Donald Trump: The great destabiliser

29 May 2019

By Dave Stockton

The US President’s State visit comes at a time when Britain’s version of him – Nigel Farage – is basking in the glory of his European elections triumph. Back in 2016, while still campaigning for the presidency, Trump jumped for joy at the Brexit vote and welcomed Farage and Boris Johnson to his bling palaces in New York and Florida.

Although Trump is inimitable, his aggressive populist campaigning style finds an echo on all continents. India’s Narendra Modi, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro all play the nationalist tune and otherise their opponents as not part of the real people they themselves embody.

Across Europe Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán also see themselves as natural allies of Trump, merciless critics of neoliberal globalisation and defenders of European “culture” against migrants and Muslims. Trump’s alt-right advisor, Steve Bannon, has come to Europe, to set up a “gladiator school” to train racist populists.

In Britain both Farage and the Tory leadership candidates backing No Deal look eagerly to Trump’s promised “great trade deal” with them. If they were to succeed, they would soon discover the costs of being a province in Trump’s Empire. For the rest of us Trump’s project to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) gives a glimpse of what trade rules and US courts would do to the NHS.

Trump’s rallies with their “Build That Wall!” chants, his foul tweets about Mexican migrants being drug dealers and rapists, his anti-Muslim ban and attempt to deport the migrant minors are examples of the methods of racist populism. They are designed to stir up his base to vote and stigmatise the “liberal élite” in the courts and the Congress.

The president’s appointments of ultra-conservatives to the Supreme Court have emboldened 28 States to enact new restrictions on abortion rights since January. Alabama’s law makes abortion a Class A felony, equivalent to murder, rape, and armed robbery. It not only makes abortion a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to 99 years for providers, but it allows no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

Trump abroad

Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan sums up the fears of a ruling class that feels the hot breath of unexpected rivals on the back of its neck only two decades into the “Second American Century”.

The rise of China, the partial recovery of Russia, the European Union’s federalist project, the “pink tide” in Latin America already forewarned America’s rulers that a period of intense rivalry was underway. Concern grew about China’ s trade and currency rate practices. Was the US losing out in the multilateral trade agreements, which characterised the “era of globalisation”?

Though Trump has yet to launch a major war, he has supported bombing in Syria, threatened to invade Venezuela, armed and sent billions in arms to support Saudi Arabia’s genocidal war in Yemen, and is presently threatening “the official end of Iran”, sending a battle group into the Persian Gulf. Indeed appointing the neocon warmonger John Bolton as his National Security Advisor reveals the bogus character of Trump’s “isolationist” credentials.

In fact the real danger of a future hot war can be seen in the Far East, where he is continuing Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, a policy of military containment, lining up allies fearful of China’s rise. Though the Middle East is today the powder barrel, with Trump’s threats to obliterate Iran, the whole US ruling class, are preparing for a long-term conflict with China for world domination.

Growing opposition

Naturally the radical character of Trump’s racism and sexism has created a wide range of opposition from the conservative House Democrats like Nancy Pelosi to the movements on the streets, like Black Lives Matter and Me Too. The Democrats have sought constantly to find the grounds to impeach him but so far his control of the wide-ranging “emergency” executive powers has blocked them.

His use of the “national security” excuse to override decisions he does not like testifies to the power of what Arthur Schlesinger Jnr, back in the 1970s, called “the imperial presidency” – what Marxists call Bonapartism, present in all capitalist states. These powers can be used to by-pass parliamentary bodies and the courts.

However Trump’s outrages have stimulated a revival of resistance from below too. It is here, rather than in the Democrats impeachment efforts, that we must look for forces that can really resist Trump and bring him to his knees.

The massive women’s marches and Me Too, Black Lives Matter, the wave of education workers strikes, defying state and federal anti-union ordinances, all mark a revival of mass resistance to Trump.

There are also signs of a political challenge to the business as usual reliance on the Democrats. Following on from Bernie Sanders campaign in the Democratic primaries, a number of “democratic socialists” have gained office. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib were elected to the US House of Representatives, and Julia Salazar to the New York Senate.

All are members of the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) which has increased tenfold since Trump, with 60,00 members. Trade unions too, after long decline, are beginning to recruit once again.

But only if the movements of resistance and the rank and file in the unions go beyond sectional campaigns to create a new Labor Party, armed with an anticapitalist programme, can the reign of Trump be the forcing house for a real mass socialist breakthrough in the USA.

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