Workers Vanguard No. 1100
18 November 2016
Democrats Paved the Way for Trump
We Need a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!
The victory of Donald Trump 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 as long as it benefits him—will do exactly? What he has promised will mean much misery and terror, particularly, but far from only, for undocumented immigrants and Muslims. Since his election, there have been reports of sharp increases in harassment and intimidation of Latinos, Muslim women, black people and gays, along with graffiti reading, “Make America White Again.”
At the same time, integrated protests of thousands of youth have broken out in cities across the country under the slogan #NotMyPresident. These have been met with state repression and mass arrests. Free the arrested protesters, drop all the charges!
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.
The election made it 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 mobilized against the politicians of the Republicans and Democrats, whatever their race or sex, and the capitalist rulers they serve. The power to resist the depredations of capitalism lies in the hands of the men and women—black, white and immigrant—whose labor keeps the wheels of production turning and produces the capitalists’ wealth. 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 in the struggle for a socialist America.
While the Republicans revel in bashing unions, black people, immigrants and the poor, the Democrats lie and do the same thing. But this time around, Hillary Clinton didn’t even bother making a pretense 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 curb—with that supposed leader of a “political revolution against the billionaire class” going on to campaign for Wall Street’s favored 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 endeavor.
Nonetheless, Trump took the White House and the Republicans maintained control of both houses of Congress. Demonstrating that there is no honor among thieves, Republicans who had feigned disdain for Trump’s open racism and sexism are now rallying around their president-elect. It didn’t take long for Clinton’s pals on Wall Street to change the channel either; less than 48 hours after Trump’s victory the Dow Jones soared to record highs.
Clinton won the popular vote, but Trump took the Electoral College, an institution created by the “founding fathers” to give more power to the slaveowning states. Clinton isn’t contesting Trump’s victory. All wings of the bourgeoisie are united over the “peaceful transition of power” to maintain the myth that “the people” choose their rulers. As Obama put it the morning after the elections, “we’re actually all on one team.” True enough.
Sobbing Democratic Party liberals and the smug (though now temporarily chastened) bourgeois media, which overwhelmingly took up the banner “we’re with her,” are blaming 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, the Democrats countered Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” with boasts that “America is great.” Small wonder that this didn’t strike a chord among workers whose unions, jobs, wages and living conditions have been devastated.
Trump gained the support of many of these workers by promising to “save American jobs,” threatening trade war against China and further imperialist plunder of Mexico. Even if more overtly wrapped in racism against immigrants and foreign workers, this rhetoric simply echoed the protectionist poison peddled by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. The union tops have long subordinated workers’ interests to the profitability of U.S. capitalism and denounced foreign-owned companies and foreign-born workers, all the while presiding over the decimation of the unions.
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 maneuver (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. What lies in store under Trump’s administration is as clear as the ghoulish smile on the face of former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani as he embraced the heavily armed NYPD thugs in front of Trump Tower. 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 has deported a record number of immigrants. In fact, Obama has expanded the repressive machinery of the capitalist state that Trump will inherit, from imprisonment of whistleblowers and preventive detention to assassination by drone.
Contrary to the liberals’ 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 that 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. ruling class currently face a challenge from the working class. On the contrary, thanks to sellouts at the head of the dwindling ranks of organized labor, the bourgeoisie has been waging a one-sided war against labor for decades.
Trump has arrived at the pinnacle of the capitalist state through the mechanisms of bourgeois democracy, not the mobilization of fascist gangs. However, his election has certainly emboldened the fascists. The KKK in North Carolina has announced that it will hold a “victory” march in December. Similarly, during the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan, the official racism of the White House encouraged the Klan and Nazis. When the fascists tried to hold rallies in major urban centers, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee initiated calls for mass labor/black mobilizations. 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 mobilizations 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 organizations. One example is Socialist Alternative, one of the biggest promoters of Bernie Sanders. In a November 9 leaflet distributed at anti-Trump protests, they argue 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), which welcomed the election of Obama as an opening to mobilize for “change,” now complains that his administration threw away “the opportunity to marginalize 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. In the wake of Trump’s victory, the ISO points to “the potential for building a stronger grassroots resistance.”
The purpose of genuine socialists is not to build a classless “grassroots” movement, which would sow the seeds of a refurbished Democratic Party or another capitalist “third party,” but to uproot the entire decaying system of American capitalism. Our aim is to build a workers party that will lead a socialist revolution. When the workers get their hands on the tremendous wealth of this country, it will be put to use in making life livable for black people, immigrants and all those now treated like outcasts in this society. Thanks in part to the betrayals of the union misleaders, this seems like a pipe dream to many people, who can’t imagine that the working class could ever be a force for social change.
The rulers and their labor 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 labor 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 labor rule. Only a revolutionary, internationalist workers party can lead such a revolution on the road to an international planned, socialist economy.