The New Cold War Against China

Posted to lowwagecapitalism.com on July 26, 2019.

Part 1

By Fred Goldstein

During the Cold War and the struggle that put the USSR and China on one side and imperialism headed by Washington on the other side, revolutionaries used to characterize the conflict as a class war between two irreconcilable social systems. 

There was the socialist camp, based upon socialized property, economic planning for human need and the government monopoly of foreign trade on the USSR-China side, and capitalism, a system of production for profit, on the other. 

That the two systems were irreconcilable was at the bottom of the conflict dubbed the Cold War. In light of the current sharpening economic, diplomatic, political and military conflict between U.S. imperialism and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is time to revive the concepts that were applied during the height of the Cold War.

Of course it is necessary to make modifications in these formulations with respect to socialism in China, with its mix of controlled capitalism and guided socialism.  Nevertheless, the conflict between imperialist capitalism, headed by Washington, Wall Street and the Pentagon, and the Chinese socialist economic system, which has state-owned industry at its core and planned economic guidance, is becoming much sharper, and imperialism is growing more openly hostile. 

U.S. imperialism’s long-standing effort to overthrow socialism  in China, Chinese capitalism notwithstanding, has been concealed beneath sugary bourgeois phrases about so-called “common interests” and “economic collaboration.”  But this kind of talk is coming to an end.

Washington’s first campaign to overthrow China — 1949-1975

This struggle has been ongoing since 1949 when the Chinese Red Army drove U.S. puppet Chiang-Kai Shek and his nationalist army from the mainland as it retreated to Taiwan under the protection of the Pentagon. 

The conflict continued through the Korean War when General Douglas MacArthur and the U.S. high command drove the U.S. troops to the Chinese border and threatened atomic war. Only the defeat of the U.S. military by the heroic Korean people under the leadership of Kim Il Sung, with the aid of the Chinese Red Army, stopped the U.S. invasion of China.

The struggle further continued with the U.S. war against Vietnam, whose strategic goal was to overthrow the socialist government of Vietnam in the north and drive to the border of China and to complete the military encirclement of the PRC. Only the world-historic efforts of the Vietnamese people under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh stopped the Pentagon in its tracks.

The Pentagon’s plans for military conquest failed 

With the rise of Deng Xiaoping and the opening up of China to foreign investment beginning in December 1978, Wall Street began to reevaluate its strategy. The U.S. ruling class began to take advantage of the opening up of China to foreign investment and the permission for private capitalism to function, which could both enrich U.S. corporations in the massive Chinese market and at the same time penetrate the Chinese economy with a long-range view to overturning socialism. 

U.S. multinational corporations set up operations in China, hiring millions of low-wage Chinese workers, who flocked to the coastal cities from the rural areas. These operations were part of a broader effort by the U.S. capitalists to set up low-wage global supply chains that integrated the Chinese economy into the world capitalist market. The U.S.’s recent sharp turn aimed at breaking up this economic integration with the Chinese economy, including the witch hunt against Chinese scientists and the U.S. Navy’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea (called the Eastern Sea by Vietnam), is an admission that the economic phase of the U.S. attempt to bring counterrevolution to China has failed. 

China is now a growing counterweight to Washington in international economics, high technology,  diplomacy, and regional military might in the Pacific, which the Pentagon has always considered to be a “U.S. lake” ruled by the Seventh Fleet.

The attack on Huawei

A dramatic illustration of the developing antagonisms is the way the U.S. had Meng Wanzhou, the deputy chairwoman and chief financial officer of Huawei, arrested in Canada for supposed violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran — an outrageous example of imperialism exercising extraterritoriality. The Trump administration has also leveled sanctions against Huawei electronics, the world’s largest supplier of  high-tech operating systems in the world. Huawei employs 180,000 workers and is the second largest cell phone manufacturer in the world after the south Korean-based Samsung. The sanctions are part of the U.S. campaign to stifle China’s development of the latest version of data-transmission technology known as Fifth Generation or 5G. 

The Trump administration has barred U.S. companies from selling supplies to Huawei, which has been using Google’s Android operating system for its equipment and Microsoft for its laptop products − both U.S.-based companies. Huawei is contesting the U.S. ban in court. 

Meanwhile, as a backup plan in case Washington bans all access to Android and Microsoft, Huawei has quietly spent years building up an operating system of its own. Huawei developed its alternative operating system after a 2012 finding by Washington that Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese giant cell phone maker, were in criminal violation of U.S.“national security.” ZTE was forced to shut down for four months. (South Asia Morning Post, March 24, 2019)

But the conflict is about more than just Huawei and ZTE.

The new ‘red scare’ in Washington

The New York Times of July 20 carried a front page article entitled, “The New Red Scare in Washington.” A few excerpts give the flavor: 

“In a ballroom across from the Capitol building, an unlikely group of military hawks, populist crusaders, Chinese Muslim freedom fighters and followers of the Falun Gong has been meeting to warn anyone who will listen that China poses an existential threat to the United States that will not end until the Communist Party is overthrown.

“If the warnings sound straight out of the Cold War, they are. The Committee on the Present Danger, a long-defunct group that campaigned against the dangers of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, has recently been revived with the help of Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, to warn against the dangers of China.

“Once dismissed as xenophobes and fringe elements, the group’s members are finding their views increasingly embraced in President Trump’s Washington, where skepticism and mistrust of China have taken hold. Fear of China has spread across the government, from the White House to Congress to federal agencies….” 

The Trump administration has opened up a tariff war against the PRC, imposing a 25-percent tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports and threatening tariffs on another $300 billion. But there is much more to Washington’s campaign than just tariffs.

The FBI and officials from the NSC (National Security Council) have been conducting a witch hunt, continues the Times article, “particularly at universities and research institutions. Officials from the FBI and the National Security Council have been dispatched to Ivy League universities to warn administrators to be vigilant against Chinese students…” 

And according to the Times there are concerns that this witch hunt “is stoking a new red scare, fueling discrimination against students, scientists and companies with ties to China and risking the collapse of a fraught but deeply enmeshed trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies.” (New York Times, July 20, 2019)

FBI criminalizes cancer research

According to a major article in the June 13, 2019 Bloomberg News, “Ways of working that have long been encouraged by the NIH [National Institute of Health] and many research institutions, particularly MD Anderson [a major cancer treatment center and research institute in Houston], are now quasi-criminalized, with FBI agents reading private emails, stopping Chinese scientists at airports, and visiting people’s homes to ask about their loyalty.

“Xifeng Wu, who has been investigated by the FBI, joined MD Anderson while in graduate school and gained renown for creating several so-called study cohorts with data amassed from hundreds of thousands of patients in Asia and the U.S. The cohorts, which combine patient histories with personal biomarkers such as DNA characteristics and treatment descriptions, outcomes, and even lifestyle habits, are a gold mine for researchers.

“She was branded an oncological double agent.” 

The underlying accusation against Chinese scientists in the U.S. is that their research can lead to patentable medicines or cures, which in turn can be sold at enormous profits.

The Bloomberg article continues, “In recent decades, cancer research has become increasingly globalized, with scientists around the world pooling data and ideas to jointly study a disease that kills almost 10 million people a year. International collaborations are an intrinsic part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Moonshot program, the government’s $1 billion blitz to double the pace of treatment discoveries by 2022. One of the program’s tag lines is: ‘Cancer knows no borders.’

“Except, it turns out, the borders around China. In January, Wu, an award-winning epidemiologist and naturalized American citizen, quietly stepped down as director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center after a three-month investigation into her professional ties in China. Wu’s resignation, and the departures in recent months of three other top Chinese-American scientists from Houston-based MD Anderson, stem from a Trump administration drive to counter Chinese influence at U.S. research institutions …The collateral effect, however, is to stymie basic science, the foundational research that underlies new medical treatments. Everything is commodified in the economic cold war with China, including the struggle to find a cure for cancer.” 

Big surprise. A world famous Chinese epidemiologist, trying to find a cure for cancer, collaborates with scientists in China! 

Looking for the “reformers” and the counterrevolution

For decades the Chinese Communist Party has had changes of leadership every five years. These changes have been stable and managed peacefully. With each changeover, so-called “China experts” in the State Department, in Washington think tanks and U.S. universities have predicted the coming to power of a new “reformist” wing that will deepen capitalist reforms and lay the basis for an eventual full-scale capitalist counterrevolution. 

To be sure, there has been a steady erosion of China’s socialist institutions. The “iron rice bowl” which guaranteed a living to Chinese workers has been eliminated in private enterprises. Numerous state factories and enterprises have been sold off to the detriment of the workers, and in the rural areas land was decollectivized.

One of the biggest setbacks for socialism in China and one which truly gladdened the hearts of the prophets of counterrevolution, was the decision by the Jiang Jemin CCP leadership to allow capitalists into the Chinese Communist Party in 2001.

As the New York Times wrote at the time, “This decision raises the possibility of Communists co-opting capitalists — or of capitalists co-opting the party.”  (New York Times, Aug. 13, 2001) It was the latter part that the capitalist class has been looking forward to and striving for with fervent anticipation for almost four decades.

But on balance, this capitalist takeover has not materialized. Chinese socialism, despite the capitalist inroads into the economy, has proved far more durable than Washington ever imagined. 

And, under the Xi Jinping leadership, the counterrevolution seems to be getting further and further away. It is not that Xi Jinping has become a revolutionary internationalist and a champion of proletarian control. But it has become apparent that China’s status in the world is completely connected to its social and economic planning. 

Part 2: The New Cold War Against China

China’s planning and state enterprises overcame 2007-2009 world capitalist crisis

Without state planning in the economy China might have been dragged down by the 2007-2009 economic crisis. In June 2013 this author wrote an article entitled, “Marxism and the Social Character of China.” Here are some excerpts:

“More than 20 million Chinese workers lost their jobs in a very short time. So what did the Chinese government do?”

The article quoted Nicholas Lardy, a bourgeois China expert from the prestigious Peterson Institute for International Economics and no friend of China. (The full article by Lardy can be found in “Sustaining China’s Economic Growth after the Global Financial Crisis,” Kindle Locations 664-666, Peterson Institute for International Economics.)

Lardy described how “consumption in China actually grew during the crisis of 2008-09, wages went up, and the government created enough jobs to compensate for the layoffs caused by the global crisis,” this author’s emphasis.

Lardy continued: “In a year in which GDP expansion [in China] was the slowest in almost a decade, how could consumption growth in 2009 have been so strong in relative terms? How could this happen at a time when employment in export-oriented industries was collapsing, with a survey conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture reporting the loss of 20 million jobs in export manufacturing centers along the southeast coast, notably in Guangdong Province? The relatively strong growth of consumption in 2009 is explained by several factors.

“First, the boom in investment, particularly in construction activities, appears to have generated additional employment sufficient to offset a very large portion of the job losses in the export sector. For the year as a whole the Chinese economy created 11.02 million jobs in urban areas, very nearly matching the 11.13 million urban jobs created in 2008.

“Second, while the growth of employment slowed slightly, wages continued to rise. In nominal terms wages in the formal sector rose 12 percent, a few percentage points below the average of the previous five years (National Bureau of Statistics of China 2010f, 131). In real terms the increase was almost 13 percent.

“Third, the government continued its programs of increasing payments to those drawing pensions and raising transfer payments to China’s lowest-income residents. Monthly pension payments for enterprise retirees increased by RMB120, or 10 percent, in January 2009, substantially more than the 5.9 percent increase in consumer prices in 2008. This raised the total payments to retirees by about RMB75 billion. The Ministry of Civil Affairs raised transfer payments to about 70 million of China’s lowest-income citizens by a third, for an increase of RMB20 billion in 2009 (Ministry of Civil Affairs 2010).”

Lardy further explained that the Ministry of Railroads introduced eight specific plans, to be completed in 2020, to be implemented in the crisis.
According to Lardy, the World Bank called it “perhaps the biggest single planned program of passenger rail investment there has ever been in one country.” In addition, ultrahigh-voltage grid projects were undertaken, among other advances.

Socialist structures reversed collapse

So income went up, consumption went up and unemployment was overcome in China — all while the capitalist world was still mired in mass unemployment, austerity, recession, stagnation, slow growth and increasing poverty, and still is to a large extent.

The reversal of the effects of the crisis in China is the direct result of national planning, state-owned enterprises, state-owned banking and the policy decisions of the Chinese Communist Party.

There was a crisis in China, and it was caused by the world capitalist crisis. The question was which principle would prevail in the face of mass unemployment — the rational, humane principle of planning or the ruthless capitalist market. In China the planning principle, the conscious element, took precedence over the anarchy of production brought about by the laws of the market and the law of labor value in the capitalist countries.

Socialism and China’s standing in the world

China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. According to a United Nations report, China alone is responsible for the global decline in poverty. China’s universities have graduated millions of engineers, scientists, technicians and has allowed millions of peasants to enter the modern world.

Made in China 2025

In 2015 Xi Jingping and the Chinese CP leadership laid out the equivalent of a ten-year plan to take China to a higher level of technology and productivity in the struggle to modernize the country. 

Xi announced a long-range industrial policy backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in both state and private investment to revitalize China. It is named Made in China 2025 or MIC25. It is an ambitious project requiring local, regional and national coordination and participation.

The Mercator Institute for Economics (MERICS) is one of the most authoritative German think tanks on China. It wrote a major report on MIC25 on Feb. 7, 2019. According to MERICS,  “The MIC25 program is here to stay and, just like the GDP targets of the past, represents the CCP’s official marching orders for an ambitious industrial upgrading. Capitalist economies around the globe will have to face this strategic offensive.

“The tables have already started to turn: Today, China is setting the pace in many emerging technologies – and watches as the world tries to keep pace.”

The MERICS report continues, “China has forged ahead in fields such as next-generation IT (companies like Huawei and ZTE are set to gain global dominance in the roll-out of 5G networks), high-speed railways and ultra-high voltage electricity transmissions. More than 530 smart manufacturing industrial parks have popped up in China. Many focus on big data (21 percent), new materials (17 percent) and cloud computing (13 percent). Recently, green manufacturing and the creation of an “Industrial Internet” were given special emphasis in policy documents, underpinning President Xi Jinping’s vision of creating an ‘ecological civilization’ that thrives on sustainable development.

“China has also secured a strong position in areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), new energy and intelligent connected vehicles… 

“Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) continue to play a critical role for the development of strategic industries and high-tech equipment associated with MIC25. In so-called key industries like telecommunications, ship building, aviation and high-speed railways, SOEs still have a revenue share of around 83 percent. In what the Chinese government has identified as pillar industries (for instance electronics, equipment manufacturing, or automotive) it amounts to 45 percent.”

Breakup of U.S.-China relationship inevitable

The tariff war between the U.S. and China has been going back and forth. It may or may not be resolved for now or may end up in a compromise. The Pentagon’s provocations in the South China Sea and the Pacific are unlikely to subside. The witch hunt against Chinese scientists is gaining momentum. 

The U.S. has just appropriated $2.2 billion for arms to Taiwan. National Security Adviser and war-hawk John Bolton recently made a trip to Taiwan. The president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, made a recent stopover in the U.S. on the way to the Caribbean and is scheduled to make another one on the way back.

All these measures indicate the end of rapprochement between Beijing and Washington. This breakup between the two powers is not just the doing of Donald Trump. It flows from the growing fear of the predominant sections of the U.S. ruling class that the gamble they took in trying to overthrow Chinese socialism from within has failed, just as the previous military aggression from 1949 to 1975 also failed.

High technology is the key to the future 

Since as far back as the end of the 18th century the U.S. capitalist class has always coveted the Chinese market. The giant capitalist monopolies went charging in to get joint agreements, low wages, cheap exports and big super-profits when China “opened up” at the end of the 1970s.  

But the stronger the socialist core of the PRC becomes, the more weight it carries in the world and, above all, the stronger China becomes technologically the more Wall Street fears for its economic dominance and the more the Pentagon fears for its military dominance. 

The example of the stifling of international collaboration on cancer research is a demonstration of how global cooperation is essential to not only curing disease, but also to the development of society as a whole. International cooperation is needed to reverse the climate disaster wrought by private property — none of this can be carried out within the framework of private property and the profit system. Only the destruction of capitalism can bring about the liberation of humanity. 

Marxism asserts that society advances through the development of the productive forces from primary communism, to slavery, feudalism and capitalism. Marx wrote: “The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist.” (The Poverty of Philosophy, 1847) And now the revolution in high technology lays the basis for international socialism.  

The bourgeoisie knows that the society that can advance technology to the highest degree will be triumphant in shaping the future. This is why imperialism, headed by the U.S., imposed the strictest blockade of the flow of technology to the Soviet Union, as well as the Eastern Bloc and China. This was done by COCOM, an informal organization of all the imperialist countries, which was created in 1949 and headquartered in Paris.

The main targets were the USSR and the more industrialized socialist countries, such as the German Democratic Republic, the Czech Republic, etc. Detailed lists were drawn up of some 1,500 technological items that were forbidden to export to these countries.

Marx explained that developed socialist relations depend upon a high degree of the productivity of labor and the resulting abundance available to the population (Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875). However, as Lenin noted, the chain of imperialism broke at its weakest link in Russia — that is, the revolution was successful in the poorest, most backward  capitalist country. The result was that an advanced social system was established on an insufficient material foundation. This gave rise to many, many contradictions. The countries that revolutionaries correctly called socialist, were in fact really aspiring to socialism. Their revolutions laid the foundations for socialism. But imperialist blockade, war and subversion never allowed them to freely develop their social systems.

The great leap forward in technology in China today has the potential of raising  the productivity of labor and strengthening the socialist foundations. It is this great leap forward that is fueling the “new cold war” with China and the real threat of hot war. 

 

Trump tariffs clash with globalized capitalist production

Published on lowwagecapitalism.com website, July 7, 2019.

By Fred Goldstein

The Trump administration is caught between its “America First” super-imperialist, great power chauvinist politics on the one hand, and the capitalist world division of labor on the other hand. 

At every turn the contradiction between capitalist private property and world-wide socialized production becomes an obstacle to capitalism itself. In particular, the global interests of U.S. imperialism and the global economic structure of world capitalism today sharply contradict the Trump administration’s political goals.

Trump and his minions want to overturn the political and economic structure built up by the U.S. capitalist class in the past century. They want to realign the relationship of forces in a way that further subordinates the imperialist rivals and economic satellites of Washington and Wall Street. 

Trump has taken aim at Germany, France, Britain, and the entire European Union, Japan and China, as well as Canada (a minor imperialist country), Mexico, India, Turkey, Indonesia, and Thailand, among others. China is a special case which will have to be dealt with in a separate article.

Globalization and the socialization of production

The term “globalization” is a useful geographical designation of how workers produce goods and services, that is, commodities, today. It is highly descriptive since production of a single commodity takes place in sequence in different parts of the globe. However, from a Marxist point of view, the more scientific economic designation is the socialization of the productive forces on a global basis.

The capitalist class has forced the world working class into a vast, involuntary division of labor in which workers must cooperate, on pain of losing their means of survival, to produce the world’s commodities. But the economic surplus, the surplus value that arises from these global production chains of exploitation is reaped by the bosses. Even the workers who have jobs are left with barely enough to live on. 

Global chains of exploitation are a modern form of the socialization of production carried on within the framework of private property!

Thus, as Trump proceeds with his economic wrecking ball, he is up against the fundamental contradiction of capitalism — the contradiction between socialized production and private property. Friedrich Engels, a co-founder of Marxism, along with Karl Marx, explained this at the dawn of modern capitalism in his classical work “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” (published in 1880, excerpted from his more extensive book, Anti-Duhring, published in 1878):

“This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today. The greater the mastery obtained by the new mode of production over all important fields of production and in all manufacturing countries, the more it reduced individual production to an insignificant residuum, the more clearly was brought out the incompatibility of socialized production with capitalistic appropriation.”

Tariffs: Trump’s blunt instrument

Today Trump is using tariffs as a blunt instrument to bully countries around the world to hand over their profits to U.S. capitalism. 

What are tariffs? In the imperialist era they are a tax levied on imports by a capitalist class in one country in the struggle against its rivals. The country upon which the taxes are levied suffers a decline in exports and the government of the country levying the tariffs collects the tariffs/taxes in its treasury. 

From a working class point of view, tariffs must be seen in the same light as automation. Like automation, tariffs are part of the world competition between capitalists. Tariffs, like automation, is a tool by which the capitalists fight each other in the world market. 

But this fight is carried on at the expense not just of capitalist rivals, but also at the expense of the working class. Workers in the country that has tariffs levied on it loses jobs because this country’s exports decline. Workers in the country that levies tariffs pay higher prices because the importing capitalists pass on their extra costs to the workers. 

Usually tariffs are met by counter-tariffs. So in a tariff war between the bosses, as in any war, the workers are the real casualties. 

‘Globalization’ and the complexity of socialized production

In his tariff campaign Trump is running afoul of imperialist globalization at every turn; his actions have provoked retaliation from capitalists.The threat, later withdrawn, to levy tariffs on Mexico to get political leverage in his racist struggle against immigrants is a case in point. 

Trump threatened to put a 5 percent tariff on Mexican goods and to raise the tariff another 5 percent every month up to 25 percent if the Mexican government failed to prevent immigrants from crossing the border into the United States.

According to Burgess Everett and James Arkin of Politico, at a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans earlier this week, “White House deputy counsel Pat Philbin and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel faced brutal push-back from the GOP, according to multiple senators, with some threatening that Trump could actually face a veto-proof majority to overturn the tariffs.” (Politico June 5, 2019)

If the Republican Trump loyalists in the Senate rebelled against their leader, it’s because the capitalist donors dug in against this. Mexico exports $345 billion to the U.S., much of it automobiles, automobile parts, agricultural products, clothing, etc. 

Other examples of the intricate and interwoven nature of global supply chains apply to Japan and Canada as well.

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) says about 8 percent of its members’ total annual sales are built in and imported from Mexico by way of U.S. railways, making them susceptible to the tariffs. JAMA represents Japanese exporters, manufacturers and importers in Canada. It represents Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Subaru. 

Canada’s largest auto supplier, Magna International, has 32 manufacturing and assembly plants in Mexico, where it employs 29,175 people — more than in either Canada or the United States. (Automotive News, Canada, June 5, 2019)

A number of Japanese firms have their production bases in Mexico. Honda Motor Co., for instance, exported around 120,000 vehicles made in Mexico to the United States in 2018, accounting for around 80 percent of the cars it produces in Mexico, which is also home to large assembly plants owned by Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. (Japan Times, May 31, 2019) 

There are over 700 Japanese companies employing thousands of workers in Mexico. So Trump could also trigger a trade war with Japan because of his threatened Mexican tariffs.

The bosses experienced Trump’s threat against Mexico a threat against them. The Chamber of Commerce threatened the administration with a lawsuit. And the monopoly donors to the Republican Party told the U.S. Senate that they did not want a tariff war with Mexico and Canada.

The tariffs campaign was part of Trump’s reelection bid. Trump is desperate to get reelected and avoid prosecution by the various court jurisdictions that may bring charges against him. In his desperation, Trump ignored the complexity of the U.S. ruling class’s broader economic problem. 

Trade fight with EU and Asia

The United States is also intensifying its trade fight with the European Union over aircraft subsidies. Washington has proposed additional tariffs on EU goods worth $4 billion along with another $21 billion in tariffs it is demanding for European Airbus planes.

The tariffs, announced on July 1 by the United States Trade Representative, cover 89 products including meat, cheese, pasta, fruits, coffee and whiskey. They could be added to a list of EU Airbus exports that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in April would be subject to tariffs.

General System of Preferences (GPS) status exempts 3,500 items from U.S. tariffs. GPS status is meant for formerly oppressed and colonial countries, designated as “underdeveloped.”

In its struggle against Asia, the Trump administration has threatened to remove the (GPS) status from India, Thailand and Indonesia. Turkey has already lost its GPS status. 

U.S. dairy producers took aim at India and Indonesia, while pork producers targeted Thailand. Medical device manufacturers also filed a petition to exclude India from receiving preferential treatment from the U.S. 

All elements of the U.S. ruling class know that they have a compliant friend in the White House who will do their bidding for the most part, even if at times they have to buck him in the Senate or in the courts. They have reaped the benefits of his corporate tax cuts, deregulation campaign, and land giveaway policies for the energy, mining and timber industries.

With the trade war, the Trump administration is striking out in all directions to put economic pressure on the entire capitalist class world-wide. Its goal is to increase the domination of the U.S. imperialist monopolies.

The contradiction of socialized production vs. private appropriation

The contradiction between the socialized character of production and the private appropriation of the products of labor was emphasized by Vladimir Lenin in State and Revolution, which was written in preparation for the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

Lenin explained that imperialism was the stage of capitalism that would lead to socialism. Bourgeois economists at the time were evading the nature of imperialism by reducing it to the “interlocking” of corporations. Lenin answered:

“Skilled labor is monopolised, the best engineers are engaged; the means of transport are captured—railways in America, shipping companies in Europe and America. Capitalism in its imperialist stage leads directly to the most comprehensive socialisation of production; it, so to speak, drags the capitalists, against their will and consciousness, into some sort of a new social order, a transitional one from complete free competition to complete socialisation.

“Production becomes social, but appropriation remains private. The social means of production remain the private property of a few. The general framework of formally recognised free competition remains, and the yoke of a few monopolists on the rest of the population becomes a hundred times heavier, more burdensome and intolerable.” 

Fast forward to the 21st century. In 2005 New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about how his Dell computer was made, describing in great detail how workers spread across numerous countries in Asia contributed to its production. He summed up his findings:

“‘The total ‘supply chain’ for this computer, including suppliers of suppliers, came to about 400 companies in North America, Europe, and Asia, mostly the latter, with about thirty prime suppliers.” (The World Is Flat, Freidman, 2005, cited in Low-Wage Capitalism, Goldstein, 2008)

This author described these supply chains in Marxist terms in Low-Wage Capitalism (2008) as follows: “These so-called supply chains, which are really chains of exploitation spread throughout the globe by the giant monopolies, in partnership with finance capital are the business model for all the global capitalists. And the lesser capitalists fit themselves into this framework.” 

Capitalism is becoming an obstacle to the survival of the masses

The increasing inequality of wealth in the U.S. is something that the capitalists and financiers are deliriously happy about. That is why Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised  $105 million in the last quarter for his reelection bid.

That is why the capitalist media gave Trump a billion dollars worth of free media publicity in 2016 and why they continue to give the widest possible coverage to his every tweet. They care nothing about Trump’s cruelty to immigrants and their children;  his enabling and accelerating environmental and planetary destruction; his work, every day in every way, to transform the political structure of capitalism in a right-wing, authoritarian direction.   

The U.S. working class is an integral part of the world-wide socialized labor force. Through its hands pass much of the world’s wealth. However, almost none of that wealth stays in the hands of the working class; the lion’s share goes to the exploiting class. 

Sooner or later this fact is going to reach the consciousness of the masses. Sooner or later they will not be able to go on in the old way, suffering the deceptions of the bosses, their politicians in both parties, and the capitalist media. Capitalism is becoming an obstacle to the survival of the workers and oppressed. That obstacle must be removed.

In the long run, no trade war or imposition of tariffs can change the fundamental contradictions of capitalism or stave off its inevitable collapse.

 

Trump, Charlottesville, Chemnitz and the struggle

Anti-fascists confront racist march in Chemnitz, Germany, Sept. 1.

Sept. 1 — To many progressives among the population, Donald Trump appears to be on the ropes. They are waiting for the establishment to take him down. There is great anticipation that the Democratic Party will make electoral gains and get the chance to further discredit him.

There is the mounting public evidence of Trump’s  corruption. Many in his inner circle have pleaded guilty or been convicted of lying, money laundering, tax and/or bank fraud. There is his growing anxious rage expressed in his tweets against the Mueller investigation. There is also his isolation from ruling-class society as illustrated by his exclusion from the week-long and highly publicized, super-patriotic, militaristic funeral ceremonies for John McCain.

But the fascist march in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 and the recent fascist anti-im/migrant riot in Chemnitz, Germany, show how illusory this view is that the defeat of Trump will solve the problem of racist reaction.

No one knows at this point how the struggle between Trump and his allies, on the one hand, and the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class on the other, will turn out. But it would be fatal for progressives and revolutionaries to rely on the reactionary ruling class to defeat Trump.

Moreover, while the political defeat of Trump is important, it will not be fundamental because it will not deal with the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, national chauvinist forces that Trump has conjured up and consolidated into a reactionary base. This base is not going to go away, whatever happens to Trump. The workers and the oppressed will still have to deal with this reactionary mass.  What will be needed in the future is to defeat Trumpism, not just at the polls but on the ground.

Charlottesville — fascism shows its face

The world got a glimpse of the forces emerging around Trump at Charlottesville last year when the Klan and the Nazis united with other fascist forces in the “Unite the Right” armed torchlight parade through the University of Virginia campus in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the slavocracy during the Civil War.

One anti-fascist demonstrator was killed, a Black man was brutally beaten and many were injured as the police watched passively. Trump refused to denounce the fascists and finally said that there were good people “on both sides.”

Fortunately, the movement recovered from this assault and forced the removal of Confederate statues in many cities, from Louisiana to Texas. The Unite the Right forces received an important blow when the movement toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C.

Because of the militant resistance, the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C.  on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville this Aug. 10 fell flat.

Pro-Confederate forces in high places

However, the degree to which the racist, pro-Confederate forces in the ruling class are dug in was shown by the reaction of the University of North Carolina administration to the recent pulling down of a Confederate statue in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The statue of a Confederate soldier was pulled down by students after their campaign to have the authorities remove it went nowhere. After it was pulled down, the university and the board of governors decided it should be relocated on campus. Meanwhile, arrest warrants were issued for student demonstrators.

This incident illustrates how deeply embedded pro-Confederate sympathy is in the ruling class 150 years after the Civil War. Chapel Hill is supposed to be a liberal institution. States all over the South and elsewhere have passed laws forbidding the removal of a statue without the express consent of the state historical society, regardless of the sentiment of African Americans or progressive anti-racist sectors of the population. Liberal Ivy League colleges and universities in the North have refused to budge on this matter as well.

Racism and the face of fascism in the U.S.

The origin of this underlying racism which penetrates U.S. capitalist society goes back to the betrayal of the enslaved people after the Civil War by the victorious capitalist class of the North.

The Northern armies occupied the Southern slave states. There was a period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877. Voting rights were granted for formerly enslaved peoples. Many African Americans were elected to various state and local offices. During the brief period of Reconstruction, a Freedmen’s Bureau was created and land ownership rights and other rights for African Americans, such as the right to sue, to serve on a jury, etc., were enforced by the U.S. military occupation forces.

This period of Reconstruction was ended abruptly in 1877 with the withdrawal of U.S. forces after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise, in which Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in return for troop withdrawal from the South.

The political dominance of the South by the former slavocracy was restored. The formerly enslaved were resubjugated and pressed into a form of feudalism or land slavery called sharecropping. Lynching ran riot. Rigid racist segregation was enforced. The landowners once again ran the South and did so for 100 years.

There was no attempt by the Northern capitalist class to purge the South of racism and racist officials. There was no reeducation campaign among the white population. No resources were devoted to the anti-racist transformation of the South. The capitalists of the North were quite content to build railroads and shipping lines and to create banks to profit from the land slavery of African Americans. Racism was not only enforced in the South with Ku Klux Klan violence and lynchings, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, poll taxes, etc., but it also prevailed in the North.

Chemnitz, fall of Berlin Wall, and end of denazification

Fascists, right wingers, and anti-immigrant racists of all sorts have been mobilized in this country by Donald Trump. He has fomented his anti-immigrant racism on a world stage. This anti-immigrant, right-wing trend has been reflected in Europe among fascist and pro-fascist forces as well. Indeed, Trump sounds much like the European right.

On Aug. 28, the world was treated to the ugly spectacle of a mob of thousands of Nazis and anti-immigrant sympathizers arriving from all over Germany and taking over the streets of the German city of Chemnitz and hunting down immigrants “like wolves,” as the New York Times put it on Aug. 31.

The mob formed after the capitalist press triggered the event with the headline “35-Year-Old Dies after Stabbing in the City.” The rumors were that the man who was stabbed was protecting a woman from sexual assault by immigrants. Even the police had to eventually declare that rumor false.

The following evening a reported 8,000 racists occupied the center of the city and hunted down anyone they suspected of being an immigrant. There were Nazi salutes with “Sieg Heils,” which are outlawed in Germany, and chants of “We’ll get you all.”

The German bourgeois publication Der Spiegel reported that “The police in Saxony likewise hit the headlines with predictable regularity when they, for example, prevent journalists from doing their jobs or fail to mobilize enough officers, thus forcing them to stand by passively as right-wing extremists rampage through the streets.” (Der Spiegel, Aug. 31)

Chemnitz was formerly called Karl-Marx-Stadt during the period of the German Democratic Republic, before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and capitalism was restored as West Germany annexed the East in 1990. It is the third-largest city in the southeastern state of Saxony with a population of 250,000.

Denazification in socialist East Germany

After the Red Army occupied eastern Germany in 1945, the Communist Party was merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Socialist Unity Party. In 1949 the GDR was established following the establishment of West Germany. The new government undertook a vigorous program of denazification, unlike what occurred in capitalist West Germany, or the Federal Republic.

In the capitalist West, high Nazi officials retained their pensions and got official jobs. “A total of 25 cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany — as postwar Germany is officially known — had been members of Nazi organizations.” (Der Spiegel, March 6, 2012) This list was finally forced into the public by the Left Party.

The GDR, under socialist leadership, took an entirely opposite approach. It was undoubtedly very difficult to construct a state and a society with a population that had lived under Hitler for 12 years. Nevertheless, the attempt was made.

For example, Bruno Bruni de la Motte, no socialist himself, wrote in the London Guardian on March 8, 2007: “I was born and grew up in the German Democratic Republic. Our school books dealt extensively with the Nazi period and what it did to the German nation and most of Europe.

“During the course of their schooling, all pupils were taken at least once to a concentration camp, where a former inmate would explain in graphic detail what took place. All concentration camps in the former GDR were maintained as commemorative places, ‘so that no one should forget.’ The government itself included a good proportion of those, including Jews, who had been forced to flee Hitler fascism or who had been interned.

“In the East, thousands of new teachers had to be found overnight, as those tainted by the Nazi ideology were not suitable to teach a new postwar generation, and this resulted in schools having under-trained and inadequate teaching staff for some years; all lawyers were replaced, too….”

Nazism revived by capitalist Germany

De la Motte continued, “In [capitalist] West Germany thousands of leading Nazi army officers, judges who had sent Jews and leftists to their deaths, doctors who’d experimented on concentration camp victims, politicians and others, were left unscathed and continued in their professions.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the return to capitalism brought a quick shift. From the very outset there were demonstrations against immigrants. Naziism and right-wing politics resurfaced in the form of anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia.

It is no surprise that 29 years after the restoration of capitalist exploitation and with the creeping world economic crisis hitting Germany, including the youth and the petty bourgeoisie, the neo-fascist movement should take on the tone of a racist, anti-immigrant crusade.

In the U.S, even more than in Europe, racism in one form or another has always been the cutting edge of fascism and the face of political reaction.

Capitalist class never tried to root out racism

It is no accident that the KKK and Nazis rallied around Barry Goldwater in his run for president in 1964. It is no accident that Richard Nixon started his presidential campaign in 1972 with a racist “Southern strategy” to bring Southern Democrats into the Republican Party in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.

It should also be noted that in 1982 Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., with Confederate flags flying — in a city where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 by the Klan during the voting rights campaign in the South. And Bill Clinton, besides passing racist legislation on mass incarceration, the death penalty and “terrorism,” during his election campaign showed his racism by going back to his state of Arkansas to witness the execution of a mentally disabled Black man.

Fascism at the border

Right now ICE and the Border Patrol are carrying out fascist measures against immigrants by deliberately separating families, as well as rounding up workers everywhere.

So the capitalist class has now had 150 years to root out racism and has not made any serious effort to do so. The capitalists have shown that they feel it is in their class interests to perpetuate racism.

They never instituted a thoroughgoing anti-racist educational campaign of making every student in school go to photo exhibits of lynchings to be narrated by families or neighbors of victims. Slave quarters were not preserved as exhibits for mandatory visits so no one would ever forget. And importantly, compensation was not paid to the victims of slavery nor were they given the lands of the plantation owners for whom they labored.

In short the capitalist ruling class has always preserved racism rather than destroy it, just as the German ruling class has never made a determined effort to root out Nazism.

The revolutionary forces in the U.S. must organize for struggle against the revived, concentrated racist base that has been fostered by Trump. The progressives, revolutionaries and advanced workers must also be prepared for struggle after Trump, because anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism is a lethal weapon the bosses keep in reserve for times of crisis.

The lessons of Chicago, 1968

By Fred Goldstein posted on September 1, 2018.

This is the 50th anniversary of the massive street struggles in 1968 during the Democratic National Convention. We reprint here an article by Fred Goldstein from the Workers World of Sept. 13, 1968.

The violence openly inflicted on liberals and radicals alike at the Chicago Democratic Convention confirms that the U.S. ruling class is entering a new phase in which their reliance upon deception is to be increasingly abandoned in favor of the use of force. The use of violence against the white population (after centuries against the Black) is part of the preparations for stepped-up attacks on the oppressed people around the globe.

All attempts to place the responsibility on the insignificant hired thug of the bosses, [Chicago] Mayor Richard Daley, are calculated to mask this fundamental shift.

Thousands of U.S. troops, tanks, jeeps, and all the other necessities of combat cannot be shifted around the country at the cost of creating great political unrest (to say nothing of the expense) on the say-so of such a relatively low-ranking political stooge as Daley. Nor can National Guard troops be called upon by a mayor.

For that matter, the Chicago Police Department would never dare to “mar the image” of the entire Democratic Party unless it had received explicit orders from the party hierarchy to crack heads. The White House, the Pentagon, the Democratic National Committee and the entire capitalist establishment were all involved in the Chicago operation.

In short, Mayor Daley was working for the ruling class and not they for him, as the bourgeois news media imply when they either condemn or condone “Daley’s handling” of the fascist attack on anti-war protesters in Chicago.

(The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Sept. 3 that it had just allocated $3.9 million to the cities for so-called “riot-control.”)

Of course, the billionaires did not shift from fraud to force arbitrarily. It’s just that their bag of tricks is just about empty and their two war candidates are about equally discredited.

It is no coincidence that they started clubbing, gassing and breaking heads just at the moment when the “peace” campaign of Eugene McCarthy was about to come to an ignominious end. (The police attack on McCarthy headquarters was the final humiliation dealt the liberals and served to illustrate the fascist mood of the ruling class.)

The rulers who rigged the convention long in advance knew that McCarthy was to be discarded in Chicago. And they also knew that thousands of youth whom the McCarthy campaign had kept off the streets would be back on the streets, together with thousands of radical youth who had never fallen for the imperialist-liberal McCarthy in the first place.

So the bosses prepared well ahead of time to deal with the anger and indignation which was as inevitable as the Humphrey-Nixon race. They decided to give the white youth a taste of the treatment hitherto reserved for the Black liberation struggle.

But an important by-product of Chicago is the wave of revulsion of new layers of youth for a parliamentary system which has to defend its candidates from the hatred of the population with bayonets and clubs.

Parliamentary illusions went up with the clouds of tear gas as the war party at the amphitheater steam-rolled over popular anti-war sentiment. The flow of blood from the heads of unarmed demonstrators in front of the Conrad Hilton made many a convert to the revolutionary struggle.

The bourgeoisie used strong-arm methods to brush the liberals aside and thus demonstrated the fraudulence and the futility of imperialist democracy.

If the liberal politicians folded up at the first show of force by the ruling class, the militant youth did not.

While McCarthy crept off to the sidelines and McGovern stepped into Humphrey’s fold, the fighting young people who really want and need to end imperialist wars were spontaneously fighting back against the cops. New and militant tactics were being developed simultaneously with the beginnings of change in their ideology.

Several hundred police, who tried to attack a Grant Park rally after someone lowered the U.S. flag, were literally driven away by the youth in the crowd. The cops were hit with everything that could be thrown and then surrounded by barricades of benches and immobilized before they withdrew in defeat.

Mobile street demonstrations were carried out, during which obstacles were strewn about to slow down police cars. Youth at Lincoln Park built such sturdy barricades to keep from being driven from the park that police had to saturate the area with tear gas many times in order to drive them out.

Occasional aggressive forays were made by small bands of youth in search of isolated police on foot or in patrol cars. In general, however, the brutality of the police produced spontaneous retaliation wherever possible.

Many so-called leftists frown upon these new tactics as “adventuristic” and inadequate to defeat such a heavily armed force as the police. But those who are serious about leading a revolutionary struggle against imperialism must take a carefully constructive attitude towards the initial bursts of revolutionary energy shown by the young people in Chicago.

Opponents of imperialism will try to assist the militants to improve their tactics, not throw cold water on them.

In general, the Chicago events have shown that the capitalists will always resort to force if popular will stands in the way of their imperialist objectives.

These events have confirmed the Marxist analysis of the state. This resort to violence on the eve of new imperialist crises has pointed out to thousands of young people that revolutionary resistance to boss rule is the only way to stop wars of aggression.

These are the lessons of Chicago.

Trump under fire — the ruling-class dilemma

All the indictments, plea bargaining, immunities, exposures, etc., amount to this: The anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are doing a dance with Trump.


Donald Trump has suffered a series of blows from the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class and the legal establishment. This has undoubtedly encouraged progressive and revolutionary forces who rightfully want to see this reactionary, authoritarian, racist, misogynist Trump go down.

Recent events have pummeled Trump. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was convicted at trial of eight criminal counts of fraud and tax evasion. His long-time lawyer and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, pled guilty and pointed the finger at Trump for campaign law violations. These developments came on the same day.

The following day it was revealed that the CEO of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, who operates a pro-Trump scandal sheet, had been granted immunity to talk about how he worked with Michael Cohen to suppress stories critical of Trump by buying and then not publishing them.

Twenty-four hours later it was revealed that the CFO of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, was also given immunity to testify. Weisselberg has been in charge of Trump Organization finances dating back to the days of Trump’s racist, pro-Nazi father, Fred Trump.

Wall Street, Pentagon draw line — at Russia and DPRK

Shortly thereafter, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was forced to call off his trip to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with one week’s notice. Pompeo had already chosen the head of Ford Motors to lead the delegation. Last week we noted that Trump’s military parade was canceled and how the Pentagon and the ruling class were resisting his attempt to realign U.S. imperialist foreign policy toward Russia, which the establishment has blocked. (“Revolt of the spymasters,” WW, Aug. 23)

The latest move to cancel Pompeo’s trip to the DPRK is the ruling class’s answer to Trump’s attempt to realign U.S. foreign policy on the Korean peninsula. Finally signing a peace treaty with the DPRK — for a war that ended in a stalemate 65 years ago — is a condition for moving forward. The entire military and political establishment is opposed to this and finally won out, even as Trump was being weakened in court.

The ruling class has laid down the line on the essentials. They can live with Trump’s fascist atrocities on the borders, separating immigrant families. They can shrug off his support for police brutality and murder in the Black and Latinx communities. They can live with his racist slurs against Africa and Haiti.

But when it comes to basics, aggression toward Russia and opening up peaceful relations in Korea, Wall Street and the Pentagon draw a sharp line.

Bosses reject impeachment for now

It must be noted that these developments have been accompanied by a concerted effort to bury any incipient movement for impeachment, which has been quickened by Trump’s legal setbacks.

This effort to quash any talk of impeachment comes from both the Democratic Party leadership and the Republicans alike. A long story in the New York Times tells how the Democratic Party hierarchy is trying to put out impeachment fires among rank-and-file Democrats. The party line is to protect the Mueller investigation and let it play out. (Aug. 25)

Right now, the ruling class is wary of stoking an impeachment movement. There are at least two reasons. First, they are making tons of money in profit from the Trump tax cuts and deregulation. The entire trillion-dollar tax cut directly reduces corporate expenses and goes straight to the corporate bottom line. Profits have been shooting up for two quarters. No boss or banker wants to rock that boat.

Second, they are afraid of provoking a right-wing rebellion from Trump’s base. They listen to Trump rallies, which continue on just as they were during the campaign, despite all the revelations about what a low-life racist, misogynist, bigoted crook Trump is. The bourgeoisie is always collaborative, conciliatory or cowardly in the face of the right wing — and this is a lesson the working class must always remember.

All the indictments, plea bargaining, immunities, exposures, etc., amount to this: The anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are doing a dance with Trump. Right now the ruling class is trying to weaken him primarily with legal and publicity attacks. This may change under future circumstances, for instance, if the trade war with China gets out of control or some other catastrophic development threatens their capitalist  interests. But, ultimately, they hope to remove him through the 2020 election process.

The best case political scenario for the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class is for the Democrats to win the majority in the House of Representatives. This will give them the power to call hearings, bring witnesses, subpoena testimony and documents, and wage a public relations war against Trump, while leaving the question of impeachment open.

At the present time the masses are faced with three practical alternatives to removing Trump: indictment, impeachment or elections. All three are ruling-class solutions in arenas dominated by capital.

The radical and revolutionary left were definitely growing, even before Trump got in. But given the present-day relationship of political forces, and given the relative numerical weakness of the revolutionary and radical left, these ruling-class solutions are the only paths to actually removing Trump at the moment.

Ways to fight Trump and Trumpism

However, there are many ways to fight Trump and Trumpism on the ground, such as bringing down racist symbols, fighting to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, putting immigrant detention centers under siege, supporting the present prisoners’ strike, fighting police brutality, defending Native land rights, demanding women’s right to reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, demonstrating against the war drive, etc. All of these are righteous struggles that can be directly related to the struggle against Trump. They can and must be waged.

Propaganda and agitation against the Trump reaction are other important avenues to be used, especially as the bourgeois elections get closer. This is a time when the masses are open to listening to politics. The real left, the revolutionary anti-capitalist left, may not be decisive in the electoral arena, given the current relationship of forces. Some social democrats, however, are running as Democratic Party candidates.

It may be that the role of the left will be best carried out by a campaign of demonstrations and propaganda. In some states, or more likely local contests, revolutionary forces may be able to participate in elections on a revolutionary basis for propaganda purposes as well as for gaining representation.

Propaganda and agitation during the current campaign have to be sensitively crafted. They must bear in mind the anti-Trump sentiments of the undocumented who have suffered fascist-like measures on the borders, including the separation of families from their children. These fascist-like measures are not restricted to the borders, but are carried out by ICE in immigrant communities and at workplaces across the country.

This propaganda must bear in mind the anger in the cities and Black communities all over the country against the police and Trump’s open support for police brutality and Confederate racism.

It must acknowledge that there are close to a million DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients who have the threat of deportation hanging over their heads. In addition, hundreds of thousands, including Haitians, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and others whose Temporary Protected Status has been lifted, are awaiting deportation.

Bearing all this in mind, anti-capitalist, pro-socialist propaganda can be fashioned which not only condemns Trump, but also shows that salvation does not lie in the Democratic Party, a party whose leadership is inextricably tied to corporate and military interests.

Socialism gaining popularity

There is much discussion and publicity about the growing popularity of the term “socialism.” Since the campaign of Bernie Sanders in 2016, the term has become respectable, particularly as capitalism decays and brings suffering and gross inequality to the masses. The term “socialist” got a further boost when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican activist, a Sanders ally and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, won a primary against an entrenched Democratic Party hack, Joe Crowley, who was in line to be named Speaker of the House after Nancy Pelosi. Ocasio-Cortez will represent a district that spans the Bronx and Queens.

While her primary victory has inspired a great deal of enthusiasm among progressives, it has also bred illusions among many young people, especially on the left, that they are on the road to taking over the Democratic Party and bringing forward a program of wiping out inequality, winning universal health care, affordable housing, even government ownership of industries, etc.

These illusions must be dealt with by Marxist arguments, and should not be contemptuously dismissed. For example, the most progressive president of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt, put down the independence movement in Puerto Rico in the Ponce Massacre of 1934. Roosevelt took U.S. imperialism into World War II, not initially against the Nazis but against Japanese imperialism, and justified the internment of Japanese people in the U.S.

While Roosevelt is well remembered now for the New Deal, which granted some rights to the impoverished working class at the time, in preparation for war Roosevelt broke an aircraft strike on the West Coast, made alliances with southern Dixiecrats, allowed segregation to remain in place, including in the military, etc. And this was the most progressive Democratic Party president ever! He raged against “economic royalists” but did their bidding in the Pacific and later on in Europe. Before entering World War II, he said “Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars” — until U.S. imperialist interests were challenged.

Only struggle will win

How did the working class win concessions from the Roosevelt administration?

The New Deal was not a gift granted from above. It was won beginning with demonstrations of the unemployed in major cities; hunger marches; municipal general strikes in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Toledo in 1936; the sit-down strikes in Akron and Cleveland, culminating in the Flint sit-down strike the same year, which led to the organization of the United Auto Workers, the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the mass organization of the industrial working class.

This was the force that led to the Works Progress Administration, Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right to strike and to organize unions, and many other gains associated with the New Deal.

The same is true for the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other legislative gains, including the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision and those confirming lesbian and gay rights. They were won first in the streets in the bloody South and then by massive rebellions and marches in northern cities.

Socialists trying to make gains by getting a foothold in the electoral system and the Democratic Party need to know that the great steps forward have come from the class struggle — the militant organization of the workers and the rebellions of oppressed communities.

In the long run, only the mass struggle can bring social progress, and only revolution can bring socialism.