few months of Trump’s presidency have been marked by divisions and rivalries within the state apparatus. These divisions are largely the result of the United States’ economic decline, which made a forward leap with the catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the disputes regarding US foreign policy following the failure of the “reformist” reestablishment of imperialist leadership attempted under the Obama administration.
Furthermore, the presidential elections reflected the debate among the bourgeoisie on how to address the decline of the neoliberal cycle expressed by the 2008 crisis. Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the large corporations and banks, while Trump’s core base was composed of small, non-globalized capitalists. However, the establishment is adopting a pragmatic approach towards the new government, supporting the policies that could benefit it while staunchly opposing those that affect their interests. This has resulted in a scenario of unstable alliances and complex alignments of large monopolies that could simultaneously form part of different groups.
In this situation, Trump has emerged as the leader of an administration with profound Bonapartist characteristics. In a context of increasing divisions among capitalists, he intends to mediate between the different sectors of the bourgeoisie and, to this end, has sought the support of a part of the bureaucratic military apparatus. During his election campaign, he relied on the public support of 88 former generals and admirals. Once elected, he formed a cabinet composed of big business leaders and retired servicemen. The expansion of the military budget and increased powers granted to the Pentagon are other measures implemented in support of this policy.
This does not mean that Trump has uniform support among the army ranks, but his policy towards the military confirms his Bonapartist characteristics. However, as we have seen in the months since his inauguration, it is a weak, unconsolidated Bonapartism primarily characterized by the political crisis and disputes among the different sectors of the government coalition, and between the executive and other state branches. Another of Trump’s weaknesses is that he has not yet managed to turn his electorate into a solid social base of support and it is unclear if he will be able to do so.
Contrary to the views of certain analysts and even some governments like that of Nicolas Maduro, Trump’s policy is not isolationist. Overall, the economic nationalism supported by Trump implies a more aggressive imperialist policy abroad, guided by militarist unilateralism, and a more reactionary domestic policy, which has taken shape in his anti-immigrant, anti-union and generally anti-democratic measures.