On June 20, the Wall St. Journal republished a column from the publisher of the NY Times, A.G. Sulzberger. The column was sharply critical of Trump. Normally, these two publishers are at odds over Trump. What brought them together in this case is significant.
In his column, Sulzberger takes Trump to task for tweeting that the Times is guilty of “treason”. As Sulzberger points out, this is a crime punishable by death. “This new attack crosses a dangerous line in the president’s campaign against a free and independent press,” he writes.
As with Trump’s other verbal assaults, this comment has to be taken seriously. Sulzberger continues:
“What would it look like for Mr. Trump to escalate his attacks on the press further? Having already reached for the most incendiary language available, what is left but putting his threats into action?
“There’s evidence that’s already happening. The administration has waged an aggressive legal campaign against journalists. Leak investigations, which were already on the rise under President Obama, have surged. Government regulatory powers have been misused to retaliate against news organizations, such as the attempt to block AT&T from acquiring CNN’s parent company, Time Warner. Most recently, the precedent-shattering use of the Espionage Act against Julian Assange for publishing classified information has raised fears that the Justice Department seeks not merely to punish illegal hacking but effectively to criminalize standard reporting practices.
“Meanwhile, the president’s rhetorical attacks continue to foster a climate in which trust in journalists is eroding and violence against them is growing. More than a quarter of Americans—and a plurality of Republicans—now agree that “the news media is the enemy of the American people” and “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” A world-wide surge of attacks has made this the most dangerous year for journalists on record. This is particularly true in parts of the world where pursuing the truth already carries great risks, as news reporters and editors experience rising levels of censorship, harassment, imprisonment and murder.”
A press which is independent of the government is one of the most important bases of capitalist (or “bourgeois”) democracy. Just as the capitalist press does not represent the working class, so the working class majority can never fully achieve its needs through any form of capitalist rule. But that is not the issue. The issue is capitalist democracy vs. one-person dictatorship, or “Bonapartism”. Clearly, workers and oppressed peoples are in a much better position to fight for their interests under the former, but it is exactly the latter towards which Trump is taking major steps.
As we move closer to the 2020 presidential elections, there is increasing danger that Trump will ratchet up the voter suppression. Recently, he fired his pollsters because their internal polling showed him losing in several key states. This is preparing the grounds to “prove” that the polling numbers fit with an electoral victory based on voter suppression. Trump will cite his doctored polls vs. the “fake” ones as evidence.
Workers cannot rely on the likes of The New York Times to fight in our interests. Nor can it rely on the Democratic Party politicians of all stripes. We saw that when the Republicans in Georgia stripped tens of thousands of citizens, mostly black, of their voting rights in 2018. The Democratic Party candidate for governor who lost as a result, Stacey Abrams, did nothing but complain about it. It cannot even count on the union leadership, which simply dances to the tune of the Democrats. For example, in 2000, when Bush stole the election by election fraud in Florida, the union leadership opposed protesting in the streets because their puppeteers, the Democratic Party, opposed it. Instead, they relied on the courts, because they didn’t want to seem as if they didn’t have faith in the system! We know how well that worked out.
Now is the time to start to build the real resistance – in the streets, work places, and working class schools and communities. And also in the unions, to make them the fighting organizations they were meant to be, independent of the employers and of the Democratic Party.