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The global pandemic, the class struggle, and the tasks of the Socialist Equality Party

This resolution was adopted unanimously by the membership of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States at its Sixth National Congress, which was held online from July 19 to July 24, 2020. 

Part 4 - June 1–July 2020: Trump’s coup and the racialist politics of the Democratic Party

43. The response of the Trump administration was to attempt to stage a presidential coup, overturning the Constitution and deploying the military throughout the country. On June 1, Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, in which he declared his intention to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to brand opposition to police violence as “domestic terrorism.” As federal police launched a violent attack on citizens engaged in peaceful protests outside the White House, Trump declared that he was the president of “law and order.” If cities or states did not take measures the White House deemed sufficiently aggressive, Trump said, “I will deploy the US military and quickly solve the problem for them.

44. Trump’s moves to overturn the Constitution took place as the White House was aggressively pushing the back-to-work campaign. Floyd was killed on Memorial Day, which was promoted as a key milestone in the reopening of the economy. Trump declared, in a call to governors before the Rose Garden speech: “It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down, it will get worse and worse.” That is, what began as protests against police violence could rapidly develop into a broader movement of the working class against capitalism.

45. The Democrats ceded all opposition to Trump’s plotting to top military figures and retired generals, who were worried that such an action would set the country very rapidly in the direction of civil war. No top Democrat issued a major statement exposing the far-reaching consequences for democratic rights.

46. Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee for president, responded by praising the “four chiefs of staff [for] coming out and ripping the skin off Trump.” If Trump refused to leave office if defeated in the 2020 elections, Biden said, “I promise you, I’m absolutely convinced they [the military] will escort him from the White House in a—with great dispatch.” As the WSWS wrote:

                         As Biden’s comments make clear, the Democrats consider the military the ultimate arbiter of politics in the United States. Neither Congress nor the Democratic Party lifted a finger against this presidential declaration of authoritarian rule. It was only because of opposition from the Pentagon brass, which felt such a military action was both poorly prepared and not yet necessary, that Trump pulled back.

47. The Socialist Equality Party was alone in alerting the working class to the dangers of Trump’s actions. In “A call to the working class! Stop Trump’s coup d’état!,” published on June 4, the SEP wrote:

                         The target of the conspiracy in the White House is the working class. The corporate-financial oligarchy is terrified that the eruption of mass demonstrations against police violence will intersect with the immense social anger among workers over social inequality, which has been enormously intensified as a result of the ruling class response to the coronavirus pandemic and the homicidal back-to-work campaign.

                         Nothing could be more dangerous than to think that the crisis has passed. It has, rather, just begun. The working class must intervene in this unprecedented crisis as an independent social and political force. It must oppose the conspiracy in the White House through the methods of class struggle and socialist revolution. 

48. These warnings were confirmed in July by the Trump administration’s deployment of federal paramilitary forces in Portland, with threats of further deployments in other cities, in blatant violation of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. Unidentified agents in military gear, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, seized unarmed protesters and threw them into unmarked cars to be transferred to unknown locations.

49. In response to this unprecedented assault, the mayors of Chicago, Washington, D.C, Atlanta and Kansas City cosigned a letter drafted by Portland’s mayor, in which they declared: “Unilaterally deploying these paramilitary-type forces into our cities is wholly inconsistent with our system of democracy and our most basic values.” In an interview with the fascistic Fox News commentator Sean Hannity on July 23, Trump warned, “We will go into all of the cities, any of the cities. We’re ready. We will put in 50,000, 60,000 people that really know what they’re doing. And they’re strong. They’re tough. And we could solve these problems so fast.

50. The dictatorial implications of Trump’s resort to armed force against political opposition is made explicit by his public threats to remain in office regardless of the results of the upcoming election.

51.It was not only Trump who was unnerved by the mass protests. The sections of the capitalist class and the affluent middle class aligned with the Democratic Party, always extremely sensitive to any sign of working class militancy and socialist influence, intervened to hijack the demonstrations and misdirect them along explicitly racialist lines. In opposition to this reactionary tendency the SEP warned:

                           The aim of the racial sectarians is to deflect attention from the police as an instrument of the capitalist state and the front-line guardians of class rule. Moreover, the efforts to impose a racial narrative on the demonstrations are contradicted by their obviously multiracial, multiethnic and multinational character.”

52.Determined to disorient the protest movement and suppress the growth of the class struggle, the New York Times intensified its campaign—which it had initiated in August 2019 with the launching of the 1619 Project—to discredit the American Revolution, the Civil War and its principal leaders. What began as a legitimate demand for the removal of the statues of leaders of the Confederacy became the occasion for defacing and removing statues that memorialize the lives of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Grant and even a prominent abolitionist.

53.In opposing the campaign to take down statues of the leaders of the American Revolution and Civil War, the WSWS explained that while Trump pitches his appeal to the most politically disoriented elements in American society, in a manner intended to incite racial antagonisms, the Democratic Party

                         employs another variant of communalist politics, evaluating and explaining all social problems and conflicts in racial terms. Whatever the particular issue may be—poverty, police brutality, unemployment, low wages, deaths caused by the pandemic—it is almost exclusively defined in racial terms. In this racialized fantasy world, “whites” are endowed with an innate “privilege” that exempts them from all hardship.

                         This grotesque distortion of present-day reality requires a no less grotesque distortion of the past. For contemporary America to be portrayed as a land of relentless racial warfare, it is necessary to create a historical narrative in the same terms. In place of the class struggle, the entire history of the United States is presented as the story of perpetual racial conflict.

54. Racism exists and is particularly promoted among the reactionary layers drawn into the police departments. It is, as are all forms of bigotry and discrimination, fomented as a tool of the ruling class. However, the United States is not divided into a “white America” and a “black America” that have distinct interests, nor do all “white people” benefit from police violence and oppression, as is claimed by the promoters of racialist politics.

55.Despite the efforts to make race the central axis of American politics—an effort which is closely bound up with the reactionary demand of sections of the African American bourgeoisie and upper-middle class for “reparations”—the overwhelming social reality of the United States is economic inequality, which is rooted in the division of society based on class. A recent examination of the distribution of wealth and income by the noted economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman found

                         a sharp divergence in the growth experienced by the bottom 50% versus the rest of the economy. The average pretax income of the bottom 50% of adults has stagnated at about $16,000 per adult (in constant 2014 dollars, using the national income deflator) since 1980, while average income per adult has grown by 60% to $64,500 in 2014. As a result, the bottom 50% income share has collapsed from about 20% in 1980 to 12% in 2014. In the meantime, the average pretax income of top 1% adults rose from $420,000 to about $1.3 million, and their income share increased from about 12% in the early 1980s to 20% in 2014. The two groups have essentially switched their income shares, with eight points of national income transferred from the bottom 50% to the top 1%. The top 1% income share is now almost twice as large as the bottom 50 percent, a group that is by definition 50 times more numerous. In 1980, top 1% adults earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50% adults before tax, while they earn 81 times more today.

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