Trump, Black Lives Matter, and the Struggle Against Racism
The Dark World of Trump’s America
Today, we have a naked expression of authoritarianism, hate, bigotry, and racism in the form of Donald Trump in the White House. He reiterated his “law and order” agenda with the appointment of the racist Jeff Sessions as attorney general heading the Department of Justice. The Trump administration is made up of millionaires and billionaires who will advance the agenda of Wall Street and racist demagoguery with such figures like Steve Bannon. Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened the forces of the ultra-right-wing conservative movement, alt-right white nationalist groups, and historic white domestic terror organizations like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).
This is a major threat to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner, anti-racist activists, and people of color generally, particularly black workers and youth. The Trump administration and a segment of the ruling elite would like retribution for the protests, raised consciousness, and life-affirming power of BLM over the course of the last three years. The minor reforms passed to stem the tide of law enforcement terror in our communities have been important to increase the activism, fighting spirit, and morale of the banner, but not on the level of the reforms won by the black freedom movement in the 1950s and 1960s, during post-World War II economic upswing. BLM has spread to every corner of the world with solidarity actions everywhere from sports to the workplace.
Clear and Present Danger
As Spencer Woodman recently reported on TheIntercept.com, “In Minnesota, Washington state, Michigan, and Iowa, Republican lawmakers have proposed an array of anti-protesting laws that center on stiffening penalties for demonstrators who block traffic; in North Dakota, conservatives are even pushing a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill protesters so long as the collision was accidental” (1/23/2017). These measures are an apparent attempt to keep BLM, social justice activists, and workers on a defensive footing, criminalizing the resistance movement against Trump and Wall Street’s agenda. Trump’s threat to send in federal troops allegedly to quell the gut-wrenching violence in Chicago – which would mean martial law – is another indication of the danger this administration poses to the black population..
Trump’s Racism Can Be Defeated
In the aftermath of Trump’s victory, a segment of workers, youth, and people of color are – not surprisingly – nostalgic for the presidency and legacy of Barack Obama. Without question, his election was a historic moment, but for the mass of workers, youth, and people of color, particularly black workers and youth, little was achieved as his policies primarily benefitted and advanced the agenda of Wall Street for eight years.
But the key question we face now is how to defeat Trump. Many BLM activists will be at the forefront of the resistance to attacks on immigrants, women, and labor. We must also turn the defensive struggle against the Trump administration into an offensive struggle for jobs, health care, education, and environmental sustainability.
Last summer, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of more than 50 organizations, released a comprehensive program, “A Vision For Black Lives: Policy Demands For Black Power, Freedom, and Justice” (Policy.M4BL.org), taking on the issues of economic injustice, reparations, police violence, and political power. We believe that adopting a clear set of demands is a very important step forward for the BLM banner, and Socialist Alternative broadly supports the platform. There is much that is positive in this material, but there are also significant political shortcomings, particularly the failure to point the movement toward the necessity of ending capitalism, which is the bedrock of racist oppression. The key question is how this platform will be discussed, debated, and amended by the wider movement and struggle so that it becomes a driving focus for struggle by the black working class under Trump.
Despite the very radical character and broad scope of the platform, there are some striking omissions, including the lack of a call for a $15 minimum wage. The fight for $15 has mobilized tens of thousands of black and Latino workers around the country into action, and there is mass support for the demand in the black community.
It’s important to point out the limits of reform under capitalism and the urgent task to fight for a democratic socialist change of society to cement any gains and concessions wrested from the ruling elite. We must also end the abusive relationship with corporate-dominated political parties of war, racism, poverty, and environmental destruction.
In this new era of Trumpism, the Movement for Black Lives must urgently organize a new conference to take into account the new political and social situation, including democratically elected delegates from around the country, to debate the platform, amend it, and adopt it. This would be a huge step forward. But this process would need to be linked to the question of building a broader organization, rooted in black working-class communities, with democratic and accountable structures.
The rise and threat of Trump’s administration presents the urgent task of uniting our developing social movements like the BLM banner alongside the labor movement, social justice organizations, and socialists. We must build a powerful, united mass movement in our schools, communities, and workplaces. As the example of the long, historical black freedom movement showed, only a bold, determined, centralized, and grassroots struggle with clear demands can beat back the agenda of Wall Street and racism that is etched in the DNA of U.S. capitalism and democracy.