Australasian Spartacist No. 231
U.S.Trotskyists Say: Down With Anti-Muslim Ban! No Deportations!
We Need a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!
Democrats Paved the Way for Trump
The following has been adapted from articles published in issues No. 1100, 1104 and 1105 of Workers Vanguard, the newspaper of our comrades of the Spartacist League/U.S.
The victory of Donald Trump in last year’s U.S. presidential election recalls the old curse, said to come from China, “May you live in interesting times.” The sinister implication is that such times will be ones of suffering and disaster. Who can say what Trump—a demagogic real estate tycoon liable to do anything so long as it benefits him—will do next? With a raft of executive orders he has already moved to fulfil some of his campaign promises which spell misery and terror, particularly, but far from only, for undocumented immigrants and Muslims. There have been reports of sharp increases in harassment and intimidation of Latinos, Muslims, Jews, women, black people and gays, along with graffiti reading, “Make America White Again.” At the same time, his win has been accompanied by repeated and ongoing mass protests. The election made clear that there is plenty of anger against the Washington elites, but it is not expressed along class lines. It is high time that some genuine class hatred be mobilised against the politicians of the Republicans and Democrats and the capitalist rulers they serve.
Immediately following the election, integrated protests of thousands of youth broke out in cities across the country under the slogan #NotMyPresident. On 21 January, more than a million people demonstrated in “women’s marches” against the coronation of Trump. These protests were thoroughly pro-Democratic Party and their watchword was “I’m with her,” the slogan of the failed Hillary Clinton campaign. The previous day, during the inauguration, thousands also protested in Washington. These protesters were met with a massive mobilisation of some 28,000 cops from dozens of agencies to seal off a restricted zone around the inauguration parade route. Facing vicious state repression some 230 protesters, mostly anarchists, were arrested and at least 217 of them faced felony riot charges that carry maximum sentences of ten years in jail and $25,000 fines. Dozens of anti-Trump protesters were arrested elsewhere, including at least 16 in Chicago and 29 in San Francisco. Drop the charges now!
More recently, tens of thousands of people across the U.S. have rallied at airports and on the streets to protest Trump’s anti-Muslim ban of immigrants and refugees. There have also been solidarity rallies in Australia. Trump’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, followed 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 organising the protests, as its politicians now shed crocodile tears!
Break with the Democrats!
Trump is emboldening the forces of anti-immigrant terror. 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 centre hellholes. Notably, the Democratic “grassroots” organisations that are mobilising 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 flicker 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.
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 defence 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.
Following the blocking of the initial anti-Muslim ban by a federal judge, in early March the White House issued a revised ban. This was also blocked in the courts. The Trump administration is appealing both decisions. Whatever the outcome, further litigation is likely, and the cases could make their way to the Supreme Court. In seeking to overturn the rulings, the government has 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 bourgeois courts can act in the interests of working people and the oppressed.
Trump’s election is bad news. But the election of Hillary Clinton, a woman with the evident willingness to launch World War III, would not have been good news. Don’t buy the lie that the alternative is refurbishing the capitalist Democratic Party! It means that the working class and all those at the bottom of this society will remain trapped in the thoroughly rigged system of American capitalist democracy, which is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
While the Republicans revel in bashing unions, black people, women, immigrants and the poor, the Democrats lie and do the same thing. But this time around, Hillary Clinton didn’t even bother making a pretence of throwing a bone to working people. The Democrats figured that they didn’t need to, given that Trump was their competitor. After kicking Bernie Sanders’s supporters to the kerb—with that supposed leader of a “political revolution against the billionaire class” going on to campaign for Wall Street’s favoured candidate—Clinton went all out to win the endorsements of generals, spies, neocons and other operatives of U.S. imperialism. And, as a proven hawk, she had great success in this endeavour.
There should be militant, mass protest against Trump’s anti-Muslim ban and in defence of immigrant rights. But the starting point has to be class opposition to U.S. imperialism and its political parties—Democrats as well as Republicans—not looking to the good graces of the perperators 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 labour movement to the fight for full citizenship rights for everyone who has made it to this country—against deportations, anti-immigrant roundups and detention centres. The unions need to organise the unorganised, including bringing undocumented workers into the unions with full rights and protections.
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 labour muscle are the AFL-CIO union tops, many of whom raise protectionist cries to “save American jobs” while denouncing foreign-owned companies and foreign-born workers. Such chauvinist appeals fan the flames of racist reaction. Echoing this “America first” refrain, and promising trade war against China and further imperialist plunder of Mexico, 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 tops’ subordination of workers’ interests to the profitability of American capitalism. After AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka met with Trump on 13 January, he enthused over his “very honest and productive conversation” with this predatory billionaire. Even those union tops who oppose Trump’s anti-Muslim 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.”
The power to resist the depredations of capitalism lies in the hands of the men and women—black, white and immigrant—whose labour keeps the wheels of production turning and produces the capitalists’ wealth. 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. This 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.
Clinton’s “Superpredators” and “Deplorables”
Sobbing Democratic Party liberals and the smug (though now temporarily chastened) bourgeois media, which overwhelmingly took up the banner “we’re with her,” blamed Trump’s win on white workers and poor who don’t share what they call “our values.” To be sure, Trump cornered the market on white Christian fundamentalists as well as the former Confederate South and rural areas. But he also won a lot of the working-class vote in former manufacturing areas of the Midwest Rust Belt. Since many of these voters were part of the base that swept Obama to victory in the same states in both 2008 and 2012, it’s difficult to proclaim this was just a revolt of white racist “deplorables.” In fact, the Democrats and their lackeys in the union officialdom paved the way for Trump’s victory.
Upon coming to office following the 2008 financial meltdown, Obama, a consummate Wall Street Democrat, set to work saving the hides of the high-rolling bankers and hedge fund managers who authored the misery of so many. This time around, campaigning hard for Clinton, Obama told black people that anyone who didn’t get out and vote for her was betraying his legacy. While there was a sense of racial solidarity with the first black president, the truth is that during his administration conditions for black people continued to worsen: wages flatlined and the median wealth of black families crashed while cops continued to wantonly gun down their sons, fathers, mothers and sisters. In the end, many black people simply sat out these elections.
They remembered Clinton branding inner-city youth “superpredators,” her support to her husband Bill’s anti-woman destruction of “welfare as we know it” and his anti-crime bill, which vastly increased racist mass incarceration and the number of cops on the streets. When Trump rightly noted that the Democratic Party sees black people as little more than voting cattle and described life in the ghettos as hellish, it was a completely cynical manoeuvre (not to mention delivered to a suburban Wisconsin white audience while segregated Milwaukee was in flames over yet another racist cop killing). But the response of the Democrats was the lying claim that conditions for black people have vastly improved.
Of course, to see what Trump has in mind for black people, one need look no further than his endorsement by the national Fraternal Order of Police. Throughout his campaign, Trump boasted of the support he got from immigration agents and U.S. border guards, who have desperate immigrants lined up in their sights. But while Trump has made virulent anti-immigrant racism his stock in trade, Obama himself not only deported a record number of immigrants but expanded the repressive machinery of the capitalist state that Trump will inherit, from imprisonment of whistleblowers and preventive detention to assassination by drone.
Broad swathes of the “fight the right” anti-Trump movement attempt to paint the racist demagogue Trump as a Nazi. Contrary to these liberal cries, Trump is not America’s Hitler. The soil in which the Nazis grew was that of an imperialist power that had been defeated in World War I and faced the challenge of an insurgent working class the rulers had to crush. In contrast, the U.S. is not a defeated imperialist country but rather remains the “world’s only superpower.” Nor does the U.S. currently face a challenge from the working class. In a period marked by very little class struggle and a rollback of workers rights, the capitalist class has no need to unleash fascist bands, which they hold in reserve to crush the workers movement when it challenges bourgeois rule.
Accusations that Trump is a fascist serve to prettify the “normal” workings of racist American capitalism, especially when it is run by the Democrats. That said, Trump’s election has certainly emboldened the fascists. The KKK in North Carolina held a “victory” march in December. Similarly, during the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the official racism of the White House encouraged the Klan and Nazis. When the fascists tried to hold rallies in major urban centres, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee initiated calls for mass labour/black mobilisations. From Washington, D.C., where the Klan threatened to stage a provocation especially aimed at immigrants, to Chicago, where the Nazis took aim at a Gay Pride demonstration, and elsewhere, we succeeded in sparking protests of thousands that stopped them. Based on the social power of the multiracial unions standing at the head of the black poor, immigrants and all the intended victims of fascist terror, these mobilisations provided a small example of the leadership and forces needed to build a party of our class in struggle against the capitalist class enemy.
Beware Snake Oil “Socialists”
The lie that the way to stop Trump is to build a more “progressive” Democratic Party or another capitalist party like the Greens isn’t being pushed just by liberals, but also by self-proclaimed socialist organisations. One example is Socialist Alternative, (affiliated to the Committee for a Workers International, which is represented by the Socialist Party in Australia). It is one of the biggest promoters of Bernie Sanders. In a 9 November leaflet distributed at anti-Trump protests, they argued that “despite his mistake of running inside the Democratic Party and endorsing Clinton, Bernie Sanders’ campaign proved it is possible to win mass support for a bold left-wing program to challenge big business for power.”
Far from making a “mistake,” the Vermont Senator was a collaborative participant in the Democrats’ Congressional Caucus for over 20 years, not to mention an avid supporter of U.S. imperialism’s wars of conquest and occupation. He never had any intention of challenging “big business for power.” Now Sanders argues in a New York Times (11 November) op-ed piece that if Trump “is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I’m going to present some real opportunities for him to earn my support.” Wow! However unpredictable Trump might be, the one thing you can be sure of is that he will protect the interests of America’s capitalist rulers because they are his class.
The International Socialist Organization (ISO, the U.S. co-thinkers of Solidarity and Socialist Alternative in Australia), which welcomed the election of Obama as an opening to mobilise for “change,” now complains that his administration threw away “the opportunity to marginalise the Republicans for a decade at least” because it “devoted itself to bailing out the banks.” Back in 2008, these reformists argued that with sufficient pressure “from below” Obama would be made to fight. Indeed, he did fight—for the ruling class that he represented.
Today, we have the spectacle of the Democrats posturing as defenders of immigrant rights. And the reformist left is helping them sell that lie. 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 organising 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.
Workers of the World Unite!
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 labour 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.
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.
An example of what’s needed to fight back was the 9 February 2002 labour-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 labourers, Asian and Near Eastern immigrants, university and high school students and the revolutionary Marxists of the Spartacist League.
In sharp contrast to this class-struggle perspective, 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 labour-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.
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.”
The rulers and their labour lieutenants in the union bureaucracy cannot extinguish the class struggle that is born of the irreconcilable conflict of interests between workers and their exploiters. The very conditions that grind down workers today will propel them into battle in the future. The capitalists’ pitting of black and white workers against each other can be overcome in integrated class struggle, in which the multiracial working class will see its common interests. These renewed labour battles can also lay the basis for reviving and extending the unions, ousting the sellouts and replacing them with a new, class-struggle leadership.
With millions unemployed or scrambling to get by through miserably paid part-time and temporary work, with many thrown out of their homes and reliant on food stamps, with pensions and health benefits slashed, there is a pressing need to build a workers party based on the fundamental understanding that the workers have no common interests with the bosses. Such a party would unite the employed and unemployed, the ghetto poor and immigrants in a struggle for jobs and decent living conditions for all. It would also win the working class to oppose the military adventures of U.S. imperialism and to fight in solidarity with workers and oppressed around the world.
Regardless of who occupies the White House, the president is the chief executive of the American capitalist state, which exists to defend the rule and profits of the bourgeoisie. This state cannot be pressured into serving the interests of the working class and oppressed, but must be swept away through a socialist revolution that establishes a workers state where those who labour rule.
We need a multiracial revolutionary workers party that champions the fight for black freedom, for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, for women’s rights and for the liberation of all the oppressed. This party will lead the struggle for an America under proletarian rule on the road to an international planned, socialist economy.