Defeat Trump: Demand that Government Meet Basic Needs
The massive, spontaneous uprising of 2020, in response to the police murder of George Floyd, was possibly the largest and broadest mass movement in American history. According to one poll, some 26 million people participated in the movement against police terror that came to be called Black Lives Matter, a diverse outpouring of people of all colors and walks of life, a majority of whom were white. The scale and power of the uprising expresses a total transformation of the relationship between the historic African American freedom movement, on the one hand, and the burgeoning class movement against poverty and exploitation on the other.
There has long been some convergence between sections of these movements for equality and for economic justice, dating back to Reconstruction, the CIO, the 1960s Poor Peoples Campaign, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers of the 1970s. What is happening now is different. These movements have been completely changed by the emergence of an altogether new class in recent decades: the class of workers discarded by the increasingly automated economy. This is an antagonistic contradiction at the very heart of our economic system. It is steadily expelling millions of people from the formal economy and destroying our society as we know it because when people have no money, the whole system of production and exchange begins to break down.
Equality of Poverty
Even before the pandemic, some 140 million Americans were living below or near the poverty line. The COVID-19 shutdown then forced 47 million people to file for unemployment. Of these, some 25-30 million lost their enhanced federal unemployment benefits as of July 31. These people in economic straits, many of them desperate, joined with the tens of millions who were morally outraged at the sickening, racist brutality of the police to create the social and political explosion known as Black Lives Matter.
Due to these dramatic underlying causes, the movement called Black Lives Matter was able to trigger an epochal shift in attitudes of white workers toward police repression and racism. The Washington Post reported that the percentage of white voters opposed to police racism and abuse rose by 33 points since 2015.
The basis of this shift is the fact that the new class is not a racial category, and not an “underclass,” but is actually what the majority of the working class of all colors now looks like in the era of automation and job elimination. More and more people are experiencing an equality of poverty as unemployment and the pandemic numbers spiral upward, especially the youth. GenZ (people under 25) are not only the most economically insecure. They are the most active age group in the Black Lives Matter motion. According to a June 16 CNN report, they are also the most racially diverse generation in American history. Forty-eight percent of them are people of color (compared to 39 percent of Millennials).
This coming together of the issues around class and race gives the movement its power. When white workers experience their own abandonment by the system, they become open to class unity with African Americans in the same position. The Black Lives Matter movement has already won real victories, including prosecutions of brutal cops, police reforms, and significant defunding of several police departments. Its success confirms the understanding that we cannot win economic justice without racial justice, and cannot win equality without a just economy.
Movement leaders who ignore racial disparities in the criminal justice system, in income, in wealth, in health care, in housing, and in pandemic deaths do so at their peril. Strategy proceeds from the reality that while white workers make up larger absolute numbers of the new class, the rate of poverty and unemployment is significantly higher within the Black community. African American workers are concentrated at the core of the new class. To effectively attack the injustices of the private property system, we have to attack its historic reliance on white supremacy and racial oppression.
Because it is increasingly separated from the formal economy, the new class cannot survive without confronting the political representatives of the corporate class and fighting for an economy based on distribution according to need. Their demands for funding basic human needs and defunding the police are framing and defining the entire 2020 election debate, and have already started to polarize both major parties.
However, the same economic situation that gave the movement for Black Lives its breadth and power also creates a grave danger of outright fascist measures to suppress protest and block the will of the voters. The real success of Black Lives Matter is its dramatic motion toward class unity across color lines. Because the system has no positive economic benefits to offer people, Trump has responded by using every opportunity to promote lies, division, and “white power” in a desperate attempt to thwart that unity. The Trump movement has already implemented a raft of anti-democratic judicial and cabinet appointments, environmental regulation repeals, organized “white nationalist” paramilitary gangs, the virtual end of immigration, mass incarceration of immigrant children, separation of families, the dispatch of federal police agencies to cities that don’t want them, and a coordinated national campaign to strip the American people of their voting rights.
Black Lives Matter and virtually every social movement in America have called for the defeat of Trump in the November election, despite aversion and distrust by many of them for his corporate Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. The fact that Trump is openly committed to a fascist solution is an opportunity to educate those sections of the working class, still not awakened to the danger he represents. Trump must be defeated in order to be able to fight further fascist offensives that will arise in the future so long as the corporate private property system exists.
Fight For The Right to Vote
Defeating Trump is not just about rejecting the man who personifies the social face of the fascist movement. The fight to defeat Trump is also identical to the fight to protect democracy, and the right to vote in particular. It will require a massive campaign to exercise the vote, including registration, vote-by-mail, poll-watching, and political mobilization. Sixteen million people have already been purged from the voter rolls, at a time when re-registration is many times more difficult due to the pandemic. DMV closures have created obstacles to obtaining the IDs required by many of the new voter ID laws.
While Trump cannot legally cancel the November election, he can certainly make it difficult or impossible for people to vote. He has already mounted a propaganda campaign against vote-by-mail, which may be the only safe voting system when the COVID-19 worsens. He has blocked election funding to ensure that election officials get overwhelmed and unable to count the mail-in ballots cast. States like Texas are severely restricting absentee ballots and imposing rules to guarantee that significant numbers of ballots will be rejected. Finally, Trump has threatened to defund the US Postal Service before the election to prevent the timely delivery of ballots.
As a result, millions of people may be forced to vote in person, despite the danger to public health. The Trump administration and its allies are putting significant obstacles in place here as well. The virus is expected to sharply reduce the number of polling places, as already happened during the primaries in Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Georgia. Some states may deliberately install faulty voting machines to slow down voting, as happened in the Georgia primary. Trump may issue executive orders banning people from congregating at polling places, and use the federal agents he is deploying to Democratic cities to enforce them, or to seize ballot boxes. Already the administration is openly recruiting some 50,000 ex-military and retired police officers to “patrol” voting locations in working-class areas to intimidate and discourage potential voters from casting their ballots.
The New Social Force
The historic advances of the George Floyd Black Lives Matter rebellion, on the one hand, and these fascist attacks on democracy on the other, have set up a titanic battle that will be fought out over the course of the Fall of 2020. Already a large national network of “Election Protectors” has arisen in response to the attack on the right to vote.
Although the leadership of the rebellion is politically diverse, the movement itself is on a collision course with
the private property system and the State that supports it. The new class, in particular within the movement, is becoming a social force and is galvanizing the entire country. It has moved from protest to programmatic demands on the government: defund the police, cancel the rent, provide for basic human needs, and save the planet we live in. Victory, in the long run, requires a revolutionary organization to stabilize the movement, keep it on course, and develop and disseminate the vision of the world that we can and must create for our future generations.
The movement is wide open to revolutionary ideas. It will need an organization to create the political education and political direction necessary to address the burning questions of the day: point the way forward from where we are today to the abundant, cooperative society that is possible, when we break the bonds of corporate private property.
September/October 2020 Vol30.Ed5
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011