Workers' Voice mailing list
November 14, 2016
RE: Protests sweep the country against Trump's election
Demonstrations have spread across the country against the election of Donald Trump. While Democratic Party bigwigs and establishment media were calling on people to give Trump a chance, indignant people have come out on the street declaring that Trump was "Not My President". The establishment figures are consoling themselves that market forces will supposedly tame Trump and the government will run as usual. But Trump's election marks a shift in the dominant trend in bourgeois policies, and activists aren't waiting for Trump and Congress to trample them. For day after day, there have been demonstrations against Trump and against racist incidents inspired by Trump's campaign. They have occurred around the country, including California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Washington state, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maryland, Texas, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana. A Million Women March is being organized for January 21, the day after Trump's inauguration.
At the same time Trump's campaign has unleashed a lot of pent-up racism. His election has been taken by racists as an endorsement. The KKK in North Carolina is planning a victory parade to celebrate Trump's presidency. Across the country bigots are demonstrating in their own way: they are seeking out minorities and women in hijabs to insult and harass. It is a sign of the danger that confronts us.
Trump's racism and bigotry is fostered by the conservative section of the bourgeoisie. But Trump united the conservative and racist core of the Republicans with a section of the working masses who were susceptible to his demagogy or willing to ignore that aspect of Trump's campaign because they were tired of hearing the Democrats saying for year after year that everything was getting better, when this isn't true except for the wealthy.
Something similar has taken place elsewhere around the world where the bigots and reactionaries are on an offensive. In the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte was elected president earlier this year, and he is notorious for sponsoring vigilante murders and death squads in the name of a war on drugs and crime. In France, President Francois Hollande is vastly unpopular, and there is the danger that Marine Le Pen, leader of the fascistic National Front, will be elected president in next spring's elections. In Europe, as in Trump's campaign, the far right combines racism and anti-immigrant hysteria with the claim of opposing austerity. Hollande and his party may call themselves socialist, but many "socialist" parties combine the claim to be socialist with neoliberal measures against the masses; the French workers need something different to fight austerity and the right-wing.
With Trump's presidency, we are entering a period of intensified crisis in the US; this will be a period of yet more harassment and hardship for the working class. But it will also be a period in which many people are going to be drawn into action in one direction or the other, right or left. The demonstrations against Trump are important in setting an orientation of struggle.
The lack of a mass alternative on the left to the Democrats and Republicans is a problem. Many people can recognize the hatred and bigotry in Trump's declarations, and they want to fight it. It's harder for people to recognize all the neoliberal steps that make up the austerity program of the bourgeoisie. It's easy to recognize the absurdity of climate denial, but harder to recognize the futility of the neoliberal market measures that claim to deal with the environment. It's easier for people to build organizations that fight individual capitalist atrocities, but harder to build an overall opposition to the establishment and the program of the capitalist class.
Indeed, the radical left itself is still mired in a crisis of orientation, with some activists even supporting Russian imperialism in the guise of being "anti-war". The Green Party was the largest "third" party on the left, and it didn't do well in the recent elections. It makes a lot of economic promises, but is unable to make them sound credible. And in fact, the Green Party hasn't emancipated itself from neoliberalism: it's backing of tax and market measures as a main tool to fight global warming is in line with World Bank and IMF orthodoxy.
Bernie Sanders caught the mood of working people for change, and many more people are now talking about socialism. Most, like Sanders, see socialism as simply better policies within the current system, as something that could be brought by the Democrats if only they returned to how people imagined they were at one time. Still, Sanders' popularity reflects the hatred for the long years of being squeezed by austerity. Meanwhile the Democratic establishment rejected Sanders as its candidate for the presidency because his mild reforms were too much for them. This wasn't a mere political miscalculation; it's because the Democratic Party, like the Republican, reflects the standpoint of the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie may have divisions over how to exploit the masses, but as a whole it still holds tight to strict market fundamentalism. This suggests that if Sanders had been the Democratic candidate, the bourgeoisie might have waged a bitter campaign against him, as they did against the left-wing writer Upton Sinclair in the Great Depression when he ran for governor of California in 1934 on a program called "End Poverty in California". Sinclair was a former member of the Socialist Party who ran in 1934 as a Democrat, and the EPIC movement was tremendously popular, with much more of an organization behind it than Sanders had. But the vicious smear campaign by the bourgeoisie against him resulted in his losing the election.
One after another of the establishment institutions that people thought would save them have betrayed them. But there isn't yet an alternative mass party that really backs their class needs. Perhaps in the 2018 elections, the Democrats will regain some of their losses against Trump and the Republicans will lose, but the Democratic Party can offer nothing but going back to its old promises.
We are left with the perspective of a protracted struggle to build new institutions as well as oppose the dictatorship of the wealthy embodied in Trump's presidency and the market fundamentalist offensive of the bourgeoisie. Trump's election has been met by protests, while such struggles as those against the North Dakota pipeline continue. The election of a reactionary cannot save the neoliberalism from its coming collapse.
Below are some of the comments on the election that have appeared on FB or elsewhere among supporters of the DWV list:
(*) In order to blame their loss on anyone but themselves, the Democrats are pointing their fingers at white workers. And it is true that many white workers voted for Trump. But was that because these workers are incorrigible racists? No, many had previously voted for the first Black president: "On average, the counties that voted for Obama twice and then flipped to support Trump were 81 percent white." https://www dot washingtonpost dot com/graphics/politics/2016-election/obama-trump-counties/
(*) Trump did better with Latinos and Blacks than Romney did. Think about that. An outright racist did better with people of color than the closeted, genteel, coded racist. Because he was a populist on class issues? Or because of the poor candidate he faced. Or both? (I think both.)
(*) One might also note one section after another of the working class has been devastated in recent years, while the mainstream Democrats say things are fine and help devastate these workers (auto workers, teachers, postal workers, people who lost their homes, etc.). It's self-defeating and a catastrophe that there were votes for the reactionary, racist, lying, anti-working class demagogue Trump from working people, but it wouldn't have happened without the Democrats helping devastate the workers and pushing neoliberal measures, even those policies bitterly hated by large sections of the working masses. The Democratic Party speaks in the name of the masses, but in reality, it is one of the two major establishment parties that represent the interests of the exploiters.
(*) A minor quibble with many posts I'm seeing: there is no "white working class." There is a working class. It's divided into various sections, including doubly or triply oppressed sections which must be stood up for if we are to build a revolutionary workers' movement.
(*) It's true that the support of white workers for Trump is not necessarily because they are racist, nor is it clear that Trump got the majority of white workers much less the working class as a whole of which the bourgeois statisticians haven't much of a clue. Still, it must be admitted, there does exist racism among some and among a broader section a sort of look-the-other-way attitude toward the vile Trump racism. But the Democrats have only themselves to blame for this. For they have cultivated their ties with the trade union bureaucrats, who have spent decades blaming immigrants for lack of jobs and economic woes. They have set the table for Trump's racist anti-immigrant rampages.
(*) Yes, I agree. This election was not primarily about racism, though Trump didn't stint on stoking that part of his base. The election was primarily about a strong anti-establishment sentiment among the masses. And the more the "establishment" -- bourgeois pundits, politicians etc -- denounced Trump, the more his appeal rose.
There's evidence that on both the Democratic and Republican sides, there was vote fraud during the primaries On the Dem's side, it was strongly slanted for Hillary and against Sanders. On the Rep's side, it was slanted against Trump and for Cruz and one other (I can't find the statistical analysis report right now, but it is interesting).
(*) I don't think the election was primarily about a strong anti-establishment sentiment among the masses, not unless xenophobia and misogyny are anti-establishment sentiments. And in Trump's ideology, his economic pipe dreams are connected to these sentiments. Some people apparently believe that by building a wall and persecuting Muslims, industrial jobs will return and wages will skyrocket. It's an economic fantasy tied to reaction.
The demonstrators in Portland, etc. are more correct when they protest against the election results and say "Not my president" -- not because of any voter fraud or miscount of ballots, but because Trumpism does not represent anything decent or anti-establishment.
(*) I'm not saying the Trump is actually anti-establishment in the broad sense, in the sense that he's somehow anti-capitalist, or even that people thought that he is. Of course not.
I'm saying that in a narrower sense, the establishment Democrats did everything they could to sabotage Sanders' candidacy. For whatever criticisms can legitimately be lodged against him, to the masses he looked like a break with the Democratic Party neoliberal agenda. And good-hearted liberals despised the chosen Democratic candidate more than usual.
And I think there was a similar phenomenon on the reactionary side. The more the establishment) media, politicians, and whoever else raved against Trump, the more they said he was unsuited, too unpredictable, inexperienced, and so on, the more popular he got. The more the Republican Party bigwigs took an "anybody but Trump" position, the more they defected from the party, the more they predicted his downfall, the more those who are disgusted with business as usual -- including some Sanders supporters -- supported him. And I believe that is because he looked like a break with business as usual, an "outsider". He presented himself as the anti-politician, anti-establishment, and I think that's why (albeit mainly white) working class people voted for him. He did have other bases of support, but to the degree he had support among the masses, I think this is a significant part of it.
Of course, there is the tie in to the national chauvinism of the unions. The hacks have been promoting the same line Trump is, for years. Certainly that also had an effect.
(*) Showing that the blame for the trump victory falls on the Democrats and the Democratic National Committee matters greatly. It matters in so far as who the workers look to for leadership now. We need a working class movement and a working class party, independent of both big capitalist parties. Recognizing that the Democrats are not on the side of the workers is crucial to that. The Democrats have long sold themselves as the friends of the workers. They have scores of top labor misleaders in their pockets. We the workers need to break away from that, not to go to Trump of course, but to build a movement in our own interests directly, which are the interests of the majority of the society.
(*) On day one of the Trump era, 3000 people turned out in Seattle to denounce him! They were overwhelmingly militant youth of all nationalities, but majority white. They brought homemade signs, and SA had printed placards reading: Build the resistance to Trump; Fight racism; Solidarity, not scapegoating; and Capitalism doesn't work. An anti-North Dakota Pipeline group also had a big banner as well as smaller ones. I could barely hear the speeches, but the main theme was building a movement against Trump. And every time one speaker talked about socialism as the alternative to the ills of capitalism, there was loud applause by hundreds and hundreds of youths — basically, everyone who could hear her. Eventually a young man burned an American flag to more applause and cheers, and we marched. Militant chants included: Black live matter; Not my president; Fuck Trump; "What do we do when xxx are under attack? Stand up, fight back"; one against misogyny; many others I can't remember.
So while all the ideological and organizational problems the movement had yesterday are very much still with us, the conditions pretty clearly exist for organizing an advance in the face of Trumpite reaction. Among other things, I think that basic Marxist works need be circulated/popularized among this new wave of youth (e.g., The Communist Manifesto, Wage-labor and Capital, The State and Revolution, What is to be Done?), as well as agitational leaflets against racist police murders, in defense of the environment, women's rights and immigrants, in support of economic struggles, and against all the outrages Trump will unleash.
The Democrats are blaming the people for Trump's victory, as are even a few friends here on Facebook. But I'm entirely against that. What we need to focus on is helping enlighten the masses of people, and helping them organize.
(*) One week ago the Democrats and bourgeois press were
screaming against Trump as a demagogue and fascist. But the day after
the election Obama came out to say, "we're actually all on one team"
with this ultra-nationalist reactionary, and Clinton said "We owe him
an open mind and the chance to lead." And today the entire Democratic
Party and media establishment is filling the airwaves with soothing
words about Trump—"the man who can worked with." A white-nationalist
and anti-Semite as a White House adviser? "We're...all on one team"!
Appointment of a human-caused-global-warming denier to the Cabinet? "We
owe him an open mind"! Meanwhile, Trump himself has promised to be on
fascist Alex Jones' "Infowars" during the next few weeks! From the
horse's mouth: https://www dot youtube dot
com/watch?v=e93ibNdwoRo&feature=share. So this is the erection of a
grand coalition—from the liberals to Jones—against the masses of
people. Our answer can only be to better organize the fight-back, and
with more theoretical clarity. <>
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how to order CV,
Posted on November 15,
with a typo corrected.