Airport protests set new level of solidarity

By Fred Goldstein, posted February 1, 2017

Jan. 30 — The wave of airport protests against Trump’s Muslim ban represents a new high-water mark in solidarity with Muslims in the U.S. These demonstrations are a political rebuff to the vicious Islamophobia stoked for a year and a half by Donald Trump, along with his Mexico bashing and many other reactionary themes.

In fact, Islamophobia has replaced anti-communism in the 21st century as the primary divisive, racist, divide-and-conquer strategy to foment war, intervention and police surveillance. Now the Islamophobes are being pushed back.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, and the World Trade Center bombings, Muslims and those in the movement who support them against ruling-class prejudice and persecution have been on the defensive. Solidarity activities have been relatively small and have been in the shadows.

But Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon, Gen. Michael Flynn and company, now hunkered down in the White House, changed all that by issuing a 90-day ban on people coming from six predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen — and banning Syrian nationals and refugees indefinitely.

This reactionary White House circle apparently did not get the message from the 3.3 million people who demonstrated around the country on Jan. 21 at the Women’s March. That march was marked by a high degree of solidarity with Muslim women. Instead, Trump and his reactionary circle, which is moving sharply in an authoritarian direction, provoked a massive movement that was already in motion.

100 demonstrations in 42 states

As of this writing, 100 demonstrations in 42 states have been carried out or are planned. Tens of thousands have already gone to airports to protest. (getgroundgame.com/airportprotests)

Television networks have carried the larger, more prominent ones in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and so forth.The movement has been powerful enough to force courts in four states to put stays on the deportation of immigrants caught up in the ban and its sudden application. Requests for injunctions have been granted in New York City, Seattle, Virginia and Massachusetts. The Massachusetts injunction goes further than the others, which block deportation but permit detention. Massachusetts is not allowing detention.

The original ban included all people with green cards. This amounts to a ban on hundreds of thousands of people around the world. In their rush to push the ban through, Trump and his National Strategy Adviser Steve Bannon, an ultra-right, Islamophobic, anti-Semite, informed U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration Services of the ban on the very afternoon it was promulgated. Only the massive struggle that erupted at airports the next day forced the head of Homeland Security, Gen. John Kelly, to rescind the green card ban.

In their fanaticism Trump, Bannon, Reince Priebus, Flynn and company showed no concern for all the students from the seven Islamic countries covered by the ban who were returning to continue their studies. They did not care about workers, scientists and technicians returning to their jobs. They showed utter contempt for people coming to be with their families. Even after several court injunctions were obtained, CBP officials refused to allow attorneys to see some detainees and turned away members of Congress who were attempting to find out the status of those detained.

This reflects the authoritarian stamp of the Trump inner circle.

Ideological and political step forward

The legal struggle to eradicate the ban altogether has a long way to go. It will take a great deal of political struggle in the streets, on the campuses and in the communities to push back the Trump administration. But the struggle has begun in a very inspiring way.

A new sense of solidarity has swept the movement, which got a sense of its power at the J21 Women’s March. That power has been transformed into solidarity and militant rejection of Islamophobia.

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been a fundamental ideological and political prop of the ruling class and much of the political establishment since Sept. 11.

By coming out en masse across the country, the airport demonstrators have put up determined resistance to the Trump refugee ban. But they have also struck an ideological and political blow against the Islamophobic poison of the ruling class. These demonstrations have laid the basis for future political steps forward.

Islamophobia has been used to build Homeland Security. It has been used to militarize the police in cities across the country. Above all, it has been used to promote the so-called “war on terror.”

Under the pretext of the “war on terror,” U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon have intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia and lately in Yemen. The military-industrial complex — the makers of drones, smart bombs, military satellites, bombers, fighter planes, helicopters, tanks, munitions of every kind, military robots, etc. — have prospered producing arms for the “war on terror.”

From solidarity to anti-imperialism

The solidarity shown with Muslims can cause many to question the ideological and material basis that led to the ban in the first place. It is supposedly to protect the U.S. against terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group (IS). But the ban is part of a broader offensive against the oil-rich and geostrategic Muslim world of the Middle East and North Africa.

It is precisely the Pentagon and the CIA that are responsible for the rise of groups like al-Qaida and IS. Washington has bombed 11 Islamic countries in the last 25 years. The Pentagon has inflicted untold destruction, suffering and death upon countries from Afghanistan to Somalia. The CIA has destroyed all the progressive secular nationalist forces, all those openly anti-imperialist, all the socialist and communist forces in the Middle East.

But the imperialists have not stopped their plunder and their oppression. They have taken Iraq’s oil. They have destroyed Libya and taken its oil. They have financed a devastating war trying to topple the independent government of Syria. The region is strewn with millions of refugees escaping the destruction of drone warfare, F-16s, A-10 killing machines. The oil barons are searching and drilling for oil in the coastal areas of Islamic North Africa. U.S. troops are spread throughout the region.

Under such conditions, with all progressive and secular forces weakened if not destroyed, it is inevitable that the vacuum of resistance will be filled by reactionary forces. The IS group is a patriarchal, medieval, theocratic organization pledged to drive the Western powers from the Middle East — the powers that divided up the region in the first place.

Such forces are at the same time the enemy of both the masses and of imperialism. The “war on terror” has nothing to do with helping women or freeing society. It has to do with reasserting the dominance of imperialism over the oil-rich Middle East and Africa.

Along with fighting Trump and his ­reactionary anti-Muslim tirades, the movement should try to match its dynamic political resistance with a determination to get to the bottom of the problem. The movement must see the commonality of racism, misogyny, LGBTQ and all gender oppression, anti-immigrant poison and the struggle against the multinational working class as based in the same substance as Islamophobia.

At the root is imperialism, the profit system and the domination of the world by capitalist monopolies.

Goldstein is the author of ­“Capitalism at a Dead End” and “Low-Wage Capitalism,” both of which can be purchased from online booksellers.

(Houston airport photo: Gloria Rubac)

Stop Brexit racism with global worker solidarity

By Fred Goldstein posted on June 28, 2016.

The Brexit referendum in Britain is the result of a reactionary, racist campaign by the right wing of the British ruling class, which pushed through the Leave victory and took Britain out of the 28-member European Union.NigelFarage_brexit

The working class and the middle class of Britain were confronted with a referendum, called for by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, in which they were given an onerous choice: remain in an imperialist economic bloc that has imposed austerity and anti-working-class policies on hundreds of millions, or choose the Leave option led by a racist, demagogic campaign to leave the EU on the basis of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

The initiator of the Leave political position was Nigel Farage, head of the racist, anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party. The Leave forces turned the campaign into a referendum on immigration.

UKIP has become the third-largest party in Britain, getting 4 million votes in the last election. It has done this by stirring fears about immigrants, especially since the refugee crisis with Syrians and others fleeing war in the Middle East.

UKIP leader Farage publicly stated in March 2015, “There is an especial problem with some of the people who’ve come here and are of the Muslim religion and don’t want to become part of us. People do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us.” (The Guardian, March 12, 2015)

Farage and UKIP also target Eastern European workers, such as Poles and Romanians, who are exploited as cheap labor in Britain. He warned of a “Romanian crime wave” in 2014. He proposes to institutionalize job discrimination by legalizing “British jobs for British workers.”

Rampant immigrant bashing

The campaign for Leave was filled with slogans and graffiti denouncing Poles and Muslims and calling to “make Britain great.” It spread the word, falsely, that Turkey is to become a member of the EU and then Britain will be flooded with Muslims.

One of the adherents of this camp assassinated Jo Cox, a Labour Member of Parliament known for supporting the rights of immigrants. She was killed the day she was scheduled to address Parliament with a pro-immigration speech.

Boris Johnson, of the Conservative Party and the former mayor of London, is head of the Leave campaign. Around the time of Cox’s assassination, the campaign put up a billboard/poster with a picture of thousands of Syrian refugees and the caption “The Breaking Point.” The photo was actually taken at the Slovenian border. The poster was denounced as false all over Britain by the Remain forces and had to be taken down.

The vote to Remain among whites was 46 percent. Among the oppressed the vote was as follows: Asians 67 percent, Muslims 70 percent, Chinese 70 percent, Hindus 70 percent, Blacks 73 percent. This speaks volumes about the racist character of the Leave vote. (Independent, June 25)

The largest Muslim organization, the Muslim Association of Britain, voted to Remain because, among other things, a vote to Leave would “increase the levels of hate crimes against British Muslims.” (Sunday Express, June 26)

Sayeeda Warsi, a former minister of the ruling Conservative Party, quit and switched to the Remain camp because of “spreading lies, hate and xenophobia.”  She added, “I don’t want the Leave campaign to be running this country.” (Express Tribune, June 27)

Showing solidarity the paramount issue

The Remain forces in the Conservative Party, led by Cameron, based their arguments exclusively upon the threat to the economy. Of course, this was important for the workers because leaving is a threat to the economy and jobs. But Cameron and his forces never mentioned the danger of Islamophobia, the attacks on Poles and Romanians, nor did he admit that racism was a fundamental issue in the campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party, did come out against hate and Islamophobia and visited a mosque to show solidarity with the Muslim community. This was in spite of the fact that Corbyn has a history of progressive opposition to the EU.

From the anecdotes and statistics above it would seem clear that it was better to vote Remain while giving an anti-imperialist, anti-EU explanation that showed solidarity with the oppressed than to remain silent and abstain, leaving your position unknown. Also, whatever anti-imperialist arguments are made, it is clear that the Leave movement is a right-wing movement with a flagrantly racist agenda.

Showing solidarity with the oppressed is particularly urgent in light of the widespread refugee crisis and the crisis of immigrant workers — from the Middle East to the southern borders of the United States. Working-class opposition to Leave would be a good answer to Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and stop Muslims from coming to the U.S. Trump flew to his golf course in Scotland and announced that he thought the Leave vote was a good thing, despite the fact that Scotland voted to remain.

Right wing takes advantage of economic crisis

What happened in Britain is happening throughout the imperialist world. The long economic crisis — the inability of capitalism to come back from the shock it received in 2008-09 — is undermining employment, wages and working conditions everywhere. Austerity is a universal policy on Wall Street and in Frankfurt, Paris, London, Rome and Rotterdam.

To be sure, the Leave vote struck a blow at the EU. But that blow is hardly to the advantage of the working class, even if it brings havoc to imperialist commerce and finance capital. The British vote to Leave the EU is now being hailed by the National Front in France, by the Alternative for Germany, by the rightist Democratic Party of Sweden, by the right wing in the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary and by Donald Trump.

All these ultra-right, near-fascist and racist forces see the Leave vote as an opening and are bound to become more aggressive. It will not be to the advantage of the workers and the oppressed if the EU disintegrates into blocs of capitalist right-wing governments.

It is also worth pointing out that there has always been a right wing of the British ruling class that never got over the loss of the empire and has never reconciled itself to accommodating the continental powers, especially Germany and France, in any association. There has always been a so-called “Eurosceptic” wing of the British ruling class.

They don’t want the imperialists from the continent, who have had to make certain concessions to the working class over the years, to be telling them that they have to give four weeks’ vacation, or paid maternity leave, or comply with environmental regulations set in Berlin and Paris.

These are the forces that have triumphed in the Brexit referendum. They are fanatics who in their rabid chauvinism have injured their own export position with regard to the largest capitalist market in the world, with 500 million potential customers. They have jeopardized their position as the financial hub of Europe. They have courted an economic crisis that will have dire consequences for their profits and for the workers.

The EU had $741 billion worth of investments in Britain as of 2014. All these investments are now stranded outside the EU, damaging U.S. and British financial interests. The U.S. has 2,750 companies in Britain, with about 1.2 million workers and $558 billion invested there. These include the biggest banks — Morgan Stanley, Citibank, JPMorgan/Chase, Goldman Sachs, among others — who may have to apply to the EU now for licenses, etc. (Revolutionary Communist Group, May 26) Of course, all financial and commercial arrangements are subject to negotiations, but the immediate effect is a sharp blow.

International solidarity and class consciousness

The way to strike a blow from the left at the EU is to open up a working-class campaign against European capital — to resist the rule of the banks and the multinational corporations across international borders. The French workers are engaged in a fierce battle against the Hollande regime. It would be very timely for the labor movement and the radical movement in all of Europe to open up their own struggles of solidarity — and not just symbolic struggles.

This is easy to say but difficult to do on short notice. But if the workers’ movement of Europe could begin to turn itself around from being reactive and defensive and think in terms of fighting — not just the EU, but the capitalist system — on a continentwide basis, that would be a great step forward.

A struggle against the EU could be a struggle against the austerity being imposed on Greece. Such a struggle would have been timely when the Syriza government came to office in 2015 and became the first government in Europe to openly oppose austerity. It was, of course, a social democratic regime that could not carry such a struggle through by itself against German finance capital and all its cohorts, and it finally capitulated.

A class for itself

Karl Marx said that the working class must become a class “for itself.” That means it must be conscious of its class position in society and the position of all other classes, especially the ruling class. Above all, the working class must be conscious of special oppression. It must see how the attempt to divide on the basis of immigration status as well as race, color, gender and sexual orientation is a lethal instrument used against solidarity and meant to obscure the real enemies: the rich, the exploiters, the possessing classes.

Marx also said that the working class has no homeland. (This does not apply to the nationally oppressed.) What is common to all workers is that they are exploited by the bosses, that they are forced to sell their labor power on a daily basis. This is true of British workers, Greek workers, Irish workers, U.S. workers, South African workers or Venezuelan workers. Our class must resist seeking advantage over each other on a national basis.

British workers can only unite as a class when they unite with Muslim workers, Polish workers, Rumanian workers, Indian workers, Pakistani workers, African workers, Philippine workers, Irish workers and so on.

When that day comes, the days of the capitalist class will be numbered.

 

Greek deal means more hardship for workers, more money for bankers

By Fred Goldstein

July 20 — The bailout deal signed by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the European bankers has brought more hardship to the Greek workers, more money to the bankers and shows that electoral politics without vigorous class struggle is a dead end for the working class.

Cutting pensions and raising sales taxes on items needed to survive so that bankers can be paid are a crime against the working class. Yet that has been agreed to by Tsipras and his new-found bourgeois allies: the center-right New Democracy party, the bourgeois social democrats in PASOK and the To Potami party. They made up the votes he needed in Parliament due to defections from the Syriza delegation.

German imperialism and the Greek debt crisis

By Fred Goldstein, March 4, 2015

For five years the European Central Bank, dominated by German finance capital, has engineered bailouts and imposed austerity on Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. And for five years various establishment economists, politicians and pundits in the U.S. like Paul Krugman and James Galbraith have been frustrated and perplexed.

Their complaint? Capitalist Europe is in an economic crisis. Austerity will make the crisis worse. Why don’t the German bankers and the ECB listen to reason? Why pursue such a destructive policy, which harms the economy and causes untold mass suffering?

Stop bankers’ rule in Greece

Mass resistance must say NO!

By Fred Goldstein

July 14 — With a gun to their heads, the leaders of Syriza, headed by Alexis Tsipras, have capitulated to the financial powers of Europe, headed by the German bankers. The terms of the agreement spell even graver hardship for the Greek masses and outright international bankers’ rule over Greece.

This agreement overrides the resounding “No” vote to austerity by the Greek masses in the referendum of July 5. The 61 percent vote against giving in to the bankers showed there is widespread basis for mass resistance.