The following presentation was given by Kathleen Chandler of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization at the meeting on the significance of the U.S. election results to the working class, organized by the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) in Hamilton, Ontario on December 10, 2016.
The most significant issue to address when looking at the U.S. presidential election results is that the U.S. ruling circles have resorted to a government of police powers. This has been developing for some time, especially since the Bill Clinton administration, with Bush and Obama further developing this direction. There is clearly very serious contention within the camp of the rulers in the U.S. and the election did not serve to sort out the differences between them, as elections are supposed to do. Nonetheless, Donald Trump has now been selected to expand police powers, have them streamlined and unfettered — and to do so blatantly, openly and with complete impunity.
The election also shows how completely the old arrangements of government of laws, with functioning political parties and a functioning political process, are finished. A huge effort is being made by the imperialist rulers and their monopoly media to have everyone focus on and react to every tweet and comment Trump makes. This is to make it look like it is just a matter of Trump's bad policies, which is done to deprive the people of the outlook which leads them to conclude that it is they who must give birth to the new. They cannot depend on one camp or the other within the imperialist ruling class to resolve the problems they face.
The fact that now the peoples of the U.S. and the world will be saddled with a U.S. government of unfettered police powers shows that the old forms given rise to in the 18th,19th and 20th centuries no longer function to provide governments with legitimacy. They no longer serve to get the people to submit to the elitist rule. Today this rule is perceived as an instrument of making the rich richer and the poor poorer while the so-called American dream lies in tatters. Meanwhile, wanton aggression is launched against countries which refuse to submit to the U.S. dictate. As a result, now, the police powers are put forward as if they are a government of laws. On election night, we saw the contending factions immediately call for a peaceful transition of power, hailing the U.S. democracy to the skies.
The situation gives rise to grave dangers for the peoples at home and abroad. We need to be pro-active by having our own program which gives rise to new forms and gives birth to the new. As we respond to all the attacks on the people, if we are pro-active, the resistance movement will make great headway. Political discussion and analysis on the significance of the U.S. election results is the starting point to creating a political movement which favors the people.
The rulers have the problem of how to pursue a government of police power while keeping the people in check and the union preserved. Trump is seen by the rulers as a deal-maker who can put and keep the U.S. in the game where everyone is threatening everyone else. He will on the one hand strike deals, likely behind closed doors and using his executive powers. On the other, brandish the full might of U.S. police powers without concern about legitimacy, abroad and at home. In their desperation this is how the faction of the ruling class championed by Trump thinks it can make headway.
The president's executive powers include powers to regulate important issues like immigration; implementation of environmental laws, or waiving them; trade and border regulations to favor U.S. annexation, as Canada is already experiencing; expanding use of drone warfare, torture, special forces, criminalization of those resisting abroad and at home; and more. This enforcing of police powers will take place internationally, where Trump will potentially strike deals directly with military forces, or individual leaders, bypassing legitimate government channels. The relationship is to be a direct one with the president and it is one where deals are more an offer that cannot be refused, as the threat to use nuclear weapons is always on the table.
It is notable that in appointing South Carolina Governor Haley as UN Ambassador, Trump specifically said she was a "proven dealmaker." Her experience as Governor is making deals to bring monopolies, including foreign ones, into South Carolina, usually by paying them millions, deferring taxes, etc. Trump's recent deal with Carrier is an example of more of the same in the future. He made the deal in secret with the CEO, with the union having no say. The state of Indiana, where Vice-President-elect Pence can deliver funds, agreed to pay the monopoly $7 million. Then, when the union president Chuck Jones made clear the actual facts concerning the number of jobs to remain, 800, not the1100 Trump promoted, Trump attacked him personally. So far, just on Twitter. But one can see that far more could occur in conditions where workers refuse a deal, or a state government, or a foreign government, does. The reason for personal attacks is to incite passions and reduce the level of political discourse to zero so that people cannot come together in a political movement for empowerment, peace and rights.
This mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs has been widely used in the U.S. to give the monopolies more than $80 billion yearly in just state and local public funds. At least three-quarters of state and city subsidy dollars go not to local businesses, but to monopolies like Boeing, Intel, GM, Nike, and Dow Chemical. Foreign operations like Royal Dutch Shell and Nissan rake in large amounts as well. Some of these are "megadeals," like the $5.6 billion that New York State gave Alcoa, or the nearly $9 billion that war monopoly Boeing extracted from Washington State. These colossal packages carry with them an average cost-per-job of nearly $500,000. And most of the time, while the funds are delivered, the promised jobs do not materialize. Trump now is positioned to streamline and increase such deals, putting the weight of the presidency openly behind them.
While Trump talks about jobs, the Carrier deal is one that serves the oligopolies, and likely includes promises for future contracts for government infrastructure projects for example, or defense contracts and the like. During the campaign Trump emphasized that he will treat government as a business, which is another way of saying social needs and services are not a concern. In his victory speech, he said, "I've spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world" and "That is now what I want to do for our country."
Business is run on the basis of the "bottom line" and treating human beings as things, even products, to be disposed of. Steelworkers are very familiar with being treated as things, to permanently lose jobs, pensions, whole communities destroyed. The choice of Wibur Ross as Secretary of Commerce brings to mind that it was Wilbur Ross who made billions in the United States buying up bankrupt steel companies and eliminating the retiree benefits of 190,000 steelworkers before repackaging and selling the plants. Responsibility to society and to meet the needs of society are not main considerations of a government of police power.
In looking at these developments, it is important to recognize that police powers by their nature are arbitrary and implemented on the basis of broad impunity. It is not just a matter of police and military forces of various kinds taking action, but rather a means of governance in a situation where the rulers have no solutions and where they are compelled to block the striving of the people to modernize and broaden democracy. From its origins the U.S. state has had two aspects making a single unitary power. One is the government of laws, including the Constitution, treaties, legislation, courts, etc. The other is police powers. What we are seeing now is the elimination of a government of laws, with Trump positioned to do so even more blatantly and with greater impunity than previous presidents.
It is also the case that while a government of laws must at least have the appearance of legitimacy and concern for social needs, a government of police powers does not. Its concern is to punish all dissenters so as to preserve the state.
Legitimacy of government is also not a main concern. Police powers are to criminalize, destroy, even whole nations and the human productive powers they encompass. This is what happened with Libya, what is happening with Iraq and Syria. The election also showed that at home, the rulers are no longer concerned with maintaining even the appearance of a functioning political process, with functioning political parties, which are all part of legitimacy. Trump is the embodiment of this reality.
This issue of legitimacy is a very important one when we are considering our tactics for resistance and advancing our own program of fighting for politics of empowerment in the course of defending the rights of all. A government concerned about legitimacy appears to "listen" to the public and to uphold the constitution, with freedom of speech and assembly and the right to life and liberty. A government of police powers has no such concern. It acts to criminalize protest and to make clear that you, as individuals and collectives, are to do as you are told or face the wrath of police powers. The current struggle at Standing Rock is an example of both this government wrath, and of building the resistance. And it is being done by the Obama administration not Trump.
Despite repeated claims by the federal government and media that the water protectors of Standing Rock are on federal lands, the fact is that the U.S. maps themselves show the land is unceded Sioux land. It is also the case that the government is required to do an Environmental Impact Study, which the Army Corps of Engineers has refused to do. Numerous other laws and treaty obligations are being broken, and this is being done openly and repeatedly. It is the federal government that sent a letter to state and local police forces saying the water protectors were trespassing.
Hundreds have been arrested and serious injuries to those resisting, including women and children, have occurred. Yet in the face of National Guardsmen arming check points on public highways, repeated use of tanks, the chemical weapon tear gas, concussion grenades, a sound canon, and water canon blasting the resisters with water in freezing temperatures, Obama said he will "let things play out." We are all to get used to the exercise of police power with no regard whatever for the law and we are to keep sacrificing until Obama, or whoever is President, deems it sufficient.
And while the Army Corps has now said they will not issue the permit until they do the Impact Study, they did not deny building of the pipeline. The monopolies involved, which include Canada's Enbridge, backed by billions in credit lines from major financiers, have said the pipeline will be completed. These monopolies can try to carry forward and simply pay the fines involved — and you can count on them not facing armed attacks by the state. Police powers are to protect and preserve the state, with the interests of the people having no consideration. This is why many of the water protectors have remained and said they are organizing to remain through the winter in order to protect the interests of the people.
This struggle also provides an example for resistance in the present. The indigenous peoples involved, including mainly the Sioux but also hundreds of other tribes, together with many others from across the country have all rejected the police category of protester. For the police, a protester is a thing that can be told where they can protest, where they cannot, for how long, etc. At the Democratic and Republican conventions over the summer, people were told they could not have backpacks, or gas masks, or metal poles, or lengths of string, etc. That is, we were being regulated like things, not people with rights.
At Standing Rock people have taken the stand to have their humanity reflected. They are water protectors, for the water of millions. They are pro-active, organizing to demonstrate where needed, in various ways. They have organized to be self-sustaining and urged others across the country to join with them in being so. They have developed their own means of communication and organized to unite people in action across the country, all standing firm for their just demands for sovereignty, for no pipeline, and to defend their rights and Mother Earth. They have been and are acting to deprive the oligopolies of their ability to deprive the people of what belongs to them by right.
Most recently, thousands of veterans came to join the resistance at Standing Rock and defend the camps from threatened eviction by the state. This readiness of the vets to join in, to stand against the government, no doubt frightened the rulers. They need their soldiers, active and inactive, to be dutiful, submitting soldiers, not part of the organized resistance. It is to the credit of the indigenous peoples and their undaunted fight for their right to be and to be protectors of the land and of rights, that they have inspired such support. And the overall level of consciousness being developed against the state and its imposing of police powers is an important contribution to all those resisting.
Imposing Government of Police Powers While Maintaining Constitutional Form of Governance
The struggle at Standing Rock is also indicative of the effort of the U.S. imperialist rulers to impose and consolidate a government of police power, while maintaining the constitutional form of governance. There is an effort not to declare martial law, or have open military rule. Trump himself is a civilian with no military background. As the executive, he has responsibility to preserve the union, while breaking the bounds of the constitution. This responsibility is given right in the U.S. Constitution, where the oath for the president has two parts. One is, to the best of his ability, preserve and protect the Constitution. But the other is to execute the office of the presidency. Executing the office involves use of police powers, to protect the state, against the Constitution.
Now, the rulers face a situation where the fetters of the Constitution, such as Congress holding the purse strings, such as treaties being law of the land, such as the arrangements in the Bill of Rights, need to be eliminated. The way the rulers hope to do this is to demand that everyone submit to their version of the Constitution, and any emergency powers they may dictate in the name of national security. Such powers are the president executing the duties of his office. The rulers want to maintain the constitutional form, while breaking the bounds of the Constitution itself.
A recent example includes Obama's order to authorize U.S. Special Forces to carry out their assassinations, raids, torture and other Black Ops anywhere in the world against any person the government decides is a "threat." This includes inside the U.S., it includes U.S. citizens, as Obama's drone attacks already made clear. These Black Ops are known to be completely illegal and arbitrary with no due process. People are put on a kill list at the discretion of the president — again putting them in a police category of a "threat," with no regard for law. Operations of various kinds have already been conducted in at least 147 countries. This order opens the space for them to be anywhere and everywhere.
Obama basically declared that the whole world is open for attack by these Special Forces and that Black Ops are the new normal. Significantly, he also streamlined the chain of command, eliminating regional commanders and basically creating a direct tie between the president and general in charge of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The order also speaks about direct relations between JSOC and police and military forces abroad, such as in Britain, Germany, France and Turkey, all bypassing the usual government channels and creating these direct ties among the military forces. This streamlining, which also further concentrates power in the president's hands and imposes U.S. command of foreign forces, will no doubt be expanded under Trump.
Need for Anti-War Government
Recently there has been a lot of promotion that Trump has now appointed three generals to his cabinet and that this somehow changes the long-standing practice of civilians at the head of the Pentagon, for example. It is being presented as a constitutional issue, when it is not. There have been presidents who were generals, like George Washington and Eisenhower. There have been military forces in the cabinet, like Colin Powell. The issue is not the individuals appointed but rather that there is a huge military bureaucracy that remains essentially the same from president to president. This bureaucracy, which has great conflicts and contention within its ranks, as seen during the campaign, has to be united as part of preserving the union. The appointments are connected to this effort.
As well, the two key issues to examine are not whether they are generals or civilians, but the fact that a government of unfettered police powers is being imposed and these individuals are instruments for this. All the talk of civilians vs. generals hides this reality. As well, it diverts from the fact that, as during the campaign, the issue of war and ending all aggressive U.S. actions, bringing all U.S. troops home, is not discussed at all. There is silence on this issue.
It is up to organized forces like ourselves to bring the issue of U.S. wars to the fore, raising the need to organize for the alternative of an anti-war government, something we will do at the inaugural actions. And, just as a government of police powers is not simply police actions, an anti-war government is not simply one that opposes a particular war, like the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather it is one that stands against the permanent war economy and war government that serves it. It is one that addresses the problem of how to have the anti-war stand of the majority implemented — what are the social forms and electoral process needed for this direction? What would be the features of a new constitution where government is constituted on an anti-war basis? These are issues that our program for an anti-war government is addressing.
U.S. rulers are facing a situation where their previous overwhelming economic power is in decline and where military might alone is not sufficient to maintain and extend their world empire. They must contend with rivals and allies alike and all those who resist. They can only do so by continually threatening and upping the ante, including possible use of nuclear weapons. This brings on more violence and contention, as is already occurring at home and abroad. The U.S. is insistent on such world empire though, and prepared to risk world war and civil war, potentially dragging the world down with them. In such conditions, where they face decline, have no solutions and are not able to sustain a political process that provides legitimacy to their rule, a government of police powers is a necessity — and very dangerous to the peoples.
It is also the case that in current conditions, the rulers are not able to predict the outcome of various actions on their part. This was evident for the Iraq war, where it was announced the job was done and today the crime of U.S. war continues. They cannot predict the outcome, for example, of impeachment of Trump, which has been mentioned. There are too many contending forces, at the federal and state levels, all with armed forces to back them up. Already, for example, California, including the head of its assembly and senate, police chiefs and mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco, are all openly challenging Trump on immigration. The same is true in Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere. Impeachment could actually trigger the break up of the U.S. along state and/or regional lines. The same could be said for possible elimination of the electoral college, which is a mechanism to preserve the union, as is Congressional certification of the election. Eliminating these mechanisms could also trigger a break up. And for those who find this hard to imagine, just remember the rapid breakup of the Soviet Union. And that states like California have economies large enough to easily be their own countries. There are various other examples of civil war scenarios where the outcome cannot be predicted.
Similarly, while the U.S. threatens use of nuclear weapons, the outcome of such use can also not be predicted, both in terms of the potential for world war and civil war. The rulers are hoping a government of police powers can help them escape their crisis and the crisis of their whole system.
But for the interests of humanity, contending with this situation and resolving it in a manner that favors humanity can only occur on the basis of the organized struggle of the people themselves for their rights, including their right to govern and decide.
Key Conflict of Interest is that of the Rulers vs. the Working Class
Another important issue being promoted is that Trump, with all his business interests, has more "conflict of interest" problems than previous presidents. Two things are hidden by all this talk. One is that the conflict of interest that needs to be addressed is that between the imperialist rulers, with their state that protects and preserves the oligopolies, and the working class. It is the interests of the rulers vs. the interests of the working class, and which will move society and all humanity forward at this time. Instead of focusing our attention on identifying these interests of the working class and how to defend and advance them, we are to continually react to everything Trump says and does and look into his many business holdings.
The problem to address is that the voice of the working class has been silenced and blocked. The problem to address is how to develop and strengthen our own independent institutions, for the press, for research, for political discussion, for developing our own thought material so that the interests of the working class are defended and our own institutions built. It is not our job to side with one faction of the rulers or another in their conflicts to sort out which is to emerge as the most powerful. The working class instead has the duty to lead the struggle for a democracy of our own making that serves the interests of the working class and people.
It is advancing the interests of the working class to eliminate wage slavery and all slavery by refusing to be slaves, by organizing to defend the rights of all on every front, that provides a way forward. All the talk about Trump's "conflict of interest" diverts from this most vital task. It serves to hide the actual social relations and block workers from themselves organizing in their interests, with their own program. These social relations have produced massive wealth and power, yet the people are blocked from harnessing it and utilizing it to guarantee the rights of all, at home and abroad. The U.S. economy, for example, has doubled in size since 1970. But more than half of all families have seen no increase in their wages since then, while the wealth of the oligopolies has doubled and inequality has greatly increased. Such things are not in the interests of the working class, but the debate about Trump does nothing to assist in finding solutions to these problems.
It is up to the working class to lead the struggle for the new, for modern social relations, for a modern democracy that empowers the people to govern and decide, for modern definitions that affirm rights by virtue of being human. We cannot replicate and remain stuck in the old, the old way of having elections, the old way of looking at problems. We need to strengthen our own thinking, our own discussion about our interests and how to advance them. We need to rally the people to strengthen their ability to refuse the old and begin to conceptualize modern political arrangements. Steelworkers here have the experience of the Thursday meetings as one means to activate the human factor/social consciousness and take independent political stands. This elevates the level of political discussion and unites workers behind solutions which favor them, not the rich. This is an important accomplishment, which we applaud and think should be replicated. We need more such forms to engage workers and youth in advancing their own cause for empowerment.
Across the U.S. the youth in their tens of thousands are already standing against this brutal direction, proclaiming Trump is Not Our President! Democracy Not Oligarchy! They will not be silenced. There is recognition among them, as among the water protectors at Standing Rock, that the political process in place is not acceptable.
We are intervening in a pro-active manner, to advance the fight for a political process that does empower the people, which brings into being an anti-war government, an anti-slave government, a government that serves the interests of the working class and people at home and abroad. We are taking steps in that direction now, organizing to raise the political discussion, to focus it on the interests of the millions upon millions of working people, to involve more youth and workers in it, to insist that a democracy of our own making is required, not the one of the rulers. This fight is a necessity of the present and it is the working class that can lead this battle forward.
Thank you very much for having me here to explain our views.