A first commentary by Michael Pröbsting (International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency), 09.November 2016, www.thecommunists.net
Editor’s Note: The following commentary is a first assessment of the consequences of the Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election. As it was written only hours after the closing of the polls it does not claim to be a full and comprehensive analysis. We plan to provide such a document in the near future as the electoral statistics and the policy plans of the new Administration become public.
The electoral victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election – combined with the renewed Republican majority both in the Senate as well as in the House of Representatives – is a political event of vast historical importance. This is not because Trump’s policy will be qualitatively worse for the working class and oppressed than Hilary Clinton’s policy would have been. Both politicians are representatives of the ruling class of the still most powerful imperialist power in the world, and as such they are both arch enemies of the proletariat and oppressed peoples of the US and around the globe. This is why we in the RCIT advocated that class conscious and progressive workers and youth give their vote to neither Trump nor Clinton (nor to any of the minor bourgeois candidates like Johnson or Stein).
No, the election of Trump is of crucial importance because it nearly guarantees accelerated political polarization and instability – both domestically in the US as well as abroad. Therefore, we believe that the outcome of this presidential election represents a historical event for the class struggle both within the US as well as internationally.
What are the reasons for this thesis of ours? They are to be found in the primary political differences between Trump and Clinton:
a) While Clinton stood for a carefully masked offensive against the working class and the oppressed, Trump stands for an openly aggressive and provocative assault against the popular masses. Despite his “pro-working class” rhetoric, Trump plans to reduce even more the taxes for corporations and to attack any remaining working class rights. Because of the decreased revenue from taxes, President-elect Trump, upon entering office, will have to cut the already very limited social programs, like health, education, and welfare, which will in particular impact the lower strata of the proletariat with their huge black and Latino segments.
This program of radical austerity will unavoidably provoke massive outrage and resistance. This is why Trump combines his social austerity and pro-corporation policy with a program of white-evangelical chauvinism and law-and-order Bonapartism. Hence “Donald” (the Duck,” we should add) – an apt name for such a political clown – openly incites hatred and denigration for Latinos as well as the Muslims in his speeches. He makes no secret about his contempt for women. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, is a Christian fundamentalist who wants to allow shops to refuse serving homosexuals. Thus, it is clear that this presidency will provoke Muslims, lesbians and gays, and many other minorities. While Bill Clinton and Obama masked social cuts and police repression with phrases about equality and anti-racism, Trump openly advocates white-evangelical chauvinism, law-and-order and Bonapartist rule. Hence, the new administration will tremendously accelerate the oppression of the black and Latino communities by building a wall along the border with Mexico, undertake mass expulsion of “illegal” migrants, and extend the power of the US police forces and white gun owners in general.
Trump’s slogan “Make America great again” means, first and foremost, enhancing the power of US corporations and reactionary white chauvinism.
The consequences of this are clear. Those of us who, in the early 2000s, experienced the transition from the presidency of Bill Clinton to that of George W. Bush – from a professional politician carefully masking his reactionary policies to a dullard and unwitting clown – will recall that the latter initiated wars and provoked a global wave of mass resistance for years. As Trump makes even Bush look like an egghead, we can safely assume that the former will again provoke popular resistance both in the US as well as around the globe.
b) Hilary Clinton stood for a gradually modified alteration of US foreign policy from that of Obama during the past 8 years. She advocated a more aggressive political stance against imperialist rivals like Russia and China in the context of world affairs like the civil wars in Syria and the Ukraine. However, at the same time she wanted to continue the decades-long economic policy of globalization and free trade.
By comparison, Trump represents a radical change of US foreign policy. His is a policy of relative or selective isolationism. “Donald” represents the growing sector of the ruling class which, from the declining power of US imperialism, has come to the conclusion that the US can no longer afford to play the role of the world’s policeman. This faction of the monopoly bourgeoisie is not isolationist in the sense that it advocates a complete withdrawal of the US from world politics. Clearly, this is not possible in a modern world characterized by the thorough interconnection of politics and the economy of the US with global developments. However, the Trump administration will reduce the long-term political and military commitments of the US with other great powers. This is why Trump is inclined to cut deals with Putin on the Ukraine or Syria. This is, by the way, why Trump’s victory hastens the danger for the liquidation of the Syrian Revolution by a reactionary deal between the Great Powers, as we have repeatedly warned in the past. Furthermore, this is why Trump wants to loosen the strategic commitment of the US to the NATO alliance, which binds it to the imperialist EU.
An additional factor for this could be Trumps’ desire to reduce conflicts with the US’s imperialist rivals in the international arena – at least initially – so that he can focus on consolidating his regime domestically, seeing as he can justifiably expect numerous domestic protests, as we have noted, but also conflicts within his own Republican party.
At the same time, it would be utterly foolish to believe that Trump will be able to simply arrange a stable agreement with Putin or Xi. Trump’s chauvinism – manifested in his plans for economic protectionism – will sooner or later lead to various conflicts with China and Russia. Naturally, this will lead to political and ultimately military conflicts with the US’s rival eastern imperialists – contrary to the naïve belief of the pseudo-left “critical” (and not so critical) supporters of Putin and Xi in the Stalinist camp who advocated support for Trump.
One possible area for such a conflict is between Israel and Iran, where Trump has committed himself to support Netanyahu’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Teheran. Trump’s triumph could also encourage the Israeli government to launch another war on the Palestinian people in Gaza, as Israel’s Minister of Defense Lieberman has already suggested in a recent interview with Al Quds. Other possible areas for imperialist aggression are the “War against Terrorism” in the Middle East or against North Korea in East Asia.
The likelihood for such foreign-policy adventures is increased by the fact that the Trump administration needs “terrorist” dangers and “foreign threats” in order to keep up its domestic agenda of chauvinism and Bonapartist law-and-order.
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All these developments will have tremendous implications for all capitalist countries around the globe. In this context and point in time we can name just a few. For one, they will substantially increase protectionist tendencies among all imperialist powers. This will push the ruling class of Europe to accelerate its plans for the formation of a unified EU imperialist state apparatus in order to act more independently of the US. It will also strengthen chauvinist and Bonapartist tendencies in all countries where right-wing politicians will see in Trump a successful and popularly-supported model for their own regimes.
However, as we have already noted, these developments will also provoke mass protests and accelerate the global class struggle. The Trump administration will provoke the resistance of the black and Latino communities in the US. It will result in renewed and widespread hatred of US imperialism both among the peoples of Latin America as well as in the Islamic world. While Obama could, at least to a certain degree, pretend to create a global democratic consensus integrating ideologically some sectors of the bourgeoisie and the middle class in other parts of the world, dumb Donald is guaranteed to achieve just the opposite.
Elaborating all these analyses must of course not lead us to forget the enormous contradictions which will characterize the Trump administration. Naturally “Donald” cannot govern alone, but will have to make compromises with the Republicans in the Senate and the Congress. As we know the Republican majority is less willing than Trump to support an isolationist policy. In fact, the Republican establishment distanced itself from Trump during the campaign. However, while such compromises may moderate this or that Trump policy, at the same time it is quite likely that, after Trump’s triumph, a growing sector of the Republicans will rather adapt to Trumpism.
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No one should confuse the outcome of the US presidential election with the authentic popular will of the American people. One must not forget that electoral participation is very low in the US, with only about half of the eligible voters bothering to go to the polls. Neither should it be forgotten that 11 million “illegal” migrants, as well as many millions of poor with previous felony convictions, are permitted to sell their labor power to the capitalists, but are not allowed to vote.
All socialists should be clear about one thing: Trump’s victory is a declaration of war against the organized workers’ movement, against the Afro-American, Latino and Muslim populations, and against the rights of women. Activists in the workers’ movement and in the movements for the rights of blacks, Latinos and Muslims must respond to this declaration of war with a general mobilization and a call to arms. Comrades, these are the opening shots of a period of years of unlimited imperialist aggression as well as mass struggles against it!
Naturally, all the above are just some first thoughts. Events in the coming weeks and months will show more clearly the new relation of forces inside the American ruling class and its consequences for US domestic and foreign policy. We will cover these developments in future articles and statements.
Nevertheless, it is already quite obvious: our international struggle against Trump’s war on the working class and oppressed of the US and around the world will not be a short struggle. Rather, it will be a long and difficult struggle. For this reason, it is incumbent that advanced workers and the oppressed develop a plan of struggle and get themselves organized. Therefore, the creation of a revolutionary world party with sections in the US and all other countries is more urgent than ever. The RCIT is determined to work together with revolutionaries around the globe in building such a party. Join forces with us in taking on this task!