Anti-Trump protests are breaking all records
Editorial from Socialist《社會主義者》magazine (issue 41), bi-monthly Chinese language magazine produced by CWI supporters
Donald Trump’s presidency is already historic but not for the reasons he imagined. His project to drag US politics sharply to the right, attacking welfare, women’s rights and immigrants, has triggered the biggest demonstrations in a generation. Workers, youth and people of colour have responded magnificently to show solidarity against Trump’s racism and misogynism.
Trump has confirmed the fears of women, who staged the biggest day of protest in US history on 21 January (with over 4 million on the streets), by immediately attacking abortion rights and women’s health programmes worldwide. On Friday 27 January, Trump signed his notorious ‘Muslim ban’ blocking travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations. This law was drafted by Steve Bannon, Trump’s extreme-right ‘chief strategist’. Bannon claims the two biggest threats to the US are “China and Islam” – and has predicted a war with China “in five to ten years”. On other fronts – from Iran to North Korea – Trump’s administration is making warmongering speeches and stands for a massive expansion of US military power. These are dangerous times.
The travel ban includes four nations that the US has invaded or bombed in the past two decades (Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan) and two where US-backed ‘proxies’ or allies are currently fighting a vicious ethnic and sectarian war (Syria and Yemen). No terrorist attack has been perpetrated on US soil by a national of the seven countries, which incidentally is not true of close US allies Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, which are omitted from the Bannon-Trump banning order.
This legislation recalls the racist Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was introduced to block immigration by Chinese labourers for a period of ten years – that act discriminated on grounds of social class, not just nationality!
Trump’s ban also includes all refugee admissions for the coming four months. In a sickening display of hypocrisy, European governments which are themselves building walls and militarising their borders to keep out refugees, have tried to take the moral high ground against Trump’s ban. In reality, they fear the backlash against Trump could encourage more protests against their own policies.
These attacks from within the establishment cannot harm Trump’s government, whereas the mass opposition on the streets has already forced it to water down some provisions of the new law, to exclude dual-nationality travellers for example. The protests have increased pressure on other sections of the establishment such as the law courts to obstruct Trump.
It’s clear that, rather than security, or fighting terrorism, Trump’s political purpose with these measures is to incite racism and play on public fears, hoping this will spread division through society in the face of his brutal anti-working class and pro-billionaire policies.
Trump’s war on the 99%
While making demagogic attacks on Wall Street and the “Washington establishment” to get votes, Trump’s real agenda is the complete opposite. He plans further attacks on the working class and the 99%, against union rights and the environment, in order to deliver gigantic tax cuts and other political favours to the super-rich 1%.
Trump does not have a democratic mandate for these policies – just 26 percent of the population voted for him. He was given a huge boost by running against Hillary Clinton, who symbolised corporate control of US politics and “business as usual”. The lack of a left-wing alternative and the refusal of Bernie Sanders to run as an independent against Trump were critical factors sealing his victory.
The millions protesting during Trump’s first weeks in office have rightly ignored calls by leading Democratic politicians to “give Trump a chance”. Mass resistance is spreading across America – and worldwide. In Britain, 1.8 million have signed a petition against Trump’s state visit. Wherever he goes, including at home, this president will be met with protests.
Tens of thousands have joined protests at dozens of airports across the US shouting, “Let them in” and “Refugees welcome here”. New York taxi drivers organised a one-hour strike against the racist travel ban in an exemplary act of solidarity.
Trump’s actions are like the “whip of counter-revolution” that Karl Marx spoke about, that spurs a revolution forward. Growing sections of the US ruling class are alarmed that Trump is radicalising US society as no other US president since Richard Nixon. The CEO of American Airlines blamed Trump’s “divisive” travel restrictions for the disruptions at US airports, countering Trump’s effort to blame protesters. Other top capitalists, like the head of Coca Cola, are criticising Trump fearing he is destablising US politics and provoking a global backlash that can impact the economy.
Calls for nationwide strike action against Trump are growing and the members of Socialist Alternative (sympathisers of the CWI in the US) are playing an important role – outlining clearly what the next steps should be. Their placards have been seen on marches across the US: “Unite against Trump and the billionaire class!” More than 10,000 protested against the travel ban at Seattle’s airport where Socialist Alternative’s city council member Kshama Sawant addressed the crowd: “We saw the real power of the 99% last night at many airports around the nation. We can build a movement to defeat Trump. Let’s turn 1 May into a national day of protest against Trump. We need to shut down the highways, the airports, the workplaces, peacefully but defiantly”.