Break with Democrats, Build a
Revolutionary Workers Party
All Out on May Day!
In Defense of Immigrants and All Workers
Class Struggle Workers – Portland and Painters Local 10 at “ICE Out of Oregon” protest, March 6.
For Worker/Immigrant Mass Action to STOP Deportations!
Since the moment Donald Trump took office on January 20, a wave of raw fear has swept across immigrant communities that has not abated. The fear is justified, but the vicious offensive against immigrants has also produced another effect: anger and a determination to fight, for immigrant rights, for their rights as workers and for the better life for their children that millions have risked all to achieve. People who have braved incredible hardship, waded through rivers, trekked across deserts avoiding snakes, criminals and the Border Patrol, who keep an eye out for danger as they walk down the street, are not meek victims who just give up in the face of a racist bully. Immigrants can play a key role in bringing down the Trump regime, but they urgently need the active support of all workers and the oppressed in a sharp class struggle
After an election campaign fueled by xenophobia (hatred of foreigners), Trump immediately issued three decrees: to ban immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries, to build his wall along the Mexican border, and to criminalize and deport any undocumented immigrant the Immigration and Customs Enforcement police can get their hands on. Rumors quickly spread of migra cops grabbing immigrants off the street. Shopping areas would empty if someone spotted an I.C.E. van. The new administration is stoking this fear, trying to sow panic so that people would “self-deport,” and it has had some success. But there was also the reaction in Phoenix when on February 8 immigrants and their supporters courageously blocked a van for hours seeking to stop the deportation of Guadalupe García de Rayos. That’s the spirit we need on a mass scale.
This May 1, there will in effect be a strike by hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers across the United States, perhaps upwards of a million as in 2006. In fact, immigrants brought May Day, the international workers day, back to the U.S. (Anti-communist union bureaucrats instead created Labor Day in early September as a day when capitalist politicians parade as phony “friends of labor.”) There will be walkouts on a huge scale, far more than on the “Day Without Immigrants” last February that was organized mainly on social media. The talk on the Internet of a “global general strike” is pure illusion, redefining strike to mean any protest, or even not shopping, rather than an act of workers power. But what would be major is for key sectors of U.S.-born workers to walk out in solidarity with immigrants, protesting the assault against them.
This can happen, but it requires the effort of class-conscious militants. In 2008, the West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) struck on May Day to stop the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to defend immigrants. In 2015, ILWU Local 10 in the San Francisco Bay Area shut down the Port of Oakland and led a march of thousands to demand “Stop Police Terror.” That same day in Portland, Oregon, activists from several unions marched in a contingent of “Labor Against Racist Police Murder.” This year, Portland Painters Union Local 10 has called for “All Out on May Day For Immigrant and Worker Rights.”
Beyond marching on May 1, it is necessary to mobilize workers power in the struggle to defeat the government’s escalating war on immigrants. The Internationalist Group has called for mass labor-led mobilizations in defense of immigrants, to drive I.C.E. jails out of the major urban areas, to turn schools into sanctuaries and “to set up phone trees, social media networks and other measures for rapid response to flood the streets to block I.C.E. raids and deportations” (see “Let Them In!”). In New York, members of Class Struggle Education Workers have initiated committees to defend immigrants in hospitals (see “NYC Health Care Workers Say: Mobilize the Power of Labor to Defend Muslims and Immigrants”) and schools (see “Keep I.C.E. Police Out of Our Schools”). The Internationalist Clubs at the City University (CUNY) initiated a Committee to Defend Immigrants and Muslims at Hunter College.
It is also vital that the struggle to defend immigrants and all workers be waged independently of the Democratic Party. Since Trump’s upset election victory in November, sections of this capitalist party have begun pretending to be an opposition force for the first time in many decades. They’re getting an assist from opportunist leftists eager to be gofers for the latest mass “movement.” Liberal Democrats, notably those who supported the populist candidacy of Bernie Sanders but also Hillary Clinton supporters, have been pushing for protests against Trump by women, immigrants, students and other “constituencies.” Thus the January 21 “women’s march” in Washington, D.C., hailed by almost all the left, was in reality a Democratic Party operation, as was the March 8 “women’s strike” in good part.
In the realm of immigrants’ rights there are a number of groups including (in NYC) the New York Immigrant Coalition, Make the Road and New York Communities for Change, all linked to the Democrats, with counterparts in most major cities. For May Day, these groups are saying that their aim is to “change the narrative” about immigrants supposedly “stealing American jobs” and to “increase pressure in the long term for immigration reform”! No, what we need is action to STOP the deportations NOW!
The bottom line for the Democrats is that basically nothing can be done, or not much, because “it’s the law.” That’s their law, the capitalist law which they helped write and enforce.Every law that Trump is now enforcing was written by Democrats, particularly the Clintons’ (Bill and Hillary) 1996 “Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act.” Working people, whether born here or in another country, need to fight for no ban on Muslim immigrants, no Mexico wall, let the refugees in and full citizenship rights for all immigrants. That means going up against the capitalist state, and we need the power of the working class to do it.
When the time comes to mobilize mass action to block the I.C.E. Gestapo, to bring out tens of thousands to actually shut down Wall Street, the ports and industry, there will be mass support from the population of the urban centers, who in their vast majority oppose Trump and even despise his reactionary regime. Just look at how thousands streamed to the airports to oppose his Muslim ban. But even as liberal Democrats now talk of “resistance,” at the crucial moment they will do everything to block the action that’s urgently needed.
While Trump is the immediate enemy, the Democrats are the key strategic enemy whose stranglehold on labor, black and immigrant organizations and populations must be broken. The resolution of Portland Painters Local 10 last August showed the way forward, saying that it “does not support the Democrats, Republicans, or any bosses’ parties or politicians” and “we call on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party and build a class-struggle workers party.”
Break with the Democrats, Mobilize the Working Class
Internationalist contingent at protest against inauguration of Donald Trump, Washington, D.C., January 20.
In his first 100 days in office, the billionaire president has increasingly turned his back on the phony populism he pushed in order to get elected, and has governed as a typical right-wing Republican. On one thing, though, the new administration has remained consistent: from Day One it has viciously attacked immigrants. Trump built his campaign railing against “Islamic terrorists” and accusing Mexican immigrants of being rapists, drug dealers and criminals. On April 11, his racist attorney general Jeff Sessions went to the Arizona-Sonora border to denounce undocumented immigrants as “criminal aliens” and “filth,” who bring “drugs and death,” “depravity and violence.”
Yet leaving aside the Republicans’ immigrant-bashing rhetoric, and Democrat Obama’s bogus talk of “immigration reform,” what the Trump administration is doing is to escalate the anti-immigrant policies of its predecessor, if that. Look at the statistics. The number of deportations is nearly the same: 35,600 in January-February 2017, compared to 35,250 in the same period last year (Guardian, 3 April). Obama greatly expanded the guidelines for deportations, deporting more people than any other president, earning him the title “deporter-in-chief.”
Take note as well about what has happened with Trump’s anti-immigrant decrees. His ban on immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim countries was immediately contested in the courts by attorney generals of several Democratic state governments. But little notice was paid to the executive order on internal security, which declares “removable aliens” anyone convicted of any criminal offense (including smoking in the park); anyone charged with a criminal offense (even if they haven’t been found guilty); anyone who has “committed acts” that could be a criminal offense (who decides that?); anyone who misled any government agency (“no match” Social Security number?) or “abused” public benefits (children’s health programs?); or who “in the judgment of an immigration officer” might pose a “risk” to “public safety.”
Being an “unauthorized” person present in the United States is not in itself a crime; in many cases it is only a civil offense. Yet Trump’s decree not only makes almost every undocumented immigrant in the U.S. subject to deportation, it is blatantly unconstitutional. Under the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution all persons have the right to due process. Under the Fourteenth Amendment (won through the Civil War) “equal protection of the laws” is also supposedly guaranteed to all persons present in the U.S. This was confirmed in an 1896 Supreme Court ruling and numerous rulings ever since. But even though Trump’s January 25 executive order egregiously denies due process and equal protection, there has been no court challenge. Why not? Because it would go against the immigration laws the Democrats wrote and enforced.
So defending immigrants will require fighting the Democrats as well as Trump. In New York City, the claims to be a “sanctuary city” run up against the “broken windows” police strategy which has been pursued by mayors from Republicans Giuliani and Bloomberg to Democrat Bill de Blasio. That practice leads to huge numbers of arrests for minor offenses, and a lot of things that aren’t any sort of offense, and that information is routinely transmitted to federal authorities in Washington. To really prevent such data on immigrants (overwhelmingly youth) being used for deportations, it should not exist in the first place. How? By abolishing these supposed “criminal offenses.” But despite calls by immigrant rights groups, clergymen and others to junk “broken windows,” de Blasio refuses. Why? A key reason is because he is afraid of losing the white liberal vote.
Leading up to a frontal confrontation with the government there should be a fight over all the ways it feeds the voracious appetite of its deportation machine. This includes demanding that any information indicating immigration status not be supplied to any federal agency by schools, hospitals and universities. A fight to shut down immigration detention centers can raise public awareness that the I.C.E. Gestapo1 has a vast network of concentration camps. Currently a hunger strike is underway at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington run by the private contractor GEO (whose stock has doubled since election day). In Orange County, California the Theo Lacy jail where over 500 immigrants are held has had two hunger strikes in the last year while the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General issued a horrific report on abysmal conditions there.
But the fundamental struggle must be to raise the class-consciousness and militancy of the workers. In the New York area, as elsewhere, the February 16 “Day Without an Immigrant” was largely the result of restaurant and small business owners shutting down. However, in two places workers actually organized strike action: at the Hunts Point produce market, where hundreds of workers gathered outside refusing to go in, and at recently unionized B&H Photo and Video, where “workers organized a collective stay-away action to protest against raids and deportations.”2 In addition, for the past month workers at the Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City have mobilized to resist the company’s threat to fire 31 immigrant workers because an I.C.E. investigation of I-9 (work authorization) forms.s
May Day will be an opportunity to unite the struggles of B&H and Tom Cat workers, and inspire the more than 500,000 undocumented immigrant workers in the New York City area to fight for their rights. But to win against the forces of employers intent on breaking the union and a federal government gearing up for mass deportations will require mobilizing the entire workers movement. Above all, it’s necessary to fight politically against both Republicans and Democrats and all capitalist parties. (Even minor bourgeois parties like the Greens have run immigrant-bashers like Ralph Nader for president.) As comrade Antonio, speaking on behalf of Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (Class Struggle International Workers), said at a rally outside the I.C.E. jail in Manhattan on February 16:
“Today we are in a police state for all immigrants, which will be extended to the rest of the population. These deportations are the result of the policy of the Democratic Party, which under Obama deported 5 million immigrants. Today the Republicans want to deport more and more. As a worker, I call to mobilize the power of the working class to end once and for all the racist raids and to demand full citizenship rights for all immigrants.”■