Mar 28, 2016
Demonstrators have recently protested at Donald Trump rallies, focusing on statements he made, calling for Mexican immigrants to be sent back to Mexico and Muslims prevented from entering the country, among other things. One of the biggest of those demonstrations, at the University of Illinois in Chicago, ended with Trump cancelling his rally, after cops stopped a fight inside. Some of the demonstrators yelled, “we shut Trump down.” Others began to chant for Bernie Sanders.
It’s understandable that students at a university would resent Trump being invited to their campus – he drips reaction when he opens his mouth.
But there is a very big danger in Donald Trump’s campaign that wasn’t “shut down.” He has found a way to touch a segment of the working class, mostly, but not only, white.
The question is, why.
Certainly, there is a profound streak of racism among some white workers, and that often is tied to other reactionary attitudes. But this is not the whole story, not by a long shot.
It’s not just his viciously right wing views that created an audience for Trump. He speaks about the workers’ economic situation, the threat to their Social Security, the bankers who suck blood, insurance companies that drive up medical costs, making health care unaffordable.
But above all, he talks about jobs.
Of course, he didn’t attack the corporations in this country whose drive to rip more work out of fewer workers has destroyed millions of jobs.
Of course not. He denounced free trade agreements that, he says, “suck jobs from this country,” and immigrants who, he says, “take American workers’ jobs.”
In other words, Trump plays on ideas already current in the working class – reactionary ideas cultivated by the unions, who have long made some of the same arguments, justifying their unwillingness to lead a fight against the real cause of job loss.
To put it another way, he plays much the same tune as does Bernie Sanders – who made most of his campaign in Michigan turn around his opposition to “free trade agreements.”
Both Trump and Sanders hide the real causes of unemployment in this country. Both end up blaming workers in other countries. Sanders may say it indirectly, while Trump says it directly. But both drive a wedge into the working class.
Trump, who is viciously worse in his human attitudes, uses his “populist” appeal to reinforce violent anti-immigrant attitudes that have already sometimes been acted on – particularly, but not only, along the Texas-Mexico border. But Sanders’ stance gives Trump legitimacy.
Trump is taking advantage of an opening that exists because no one in this election campaign really speaks to the workers’ concerns. That is the problem.
In this time period, all workers – black, white and of all ethnic backgrounds – are being battered by an economic crisis that continues from year to year, laying workers’ neighborhoods to waste, tearing up jobs, destroying schools, even driving down life expectancy.
And no one really speaks for the working class in terms of its own class interests, offering working class answers to the problem of joblessness.
A working class party would propose, for example, that no company making a profit be allowed to lay off a single worker or cut a single job. That wouldn’t address the whole problem, but it shows there is a different way to approach it, a way that reflects the workers’ own class interests.
The working class needs its own political party.
This is the issue that needs to be addressed – not only to shut down vicious demagogues like Trump, but much more importantly, to let the working class begin to fight for its own interests.