Trump spent his first month in office consolidating his base among the bigots and the deluded. He also spent it building a team that will lead a massive assault on the environment, on specially oppressed minorities, and on the working class as a whole. That came at the cost of alienating large sectors of the US population as well as the major sectors of the US capitalist class. His speech before congress was aimed at rectifying this in order to fully carry out his assaults. That Bernie Sanders was applauding parts of his speech is a sign that he succeeded. As liberal commentator Van Jones put it in praising Trump, “He (Trump) became President of The United States”. In other words, he prepared to draw wider layers of the population in his wake, thereby reassuring the tops of the capitalist class.
Corporate America, even the Wall Street Journal, has been criticizing his negative tone. This time, though, it was more like Reagan’s “Dawn in America”. “We are witnessing… the Renewal of the American Spirit,” he said in his speech to Congress. “America is once again ready to lead… America is strong… proud, and… free….” There were the rosy predictions: “Dying industries will come roaring back to life…. Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced…. Our terrible drug epidemic will… ultimately stop. And our neglected inner cities will see a rebirth of hope, safety, and opportunity.” and the imagery of “new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.” There were the boastful claims of success already that come from every president. “Since my election, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors… and many others have announced they will invest billions of dollars in the United States and will create tens of thousands of new American jobs…. The stock market has gained almost three trillion dollars in value since the election.”
Assault on Environment
Before the attacks on undocumented workers, intended to divide and confuse the wider working class as a whole, comes the capitalist assault on the environment by way of further deregulation and privatization. As Trump put it, he is preparing to “massively reduce job-crushing regulations.” This will go along with “reduc(ing) the tax rate on our companies.” The purpose of this is to help them “compete and strive anywhere and with anyone” in the world. And yes, he’s right; since investment is for one purpose only – private profit – and since protection of the environment and forcing the companies to pay for public services (as well as the military) cuts into their profits, then the only way to get them to invest in any country is to reduce environmental protections and corporate taxes. Let the workers pay taxes (or suffer from reduced services) and let them breathe the poisoned air and drink the poisoned water. (The capitalists can drink Evian!)
Decline in US Capitalism’s Global Power
Over the last ten years or so, the power of the US capitalist class to control world events has been irreversibly slipping. They swung from Bush’s neocon militarist strategy to Obama’s diplomacy first one. Now they are swinging back, and Trump represents this, first and foremost with his call to increase military spending by $54 billion. He also proposes a crude, military approach to the challenge of the Muslim fundamentalists like ISIS and al Qaeda. The former will not stop the increasing influence of rival capitalist powers like the Chinese or the Russian capitalists and the latter will not stop the Islamic fundamentalists, whose influence comes from a low level of class struggle and an anger at the role of US and European capitalism globally.
Undocumented Immigrants: Divide and Conquer
Then there is the issue of undocumented immigrants. On the one hand, the capitalist state must know who is in the country and what they are doing. How else can they control them? On the other hand, the presence of over 10 million people with no legal rights makes for a more exploitable labor force. So here comes Donald Trump, charging into the breech. He used the confusion and outright bigotry around this issue to get elected into office and he clearly is preparing a major assault on the undocumented immigrants. The US capitalists are not happy about that, not only because they are happy exploiting them but also because it is destabilizing things politically.
Trump’s focus on the issue also serves another purpose: Divide and conquer. So he commented, “my Administration has answered the peas of the American people for immigration enforcement and border security…. (We will stop) an environment of lawless chaos.” And he threw down the gauntlet to those liberals who oppose his assault: What would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
Trump’s constant harping on the need for “America to put its own citizens first” serves to reroute the workers movement away from any attempt to build internationalism in deeds, to make direct links between US workers and their counterparts in the rest of the world. And he made it all sound so reasonable, hiding the immense suffering that millions will go through because of his policies. He thereby serves a useful purpose for all capitalists.
Then there were the attacks on Nafta and the TPP trade agreements. This is the most
important difference between Trump and the tops of the US capitalist class. Even here, though, Trump may find a bridge to the rest of them by negotiating “bilateral” (country-to-country) trade agreements. The major problem here is his rejection of the TPP, which is not only seen as a trade agreement but as a political agreement to keep their number one rival, Chinese capitalism, in check. Maybe Trump and company think that the massive increase in military spending will serve as an alternative.
Liberals with no Answer
And there is the rub. From left liberal (like Uncle Bernie) to right wing, they have nothing to say, because they don’t base themselves on a conscious movement of the working class, a movement of, by and for workers — all workers.
And the same goes for the rest of Trump’s speech. What do the liberals have to say about the failure of Obama’s diplomacy first approach to maintaining the power of US capitalism worldwide? What do they have to say about companies investing elsewhere if they are forced to pay taxes or prevented from poisoning the air, land and water? As for the capitalists in general, they may not like losing some low wage workers, nor may they like the instability that mass deportation will create, but they will be very happy to utilize the increased surveillance and repression to hold down millions of people – black people, workers, the environmental movement for starters.
Acknowledging that all the happy talk will not be enough to keep people in line, he had to use some of the scare rhetoric also, referring to “drugs pour(ing) in at an unprecedented rate…. criminal cartels that have spread across our Nation…. an environment of lawless chaos (on the US-Mexican border)…. a beachhead (of) terrorism form(ing) inside America.”
But in the end, he focused on increasing the illusions in US capitalism. “Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing, and hope.” Is this any different from “keep hope alive”?
And he concluded with the same trite – and totally false – claim that
“We can only get there together.
“We are one people, with one destiny”
No, we are workers and capitalists and if we hitch our destiny to that of the capitalists, we will be crushed in the ruins of their system. But never mind.
“We all salute the same flag.
“And we are all made by the same God.
“God bless you, and God Bless these United States.”
The same patriotic and religious illusions that all the capitalists sow, liberal and conservative and reactionary alike, so necessary to keeping US workers confused and divided. It will work for just so long as the practical reality behind all the rhetoric is not clear.
We have just come across the comments of the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, as featured on Fox News. This sniveling little coward is trying to sound “statesman-like”. In reality, what he’s doing is both sowing illusions that the tiger has changed his stripes while making it clear that he and the rest of the union leadership are perfectly willing to abandon the most oppressed workers, such as undocumented immigrants, as long as Trump doesn’t attack the union leaders’ dues base too hard. Watch it here: