Diversions about Russia, lies about Korea

By Fred Goldstein posted on March 22, 2017.

March 20 — Two issues today have been brought to the forefront by the capitalist establishment. Each one aims to push the people in the U.S. along dangerous political paths.

The first is whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the U.S. election.

The second is the big lie that the U.S. is under threat from north Korea.

Anti-government demonstration in Seoul.

As this is being written, all eyes of the big business media are focused on congressional testimony by the heads of the two top spy agencies, FBI Director James Comey and Director of National Intelligence Mike Rogers. The two have now testified that Trump lied about being wiretapped by Obama and also affirmed that there is an ongoing investigation into whether there were connections between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. They are looking to see if criminal charges are warranted.

The common line of the Democratic Party leadership and much of the capitalist establishment is that the Russian government interfered with “our democracy” by influencing the election in favor of Trump. The united front between the FBI and the DNI during the congressional hearing might very well be the beginning of an attempt to severely undermine Trump. This would sharply accelerate the political crisis in U.S. capitalist society. Only time will tell.

‘Russian interference’ a diversion

Despite the unfolding gravity of the struggle against Trump within the ruling class, the basis for the workers and oppressed to oppose Trump should not rest on connections with Russia. That is a problem for the ruling class and its foreign policy.

The problem for the working class is that he is promoting Islamophobia as well as racism against Mexicans and immigrants, while fostering police terror, sexism, anti-Semitism and a belligerent and militaristic foreign policy, especially in the Middle East and Asia.

The campaign to prove that Russia interfered in the election, despite its potential major political consequences, is both a diversion and a political trap. Focusing on Russia takes attention away from the issues vital to the workers and the ­oppressed.

Phony promises of jobs and health care

For months and months Trump spouted bombastic demagogy aimed at getting the working-class and small-business vote. He declared he was going to bring back jobs, preserve Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and guarantee “great health care,” among other promises.

On the jobs question, he has got his friends in big business — such as General Motors, General Electric, Ford and Intel, among others — to talk about investment plans, which had been long in the making, as if they were part of Trump’s “bring back jobs” campaign. But everyone should know that no corporation decides to make a billion-dollar investment after one meeting with Trump. Such investments are planned months and years ahead of time and are strictly based on profit projections.

The bosses are stroking him because he has promised them tax cuts and deregulation. But when they get back to the boardroom and meet with their investment bankers, their decisions will depend on cold calculation of the bottom line, Trump notwithstanding.

On the question of “great health care,” Trump has already exposed himself by getting behind a health care bill that is basically a transfer of wealth from the workers and the poor to the ultra-rich. The bill would give them tax cuts of $600 billion. At the same time it would cut $880 billion from Medicaid. It would leave at least 24 million people without health insurance by 2026 and raise insurance premiums for millions, especially for the elderly. (Congressional Budget Office report, March 13)

As for the broad masses, Trump’s budget says it all. He will hand over an additional $54 billion to the Pentagon and the military-industrial complex. At the same time, the budget will cut social services, environmental protection, science and art across the board.

Community programs such as aid to coal miners in Appalachia, community development programs in cities and towns across the country, help for the hungry such as Meals on Wheels, funds for opioid clinics, early education and child care, and a myriad of other projects will be either eliminated or cut to the bone. While many of Trump’s supporters are rich or well-off, there are poorer ones who believe his demagogy. Now they will be hurt badly by these cuts.

Democratic Party trap

Liberals and the Democratic Party leadership, who are tied hand and foot to big capital, are hoping to bring down Trump and at the same time push people into the Democratic Party camp, even those who were opposed to Clinton. Russia is an easy target. The last thing these politicians want is a genuine mass struggle of resistance against Trump.

The anti-Russia howl from all quarters of the ruling class and the political establishment has to do with blocking any attempt by Trump and his ultra-rightist adviser Steve Bannon to shift foreign policy away from emphasizing conflict with Russia and direct it toward conflict in Asia and a “civilizational” conflict with Islam. This is the prevailing ideology in the clique around Trump.

The bourgeoisie may strongly suspect, and with much justification, that Trump could be hanging on to Russia out of business considerations. Even if Trump’s motives are based purely on greed, they dovetail with Bannon’s ideology.

In any event, the movement must not get swept into the trap of trying to oust Trump on an anti-Russia wave. The way to fight Trump is not to take sides with the Democratic Party’s top leadership, who for years have promoted war and neoliberalism.

Nor should anyone fall for the “interference in our democracy” argument. This is a democracy of the capitalist class, of the rich. When they talk about “our democracy,” they mean the “democratic right” of the various factions in the capitalist class to push the masses into electing one or another political grouping that will help the bosses exploit and plunder the workers and the oppressed, at home and abroad.

To avoid that trap, the workers have to have their own independent party that speaks in the name of all the oppressed and exploited and has a program of struggle to advance their class interests.

U.S. threat to north Korea

The other issue that the bosses are focusing on is the alleged threat to the U.S. from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within days of his confirmation, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatened the DPRK by announcing in Seoul that “the era of strategic patience is over.” Tillerson said, “Nothing is off the table.” This was widely interpreted by the capitalist media to mean threatening military action.

Tillerson’s remarks, in conjunction with the Pentagon launching massive military maneuvers in Korea, amount to a dangerous threat by Washington against the DPRK.

Operation Foal Eagle

Right now the Pentagon has embarked on two months of massive military maneuvers involving both the U.S. and the Seoul regime on land, in the sky and in the waters off the Korean peninsula.

Operation Foal Eagle involves 7,500 U.S. troops and 300,000 south Korean puppet troops in a simulated invasion of the DPRK. The central organizing force is the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, decked with F-15 and F-16 fighter bombers. F-22s have also been flown into U.S. bases in south Korea. The Carl Vinson is accompanied by the guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer, among other warships. Armed drones have also been dispatched to the area by the Pentagon.

A London newspaper reported that the Navy SEAL unit which assassinated Osama bin Laden is participating in the massive U.S.-south Korean war maneuvers for the first time. It added that “Along with other elite U.S. units including the Army Rangers, Delta Force and the Green Berets, SEAL Team Six will take part in annual training exercises alongside south Korean forces, according to Yonhap News.

“‘A bigger number of and more diverse U.S. special operation forces will take part in this year’s Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises to practise missions to infiltrate into the North, remove the North’s war command and demolition of its key military facilities,’ a South Korean official told the news agency.

“‘SEAL Team Six would practice removing Kim Jong-un and destroying North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction, South Korea’s Defence Ministry told the Joong Ang Daily newspaper.’” (The Independent, March 15)

The message of regime change is loud and clear

To add to the U.S. imperialist threat, the Pentagon has begun deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system to south Korea. THAAD is aimed not only at the DPRK but also at the People’s Republic of China. Despite its name, it is a highly aggressive system aimed at blocking retaliation after the power that has it launches an attack. The goal of THAAD is to give the U.S.-south Korean forces first strike capability.

The Pentagon rushed to get THAAD deployed because south Korea’s former president, Park Geun-hye, has been ousted for corruption and political reaction after a year of mass demonstrations. It was urgent to Washington that THAAD be installed before new elections, as Moon Jae-in, a liberal who favors reestablishing relations with the north, is expected to be elected the next president.

To listen to Washington, you would think that the DPRK had stationed soldiers and nuclear missiles pointing at the U.S. in bases in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, across Canada and on submarines in the waters off the Atlantic and Pacific.

But the opposite is true. The DPRK is a small socialist country of 25 million people. It is surrounded by the most powerful military forces on earth. The Pentagon has tens of thousands of troops, ships and planes surrounding the DPRK. There is a ring of U.S. bases strung from south Korea to Japan, Hawaii, Guam, the Mariana Islands and elsewhere.

DPRK deserves solidarity

The DPRK began its nuclear weapons program in earnest after President George W. Bush, in his January 2002 State of the Union address, designated Iran, Iraq and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea as the “Axis of Evil.” Shortly thereafter the Pentagon invaded Iraq with “shock and awe” and captured and killed President Saddam Hussein.

In 2003, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi surrendered his nuclear program for fear of a similar U.S. invasion. But in 2011 Washington, the French and the British invaded Libya and Qaddafi was captured and killed, just like Saddam Hussein.

The DPRK drew the only conclusion it could: the need for a deterrent that would stay the hand of imperialism.

In fact, the DPRK, contrary to Pentagon propaganda, is not trying to develop its missile system and its nuclear weapons in order to attack the U.S. It is trying to develop a credible deterrent to a U.S. or south Korean invasion.

Washington has threatened the DPRK with nuclear attack or attack on its nuclear installations numerous times. The DPRK agreed to suspend its nuclear program several times, during the Agreed Upon Framework in 1994 and during the six-party talks, which began in 1998. Both times the U.S. walked away from its commitments under the talks and instead imposed sanctions on the DPRK.

The bottom line is that the Pentagon had suffered its first military defeat during the Korean War of 1950-53, when it invaded the north twice and was driven back twice. The U.S. military wants to reverse that defeat and has been trying to do so for nearly 65 years.

Right now the DPRK is immersed in a valiant and desperate struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. It deserves the support of all progressive humanity and especially of the movement here, in the belly of the beast.

From health care to war in Asia / Trump attacks at home and abroad

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.

Trump gang in crisis: Attacks on people spread

In addition to the government campaign against the undocumented, there is mounting murderous racism fomented by Trump and his Islamophobic rants.

By Fred Goldstein posted on March 8, 2017.  

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.

The Trump/Bannon cabal

The people can defeat Trump’s nest of vipers

By Fred Goldstein posted on February 28, 2017

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.