Workers Vanguard No. 1126
26 January 2018
No Support to Democrats! For a Workers Party!
Down With Racist Anti-Immigrant Drive!
At a recent horse trading session on U.S. immigration policy, Donald Trump, referring to El Salvador, Haiti and Africa, told a small group of Democratic and Republican Senators: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump’s racist diatribes are no surprise. Contrary to what Democratic politicians have argued, they are simply an unvarnished expression of the “values” of American capitalism and what this country metes out to workers and the oppressed around the globe: economic subjugation, imperialist war and occupation.
Notwithstanding their denunciations, Democrats offered to give Trump funding for his racist border wall with Mexico in exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Trump’s repeal of DACA, which granted a temporary reprieve to some 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought into this country as children, threatens “Dreamers” with deportation and loss of their livelihoods and those of the extended families they financially support. Under pressure from anti-immigrant hardliners and eager to play to his racist, nativist base, which includes outright fascists, Trump blew up the deal with the Democrats. What started out as haggling over DACA led to the spectacle of a government shutdown.
The Trump administration had already revoked Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of refugees with provisional visas to live and work in the U.S. In addition to about 1,000 Sudanese, 5,000 Nicaraguans and 60,000 Haitians who lost their TPS at the end of last year, some 250,000 people from El Salvador had their TPS revoked earlier this month. Many of these immigrants have built their lives and worked in the U.S for years, if not decades. Now they could lose everything, including being separated from their U.S.-born children.
The government’s declaration of war on those not born in the U.S. has stoked fear and terror among immigrant communities across the country. Many undocumented people avoid visiting a hospital for fear of being deported. Others have been victims of workplace raids, such as the ones carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) on dozens of 7-Eleven stores across the country. In several cities, I.C.E. agents have also targeted outspoken immigrant-rights activists, such as Trinidad-born Ravi Ragbir, who was detained for deportation in New York City on January 11. As Marxists who oppose all racist, nationally discriminatory immigration laws and regulations, we say: No deportations! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
The attacks on immigrants are also a threat aimed at black people. Trump’s unleashing of I.C.E. and border patrol agents is part of a general “law and order” drive to further embolden the police. As many black people know all too well, this means more deadly terror directed at them. American capitalism, founded on chattel slavery, is rooted in the forcible segregation of the majority of the black population at the bottom of society. Trump’s racist “shithole” comments were directed as much at black people as they were at immigrants.
The president’s open bigotry gives the Democratic Party a cheap opportunity to grandstand. In fact, Trump inherited a well-oiled machine and a set of bipartisan laws to crack down on immigrants and their families. While the rate of arrests has gone up under Trump by 40 percent, he still has a long way to go to break Obama’s record of more than 2.5 million deportations. It was Obama who in September 2016 closed the border to Haitians initially allowed to enter the country in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake. Obama’s DACA program, which had no path to citizenship, laid the basis for potentially hundreds of thousands of deportations. Applicants had to give all their information to the government: fingerprints, photographs, bank accounts, etc. Today, the Trump administration has all the data it needs to round them up.
Immigrants are not just victims but form a key and vibrant component of the U.S. working class. The foreign-born often bring with them a keen understanding of the depredations of U.S. imperialism in their homelands, as well as experience in hard-fought class battles. Indeed, the tiny handful of union victories over the last couple of decades was in the main delivered by predominantly immigrant labor in the service and meatpacking industries. The SEIU service workers and other unions with heavily immigrant membership have joined in protests against Trump’s anti-immigrant crusade. They have even succeeded in halting the immediate deportation of some union members or their families (see, for example, “NYC: Union Defends Worker Against Deportation,” WV No. 1109, 7 April 2017).
The bosses use anti-immigrant chauvinism and anti-black racism to divide and rule their wage slaves. The aim is to drive down wages and benefits and degrade working conditions for all workers—black and white, native-born and immigrant. The integrated unions should be in the forefront of the defense of immigrant workers. However, the American labor movement is crippled by a union misleadership committed to the defense of American capitalism. The “American jobs for American workers” protectionism pushed by the AFL-CIO tops helps fan the flames of anti-immigrant bigotry.
The support of the trade-union bureaucracy to the Democratic Party serves to shackle working people, including union activists seeking to fight Trump reaction, to this other party of racist U.S. capitalism. The result of this class collaboration has been to accelerate a race to the bottom that has decimated the labor movement. To get the unions back on their feet will take some hard labor battles based on the understanding that the interests of the American workers are counterposed to those of their bosses. The unions need new, class-struggle leadership, which will be forged as part of the struggle to build a multiracial workers party committed to the fight for socialist revolution. Such a party would link defense of immigrants to the struggle for black freedom, which is central to the struggle for the emancipation of labor in this country.
Imperialism Devastates the World
The driving force behind the desperate efforts of so many people to get into the U.S. is the imperialist subjugation of the neocolonial world. The miserable conditions of Haiti, countries in Africa and Latin America, and all the other places on Trump’s “shithole” list are the direct product of colonialism and capitalist imperialism. In this epoch of capitalist decay, marked by the dominance of finance capital, the imperialist powers in North America, West Europe and Japan compete to redivide the globe in a race for markets, raw materials and cheap labor. The scramble to leech the greatest profits possible through the exploitation of working people is the root cause of wars of imperialist plunder and of the miserable conditions in which the mass of the world’s population lives.
The poverty and religious and ethnic bloodletting in Africa are a direct legacy of the colonial carve-up of that continent by the European powers. As for Haiti, ever since it was founded as a black republic in 1804—following a great slave rebellion that defeated the French colonial masters—it has been bled dry by the U.S. and France’s rulers, who extracted millions in “reparations” as retribution for its freedom. Shortly after the emergence of American imperialism at the end of the 19th century, U.S. troops invaded the country, occupying it from 1915 to 1934. Since then, Haiti has been repeatedly invaded by the U.S. and starved through embargoes.
El Salvador is another victim of the U.S. rulers, who have long considered all of Latin America their “backyard.” In the 1980s, the U.S. financed, trained and armed murderous death squad regimes in Central America, which targeted leftists, trade-union and peasant leaders and others. These dirty wars were part of the imperialist Cold War II drive for the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state and for rolling back the gains of the Cuban Revolution, with Washington viewing leftist insurgents as Soviet and Cuban proxies. From these wars to increased militarization in the name of the “war on drugs” and the economic ruination brought about by U.S.-imposed “free trade” agreements, the social fabric of El Salvador and other Central American countries has been ripped apart.
For a Workers America!
The current “debate” on immigration expresses a division within the U.S. ruling class. On one side are outright ideological anti-immigrant bigots, represented by Trump and many right-wing Republicans. On the other are those capitalists who rely on immigrant labor. These include the agribusiness bosses, who brutally exploit immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Similarly, technology companies like Apple and Google need highly skilled programmers and engineers from India and elsewhere. It is their bottom line, not benevolence, that has Silicon Valley and major corporations rallying behind programs like DACA, whose recipients represent a wide range of social backgrounds—from college students and low-wage service workers to those in relatively well-paying tech jobs.
Writ large, capitalist immigration policy is driven by the ebbs and flows of the economy—i.e., the need for labor at any given time. In the U.S., these policies have always been stamped with raw racism and bigotry, including the anti-Irish discrimination of the mid 19th century; the violence against Chinese people brought in to build the railroads; the hostility toward émigrés from eastern and southern Europe, including Jews. The Immigration Act of 1924 established a numerical quota system that allowed greater numbers of immigrants from northern Europe while restricting immigration from southern and eastern Europe and all but barring people from Africa and Asia.
It was only in the 1960s that immigration was (inadvertently) expanded to include people from these regions. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, signed into law by Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, gave priority to those immigrants who had familial ties in the U.S. The purpose of the emphasis on family unification was to preserve the influx of whites into the U.S., as most immigrants at the time were from Europe. In fact, the opposite took place. Fewer Europeans moved to the U.S., while non-Europeans were able to bring in family members from their home countries. By 2010, nine out of every ten immigrants were from outside Europe. The Democrats’ recent proposal to save DACA included curbs on family-based migration, in line with Trump’s racist rant about “horrible chain migration.”
Defense of immigrant rights is vital for the unity and integrity of the multiracial working class against its capitalist exploiters. Our aim is to win the working class to the understanding that it must oppose the whole capitalist system, including U.S. imperialist depredations abroad. It is only by seizing the productive wealth of society and building a new order of material abundance and social equality that the working class can lay the basis to put an end to poverty, joblessness and other miseries produced by the capitalist profit system. The Spartacist League is committed to building a revolutionary workers party—one that is 70 percent black, Latino and other minorities—that will champion all the exploited and oppressed in the fight for a workers America.