The world’s working class movement, and socialists as part of it, has some lessons to learn from Trump’s UN speech this morning.
- China: Trump pledged a continued trade war with China. His comments on the old Monroe Doctrine should be understood in that light. That was the position put forward by President Monroe (1817-25) that South and Central America are the US playground and that all other imperialists must keep out. Presently, Chinese imperialism is making major inroads into that region. For example, they are the ones who are planning to finance a new Central American canal through Nicaragua. Overall investment of Chinese imperialism into Latin America equals about $225 billion. The conflict between US and Chinese imperialism will continue to increase.
- Syria: Trump mouthed the usual platitudes about “de-escalation of military conflict” and a “political solution” in Syria,
but saved his strongest language for the real opponents. First was the “bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS” which he bragged has been “driven out of Syria and Iraq”. The other denunciation was for Iran.
- Iran: Even the brutality of the Assad regime was simply blamed on Iran (but not Russia, about which there was no mention). “Iran’s leaders sew chaos, death and disruption,” Trump said. While he saluted those Iranians who oppose the regime, the reality is that he no more supports striking workers in Iran than he does those in the US (including possible strikers at US Steel). A very real possibility will be a US military attack on Iran after the November elections.
- Venezuela: When the crisis first burst out in the open in Venezuela, Trump advocated a US invasion of that country. His military advisors convinced him otherwise. He and his administration then looked into backing a coup there. The problem was that they couldn’t find any credible coup leaders. That is still a very real possibility, though. (Note: Oaklandsocialist is working on translating a report from Venezuela, which we will have up in the next few days.)
Trump then went on to use the crisis in Venezuela to shore up his base at home (and abroad). He followed this up with a world vision that should give us pause.
Trump claimed that the crisis in Venezuela is due to that country’s having adopted socialism. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the use of the term by Maduro (and Chavez before him) has muddied the waters. “Virtually everywhere, socialism or communism has been tried,” Trump said. “It is produced suffering, corruption, and decay. Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion, and oppression. All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.”
These comments were a reaction to the popularity of “socialism” among younger people here in the United States. The reality is that it is capitalism that fits this description! But to counter the popularity of socialism, it’s necessary to offer an alternative vision. What vision did Trump offer?
On the one hand, he made the usual appeals to US patriotism, waffling on about how we “believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual.” You can almost see the image of patriotic (white) Americans standing and saluting the US flag…. while sitting passively by while millions languish living in the streets and the police run rampant in the black communities.
This was in the context of his talk about “countries… pursuing their own unique visions.” He called up the image of “a people bound together by a shared past and working toward a common future.” These images should be seen in light of his attack on “globalism”. Together, they are the themes of the far right, including fascists. This includes, for example, recalling the “heritage” of the Vikings in Denmark – what is known as “Odinism”. Or the role of the Russian Orthodox Church and fascists like Aleksandr Dugin, who play on the ancient images of “Mother Russia” to build a fascist movement. In fact, this is no different from the fascist Islamic State, which plays on the image of an ancient Islamic caliphate.
This is why separatism is so dangerous in this period – because it plays right into the hands of this ethnic nationalism. Of course, the right to separate nations must be defended, including that of Scotland and Catalonia. But that is totally different from supporting separatism.
As far as “globalism”: One rebellion against this has been the Brexit vote. But national independence for Britain is purely an illusion. No nation can be independent from global capitalism anymore. When Italians recently elected a right wing nationalist government, a senior member of the European Commission, Gunther Oettinger, commented that “markets will teach Italians how to vote.” The same will be true about the British if and when it separates from the EU. The answer lies in the exact opposite direction: Working class internationalism and real socialism. A first step in that direction could be an international working class campaign for a minimum standard of living and minimum social programs around the world. That should be coupled with international strike action; if workers in one industry or one company go on strike, that strike should be global.
Basically, the vision Trump advanced was that of ethnic nationalism, of each nation harkening back to its supposed cultural heritage and building itself around that. Even the Dalai Lama supports that vision, with his recent speech about “Europe is for Europeans.” In reality, this vision obliterates the basic fact of life under capitalism: class conflict. In no class society has the people ever been all united into one culture and one common need; conflicting fundamental class interests have always been at the heart of class society, including capitalist society.
It’s true that millions of US workers – especially but not only white workers – have been taken in by this nationalist propaganda. This includes many industrial workers. We shall see how far and how deep that intrudes if and when workers at US Steel go on strike.