Is Trump a Unique Political Aberration
President Trump is portrayed in the liberal media as a narcissistic bully, sexual predator and all-round bad guy. There is supposed to be nothing like him. He is to the Presidency what Caligula was to the Emperors of ancient Rome.
Trump is accused of unleashing a politics of hate, racism and xenophobia. His wild supporters are to be found in the Klu Klux Klan, national “socialists”, conspiracy theorists, White nationalists such as “alt-right” and in the survivalist militias who wait for a final day of reckoning with the Federal State or “the Zionist forces of occupation” (ZOG), as they call it. He also tapped into the economic despair of the working class in the “rust-belt”; a large swathe of decaying and depressed areas of the US with high unemployment and low wages. Anti-immigration sentiment also loomed large on his agenda.
With Trump’s access to the nuclear code, some commentators in the media even go as far to see Trump’s administration as the last presidency (Jonathan Freedland, Will Donald Trump Destroy America, GUARDIAN 10th November 2016). The Christian fundamentalists, some 20 percent of the population, do not care if Trump unleashes the apocalypse or not; for they are ready and waiting for the “rapture” and the promise of eternal life http://www.sullivan-county.com/news/.
Trump and Past Presidents
Is Trump really a unique monster on the world stage or is he just like any other political leader, past and present?
A useful comparison can be made with President Woodrow Wilson, who held office between 1913 and 1921, to show that Trump does not have a monopoly on hate, racism and xenophobia. There have been others just as there has been a few slave-owning presidents too – and here Thomas Jefferson comes to mind http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dark-side-of-thomas-jefferson-35976004/
In fact, according to the Hauenstein Centre:
It comes as a shock to most Americans’ sensibilities that more than one in four U.S. presidents were slaveholder: 12 owned slaves at some point in their lives. Significantly, 8 presidents owned slaves while living in the Executive Mansion. Put another way, for 50 of the first 60 years of the new republic, the president was a slaveholder. http://hauensteincenter.org/slaveholding/
However, let us consider President Woodrow Wilson. On becoming President, Woodrow Wilson, by executive order, racially-segregated eating and toilet facilities as well as phasing African-Americans out of the civil service. Wilson also believed the Klu Klux Klan were “saviours of white civilization”.
President Wilson endorsed the racist film “THE BIRTH OF A NATION” and even went as far as permitting it to be screened at the White House. Wilson was also a Social Darwinist and passed eugenicist legislation to sterilize “criminals” and those considered by the authorities to be “unfit to breed
”. Is Trump in the same league as President Wilson? Clearly, not yet. There has been no spike in lynchings and no executive orders re-instating segregation in the Federal State, at least, at least, not yet. Trump has not shown a screening of “BIRTH OF A NATION” in the White House.
Trump might endorse white nationalism, a racist attitude towards Mexicans, Hispanics, refugees, immigrants and Arabs, but he does not warrant the hysteria found in the liberal press. There have been no crosses burning on the lawn of the White House.
What threatens and upsets the liberal media about Trump is that his politics has called into question a world of free trade and free markets taking place within a historically inevitable globalisation whose supporters dogmatically assert that “there is no alternative”. Unfortunately, Trump has offered an “alternative” albeit one that is nasty, brutal and divisive. Of course, there has always been an alternative to capitalism: socialism. When you are told “there is no alternative”, you know that there always is an alternative. Except that Trump’s alternative for the working class, is no alternative at all.
Not that the reality of US politics, prior to Trump was a land of milk and honey. What of the police killings of African-Americans during the Clinton, Bush and Obama presidencies? It appears more African-Americans were killed by the police in this period than all the lynchings that took place during the so-called “Jim Crowe” years of segregation.
In fact, more African-Americans were killed by policemen during the Obama administration than were lynched at the height of segregation. In 1892, for example, there were 182 lynchings, while, in 2015, 258 African- Americans were shot dead by the police. The pressure group, Black Lives has highlighted the killings, but Presidents, no matter what their background, have to back the police and police coercion and violence: the forces of the State have to be accepted as beyond reproach; they can do no wrong.
Trump and War
What of war? Every President in the United States has been involved in a war sometime and somewhere in the world and Trump is no exception given how quick he was to dispatch jets to Syria and the US fleet to North Korea. He has already sent additional troops to Afghanistan to protect US interests there. Trump has repeatedly stated that the US would protect its strategic interests against China in the South China Seas, a key shipping route (BBC NEWS 3rd June 2017).
If Trump has a taste for war and conflict then he is no different from previous presidents. Theodore Roosevelt once said: “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one” (Zinn, Howard. A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, p.297).
Danios, who writes on WASHINGTON BLOG, has carried out some useful historical research of the war record of past US presidencies. Since the United States was founded in 1776, the US has been at war during 214 out of her 235 years of existence. In other words, there were only 21 years in which the US did not wage any wars.
Danios puts this in perspective:
* Pick any year since 1776 and there is about a 91% chance that America was involved in some war during that calendar year.
* No U.S. president truly qualifies as a peacetime president. Instead, all U.S. presidents can technically be considered “war presidents.”
* The U.S. has never gone a decade without war.
* The only time the U.S. went five years without war (1935-40) was during the isolationist period of the Great Depression.
Woodrow Wilson, of course, entered the US into the First World War in 1917 to make the world “safe for democracy” as he called it, or to put it another way, safe for US interests to dominate the world. That war cost 116,708 US lives.
And it was President Harry Truman who ordered the atomic bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 200,000 men, women and children. Five Presidents contributed to 58,220 US deaths in the Vietnam conflict from 1955 to 1975 at a cost of some $1 trillion. So, Trump has some way to go.
Trump and Capitalism
Trump is also a great fan of capitalism. He has surrounded himself with billionaires.
In an article in Common Dreams, we are told:
Donald Trump’s cabinet will end up being the richest in modern history—worth around $4.5 billion at conservative estimates but many multi-billions more if you include the family wealth of his appointments and of course Trump himself. Any way you count it, the wealth, corporate influence, and potential conflicts of interest concentrated in this cabinet transcends that of any administration in recent memory.
What about previous Presidents?
There has never been any criticism of capitalism from previous Presidents, not even from President Roosevelt whose “New Deal” of the 1930s was misleadingly decried by his detractors as “socialist”.
All Presidents to date have defended the private ownership of the means of production and distribution to the exclusion of the rest of society. In living memory, when President Reagan broke the air controller’s strike in May 1981, he had the leaders shackled in chains. There is a long history of Federal and State violence against trade unions and the working class, much to inspire Mr Trump.
Bill Clinton once began his presidency by announcing that he was going to “put people before profits” but by the end of his presidency he was putting profit before people by embracing and furthering the interests of the American capitalist class. Hillary Clinton began her bid for the presidency in the pocket of Wall Street and stayed in their pocket for the rest of the campaign. According to leaked documents published in the NEW YORK TIMES in 2016, we are told:
In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks.
What about Obama? The psychotic fringe of the Republican Party often claimed that Obama was a “Marxist” or “communist”, but Obama, like his predecessors was a friend of the capitalist class. Obama endorsed capitalism in an article he wrote in the Economist:
“…it is important to remember that capitalism has been the greatest driver of prosperity and opportunity the world has ever seen."
Obama’s administration also contributed to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and, given the chance, he would have ordered the use of air force jets against Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria too. Obama also signed presidential orders to kill terrorists and anyone else that happened to be in the vicinity. Hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been killed. Trump has merely continued this policy of death and destruction.
As Trevor Trimm of the GUARDIAN noted:
“…in 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. This means that every day last year, the US military blasted combatants or civilians overseas with 72 bombs; that’s three bombs every hour, 24 hours a day.
While most of these air attacks were in Syria and Iraq, US bombs also rained down on people in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan” (Monday 9th January 2017)
Trump is also very laissez-faire with the truth. Is he any different from his predecessors; like “Tricky Dickie” Nixon, the last President to be impeached and thrown out of office? Of course not.
And has no one read “NO ONE LEFT TO LIE TO: THE TRIANGULATIONS OF WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON” (1999) and “THE CASE AGAINST HILARY CLINTON” (Slate, March 31, 2008) by the late Christopher Hitchins? Hitchins highlights the mendacity of the Clintons who went on to set up the lucrative Clinton Foundation with its long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 election.
All Presidents, have to support capitalism, as do all political leaders. That is their job. Let capitalist politicians get on and administer capitalism in the interest of a minority and let workers organise consciously and politically to establish socialism in order to enable free men and women to democratically administer a socialist society in the interest of the majority.
Trump, when it suits him, is an advocate of economic nationalism or protectionism.
Trump’s campaign rhetoric was about preserving the jobs of US workers through protective tariffs against imports but it was really to protect US interests, particularly in the energy industry, from the various free trade agreements like The Trans Pacific Partnership, the TTIP with the European Union and the North American Free Trade agreement.
The dislike by many capitalists in the energy industry of US capitalism of being hemmed in by trans-national treatises has fed into Trump’s recent rejection of the Paris climate change treaty. He believes that trans-national treaties will hurt US capitalism. In fact, a lot of Trump’s rhetoric around US interests has been borrowed from previous politicians.
The absurd “America first” slogan was used by isolationists in the run-up to the Second World War, led by the anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh’s relationship with Hitler’s Germany of the 1930s has similarities today between Trump and Putin’s Russia.
There have been seven previous Presidents who have also advocated protectionism. Although, as Marx showed in his article, On the Question of Free Trade, free trade and protectionism are two sides of the same capitalist coin and have nothing to do with the interests of the working class. (For a collection of Marx and Engels’s comments on Free Trade and Protectionism see http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/free-trade/).
The energy industries have a long record of opposing climate change legislation, claiming that it gives advantages to other countries. The oil, gas and coal industries are the three largest donors to Republican candidates. According to the GUARDIAN, 22 Republican senators have had campaigns underwritten to more than $10 million (2nd June 2016). They lobbied hard to get Trump to reject the Paris climate treaty and they were successful.
Again, Trump is not new in taking these kinds of decisions. George W Bush’s administration started out in 2001 by declaring the Kyoto protocol dead.
Pollution, green-house gas emission, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases are all negative by-products of commodity production and exchange for profit. What environment reforms are passed by legislators have to work with the profit-system not against it. Some environmental legislation is successful, some isn’t but it takes place within a climate of conflicting interests within the capitalist class, the squabble over who pays, the ability or enthusiasm to enforce the legislation and to weigh-up the advantages and disadvantages against foreign competitors not bound by the legislation. Environment degradation will still be very serious problem a socialist society will have to address and resolve.
Workers should use their sober senses rather than fear and hysteria when assessing and criticising Trump’s presidency. He will pass into history just as previous presidents have done, but capitalism, with all its problems facing will remain unless the working class acts in its own interests. And that wiould start with not voting for political leaders no matter who they are.
The focus for the working class should be to getting rid of the profit system and not becoming obsessed with the political leaders who administer it on a day-to-day basis. Leaders always fail. Capitalism can never be run in the interest of the working class and trump is no exception. Trump has not got it in his gift to end unemployment and poverty. The reality for the working class in the US and elsewhere in the world is the need for class solidarity. Workers, no matter where they come from and where they live, have the same class interest to replace capitalism with socialism.
Object and Declaration of Principles
The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.
Declaration of Principles
THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN HOLDS:
1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.
2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.
3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.
5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.