Jan 23, 2017
On Friday, January 20, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. His inaugural remarks pointed up the hardships endured by working and poor people, and referenced “rusted out factories” and the joblessness and hardships that millions of U.S. workers face. And he promised to fix these problems as he has many times throughout his electoral campaign. He promised jobs.
His message strikes a chord. By virtually every measure, the quality of life for the U.S. working class has taken a nose-dive. Total costs for workers have spiraled, from education to clothing to housing. Millions who considered themselves middle class have been falling, falling to the bottom, scrambling to make ends meet.
Trump’s fiery rhetoric and attitude to thumb his nose at the politicians and Wall Street reflect the anger and the frustration workers are feeling. After all, here we are eight years out from the economic crisis of 2008, and the working class is still waiting for relief.
Workers who voted for Trump, and others who were not for him, are waiting to see what the new President will do. Most would agree that, left to his own devices, Donald Trump will deliver little more than Obama did, and perhaps less. He has chosen a cabinet of millionaires and billionaires – with CEOs from Wall Street, from Goldman Sachs and Exxon – loaded with enemies of the working class and its children. Already his promise of “draining the swamp” of Wall Street billionaire influence on Washington D.C. has flown out of the window.
So what comes next?
There should be no reason that Trump can’t deliver on his promises. After all, Republicans control both the House and the Senate on the federal and most state levels. So it could appear that they could bring relief to the workers quickly.
Too good to be true? In any case, workers have every reason to organize, join together and fight back the minute a promise gets broken; set their own deadline, and pull together to act now.
But the working class will not be successful if wide sections of it continue to accept the divisive policies that Trump includes in his program.
Trump has been a master at exploiting the fears and prejudices that a large part of the population hold. He convinces sections of the population to blame other sections. He appeals to the racism of white workers and promises to keep jobs away from Hispanic workers or what he labels “foreign” workers. He encourages black workers to blame workers from other places in the world for the institutional racism inherent in capitalism that deprives them of jobs today. And of course, he encourages the attacks on women’s rights as if it will benefit men in the working class.
These promises and these policies of division must be rejected. Divided, turned in upon itself, the working class has little chance to go forward. In the end, it is only the action of a united working class that will make real change possible.
Certainly the size and number of recent demonstrations gives a proof that there are millions of people ready to take action to confront attacks on women’s rights and gay rights, and to oppose the biases that the Trump group has tried to impose.
Can this impatience for action be picked up by workers in the plants and neighborhoods? Can workers – who confront continued plant closings and benefit cuts – organize, down tools, walk out and impose on the bosses that they deliver on Trump’s promises for jobs?
Of course they can.
The very benefits the working class is losing today were gained by a fighting working class that made it too expensive for bosses to discard and disrespect workers – a working class that had to work through illusions and prejudices in that time period in order to win.
This time, we will have to get past illusions and prejudices also. A major one is that we could get jobs or have full rights without attacking the capitalist system, which is based on unemployment and rests on oppression.