US: Trump administration in chaos

us protest

Divisions in the US ruling class are becoming more open as the Trump administration faces the impossible task of dealing with the US’s position as a relatively declining imperialist power in an unending economic crisis. In a few weeks, Trump has managed to alienate sections of his own party, attacked his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and pushed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer into resigning his post. He has isolated the US on climate change by withdrawing from the Paris Accord. He has criticised South Korea and China for steel dumping, and condemned the EU for protectionism. Organised working class resistance is needed. The recently-announced People’s Congress of Resistance is offering a way forward as a movement of principled opposition, and hopes to mobilise widespread support by the time it convenes in Washington in September.

Trump’s administration has staggered from crisis to crisis. It has achieved little, and he has signed no major legislation in his term as president. The attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), a core Republican policy, has become a fiasco. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wanted it completely repealed, but in the end, the US Senate on 27 July narrowly voted down a compromise Republican plan to drastically amend it which would leave 20 million people without health care cover, with three Republicans joining Democrats in voting against 51-49. It is not clear what the Republicans can do next: the Act has widespread popular support.

There is chaos in the White House. Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned after only six months in post because he was vehemently opposed to Trump’s appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as the new communications director. Within days, Scaramucci had launched foul-mouthed public attacks on both then White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, leader of the alt-right movement. Reince Priebus resigned. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s accounts of his dealings with Russian officials are now under close scrutiny following his denials that he met with any during the presidential election campaign. Sessions has recused himself from leading an FBI investigation into the allegations of Russian interference. Trump is describing Sessions as ‘beleaguered’ and ‘very weak’, but senior Republican senators are telling the president not to fire him. Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a property millionaire, has admitted meeting Russian officials four times during the election, but denies they exerted any influence.

Trump is managing to provoke conflict elsewhere. During the recent G20 summit on 7-8 July in Hamburg, Trump announced that he had called for South Korea and China to stop the export of dumped steel. He described his unilateral method to deal with steel dumping: ‘There are two ways — quotas and tariffs. Maybe I’ll do both… Not only China, but others. We’re like a dumping ground [for steel], okay? They’re dumping steel and destroying our steel industry, they’ve been doing it for decades, and I’m stopping it. It’ll stop.’ The G7, composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US, has called for a global solution to overcapacity in steel, but Trump’s executive order on steel dumping has completely undermined this. Then there is the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement: other imperialist powers have made it clear that there will be no renegotiation as Trump wants. He wants a close alliance with British imperialism, and used Brexit to attack the EU, tweeting after the summit: ‘Working on major Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. Could be very big & exciting. JOBS! The EU is very protectionist with the US STOP!’

In challenging Trump, the Democratic Party has focused on allegations that his election campaign received direct support from Russia and the Putin administration. The issue has no relevance for the working class and oppressed, but it is crucial to the interests of a section of the US ruling class which wants to maintain Russia’s isolation and prevent it from challenging US imperialism’s world-wide interests. Democrats are also seeking out legalistic methods of dealing with Trump, in particular finding grounds for impeachment through the Russia investigations. This is unlikely to happen given Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and would leave the equally reactionary and known bigot Mike Pence as president. As it is, Trump’s apparent ambivalence over relations with Russia has not stopped Congress from voting overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans united just as they had done in April over the missile strike on a Syrian government airbase. Trump will not veto the measures.

The Democrats’ initial opposition to Trump took the form of widespread street protests, with millions across the US mobilising for the 2017 Women’s March. Subsequent events, such as the March for Science on Earth Day, 22 April 2017, also drew in thousands of people. However, the impact of these marches was short-lived: the Democrats soon preferred to limit their opposition to legal and electoral methods. This means the working class has to develop its own strategies of resistance, as the People’s Congress of Resistance aims to do in the coming months. The Congress is set to take place on 16-17 September in Washington DC. It aims to create a grassroots movement of working class people, activists, people of colour, and activist organisers. Socialist organisations such as the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and other groups like Black Lives Matter and trade unions have endorsed this campaign, as well as tenant organisations fighting to defend working class housing. Its launch statement reads: ‘Such a People’s Congress will confront the Congress of the millionaires. It will galvanise the energy of the many groups resisting Trump. It will demonstrate that this is what democracy looks like.’ It presents an opportunity to develop serious, continuous and consistent opposition and should receive complete support from socialist organisations as we fight against a system that offers no future for humanity.

Amy Liu

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 259 August/September 2017