Lessons for the class struggle in the era of Trumpism
Excerpted from a talk by Larry Holmes, First Secretary of Workers World Party, at a forum on March 28 in New York City.
Russia-gate has been going on for two years. The liberal bourgeoisie poured so much into it — CNN, MSNBC, Rachel Maddow. They say the same things every day. A section of the bourgeoisie thought this was the way to take down Trump.
The FBI guy, Mueller, gave his report to the attorney general. And now the liberals are fighting to see the whole thing, and they want us to get behind them. Not that some of us might not be curious to see it, but really? That’s their program for the workers?
It’s a continuation of the 2016 elections politically. A wing of the ruling class is still in denial. They’re not accepting the reason Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Democratic Party didn’t win is because they didn’t engage the workers and the oppressed. Essentially they threw the working class under the bus. That is why they lost, more than Russia or anything else, although there was a lot of voter suppression, not only in the South but all over the country, especially against Black and Brown people.
It is a crisis of bourgeois liberalism. What should we learn from this in terms of the class struggle? Bourgeois liberalism is a mask to hide reactionary capitalism: to pretend there’s a distinction at the end of the day between liberalism and reactionary capitalism. More and more people are waking up to the reality that there’s no difference. I think in many ways the working class is well ahead of the progressive movement, certainly ahead of some of these TV talking heads who give you the impression that “We’re defending democracy, capitalism is decent, all this is at stake because of Trump.”
Trump is essentially the face of capitalism. He does what they all do, only he does it openly and brazenly. Elements in the liberal bourgeoisie who are trying to restore faith and confidence in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, a capitalist party, say, “We’re fighting the good fight, to be a decent capitalist country, to have fair media.” Trump and the people in the leadership of his movement are oriented toward fascism. But sometimes they tell the truth. The media does lie!
About Trump’s involvement with Russia: On one level he represents some in the bourgeoisie who have come to the conclusion that “Our old alliances, particularly with the European imperialist powers, are not gonna solve our crisis, so we might as well maneuver and do other things.” Their real threat is China, more than Russia. What if news came out that Trump has financial dealings in Russia and wants to build a Trump Hotel in Moscow? Well, that’s how they function, that’s crony capitalism.
But the struggle in the ruling class is really between the globalists and the neocons — those who want to pull away and do something different. And part of that difference is becoming more reactionary against the oppressed — or at least being more blatant about it. The globalists and neoliberals like the Clintons are as much against the oppressed as the rightwing. They just do their dirty work behind the scenes.
Workers have other concerns
The workers don’t seem to care about this. I’m sure a lot of progressive people were hoping that the Mueller report would bring Trump down and be the first step toward impeachment. They’re probably a little down now, including some who honestly oppose Trump as reactionary. But according to the bourgeois polls, the masses are not interested in this. It’s like 20th on their list.
The first things are health care, jobs and job security, and economic rights. Then come things like misogyny and racism and immigrant rights. Russia-gate is way down on the list.
There’ll be more investigations about Trump’s financial dealings: He didn’t pay his taxes, he cheats, he lies, he’s a swindler. The workers already know this! They’re instinctively smarter than the ruling class. It’s a big problem that some parts of the working class — who are desperate and have been told they’re losing their country and their white privileges — forget everything reactionary and anti-working class about Trump and go along with him. But the working class is not shocked by the fact that a billionaire is a liar and a cheat and a robber baron, because they all are.
The masses are becoming more and more radicalized by conditions of economic inequality that expose the system. The last thing you want to do is try to maintain this phony-baloney mask of capitalism being so great and let’s just bring it back to being decent and civil. What crap!
Instead of the prime-time attention paid to the Mueller report, what about the opioid epidemic, the increased rate of suicides directly connected to deindustrialization and to globalization? What about the loss of decent, union-paying jobs that are destroying cities? I haven’t seen any hearings on that, nothing live and prime time. What about how the working class is being pauperized and the difference in the conditions and circumstances under which they live compared to a generation or two ago? That would be a great hearing and tell a lot more truth than saying, “The official unemployment rate is now 4 percent.”
Students are going on strike around the world because they want a planet when they grow up. Some in that movement are anti-capitalist, and one of their slogans is “System change, not climate change.”
Demagogy aimed at working class
Trump is about the working class. Here and in the other major industrialized, high-tech imperialist countries, the workers are losing what they had when the capitalist system was stable by comparison to what’s happening now.
The oppressed are still far worse off. But what we used to call the aristocracy of labor is being pummeled. Members of the ruling class fear it. And they start thinking about introducing, either wholesale or in small doses, fascist measures.
Can you talk about the threat of fascism here? It’s not like during the Great Depression, when there was 25 percent unemployment and big soup lines. A lot of the poverty is hidden. It’s not like Europe, when they dealt with the workers violently in Germany, Italy and Spain.
But the ruling class is fearful of even the prospect of the workers rising up. And some of them will do whatever they can to sabotage that possibility. That is what Donald Trump is about. Sabotaging the inevitability of the workers rising up, coming into class consciousness, not just on a local but on an international basis.
Trumpism is desperately trying to hold that back. America first. Build the wall. Immigrants are our enemies.
The global economy, including the U.S. economy, is slowing down and on its way to another crisis like 2008 or worse. The fascist threat still exists.
Brexit’s about dividing the working class, too. For the imperialists, it’s kind of shooting yourself in the nose to spite your face. There’s such desperation to change the subject for the working class, so that it won’t turn against capitalism.
Trump’s got an idea. His forces want to privatize health care. If there’s a struggle, it could be dominated by the bourgeoisie. I’m not sure that’ll be helpful. But people are very fearful of losing whatever coverage they’ve got. There’s a big attack on the remnants of the Affordable Care Act, people with pre-existing conditions and so on. Behind all the crazy vitriol is defunding of social services.
Workers fight defunding of education
Education workers are rebelling in large part because of this, which is incredible because it’s not just their wages and working conditions. They’re striking against the defunding of public education. That’s why it’s so popular. Comrades in the labor caucus discussed it a few nights ago and should bring it to the rest of the party.
The people around Trump are looking at the South, with its historically low wages, union busting, lower social services, deeper, entrenched poverty, more racism, more white supremacy. The terrible dirty deal made with the white workers and a big section of the white masses in the South was: “You can hold onto your white privilege if you tolerate low wages and no unions and substandard living conditions by comparison to the North.”
Trump wants to make that countrywide. They won’t get away with it. Conditions are going to push people to rebel.
We have got to turn the party toward the working class in a much bigger way. This does not mean giving up our struggle in solidarity with Venezuela. That’s a class issue; it’s not just an anti-war issue. But more and more, we have to become better at drawing the connections so that the anti-war movement is the working class and the oppressed who will fight to support the Bolivarian Revolution and defend it against imperialism.
It was Lenin’s dream that there would be no need for a separate anti-war movement, that the anti-war movement would be indistinguishable from the workers. The Russian Revolution was a great example of this. Soldiers and sailors demoralized by the war were open to revolutionary agitation. The old-school communist orientation was that if there’s a war, you bring it home.
Very soon, Workers’ Solidarity Days will be established on a monthly basis. We’re going to see how far it can go, not just in this country but around the world. It’ll help us support the gig workers. It’ll help us support the education workers. It’ll help us support immigrants. The theme of Workers’ Solidarity Day is “No walls in the workers’ struggle.”
Many workers can’t organize because they’re atomized. With globalization and new technology, a lot of workers in small places feel all alone. Many of them, even if they are radical, don’t see themselves as part of the working class. They feel isolated and insignificant. We need a campaign that tells people you’re part of the working class, whether you work in a shop with three people, whether you have a gig job, whether you can’t work because you’re disabled, whether you have six or seven jobs a year or two or three at once to pay off student debts.
Trump No, Workers’ Solidarity Yes.
To get involved with Workers Solidarity Day visit https://workersolidarity.net/