U.S. in Turmoil: Trump’s Crisis, the Midterm Elections, Movements and Strikes
Turmoil in the Trump administration has reached a new phase at the same time as teachers’ strikes spread across the country and the midterm elections loom large on the political situation.
Trump has purged the White House of not only the racist Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus’s mainstream Republican faction, but also the President’s own family. Chief of Staff John Kelly and reactionary Attorney General Jeff Sessions could be the next two on the chopping block. Trump is consolidating his own grip on the regime, making it even more prone to wild political shifts based on Trump’s personalized authoritarian whims.
John Bolton, a right-wing warmonger, has been brought in – a move which stands in contradiction to Trump’s largely isolationist posture on foreign policy during his 2016 campaign. Trump is only political consistent about a couple things: his inconsistency and his desire for control. He is gripped by scandal and a tightening investigation by Mueller. Meanwhile, the Republicans face a “blue wave” in the November midterm elections which is likely to give Democrats control of the House and possibly the Senate. High-ranking House Republicans are jumping off the sinking ship, and 48-year old Paul Ryan retirement is only the latest “man overboard.”
While the Democratic Party leadership is not building movements against the right-wing agenda, millions are not satisfied with “waiting until November” to fight the Republicans. Teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma have gone on strike often without the help of their union leaders, and Arizona and possibly Colorado are up next. Students are walking out against gun violence while also livid about facing a future of deteriorating education, college debt, skyrocketing housing costs, low wage jobs, discrimination, and environmental destruction.
Teachers Revolt Shows the Way Forward
Coming off years of historically low numbers of strikes, the labor movement is reawakening. Teachers are leading the way after years and years of budget cuts, privatization, union-busting, and vilification in the corporate media. The current strike wave, often organized from below without initiative from union leaders, threatens to spread. A stronger labor movement is necessary to beat back the attacks on our living standards, and strikes will be an essential tactic in the face of capitalism in crisis and the policies of politicians who are little more than puppets for the billionaire class.
We should not forget that the crisis in public education didn’t start with Trump. Local, state and national Democratic Party leaders have criminally under-funded education, ushered in high-stakes testing and viciously attempted to bust unions. “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel in Chicago is only the most obvious example of this trend. This teacher fightback is long overdue and points the way forward for a labor movement that too often refuses to fight when faced with attacks on workers’ rights like the coming Janus ruling by the Supreme Court which will create “right to work” (for less) conditions in the public sector nationally.
These strikes can be a starting point for a widespread labor revolt despite the fact that Janus can damage the labor movement as happened in Wisconsin after the anti-union laws in Wisconsin brought in under Republican Scott Walker. As in the labor upsurge of the 1970s, thousands of young activists from other struggles are turning to the unions. Back then, they had experience from the Black Power, women’s liberation, and antiwar struggles, drawing socialist conclusions and looking toward the working class as the key force for change. Today, young people have been galvanized around Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the new women’s movement, the Bernie Sanders campaign, and anti-Trump struggles with tens of thousands of activists getting organized in the Democratic Socialists of America.
Socialist ideas and organization have been key ingredients in every successful labor upsurge in the history of this country, and these struggles have been central to every increase in living standards and workplace rights that we’ve achieved. Big business and their politicians have been intent on rolling back these historic gains for decades. But as a new wave of class struggle develops socialist ideas of solidarity, struggle, and working-class political independence will rise with every successful battle. The teachers’ struggle also points to the need for flexible tactics in organizing workers, building wider support in the community and the working class, including a political struggle against union leaders who refuse to fight against the bosses and the politicians who serve them.
The Coming Blue Wave
Ryan’s resignation is only one sign that the Democrats are likely to make big gains in November. There are counter currents to the “blue wave,” namely gerrymandered districts, Trump’s hardcore base still supporting him, and the possibility of voter apathy as the corporate-controlled nature of the Democrats prevents them from mobilizing people around an exciting program for substantial change. However, rich Republican donors are abandoning House races to try to “stop the bleeding” in the Senate while droves of politicians retire.
Socialists sympathize with the desire to use the November elections to strike a blow at the right wing. Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership have not made decisive moves to drive out the weak Trump regime, and they sold out young immigrant DACA recipients in their budget deal with the Republicans. They also opened the door to Trump’s right populism with years of pro-corporate policies. We need to build our struggles from below to effectively win victories against Republican proposals.
We think an important way to build the power of working people is by supporting strong independent left campaigns like Tim Canova in Florida, running for Congress against former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Gayle McLaughlin running for lieutenant governor in California. The Democratic Socialists of America should actively build these campaigns as part of the bold electoral strategy we advocate to forward the struggle for a mass working class party and socialist change. At the same time, we should engage with supporters of populist Democrats like Cynthia Nixon in New York to discuss what type of program and movement is necessary to defeat the billionaire class.
If the Democrats do gain control of Congress or even just the House, this will alter the political terrain and they won’t be able to claim that their “hands are tied” to effectively stop Trump’s policies. We will need to intensify movements on the streets, workplaces, campuses, and communities to force them to act decisively against Trump.
Security State Threatens Trump
Mueller’s investigation and Comey’s book are causing Trump to freak out on Twitter and in real life. Trump’s wannabe dictator personality leaves him open to making blunders and it is possible he fires Mueller which would lead to mass protests across the country that would destabilize Trump’s regime.
Trump is undoubtedly a corrupt, racist, sexist bigot and a threat to workers and the oppressed. We are in favor of bringing him down along with his policies. At the same time, socialists point out that the FBI is a repressive institution with a history of attacking the left and particularly black activists. We have also repeatedly pointed out that it was the weakness of Clinton and the Democrats not Russian interference that ushered Trump into office.
If Trump fires Mueller, socialists should intervene in protests that would likely be historic in their breadth and determination. We would advocate, unlike Democratic leaders, that the protests do everything in their power to defeat Trump, including civil disobedience, strikes, and occupations. Socialists would also propose that this potential new stage of the movement against Trump bring forward pro-worker demands for a $15 an hour minimum wage, full funding to education, and guaranteed single-payer health care. Trump might not be impulsive enough to fire Mueller and trigger a social crisis, but he’s certainly not above outbursts and inexplicable blunders.
For example, Trump has fired the opening shots of a potential trade war with China that – if it escalates – could drag the economy back into a recession. The current shallow recovery is a key reason why Trump’s hardcore base hasn’t abandoned him yet, but that can change if the economy crashes. Trump’s threatened tariffs and China’s “tit-for-tat” responses have already sent jitters through international markets and could threaten both the agricultural and auto industries in the U.S. This shows, once again, that Trump’s promises that capitalism can “bring the jobs back” are empty rhetoric and that this system has no way out of the crisis it created.
We can’t wait until November, and we need a socialist program that can link up all the struggles taking place now. Socialists should work to rebuild the labor movement and make steps toward a working-class party that fights for democratic public ownership of the big corporations that dominate our lives.
Why Socialists Are Against Bombing Syria
Desperate for a distraction from domestic woes, Trump ordered the bombing of Syria, uniting with other embattled right-wing heads of state in Britain and France and threatening to provoke a wider war in the Middle East. The brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad has committed horrible atrocities and war crimes, but we shouldn’t trust that Trump or the Western ruling classes have the interests of ordinary Syrians at heart when they bomb Syria and claim Assad’s chemical weapon use as the reason. The Western powers for instance have no problem supporting the wretched dictatorship in Saudi Arabia when it serves their interests as they are doing right now while the Saudi bombing campaign leads to famine in Yemen.
The Middle East is rife with division and the threat of conflict. The Israeli state has been particularly belligerent lately, gunning down unarmed Palestinian protesters and bombing Iranian positions in Syria. The Saudi royal ruling class also has impulses towards war with Iran. Assad’s brutal Syrian regime is tied heavily to both the Iranian and Russian ruling classes.
The bombing of Syria is not just Trump’s policy; big sections of the U.S. establishment support this action, including Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians. The American ruling class wants to try to re-assert their authority and military might in the Middle East and internationally as they are losing influence across the world to China, Russia and regional powers like Iran.
At the same time, the ruling class doesn’t at this point want a wider war in the Middle East, fearful of how this might affect corporate investments and of the massive opposition to deeper military involvement at home. Yet, working through the unpredictable and undisciplined Trump, they are willing to risk precisely this outcome in order to assert their power and bring particularly the Russian regime to the negotiating table to work out a “solution” in Syria more favorable to Western capitalism yet unlikely to bring down Assad’s dictatorship
Working people around the world want peace, stability and a decent future. Neither U.S. or Russian imperialism or the reactionary regimes in the Middle East offer any solution except endless conflict. Socialists stand for the unity of working people, the poor and youth in a struggle against this escalating crisis of war and poverty at the heart of capitalism. We demand that all imperialist powers including the U.S., Russia, Iran, and Turkey withdraw their forces. While protests against war are currently small, the threat of wider and escalating conflict means we need to start laying the basis for a mass antiwar movement now.