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Saturday, July 21, 2018
A Reflection on West Virginia and Trump
Afscme Local 444, retired
It is interesting to watch this two years in to the Trump nightmare. It is very revealing and also drives home what we always bring up on this blog and what so many leftists and self styled socialist organizations refuse to do do, and that is to point an accusatory finger at the role of the trade union hierarchy in the rise of Trump and his eventual victory.
The part of the world in this video has a long history of trade unionism and working class militancy. This history is so embedded in the community that it's a badge of honor for anyone that mentions they have a connection to it.
The first old guy who comments is no fool. He says later on in the video that "Politicians are politicians. They make promises and never keep them." I have commented on this too many times to mention with regard to electoral politics, that because the labor hierarchy has failed to offer working people an alternative in the form of an independent working class party, and they have the resources and structure to do that, people like the man I am quoting here and millions of US workers, draw the conclusion that all politics and therefore all politicians are bad. They make promises and never keep them.
But it's not that these politicians are bad in the sense that it's about corruption, character flaws or a personal problem. A political party is not devoid of class interests; it represents the economic interests of a certain class of people. The only political options we as workers have, is to vote for candidates of one of the two capitalist parties that have dominated US political life for 150 years or more and the era of their dominance is coming to an end.
These Democratic and Republican politicians, representing the economic interests of bosses' capitalists, the rich, whatever we wish to call them, can't tell the truth in their election material because who would vote for someone that tells them they are going to cut their social services as dismal as they are? Who would vote for a candidate knowing they will cut their wages and benefits, eliminate their jobs, and make sure the corporations still get all the breaks? The reader knows the answer to that. And they have to do these things because US capitalism is in an acute economic and political crisis. Maintaining it's huge military and bloated state apparatus trying to prevent it from losing global influence to its rivals has put the US in massive debt ($21 trillion or so at this point). Both parties will shift the cost of this crisis on to the backs of the US working class. Getting rid of Trump may slow it a little bit although that's not guaranteed, it certainly won't stop it.
The dominant feeling among millions of Americans today is that there is nothing that can be done. Nothing will change so they have withdrawn from the game
But, as we know, there are many people that did vote and many white workers that voted for Trump.
I have written enough vitriol about Trump that anyone who reads this blog must know where I stand. I have stated that White workers that voted for Trump hurt their own material interests because ignoring Trump's racism undermines trust and increases division between them and brothers and sisters of color. Ignoring his misogyny has the same affect, it will strain the unity between working class men and women. We cannot fight back against the capitalist offensive if the working class is divided against itself and voting for Trump is a step in accomplishing that. Trump will not deliver on his promises either, even less so than any politician before him.
But I have also pointed out that aside form his ideological supporters, the Nazi's KKK and other racist elements not every white worker that voted for Trump was motivated by racial hatred. In Mcomb County Michigan which is overwhelmingly white and where Trump thrashed Clinton handily, those very same workers voted twice for Obama, against white candidates.
Like millions across the country, those white workers in Michigan have felt abandoned by the system and by both parties. Their purchasing power has declined, pensions threatened, and prescription drugs costs have risen. Under both parties workers living standards have been savaged. Barack Obama didn't bail out the auto workers, he bailed out the auto bosses and workers know it. In the video above we see another older retired worker who says he voted for Obama before Trump. Another older worker doesn't even want to talk to the Democratic candidate canvassing for a vote, pointing to the crisis in the community that has occurred with Democrats in the drivers seat apparently.
We see in the video a Democrat campaigning who is a former secret service agent and he has nothing significant to say. The woman campaigning with him, a relative perhaps, suggest things would be better if Google or Amazon came and took over the town, "It would be a lot cheaper for them" she adds. One doesn't need a degree in economics to know what that means. How does that inspire anyone? The woman adds that Google or Amazon, "would be a cool place to work" that's the low level of class consciousness the candidates who claim to be for the working man and woman exhibit. The tech giants and the wasters that run them are understood to be super exploiters by any class conscious worker.
A resident in the video who once had a decent factory job and is now reduced to collecting aluminum cans agrees that the rich don't start from "the bottom", they "start at the top and stay there." Simply labeling these people as stupid or just motivated by racism by voting for Trump would be a mistake. I believe I read somewhere that life expectancy in West Virginia for men is equal to Ethiopia
Plenty of middle class professionals and budding entrepreneurs supported Trump hoping to make some financial gains form his policies; I think about 29% of Asians and a significant number of Latino's supported him. There is a strong ideological thread in the US that is adopted by many workers due to the weakening of the labor movement and suppression of labor history, that one has to be smart to make a lot of money as opposed to ruthless and individualistic, barring winning the pottery that is. The woman in the video who says that people that have money come from money is no fool.
While it's fine to be critical of workers, desperate workers that voted for Trump, we have to see the bigger picture and why people act against their own class interests. White workers like some who work in my former workplace that support Trump are a different matter. We were among the true aristocracy of labor, I was fortunate enough to have a great job, a German type job really, that has given me a good life and fairly stable retirement (so far) and I thank those workers and all who fought and died in the struggle for trade union rights and the rise of the public sector for giving it to me. Compared to millions of workers around the country we are an exception and voting for Trump on their part is sheer hypocrisy. But my former coworkers are under assault also.
I can understand why some black brothers and sisters lose patience with whites folks at times, Trump's racism, his vile comments about immigrants. Why would a decent person vote for him? Isn't it a confirmation that they're all racists really? How can they just ignore all his hateful persona? Desperate people do not always make rational decisions unfortunately. Or they place their hope in charlatans.
When I saw that huge rally in Chicago I think it was and it was when Obama was selected as the Democratic candidate for president or won the presidency I can't remember, I saw Jesse Jackson weeping. I am no great fan of Jesse Jackson but those tears were real. What an historic moment given the brutal, violent racist history of this country that we have had a black family in the White House. And Obama is cultured, smart, eloquent, not unlike the cultured British colonialists who ruled India and half of Africa with extreme violence. Trump is the complete opposite, outwardly brutish, rude, stupid.
But one doesn't get to be head of the Harvard law review without being absolutely trusted by the white racist ruling class that runs this country. One certainly doesn't become president either. And one would not be a candidate of a party owned and funded by Wall Street and the billionaires in industry if that person threatened their economic interests.
Obama was good for them, they loved him. He warned them when he bailed out the banks and nationalized whole industries that the time for profits would return, but be patient. On the foreign policy front he escalated the imbecile Bush's drone wars and caused untold suffering and death for millions of people in the third world, overwhelmingly people of color.
But just as white liberals do, some black workers will put this aside, avoid it altogether, or they make excuses for it as having a black president is such an historic achievement it trumps all, no pun intended. We condemn the racists that could not abide a black family in the White House. And when it comes to the persona Obama beats Trump hands down but he is a slick and crafty representative of US imperialism, they loved him. He is the consummate bourgeois politician.
What is obvious to me is that US workers, which is the overwhelming majority of us, are thirsting for a real class alternative, not just a candidate or group that waffles on about socialism as Sanders does, and then supports the warmonger Hilary Clinton, but a party with a real class platform and candidates that make it clear which side of the class divide they are on. The reason race, color, gender, religion, moral issues take such a prominent place in US politics (they are issues we have to address of course) is the absence of the class alternative.
The pathetic Democrats "better deal" is seen for what it is, more of the same. A huge percentage of Americans support socialism in one form or another. The Democratic Party will not fight for socialism and they will not fight for any significant reforms for working people because US capitalism is in crisis and they are forced to make US workers pay for it. We are in a new epoch.
The heads of organized labor are in the same position. They support capitalism, they worship the market and see no alternative and whenever it goes in to crisis they move to bail it out at the expense of their members' living standards and the material well being of the entire US working class.
The US working class is not as conservative as the mass media, the liberals and the trade union hierarchy would have us believe. Those workers that thought Trump would help them are going to be very angry and sorely disappointed. There is a huge vacuum in this country when it comes to leadership and filling that vacuum will be a confusing and contradictory process, but there is reason to be optimistic.