The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Tariff Wars Are Waged for Profit

May 13, 2019

The U.S. is engaged in what seems to be an escalating trade war with China. Last Friday, after trade talks stalled between representatives of the two countries, Donald Trump declared a hike in tariffs, from 10 percent to 25 percent, on over 250 billion dollars worth of goods from China – almost a third of all U.S. imports from China.

The U.S., the largest economic and military power in the world, is clearly in a position to bully. China, for its part, cannot afford to let itself be bullied too far. It threatened to increase tariffs on a great many U.S. goods that it imports. Clearly, Trump would dearly love a “victory;” a “deal” to brag about for the next election. But he is also willing to create a “no-deal” scenario to bolster his tough guy image.

Perhaps a deal that saves face for both sides can be struck. But a deal that benefits the U.S. ruling class will NOT benefit the rest of us. There’s nothing in these deals, nor in these tariff wars, for the working class.

And even if an agreement gets made this time, there may very well come a day when one or both of these countries barrel ahead into a true trade war.

Experts point out that this would be an absurd and destructive move – it could lead to a complete strangling of world trade and a collapse of the world economy.

But logic did not stop nations around the world from throwing up tariff walls that mired the world economy in the depths of a Great Depression – one that it didn’t get out of until after tens of millions of people were killed in World War II.

This is what happens when sections of the capitalist class, with their own interests, and depending on their own national states, try to force more for themselves out of a worldwide economy that is completely and totally integrated.

For example, many of the Chinese goods being taxed are not finished consumer goods; they are parts going into goods manufactured in the U.S. Sometimes they are parts that will go into bigger parts, moving from plant to plant and from country to country as they get assembled. The whole manufacturing chain is a tightly woven web across the globe.

And the working class that produces all of these goods, truly IS one class, on the scale of the world. We are the ones who suffer when the capitalists lose; and we are also the ones who suffer when they win. Our interests and Chinese workers’ interests are the same; and they run counter to those of Chinese or U.S. rulers.

The working class of all countries produces all the goods; all the necessities of daily life, be it steel or clothing or machines or computers. Together, the U.S. and China make up 40 percent of all of the trade in the entire world. If these two huge sections of the world working class would come together to produce for human need, not for profit, we could provide for the needs of the world, and at much lower costs.

The workers of the world have become accustomed to a parasitic caste of capitalists, traders, and bankers: the super-rich, the billionaires, all calling the shots and living off of the labor we provide, off the wealth we produce. If these capitalist parasites were swept away, the world would be a far better place.

Impossible? Only if the working class – to its own disadvantage and impoverishment – continues to labor to produce wealth for this parasitic class.