The Spark

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

Editorial:
Tariffs, Immigrants, and Other Lies

Jun 10, 2019

It appears Donald Trump has avoided yet another catastrophe of his own making. After threatening to impose tariffs on imports from Mexico if the Mexican government did not do something to address what he labeled a crisis at the border, Trump has pulled back from his threat and announced a “big, beautiful” deal on immigration.

Apparently Trump was responding to a video showing 1,000 immigrants crossing the border, a day after 5,000 had crossed, a single-day record for border crossings. He tweeted the video shortly before he tweeted his tariff threat to Mexico.

Newspapers reported that there is in fact nothing in the new “deal” that is new. Everything the U.S. and Mexico announced, they had agreed on months ago, as far back as December.

The Mexican government had already agreed to detain asylum seekers from Central American countries in Mexico, before they cross the border. Already, more than 10,000 families are being held in Mexico while they await court decisions on their asylum cases. Human rights advocates point out that this is a violation of their rights for fair representation in court, and forces them into indefinite detention.

Of course, workers and poor people in the U.S. are very familiar with indefinite detention. One estimate states that more than 460,000 people in the U.S. are sitting in jail despite not being convicted of a crime – forced to stay imprisoned for months or years before their trials, because they cannot afford the bail. The treatment of poor workers from Central America is similar to the treatment of poor workers in the U.S.

As soon as Trump tweeted his tariff threat, he received pushback from everyone from U.S. auto companies to members of his own party and administration, who warned that such a move would be hugely disruptive to the economy and could hurt his and Republicans’ chances at reelection in 2020. So, he withdrew his threat and announced a phony deal to save face.

Trump just couldn’t resist his tariff threat – after all, it combined two of his favorite dog whistles to his base: trade, and “illegal immigration.”

They also happen to be two of the biggest lies used to divide the working class, repeated over decades by Democratic politicians and union bureaucrats long before Trump picked up on them:

First, the idea that “free trade” means that jobs are leaving the U.S. for other countries, especially Mexico and China.

Second, the notion that immigrants, especially “illegal immigrants,” are stealing “our jobs” and draining limited resources like welfare, health care, etc.

Both of these are lies. These lies serve to focus workers’ attention away from the real source of the problems confronting us, and onto other groups of workers–who should be allies in our fight, not competitors, and certainly not enemies.

The workers in other countries, and the immigrants to this country, ARE our allies. We are all part of one working class, internationally. Our enemies are right here at home–the corporations that exploit us, whose profits we create. THEY are the ones who lay off workers, and who keep wages low; who dump more work onto fewer workers. They are the ones who get the government to issue more visas when they want more immigrant workers to exploit – and to deport workers when they don’t want them anymore. They do not make their decisions in order to provide jobs; in fact, it is in their financial interest to cut jobs – to pay as few workers as possible, as little as possible.

The capitalists love it when workers blame each other, and compete against each other, for the few scraps they give us. Keeping us divided keeps us weak. Trump–and all the politicians, Republican and Democrat, help to spread those lies that keep us divided.

But it’s in our interest to join forces – with workers across the border in other countries, and all workers who have joined us here in this one.

Our united fight is where our strength lies.