Trump engineers right-wing takeover

By Fred Goldstein posted on March 26, 2018.

Trump has demolished the original loose coalition that included establishment figures in the White House and the Cabinet. This coalition had been put in place by the broader ruling class to balance the ultrarightists around Trump, and Trump himself.

March 24 — With the appointment of racist, militarist warmonger John Bolton to the position of national security adviser, Donald Trump has virtually transformed his regime into a bastion of ultrarightists.

With this transformation, Trump has demolished the original loose coalition that included establishment figures in the White House and the Cabinet. This coalition had been put in place by the broader ruling class to balance the ultrarightists around Trump and Trump himself.

The transformation has sharply increased the dangers of war and economic hardship for the masses. Leaders of the workers and the oppressed should take this development seriously and prepare for resistance now.

Trump and his handpicked, ultraright yes-men are basically in charge now. With the appointment of Bolton as national security adviser, virtually all the key positions in the White House and the Cabinet are now headed by extreme right-wingers and Trump lackeys.

The single exception is Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis. Known as “Mad Dog” Mattis, this Iraq war criminal and butcher of Fallujah has nevertheless sounded caution about nuclear war or first strikes against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Mattis has also advocated for the U.S. staying in the Iran nuclear pact and has differed with Trump’s pro-torture statements.

The key foreign policy positions in any administration are secretary of state, secretary of defense, national security adviser and chief of staff. The head of the National Economic Council and the trade adviser are also key positions.

Trump has used his firing and appointment powers to see to it that each of these positions is now occupied by an ultrarightist who is compatible with his belligerent, racist, militaristic program.

Hawk replaced by superhawk

Trump pushed out Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser even though he was a war hawk. The reasons are partly political, partly personal and partly factional.  But the details are not as important as the fact that he has replaced McMaster with a superhawk, John Bolton.

Bolton on Feb. 28 wrote a major piece for the Wall Street Journal falsely arguing that there is a legal basis for making pre-emptive war against the DPRK. He is for regime change and for militarily removing the government of the DPRK, saying the south, which has been occupied by U.S. troops since 1945, should take over the north.

Not only does Bolton want to get the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, but he also wants regime change in Teheran, and would use bombing to try to accomplish that.

He was an architect of the war in Iraq and still defends it. He was one of an influential group of neocons in the George W. Bush administration, along with Paul Wolfowitz, who gave policy fuel to Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld to start the Iraq war.

Bolton was so right wing that he could not get confirmation from the Senate to be the permanent U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He was acting ambassador for a year in a so-called recess appointment by Bush. But he had to resign when his recess appointment was up because he could not get confirmed.

This ambassador to the U.N. once said, “If they cut the top 10 floors off the U.N. it wouldn’t make any difference.”

Purge began with Priebus and ended with McMaster

The “moderate” side of Trump’s initial coalition consisted of such establishment figures as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil; Gary Cohn, number two at Goldman Sachs, who was head of the National Economic Council; National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster; and Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis. They are all gone now, with the exception of Mattis.

Priebus was pushed out early to be replaced by Gen. John Kelly — a racist, pro-Confederate, immigration hawk and former head of Homeland Security and the U.S. Southern Command.

More recently, Tillerson was ousted and is to be replaced by Islamophobic, Iran war hawk Mike Pompeo, who was brought over from head of the CIA and is closely connected to the Koch brothers. Trump and Pompeo have talked on a daily basis for months.

Next to go was Cohn, who had worked with Trump to push through the gigantic corporate tax-cut giveaways. But Wall Street has opposed Trump’s trade war policies of imposing tariffs, especially on imports from China. However, Trump imposed the tariffs anyway, siding with anti-China tariff hawk Peter Navarro, his trade guru, and billionaire wheeler-dealer Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Cohn was forced out, replaced as head of the National Economic Council by Reaganite fringe economist Larry Kudlow. This vicious, anti-working-class, right-wing economist advocates for even greater corporate tax cuts as the cure-all for the economy.

‘Moderates’ are exploiters and war makers, too

It would be politically foolish to regard the ousted group of bankers, generals and corporate exploiters as “moderates.” Certainly, with respect to the workers and the oppressed at home and abroad, they were anything but moderate.

McMaster and Mattis were commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as war planners and war criminals. Tillerson was head of a global oil empire that plundered the resources of countries on all continents, especially in the MIddle East.

Cohn was the number two executive in Goldman Sachs, the firm with a high degree of responsibility for the economic collapse of 2007-09. Among other things, it had bundled and sold bad housing loans and then bet that the loans would fail. Those failed loans resulted in foreclosures and evictions for hundreds of thousands of homeowners and tenants.

Priebus, Tillerson, Cohn, McMaster and Mattis had been pushed into the Trump administration early on to ensure that the broad ruling-class establishment would have policy input. The strategists of imperialism did not want Trump to wreck their world political, economic and trade apparatus. They have nurtured this apparatus, which includes the U.N., the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, the Organization of American States, the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement and various imperialist trade agreements, immigration practices, etc. All this has been carefully constructed and painstakingly maintained for decades in the interests of fostering U.S. imperialist interests.

Trump’s campaign rhetoric was directed against all these institutions and policies. The ruling class was especially afraid of Trump’s attacks on China, NAFTA, NATO and immigration policy, among other things. The bosses and bankers felt they needed a group in the administration who would give them a voice. They needed a way to counter Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, etc., as well as Trump himself.

Trump has now silenced the voices of the establishment inside his administration, except for Mattis. No one knows where the dominant forces in the Pentagon will come down on the question of attacking the DPRK or Iran. But all mass organizations have to prepare themselves to resist an escalation in the war drive.

Tariffs, trade wars and the working class

The ruling class always carries on its wars at the expense of the working class and the oppressed. This goes for military wars as well as trade wars.

This fact is invisible to the labor bureaucracy. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Vice President Leo Gerard, head of the Steel Workers Union, have hailed the tariffs on steel and aluminum as a victory for creating jobs. These labor lieutenants of the ruling class are trying to protect their comfortable positions and their oversized salaries.

Meanwhile, tariffs will cost jobs. And not just the jobs of U.S. workers, but the jobs of Chinese, Japanese and Korean workers due to the contraction of steel and aluminum production.

China has already imposed limited tariffs on U.S. goods. The producers of those goods will engage in layoffs if the bosses are not stopped. Workers World newspaper of March 15 reported that when, for 13 months in 2002, President George Bush imposed tariffs, 200,000 workers lost their jobs.

Instead of hailing tariffs as a way to get jobs, true labor leaders would be fighting for all those steelworkers, coal miners and other industrial workers whose jobs have been destroyed by the bosses’ technology and offshoring. They would make the capitalists responsible for layoffs and unemployment and demand a jobs program for displaced workers.

The narrow-minded, selfish labor bureaucrats are hailing the tariffs in the same way they fought for the Dakota Access Pipeline, which trampled on the rights of Indigenous people and was a blow to the environment. A true working-class mentality puts the interests of the entire class ahead of the narrow interests of a tiny section of higher-paid workers.

It is worth noting that Trumka and company did little to support the teachers of West Virginia, who waged a heroic strike in a “right-to-work” (for less!) state.

People below move in opposite direction from Trump

Trump, the ruling class and the do-nothing heads of labor are all moving in the direction of political reaction. But the people are moving in the exact opposite direction.

Over a million students came out in hundreds of demonstrations against the National Rifle Association on March 24. Their slogans were moderate, but the spirit of determination to push back the gun lobby and expose the politicians who take their blood money was something new.

Over a million women came out for the Women’s March last January to answer Trump’s hateful misogyny.

The Black Lives Matter movement laid the basis for the societywide consciousness about racist police murders.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals solidarity movement has raised consciousness about the inhuman deportations and the destruction of immigrant families.

The reactionary current emanating from the upper echelons of ruling-class society is bound to eventually clash with the progressive current coming from the lower echelons — the poorer sections of the workers, the oppressed communities, the immigrants, the women, the LGBTQ community and the students. Reaction cannot hold forever.

 

Trump, the generals and the FBI

By Fred Goldstein, posted February 6, 2018.  

A most remarkable and telling indicator of where the ruling class stands today on the question of war and peace is the widespread acceptance of the Trump administration’s open surrender of civilian control to the military. Three high-ranking generals are his close aides in the White House: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

An axiom of imperialist democracy is civilian control over the military. This has never been honored. The military has always been able to make its influence felt in the White House.  But this facade has always been maintained as a matter of doctrine in order to sustain the fiction of U.S. democracy.

And the capitalist media, instead of sounding the alarm about the danger posed by the military, have praised the generals as “the adults in the room” who will restrain Trump.

The ruling class has been silent about Trump’s State of the Union speech. He attacked China and Russia as adversaries and promised to reverse the decades-long policy of weapons limitation with a gigantic nuclear weapons buildup to come. Plans for “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal, begun at the end of the Obama administration, have been greatly expanded by Trump.

Military as a Trump defender

With Donald Trump, the military has attained a goal that it sought for years: a major share of political control at the center of the capitalist government. This occupation of the White House by the military brass is particularly dangerous as the Trump administration lays plans for a military attack on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The achievement of this long-sought goal of the Pentagon has more than just military implications. The three high-ranking generals in the White House have political input on both military and domestic policy. These generals — and the entire military — need Trump. They can count on his bellicose, belligerent bluster to give them cover for their aggressive, expansionary military plans. Furthermore, he is the one who let them in the door and enabled them.

Trump gave them more troops for the battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa; more authority to carry out military operations without oversight; full authority to launch drone strikes without having to check with Washington. Above all, he promised them a vast increase in the military budget and authorized a $1.2 trillion nuclear buildup. He has been the arms salesman in chief, making $110 billion in deals for arms to Saudi Arabia.

This dangerous escalation of militarism has gone largely uncriticized in the capitalist media.

The billionaires and bankers in the administration and beyond need Trump. They thrive off his tax cuts, the destruction of corporate and environmental regulations, the giveaways of public lands and the sea coasts to big oil, and the destruction of regulatory agencies. Gary Cohen of Goldman Sachs, head of the National Economic Council; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil; and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire financier and buyout king — all have circled around Trump to ward off any threats to his presidency.

What does this mean politically for the generals, the Pentagon and the masses? It means Trump’s Wall Street appointees have just as much at stake as the generals in protecting the president.

As of this moment, until Trump’s crisis becomes far more serious, the brass in the White House and beyond will defend him against the Mueller investigation. They will defend his draconian, repressive immigration policies. They will defend his playing with nuclear catastrophe in Korea. They will defend him from anything that undermines his hold on the White House.

Trump vs. the FBI

For example, in Trump’s furious struggle against the FBI, the Justice Department and much of the capitalist establishment, the brass stood with Trump. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray went to appeal to the White House to stop the release of an anti-FBI, anti-Mueller memo drawn up by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes. The memo was designed to protect Trump from Mueller’s investigation into his relations with Russia. Gen. Kelly met with the two officials and turned them down, telling the public that the President wants the memo out “pretty quick.”

The chief executive of U.S. imperialism, with the consent of his entire administration, together with the Republican Party leadership in the House of Representatives, are in a campaign to discredit the FBI as being partisan against Trump and part of a “deep state” conspiracy.

How should this fight between Trump and the FBI be viewed?

The White House, the chief purveyor of violence, war and reaction on the planet, is at war with the FBI. But the FBI is the supreme capitalist institution of repression and persecution. It is now operating in 70 countries. It is the implacable enemy of the radical movement, liberation organizations and all the oppressed, as well as the unions and other working-class organizations. It has persecuted communists, socialists, anarchists, Black liberation organizations, civil rights organizations and anti-war activists ever since its inception after WWI. The FBI and the Pentagon are twin enemies of the workers and oppressed worldwide.

But the more Trump tries to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department, the more he is accused of violating the “independence of the FBI and the Justice Department.”

Post-Watergate rules and protocols

Why is it that the Trump administration and the Republican Party are being condemned by the anti-Trump press and the Democratic Party for violating long-standing protocols against presidential meddling in the Justice Department and the FBI? Indeed, the Democratic Party has become the staunchest defender of this reactionary spy agency, the political police of the ruling class.

First of all, we must understand what the corporate media and politicians mean by an “independent” FBI and Justice Department.

During the Watergate crisis, Richard Nixon tried to use elements of the CIA and the FBI against the Democratic Party and, in general, against his political opponents. This led to a strong movement in the ruling class and the political establishment to prevent the use of the spy agencies against a president’s political enemies. To make it plain, capitalist democracy was supposed to bar the use of the repressive apparatus by one political faction in the ruling class against its opponents.

The idea of the “independent” FBI and Justice Department meant that the White House was not supposed to communicate with the FBI or the Justice Department except under rare circumstances. For example, when Bill Clinton met with Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport in June 2016 — while Hillary Clinton was under investigation for using a personal email account as Secretary of State — Lynch had to recuse herself from the investigation. The automatic assumption was that Bill Clinton was trying to influence Lynch in favor of Hillary Clinton. Lynch’s recusal followed protocol.

Trump and military vs. capitalist legality

The fact that Trump is on a crusade to violate bourgeois legality is a matter of concern to the workers and the oppressed. Trump’s crusade is open. The military has its own hatred and contempt for bourgeois democracy — which can stand in their way of launching war and aggression — but they are quiet and act behind the scenes.

Our concern, of course, has nothing to do with defending the FBI or the Justice Department. It is that Trump and the generals’ contempt for bourgeois legality, custom and protocol has been, and will be, turned against the masses, as exemplified by the open attempt to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.

The workers and all the oppressed need to know what’s happening in the ruling-class struggle over the FBI. The Mueller investigation into alleged Russian attempts to influence the elections is a false inquiry, as far as the exploited classes are concerned. The very premise of the investigation is calculated to sow anti-Russian chauvinism and war fever among the population. It is meant to bolster the military buildup, including nuclear weapons.

Trump is trying from the right to overturn all the rules regarding political interference, influence and bourgeois legality — not just in the Mueller investigation but in many spheres. Undocumented workers are kidnapped off the streets by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Torch-bearing Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, Va., were praised as “good people.” Trump openly rakes in profits from his businesses while he is president and refuses to submit his tax returns.

Trump violates nuclear treaties by commissioning new weapons. He unilaterally pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord. He threatens to tear up the Iran Treaty, which was signed by four imperialist countries plus Russia and China. His mode of operation is to overstep bourgeois norms and violate bourgeois legality in the interest of political reaction.

The only way to stop the anti-working-class lawlessness of Trump and his generals and bankers in the White House is to mobilize the masses in the streets for militant resistance. A place to start would be a massive anti-war struggle demanding “Hands Off Korea” and saying “NO to the nuclear buildup,” which Trump and his military handlers have put on the agenda.

Trump and the ruling class, from Davos to DACA to Mueller

By Fred Goldstein, posted January 29, 2018.

His speech at Davos was an attempt to partially get back into the imperialist fold without backing away completely from his super-power, reactionary, nationalist arrogance. It is dawning on the Trump grouping that he has weakened the entire imperialist camp.

Jan. 29 ― Donald Trump, the racist, bigoted, authoritarian, right-wing chief executive of U.S. imperialism, who is despised by the workers and oppressed masses of the world, was operating on several fronts last week.

Trump went to Davos, Switzerland, to attend a gathering of billionaires and millionaires. The representatives of the European ruling class there played to his ego, flattering him and treating him like an emperor.

At the same time that he was hobnobbing around Davos, rubbing shoulders with fellow members of the ruling class, Trump’s two immigration hawk henchmen, Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly and adviser Stephen Miller, were in Washington working on his proposed draconian, punitive immigration bill, which has been denounced by the immigrant movement as a “white supremacist” hostage bill.

As Trump deplaned in Davos, he was confronted by charges, corroborated by numerous news sources, that he had illegally tried to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired last June. His reply: “Fake news.”

Yet the European bankers gave Trump the royal treatment, taking their cue from the Saudi princes who provided a string of musicians to play for him as he entered the conference hall. He was praised by the corporate financiers for his tax cuts and deregulation, which sent their stock prices soaring. Corporate Europe organized a dinner for him with the heads of the top 15 European corporations.

Their goal was to placate Trump enough to keep him from launching an attack on the European imperialists, the European Union and NATO ― customary punching bags for his chauvinist, imperialist arrogance. In this, they largely succeeded. Trump stuck to a mild, 15-minute speech drawn up by his handlers. But he was booed when he went off script and denounced the “lying press.”

Trump took personal credit for the rise in the stock market and the tax cuts. Undoubtedly the parasitic European bondholders were elated. Trump’s key line was “America is open for business,” aimed at enticing European investors to cash in on low tax rates and minimal regulation.

Trump’s Davos speech a sign of weakness

His speech was a muted attempt to partially get back into the imperialist fold without backing away completely from his super-power, reactionary, nationalist arrogance. He tried to assure the audience that “America first does not mean alone.”

It is not that Trump has had some inner conversion from his great-power chauvinism. Rather it is dawning on the Trump camp that by breaking the U.S.-European alliance, he has weakened the entire imperialist camp on both sides of the Atlantic, especially the U.S. side.

The Pentagon needs NATO, along with German and French imperialism, in its struggle to subordinate Russia and to complete the conquest of Ukraine. The Pentagon and the State Department need the collaboration of French and British imperialism in Africa, where both former colonial powers have deep roots. And Trump needs the cooperation of European imperialism if he hopes to undermine the Iran nuclear treaty.

Neither camp is able to deal with the state-planned, socialist side of China’s economic, commercial and diplomatic expansion. China is steadily progressing with its One Belt One Road project to establish an international network of railways, roads, pipelines and utility grids linking China with Central Asia, West Asia and parts of South Asia.

In a concession, Trump even spoke about the possibility of re-engaging with the Trans Pacific Partnership ― a sure sign that the weakness of Washington and the strength of China are beginning to sink in.

And as the Trump administration edges closer and closer to war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and potentially with China and even possibly Russia, it will need the backing or at least the neutrality of European imperialism.

Neither imperialist camp ― the U.S. or Europe ― is capable of dealing with the oppressed and the working class of the world without the other. Neither camp is capable of reining in the inter-imperialist antagonisms or of keeping a war from breaking out that could destabilize the capitalist, imperialist system. Trump, of course, may revert quickly to his old arrogance. But, for the moment, that is what accounts for Trump’s “moderate” behavior at Davos.

Trump’s DACA proposal: a white-supremacist hostage bill

Before going to Davos, Trump announced he had a proposal that would solve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals crisis by giving a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and for people eligible to be Dreamers but who had never signed up. These young immigrants would get a so-called path to citizenship over a period of 12 years.

However, the Trump proposal, called the Dream Act, also demands $30 billion for his border wall. And it would sharply curtail family reunification immigration, a major component of legal immigration, by excluding the parents of Dreamers from any legalization. It also shuts down the system that each year allows some 55,000 people from all regions of the world to get visas to enter the U.S. on a lottery basis.

The White House proposal would limit family sponsorship to spouses and minor children. It would eliminate a number of existing categories, including adult children, both married and unmarried; parents of adult U.S. citizens; and siblings of adult U.S. citizens. Experts have estimated that cutting these categories would reduce the roughly 1 million green cards given out yearly by 25 to 50 percent.

A document obtained by CNN goes into more detail: “The framework [of the bill] could allow detaining individuals indefinitely as they await deportation for months and years ― something that has been curtailed as the result of constitutional concerns from courts. The proposals could also vastly expand the definitions of criminal offenses that could subject an individual to deportation.” (Jan. 26)

The immigrant rights movement and representatives of the Dreamers have denounced the Trump proposal, refusing to put other immigrants at risk in order to get a bill for themselves.

Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream and a potential beneficiary of the Dream Act, commented: “Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note. Trump and Stephen Miller killed DACA and created the crisis that immigrant youth are facing. They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity.

“To Miller and Trump’s white supremacist proposal, immigrant youth say: No.” (unitedwedream.org, Jan. 25)

DACA-recipient Juan Escalante, in a release from America’s Voice, wrote: “It’s no secret that Miller, along with Gen. John ‘Adult in the Room’ Kelly, has been penning some of the most heinous immigration policies coming out of the White House. One might even wonder if Miller and Kelly, not President Donald Trump, are running the government from the sidelines ― exploiting Trump’s short attention span. …

“What the White House is selling the American people is nothing but a nativist wish list that would reduce the number of immigrants, especially people of color born in countries that Trump considers ‘shitholes.’” (Jan. 26)

Trump, Mueller: bourgeois legality vs. mass struggle

Inside the Davos meeting hall, Trump was besieged with questions about how he tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a criminal investigation into Trump’s relationship to Russia and his financial connections to the Russian oligarchs. Trump branded the charges as “fake news.”

But according to the New York Times of Jan. 26, Trump ordered his attorney, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller last June. McGahn, fearing his own criminal liability, refused the order. The number of witnesses interviewed led even Fox News to confirm the story.

The story has been the subject of endless network talk shows, news shows and the capitalist press.

The thrust of the discussion is that the attempted firing of Mueller fits in with Trump’s efforts to get FBI head James Comey to go easy on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. When Comey refused to do so, Trump fired him.

The anti-Trump moderates and liberals are going over and over the various possible legal violations, procedural violations, violations of protocol, etc., that Trump has committed.

However, they won’t fight him politically for his racism, his misogyny, his militaristic jingoism, his threats of nuclear war, his anti-immigrant chauvinism, his support for voter suppression, etc. When they talk about undermining “our democracy,” they always refer to the Russians allegedly interfering with the elections. But they do not bring up the most serious interference with capitalist democracy: voter suppression.

Millions of African Americans, Latinx, Native people and poor whites have been kept from voting because of photo ID laws, redistricting to reduce the weight of the vote in poor neighborhoods and urban areas, shutting down polling stations, disqualifying people with felony convictions, etc.

All the bourgeois commentators keep referring back to the resignation of Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment over the Watergate break-in. But so far Trump has given no indication that he would honor bourgeois legality. Furthermore, the House of Representatives is far to the right, and it is the House that would be charged with initiating impeachment proceedings.

These commentators and the Democratic Party leadership repeat over and over again that Russia tried to “subvert our democracy.” Whatever Putin did or did not do, the democracy in this country is a very restricted version of capitalist democracy. The capitalist class has access to all the levers of government, communications, and the powers of the state. It is their democracy. What democratic rights exist for the workers and the oppressed within this suffocating capitalist system have been fought for, often with blood, for generations.

African Americans have fought for civil rights. Labor unions have fought for workers’ rights. Women have fought equality. So has the LGBTQ community, from the uprising at Stonewall to all the battles that followed. Immigrants have battled against deportations, disabled people have struggled for accessibility, and so on.

Yet no matter what rights the workers and oppressed have won under capitalist society, these rights are truncated, narrowly confined and under constant attack. The bosses are the ones who are in a constant struggle to take back the democratic rights the working class and oppressed have won.

Class-conscious workers should not fall for this phony pro-war investigation of Russia to get leverage against Trump. What we need is a massive movement to push back the entire right-wing Trump agenda and challenge the cops, ICE and the FBI who are oppressors of the people.

We do not benefit when one faction of the ruling class removes another faction if the masses sit idly by.

Two-party DACA cruelty: Migrants pawn in gov’t shutdown

The working-class movement and the oppressed here must answer Trump and the entire racist, anti-immigrant establishment with cross-border solidarity, with class solidarity toward all workers, no matter where they come from, in a common struggle against the exploiters.

UPDATE: Jan 23 — The Democratic Party leadership has agreed to end the government shutdown in return for a pledge by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell to “be fair” in taking up immigration. The lives of 800,000 dreamers are in the hands of the Senate and House Republican anti-immigration racists.

By Fred Goldstein, posted January 23, 2018.

Jan. 22 — The present government shutdown crisis is essentially about immigration and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). There could be a surprise deal at any time that would put an end to the shutdown. But this crisis has already revealed much.

In this struggle, the basic characteristics of the primary players have come to the fore.

The relentless, brutal, racist cruelty of Donald Trump and the Republican Party has stood out. On the other hand, the cowardice and opportunism of the Democratic Party leadership has been laid bare.

The cynics of the Republican Party tried to force the Democratic Party into a deal to stop the shutdown by holding out a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The Republicans don’t care one whit about CHIP. Funding for CHIP was passed in the House on Nov. 3, 2017, and has been sitting in the Senate ever since. The health care of 9 million children has been held hostage by the Republicans as a wedge against the Democrats.

At the same time, the Democratic Party leadership, in the person of Sen. Chuck Schumer, got on his knees before Trump, offering $20 billion for a border wall along the Mexican border as part of an attempt to get a last-minute deal and avoid a government shutdown.

This craven concession to the racism, repression and massive militarization of the border is aiding Trump’s hard line on immigration. As such, it is unconscionable opportunism. It should be noted as well that the Democrats, led by Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, are motivating an end to the shutdown by citing the need for military preparedness and planning.

And beneath it all, it is clear that while there is a “shutdown” of many vital social services, with tens of thousands of government workers facing unpaid furloughs, the repressive apparatus of the state — the military, ICE, the FBI, courts, etc. — will continue to function.

DACA at core of shutdown struggle

At the core of the shutdown is the struggle over continuation of the DACA program set up by former President Barack Obama. It allowed more than 800,000 immigrants, who were brought here by their parents when they were children, to stay, provided they went to school, joined the military or otherwise conformed to government guidelines.

These Dreamers came out of the shadows of living without papers, revealed themselves to the immigration authorities and registered for Dreamer status. They all now have work permits and have been living here for years. Most of them have no connection to or are completely unfamiliar with their countries of origin.

This present government shutdown crisis was set off when Trump cancelled the DACA program last Sept. 5 and destroyed the protected status of DACA immigrants. Trump gave Congress until March 5 to “fix” DACA. This was Trump’s way of ducking immediate responsibility for the mass deportation of 800,000-plus Dreamers while appealing to the right-wing base of the Republican Party and his own base by being tough on immigration.

In the shutdown struggle, Trump has been guided by his military handler, John Kelly — a Marine general and his chief of staff. Kelly and Stephen Miller, a right-wing Trump adviser, have blocked the way for any deal on allowing DACA to resume. Kelly represents the direct intervention of the military brass into White House politics.

Kelly, the military and Trump

As former head of the Southern Command, Kelly was an enforcer of the repressive political, social and economic conditions in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Latin American countries in general. He and the Pentagon, along with the corporate exploiters of Latin America, are prime movers of the immigration crisis.

Kelly has been at Trump’s side during crucial points in negotiations on DACA. According to numerous reports, Kelly was with Trump in the hours before he met with Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican, about a compromise resolution. It would have offered full status for Dreamers in return for a downpayment on funding for Trump’s wall on the southern border with Mexico.

While Trump was reportedly friendly to the proposal, Kelly thought it too moderate. He called on Republicans to attend a meeting to sink the potential deal.

Graham is a hardcore militarist, allied with Sen. John McCain, and a hawk for war against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  But Graham wants to stop Trump from ruining the reputation of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad by preventing him from expelling 800,000 Dreamers. After Trump invited him to come to the White House with Durbin following a friendly phone call, the two showed up to find that immigration hawks were in the room along with Trump. That was when Trump went into his racist rage about “shithole countries,” referring to African nations, Haiti and El Salvador, and blew up the chance for any deal.

Kelly-Miller ambush

According to media reports, Kelly got on the phone before the meeting and encouraged Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, two anti-immigration fanatics, to come to the meeting. It was an ambush.

Afterwards, Graham spoke to the press to complain. According to an article by Jonathan Blitzer, someone “close to the White House” told him that “Miller and Kelly are to the right of the president on immigration. The two of them were with the president just before the Oval Office meeting with Graham and Durbin, and the president got really worked up.” (New Yorker, Jan. 17)

A similar event took place when Sen. Chuck Schumer went to meet with Trump. The only person in the room, besides Trump, Schumer and a Schumer aide, was Gen. Kelly. After the meeting, Kelly phoned Republicans to tell them that the deal was too liberal, even though Schumer reportedly offered Trump $20 billion for the wall.

According to another report, “Kelly, the retired four-star Marine who’d sat aside Trump during lunch … called Schumer. The outline discussed earlier in the day was too liberal, Kelly said, even with a discussion of Trump’s full border request. It wasn’t enough to keep the president negotiating.” (CNN, Jan. 20)

Having been in such a high position in the military hierarchy, Kelly has deep connections to the brass, both active duty and retired. Kelly does not function as an individual or in a political vacuum. In fact, he functions side-by-side on a daily basis with Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a retired Marine general who in 2004 infamously led the destruction of Fallujah in Iraq.

The ‘grownups in the room’

The capitalist press has praised Kelly, Mattis and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (active duty). The mainstream capitalist media and political establishment that have been fearful of Trump used to express sighs of relief about the military “grownups in the room” who would supposedly supervise or exercise a restraining influence on Trump.

One look at Kelly and it is clear who needs restraining.

There is another lesson inherent in the “government shutdown.” The  “essential services” that remain operational and fully functional are the hard core of the repressive forces of the capitalist state. To the ruling class, even a government shutdown must not interfere with the repression and persecution of the masses.

For example, the Border Patrol, ICE, FBI, military, courts and U.S. marshals largely remain open and fully functional. They continue to carry out raids, round up immigrants, prepare for military aggression, and spy on and hound progressives, the poor and the oppressed.

Meanwhile, according to the New York Times of Jan. 20, the lion’s share of the layoffs would take place in the social service agencies:

  • Housing and Urban Development would furlough 7,500 out of its 7,800 workers, or 96 percent.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency would furlough 13,700 out of 14,400 workers, or 95 percent.
  • The Department of Education would furlough 3,700 out of 3,900 workers, or 95 percent.
  • The Commerce Department would lay off 41,600 of 47,900 workers or 87 percent. According to the Times, “work would stall across a wide swath of scientific and economic agencies, including the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration.”
  • The Department of Interior would furlough 56,600 out of 70,400 workers, or 80 percent.
  • Health and Human Services would lay off 50 percent of its 81,000 workers.

But the courts and the Justice Department would furlough only 19,500 out of 114,600 employees, or 17 percent.  And Homeland Security would lay off just 13 percent of 241,400 employees.

From a trade union point of view, this shutdown can be viewed as a government lockout of hundreds of thousands of workers, many of whom are under union contract and represented by the American Federation of Government Employees.

From a broader social point of view, it represents a lockout of millions of people who rely on government services that were to be shut down.

Fight back against criminalization of immigrants

The DACA fight is part of a larger assault by the Trump administration to criminalize immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security declared that basically all 11 million undocumented immigrants are “criminals” subject to deportation at any time. Their crime? Crossing the border to flee poverty and repression brought about by U.S. imperialism’s ransacking of their countries.

A further part of this attempt to criminalize the immigrant population was Trump’s cancellation of temporary protected status (TPS) for almost 262,000 Salvadorians, 86,000 Hondurans, 58,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans.

TPS was granted by Washington in 1990 to immigrants fleeing war, the aftermath of natural disasters and other dangerous conditions in their home countries. Of course, these conditions were caused by forced underdevelopment, exploitation and death-squad governments created by U.S. imperialism in the first place.

Many of those with TPS have lived here for years. They have set down roots here. Have built families here, own homes, have children who are in schools, etc. That is because their status has been renewed at regular intervals.

The Mexican border was created by U.S. capitalism when it stole half of Mexico in 1848 and ran roughshod over Native lands. It has become a racist political barrier dictated by Washington and the bosses and bankers in the U.S. It has become the basis for endless repression and discrimination. And it has led to superexploitation of immigrant workers in the U.S.

The working-class movement and the oppressed here must answer Trump and the entire racist, anti-immigrant establishment with cross-border solidarity, with class solidarity toward all workers, no matter where they come from, in a common struggle against the exploiters.

 

Comey’s testimony and the Big Lie: Elections, democracy and the FBI

By Fred Goldstein posted on June 12, 2017.

Assuming that the FBI is ‘nonpolitical’ with respect to the capitalist political parties, all its neutrality goes out the window when it comes to the masses.

June 12 — Marxism can shed light on the June 8 testimony by ex-FBI Director James Comey to the Senate Intelligence Committee about his meetings with Donald Trump. The best way to unravel what took place last week is to begin with the concept of the antagonisms within the ruling class, the meaning of “democracy” and the role of the state.

The so-called “Russia investigation” is a diversion from the fundamental issues that concern the mass of the people. They care about jobs, wages, health care, social security and so on.  This Russia debate is a way to sideline all these vital issues.

The Comey testimony, and all the publicity surrounding it, can best be understood in terms of the antagonisms within the ruling class. The majority of the bosses and bankers were opposed to Trump — until he won the election.

Big business quickly shifted gears. They backed this racist, sexist real estate mogul who is an authoritarian bigot. The ruling class was anxiously awaiting his tax cuts for the rich, his deregulation of industry and banking, and other giveaways to the millionaires and billionaires. But soon his policies began to unfold.

Muslim travel ban hurt U.S. business

His Muslim travel ban provoked national and international protest. In addition, it has made tens of thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America decide not to come to the U.S. Tourism has declined, and applications for U.S. colleges and universities have dropped, with many foreign students going to Canada. Corporations are having trouble getting talent from overseas.

In short, Trump’s travel ban hurt U.S. big business.

Trump then struck a blow at the long-standing NATO alliance, between U.S. imperialism and European imperialism, by going to Brussels and calling the European countries deadbeats who don’t pay their “fair share” of military spending.

Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, defying Europe, China and the entire world. By doing so, he tried to put an end to these completely insufficient and nonbinding accords. This removed the cover under which U.S. big business had expected to bask in the light of seeming “environmentally correct” while being free to continue getting rich off oil and natural gas. Trump also put the U.S. ruling class at a disadvantage in the growing global race for markets in renewable technology, such as solar panels and wind power.

Trump lashed out at Seoul during Korean crisis

Along the way, in the midst of a military-political crisis caused by U.S. aggression against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Trump told the south Korean government, Washington’s major ally in the struggle against the DPRK, that Seoul would have to pay a billion dollars for the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system, which Washington had earlier agreed to pay for.

Trump’s latest policy disaster, from the imperialist point of view, has been to attack Qatar during its struggle against Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Trump had gone to Riyadh to cement a Gulf State, anti-Iranian alliance, headed by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis and Egypt broke with Qatar, mainly because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring.

Once part of the Gulf State alliance, Qatar is home to a large U.S. military base in the Middle East, with 11,000 U.S. troops. The Pentagon flies numerous missions from Qatar to carry out aggression in the region. Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State from ExxonMobil, was trying to calm the dispute when Trump openly contradicted him.

Trump and the Republicans have prepared a health care bill that would strike at broad sections of the masses, leaving 23 million now covered without healthcare coverage as it guts Medicaid and threatens nursing homes, drug clinics and rural hospitals, among other vital medical institutions. This comes at a time when healthcare is the single most important issue among the population, including Trump supporters.

In short, the Comey testimony must be seen in light of growing concern in large sections of the capitalist political establishment, as well as the military and sections of big business, that Trump is doing damage to U.S. imperialist interests at home and around the world.

Time to strike at the roots of capitalism

The differences within the ruling class over Trump are important. Trump, with the backing of his Republican flunkies, is dangerous. But the Democratic Party leaders, including both the Clinton wing and the Sanders wing, are fighting to revive the Democratic Party as a capitalist party that defends exploitation, a party that is supported by big business. Nevertheless, they want to regain office by promising to ease the hardships of the masses.

Marxists are for easing the hardships of the masses, but in a substantial way, first and foremost by struggle, by pushing the bosses and their political machine back. The way forward is in the streets, the factories, the offices, on the campuses and in the fields to threaten the profits and hence power of the rich. Marxists need to take advantage of the current contradictions among the bosses, when the establishment is becoming more and more discredited, to strike at the roots of capitalism and ultimately dispossess the rich of their property.

FBI not neutral when it comes to the people

The state, according to Marxism, is an instrument of compulsion, of force, created by the ruling class to keep the oppressed classes down. Comey was head of the FBI, which is an essential part of that oppressive state apparatus.

The premise of the hearings on Comey’s conversations with Trump is that the FBI director is supposed to be nonpolitical and neutral, to carry out investigations and let the facts lead where they may. Furthermore, the FBI director is not supposed to be partisan to any political party, Republicans or Democrats.

Comey was praised by the media as a man of honor who would not lie and who had remained neutral. He attacked Hillary Clinton just as much as he attacked Trump.

Assuming that the FBI really is “non-political” with respect to the capitalist political parties, all the neutrality goes out the window when it comes to the masses. The FBI has a long and inglorious history of racism, persecution of communists, liberation fighters and radicals of any sort. (See May 18 Workers World, “The FBI is a racist sewer,” at workers.org.)

The FBI was behind the Palmer Raids and deportation of thousands of radicals during the 1920s. It was key to the 1927 execution of anarchist workers Sacco and Vanzetti, despite worldwide protests. The FBI hounded and harassed communists and anyone suspected of any connections with the Communist Party during the Cold War. FBI persecution resulted in the imprisonment of the top leaders of the CP and the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

The FBI infiltrated progressive trade unions, the teachers’ unions, Hollywood, all progressive cultural organizations, the television industry, and in general blanketed the country with a layer of fear and intimidation in an attempt to wipe out all progressive thought and activity during the 1950s and early 1960s.

With the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Struggle, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover turned his attention to defaming and hounding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom Hoover regarded as the “most dangerous” Black leader in the U.S.

The FBI initiated COINTELPRO, the murderous operation designed to break up the Black Panther Party. The FBI’s tactics included the outright murder of Fred Hampton and other Panther leaders. The FBI sent fake letters to different parts of the organization designed to create splits and antagonisms. It spied on the anti-war movement, the revolutionary youth movement and the Native movement, particularly the American Indian Movement, and was behind the frame-up of Indigenous leader Leonard Peltier.

There should be little doubt that FBI spying includes the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigrant rights movement. That is their stock in trade. They are a vital part of the enforcement arm of the capitalist state.

Together with the cops, the courts, the prison-industrial complex, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its parent Department of Homeland Security, and other institutions, the FBI is a key part of the instruments of compulsion that work for the ruling class at all times, in every venue where the masses organize resistance to capitalist oppression and exploitation.

They are anything but the “essence of honesty and integrity,” as Comey is being widely described.

‘Our democracy’ equals democracy of big business

For months now, and especially during the Comey testimony, senator after senator talked about the Russians allegedly “interfering with our democracy” or “interfering with our elections.”

Lenin, in “State and Revolution,” quoted Karl Marx, who really gave the last word on capitalist elections: “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!”

This of course does not mean that the working class should not use capitalist elections as a platform to promote their own interests, as long as they see electoral intervention as a stepping stone to overthrowing capitalism.

Democracy is a political form; it has a class content. The Greeks, who initiated the term “democracy,” held democratic assemblies of Greek citizens to debate policy. But the Greek citizens who participated in these assemblies were slave holders. Ancient Greece was a slave society.

In the same way, capitalist democracy is a society dominated by exploiters, a society of bankers and corporate millionaires and billionaires who live as parasites off the labor of the masses. These bankers and bosses dominate the capitalist political parties. They call the shots behind the scenes.

Lenin on capitalist democracy

V.I. Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, in 1918 wrote a polemic against Karl Kautsky, a leader of the German Social Democratic Party, entitled “The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky.” Kautsky had denounced the Bolshevik Revolution, making the axis of his polemic the failure of the Bolsheviks to establish “pure democracy.” Lenin gave the Marxist position on democracy:

“Bourgeois democracy, although a great historical advance in comparison with medievalism, always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor. It is this truth, which forms a most essential part of Marx’s teaching. …”

“Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or ‘equality of all citizens before the law,’ and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violation of public order,’ and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner.”

Just as in the days of Lenin and Kautsky, “democracy” in the abstract is a deception. It must have a class characterization. In the U.S. it is the democracy of monopoly capitalists. In Cuba, on the other hand, it is workers’ democracy.

So when the mouthpieces of Goldman Sachs, Citibank, ExxonMobil, GE, GM, Aetna, Johnson & Johnson, etc., start moaning about interference in “our democracy,” the “our” stands for their corporate paymasters. That is whose democracy it is, the democracy of the rich, who pull the political strings and get their legislation passed, while the masses are supposed to stand on the sidelines and let these corporate masters run the show.

It is high time to get off the sidelines and confront the billionaires in the class struggle.