By Bryan Koulouris, Socialist Alternative (Sister organisation of the Socialist Party in the US)
One of the most reactionary, bigoted, and predatory administrations in modern history has officially taken office. The incoming Trump presidency, from the vicious tweets to the bizarre press conferences to the reactionary cabinet picks and executive orders, has millions of people understandably feeling they are in an unfolding nightmare. People fear a man who has glorified sexual assault, incited racist violence, and made billions of dollars off the backs of working people.
He has horrified many by proposing to ramp up mass deportation, attacks on women’s reproductive rights, and unions while the Republican Congress is busy dismantling Obamacare. Now he has reversed Obama and given the go-ahead to the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. He has made clear that environmental regulations generally are going to be shredded in the name of encouraging manufacturers to build factories in the U.S.
As we go to press, Trump has signed orders giving the green light to start building a “wall” on the Mexican border. He is setting the stage for deportations of undocumented workers on a previously unseen scale by adding 5,000 more border patrol officers and tripling the number of ICE officers while radically expanding the definition of “criminal” behavior which can make a person a target for deportation. He is threatening to strip “ sanctuary cities” of federal funds. He is also enacting a de facto immigration ban on Muslims by stopping visas from six different majority Muslim countries.
However, fear is not the only reaction to the new “Predator in Chief.” Trump’s inauguration was met with the biggest day of protest in U.S. history with the women’s marches on January 21 mobilizing over three million people into action. This movement must be continued, deepened, and escalated to stop the right-wing agenda. Trump’s policies can be defeated, but it will take determined resistance, mass civil disobedience, and disruption of “business as usual” to win.
“Business as usual” is the system that’s resulted in only eight people now having more wealth than 3.6 billion people – half the world’s population. Business as usual, under Democrats as well as Republicans, is perpetual climate destruction, war, income inequality, racism, and sexism. Business as usual helped open the door to Trump’s populist demagoguery. The majority of the American ruling class does not see Trump as a reliable defender of their interests. But, from the point of view of the interests of working people, Trump and his billionaire cabinet are out and out enemies, and we can’t depend on the same elites that couldn’t stop Trump’s election to stop his agenda.
Deeply Divided Establishment
The ruling billionaire class in the U.S. and internationally is deeply divided on how to deal with Trump’s ascendancy to the most powerful position in the world. Obama and Clinton want us to “give Trump a chance,” but we can’t wait for the defunding of Planned Parenthood or kicking millions off of Medicaid before we take action. Some Democrats, like those who refused to attend Trump’s inauguration, say they want to fight Trump’s agenda. If they are serious about this, then they could put up roadblocks especially given the Republicans’ paper-thin majority in the Senate. For instance, a filibuster could stop the nomination of a right-wing Supreme Court justice that could tip the balance against Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, Democrats were unwilling to take such determined measures in the past to halt the assaults of the Bush administration.
Internationally, Trump’s nationalistic and protectionist rhetoric is creating profound anxiety among the U.S. billionaire class’ “allies.” Trump has angered most of the European establishment with his statements that the European Union will fall apart and that the NATO military alliance is “obsolete.” As the U.S. elites remain paralyzed by division, Russia, Israel and Turkey’s rulers have all gone on the offensive to increase their regional might and influence.
Tensions are rapidly rising between the U.S. and China with the Chinese leadership threatening to “take the gloves off” in dealing with Trump. On Monday, Trump formally scrapped the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal that the Obama administration constructed to push back against China’s growing economic power. We certainly do not mourn the end of this anti-worker, anti-environment pact. But Trump’s alternative seems to be to threaten a trade war with China. Contrary to administration claims, tariffs will not bring manufacturing jobs back in large numbers. A trade war is more likely to push the world economy into recession. Under capitalism we face the terrible choice between destructive corporate globalization and protectionist trade wars.
Our movement shouldn’t answer Trump’s nationalism with anti-Russia echoes of the Cold War. Struggles will be far more effective if we focus on fighting against the racist, sexist, and anti-working class policies that the right wing proposes rather than trailing behind the CIA’s attempts to whip up nationalistic scandals. Nevertheless the attacks of the intelligence agencies against Trump reflect genuine ruling class anxiety about his obvious admiration for Putin.
Hundreds of thousands of people outside the U.S. protested against Trump on January 21, and we need to be in solidarity with working people around the world looking to resist both “business as usual” and right-wing reaction. Nationalist slogans and paranoia about the government being controlled by foreign powers like Putin won’t be effective mobilizing working people, youth and the poor to join a determined resistance that can beat back Trump’s reactionary agenda.
Instead of relying on the murderous CIA or the corporate-controlled politicians to stop the right-wing onslaught, we need to instead focus on mobilizing from below with 100 days of resistance to Trump’s agenda.
The Democrats and the Movement
We need to base our movement on the needs of working people and not limit our demands to what the Democratic Party leadership will accept. We can build the biggest possible protests by calling for popular measures like defending and extending reproductive rights, ending deportations of immigrants and establishing improved Medicare for all. We need to keep fighting for a $15 minimum wage, tuition-free college, and an end to mass incarceration.
We need unity and solidarity of all people actively opposing Trump to stop his attacks. Women facing cuts to Planned Parenthood should be backed up by everyone who is standing against Trump; the same goes for immigrants and anyone else in this predator’s crosshairs. Unions, community groups, women’s organizations, Black Lives Matter activists, and socialists should all mobilize together with clear demands and decisive action.
At the same time, new mass movement needs to welcome people who are attending their first ever protests and organizing meetings. This means that new coalitions against Trump will include people who often look to Democratic Party politicians for leadership. Coalitions of resistance will also need to include organizations with ties to the Democratic Party like unions and women’s groups. Within these coalitions, we need to have debates about the best strategy to fight for demands that can improve the lives of working people.
Socialist Alternative thinks that we need a new party of the 99% to be an uncompromising force in fighting Trump’s agenda. The Democratic Party leadership helped pave the way for Trump’s victory, and their politicians are overwhelmingly controlled by the corporate elites. Mainstream Democrats didn’t stop Bush’s agenda, and they haven’t delivered on their promises to combat racism and sexism or improve the lives of working people. This is why some working people were seduced by Trump’s pro-worker demagogy, something which will be undermined by experience. Socialist Alternative will work alongside progressive Democrats around clear demands to mobilize people into action, but we will not limit our program, strategy or tactics to what is acceptable to the corporate Democrats. Instead we will base ourselves on the needs of working people to resist a system and a Presidency that’s bent on destruction.
Next Steps Against Trump
We need 100 days of escalating resistance. Reproductive rights are under attack. In Poland, women went on strike to stop sexist laws, and they won. Women’s organizations and unions should follow this positive example and build the strongest possible determined actions for March 8, International Women’s Day.
Our 100 days of resistance should culminate in mass marches, civil disobedience and strike action on May 1, International Workers Day. On May Day in 2006, immigrant workers went on strike and protested throughout the country to beat back racist anti-immigrant legislation. This time, we can’t leave the immigrants to fight alone. The unions should mobilize all members, immigrant and native-born alike, to oppose Trump’s deportations with decisive action, including work stoppages. We shouldn’t forget that the labor movement itself is a target of Trump’s predatory appetites.
January 20 and 21 inaugurated a resistance of monumental proportions. Socialist Alternative feels that we need to turn this into a movement that can challenge the “business as usual” system that gives eight white men more wealth than 3.6 billion inhabitants of this planet. Trump is the embodiment of predatory capitalism, and while successfully fighting his agenda, working people can lay the basis for a world without exploitation, poverty and discrimination. Join us in the fight for socialism! We have a world to win!