Trump’s election and imperialist war
A Nov. 14 interview of WW managing editor John Catalinotto by Alex Anfruns of the Brussels-based web magazine Investig’Action (investigaction.net). Because Donald Trump sounded less aggressive than Hillary Clinton during campaign debates, especially regarding Russia and Syria, there is some confusion among anti-war forces in Europe regarding a Trump administration and the nature of the anti-Trump movement. Catalinotto addressed this question.
Alex Anfruns: Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. How would you define him?
John Catalinotto: Europeans could think of Donald Trump as a combination of the worst characteristics of Silvio Berlusconi and Marine Le Pen. He is personally rich, egotistic and arrogant. He’s taking an executive office to manage the biggest state budget and the most destructive military machine in the world. Plenty of other capitalist politicians, Republicans and Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, also support reactionary and pro-war politics, which are dangerous for the world. What’s different is that Donald Trump openly gives voice and a platform for anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, racist and anti-women rhetoric, and thus his victory promotes a mobilization of the most bigoted segments of U.S. society.
AA: Compared to the policies of the Obama administration, what could change for working-class, Afro-American, Latin-American as well as immigrant people?
JC: In the United States, the working class consists of many people of Indigenous, African-American, Latin-American, east and west Asian and Pacific Island heritage, including many immigrants. The workers are men and women; they are LGBTQ. They are employed and unemployed. A large minority of workers are men of European heritage.
I would expect that Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling both houses of Congress will mean an open attack on all workers, on their unions, on their social benefits. Something like what happened in Argentina when Macri replaced Cristina Kirchner. Something like what happened in the states of Wisconsin and also North Carolina when “Tea Party” Republicans became governors. It’s not that Clinton or even Obama promoted workers’ rights, but they did not open a direct attack on these rights.
Obama has deported more than 2.5 million undocumented workers. Trump says he will even more actively deport undocumented immigrants, and his election has spread fear in the immigrant community. Trump has spoken out in support of aggressive police tactics, so we can expect Trump’s election to make the cops even more arrogant and aggressive in the Black and Brown communities. Trump vilifies Muslims, and the worst racists are assaulting Muslims.
But his election has another side. Sophisticated politicians like Obama and even Clinton hide the utter decay of U.S. imperialism. Trump’s election exposes the rot. He is already recruiting his governing “team” from the cesspool of U.S. politics and media. It has aroused not only fear but rage.
Tens of thousands of people have come into the streets, many who never demonstrated before in their lives. They now know they cannot remain neutral. They have been propelled to take a stand. Some feel personally under attack by a Trump presidency. Some feel solidarity with groups that are the direct targets, and are joining organizations that defend them. Whatever the initial spark, once they are in motion their lives can change. It is our job, as revolutionaries, to give direction to that change.
AA: How was the mainstream media coverage of Trump’s campaign? Is Trump the tree that hides the forest?
JC: There are different wings of what I would call the corporate media. There is an establishment media: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the broadcast TV news, and CNN and MSNBC. There is a large ultraright-wing media: Fox News, Murdoch’s newspapers, radio talk shows.
In the beginning of Trump’s campaign he got enormous free publicity from both wings of the corporate media. This was partly driven by Trump’s position as a bizarre billionaire celebrity. Covering him made profits for the media. Plus it injected a good dose of reactionary ideology into the campaign. It created a reactionary “populist” alternative to Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
This media coverage catapulted Trump into becoming the Republican candidate. At that moment, the establishment media tried to undo their creation. The New York Times and Washington Post attacked him in a dozen articles every day. It was too late. The right-wing media supported Trump throughout the campaign.
Regarding what comes next, one thing for sure is that Trump is incapable of “bringing jobs back to the U.S.” by renegotiating or breaking trade pacts. The industrial jobs are gone, less because of globalization than because of the inexorable technological advance of capitalist industry.
The economic crisis will deepen. Capitalism is at a dead end. The left must find a way to defend the most oppressed sectors of the working class. More than that, it is these sectors that will provide leadership — and unite the whole class, first, against the reactionary Trump policies and, then, against the whole rotten capitalist system.
AA: What can we expect from Trump’s foreign policy?
JC: The decline of U.S. imperialism pushes the government toward adventurous wars no matter who the president is. Obama campaigned to end wars, but has intervened in at least seven countries with military forces and many more through subversion. Hillary Clinton is a pro-Pentagon warmonger.
Trump is more erratic, a loose cannon, even though he claims to be ready to negotiate with Russia. He also says he wants to break the deal with Iran and with Cuba. And impose tariffs on China. We must be ready to oppose all new wars.
AA: So you believe he will just follow the same course?
JC: Both Trump and Clinton, both the establishment Republicans and the establishment Democrats, and even the Bernie Sanders wing, serve the interests of U.S. imperialism. Imperialism is not a policy of a group of politicians. It is an economic system that means the domination of finance capital. The current failure of this system to generate profits by relatively peaceful measures means that whoever is at the helm of U.S. imperialism has enormous pressures driving them toward war.
Everyone who is aware of the events of the last decade knows that Hillary Clinton supported all the wars: against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, the subversion against Venezuela and other progressive nationalist governments in Latin America.
If they follow closely, they know that even though Obama came into office with plans to end the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon pushed him to increase troops in Afghanistan, and that the U.S. has now begun to reintroduce troops into Iraq. In Syria, a temporary agreement between the U.S. and Russia was almost immediately sabotaged by a military attack that had the support of elements of the U.S. state apparatus, certainly of the Pentagon.
Trump has never been involved in U.S. foreign policy decisions so he has no track record. What he said during the election campaign was aimed at what he believed would help his chances for election. It may have little or no relation to what he actually does in office. Sometimes what he says in the beginning of one sentence is contradicted by what he says at the end of the sentence.
Trump said the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, that he will break the deal with Iran and with Cuba. He also said he would follow a more open policy of negotiations with Russia. I doubt any serious government has confidence in his words of peace. We in the pro-communist movement here certainly have no confidence he will wage a less aggressive policy. We need to build a movement here that can fight both U.S. imperialism abroad and his reactionary policies at home.
AA: And how should this movement emerge?
JC: There is a certain amount of confusion in the anti-imperialist movement in Europe about Trump’s role. One can understand that they feel satisfaction about Clinton’s defeat. They all know how aggressive Clinton is. They may have given up on the U.S. working class.
But we in the United States need to develop a movement against U.S. wars. We can only do it if the most oppressed sectors of the U.S. working class not only join in, but lead this struggle. Those abroad who gloat over Trump’s victory alienate the immigrants, the Black population, the activist women, the LGBTQ people, the Muslims — all who fear a Trump presidency or, better, who are moved to rage against a president who is “not their president.”
The only positive thing that came out of this disgusting, 18-month bourgeois election is that thousands of people have been demonstrating day after day since the election against the new president. Some may be for Hillary Clinton for misguided reasons, but mainly those in the streets are against Trump and all he stands for. They are not in the streets because he says he’ll negotiate with Russia.
Those here who want to fight imperialist war have to be in the streets with all these people. They are frightened, they are angry, they are reexamining all their ideas. We have to be with them to try to win them to fight, not only Trump’s racism, sexism and xenophobia, but all imperialist war.