The Trump administration is pressing on with its reactionary agenda amid ongoing mass protests.
Wall Street and businesses, big and small, greeted Trump’s election with elation in anticipation of his campaign promises to rapidly eliminate regulations they regard as onerous. As Trump seeks to fulfil these promises, the capitalists are moving to take advantage of the chance to rake in greater profits.
On February 13, there were protests by fast-food workers against Trump’s nominee for secretary of labour, Andrew Puzder. The owner of fast-food chain Carl’s Jr, Puzder is a sworn enemy of workers and the Labor Department he was nominated to head.
Puzder withdrew his nomination after some Republicans turned against him — not for his anti-labour record, but because he had hired an undocumented immigrant as a domestic worker and failed to pay her taxes.
The next day, a 20,000-person rally hit the streets of Milwaukee in defence of immigrants and refugees. On February 17, many undocumented workers stayed home in a national “Day without Immigrants” protest and strike. The next day, protests in 100 cities called by Strike4Democracy drew 100,000, according to organisers.
Then over the next two days, thousands more took to the streets. In New York, there was a New Orleans-style mock funeral march for the president, complete with a marching band and casket. LGBTIQ protesters kissed each other outside Trump’s hotel in Washington, DC, to protest Trump’s reactionary agenda.
There were actions in Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and along the border with Mexico.
On February 20, Presidents’ Day, protests took place in many cities under the slogan, “Not My President’s Day”.
At the same time, Trump suffered two apparent setbacks. One was a Democratic campaign, aided by leaks from spy agencies, charging Trump with being in cahoots with Russia against the US.
The second was a court ruling that stayed his ban on anyone from seven Mideast and African Muslim countries from entering the US.
The leaks concerned Trump’s pick of retired General Michael Flynn as his national Ssecurity adviser. The leaks were purportedly of recordings by the FBI of Flynn discussing US sanctions imposed by the Barack Obama administration with the Russian ambassador.
Trump let Flynn go on the grounds that he lied to Vice-President Mike Pence in denying he had such discussions, not on the larger question of relations with Russia. He has also threatened to “clean house” in the spy agencies, as in other departments. Trump demands total loyalty to his agenda.
This has raised a sticky question for Democrats and those in the CIA or FBI opposed to Trump. He says these were leaks of classified information, and demands the leakers be put on trial and imprisoned for breaking the law.
But this is the same law that past administrations have used to jail whistleblowers who leaked information exposing government crimes. This includes US soldier Chelsea Manning, who was jailed under Obama for leaking evidence of war crimes to WikiLeaks.
This is also the law used to threaten NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for exposing the vast spy program the government wages against the American people, among other things.
Did the FBI break the law by spying on the US citizen Flynn? No, says the FBI, because they were only spying on the Russian ambassador when they recorded the conversation with Flynn. However, as the recording is classified, leaking it is a serious felony.
Both Democrats and Republicans applauded the jailing of Manning and demanded the arrest of Snowden (who lives in exile in Moscow). Some, like Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein, urged Snowden be tried for treason. Some, including Trump, called for Snowden to be executed.
During the presidential campaign, Trump applauded when leaks (and maybe Russian hacks) exposed the dirty machinations of the Democratic establishment against Bernie Sanders.
So whether leakers of classified information are to be prosecuted depends on which positions they support in relation to competing gangs of capitalist politicians. This is another symptom of disarray in US politics, which plays into Trump’s assertion that a strongman is needed to set things right.
The “world order” dominated by US imperialism since World War II is fraying. Figuring out what to do about it is placing the US ruling class in a quandary.
Some, like Hillary Clinton, want to push toward military confrontation with Russia. Trump seems to want to make a deal with Russia and go after China.
Right now, this is all up in the air. What Trump will end up doing is unknown, perhaps even to him.
Concerning the court order blocking Trump’s Muslim ban, he is going on the offensive in two ways. First, he continues to insist that the courts should have no say in the matter, that it is his sole prerogative as president.
Second, his staff are preparing to reintroduce the ban with new wording to circumvent the court’s ruling. They are also preparing to challenge the courts' right to rule on the new wording while implementing his new version on the ground.
Trump has gone on a huge offensive on another front in the face of the mass demonstrations against his attacks on immigrants. His Homeland Security secretary John Kelly has issued new rules to speed up the mass deportations of undocumented migrants.
Under the new vague guidelines, millions of immigrants could face removal. Almost any undocumented person could be detained and deported, even if they have never committed a crime while in the US. A traffic violation or mere suspicion by immigration agents of having committed a crime could be grounds for deportation.
Any immigrant who could not prove they have not been in the US for at least two years would be deported. Parents who bring undocumented children into the US would be jailed.
The guidelines say: “With extremely limited exemptions, DHS [Department of Homeland Security] will not exempt classes or categories of removal aliens from potential enforcement [sic].” For now, the only exemption is those who were brought into the country as children by their parents for which Obama established rules to prevent their deportation. But that could change at the new administration’s whim.
To carry out these new guidelines, which takes the deportation machine set up by Obama and puts it on steroids, 15,000 new immigration and border patrol agents will be hired. This is the start of what Trump proposed in his campaign — a new “deportation force”.
Trump’s press secretary said “the President wanted to take the shackles off [immigration and border patrol agents].”
Trump aims to demoralise and frighten immigrants. Many immigrants with documents, and other Latinos, have family members who are undocumented, and are also targets to be intimidated. Trump hopes to break their determination to fight back, but this will likely have the opposite effect.
Ruling class support
Many progressives had hopes the court ruling against the Muslim ban and the FBI leaks signalled that the powers-that-be would soon dump Trump. But the demagogue’s new offensive puts the lie to that hope.
The ruling class is doing just fine with Trump. His scrapping of rules on fossil fuels, regulations on banks, and his promises of big tax breaks for businesses, large and small, are raising their spirits.
The stock market is at historic levels. Owners of private prisons (an atrocity itself) have seen their stock prices rise. New education secretary DeVos promises to end regulations on fake “universities” (Trump owned one) that rip off unsuspecting applicants. Their stocks are rising, too.
We cannot put our hopes in any section of the ruling class, or its Democratic Party lackeys. Right now, it is the mass protests we must look to. These struggles must unite and eventually create a new political force to stop this would-be dictator.