U.S. Politics and the Economy

The Trump Election

A letter to my students

By Bob Mandel

This was written for immigrant students in my class as their shock and fear pervaded the classroom in the day after the election and the rest of the teaching week...and a week later, it led to an open, careful, fruitful and information-filled discussion on how the students feel and what they think they can and should do. The process is continuing. —Bob Mandel, teacher.

Yes, there are grounds for fear. Close among Trump’s top advisors and a would-be cabinet member is the vicious law-and-order man Rudy Giuliani, notorious for authorizing the police to “stop and frisk” every young person of color in New York City. There is the danger of immigration raids and deportations even greater than those done by Obama who deported more people than any president in U.S. history plus Trump’s hate-laced attacks on Muslims. But just ten years ago, the immigrant community, primarily Latino, showed that it has the means to defend itself, not just with words, but actions.

On May 1, 2006, millions of immigrants staged a one-day stay-away strike, refusing to work, boycotting American companies, and refusing to buy any products that day. It was called El Gran Paro Estadounidense, the Great American Strike. The strike demanded the right to stay in the country and continue to work. The strike was so powerful that it defeated a proposed federal law, HR 4437, which would have made living in the U.S. without papers a felony, and jailed or fined those who protected undocumented workers or employed them. In California and some other states, the strength of the strike led to issuing drivers licenses to undocumented workers.

On a smaller but still important note, voters in Arizona just kicked the notorious racist anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arapaio out of office. And many Sanctuary cities have announced they will continue to provide sanctuary against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids.

Trump’s election can be understood as a mix of desperation on the part of millions who lost their jobs and homes in the Great Recession intersecting a long violent history of racism in the United States. Some of these people had first voted for Sanders so they are not in lockstep with Trump. But the historical use of racism to divide and conquer makes Trump’s election truly dangerous.

Some history of racism and exploitation in America

The U.S. was built on the genocide of the indigenous people and on the enslavement of Africans. Millions of poor people from England, whose parents and ancestors had themselves been serfs for a thousand years—tied to the land in virtual slavery—upon coming to America saw the chance to get land for themselves and they didn’t care who they displaced and killed to get it. The genocide was given a religious cover because the Native Americans weren’t Christian.

And the rich took huge swaths of land to plant tobacco and later cotton, enslaving and importing tens-of-millions of Africans to work the land. Slavery accumulated enormous wealth for the United States, allowing capitalism to expand and build the modern society we know, and establish global domination. At the root of slavery was the lashing, beating, raping and working-to-death of Blacks on a daily basis and the establishment of a legal system, police force and culture designed to ensure Black subordination through violence, jails, denial of education and treatment as less-than-human.

Very similar treatment was extended to Mexicans after the Mexican-American War of 1846-8. U.S. forces started this war to expand slavery into Texas, and after invading and capturing Mexico City, the U.S. took control of California and the entire Southwest.

After Chinese provided the main labor to build the first Transcontinental Railroad across the U.S., the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882 and not repealed until 1943. No Chinese women were allowed into the country in the hopes that all the men who built the railroads and worked in the gold fields would go home to find companions. Chinese laundries were burned and Chinese assaulted and killed by whites made desperate by the capitalist depression of 1873-96 and finding it easier to lynch Chinese than attack the bosses who had laid them off.

From 1941-45 during World War II, all Japanese in the U.S. were rounded up and put in concentration camps. Their farms and other property were stolen and never returned.

From 1948-54, during the period known as MCarthyism, to tame or destroy the industrial unions which were the only organizations in the country that defended working people of every color and nationality, and to crush the leftist militants who had organized them, the government disappeared a dozen unions overnight and jailed their democratically elected leaders. The FBI staged raids all over the country and the government executed two people, Ethel and Julius Rosenberb, as “spies” to make fear general and scare people from speaking and organizing.

Throughout the years after the Civil War and until 1965, the Ku Klux Klan terrorized, lynched, tortured and jailed African-Americans. The KKK controlled the government of 13 states, had chapters in every big city police force, and through their Senators and Congressmen, dominated the federal government. They also controlled the Electoral College, which from the beginning was established to prevent popular election of the President and ensure slave-owners’ control. It is the Electoral College, which made Trump President even though Hillary Clinton got more votes. The KKK, the American Nazis and the Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Trump for President. The KKK just held a public rally to celebrate his election. These groups are killers: they hate Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Blacks and Mexicans. Despite their growing strength, they can be defeated. The ending of legal segregation proved that. But it will take mass demonstrations, self-defense of the kind advocated by the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and Reies Tijerina, and the kinds of action taken May 1, 2006 in the stay-away strike, to win justice.

Why I voted for Jill Stein of the Eco-Socialist Green Party, not Hillary. Or why I think the Democratic Party machine and the Republican machine are basically the same

Democrat Obama deported more immigrants than any president in U.S. history. Democrat Bill Clinton expanded the police forces by 100,000, militarized the police, continued the “War on Drugs” that doubled the number of people in jail without solving the drug problem, and obliterated the right to habeas corpus. Hillary barely talked about the environment and actually supported the expansion of fracking all around the world. Fracking has just caused major earthquakes in Oklahoma. Trump has just appointed a leading denier of climate change to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bill Clinton engineered the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It allowed American companies to close factories and open them along the Mexican border paying terribly low wages with dangerous working conditions; NAFTA destroyed tens-of-thousands of small Mexican farms, led to waves of immigration to the U.S. in search of jobs and contributed to the rise of the violent drug cartels as people accepted drug dealing as a way to make money and survive.

Obama and Hillary Clinton continued daily to rain death and destruction on Muslem countries, a policy initiated by Bush Jr. With bombs and drones, they have reduced Iraq, Syria and Libya from modern countries with water, electricity and even some rights for women to piles of rubble, hundreds-of-thousands of dead children (500,000 in Iraq alone), religious fanaticism—ISIS—and the flood of refugees into Europe. U.S. policies produce desperation, hate and terrorism.

Obama bailed out banks not schools, social services or the millions who’d lost their jobs and 6,000,000 who lost their homes. Bailing out the banks ($38 trillion) but not saving peoples’ jobs or homes led to the desperation which opens people to Trump’s rhetoric of hate. Divide and conquer has always been the method of America’s rulers, particularly during the cycles of depression that American and global capitalism produce at least once a decade. Blaming Mexicans for stealing jobs, blaming Blacks for crime, blaming Muslims for “terrorism” is a good way to distract people from the fundamental problems of the capitalist system. Trump built on the history of racism and hate of foreigners in this country. He is dangerous; it is dangerous. He will continue to use hate and violence both by the police and ICE/La Migra and by mobs in the streets to distract people from the massive problems of this country.

Thanks for reading this. It is not a class or homework assignment. Many of you asked for whatever information I could provide and the opinions are my own.

Note from Socialist Viewpoint editors:

We at Socialist Viewpoint do not believe that the Green Party is an alternative-party for the working class. The Green Party is structured like bourgeois parties and is dedicated to reforming capitalism instead of overthrowing it. And, while we support all kinds of reforms that make the lives of working people better, like universal healthcare, free education, a real living wage, etc., the kind of party the masses of workers need to achieve these reforms is a democratically organized party of our own, dedicated to transcending capitalism, and building a socialist society where production is controlled by workers to fulfill the needs and wants of all of us—not profits for the few.