By JEFF MACKLER
Democrats’ sound and fury in denouncing President Trump’s unilateral imposition of tariffs on Chinese imports has given way to general agreement, if not bi-partisan praise, for Trump’s pending tariff deals with China. The same with Trump’s essential denunciation of the WTO, the hitherto world institution aimed at the increasingly impossible objective of mitigating trade disputes among and between the world’s leading and subordinate nations. “The traditional arbiter of international trade disputes, the World Trade Organization,” according to the December 15 New York Times, “is listing toward irrelevance as countries bypass its channels to impose tariffs. Its appellate body, which adjudicates disputes, has been rendered inoperative by the Trump administration’s blocking of new judges. The panel needs at least three judges to render verdicts, but now has only one.”
In an era where U.S. competitors worldwide today include European Union member states as well as China and Russia, a new situation is emerging wherein separate “deals” are preferred between individual nations, as with the Trump/Boris Johnson contemplated trade deal or with regard to previously negotiated deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). When the latter no longer served the interests of U.S. corporations, the formalities associated with treaty adherence were junked as Trump abruptly moved to have his own experts re-write the text. The Democrats’ praise of the Trump team’s negotiated new NAFTA—the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement)—is a case in point, where U.S. imperialism used its brute strength to exact better trade terms for its increasingly less competitive corporate sectors to the disadvantage of both Mexico and Canada. Yesterday’s Democratic Party denunciations of Trump’s effort to unilaterally change NAFTA’s terms has given way to a congratulatory bi-partisan signing ceremony wherein Trump’s impeachment foes were found at one moment at the White House gleefully applauding Trump’s trade deal and at the next in congress denouncing him for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in a media orchestrated impeachment scenario where few if any expected a Senate ratification.
Trump’s Space Force
Trump presided over the bi-partisan creation of an anticipated new subdivision of the U.S. Air Force to be called the U.S. Space Force, the finances for which had already been contemplated in Trump’s bi-partisan approved budget wherein the Democrats called for more military expenditures than in Trump’s original proposal. One boasting general told the New York Times in late November that the cost would be in the “single-digit billions” while another estimated that perhaps the initial Space Force amount would be some “$14 billion.” Trump explained that this new arm of the military was “necessary to protect U.S. satellites from Russia and China.”
This is not the first time that Pentagon officials have contemplated the militarization of outer space. The Jimmy Carter administration authorized a study of the technical viability of such a program but when the scientists assigned to this task found it seriously wanting, the proposal was dropped. Similarly, the Ronald Reagan administration’s “Star Wars” project was scrapped when scientists determined that whatever contraption the U.S. placed in outer space was unavoidably vulnerable to destruction from earth-based systems, including super high-powered lasers.
Again, the key issue here is not what’s scientifically viable in the military sense or scientifically determined in the climate crisis sense, but rather what’s necessary to advance the profits of a declining world capitalist system. In both cases—the highly monopolized military-industrial complex and the fossil fuel industry, the profit rates are among the highest in the world. Imperialist wars are always good for corporate profits!
Anti-Semitism and Israel
President Trump’s recent Executive Order extending the provisions of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination against Jews on college campuses proved to be yet another bi-partisan affair. While the NYT editorialized (Dec. 12) against the Trump move in an equivocating piece entitled, “A Cynical Bid to Court Jewish Support,” the editors felt compelled to note that Trump’s order to withhold federal money from schools that fail to counter discrimination against Jews on campus was “similar to congressional legislation [that] has had bipartisan support.” The Times added, “Previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have taken similar actions to prevent hate and discrimination.”
Needless to say, this “bi-partisan support” has resulted in a wave of persecution of Palestinian professors, students and organizations across the country that are increasingly the victims of disciplinary action, suspension, expulsion or the banning and persecution of their organizations. Student advocacy of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against the racist, Zionist, colonial, apartheid state of Israel is most often cited as the basis for university encroachments on fundamental free speech rights. Trump’s executive order includes as anti-Semitic targets anyone who holds that the “existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” Jared Kushner, one of Trump’s senior advisers, defended such a definition in his December 17 NYT Op-Ed piece entitled “Trump’s Order Protects Jews.” Said Kushner, “The [International Holocaust] Remembrance Alliance definition [used in Trump’s order] makes clear what our administration has stated publicly, and on the record: Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
The NYT editorial four days earlier, while alluding to support for free speech rights balanced their position with a warning that “BDS has helped to create a hostile environment for Jewish students, most of whom support Israel.” Might we add that in decades past a similar refrain was the norm in the U.S. and especially in the South where explicit Black-led campus protests against racism and Ku Klux Klan murder were deemed hostile to white students!
Nevertheless, The Times, did note, “The president himself has trafficked in anti-Semitic stereotypes, frequently endorsing crude, negative caricatures about Jews. On Saturday, speaking before the Israeli American Council, Trump said that Jews should support him because Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax would put them out of business.” The racist bigot Trump was quoted as stating further, “A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well, you’re brutal killers… Not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice.”
Our point here is not to split hairs regarding Democrats’ or Republicans’ positions on anti-Semitism. What is clear is that the latter issue is entirely subordinate to their joint and absolute support to unqualified military, political and economic support to the illegitimate racist Zionist settler state of Israel, the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world and among U.S. imperialism’s prime guarantors of U.S. domination and exploitation of the Middle East.
Behind the corporate media’s rhetorical facade where all these matters are debated and presented after being filtered and re-defined through the lens of ruling class politics – COP25/climate crisis, Trump’s trade deals, the impeachment charade, anti-Semitism/Israel/Zionism, imperialist wars/military spending – what emerges is a Truman Show or Potemkin Village media-created world where political life is presented as a contest between evil and perhaps a lesser evil if not a “good evil” – a contest between the almost unbelievably belligerent racist, sexist, warmongering anti-immigrant, science-denying Republican president and a deeply divided but essentially innocent or even naïve but well-intentioned Democratic Party from which a few honest “progressives” must emerge to take on the monster Trump.
This dead end scenario has been the stock-in-trade of the “graveyard of social movements” Democratic Party for decades and longer. Today, for the first time in a long while, young people in particular, along with broader sections of working class America, are coming to the conclusion that all the real evils they encounter in daily life – scarcity of good jobs, part time low wage jobs, unpayable massive debt, racism, sexism, LGBTQI hate and prejudice, environmental destruction and endless wars – are not accidents of the times that can be remedied by the election of one or another ruling class politician, but rather critical problems that are inherent in the capitalist system itself. Challenging this system – abolishing this system at its roots and building powerful and independent mass mobilizations to bring to bare the full weight of working people in all their power and diversity is the only way forward.
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