An exchange of views on: ‘Is Trumpism a temporary phenomenon?’

Part 1:

By Fred Goldstein posted on December 4, 2018.

The following is the first part of an exchange between Fred Goldstein and Manuel Raposo, a left-wing Portuguese communist and editor of the web magazine Mudar de Vida (jornalmudardevida.net).

Fred Goldstein: Your question goes to the heart of a very important issue. Is the Donald Trump presidency a temporary phenomenon, or is his regime a symptom of a deeper malady in the organism of imperialism? Will things go back to “normal” once he is gone?

I have been thinking about this very question a lot. I have also been trying to arrive at a method by which to answer it.

First, I put the Trump victory in the context of the rise of political reaction in Europe and its decidedly anti-immigrant, racist emphasis, similar to Trump’s.

It cannot just be coincidental that the AfD in Germany, the Freedom Party in Austria, the Viktor Orbán regime in Hungary, the right-wing government in Poland, the Brexit forces in Britain, the new right-wing coalition in Italy, the National Rally (formerly National Front) in France are all on the rise at the same time. We also see the recent gains by the anti-immigrant Sweden Democratic Party, the rise of Golden Dawn in Greece (an advanced version of Hitler-like forces) and other right-wing political manifestations in Europe.

Second, I think that the general crisis of protracted capitalist stagnation has caused sections of the ruling class on both sides of the Atlantic to move toward adopting a strongly reactionary option: They will use “divide and conquer” because they see no way out of their own crisis — that is, they do not see any significant renewed growth or revived capitalist prosperity in the future. They are all struggling to just stay afloat.

This is true for sections of the U.S. ruling class which have relied on tax cuts, deregulation of environmental protections and stock market speculation to bolster their profits. This class is acting like its situation is precarious and its members anticipate an economic collapse.

Third, the working classes in all the European countries, like the workers and the oppressed in the U.S., have all been subjected to the trauma of austerity early on, BEFORE the immigrant crisis struck Europe in full force.

In the U.S. there is no large influx of immigrants. In fact, there is a net outflow of migrants on the militarized southern border now. I think that the demoralized, alienated sections of the petty bourgeoisie and working class were predisposed to shift to the right after the failure of the Democratic Party and of European social democracy to come to their aid during the economic crisis of 2008, BEFORE the immigrant crisis.

The failure of social democracy and the historical communist parties to take an aggressive, class-conscious, class-struggle approach to fighting austerity left the masses open to a right-wing, anti-immigrant appeal.

Fourth, the right wing of the ruling classes — which are growing stronger and richer — are tempted to stoke the flames of anti-immigrant racism or are growing more comfortable with it. They mildly protest the more extreme anti-immigrant measures, but in the end the bosses are only truly concerned with the availability of a labor force and the impact of immigration policy on their international relations.

Finally, capitalism at a dead end forecloses the possibility of reviving capitalist prosperity. And capitalist democracy depends upon imperialist prosperity.

The bosses in the wealthy imperialist countries were able to afford a more developed form of capitalist democracy in the post-World War II period — that is, to buy off the discontented workers with crumbs.

The British imperialists were able to have their “democracy” when they had a world empire. Once the empire was lost, the British working class was subjected to Thatcherite austerity and now they have the Brexit forces in charge.

The French imperialists had their republics based upon having a lesser empire in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Now they have the growing right-wing orientation of President Emmanuel Macron, with the National Rally party breathing down the necks of the so-called “moderate” bourgeoisie.

And U.S. imperialism constructed a bourgeois democracy on the basis of having established itself as a world power during and after World War I and having taken over large parts of the British and the French empires out of the ashes of WWII. The bosses attained world imperialist supremacy. On that basis they were able to make concessions.

Cannot revive imperialist prosperity

While Wall Street and the Pentagon are still the dominant imperialist power, they cannot revive imperialist prosperity, which is the economic foundation of capitalist democracy. This is the fundamental point about the future after Trump. Capitalist democracy requires imperialist prosperity to finance it. Capitalist democracy in its more vigorous sense must be funded by concessions. This is true not only in the oppressed countries, but also in the big capitalist countries.

The Trump regime may be a distorted form of capitalist reaction, peculiarly shaped by Trump’s style and personality. But whatever the peculiarities of the Trump regime — and there are many — the underlying reaction that he has stoked and consolidated is not going away anytime soon.

The reaction may be slowed down somewhat if the ruling class removes him. There may be a temporary respite if he is driven out or defeated at the polls. But in the long run, capitalism is in a stage of decline, stagnation and austerity.

The only thing that can push back the reaction in the U.S. is the awakening of the proletariat and the oppressed. No one knows when this will happen or how it will develop. But then no one knew that the tremendous teachers’ strikes were coming. These strikes spread like a wildfire from West Virginia to Kentucky, to Oklahoma, to Arizona, to Colorado, to North Carolina.

These strikes took everyone by surprise — the ruling class, the labor bureaucracy, the educational establishment — and the educational workers, who were organized despite the resistance of the government and the union leadership. All the strikes were technically illegal, but the ruling class wisely decided not to enforce the law. This showed in a microcosm what the working class is capable of when pushed to the wall.

The teachers’ struggle has died down for now. But the resentment, the poverty and privation that drove it to burst the bounds of bourgeois legality and conventional subservience to the higher-ups is spreading below.

Marxism has nothing in common with economic determinism. It recognizes that many factors affect political outcomes. Leaders, parties, financial institutions, historical and cultural traditions, natural disasters, etc., all must be taken into consideration.

In the long run, however, Marxism regards the economic factor as the dominant factor. The crisis of capitalist austerity is determining the growth of political reaction, and this reaction must be fought tooth and nail by the workers and the oppressed. History is made by the inevitable awakening of the masses.

This is the hope to turn things around.

Trump, Charlottesville, Chemnitz and the struggle

Anti-fascists confront racist march in Chemnitz, Germany, Sept. 1.

Sept. 1 — To many progressives among the population, Donald Trump appears to be on the ropes. They are waiting for the establishment to take him down. There is great anticipation that the Democratic Party will make electoral gains and get the chance to further discredit him.

There is the mounting public evidence of Trump’s  corruption. Many in his inner circle have pleaded guilty or been convicted of lying, money laundering, tax and/or bank fraud. There is his growing anxious rage expressed in his tweets against the Mueller investigation. There is also his isolation from ruling-class society as illustrated by his exclusion from the week-long and highly publicized, super-patriotic, militaristic funeral ceremonies for John McCain.

But the fascist march in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 and the recent fascist anti-im/migrant riot in Chemnitz, Germany, show how illusory this view is that the defeat of Trump will solve the problem of racist reaction.

No one knows at this point how the struggle between Trump and his allies, on the one hand, and the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class on the other, will turn out. But it would be fatal for progressives and revolutionaries to rely on the reactionary ruling class to defeat Trump.

Moreover, while the political defeat of Trump is important, it will not be fundamental because it will not deal with the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, national chauvinist forces that Trump has conjured up and consolidated into a reactionary base. This base is not going to go away, whatever happens to Trump. The workers and the oppressed will still have to deal with this reactionary mass.  What will be needed in the future is to defeat Trumpism, not just at the polls but on the ground.

Charlottesville — fascism shows its face

The world got a glimpse of the forces emerging around Trump at Charlottesville last year when the Klan and the Nazis united with other fascist forces in the “Unite the Right” armed torchlight parade through the University of Virginia campus in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the slavocracy during the Civil War.

One anti-fascist demonstrator was killed, a Black man was brutally beaten and many were injured as the police watched passively. Trump refused to denounce the fascists and finally said that there were good people “on both sides.”

Fortunately, the movement recovered from this assault and forced the removal of Confederate statues in many cities, from Louisiana to Texas. The Unite the Right forces received an important blow when the movement toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C.

Because of the militant resistance, the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C.  on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville this Aug. 10 fell flat.

Pro-Confederate forces in high places

However, the degree to which the racist, pro-Confederate forces in the ruling class are dug in was shown by the reaction of the University of North Carolina administration to the recent pulling down of a Confederate statue in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The statue of a Confederate soldier was pulled down by students after their campaign to have the authorities remove it went nowhere. After it was pulled down, the university and the board of governors decided it should be relocated on campus. Meanwhile, arrest warrants were issued for student demonstrators.

This incident illustrates how deeply embedded pro-Confederate sympathy is in the ruling class 150 years after the Civil War. Chapel Hill is supposed to be a liberal institution. States all over the South and elsewhere have passed laws forbidding the removal of a statue without the express consent of the state historical society, regardless of the sentiment of African Americans or progressive anti-racist sectors of the population. Liberal Ivy League colleges and universities in the North have refused to budge on this matter as well.

Racism and the face of fascism in the U.S.

The origin of this underlying racism which penetrates U.S. capitalist society goes back to the betrayal of the enslaved people after the Civil War by the victorious capitalist class of the North.

The Northern armies occupied the Southern slave states. There was a period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877. Voting rights were granted for formerly enslaved peoples. Many African Americans were elected to various state and local offices. During the brief period of Reconstruction, a Freedmen’s Bureau was created and land ownership rights and other rights for African Americans, such as the right to sue, to serve on a jury, etc., were enforced by the U.S. military occupation forces.

This period of Reconstruction was ended abruptly in 1877 with the withdrawal of U.S. forces after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise, in which Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in return for troop withdrawal from the South.

The political dominance of the South by the former slavocracy was restored. The formerly enslaved were resubjugated and pressed into a form of feudalism or land slavery called sharecropping. Lynching ran riot. Rigid racist segregation was enforced. The landowners once again ran the South and did so for 100 years.

There was no attempt by the Northern capitalist class to purge the South of racism and racist officials. There was no reeducation campaign among the white population. No resources were devoted to the anti-racist transformation of the South. The capitalists of the North were quite content to build railroads and shipping lines and to create banks to profit from the land slavery of African Americans. Racism was not only enforced in the South with Ku Klux Klan violence and lynchings, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, poll taxes, etc., but it also prevailed in the North.

Chemnitz, fall of Berlin Wall, and end of denazification

Fascists, right wingers, and anti-immigrant racists of all sorts have been mobilized in this country by Donald Trump. He has fomented his anti-immigrant racism on a world stage. This anti-immigrant, right-wing trend has been reflected in Europe among fascist and pro-fascist forces as well. Indeed, Trump sounds much like the European right.

On Aug. 28, the world was treated to the ugly spectacle of a mob of thousands of Nazis and anti-immigrant sympathizers arriving from all over Germany and taking over the streets of the German city of Chemnitz and hunting down immigrants “like wolves,” as the New York Times put it on Aug. 31.

The mob formed after the capitalist press triggered the event with the headline “35-Year-Old Dies after Stabbing in the City.” The rumors were that the man who was stabbed was protecting a woman from sexual assault by immigrants. Even the police had to eventually declare that rumor false.

The following evening a reported 8,000 racists occupied the center of the city and hunted down anyone they suspected of being an immigrant. There were Nazi salutes with “Sieg Heils,” which are outlawed in Germany, and chants of “We’ll get you all.”

The German bourgeois publication Der Spiegel reported that “The police in Saxony likewise hit the headlines with predictable regularity when they, for example, prevent journalists from doing their jobs or fail to mobilize enough officers, thus forcing them to stand by passively as right-wing extremists rampage through the streets.” (Der Spiegel, Aug. 31)

Chemnitz was formerly called Karl-Marx-Stadt during the period of the German Democratic Republic, before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and capitalism was restored as West Germany annexed the East in 1990. It is the third-largest city in the southeastern state of Saxony with a population of 250,000.

Denazification in socialist East Germany

After the Red Army occupied eastern Germany in 1945, the Communist Party was merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Socialist Unity Party. In 1949 the GDR was established following the establishment of West Germany. The new government undertook a vigorous program of denazification, unlike what occurred in capitalist West Germany, or the Federal Republic.

In the capitalist West, high Nazi officials retained their pensions and got official jobs. “A total of 25 cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany — as postwar Germany is officially known — had been members of Nazi organizations.” (Der Spiegel, March 6, 2012) This list was finally forced into the public by the Left Party.

The GDR, under socialist leadership, took an entirely opposite approach. It was undoubtedly very difficult to construct a state and a society with a population that had lived under Hitler for 12 years. Nevertheless, the attempt was made.

For example, Bruno Bruni de la Motte, no socialist himself, wrote in the London Guardian on March 8, 2007: “I was born and grew up in the German Democratic Republic. Our school books dealt extensively with the Nazi period and what it did to the German nation and most of Europe.

“During the course of their schooling, all pupils were taken at least once to a concentration camp, where a former inmate would explain in graphic detail what took place. All concentration camps in the former GDR were maintained as commemorative places, ‘so that no one should forget.’ The government itself included a good proportion of those, including Jews, who had been forced to flee Hitler fascism or who had been interned.

“In the East, thousands of new teachers had to be found overnight, as those tainted by the Nazi ideology were not suitable to teach a new postwar generation, and this resulted in schools having under-trained and inadequate teaching staff for some years; all lawyers were replaced, too….”

Nazism revived by capitalist Germany

De la Motte continued, “In [capitalist] West Germany thousands of leading Nazi army officers, judges who had sent Jews and leftists to their deaths, doctors who’d experimented on concentration camp victims, politicians and others, were left unscathed and continued in their professions.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the return to capitalism brought a quick shift. From the very outset there were demonstrations against immigrants. Naziism and right-wing politics resurfaced in the form of anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia.

It is no surprise that 29 years after the restoration of capitalist exploitation and with the creeping world economic crisis hitting Germany, including the youth and the petty bourgeoisie, the neo-fascist movement should take on the tone of a racist, anti-immigrant crusade.

In the U.S, even more than in Europe, racism in one form or another has always been the cutting edge of fascism and the face of political reaction.

Capitalist class never tried to root out racism

It is no accident that the KKK and Nazis rallied around Barry Goldwater in his run for president in 1964. It is no accident that Richard Nixon started his presidential campaign in 1972 with a racist “Southern strategy” to bring Southern Democrats into the Republican Party in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.

It should also be noted that in 1982 Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., with Confederate flags flying — in a city where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 by the Klan during the voting rights campaign in the South. And Bill Clinton, besides passing racist legislation on mass incarceration, the death penalty and “terrorism,” during his election campaign showed his racism by going back to his state of Arkansas to witness the execution of a mentally disabled Black man.

Fascism at the border

Right now ICE and the Border Patrol are carrying out fascist measures against immigrants by deliberately separating families, as well as rounding up workers everywhere.

So the capitalist class has now had 150 years to root out racism and has not made any serious effort to do so. The capitalists have shown that they feel it is in their class interests to perpetuate racism.

They never instituted a thoroughgoing anti-racist educational campaign of making every student in school go to photo exhibits of lynchings to be narrated by families or neighbors of victims. Slave quarters were not preserved as exhibits for mandatory visits so no one would ever forget. And importantly, compensation was not paid to the victims of slavery nor were they given the lands of the plantation owners for whom they labored.

In short the capitalist ruling class has always preserved racism rather than destroy it, just as the German ruling class has never made a determined effort to root out Nazism.

The revolutionary forces in the U.S. must organize for struggle against the revived, concentrated racist base that has been fostered by Trump. The progressives, revolutionaries and advanced workers must also be prepared for struggle after Trump, because anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism is a lethal weapon the bosses keep in reserve for times of crisis.

The lessons of Chicago, 1968

By Fred Goldstein posted on September 1, 2018.

This is the 50th anniversary of the massive street struggles in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention. We reprint here an article by Fred Goldstein from the Workers World of Sept. 13, 1968.

The violence openly inflicted on liberals and radicals alike at the Chicago Democratic Convention confirms that the U.S. ruling class is entering a new phase in which their reliance upon deception is to be increasingly abandoned in favor of the use of force. The use of violence against the white population (after centuries against the Black) is part of the preparations for stepped-up attacks on the oppressed people around the globe.

All attempts to place the responsibility on the insignificant hired thug of the bosses, [Chicago] Mayor Richard Daley, are calculated to mask this fundamental shift.

Thousands of U.S. troops, tanks, jeeps, and all the other necessities of combat cannot be shifted around the country at the cost of creating great political unrest (to say nothing of the expense) on the say-so of such a relatively low-ranking political stooge as Daley. Nor can National Guard troops be called upon by a mayor.

For that matter, the Chicago Police Department would never dare to “mar the image” of the entire Democratic Party unless it had received explicit orders from the party hierarchy to crack heads. The White House, the Pentagon, the Democratic National Committee and the entire capitalist establishment were all involved in the Chicago operation.

In short, Mayor Daley was working for the ruling class and not they for him, as the bourgeois news media imply when they either condemn or condone “Daley’s handling” of the fascist attack on anti-war protesters in Chicago.

(The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Sept. 3 that it had just allocated $3.9 million to the cities for so-called “riot-control.”)

Of course, the billionaires did not shift from fraud to force arbitrarily. It’s just that their bag of tricks is just about empty and their two war candidates are about equally discredited.

It is no coincidence that they started clubbing, gassing and breaking heads just at the moment when the “peace” campaign of Eugene McCarthy was about to come to an ignominious end. (The police attack on McCarthy headquarters was the final humiliation dealt the liberals and served to illustrate the fascist mood of the ruling class.)

The rulers who rigged the convention long in advance knew that McCarthy was to be discarded in Chicago. And they also knew that thousands of youth whom the McCarthy campaign had kept off the streets would be back on the streets, together with thousands of radical youth who had never fallen for the imperialist-liberal McCarthy in the first place.

So the bosses prepared well ahead of time to deal with the anger and indignation which was as inevitable as the Humphrey-Nixon race. They decided to give the white youth a taste of the treatment hitherto reserved for the Black liberation struggle.

But an important by-product of Chicago is the wave of revulsion of new layers of youth for a parliamentary system which has to defend its candidates from the hatred of the population with bayonets and clubs.

Parliamentary illusions went up with the clouds of tear gas as the war party at the amphitheater steam-rolled over popular anti-war sentiment. The flow of blood from the heads of unarmed demonstrators in front of the Conrad Hilton made many a convert to the revolutionary struggle.

The bourgeoisie used strong-arm methods to brush the liberals aside and thus demonstrated the fraudulence and the futility of imperialist democracy.

If the liberal politicians folded up at the first show of force by the ruling class, the militant youth did not.

While McCarthy crept off to the sidelines and McGovern stepped into Humphrey’s fold, the fighting young people who really want and need to end imperialist wars were spontaneously fighting back against the cops. New and militant tactics were being developed simultaneously with the beginnings of change in their ideology.

Several hundred police, who tried to attack a Grant Park rally after someone lowered the U.S. flag, were literally driven away by the youth in the crowd. The cops were hit with everything that could be thrown and then surrounded by barricades of benches and immobilized before they withdrew in defeat.

Mobile street demonstrations were carried out, during which obstacles were strewn about to slow down police cars. Youth at Lincoln Park built such sturdy barricades to keep from being driven from the park that police had to saturate the area with tear gas many times in order to drive them out.

Occasional aggressive forays were made by small bands of youth in search of isolated police on foot or in patrol cars. In general, however, the brutality of the police produced spontaneous retaliation wherever possible.

Many so-called leftists frown upon these new tactics as “adventuristic” and inadequate to defeat such a heavily armed force as the police. But those who are serious about leading a revolutionary struggle against imperialism must take a carefully constructive attitude towards the initial bursts of revolutionary energy shown by the young people in Chicago.

Opponents of imperialism will try to assist the militants to improve their tactics, not throw cold water on them.

In general, the Chicago events have shown that the capitalists will always resort to force if popular will stands in the way of their imperialist objectives.

These events have confirmed the Marxist analysis of the state. This resort to violence on the eve of new imperialist crises has pointed out to thousands of young people that revolutionary resistance to boss rule is the only way to stop wars of aggression.

These are the lessons of Chicago.

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.