By Fred Goldstein
The authoritarian Trump clique in the White House — Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, Steven Miller and Donald Trump himself — are making an end run around traditional capitalist government institutions. They are trying to shape policy and push it far to the right on all fronts without the input of the traditional capitalist establishment.
Trump and Bannon are floating the conspiracy theory that the “deep state,” meaning everything from the regulatory agencies, the mainstream media, district attorneys, courts, the spy agencies, etc., are saboteurs plotting to undermine the White House. This is to clear the way for their attacks on immigrants, on medical care for the masses and on the environment, as well as their shameless giveaways to the banks, the corporations and the 1%.
The Trump administration and the Republican congressional caucus are planning to hand over hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy as they craft the overturn of the Affordable Care Act passed under Obama. At the same time, Washington is playing with fire in Asia, with dangerous war maneuvers and with the installation of a destabilizing and aggressive anti-missile system in south Korea.
Under the guise of repealing and replacing the ACA, the Trump administration is backing a congressional Republican plan to cut $300 billion to $600 billion in taxes for the rich, under the deliberately misnamed American Health Care Act. These hundreds of billions of dollars given the rich will be paid for by cuts in medical coverage for the poor, the elderly and women in general, including those with mental illness and addictions. Estimates of the number of people slated to lose their coverage range from 5 million to 15 million.
The Republicans have rushed their plan through before the Congressional Budget Office can give its assessment of the impact. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Trump fear a negative assessment and therefore have already tried to discredit the CBO in advance, denouncing it for “inaccuracies” and “exaggerations.”
While millions lose health care under Republican plan …
The Brookings Institute, a mainstream capitalist think tank, has tried to warn the public in advance. It issued a report estimating that 15 million people or more will lose their health care over the next 10 years. Brookings used previous CBO methods and estimates for its analysis.
In total, the CBO estimated that individual market premiums would rise by 20 percent and that 6 million people would lose individual market coverage by 2026. On top of that, repealing the individual mandate would reduce the number of people with employer coverage by 2 million and reduce Medicaid coverage by 7 million, bringing the total coverage loss to an astonishing 15 million.
… rich get hundreds of billions in tax breaks
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “House Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would eliminate ACA taxes on wealthy individuals and insurance and drug companies and greatly expand tax-sheltering opportunities for high-income people through health savings accounts (HSAs). These changes (plus several smaller provisions of the plan) would cost $594 billion over 2017 to 2026, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates. At the same time, the plan would seek to offset the cost of these windfall tax breaks by ending the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, radically restructuring the entire Medicaid program by converting it to a per capita cap, and dramatically scaling back the subsidies that low- and moderate-income families use to purchase affordable health care, as well as other coverage changes that would undermine the health and financial security of millions of households.”
In addition the CBPP states the 400 highest-income taxpayers would get tax cuts averaging $7 million each, adding up to $7.8 billion a year. Millionaires would get tax cuts of more than $50,000 on average by 2025.
Women’s health care on chopping block
Health care for women, especially the poor, is endangered by the provisions to defund Planned Parenthood. One in 5 U.S. women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic for services like birth control, cancer screenings, tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy termination. And 78 percent of them have incomes under 150 percent of the poverty level.
Vox reported, “The more than $500 million Planned Parenthood receives annually from the federal government — the funding that Republicans in Congress now want to take away — pays for specific health services, like birth control or cervical cancer screening, for people who couldn’t afford them otherwise.
“Most of the funds (75 percent) are actually reimbursements from Medicaid, the U.S.’s public health insurance program for the poor.
“[The bill] threatens to dismantle the entire private insurance market for abortion coverage, not just public funding for abortion providers: If a woman wants a health insurance plan that will cover abortion, she (and possibly her employer) won’t be able to use tax credits to buy it under this bill.” (March 7)
ThinkProgress noted that 60 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from Medicaid and Title IX funding for preventative and primary care. “Almost 400,000 women would lose access to preventative care and up to 650,000 would have reduced preventative care within a year” without PP services, estimates the Government Accountability Office. “Research has shown that when low-income women have access to free contraception, there are significantly lower rates of unintended teen pregnancy and abortion.” (March 7)
Pentagon playing with fire in Asia
At the same time that Trump is trying to destroy health care, Washington is playing with fire on the Korean peninsula by holding two months of military maneuvers aimed at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China.
The largest ever “war games” involve 17,000 U.S. troops and 300,000 south Korean troops, as well as advanced U.S. war-fighting equipment. Washington has said the exercises are strictly defensive. But the plans are clearly aimed at “practicing regime change.”
“U.S.-ROK [south Korean] forces will also for the first time carry the OPLAN 5015, a classified war plan signed last year that includes surgical strikes against North Korea’s nuclear, missile and command and control facilities. It also specifically calls for ‘decapitation’ raids by Special Forces to neutralize North Korea’s senior leadership, according to press reports.” (The Diplomat, March 8) “Neutralize” means kill.
Washington and the Pentagon justify their war games by citing the DPRK’s launch of missiles into the sea off Japan. But the missiles were launched as a response to the annual war games.The DPRK is surrounded by hostile states, including imperialist Japan, U.S. puppet south Korea, and the U.S. military itself, which has 28,000 troops in south Korea and 54,000 troops in Japan, 12 U.S. bases in Hawaii, and 5,000 troops and numerous aircraft on Guam, among other places in the region.
Anti-missile system aimed at DPRK …
To add to the provocations as the U.S.-south Korea war maneuvers were getting under way, Washington announced it had begun deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) at Osari air base in south Korea.
THAAD is a relatively new addition to the U.S. military’s missile defense arsenal. Produced by Lockheed Martin (and priced at more than $1 billion per system), THAAD consists of a battery of truck-launched interceptor missiles and powerful X-band radar that can detect, track and target inbound missile threats.
The decision to deploy this anti-missile system was made in 2013 and agreed to by south Korea in July 2016, but it was rushed into place for political purposes. In the meantime, there is a huge political crisis in south Korea. Months of mass demonstrations have forced the impeachment and ouster of Park Geun-hye, the reactionary president convicted on corruption charges
The masses of south Korean people are clearly opposed to the deployment of THAAD. This opposition includes Park’s likely replacement, the popular centrist-liberal Moon Jae-in. Moon favors resumption of talks with the DPRK and a return to the “sunshine policy” that aims toward reunification. So the Pentagon seized this window of time before new elections to install THAAD.
… and at China
THAAD’s powerful radar is also a threat to China because when it is pointed at the DPRK it does not stop there. It can see deep into China. The PRC government has said that whether the U.S. deployed THAAD would be a litmus test about relations.
Now that it has been deployed, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has denounced it as a provocation that will upset the “strategic equilibrium” in the region. Wang, while expressing concern over the nuclear tests by the DPRK, gave the U.S. imperialists a clear message that the PRC will stand by the DPRK in any conflict [by] “insisting China and North Korea remained as close as ‘lips and teeth’ — an expression famously used by Mao Zedong.” (Guardian, March 6)
This phrase was used by Mao during the Korean War, when 3 million Chinese volunteers helped to repel the U.S. imperialist invaders. So the message is unambiguous.
Expanding role of generals, decline of State Department
The sudden deployment of the THAAD missile system in the midst of a militarily charged situation near China and the DPRK must be seen together with other less dramatic but significant developments.
There was the quiet deployment of 400-plus Marines to Syria to strengthen forces trying to capture the Islamic State group’s capital, Raqqa. These conventional forces are added to the hundreds of Special Forces already there. The Marines are equipped with Apache helicopters and M777 howitzers capable of firing 155mm shells, among other weapons. Their deployment represents a clear escalation of the U.S. war in Syria.
The Pentagon has escalated the war in Yemen as well. Previously the war was carried out by Saudi Arabia, with logistical and material support from the Pentagon. Recently U.S. commanders in the field have been granted new authority to conduct raids on villages and drone strikes, without prior approval from the White House.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., recently testified to Congress that he could use “a few thousand more troops” to break the “stalemate” in the country. (New York Times, Feb. 9)
These developments represent a major step forward in the political authority of the military high command under the Trump administration.
By contrast, Rex Tillerson, the head of the Department of State, has been kept out of meetings with heads of state by Trump, Bannon and Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law). Tillerson has had no joint appearances with Trump. His requests for assistants have been turned down. No press will be allowed on his plane on an upcoming trip to Japan, south Korea and China. And the State Department budget is to be cut by 37 percent, while the Pentagon is to get a $54 billion increase.
Just days ago Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray was in Washington. “The Los Angeles Times’s Tracy Wilkinson asked State spokesperson Mark Toner what the plans were for his visit. Toner, a highly regarded career foreign service officer, apparently had no idea that a key foreign dignitary was even in the city.” (Vox, March 10) The foreign minister met with Kushner.
To be sure, while the State Department wields the so-called “soft power” of U.S. imperialism, it is a vicious enemy of the world’s people. It engineers regime change, engages in every manner of subversion against progressive governments, and uses nongovernmental organizations to promote “color revolutions.”
Nevertheless, the shift toward open military power in government under Trump is a menacing move that will expand imperialist war and intervention.
March 6 — The Trump administration’s crisis deepens as accusations of ties to Russia multiply and surround him and his aides. Meanwhile, this authoritarian, racist, misogynistic bigot is opening up a war on the people and what is left of gains won over the last 50 years. Especially under attack are the millions of undocumented workers.
The war within the capitalist state has reached a boiling point, with Trump accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Towers during the 2016 election campaign. It is being assumed that Trump heard this on Mark Levin’s right-wing talk show, promoted by Breitbart News. Steve Bannon, Trump’s special “strategy” advisor, previously ran Breitbart.
Trump made the accusations against Obama in a tweet after he flew into a rage when racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who now heads the Justice Department, recused himself from all investigations about the campaign. Sessions’ recusal came after he was found to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about having contact with Russians.
What Trump did not consider, in his rage, was that electronic eavesdropping would have to be carried out by the FBI. Eavesdropping on the presidential candidate would be a crime, unless there was a warrant. Since there was no such warrant, according to James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, Trump’s charges against Obama would implicate the FBI in a crime.
The head of the FBI, James Comey, has now demanded that the Justice Department refute these charges because, according to Comey, they are false. So far the Sessions Justice Department has refused to disavow the charges.
This public dispute between the White House, the Justice Department and the secret police spy agency has created the biggest political crisis for the capitalist government since the Watergate crisis that forced President Richard Nixon to resign in the summer of 1974.
Crisis of repression for undocumented workers
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is quietly expanding its arrests and harassment of undocumented workers. There was big coverage in mid-February when 680 undocumented workers were seized in raids in a one-week period.
The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have now changed their public relations strategy. The government is continuing raids all over the country, just not publicizing the total roundups. Take last week as an example. Three workers were picked up in Detroit and 16 were arrested in Ypsilanti, Mich. (freep.com); four workers were arrested in Trenton, N.J. (nj.com); six youth were arrested in Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Observer); a restaurant was shut down for two weeks when four workers were detained in York County, Pa. (phillyvoice.com); nine workers were arrested in Grand Island, N.Y., and 23 in Hamburg, N.Y., both near the border with Canada (wkbw.com).
These are random examples of at least 65 workers rounded up in one week at a wide variety of locations. The reports surfaced only on local radio stations and in local newspapers. They show that ICE agents are everywhere and are exercising their newfound authority to arrest any of the 11 million undocumented workers in this country.
More widely publicized was the arrest of the Dreamer Daniella Vargas in Jackson, Miss., after she spoke at a press conference denouncing the recent arrests of her relatives. ICE is supposedly not authorized to arrest Dreamers. Alongside this was the deportation of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez while taking his daughter to school. These arrests were publicized only because cell phone videos were taken and distributed.
In addition to the government campaign against the undocumented, there is mounting murderous racism fomented by Trump and his Islamophobic rants. Two Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot in Kansas. Kuchibhotla died as the alleged killer, Adam Purinton, yelled, “Get out of my country.” Purinton also shot and wounded bystander Ian Grillot, who was trying to stop the attack. (New York Times, March 4)
A similar racist hate crime took place near Seattle a few days earlier when someone shot a Sikh man, Deep Rai, who was working on his driveway. The shooter also told Rai to “Go back home.”
Furthermore, during the past month there have been numerous desecrations of Jewish cemeteries across the country, as well as bomb threats at dozens of Jewish community centers.
In another ominous sign, Attorney General Sessions has indicated he will not enforce the Justice Department’s consent decrees, issued under the Obama administration, to rein in local police departments, most notoriously in Chicago. This can only be interpreted as a green light to police forces everywhere to step up already murderous repression.
In addition, Trump has rescinded protections for transgender students to use school bathrooms of their choice, and the Supreme Court has returned the case back to the lower court without a ruling.
Movement must deal with anti-Russia barrage
The movement is faced with a barrage of anti-Russian propaganda. The problem is that the anti-Trump forces in the capitalist political establishment, the media and especially the Democratic Party leadership are also at the present time the anti-Russia forces — i.e., the military hawks, the party of belligerence and militarism.
The tendency to root for the anti-Russia forces as long as they bring down Trump is very strong. It is the line of least resistance and a convenient political tool for Democratic Party leaders as well as many Republican politicians. Unless the movement resists this anti-Russia demagogy, it will align itself with the hawks of the ruling class.
The long-term goal of the U.S. ruling class with respect to Russia is to weaken Russia’s independent government and turn it into a vassal state — the way it was under Boris Yeltsin, during the first eight years after the collapse of the USSR. Wall Street and the Pentagon want Moscow to follow Washington’s lead, hand over investment rights and open up access to its vast resources.
Trump and especially ultra-right ideologue Bannon have a strategic vision of a rapprochement with Russia in preparation for a conflict with China and a conflict of civilizations with the Islamic world. (See WW, Feb. 23.) Their vision is not a peace plan.
In the torrent of accusations about Russian ties, some may be true, some may be false, and some are insignificant. In any case, they are part of a massive attempt to block any move by the White House to relax relations with Russia and make concessions on sanctions, in the Ukraine or anywhere else.
On the other hand, no one should be swayed by false nostalgia for the USSR, which was a socialist country. Putin is the agent of Russian nationalism, which means he represents the Russian ruling class, made up of anti-socialist oligarchs. Reactionaries throughout Europe and Russia consider Putin the “great white Christian hope.”
Putin is helping the Syrian government for strictly geostrategic reasons; Russia is defending a base in the Mediterranean that dates back to the USSR. He is helping the resistance in Ukraine in order to keep the country, which borders Russia, from being swallowed up by the West. Progressives should support these efforts, without falling under the illusion that because Putin is backing some progressive causes, he and his oligarchic regime are progressive.
Trump and Russian money
In addition to strategic political goals, one cannot discount the possibility that Trump’s relations with Russia are also based on financial interests. Trump has adamantly refused to release his tax returns. He has claimed that he has nothing to do with Russia. These are dubious claims.
One example is the case of his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his connections with Russian money. Ross is a billionaire parasite who specializes in buying up companies in financial difficulty, stripping them of their assets and selling them off.
According to multiple sources (Miami Herald, New York Times and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC), Ross is the primary owner of the Cyprus Bank. This bank is known as a haven for laundering money for Russian oligarchs. When Cyprus had a banking crisis in 2014 and depositors could not get their money, Ross participated in the rescue, together with the Russian government.
Ross then invited the head of Deutsche Bank to head Cyprus Bank. Deutsche Bank recently had to pay a $630 million fine for laundering $10 billion in Russian money. Deutsche Bank has been the only major bank to loan money to Trump.
Another partner in Cyprus Bank was Dmitry Bybolovlev, a Russian multibillionaire potash king. Bybolovlev was trying to hide his assets and in 2008 bought a Trump property in Palm Beach for $95 million — a U.S. record at the time. Trump had bought it in 2004 for $41 million. So Trump made a $54 million profit on the sale. P.S.: Bybolovlev never set foot in the mansion, and it has since been torn down.
There are numerous other connections between Trump and Russian money, including the admission in 2008 by his son Donald Jr. that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” (deathandtaxes.com) There are also recent reports of Trump dealings in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. So political and financial interests may merge in the case of Trump. His greed is legendary, and that has been a powerful force all his life.
Massive removal of regulatory protection for workers and environment
Steve Bannon, the Trump ideologue, has used the phrase “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Translated into ordinary language, that means the destruction of all regulations that protect workers, oppressed people and the environment.
The Trump administration is rushing to destroy all regulatory restrictions on corporate greed. Over 90 major regulations are in the process of being stayed, delayed or removed since Trump took office. (NY Times, March 5)
Seventeen automakers have submitted a list of regulatory changes they want, including removal of mileage standards, emission controls, etc. The pharmaceutical industry is asking that restrictions be removed on prescription drugs for unapproved uses. Trump has already lifted regulations on coal mining and oil and gas exploration.
Trump has overturned a rule that protected pension investors from fraud and another that protected drinking water from pollution.
Banks no longer have to charge fees to their high-income customers to protect against high-risk losses. The Business Roundtable has submitted a list of 16 rules it wants removed.
Rules regarding air pollution, unemployment compensation, endangered species, credit card fees, drilling on the Arctic Shelf, data security, internet neutrality and many other issues are under review. In each case the requests for reviews come from corporate pressures. It’s no wonder the stock market is surging.
Such regulatory protections embody a century of struggle to protect the environment, consumer safety, workers’ health and safety, wages and working conditions. They have already been eroded in many cases. But Trump and Bannon are making a full-scale assault.
This calls for a massive fightback.
There has already been a good national turnout, especially in Wisconsin, for the Day Without Immigrants. Women are planning a Day Without Women on International Women’s Day. And May Day demonstrations are being talked about across the country.
Waiting for Trump to be toppled from above is conceding to the class enemy the primary role of getting rid of Trump. Trump needs to be toppled from below — by mass resistance. That is the only road to victory.
By February 28, 2017posted on
Feb. 27 — As the Trump administration opens up new attacks on the masses, the split between the White House and the capitalist establishment is growing ever sharper.
The head of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly (retired general, U.S. Marines), has signed sweeping memos that vastly expand the definition of undocumented immigrants immediately subject to deportation. Random arrests have taken place across the country. Fear is stalking neighborhoods from Long Island to Los Angeles to Chicago and the border areas. Immigrants are afraid to get in a car or go to the store for fear of being snatched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Coming across the border is now considered a deportable crime. This applies to 11 million people.
In addition to deportations there is an escalation of arbitrary harassment. For example, Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother were stopped at a Florida airport and held for two hours because of their Muslim names. A holocaust scholar from Paris who was born in Egypt narrowly escaped deportation. An undocumented worker, Sara Beltran Hernandez, who was hospitalized for treatment of a tumor in Texas, was seized by border control agents and put in a detention center. Incidents such as these are multiplying across the country.
The Trump/Bannon budget
Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28 at which he will announce the Trump/Bannon budget. Stephen Bannon is an ultra-rightist and the president’s top advisor.
Advance advertising about the budget calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending, which currently stands officially at $584 billion. The proposed increase is 9.2 percent. (This excludes the Energy Department, which oversees nuclear weapons.)
According to the Feb. 27 Reuters: “Trump has previously said he would expand the Army to 540,000 active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine Corps from 23 to 36 battalions — or as many as 10,000 more Marines — boost the Navy from 276 to 350 ships and submarines, and raise the number of Air Force tactical aircraft from 1,100 to 1,200.” He has also been talking about increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
“An official familiar with the proposal said Trump’s request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing ‘a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points’ such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.”
The push to expand the military off the coasts of China and Iran flows from Bannon’s worldview that there will be wars in the Middle East and the South China Sea within the next 10 years.
Washington already has the largest military budget many times over than any other country. Furthermore, it is not now engaged in any major wars of a conventional character. One can only speculate that this military budget is preparation for future major military adventures.
The expansion of the military budget is also a resort to the time-honored method of creating jobs, a pledge Trump has been saying over and over since his campaign began. High-tech warfare is technology-intensive and does not produce many jobs. But Trump’s preparation for conventional battlefield, air and sea warfare is part of his jobs program. He is also trying to build political support among the military-industrial complex, both the brass and the corporations.
Bannon and the ‘Strategic Initiatives Group’
The budget may not survive as projected by Trump. But it has Bannon’s fingerprints on it, reflecting his warlike ideology. To further these militaristic goals, as well their anti-immigrant goals, he and Trump have created a behind-the-scenes group, parallel to the National Security Council. This body is called the Strategic Initiatives Group.
The NSC is supposed to be the authoritative body that advises on policy and intervention all over the world. It has been the traditional forum for mainstream capitalists, their foreign policy establishment and spy agencies — e.g., the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, etc. The NSC is traditionally the most powerful body advising the president on policy.
The Strategic Initiatives Group is supposed to be a “think tank” inside the NSC, but in fact it is a select group inside the White House. It consists of Bannon, Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law), Steven Miller and other unnamed Breitbart loyalists. One of them, Sebastian Gorka, is the son of an anti-communist Hungarian refugee who was decorated by the Nazis. The son is a fanatical Islamophobe who has been photographed wearing his father’s Nazi medal. (thedailybeast.com, Jan. 31)
Despite its think tank cover, the SIG makes policy proposals, such as the refugee travel ban, among other things. It circumvents the State Department, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other organs that are supposed to be in the loop. It is a dangerous cabal. While this cabal suffered a severe setback when three courts ruled against the travel ban, the Trump/Bannon group is trying to reinstate the ban.
Trump administration split
Bannon and the SIG operate independently and in opposition to the establishment agencies. For example, just before Vice President Michael Pence was to go to Brussels to affirm the Trump administration’s support for the European Union, the German-dominated federation of European states, Bannon had a lengthy telephone conversation with the German ambassador to the U.S.
According to a Feb. 21 article in Reuters: “[S]ources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.
“In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favorably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who ‘don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.’”
Shortly before this conversation, Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, accused German bankers of being currency manipulators. This came as a shock in Berlin. It is undoubtedly part of an attempt to sharply escalate antagonisms with German finance capital. Navarro is also a currency hawk against China.
This is part of the Bannon/Trump strategy to maneuver with Russia while fulfilling Bannon’s nationalist line.
Similarly, Trump has been repeatedly quoted about “taking Iraqi oil.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis (retired general, U.S. Marines) had to go to Iraq and disavow any intention to take Iraq’s oil. Of course this was a lie; the entire Iraq war was about trying to get Iraq’s oil. (The effort failed.) But Mattis had to cover up for Trump’s public belligerence.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and DHS Secretary John Kelly went to Mexico to smooth out relations after Trump told President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexico would have to pay for a wall and that the U.S. would send troops to “clean up bad hombres” there.
Kelly told a press conference on Feb. 23 that there would be no mass deportations and no military mobilization against undocumented workers in the U.S. Shortly thereafter, Trump said there would be a wide campaign against undocumented workers and described it as a “military operation.”
During his campaign Trump said that Japan and south Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons because the U.S. shouldn’t have to pay for them. This called into question the inter-imperialist alliance in Asia. Mattis had to go to Seoul and Tokyo to reaffirm U.S. alliances with both countries.
Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without the secretary of state. He then told a press conference that he was for a one-state solution to the Palestinian question. This was a sharp departure in words (not deeds) from decades of U.S. official policy.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, then had to state categorically at the U.N. that Washington stands “firmly behind” a two-state solution.
In short, the Trump/Bannon worldview is in struggle with the mainstream military/imperialist view. The mainstream view is rooted heavily in the policy of surrounding Russia in alliance with the NATO powers and pushing into central and Eastern Europe.
This conventional U.S. worldview is also rooted in gradually ratcheting up pressure on China by moving military assets to the Pacific and arming both Japan and south Korea. At the same time, Wall Street and the transnational corporate monopolies have steadily invested in China and built up global supply chains that depend upon stable U.S.-China relations.
The mainstream view is an Atlantic/Pacific strategy of U.S. imperialism that has been built up over decades.
Beware the ‘adults in the room’
Many liberals and even moderate Republicans were overjoyed when Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster was appointed to replace Islamophobe Michael Flynn as Trump’s National Security Adviser.
McMaster is supposed to be a no-nonsense general who has a record of speaking truth to power — that is, telling civilian authorities to stop trying to manage the military in matters of warfare. McMaster, General Kelly, General Mattis and Tillerson are supposed to be the “adults in the room” who will deal with immature, out-of-control Trump and his fanatical adviser Bannon.
However, to look to these Pentagon generals and Tillerson, the former CEO of the largest private oil company in the world, to protect the progressive interests of the masses in the face of Trump is a dangerous and foolish course.
If the generals are opposed to the Trump policy, it is only because they fear he will ruin their plans to dominate the Middle East, Eastern Europe, China and the rest of the world. The military and the oil companies are cunning and deceitful in their plans for global domination.
They are not “adults” to be relied upon. They are enemies of workers and oppressed peoples worldwide. They are the architects of military intervention and aggression around the world. Their goal is conquest and imperialist expansion.
‘Deconstructing the administrative state’
“Deconstructing the administrative state” is the phrase Bannon uses to describe sweeping away all institutional protections for the masses, for the environment, for women, immigrants, people of color, the poor and all who are victimized by the workings of capitalism and capitalist politics.
Whatever rules and regulations exist to slow down the aggression of capital against the people, or to institutionalize the gains they made in the struggle, are in most cases in the regulatory agencies. One look at Trump’s cabinet appointments for the domestic agencies shows that he and Bannon mean to pulverize all the regulatory protections that exist for society as a whole.
To pay for the $54 billion increase in military spending, the offset is going to come from deep cuts in the budgets of the State Department and all the domestic regulatory agencies. This is why Trump’s cabinet picks for Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc., are all people who want to destroy the fundamental missions of the very departments they are supposed to lead.
If Trump and Bannon are to be stopped, they must be stopped by the mobilized masses — in the communities, in the unions, on the campuses, in the factories and workplaces. A united movement of organized workers and the oppressed acting militantly will interfere with and halt the plans of this reactionary cabal.
Goldstein is the author of Capitalism at a Dead End and Low-Wage Capitalism. Both are available via online booksellers.
Feb. 19 — What is behind the ouster of Donald Trump’s national security adviser, retired Army General Michael Flynn, and the surge in attempts to generate panic over Trump’s “ties to Russia”? And what concerns do the working class and the oppressed have in this matter?
A major struggle is going on over the diplomatic/military orientation of U.S. imperialism. It is between the Trump White House, on the one hand, which has been seeking a rapprochement with Russia, and, on the other hand, the mainstream capitalist class, large sections of the military, both Democrat and Republican political establishment, and the media, all of which have a firmly anti-Russia orientation.
Struggle over two imperialist war policies
This struggle is basically over two different policies for imperialist aggression. The Trump grouping, which includes Steve Bannon, his strategy advisor, and Michael Flynn (now fired), wants to use a realignment with Russia against China and is for an expanded war in the Middle East, allegedly against Islam.
The working class, the oppressed and the progressive movement should oppose both camps and seek an independent policy in opposition to Washington’s aggressive stance toward Russia while at the same time not being lured into Trump’s so-called “peace” camp.
For the working class and progressives to get a clear view of the matter, it is best to set aside all speculation about what Flynn and others might have said to Russian officials, who may have hacked into whose emails or affected the election. It is not necessary to know any of that to understand this struggle.
But, for clarity, we will cite Time magazine of Feb. 27-March 6. In an article titled “What’s Wrong with Russia?” Time gave its version of the conflict with Russia and then continued:
“Perhaps the most important front in this new conflict has been unfolding in the West Wing. Over the course of the past three months, according to senior Trump administration officials and others who have participated, quiet but consequential talks have taken place there over whether the U.S. should resist Putin in his new campaign or cede to Russia a sphere of influence in Eastern Europe [and,] in return for an alliance against ISIS, work to reduce nuclear-weapons stockpiles and help constrain China.
“Donald Trump has publicly enunciated parts of such a grand bargain, as have top advisers Steve Bannon and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The White House officials who have advocated such a deal … see nationalism as the basis for all-important fights against Islamic extremism and China’s rise.
“Opposing a Russia deal are such Cabinet secretaries as Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson … backed by virtually the entire foreign policy establishment.
“Flynn’s ouster makes it politically more difficult for those who would like to advance a pro-Moscow strategy.”
Trump called for realignment during entire campaign
Whether or not the Time article is correct in its details or its formulations, it is not difficult to understand the axis of the struggle. Trump has been saying it out loud since his campaign began.
He has constantly pleaded from the platform, in between his racist, misogynist and anti-immigrant diatribes and his wild attacks on the media: “Wouldn’t it be a good thing if we got along with Russia. We could join together and fight ISIS … and terrorism.”
He’s been saying for over a year, “We could reduce nuclear weapons,” etc. And each time he says it, it sets off alarm bells in the Pentagon, in the spy agencies, in the anti-Russian mainstream media, in the political establishment and in the board rooms of military corporations.
Bannon, the ideologue behind Trump
Trump’s attempted political maneuver with Putin, which may already have failed, is promoted by his political guru, right-wing ideologue Steve Bannon. Bannon has an apocalyptic worldview that calls for war against Islam and China.
The South China Morning Post reported on Feb. 17 about Bannon’s outlook: “The United States and China will fight a war within the next ten years over islands in the South China Sea, and ‘there’s no doubt about that.’ At the same time, the U.S. will be in another ‘major’ war in the Middle East.”
This attempt to reorient Washington’s foreign policy, however, is a completely naive move by Trump. His overblown ego leads him to believe that it is possible to tear up all the Pentagon, State Department and CIA plans to subdue Russia.
That is why the biggest hawks in the Senate, pro-Pentagon Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have led the charge to investigate Flynn and the White House. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence were in Europe defending NATO, warning Russia that there would be no military collaboration and pledging support to Ukraine.
Military high command wants Bannon out
It is significant that retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward twice turned down the Trump administration’s request that he take Flynn’s place as national security advisor. Harward was a Navy SEAL, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, the representative of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the National Counterterrorism Center, and the director of strategy and policy on the National Security Council staff.
For such a former high-ranking officer to turn down the president is almost unprecedented. Harward explained his objections: Trump and Bannon refused to let him have his own staff. Beyond that, Harward told the White House that “he wanted a clear chain of command reporting directly to the president, and most importantly, to restore the NSC structure of prior administrations … so that political advisors like Steve Bannon would not have a seat on the Principals Committee.” (“All In with Chris Hayes,” MSNBC, Feb. 17)
The military high command are opposed to Bannon telling them where and when to make war. Additionally, returning to the previous NSC structure would mean returning the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to a standing position on the NSC Principals Committee, a steering committee of sorts that meets frequently and is the most powerful organ in the foreign and military policy structure.
Trump forces reorganized the NSC to put Bannon on the Principals Committee and at the same time removed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the head of National Intelligence, reducing them to members who would be invited at “appropriate times.”
It is clear why the Joint Chiefs and the head of National Intelligence were removed. They would be opposed to a rapprochement with Russia.
U.S.-Ukraine coup a turning point
The entire Pentagon, Wall Street and the political establishment have been geared up to threaten Russia ever since Washington failed to completely take over Ukraine. The fascist coup in 2014 was engineered by the Clinton State Department and the CIA and begun by the European Union. Its progress was halted by the resistance in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
Washington and the Pentagon were furious when the Putin government moved with lightning speed to take Crimea back for Russia. (Crimea, which has a majority Russian population, was originally part of the Soviet Union separate from Ukraine.) Russia then effectively supported the insurgency in the east against the pro-Western imperialist government in Kiev, backed by fascist storm troopers.
Russia was seeking to prevent NATO from advancing further east to its borders. The taking of Crimea can be understood as a strategic move to block the Pentagon and CIA from seizing Russia’s only Black Sea port at Sebastopol.
The seizure of Ukraine by Washington had been preceded in 1999 by the incorporation of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO, in violation of Washington’s pledges not to do so.
For workers and oppressed ‘the enemy is at home’
In the struggle between Russia and Washington, the workers, oppressed and progressive forces of this country must follow the Leninist dictum that “the enemy is at home.” We must be against our own ruling class trying to subordinate Russia to U.S. imperialism.
The Democratic Party leadership is vigorously promoting the anti-Russia line to explain their loss in the presidential election, thereby adding their weight to Washington’s aggressive, warlike policy toward Russia. The masses of activists who are mobilizing to resist the racist, anti-immigrant and reactionary Trump agenda should not fall into the Democrats’ trap.
By the same token, the workers, small farmers and oppressed peoples in Russia, while defending their country against U.S. imperialism, must fight Putin and their own oligarchic ruling class.
Who is Putin?
Putin represents the oligarchs who engineered the destruction of the Soviet Union, divided up socialist property to enrich themselves, and turned the country into a capitalist nightmare.
Putin wants to expand Russia’s control into the “near abroad,” meaning the former Soviet republics that have also gone capitalist. Putin is supporting the right wing in Europe, most of which is racist, nationalist and anti-gay. The right is opposed to the European Union and some also oppose NATO, but on reactionary, nationalist grounds.
Moscow funded Marine Le Pen’s racist National Front with bank loans in 2014. (Politico, Jan. 4) Le Pen just called the masses who rebelled against police brutality in Paris “scum.” The Russian government in December signed a long-term agreement of cooperation with the right-wing Freedom Party in Austria. And conferences of the European right wing have been held in Moscow.
Putin espouses Christian “morality,” Russian nationalism and anti-gay laws against public display of affection between members of the same sex on the grounds of protecting children.
Most important, since Putin came to power after pro-U.S. Boris Yeltsin was ousted, Russian billionaire oligarchs have consolidated Russia’s finance and industrial corporations; their overseas direct investments have expanded from $40 billion in 2000 to $406 billion in 2013. They have holdings all over the world, from Latvia to Africa to Europe. There are over 100 billionaires in Russia.
Trump and the press
Trump has been attacking the press ever since his campaign began. Trump and Bannon have called the press the “opposition party.” And recently Trump called the press “the enemy of the American people.” This is an ominous pronouncement from an authoritarian figure.
The capitalist press represents various factions of the ruling class. It is actually an informal part of the capitalist state, sometimes called “the fourth estate.” The media are the modern means of ideological compulsion. They promote the general line of the ruling class, informing the bourgeoisie of trends and events important to them. They are also used to persecute leaders of the workers and the oppressed or radicals.
But at times, when the interests of large sections of the bourgeoisie are endangered by a part of the capitalist government, the press is used to help enforce the discipline of the ruling class.
Trump knows this and is trying to counter the current press campaign, which is not only against his attempted reorientation to Russia, but also against his racist, authoritarian Muslim ban, and in general his threats to upend the basic foundations of bourgeois stability.
He knows the media were used in the struggles against Joseph McCarthy, against the Pentagon’s Vietnam War, against Nixon in Watergate. His attacks on the media are preventive measures against attempts by the bourgeoisie to discredit his regime.
The working class needs freedom of the press both to protect its own press and because it can get valuable information from the capitalist press to carry out the class struggle. The venal, anti-working class capitalist media are no friend, but freedom of the press is a democratic right that the working class must defend.
By February 14, 2017posted on
Feb. 13 — Donald Trump has suffered a series of setbacks in his foreign policy promises while escalating attacks on the workers and oppressed at home.
Trump campaigned against China all throughout his candidacy. He made aggressive charges that China was “raping our country” through currency manipulation and unfair trade. Trump threatened trade retaliation and questioned the One China policy by taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan, which is rightfully part of China.
Reality set in last week. After a phone call with the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, who represents 1.3 billion people and the second-largest economy in the world, Trump announced he would follow the One China policy and not recognize Taiwan.
During his campaign, he curried favor with the most right-wing, pro-Israeli forces, like billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, by vowing to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No other imperialist country has an embassy in Jerusalem.
But when he sought Saudi and Egyptian help in the Middle East, he was told to drop the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He has not mentioned it since.
Trump vowed to restore torture as official policy and to reopen secret torture sites that the Bush administration had established in other countries but later outlawed. In the face of potential antagonism from the hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East, Trump has had to quietly back away from both these pledges.
Of course, his ban of Muslim immigrants and refugees has blown up in his face. It provoked widespread demonstrations throughout the U.S. and other continents, which are still going on.
Escalating attacks on undocumented
While the capitalist media were focused on the courts and the travel ban, Trump introduced sweeping new rules for deportation. President Barack Obama was rightfully known as “deporter in chief” for the millions of deportations under his regime. In his last years, however, Obama relaxed the rules governing deportations to exclude all but the most serious crimes.
Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 changing the rules. His new rules call for deporting anyone with a chargeable offense, whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.
Chargeable offenses include crossing the border without documents, using a false Social Security card (without which no one can work) and any minor misdemeanor. The new rules give local immigration authorities complete discretion in deportation proceedings.
These rules make all 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S. subject to arrest and deportation at any time.
Immigration, Customs and Enforcement immediately carried out 160 arrests in Los Angeles. An additional 200 undocumented workers were arrested in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. About 200 were arrested across Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin. (New York Times, Feb. 12)
Breaking up a family
Trump’s message was clear in the high-profile deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 35, a mother of two who came to the U.S. in the 1990s when she was 14. Garcia was arrested in an ICE workplace raid in 2008, but the agency worked out an arrangement for her to remain as long as she reported to ICE periodically. She had reported eight times since then.
In 2013 an order to deport was instituted, but Garcia de Rayos was allowed to remain. But when Trump changed the rules to allow priority deportation for any illegality, she was seized on Feb. 8 when she reported to ICE and deported within 24 hours.
Protesters were arrested at demonstrations to stop her deportation.
As to the raids over the last week, Trump has announced he was “carrying out my campaign promise.” In other words, he is stoking fear in the immigrant community and stoking hatred in his reactionary racist followers.
Billionaires on a rampage
One of the reasons political machines under capitalist democracy have been hesitant to put billionaires personally in charge of the White House, as opposed to allowing them into the cabinet and other high positions, is the fear that their greed will lead them to wreck the economy and endanger the system altogether.
But now there is a billionaire boss, who came from outside the political establishment, who has moved directly into the White House, and has complete domination of the most powerful governmental executive position in the world.
The Democratic Party administration of Bill Clinton laid the basis for the great financial crash of 2008. Financial policy was dominated by Robert Rubin, Clinton’s secretary of the Treasury and former head of Goldman Sachs, along with Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan, all voices of Wall Street.
This group cast aside regulations that had put a lid on bank speculation. They overturned the Glass-Steagall Act, passed after the Great Depression. The Clinton group fought against regulating a major new speculative instrument called financial derivatives. That unleashed Wall Street and the banks to do as they pleased.
It took less than 10 years for the massive speculation in mortgages and derivatives to build up a bubble. The bubble burst and the Great Recession of 2008 crashed down on the U.S. and the globe. It made the cyclical capitalist boom-and-bust crisis immeasurably worse.
Now the Trump administration is busily crafting new ways of removing all restraints on the banks and financiers.
In the wake of the 2008 crash, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed to put some restraints on the banks going forward. Trump boasted to a host of bankers that he was going to get advice from Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase on how to take apart Dodd-Frank, among other regulations.
The working class must get ready for a reenactment of speculative frenzy among the bankers and the bosses if Trump pushes through his financial “reform,” which includes his plan to lower corporate taxes and do away with regulations on corporate crimes against the workers and against the environment.
Attacks breed resistance
The right wing mobilized anti-abortion forces nationally on Feb. 11 to demonstrate against Planned Parenthood. Trump has promised to defund the organization, which provides not only abortions but basic women’s health care throughout the country.
The right-wing demonstrations were met by equal or greater pro-choice forces supporting Planned Parenthood in cities large and small across the country. For example, in St. Paul, Minn., the anti-abortion forces numbered 500 while the pro-choice forces numbered 5,000. (CommonDreams, Feb. 17)
A massive pushback by tens of thousands in the movement against Trump’s Muslim travel ban panicked the ruling class and the courts. Trump suffered a setback as Ninth Circuit Court judges unanimously upheld a Seattle district court ruling that temporarily stopped the travel ban. There is no evidence that Trump has given up the ban, but he has had to say that he might have to redraft it to make it more acceptable in court. But the mass opposition is already in motion.
As demonstrations against the deportations broke out throughout the U.S., a massive demonstration in Mexico City was part of a Mexico-wide mobilization against the wall and the persecution of immigrants. Meanwhile, in the U.S., workers have been demonstrating against anti-union, “right to work” moves in Wisconsin and Michigan state legislatures.
The temporary victory in court against the travel ban and deportations is the result of both the demonstrations down below and the harm that the ban does to the tech industry, the universities, hospitals, agribusiness and other capitalist institutions. It is a case in which the movement on behalf of the oppressed benefited from a combination of their own struggle and a split in the ruling class.
Courts no friend of workers and oppressed
The court ruling on the travel ban has been accompanied by mountains of capitalist praise for judicial checks on the executive, the great “separation of powers,” “checks and balances” and so on.
The Seattle and the Ninth Circuit courts issued liberal rulings. Trump will undoubtedly try again, since the judiciary, and especially the federal judiciary, is the most reactionary branch of the three branches of the capitalist state. Federal judges are appointed for life. They cannot be removed by any ordinary means. Therefore, no one should be inveigled into relying on the courts.
Of course, the workers and oppressed are always in favor of rulings they can take advantage of. For example, the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education overturned the racist doctrine of “separate but equal,” which had been the legal basis for Jim Crow laws enforcing segregation in the South.
But that 1954 ruling was in anticipation of the coming massive Civil Rights Movement and the general Black Liberation struggle rising in the South. It was an anticipatory ruling.
Similarly, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was a ruling in reaction to a mass movement of women. It had nothing to do with any progressive leaning of the court. In fact, it was a Nixon court with a majority of Republican-appointed judges who were under mass pressure.
By contrast, the history of the Supreme Court is overwhelmingly reactionary. An 1806 Supreme Court ruling that a union organized by shoemakers was a “criminal conspiracy” was applied to other unions for much of the 19th century.
The Dred Scott decision of 1858 declared that runaway fugitive enslaved people were still property of a master and had to be returned. The Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896 upheld the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation in public facilities.
This reactionary history extends all the way to this century’s Citizens United decision, which unleashed billions of dollars to further corrupt the voting system and gut the Voting Rights Act, disenfranchising millions of African American and Latinx people.
As for checks and balances, these are applied by currents of the ruling class to check each other when needed. These checks and balances, now being hailed by the capitalist mass media, have little bearing on the condition of the workers and the oppressed.
There are no checks and balances on the extreme capitalist exploitation and accumulation of wealth in the U.S. that has left the top 0.1 percent of the population with more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.
There are no checks and balances on mass incarceration or racist police killings. There are no checks and balances on the persecution and deportation of immigrants or on the destruction of health care for millions of poor women. There are no checks and balances on imperialist wars of aggression or on the death machines of the military-industrial complex.
As a rule, these atrocities are either ignored or blessed by the courts.
The only true check on the aggression of the ruling class against the workers and the oppressed is the mass struggle.