Trump, the ruling class and the Paris Accords

By Fred Goldstein posted on June 7, 2017.  

Donald Trump has confirmed his right-wing ideological alliance with the ultra-chauvinist Steve Bannon faction in the White House by announcing that he is going to “pull out” of the Paris Accords on combating climate change. His speech announcing the so-called pullout was also a campaign speech for the 2020 presidential election.

Washington, D.C.

In fact, Trump did not need to pull out of the agreement. The agreement is nonbinding. It has no teeth. It has no mechanism for enforcement. It has no way of checking on compliance. Everything is voluntary. And Trump is taking measures to undermine U.S. compliance, anyway, by attacking the Clean Power Plan, which limits the leasing of federal lands for coal mining and other polluting activities.

To be sure, Trump’s denunciation of the Paris Accords is reactionary. It was a totally political move, calculated to appeal to the most backward, chauvinist elements of his political base and his most right-wing backers in the ruling class.

But Trump and Bannon did not do it alone. The decision was backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, natural gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, head of the Senate Republicans Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, among others.

Twenty-two Republican senators from oil, gas and coal states signed a letter to Trump urging him to reject the Paris Accords. These 22 senators have received at least $10 million in gas, oil and coal money since 2012. (Guardian, June 1)

Why the ruling class uproar over Trump pullout?

However, there was a general uproar against Trump’s move by large sections of the ruling class. This does not mean that big business CEOs have turned into environmentalists. On the contrary. The Paris Accords would allow the bosses to slow down climate change somewhat, while at the same time preserving, if not enhancing, their profits. No, their deepest concern about the pullout is over the potential loss of energy technology markets.

As Forbes magazine, a mouthpiece of big business, put it: “[T]he point here is that the evolution to a carbon-constrained world is underway and the technologies to facilitate that are now mainstream. China has fully embraced that evolution, vowing to help lead the charge along with the advanced economies of the world.”

Forbes continued, “‘Most of the business community, including international energy companies, urged the administration not to withdraw,’ Ambassador Richard Morningstar said, who is the chair of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council. ‘By this action we are ceding leadership on climate and new technologies to China and Europe.’” (June 1)

Listen to the point of view of the former deputy director of Greenpeace, Ken Ward, who is going on trial soon on felony charges for shutting down an oil sands pipeline to prevent harm to the climate.

“The value of the Paris agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer.

“The U.N. Conference of the Parties is certainly not the organization to constrain powerful, retrenched fossil fuel interests and other bad climate actors and rogue climate states. The Paris agreement affords oil, gas and coal companies a globally visible platform through which to peddle influence and appear engaged on climate change while lobbying for business as usual. That won’t save the climate.” (The Hill, May 31)

Companies like Exxon, BP and Shell, among others, have protested the pullout by Trump. But these companies have been under attack globally for their devastation of the environment. The accords give them a “fig leaf” while in no way actually constraining them. With no monitoring, no enforcement and no punishment, it is up to the capitalist government in Washington to compel compliance.

Many of the giant companies financed the Paris meeting. If all the commitments made in Paris by all the countries were kept, the climate would still be in grave danger at a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in the atmosphere. The oppressed countries wanted the target for temperature rise to be no more than 1.5 degrees, but they lost out.

This weak agreement leaves the monopolies a free hand to revise, cheat, conceal and go ahead with business as usual.

While Obama was putting some soft pressure on them, Trump has given them a free hand and has assisted by attacking existing regulations.

To be sure, the big imperialists are concerned for the future of their system. They have seen first hand what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Flooding literally shut down Wall Street, as well as knocking out power to all of lower Manhattan in New York. It is costing billions of dollars to repair the subways and tunnels in the city.

Furthermore, the accelerated occurrence of tornadoes, hurricanes, excessive rainfall, floods, droughts, forest fires and other climate disasters that are televised have an impact on local, state and federal government, as well as insurance companies and destroyed businesses. The cost is running way into the tens and even hundreds of billions of dollars.

That is the way Wall Street and big business see it. They could not care less for the broad mass of people who suffer devastating losses, injury and death as a result of climate change. The capitalists are worried about the threat to their financial and physical structure in the future.

Pentagon and bankers fear climate change

The Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands, issued a briefing book in 2016.

National Geographic reported last year: “The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.” (Nov. 15)

The briefing book leaves out that the Pentagon is one of the world’s biggest polluters.

As an example of the military’s problem, its naval base in Norfolk, Va., has been repeatedly flooded in recent years, interfering with military readiness to deploy the means of aggression. The Pentagon has hundreds of port bases that are threatened with similar obstacles from the rising tide of the oceans. Of course, island and coastal Indigenous civilizations, from Fiji to Bangladesh, face disaster.

Citibank is a global bank with branches in well over a hundred countries and a heavy stake in protecting U.S. and world imperialism. Citibank costed out the consequences of climate change for the world imperialist system in 2015.

“A new report from Citibank found that acting on climate change by investing in low-carbon energy would save the world $1.8 trillion through 2040, as compared to a business-as-usual scenario. In addition, not acting will cost an additional $44 trillion by 2060 from the ‘negative effects’ of climate change.

“The report, titled Energy Darwinism, looked at the predicted cost of energy over the coming decades, the costs of developing low carbon energy sources, and the implications of global energy choices.” (ThinkProgress, Aug. 31, 2015)

China’s environmental challenge to U.S. big business

It is reported that GE and other industrial companies urged Trump to stay in the pact. These companies have already geared up their corporate plans to grab market share of renewables like wind and solar. GE makes wind turbines. Numerous companies make solar panels, instruments and devices for the new technology. They have already invested based upon the Paris Accords. They fear that not being at the table would mean they would lose out to China and Europe as new technologies and new markets expand.

The bosses in the U.S. also have to worry about their cars and other carbon-emitting commodities meeting international standards or being shut out of overseas markets. In other words, the Paris agreement was all about profits and protection for the corporations and the imperialists.

China’s National Energy Administration has laid out a plan to spend more than $360 billion through 2020 on renewable power sources like solar and wind. Thanks in large part to Chinese manufacturing, costs in the wind and solar industries are plummeting, making them increasingly competitive with power generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. (Obama put a 76 percent tariff on Chinese solar panels, driving up the costs for U.S. consumers.)

The New York Times wrote on Jan. 5: “Even the headline-grabbing numbers on total investment and job creation may understate what is already happening on the ground in China. Greenpeace estimates that China installed an average of more than one wind turbine every hour of every day in 2015, and covered the equivalent of one soccer field every hour with solar panels.” China has also embarked on a reforestation program that will absorb massive amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

So it is easy to see why Jeff Imelt, CEO of GE, and his fellow bosses are angry at Trump for putting them at a disadvantage, not only to China but also Europe, and particularly German imperialism.

Means of pollution are means of production

The workers and the oppressed should take sharp note of the fact that so many ruling figures and institutions have vowed to remain in support of the agreement. New York state, California and Washington are among the 30 states that have a network, United States Climate Alliance. About 180 cities are also forming a similar network. And big corporations are vowing to keep going with the Paris Accords.

What this means for the masses is that the ruling class is defying the White House and promoting it own environmental program, independent of the central capitalist state, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

In other words, Trump has control of the White House and the Republicans have control of the Congress, but the bourgeoisie have control of the means of production. And it is control over the means of production — the power plants, the oil wells, the natural gas, the coal mines, the factories, the means of transportation, etc. — that gives the bosses control over the CO2 emissions, the water supply, the air quality, the chemicals in the earth and so on.

The important point about all this is that if there is ever to be an effective policy to combat climate change — a policy in the interests of all humanity, a policy that does not depend on maintaining the profits of the polluters — then the means of production, the source of the pollution, must be taken out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and put into the hands of the workers and the oppressed. In other words, socialism is the only way out of the oncoming climate disaster.

Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End”, available at online booksellers.

Trump: Front man for Wall St., Pentagon

Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed. The anti-Russia campaign is the last thing the movement should be pursuing in its struggle against him.

By Fred Goldstein posted on May 31, 2017

Donald Trump came back from his overseas trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe resuming his plans to launch full-scale attacks on the workers and the oppressed through his budget, his health care bill and tax cuts for the rich.

That being said, he has also managed to make two major foreign policy moves that push U.S. imperialist policy further to the right.

In Saudi Arabia, he formalized and weaponized an anti-Iranian alliance with the House of Saud and the royal oil puppets in the Gulf States. The U.S. has had an alliance with the Saudis for 70 years. The reactionary monarchy has been a pillar of U.S. imperialism, the Pentagon and Big Oil, with four huge U.S. military bases in the country. This new outsourcing to the Saudis of U.S. military intervention is a further turn toward U.S. proxy war and aggression in the region.

In addition, Trump managed to do severe damage to the Washington-Berlin­-Paris alliance as expressed in NATO. He went to Brussels and chewed out the European imperialist rivals for being deadbeats — i.e., not paying their NATO bills. This is great-power chauvinism run wild.

The U.S. ruling class and the Pentagon will have to ponder this. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, made a speech after Trump’s trip saying that Europe would have to rely on itself.

U.S. imperialism has relied on NATO for decades. NATO has troops in Afghanistan. It was key to the destruction of Yugoslavia. NATO was used to stop the Portuguese revolution in 1974 and the French workers’ uprising in 1968. French and British imperialism hold down the struggle in Africa using NATO.

The Pentagon needs NATO and they know it. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both pledged loyalty to the alliance.

From the point of view of the workers and the oppressed, anything that weakens imperialism is a positive development. We should not moan over Trump’s boorishness and undiplomatic insensitivity. That is a problem for the ruling class.

A further problem for big sections of the corporate ruling class is Trump’s refusal to say that he will stay with the Paris climate accords. Many of the Fortune 500 corporations, such as GM, Microsoft, DuPont, Amazon, etc., are moving toward low carbon and renewable energy as a matter of policy. Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies have adopted at least one climate or clean-energy goal, with 23 of them pledging eventually to run their businesses on 100 percent renewable energy, including Walmart, Bank of America and Google.

Whether or not these pledges are fulfilled, it represents a recognition by the bosses that climate change is a real threat to them and their profits. Even companies in Appalachian coal country are not using coal any more. (New York Times, May 26) Key sections of the ruling class are finally taking seriously the climate danger, just when Trump wants to wreck any progress in environmental protection.

These developments may intensify the contradictions in the ruling class here and feed ruling class opposition to Trump. They fear that getting rid of him could create further instability in the political system. Again, that is their problem. The job of the workers and oppressed is to take advantage of the situation and expose the capitalist system for what it is.

Fronting for military-industrial complex and big business

Back from his overseas trip, Trump faced the relentless anti-Russia campaign that anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are using to push him back or bring him down.

This is a deepening of the great “Russia” diversion in the struggle against Trump. At a time when Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed, the anti-Russia campaign is the last thing that the movement should be pursuing in their struggle against Trump. The Democratic Party leadership is in the vanguard of this diversionary anti-Russia campaign.

He is planning to cut $800 million from Medicaid, which would destroy rural hospitals and nursing homes. He wants to cut back drug clinics, cancer research, environmental protection, job safety and student loan forgiveness, among many other things. His budget would wipe out Meals on Wheels, cut SNAP (food stamps) by billions of dollars and attack women’s health care around the world. And this after returning from a foreign trip where he served as a front man for big business and the Pentagon war makers.

At the very moment that his administration was planning massive tax cuts for the rich and major cutbacks for the poor, Trump was in Saudi Arabia heaping praise upon one of the most reactionary monarchies in the world. He was wined and dined and stroked by the royal princes of the feudal-capitalist patriarchal Saudi clan.

Women are the virtual property of men in Saudi Arabia. Trump made not even a mention of the status of Saudi women.

The princes rolled out the red carpet, gave him a sword to dance with, projected a 175-foot picture of him on the side of a building, drank toasts to him and had photo ops of him sitting surrounded by royalty and luxury in the palace in Riyadh.

Pentagon $110 billion sale

In return, the monarchy got $110 billion worth of weapons to wage a war of aggression against the people of Yemen and raise the military threat to Iran.

The military-industrial complex, the Pentagon death machine, was able to sell Abrams tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar, and communications and cyber security technology, among other things. The Saudis are also getting a billion-dollar THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system like the one the Pentagon just rushed into south Korea, as well as $500 million worth of precision-guided bombs.

Much of this military package was already approved by the Obama administration last fall. Obama offered the Saudis $115 billion in military aid (Reuters, Sept. 16, 2016), but held up on sending precision-guided bombs and other weapons. Trump just went to Saudi Arabia to bask in the deal. Trump’s Pentagon-guided White House and cabinet, with three ranking generals, included the precision bombs even as the Saudis are escalating the massive killing of civilians in Yemen. The generals also added in the THAAD system.

Big business and banking alongside Trump

In addition to the military contracts, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund also signed contracts with U.S. corporations worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dozens of the biggest names in U.S. business went in Trump’s entourage. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone were among the U.S. chief executives attending a business forum, along with General Electric vice chair John Rice. The heads of military contractors Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon also went along.

The deals included agreements between Saudi Aramco, the state energy giant, and U.S. companies. They involve oil services groups Schlumberger, Halliburton and Weatherford International, drilling contractors Nabors Industries and Rowan Companies, and engineering and construction companies KBR, Jacobs Engineering Group and McDermott International. (New York Times, May 17)

The Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum was held on the same day that Trump met King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi chief executives attending included Amin Nasser of Saudi Aramco and Yousef Al-Benyan of Sabic, a chemicals, plastics and fertilizer group that plans to build the world’s largest ethylene plant in Texas, jointly with Secretary of State Tillerson’s former firm, ExxonMobil.

Trump cutbacks destroy jobs

Trump and Tillerson tried to justify these deals as creating jobs. Trump made a grinning triumphant remark about his deals creating “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Actually, the Trump health care plan and his budget are job destroyers. Cutbacks in Federal employment endanger tens of thousands of government workers, from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health to Forest Protection Service, the Labor Department, the National Endowment for the Arts and other targeted government departments. Trump wants to cut $54 billion in federal spending in order to make up for the increase of $54 billion to the Pentagon.

His health care cutbacks will not only throw 23 million people off the health care rolls but will also throw millions out of work. Health care created more jobs than any other sector in 2016, helping to drive total annual job growth to 2.2 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A report released by the Commonwealth Fund and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University found that repealing key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the insurance premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion, could lead to 2.6 million people losing their jobs by 2019. By 2021, nearly 3 million jobs in health care and other sectors could be lost. (Modernhealthcare, Jan. 6)

Trump rages against China and Mexico for destroying jobs at home. He is scapegoating these countries in order to whip up workers and pander to his racist base. Trump says protectionism is the answer. Actually, the real job destroyer is technology. Far more jobs have been destroyed by automation than by offshoring. One authoritative study says that 13 percent of job losses in the U.S. come from trade while 87 percent have been lost to automation. (New York Times, Dec. 21, 2016)

Furthermore, capitalist overproduction is destroying jobs at this very moment. The auto industry has recently peaked and production is beginning to contract. Overproduction of malls and retail stores, together with online buying, have led to tens of thousands of layoffs and tens of thousands more to come.

Trump has no answer to other bubbling crises. For example, student loans have reached $1.3 trillion. In the first quarter of 2017, consumer debt rose to $12.73 trillion, exceeding its peak in the third quarter of 2008. (New York Times, May 17)

Booming auto sales have more to do with low rates and easy financing than they do with the urge to buy a new vehicle. In the last few years, car buyers have borrowed nearly $1 trillion to finance new and used autos. Much of that money was lent to borrowers who have bad credit ratings and might not be able to repay the debt. There has been a recent surge in delinquencies among subprime borrowers whose loans were packaged into bonds and sold to investors. ­(Counterpunch, March 18)

Expanding the debt of the masses is how capitalism is staying afloat. The expansion of debt is calculated to compensate for overproduction in the economy. It helps keep people buying things and thus keeps the circulation of capital going. It keeps profits rolling in, but sooner or later these various debt bubbles will burst.

How can students who have tens of thousands of dollars in debt buy much, let alone start a household? How can workers who owe the auto loan sharks money buy enough to create jobs for other workers? How can people who are up to their eyeballs in credit card debt keep the system afloat by further purchasing? There is no public tally for debt due to health care costs, but a leading cause of household debt is often the astronomical cost of medical care.

Trump has no answer for all this. It is doubtful he is even aware of it, let alone trying to deal with it. His preoccupation is with making money now and getting re-elected in 2020.

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.

 

Behind the attack on Syria; Trump and the generals

“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.

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)