Workers Vanguard No. 1105
10 February 2017
Down With Anti-Muslim Ban!
Trump Escalates Obamas War on Immigrants
No Deportations! For Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!
Tens of thousands of people across the country have rallied at airports and on the streets to protest Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim ban of immigrants and refugees. The president’s executive order barring citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, and banning Syrian refugees indefinitely, came on the heels of his order to begin building a wall along the border with Mexico and hiring 15,000 more border guards and immigration cops. There is indeed plenty to fear and to protest as Trump and his advisers, most prominently the poison pen of “white nationalist” reaction, Steve Bannon, roll out their viciously racist agenda. But beware the Democratic Party, which has been the central force organizing the protests, as its politicians now shed crocodile tears!
Trump is emboldening the forces of anti-immigrant terror, from the border police to racist vigilantes and outright fascists. But his policies are simply a more grotesque expression—unvarnished by pious “humanitarian” rhetoric—of those of his Democratic Party predecessors, including Barack Obama. A wall with Mexico? There already are 700 miles of wall, begun under Bill Clinton’s administration. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama boasted of “putting more boots on the Southern border than any time in our history” by adding 20,000 more border police. While Obama claims he “fundamentally disagrees” with Trump’s ban, his administration deported more people than any other in U.S. history. Others languish in detention center hellholes. Notably, the Democratic “grassroots” organizations that are mobilizing thousands against Trump’s ban were not so motivated to protest Obama’s war on immigrants.
The countries targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban include those named in the Obama administration’s 2015 Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which passed Congress with barely a burp of protest. Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen are among the countries devastated by U.S. imperialism’s wars, occupations, drone strikes and other military assaults. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions more displaced as desperate refugees. Iran and Sudan have been subjected to punishing sanctions, further impoverishing, if not outright starving, countless people.
Madeleine Albright now proclaims that she would register as a Muslim to protest Trump’s edict. Her hypocrisy is as mindboggling as it is revolting. In 1996, as Bill Clinton’s UN ambassador, this war criminal justified the starvation blockade of Iraq that had killed half a million Iraqi children as “worth it.” An article in Black Agenda Report (1 February) fittingly recommended that Albright “register as an Iraqi toddler in 1995.”
Over 1,000 diplomats, spies and operatives of the State Department—the architects and defenders of U.S. imperialist terror—have signed a petition decrying Trump’s Muslim ban as a violation of “core American values of nondiscrimination.” Several of President Obama’s former officials, including his secretary of state John Kerry, his national security advisor Susan Rice and his CIA director and later secretary of defense Leon Panetta, issued a declaration denouncing the Muslim ban, claiming that it “undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer.” What has a section of the bourgeoisie, the “deep state” and the Democratic Party officialdom worried is that the recklessness of the Trump administration is shredding the cover of “democracy” under which U.S. imperialism seeks to hide its crimes against workers and the oppressed around the globe. It also threatens to unravel America’s relations with its fellow imperialist plunderers in Europe, as well as the plundered in the neocolonial world.
As we go to press, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is considering an appeal by the Trump administration to overturn a February 3 ruling by a federal judge that blocked the anti-Muslim ban. Whatever the decision, further litigation is likely, and the case could make its way to the Supreme Court. In seeking to overturn the February 3 ruling, the government argued that the president has “the unreviewable authority” to suspend admission to the U.S. for any group of people. This is an ominous assertion of the imperial presidency that is at the core of American bourgeois democracy. At the same time, we have no illusions that the courts—another wing of the capitalist state—can act in the interests of working people and the oppressed.
There should be militant, mass protest against Trump’s anti-Muslim ban and in defense of immigrant rights. But the starting point has to be opposition to U.S. imperialism and its political parties—Democrats as well as Republicans—not looking to the good graces of the perpetrators of imperialist war.
Against all wings of the capitalist class, we fight for the integrity, solidarity and fighting capacity of our class, the working class. That means winning the multiracial labor movement to the fight for full citizenship rights for everyone who has made it to this country—against deportations, anti-immigrant roundups and detention centers. The unions need to organize the unorganized, including bringing undocumented workers into the unions with full rights and protections.
The social power of labor must be mobilized in defense of immigrants. A tiny glimmer of what is needed was seen in the one-hour strike by the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance at JFK airport against the anti-Muslim ban. A much more powerful demonstration would be job actions by airport or transit workers. But standing in the way of flexing some real labor muscle in this fight are the AFL-CIO tops, many of whom raise protectionist cries to “save American jobs.” Such chauvinist appeals fan the flames of racist reaction against foreign-born workers. Echoing this “America first” refrain, Trump gained the support of a layer of mainly white workers whose jobs, unions and ability to survive have been under relentless attack.
Such are the bitter fruits of the trade-union bureaucracy’s subordination of workers’ interests to the profitability of American capitalism. After AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka met with Trump on January 13, he enthused over his “very honest and productive conversation” with this predatory billionaire. Even those union tops who oppose Trump’s ban repeat his justification for it and extol America’s supposed “values.” A statement by United Auto Workers president Dennis Williams grotesquely declared: “We must protect national security while remaining true to the very values that have made us a great nation.”
If the unions are to be instruments of struggle against the bosses, they must break the shackles chaining them to the capitalist parties. The red-white-and-blue bureaucrats must be ousted in a fight for a class-struggle leadership whose banner will be the red flag of working-class internationalism! Such a leadership will politically arm the workers for some hard-fought battles against the capitalist exploiters and will lay the basis for forging a multiracial workers party that will fight for a socialist revolution to uproot the whole system of wage slavery, black oppression, anti-immigrant reaction and imperialist war.
Break with the Democrats!
When immigrant rights protests erupted against the George W. Bush regime in 2006-07, they were quickly co-opted by the Democratic Party as it sought to retake the White House. This perspective was clearly captured by the dominant slogan, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!” Today, we have the spectacle of the Democrats posturing as defenders of immigrant rights. And the reformist left is helping them sell that lie. In an editorial titled “The People Versus the President” (socialistworker.org, 1 February), the International Socialist Organization (ISO) insipidly argues:
“Trump’s all-out assault could lead to greater opposition from the hitherto meek leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties—in part because Trump is racing full steam ahead with a program that doesn’t have the support of the majority of the capitalist class, but more importantly, because the wave of popular discontent is pressuring them to act.”
The entire framework of the ISO is to act as a pressure group on the capitalist Democratic Party and the racist capitalist order it represents. Its coverage of the protests disappears the central role played by Democrats in organizing them, all the better to keep activists chained to that party. Previously, when several Democratic politicians announced that they would not attend Trump’s inauguration, the ISO gushed: “It’s nice to see our country’s official opposition party actually engaging in some opposition after most Democrats spent the first weeks after the election pledging to find ways to collaborate with Trump” (socialistworker.org, 20 January).
Socialist Alternative is even more blatant in embracing the Democratic Party. It pledges that its supporters “will work alongside progressive Democrats around clear demands to mobilize people into action,” adding the caveat: “But we will not limit our program, strategy or tactics to what is acceptable to the corporate Democrats” (socialistalternative.org, 31 January). Thus, they admit that they aim to be acceptable to the “progressive Democrats,” who are no less committed than their “corporate” counterparts (or the Republicans) to the exploitative and oppressive capitalist system.
Capitalist America and the
War Against Immigrants
In response to Trump’s anti-Muslim edict, Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a rabid Zionist who has voted to approve several of Trump’s government nominees, including Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis, now declaims: “Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded has been stomped upon.” The whole history of capitalist America, which was founded on the genocide of American Indians and enriched by the brutal toil of black slaves, is a refutation of Schumer’s cynical statement. Immigrants have been brought in at times to provide the cheap labor and raw muscle power for the country’s factories, mines and farms. Whipping up racial and ethnic hatreds to keep its wage slaves divided, America’s rulers have a long history of mass deportations and exclusion of the foreign-born.
Among the first to be targeted were Chinese workers who had been employed as virtual slaves in building the railroads and working in the mines on the West Coast. Playing on “yellow peril” racism to distract from growing unemployment and declining wages, Congress, with the full support of the labor misleaders of the time, passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, barring Chinese people from entering the U.S. or acquiring citizenship.
During World War I, Democratic Party president and arch-segregationist Woodrow Wilson signed the 1917 Espionage Act, whose first targets were labor agitators, opponents of U.S. entry into the war, anarchists and leftists, thousands of whom were imprisoned. In the 1919-20 Palmer raids, launched in fearful reaction to the Russian Revolution, 10,000 suspected Communists, syndicalists and other immigrants were rounded up, and more than 1,000 deported.
During the Great Depression, more than 500,000 Mexicans, mostly migrant farm workers, were rounded up and deported. Two decades later, in 1954, a militarized dragnet called “Operation Wetback” imprisoned and expelled over a million Mexican farm workers.
Amid the Second World War, the icon of Democratic Party liberalism, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, issued an executive order to intern U.S. residents of Japanese descent, the majority of them American citizens, in concentration camps. At the same time, desperate Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazi Holocaust were mostly kept out. In one infamous example, the ship MS St. Louis, carrying over 900 Jews, was turned away from U.S. ports. Many of the passengers would later die in Hitler’s concentration camps. After the war, in contrast, Nazi war criminals were welcomed into the U.S. to serve in U.S. imperialism’s Cold War against the Soviet Union.
Conjuring up a “foreign enemy” has long served America’s rulers in ratcheting up their machinery of state repression against the working class, black people, immigrants and any perceived opponent of capitalist class rule. Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. imperialism has been waging a bipartisan “war on terror,” which was further ramped up by the Obama administration. Today, this arsenal of repression is in the hands of Donald Trump, who has unquestionably upped the voltage of racist reaction. Among his most loyal supporters are the border guards and I.C.E. agents, whose organizations backed his candidacy, as did the Fraternal Order of Police. The guns of the capitalist state are loaded, and they are aimed not only against immigrants, but also against black people, as every black person in this country already knows only too well.
An example of what’s needed to fight back was the 9 February 2002 labor-centered Oakland demonstration that declared: “Anti-Terrorist Laws Target Immigrants, Blacks, Labor—No to the USA-Patriot Act and the Maritime Security Act!” and “Down With the Anti-Immigrant Witchhunt!” Initiated by the Bay Area Labor Black League for Social Defense, which is fraternally allied with the Spartacist League, and Partisan Defense Committee, the protest drew some 300 people and had as its core black longshore members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, which endorsed the rally. They were joined by other unionists, Latino day laborers, Asian and Near Eastern immigrants, college and high school students and the revolutionary Marxists of the Spartacist League.
Workers of the World Unite!
Many Democrats, joined by reformists like the ISO and Socialist Alternative, are now promoting “sanctuary cities” (where local cops have discretion to not check immigration status) as an answer to the anti-immigrant drive. It is downright delusional to believe that local agents of the capitalist state will establish oases of refuge for immigrants. The cops who gun down black and minority youth with impunity will not protect immigrants from the Feds. When politicians like Rahm Emanuel, the labor-hating, cop-loving Democratic mayor of Chicago, declare their cities “sanctuaries,” it is to refurbish their own image. Notwithstanding Los Angeles’s “sanctuary” status, more than 22,000 immigrants were deported from that city between 2012 and 2015.
For the fight for immigrant rights to go forward, it must be linked to the struggle against black oppression, which is fundamental to American capitalism. We seek to win native-born and immigrant workers to the struggle for black freedom; at the same time, we aim to win black workers to the fight for immigrant rights. It is only through united class struggle and the intervention of a revolutionary Marxist party that the divisions fomented by the rulers can be overcome.
Against the demagogy of the capitalist rulers and the politicians of both capitalist parties, we reiterate the closing lines of the Communist Manifesto: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!” As we underlined during the 2006 immigrant rights protests in “How the Fake Left Amnesties the Democrats” (WV No. 873, 7 July 2006):
“We do not seek to tinker with the system, looking for an alternative immigration policy. We will support such reforms as are offered. But, our bottom line is that we will worry about the ebbs and flows of the world economy when the proletariat under revolutionary leadership runs it. We are not responsible for, nor do we seek to advise, the bourgeoisie on its immigration or other policies. We seek to organize the social power of the proletariat to smash this system and establish proletarian rule.”