As Donald Trump celebrates his capture of the White House, two factors make this one of the most dangerous moments in this country’s history for Blacks, Latinos and immigrants especially, as well as for the entire working class, and the workers and oppressed people of the world:
First, Trump plans to rule in the same way that he campaigned. He will govern by means of racism at home and militaristic nationalism abroad. Posing as the defender of “the common man,” he will threaten opponents right and left and demagogically promise “middle America” – and “the white working class” in particular – that if they support his strongman rule they will be rewarded with the return of prosperity not seen for generations.
Second, Democratic Party politicians will continue to play the role that paved the way for Trump. Always loyal to the capitalist system, under Obama they bailed out Wall Street and big capital but no one else. While the working class faced the ravages of the economic crisis in which Blacks and Latinos suffered the worst, their allies who control the unions, civil rights and community organizations held back attempts at struggle. Yes, the Democrats will denounce the new administration’s worst injustices. But they will, as always, discourage the only real hope for defense against the coming onslaught: a rising mass movement that grows from protests to mass strikes and occupations that force the capitalist ruling class to retreat.
Let’s spell out what Trump’s would-be strongman rule means:
Trump has vowed to treat all Muslims as would-be terrorists and to outdo Barack Obama’s record-breaking deportations of undocumented immigrants by unleashing an onslaught of home and workplace raids and encourage racist police harassment of anyone who “appears” as if they could be an undocumented immigrant. Constantly describing Black and Latino neighborhoods as being nothing but war zones, he will direct the police to act accordingly – like an occupying army. And knowing that his policies will provoke resistance, he will act to criminalize protests and crack down on their organizers.
To promote this “law and order” offensive, he will continue to slander Muslims and their defenders as terrorist sympathizers, condemn immigrant rights defenders as un-American, demonize Black Lives Matter activists as inciters of violence, and in general try to intimidate all who protest his blatantly racist and anti-working class policies. His rhetoric will poison the political atmosphere and encourage extra-legal attacks by right-wing thugs, as happened many times during his rallies. We have already seen a terrible rise of racist assaults on people of color since Election Day. And the example of the death threats suffered by steelworkers’ local union leader Chuck Jones and his family after Jones exposed Trump’s lie that he saved a thousand jobs at the Carrier factory in Indiana shows that Trump’s encouragement of extra-judicial violence will not stop at people of color.
Continuing his campaign against “political correctness,” Trump and his congressional allies will wage a legislative war against civil rights that limit discrimination against people of color, women, and LGBT people. Once Trump appoints a new justice to the Supreme Court, it will move to do away with abortion rights and devastate the country’s already weak unions by extending open shop laws and dues check-off. Laws that limit corporations’ destruction of the environment will be similarly erased. And aware that Republican state government efforts at racist voter suppression along with court decisions blocking the recount of ballots in key states were essential to him being declared the winner of the presidential election, Trump will encourage further efforts to limit the ability of Blacks and Latinos to vote and appoint judges to the courts that will approve such measures.
Throughout its history the United States has hypocritically claimed to stand for democratic freedoms as a cover for its military adventures and to aid corporate exploitation of the “Global South.” And since the end of World War II, it has used its military supremacy to police the world and maintain order among its rival powers to ensure the stability of international capitalist profiteering. But the failure of the U.S.’s massive military interventions into the Middle East have created a crisis for U.S. imperialism, draining its wealth and military power while preventing it from challenging rivals elsewhere.
The Trump administration will attempt to solve this crisis by dropping U.S. foreign policy’s traditional democratic pretenses. It will support cooperative dictatorships more openly than ever before, and Trump hopes to ally with Russian imperialism as a junior partner in policing the world in return for conceding Putin a larger share of regional power. But Trump’s turn to naked “America First” imperialist aggression will prompt new crises. His support of protectionist economic policies will threaten to engulf the world in trade war. Resistance by rival powers like China will threaten new military conflicts. And the uncertainties of these shifting alliances will push other powers like Germany and the rest of Europe to expand their own military capabilities.
Trump will threaten a few corporate bosses with punishments like new taxes and the removal of government contracts, move to institute term limits on Congress, and vow retribution against both Republicans and Democrats who oppose his polices. As with his “deal” to keep several hundred Carrier jobs in Indiana rather than Mexico, his stick will be accompanied by abundant corporate carrots. He may even make a show of vetoing Republican bills to overturn “Obamacare,” which many working people depend on despite its real purpose of boosting the profits of insurance and pharmaceutical companies. With such moves Trump will aim to intimidate the entire ruling class into supporting his rule and to convince white working-class and middle-class people that he is on their side.
In pursuit of his goals, Trump has chosen appropriate aides and cabinet members. These include Jim Crow revivalists like Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon who is notorious for promoting the neo-Nazi “alt-right”; former generals rather than civilians for the posts of National Security Adviser and Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security; and billionaire free-market vultures who have spent their careers ripping off workers, homeowners and the public treasury, just as Trump has done. But we cannot rely on the Democrats to seriously fight against them or most of what Trump has in store.
Democratic politicians will encourage the idea that putting them back into power in the future is the only way to stop Trump and the Republicans’ attacks. They will expect their allies who control the country’s unions, civil rights and community organizations to prevent a real fightback. Should big struggles nevertheless break out, the Democrats will work to derail them into the voting booths, as they did with the uprising of struggle in Wisconsin against attacks on the unions in 2011 and with the mass immigrant rights struggles of the past decade. They will even be ready to support violent repression when they believe it necessary. That’s what the Obama administration did in directing the military assaults that ended the Occupy Wall Street protests, and what Democratic governors of Missouri and Maryland did when they ordered the National Guard to occupy Ferguson and Baltimore to put down uprisings against police terror.
The Democrats’ long record of betraying the working class and people of color cost them the presidency. That record includes Obama’s bailing out of Wall Street and abandonment of the working class to the ravages of the “Great Recession,” his enthusiasm for trade deals that heavily favored capital over labor, his record-breaking deportations of undocumented immigrants and his refusal to offer any serious reforms to address the crisis of racist police terror and mass incarceration, even when confronted by the rise of the Black Lives Matter protests. Hillary Clinton’s insistence against Trump that “America is already great” proved to millions that she and the Democrats were not concerned about the ruinous conditions so many working-class people face.
Since the election, the Democrats have continued their betrayals. Starting with Obama, they have promised a “smooth transition” and to work with Trump whenever possible. Those promises came not only from conservative Democrats like House and Senate Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer, but also from liberal favorites Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And during the transition they have fulfilled that promise. A few examples:
As revolutionary Marxists have always said, the Democratic Party is not the party of the people, but the B Team of Wall Street and big business. Despite all their speechifying about Trump’s unworthiness to be President, they are proving to be a loyal opposition, loyal above all to the capitalist class they all serve.
Trump’s election comes at a time when the world capitalist system is in the midst of a two-sided crisis. First, U.S. imperialism has been declining in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union, when it emerged as the sole superpower. Its decline was accelerated by the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq starting under Bush II, even though Obama has continued to employ U.S. military power murderously in even more countries in the Middle East.
The decline was most recently exposed by the recent effort by Obama and Secretary of State Kerry to arrange a deal with Putin over Syria that legitimized the Russian military intervention and allowed the slaughter in Aleppo and elsewhere against the popular democratic revolution, as well as against Sunni jihadist groups that had sought to take advantage of it. Confronted by the wave of popular revolutions for democracy and social justice that swept the Middle East six years ago, Obama had already been forced to abandon his pretense of supporting democracy by backing bloody counterrevolutions in Bahrain, Yemen, and Egypt. In Syria he had to accept the dictator Assad’s continued grip on power and then Russia’s intervention to help Assad complete his genocidal counterrevolutionary war.
Second is the economic crisis. The financial collapse in 2007-8 was not just the result of financial speculation and malfeasance. Those were the triggers, but the explosive powder had built up over the decades since World War II, as capitalist profit rates inevitably declined. The drive to eliminate decent-paying jobs and expand super-exploitation in the poor countries held back the capitalists’ crisis but could not prevent it. The bailouts under Bush II and Obama (and other rulers abroad), and the austerity policies that followed, temporarily rescued the bankers and billionaires but not the system – and certainly not the workers and poor of the world. A new collapse is in the cards.
Trump owes his victory both to the lasting economic pain and to sentiment that America’s authority in the world has been frittered away. But his plans and tough talk will not resolve the crises. He and his fellow billionaire parasites will continue to profit from the declining capitalist system, deepening the gross inequalities at home and internationally.
On the geopolitical stage of relations between nation-states, at the moment Trump is seeking an alliance with Russia and escalating economic and military threats against China. His Secretary of State nominee, former Exxon chief Rex Tillerson, has threatened to mobilize the U.S. military to block China’s access to the islands in the South China Sea that it claims and has built military bases on. But that could shift since U.S. capitalist interests intertwine with both of these powers. The more sophisticated ruling-class strategists, who see the need to prevent a Russia-China bloc against U.S. supremacy, worry that Trump’s bluster could end up promoting just the bloc that they want stopped. Ruling-class leaders abroad are frightened of the uncertainty that Trump brings; imperialist allies are losing trust in U.S. support, and rulers in some of the countries of “the Global South” that have long been dependent on U.S. backing are looking for alternative sources of support.
As we know from the past, a new Great Depression could culminate in a new inter-imperialist war. The Trump Presidency will not be the main cause if this happens, but it reflects the crisis and can only accelerate it.
In response to the news that Hillary Clinton had conceded the presidential election to Trump, protest marches erupted and grew for a few weeks. Particularly successful were nationally coordinated high school walkouts and rallies on college campuses demanding that administrations declare themselves “sanctuaries” that will refuse to help the Trump White House identify and deport undocumented immigrants among both students and campus workers.
These protests showed the potential to build a movement of struggle against the coming attacks. But for the most part, the country’s major unions, civil rights and community organizations noticeably failed to organize and mobilize for the actions. Nor did they call for and begin to build a movement of struggle focused on Trump’s inauguration and beyond. This meant that much of the momentum created by the first outburst of protest was wasted, and the Democrats’ rhetoric of providing Trump a “smooth transition to power” went unchallenged, demoralizing many who were looking to build a fightback. Indeed most leaders of the country’s unions followed the Democrats’ lead and offered to work with Trump where possible. While they acknowledged his coming anti-union attacks, they signaled that their plan is to not try to mobilize mass struggles to defeat them, but rather just to protest their enactment and wait until the next chance to vote for Democrats. Meanwhile, a number of the larger far-left groups called their own protests against the inauguration rather than try to bring left-wing and other groups together for a united protest.
These betrayals also meant that the media could focus attention on the Women’s March in Washington called for the day after the inauguration. The decision by its initiators to call a “women’s march” rather than one of all the oppressed, working-class and poor people targeted by Trumps’ attacks undermined the potential to build a powerful and united struggle, including against his plan to see women’s right to abortion further restricted. It was especially insulting to undocumented immigrants, Muslims and all people of color whom the racist demagogue Trump has singled out for his worst and most sustained denunciations and promised attacks. Thus the March inevitably appeared to be following the defeated Hillary Clinton who campaigned with the slogan “I’m With Her” while paying only lip-service to the concerns of Blacks and Latinos and ignoring the plight of working-class and poor people in general. This impression was not undone by radicals who joined the leadership of the march and belatedly added opposition to Trump’s racist and other attacks to its program. It was thus a gift to Trump’s efforts to pose as a man of the people and caricature his opponents as liberals indifferent to the plight of working-class people.
We revolutionary socialists will participate in all protests against Trump’s inauguration, including the Women’s March, and encourage others to mobilize for them too. We will join in the inevitable protests against specific Trump attacks, including against the repeal of Obamacare, despite the program’s forcing people to purchase insurance from for-profit companies whose premiums are now rapidly increasing. In doing so we will spread the idea of building for massive united struggles and not waiting for future elections. We favor demanding that the unions and the civil and immigrant rights organizations devote every effort to building a mass protest movement that increases the organization of working-class and oppressed people and raises their sense of their potential power when united in struggle. This would prepare for the sort of actions that will be required to win: truly massive protests and strikes that render cities ungovernable and challenge the rule of the capitalist class.
This struggle will require the building of a new political party leadership of the working class and oppressed that breaks the grip of the capitalist and capitulatory Democratic Party and its allies. That new political party will need to have an uncompromising commitment to the defense of the most oppressed, rejecting liberal Democrats’ arguments that we should sacrifice their concerns so as to not scare away more conservative white people. On the contrary, it must recognize that when Blacks and Latinos in particular are driven to mobilize in struggle by the injustices they experience, they can set an example for all working-class people to follow. Thus they can take the lead in uniting the entire working class against all the attacks we face.
And in the course of this struggle, we do not hesitate to explain that to put an end to the worsening miseries of life under imperialist capitalism, the struggles of the working class and oppressed in this country and around the world will have to culminate in revolutions that overthrow capitalist rule. Only when the wealth and productive potential of the world economy is under the control of the working class will economic production be able to be directed toward producing the goods and services the masses need, and thus begin to build a new society free of class exploitation and oppression – a socialist society of freedom and abundance for all. The new political party we must fight to build, therefore, must be a party committed to the goal of world socialist revolution.