Contradictions in the impeachment struggle

By Fred Goldstein

The impeachment struggle against Trump poses many contradictions.

On the one hand hundreds of millions of people around the world would like to see Trump brought down in the hope that this will alleviate his administration’s oppressive, racist, and corrupt rule.

On the other hand, the impeachment struggle is, at bottom, a struggle by various factions of the ruling class to keep Trump from undermining the strength of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad.

Tens of million have suffered from Trump’s various forms of reaction. From the gag rule against abortion counseling, to immigrant families separated from their children, to Muslims and immigrants whom he has vilified, to Iranians suffering under sanctions, to Venezuelans and Cubans under threat from all sides, to Palestinians under Israeli occupation, to Zimbabweans under U.S. sanctions, and environmentalists watching the administration allow the extreme pollution of the air, drinking water, land and oceans. Trump has cultivated the ultra-right and fascist elements with his racist defense of killer cops as well as attacks on African and Caribbean countries. 

On the other hand, Trump has antagonized sections of the ruling class as well. He has weakened the NATO alliance, pulled out of the U.S.-sponsored Transpacific Partnership, pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, abused the Mexican government, the Canadian government, the German government, sided with the Brexit forces in Britain, and done numerous things to offend the allies of U.S. imperialism and to damage the military and diplomatic structure built up by Washington over decades. 

Three hundred so-called “national security” experts have supported the articles of impeachment. What are “national security” officials? They are CIA, NSC, FBI and all the agents of sabotage, subversion, special operations, and dirty tricks, whose job it is to undermine, remove or destroy all obstacles to the advancement of U.S. capitalist and imperialist interests at home and abroad. 

Trump’s corruption

Of course it would be foolhardy to ignore Trump’s corruption. The Biden scandal would not have come out if he were not so contemptuous of capitalist norms and processes. It is hard to measure degrees of corruption in bourgeois politics, since it is so pervasive, but usually presidents wait until they leave office to enrich themselves. Trump did not wait. 

He openly cashes in on the presidency to bolster his personal fortune right out in the open and in defiance of capitalist political decorum. He has spent 300 days of his presidency on Trump properties spending government money. He has refused to put his properties in a blind trust and turned them over to his sons. He has had military flight crews stay at his hotels. And the Saudi monarchy, among others, have rented entire floors in his D.C. hotel.

So openly trying to get a government to put a hit on Biden, his political opponent, is just business as usual for Trump and the corrupt circle around him. 

The Democratic Party leadership and Ukraine scandal

The Democratic Party leadership has been given new life in the struggle against Trump by the Ukraine scandal. Trump tried to withhold $400 million in military aid to the reactionary regime in Kiev that is fighting the independence forces in the east of Ukraine until they came up with dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s electoral opponent. 

Trump did so openly in a telephone call that was partially recorded in notes taken by Trump officials.  Some version of those notes were made public, and in them Trump tells the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “do me a favor” and  “look into corruption” by Biden and his son Hunter. Trump had held up the military aid that Congress allocated to Ukraine well before the phone call to be used as leverage.

The Ukraine question is like Russiagate on a smaller scale. But politically it is, in essence, the same thing. The Democrats first opposed Trump by playing the Russia card over and over. Instead of pointing out the outrageous disenfranchisement of masses of voters, particularly people of color, and instead of attacking Trump’s racism, misogyny, anti-worker, and anti-environmental policies, they focused endlessly on the cry of collusion with Russia. First of all these Democrats are allied with the military industrial complex. But second of all, they assumed that this would be the easiest way to go about fighting Trump. If there is anything about the ruling class that is generally recognized, it is their hostility to Russia (and China). So the quickest and easiest way to attack Trump is to call him soft on Russia and a friend of Putin.

This put them squarely in the camp of the militarists. What they did not reckon on was the complete domination of the Republican Party by Trump and his intimidation of both the House and Senate Republicans.  So until they won the majority in the House, they were stymied. 

Nancy Pelosi was stalling on opening up an impeachment struggle despite the numerous crimes of Trump – against immigrants, women, his open profiteering from the presidency, etc.  Then the revelation about the Ukraine issue fell into their lap. Trump bumbled into it. It came to the surface and they have seized upon it. 

The background to the Ukraine crisis

It is no accident that the Ukraine issue has become the focus of the impeachment struggle. It was the Obama administration, with Joe Biden as vice president and Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, that overthrew the elected government of Ukraine under Viktor Yanukovych in February of 2014.

The Obama/Biden/Clinton administration collaborated with fascist elements to put a right-wing government in power in Kiev. It is important to go back to the tape-recorded phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in February 2014. 

The European Union was planning a soft takeover of Ukraine, trying to undermine its economic ties with Russia. The U.S. intervened in its own interests by encouraging fascist mobs to call for the overthrow of the elected government. The Ukraine parliament pulled the police off the streets allowing the mobs to break up the parliament.  That is when Nuland made the infamous “F… the EU” comment in which she openly expressed Washington’s preference for the ultra-rightwing Fatherland Party, rife with fascists, to take over the government. (Washington Post, Feb. 6, 2014). When the smoke cleared, the Fatherland Party was in office and President Yanukovych was forced to flee.

On Biden the “victim”

Biden, who has been made the victim of Trump’s maneuvers, is a thoroughly reactionary racist, sexist politician, in addition to being a foreign policy reactionary.

In 1991 Biden was head of the Senate panel that oversaw the persecution of Anita Hill by 10 white male senators who allowed her to be vilified by Clarence Thomas who had been nominated for the Supreme Court. Thomas went on to be one of the most reactionary members of the court.  Biden presided over the hearings and participated in her vilification. Among other things, as the head of the panel, he failed to investigate her allegations against Thomas, failed to bring her witnesses before the committee, and acted as if he did not believe her. (Washington Post, April 26, 2019)

In 1994 Biden was a Senate leader. He wrote and had passed the largest crime bill in U.S. history. The bill added 60 new death penalty offenses; it eliminated Pell grants that allowed prisoners to get an education; it provided for funding for 100,000 more cops on the streets; it appropriated $9.7 billion for more prisons and it included the notorious “three strikes” provision which mandated life sentences for anyone convicted of three crimes. 

Under Biden’s and Bill Clinton’s leadership mass incarceration soon followed.

Impeachment leaves the masses out of the struggle

The impeachment process is strictly for ruling class politicians and lawyers. They shape the charges and the arguments. They call and question the witnesses. The masses are totally shut out of the process and their grass roots interests do not see the light of day. 

Trump should be tried for a whole host of crimes against the people. Witnesses should be called like immigrant mothers who have been separated from their children. Black, Latinx, Native and Asian people who have been victims of racism should testify against Trump’s casual remarks equating Nazis to those opposing Nazis and white supremacy. 

LGBTQ2S people who have had friends murdered or beaten by Trump-loving bigots should testify; Black people whose relatives have been killed or beaten by the racist cops should be allowed to tell their stories indicting Trump.  The same should apply to people who have lost their health care, their pensions, their jobs, etc. 

Furthermore, it would be one thing if Trump were impeached under pressure from the enraged masses in the streets, on the campuses, and in the workplaces. But at present the masses are relying on the ruling class to fight their battle against Trump. He and his whole administration and their enablers should be swept into jail for their crimes.  That might bring some genuine relief to the working class and oppressed. 

First published on lowwagecapitalism.com website Sept. 29, 2019.

 

 

Hong Kong: Make colonialism great again

Posted to lowwagecapitalism.com on Sept. 11, 2019.

By Fred Goldstein

Sept. 10 — It is a thoroughly reactionary development when demonstrators carrying U.S. flags march through a city asking the most hated imperialist figure, Donald Trump, to come to their aid. But that is what is happening in Hong Kong.

Despite all the claims in the capitalist press about the demonstrators being advocates of “democracy” and “freedom,” they have embraced a political figure who has locked immigrant children in cages after separating them from their families.

They have called for aid from a president who has called for Muslims to be banned from the U.S. They have embraced a vile racist who has called African nations and Haiti “shithole” countries. Trump has called Mexicans rapists and criminals. What can be the political mentality of demonstrators who would ask for help from a racist bigot in the name of “democracy”?

It is the mentality of capitalist greed.

Donald Trump is trying to low-key the demonstrations because he wants to de-escalate a trade war with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). He is afraid that the trade war will trigger an economic downturn in the U.S. And an economic downturn will hurt his chances of re-election in 2020.

But Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, the China hawks in Trump’s administration and the CIA, did not get the memo. And if they did, Trump is playing soft cop in this scenario.

Washington and the mainstream media outlets are going all out to foment a full-scale pro-imperialist rebellion, basically demanding independence for Hong Kong. They hope to prolong the demonstrations in order to embarrass the PRC on the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution on Oct. 1. But the strategic goal of the Trump administration is to back the PRC into a corner and provoke it to intervene in Hong Kong. 

Washington and the Pentagon would like to create a small-scale version of the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989. 

Washington hopes that this will give the entire worldwide propaganda apparatus of the imperialists a green light to open up a major anti-Chinese campaign and set the stage for hostilities or even war. Given the divisions in the imperialist camp and the growing weight of China as an economic power, however, it remains to be seen whether these plans can materialize. 

Hong Kong the new “Berlin Wall”

Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the demonstrations in the 2014 Hong Kong “umbrella” movement and one of the main leaders in the present struggle spoke in Berlin on Sept. 9 saying:

“If we are in a new Cold War, Hong Kong is the new Berlin.” He continued, “We urge the free world to stand together with us in resisting the Chinese autocratic regime,” in a clear signal to the capitalist world. (Reuters, Sept. 9, 2019)

By recalling the image of Berlin and the wall that divided the East and West, Wong evoked the vision of the beginning of the destruction of the socialist camp in Eastern Europe and the ultimate demise of the USSR. Wang’s clear goal is the destruction of socialist China. 

The place of Hong Kong in modern China

With the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drove the imperialist puppet Nationalist army off the mainland and onto the island of Taiwan. From a military point of view, the PLA was supreme on mainland China. 

Mao Zedong could have ordered the PLA to take Hong Kong, and it would not have taken much more than a day. But he did not do that. Why? Because China was a vast and impoverished country. Before the revolution, China was known as the land of hunger. Famines took the lives of hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions of people because of warlord rule and the lack of transportation.

The revolution solved that problem with massive land redistribution. 

But China was in dire need of agricultural and industrial infrastructure. Following the revolution, the U.S. imposed a blockade on technology and industrial equipment. The USSR gave assistance. But China still needed financial channels to the outside world, and Hong Kong was a crucial financial center.

‘One country, two systems’

Fast forward to 1982. Mao died in 1976 and the leftist forces associated with the Cultural Revolution were defeated. Deng Xiaoping entered into negotiations with the British imperialists over Hong Kong. The PRC made clear that they regarded Hong Kong as part of China. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher tried to hold out for the continuation of three oppressive treaties signed under military threats from Britain in 1842, 1860 and 1898. It was those treaties, known to the Chinese as the “unequal treaty,” which formalized the British colonization of Hong Kong. 

In the negotiations, the British imperialists wanted to retain administrative control of the territory. Deng told the British that the PRC regarded Hong Kong as part of China and threatened to invade to take back its territory. London was forced to abandon its attempts to retain the unequal treaties and the administration of Hong Kong.

However, with Mao gone, the “reformers” under Deng were in charge. The PRC adopted theone country, two systems” doctrine. An agreement was signed and went into effect in 1997. The doctrine said that Hong Kong would retain its capitalist system until 2047. A legislature and a governing council were set up. The PRC would have input into the legislature, retain the right to govern Hong Kong foreign policy and the right to interpret laws. Hong Kong was designated by China as a special administrative region. 

In a way, the arrangement with Hong Kong mirrored what the new Chinese leadership were trying to establish under the name “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” A mix of socialism and capitalism. Only in China there was a mass Chinese Communist Party which could hold the capitalists in check as well as strategic state-owned enterprises. In Hong Kong, the largest imperialist banks, accounting firms, brokerage companies and law firms were left to dominate the economics of the territory. Always in fear of the PRC and socialism, they gradually tried to dominate the politics of Hong Kong as well.

The latest counterrevolutionary, pro-colonialist demonstrations, complete with U.S. flags, singing of the U.S. national anthem and appeals to Trump for assistance represent a surge forward by the anti-PRC capitalist class to take over the political system in Hong Kong. 

It is a law of capitalism that capital accumulates and gets stronger over time. Over the years, the Hong Kong capitalists, with the aid of imperialism, have never abandoned the attempt to get out from under the shadow of the PRC. This can only be done in a small territory like Hong Kong with the aid and backing of a major power like the U.S.

Hong Kong and world finance capital

The PRC faces significant risks in Hong Kong. The territory plays a crucial role in the economic development of China. Hundreds of billions of dollars flow in and out of mainland China through Hong Kong. (Why China Still Needs Hong Kong,” Peterson International Institute for Economics, July 15, 2019)

“No less than 64 percent of the mainland’s inward foreign direct investment and 65 percent of its outward foreign direct investment was booked in Hong Kong. Chinese banks, which are now worth US$1.2 trillion, hold overseas assets concentrated in Hong Kong.” (Hong Kong is irreplaceable for China,” South China Morning Post, Aug. 30, 2019)

The imperialists know this and are gambling that they can force concessions from China by economic extortion. This is the danger of the “one country, two systems” regime in Hong Kong. 

Lost in all the enthusiasm of the capitalist press for the reactionaries, is the plight of the working class. 

In Hong Kong, houses cost 20.9 times the average household income. Compare that with 9.4 times in Los Angeles and 9.1 times in San Francisco―cities infamous for their housing crises―and the extent of the problem becomes apparent.

“‘Hong Kong only builds for the rich. They need to care for real people,’ says Chan To, 30, a skinny man with flecks of gray in his hair who has been homeless since he lost his job as a chef last summer. … Chan sought refuge in McDonald’s, sleeping in various outlets every night for the last four months, he says.” (What Life Is Like In Hong Kong, The Most Expensive City To Live In The World,” Huffington Post, Nov. 20, 2018)

“McRefugees” is a Hong Kong term for people living in booths at fast food places. Homelessness and being rent poor is endemic in Hong Kong. The minimum wage is US$4 an hour in a city that has been rated as the most expensive city in the world. The demonstrators who carry U.S. flags have no demands to improve the lot of the impoverished Hong Kong working class.

‘Lady liberty’ at Tiananmen Square

Such flagrant appeals to colonialism have not been seen since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China in 1989. At that time, the vast assembly of counterrevolutionary student protesters, many of them schooled in the U.S., displayed a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square in an open appeal for support from U.S. imperialism. Mikhail Gorbachev, who opened the door to counterrevolution in the USSR, went to the demonstrations to show his solidarity. The “reformist” capitalist-road Chinese premier at the time, Zao Zhiyang, was put under house arrest for encouraging a full-scale counterrevolution aimed at overthrowing the socialist system.

Parading through Hong Kong with U.S. flags in 2019 is the equivalent of displaying the statue of “Lady Liberty” in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Playing with capitalism is like playing with fire as far as socialists are concerned. The attacks on Chinese technology, the U.S. naval threats in the South China Sea, the brutal trade war initiated by Trump and the witch hunt by the FBI against Chinese scientists in the U.S. are all part of the growing antagonism between Chinese socialism and U.S. imperialism. Hopefully, the Chinese leadership will draw the necessary lessons from the developments in Hong Kong and the U.S. anti-China offensive. A hard assessment of U.S. imperialism and the voracious appetite of the exploiting class may be in order.

Following the great anti-colonial wave in Africa, India and the Middle East after World War II, the British Union Jack had to be pulled down. In fact, the surrender of Hong Kong was said to be the last gasp of the British world empire. The British, the U.S.and other imperialists had to resort to neocolonialism, economic penetration and the installation of puppet regimes to maintain their world domination.

Hoisting the U.S. flag in Hong Kong is a signal that these demonstrators want to return to the open colonialism of old. Trump and company want to make colonialism great again.