Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Trump: No Tweets Calling for Protests in Vietnam

Farmer protesting land grabs
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

“The government worries that one day all these different protests will come together in one campaign against them,”

Were this Iran, the US Predator in Chief would be tweeting away in support of such inflammatory language and cheering on the protestors. In this case though, these are the words of Vietnamese blogger Anh Tuyen and Vietnam is not Iran, Trump will need to be a little more careful if and when he chooses to let loose on Vietnam about workers' rights. Vietnam is an important ally in the US struggle to contain the influence of China in the region as well as an important source of cheap labor for US/western retailers. The Vietnamese workers are among the cheapest in the world and the Vietnamese government one of the most authoritarian.

US imperialism has no problem with ruthless regimes, after all, the Saudi’s and the Zionists are among its most trusted partners. Sharing the loot and access to raw materials and markets are key----so is a low waged non-union labor force and Vietnam has that and intends to keep it. Unions are OK as far as the US is concerned as long as they are based on the pro-business US model but for the clique that governs Vietnam, even that is not possible.

So the Vietnamese military has a new cyber unit aimed at countering “wrongful opinions” about the government according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal makes sure to refer to the Vietnamese government as “communist” which is not the case, but a good propagandist never lets an opportunity like that pass them by.

Vietnam’s president Trần Đại Quang is concerned about rumors and innuendo undermining the foundation of the state. One would think socialists or communists would welcome that. Quang’s comments though, are confirmation that the state is very weak as most repressive states are in the sense that they have to rely on brute force and the military to maintain power. Bourgeois democracy is not sustainable in these regimes.

Throughout the world, including in Iran at the moment, the Internet is being used to mobilize public dissent and organize protests, Vietnam’s new military cyber unit, Force 47, is aimed at eliminating these possibilities.

There are serious penalties in Vietnam for any criticism directed at the government. One blogger received a 7 year sentence for “spreading propaganda against the state” and another, a renowned environmental activist 10 years for the same offense, both this year. The latter will certainly not get much sympathy from Trump whose myopic view of the world dominated by money making alone does not allow for much thought about the natural would and capitalism’s destruction of it. This repression doesn’t stop business from taking advantage of the situation though.

What matters is economic growth and Vietnam’s economy grew by 6.8% in 2017, add that to a source of cheap labor and cheap commodities for western markets and all is good. Foreign companies control more than half of Vietnam’s retail market from reports I have read and companies like Nike and similar corporations have plants there. It is estimated that Nike employs over 100,000 workers in Indonesia alone. When workers manage to extract higher wages then these western companies, WalMart, Apple and others, simply shift production elsewhere. In Cambodia striking workers were shot and others, like the bloggers mentioned above have been imprisoned for union activity. The situation in Bangladesh is familiar to anyone that gets their news beyond the narrow confines of the US Mass media.

Vietnamese Garment Factory Workers
Vietnam, like many of these countries, has been accused of massive child labor violations and many of the workers in these factories are women. We always stress on this blog that over half the world’s factory workers are women as the industrial working class has shifted eastward. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Labor added garments from Vietnam to its official list of products made with forced and child labor. It was one of only seven countries in the world whose products won this award. Vietnam is also one of the top providers of textile imports to the US to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Our cheap clothes come at a price for those that make them

Throughout the world these conditions can only be maintained through oppressive regimes. The war on unions and our democratic rights at home is part of this generalized offensive of capitalism against living standards of the US working class.  Trump as we have said, is the whip of the counter revolution being laid on the backs of US workers and the poor. He will not bring 1950’s type manufacturing jobs back to the US.

The more astute representatives of US capitalism are aware that this increased economic and political repression will lead to massive social unrest if it is not halted, One of our two political parties is being swept by a young and rising new left that is fiercely progressive and on fire for socialism…. Wrote Peggy Noonan in her December 21st column in the Wall Street Journal, ”… It may well in coming decades sweep the CEOs and their corporations away if they cannot rouse themselves to present economic freedom as an ultimate and democratic good.”

She is in a bit of a panic by the end of her column adding, “This may be the last opportunity for business leaders to do what hasn’t been done in a generation, and that is defend the reputation of capitalism.”

I don’t think we’re quite there yet, and I think it highly unlikely, practically impossible that the scenario she describes will be brought about by the forces she describes but that she is worried about the possibility reveals a genuine concern sections of the US capitalist class have with the direction the Trump administration is heading and the anger even many of his supporters will feel when the material conditions prove him the con man he is.

The struggles ahead will not be smooth. As workers we have no political party and as of yet no generalized national organization around which the many protests and movements in opposition to the capitalist offensive can rally. But Noonan is right to be concerned as there is another global economic upheaval on the cards. All bets will be off then.

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