By Abayomi Azikiwe
February 2, 2017
After just seven days of President Donald Trump’s administration, a host of measures have been ordered threatening a myriad of constituencies throughout the country and internationally.
Executive orders and presidential memoranda have been announced relating to the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL); the building of a wall or fence on the border between the U.S. and Mexico; a ban on people from targeted nations seeking visas and refugee status; muzzling communications from government agencies; threats of withholding federal assistance to municipalities that refuse to turn over people designated as “illegal” by the state; and other actions.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was scheduled to travel to the White House for a meeting with Trump to discuss bilateral relations. On Jan. 26, Mexico announced that the meeting was cancelled.
The administration’s insistence that a wall be built on the southern border and that Mexico pay for it has created tensions between the two nations. The Mexican government has repeatedly rejected Trump’s assertion that Mexico will finance the project, eliminating the basis for any normal relations.
The Mexican leader issued the following tweet: “This morning we have informed the White House that I will not attend the meeting scheduled for next Tuesday with the @POTUS.”
Worsening national and political repression
People of Latin American descent have been designated as the largest national minority in the U.S. From an historical perspective, the Southwest and West Coast of the U.S. were seized from Mexico during a war of annexation in the mid-19th century. Many Mexicans, even those with U.S. citizenship, face systematic discrimination and national oppression.
Another major executive order would resume construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The DAPL is slated to run through lands still controlled by Native people. A massive solidarity movement sprang up in 2016 involving millions across the country and the world. Thousands of people traveled to the Standing Rock Sioux lands to serve as “human shields” against attacks carried out by law enforcement, the military and private security personnel working on behalf of the corporations spearheading the pipeline, which would transport 500,000 barrels of oil per day.
Trump noted that 93 percent of the project has been completed and that it would create jobs for American workers. Yet the total number of positions is only a few thousand, and these purported benefits ignore the legitimate concerns of the Indigenous people, who say their water supply and other sacred possessions are threatened by the pipeline.
According to Eurasia Review, “A lawyer for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said the decision was made ‘hastily and irresponsibly.’ The tribe said it intended to pursue legal action against Trump’s order, adding that the pipeline posed a risk not just for their water supply but also for millions of Americans living downstream. One of the leading organizations in the Standing Rock protests, the Indigenous Environmental Network, called Trump’s actions ‘insane and extreme, and nothing short of attacks on our ancestral homelands.’”
In contrast to the views of Native people and their legal representatives, the president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, Ron Ness, who heads the trade group representing oil firms, championed Trump’s decision, saying it was “a great step forward for energy security in America.”
Two additional statements from the Trump administration have significance for African-American people. The president tweeted on Jan. 24, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!”
It was not clear if Trump was referring to federal civilian employees or military personnel. The National Guard for the state of Illinois could be federalized or regular units of the Army could be deployed in such a threat.
No mention was made of the horrendous socioeconomic conditions prevailing among African Americans in Chicago and the state of Illinois, where they suffer the highest unemployment rate in the country. Drastic cuts in education, social and municipal services have been implemented while the leading corporations in the U.S. announce regular increases in their profits.
Precedents for such military deployments extend back decades. In Detroit, Newark, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and other cities in the 1960s, both National Guard and Airborne Divisions were sent to put down urban rebellions led by African Americans. Just over the last two years, National Guard forces have been sent to Ferguson, Mo. (2014), Baltimore (2015), Milwaukee and Charlotte, N.C. (2016), in the aftermath of African-American rebellions sparked by the police killings of civilians.
Local police agencies have been supplied with military equipment such as armored personnel carriers, long-range acoustical devices, chemical agents, helicopters and sophisticated intelligence technology by the federal government. Under the present regime it is inevitable that the transfer of this hardware will increase.
Moreover, Trump is maintaining that his loss of the popular vote in the November election is a direct result of voter fraud. Trump won in the Electoral College but received nearly 3 million fewer popular votes than Hillary Clinton.
Allegations of massive voter fraud are often utilized to further suppress the electoral weight of African Americans and other nationally oppressed groups. Rev. Edward Pinkney of Berrien County, Mich., in 2014 was falsely accused of altering five dates on recall petitions aimed at removing a mayor who was perceived as a functionary of the Whirlpool Corp., based in Benton Harbor. Rev. Pinkney was charged with felony forgery, tried by an all-white jury and judge, and given a 30- to 120-months sentence in state prison.
The removal of the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by the U.S. Supreme Court in its infamous Shelby County v. Holder ruling in 2013 has effectively weakened one of the gains resulting from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Such an investigation by Trump is clearly politically motivated, since statistical studies have not indicated this level of voter irregularities.
Neofascism and capitalism
Since the election of Donald Trump to the White House, the New York Stock Exchange has risen by hundreds of points, surpassing 20,000 on Jan. 25. This of course does not translate into an improved standard of living for working people.
Poverty and deprivation are increasing in the U.S. and internationally wherever capitalism is the dominant economic system. The megaprofits of the banks, manufacturing firms and oil conglomerates have brought greater misery to the workers, farmers and youth. Since 2007-08, when the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression began, there have been repeated announcements of a “recovery” and “prosperity.”
The previous administration of President Barack Obama many times declared the end of the financial crisis. Nevertheless, millions remain jobless, underemployed and poor in the U.S despite an “official” unemployment rate of less than 5 percent. The labor participation rate, a more accurate measurement of the state of the working class and nationally oppressed, remains at an abysmal 62.7 percent. (Business Insider, Jan. 6)
Nonetheless, the rising stock market indicates Wall Street is satisfied that the Trump program of far-right domestic and foreign policy imperatives is compatible with the unbridled quest for maximum profits by international finance capital. Most neofascist movements are led by representatives of the bourgeoisie who pander to the fears of key sections of the working class and middle strata.
The Trump cabinet and other leading appointees represent numerous financial and defense corporations. None of the members of his team have any identifiable history of concern with the plight of the workers and oppressed.
Toward a united front in present period
Trump’s approach to electoral and administration politics has prompted mass demonstrations and disaffections from the system. Millions of women protested throughout the U.S. and the world on Jan. 21.
On Inauguration Day itself, thousands demonstrated in the streets surrounding the White House and beyond, where over 200 people were arrested, including six journalists. These media workers, along with activists, are being charged with felony riot. The cellphones of the activists and journalists were confiscated by the Metropolitan D.C. police, placing their professional contacts and personal acquaintances in jeopardy of law enforcement targeting.
The ascendancy of Trump provides an important opportunity for building a broad-based united front of democratic forces, including African Americans, Latin Americans, Native peoples, immigrants, women, LGBTQ communities, environmentalists and other working-class constituencies.
However, this alliance, which represents the majority of the population in the U.S., must be based on sound political principles and not opportunism. The rights and demands of the oppressed must be upheld, including foreign policy questions such as dismantling the military-industrial complex, the liberation of Palestine and the elimination of racist violence and institutionalized discrimination against people-of-color communities.
This coalition of genuine popular forces should be organized outside the framework of the Democratic Party, which represents the same ruling-class elements as Trumpist Republicans and their Wall Street and Pentagon supporters. Some spokespeople at the global Women’s March on Jan. 21 seemed to be suggesting that the Democratic Party can be reconstituted under different leadership, which can provide a way forward for the masses. Such illusions could not be further from the reality in which the capitalist U.S. and the world are entangled.
A revolutionary mass party of the working class and the oppressed is the only solution to the current political and economic crises. The capitalists and the imperialist system led by Washington and Wall Street have nothing to offer the peoples of the globe except further impoverishment and imperialist war.