In Brief

Prison profiteers drive detention of immigrants

By Fred Goldstein, published April 22, 2015 The U.S. prison system is more and more becoming a profit center for big private corporations. The detention of undocumented immigrants fleeing persecution has become a special source of “profit from misery.” A new study from “Grassroots Leadership” documents how the largest private prison corporations in the country, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, have spent millions of dollars lobbying the Department of Homeland Security...

Mass protests, boycott specter make anti-LGBTQ laws bad for business

By Fred Goldstein, April 6, 2015 It is rare when the capitalist class openly reveals its relationship to its political servants. But in the cases of the bigoted so-called “religious freedom” laws passed in Indiana and Arkansas, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. panicked in the face of mass outrage and protests and pressured two right-wing Republican governors to shift course. Passage of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in Indiana was right-wing revenge for a string of court rulings...

Bosses get $243 billion subsidy for paying low wages

By Fred Goldstein The capitalist class has found more and more ways to pay tens of millions of workers below-subsistence wages by shifting what should be the cost of wages onto government at various levels. This shift of wage and benefit costs off the payrolls of the bosses and onto the government amounts to a massive subsidy to many of the richest corporations and biggest employers in the U.S. for paying poverty or below-poverty wages. Every dollar not paid by the corporations to keep their workers at...

Detrás del ataque a Siria

“Usted proporciona las imágenes. Yo proporcionaré la guerra”. El editor William Randolph Hearst en 1898, preparando las bases para la guerra de Estados Unidos contra España y la invasión de Cuba.

By Fred Goldstein, April 18. 2017.

El ataque de la administración Trump contra la fuerza aérea siria fue dirigido primero a Rusia, así como al gobierno de Bashar al-Assad. China y la República Popular Democrática de Corea fueron objetos secundarios del ataque.

El ataque de armas químicas en Siria, suponiendo que no estaba totalmente escenificado por los enemigos del gobierno de Damasco, tenía por objeto forzar al presidente Donald Trump a desviar su orientación política de reconciliación con Rusia– y mantener la presión militar centrada en su objetivo a largo plazo, el derrocar al gobierno de Assad. Washington no sólo quiere derrocar a Assad, sino que también pretende poner un gobierno complaciente en Damasco que expulse por completo a los rusos de Siria y el Mediterráneo.

El ataque militar imperialista de Estados Unidos ocurrió cinco días después de que la embajadora de Trump en la ONU, Nikki Haley, dijera: “La política diplomática de Estados Unidos sobre Siria por ahora ya no se centra en hacer abandonar el poder al presidente del país, Bashar al-Assad”. (Reuters, 30 de marzo) La publicidad en torno al supuesto ataque con armas químicas fue diseñada para revertir esta política de Trump.

Cargos sin evidencia

Las acusaciones en contra del gobierno de Assad han sido unánimes y tempestuosas en los medios de comunicación capitalistas, el Congreso y los militares. Todo esto ha sucedido a pesar de que no hubo ni un atisbo de investigación ni un elemento de prueba convincente de que Damasco tuviera algún papel en el supuesto ataque. El gobierno sirio ha negado categóricamente los cargos, pero sus negativas no han recibido publicidad en los medios capitalistas.

En total, esto es lo que es cierto: el gobierno sirio no tenía ninguna razón para llevar a cabo tal ataque. Ha estado ganando la guerra sin usar armas químicas y no tiene el menor motivo de todas las partes implicadas para llevar a cabo ese ataque. Los ataques perjudicaron al gobierno sirio y ayudaron a los imperialistas y sus grupos de clientes reaccionarios dentro de Siria.

En cualquier investigación criminal lo primero que se busca es el motivo, los medios y la oportunidad de llevar a cabo el crimen. Las partes con los motivos, los medios y la oportunidad para hacer tal cosa son el gobierno de los Estados Unidos y los reaccionarios en Siria que están perdiendo la guerra. Los de este último grupo han intentado sin éxito derrocar a Assad y tratar de atraer al gobierno de Estados Unidos a la lucha militar.

Los neoconservadores del New York Times en el caso de Siria

El New York Times lideró la acusación acusando instantáneamente al gobierno de Assad. El Times asignó a dos de sus propagandistas anti-Siria más comprometidos para cubrir la historia – Michael Gordon y Anne Barnard.

Gordon fue coautor con Judith Miller de los artículos de Times que promovieron la idea de que Irak tenía armas de destrucción masiva al fraguarse la invasión EUA-Britania en el 2003. Miller finalmente perdió su trabajo por mentir sobre la existencia de estas armas en Irak. George W. Bush usó estas aserciones para reforzar el pretexto de la invasión. Barnard escribe como publicista para los grupos reaccionarios sirios.

El escritor progresista y fundador de consortiumnews.com, Robert Parry, explicó el 5 de abril: “Gordon durante años, ha estado en las primeras líneas de las estrategias de los neoconservadores para los ‘cambios de régimen’. Es coautor de la infame historia de tubos de aluminio del Times del 8 de septiembre de 2002, que dependía de fuentes del gobierno estadounidense y desertores iraquíes para asustar a los estadounidenses con imágenes de ‘nubes tipo hongo’ [de explosión nuclear] si no apoyaban la invasión del presidente George W. Bush contra Irak”.

Resultó que los tubos de aluminio estaban destinados a las armas convencionales.

Seymour Hersh, reportero investigador que expuso la masacre de 1968 en My Lai en Vietnam, informó en 2015: “En la primavera del 2013, la inteligencia estadounidense se enteró que el gobierno turco, a través de elementos del MIT, su agencia de inteligencia nacional y la Gendarmería, una organización militarizada de aplicación de la ley, trabajaba directamente con al-Nusra y sus aliados para desarrollar una capacidad de guerra química”.

Hersh continuó: “La Agencia de Inteligencia de Defensa (DIA) y otros agentes de inteligencia han informado a nuestros altos oficiales de que el sarín fue suministrado a través de Turquía, que sólo pudo haber llegado allí con el apoyo de Turquía. Los turcos también proporcionaron la capacitación para producir el sarín y manejarlo”. (reportado por Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, 16 de septiembre de 2015)

Tras el ataque de gas químico en 2013, el Times informó que los expertos siguieron el camino de los misiles que transportaban el gas, y trazaron su origen a Damasco. Más tarde resultó que los misiles tenían un alcance que no podría haberlos lanzado desde Damasco. La distancia real era la distancia desde el territorio controlado por los rebeldes. (Consortiumnews.com, 29 de diciembre de 2013, vinculado al artículo de Times)

Objetivo de la clase dominante: Forzar Trump oponerse a Rusia, Assad

Incluso durante la campaña electoral estadounidense y desde que Trump ganó, el Pentágono y la clase dominante en general han intentado socavar el intento de la administración Trump de cambiar la política exterior estadounidense hacia una mayor cooperación con el presidente ruso Vladimir Putin. Las imágenes horrendas del presunto ataque químico en Siria fueron calculadas para encajonar a Trump y no dejarle otra alternativa que atacar al gobierno sirio.

Los tambores de guerra contra Siria llegaron implacablemente de casi todos los cuarteles de la clase gobernante, desde moderados del Partido Demócrata hasta reaccionarios republicanos. Trump, que ha sido el blanco de ataques, de ridículo y de bromas en los medios de comunicación corporativos, fue momentáneamente catapultado desde el estatus de bufón torpe a la posición de líder decisivo. Esta alabanza, sin embargo, es sólo temporera. Los militares y sus portavoces en el Congreso, como los senadores John McCain y Lindsey Graham, están presionando a Trump a ir más allá y explicar lo que sigue.

Militarización del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional

En toda la celebración sobre la repentina demostración de liderazgo de Trump, lo que se omite es que él ha militarizado la cúpula del gobierno. Él recibió muchos elogios cuando expulsó a Stephen Bannon del comité más poderoso del gobierno, el Comité de Directores del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional.

Bannon es un ultra-extremista de derecha con una visión apocalíptica de la guerra en Asia y está contundentemente opuesto a la civilización islámica. Pero los aplausos por el retiro de Bannon han ahogado alguna respuesta al cambio en el Comité de Directores. Ahora hay cuatro generales en el consejo – y son extremistas con armas.

Bajo Trump, el principal cuerpo de política exterior del gobierno capitalista ha pasado de tener la fachada de un gobierno civil, a un abierto control militar de la política exterior. El ataque a Siria debe ser visto en esa luz.

El secretario de defensa de Trump es James “Mad Dog” (perro rabioso) Mattis, un ex general de Marina. Mattis supervisó las operaciones de Oriente Medio como jefe del Comando Central hasta su jubilación en 2013. Entre las muchas citas coloridas de Mattis está: “Sea cortés, sea profesional, pero tenga un plan para matar a todos los que vaya conociendo”.

Mattis se opuso al acuerdo del presidente Barack Obama con Irán. Él dirigió el ataque a Fallujah en 2004, que destruyó esta ciudad iraquí de 300.000 personas. Ese ataque utilizó municiones venenosas y radioactivas de uranio empobrecido y causó masivas bajas civiles. Sus tropas masacraron a 24 civiles en la ciudad de Haditha en 2005. (democracynow.org, 26 de enero de 2012) Mattis rehusó disculparse. Ha sido un verdadero extremista militar.

El jefe del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional es el marino jubilado John Kelly, un halcón de seguridad fronterizo que estaba a cargo de las operaciones del Caribe y Sudamérica como jefe del Comando Sur de los Estados Unidos. Se opuso a los planes de Obama de cerrar la prisión de Guantánamo y ha alimentado los temores levantando el espectro de que terroristas ingresan al país a través de la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

El consejero de seguridad nacional de Trump es el teniente general H.R. McMaster, que sigue en servicio activo y es un ex comandante de tanques en Irak y Afganistán. McMaster reemplazó al General Michael Flynn cuando Flynn fue derrocado. McMaster desempeñó un papel clave en expulsar a Bannon del Comité de Directores del CSN. Los militares destituyeron a Bannon, el ideólogo ultra-derechista, para evitar que interfiriera o escuchara sus planes.

También en el comité está el Teniente General de Marina Joseph Dunford, presidente del Estado Mayor Conjunto. Fue comandante durante la invasión de Irak en 2003 y comandante de las fuerzas de la OTAN en Afganistán en 2013. Dijo al Comité de Servicios Armados del Senado en 2015 que Rusia es la “mayor amenaza para los intereses de Estados Unidos”. (Washington Post, 9 de julio de 2015).

Los militares estadounidenses planean tener un enfoque amplio que incluya a Rusia, China, la RPDC, Siria, Irán, Yemen, Somalia y Libia. Especialmente se esfuerzan por mantener la hostilidad contra Rusia ahora porque a Washington le interesa Ucrania y está indignado de que los rusos se movieron rápidamente para frustrar una total toma imperialista de ese país. El Pentágono le da un firme respaldo al régimen fascista en Kiev y planea alimentarlo con armas más poderosas. Todo esto está vinculado a su campaña anti rusa.

Washington a Putin: Somos el jefe

El año pasado y a principios de este año, un grupo de trabajo conjunto ruso, turco e iraní debatió cuestiones sobre una solución política para el conflicto sirio en conversaciones en Astana, Kazajstán. (Reuters, 16 de febrero) Estados Unidos no participó en las conversaciones.

Washington y el ejército EUA rechazan la participación política del gobierno ruso en la solución de la cuestión siria. Los ataques aéreos estadounidenses en la base aérea de Siria tenían la función de mostrar a Putin quien es el jefe de la región.

El mismo escenario se puso en marcha en 2016 cuando el entonces Secretario de Estado John Kerry se entrevistó con el Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Rusia, Serguéi Lavrov, para trabajar en una coordinación militar y conversaciones de paz sobre Siria. Después de una maratónica sesión de negociación el 8 de septiembre, Kerry calificó el acuerdo de “un potencial punto de inflexión” en el conflicto, si se implementa. (CNBC, 9 de septiembre de 2016)

Sin embargo, apenas una semana después del anuncio de Kerry, el New York Times informó el 17 de septiembre: “Estados Unidos reconoció el sábado [17 de sept.] que sus aviones de combate habían llevado a cabo un ataque aéreo en Siria que resultó en la muerte de tropas del gobierno sirio. Funcionarios militares estadounidenses dijeron que los pilotos en el ataque, en la provincia oriental de Deir al-Zour, creían que estaban dirigiéndolos contra el Estado Islámico”.

El artículo decía que “el ministerio de Defensa de Rusia dijo que el ataque de EUA había matado a 62 soldados sirios y había herido a 100 más”. Este ataque rompió las conversaciones y toda posibilidad de elaborar un plan de paz.

RPDC y China también objetos del bombardeo contra Siria

El ejército se apresuró a atacar a Siria con el fin de entregar una significativa bofetada diplomática a la República Popular China en el mismo momento en que el presidente chino Xi Jinping se reunía con Trump en su Casa Blanca de la Florida. Trump no le habló del ataque hasta que terminó la reunión.

El ataque también pretendía amenazar a la República Popular Democrática de Corea.

Para dar seguimiento al ataque en Siria, el Pentágono está enviando un portaaviones con fuerza de ataque hacia aguas coreanas. El portaaviones Carl Vinson, acompañado de misiles y fragatas, está navegando allí desde Singapur para llegar a tiempo para el 105 aniversario del histórico líder comunista coreano Kim Il Sung. El 15 de abril es celebrado en la RPDC como “el día del sol”.

Trump le ha dado a los militares una correa larga. Él está fomentando los planes de venganza de los militares contra la RPDC, que derrotó a la fuerza invasora estadounidense en la Guerra de Corea. El ejército estadounidense nunca se ha repuesto de esta pérdida.

El gobierno de Trump ha dejado que el Pentágono envíe más tropas a Siria, bombardee a un gran número de civiles en Mosul y aumente los ataques de aviones no tripulados en Yemen y Somalia, todo sin que la Casa Blanca firme estas operaciones. Ha habido una gran escalada en la matanza de civiles por los militares estadounidenses en virtud de estas nuevas normas.

Al militarizar el gobierno, Trump ha dado más prioridad a la batalla perdida del Pentágono y del imperialismo estadounidense de superar la disminución de la posición de Washington en el mundo. La verdadera consigna de la política exterior de Trump es: “Hacer que el imperio militar de EUA vuelva a ser grande”. Pero este bufón autoritario, racista, misógino y prejuiciado no tiene otro talento que fanfarronear dando órdenes. No puede ver que este peligroso curso sólo puede terminar en un desastre para el imperialismo estadounidense.

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.

Restructuring retail: Tens of thousands laid off — more to come

The restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned.

By Fred Goldstein. Posted April 25, 2017.  

As International Workers’ Day — May Day — approaches, a major crisis is underway for retail workers in the U.S. A process of profound restructuring of the retail industry is unfolding. Driven by internet technology and its utilization by Amazon, among others, it has been made possible by the capitalist scientific-technological revolution.

In manufacturing, the struggle by big industry to increase profits drove automation and offshoring. In the retail industry, the giant monopoly Amazon has developed online shopping, which has already wiped out tens of thousands of retail jobs and is threatening hundreds of thousands more.

Online shopping has brought about a transformation in the so-called brick-and-mortar retail industry.

“This transformation is hollowing out suburban shopping malls, bankrupting long-time brands and leading to staggering job losses,” wrote the New York Times on April 15.

“More workers in general merchandise stores have been laid off since October, about 89,000 Americans. That is more than all of the people employed in the United States coal industry, which President Trump championed during the campaign as a prime example of the workers who have been left behind in the economic recovery.

“The job losses in retail could have unexpected social and political consequences, as huge numbers of low-wage retail employees become economically unhinged, just as manufacturing workers did in recent decades. About one out of every 10 Americans works in retail.” That’s around 15 million workers.

Thousands of mall-based stores are shutting down in what’s fast becoming one of the biggest waves of retail closures in decades.

More than 3,500 stores are expected to close in the next couple of months.

Department stores like JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears and Kmart are among the companies shutting down stores, along with middle-of-the-mall chains like Crocs, BCBG, Abercrombie & Fitch and Guess.

As big retailers shut down in malls, there is collateral damage among the workers in small retail stores and fast food places that draw walk-by customers who shop in the big stores. Furthermore, window designers, lighting and maintenance workers, security guards, sanitation workers and many other mall workers are or will be thrown onto the unemployment lines.

From housing bubble to retail bubble

Online shopping is not the only thing responsible for the present crisis. Marxism teaches that in all industries, capitalist competition and the thirst for profit drive the retail and real estate bosses who rent to them to destroy their rivals by capturing market share. The result is capitalist overproduction. (Overproduction does not mean that capitalists produce more than people need, only more than the stores can sell at a profit.)

“The number of malls in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the population between 1970 and 2015, according to Cowen Research. By one measure of consumerist plentitude [capitalist overproduction, F.G.] — shopping center “gross leasable area,” the U.S. has 40 percent more shopping space per capita than Canada, five times more than the U.K., and 10 times more than Germany.” (theatlantic.com, April 10)

“The seeds of the industry’s current turmoil date back nearly three decades, when retailers … flush with easy money, rushed to open new stores. The land grab wasn’t unlike the housing boom that was also under way at that time.

“Thousands of new doors opened and rents soared,” Richard Hayne, chief executive of Urban Outfitters Inc., told analysts last month. “This created a bubble, and like housing, that bubble has now burst.” (wsj.com, April 21)

Amazon won’t make up for jobs lost

The standard line of the apologists for capitalist restructuring is that technological advancement creates new and better-paying jobs that will make up for the job losses. This is complete hogwash.

First of all, the workers who lose their jobs are out of a job NOW. They have the skills and training for retail. The capitalist class and the capitalist government do not swoop in to the rescue and give them jobs and training in new occupations they would feel suited for.

But second of all, assuming that the laid-off workers in the thousands could apply for jobs at Amazon or other online retailers, they would be confronted by the highly automated Amazon warehouse system. This system has far fewer jobs to offer than the 90,000 who have already been laid off since last October and the many thousands more who are in danger of losing their jobs.

Amazon’s automation is infamous among the workers as a speed-up device and a job-killer.

“In 2012, Amazon bought the robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million — and made it so Kiva’s technology could be used only in Amazon warehouses. These Kiva robots autonomously zoom around the warehouse using a series of barcodes on the floor to guide them, picking items and bringing them back to warehouse workers. These robots save these workers from the immense physical toll of walking as many as 20 miles per shift, sometimes in unbearable heat; but this also means that fewer human workers are needed. The jobs that remain will be less labor intensive, and more like those of a robot supervisor. Since Amazon bought Kiva, a host of other companies are trying to develop even more advanced warehouse robots and sell them to Amazon’s competitors.” (prospect.org, Sept. 27, 2016)

It’s not likely that 90,000 robot supervisors will be needed at Amazon!

Capitalist restructuring in another form

Retail workers have already undergone the pressure of the scientific-technological revolution and the intensified exploitation that it brings. Retail salespeople and cashiers have been subjected to time studies and forced to adhere to a time standard for making sales. Cashiers have to ring up customers in a designated time tracked by the electronic cash register. And they have been subjected to many other profit-squeezing methods.

Now thousands of them are being eliminated altogether by internet technology and online sales.

This is comparable to when auto workers’ jobs were destroyed by robotization or steel workers’ jobs were destroyed by mini-mills and electronic mills. And coal miners’ jobs were destroyed by giant mining machines.

The difference is that this automation is being instituted by an external employer, Amazon. The restructuring in retail is different in form from manufacturing but the same in essence, as far as the working class is concerned. Amazon has reduced the necessary labor time involved in the process of commercial retail sales. As such, it can sell at lower prices and increase convenience for the shopper.

While automation reduces the walking time for workers in the warehouse and the burden of shopping for the consumer, the workers who are no longer needed by capital under the profit system suffer. Instead of the internet and robots being used to ease life for the working class, they are only making things more difficult and insecure.

The masses of workers who lose their jobs will not be able to afford buying anything, either online or in a store. For the working class, the whole capitalist system is a trap the workers must break out of.

Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End, which can be obtained from online book sellers.

Trump & the Wall Street-Pentagon Coalition

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 18, 2017.

There has been much buzz in the capitalist media recently about Donald Trump’s “flip-flopping.” He has changed his positions 180 degrees on a whole variety of issues within a few weeks’ time.

Among the issues on which he has switched are:

  • He has bombed Syria after having opposed intervention.
  • He says China is not a currency manipulator after calling China “the world champion” of currency manipulators.
  • He has floated the idea of negotiations with north Korea after saying that he would never negotiate with that government.
  • He says that NATO “was once obsolete; it is no longer obsolete.”
  • He says he likes Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve Board, and her low interest rates, after claiming she and “other global special interests” had ruined life for middle America.
  • He says it turns out that “lots of small companies are really helped” by the Export-Import Bank, after having opposed it.

These are just a few of his reversals. They have all brought him more in line with the fundamental needs of U.S. imperialism.

Numerous explanations for Trump’s reversals have been put forward by the big-business media. For example, it is said that Trump adopts the position of the last person he has talked to. Or, Trump has no ideology and he can shift positions easily. Or, he listens to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. And so on.

All of these things may be true. But they mask the deeper reason for the so-called flip-flops.

Trump has been leaned on by the Pentagon and Wall Street to shift from demagogy to policy based on the reality of the core needs of U.S. imperialism.

Trump is surrounded by four generals, three former bankers from Goldman Sachs and other financiers, not to mention Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest private oil company in the capitalist world. This is a veritable coalition of Wall Street, the Pentagon and big business. And, for the moment, they have reined in Trump and subordinated him to their needs. Whether he will stay in harness remains to be seen.

Trump removed ultra-rightist Steve Bannon from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, thus bowing to the pressure of the Wall Street-Pentagon coalition, led in this instance by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. In doing so, he denied that Bannon had been his strategist. “I’m my own strategist,” declared Trump.

The problem with that statement is that Trump does not have a strategic cell in his brain. He can’t think politically beyond what he said yesterday.

Trump’s previous positions have been the result of blustering election demagogy. He has uttered positions that no serious imperialist politician could possibly follow through on. The applause lines that gratified his ego and won over gullible voters during the election campaign have now clashed with the hard realities of the problems of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. However, Trump is so dense and so vain that he clung to these positions for dear life. Finally, he had to be put straight by the capitalist establishment.

Tweeting baloney

Take Trump’s belligerent, war-like posture toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Trump tweeted recently about the DPRK and its drive to obtain an intercontinental ballistic missile that can be armed with an atomic warhead.

“That’s not going to happen,” tweeted Trump. In another tweet Trump said the DPRK is “looking for trouble” and he warned that “if China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them.” (New York Times, April 17)

These were clear threats to use force against the DPRK. To underscore the threat, the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier squadron, accompanied by Aegis missile ships, off the coast of the Korean peninsula. Washington made vague but menacing threats to “take action” if the DPRK carried out a nuclear test.

Trump — and Obama before him — has adamantly refused any negotiations with the DPRK unless it shows signs that it will give up its nuclear weapons program.

Brass rethinking negotiations

But listen to National Security Adviser McMaster speaking on a recent Sunday talk show: “It’s really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the regions … that this problem is coming to a head,” said the general. “And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.” (ABC News This Week, April 16)

Take the position put forward by Vice President Mike Pence while visiting the demilitarized zone in south Korea on April 17. According to the New York Times, Pence blustered that north Korea should not test “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.” Yet he also noted that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.”

Whether or not the peaceful language of McMaster and Pence was meant as a gesture to China without expressing real White House policy remains to be seen.

But the socialist government of the DPRK did precisely what Pence warned against. The government of Kim Jong Un defied all the blustering war-mongering of the Trump White House and the Pentagon, proudly staging a massive military parade on the 105th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, complete with an array of  intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang stands up to Trump and Pentagon

The DPRK stood up to military threats and the presence of a U.S. naval armada in its waters. The leadership has taken into consideration the lessons of Iraq and Libya. The U.S. imperialists used the pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to plan a massive attack, which ended in the murder of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The DPRK is also well aware of the lesson of Libya, whose leader Moammar al-Gadhafi gave up his nuclear program; Libya was later invaded and he was brutally murdered by pro-U.S. forces.

The New York Times noted: “North Korea could hardly drop these [nuclear] programs without understandably fearing an attack. Disarmament, in this view, would invite annihilation.” (New York Times, April 17)

This also speaks to the fraudulent slogan of a “denuclearized Korean peninsula,” which Washington and its allies are always promoting. The only nuclear weapons actually on the Korean peninsula belong to the DPRK. The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons in south Korea. The Pentagon has surrounded the DPRK with a “ring of fire,” including nuclear-armed submarines, nuclear-armed planes on aircraft carriers and nuclear-capable bombers at bases from Japan to Guam to Hawaii, as well as island bases throughout the region. A “denuclearized peninsula” means a disarmed DPRK.

So Trump’s flip-flop on the DPRK, as espoused by McMaster and Pence, is rooted in hard military reality. Trump tweeted that the U.S. would “deal with” the DPRK. But the military explained to him that there is no good option for U.S. imperialism in north Korea so long as Pyongyang remains steadfast in the face of nuclear blackmail.

Trump and China

Trump has publicly declared that the Chinese government is going to “help on north Korea,” so he pulled back from naming China as a currency manipulator. Such a declaration was part of his anti-China campaign. He also promised to slap tariffs on Chinese goods sold in this country. This was when he was preaching to his followers about how China was “stealing jobs” and “cheating on trade.”

The truth is that he has been forced to reject his own and Bannon’s anti-China line by financiers like Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council and president and CEO of Goldman Sachs for 10 years. Cohn and his Goldman Sachs cohorts, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have also explained to him that Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve Board, is a favorite of Wall Street. She has funnelled billions of dollars to the banks, allegedly to “save the economy.”

Said Reuters on April 16: “Apparently paying more heed to Cohn and other moderates on his team, Trump last week said he was open to reappointing Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chairman when her term is up and he also held back from naming China a currency manipulator.

“Both stances marked a reversal from his campaign when Trump criticized Yellen and vowed to label China a currency manipulator on ‘day one’ of his administration, a move that could lead to punitive duties on Chinese goods.

“Chinese authorities, faced with an insult from a foreign leader as the ruling Communist Party prepares for elections of top positions later this year, eventually would have slapped steep retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exporters that send more than $100 billion a year of goods to the Asian country. U.S. manufacturers’ profits and stock prices would take a big hit.”

The designation of Cohn from Goldman Sachs as a “moderate” paints him with a kindly brush. Finance capital in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is just as aggressive and ruthless in pursuit of profit as the Pentagon is in pursuit of conquest. They are two adventurist arms of the same ruling class.

Cohn, meaning Goldman Sachs, told Trump it would not be a good idea to start a trade war or a currency war with the second-largest economy on earth. The Chinese economy is growing at an annual rate of 6.9 percent, while U.S. capitalism can barely eke out 2 percent growth.

China and Korea

As for China helping the U.S. on “taming” the DPRK, it is worthwhile noting that for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it is impossible to ignore the contrast between south and north Korea.

The north is not threatening China militarily one bit. But the south Korean puppets of U.S. imperialism are enthusiastically and hastily rushing to deploy the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system. THAAD has powerful radar that can reach into China and spy on Chinese missile installations. The Chinese government has vigorously warned against this deployment and has said it would upset the “strategic balance” in the region. Seoul and Washington have ignored China’s concerns.

In Beijing the military and the political high command must be truly worrying about the possibility of having a pro-imperialist regime on their border. In the long run, China cannot afford to undermine the DPRK. It will be compelled to resist U.S. aggression against the government of Kim Jong Un.

The crisis in Korea, like the economic and geopolitical crises for U.S. imperialism around the globe, cannot be tweeted away nor can they be overcome by military means. U.S. imperialism is a colossus with feet of clay. Trump is finding that out the hard way.

Goldstein is author of Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay and Capitalism at a Dead End, available from all major booksellers.

 

Behind the attack on Syria; Trump and the generals

“You furnish the pictures. I’ll furnish the war.” Publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1898, preparing the groundwork for the U.S. war with Spain and seizure of Cuba.

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 11, 2017.  

The Trump administration’s attack on the Syrian air force was first directed at Russia as well as the government of Bashar al-Assad. China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were secondarily targeted.

The chemical weapons attack in Syria, assuming that it was not totally staged by enemies of the Damascus government, was aimed at forcing President Donald Trump to shift his political orientation away from rapprochement with Russia — and to keep military pressure focused on the long-term goal of overthrowing the Assad government. Washington not only wants to overthrow Assad, but it also aims to place a compliant government in Damascus that will oust the Russians from Syria and the Mediterranean altogether.

The U.S. imperialist military strike came five days after Trump’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said, “The United States’ diplomatic policy on Syria for now is no longer focused on making the war-torn country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, leave power.”  (Reuters, March 30) The publicity surrounding the alleged chemical weapons attack was designed to reverse this Trump policy.

Charges with no evidence

The accusations against the Assad government have been unanimous and thunderous in the capitalist media, Congress and the military. All this has gone on despite there being not one moment of investigation or one element of cogent proof that Damascus had any role in the alleged attack. The Syrian government has categorically denied the charges, but its denials have received no publicity in the capitalist media.

In all, this one thing is certain: The Syrian government had no reason to carry out such an attack. It has been winning the war without using chemical weapons and has the least motive of all parties involved to carry out such an attack. The attacks hurt the Syrian government and helped the imperialists and their reactionary client groupings inside Syria.

In any criminal investigation the first things to look for are motive, means and opportunity to carry out the crime. The parties with the overriding motives, means and opportunity to do such a thing are the U.S. government and the reactionaries in Syria who are losing the war. Those in the latter group have been unsuccessfully trying to overthrow Assad and seek to draw the U.S. government into the military struggle.

Times neocon propagandists on the Syria case

The New York Times led the charge in instantaneously accusing the Assad government. The Times assigned their two most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the story — Michael Gordon and Anne Barnard.

Gordon was co-author with Judith Miller of Times articles promoting the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in the build-up to the 2003 U.S.-British invasion. Miller eventually lost her job for lying about claims of the existence of these weapons in Iraq. George W. Bush used these claims to bolster the pretext for invasion. Barnard writes like a publicist for the reactionary Syrian groups.

Progressive writer and founder of consortiumnews.com Robert Parry explained on April 5: “Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon ‘regime change’ strategies for years. He co-authored the Times’ infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of ‘mushroom clouds’ if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s upcoming invasion of Iraq.”

It turned out that the aluminum tubes were meant for conventional weapons.

Seymour Hersh, an investigative reporter who exposed the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, reported in 2015, “In spring 2013 U.S. intelligence learned that the Turkish government, through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation, was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability.”

Hersh continued: “Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA [Defense Intelligence Agency] and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey, that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.” (reported by Robert Parry, consortiumnews.com, Sept. 16, 2015)

Following the chemical gas attack in 2013, the Times reported that experts followed the path of missiles carrying the gas, and it led back to Damascus. It later turned out that the missiles had a range that could not have carried them from Damascus. The actual range was the distance from rebel-held territory. (consortiumnews.com, Dec. 29, 2013; linked to Times article)

Ruling-class goal: Force Trump to oppose Russia, Assad

Even during the U.S. election campaign and since Trump won, the Pentagon and the ruling class in general have aimed to undermine the Trump administration’s attempt to shift U.S. foreign policy toward more cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The horrendous pictures of the alleged chemical attack in Syria were calculated to box Trump in and leave him no alternative but to attack the Syrian government.

The drumbeats for attack on Syria came relentlessly from almost all ruling-class quarters — from Democratic Party moderates to Republican reactionaries. Trump, who has been the butt of attacks, ridicule and jokes in the corporate media, was momentarily catapulted from the status of bungling buffoon to the position of decisive leader. This praise, however, is only temporary. The military and its mouthpieces in Congress, such as Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are prodding Trump to go further and explain what’s next.

Militarization of National Security Council

In all the celebration about Trump’s sudden show of leadership, what is being omitted is that he has militarized the government at the top. He received much praise when he pushed Stephen Bannon off the government’s most powerful committee, the Principals Committee of the National Security Council.

Bannon is an ultra-right extremist with an apocalyptic vision of war in Asia and is viciously against Islamic civilization. But the cheers for Bannon’s removal have drowned out any response to the shift in the Principals Committee. Now there are four generals on the council — who are nothing but extremists with weapons.

Under Trump the top foreign policy body of the capitalist government has gone from having the facade of civilian rule to open military control of foreign policy. The attack on Syria must be seen in that light.

Trump’s secretary of defense is James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a former Marine general. Mattis oversaw Middle East operations as chief of Central Command until his retirement in 2013. Mattis’ many colorful quotes include, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Mattis opposed President Barack Obama’s Iran deal. He led the attack on Fallujah in 2004, which destroyed this Iraqi city of 300,000 people. The campaign used poisonous and radioactive depleted uranium munitions and caused massive civilian casualties. His troops massacred 24 civilians in Haditha city in 2005. (democracynow.org, Jan. 26, 2012) Mattis refused to apologize. He has been a true military extremist.

The head of the Department of Homeland Security is retired Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, a border security hawk who was in charge of Caribbean and South American operations as head of the U.S. Southern Command. He opposed Obama’s plans to close Guantanamo Bay prison and has stoked fears by raising the specter of terrorists entering the country through the U.S.-Mexican border.

Trump’s national security adviser is Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who is still on active duty and is a former tank commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. McMaster replaced Marine Gen. Michael Flynn after Flynn was ousted. McMaster played a key role in expelling Bannon from the NSC Principals Committee. The military unseated Bannon, the ultra-right ideologue, to prevent him from interfering with or listening in on their plans.

Also on the committee is Marine Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was a commander during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2013. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015 that Russia is the “greatest threat to U.S. interests.” (Washington Post, July 9, 2015)

The U.S. military plans to have a wide focus that includes Russia, China, the DPRK, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. They especially strive to maintain hostility to Russia now because Washington covets Ukraine and is outraged that the Russians moved quickly to frustrate a total imperialist takeover of that country. The Pentagon is a firm backer of the fascist regime in Kiev and plans to feed it more powerful weapons. This is all linked to its anti-Russian campaign.

Washington to Putin: We’re the boss

Last year and at the beginning of this year, a joint Russian, Turkish and Iranian task force discussed political settlement issues for the Syria conflict at talks in Astana, Kazakhstan.  (Reuters, Feb. 16) The U.S. had no part in the talks.

Washington and the U.S. military reject the political involvement of the Russian government in settling the Syrian question. U.S. air strikes on the Syrian airbase were meant to show Putin who is boss in the region.

The same scenario was played out in 2016 when then-Secretary of State John Kerry was engaged with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in working on military coordination and peace talks about Syria. After a marathon negotiating session on Sept. 8, Kerry called the deal “a potential turning point” in the conflict, if implemented. (CNBC, Sept. 9, 2016)

However, barely a week after Kerry’s announcement, the New York Times reported on Sept. 17: “The United States acknowledged on Saturday [Sept. 17] that its warplanes had carried out an airstrike in Syria that resulted in the deaths of Syrian government troops. American military officials said the pilots in the attack, in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, believed they were targeting the Islamic State.”

The article stated, “Russia’s defense ministry said the United States attack had killed 62 Syrian troops, wounded 100 more.” This attack broke up the talks and all possibility of working out a peace plan.

DPRK and China also subject of Syrian strike

The military rushed the U.S. attack on Syria in order to deliver a major diplomatic slap at the People’s Republic of China at the very moment when Chinese President Xi Jinping was meeting with Trump at his Florida White House. Trump did not tell him about the attack until the meeting was over.

The strike was also meant to threaten the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. To follow up the strike on Syria, the Pentagon is now sending an aircraft carrier strike force toward Korean waters. The carrier Carl Vinson, accompanied by missile ships and frigates, is steaming there from Singapore to arrive in time for the 105th birthday of historic Korean communist leader Kim Il Sung. April 15 is celebrated in the DPRK as “the day of the sun.”

Trump has given the military a long leash. He is fostering their revenge plans against the DPRK, which defeated the U.S. invasionary force in the Korean War. The U.S. military has never gotten over it.

Trump has let the Pentagon send more troops to Syria, bomb large numbers of civilians in Mosul and increase drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia — all without the White House signing off on these operations. There has been a major escalation of U.S. military killing of civilians under these new rules.

By militarizing the government, Trump has given more priority to the Pentagon and U.S. imperialism’s losing battle to overcome Washington’s diminished position in the world. Trump’s foreign policy slogan is really: “Make the U.S. military empire great again.” But this authoritarian, racist, misogynist, bigoted buffoon has no other talent than to bluster about giving orders. He cannot see that this dangerous course can only end in disaster for U.S. imperialism.

Goldstein is the author of Low-Wage Capitalism and Capitalism at a Dead End. Books can be purchased at several websites.