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.

Trump, the gangster president

The ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime Trump commits against the people.

In accordance with their role in capitalist society, most high government officials, elected or appointed, have gangster-like qualities. These officials spend much of their time conspiring with the wealthy on schemes for fleecing or otherwise attacking the masses of people. Unlike the mob, they must carry out their schemes within the framework of capitalist politics.

The mob is differentiated from the capitalist establishment in that they are not constrained to carry out their crimes under cover of legality. On the contrary, mob activities function outside the boundaries of bourgeois legality with the silent consent of the ruling class and its law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, mob crimes are on a vastly smaller scale than the crimes of the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI.

That being said, among bourgeois politicians with gangster qualities, Donald Trump stands above the crowd. He is a pampered real estate billionaire who has functioned by ordering subordinates around, cheating contractors and stiffing workers. When he gets caught in a mistake, he mobilizes his army of lawyers to clean things up.

He won the presidency by using his television career as a springboard and taking advantage of the complete bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership. His campaign strategists also took advantage of the undemocratic institution of the Electoral College to eke out an electoral victory while losing the popular vote. (Hillary Clinton, of course, was also a corrupt, militaristic, Wall Street-owned enemy of the people.)

Presidency as the road to (more) riches

Trump has not only refused to divest from his billions in assets but also sought to earn even more from his status in the White House. He continues to urge foreign leaders and associates to stay at his Washington hotel. He has raised the fee for membership at the Mar-a-Lago golf club from $100,000 to $200,000. He has refused to release his tax returns in order to cover up his investments. He has deals in Turkey, Azerbaijan and other places around the globe. He has drawn up a tax plan from which he and his fellow real estate moguls will reap hundreds of millions of dollars.

His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has spread her brand all over the world and continues to do so. His son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, keeps a real estate empire of his own. “Although Mr. Kushner resigned in January from his chief executive role at Kushner Companies,” reports the New York Times of April 26, “he remains the beneficiary of trusts that own the sprawling real estate business. The firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal.”

Now this right-wing, authoritarian, blustering buffoon, who knows nothing of bourgeois statecraft and has no inclination to learn or to seek advice, is formally in charge of U.S. imperialism.

When Trump gets U.S. capitalism in trouble with U.S. imperialist allies in NATO, or threatens corporate interests by ranting about trade wars with the People’s Republic of China (population 1.3 billion), Canada and Mexico (U.S. big business’ two largest trade markets), or cannot get the Republican Congress to throw 24 million people off health care, or passes an anti-Muslim travel ban that provokes a world countermovement, or threatens to provoke a mass rebellion by saying he will deport 11 million undocumented workers, etc., etc., all his subordinates, flunkies and lawyers cannot help him out of the jam.

The ruling class is ambivalent about Trump — for good reason. On the one hand, they are salivating over his tax cut hand-out to billionaires and big corporations. They are ecstatic about his deregulation campaign allowing, among other things, the coal companies to poison the water table, the destruction of auto emissions standards to help the auto barons and the elimination of environmental regulations to aid big industry. And, of course, they love his tax breaks for the health insurance companies.

On the other hand, they are frustrated because they were hoping to get big tax breaks from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they wanted to get their hands on $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid so the money could be used to fund tax breaks for the rich.

However, as much as the ruling class looks forward to profiting from Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory roll-backs, they do not want him to wreck their system. Thus, they have taken measures against him. In the first place, they have surrounded him with generals and Wall Street bankers in the White House and the Cabinet.

Trump is stonewalled on budget, overruled on NAFTA

But most recently they have given him a beating in the budget negotiations. In the latest $1.2 trillion budget, Trump came away empty handed, despite all his bullying and bluster. In the negotiations Trump was overruled by the trusted congressional representatives of the ruling class on key issues:

• Domestic spending rose, instead of $18 billion in cuts demanded by Trump.

• Trump wanted the National ­Institutes of Health budget slashed by $1.2 billion. Instead it was increased by $2 billion.

• Trump asked for the Environmental Protection Agency budget to be slashed by 33 percent. Instead it was cut by 1 percent.

• Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded at current levels in states that do not vote to defund it.

• Trump asked for $30 billion in increased military spending. He got $12.5 billion and another $2.5 billion when he comes up with a plan to defeat the Islamic State group.

• No money for his beloved Border Wall; border security funds for new technology and repairs only; in fact, funds for “border security” were slashed and there was no money for a deportation force.

• Health care subsidies for the poor will remain (the money goes to the insurance companies).

”The Trump administration said it was no longer considering pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, following a day of intense lobbying from business leaders and lawmakers who rallied to quash internal White House discussion of the prospect,” wrote the Wall Street Journal on April 27. Trump was forced to call the presidents of Mexico and Canada to tell them he had dropped the repeal. He then issued a tweet saying they had called him, instead of admitting that big business and agribusiness had forced him to back down.

Trump, China and the DPRK

Washington is in the midst of a crisis in Korea. It needs the cooperation of the south Korean regime to pursue its belligerent agenda, but instead, Trump picked this moment to tell the south Korean government that he wants to tear up the trade agreement with their country. It is a “bad agreement” negotiated by President Obama, according to Trump. Actually, it was negotiated under George W. Bush.

To make matters worse, Trump told the south Korean government that it would have to pay $1 billion for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, despite an existing agreement by the U.S. to pay the cost of its deployment. National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had to get on the phone with south Korean officials and reassure them the U.S. would pay. (WSJ, April 30)

Trump has an excessive view of his personal powers, to say the least. He claims to have a good relationship with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. He claims that because of his phone calls with Xi, China is going to help the U.S. government out of its fix with the defiant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Trump has tried to sweet-talk China and tough-talk the DPRK. But the truth is that the PRC leadership, especially its military, the People’s Liberation Army, cannot ignore the overriding facts of the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In a phone call on April 23, President Xi asked Trump to refrain from escalating tensions in the region, even if the DPRK announces testing of missiles or nuclear weapons. Xi made an appeal to Trump not to go tit-for-tat and to move in the direction of negotiations.

We certainly do not agree with Xi that the DPRK should be pressured to give up its struggle to build a nuclear deterrent. But, nevertheless, the head of the PRC asked Trump to de-escalate.

One day later, on April 24, in the dead of night, the U.S. deployed the THAAD anti-missile system in south Korea, which is equipped with high-powered radar that reaches beyond the DPRK into China and can be used to spy on the Chinese military. The PRC has already said this deployment would destabilize the strategic balance in the region in favor of U.S. imperialism.

The Chinese leadership and the PLA are fully aware of the threat. It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day as the deployment, China test-launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier. The ship is due to be completed in 2020.

“China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes. The 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday.” (Washington Post, April 26)

But the unspoken message is that China has its own naval power, including a fully armed and functional Soviet-built carrier which it obtained from Ukraine and refurbished. China restrained its response to Trump and the Pentagon by not deploying its armed aircraft carrier and deploying the unfinished one instead. But the message was sent.

What is also clear from these events is that U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon are the enemies of both the DPRK and the PRC. The Pentagon has been out for revenge against the DPRK because this heroic socialist country has fearlessly stood up to Washington, as firmly now as it did during the 1950-53 Korean War, when it rebuffed the mighty U.S. war machine.

U.S. imperialism is also opposed to the People’s Republic of China because — despite the growth of capitalist millionaires and billionaires inside the socialist country — the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army still stand as guardians of state-owned enterprises and economic planning, which are hallmarks of socialism.

Washington realizes that while U.S. imperialism is mired in economic stagnation and military and political crises around the globe, China is steadily growing stronger, both economically and militarily. It is building influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America through infrastructure projects that help the former colonies overcome imperialist-imposed underdevelopment.

At a moment when U.S. imperialism is off balance at home and abroad, the capitalist ruling class needs to keep their gangster-real estate president in check, so he does not add to Washington’s instability.

Despite all the attempts by the established ruling class to distance themselves from Trump, the capitalist government is the executive committee of the ruling class. Karl Marx said it long ago, and it still holds true today.

There are many ways that the bosses could get rid of him, given all the illegality of his family-enriching regime. Instead, the ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class, and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime he commits against the people.

Trump gang in crisis: Attacks on people spread

In addition to the government campaign against the undocumented, there is mounting murderous racism fomented by Trump and his Islamophobic rants.

By Fred Goldstein posted on March 8, 2017.  

March 6 — The Trump administration’s crisis deepens as accusations of ties to Russia multiply and surround him and his aides. Meanwhile, this authoritarian, racist, misogynistic bigot is opening up a war on the people and what is left of gains won over the last 50 years. Especially under attack are the millions of undocumented workers.

The war within the capitalist state has reached a boiling point, with Trump accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Towers during the 2016 election campaign. It is being assumed that Trump heard this on Mark Levin’s right-wing talk show, promoted by Breitbart News. Steve Bannon, Trump’s special “strategy” advisor, previously ran Breitbart.

Trump made the accusations against Obama in a tweet after he flew into a rage when racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who now heads the Justice Department, recused himself from all investigations about the campaign. Sessions’ recusal came after he was found to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about having contact with Russians.

What Trump did not consider, in his rage, was that electronic eavesdropping would have to be carried out by the FBI. Eavesdropping on the presidential candidate would be a crime, unless there was a warrant. Since there was no such warrant, according to James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, Trump’s charges against Obama would implicate the FBI in a crime.

The head of the FBI, James Comey, has now demanded that the Justice Department refute these charges because, according to Comey, they are false. So far the Sessions Justice Department has refused to disavow the charges.

This public dispute between the White House, the Justice Department and the secret police spy agency has created the biggest political crisis for the capitalist government since the Watergate crisis that forced President Richard Nixon to resign in the summer of 1974.

Crisis of repression for undocumented workers

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is quietly expanding its arrests and harassment of undocumented workers. There was big coverage in mid-February when 680 undocumented workers were seized in raids in a one-week period.

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have now changed their public relations strategy. The government is continuing raids all over the country, just not publicizing the total roundups. Take last week as an example. Three workers were picked up in Detroit and 16 were arrested in Ypsilanti, Mich. (freep.com); four workers were arrested in Trenton, N.J. (nj.com); six youth were arrested in Charlotte, N.C. (Charlotte Observer); a restaurant was shut down for two weeks when four workers were detained in York County, Pa. (phillyvoice.com); nine workers were arrested in Grand Island, N.Y., and 23 in Hamburg, N.Y., both near the border with Canada (wkbw.com).

These are random examples of at least 65 workers rounded up in one week at a wide variety of locations. The reports surfaced only on local radio stations and in local newspapers. They show that ICE agents are everywhere and are exercising their newfound authority to arrest any of the 11 million undocumented workers in this country.

More widely publicized was the arrest of the Dreamer Daniella Vargas in Jackson, Miss., after she spoke at a press conference denouncing the recent arrests of her relatives. ICE is supposedly not authorized to arrest Dreamers. Alongside this was the deportation of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez while taking his daughter to school. These arrests were publicized only because cell phone videos were taken and distributed.

In addition to the government campaign against the undocumented, there is mounting murderous racism fomented by Trump and his Islamophobic rants. Two Indian men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot in Kansas. Kuchibhotla died as the alleged killer, Adam Purinton, yelled, “Get out of my country.” Purinton also shot and wounded bystander Ian Grillot, who was trying to stop the attack. (New York Times, March 4)

A similar racist hate crime took place near Seattle a few days earlier when someone shot a Sikh man, Deep Rai, who was working on his driveway. The shooter also told Rai to “Go back home.”

Furthermore, during the past month there have been numerous desecrations of Jewish cemeteries across the country, as well as bomb threats at dozens of Jewish community centers.

In another ominous sign, Attorney General Sessions has indicated he will not enforce the Justice Department’s consent decrees, issued under the Obama administration, to rein in local police departments, most notoriously in Chicago. This can only be interpreted as a green light to police forces everywhere to step up already murderous repression.

In addition, Trump has rescinded protections for transgender students to use school bathrooms of their choice, and the Supreme Court has returned the case back to the lower court without a ruling.

Movement must deal with anti-Russia barrage

The movement is faced with a barrage of anti-Russian propaganda. The problem is that the anti-Trump forces in the capitalist political establishment, the media and especially the Democratic Party leadership are also at the present time the anti-Russia forces — i.e., the military hawks, the party of belligerence and militarism.

The tendency to root for the anti-Russia forces as long as they bring down Trump is very strong. It is the line of least resistance and a convenient political tool for Democratic Party leaders as well as many Republican politicians. Unless the movement resists this anti-Russia demagogy, it will align itself with the hawks of the ruling class.

The long-term goal of the U.S. ruling class with respect to Russia is to weaken Russia’s independent government and turn it into a vassal state — the way it was under Boris Yeltsin, during the first eight years after the collapse of the USSR. Wall Street and the Pentagon want Moscow to follow Washington’s lead, hand over investment rights and open up access to its vast resources.

Trump and especially ultra-right ideologue Bannon have a strategic vision of a rapprochement with Russia in preparation for a conflict with China and a conflict of civilizations with the Islamic world. (See WW, Feb. 23.) Their vision is not a peace plan.

In the torrent of accusations about Russian ties, some may be true, some may be false, and some are insignificant. In any case, they are part of a massive attempt to block any move by the White House to relax relations with Russia and make concessions on sanctions, in the Ukraine or anywhere else.

On the other hand, no one should be swayed by false nostalgia for the USSR, which was a socialist country. Putin is the agent of Russian nationalism, which means he represents the Russian ruling class, made up of anti-socialist oligarchs. Reactionaries throughout Europe and Russia consider Putin the “great white Christian hope.”

Putin is helping the Syrian government for strictly geostrategic reasons; Russia is defending a base in the Mediterranean that dates back to the USSR. He is helping the resistance in Ukraine in order to keep the country, which borders Russia, from being swallowed up by the West. Progressives should support these efforts, without falling under the illusion that because Putin is backing some progressive causes, he and his oligarchic regime are progressive.

Trump and Russian money

In addition to strategic political goals, one cannot discount the possibility that Trump’s relations with Russia are also based on financial interests. Trump has adamantly refused to release his tax returns. He has claimed that he has nothing to do with Russia. These are dubious claims.

One example is the case of his Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his connections with Russian money. Ross is a billionaire parasite who specializes in buying up companies in financial difficulty, stripping them of their assets and selling them off.

According to multiple sources (Miami Herald, New York Times and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC), Ross is the primary owner of the Cyprus Bank. This bank is known as a haven for laundering money for Russian oligarchs. When Cyprus had a banking crisis in 2014 and depositors could not get their money, Ross participated in the rescue, together with the Russian government.

Ross then invited the head of Deutsche Bank to head Cyprus Bank. Deutsche Bank recently had to pay a $630 million fine for laundering $10 billion in Russian money. Deutsche Bank has been the only major bank to loan money to Trump.

Another partner in Cyprus Bank was Dmitry Bybolovlev, a Russian multibillionaire potash king. Bybolovlev was trying to hide his assets and in 2008 bought a Trump property in Palm Beach for $95 million — a U.S. record at the time. Trump had bought it in 2004 for $41 million. So Trump made a $54 million profit on the sale. P.S.: Bybolovlev never set foot in the mansion, and it has since been torn down.

There are numerous other connections between Trump and Russian money, including the admission in 2008 by his son Donald Jr. that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” (deathandtaxes.com) There are also recent reports of Trump dealings in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. So political and financial interests may merge in the case of Trump. His greed is legendary, and that has been a powerful force all his life.

Massive removal of regulatory protection for workers and environment

Steve Bannon, the Trump ideologue, has used the phrase “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Translated into ordinary language, that means the destruction of all regulations that protect workers, oppressed people and the environment.

The Trump administration is rushing to destroy all regulatory restrictions on corporate greed. Over 90 major regulations are in the process of being stayed, delayed or removed since Trump took office. (NY Times, March 5)

Seventeen automakers have submitted a list of regulatory changes they want, including removal of mileage standards, emission controls, etc. The pharmaceutical industry is asking that restrictions be removed on prescription drugs for unapproved uses. Trump has already lifted regulations on coal mining and oil and gas exploration.

Trump has overturned a rule that protected pension investors from fraud and another that protected drinking water from pollution.

Banks no longer have to charge fees to their high-income customers to protect against high-risk losses. The Business Roundtable has submitted a list of 16 rules it wants removed.

Rules regarding air pollution, unemployment compensation, endangered species, credit card fees, drilling on the Arctic Shelf, data security, internet neutrality and many other issues are under review. In each case the requests for reviews come from corporate pressures. It’s no wonder the stock market is surging.

Such regulatory protections embody a century of struggle to protect the environment, consumer safety, workers’ health and safety, wages and working conditions. They have already been eroded in many cases. But Trump and Bannon are making a full-scale assault.

This calls for a massive fightback.

There has already been a good national turnout, especially in Wisconsin, for the Day Without Immigrants. Women are planning a Day Without Women on International Women’s Day. And May Day demonstrations are being talked about across the country.

Waiting for Trump to be toppled from above is conceding to the class enemy the primary role of getting rid of Trump. Trump needs to be toppled from below — by mass resistance. That is the only road to victory.

The Trump/Bannon cabal

The people can defeat Trump’s nest of vipers

By Fred Goldstein posted on February 28, 2017

Feb. 27 — As the Trump administration opens up new attacks on the masses, the split between the White House and the capitalist establishment is growing ever sharper.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security, John Kelly (retired general, U.S. Marines), has signed sweeping memos that vastly expand the definition of undocumented immigrants immediately subject to deportation. Random arrests have taken place across the country. Fear is stalking neighborhoods from Long Island to Los Angeles to Chicago and the border areas. Immigrants are afraid to get in a car or go to the store for fear of being snatched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Coming across the border is now considered a deportable crime. This applies to 11 million people.

In addition to deportations there is an escalation of arbitrary harassment. For example, Muhammad Ali Jr. and his mother were stopped at a Florida airport and held for two hours because of their Muslim names. A holocaust scholar from Paris who was born in Egypt narrowly escaped deportation. An undocumented worker, Sara Beltran Hernandez, who was hospitalized for treatment of a tumor in Texas, was seized by border control agents and put in a detention center. Incidents such as these are multiplying across the country.

The Trump/Bannon budget

Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28 at which he will announce the Trump/Bannon budget. Stephen Bannon is an ultra-rightist and the president’s top advisor.

Advance advertising about the budget calls for a $54 billion increase in military spending, which currently stands officially at $584 billion. The proposed increase is 9.2 percent. (This excludes the Energy Department, which oversees nuclear weapons.)

According to the Feb. 27 Reuters: “Trump has previously said he would expand the Army to 540,000 active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine Corps from 23 to 36 battalions — or as many as 10,000 more Marines — boost the Navy from 276 to 350 ships and submarines, and raise the number of Air Force tactical aircraft from 1,100 to 1,200.” He has also been talking about increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

“An official familiar with the proposal said Trump’s request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing ‘a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points’ such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.”

The push to expand the military off the coasts of China and Iran flows from Bannon’s worldview that there will be wars in the Middle East and the South China Sea within the next 10 years.

Washington already has the largest military budget many times over than any other country. Furthermore, it is not now engaged in any major wars of a conventional character. One can only speculate that this military budget is preparation for future major military adventures.

The expansion of the military budget is also a resort to the time-honored method of creating jobs, a pledge Trump has been saying over and over since his campaign began. High-tech warfare is technology-intensive and does not produce many jobs. But Trump’s preparation for conventional battlefield, air and sea warfare is part of his jobs program. He is also trying to build political support among the military-industrial complex, both the brass and the corporations.

Bannon and the ‘Strategic Initiatives Group’

The budget may not survive as projected by Trump. But it has Bannon’s fingerprints on it, reflecting his warlike ideology. To further these militaristic goals, as well their anti-immigrant goals, he and Trump have created a behind-the-scenes group, parallel to the National Security Council. This body is called the Strategic Initiatives Group.

The NSC is supposed to be the authoritative body that advises on policy and intervention all over the world. It has been the traditional forum for  mainstream capitalists, their foreign policy establishment and spy agencies — e.g., the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, etc. The NSC is traditionally the most powerful body advising the president on policy.

The Strategic Initiatives Group is supposed to be a “think tank” inside the NSC, but in fact it is a select group inside the White House. It consists of Bannon, Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law), Steven Miller and other unnamed Breitbart loyalists. One of them, Sebastian Gorka, is the son of an anti-communist Hungarian refugee who was decorated by the Nazis. The son is a fanatical Islamophobe who has been photographed wearing his father’s Nazi medal. (thedailybeast.com, Jan. 31)

Despite its think tank cover, the SIG makes policy proposals, such as the refugee travel ban, among other things. It circumvents the State Department, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other organs that are supposed to be in the loop. It is a dangerous cabal. While this cabal suffered a severe setback when three courts ruled against the travel ban, the Trump/Bannon group is trying to reinstate the ban.

Trump administration split

Bannon and the SIG operate independently and in opposition to the establishment agencies. For example, just before Vice President Michael Pence was to go to Brussels to affirm the Trump administration’s support for the European Union, the German-dominated federation of European states, Bannon had a lengthy telephone conversation with the German ambassador to the U.S.

According to a Feb. 21 article in Reuters: “[S]ources described a longer meeting in which Bannon took the time to spell out his world view. They said his message was similar to the one he delivered to a Vatican conference back in 2014 when he was running the right-wing website Breitbart News.

“In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favorably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who ‘don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union.’”

Shortly before this conversation, Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s National Trade Council, accused German bankers of being currency manipulators. This came as a shock in Berlin. It is undoubtedly part of an attempt to sharply escalate antagonisms with German finance capital. Navarro is also a currency hawk against China.

This is part of the Bannon/Trump strategy to maneuver with Russia while fulfilling Bannon’s nationalist line.

Similarly, Trump has been repeatedly quoted about “taking Iraqi oil.” Secretary of Defense James Mattis (retired general, U.S. Marines) had to go to Iraq and disavow any intention to take Iraq’s oil. Of course this was a lie; the entire Iraq war was about trying to get Iraq’s oil. (The effort failed.) But Mattis had to cover up for Trump’s public belligerence.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and DHS Secretary John Kelly went to Mexico to smooth out relations after Trump told President Enrique Peña Nieto that Mexico would have to pay for a wall and that the U.S. would send troops to “clean up bad hombres” there.

Kelly told a press conference on Feb. 23 that there would be no mass deportations and no military mobilization against undocumented workers in the U.S. Shortly thereafter, Trump said there would be a wide campaign against undocumented workers and described it as a “military operation.”

During his campaign Trump said that Japan and south Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons because the U.S. shouldn’t have to pay for them. This called into question the inter-imperialist alliance in Asia. Mattis had to go to Seoul and Tokyo to reaffirm U.S. alliances with both countries.

Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without the secretary of state. He then told a press conference that he was for a one-state solution to the Palestinian question. This was a sharp departure in words (not deeds) from decades of U.S. official policy.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, then had to state categorically at the U.N. that Washington stands “firmly behind” a two-state solution.

In short, the Trump/Bannon worldview is in struggle with the mainstream military/imperialist view. The mainstream view is rooted heavily in the policy of surrounding Russia in alliance with the NATO powers and pushing into central and Eastern Europe.

This conventional U.S. worldview is also rooted in gradually ratcheting up pressure on China by moving military assets to the Pacific and arming both Japan and south Korea. At the same time, Wall Street and the transnational corporate monopolies have steadily invested in China and built up global supply chains that depend upon stable U.S.-China relations.

The mainstream view is an Atlantic/Pacific strategy of U.S. imperialism that has been built up over decades.

Beware the ‘adults in the room’

Many liberals and even moderate Republicans were overjoyed when Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster was appointed to replace Islamophobe Michael Flynn as Trump’s National Security Adviser.

McMaster is supposed to be a no-nonsense general who has a record of speaking truth to power — that is, telling civilian authorities to stop trying to manage the military in matters of warfare. McMaster, General Kelly, General Mattis and Tillerson are supposed to be the “adults in the room” who will deal with immature, out-of-control Trump and his fanatical adviser Bannon.

However, to look to these Pentagon generals and Tillerson, the former CEO of the largest private oil company in the world, to protect the progressive interests of the masses in the face of Trump is a dangerous and foolish course.

If the generals are opposed to the Trump policy, it is only because they fear he will ruin their plans to dominate the Middle East, Eastern Europe, China and the rest of the world. The military and the oil companies are cunning and deceitful in their plans for global domination.

They are not “adults” to be relied upon. They are enemies of workers and oppressed peoples worldwide. They are the architects of military intervention and aggression around the world. Their goal is conquest and imperialist expansion.

‘Deconstructing the administrative state’

“Deconstructing the administrative state” is the phrase Bannon uses to describe sweeping away all institutional protections for the masses, for the environment, for women, immigrants, people of color, the poor and all who are victimized by the workings of capitalism and capitalist politics.

Whatever rules and regulations exist to slow down the aggression of capital against the people, or to institutionalize the gains they made in the struggle, are in most cases in the regulatory agencies. One look at Trump’s cabinet appointments for the domestic agencies shows that he and Bannon mean to pulverize all the regulatory protections that exist for society as a whole.

To pay for the $54 billion increase in military spending, the offset is going to come from deep cuts in the budgets of the State Department and all the domestic regulatory agencies. This is why Trump’s cabinet picks for Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc., are all people who want to destroy the fundamental missions of the very departments they are supposed to lead.

If Trump and Bannon are to be stopped, they must be stopped by the mobilized masses — in the communities, in the unions, on the campuses, in the factories and workplaces. A united movement of organized workers and the oppressed acting militantly will interfere with and halt the plans of this reactionary cabal.

Goldstein is the author of Capitalism at a Dead End and Low-Wage Capitalism. Both are available via online booksellers.

Protests open cracks in government

By Fred Goldstein posted on February 14, 2017

Feb. 13 — Donald Trump has suffered a series of setbacks in his foreign policy promises while escalating attacks on the workers and oppressed at home.

There were nation-wide protests in México against Trump on Feb. 12.

Trump campaigned against China all throughout his candidacy. He made aggressive charges that China was “raping our country” through currency manipulation and unfair trade. Trump threatened trade retaliation and questioned the One China policy by taking a phone call from the president of Taiwan, which is rightfully part of China.

Reality set in last week. After a phone call with the president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, who represents 1.3 billion people and the second-largest economy in the world, Trump announced he would follow the One China policy and not recognize Taiwan.

During his campaign, he curried favor with the most right-wing, pro-Israeli forces, like billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, by vowing to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. No other imperialist country has an embassy in Jerusalem.

But when he sought Saudi and Egyptian help in the Middle East, he was told to drop the idea of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. He has not mentioned it since.

Trump vowed to restore torture as official policy and to reopen secret torture sites that the Bush administration had established in other countries but later outlawed. In the face of potential antagonism from the hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East, Trump has had to quietly back away from both these pledges.

Of course, his ban of Muslim immigrants and refugees has blown up in his face. It provoked widespread demonstrations throughout the U.S. and other continents, which are still going on.

Escalating attacks on undocumented

While the capitalist media were focused on the courts and the travel ban, Trump introduced sweeping new rules for deportation. President Barack Obama was rightfully known as “deporter in chief” for the millions of deportations under his regime. In his last years, however, Obama relaxed the rules governing deportations to exclude all but the most serious crimes.

Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 changing the rules. His new rules call for deporting anyone with a chargeable offense, whether or not they have been convicted of a crime.

Chargeable offenses include crossing the border without documents, using a false Social Security card (without which no one can work) and any minor misdemeanor. The new rules give local immigration authorities complete discretion in deportation proceedings.

These rules make all 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S. subject to arrest and deportation at any time.

Immigration, Customs and Enforcement immediately carried out 160 arrests in Los Angeles. An additional 200 undocumented workers were arrested in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. About 200 were arrested across Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin. (New York Times, Feb. 12)

Breaking up a family

Trump’s message was clear in the high-profile deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, 35, a mother of two who came to the U.S. in the 1990s when she was 14. Garcia was arrested in an ICE workplace raid in 2008, but the agency worked out an arrangement for her to remain as long as she reported to ICE periodically. She had reported eight times since then.

In 2013 an order to deport was instituted, but Garcia de Rayos was allowed to remain. But when Trump changed the rules to allow priority deportation for any illegality, she was seized on Feb. 8 when she reported to ICE and deported within 24 hours.

Protesters were arrested at demonstrations to stop her deportation.

As to the raids over the last week, Trump has announced he was “carrying out my campaign promise.” In other words, he is stoking fear in the immigrant community and stoking hatred in his reactionary racist followers.

Billionaires on a rampage

One of the reasons political machines under capitalist democracy have been hesitant to put billionaires personally in charge of the White House, as opposed to allowing them into the cabinet and other high positions, is the fear that their greed will lead them to wreck the economy and endanger the system altogether.

But now there is a billionaire boss, who came from outside the political establishment, who has moved directly into the White House, and has complete domination of the most powerful governmental executive position in the world.

The Democratic Party administration of Bill Clinton laid the basis for the great financial crash of 2008. Financial policy was dominated by Robert Rubin, Clinton’s secretary of the Treasury and former head of Goldman Sachs, along with Larry Summers and Alan Greenspan, all voices of Wall Street.

This group cast aside regulations that had put a lid on bank speculation. They overturned the Glass-Steagall Act, passed after the Great Depression. The Clinton group fought against regulating a major new speculative instrument called financial derivatives. That unleashed Wall Street and the banks to do as they pleased.

It took less than 10 years for the massive speculation in mortgages and derivatives to build up a bubble. The bubble burst and the Great Recession of 2008 crashed down on the U.S. and the globe. It made the cyclical capitalist boom-and-bust crisis immeasurably worse.

Now the Trump administration is busily crafting new ways of removing all restraints on the banks and financiers.

In the wake of the 2008 crash, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed to put some restraints on the banks going forward. Trump boasted to a host of bankers that he was going to get advice from Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase on how to take apart Dodd-Frank, among other regulations.

The working class must get ready for a reenactment of speculative frenzy among the bankers and the bosses if Trump pushes through his financial “reform,” which includes his plan to lower corporate taxes and do away with regulations on corporate crimes against the workers and against the environment.

Attacks breed resistance

The right wing mobilized anti-abortion forces nationally on Feb. 11 to demonstrate against Planned Parenthood. Trump has promised to defund the organization, which provides not only abortions but basic women’s health care throughout the country.

The right-wing demonstrations were met by equal or greater pro-choice forces supporting Planned Parenthood in cities large and small across the country. For example, in St. Paul, Minn., the anti-abortion forces numbered 500 while the pro-choice forces numbered 5,000. (CommonDreams, Feb. 17)

A massive pushback by tens of thousands in the movement against Trump’s Muslim travel ban panicked the ruling class and the courts. Trump suffered a setback as Ninth Circuit Court judges unanimously upheld a Seattle district court ruling that temporarily stopped the travel ban. There is no evidence that Trump has given up the ban, but he has had to say that he might have to redraft it to make it more acceptable in court. But the mass opposition is already in motion.

As demonstrations against the deportations broke out throughout the U.S., a massive demonstration in Mexico City was part of a Mexico-wide mobilization against the wall and the persecution of  immigrants. Meanwhile, in the U.S., workers have been demonstrating against anti-union, “right to work” moves in Wisconsin and Michigan state legislatures.

The temporary victory in court against the travel ban and  deportations is the result of both the demonstrations down below and the harm that the ban does to the tech industry, the universities, hospitals, agribusiness and other capitalist institutions. It is a case in which the movement on behalf of the oppressed benefited from a combination of their own struggle and a split in the ruling class.

Courts no friend of workers and oppressed

The court ruling on the travel ban has been accompanied by mountains of capitalist praise for judicial checks on the executive, the great “separation of powers,” “checks and balances” and so on.

The Seattle and the Ninth Circuit courts issued liberal rulings. Trump will undoubtedly try again, since the judiciary, and especially the federal judiciary, is the most reactionary branch of the three branches of the capitalist state. Federal judges are appointed for life. They cannot be removed by any ordinary means. Therefore, no one should be inveigled into relying on the courts.

Of course, the workers and oppressed are always in favor of rulings they can take advantage of. For example, the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education overturned the racist doctrine of “separate but equal,” which had been the legal basis for Jim Crow laws enforcing segregation in the South.

But that 1954 ruling was in anticipation of the coming massive Civil Rights Movement and the general Black Liberation struggle rising in the South. It was an anticipatory ruling.

Similarly, the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was a ruling in reaction to a mass movement of women. It had nothing to do with any progressive leaning of the court. In fact, it was a Nixon court with a majority of Republican-appointed judges who were under mass pressure.

By contrast, the history of the Supreme Court is overwhelmingly reactionary. An 1806 Supreme Court ruling that a union organized by shoemakers was a “criminal conspiracy” was applied to other unions for much of the 19th century.

The Dred Scott decision of 1858 declared that runaway fugitive enslaved people were still property of a master and had to be returned. The Plessy v. Ferguson ruling of 1896 upheld the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine of racial segregation in public facilities.

This reactionary history extends all the way to this century’s Citizens United decision, which unleashed billions of dollars to further corrupt the voting system and gut the Voting Rights Act, disenfranchising millions of African American and Latinx people.

As for checks and balances, these are applied by currents of the ruling class to check each other when needed. These checks and balances, now being hailed by the capitalist mass media, have little bearing on the condition of the workers and the oppressed.

There are no checks and balances on the extreme capitalist exploitation and accumulation of wealth in the U.S. that has left the top 0.1 percent of the population with more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

There are no checks and balances on mass incarceration or racist police killings. There are no checks and balances on the persecution and deportation of immigrants or on the destruction of health care for millions of poor women. There are no checks and balances on imperialist wars of aggression or on the death machines of the military-industrial complex.

As a rule, these atrocities are either ignored or blessed by the courts.

The only true check on the aggression of the ruling class against the workers and the oppressed is the mass struggle.