Trump outlines right-wing program of extreme nationalism at Cincinnati rally

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By Joseph Kishore and Jerry White
2 December 2016

In a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday night, US President-elect Donald Trump outlined the right-wing program of extreme “America First” nationalism of the incoming administration.

The Cincinnati speech was unlike any delivered by a president or president-elect in US history. It was a combination of blatant contradictions, exaggerations, wild hyperbole, empty demagogy and praise for himself as the man who would fix all the problems facing the country. It combined threats against political enemies with pledges to work with anyone and everyone to overcome gridlock and restore American jobs.

While couched in rhetoric about protecting the “American worker,” Trump’s policy proposals centered on massive tax cuts to corporations and deregulation, combined with increasing the size of the military, expanding police powers and sharply curtailing immigration. During the rally Trump also announced that his choice for secretary of defense is retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

Trump’s remarks were clearly shaped and likely written by Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who has ties to fascistic organizations. Bannon has called for the formation of a new “movement”—a term Trump repeated throughout his remarks—based on economic nationalism and opposition to “globalists.”

A major theme was the need to “unify” the nation in opposition to Washington politicians who have subordinated “American interests” to foreign powers. “There is a lot of talk about how we are becoming a globalized world,” Trump said, “but the relationships people value in this country are local… There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that is the American flag.”

“From now on it is going to be America First,” Trump added. “We are going to put ourselves first… Our goal is to strengthen the bonds between citizens, to restore our sense of membership in a shared national community.”

As was the case during his campaign for president, Trump made a demagogic appeal to social anger over declining wages and social inequality. “Our government has failed to protect the interests of the American worker,” he said. “A shrinking workforce and flat wages are not going to be the new normal.”

There is a vast chasm between this empty populist rhetoric and the personnel that Trump has selected to populate his government. The speech followed a series of cabinet picks, including billionaire asset strippers, Wall Street bankers, and dedicated opponents of financial and corporate regulations, public education and Medicare and Medicaid, to lead the Treasury, Commerce, Education and Health and Human Services departments.

For all his talk of national “unity,” a Trump administration will be one of brutal class war. Trump’s “action plan” is centered on freeing corporations from any restraints on profit-making and exploitation. “Right now we punish companies for doing business in America,” he said. To bring back jobs, the new administration would “massively lower taxes, and make America the best place in the world to hire, to invest, to grow, to create and to expand.”

He added that he would “eliminate every single wasteful regulation that undermines the ability of our workers and our companies to compete with companies from foreign lands.”

Trump touted the deal with Carrier to continue production at its Indianapolis factory, which Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), planned to shut by 2019 and shift production to Mexico. Carrier will retain only 800 of the 1,400 production workers at the plant, and the deal also sanctions the closure of the UTC factory in Huntington, Indiana, which will wipe out the jobs of another 700 workers.

In discussions late last month, Trump told UTC CEO Gregory Hayes that his plans to slash corporate taxes and gut labor, health and safety and environmental regulations would prove far more profitable for the company than the $65 million in annual savings it would gain from shifting production overseas. In exchange for the deal, Carrier was given another $7 million in state tax cuts and other subsidies. It is also likely that UTC, a major defense contractor, was promised even larger contracts under a Trump presidency.

Trump reiterated his proposal for major infrastructure projects, a plan that would be a boondoggle for corporations and essentially hand over public infrastructure to private companies. These measures, combined with greater restrictions on trade, would “usher in a new industrial revolution.”

Trump combined his program of tax cuts and deregulation with a call for sharp restrictions on immigration. “We will restore the sovereignty of the United States,” he said. “We will construct a great wall at the border” and “liberate our communities from the epidemic of gang violence and drugs pouring into our nation.”

Trump said little on foreign policy, except to criticize the $6 trillion spent on wars in the Middle East. He also said the US should “stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments” and instead focus on “rebuilding our country.” Under a Trump administration, he asserted, the US “will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding and good will.”

In fact, Trump’s “America First” nationalism will be accompanied by a massive escalation of military violence. In his speech, Trump pledged a “national effort to build our badly depleted military” and called for a major campaign to “destroy ISIS.”

More significant is the selection of Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis is a fanatic anti-Islamic militarist who played a significant role in the US invasion of Afghanistan and led the brutal 2004 assault on Falluja, Iraq. Speaking of his experiences in Afghanistan, Mattis said in 2005 that “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

While leading US Central Command under Obama from 2010 to 2013, Mattis was critical of the White House for not waging war aggressively enough in the Middle East and for being too conciliatory toward Iran.

In an indication of the dominance of the military in a Trump administration, Mattis would be the first ranking general to be defense secretary since George Marshall in 1950–51. Federal law stipulates that generals must be retired for seven years before leading the Pentagon, but Mattis is expected to get a waiver from Congress. He has the support of Senate Republicans, including Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis will work closely with Trump’s national security advisor, another retired general, Michael Flynn.

The unions and the Democratic Party have praised Trump, echoing his economic nationalism and echoing the lie that the billionaire real estate mogul, who will head up the most right-wing government in history, is a champion of the working class.

US Senator Joe Donnelly (Democrat-Indiana) said he hoped to work with Trump to “build on momentum created by your agreement with United Technologies” and adopt a federal “outsourcing” proposal that would “deny and claw back certain tax benefits to companies that move jobs offshore.” Directing his comment at Trump, he added, “I strongly encourage you to make it clear that efforts to ship jobs offshore to chase cheap wages will be addressed head on by the Trump Administration. I stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

WSWS

Deal to “save” Indiana Carrier plant will cut 1,100 jobs

By Jerry White
1 December 2016

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will appear Thursday at the Carrier heating furnace factory in Indianapolis, Indiana to announce a deal to retain jobs at the facility, which was scheduled to begin downsizing next year and completely close by 2019.

Last February, workers erupted in anger when managers informed them at a plant meeting that the factory would be closed and production moved to Monterrey, Mexico, threatening 1,300 jobs at the plant and another 700 at a facility in Huntington, near Fort Wayne, Indiana. The action was being taken “strictly for business reasons,” the company spokesman said.

Carrier plant in Indianapolis

Posturing as a defender of workers and seeking to divert anger over job losses in an anti-Mexican direction, then-presidential candidate Trump told the company that, if elected, he would impose a 35 percent tariff on any products Carrier shipped back to the US.

In a Twitter post Tuesday night, Carrier officials wrote, “We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump & VP-elect Pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in Indy.” According to a report in Fortune magazine, up to 1,300 jobs will still be transferred to Mexico, including those of at least 300 workers in the fan coil division in Indianapolis. All 700 workers in Huntington will lose their jobs when the plant closes.

Jeff, a Carrier worker, told the WSWS, “I hope it is only 300 jobs they are taking, but I’m thinking it will be 400 lost in Indy.”

Workers expressed concerns about additional pay cuts, but hoped that the company would have difficulty reopening the four-year labor agreement it signed with the United Steelworkers union in April. “The last two contracts we’ve given up plenty of concessions—even creating a three-tier wage scale. They weren’t moving because they were losing money, they were leaving for pure greed,” Jeff added.

While Trump supporters and local Democrats, including US Senator Joe Donnelly, have hailed the deal as proof that the president-elect will stand up to companies to defend “American jobs,” the deal is a boondoggle for Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

On Thanksgiving, Trump met with UTC’s chief executive Gregory Hayes and told him the federal tax changes and deregulation the incoming administration was committed to enacting would save UTC more than the $65 million per year it would get by shifting production to Mexico, where workers are paid $6 an hour in wages and benefits.

It is also likely that Trump promised that UTC—a major defense contractor—would receive more lucrative military contracts during his presidency. UTC’s Pratt & Whitney division makes engines for the F-35 jet fighter and received a $1.03 billion government order last April.

In this, Trump would be following the advice of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who penned an open letter to the president-elect last week calling on Trump “to make it clear to the CEO of United Technologies that if his firm wants to receive another defense contract from the taxpayers of this country, it must not move these plants to Mexico.”

The combination of federal and state tax cuts, increased military contracts and corporate deregulation evidently convinced the UTC boss that keeping some operations in Indiana was the “patriotic” thing to do.

In a statement released Wednesday, Carrier said, “Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive US business climate.” The statement went on to say that the deal “in no way diminishes our belief that the forces of globalization will continue to require solutions for the long-term competitiveness of the US and of American workers moving forward.”

In other words, more wage and benefit cuts, layoffs and speedup are coming.

The extent of any wage and benefit concessions included in the deal is not yet known. A spokesman for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1999-07, which had already signed a plant-closing and employee severance agreement, told the WSWS that the union was not involved in the negotiations with the president-elect. Union officials will reportedly meet with Trump and Pence Thursday morning before the two men visit the plant.

The USW, however, has already agreed to a series of wage and benefit concessions. Under the current four-year contract signed last April, new-hires under “Appendix B” receive $14.50 to $19.47 per hour, depending on their job classifications, compared to $19.50 to $26.75 for workers hired before 2011. It is likely that Carrier will give severance packages to more senior, higher-paid workers so they can replace them with Appendix B workers.

While several Carrier workers posting on their Facebook page expressed relief over the announcement, many were suspicious of the deal.

One worker said, “Folks are praising him for keeping their jobs. To me, no one is safe until they explain what jobs are secure! I don’t trust Carrier. When the contract is up, will they just lock the gates on the employees?”

She added, “The middle class gets stuck paying higher taxes, the employees will pay a price for these jobs to stay. Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy for those that keep their jobs. But I have trust issues thinking this is going to run smooth and not have wage cuts.”

The deal reportedly includes nearly a million dollars a year in state tax cuts for Carrier. As governor of Indiana, Pence showered hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts and other subsidies on General Motors, Carrier and other firms. These giveaways have been paid for through savage budget cuts in public education and other services, and attacks on teachers and other public sector workers.

Pence has also used the lowering of manufacturing wages and benefits, facilitated by the USW, the United Auto Workers and other unions, to lure companies to the state, where the average factory worker makes $24,000 a year, four percent lower than the national average.

Indianapolis has been devastated by wave after wave of factory closings, including the 2010 shuttering of a General Motors stamping plant as a result of Obama’s restructuring of GM, and the closing of truck manufacturer Navistar’s foundry last year. Bearing manufacturer Rexnord recently announced it would close its plant in the city next year, wiping out another 300 jobs.

Navistar foundry that closed in 2015

Trump exploited the deep discontent in so-called “Rust Belt” states like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania to win the presidential election. Many workers, including those who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, backed Trump because Clinton and the Democrats expressed nothing but contempt for workers whose lives have been ravaged by deindustrialization, wage cuts and increased health care and pension costs.

The decades-long promotion of economic nationalism by the unions, echoed by Bernie Sanders during the election campaign, left workers susceptible to Trump’s anti-Mexican and anti-Chinese propaganda.

Workers will soon come to realize that the billionaire real estate mogul has no answer to the social crisis. On the contrary, he is assembling a cabinet of billionaires, including his designated commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversaw the destruction of the jobs, wages and pensions of hundreds of thousands coal miners, steel workers and auto parts workers.

“Trump’s bringing in opponents of Medicare and there are a lot of workers here who rely on that,” a General Motors worker at a nearby Indiana plant said. Referring to the Carrier deal, he added, “Corporations never bestowed anything out of the goodness of their hearts. A lot of workers who voted for Trump are going to get hurt. The key thing that got Trump elected was the economy. Workers were angry about the foreclosed houses, the factories bulldozed down.

“Years ago I would come out of an election and think, ‘Now it’s time to unify and work for the good of the country no matter what your party.’ Now, I look at this whole election process as the two parties of the ruling class working for the same thing—like Obama said, an ‘intramural scrimmage’ on the same team. I think we peons are going to wake up to this.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/01/carr-d01.html

Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.

Preoccupations
By CAL NEWPORT

I’m a millennial computer scientist who also writes books and runs a blog. Demographically speaking I should be a heavy social media user, but that is not the case. I’ve never had a social media account.

At the moment, this makes me an outlier, but I think many more people should follow my lead and quit these services. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.

This claim, of course, runs counter to our current understanding of social media’s role in the professional sphere. We’ve been told that it’s important to tend to your so-called social media brand, as this provides you access to opportunities you might otherwise miss and supports the diverse contact network you need to get ahead. Many people in my generation fear that without a social media presence, they would be invisible to the job market.

In a recent New York magazine essay, Andrew Sullivan recalled when he started to feel obligated to update his blog every half-hour or so. It seemed as if everyone with a Facebook account and a smartphone now felt pressured to run their own high-stress, one-person media operation, and “the once-unimaginable pace of the professional blogger was now the default for everyone,” he wrote.

I think this behavior is misguided. In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business.

Professional success is hard, but it’s not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. This is a philosophy perhaps best summarized by the advice Steve Martin used to give aspiring entertainers: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If you do that, the rest will work itself out, regardless of the size of your Instagram following.

A common response to my social media skepticism is the idea that using these services “can’t hurt.” In addition to honing skills and producing things that are valuable, my critics note, why not also expose yourself to the opportunities and connections that social media can generate? I have two objections to this line of thinking.

First, interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. I currently have filters on my website aimed at reducing, not increasing, the number of offers and introductions I receive.

My research on successful professionals underscores that this experience is common: As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you. To be clear, I’m not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I’m instead arguing that you don’t need social media’s help to attract them.

My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won’t tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate — the skill on which I make my living.

The idea of purposefully introducing into my life a service designed to fragment my attention is as scary to me as the idea of smoking would be to an endurance athlete, and it should be to you if you’re serious about creating things that matter.

Perhaps more important, however, than my specific objections to the idea that social media is a harmless lift to your career, is my general unease with the mind-set this belief fosters. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.

Most social media is best described as a collection of somewhat trivial entertainment services that are currently having a good run. These networks are fun, but you’re deluding yourself if you think that Twitter messages, posts and likes are a productive use of your time.

If you’re serious about making an impact in the world, power down your smartphone, close your browser tabs, roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Thomas Piketty: We must rethink globalization, or Trumpism will prevail

Rising inequality is largely to blame for this electoral upset. Continuing with business as usual is not an option

Abandoned manufacturing plant
‘The abandoned and decaying manufacturing plant of Packard Motor Car in Detroit, Michigan’ Photograph: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Let it be said at once: Trump’s victory is primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States over several decades and the inability of successive governments to deal with this.

Both the Clinton and the Obama administrations frequently went along with the market liberalization launched under Reagan and both Bush presidencies. At times they even outdid them: the financial and commercial deregulation carried out under Clinton is an example. What sealed the deal, though, was the suspicion that the Democrats were too close to Wall Street – and the inability of the Democratic media elite to learn the lessons from the Sanders vote.

Hillary won the popular vote by a whisker (60.1 million votes as against 59.8 million for Trump, out of a total adult population of 240 million), but the participation of the youngest and the lowest income groups was much too low to enable key states to be won.

The tragedy is that Trump’s program will only strengthen the trend towards inequality. He intends to abolish the health insurance laboriously granted to low-paid workers under Obama and to set the country on a headlong course into fiscal dumping, with a reduction from 35% to 15% in the rate of federal tax on corporation profits, whereas to date the United States had resisted this trend, already witnessed in Europe.

In addition, the increasing role of ethnicity in American politics does not bode well for the future if new compromises are not found. In the United States, 60% of the white majority votes for one party while over 70% of the minorities vote for the other. In addition to this, the majority is on the verge of losing its numerical advantage (70% of the votes cast in 2016, as compared with 80% in 2000 and 50% forecast in 2040).

The main lesson for Europe and the world is clear: as a matter of urgency, globalization must be fundamentally re-oriented. The main challenges of our times are the rise in inequality and global warming. We must therefore implement international treaties enabling us to respond to these challenges and to promote a model for fair and sustainable development.

Agreements of a new type can, if necessary, include measures aimed at facilitating these exchanges. But the question of liberalizing trade should no longer be the main focus. Trade must once again become a means in the service of higher ends. It never should have become anything other than that.

There should be no more signing of international agreements that reduce customs duties and other commercial barriers without including quantified and binding measures to combat fiscal and climate dumping in those same treaties. For example, there could be common minimum rates of corporation tax and targets for carbon emissions which can be verified and sanctioned. It is no longer possible to negotiate trade treaties for free trade with nothing in exchange.

From this point of view, Ceta, the EU-Canada free trade deal, should be rejected. It is a treaty which belongs to another age. This strictly commercial treaty contains absolutely no restrictive measures concerning fiscal or climate issues. It does, however, contain a considerable reference to the “protection of investors”. This enables multinationals to sue states under private arbitration courts, bypassing the public tribunals available to one and all.

The Paris Accords had a purely theoretical aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees. This would, for example, require the oil found in the tar sands in Alberta to be left in the ground. But Canada has just started mining there again. So what sense is there in signing this agreement and then, only a few months later, signing a highly restrictive commercial treaty without a single mention of this question?

A balanced treaty between Canada and Europe, aimed at promoting a partnership for fair and sustainable development, should begin by specifying the emission targets of each signatory and the practical commitments to achieve these.

In matters of fiscal dumping and minimum rates of taxation on corporation profits, this would obviously mean a complete paradigm change for Europe, which was constructed as a free trade area with no common fiscal policy. This change is essential. What sense is there in agreeing on a common fiscal policy (which is the one area in which Europe has achieved some progress for the moment) if each country can then fix a near-zero rate and attract all the major company headquarters?

It is time to change the political discourse on globalization: trade is a good thing, but fair and sustainable development also demands public services, infrastructure, health and education systems. In turn, these themselves demand fair taxation systems. If we fail to deliver these, Trumpism will prevail.

This piece was first published in Le Monde on 12 November 2016

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/16/globalization-trump-inequality-thomas-piketty?CMP=share_btn_fb

Chomsky: Trump’s Win Puts Govt in the Hands of the ‘Most Dangerous Organization in World History’

Chomsky warns of a president who “could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society.”

A New York federal judge shot down part of a controversial anti-terror law Wednesday that journalists and scholars worry could see them locked up indefinitely for speaking their minds. The suit was brought by activists, including former New York Times journalists.

In an interview with TruthOut, political theorist Noam Chomsky warned the choice of Donald Trump will put the world at risk, saying the policy-adverse president-elect may let the Republican party run amok.

“On November 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election,” Chomsky said. “The outcome placed total control of the government — executive, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.”

Chomsky claimed that the impact on climate science alone was frightening.

“The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible, ” he said before adding, “It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.”

Turning to how it was that Trump came to be elected, the lecturer and author said no one should be surprised and that he has been warning of a Trump-like demagogue for years.

“For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the danger of the rise of an honest and charismatic ideologue in the United States, someone who could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society, and who could direct it away from the actual agents of malaise to vulnerable targets,” he explained. “That could indeed lead to what sociologist Bertram Gross called ‘friendly fascism’ in a perceptive study 35 years ago. But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is ‘Me.’ The dangers, however, have been real for many years, perhaps even more so in the light of the forces that Trump has unleashed.”

Asked about the potential for Trump to return to the aggressive militaristic ways of the President George W. Bush era, Chomsky said that was an open question given Trump’s erratic history of saying one thing and then contradicting himself moments later.

“I don’t think one can answer with any confidence. Trump is too unpredictable. There are too many open questions. What we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a large difference,” he remarked before adding ominously, “And we should bear in mind that the stakes are very large.”

Read the entire interview.

Trump in the White House: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Monday, 14 November 2016 09:56

By C.J. Polychroniou, Truthout | Interview

2016_1114chomsky

Noam Chomsky speaks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 12, 2015. (Photo: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina)

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump managed to pull the biggest upset in US politics by tapping successfully into the anger of white voters and appealing to the lowest inclinations of people in a manner that would have probably impressed Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels himself.

But what exactly does Trump’s victory mean, and what can one expect from this megalomaniac when he takes over the reins of power on January 20, 2017? What is Trump’s political ideology, if any, and is “Trumpism” a movement? Will US foreign policy be any different under a Trump administration?

Some years ago, public intellectual Noam Chomsky warned that the political climate in the US was ripe for the rise of an authoritarian figure. Now, he shares his thoughts on the aftermath of this election, the moribund state of the US political system and why Trump is a real threat to the world and the planet in general.

C.J. Polychroniou for Truthout: Noam, the unthinkable has happened: In contrast to all forecasts, Donald Trump scored a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton, and the man that Michael Moore described as a “wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full-time sociopath” will be the next president of the United States. In your view, what were the deciding factors that led American voters to produce the biggest upset in the history of US politics?

Noam Chomsky: Before turning to this question, I think it is important to spend a few moments pondering just what happened on November 8, a date that might turn out to be one of the most important in human history, depending on how we react.

No exaggeration.

The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself.

On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts.

Another event took place on November 8, which also may turn out to be of unusual historical significance for reasons that, once again, were barely noted.

On November 8, the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government — executive, Congress, the Supreme Court — in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history.

Apart from the last phrase, all of this is uncontroversial. The last phrase may seem outlandish, even outrageous. But is it? The facts suggest otherwise.  The Party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand.

Is this an exaggeration? Consider what we have just been witnessing.

During the Republican primaries, every candidate denied that what is happening is happening — with the exception of the sensible moderates, like Jeb Bush, who said it’s all uncertain, but we don’t have to do anything because we’re producing more natural gas, thanks to fracking. Or John Kasich, who agreed that global warming is taking place, but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.”

The winning candidate, now the president-elect, calls for rapid increase in use of fossil fuels, including coal; dismantling of regulations; rejection of help to developing countries that are seeking to move to sustainable energy; and in general, racing to the cliff as fast as possible.

Trump has already taken steps to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by placing in charge of the EPA transition a notorious (and proud) climate change denier, Myron Ebell. Trump’s top adviser on energy, billionaire oil executive Harold Hamm, announced his expectations, which were predictable: dismantling regulations, tax cuts for the industry (and the wealthy and corporate sector generally), more fossil fuel production, lifting Obama’s temporary block on the Dakota Access pipeline. The market reacted quickly. Shares in energy corporations boomed, including the world’s largest coal miner, Peabody Energy, which had filed for bankruptcy, but after Trump’s victory, registered a 50 percent gain.

The effects of Republican denialism had already been felt. There had been hopes that the COP21 Paris agreement would lead to a verifiable treaty, but any such thoughts were abandoned because the Republican Congress would not accept any binding commitments, so what emerged was a voluntary agreement, evidently much weaker.

Effects may soon become even more vividly apparent than they already are.  In Bangladesh alone, tens of millions are expected to have to flee from low-lying plains in coming years because of sea level rise and more severe weather, creating a migrant crisis that will make today’s pale in significance. With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that “These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.” And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment. These catastrophic consequences can only increase, not just in Bangladesh, but in all of South Asia as temperatures, already intolerable for the poor, inexorably rise and the Himalayan glaciers melt, threatening the entire water supply. Already in India, some 300 million people are reported to lack adequate drinking water.  And the effects will reach far beyond.

It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history — whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know — and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster.

Similar observations hold for the other huge issue concerning human survival: the threat of nuclear destruction, which has been looming over our heads for 70 years and is now increasing.

It is no less difficult to find words to capture the utterly astonishing fact that in all of the massive coverage of the electoral extravaganza, none of this receives more than passing mention. At least I am at a loss to find appropriate words.

Turning finally to the question raised, to be precise, it appears that Clinton received a slight majority of the vote. The apparent decisive victory has to do with curious features of American politics: among other factors, the Electoral College residue of the founding of the country as an alliance of separate states; the winner-take-all system in each state; the arrangement of congressional districts (sometimes by gerrymandering) to provide greater weight to rural votes (in past elections, and probably this one too, Democrats have had a comfortable margin of victory in the popular vote for the House, but hold a minority of seats); the very high rate of abstention (usually close to half in presidential elections, this one included). Of some significance for the future is the fact that in the age 18-25 range, Clinton won handily, and Sanders had an even higher level of support. How much this matters depends on what kind of future humanity will face.

According to current information, Trump broke all records in the support he received from white voters, working class and lower middle class, particularly in the $50,000 to $90,000 income range, rural and suburban, primarily those without college education. These groups share the anger throughout the West at the centrist establishment, revealed as well in the unanticipated Brexit vote and the collapse of centrist parties in continental Europe. [Many of] the angry and disaffected are victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation, the policies described in congressional testimony by Fed chair Alan Greenspan — “St. Alan,” as he was called reverentially by the economics profession and other admirers until the miraculous economy he was supervising crashed in 2007-2008, threatening to bring the whole world economy down with it. As Greenspan explained during his glory days, his successes in economic management were based substantially on “growing worker insecurity.” Intimidated working people would not ask for higher wages, benefits and security, but would be satisfied with the stagnating wages and reduced benefits that signal a healthy economy by neoliberal standards.

Working people, who have been the subjects of these experiments in economic theory, are not particularly happy about the outcome. They are not, for example, overjoyed at the fact that in 2007, at the peak of the neoliberal miracle, real wages for nonsupervisory workers were lower than they had been years earlier, or that real wages for male workers are about at 1960s levels while spectacular gains have gone to the pockets of a very few at the top, disproportionately a fraction of 1%. Not the result of market forces, achievement or merit, but rather of definite policy decisions, matters reviewed carefully by economist Dean Baker in recently published work.

The fate of the minimum wage illustrates what has been happening.  Through the periods of high and egalitarian growth in the ’50s and ’60s, the minimum wage — which sets a floor for other wages — tracked productivity.  That ended with the onset of neoliberal doctrine. Since then, the minimum wage has stagnated (in real value). Had it continued as before, it would probably be close to $20 per hour. Today, it is considered a political revolution to raise it to $15.

With all the talk of near-full employment today, labor force participation remains below the earlier norm. And for working people, there is a great difference between a steady job in manufacturing with union wages and benefits, as in earlier years, and a temporary job with little security in some service profession. Apart from wages, benefits and security, there is a loss of dignity, of hope for the future, of a sense that this is a world in which I belong and play a worthwhile role.

The impact is captured well in Arlie Hochschild’s sensitive and illuminating portrayal of a Trump stronghold in Louisiana, where she lived and worked for many years. She uses the image of a line in which residents are standing, expecting to move forward steadily as they work hard and keep to all the conventional values. But their position in the line has stalled. Ahead of them, they see people leaping forward, but that does not cause much distress, because it is “the American way” for (alleged) merit to be rewarded. What does cause real distress is what is happening behind them. They believe that “undeserving people” who do not “follow the rules” are being moved in front of them by federal government programs they erroneously see as designed to benefit African-Americans, immigrants and others they often regard with contempt. All of this is exacerbated by [Ronald] Reagan’s racist fabrications about “welfare queens” (by implication Black) stealing white people’s hard-earned money and other fantasies.

Sometimes failure to explain, itself a form of contempt, plays a role in fostering hatred of government. I once met a house painter in Boston who had turned bitterly against the “evil” government after a Washington bureaucrat who knew nothing about painting organized a meeting of painting contractors to inform them that they could no longer use lead paint — “the only kind that works” — as they all knew, but the suit didn’t understand. That destroyed his small business, compelling him to paint houses on his own with substandard stuff forced on him by government elites.

Sometimes there are also some real reasons for these attitudes toward government bureaucracies. Hochschild describes a man whose family and friends are suffering bitterly from the lethal effects of chemical pollution but who despises the government and the “liberal elites,” because for him, the EPA means some ignorant guy who tells him he can’t fish, but does nothing about the chemical plants.

These are just samples of the real lives of Trump supporters, who are led to believe that Trump will do something to remedy their plight, though the merest look at his fiscal and other proposals demonstrates the opposite — posing a task for activists who hope to fend off the worst and to advance desperately needed changes.

Exit polls reveal that the passionate support for Trump was inspired primarily by the belief that he represented change, while Clinton was perceived as the candidate who would perpetuate their distress. The “change” that Trump is likely to bring will be harmful or worse, but it is understandable that the consequences are not clear to isolated people in an atomized society lacking the kinds of associations (like unions) that can educate and organize. That is a crucial difference between today’s despair and the generally hopeful attitudes of many working people under much greater economic duress during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ”hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values” who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes.

One of the difficulties in raising public concern over the very severe threats of global warming is that 40 percent of the US population does not see why it is a problem, since Christ is returning in a few decades. About the same percentage believe that the world was created a few thousand years ago. If science conflicts with the Bible, so much the worse for science. It would be hard to find an analogue in other societies.

The Democratic Party abandoned any real concern for working people by the 1970s, and they have therefore been drawn to the ranks of their bitter class enemies, who at least pretend to speak their language — Reagan’s folksy style of making little jokes while eating jelly beans, George W. Bush’s carefully cultivated image of a regular guy you could meet in a bar who loved to cut brush on the ranch in 100-degree heat and his probably faked mispronunciations (it’s unlikely that he talked like that at Yale), and now Trump, who gives voice to people with legitimate grievances — people who have lost not just jobs, but also a sense of personal self-worth — and who rails against the government that they perceive as having undermined their lives (not without reason).

One of the great achievements of the doctrinal system has been to divert anger from the corporate sector to the government that implements the programs that the corporate sector designs, such as the highly protectionist corporate/investor rights agreements that are uniformly mis-described as “free trade agreements” in the media and commentary. With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It is highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people’s minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people.

Is Trump representing a new movement in American politics, or was the outcome of this election primarily a rejection of Hillary Clinton by voters who hate the Clintons and are fed-up with “politics as usual?”

It’s by no means new. Both political parties have moved to the right during the neoliberal period. Today’s New Democrats are pretty much what used to be called “moderate Republicans.” The “political revolution” that Bernie Sanders called for, rightly, would not have greatly surprised Dwight Eisenhower. The Republicans have moved so far toward a dedication to the wealthy and the corporate sector that they cannot hope to get votes on their actual programs, and have turned to mobilizing sectors of the population that have always been there, but not as an organized coalitional political force: evangelicals, nativists, racists and the victims of the forms of globalization designed to set working people around the world in competition with one another while protecting the privileged and undermining the legal and other measures that provided working people with some protection, and with ways to influence decision-making in the closely linked public and private sectors, notably with effective labor unions.

The consequences have been evident in recent Republican primaries. Every candidate that has emerged from the base — such as [Michele] Bachmann, [Herman] Cain or [Rick] Santorum — has been so extreme that the Republican establishment had to use its ample resources to beat them down. The difference in 2016 is that the establishment failed, much to its chagrin, as we have seen.

Deservedly or not, Clinton represented the policies that were feared and hated, while Trump was seen as the symbol of “change” — change of what kind requires a careful look at his actual proposals, something largely missing in what reached the public. The campaign itself was remarkable in its avoidance of issues, and media commentary generally complied, keeping to the concept that true “objectivity” means reporting accurately what is “within the beltway,” but not venturing beyond.

Trump said following the outcome of the election that he “will represent all Americans.” How is he going to do that when the nation is so divided and he has already expressed deep hatred for many groups in the United States, including women and minorities? Do you see any resemblance between Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory?

There are definite similarities to Brexit, and also to the rise of the ultranationalist far-right parties in Europe — whose leaders were quick to congratulate Trump on his victory, perceiving him as one of their own: [Nigel] Farage, [Marine] Le Pen, [Viktor] Orban and others like them. And these developments are quite frightening. A look at the polls in Austria and Germany — Austria and Germany — cannot fail to evoke unpleasant memories for those familiar with the 1930s, even more so for those who watched directly, as I did as a child. I can still recall listening to Hitler’s speeches, not understanding the words, though the tone and audience reaction were chilling enough. The first article that I remember writing was in February 1939, after the fall of Barcelona, on the seemingly inexorable spread of the fascist plague. And by strange coincidence, it was from Barcelona that my wife and I watched the results of the 2016 US presidential election unfold.

As to how Trump will handle what he has brought forth — not created, but brought forth — we cannot say. Perhaps his most striking characteristic is unpredictability. A lot will depend on the reactions of those appalled by his performance and the visions he has projected, such as they are.

Trump has no identifiable political ideology guiding his stance on economic, social and political issues, yet there are clear authoritarian tendencies in his behavior. Therefore, do you find any validity behind the claims that Trump may represent the emergence of “fascism with a friendly face?” in the United States?

For many years, I have been writing and speaking about the danger of the rise of an honest and charismatic ideologue in the United States, someone who could exploit the fear and anger that has long been boiling in much of the society, and who could direct it away from the actual agents of malaise to vulnerable targets. That could indeed lead to what sociologist Bertram Gross called “friendly fascism” in a perceptive study 35 years ago. But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is Me. The dangers, however, have been real for many years, perhaps even more so in the light of the forces that Trump has unleashed.

With the Republicans in the White House, but also controlling both houses and the future shape of the Supreme Court, what will the US look like for at least the next four years?

A good deal depends on his appointments and circle of advisers. Early indications are unattractive, to put it mildly.

The Supreme Court will be in the hands of reactionaries for many years, with predictable consequences. If Trump follows through on his Paul Ryan-style fiscal programs, there will be huge benefits for the very rich — estimated by the Tax Policy Center as a tax cut of over 14 percent for the top 0.1 percent and a substantial cut more generally at the upper end of the income scale, but with virtually no tax relief for others, who will also face major new burdens. The respected economics correspondent of the Financial Times, Martin Wolf, writes that, “The tax proposals would shower huge benefits on already rich Americans such as Mr Trump,” while leaving others in the lurch, including, of course, his constituency. The immediate reaction of the business world reveals that Big Pharma, Wall Street, the military industry, energy industries and other such wonderful institutions expect a very bright future.

One positive development might be the infrastructure program that Trump has promised while (along with much reporting and commentary) concealing the fact that it is essentially the Obama stimulus program that would have been of great benefit to the economy and to the society generally, but was killed by the Republican Congress on the pretext that it would explode the deficit. While that charge was spurious at the time, given the very low interest rates, it holds in spades for Trump’s program, now accompanied by radical tax cuts for the rich and corporate sector and increased Pentagon spending.

There is, however, an escape, provided by Dick Cheney when he explained to Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter” — meaning deficits that we Republicans create in order to gain popular support, leaving it to someone else, preferably Democrats, to somehow clean up the mess. The technique might work, for a while at least.

There are also many questions about foreign policy consequences, mostly unanswered.

There is mutual admiration between Trump and Putin. How likely is it therefore that we may see a new era in US-Russia relations?

One hopeful prospect is that there might be reduction of the very dangerous and mounting tensions at the Russian border: note “the Russian border,” not the Mexican border. Thereby lies a tale that we cannot go into here. It is also possible that Europe might distance itself from Trump’s America, as already suggested by [German] Chancellor [Angela] Merkel and other European leaders — and from the British voice of American power, after Brexit. That might possibly lead to European efforts to defuse the tensions, and perhaps even efforts to move towards something like Mikhail Gorbachev’s vision of an integrated Eurasian security system without military alliances, rejected by the US in favor of NATO expansion, a vision revived recently by Putin, whether seriously or not, we do not know, since the gesture was dismissed.

Is US foreign policy under a Trump administration likely to be more or less militaristic than what we have seen under the Obama administration, or even the George W. Bush administration?

I don’t think one can answer with any confidence. Trump is too unpredictable. There are too many open questions. What we can say is that popular mobilization and activism, properly organized and conducted, can make a large difference.

And we should bear in mind that the stakes are very large.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

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TruthOut

The socialist history they hide from us

Socialism was put at the center of U.S. politics by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, which confirmed again what people who protest for a living wage or stand up against police racism have been saying for years: The capitalist system isn’t working, and we need an alternative.

At this summer’s Socialism 2016 conference in Chicago, Sharon Smith and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor were the main speakers at an evening plenary session on “The Fight for a Socialist Future.” Here, we publish the speech by Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, edited for publication, in which she talks about the hidden history of socialist organizing in the U.S. and the lessons that history holds for today. SW also featured Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s speech here.

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

I HAVE a message for all those naysayers who are absolutely certain that the U.S. could never go socialist because the working class is too–fill in the blank here–a) bought off; b) materialistic; c) apathetic; d) self-absorbed; e) pro-capitalist; f) consumeristic; g) reactionary; h) ignorant; or i) stupid to ever join a socialist movement.

To all those naysayers, I feel compelled to say, “We told you so.” And the supporting evidence for this statement can be summed up in two words: Sanders supporters.

Yes, the millions of youth who have flocked to Bernie Sanders and declared themselves to be socialists–that is, committed to confronting the colossal degree of inequality that capitalism produces–have proven that America could indeed go socialist if today’s younger generation has anything to say about it.

This generation–which is saddled with debt and faces living standards lower than their parents, with a future of a series of low-paying jobs–has demonstrated to all that this country, just like all others in the world, is divided into classes, in which the vast majority of people suffer because of capitalism: A system that is driven only by the insatiable quest for profits on the part of a tiny capitalist class, without the slightest regard for human need or for the workers who produce their profits.

But the young socialists of today want to fight all forms of inequality and oppression. Large majorities are against the continued oppression of women and LGBTQ people and against racism. They mobilized in large numbers in support of Black Lives Matter and against the oppression of LGBTQ people, including after the horrific murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the youth of today are giving us exactly the kind of hope for the future that has been missing for quite a long time in the socialist movement. This last year is the first time in many decades that a self-described socialist presidential candidate has won mass support in this country–and that is an enormous tipping point for our side.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that we older folks also have an indispensable role to play in the fight for socialism because a socialist organization acts as the collective memory of the working class. Knowing our history allows us to gain from the experience of those who have fought before us–so we can learn from the victories as well as the defeats of the past.

Without that knowledge of history, we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel every time we begin a new struggle, repeating past mistakes and having to learn old lessons all over again, suffering unnecessary defeats instead of advancing the fight for socialism.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

KARL MARX and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”–meaning that class struggle on a massive scale ultimately creates the conditions for socialist revolution.

But the truth is that a ruling class offensive against the working class has been going on for 40 years now–and make no mistake, it’s a bipartisan project, with the aim of lowering working-class living standards and destroying working-class organizations. While the mainstream media tells us that it’s great progress when the Democrats and Republicans work together, exactly the opposite is true: Bipartisanship means that their side is completely united against our side, which is never good news for us.

The one-sided class war of the last 40 years means that today’s generation of young radicals knows only a lifetime of declining living standards, defeat and setback, with very few victories in between.

There has never been such an extended period of working-class retreat and defeat in the history of U.S. capitalism as what we have experienced these last 40 years–this is true. But we need to understand that, as terrible as it has been to go through it, the last 40 years is the exception rather than the rule.

Capitalism created two objectively antagonistic classes in society, the exploiters and the exploited, the capitalists and the working class. Unfortunately, many people even on the left have written off the potential of the working class to fight for socialism because it hasn’t happened in so long. This makes our history even more important to learn and understand.

The working class in this country actually has a long-standing tradition of radicalism. Anarchists, socialists and other radicals played a leading role in nearly every major strike in our history until the radical movement was destroyed by McCarthyism. During the anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Communist Party members Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed just to make an example out of them, and literally thousands of radicals and union militants, from Hollywood actors to the United Auto Workers, were persecuted, prosecuted, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and sent to prison for their beliefs.

This was a conscious assault on the part of the U.S. ruling class that succeeded at physically removing the radical tradition from inside the working class. Since that time, through no fault of its own, the socialist movement has been exiled to the margins of the class that it champions. Until now, that is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE HISTORY of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school–not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don’t want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity. The U.S. working class movement launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday back in the 1880s, and Chicago was the site of the very first May Day. That holiday is named after the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrated in countries all over the world every May 1. The U.S. is one of the few places where May Day is not celebrated.

The U.S. is also the home of the New York City garment workers’ struggle of 1909 involving 20,000 women workers, all of them immigrants who spoke a dozen different languages and yet managed to unite and strike against sweatshop conditions. That struggle launched the first International Women’s Day, celebrated as a socialist holiday the world over–again, seemingly, everywhere but here.

Most people don’t know it, but hundreds of thousands of working-class people built a grassroots antiwar movement against the First World War in this country–in spite of the fact that the government passed a law called the Espionage Act making it a crime to speak out against the war.

Groups of workers and poor farmers organized and passed declarations like this one by the Oklahoma Socialists society in December 1914: “If war is declared, the Socialists of Oklahoma shall refuse to enlist; but if forced to enter military service to murder fellow workers, we shall choose to die fighting the enemies of humanity in our ranks rather than to perish fighting our fellow workers.”

The U.S. is also the home of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s that built the industrial unions. This was not only the highest point of working-class struggle in U.S. history with the strike wave that built the CIO unions, but it also brought together thousands and thousands of Black and white workers, who stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, on picket lines and in sit-down strikes, on demonstrations to free the Scottsboro Boys–nine young Black men put on death row in Alabama on trumped-up rape charges.

In other words, in the 1930s, thousands of white workers consciously came over to the fight against racism for the first time in U.S. history.

And far from taking a backseat to men in the class struggle during the 1930s, women workers built unions in their own right, and played a leading role in some of the most important strikes that took place.

During the Flint sit-down strike of 1937, when the mostly male workforce occupied the plant to demand a union, socialist women organized the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade, which was far from a typical women’s auxiliary that limited itself to cooking food for the strikers. On the contrary, the women armed themselves with objects that looked remarkably like baseball bats to fight–and beat–the police and National Guard. That is the power of the class struggle when it reaches massive proportions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE 1930s was also an era of political radicalization inside the working class. And workers who were in the forefront of the class struggle began to break with the Democratic Party–seeing through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posturing as the spokesman for the downtrodden, when in reality he stood solidly on the side of saving capitalism during the Great Depression.

Instead, those workers leading key industrial struggles called for a working-class party of their own. The United Auto Workers (UAW) convention of 1935 actually voted down a resolution supporting Roosevelt for president, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch a national farm-labor party as a left-wing alternative. They only backed down after the CIO leadership threatened to take away their strike funds if they didn’t support Roosevelt.

In fact, at any given time prior to the McCarthy witch hunts, thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of working-class people belonged to a radical political party.

The Socialist Party in the early 1900s reached a membership of 120,000, and their candidate for president, the revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs, got almost a million votes when he ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912.

It has also been estimated that roughly 1 million workers passed in and out of the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. The party reached 80,000 members at its height, with a membership that was 9 percent Black. And remember that this was still a time when Jim Crow segregation and lynching were the order of the day, showing the possibility for building a multiracial movement in the U.S. today.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the U.S. was the home of a wildcat strike wave that built rank-and-file workers movements like the Miners for Democracy, the Teamsters for a Decent Contract and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, known as DRUM.

DRUM and other movements like it were significant because they were organizations of Black workers that took on not only the racism of the auto companies, but racism inside the UAW. And they drew in a sizeable number of white workers who walked out of their factories in solidarity with Black workers, in a fight explicitly against racism.

In the 1960s, not only was the U.S. the home of the women’s liberation movement and the Black Power movement that inspired people all over the world to fight against oppression, but the U.S. also gave birth to the gay liberation movement, after the Stonewall Rebellion that also touched off gay liberation movements around the world.

In more recent history, on May 1, 2006, May Day or International Workers’ Day, was celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations appropriately led by immigrants, who have always played a key role in the U.S. radical working-class tradition. The movement’s most powerful slogan, “a day without immigrants,” showed that its strategy of social struggle was tied explicitly to the power of workers to withhold their labor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHETHER OR not you plan to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, or plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or just abstain from the whole voting process this year, we all actually have a more important choice to make at this point.

The German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg put the choice that we face as that between “socialism or barbarism,” because we’ll either end up with one or the other.

And I’d say we’re getting pretty close to barbarism when refugees are drowning by the hundreds at a time to escape civil war, and then getting stopped and detained once they reach Europe; when UNICEF just predicted that 69 million children will die of starvation and disease by 2030, and half of these children who will die are from Sub-Saharan Africa; when prisons are teeming with poor people and people of color, and yet General Motors executives knowingly killed at least 125 people with faulty airbags then tried to cover it up–yet no one has yet suggested that any of them spend even a minute in jail.

And if you think things can’t get any worse, I guarantee you that it can. History tells us that.

But the same conditions that fuel the potential for the growth of the right also create the potential for the growth of the left. This is the only way to understand the massive support for both Donald Trump and also for Bernie Sanders.

The question is not now and never has been if but when workers in the U.S. will begin to fight back once again–and not if but when it will become possible to build a political party based on the principles of socialism.

We also need to recognize that the working class today is composed of many races, sexualities and gender identities, and is capable of propelling issues of racism and other forms of oppression to the center of the class struggle in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past.

I want to end by saying to those of us here who have survived all or part of the last 40 years: Thank you for not wavering from your belief in the power of the working class to change society. And to those of you who are new to the socialist movement, who are unjaded and full of optimism, and will undoubtedly carry on the struggle: Thank you for giving us hope for the future of all humanity.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/15/the-socialist-history-they-hide-from-us