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

Tariffs—A Smokescreen Used by Our Enemy

Jun 10, 2019

The following article is the editorial from The SPARK’s workplace newsletters for the week of June 3, 2019.

On Thursday, May 23, Trump quietly let it be known that he intends to rescind his 25% tariff on aluminum and steel. The next day, his administration even more quietly dropped the tariffs he had threatened on autos and auto parts. But two days later, he threatened to impose tariffs on Japanese cars. The day after that, while in Japan, he declared he might put more tariffs on Europe and China. Several days later, he threatened tariffs on goods imported from Mexico.

Maybe it was just a typical chaotic week led by Trump, veering from one position to its direct opposite, without offering any explanation.

But behind all the tariff babble, a deeper, darker scam was being played out. Its aim is to convince American workers that the problems in our lives can be overcome if trade is stopped from coming into the country.

Like all scams, it depends on dazzling people with what appear to be “facts,” so they stop looking at what their own lives tell them to be true.

Here’s what is true: the capitalist economy isn’t working for us. The steady jobs that part of the working class used to know are no longer there. Auto wages have crashed. Pension benefits for public workers are increasingly a thing of the past. And every basic industry has seen a near collapse in the number working.

Increased trade didn’t do that. The bosses’ incessant drive for profit did. Those industries where jobs are disappearing are making larger profits than ever before—by driving some people to work faster, using machines and computers to eliminate other people’s jobs.

Not a single thing is wrong with greater productivity IF the increase were used to improve our conditions of work and to reduce the hours we all work. Fighting for that is how the working class got from the 80-hour work week down to the 40-hour week, with higher weekly wages.

But where’s our fight today? Nowhere, not while we sit back quietly, praying for tariffs to bring back jobs.

Trade didn’t steal jobs from the construction industry and motor vehicle industry—the lack of public investment in maintaining, replacing and upgrading roads, bridges, dams, levees and water systems did. Without public investment, construction jobs disappeared, and so did the jobs producing the vehicles needed in construction. And when construction jobs and motor vehicle jobs disappeared, other jobs producing the goods bought by those workers also disappeared.

The same thing can be said about lack of investment in school buildings—or the refusal to hire the number of teachers who are needed to provide a decent education for every child. Jobs disappeared because government hasn’t invested in what society needs. It’s been too busy handing money over to the big corporations and the wealthy class.

Trade didn’t steal jobs when Sears or J.C. Penney stores closed. The parasites who closed these stores to make a quick buck are what cost those jobs.

To believe we will get jobs back if more tariffs are imposed is to fool ourselves. Whether the call for tariffs comes from Trump, from Democrats or from union leaders, it’s nothing but chump change, making us forget what our real enemy is doing to us.

To get jobs, we have to fight against who and what is taking them—and that is the capitalist class that profits by cutting jobs.

We have to fight against the government that drains money out of public services and education and into the capitalists’ accounts. We have to fight to put our hands on public money.

That fight isn’t only in this country. The U.S. capitalist class sits astride the whole world, exploiting workers everywhere. This government fights wars to help U.S. capital steal from the whole world.

Workers everywhere have the same fight to make, against the same enemies.