Trump: I have a dream, more pollution and poverty for all (or nearly all)

At the time of writing it's only been a few weeks since Trump took office in the White House but, in a certain sense, he has already shifted the USA’s national and international policy framework. His earliest initiatives were intended to be consistent with his election promises; to establish himself as, if not the man of Providence, at least one who belongs to the “people”, and who for the first time will break with a system of power that has condemned millions of people to impoverishment and social frustration. The same refrain now comes from the mouths of political personalities and formations on this side of the Atlantic, who have either entered government or are hoping to do so, driven, so they hope, by the victory of the billionaire New Yorker.

It is hard to believe, to put it mildly, that one of the super-rich could serve the interests of "the people", that is, the middle and lower classes. Yet, in certain historical circumstances the most incredible promises (and characters) are believed, as the dazzling ascent of the “cavalier Berlusca” [1] and his "court of worldly political miracles" demonstrated in Italy. But figures who, at other times, would only be the butt of bar room jokes, reaching the summit of power speaks volumes both about the state of deep ideological disorientation faced by segments of the proletariat (as well as the declassed petty bourgeoisie), and the difficulties of the bourgeoisie in managing an economic crisis which, despite official optimism, is far from over and which demands a continuing intensification of the squeeze on the "working class", impoverishing anyone dependent on waged work. So as not to accept even the most moderate reformist perspective, the Democratic Party rejected Sanders, the only candidate who could have fought against – they say successfully – the "troll" who now wanders in the Oval Office, demonstrating, if it were needed, that reform is in substance incompatible with this historic phase of capitalism. At best, cosmetic change can be implemented here and there if it does not cost too much, or openly supports certain sectors of capital over others thought to be more progressive, but certainly they cannot significantly slow down, much less reverse, the decades-long trend of worsening general living standards of the proletariat and the classes closest to it

The arch-reformist Tsipras didn’t manage it, and the benefactor of those poor girls in Arcore [2] did not keep his amazing promises. Trump will not do it either, and if ever the programme on which he was elected were truly put into practice, proletarian blood, sweat and tears will flow like rivers. Indeed, the tears have already begun to wet the face of thousands of immigrants without residence permits who, for years have been resident in the "States". They have been rounded up and deported to Mexico, according to our "troll", in order to demonstrate presidential determination to stamp out lawlessness. Deporting a few thousand people is within the framework of the (criminal) act aimed at the naive or mean-spirited who voted for him, and costs relatively little. However when he tries to keep more challenging promises, he might yet come unstuck. Trump, in fact threatened to disrupt relations with Mexico, with Europe and with China, and promised to stop relocations of industry by punishing companies that persist in this practice. In addition he promised to bring back to "America" ​​the millions of jobs and industrial production that had made the great stars and stripes Republic “the greatest”, by brutally ratcheting up a protectionist policy which the United States has moreover never given up. [3]

The construction or, more accurately, the completion of a barrier along the border with Mexico, begun by Clinton and not halted by Obama, is one of the more sensational announcements of the new administration, despite the economic and diplomatic problems that this would entail. Apart from the political tensions with its neighbour, building thousands of kilometres of the wall would require a few billion dollars [4], but, according to the President, this can easily be found by imposing a tax of twenty percent on "Mexican" goods. In 2016, the US imported "goods” worth 270 billion dollars. And it sold [to Mexico, ed] just under 212 billion dollars" [5]: Any new tariff would bring in more than enough resources to build two or three walls but it would bury NAFTA [6]. Rather than a solution, it would be a huge complication. Not only because Mexico would not passively suffer an attack of this magnitude on its economy without taking counter-measures of the same type, but also and not least, because the goods produced south of the Rio Grande often come from investments by US capital. In addition, those goods are often an integral part of the "value chain" that end up in companies located in the United States.

The same can be said of the threatened tariffs against China (as high as 45%), on foreign competitors generally and, once again, on cars produced in Mexico by the three major US car companies, forced to pay a tax of 35 % should they persist in relocating entire production processes in that country. A first sign of the new course was Ford abandoning a billion and a half dollars investment in a new factory, after the meeting convened by Trump with GM, Ford and Chrysler-FCA in the days following his official investiture. But beyond the occasional smiles and (vague) ritual declarations, it is less difficult when the Big Three abandon planned investments of billions which started a few years ago (like GM). It is more difficult to put a brake on the process of relocation that has gone on in the world economy for a long time.

The United States is no longer what it was in the late 1950s, when it produced within its borders, often in gigantic factories, those goods that made it by far the leading world industrial power. It is well-known that today, more than ever before, capital goes where labour power costs next to nothing, where there are no obstacles to the bosses’ dictatorship, where regulatory and environmental laws do not exist or are a tragic farce. If we add to this the technological changes affecting working practices – which cut down labour power and will also drastically change its skill base – it does not take much to understand how the so-called “onshoring”, or the return “home” of production, is perhaps already happening. However it will be limited in scope unless there are new and unforeseeable epochal developments. For the phenomenon, stimulated by rising wages in some areas of relocation (not without harsh struggles), to become widespread we would need to see an increase in some trends already present for some time in the "metropoles", but in too mild a form. This is not a paradox but is a necessary expression of the organic composition of capital today. Trump, with his guidelines, wants to make "America" ​​attractive as an area for ​​relocation of industry: reducing corporate tax to 15%, abolishing laws that curb financial speculation and corporate business, starting with emission standards and environmental protection, to squeeze still further the living conditions of the working class.

Some will object that the President says otherwise, he wants to give work first to all “real” Americans, that he wants "his" working class to be fine. Ok, let's take a step back and take up the discussion on protectionism, starting with some elementary considerations that you can find in any school economics textbook. It's obvious that tariffs, especially of the size suggested by the new President, would have an impact on commodity prices, causing a general increase that would make them less competitive on the international market. But even in the domestic market things would not go smoothly, because, as we said before, in the face of decades of stagnating if not falling wages, low prices of goods coming to a significant extent from abroad (China and Mexico particularly) have allowed an increasingly impoverished working class to make a living as best they could (so to speak), not least with the complicity of easier borrowing which, as everyone knows, led to the crisis of 2007 [7]. If "the Trump agenda" is maintained, it is easy to predict a new deterioration in the living conditions of the proletariat. Perhaps however the working class would then be forced to react in a much more assertive manner than it has done so far (and we are not talking only of the US). Let’s be clear on this, we are not saying that there would automatically be a mass class response, but only that objective conditions might mature towards new scenarios. In a sense conditions can always mature, but they can also to rot if there is no political subject – that is, the party – that can consciously organise and direct them for the revolutionary overthrow of the present state of things

Meanwhile, the new administration, despite the setback that it was forced to accept by its own party, has sent a clear signal – if anyone ever doubted it – how it intends to politically manage its relationship with wage labour, by trying to appoint, as Minister of Labour, a firm opponent of those catering workers who took the lead in the organisation of the struggle to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. The character in question was

“Andrew Puzder, big fast food restaurant manager [who] has taken sides against raising the minimum wage, has opposed the increase of wages for overtime and supported the replacement of workers with machines. 60% of his restaurants [CKE restaurants, ed] have precisely violated the law in terms of minimum and overtime wages."[8]

It is worth remembering that millions of workers (of both sexes, of course), even in very large companies like WalMart, are a long way from getting the fifteen US dollars an hour considered the minimum threshold for survival "with dignity" and have to resort to the square meals provided by an increasingly stretched welfare state. Maybe they are not at the level of the Mexican maquiladoras, where they earn four dollars per day, but they are not very far away, and Trump, with his demagoguery, will only boost this race to the bottom for wages.

It is difficult to predict, of course, how much of the "Trumpian dream" will actually be carried out, because the real estate speculator residing in the White House is facing discontent, if not hostility, from an important part of big American capital, including high tech companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter etc.), who have production centres scattered across the planet whilst their market is the entire world.

There have been other times in history, when internal conflict amongst big capital was finally resolved in the end, but only after the proletariat and then the whole of humanity, have paid a dramatic price. If it is true that the great events of history never occur twice or at most they return only as farce, it is also true that only the conscious proletariat organised in its class party can prevent the "farce" turning to tragedy.


17 February 2017

[1] Nickname of Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon who served as Prime Minister of Italy for 9 years. He was eventually convicted of tax fraud in 2013 and has been banned from public office for 6 years. He styled himself the “cavaliere” or “white knight” saving Italy but people danced in the streets when he was ousted. He has a close relationship to Vladimir Putin and many US commentators have already compared Trump’s rule to Berlusconi’s.

[2] This is a sarcastic reference to Berlusconi again. He is currently accused of paying prostitutes to join his “bunga bunga parties” at his villa in Arcore. He alleges that they were not paid but got presents from himself and his guests.

[3] See Il Sole 24 ore 23-01-'17.

[4] Costs are estimated at anywhere from 5 to 15 billion dollars.

[5] See, visited on 27-01-'17.

[6] North American Free Trade Area between the US , Mexico and Canada brought in by Clinton in 1994 and which Trump wants to scrap

[7] It is an effect of the financing of the economy and among the most important; but we cannot dwell on it here and refer to what we have written many times on the subject. Start with the link that follows

[8] See, visited on 26-01-'17. Puzder failed to get ratified due to opposition from Republican senators who declared him ineligible due to his recruitment of migrant workers without a residence permits

Wednesday, February 22, 2017