Behind the firing of Comey: A struggle within the U.S. ruling class

The firing of FBI head James Comey by President Donald Trump is a struggle within the U.S. ruling class. It is taking place at the highest levels of the capitalist state. There are no progressive sides in this struggle.

The workers, the oppressed and the radical movement must not get drawn into it. The role of the movement and of the working class is to mount an independent struggle against the attacks coming down on the masses on all fronts — labor, immigrants, women, the environment, Muslims, escalating racist police terror, new draconian drug law enforcement, etc.

These threats can only be thwarted by the fullest mass mobilization and militant resistance.

There is justifiable hatred of the racist, reactionary, militarist, authoritarian, bigot Trump. And Trump is the target of an FBI investigation. This can cause confusion because Trump is so hated that some people might be driven to the “lesser evil” of siding with the racist, repressive, anti-labor, anti-communist, witch-hunting FBI — the U.S. secret police — because of its investigation of Trump.

Behind the anti-Russia campaign

A further cause for confusion is that Trump and his administration are being investigated for collusion with the Russians. The U.S. ruling class has been pushing back against Trump since the 2016 election campaign when he made open and repeated appeals for a rapprochement with Russia.

The campaign against Trump’s orientation for rapprochement with Russia began as a struggle over foreign policy. It still is. But there is now an added dimension. The anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are now using the issue of alleged collusion with Russia as a political wedge to weaken and possibly get rid of him.

The anti-Russia campaign has been fueled by the Hillary Clinton camp and the Democratic Party leadership. They want to blame Comey and Russia for their electoral loss. Instead of calling for an investigation into racist voter suppression or admitting their bankrupt political campaign was based on the line that “things are great,” the Democrats prefer to blame Comey and the Russians. The anti-Russia campaign has also been fueled by the Pentagon wing of the Republican Party, led by John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

The anti-Russia campaign flows not just from Trump’s foreign policy orientation. On the contrary, this campaign would exist regardless of Trump. It flows from the expansionist policy of U.S. imperialism.

The bosses and the Pentagon are opposed to the Putin government because it has nuclear weapons, a large army, and is seen as a powerful rival. Part of imperialist expansionism has been the campaign of “regime change” in Syria directed against the independent government of Bashar al-Assad. Russia has enabled Syria to ward off imperialist aggression.

Also part of Washington’s expansionism was the sponsorship of a fascist coup in Ukraine. The former president of Ukraine refused to join the European Union and steer Ukraine toward Western imperialism. Washington organized his overthrow by a fascist invasion of the Ukrainian parliament. In reply Moscow supported anti-fascist forces in Eastern Ukraine and supported a move by Crimea to return to Russia.

The anti-Russia campaign now serves as a convenient weapon against Trump because it allows the capitalist establishment to fight him on a reactionary basis. Never mind his anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim racism, his sexism, his war on the environment, his promotion of the racist police, his attacks on job safety and labor standards, etc. The bosses would much prefer to make Russia the issue.

The FBI: from Watergate to Trump

The establishment is using the FBI as their weapon to sharpen their attack on Trump. This is nothing new. W. Mark Felt, known as “Deep Throat,” who fed all the information to Woodward and Bernstein at the Washington Post in order to bring Richard Nixon down during the Watergate investigation, became deputy director of the FBI after the death of J. Edgar Hoover.

The spy agency had then, and has now, the means of eavesdropping, surveilling, infiltrating, etc. — all the techniques they mainly use against mass organizations, unions, radicals, liberation organizations. It also has the means to spy on factions in the ruling class.

The establishment is using the FBI at the moment because the Republicans control the House, the Senate and the White House. Until Judge Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court, the rulers had the option of using the judiciary to challenge Trump, as in the stays of his illegal Muslim ban. That option is now more difficult to use, with Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. So the FBI is the agency of choice.

Timing of the Comey firing

At the time of his firing Comey was preparing to step up the investigation of the Trump campaign. Days before his firing, he met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to ask for more personnel and money to pursue the investigation. (latimes.com, May 14)

Trump decided to fire Comey at about the same time. He had a meeting with his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Vice President Pence; and White House Counsel Don McGahn. After the meeting Trump told Rosenstein to draw up a statement supporting the firing of Comey. The statement condemned Comey for, of all things, mishandling the revelation of the Clinton emails 10 days before the election! Rosenstein did not call for Comey’s firing. Trump then issued a one-page statement firing Comey for his alleged “mishandling” of the Clinton emails.

Of course, there is no one in Washington or anyplace else who could possibly believe Trump’s initial reasoning. It was patently obvious that Comey wanted to advance the investigation of Trump and his group. And Trump wanted to shut down the operation.

Trump also fired Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates after she told him that National Security Adviser Gen. Mike Flynn was dealing with the Russians. She also refused to support the Muslim ban. Trump maneuvered with Kevin Nunes, head of the House Intelligence Committee, who was in charge of leading the investigation into the Trump campaign. The investigation stalled and Nunes had to recuse himself.

In other words, Trump is clearly afraid of the investigation. The ruling class is not quite sure whether Trump’s fear is based on political relations with Russian officials or financial relations with the Russian oligarchy, or both. In either case, they do not trust him.

The ruling class is also suspicious because the only big bank that has lent money to Trump in recent years is Deutsche Bank, which was recently fined $630 million for laundering $10 billion worth of Russian money. (cnn.com, Jan. 31, 2017) The big New York Wall Street banks won’t lend to him because he has gone bankrupt six times, stiffing investors, contractors and workers. (Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2016; wsj.com, March 20, 2016)

Obama tried to stabilize the system

When Barack Obama was elected president over John McCain in 2008, he had major support in the ruling class because he was known as a moderate who could reach across the aisle and work out compromises. He was solidly pro-imperialist and pro-capitalist, but compromise was his strong point.

At the end of the Bush administration, U.S. capitalism was suffering from multiple crises that were threatening the stability of the system. Tens of millions of people were without health care and had no prospect of getting any. Two wars raged, in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were 12 million undocumented workers who needed a way to stabilize their situation. Big business was fiercely blocking any attempt to reduce carbon emissions or deal with the alarming rate of environmental degradation. And as Obama took office, the worst economic crisis in 70 years broke out.

During his tenure Obama tried to work on these issues while maintaining and protecting the capitalist system and the profits of the bosses. He got the Affordable Healthcare Act passed, which kept the insurance companies enriched but managed to cover an additional 20 million people. He dragged the bosses kicking and screaming into the global environment talks and finally got the Paris Accord on CO2 reduction. He pulled most of the troops out of Afghanistan and withdrew from Iraq. While Obama severely escalated drone attacks, he imposed strict White House control over military operations.

While Obama deported hundreds of thousands of immigrants early in his administration, and got called the ”deporter in chief,” he eventually got the Dream Act and other limited protections passed. He issued executive guidelines to Immigration, Customs and Enforcement to deport only those who committed “serious crimes” and said those whose only offense was to cross the border could remain. This was done by executive guidelines.

Finally, he presided over the bailout of Wall Street and promoted the passage of the Dodd-Frank bill, which placed restrictions on the Wall Street financiers and set up some protections for investors.

Fear of Trump destabilizing the system

The bosses and the bankers are licking their chops over the prospect of tax cuts, regulatory cuts on safety and environmental rules, tariff protection and other profit-growing measures under the Trump administration.

But the broad capitalist establishment — the corporate media, the think tanks, the academic institutions and the majority of the bourgeois intelligentsia — can see beyond the next profit-reporting quarter. They are fearful that Trump is determined to undo all the carefully worked out stabilizing arrangements at home and abroad that U.S. imperialism has constructed over the decades.

They also worry about his absolute ignorance of imperialist statecraft and his lack of interest in learning. Trump started his presidency by questioning the “one China policy,” which is the bedrock of U.S.-China relations. He took a call from the leader of Taiwan, but was forced to take it back.

He threatened and insulted the presidents of Mexico and Australia in his first diplomatic phone calls and then threatened to tear up NAFTA. NAFTA has brought billions in profits to U.S. industry and agribusiness. He was stopped and had to call the presidents of Mexico and Canada to tell them that he was backing off.

In the midst of the Korean crisis, when U.S. imperialism needed the government in Seoul, Trump told south Korea that it had to pay a billion dollars for the installation of a highly unpopular U.S. anti-missile system and that he was going to tear up the U.S.-south Korean trade pact. National Security Adviser Gen. McMaster had to call the south Koreans and tell them that the U.S. would pay.

Trump refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the principal anchor of imperialism in Europe. These are only some of his political gaffs.

Trump’s health care bill, which threatens to strip 24 million people of their health coverage, is a disaster which has sparked fear and outrage among millions. His racist Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has reversed the Obama-Holder policy of sharply restricting the use of the harshest mandatory sentences. Trump has overturned safe water executive orders. ICE has ruled that everyone in the country who crossed the border is now subject to deportation. Trump plans to undermine, if not overturn, the Dodd-Frank bill. Trump has lifted all restrictions on the military and handed over operational control to the commanders; 3,000 more troops are now headed to Afghanistan.

In short, the Trump administration is moving rapidly to undermine the domestic stability and international imperialist order carefully worked out over decades. He is creating consternation in the upper echelons of the capitalist establishment.

That is what was fueling Comey’s investigation. And Trump is trying to shut it down.

Congress be damned — Fight for free healthcare

Ever since the health care system was turned over to the insurers and drug companies under the Bill Clinton administration, health care has been a public nightmare, except for the health care profiteers. Now the Trump administration is making it worse.

President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have led the first wave of a cruel congressional assault on the health care of the masses of people in order to transfer billions of dollars to the already rich. The second wave will begin when the Senate takes up the health care bill.

After passing the bill, the criminal gang that forced it through the House took a bus to the White House for a high-five celebration, with Trump and Ryan leading the cheers.

While health care should be a human right, the attitude of the group that passed this bill was candidly expressed by right-wing Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper that people with higher-cost conditions should “contribute more to the insurance pool” to offset the cost “to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy.” This is the amorality of the ruling class spoken plainly and publicly, without shame.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party leaders, neglecting the crying need for universal health care, were preoccupied with defending the insurance-company-driven Affordable Care Act and their own narrow political prospects for 2018.

Trump and the House Republicans would not wait for the Congressional Budget Office to assess the consequences of the bill because the assessment of the previous version estimated that 24 million people would lose their health care coverage by 2024 and premiums would rise for those remaining.

Tax cut for the rich, charging sick people more

In fact, the bill is really a tax cut for the rich disguised as a health care bill. It contains over a trillion dollars in spending cuts. About $346 billion over 10 years will go in direct tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires by eliminating taxes on investment income and the Medicare payroll deduction on high-income earners that was required under the Obama administration’s ACA. These taxes funded subsidies for low-income workers to help pay their insurance premiums. (New York Times, May 5)

Of course, under both plans the money still ends up in the hands of the insurance companies. But with the subsidies gone, millions of people will no longer be able to afford premiums.

The bill permits states to get easy permission to waive ACA rules that prohibit insurance companies from charging sick people larger premiums. Before the ACA, people with a medical history of heart disease or cancer — even acne, heartburn, back pain, asthma, hay fever or hives — could be declared uninsurable by insurance companies. In 2011 the Department of Health and Human Services said that up to 129 million people could be denied insurance for these “pre-existing conditions.” (Los Angeles Times, May 7) The new Trump/Ryan bill would restore the old rules by allowing state waivers.

Attack on Medicaid

The bill converts Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to block grants to the states, which would quickly be exhausted. That provision would strip over $800 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. Since the implementation of the ACA, which includes Medicaid expansion, nearly a quarter of the people in the United States are now covered by Medicaid and its subsidiary program, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Medicaid covers 60 percent of children with disabilities, 30 percent of adults with disabilities and one in five Medicare recipients.

While the attack on Medicaid is an attack on the working class in general, people of color are more likely to use Medicaid, as well as have less access to health care. So the blow to Medicaid is also racist in character. (Rewire, May 1)

Essential services endangered, blow to women’s health care

States would have the opportunity to opt out of an ACA requirement that insurers cover 10 essential medical services: outpatient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services; pediatric services, including oral and vision care; prescription drugs; chronic disease management; rehabilitative services; and laboratory services. They include both preventive and wellness services.

The bill defunds Planned Parenthood for one year, with guaranteed renewal each year after that. Further, it denies Medicaid payments and Title X grants to any plan that even lists abortion among its services. This means the end of coverage for cancer screening, contraception and abortion services for millions of women served by Planned Parenthood. It would also deny all subsidies to states like California and New York that require insurance policies to cover abortion.

Threat to jobs

The ACA has meant a steady flow of profits to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It has also been a steady jobs program for the economy. Health care now accounts for almost one-fifth of the U.S. capitalist economy and has been a leading creator of jobs in the last decade.

According to a leading business health care publication, “A report released Friday by the Commonwealth Fund and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University found that repealing key provisions of the ACA, including the insurance premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion, could lead to 2.6 million people losing their jobs in 2019. By 2021, nearly 3 million jobs in healthcare and other sectors could be lost. …

“‘Repealing key parts of the ACA could trigger massive job losses and a slump in consumer and business spending that would affect all sectors of state economies,’ the Milken Institute’s Leighton Ku, the lead author of the study, said in a statement. ‘Cuts in federal funding would not only harm the health care industry and its employees but could lead to serious economic distress for states, including a $1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 to 2023.’” (Modern Healthcare, Jan. 17)

The bill eliminates the ACA’s employer mandate, which required large companies employing over 50 workers to offer affordable coverage to their workers. It also pushes back enactment of a tax on high-cost employer health plans.

For-profit health care system an abomination

With or without the new reactionary health care bill, the mass of the people are constantly suffering at the hands of the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the private hospital industry and a whole host of corporate parasites.

It is a fraud for the Democratic Party leadership to fight to retain a system that maintains the stranglehold of medical corporations on the health care system.

The insurance companies are always raising rates, raising deductibles, reducing coverage, threatening to pull out of health care plans and in general engaging in corporate extortion to squeeze more and more profit out of the people — especially the poor and the oppressed. This has been true under the ACA from the beginning.

There are constant complaints about the rising costs of health care, which are breaking the state budgets because the insurance industry and drug companies have virtual sovereignty over prices.

Conservative columnist Charles Kraut­hammer of Fox News complained about the public attitude toward health: ­
“­[T]he electorate sees health care as not just any commodity, like purchasing a steak or a car” but now has “a sense the government ought to guarantee [it].” (New York Times, May 8) In the view of the capitalist class, health care, rather than being a fundamental right of the masses, is a commodity that must be purchased. This is a country with a $16 trillion economy where the workers, who create all that wealth, including the wealth of the health care industry, must buy their own health care at prices set by the billionaire owners of the industry. And if they can’t afford it, too bad.

Universal health care and the socialist camp

Bernie Sanders had a favorite campaign line about how the U.S. is the only country in the “industrial” (imperialist) world that does not have some form of universal health care.

It got a lot of crowd approval. But a fundamental truth about the health care systems in Europe is left out of the discussion.

The European countries were face to face with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe for 40 years after World War II. These countries provided free, universal health care as a political right of the working class. The West European working class could see this and compare it to their own conditions under capitalism.

Furthermore, the post-war European working class was organized and engaged in the class struggle to defend and expand their rights. The European bankers and bosses were not any more humane than those in the U.S. They were colonialists who enslaved hundreds of millions of people.

But the socialist example forced them to compete and offer all kinds of social benefits to stave off the strong tendency of the European working class toward genuine socialism.

Socialist Cuba has free, universal health care and a world-class medical system. It was only able to achieve this after it expelled the U.S. imperialists and their capitalist stooges from the island.

The answer to the health care crisis for the masses is universal, affordable health care. This would mean the expulsion of the insurers and big pharma from the process. This can be achieved by struggle, just as it was in Europe during the era of the USSR.

Trump, the gangster president

The ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime Trump commits against the people.

In accordance with their role in capitalist society, most high government officials, elected or appointed, have gangster-like qualities. These officials spend much of their time conspiring with the wealthy on schemes for fleecing or otherwise attacking the masses of people. Unlike the mob, they must carry out their schemes within the framework of capitalist politics.

The mob is differentiated from the capitalist establishment in that they are not constrained to carry out their crimes under cover of legality. On the contrary, mob activities function outside the boundaries of bourgeois legality with the silent consent of the ruling class and its law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, mob crimes are on a vastly smaller scale than the crimes of the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI.

That being said, among bourgeois politicians with gangster qualities, Donald Trump stands above the crowd. He is a pampered real estate billionaire who has functioned by ordering subordinates around, cheating contractors and stiffing workers. When he gets caught in a mistake, he mobilizes his army of lawyers to clean things up.

He won the presidency by using his television career as a springboard and taking advantage of the complete bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership. His campaign strategists also took advantage of the undemocratic institution of the Electoral College to eke out an electoral victory while losing the popular vote. (Hillary Clinton, of course, was also a corrupt, militaristic, Wall Street-owned enemy of the people.)

Presidency as the road to (more) riches

Trump has not only refused to divest from his billions in assets but also sought to earn even more from his status in the White House. He continues to urge foreign leaders and associates to stay at his Washington hotel. He has raised the fee for membership at the Mar-a-Lago golf club from $100,000 to $200,000. He has refused to release his tax returns in order to cover up his investments. He has deals in Turkey, Azerbaijan and other places around the globe. He has drawn up a tax plan from which he and his fellow real estate moguls will reap hundreds of millions of dollars.

His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has spread her brand all over the world and continues to do so. His son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, keeps a real estate empire of his own. “Although Mr. Kushner resigned in January from his chief executive role at Kushner Companies,” reports the New York Times of April 26, “he remains the beneficiary of trusts that own the sprawling real estate business. The firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal.”

Now this right-wing, authoritarian, blustering buffoon, who knows nothing of bourgeois statecraft and has no inclination to learn or to seek advice, is formally in charge of U.S. imperialism.

When Trump gets U.S. capitalism in trouble with U.S. imperialist allies in NATO, or threatens corporate interests by ranting about trade wars with the People’s Republic of China (population 1.3 billion), Canada and Mexico (U.S. big business’ two largest trade markets), or cannot get the Republican Congress to throw 24 million people off health care, or passes an anti-Muslim travel ban that provokes a world countermovement, or threatens to provoke a mass rebellion by saying he will deport 11 million undocumented workers, etc., etc., all his subordinates, flunkies and lawyers cannot help him out of the jam.

The ruling class is ambivalent about Trump — for good reason. On the one hand, they are salivating over his tax cut hand-out to billionaires and big corporations. They are ecstatic about his deregulation campaign allowing, among other things, the coal companies to poison the water table, the destruction of auto emissions standards to help the auto barons and the elimination of environmental regulations to aid big industry. And, of course, they love his tax breaks for the health insurance companies.

On the other hand, they are frustrated because they were hoping to get big tax breaks from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they wanted to get their hands on $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid so the money could be used to fund tax breaks for the rich.

However, as much as the ruling class looks forward to profiting from Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory roll-backs, they do not want him to wreck their system. Thus, they have taken measures against him. In the first place, they have surrounded him with generals and Wall Street bankers in the White House and the Cabinet.

Trump is stonewalled on budget, overruled on NAFTA

But most recently they have given him a beating in the budget negotiations. In the latest $1.2 trillion budget, Trump came away empty handed, despite all his bullying and bluster. In the negotiations Trump was overruled by the trusted congressional representatives of the ruling class on key issues:

• Domestic spending rose, instead of $18 billion in cuts demanded by Trump.

• Trump wanted the National ­Institutes of Health budget slashed by $1.2 billion. Instead it was increased by $2 billion.

• Trump asked for the Environmental Protection Agency budget to be slashed by 33 percent. Instead it was cut by 1 percent.

• Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded at current levels in states that do not vote to defund it.

• Trump asked for $30 billion in increased military spending. He got $12.5 billion and another $2.5 billion when he comes up with a plan to defeat the Islamic State group.

• No money for his beloved Border Wall; border security funds for new technology and repairs only; in fact, funds for “border security” were slashed and there was no money for a deportation force.

• Health care subsidies for the poor will remain (the money goes to the insurance companies).

”The Trump administration said it was no longer considering pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, following a day of intense lobbying from business leaders and lawmakers who rallied to quash internal White House discussion of the prospect,” wrote the Wall Street Journal on April 27. Trump was forced to call the presidents of Mexico and Canada to tell them he had dropped the repeal. He then issued a tweet saying they had called him, instead of admitting that big business and agribusiness had forced him to back down.

Trump, China and the DPRK

Washington is in the midst of a crisis in Korea. It needs the cooperation of the south Korean regime to pursue its belligerent agenda, but instead, Trump picked this moment to tell the south Korean government that he wants to tear up the trade agreement with their country. It is a “bad agreement” negotiated by President Obama, according to Trump. Actually, it was negotiated under George W. Bush.

To make matters worse, Trump told the south Korean government that it would have to pay $1 billion for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, despite an existing agreement by the U.S. to pay the cost of its deployment. National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had to get on the phone with south Korean officials and reassure them the U.S. would pay. (WSJ, April 30)

Trump has an excessive view of his personal powers, to say the least. He claims to have a good relationship with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. He claims that because of his phone calls with Xi, China is going to help the U.S. government out of its fix with the defiant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Trump has tried to sweet-talk China and tough-talk the DPRK. But the truth is that the PRC leadership, especially its military, the People’s Liberation Army, cannot ignore the overriding facts of the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In a phone call on April 23, President Xi asked Trump to refrain from escalating tensions in the region, even if the DPRK announces testing of missiles or nuclear weapons. Xi made an appeal to Trump not to go tit-for-tat and to move in the direction of negotiations.

We certainly do not agree with Xi that the DPRK should be pressured to give up its struggle to build a nuclear deterrent. But, nevertheless, the head of the PRC asked Trump to de-escalate.

One day later, on April 24, in the dead of night, the U.S. deployed the THAAD anti-missile system in south Korea, which is equipped with high-powered radar that reaches beyond the DPRK into China and can be used to spy on the Chinese military. The PRC has already said this deployment would destabilize the strategic balance in the region in favor of U.S. imperialism.

The Chinese leadership and the PLA are fully aware of the threat. It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day as the deployment, China test-launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier. The ship is due to be completed in 2020.

“China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes. The 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday.” (Washington Post, April 26)

But the unspoken message is that China has its own naval power, including a fully armed and functional Soviet-built carrier which it obtained from Ukraine and refurbished. China restrained its response to Trump and the Pentagon by not deploying its armed aircraft carrier and deploying the unfinished one instead. But the message was sent.

What is also clear from these events is that U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon are the enemies of both the DPRK and the PRC. The Pentagon has been out for revenge against the DPRK because this heroic socialist country has fearlessly stood up to Washington, as firmly now as it did during the 1950-53 Korean War, when it rebuffed the mighty U.S. war machine.

U.S. imperialism is also opposed to the People’s Republic of China because — despite the growth of capitalist millionaires and billionaires inside the socialist country — the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army still stand as guardians of state-owned enterprises and economic planning, which are hallmarks of socialism.

Washington realizes that while U.S. imperialism is mired in economic stagnation and military and political crises around the globe, China is steadily growing stronger, both economically and militarily. It is building influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America through infrastructure projects that help the former colonies overcome imperialist-imposed underdevelopment.

At a moment when U.S. imperialism is off balance at home and abroad, the capitalist ruling class needs to keep their gangster-real estate president in check, so he does not add to Washington’s instability.

Despite all the attempts by the established ruling class to distance themselves from Trump, the capitalist government is the executive committee of the ruling class. Karl Marx said it long ago, and it still holds true today.

There are many ways that the bosses could get rid of him, given all the illegality of his family-enriching regime. Instead, the ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class, and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime he commits against the people.

Restructuring retail: Tens of thousands laid off — more to come

The restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned.

By Fred Goldstein. Posted April 25, 2017.  

As International Workers’ Day — May Day — approaches, a major crisis is underway for retail workers in the U.S. A process of profound restructuring of the retail industry is unfolding. Driven by internet technology and its utilization by Amazon, among others, it has been made possible by the capitalist scientific-technological revolution.

In manufacturing, the struggle by big industry to increase profits drove automation and offshoring. In the retail industry, the giant monopoly Amazon has developed online shopping, which has already wiped out tens of thousands of retail jobs and is threatening hundreds of thousands more.

Online shopping has brought about a transformation in the so-called brick-and-mortar retail industry.

“This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting long-time brands and leading to staggering job losses,” wrote the New York Times on April 15.

“More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.

“The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades. About one out of every 10 Americans works in retail.” That’s around 15 million workers.

Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.

More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.

Department stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Kmart are among the companies shutting down stores, along with middle-of-the-mall chains like Crocs, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess.

As big retailers shut down in malls, there is collateral damage among the workers in small retail stores and fast food places that draw walk-by customers who shop in the big stores. Furthermore, window designers, lighting and maintenance workers, security guards, sanitation workers and many other mall workers are or will be thrown onto the unemployment lines.

From housing bubble to retail bubble

Online shopping is not the only thing responsible for the present crisis. Marxism teaches that in all industries, capitalist competition and the thirst for profit drive the retail and real estate bosses who rent to them to destroy their rivals by capturing market share. The result is capitalist overproduction. (Overproduction does not mean that capitalists produce more than people need, only more than the stores can sell at a profit.)

“The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015, according to Cowen Research. By one measure of consumerist plentitude [capitalist overproduction, F.G.] — shopping center “gross leasable area,” the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more than the U.K., and 10 times more than Germany.” (theatlantic.com, April 10)

“The seeds of the industry’s current turmoil date back nearly three decades, when retailers … flush with easy money, rushed to open new stores. The land grab wasn’t unlike the housing boom that was also under way at that time.

“Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared,” Richard Hayne, chief executive of Urban Outfitters Inc., told analysts last month. “This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst.” (wsj.com, April 21)

Amazon won’t make up for jobs lost

The standard line of the apologists for capitalist restructuring is that technological advancement creates new and better-paying jobs that will make up for the job losses. This is complete hogwash.

First of all, the workers who lose their jobs are out of a job NOW. They have the skills and training for retail. The capitalist class and the capitalist government do not swoop in to the rescue and give them jobs and training in new occupations they would feel suited for.

But second of all, assuming that the laid-off workers in the thousands could apply for jobs at Amazon or other online retailers, they would be confronted by the highly automated Amazon warehouse system. This system has far fewer jobs to offer than the 90,000 who have already been laid off since last October and the many thousands more who are in danger of losing their jobs.

Amazon’s automation is infamous among the workers as a speed-up device and a job-killer.

“In 2012, Amazon bought the robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million — and made it so Kiva’s technology could be used only in Amazon warehouses. These Kiva robots autonomously zoom around the warehouse using a series of barcodes on the floor to guide them, picking items and bringing them back to warehouse workers. These robots save these workers from the immense physical toll of walking as many as 20 miles per shift, sometimes in unbearable heat; but this also means that fewer human workers are needed. The jobs that remain will be less labor intensive, and more like those of a robot supervisor. Since Amazon bought Kiva, a host of other companies are trying to develop even more advanced warehouse robots and sell them to Amazon’s competitors.” (prospect.org, Sept. 27, 2016)

It’s not likely that 90,000 robot supervisors will be needed at Amazon!

Capitalist restructuring in another form

Retail workers have already undergone the pressure of the scientific-technological revolution and the intensified exploitation that it brings. Retail salespeople and cashiers have been subjected to time studies and forced to adhere to a time standard for making sales. Cashiers have to ring up customers in a designated time tracked by the electronic cash register. And they have been subjected to many other profit-squeezing methods.

Now thousands of them are being eliminated altogether by internet technology and online sales.

This is comparable to when auto workers’ jobs were destroyed by robotization or steel workers’ jobs were destroyed by mini-mills and electronic mills. And coal miners’ jobs were destroyed by giant mining machines.

The difference is that this automation is being instituted by an external employer, Amazon. The restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned. Amazon has reduced the necessary labor time involved in the process of commercial retail sales. As such, it can sell at lower prices and increase convenience for the shopper.

While automation reduces the walking time for workers in the warehouse and the burden of shopping for the consumer, the workers who are no longer needed by capital under the profit system suffer. Instead of the internet and robots being used to ease life for the working class, they are only making things more difficult and insecure.

The masses of workers who lose their jobs will not be able to afford buying anything, either online or in a store. For the working class, the whole capitalist system is a trap the workers must break out of.

Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End, which can be obtained from online book sellers.

Trump & the Wall Street-Pentagon Coalition

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 18, 2017.

There has been much buzz in the capitalist media recently about Donald Trump’s “flip-flopping.” He has changed his positions 180 degrees on a whole variety of issues within a few weeks’ time.

Among the issues on which he has switched are:

  • He has bombed Syria after having opposed intervention.
  • He says China is not a currency manipulator after calling China “the world champion” of currency manipulators.
  • He has floated the idea of negotiations with north Korea after saying that he would never negotiate with that government.
  • He says that NATO “was once obsolete; it is no longer obsolete.”
  • He says he likes Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve Board, and her low interest rates, after claiming she and “other global special interests” had ruined life for middle America.
  • He says it turns out that “lots of small companies are really helped” by the Export-Import Bank, after having opposed it.

These are just a few of his reversals. They have all brought him more in line with the fundamental needs of U.S. imperialism.

Numerous explanations for Trump’s reversals have been put forward by the big-business media. For example, it is said that Trump adopts the position of the last person he has talked to. Or, Trump has no ideology and he can shift positions easily. Or, he listens to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. And so on.

All of these things may be true. But they mask the deeper reason for the so-called flip-flops.

Trump has been leaned on by the Pentagon and Wall Street to shift from demagogy to policy based on the reality of the core needs of U.S. imperialism.

Trump is surrounded by four generals, three former bankers from Goldman Sachs and other financiers, not to mention Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest private oil company in the capitalist world. This is a veritable coalition of Wall Street, the Pentagon and big business. And, for the moment, they have reined in Trump and subordinated him to their needs. Whether he will stay in harness remains to be seen.

Trump removed ultra-rightist Steve Bannon from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, thus bowing to the pressure of the Wall Street-Pentagon coalition, led in this instance by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. In doing so, he denied that Bannon had been his strategist. “I’m my own strategist,” declared Trump.

The problem with that statement is that Trump does not have a strategic cell in his brain. He can’t think politically beyond what he said yesterday.

Trump’s previous positions have been the result of blustering election demagogy. He has uttered positions that no serious imperialist politician could possibly follow through on. The applause lines that gratified his ego and won over gullible voters during the election campaign have now clashed with the hard realities of the problems of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. However, Trump is so dense and so vain that he clung to these positions for dear life. Finally, he had to be put straight by the capitalist establishment.

Tweeting baloney

Take Trump’s belligerent, war-like posture toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Trump tweeted recently about the DPRK and its drive to obtain an intercontinental ballistic missile that can be armed with an atomic warhead.

“That’s not going to happen,” tweeted Trump. In another tweet Trump said the DPRK is “looking for trouble” and he warned that “if China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them.” (New York Times, April 17)

These were clear threats to use force against the DPRK. To underscore the threat, the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier squadron, accompanied by Aegis missile ships, off the coast of the Korean peninsula. Washington made vague but menacing threats to “take action” if the DPRK carried out a nuclear test.

Trump — and Obama before him — has adamantly refused any negotiations with the DPRK unless it shows signs that it will give up its nuclear weapons program.

Brass rethinking negotiations

But listen to National Security Adviser McMaster speaking on a recent Sunday talk show: “It’s really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the regions … that this problem is coming to a head,” said the general. “And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.” (ABC News This Week, April 16)

Take the position put forward by Vice President Mike Pence while visiting the demilitarized zone in south Korea on April 17. According to the New York Times, Pence blustered that north Korea should not test “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.” Yet he also noted that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.”

Whether or not the peaceful language of McMaster and Pence was meant as a gesture to China without expressing real White House policy remains to be seen.

But the socialist government of the DPRK did precisely what Pence warned against. The government of Kim Jong Un defied all the blustering war-mongering of the Trump White House and the Pentagon, proudly staging a massive military parade on the 105th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, complete with an array of  intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang stands up to Trump and Pentagon

The DPRK stood up to military threats and the presence of a U.S. naval armada in its waters. The leadership has taken into consideration the lessons of Iraq and Libya. The U.S. imperialists used the pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to plan a massive attack, which ended in the murder of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The DPRK is also well aware of the lesson of Libya, whose leader Moammar al-Gadhafi gave up his nuclear program; Libya was later invaded and he was brutally murdered by pro-U.S. forces.

The New York Times noted: “North Korea could hardly drop these [nuclear] programs without understandably fearing an attack. Disarmament, in this view, would invite annihilation.” (New York Times, April 17)

This also speaks to the fraudulent slogan of a “denuclearized Korean peninsula,” which Washington and its allies are always promoting. The only nuclear weapons actually on the Korean peninsula belong to the DPRK. The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons in south Korea. The Pentagon has surrounded the DPRK with a “ring of fire,” including nuclear-armed submarines, nuclear-armed planes on aircraft carriers and nuclear-capable bombers at bases from Japan to Guam to Hawaii, as well as island bases throughout the region. A “denuclearized peninsula” means a disarmed DPRK.

So Trump’s flip-flop on the DPRK, as espoused by McMaster and Pence, is rooted in hard military reality. Trump tweeted that the U.S. would “deal with” the DPRK. But the military explained to him that there is no good option for U.S. imperialism in north Korea so long as Pyongyang remains steadfast in the face of nuclear blackmail.

Trump and China

Trump has publicly declared that the Chinese government is going to “help on north Korea,” so he pulled back from naming China as a currency manipulator. Such a declaration was part of his anti-China campaign. He also promised to slap tariffs on Chinese goods sold in this country. This was when he was preaching to his followers about how China was “stealing jobs” and “cheating on trade.”

The truth is that he has been forced to reject his own and Bannon’s anti-China line by financiers like Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council and president and CEO of Goldman Sachs for 10 years. Cohn and his Goldman Sachs cohorts, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have also explained to him that Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve Board, is a favorite of Wall Street. She has funnelled billions of dollars to the banks, allegedly to “save the economy.”

Said Reuters on April 16: “Apparently paying more heed to Cohn and other moderates on his team, Trump last week said he was open to reappointing Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chairman when her term is up and he also held back from naming China a currency manipulator.

“Both stances marked a reversal from his campaign when Trump criticized Yellen and vowed to label China a currency manipulator on ‘day one’ of his administration, a move that could lead to punitive duties on Chinese goods.

“Chinese authorities, faced with an insult from a foreign leader as the ruling Communist Party prepares for elections of top positions later this year, eventually would have slapped steep retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exporters that send more than $100 billion a year of goods to the Asian country. U.S. manufacturers’ profits and stock prices would take a big hit.”

The designation of Cohn from Goldman Sachs as a “moderate” paints him with a kindly brush. Finance capital in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is just as aggressive and ruthless in pursuit of profit as the Pentagon is in pursuit of conquest. They are two adventurist arms of the same ruling class.

Cohn, meaning Goldman Sachs, told Trump it would not be a good idea to start a trade war or a currency war with the second-largest economy on earth. The Chinese economy is growing at an annual rate of 6.9 percent, while U.S. capitalism can barely eke out 2 percent growth.

China and Korea

As for China helping the U.S. on “taming” the DPRK, it is worthwhile noting that for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it is impossible to ignore the contrast between south and north Korea.

The north is not threatening China militarily one bit. But the south Korean puppets of U.S. imperialism are enthusiastically and hastily rushing to deploy the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system. THAAD has powerful radar that can reach into China and spy on Chinese missile installations. The Chinese government has vigorously warned against this deployment and has said it would upset the “strategic balance” in the region. Seoul and Washington have ignored China’s concerns.

In Beijing the military and the political high command must be truly worrying about the possibility of having a pro-imperialist regime on their border. In the long run, China cannot afford to undermine the DPRK. It will be compelled to resist U.S. aggression against the government of Kim Jong Un.

The crisis in Korea, like the economic and geopolitical crises for U.S. imperialism around the globe, cannot be tweeted away nor can they be overcome by military means. U.S. imperialism is a colossus with feet of clay. Trump is finding that out the hard way.

Goldstein is author of Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay and Capitalism at a Dead End, available from all major booksellers.