Trump's actions making the rich richer
United movement by democrats is needed to defeat republicans writes John Bachtell.
The Trump administration in the United States is authoritarian, deeply corrupt, and replete with pathological liars. It is directly linked to the so-called "alt-right"—re-branded fascists and Nazis—including those who serve in the White House. The constitutional crisis and mass resistance to Trump and the GOP has increasingly led to political paralysis. Such moments have been openings for authoritarianism and fascism in the past.
The broad grassroots resistance movement against Trump, however, is unprecedented and relentless. The defeat of the GOP in 2018 elections is key to defending democracy and addressing climate change, the nuclear danger, and other tipping point crises. The sweeping Democratic victory on Nov. 8 is a great sign for the battles ahead.
The Trump/GOP policies represent the most extreme oligarchs, the fossil fuel and military armaments industries, right-wing social forces, and the so-called "alt-right" and are aggravating every crisis. GOP tax legislation will accelerate the wealth flow to the top one percent. Justice Department policies are aggravating racial and gender inequity and hatred against immigrants and Muslims. "Repeal and replacement" of Obamacare would have stripped tens of millions of healthcare, which the Republicans now seek through open sabotage. Withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, gutting the EPA, and Obama executive orders is making the federal government complicit in the climate crisis.
Two developments best illustrate the immense dangers. First, there is the humanitarian crisis gripping Puerto Rico. One hundred and nineteen years of U.S. colonialism and imperialist plunder and neoliberal policies have left Puerto Rico in shambles, with 40 per cent poverty, high unemployment, a tattered infrastructure, closed hospitals and schools, and unpayable debt.
Self-government has been negated. Puerto Rico is being administered as colony by a financial control board and the GOP-dominated Congress. The Puerto Rican people have no say; they are denied the right to vote in presidential and congressional elections and have no federal representation.
Then hurricanes Irma and Maria struck. Their devastation was magnified by climate change and Trump's racism. The extent of damage is unknown, but it could take a year before electricity is fully restored, and there are likely decades of rebuilding ahead.
In contrast, Hurricane Irma affected every province in Cuba, but within a week electricity was completely restored and schools, hospitals, and the tourism industry were fully functioning. Meanwhile, Cuba sent hundreds of medical personnel to other Caribbean nations and Mexico. They offered help to Puerto Rico and Houston, but received no response from the U.S. government. Cuba's hurricane preparedness and civil defense system is a world model. The country has experienced 30 major hurricanes in 20 years and suffered only 54 dead.
The second major development is the growing nuclear war danger on the Korean peninsula. North Korea (or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK) has been subject to 70 years of U.S. imperialist hostility. During the Korean War, the U.S. military leveled the DPRK. Hostilities were ended with a cease-fire, and today the DPRK is surrounded by nuclear weapons, subject to constant threats, military exercises, and sanctions.
For the DPRK, developing a nuclear weapons program to defend themselves makes perfect sense. They see U.S. efforts at regime change in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya and a history of overthrowing governments.
However, this is only helping create a far more dangerous situation—including a nuclear arms race and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Sixty percent of the South Korean public now favors development of a nuclear program. And 70 per cent of the American public supports the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons into the battlefield.
At the behest of the U.S., the right-wing Abe government bypassed the Peace Clause in the Japanese constitution and is once again arming. Trump is encouraging both South Korea and Japan to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, his administration is accelerating a $1.2 trillion modernisation of nuclear weapons begun under the Obama administration. The military-industrial complex and its insatiable greed are driving this development. In response, both Russia and China are carrying out nuclear modernisation programs of their own. The nuclear arms race is being propelled to new and dangerous heights.
Humanity, beginning with the American people, must demand a peaceful solution and complete global denuclearisation. This begins with denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, where the U.S. must take the first step. Humanity faces its greatest existential threats ever in climate change and nuclear war—and Trump is aggravating both. The climate crisis is a crisis for humanity and for capitalism. Marx wrote of a "metabolic rift" between society and nature that accompanied the rise of capitalism.
Capitalism is inherently hostile to nature because it is based on commodity production for maximum profits. Wealth accumulation is achieved through exploitation of labor and nature. In the course of this process, humans are alienated from their labor power, the products they produce, and nature itself.
The necessity for sustainable policies and adaptation forms the basis for the transition to eco-socialism in the United States. No one knows how much this transition will cost, including solidarity with the poorest and most vulnerable nations globally. But it can't be avoided if we are to survive.
Capitalist market forces are already forcing the liquidation of the coal industry in favor of natural gas, solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources—all of which are cheaper. This is happening more rapidly than previously estimated. A new study estimates renewable sources will power 100 percent of electricity needs by 2050. The solar industry already employs twice as many workers as the coal industry. The "just transition" to clean energy, demilitarisation, and a Medicare-for-All health system will create massive employment dislocation. However, transitioning to sustainability and adaptation will create millions of new jobs.
The AFL-CIO and American Society of Civil Engineers say trillions of dollars of infrastructure upgrades are urgently necessary. But the current infrastructure can't simply be replaced; it must be made adaptable to the new climate realities. Such an infrastructure program can also address the massive loss of jobs expected in the next wave of automation being driven by robotics and artificial intelligence. The Obama White House predicted forty-seven percent of all jobs are at risk of elimination by 2050. Who will pay for this massive economic, technological, and social transition? It will be either the people or the one percent.
Wealth concentration has reached a crisis of extremes. The world's eight richest oligarchs own wealth equal to the poorest half of the world's population. In the U.S., the top one per cent own thirty-five per cent of all wealth, leaving the bottom eighty per cent just seven per cent to split among ourselves.
This crisis can only be resolved through massive wealth redistribution and a re-allocation of federal expenditures. The single largest expenditure item is the $824 billion military budget, not including the $1.2 trillion nuclear modernization. This will have to be transferred to fund adaptation and the transition to sustainability.
Achieving all of this is going to take a lot of work, though. The 2018 elections in USA are critical for defending democracy and addressing the climate crisis, the nuclear danger, and the other tipping point crises.
It is therefore urgent to build the broadest, most united resistance movement to break the extreme right political stranglehold and open the way for the next stage in the challenging and complex transition to a peaceful, democratic, humane, eco-socialist society.
(The writer is currently the chairman of the Communist Party of USA. Views expressed are strictly personal.)