U.S. and World Politics

A Tale of Two Coups

By Chris Kinder

First question: What was the real nature of the January 6th attack on the U.S. capital? Many theories have been bandied about, but the truth is not that hard to find. This was a gasping, final, and doomed episode in Donald Trump’s pathetic attempt to retain power by overturning one of the most honest elections in recent U.S. history. If successful, this would have installed a dictatorship by an ignorant moron. Trump’s coup attempt was prepared for by his endlessly-repeated trope that he could only be defeated by a rigged election. His mouthings of this nonsense started as early as May 2020!

That he could only lose through fraud, and then that he really “won” the election was of course a bold-faced lie, which everyone knows, including Trump himself. The election was the most honest in recent history, because it was dominated by paper ballots that were mailed in. Thank the pandemic for this. With easily-rigged voting machines, Trump would have fraudulently “won,” just as Bush did in 2,000.

Trump sought to save himself

Trump did all this—including the ’06 January attack on Congress—to save his own persona, which is a construct of fake news, illegal schemes and self-serving fantasies; and for his hoped-for freedom from imprisonment for endless financial and other crimes over decades, which now threaten him. His political ambitions are just a cover, albeit an important one, for his own personal salvation.

The January 6th attack on Congress was known to its organizers to be illegal as soon as the march began. Investigative reporter Greg Palast revealed the original permit for the rally on the Ellipse, which was obtained by Women for America First. The permit “does not authorize a march from the Ellipse,” and the WAF was “stunned” by Trump’s call at the rally for a march on the capital. Ali Alexander, a rightist demagogue, led the march with White House approval, even though the president knew, and he was warned that it would be illegal.1

The core of the coup attempt

Trump was able to bring off the DC attack because he had energized and mobilized a movement which combined hard-right organizations with the rightist majority in the Republican Party, which latched onto Trump’s ability to mobilize a base with his populist twitter-babble. At the core of the attack on Congress were well-organized fascist organizations, such as the Proud Boys—first to break in—and the Oath Keepers, 3-Percenters and a few others, which all have roots that go deep into the racist history of the U.S.

These hard rightists had specific targets in their cross-hairs—Speaker Pelosi, Vice President Pence, Alexandra Orcasio Cortez. Senators and House members had to run for their lives. Cortez had to hide in a bathroom.

A new and more dangerous right

The immediate predecessor of these fascistic groups is the Ku Klux Klan, which implemented and enforced slavery by another name—a condition of continued Black servitude that lasted for close to a century after the Civil War. Now, preventing Blacks from voting is the core goal of this Trump-GOP-fascist lash-up. This explains why GOP-controlled “battle-ground” states are now rushing to impose all possible restrictions to voting rights, aimed chiefly at predominantly Black inner-city districts. Meanwhile, in other states where they are not threatened, these worms are supporting greater voter access.

Furthermore, the Capital riot showed that the hard right, through its link to Trump, is extending its tentacles. A demographic analysis of those arrested in connection with the capital riot published in The Atlantic showed that most of these activists did not come from “red” states, but “revealed a new force in American politics,” spread throughout the country. This referred to Trump voters, hard-rightists in particular, found in many counties in states that the Democrats won in the election.2 All this helps to explain the now deepening divide in the Republican party, which could lead to an open split between the Trump defenders—supporters of the January 6th attack on the capital—and the establishment conservatives like Senator Mitch McConnell and Trump’s recent blasting of McConnell and the censoring of the few GOP senators who voted to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial.

Fascist goal—civil war

The motivation of the fascistic groups is similar to that of the Republicans—the changing demographics of the U.S., in which white people are rapidly becoming the minority ethnicity. Whether or not they openly claim to be racists (which many do not), their goal is the same. This is the underlying basis of the insurrectionists’ claim that the election was “stolen” if their side didn’t win; and it leads to the same goal, whether acknowledged or not—prevent Black people from voting.

It is no accident that the insurrection attempt featured images based on the “Don’t Tread On Me” slogan from the U.S. War of Independence, or the slogan seen displayed at the capital revolt: “1776.” The Confederacy in the Civil War of 1860-65, which many of these rightists look to, also claimed the legacy of 1776 as their own. The so-called “Revolution” of that date was made by slave-owners to preserve their right to human property, and its post-civil war legacy of voter suppression and segregation of Blacks continued well into the 20th Century. It continues today in the prison-industrial-complex, and on-going racism nation-wide.

The military coup in Myanmar

Second question: What was the nature of the military coup in Myanmar, and how does it relate to U.S. politics today? The military of Myanmar (Burma)3, which has ruled that country on and off since it ceased to be a British colony in 1948, grabbed its direct control back from the elected government on February first of this year. The generals’ public excuse for this came straight out of the Trump playbook: the other party stole the election—for which there is no evidence—so we had to take power to preserve “democracy.”

The overwhelming electoral victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD)—Aung San Suu Kyi’s party—prompted this. That, in turn, demands an explanation. Not only did the military have a party in the election—it had control of 25 percent of the seats in parliament automatically, and veto power, as specified in the constitution. The additional seats are what the military lost in the election, which prompted the coup.

At this writing, the population of Myanmar—including many of the ethnic minorities—is massively voting with their feet in officially-banned demonstrations to show what they think about this. Staff at dozens of hospitals, as well as students and teachers, have walked out; they were some of the first to hit the streets.

Burmese history of struggle

Burma is a country composed of numerous and historically often warring ethnicities, many of whom had no interest in uniting in one nation. With a long history of kingdoms behind it, Burma was conquered and turned into one colony by the British in three wars in the 19th Century. This in turn produced a vigorous independence movement. Just prior to the devastating Japanese occupation of Burma in World War II, an independence army was pulled together by a general named Aung San. He became the founder of modern Myanmar, and he was Aung San Suu Kyi’s father.

With its independence in 1948, Burma became a country which still had often hostile ethnic minority groups, a situation created by the British imperial occupiers, by forcing various ethnic groups into one nation, just as they had done to India, Pakistan, Palestine and other former colonies. Released from a 15-year house arrest in 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi’s “democratic” NLD government came into existence, with the military’s permission in 2015. As the effective head of government4, she allied with the military in its devastating suppression of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State, which justifiably wrecked her international reputation.

Third Question: Where is the U.S. ruling class in all this? Did they want Trump? Do they want fascism? Did they support the coup in Myanmar? Working backward, while the U.S. did not engineer the coup in Myanmar, it insists on domination of the entire planet, and that includes critical interests regarding Myanmar, which, in a single word, means China.

The Chinese Revolution of 1949 abolished the old regime, including the big landlords and all the imperialist enclaves and capitalism that went with them. In 1950, Burma became the first non-communist country in the world to recognize the new Chinese government. At that time China was still fighting the Kuomintang—Chiang Kai Shek’s reactionary and U.S.-backed, drug-running army—part of which was holed-up in northern Burma.5 That was at the start of the Korean War; so just as they had made their revolution, the Chinese people faced a war on two fronts, both involving the U.S. and its allies.

The Pacific Pivot

The U.S.’ current “pivot” to Asia (also known as the Pacific Pivot) is nothing new. Domination of the Pacific Ocean and the access to China was so important to the U.S. after the Japanese surrender in World War II that it attempted to keep its armed forces in the Pacific on duty and “in theater” in order to be able to intervene in the on-going civil war in China, to keep it from going communist. This outrage was met by a surge of protest—essentially an uprising—of U.S. soldiers and sailors all over the bases in the Pacific demanding to be sent home immediately. The U.S. rulers, temporarily defeated by these protests then, have not forgotten their anti-communist imperialist goals.

In Myanmar today, China sees a very important defensive advantage against the U.S.—expansion of the Belt and Road project. The U.S. “pivot” policy, declared central under the Obama administration, involved increased U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea to challenge the Chinese. Look at this in perspective: if a substantial and nuclear-armed navy of China was to patrol U.S. waters off the coast of the U.S., threatening to obstruct commercial and military traffic, and challenge its rights to islands off the coast, what would the U.S. do?

China’s moves are defensive

China is not doing anything to obstruct freedom of international navigation in these waters. It claims some islands as a defensive move against the U.S., and it seeks to keep navigation open. But China fears that the U.S. will choke off this avenue for its navigation. This is where the Chinese relationship with Myanmar, and the Belt and Road project, comes in.

The Belt and Road project is an attempt to expand and secure all the venues of the Silk Road, which was (and still is) the ancient overland trade route between Europe and Asia. Its name, made famous by the 13th Century Venetian merchant and adventurer Marco Polo, refers to the ancient and medieval exportation of silk and other commodities from China to Europe. Today, the Belt and Road seeks to strengthen this connection through both overland routes and sea lanes. This project is for China a defensive move against the U.S.’ endless pursuit of “full spectrum dominance.”

Myanmar’s importance to the Belt and Road

Myanmar is important because it offers China an ally to circumvent the sea routes which are threatened by U.S. naval harassment. These include the South China Sea, and the Strait of Malacca, which is one of the most important international sea trade routes, lying between the Malaysian peninsula and Indonesia. A U.S. naval ship was involved in a collision with another ship recently in this narrow passageway. China rightly worries that the U.S. is determined to choke off both of these avenues in its cold war against China.

China, among its other investments in Myanmar, has interests in a deep-water port project in Kyaukphyu, on the northwestern coast of Myanmar, which will be important for China to bypass the trade routes through the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi, as a virtual head of state, has been moving close to China. In January of 2020, she met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a visit to Myanmar, in which they signed several agreements designed to facilitate relations which are critical to China’s Belt and Road project. This signaled a warning to the military that their hold on power in Myanmar was slipping away. The election defeat, and the example of Trump’s coup attempt based on false claims of fraud in the U.S. election, triggered the February 1st coup in Myanmar.

The two coups—Trump’s that failed miserably, and Myanmar’s that unseated Suu Kyi—are both examples, in different ways, of the U.S. ruler’s need for world dominance. To the ruling class, world domination—the success of U.S. imperialism everywhere—is the issue that is absolutely central. It is the key to their ability to keep wages low domestically, have safe places to invest in and shift production to, as well as keep free-trade rules in place, and maintain the military-industrial complex.

“America is back”

Just after his inauguration, President Biden said, “America is back.” By immediately putting the neocons—the policy gurus of U.S. world domination—back in office, he showed what that meant to the world: they never really left. The fact of having an ignorant moron who didn’t know what he was doing in the White House was the main problem that the ruling class had with Trump. Now, Biden has put people like Antony Blinken, Victoria Nuland, and China hawk, Kurt Campbell, among others, in cabinet and other important positions. Campbell, the author of The Pivot, the Future of American Statecraft in Asia, who was important in the Obama administration, is now to lead Biden’s Asia policy as a special advisor in the National Security Council.

Why is world domination the most essential goal for U.S. imperialism? Because, for the oligarchs, this is the essential foundation of everything they need to survive. Climate change? They can deal. Their corporations cannot stop climate change, but they can look like they are trying, while keeping control of the market, and profiting off new technologies. General Motors just announced it will go all electric by 2035, for instance. Immigration? They don’t care, as long as their access to cheap labor is maintained, which after NAFTA and the flight of U.S. industries, is pretty well locked up. Systemic racism? Again, they don’t care as long as the effects of this system—which they created—continue to keep people divided against one another, while making them look good with some small reforms.

The working class must rise up

The working class is also locked up, in an endless cycle of low wages or no jobs, declined or non-existent unions, and the virtually world-wide absence of any sort of revolutionary working-class movement, particularly in the U.S. Escalating automation with things like driverless trucks, and computerized port operations without dock workers will help keep the working class desperate and fearful.

Not surprisingly, bourgeois politicians in the “two-party system,” albeit with some whining perhaps, shovel the bourgeoisie’s excrement right along.

This is why the U.S. oligarchs, besides having no interest in pimples like Trump, also have no interest at this time in a hard-right or fascist movement. There is simply no substantial threat to their rule under the two party “democratic” system. The hard right is, for now, just interference on their screen. The bourgeoisie generally prefers this sort of fake democracy, as long as it doesn’t challenge their rule, because it masks their rule. It mis-directs complaints against what they are doing into debates over differing “policy” decisions by a bunch of competing stage actors. When the curtains close, the audience is left with... the results of an election held on the stage.

The small fascist groups enlivened under Trump will still be a danger in coming years. They have a long history in the roots of racism in the U.S. and have secured a voice and leadership position in the large mass of both middle-class and working-class whites who are suffering under capitalism, but currently deluded by the orange-man huckster. Leon Trotsky, a key leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and an inspiration to revolutionaries then and now, said, after the rise to power of Hitler’s German Nazis, “The working class will rise again.” Now, we need the working class to rise in a revolutionary movement before the fascists get stronger. Forward to a world free of racism, fascism, and world domination by imperialist capitalism!

1 Greg Palast, “Smoking Gun for Impeachment: Proof Trump’s call to March on Capital Was a crime,”

2 “The Capital Rioters Aren’t like Other Extremists,” The Atlantic, February 2, 2021.

3 The name “Burma” derives from the language of the dominant ethnic group, and goes back generations; while “Myanmar” is the name in English adopted by the military after they slaughtered thousands in a popular uprising in 1989. Very disgusting indeed, but “Myanmar” has since become the common usage.

4 Suu Kyi is not allowed to officially hold office due to a constitutional technicality based on her marriage to a non-citizen.

5 The bulk of the Kuomintang fled to the island of Taiwan, where they slaughtered natives. Taiwan is claimed by China and was Chinese, but it had been ceded to Japan by the emperor of China in a late 19th Century capitulation, and then occupied by Japan during the Second World War.