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:
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.
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.
“You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” Publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1898, preparing the groundwork for the U.S. war with Spain and seizure of Cuba.
By Fred Goldstein, posted April 11, 2017.
The Trump administration’s attack on the Syrian air force was first directed at Russia as well as the government of Bashar al-Assad. China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were secondarily targeted.
The chemical weapons attack in Syria, assuming that it was not totally staged by enemies of the Damascus government, was aimed at forcing President Donald Trump to shift his political orientation away from rapprochement with Russia — and to keep military pressure focused on the long-term goal of overthrowing the Assad government. Washington not only wants to overthrow Assad, but it also aims to place a compliant government in Damascus that will oust the Russians from Syria and the Mediterranean altogether.
The U.S. imperialist military strike came five days after Trump’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “The United States’ diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, leave power.” (Reuters, March 30) The publicity surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack was designed to reverse this Trump policy.
Charges with no evidence
The accusations against the Assad government have been unanimous and thunderous in the capitalist media, Congress and the military. All this has gone on despite there being not one moment of investigation or one element of cogent proof that Damascus had any role in the alleged attack. The Syrian government has categorically denied the charges, but its denials have received no publicity in the capitalist media.
In all, this one thing is certain: The Syrian government had no reason to carry out such an attack. It has been winning the war without using chemical weapons and has the least motive of all parties involved to carry out such an attack. The attacks hurt the Syrian government and helped the imperialists and their reactionary client groupings inside Syria.
In any criminal investigation the first things to look for are motive, means and opportunity to carry out the crime. The parties with the overriding motives, means and opportunity to do such a thing are the U.S. government and the reactionaries in Syria who are losing the war. Those in the latter group have been unsuccessfully trying to overthrow Assad and seek to draw the U.S. government into the military struggle.
Times neocon propagandists on the Syria case
The New York Times led the charge in instantaneously accusing the Assad government. The Times assigned their two most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the story — Michael Gordon and Anne Barnard.
Gordon was co-author with Judith Miller of Times articles promoting the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the build-up to the 2003 U.S.-British invasion. Miller eventually lost her job for lying about claims of the existence of these weapons in Iraq. George W. Bush used these claims to bolster the pretext for invasion. Barnard writes like a publicist for the reactionary Syrian groups.
Progressive writer and founder of consortiumnews.com Robert Parry explained on April 5: “Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon ‘regime change’ strategies for years. He co-authored the Times’ infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of ‘mushroom clouds’ if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s upcoming invasion of Iraq.”
It turned out that the aluminum tubes were meant for conventional weapons.
Seymour Hersh, an investigative reporter who exposed the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, reported in 2015, “In spring 2013 U.S. intelligence learned that the Turkish government, through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation, was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability.”
Hersh continued: “Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey, that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.” (reported by Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, Sept. 16, 2015)
Following the chemical gas attack in 2013, the Times reported that experts followed the path of missiles carrying the gas, and it led back to Damascus. It later turned out that the missiles had a range that could not have carried them from Damascus. The actual range was the distance from rebel-held territory. (consortiumnews.com, Dec. 29, 2013; linked to Times article)
Ruling-class goal: Force Trump to oppose Russia, Assad
Even during the U.S. election campaign and since Trump won, the Pentagon and the ruling class in general have aimed to undermine the Trump administration’s attempt to shift U.S. foreign policy toward more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The horrendous pictures of the alleged chemical attack in Syria were calculated to box Trump in and leave him no alternative but to attack the Syrian government.
The drumbeats for attack on Syria came relentlessly from almost all ruling-class quarters — from Democratic Party moderates to Republican reactionaries. Trump, who has been the butt of attacks, ridicule and jokes in the corporate media, was momentarily catapulted from the status of bungling buffoon to the position of decisive leader. This praise, however, is only temporary. The military and its mouthpieces in Congress, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are prodding Trump to go further and explain what’s next.
Militarization of National Security Council
In all the celebration about Trump’s sudden show of leadership, what is being omitted is that he has militarized the government at the top. He received much praise when he pushed Stephen Bannon off the government’s most powerful committee, the Principals Committee of the National Security Council.
Bannon is an ultra-right extremist with an apocalyptic vision of war in Asia and is viciously against Islamic civilization. But the cheers for Bannon’s removal have drowned out any response to the shift in the Principals Committee. Now there are four generals on the council — who are nothing but extremists with weapons.
Under Trump the top foreign policy body of the capitalist government has gone from having the facade of civilian rule to open military control of foreign policy. The attack on Syria must be seen in that light.
Trump’s secretary of defense is James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a former Marine general. Mattis oversaw Middle East operations as chief of Central Command until his retirement in 2013. Mattis’ many colorful quotes include, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”
Mattis opposed President Barack Obama’s Iran deal. He led the attack on Fallujah in 2004, which destroyed this Iraqi city of 300,000 people. The campaign used poisonous and radioactive depleted uranium munitions and caused massive civilian casualties. His troops massacred 24 civilians in Haditha city in 2005. (democracynow.org, Jan. 26, 2012) Mattis refused to apologize. He has been a true military extremist.
The head of the Department of Homeland Security is retired Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, a border security hawk who was in charge of Caribbean and South American operations as head of the U.S. Southern Command. He opposed Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison and has stoked fears by raising the specter of terrorists entering the country through the U.S.-Mexican border.
Trump’s national security adviser is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who is still on active duty and is a former tank commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. McMaster replaced Marine Gen. Michael Flynn after Flynn was ousted. McMaster played a key role in expelling Bannon from the NSC Principals Committee. The military unseated Bannon, the ultra-right ideologue, to prevent him from interfering with or listening in on their plans.
Also on the committee is Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a commander during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2013. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015 that Russia is the “greatest threat to U.S. interests.” (Washington Post, July 9, 2015)
The U.S. military plans to have a wide focus that includes Russia, China, the DPRK, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. They especially strive to maintain hostility to Russia now because Washington covets Ukraine and is outraged that the Russians moved quickly to frustrate a total imperialist takeover of that country. The Pentagon is a firm backer of the fascist regime in Kiev and plans to feed it more powerful weapons. This is all linked to its anti-Russian campaign.
Washington to Putin: We’re the boss
Last year and at the beginning of this year, a joint Russian, Turkish and Iranian task force discussed political settlement issues for the Syria conflict at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. (Reuters, Feb. 16) The U.S. had no part in the talks.
Washington and the U.S. military reject the political involvement of the Russian government in settling the Syrian question. U.S. air strikes on the Syrian airbase were meant to show Putin who is boss in the region.
The same scenario was played out in 2016 when then-Secretary of State John Kerry was engaged with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in working on military coordination and peace talks about Syria. After a marathon negotiating session on Sept. 8, Kerry called the deal “a potential turning point” in the conflict, if implemented. (CNBC, Sept. 9, 2016)
However, barely a week after Kerry’s announcement, the New York Times reported on Sept. 17: “The United States acknowledged on Saturday [Sept. 17] that its warplanes had carried out an airstrike in Syria that resulted in the deaths of Syrian government troops. American military officials said the pilots in the attack, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, believed they were targeting the Islamic State.”
The article stated, “Russia’s defense ministry said the United States attack had killed 62 Syrian troops, wounded 100 more.” This attack broke up the talks and all possibility of working out a peace plan.
DPRK and China also subject of Syrian strike
The military rushed the U.S. attack on Syria in order to deliver a major diplomatic slap at the People’s Republic of China at the very moment when Chinese President Xi Jinping was meeting with Trump at his Florida White House. Trump did not tell him about the attack until the meeting was over.
The strike was also meant to threaten the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To follow up the strike on Syria, the Pentagon is now sending an aircraft carrier strike force toward Korean waters. The carrier Carl Vinson, accompanied by missile ships and frigates, is steaming there from Singapore to arrive in time for the 105th birthday of historic Korean communist leader Kim Il Sung. April 15 is celebrated in the DPRK as “the day of the sun.”
Trump has given the military a long leash. He is fostering their revenge plans against the DPRK, which defeated the U.S. invasionary force in the Korean War. The U.S. military has never gotten over it.
Trump has let the Pentagon send more troops to Syria, bomb large numbers of civilians in Mosul and increase drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia — all without the White House signing off on these operations. There has been a major escalation of U.S. military killing of civilians under these new rules.
By militarizing the government, Trump has given more priority to the Pentagon and U.S. imperialism’s losing battle to overcome Washington’s diminished position in the world. Trump’s foreign policy slogan is really: “Make the U.S. military empire great again.” But this authoritarian, racist, misogynist, bigoted buffoon has no other talent than to bluster about giving orders. He cannot see that this dangerous course can only end in disaster for U.S. imperialism.
Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End. Books can be purchased at several websites.
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)
By June 28, 2016.posted on
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.
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.
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.