Working class and oppressed peoples should not have expectations from Biden – Derya Kızılova

Now that the Electoral College has validated Biden’s victory, a long and disputed election process has come to an end. However much Trump continues to oppose the election and perpetuate the narrative that the election was stolen, these unfounded claims are garnering less and less attention in mainstream media. We even see Fox News distancing themselves from Trump, with which his name had become synonymous. The first signs of this fracture was evident already on election night when Fox News called the critical state of Arizona for Biden.[1]

Even though it seems certain that Biden will be the next U.S. president, it is hard to say that the election in general was successful for Democrats. Many obstacles lie ahead of them. Nonetheless, looking closely at the election and at what Biden has done so far, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the bourgeoisie is happy with the current course.

Despite the fact that Trump is (nearly) gone, we can’t say that his successor will be different either for the working class and or for the oppressed peoples of the world under the yoke of white supremacy and imperialism. We can only expect from the Biden era an attempt at a more sustainable capitalism and white supremacy in which the two faced nature of U.S. ideology will again be accentuated.

In order to understand the election and the new government that Biden represents, let us look closer at the election itself, the differences between Biden and Trump and the members of Biden’s team and cabinet.

Firstly, as Mike Davis emphasizes in his article “Trench Warfare” in the new issue of New Left Review, the 2020 elections are not dissimilar to the 2016 elections in many ways. Despite the fact that it was nearly impossible to find a poll that did not show Biden on a significant lead, Biden barely won many critical states, as Trump did in 2016, and won with the same 306 electoral college votes as Trump. Furthermore, Biden could not win back an important amount of the Democrat states that were lost after Obama. At the same time, we need to point out that even though Trump lost, he increased his total votes by 8 million compared to 2016. So, although it lost the election, Trumpism seems to have increased its popularity.[2]

In the election that garnered the highest turnout since 1960, Biden received the highest number of votes any U.S. president in history. Although it was the highest turnout since 1960, for the U.S. this only means that 63% of the population voted. So, 37% of Americans who were eligible to vote by not casting a ballot, once again carried the No-Vote Party to first place. Furthermore, despite gaining 5 million more votes than Trump, because of the undemocratic Electoral College system in the U.S., Biden could only achieve a close victory.[3]

Some other statistics from the election illustrate important tendencies of U.S. politics. A large proportion of voters below the age of 45 favored Biden, whereas those above 45 overwhelmingly favored Trump. Whereas women voted for Biden with a margin of 55% to 45%, men voted for Trump by 46% to 52%. However, white women, who before the election liberal-leaning media anticipated would vote for Biden in contrast to 2016, voted in favor of Trump even with a larger margin than in 2016. Black voters, who comprise 11% of total voters, favored Biden by 90% and Hispanic voters, comprising 10% of voters, favored Biden by 63%. So, racial and ethnic minorities had a large role in Trump’s defeat. Economically, where voters earning less than $50k yearly or above $100k voted for Biden, those in between voted for Trump.[4]

For the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, it looks like the election went well. Not only did the candidates that usually stand to the “left” of the Democratic Party got reelected, but other Congress members joined them. However, as Davis also underlines, the activist base is not too strongly tied to the idea that the Democratic Party can be swayed to the left.[5]

As the two-party system’s function of undermining and absorbing leftist movements continues, the absence of an established revolutionary organization with an extensive base is felt most in moments when social movements upsurge. Even Black Lives Matter, in a social media post shared after the election, announced that although they requested a meeting from the Biden administration, 32 days later their message was still unanswered. Furthermore, Biden arranged a meeting with civil rights groups and leaders and did not invite Black Lives Matter.[6] This example clearly illustrates that as long as left movements cannot organize in a strong and structural way outside the two-party system, they have no leverage whatsoever in the government. We are also still waiting to see how those who justified their support for Biden on the grounds that he can be more easily pressured towards the left will respond to these types of developments.

Even though Biden is assuming the presidency, the future does not look too bright for the Democratic Party. While the Senate race is going to runoffs, it is expected that Republicans will retain their majority, despite billions of dollars spent by Democrats. In this case, we can say that it will be impossible for Biden to pass many important reforms he promised, including the public option amendment to the Affordable Care Act, or opening new pathways for citizenship.

What makes the situation even worse for Democrats is that with the recent appointment of Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans have established conservative majority in the Supreme Court. It is not expected that during the Biden presidency there will be a vacancy for a Supreme Court Justice position, which are positions that have lifetime tenure in the U.S. Moreover, Republicans were successful in appointing numerous judges to federal courts, and after the 2020 elections they have trifectas in 23 states, meaning that they have majorities in state senates and congresses and in these states the governors are Republicans. In considering all of this, it seems not only likely that during the Biden era the Democrats will not be able to enact changes that are not also supported by Republicans but additionally that the agendas of the next four years could be largely determined by Republicans.[7]

What does Biden’s election mean for capital? In order to understand this, let’s talk about the U.S. two-party system and this system’s relationship with capital. As Dylan Riley emphasizes in his article “Faultlines” in New Left Review, in the U.S. two-party system, historically the parties represent different centers of capital. According to Riley, the main three branches of capital that the two parties are connected with are finance, insurance and real estate. Below this main level, we can notice a separation into two camps. On the one hand are “dirty” manufacturing, extractive fossil fuel industry, big retail, food service and large family businesses who overwhelmingly support Republicans. On the other hand are Silicon Valley tech giants, education, arts and entertainment sectors which tend to back Democrats.[8]       

This contemporary split in branches of capital also corresponds to the differences between political agendas of Democrats and Republicans. Riley identifies the Democratic Party’s political logic as multicultural neoliberalism and the Republican Party’s as macho-national  neomercantilism. We will see what multicultural neoliberalism means in more detail when we look at Biden’s picks for his team and cabinet, but in short we can say that this ideology entails allowing more women and people from oppressed racial and ethnic identities into positions of power without fundamentally changing oppressive structures.[9]

In contrast to this, even though Republican politics recognizes the declining job prospects and public services, it responds to this with an anti-immigrant position and a nationalist neomercantilism. On the one hand, this approach is weaponized to condemn immigrants for the adversities capitalism inflicts on the working class; on the other hand it is used to justify chasing energy sovereignty dreams via elevating the fossil fuel industry, and increased protectionist trade wars. Even though we are making these general distinctions, at the same time it is important to point out that both parties have representatives of these two political agendas, and that both parties and their presidential candidates receive overarching support from capital.[10]

While this general overview helps us understand the 2020 U.S. elections better, there is still one more topic that requires discussion: that Trump himself is distinct from the Republican Party. In the political context, this difference was revealed over the last four years in polemics between Trump and senior members of the Republican Party, the emergence of anti-Trump Republican groups, and the constant turnover in important positions in Trump’s administration.

However, perhaps the more important distinction is the difference of the centers of capital that Trump is close with. Mike Davis, using a term he borrows from Sam Farber, characterizes the capital that supports Trump as “lumpen capitalists.” This group remains on the periphery of traditional centers of economic power, and in addition to oil family dynasties like Kochs, is made up of “post-industrial robber barons” that gain wealth from real estate, private equity, casinos, private armies and chain usury.[11]

That Biden got more donations than Trump from almost all major industries (except the oil and gas industries) illustrate that capital in general wasn’t anymore happy with the “lumpenness” of the capital Trump appealed to primarily, nor with his detachment from the traditional narratives and political stance of U.S. presidents.[12] The final warning and farewell signal from the bourgeoisie for Trump was the letter signed on November 23rd by CEOs and representatives of international banks and finance companies (including General Motors, Mastercard, and Goldman Sachs), demanding that Trump immediately begin the transition process to the Biden administration. As a result, the same day that this letter was published, Trump, who until then had been stubbornly refusing cooperation, announced he would initiate the process of transition.[13]

            It seems like Biden has not disappointed capital with his team and cabinet picks he announced so far. Before we look at these, let us note that the announced cabinet picks will only remain at the level of candidacy until they are approved by the Senate.

            After the election, Biden announced agency review teams for different agencies that would help him with the transition process and cabinet picks. It has been revealed that at least eight of the twenty-three people in the Department of Defense agency review team are people who were working for think tanks, organizations of companies that are part of the weapons industry or receiving money from this industry.[14]

            Three of these people are from The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This think tank is financed by the oil and weapons industries. The known names amongst their donors are Boeing;[15] the defense industry company General Dynamics; one of the main supplier of bombs for Yemen war Raytheon Technologies; the manufacturers of drones used by the U.S., including Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, Northrop Grumman; and the manufacturer of the bomb that killed twenty-two children in a school bus in Yemen in 2018, Lockheed Martin.[16] According to Bloomberg, these five companies are the 5 largest defense contractors of 2019.[17] CSIS at the same time receives donations from different governments including the United Arab Emirates and the U.S.[18]

            Biden’s team also includes members from the think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS), which receives money from Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and the U.S. RAND Corporation is another think tank that is represented. CSIS and CNAS are the two think tanks receiving most money from U.S. defense contractors and RAND is the top recipient of Department of Defense funding amongst all think tanks.[19]

            The relations with capital does not end here either. It has drawn attention that many important positions in Biden’s cabinet are being filled with people with connections to a largely unknown consulting firm called WestExec. One of these people is Anthony Blinken, who will be Secretary of State; another is Lloyd Austin, who will be Secretary of Defense[20]; a third pick is Avril Haines, who will be Director of National Intelligence, which is the position responsible for overseeing all U.S. intelligence.[21]

             Blinken is the director of WestExec with Michéle Flournoy, who was expected to be named for Secretary of Defense before her connections with WestExec and the defense industry were revealed. Hanies is also from WestExec. Austin, in addition to coming from an organization that partners with WestExec, is also on the board of the weapons company Raytheon. So, the person who is selected to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense is at the same time on the board of one of the biggest weapon companies.[22]

            So what is this WestExec? The company was founded in 2018 by Blinken and Flournoy, and not only has close ties to the defense industry but also held official intelligence roles. It also houses many prior members of the Obama administration. Avril Haines, for example, was part of the founding of Obama’s drone program. Even though the company keeps its clients secret, it was revealed that its clients include the Israeli weapons company Windward and Google’s think tank Jigsaw.[23]

            WestExec shows that individuals from certain groups in the U.S. defense and weapons industry, even if they are not in the government, use their connections from government positions to privately consult capital. Afterwards they get into the government again, and continue to serve the same interests. WestExec executives were so certain that they were going to get into the government again that in the lease for their office three blocks from the White House, they included an article stating they can break the lease if anyone from the company joins the administration.[24]

            Let’s now move to Biden’s choices for positions pertaining to the economy. It was already far from unusual to see people from finance companies such as Goldman Sachs in the high levels of the U.S. government. Biden pointed towards a new relation between the government and finance by selecting both the Deputy Treasury Secretary and National Economic Council (top economic advisor position) from the finance giant Black Rock.[25]

            Black Rock is the biggest investment and asset management company in the world, and manages a total of $7.8 trillion of assets. Yes, you read that correctly, $7.8 trillion, ten times the economy of Turkey. Black Rock’s wealth comes mostly from managing investments and it has in it people who worked in the Obama administration. Black Rock’s technology and investment platform Aladdin oversees $21.6 trillion.[26]

            Black Rock has at least 5% of stake (the amount that is necessary for major influence) in nearly 98% of all of the companies in the S&P 500 index. These companies include Apple, Microsoft, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo. Black Rock, which controls extraordinary values in such a vast array, has almost become identical with general interests of capital, and now it has also found its direct place in the management of the U.S. treasury.[27]

            Biden’s decisions with regards to immigration also have been a disappointment to many. This is in fact not too surprising. Trump has been known globally as a president who carried xenophobia to new lengths and established a brutal anti-immigrant police state. Especially with his discourse and some important legal decisions that he made, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that Trump indeed developed the system of xenophobia significantly.

            Nevertheless, we should not forget that the anti-immigrant state apparatus Trump inherited was already taken to unseen heights by Obama,[28] who in fact even deported more immigrants than Trump[29] (nearly 3 million people in 8 years).[30] This is why Obama received the nickname “Deporter-In-Chief” from immigration justice organizations. Biden has signaled a return back to Obama tendencies by including Cecilia Muñoz, an important Obama era immigration advisor, in his agency review team. Muñoz made headlines in 2011 by defending Obama’s immigrant family separation policy by saying “even broken laws have to be enforced.” In addition, even though Biden announced that he intends to stop some of the immigration policies Trump brought, he has not yet spoken about a reversal of them.[31]

            Let us quickly review some of the remaining cabinet and consultant choices. Neera Tanden, who was selected for the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, has in the past actively supported cuts to social security.[32] Cedric Richmond, who has been selected as the Director of Office of Public Engagement, was a disappointment for environmental groups. Biden campaigned by emphasizing that climate change will be one of the foremost priorities of his administration, a topic especially important for young progessive voters. However, Richmond, who will also be the administration’s liaison between climate change groups and businesses, is one of the Democratic Congressmen who receive the most donations from the oil and gas industry. Moreover, in important votes regarding climate change in the past, he has often voted in the interests of capital, siding with Republicans.[33]

            What the Biden administration will mean for the working class is also starkly revealed by one of the articles of the new Covid-19 stimulus package that the government is trying to pass. One article of the new stimulus package that both parties agreed on with a long unseen unity aims to provide immunity to corporations for the deaths of workers due to Covid-19. According to this article, if a company was “trying to conform to public health standards and guidance” and “gross negligence” cannot be proven (so in practice always), employers will be immune to Covid-19 lawsuits. Moreover, this law will cover cases retroactively as far back as December 2019![34]

            The text of this article in the new stimulus package was copied word for word from another law passed in New York in April that provided immunity for healthcare institutions, including nursing homes where thousands of people lost their lives. Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) not only had donated $1.2 million to New York Democratic apparatus but also drafted the law itself.[35] GNYHA also donated the Democratic Party $11 million for the article in the stimulus package, which will carry the same law to a federal level and include a wider group of employers.[36] We should also note that the immunity law in New York was passed under the Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been elevated to the level of a super star for his management of Covid-19 crisis, and even awarded an Emmy for his daily briefings.

            Instead of the anti-working class and pro-capital characters of Biden’s new cabinet, what caught more attention has been its diverse and multicultural character. This is just the multicultural neoliberalism Riley talks about. Biden himself had announced that his cabinet will be the most diverse in U.S. history.[37] Liberal media and parts of the Democratic base sees this as a victory over white supremacy and patriarchy.

            It is mind-boggling that selection of a woman or a Black person to the high levels of a state that is the biggest enforcer of global imperialism and white supremacy; oppresses countless of peoples in every corner of the world, including those inside the U.S. itself; a state whose soldiers rape women around the globe; sustains patriarchy and degrades even the ideal women’s liberation to an excuse for imperial war and invasion, can be viewed as a victory against white supremacy or patriarchy. This approach is a striking example of empty identity politics that solely operates on a representational logic and does not question the structural characters of the represented positions and becomes an ideological weapon for neoliberal capitalism. With this ideological strategy, capitalism not only aims to legitimate itself but also undermines the necessary solidarities between different struggles.

            Since Biden’s victory was announced, a significant portion of Democrats (especially white Democrats) are already deluding themselves that they will leave behind the Trump era as an exception and that U.S. will return to being the amazing, “post-racial” society of the Obama era. They have either already forgotten or are ignoring that in a meeting with billionaires in the summer of 2019 Biden said that if he is elected “nothing would fundamentally change” and “no one’s standard of living will change.”[38] Similarly, it doesn’t matter to them that Biden responded to violence in the George Floyd protests, using right wing terminologies,[39] like Obama with Ferguson.

            What these white democrats want is to leave behind the corrupted social structure of the U.S. whose essence is rooted in white supremacy and go back to the dream that the U.S. is a land of opportunity that is the leader of world democracy. While they watch the news in their suburban homes, it is more important to them that their President look professional and explain the necessities of the cruelties of the world to them with coherent and rational sentences, than the transformation of this system itself.

            Whatever we say, we could hardly describe this group better than the way Martin Luther King did decades ago: “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’”[40]

            We saw how relevant King’s words still are in many of the responses given to the George Floyd protests. Now, it is certain that many white Democrats who were radicalized during the Trump era will go back to their homes from the streets. Trump was merely an inconvenience that woke them up from their “American dream,” and going back to sleep is what they want most. What Democratic Party just wanted was to channel the social response emerging from the protests this summer to the elections and gain power without enacting any fundamental change.

            However, it is also true that for many Americans there will not be a return to the U.S. before Trump. The “socialist” or “democratic-socialist” movements and groups developing in the U.S.—however flawed they are—will only be successful if they do not develop expectations around the two-party system and can resist the U.S. ideology which will try to enter into a normalization phase. After the second defeat of Bernie Sanders, leftists need to leave behind the two-party system and the better of two evils logic it brings, and understand that there is no liberation for the working class and oppressed peoples in the Democrats. At the same time, it is essential to both move the existing movements to a revolutionary agenda and establish a wide grassroots power that can act together when necessary and that exists outside the two parties.

            Then let’s finish our article with a quote from Malcolm X who, as the U.S. government transitions from Trump to Biden, reminds us succinctly and clearly what we should remember for working class and oppressed peoples:

“The white conservatives aren’t friends of the Negro either, but they at least don’t try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the ‘smiling’ fox…wolf and the fox both belong to the (same) family. Both are canines.”[41]

            Let us then not find ourselves in the jaws of the Biden fox when we are fleeing from Trump wolf. From now on, whenever you see that smile of Biden we all know, you can remember these words by Malcolm X, and whenever you watch a theatre of positive change for working class or oppressed peoples put on by the Biden administration, you can expect to find a play of capital behind the curtain.

[1] Stusi Mishra, “Donald Trump calls Fox News ‘dead’ as he steps up feud with network,” Independent, 18 Aralık 2020,

[2] Mike Davis, “Trench Warfare,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[3] Michael Roberts, “The Social Composition of the Anti-Trump Vote,” 10 Kasım 2020,

[4] İbid.

[5] Mike Davis, “Trench Warfare,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[6] Lia Eustachewich, “Black Lives Matter says Biden-Harris have been silent on meeting request,” New York Post, 11 Aralık 2020,

[7] Mike Davis, “Trench Warfare,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[8] Dylan Riley, “Faultlines,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Mike Davis, “Trench Warfare,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[12] Dylan Riley, “Faultlines,” New Left Review 126, Kasım/Aralık (2020):

[13] Claudia Cinatti, “The Biden Era Begins,” Left Voice, 30 Aralık 2020,

[14] Sarah Lazare, “Biden Is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers,” Jacobin, 11 Aralık 2020,

[15] Center for Strategic & International Studies, “Corporation and Trade Association Donors,” (erişim 28 Aralık 2020),

[16] Sarah Lazare, “Biden Is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers,” Jacobin, 11 Aralık 2020,

[17] Bloomberg Government, “Top 10 Defense Contractors,” 26 Temmuz 2020,

[18] Sarah Lazare, “Biden Is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers,” Jacobin, 11 Aralık 2020,

[19] Sarah Lazare, “Biden Is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers,” Jacobin, 11 Aralık 2020,

[20] David Dayen, “Joe Biden’s Cabinet Is On Loan From Corporate America,” Jacobin, 8 Aralık 2020,

[21] Carey Howard, “First Female Director of National Intelligence is Not a Victory for Women,” Socialist Alternative, 4 Aralık 2020,






[27] Meagan Day, “Joe Biden’s BlackRock Cabinet Picks Show the President-Elect Is Ready and Eager to Serve the Rich,” Jacobin, 3 Aralık 2020,

[28] Tatiana Cozzarelli, “The Newest Member of Biden’s Transition Team: Defender of Obama Era Deportations and Family Separations,” Left Voice, 14 Kasım 2020,

[29] Zack Budryk, “Deportations lower under Trump administration than Obama: report,” The Hill, 18 Kasım 2019,

[30] Alicia A. Caldwell ve Louise Radnofsky, “Why Trump Has Deported Lower Immigrants Than Obama,” The Wall Street Journal, 3 Ağustos 2019,

[31] Branko Marcetic, “Biden’s Immigration Moves Are Making a Mockery of His Vow to ‘Heal the Nation’s Soul,’” Jacobin, 19 Kasım 2020

[32] Walker Bragman, “Joe Biden’s Neera Tanden Pick is Worse Than You Thought,” Jacobin, 30 Kasım 2020,

[33] David Sirota, Julia Rock ve Andrew Perez, “Joe Biden Just Appointed His Climate Movement Liaison. It’s a Fossil-Fuel Industry Advocate,” Jacobin, 17 Kasım 2020,

[34] Jake Johnson, “Relief Package Gives Retroactive Immunity to Corporations From COVID Lawsuits,” Truthout, 15 Aralık 2020,

[35] David Sirota, “SCOOP: Senate GOP Copied & Pasted Cuomo’s Corporate Immunity Law Word-For-Word,” The Daily Poster, 28 Temmuz 2020,

[36] David Sirota and Julia Rock, “Tucked into the Covid-19 stimulus package? Protections for corporations,” The Guardian, 5 Aralık 2020,

[37] Kate Sullivan, “Biden on nominating a diverse Cabinet: ‘I’m going to keep my commitment,’” CNN, 3 Aralık 2020,

[38] Dominique Mosbergen, “Joe Biden Promises Rich Donors He Won’t ‘Demonize’ The Wealthy If Elected President,” HuffPost, 19 Haziran 2019,

[39] Reuters Staff, “Fact check: Joe Biden has condemned violent protests in the last three months,” Reuters, 4 Eylül 2020,

[40] DeNeen L. Brown, “Martin Luther King’s Scorn for ‘white moderates’ in his Birmingham fail letter,” The Washington Post, 15 Ocak 2018,

[41] “Malcolm X Speech,” digitalhistory,