Editorial of the Socialist issue 997
United working class movements can defeat Trump
When asked by a journalist if North Korea is “playing games”, Trump responded: “Everybody plays games”. He was referring to the interplay between the global elites, but in this case his flippancy – being on the issue of nuclear weapons – will be especially repellent to workers and young people across the world.
The recent “games” involved monstrous threats: North Korea’s foreign affairs vice-minister speaking of the possibility of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” and Trump saying the US nuclear capability is “so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never be used”. He added: “We are more than ready than we have ever been before”.
These shows of brinkmanship, alternated with charm offensives, are claimed to be for the objective of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. But less overt agendas are numerous, not least the idea in Trump’s administration of forcing ‘regime change’, so tensions at a later stage could escalate to a more dangerous level.
Fear of this has increased since Trump elevated a number of ‘hawks’ to the top levels of US government. Among them was new national security advisor John Bolton, who previously – under George W Bush – oversaw US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty originally signed with the Soviet Union. He wants no limits placed by treaties on the US’s arms capability and has made clear his appetite for war on many occasions.
It was Bolton who threw the US talks with North Korea into jeopardy by saying the denuclearisation could follow the “Libya model”, remarks later rubbed further into the North Korean regime by US vice-president Mike Pence. Gaddafi in Libya had given up his nuclear project only to face being removed and killed eight years later, with western backing for his fate.
Added to the Trump administration’s ramping up of tensions on the nuclear issue, with Iran too, have been other aggressive or destructive actions, including backing the Israeli military’s barbaric killings of Palestinian demonstrators, launching missiles on Syria, and pulling out of the Paris climate change accord.
All this is more than enough to merit building massive demonstrations against Trump internationally, including in Britain when he visits on 13 July. And workers internationally must give solidarity to the anti-Trump movement in the US, which has the task of developing its strength in order to see him and his coterie removed from power as soon as possible.
The strategists of US capitalism are wary of Trump’s unpredictability and the volatility he causes in international relations through trade protectionism and his other policies – witness at present the fissures with Europe over the Iran deal. US big business is therefore concerned about US credibility and influence weakening internationally and over whether opportunities are being given to Russia and China to advance their interests.
Added to this is concern over the US debt level, which Trump’s policies have increased.
But the latest issue of the Economist concludes that on balance US big business is content and benefiting from Trump’s office, due to the deregulation measures and massive tax cuts, along with some of the changes in trade relations, which all fuel their profits bonanza.
In the first quarter of 2018, mentions the Economist: “The earnings of listed firms rose by 22% compared with a year earlier”. It also points out the underlying weakness of the growth: “Investment was up by 19%. But … the investment surge is unlike any before – it is skewed towards tech giants, not firms with factories”.
Following the 2007-08 crisis, the US economy was nudged by unprecedentedly huge stimulus measures into nine years of expansion. But this growth has been at a low rate by historical standards and the economic cycle will head into recession again in the not too distant future.
For the time being though, the growth helps Trump to maintain his core base among sections of workers, who hope that wage growth will pick up from its present sluggish level if the economy continues to grow. And while polls show that more US workers disapprove of Trump than approve of him, his use of the issues of trade policy and immigration to appear to be fighting for those who have suffered from lost industry, haven’t yet been fully exposed as being no solution.
Contributing enormously to this is the fact that the main electoral alternative, the Democratic Party, is a second party of big business, not offering any way out of the problems ordinary Americans face, whether on housing, education, low pay or health care. This unattractiveness, and memory of the cuts, privatisation and racist policies carried out during the Democrats’ terms in office, paved the way for Trump’s arrival in the White House.
Even so, Trump and his Republican Party are not facing the November mid-term elections with a secure prospect of victory. Every seat in the House of Representatives will be re-elected and just over a third of the Senate. If the Democrats win control of the House, which recent polls indicate they could, Trump will face an additional obstacle in pushing through laws he wants passed and he could face more corruption investigations.
While the Democrats are no real alternative, a victory for them in November would open up a further period in which they can be tested out and have their limitations exposed, through applying pressure on them to resist Trump’s policies and to deliver improvements in workers’ living standards.
Some excellent workers’ struggles have recently taken place, in particular a wave of strikes by teachers fighting for adequate pay and education funding. Action began in West Virginia and spread to Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina. In most cases these states voted for Trump in 2016, but that hasn’t meant an unwillingness to struggle. The action has been pushed along mainly by rank-and-file trade unionists and an influx of new union members.
Notable also have been the many student walkouts against gun violence; and during May a 50,000-strong strike of staff at the University of California, and a victory by the Tax Amazon campaign in Seattle. The latter spearheaded by Socialist Alternative, the co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in England and Wales.
These struggles come after the interest shown by many young people in the left-wing ideas of Bernie Sanders and the growing interest in the ideas put forward by left radical and socialist organisations – including Socialist Alternative.
Socialists call for the coordinating and linking of present and future struggles, along with the anti-racist and anti-sexist campaigns against Trump, to develop the power of a united working-class based movement that can bring forward the removal of Trump. In the process, vital steps forward towards building a political alternative in workers’ interests can also be taken.