Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 15, 2018

Donald Trump, fascism, and steel industry realities

Filed under: Fascism,Trump — louisproyect @ 5:41 pm

The old boss adopted fascist tactics in the Little Steel Strike. The new boss is from one of those “shit countries”.

Six days from now will mark the first year of Trump’s presidency. Given that we have had a year to evaluate his regime, there have been few attempts to grapple with its character. Since many Marxists have viewed Donald Trump as imposing neo-fascism on the USA, there have to be questions about how he has failed to impose any kind of serious repressive measures on the country. When I was first starting out as a radical in the 1960s, I was targeted as part of the Cointelpro program in an effort to either get me fired from my first programming job or perhaps so spooked that I would resign from the SWP. Can you imagine what would happen if the FBI pulled this kind of crap today? Of course, they don’t have time for that given the job they have investigating Trump’s Russian ties.

When I was a new member in 1968, one of the big questions I had to deal with was Nazism. Coming from a Jewish family that raised money for Israel through Hadassah, I was fairly close to the holocaust chronologically and psychologically. In my little village in upstate NY, it was not uncommon to see men and women come into my father’s fruit store with tattoos on the arm from their time in concentration camps. We used to call them the “refugees”.

Part of becoming a Marxist involved rejecting Zionism. But additionally, it involved trying to understand how and why Hitler came to power. Among the books that helped me to clarify my thinking was Daniel Guerin’s “Fascism and Big Business”, a Pathfinder book that can be read on Libcom apparently in defiance of the cult’s white-shoe attorneys. At the core of Guerin’s analysis was the argument that Nazism was backed by heavy industry against the class interests of the Fertigindustrie (finished goods industry), particularly the electrical goods and chemical industries. He writes:

After the war the antagonism was particularly violent between the two groups-Stinnes and Thyssen, magnates of heavy industry, versus Rathenau, president of the powerful AEG (the General Electric Association). The Fertigindustrie rose up against the overlordship of heavy industry, which forced it to pay cartel prices for the raw materials it needed. Rathenau publicly denounced the dictatorship of the great metal and mining industries: just as medieval nobles had scoffed at the German Emperor and divided Germany into Grand Duchies, the magnates of heavy industry were dividing Germany into economic duchies “where they think only of coal, iron, and steel, and neglect, or rather absorb, the other industries.”

During the 2016 primaries and throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency, I have read countless articles about how much of a “fascist” he is but virtually nothing along the lines of Guerin’s analysis. It would seem that ruling class opposition to Trump is mostly of an ideological character rather than anything so material as the forces at work in Weimar Germany. Has there been any serious investigation of what Silicon Valley, big pharma, the financial sector, real estate, the defense industries, et al hope to gain from Trump’s policies other than deregulation and tax cuts? The richest man in the USA owns a newspaper that has been eviscerating Trump for the past two years at least. Does Jeff Bezos have anything in common with the Thyssens?

Missing from the analysis today is the fundamental difference between the USA of 2018 and the Weimar Republic, namely the role of heavy industry. In the 20s and 30s, heavy industry was the lynchpin of capitalist economies and within this sector steel was particularly critical. Thyssen steel needed fascism to subdue the working class because the very survival of his firm was dictated by the law of value as Guerin explained:

The chiefs of steel and mining enterprises are noted for their authoritarian attitude, their “tough boss” psychology. Their will to power is explained by the vast scope of their enterprises and the dominant role they play in the economy and in the state. But the explanation must also be sought in what Marx calls “the organic composition” of the capital invested in their enterprises: the ratio of “fixed capital” (invested in plant, raw materials, etc.) to variable capital (i.e., wages)  Big business finances fascism is much higher in heavy than in light industry. The result is that the limits within which production is profitable are especially narrow in heavy industry. Whenever the steelmasters are unable to run their works at a sufficiently high percentage of capacity, the “fixed charges” (interest, depreciation) on their plants are distributed over an insufficiently large quantity of products, and profits are impaired. When a strike breaks out, the least stoppage of production means losses mounting into the millions. If the economic crisis sharpens they are unable to cut their fixed costs, and can only reduce their wage bill; brutal wage cuts are for them an imperious necessity.

In the 1930s, American steel companies were very much in the same mold as evident from their violent attacks on the attempts to organize workers during the Little Steel strike. In an article in the July 2012 edition of Labor History titled “Chicago and the Little Steel strike”, Michael Dennis described the fascist-like conditions in Weirton, Ohio—a big steel-producing city:

According to journalist Benjamin Stolberg, the steeltown of Weirton, Ohio constituted ‘a little fascist principality’ untouched by federal law, a company town ‘patrolled by notorious killers who keep the plants in a state of terror’. Eugene Grace, the president of Bethlehem Steel, was a ‘black reactionary’. He was a perfect complement to Republic Steel president Tom Girdler, since he ‘combine[d] the big industrialist and the congenital small-time vigilante’. In the isolated, predominantly immigrant, working-class communities of the steel district, Grace and his counterparts exercised nearly implacable authority. Invoking the imagery of the Spanish Civil War, Stolberg described Grace as ‘the General Franco of Little Steel, busily engaged in whipping up big industry to support a national vigilante movement’. As for Republic Steel’s notoriously anti-union Tom Girdler, he was ‘an open fascist, to whom Roosevelt, Miss Perkins, John Lewis are “Communists”’.

So what ever happened to Republic Steel? It is now owned by Grupo Simec, based in Guadalajara, Mexico. It still maintains plants in the USA but with a total work force of only 2,000 workers.

The steel industry ain’t what it used to be. China is now the top steel producer in the world, followed by Japan and India. Of the top ten steel companies in the world, only one American company–U.S. Steel–makes the grade and it comes in number 8 and employs only half the number of workers as India’s Tata Steel, ranked number 7.

Furthermore, we have been a major importer of steel and steel mill products since the 1960s according to Wikipedia. It states: “In 2014, the US exported 11 million tons of steel products, and imported 39 million tons. Net imports were 17 percent of consumption. As of 2012, the largest sources of net steel imports to the US were, in descending order, the European Union, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.”

One of the signs that Trump would adopt a nationalistic trade policy based on protectionism was the appointment of Wilbur Ross to Secretary of Commerce. Ross would seem to be a perfect fit for Trump’s “America First” outlook since he is credited with saving thousands of jobs in the Rust Belt, particularly in steel. His approach is to buy distressed companies and make them profitable again, saving jobs in the process. Part of his strategy is to lobby for tariffs that would protect companies like LTV (Ling-Temco-Vought) that he bought at fire sale prices in 2002 and that had carried out a merger with Republic Steel in 1984.

Leo Gerard, the USW president, was pleased with the appointment: “With Wilbur it’s been almost 15 years now, and those mills are [still] running and some of them are the most productive in North America.”

Somehow it escaped Gerard’s attention that after taking over LTV, Ross fired half the workers. His “rescue” was the same kind as Trump’s of Carrier, which also sustained a heavy loss of jobs to stay in the USA. Since Ross bought LTV in bankruptcy court, he was able to shed $7.5 billion in pension funds to the government.

The story of LTV and Wilbur Ross is a microcosm of the American class struggle—or the lack thereof. You have labor bureaucrats like Leo Gerard making common cause with a scumbag like Ross in the same way that UAW president Dennis Williams has gone along with deals that led to a two-tiered pay system and reduced benefits so as to “save jobs”. If there was a labor movement instead of what we have now, both Obama and Trump would have been put on the defensive.

The problem, of course, is that the bosses can exercise leverage on the workers by threatening to pick up and move to another country. The threat of runaway shops is what helped Trump get elected even if his solution a la Ross is to make an offer that workers can’t refuse.

Global competition puts pressures on workers everywhere to accept less. This is what “globalization” has accomplished. It cheapens the price of labor and commodities simultaneously. Indian steel mills supply commodities at a price far below those of their competitors in more advanced capitalist countries. Ross cashed in on globalization in 2005 himself: He sold his steel company to an Indian company Lakshmi Mittal for $4.5 billion in 2005, making 12 ½ times on his initial investment.

What is happening now is a race to the bottom. Trump is incapable of reversing this trend since it is not susceptible to policy solutions. It is tantamount to King Canute commanding the tide to stop. We are in the throes of capitalism’s decay. I think Trotsky was misguided in the way he went about building a Fourth International but each time I return to his writings, I remained impressed by his ability to size up the political conditions of his epoch in a work like the Transitional Program.

The Thyssens and the Krupps backed Hitler because in the 1920s the steel industry was constrained by national boundaries. They competed with the USA and Great Britain, who faced the same constraints. Today’s world is much different. The danger we face is not a fascist strong state that puts both the bosses and the workers into a straight-jacket but the utter freedom of neoliberalism that allows the steel, auto, and chemical industries, et al to pick up and move overseas as well as the freedom of the Washington Post to excoriate Donald Trump for being a racist. But as long as Jeff Bezos can sell Chinese manufactured goods in the USA, why would he go so far as to rock the underlying economic boat that contains both the Koch Brothers and the liberal-leaning bourgeoisie, the modern-day equivalent of the Fertigindustrie. That is the world we are living in now and we’d better get used to it, as long as we don’t lose sight of the need to transform that world.

January 5, 2018

Trumping Democracy

Filed under: Counterpunch,Film,Trump — louisproyect @ 9:55 pm

COUNTERPUNCH, January 5, 2018

Available from Cinema Libre Studios, “Trumping Democracy” provides the key to understanding how we have ended up with the most unpopular president in history. Despite the tsunami of reports about Russia meddling with the 2016 elections, this gripping documentary makes the case that it was instead the result of a combination of Robert Mercer’s funding and the computer-based Psyops his Cambridge Analytica firm exploited. This one-two punch produced a president that Gary Cohn described, according to Michael Wolff’s new bombshell book, Fire and Fury, as a “An idiot surrounded by clowns.”

Including the director Thomas Huchon, “Trumping Democracy” was the product of a creative team that despite (or, perhaps because of) its French provenance has a sharper focus on our national calamity than MSNBC, CNN and all the other usual suspects. Huchon’s last documentary “Conspi Hunter” was based on a bogus conspiracy theory about the CIA inventing the AID virus in order to subvert Cuba. He released the film online in order to show how quickly and easily conspiracy theories can go viral on the Internet. Given the role of Breitbart News and Infowars in the Trump campaign, it was logical that Huchon would make his latest film a kind of follow-up to “Conspi Hunter”.

Continue reading

December 4, 2017

Trump, Russia vs China and China Industrialization

Filed under: China,Trump — louisproyect @ 2:23 pm

(I received this article from Lynn Henderson, a former member of the American SWP, yesterday. Henderson worked as a railroad brakeman/switchman for 25 years.  He was vice-president of United Transportation Union Local 1000, one of the largest UTU locals in the country.  He was editor of the Intercraft newspaper Straight Track and is currently a contributor to Socialist Viewpoint magazine.)

 

Trump, Russia vs China and China Industrialization

The following is a response to a 7/29/17 letter from Dave Gilbert who you may know is a political prisoner serving a long term in federal prison.  Over the past year Dave and I have been in a fruitful exchange of ideas, a recap of which was printed in the September/October 2017 issue of Socialist Viewpoint.   In his latest letter Dave posed a number of issues: the character of Trump’s role as leader of the America First/nationalist wing, the disputes in the U.S. ruling circles over Russia vs China, China’s industrialization, its future evolution and impact on relations with the “Global South” and William Robinson’s concept of a new transnational capitalist class (TCC).    Lynn Henderson Nov. 2017

Dear Dave,

Let me finally try to take up some of the points you raised in your 7/29/17 letter.  First, as I indicated in my short note last August, you are right in observing that Trump is hardly a “strategically coherent representative” for the emerging “nationalist” faction in the U.S. ruling class.  He is increasingly seen as erratic and unreliable, particularly lately with the growing crisis over North Korea.   Neither wing of the emerging split in the U.S. ruling class wants to stumble into another Asian war, let alone a nuclear war, over North Korea.  Steven Banning, who perhaps represents a more reality based strategy for the nationalist faction, argues that it’s now too late to prevent a nuclear North Korea.  Rather U.S. imperialism needs to concentrate on the real threat, the growing industrial power of China.

But it is Trump who got elected president proclaiming a return to an aggressive nationalist/ America First line, and successfully mobilized racist, anti-immigrant sentiment in support.  Whatever his other limitations, the coalescing nationalist wing feels stuck with him and they are falling in line behind him, at least for now.  Even more worrying for the nationalist/American First wing is their growing suspicion that Trump’s only real political commitment is to his own personal wealth and ego.  Bannon in an August interview with The Weekly Standard gives voice to this sentiment; “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.  We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency.  But that presidency is over.”

More broadly, most of the elected politicians in both capitalist parties are in confused disarray over the growing split in the U.S. ruling class.  They are not confident over how the division will play out, and what position will best serve their own political futures in the end.  As Marxists we, unlike bourgeois historians and political philosophers, adhere to the historical reality and validity of a ruling class. But this of course does not mean that any particular ruling class at any particular time is unified and in fundamental agreement.  Or even that a ruling class under all circumstances, especially under the stress of a real crisis, is capable of correctly assessing its own best interests.

China

I think the most pressing questions in your letter were those concerning China.  One — how did China, while using a market economy, become more of an economic threat than the USSR did?  And two – whether China is emerging as an imperial power and what does this say about the terms of their economic relationships with Third World countries?

To begin grappling with these questions we have to again go back to the world that emerged out of WWII, and its subsequent evolution.  As I previously wrote, U.S. imperialism was the completely dominant winner of WWII.  It won WWII not just against the Axis powers but against its own allies as well.  With the exception of the United States, the entire capitalist world came out of WWII in social, political and economic shambles.  The question then before U.S. imperialism was how should it proceed?

At the end of World War II, one option the U.S. government had was the unique opportunity to use its economic and military power to dismantle the major industrial corporations of its competitors. Under the so-called Morganthau Plan, Germany was to be forcibly de-industrialized and turned into a decentralized collection of agricultural states much like it had been in the middle of the 19th century. The U.S. also had similar plans for Japan. Indeed, why stop with Germany and Japan? Why not forcibly dismember the capitalist industry of all of the United States’ major potential competitors, including its so-called allies Britain and France? After all, the logic of capitalist competition among nation-states pointed in this direction.

If that had been done, U.S. corporations would have had the entire world market—both as buyers and sellers—for themselves. If the U.S. government had followed an “America First” policy in the years after 1945—and gotten away with it—it would have meant that the stock market value of U.S. corporations would have soared to vastly higher levels than is actually the case today. The U.S. would have been “great” indeed!  But as we know, the U.S. government didn’t dare attempt this, especially with the threat of the Soviet Union and the continued example of the 1917 Russian Revolution still before what would have been an increasingly impoverished and radicalizing European proletariat.

Instead, with the launching of the “Marshall Plan” Washington adopted a bi-partisan foreign policy, supported by leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties alike, buttressing a world empire in which the corporations of Britain; an economically resurgent Germany; and an economically resurgent Japan, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and so on could actually compete with U.S. corporations, cooperatively exploit the Third World, and appropriate a portion of the surplus value for their non-American owners (what you have labeled “free market imperialism”).  Things were made easier by the fact that the world market in the wake of the Great Depression and the massive physical destruction of WWII, had entered an extended phase of rapid expansion.

A key element in organizing this “New World Order” was the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference in which 44 nations met in New Hampshire to “negotiate” a new international monetary system.  No real negotiations took place.  A completely dominant U.S. imperialism, holding all the cards, could and did dictate the terms.  The alternative other participants faced was some version of the Morganthau Plan.

The lynchpin of the Bretton Woods system was the new privileged status for the U.S. dollar.  All international accounts and trade would now be settled in dollars.  Dollars that the U.S. Treasury could just print.  It was true that dollars could be converted to gold at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce, which was redeemable by the U.S. government.  But the U.S. government held most of the world’s official gold reserves, and what the rest of the world desperately needed and wanted was not gold but dollars to spend on American manufactured goods – cars, steel, machinery, etc.

However, as manufacturing began to recover in the rest of the capitalist world, resistance to the Bretton Woods system and the privileged position of the dollar began to grow. In Europe the Bretton Woods system began to be characterized as “America’s exorbitant privilege” — an “asymmetric financial system” where non-US citizens “see themselves supporting American living standards and subsidizing American multinationals”.  In February 1965 French President Charles de Gaulle announced his intention to exchange its U.S. dollar reserves for gold at the official exchange rate.  By 1970 other nations began to demand redemption of their dollars for gold.  Underlying this shift was the broader reemergence of international capitalist competition, especially in the sphere of manufacturing.  In 1950 the U.S. share of the world’s total economic output was a whopping 35%.  By 1969 it had dropped to 27%.  The U.S. economy was faced with rising unemployment (6.1% August 1971), recession and the threat of deeper recessions.

U.S. ruling circles became convinced that a policy of massive deficit spending and monetary expansion could successfully stimulate the economy and reverse its decline.  The 1960s represented the flood tide of neo Keynesian economics in both policymaking and academic circles. If there was one time in the history of modern capitalism when the academic and political mainstream believed that they could finally beat the “business cycle” once and for all, it was then. In 1971 President Richard Nixon was reported to say, “We are all Keynesians now.”   Even many Marxists seemed foolishly willing to accept these claims.

But implementing such a policy was impossible as long as the dollar was tied to gold, which would allow nations throughout the world to flee an inflating dollar by demanding the U.S. Treasury redeem their dollars for gold. On August 13,1971 fifteen high ranking White House and Treasury advisors met secretly with Nixon at Camp David and unilaterally abandoned the Bretton Woods agreement by suspending the convertibility of the dollar into gold.  Historically this is known as the “Nixon Shock”.

While the rest of the capitalist world was certainly not happy with the unilateral ending of dollar/gold convertibility, nothing else was available to function as the world’s reserve currency and the essential vehicle for carrying out world trade.  In the final analysis, U.S. overwhelming military power enabled the U.S. to convert the dollar into a token currency with an internationally forced circulation.

Now that this “metallic majesty” had been overthrown, the U.S. government and central bank believed they could guarantee “effective demand” sufficient to buy the vast and ever-growing quantity of commodities U.S. capitalist industry was churning out.  Throughout the 1970’s these policies were now put into effect with massive deficit spending and aggressive monetary expansion.  But the results were not as expected and predicted.  Rather than stimulating the economy and returning the growth rates of the 50’s and 60’s, the result was sharply increasing inflation peaking at almost 15% by the spring of 1980.  This crisis required the coining of a new term in economic jargon – stagflation.

But stagflation was much more than a crisis for just the U.S. economy.  The rest of the world began losing confidence in the dollar as the reserve currency.  Even though the dollar was no longer officially convertible to gold, it began to be dumped for gold, whose price soared to over $800 an ounce.  Conversely the dollar’s value plummeted on the foreign exchange markets. While many capitalist countries have experienced runaway inflation or even hyper-inflation, runaway inflation has never hit the central or reserve currency. If the dollar succumbed to runaway inflation, it would drag down every other capitalist currency with it. If this were allowed to happen while the dollar remained the reserve currency, the result would certainly be by far the worst financial crisis—not excepting the super-crisis of 1929-33— in the history of capitalism.

U.S. imperialism was left with no alternative but to move aggressively to crush the dollar inflation it had inadvertently set off.  The job was assigned to Paul Volcker, a prominent investment banker who was appointed chairman of the Federal Reserve.  Over the next two years he quickly more than doubled the prime interest rate to an unheard-of level of over 20%.  This harsh medicine, known as the “Volcker Shock”, brought inflation somewhat under control but not without significant costs, precipitating the sharp 1981 recession.

U.S. imperialism and its Federal Reserve, admittedly in a pragmatic and empirical way, learned that contrary to widespread hopes in the 1960s, replacing the gold standard with paper money does not enable capitalist governments and central banks to expand demand up to the physical ability to produce and thus abolish periodic crises of general overproduction under capitalism.

But beyond the 1981 recession there was another even more important consequence of the rise of the rate of interest above the rate of profit in the wake of the dollar crisis. The period of extremely high but declining interest rates that followed the Volcker Shock led to a massive destruction of heavy industry in the U.S., Great Britain and to a lesser extent Western Europe.  This occurred in two interrelated ways, the first was called “financialization”; the second, a particularly aggressive form of “globalization”.

Soaring interest rates made capital investment in the actual production of things less and less profitable, but investment in various forms of financial manipulation extremely profitable.  Capital shifted away from manufacturing to a proliferation of new (and often risky) exotic financial instruments – hedge funds, derivative securities, credit default swaps, securitized and bundled mortgages, etc.   Between 1973 and 1985, the U.S. financial sector accounted for about 16 percent of domestic corporate profits.  In the 1990s, it increased to 21 percent to 30 percent.  In the first decade of the 21st century it soared to 41 percent of all U.S. domestic corporate profits.  General Electric, for instance, became one of the nation’s posterchildren for this development, shifting from one of the premier U.S. manufactures to more and more a financial, money lending corporation.

Then as interest rates fell, and positive net profits in manufacturing returned, capital in the form of money and loan money capital was free to invest in new areas. It chose to do this not in the old industrial areas of Britain, the United States and Western Europe but in areas where the rate of profit was far higher, leading to what has come to be known as “globalization”.  No matter how much capitalists speak about “love of country” as the highest virtue, the capitalists themselves—whether they are American, German, Japanese, Russian or Chinese—put profit first, last and everything in between.

Two political changes that occurred during the 1980s and 1990s played a crucial role in making this aggressive globalization possible.  First, the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European “socialist” allies meant that capitalists of the U.S., Britain and Western Europe became much more confident that capital invested outside the imperialist countries would be safe.  It even raised expectations among many capitalist leaders—such as George W. Bush—that something like pre-World War II colonialism could be restored.  But this time it would be the U.S. empire rather than the British empire that would be the chief jailers of the colonized peoples.  It led to the Iraq invasion and other adventures in the Middle-East and now Africa.

The second crucial development was the outcome of the great Chinese Revolution of the 20th century. With the rise of Deng Xiaoping to power in 1978, the Chinese revolution had finally run its revolutionary course. Unlike in the Soviet Union however, in China while there was political reaction—epitomized by Deng’s “it is glorious to get rich” slogan—there was no similar counterrevolution.

When the dust finally settled after decades of revolution, civil war, counterrevolution, Japanese occupation, still more civil war, the liberation of 1949 when China “stood up,” and finally the Cultural Revolution, China emerged with a strong central government independent of western imperialism. The new government was eager to attract foreign capital and willing to respect bourgeois private property rights in order to achieve rapid economic development along capitalist lines—but on its own terms.  It was determined not to allow a repeat of what had occurred in the Soviet Union – the chaotic collapse of the Communist Party apparatus and a Western influenced privatization and deindustrialization of the economy.

The defeat of U.S. imperialism in the Vietnam war had led to yet another crucial development favoring China.  In the 1970s, unable to break the resistance of the peoples of Indochina, the Nixon administration finally decided the time had come to normalize relations with the People’s Republic of China, including, most importantly, allowing China access to the world market, something they never did with Russia as long as the Soviet Union existed.  Nixon-Kissinger had their own motives in this – driving a wedge between any existing and future Russia-China alliance – increasing long existing antagonisms between China and Vietnam – and also the possibility of opening China to U.S. investment.

Handed down from the pre-revolutionary past, the new China possessed a gigantic peasantry numbering in the hundreds of millions accustomed to a very low standard of living and hard manual labor. This peasantry served as the source for an industrial proletariat willing to put up with a much higher rate of surplus value than the workers of North—and even Latin—America, Western Europe or modern Japan.  Huge amounts of foreign investment, especially U.S. investment flowed into China.  What the United States—or rather the United States capitalists—wanted most of all from China was the lion’s share of the surplus value produced by the Chinese working class. Russian workers produce very little surplus value compared to what the U.S. capitalists could appropriate from Chinese workers in the form of profit, interest and dividends.

The problem from the viewpoint of the U.S. capitalist class and its political representatives—the Party of Order of both Democrats and Republicans and the emerging Trump America First gang—is that the U.S. capitalists in squeezing huge amounts of surplus value out of the Chinese have been forced to develop China’s productive forces at the same time.

As a result of the convergence of historical forces described above, including the failed attempt of capitalist governments and central banks to solve the problem of periodic crises of general overproduction through issuance of paper money, in an amazingly short period of time China emerged as the country with the highest absolute level of industrial production—though not on a per capita basis. Meanwhile, the imperialist countries of the U.S., Britain and Western Europe have become increasingly de-industrialized as result of the operation of the same economic laws.

In order to make the empire last for even 70 years—a very short period historically—the U.S. had to give up much of its domestic industrial production. This initially was no great sacrifice for the U.S. capitalists because in exchange they have, at least up to now, vastly increased their ability to exploit the industry and workers of other nations. Herein lies the answer to the riddle of why the U.S. stock market has been able to perform so much better after the “Great Recession” than was possible after the Great Depression, despite the vastly stronger recovery of U.S. industrial production during and after the Great Depression compared to the feeble recovery of U.S. industrial production since the Great Recession. But as U.S. post WWII hegemony continues to disintegrate, this becomes harder and harder to maintain.

The Trumpists fear that sometime in the not too distant future, the U.S. capitalists will have to be content with a far smaller share of the global surplus value produced. Among the consequences when this comes to pass will be that U.S. capitalists will have much less surplus value to maintain—actually bribe—a relatively large but already shrinking middle class, which includes the “aristocracy of labor” inside the U.S.  Therefore, Trump and his gang believe, the U.S. shouldn’t let itself be distracted by an avoidable war—or even war of words—with Russia. Trumpists believes that it is not Russia but China that must be confronted and must be confronted now.  (I should say here that throughout this analysis I have drawn heavily on Sam Williams excellent blog, “A Critique of Crisis Theory” and encourage readers to avail themselves of his monthly postings, past and future.)

China’s Direction and Future Evolution

The other crucial China question you raise is whether China is emerging as an imperial power, and what does this mean for their future economic relationships with Third World countries?

After the victory of Deng Xiaoping’s grouping within the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of China in 1978, China has industrialized through the massive import of foreign capital, the development of capitalist industry, and a massive expansion of exports. The economic laws governing China’s rapid industrialization since 1978 have been the laws that govern the development of capitalism.

The Chinese Communist Party itself describes the current Chinese economy as a market economy and not a planned economy like was the case with the Soviet economy.  During Deng’s rule the Chinese Communist party developed the slogan “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” to provide an ideological footing for the Party’s embrace of market remedies.  At the just completed Communist Party Congress, which meets every five years, President Xi Jinping introduced a new slogan which was incorporated into the constitution; “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

While this rather clunky new phrase could be open to many interpretations it is clarified by the dominant theme of the Congress and President Xi’s repeated central goal — “Make China Great Again”.  And further, only the Communist Party of China can guarantee this “China Dream” of national rejuvenation.  This slogan seems to be an echo of Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, but in reality, the two slogans encompass diametrically opposed world strategies.

The Trumpists believe that to “Make America Great Again” U.S. imperialism must abandon the globalizationist strategies it followed since the end of WWII, including promoting “free trade” and multinational trade agreements which are no longer in its interests.  Rather the United States needs to return to a policy of aggressive U.S. nationalism, including, when necessary, protectionist trade policies.  From now on, the U.S. government should directly use its state power to enrich U.S. corporations at the expense of the corporations of other countries, including so-called “allies” just like was done in the “good old days” before 1945.  The U.S. is still the largest economy in the world and the planet’s overwhelmingly dominant military power.  Before China becomes any stronger it should use that leverage to impose its economic will.

China on the other hand, as the world’s most rapidly expanding manufacturing power, is now its strongest proponent for globalization, “free trade”, open markets and multinational trade agreements.  Under China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which is aimed at creating a modern version of the Silk Road, a network of trading routes from China to Africa and Europe, it has launched a massive economic outreach dwarfing even the Marshall Plan of U.S. imperialism following WWII.

A nervous May 18, 2017 New York Times editorial warns: “China clearly aims to dominate the international system… shaping how vast sums are spent and where, and which laws are followed or not – it could upend a system established by Washington and its allies after World War II.”

Through direct investments, loans, financial aid, construction and engineering expertise, China is penetrating the economies of numerous countries it considers among its geopolitical priorities.  One revealing example is the NATO member Greece.  China has poured money into its key Mediterranean port of Piraeus, considered the “dragon head” of China’s vast “One Belt, One Road” project.  “While the Europeans are acting towards Greece like medieval leeches, the Chinese keep bringing money,” said Costas Douzinas, the head of the Greek Parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee and a member of the governing Syriza party.

And it is not just construction projects.  As Europe’s banks demanded the gutting of Greek pensions and sharp tax increases to guarantee repayment of their predatory loans, the Chinese offered to throw Greece a lifeline by buying toxic Greek government bonds.

Meanwhile China has transformed Piraeus into the Mediterranean’s busiest port, investing nearly half a billion euros through the Chinese state-back shipping conglomerate Cosco.  As a result, Cosco now controls the entire waterfront through its 67 percent stake in the port.  With a rueful chuckle, Mr. Douzinas comments; “It’s a kind of neocolonialism without the gunboats.”

Today the ruling Communist Party of China still proclaims its ultimate aim is to build a communist society in China, if only in a distant future.  But the party explains that to do this, China must go through a preliminary stage called –“socialism with Chinese characteristics,” or most recently — “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”.

While periodically the party does launch anti-corruption crack downs on individual capitalists, the size and weight of this sector continues to grow.  In his speech at the opening of the Communist Party Congress, President Xi proclaimed the party would “inspire and protect the spirit of entrepreneurship.”  China now has 647 billionaires in American dollar terms, according to The Hurun Report, which claims to track wealth in China.  Many of these billionaires began as members of the Communist Party, others later acquired party membership.  All of this poses the question, what is the probable future evolution of the China state and its economic relationship with other nations?

Any assessment of the future direction and evolution of China has to take into account the deep impact of Stalinist ideology on the Chinese Communist Party.  An impact that goes back at least as far as the slaughter of the Chinese urban proletariat in the 1927 counter-revolution lead by Chiang Kai Sheki, who had been made an honorary member of the Third International by Joseph Stalin.

The Stalinist bureaucracy and leadership that successfully displaced the original Bolshevik-Leninist revolutionaries in the Soviet Union had many reactionary characteristics – authoritarianism, opposition to worker’s democracy, oppression of national minorities, material privileges based on corruption, etc.  But the essence of Stalinism, the core of its counter-revolutionary character, was its abandonment of the Leninist commitment to international revolution, its abandonment of international class solidarity.  Under the new Stalinist rubric of “Building Socialism in One Country” the role of the world proletariat, and the task of Communist Parties outside the Soviet Union, was not socialist revolution, but reduced rather to that of border guards for the Soviet Union and its conservatized bureaucracy.

The People’s Republic of China today, with its access to the world market and its aggressive “One Belt, One Road” strategy, is penetrating and influencing the world economy in ways which were never available to the Soviet Union.  But like the Stalinized Soviet Union, in word and deed, the Chinese Communist Party makes clear its goal in this is not international class solidarity, let alone socialist revolution.  Rather its aim is restricted to developing political and economic accommodations with select capitalist and third world regimes that further its “silk road” trade expansion.

In the Soviet Union the left opposition to the consolidating bureaucracy and its developing counter-revolutionary politics originally centered on winning the party back to an internationalist revolutionary course.  But after the Stalinist role in the defeat of the 1927 Chinese revolution, followed by the victory of Nazi fascism in Germany, with no real fight from what was then the largest communist party in the world outside the Soviet Union — a Rubicon had been crossed.  Reform of the Stalinized Russian Communist Party was no longer considered a possibility.  Instead, what was required was a political revolution that would remove the Stalinist leadership and its bureaucratized base from power.  Leon Trotsky, the principal leader of the left opposition, summed up the situation in 1938 with his now famous prognosis: “There are now only two possible courses for the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union. Either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back to capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”

While China and its communist party has its own history, and is certainly not a carbon copy of the Soviet Union, I believe the prognosis and dichotomy laid out by Trotsky in 1938 very much applies to today’s China.  China in its amazing industrialization, even while carried out by capitalist methods, is creating a massive, modern proletariat, with tremendous revolutionary potential.  Counterposed to this is the increasing power of an internal capitalist class.  The eventual outcome of course remains an open question.  A successful socialist revolution elsewhere in the world, especially in an advanced capitalist country, would have a decisive positive impact on the outcome.

_________

 

In your 7/29/17 letter you refer to William Robinson’s concept of a new “transnational capitalist class”.  While thinking Robinson may go “too far” you believed the concept has some validity in understanding present day global capitalism.   Here I pretty much disagree.   I believe the concept of the Transnational Capitalist Class is shot through with fuzzy thinking which is only made possible by stripping the concept of the nation-state of any class character.  For Robinson, globalization is reactionary.  It is reactionary because globalization downgrades the institution of the nation-state.  Robinson believes it is only through intervention in the nation-state that the most anarchic and most destructive elements of unrestrained capitalism can be brought under some control.  Robinson explains, Neo-liberalism facilitated the rise of transnational capital, which breaking free of the confines of the nation-state, allows for unlimited concentration of wealth without any countervailing restraints.

But concentrations of wealth don’t automatically drop from the sky out of some abstract neo-liberalism – they require policies, actions, and the structure of a capitalist nation-state.  No capitalist enterprise no matter how large and globally oriented exists separate from and outside its particular nation-state in some kind of imaginary “Daddy Warbucks” universe.    Robinson’s confused view of the nation-state and TCC developed and acquire for some a seeming plausibility, only under the completely unique conditions of U.S. global hegemony following WWII.  A period (free market imperialism) in which U.S. capitalism found it was to its temporary advantage to used its overwhelming dominance to discourage aggressive inter-imperialist competition and instead organize a cooperative exploitation of the TW – which, at least initially, worked to its advantage.

A number of months ago Socialist Viewpoint was considering printing an article by Robinson entitled, “Capitalist Crisis and Trump’s War Drive”.   While in the past I have not reviewed or participate in selecting what articles appear in S.V. here they asked my opinion.  I separately include my response and recommendation.

Capitalist Crisis and Trump’s War Drive

Robinson makes the case that there is a growing world capitalist crisis fueling a Trump war drive.  He lists a series of points supporting this, many of which we would not necessarily disagree with.

  • S. rulers have often launched military adventures abroad to deflect attention from political crises and problems of legitimacy at home — Trump is facing challenges to his legitimacy and falling approval ratings.
  • Trump proposes an increase of $55 billion in the Pentagon budget and threatens military force in a number of hotspots around the world.
  • Cyclical crises, or recessions, occur about every ten years in the capitalist system and we’re due. Structural crisis occurs every 40-50 years and we’re due there also.
  • Capitalist globalization has also resulted in unprecedented social polarization worldwide. Given such extreme polarization of income and wealth, the global market cannot absorb the output of the global economy making a new crash practically inevitable.
  • The increased raiding and sacking of public budgets. Public finance has been reconfigured through austerity, bailouts, corporate subsidies, government debt and the global bond market as governments transfer wealth directly and indirectly from working people.

However, throughout his article is a confused analysis which draws heavily on the ideas of the anti-globalization movement of the past decade.  Robinson is particularly influenced by a wing of the anti-globalist movement that claims that globalization has produced a new stage of international capitalism in which the capitalist class no longer operates primarily through the institution of the nation-state but rather through huge international capitalist corporations that stand above and separate from the traditional nation-state.  He calls this new development the “transnational capitalist class (TCC)”. This leads him into all kinds of non-Marxist dead-end conclusions.

In the article Robinson claims for instance the structural crisis, of “the Great Depression of the 1930s, was resolved through a new type of redistributive capitalism, referred to as the ‘class compromise’ of Fordism-Keynesianism, social democracy, New Deal capitalism, and so on.”  And further: “Capital responded to the structural crisis of the 1970s by going global. The emerging transnational capitalist class, or TCC, promoted vast neoliberal restructuring, trade liberalization, and integration of the world economy.”

First, the structural crisis of the Great Depression, in so far as it was “resolved”, was not resolved by some “class compromise” but by the horrors of WWII.  His concept of an “emerging transnational capitalist class” represents a rejection of the Marxist concept of the nation-state as the chief instrument of a ruling class, and its government as essentially the executive committee of that ruling class. Robinson sees the nation-state and its government entirely differently.  He sees the nation state as an arena in which progressive forces have the possibility of curbing some of the worst abuses of unrestrained capitalism.  Globalization and TCC by downgrading the state is reducing that possibility.

A clearer and more detailed presentation of Robinson’s views are contained in his July 2014 interview for the publication Truthout:

How do we explain such stark inequality? Capitalism is a system that by its very internal dynamic generates wealth yet polarizes and concentrates that wealth. Historically a de-concentration of wealth through redistribution has come about by state intervention to offset the natural tendency for capital accumulation to result in such polarization. States have turned to an array of redistributive mechanisms both because they have been pressured from below to do so – whether by trade unions, social movements, socialist struggles, or so on – or because states must do so in order to retain legitimacy and preserve at least enough social peace for the reproduction of the system. A great variety of redistributive models emerged in the 20th century around the world, and went by a great many names – socialism, communism, social democracy, New Deal, welfare states, developmental states, populism, the social wage, and so on. All these models shared two things in common. One was state intervention in the economy to regulate capital accumulation and thus to bring under some control the most anarchic and most destructive elements of unrestrained capitalism. The other was redistribution through numerous policies, ranging from minimum legal wages and unemployment insurance, to public enterprises, the social wages of public health, education, transportation, and housing, welfare programs, land reform in agrarian countries, low cost credit, and so on.

But capital responded to the last major crisis of the system, that of the 1970s, by “going global,” by breaking free of nation-state constraints to accumulation and undermining models of state regulation and redistribution. Neo-liberalism is a set of policies that facilitate the rise of transnational capital. As transnational capital has broken free of the confine of the nation-state, the natural tendency for capitalism to concentrate wealth has been unleashed without any countervailing restraints. The result has been this dizzying escalation of worldwide inequalities as wealth concentrates within the transnational capitalist class and, to a much lesser extent, the better off strata of middle classes and professionals.

I don’t believe there is anything to be gained by printing Robinson’s article.  If Socialist Viewpoint did print it, we would have to devote considerable space to answering his completely wrong theories of transnational capitalism and everything that flows from it, which when raised more than a decade ago was an extremely weak argument and today has become even more irrelevant.  Capitalists today are increasingly open about the need to aggressively use their own particular nation-state in the intensifying struggle of international capitalist competition. Ironically no one is more vocal in this than “America First” Donald Trump in his belligerent call for a more aggressive economic nationalism.

May 22, 2017

The business of America is business

Filed under: Iran,Saudi Arabia,Trump — louisproyect @ 4:59 pm

Calvin Coolidge: The business of America is business

If the overarching goal of the USA is to use Saudi Arabia as its chief partner in a proxy war on the “axis of resistance” in the Middle East, then it can be said that Donald Trump is continuing with the policy of his predecessor Barack Obama and one that Hillary Clinton would have continued as part of the “neoliberal” foreign policy supported by John McCain, the NY Times op-ed page, and me–according to my intellectually-impaired detractors.

On the other hand, for NY Times reporters Ben Hubbard and Thomas Erdbrink, the visit was a departure from Obama’s foreign policy favoring Iran:

In using the headline address of his first foreign trip as president to declare his commitment to Sunni Arab nations, Mr. Trump signaled a return to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats, regardless of their human rights records or policies that sometimes undermine American interests.

At the same time, he rejected the path taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Mr. Obama engaged with Iran to reach a breakthrough nuclear accord, which Mr. Trump’s administration has acknowledged Iran is following.

One has to wonder why the two reporters ever thought that there was a “return” to an American policy built on alliances with Arab autocrats given Obama’s actions as opposed to his high-falutin’ words. In a 2002 speech he called upon the Saudis to “stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent” but as President he sold $115 billion of arms to the Saudis, which was $30 billion more than George W. Bush ever did and even $5 million more than Trump’s deal.

Gareth Porter, a well-known supporter of the “axis of resistance” must be particularly disappointed in Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia since his foreign policy was supposedly a repudiation of Hillary Clinton’s hawkish stance. In a January 20, 2017 Middle East Eye article titled “US intervention in Syria? Not under Trump”, Porter expressed relief that Trump would cut off funding for the jihadi groups in Syria:

The US military leadership was never on board with the policy of relying on those armed groups to advance US interests in Syria in the first place.

It recognised that, despite the serious faults of the Assad regime, the Syrian army was the only Syrian institution committed to resisting both al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

It seems likely that the Trump administration will now return to that point as it tries to rebuild a policy from the ashes of the failed policy of the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, for the very first time in the six year war in Syria, the USA has deliberately struck Assad’s military. The first instance was to retaliate for the Khan Sheikhoun sarin gas attack; the most recent was an air strike against a convoy of militias advancing on a base where United States and British Special Forces were training Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. Pirouetting as nimbly as Baryshnikov, Porter warned Commondreams readers about Trump agreeing to the Pentagon’s “permanent War in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria” but held out hope that “judging from his position during the campaign and his recent remarks, Trump may well baulk at the plans now being pushed by his advisers.” This distinction between Trump and his bellicose advisers James Mattis and H.R. McMaster based on Trump’s “remarks” is a reminder that P.T. Barnum was right when he observed that there is a sucker born every minute. Doesn’t Porter understand that if Trump said it was a sunny day, you need to to bring an umbrella with you when you go outside?

On April 18th, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote a letter to Paul Ryan assuring him that Iran was living up to the agreement made with the Obama administration not to develop nuclear arms even though the letter referred to Iran’s support of “terror” in the Middle East. Tillerson sounded very much as if he was Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State on April 10th in the aftermath of the bombing of a Syrian air base (largely ineffectual) with his statement that Assad’s reign was “coming to an end”. One supposes that these words carry about as much weight as Obama’s frequently repeated call for Assad to step down.

Meanwhile, Al_Masdar news, the former employer of neo-Nazi/Assadist Paul Antonopoulos and a reliable source of “axis of resistance” opinion, has good news for those who hoped that the Trump/Putin détente could be salvaged:

Russia’s Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford confirmed in their phone conversation the readiness to reinstate the memorandum of understanding on safe flights over Syria and to draw up more measures so as to avoid any conflicts, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“Syria was in focus of the talks in the light of the agreements, reached in Astana on May 4 this year, on establishing de-escalation zones in some regions of Syria,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Astana talks began in Khazakistan in early January. Sponsored by Russia, Turkey and Syria, they were supposed to lead to a truce and eventually an end to the war. The USA sent observers to Astana but did not push for “regime change”, even from the peanut gallery. Last week the rebel delegation boycotted the talks because Assad had violated the truce. Syria blamed Turkey for the breakdown at Astana but the idea that it was opposed to the general aim of the talks to consolidate Assad’s rule over the carcass that is Syria today appears ludicrous given Erdogan’s bromance with Putin that grew out of Turkey’s anxieties over the US-Kurdish military ties plus the need to reestablish commercial relations with Russia to counteract a deep economic slump.

Five days ago Trump announced that a waiver on sanctions on Iran would continue even with added restrictions. Relaxation will continue unabated in all likelihood given the election of Hassan Rouhani, a cleric who favors “globalism” as the people at Global Research might put it.

The verbal belligerence to Iran must be weighed against the USA’s continuing support for the Shi’a sectarian state in Iraq and its obvious willingness to abide by Assad’s continuing rule despite the two military strikes in 2017. If Trump and his generals were genuinely for prosecuting a proxy war with Iran and Russia, the first thing they would do is arm the rebels against Assad. However, as was the case with Obama, the rebels are expected to fight ISIS, not the blood-soaked despot whose brutal sectarian dictatorship helped ISIS take root.

In May 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry advised European banks to proceed full speed ahead investing in Iran, even if American banks still could not. It didn’t take too long for American corporations to take advantage of the thaw. On April 4, 2017 Iran signed a deal pay Boeing  $4 billion for 60 jets to refurbish its aging state-owned airline. I am generally not in the business of playing Nostradamus but I am predicting that Trump will okay the deal. After all, Calvin Coolidge got it right when he said that the business of America was business.

As the WSJ reported on March 28, 2017 in an article by Asa Fitch and Benoit Faucon, those European corporations Kerry encouraged will take advantage of profit-maximizing opportunities that it will be impossible for the USA to resist, especially when it comes to someone as nakedly devoted to corporate interests as Donald J. Trump:

After years shunning Iran, Western businesses are bursting through the country’s doors — but U.S. companies are noticeably absent.

Dozens of development projects and deals have been hammered out since Iran’s nuclear accord with world powers in 2015 lifted a range of sanctions. Among them, France’s Peugeot and Renault SA are building cars. The U.K.’s Vodafone Group PLC is teaming up with an Iranian firm to build up network infrastructure. Major oil companies including Royal Dutch Shell PLC have signed provisional agreements to develop energy resources. And infrastructure giants, including Germany’s Siemens AG, have entered into agreements for large projects.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. last year got the go-ahead to sell 80 aircraft valued at $16.6 billion to Iran. But for the most part, deals involving U.S. businesses are few and far between.

Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., have steered clear of Iran since the nuclear accord. A Ford spokeswoman said the company was complying with U.S. law and didn’t have any business with Iran. GM is focusing “on other markets, and other opportunities,” a spokesman said.

Peugeot has taken notice. Its Middle East chief, Jean-Christophe Quemard, said Peugeot’s early entry has left U.S. rivals in the dust. “This is our opportunity to accelerate,” he said last month.

U.S. companies are at risk of losing lucrative deals to early movers into a promising market of 80 million people, analysts say, setting off skirmishes among European and Asian companies eager to gain an edge on more-cautious U.S. competitors. But as latecomers, U.S. companies likely won’t face a learning curve in dealing with the political risks and the bureaucratic difficulties in Iran.

Apple Inc. explored entering the country after the Obama administration allowed the export of personal-communications devices in 2013, according to people familiar with the matter. But the company decided against it because of banking and legal problems, the people said. Apple declined to comment.

U.S. companies usually need special permission from the Treasury Department to do business with Iran. Further complicating matters for U.S. companies: President Donald Trump during his campaign threatened to rip up Iran’s nuclear deal, and he hit the country with new sanctions shortly after taking office. On Sunday, Iran imposed its own sanctions on 15 U.S. companies, mainly defense firms.

The nuclear deal removed a range of U.S., European Union and United Nations sanctions in 2016 that had held back Iranian energy exports and put the brakes on foreign investment. But while food, medicine and agricultural products are exempted from U.S. restrictions, U.S. products are available in Iran often only through foreign subsidiaries or third-party importers.

Peugeot, officially known as Groupe PSA SA, is aiming to hit annual production of 200,000 cars in Iran by next year in conjunction with its partner Iran Khodro, after the two signed a 400 million euro ($432 million) joint-venture agreement in June. Already, the pace of both Peugeot’s and Renault’s car sales in Iran has more than doubled.

Asian companies, mainly Chinese ones, have had a growing presence in Iran. Some have stepped up activities since the nuclear deal, including China National Petroleum Corp., which joined France’s Total SA in a preliminary agreement to develop a major Iranian gas field in November.

Iran has caught the attention of a broad spectrum of investors beyond autos, with foreign companies selling everything from gas-powered turbines to mining technologies in the country.

Government-approved foreign direct investment shot up to more than $11 billion last year, official figures show, from $1.26 billion in 2015. Pedram Soltani, the vice president of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, said more than 200 foreign business delegations have visited Iran since the nuclear deal took effect.

“We see what’s happening in the U.S. and Mr. Trump’s comments,” said Ghadir Ghiafe, an Iranian steel-industry executive who is exploring partnerships with South American and European companies. “Our businessmen don’t pay much attention to it.”

Foreign companies still face daunting obstacles to doing business in Iran. Iran placed 131st out of 176 countries for corruption in a ranking by Transparency International last year. It also has major economic problems, including high unemployment and a banking system saddled with bad loans.

Large international banks remain reluctant to re-establish links with Iran despite the nuclear deal. That reluctance has made transfers of money into and out of Iran a challenge.

Western banks such as Standard Chartered PLC, BNP Paribas SA and Credit Suisse Group AG have generally refused to handle transactions to Iran for fear of running afoul of banking sanctions that remain. Chinese and smaller European banks have attempted to step into the breach, even though many companies remain concerned about the regulatory environment.

Some large multinationals — including infrastructure giants and major oil companies — are keeping a close eye on the U.S. in case sanctions snap back into place. Shell, Total SA and OMV AG of Austria have signed memorandums of understanding for deals in Iran but have yet to complete terms.

Last month, Total Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said the company would wait for clarity from the Trump administration before completing a $4.8 billion investment in the country’s South Pars offshore gas field.

But many foreign companies are finding the country’s growth hard to ignore.

The International Monetary Fund recently estimated the economy grew 7.4% in the first half of the Iranian fiscal year that ended this month, rebounding from a decline in the previous year. Meanwhile, a surge in demand has pushed consumer spending in Tehran to $5,240 per capita so far in 2017, up about 11% compared with 2016, according to Planet Retail, a London research firm.

American deals with Iran will go full steam ahead. That’s my prediction based on the fundamental laws of capitalism, a system that allowed IBM, Coca-Cola and Ford to do business with Nazi Germany even after WWII had begun.

May 17, 2017

Donald Trump, National Bolshevism and the radical deficit

Filed under: Fascism,Trump — louisproyect @ 4:28 pm

Three years ago I wrote an article titled “National Bolshevism rides again” that called attention to Golden Dawn’s support for Russia against Euromaidan that sounded exactly like the sort of thing written by Mike Whitney: “Ukraine is Washington’s pretext for a conflict with Russia. The threat of conflict is evident from the flood of propaganda in the Zionist media. Putin is demonized daily as Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi were earlier, while known Zionist newspapers like the Washington Post and New York Times, present daily ‘evidence’ Russian troops are ready to invade Ukraine. The only things missing are the weapons of mass destruction in order to have a complete repeat.”

Little did I suspect that within three years, an American version of Golden Dawn would be saying the same thing. On May 13th, neo-Nazi Richard Spencer led a small demonstration protesting the removal of a statue honoring Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia. Among the chants heard from the mouths of these fascists (I use the word advisedly) was “Blood and soil” and “Russia is our friend”.

If “Russia is our friend”, it is understandable why Stephen F. Cohen would tell Tucker Carlson, Bill O’Reilly’s replacement at Fox News, that the “Assault on Trump is [the] greatest threat to our country”. Like Cohen, Spencer considers the liberal onslaught on Trump to be the main danger to the USA. In a comment on Trump’s divulging classified information to the Russians, Spencer used words that could have come out of Cohen’s mouth: “This is only a scandal in the minds of those who haven’t heard that the Cold War is over.”

Spencer is a fairly crafty operator, looking to speak out of both sides of his mouth. In addition to paying reverence to Robert E. Lee, he also has good things to say about Karl Marx, on May Day no less:

I am not the only person who has been noticing this development. Sukant Chandan, who unlike me is a major supporter of Bashar al-Assad, began to speak out largely because of the support of the ultraright for Brexit. The nativism that defines UKIP, the Trump administration and other ultraright parties that have been coming together in an informal global movement taking inspiration from the Kremlin is certainly going to antagonize an Indian immigrant in England where a dark skin is an open invitation to a beating. On Facebook, Chandan wrote:

Here I argue in 2mins that there are many who advocated on Press TV and RT etc years that Trump would be ‘better’ than Hilary, that these people invited the man who bombed Syria and Afghanistan, humiliated Russia, went to the brink of war with Korea and China, that these people should either apologise publicly and conduct some serious self critique (I made a wrong analysis on Obama, have apologised for that many times and critically self analysed a lot publicly for years), or they should be chased out of our circles and all platforms should be taken away from them. They advocated for the guy who bombed two of our homelands and threatened total war against China and Korea. These people are mainly those organised around far-right/alt-right/fascist circles and those collaborating with them around things like: Centre for Syncretic Studies (and all individuals and organisations involved, which is easily found), Katehon, New Resistance, The Duran, Saker, Fort Russ, 21st Century Wire, Sputnik, and others. These are forces who are directly in alliance with blatant neo-Nazi and western far right and openly fascist forces. The rise of fascist oriented forces and leaders like Trump are *not* friends of ours but fascist imperialist enemies of our peoples.

Of the websites called out by Chandan, I am familiar with The Duran, Saker, the aptly named Fort Russ, 21st Century Wire and Sputnik. But who were the others?

As its name implies, the rather academic sounding Centre for Syncretic Studies attempts to bring together (syncretize) “various ideologies which originate from across the entire spectrum” and overlaps ideologically and personnel-wise with Katehon. Katehon is likely the same word as Katechon, a term found in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 that refers to the apocalypse.

Essentially, both think-tanks are devoted to the thinking of Aleksandr Dugin, a latter-day National Bolshevik. Katehon was founded by Konstantin Malofeev, who is the CEO of Marshall Capital Partners, a private equity firm. Malofeev is a devout Russian Orthodox believer and has also been accused of defrauding the state-owned bank VTB of $200 million. I suppose in this day and age, the two things go together. You can find a typical Katehon article by Dugin titled “Russian Geopolitician: Trump Is Real America” whose title speaks for itself. Speaking for Spencer and countless other rightwing scumbags, Dugin wrote:

Thus, there is Donald Trump, who is tough, rough, says what he thinks, rude, emotional and, apparently, candid. The fact that he is a billionaire doesn’t matter. He is different. He is an extremely successful ordinary American. He is crude America, without gloss and the globalist elite. He is sometimes disgusting and violent, but he is what he is. It is true America.

I should add that the words globalism and globalist have become signifiers for the alt-right. The next time you hear someone using them, run the opposite direction as fast as your feet can carry you.

Moving right along, we come to New Resistance that is based in the USA as opposed to the two Russian-based groups discussed above. The New Resistance appears to be some sort of left group whose views are expressed at Open Revolt!, a blog with little impact according to Alexa that ranks it at 1,897,874 globally. (For comparison’s sake, my blog is ranked 383,286.)

The most recent post to Open Revolt is from February 22nd and titled “New Resistance on Alex Jones, Alexander Dugin and Infowars” that ties it to Dugin ideologically:

Alex Jones gets more than 50 million views at Infowars a week. Last night I watched his feature with Alexandr Dugin and I was expecting to be very critical of it. For once, I was pleasantly surprised. Alex Jones couldn’t have been more respectful and fair, treating Comrade Dugin with the respect he has earned and deserves. He also made a point of showing screenshots of Katehon.com and running the Katehon web address in text beneath Dugin’s name. Many of you probably know Katehon is a Traditionalist and anti-globalist project and some of the major people involved with the site are also part of New Resistance.

That’s a huge breakthrough moment.

Thanks to Alex Jones potentially tens of millions of American eyes are being opened to Alexander Dugin and to the Fourth Political Theory in an honest way. That’s totally jaw dropping.

Notwithstanding the shout-out to Dugin, Open Revolt does not seem nearly as bad as Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute. In fact, the New Resistance manifesto sounds as good as the one Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote in 1848:

We believe that the capitalist system we have today needs to be replaced by something that truly fosters a civilized, sustainable & just society, where economics is subordinated to the social good. NEW RESISTANCE, therefore, supports the following policies:

1) the abolition of wage slavery and landlordism;

2) the distribution of land (either a certain acreage or as apartment square feet) to all citizens and making it non-transferable, thus avoiding accumulation into the hands of a privileged few;

3) some sort of guaranteed annual income & humane social safety net;

4) free universal health care (medicine and related fields should be a calling, NOT a business);

5) economic enterprises larger or more complex than a small family business or farm should be self-managed by workers, via workers’ councils.

Of course, you have to read the fine print:

Like the Black, American Indian and Chicano nationalists, NEW RESISTANCE is a movement geared towards National Liberation. Our people, as we define them, are the “white” American working classes, in which we include the urban proletariat, the rural poor, those unemployed or under-employed (“precarious labor”), as well as displaced members of the middle class. We use the term “white” reluctantly to denote the vast pool of Americans of European descent and those who adopt the cultural mores of “white America”.

This is just a soft sell version of what David Duke has been peddling for decades.

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 3.05.03 PM

James Porazzo

New Resistance was founded by James Porazzo, a Boston man who was formerly involved with the American Front, a skinhead group that worked closely with Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance and that eventually came to espouse The Third Position, which “syncretizes” racial separatism and socialism. Like Richard Spencer, Porazzo figured out that socialism was not a scare word any more and might even help him recruit new members.

Indeed, Porazzo seems like a natural ally to all those people in the “anti-imperialist” camp. He links to a Bashar al-Assad interview and crossposts Eva Gollinger’s tribute to Hugo Chavez. Interviewed at the Center for Syncretic Studies, Porazzo can barely be distinguished from James Petras (maybe that’s the problem):

Capitalism or institutionalized looting, selfishness and greed are a kind of religion for the pigs that govern the United States. The Democratic and Republican parties are united in this, just showing different shades of the same disease.  Most of the right-wing opposition here, including the reactionary extreme right, are infected by this disease. It can be seen from the fact that hardly wait to cast aspersions onto any other organization with a revolutionary social program, such as as ours.

For us, the absolute enemy is the cult of the golden calf.  We are open to discuss common goals with all genuine anti-capitalists. The struggle against capitalism must always be a priority.

The rebirth of National Bolshevism is something to contend with. The original version first came to my attention writing about the Comintern and the German revolution of the early 20s. Ruth Fischer, an ultraleft and half-Jewish member of the German CP back then, gave a speech that included these words that sound even worse than anything Porazzo might come up with:

Whoever cries out against Jewish capital…is already a fighter for his class, even though he may not know it. You are against the stock market jobbers. Fine. Trample the Jewish capitalists down, hang them from the lampposts…But…how do you feel about the big capitalists, the Stinnes, Klockner?…Only in alliance with Russia, Gentlemen of the “folkish” side, can the German people expel French capitalism from the Ruhr region.

Porazzo has paid close attention to the attempts of the Red-Brown synthesis in the 1920s that has now been given new life by Aleksandr Dugin. Not only has he crossposted Dugin’s articles, he has paid tribute to some obscure figures such as Ernst Niekisch. Starting off as a Communist during Weimar, Niekisch eventually broke with Marxism and developed the official National Bolshevik theory that combined elements of German nationalism and admiration for Josef Stalin, perhaps not that much of a contradiction. He was read by the Nazi “left”, including Gregor Strasser and Ernst Rohm.

I have no idea how much influence Porazzo has but Richard Spencer certainly has plenty. The fact that Spencer has lately been toasting Karl Marx might indicate that this is the direction the alt-right will be taking. Unlike the original National Bolshevism, there is not much support for a rebirth that is a carbon-copy of the original. Why? Because there is no longer a USSR. Vladimir Putin has said that Lenin was the worst thing that happened to Russia, so there’s not much of a “left” to the Kremlin nowadays. Mainly, Putin represents a left to people like Stephen F. Cohen, Robert Parry, James Petras and Diana Johnstone because he is despised by liberal politicians and journalists just as indicated in the Dugin picture at the top of the article. I doubt that any of these people, especially Petras and Johnstone, give a hoot about Spencer and Porazzo’s admiration for Assad and Putin. All that matters to them is salvaging the USA-Russia détente. This is a intellectual and political deficit of biblical proportions.

There’s a dirty little secret I’d like to share with you. Many on the left who are repulsed by people like Richard Spencer and James Porazzo are equally repulsed by the liberal onslaught against Trump for motives lodged in their subconscious. Since they share Spencer and Porazzo’s views on Syria and Ukraine, there is a natural tendency to see Trump as an obstacle to a “neocon” war against the “axis of resistance” even if they are barely aware of it.

What accounts for this? I would describe it as a retreat from class. Twenty years ago, Marxists were up in arms over how postmodernism was subordinating class criteria as part of a new methodology that linked Marx to the Enlightenment. “Identity Politics”, especially in the academy, became a substitute. To a large extent, the rise of postmodernism was related to changes in the capitalist economy such as the growth of multinationals, financialization, post-Fordism, etc. Leaving aside the merits of this analysis, it can be said that classical Marxism was bound to undergo a decline in the aftermath of the collapse of official Communism and the rapid expansion of the capitalist economy in the 1980s and 90s.

So is the current brand of “anti-imperialism”, with its lockstep adherence to the Kremlin’s talking points, also a reaction to changes in world capitalism? Undoubtedly, the stagnation that set in toward the late 90s and that only deepened after the 2007 meltdown have contributed to a sense of futility over capitalist growth. For many whose radicalism is paper-thin (i.e., most Noam Chomsky readers), the unit of analysis has become the nation-state rather than class. Why bother to interrogate class relations in Syria when the CIA has been sending rebels light weapons, after all? (The emphasis on light, of course.)

Into this stagnant ideological pool, it becomes possible for an American version of Golden Dawn to take root. Does this mean that fascism is on the agenda? I don’t think so. The main role of groups led by Spencer or Porazzo is to act as shock troops that are meant to embolden backward members of the working class and the petty-bourgeoisie to take their own actions in a thousand different ways, from insulting a woman wearing a hijab or a Black person walking in a white neighborhood. In other words, they will be trying to create the same climate of fear that exists in Europe even though they are not ready to begin attacking the picket lines of strikers on the rare occasions they materialize.

As was the case in the early Weimar Republic, the alt-right will be held in reserve. They can do damage now but not constitute an immediate threat to the American ruling class that much prefers bourgeois democracy, especially since it relies on the less expensive and less risky ideological hegemony rather than the truncheon.

May 14, 2017

The dubious friends of Donald Trump

Filed under: Trump — louisproyect @ 1:03 pm

May 3, 2017

Neofascism in the White House?

Filed under: Fascism,Trump — louisproyect @ 6:22 pm

Leftist analysis of the Trump presidency has ranged from those like Boris Kagarlitsky who believe that “Trump took to consistently fulfill everything that the Left in the US and Western Europe was talking about for a quarter century” to those who have seen him as the second coming of Adolf Hitler. Since Trump is such a mercurial figure, one day threatening to go to war with North Korea and the next saying that he’d like to meet with Kim Jong Un who he described as a “smart cookie”, developing a theory about “Trumpism” is like hitting a moving target.

I’ll give credit to John Bellamy Foster for trying to hit that target in “Neofascism in the White House”, a 15,000 word article that should be required reading since John Bellamy Foster is an important Marxist intellectual worth considering even when he is wrong. For Foster, the term neofascism is meant to convey the difference with Nazism or any of the other fascisms of the 1920s and 30s. Primarily, neofascism is marked by an absence of paramilitary violence in the streets, black shirts, brown shirts or Nazi Stormtroopers. The new fascism is what Bertram Gross called “Friendly Fascism” in a 1980 book. (Foster cites him approvingly).

Gross was a CUNY professor who held a number of government posts, including executive secretary of Truman’s Council of Economic Advisers. He had first advanced the notion of “friendly fascism” in a 1971 NY Times op-ed piece that sounded pretty much like the “new left” theories that were current back then largely under the influence of Herbert Marcuse:

Finally, direct repression would operate through, around, under and over the old constitutional procedures. The guiding principle—to be developed by an expanded Rand Corporation—would be to get a pound of terror from an ounce of schrecklichkeit [frightfulness]. This economizing would be facilitated by extensive use of indirect controls: welfare state benefits made conditional upon good behavior; credentialized meritocracy; accelerated consumerism; and market manipulation. Equally important would be extensive co‐optation to buy off the most intelligent leaders of dissident groups.

This polished and flexible form of public repression would need no charismatic dictator. It would require no one‐party rule, no mass fascist party, no glorification of the State, no dissolution of legislatures, no denial of reason. It would probably come slowly as a cancerous growth within and around the White House, the Pentagon, and the broader political establishment.

Accelerated consumerism? Extensive co-optation? Market manipulation? I don’t know quite how to put this but this “fascism” is not very neo. In fact, it describes the United States before Hitler was born.

Foster examines Hitler’s gleichschaltung, a term which meant “bringing into line” or—more concretely—the Nazification of the German state. This involved an assault on bourgeois democracy, from purging the universities and other dissident institutions such as the press and publishing houses to finally granting Hitler absolute power.

Will we see a Trumpist gleichschaltung? Foster admits that we will not see a repeat of the 1930s but warns about the “effective dissolution of the liberal-democratic order” and its replacement by the “alt-right”. However, this does not square with the unfolding events. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has replaced Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief adviser and his national security aide Sebastian Gorka is rumored to be fired soon over his alt-right connections. (Apparently, Foster must have written his article before the slid was greased for Bannon and Gorka, since he described them as prime movers in the Trump administration with no reference to their recent fall from grace.)

As each week passes by, the Trump administration is adopting the coloration of the Reagan administration with its decidedly non-populist “trickle down” economic policies and its heavily militarized foreign policy rather than anything ever proposed by the alt-right. This seems like Republican Party business as usual rather than anything “neofascist”.

Foster does not seem to connect Trump’s ideology—such as it is—with core Republican values, especially those of the Tea Party that now plays a dominant role. If Steve Bannon is Trump’s Joseph Goebbels, we must accept that some of his precepts are key to the White House’s neofascist program: the restoration of the “Judeo-Christian West” as the spiritual framework for a restored capitalism and the promotion of extreme ethno-nationalism targeting non-white immigrants. I am not sure if Foster watches much Fox-TV or listens to people like Michael Savage or Steve Deace on the radio, but this has been part of the core beliefs of the Republican Party for decades now. Ideologically, the only difference is opposition to “globalism” and a commitment to rebuilding the American economy through infrastructure projects like Hitler’s autobahn (or FDR’s public works projects for that matter.) But like much of Trump’s promises, these are empty. Jared Kushner came this close to concluding a deal that would have investors closely connected to the Chinese Communist Party pouring billions into his flagship property in New York. If that isn’t globalism, I don’t know what is. You can be sure that Trump’s “populism” was designed to win votes, not change society in the way that Tom Watson hoped.

Foster is rightfully concerned about Trump’s attempted ban on immigration from Muslim countries and his tongue-lashing of judges who overturned his order. We can be sure that Trump will fill vacancies in the Federal judiciary that reflect his own nativist agenda but that would have been true if his chief rival Ted Cruz had been elected President. This is how bourgeois democracy works, after all. Judges are appointed by the party in power. If Hillary Clinton had been elected President, she would have appointed people that continued Obama administration policies. By 2014 President Obama had deported over 2 million people – more in six years than all people deported between 1892 to 1997. Considering the onerous vetting restrictions imposed by Obama on immigrants from Syria, Somalia et al, there’s not much difference between the Democrats and the Republicans except the rhetoric.

As someone who rightfully earned the reputation as one of the most respected environmental scholars, you can understand why Foster would sound the alarm over Trump’s assault on climate change accords, his appointment of a man to lead the EPA who has a record of fighting its rulings, and opening up public land to energy exploration. But this is Republican Party policy. If Trump had a heart attack tomorrow, could we expect Mike Pence to retreat on any of these measures? Is it possible that neofascism is not Trump/Bannon but the Koch brothers, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Ann Coulter and all the other creeps that have been pushing us back to the 1890s?

Considering the role of fascism as the last resort of the bourgeoisie against proletarian revolution, it is puzzling that Foster devotes only 6 sentences to the trade unions. While he is correct in pointing out that a “right to work” law is in the works, he neglects to mention that Trump has been lining up support from the AFL-CIO bureaucracy. Rich Trumka was not only pleased with Trump’s push for pipelines and stepped up drilling; he also saw eye to eye on immigration: “Will we partner with him to try to rewrite the immigration rules of the country? Absolutely because those will help workers, it will decrease the imbalance between corporate America and workers.”

Does this mean that the American working class is becoming part of this neofascist danger? Foster alluded to Hitler drawing “on a minority of the working class, disproportionately represented by more privileged blue-collar workers.” The problem is that a fascist movement, either “old school” or neo, is not really needed in the USA. Workers are not revolutionary. They are not even liberal in the sense of supporting affirmative action, gay rights, or other issues that were supposedly the cause of Hillary Clinton’s defeat. They tend to be for benefits like Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance but there is little indication that the Republicans intend to gut these programs, mainly because there is no need for that presently. If unemployment went up to 30 percent as was the case in the Weimar Republic and Trump slashed unemployment benefits in half, maybe then you’d find truck drivers or construction workers discussing Chris Hedges’s latest column. But American capitalism has a lot more wiggle room, even with competition from China.

Foster calls attention to Trump’s war on the media, the last battle being his baiting of John Dickerson on “Face the Nation”, a show he called “Deface the Nation” to the interviewer’s face. There might be a war being fought by Trump but there are very few victories so far. The NY Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and ten thousand websites continue to pillory the White House with no letting up. If you want to see how a press can be muted, you need to study Turkey, Russia or China where reporters and bloggers are routinely harassed, arrested or even killed. Trump will not silence the media by calling it “fake”. He will only succeed by sending the cops into their offices and hauling the staff off to jail where they will be tortured or killed. That is how fascism operates, not by calling names. Nixon was just as openly hostile to the press as Trump but that did not shut them up. (Then again, Nixon was supposed to be Adolf Hitler for much of the left in the 1970s.)

As someone who has been on the left since 1967, I have become somewhat inured to warnings about Nixon, Reagan, George Bush father and son, and now Trump posing a fascist threat. Unless you understand fascism, either old or neo, as dictatorship, you are not making much sense. Fascism does not operate by “indirect controls” as Bertram Gross put it. It operates through the truncheon, the kangaroo court, the suspension of constitutional rights and the total control over society by a single party whose Bonapartist ruler has absolute power.

There is zero possibility of Trump gaining such power over the next four years since there is no need for it. Even though Trump is a clumsy and self-defeating chief executive, he has control over Congress and likely the Supreme Court before long. The Democrats might defy him on key legislation but will likely go along with a “compromise” just the way they did when Ronald Reagan had meetings with Tip O’Neill over key legislation. It will be the same old shit for the next four years.

Timothy Snyder, an expert on totalitarian societies at least by academic standards, was interviewed by Salon on May first in an article warning that Trump “will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy”. As most of you know, Salon has the same laser-like focus on Trump as MSNBC. Why? Because it is commercially advantageous.

The interview was prompted by Snyder’s new book titled “On Tyranny” that warns of the possibility of Trump using the next big terrorist attack as a Reichstag fire type incident to stage a coup. To be consistent, Snyder would have to say that if such a coup took place, the Connecticut state troopers and the FBI would come to Yale University and arrest him for subversive activities. Additionally, as is happening in Turkey today, every liberal or radical professor would have to be fired if they aren’t arrested and replaced by other professors who were loyal to the dictatorship’s gleichschaltung. Are there enough adjuncts available to fill their shoes, even if in the unlikely event that they could be relied upon to prepare classes based on the writings of Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos? Can you imagine that you were a doctor, lawyer or investment adviser spending $50,000 per year to send your kid to school where they would come out with a diploma that was worth about as much as the paper it was written on? They wanted their kid to be taught by Timothy Snyder, an academic superstar like Paul Krugman, not somebody with a degree from Oral Roberts University. And for what? Because someone set off a bomb in Madison Square Garden during a Knicks game or used an AK-47 on crowds watching the fireworks on July 4th? I don’t think so.

My recommendation for people believing such a thing as fascism or a coup happening in the USA over the next four years is to have a drink of cold water and read Corey Robin’s article in yesterday’s Guardian titled “Think Trump is an authoritarian? Look at his actions, not his words”. It is really quite astute:

Trump, in other words, has failed to fill 85% of the positions in the executive branch that he needs to fill in order to run the government to his specifications. It’s a strange kind of authoritarian who fails, as the first order of business, to seize control of the state apparatus: not because there’s been pushback from the Senate but because, in most instances, he hasn’t even tried.

Ah, Trump’s liberal and left critics will respond, but that failure to fill key positions is all part of the White House’s master plan. Back in February, Steve Bannon, Trump’s top strategist whose star lately has fallen, claimed that the administration’s goal was “the deconstruction of the administrative state”. As Bannon made clear, that was just a fancy way of describing the longstanding Republican goal of gutting rules and regulations the business class hates. What better way to do that than simply not staffing the agencies that are tasked with enforcing those rules and regulations?

There are two problems with this theory. First, Trump has failed to fill positions in departments and agencies he actually wishes to empower and expand. He’s only filled one out of 53 positions in the Pentagon, two out of 14 in the Department of Homeland Security, one out of seven positions in the intelligence agencies, one of out 28 positions in the treasury department, and almost none of the key positions in the justice department having to do with terrorism, drug crime prosecution and the like.

Second, many of those positions are not empty. Until Trump appoints someone to fill them, they will remain mostly occupied by holdovers from the Obama administration – who will continue to enforce the thousands of rules and regulations Obama passed and Trump hates.

Though Trump has had limited success overturning some of Obama’s rules through an obscure piece of legislation, the real work of deregulation and undoing Obama-era rules will require a much heavier lift that Trump is not yet in a position to execute.

Despite the fact that Trump, whose party is in control of all the elected branches of the federal government, has lost virtually every legislative battle he’s waged, and backed down from virtually every bluff he’s made, the faith in Trump’s power – not in his probity or purposes but in his ability to dominate the political scene – dies hard. And nowhere harder, it seems, than on the left.

 

February 21, 2017

Donald Trump’s team of con men drafts a peace plan for Ukraine

Filed under: Trump,Ukraine — louisproyect @ 8:58 pm

Felix Sater, a key player in a Ukrainian peace plan, once spent time in prison for attacking a commodities broker with a broken margarita glass

For most people on the left, there was unquestionably a preference for Donald Trump’s foreign policy in the 2016 election especially with respect to Russia and more particularly taking its side against Ukraine. Just as was the case with Syria, anybody that Obama or Clinton supported even if only rhetorically was the enemy of the left. This meant that Ukraine became as much of a symbol of evil as the “jihadists” in Syria. Granted that Trump is about as articulate as a garden rake, his reply to George Stephanopolous of ABC News on the Russian takeover of Crimea must have warmed the cockle of the hearts of people like Stephen F. Cohen:

I’m going to take a look at it. But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that also. Now, that was under, just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration. And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it’s a mess and that’s under the Obama administration, with his strong ties to NATO.

So with all of these strong ties to NATO, Ukraine is a mess, Crimea has been taken. Don’t blame Donald Trump for that. And we’ll do better. And yet, we’ll have better relationship with Russia. And having a good relationship, maybe. And having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Now, admittedly it is pretty hard for me to get inside the head of people like Cohen, Mike Whitney and Boris Kagarlitsky but I wonder what they make of the report in yesterday’s NY Times about a “peace plan” Trump’s cohorts have put together. The amateur hour group of diplomats include Michael D. Cohen, who is Trump’s personal lawyer; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Trump look for deals in Russia; and Andrii V. Artemenko, a Ukrainian legislator who is part of a political opposition movement that is taking its cue from Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.

Artemenko claims that he has evidence of corruption in President Petro O. Poroshenko’s administration, something that does not strain credulity. And it might even confirm that old saw “it takes a thief to catch a thief” since Artemenko spent time behind bars in a Kiev jail in the early 2000s for an embezzlement conviction. He maintains that he was framed for political reasons. Who knows?

Artemenko is obviously aspiring to be the new Yanukovych, the former president who fled to Russia as the Euromaidan protests made him dispensable, even to his own Party of Regions. At a gathering of his party on March 29, 2014 delegates voted to expel Yanukovych and senior members of his government, including prime minister Mykola Azarov, the head of the Ministry of Revenues Oleksandr Klymenko, deputy prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov, minister of the Department of Energy Eduard Stavytskyy, and the head of the Donetsk Oblast Administration Andriy Shyshatskyy. To my knowledge, Victoria Nuland was not in touch with the delegates who voted to boot these people from their pro-Kremlin party.

If ex-con Artemenko seems a bit dicey, he is small potatoes compared to Felix H. Sater, who seems to have stepped out of a “Sopranos” episode. He acted as a middle-man, conveying Artemenko’s peace plan to Trump. It should be mentioned that the plan is not quite what you’d expect from a tool of the Kremlin, at least on the face of it. It calls for the withdrawal of all Russian forces from eastern Ukraine and leasing Crimea to the Russians for 50 to 100 years, as if it were real estate. Since Russia claims that there are no Russian troops in Ukraine, it is not clear what the first plank is meant to accomplish.

Sater, a Russian Jew who came to the USA as a political refugee, was involved with Trump in real estate deals for the better part of a decade. His ties to Trump were first reported by the NY Times in a December 17, 2007 article.

Before Sater got involved with real estate, he was a stockbroker. In 1991, he was celebrating at El Rio Grande, a midtown NYC restaurant, with a friend who had passed the stockbroker’s exam that day. He was also feeling good about the $3,000 commissions he made at work earlier. A bit lubricated from one too many cocktails, Sater got into a beef with a commodities broker at the bar that quickly escalated. According to NY Times, “he grabbed a large margarita glass, smashed it on the bar and plunged the stem into the right side of the broker’s face. The man suffered nerve damage and required 110 stitches to close the laceration on his face.”

Sater went to prison for this assault and was banned from selling stock. That did not get in the way of him forming a stock brokerage with two partners not long after his release. It was basically a “pump and dump” firm that sold securities at inflated prices based on false information. In the mid-90s, there were so many of these criminal enterprises that you needed hired muscle from the Mafia to protect your turf as if you were a crack dealer. In 1995, Edward Garafola, a soldier in the Gambino crime family, tried to extort money from Sater, who hired Ernest Montevecchi, a soldier in the Genovese crime family, to lean on Garafola to back off.

In 1998, the law caught up with Sater. He was charged with money laundering and stock manipulation. Two years later, there was another indictment that named him as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in a $40 million scam involving 19 stockbrokers and members of four Mafia families. He never went to prison for his crimes, apparently because he cooperated with investigators.

Under ordinary circumstances, people like Artemenko and Sater would never be taken seriously by an American president but we are now operating under extraordinary circumstances. When Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and his one-time campaign manager give these two whack jobs the kosher stamp of approval, this tells you that we are not in Kansas anymore. It is likely that Trump lent them his ear since he has had ties to organized crime for most of his career.

Wayne Barrett, the long-time Village Voice investigative journalist who died this year from a lung ailment, exposed Trump’s mafia ties in a 1991 bio titled “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention”. For a recap of Barrett’s findings, I recommend an article written by fellow Trump biographer David Cay Johnston that appeared in the Politico on May 22, 2016 under the title “Just What Were Donald Trump’s Ties to the Mob?” Johnston writes:

FBI agents subpoenaed Trump in 1980 to ask about his dealing with John Cody, a Teamsters official described by law enforcement as a very close associate of the Gambino crime family. The FBI believed that Cody previously had obtained free apartments from other developers. FBI agents suspected that Cody, who controlled the flow of concrete trucks, might get a free Trump Tower apartment. Trump denied it. But a female friend of Cody’s, a woman with no job who attributed her lavish lifestyle to the kindness of friends, bought three Trump Tower apartments right beneath the triplex where Donald lived with his wife Ivana. Cody stayed there on occasion and invested $500,000 in the units. Trump, Barrett reported, helped the woman get a $3 million mortgage without filling out a loan application or showing financials.

In the summer of 1982 Cody, then under indictment, ordered a citywide strike—but the concrete work continued at Trump Tower. After Cody was convicted of racketeering, imprisoned and lost control of the union, Trump sued the woman for $250,000 for alteration work. She countersued for $20 million and in court papers accused Trump of taking kickbacks from contractors, asserting this could “be the basis of a criminal proceeding requiring an attorney general’s investigation” into Trump. Trump then quickly settled, paying the woman a half-million dollars. Trump said at the time and since then that he hardly knew those involved and there was nothing improper his dealings with Cody or the woman.

This is par for the course. The real estate industry and the mob are joined at the hip in New York. My building was created under the Mitchell-Lama law that was intended to create affordable housing for middle-class people in exchange for tax breaks for the developer, which in my case was the DeMatteis company. The NY Times reported on December 26, 1991:

New York City has revoked a $1.2 million contract with a major construction company that officials say concealed and altered reports about possible ties to organized-crime figures.

The contract was awarded in July to the Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Company of Elmont, L.I., to supervise the building of a $67 million jail annex on Rikers Island. But in a decision made public this week, the city said the company had withheld “troubling” information about its business associations and had submitted an altered copy of a report concerning its possible ties to reputed organized-crime figures.

Now this is the way that business is done in New York. But did anybody anticipate that the White House would be following the rules of the NY real estate game after January 20th? Donald Trump is using his political office to make money. People who have convinced themselves that he is ideologically driven to create a fascist state that will mold people according to some master race schema are deluded. Trump has about as much ideological conviction as the Home Shopping Network.

Even Putin, who is as big a crook as Trump, feels that this “peace plan” does not pass the smell test. Immediately after the NY Times reported on it, he dismissed it as absurd. As I said before, he denies that there are Russian troops in Ukraine. He also insists that Crimea is now part of Russia. Even as articles continue to be churned out on why the Deep State seeks to oust Trump because of his friendliness to Russia, there is scant recognition that the peace plan for Ukraine might signal a policy much more like Clinton’s than people like Stephen F. Cohen might have anticipated. Keep in mind what Nikki Haley, Trump’s Ambassador to the UN, said about the conflict:

The United States stands with the people of Ukraine, who have suffered for nearly three years under Russian occupation and military intervention. Until Russia and the separatists it supports respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, this crisis will continue.

Eastern Ukraine, of course, is not the only part of the country suffering because of Russia’s aggressive actions. The United States continues to condemn and call for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea. Crimea is a part of Ukraine. Our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control over the peninsula to Ukraine. The basic principle of this United Nations is that states should live side by side in peace.

Showing more clarity than leftist supporters like Stephen F. Cohen, Putin ordered state media to back off from their fawning coverage of Trump. This is probably a reaction to Haley’s comments at the UN as well as concerns about FBI investigations into the contacts that Trump’s advisers had with Russia during and after the 2016 campaign. The peace plan crafted by Artemenko and sponsored by Sater was designed to end the sanctions against Russia. Given the fecklessness of their efforts, which are consistent with the overall ineptitude of the Trump White House, it appears that the sanctions will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Russia is in dire straits now economically, just as is the USA. Their problems are related to falling oil prices while ours are more complex. Although economist Nick Eberstadt is a neoconservative, his article for the echt-neocon Commentary Magazine titled “Our Miserable 21st Century” gives you a sense of how bad things are:

Between late 2000 and late 2007, per capita GDP growth averaged less than 1.5 percent per annum. That compares with the nation’s long-term postwar 1948–2000 per capita growth rate of almost 2.3 percent, which in turn can be compared to the “snap back” tempo of 1.1 percent per annum since per capita GDP bottomed out in 2009. Between 2000 and 2016, per capita growth in America has averaged less than 1 percent a year. To state it plainly: With postwar, pre-21st-century rates for the years 2000–2016, per capita GDP in America would be more than 20 percent higher than it is today.

For both the USA and Russia, a quick fix would be to eliminate its military starting with nuclear weapons. Costa Rica disbanded its military in 1948 and the country has been better off for that, with worries about counter-revolutionary coups being put to rest as well as helping to afford a welfare state some compare to Sweden’s.

The USA spends 600 billion dollars per year on the military while Russia spends a tenth of that. Since Russia’s population is less than half of ours, that would still represent a considerable savings. Instead what we can expect is a ratcheting up of military expenditures as Trump brandishes the sword against China, Iran and maybe even Russia. The world is confronted by what Haile Selassie described as war and rumors of war, words that Bob Marley put to music.

On “Sixty Minutes” last Sunday there was a segment on North Korea’s “threat” to the USA with a top American officer on duty in South Korea, an African-American no less, reassuring his African-American 60 Minutes interviewer that if Kim Jong-un used nuclear weapons, his country would be “wiped off the map”.

In the Junius Pamphlet written one year after the outbreak of WWI, Rosa Luxemburg said:

Friedrich Engels once said: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” What does “regression into barbarism” mean to our lofty European civilization? Until now, we have all probably read and repeated these words thoughtlessly, without suspecting their fearsome seriousness. A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war. This is a dilemma of world history, an either/or; the scales are wavering before the decision of the class-conscious proletariat. The future of civilization and humanity depends on whether or not the proletariat resolves manfully to throw its revolutionary broadsword into the scales. In this war imperialism has won. Its bloody sword of genocide has brutally tilted the scale toward the abyss of misery. The only compensation for all the misery and all the shame would be if we learn from the war how the proletariat can seize mastery of its own destiny and escape the role of the lackey to the ruling classes.

These words are as relevant today as they were just over a century ago.

February 2, 2017

Donald Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

Filed under: religion,Trump — louisproyect @ 5:41 pm

(From Steven Salaita on FB)

Here’s a transcript of Donald Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast:

Thank you, thank you everybody, thank you. It’s great to do my first prayer breakfast. We’ve got seven more to go, at least seven more. Who knows. I’m winning so much they may have to change the Constitution. Next time we’re gonna win even bigger. My people have done the calculations, we’ve looked at the polls, we expect 107, 108 percent of the vote. And we’re just getting started. But the reason we’re here is because of Jesus.

[APPLAUSE]

I mean, Jesus is great. Some say the greatest. Moses is pretty great, too. Parted the sea. Did it without the EPA, too. I’ll close it down soon, the EPA. Moses would have hated it. Abraham, he was tough. He didn’t cut that kid in half, Isaac I think, or was it Isaiah. Doesn’t matter. I’d do it to Eric or Junior, but Abraham chickened out, blamed it on God. Isaac and Isaiah didn’t grow up to be as successful as Eric and Junior, either, but that’s okay, they didn’t have a strong father figure, like the blacks, who love me more than they love Jesus, by the way. They really love me, okay. And how about Ezekiel. What a name, Ezekiel. Led the NFL in rushing this year. Then there’s Gabriel, who’s totally underrated. I mean, he performed IVF on Mary. Great prophet, that one. Solomon, Joseph, Adam, good prophets. Mohammad, not so much.

[APPLAUSE]

And what a book, the Bible. It’s the second bestseller of all time, a few million copies behind Art of the Deal. People love that book. In Mexico, everybody reads it in sixth grade. They read it in Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, that other country over there. It’s like their Bible. But anyway the other Bible. Wonderful book. Amazing book. I really like the story about Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed those sinful places. My friend Rudy did the same thing in Times Square, put in a TGI Fridays, a very successful restaurant. I’m gonna do him one better, though, build the best resort in Israel. Dead Sea water will come out of the faucets. Wonderful for exfoliation. You’ll get the best exfoliation there. Tons of old stones laying around the country, too, almost like they used to be part of houses. We’ll use those to make the place look like old Israel, from the fifties and sixties. And we’ll dress Arabs up as camels and let the kids ride them. It’s gonna be spectacular. They’ll write a new Bible story about it one day.

[APPLAUSE]

As everybody knows, I’m a religious man. Pray twenty, thirty times a day. Huge prayers. I even pray for all the losers in the media. Maybe God will convince them to stop with the fake news, am I right? I haven’t been able to do it. But miracles are important, that’s why I have beautiful buildings all over the world, miraculous properties. Maybe we’ll see a miracle. God owes me a few. More than a few, but I’ll settle for two or three. I’ve been negotiating with God all my life. That’s really what prayer is. And I pray to win.

[APPLAUSE]

I know you have churches to go to, flocks and stuff, great flocks, terrific flocks. Like my man over here, Jerry Falwell Junior. People know his father, but let me tell you, the son is like that other son we admire so much. Wave to the crowd, Eric. Good boy. Jerry is gonna advise me about college. He’s at Liberty. It’s not as highly rated as Wharton, where I went, by the way, but he really knows what he’s doing. Our universities are gonna be the best in the world. Not just in sports, either. We’re gonna have fantastic universities, very special campuses. Right now they’re terrible. They’re a joke, folks. Filled with communists, women, diversity. We need better universities. It’s terrible, this diversity. We’re gonna make them great again. No more classes that teach useless things like writing and public speaking.

[APPLAUSE]

Thank you, everybody. It’s been great. You’re all special to me. God is special to me. Jesus. Very special, Jesus. My son in law doesn’t like him, but we’re working on that. Believe me, we’re working on that. Thank you, God, for being great, and for the food. Amen.

July 23, 2016

Donald Trump, the American Vladimir Putin

Filed under: Trump — louisproyect @ 6:54 pm

Yesterday I was rather taken aback to see the near brawl that took place on the set of “The Young Turks” between the host Cenk Uygur and two supporters of the Trump campaign, Roger Stone and Alex Jones. Uygur’s show, which is webcast only, was in Cleveland covering the Republican convention when Stone and Jones literally hijacked the broadcast and began baiting him about supporting Saudi Arabia, calling one of Uygur’s assistants a “little jihad”. This really got Uygur enraged, who jumped out of his seat and screamed, “We are against Saudi Arabia, you dumbass.” Getting in Stone’s face, he looked on the verge of punching out Stone’s clock. All in all, it had the ambience of those afternoon TV shows like the Jerry Springer Show that were popular about 20 years ago, when, for example, the two men who a woman was having sex with on alternate days, had to be separated by crew members to avoid a fist fight. The Springer shows were pretty much staged but I have no doubt that Uygur was ready to kick some ass.

The provenance of Jones and Stone is interesting. Alex Jones has a radio show called “Infowars” that shares about 90 percent of the talking points of Mike Whitney, Eric Draitser, Pepe Escobar and Andre Vltchek—in other words, the far reaches of the Baathist amen corner. Despite his affinity with them, it is doubtful that CounterPunch would ever publish Jones because he is an out-and-out rightwinger. Unlike Paul Craig Roberts, who does appear regularly on CounterPunch, Jones is qualitatively more toxic. If anything would shut the door on him, it is his heavy promotion of 9/11 conspiracy theories of the kind that Alexander Cockburn despised. This is not to speak of his pro-cop broadcasts, including one that just appeared–“The Case for Blue Lives Matter”.

Roger Stone is as colorful a character as Jones. He got involved with Richard Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President in 1972 when he was a student at George Washington University. One of his “dirty tricks” was donating money to Nixon’s presidential primaries rival in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance, the Trotskyist youth group I joined in 1967. He then took the receipt and released it to the ultraright Manchester Union-Leader to scandalize Nixon’s rival. So devoted was Stone to Nixon’s way of doing business that he had his face tattooed on the back of his neck.

Stone was a lobbyist for Trump for many years, promoting his casino businesses. This is probably how the connection was made to Paul Manafort, who is now Trump’s chief adviser. Stone and Manfort hooked up with Charlie Black to form the consulting firm of Black, Manafort and Stone in 1985. Black is as creepy as Stone, having founded the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) in 1975.

Stone became Donald Trump’s first chief adviser and served until August 8, 2015. Trump fired him for unspecified reasons, only tweeting “I terminated Roger Stone last night because he no longer serves a useful function for my campaign. I really don’t want publicity seekers who want to be on magazines or who are out for themselves. This campaign is not about them. It’s about victory and making America great again.”

Stone remained loyal to Trump even after being fired. There were probably no deep policy differences between the two scumbags since his partner Paul Manafort took over for him. One imagines that Trump decided Stone was a liability because of his big mouth. It was not so much that he disagreed with what he said, only that he was just a bit too obvious on Twitter as the liberal MediaMatters reported:

Donald Trump ally Roger Stone, who was recently banned from CNN for crude attacks on its staff, has tweeted sexist and racist attacks against other members of the media, according to a Media Matters review.

Stone is a notorious “dirty trickster” who recently co-authored The Clintons’ War on Women. The 2015 book is dedicated to — and cites research from — a Holocaust denier who blames a “Jewish plot” for the 9/11 attacks. Stone’s history includes forming an anti-Hillary Clinton group named “C.U.N.T.” during the 2008 election.

Stone worked for Trump’s presidential campaign last year and is now organizing against Clinton’s campaign again. He is a frequent presence in the media because of his long ties to Trump; their friendship and professional relationship goes back decades.

As Media Matters previously documented, Stone has written disgusting tweets against people who work for CNN and Fox News. He’s called employees at those networks an “arrogant know-it-all negro,” a “stupid negro,” a “fat negro,” a “Mandingo,” and “quota hires.” He told Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer — who was paralyzed in a diving accident when he was in medical school — to “stand the fuck up,” and said Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has a “nice set of cans.”

No wonder Uygur was ready to punch him in the mouth.

For many on the left, people like Jones, Manafort and Stone have one redeeming feature. They are pro-Assad and pro-Putin. If you go to Infowars, you can find an article that appeared originally on RT.com that accused the USA of supporting al-Qaeda in Syria. One of Jones’s frequent guests is “The Syrian Girl”, a diehard supporter of the dictatorship. In terms of Russia, Jones’s views hardly differ from what you can read in The Nation or on the World Socialist Website such as his broadcast of “PUTIN WARNS OF WORLD WAR 3: Society hurdles dangerously closer to global warfare” on July 2nd.

So the question of how someone like that can become a comrade of Manafort and Stone, whose love for Reagan passeth all understanding, is worth considering. Is it possible that the ultraright has broken decisively with the Cold War-bred neo-conservatism of the Republican Party and adopted the coloration of European movements like UKIP in England, the National Front in France and Jobbik in Hungary? Apparently so.

This week two articles appeared that took note of this.

Two days ago Jeffrey Goldberg wrote an article for Atlantic titled “It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin”. Goldberg, an arch-Zionist and ardent supporter of George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, is quite upset over Trump’s disdain for NATO obligations and indifference to Putin’s intervention in Ukraine.

And just yesterday, Paul Krugman wrote an op-ed piece titled “Donald Trump, the Siberian Candidate” that raised the same concerns but was additionally troubled by Trump’s admiration for Putin, particularly his “leadership” abilities. He, by the way, is not the only rightwinger who goes weak in the knees when he sees a bare-chested Vladimir Putin. Rudolph Giuliani, who vilified Black Lives Matter in a speech at the Republican convention, views Putin as the kind of strong leader the USA needs.

It seems that Rush Limbaugh has a photo of a shirtless Putin on his website, accompanied with this observation:

Well, did you hear that the White House put out a photo of Obama talking on the phone with Vlad, and Obama’s sleeves were rolled up?  That was done to make it look like Obama was really working hard—I mean, really taking it seriously. His sleeves were rolled up while on the phone with Putin! Putin probably had his shirt off practicing Tai-Chi while he was talking to Obama.

If the ultraright was identified by “one percent” type ideology in the past, it has swung over apparently to demagogic populist appeals that arguably position it to the left of the Democratic Party—at least on economic questions.

In his speech to the Republican Party convention, Trump said the following:

I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals.

I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America – and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.

My opponent, on the other hand, has supported virtually every trade agreement that has been destroying our middle class. She supported NAFTA, and she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization – another one of her husband’s colossal mistakes.

My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and steel workers of our country out of work – that will never happen when I am President. With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country.

This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans – We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions more jobs.

It is quite startling to see such words coming out of the mouth of a man who has relied on the advice of Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, who have a long history of backing the most retrograde economic policies of Nixon, Reagan, and George Bush, father and son.

It is entirely possible that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States since the pain people have been suffering is so acute. The contrast between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the debates will be striking, with her backing NAFTA and other such trade agreements and Trump attacking them as if he were Bernie Sanders or Ralph Nader.

It is important to remember that Trump is a skilled demagogue whose long-time tenure on “The Apprentice” made him a celebrity whose success was envied by the unfortunate souls who paid good money to take classes at Trump University.

On January 5, 2016 Trump took part in an off-the-record interview with the NY Times where he revealed that his views on immigration were strictly intended to get votes and that he should not be held to them. If that is good news, there is also the bad news that his anti-NAFTA tirades have the same intention, promises that will not be kept.

Back in the 60s, when the radical movement was far more powerful than it is today, leftists honed in on the question of the Permanent Government. It analyzed institutions like the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and so on. A large part of the interest in how the state operated beyond the control of ordinary citizens flowed from LBJ’s broken promises about keeping us out of Vietnam and Richard Nixon’s continuation of that war despite his nominal opposition. In more recent years, the Marxist core of such analysis dissipated to be replaced by conspiracy-mongering of the Infowars variety.

For many on the left, politics has become personality-driven as if our vote in November will have any major impact on what the ruling class decides to do about wars, the economy, killer cops, global warming or any of the other major problems facing us. In the final analysis, the state is the executive committee of the ruling class and will remains so as long as capitalism exists.

Jack Rasmus, an economics professor at St. Mary’s College in California and a frequent contributor to leftist magazines and websites, made very good sense in an article titled “Trump, Trade, and Working-Class Discontent” that appeared on Telesur.

He is pandering to those with a legitimate and serious real concern who have been deeply harmed by U.S. trade policies. Trump is in that great U.S. presidential candidate tradition, promising voters what they want to hear and then, if elected, doing whatever the economic elites want them to do. U.S. presidential candidates, of either wing—Republican and Democrat—of the Corporate Party of America, are habitual liars and cannot be trusted.

We had our pseudo-populist from the “left,” Barack Obama, elected eight years ago promising to reform free trade treaties. And he became the biggest free trade advocate in U.S. economic history. In Trump, we have our Obama analog, a pseudo-populist this time from the “right,” promising the same. And who then will do the same. To paraphrase an ancient saying, U.S. voters now considering voting for Trump based on his anti-trade views would do well to “Beware Billionaires Bearing Gifts.”

If you need any evidence on how Trump is not going to take on the billionaires who are making our lives miserable, there is an article that appeared in yesterday’s NY Times that is aptly titled “G.O.P.’s Moneyed Class Finds Its Place in New Trump World”. It states:

Roughly 500 wealthy Republicans poured close to $16 million into the Republican National Committee’s convention account leading up to this week, according to disclosures made to the Federal Election Commission through last Friday. The biggest donors, giving more than $100,000 each, are also a veritable roll call of the stop-Trump movement, among them the billionaire investor Paul E. Singer and Marlene Ricketts, who bankrolled early efforts to deny Mr. Trump the nomination.

Mr. Singer did not attend, though his political advisers made the rounds in Cleveland, as did representatives for other megadonors who remain opposed to Mr. Trump. And there were growing signs that at least some of the party’s biggest givers were warming to him: Co-hosts of Monday’s super PAC reception at the Ritz-Carlton included Harold Hamm, a billionaire oil tycoon and former energy adviser to Mitt Romney, and Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota television station owner and prominent donor.

Among the guests was Foster Friess, the Wyoming-based mutual fund investor and super PAC donor, who expressed optimism at his party’s prospects. “I think it could be a landslide,” Mr. Friess said in an interview. “Donald Trump has the ability to reach all the plumbers and carpenters and factory workers who usually vote Democratic.”

Interesting to see that Friess is enthused about Trump’s ability to reach plumbers, carpenters and factory workers when he has given millions of dollars for the election campaigns of Scott Walker, John Kasich and Rick Perry—three politicians who epitomize the determination of the bourgeoisie to turn the clock back to 1880 or so when there were no trade unions and big business drowned strikes in blood. This is the reality of American politics. Pay less attention to what politicians say and more to what they do. If Trump is elected, we have to mobilize to stop him in his tracks. The same thing goes for Hillary Clinton. As the economic situation continues to favor the billionaires they represent, we will have the opportunity to get across a radical message in a way that we haven’t since the 1930s. Let’s not waste that opportunity on ill-conceived maneuvering in the two-party system that needs to be abolished with the capitalist system it stands upon.

UPDATE: Excellent report on Alex Jones and the Trump campaign: https://newrepublic.com/article/135370/trumps-coronation-alex-jones-king

 

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