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The Internationalist
  September 2015

Trump, Sanders, Clinton – Immigrant-Bashing, Populism and Warmongering

Capitalism’s Racist Electoral Circus Is Back

Protests  on the one-year anniversary of the police murder of Michael brown were again met with a massive display of police force in Ferguson, Missouri. All the capitalist candidates support the racist killer cops, for the police are the first line of defense of capital, against us.  (Photo: Whitney Curtis for the New York Times)

Break with the Democrats, Republicans and All Capitalist Parties!
Build a Revolutionary Workers Party!

They’re back. Once again the politicians of the partner parties of American capitalism are polluting the airwaves with their election pitches. The Republican debates are an orgy of racist reaction, a competition to see who is the most hateful boss of all. Donald Trump says he would build a border wall and put hs name on it, while Carly Fiorina’s claim to fame is that she fired 30,000 employees of Hewlett-Packard during her stint as chief executive.

The Democrats, meanwhile, are engaged in a non-debate between “Hillary” (Clinton) and “Bernie” Sanders posing as “progressives” even as they gear up for the next escalation by the U.S. war machine in  response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Sanders wants to contract out the fighting while Clinton wants to drop U.S. bombs on Assad if not put boots on the ground.

In fact they are all defenders of capital and enemies of poor and working people who produce the profits, of the African American, Latino, Asian and immigrant population that bear the brunt of the repression. And so long as workers are chained to the politicians and parties of the ruling class, particularly the Democrats who act as the “people’s party” of American capitalism, things will keep going from bad to worse.

Despite months of massive protests coast to coast, racist murder by police continues unabated. We’re now up to 890 civilians killed by cops in 2015 and counting. That’s on track to match or surpass the 1,100 gunned down, choked and beaten to death last year. After Sandra Bland’s life was taken by lynch-law terror when she was arrested for the “crime” of “driving while black” in July, tennis star James Black was brutally tackled outside a Midtown Manhattan hotel for “standing while black.” And on September 24, Jeremy McDole was cut down in a hail of at least ten bullets by police in Wilmington, Delaware for “sitting while black” ... in a wheelchair!

Meanwhle, prosecutors in Pasco, Washington announced that no charges would be filed against the police who murdered Mexican agricultural worker Antonio Zambrano Montes last February. And liberal Democratic president Barack Obama has by now deported over 2.5 million immigrants, far more than conservative Republican George W. Bush. When you include “removals” from the border area, Obama has expelled over 800,000 people a year, while keeping tens of thousands (including many children) locked up in concentration camps.

 Over the summer, Donald Trump grabbed the headlines with his threat to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants. Actually, when you include family members the number of those who daily face the threat of being kicked out of the country and having their lives destroyed, the total is over 15 million. Trump gives voice to the unalloyed racism that other politicians won’t say out loud. He outrageously labels Mexican immigrants criminals, drug dealers and rapists, when in fact he has been accused of raping his former wife Ivana.

The spectacle offered by the Republican debates is somewhere between a TV reality show (“Who Wants to Be President”) and a WWE Friday Night Smackdown. Trump brags that he has made billions, but his leadership style and business acumen seem to consist of screaming “you’re fired.” While he has oodles of cash, and the capitalist ruling class does exercise its rule by throwing around money sweated from the toil of workers, Trump is actually a marginal figure in U.S. capitalism.

The Wall Street bankers, industrial magnates and technology tycoons who constitute the decisive sectors of capital will not tolerate a loose cannon like Trump for long. For one thing, he joins liberal economists like Paul Krugman in opposing the tax exemption for hedge fund operators (no skin off his back, he makes his money from gambling and construction). If Jeb Bush appears to be a cipher, the big money may ultimately go to Fiorina or someone else deemed both sufficiently ruthless and reliable to be CEO of U.S. capitalism.

Democrats Squirm Over Black Lives Matter

Over on the Democratic side of the bourgeois political spectrum, Hillary Clinton staked out her terrain as a “tough-guy” militarist hawk during her term as Secretary of State. As a candidate she is pro-war, pro-cop and pro-death penalty. Blatantly pandering to the racist vote, in a July 23 speech she said “the sight of a young black man in a hoodie” causes fear “for a lot of open-minded, well-meaning white people.” Hillary and her handlers believe she can get away with it, since the overwhelming majority of African Americans who vote cast their ballot for Democratic candidates.

Husband Bill Clinton has for years basked in an ill-gotten image as somehow favorable to black people, despite the vicious impact of his presidential policies, from the 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill and the 1996 Effective Death Penalty Act to skyrocketing inequality during his administration. Hillary was particularly responsible for the “reform,” intended to “end welfare as we know it,” that threw millions of poor, overwhelmingly black women into poverty. A new Clinton presidency will ramp up the war on the oppressed that has escalated during the Obama years.

For his part, Bernie Sanders is campaigning as a standard-issue economic populist. His program boils down to capitalism with a slightly higher social welfare budget. Many on the left see him as the reincarnation of the Occupy movement, with support for a sub-minimal $15 per hour minimum wage replacing populist rhetoric about the 99% (which always made the “1%”  a little nervous). Repeatedly elected to the Senate by one of the “least diverse” states in the U.S., Sanders made few efforts to even pretend he cared about black people. 

Enter Black Lives Matter. An August 8 rally in Seattle – a Democratic campaign event commemorating the establishment of Social Security (by FDR) and Medicare (by LBJ) – was addressed by a local congressman and “socialist” Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant, who called for “a political revolution, as Bernie Sanders has said.” As Sanders stepped forward to give the keynote address, two activists from the local BLM group took over the microphone to demand that Sanders be held “accountable” for downplaying issues of racial equality. Part of the overwhelmingly white crowd chanted “Shame on you” against the protestors, while Sanders stood by scowling and eventually left.

That night Sanders issued a statement denouncing the “two people [who] disrupted a rally attended by thousands,” while claiming he would work for “criminal justice reform” and to “fight racism.” The Sanders campaign decided it would shout down future protesters with the “color-blind” chant “We stand together,” equivalent to white liberals trying to drown out “Black lives matter” with “All lives matter.” In the confrontation between the young BLM activists and Bernie Sanders, revolutionary Marxists definitely side with the black “disruptors” against the would-be nominee of the government party of American racist oppression.

The day after his Seattle debacle, Sanders shifted gears into co-optation mode. Having hired Symone Sanders, a young African American activist from the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, he was introduced by her at a rally in Portland, Oregon. His campaign suddenly announced that he was unveiling a platform for “racial justice,” centered on the usual calls for body cameras, a call to “demilitarize” police departments, and the like. What was most significant politically about the statement is its appeal to more fully ensnare Black Lives Matter activists in schemes for “community policing” – that is, being responsible for capitalist state repression:

“At the federal level we need to establish a new model police training program that reorients the way we do law enforcement in this country. With input from a broad segment of the community including activists and leaders from organizations like Black Lives Matter we will reinvent how we police America” (berniesanders.com).

Candidate Clinton was already well along this path, hiring former Congressional Black Caucus executive director LaDavia Drane as her “black outreach director.” In late July, Drane attended the Movement for Black Lives convention in Cleveland to hold one-on-one meetings with activists as part of a push to “engage a wide array of stakeholders, including members of the black lives matter movement,” a campaign official stated (“Clinton Campaign Starts Black Lives Matter Outreach,” BuzzFeedNews, 26 July).

But things went awry when a group of Black Lives Matter activists was barred from an August 11 forum on “substance abuse” that Hillary Clinton held in New Hampshire. Afterwards, the candidate spoke with three BLM activists, who held her “personally and politically responsible for policies that have caused health and human services disasters in impoverished communities of color through the domestic and international war on drugs that you championed as first lady, senator and secretary of state.”

Clinton’s response was a display of finger-wagging arrogance, chiding the activists on the need to “change laws” and the “allocation of resources” – as if she and her ex-president husband had not massively mobilized laws and resources of state repression against black people, immigrants and the poor.

Sensing both danger and opportunity, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) passed a resolution in late August in which it “joins with Americans across the country in affirming ‘Black lives matter’” and calling to minimize the use of “weapons that were used to police peaceful civilians in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri” (under a Democratic governor and president!).

To win the struggle against racist oppression requires a decisive break from, and head-on political struggle against, the Democratic Party, which rules on behalf of the capitalist class which has always coined gold from the blood and sweat of African American people going back to slavery days.

This is far from the actual perspective of most leaders of the loose BLM movement. Less than two weeks after Bernie Sanders launched his list of pallid palliatives for “police reform,” the Campaign Zero site (joincampaignzero.org), closely associated with national Black Lives Matter organizers, issued a platform  along very similar lines calling for body cams, demilitarization, training, “community representation,” etc. – plus “fair police union [sic] contracts” to “remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations and civilian oversight.”

It is noteworthy that a prominent member of Campaign Zero’s planning team, Brittany Packnett, is the head of Teach For America in St. Louis. TFA is a union-busting outfit that recruits Ivy League students to spend a couple years in inner-city schools while blaming teachers unions for the failures of the public school system which TFA and its Wall Street backers want to milk for private profit. Packnett was part of Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, along with the Baltimore police chief who was held up as a model of community outreach, as well as the Ferguson Commission set up by Democratic Missouri governor Jay Nixon.

The machinery of Democratic Party control and cooptation will go into overdrive over the next period. Myriad NGOs, non-profits and foundations are there to grease the wheels. As we have underlined, no supposed “reform” will do away with, or even substantially reduce, racist police violence in this country where racial oppression is a pillar of capitalist class rule.

Without a program to pull racial oppression out by its capitalist roots – that is, without a program for black liberation through socialist revolution – even the best-meaning activists will be politically disarmed in the face of this onslaught.

Build a Revolutionary Workers Party

Over the past year, tens and hundreds of thousands marched, night after night, against racist police killings. Yet the racist repression goes on without skipping a beat. Across the globe, the continuing capitalist economic crisis has sparked protests and revolts, from North Africa to Europe and Latin America: the Arab “revolutions,” the indignados (outraged) in southern Europe, the Occupy movement in the U.S. Yet these massive upheavals have all ended in defeat.

The spectre of falling wages while bankers make billions through speculation and government subsidies has fueled populist parties and candidates from SYRIZA in Greece to Bernie Sanders in the U.S. The bankruptcy of capitalism in its “neo-liberal” free-market phase has likewise contributed to the sudden rise of support for a left-wing leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn (see “Corbynmania Sweeps Britain”).

Each of these movements and upheavals has been “unexpected,” at least to the ruling class, seemingly coming out of nowhere and assuming mass proportions almost overnight. Politically there is a common thread running through their demands:  they seek to reform the system, to eliminate the worst excesses. They want the police to respect black lives, they want to restore social services and reduce mass unemployment. Yet they have been uniformly unsuccessful.

The fundamental fact is that they are coming up against the capitalist system itself. As we noted in our last issue (“Killer Cops, White Supremacists: Racist Terror Stalks Black America,” The Internationalist No. 40, Summer 2015), all the proposed reforms of the police have done nothing to stop the killing: “ No amount of protest will convince the ruling class to muzzle its uniformed guard dogs, whom it requires to keep the poor and working people down.” Racist repression “is essential to American capitalism, and has been ever since African slaves were brought here in chains.”

As demonstrated by the debacle in Greece, there will be no escape from anti-worker austerity under this system. The bankers’ diktat will trump any “democratic mandate,” for what is involved is not a policy (“neoliberalism”) but the survival of capitalism, driven to speculative frenzies and excruciating intensification of exploitation by a falling rate of profit that produced the market crash of 2008 and the ongoing economic depression.

The failure of one outbreak of unrest after another is centrally due to one key fact: the absence of a revolutionary leadership. The right-wing Tory press in Britain remarked that in another period, economic distress on the order experienced in recent years would have produced a revolution. They thank their lucky stars that they only have to deal with a manageable Labour left. But they should not breathe a sigh of relief too quickly.

Authentic Marxists seek to intervene on a program of revolutionary working-class struggle. Workers and fighters for social justice must take up those struggles that have pointed the way forward, such as the shutdown of the Port of Oakland, California last May Day by ILWU Local 10 demanding “Stop Police Terror!” (see The Internationalist No. 39, April-May 2015). Above all it is necessary to build a genuinely communist party of the working class, like the Bolsheviks of Lenin and Trotsky, so that the upheavals are no longer unexpected, and when they break out there is an organized vanguard, to provide the necessary program, organization and determination that are key to victory. ■