The election of Donald Trump is no aberration or mistake but the result of decades of persistent organizing by the right.
During the 1960s, millions of Americans fought for workers’ rights and against racism, sexism, homophobia, and imperialist war. Much was won during that time, including social programs and benefits, affirmative action, school desegregation, access to abortion, higher wages, the end of the U.S. war against Vietnam, and the impeachment of President Nixon.
Trump’s election is the culmination of right-wing efforts to roll back these gains.
In the mid-1970s, the capitalist class launched an employers’ offensive to drive down wages and raise productivity. Instead of mobilizing to fight back, bureaucratic union leaders forced concession contracts on their members. Defeat followed defeat.
At the same time, right-wing forces stepped up attacks on abortion clinics and condemned ‘political correctness’ on campus. They campaigned for law-and-order policies to strengthen the police and fill the prisons. They clamored for lower taxes and cuts to social benefits. They opposed union rights and won anti-union legislation. They attacked affirmative action and re-instated racist practice. They won local and state elections. Now they have captured the highest political offices in the nation.
Trump’s victory is linked to McCarthyism
During the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.) headed the campaign to combat social activism by purging America of left-wing influence. This period, known as the McCarthy Era, was the most widespread wave of political repression in American history.
American workers had agreed not to strike during World War II. In 1947, they unleashed their pent up demand with the greatest strike wave in U.S. history.
The capitalist class was determined to win the Cold War with the Soviet Union. This required investing billions of dollars into the military, not meeting the needs of the working class. In order to beat back workers’ demands, all the powers of the American state were used to drive communists out of the unions and criminalize left-wing ideas. With unions gutted and the working class divided, the United States could become the world’s dominant economic and military power.
The strategist behind McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign was lawyer Roy Cohn. In 1971, Cohn became Donald Trump’s legal adviser.
We are not defeated
The rise of Black Lives Matter, battles to raise the minimum wage, the fight to defend Indigenous land, the movement against climate change, support for Bernie Sanders, and the election of socialist politicians shows that the battle is not lost; it has just begun.
The right won the federal election for two reasons:
The loss of union jobs and union strength left large sections of the working class impoverished, bitter, and demoralized. Desperate for change and seeing no prospect of collective struggle, many were conned by the divisive arguments of the right.
The American left has not recovered from the anti-communist campaigns of the 1950s. Divorced from their revolutionary history, 1960s activists did not understand that the gains that they made would be lost unless they broadened the struggle to challenge capitalist rule.
The revolutionary socialist left in America is still too small to counter the rightward move of society under the onslaught of the employer’s offensive, the political right, and the cowardice of union and movement leaders. We can change that.
The fight for the future is on
Extreme inequality causes society to polarize. As the middle ground disappears, the fundamental question becomes “Which side are you on?” Do you support equal rights or do you oppose them? Do you oppose war or do you support it. Do you challenge bigotry or do you encourage it. Do you think society must change, or do you defend the status quo?
Right-wing forces respond to mass discontent with bigotry and repression. In contrast, left-wing forces promote unity and common interests. Revolutionary socialists understand that capitalism cannot meet human needs. We want the working class to take control of society and run it for the benefit of all
We can win
The Trump administration has exposed the naked truth of capitalist rule, stripped of its liberal pretenses. As frightening as this is, our side has two advantages:
We outnumber them. The vast majority of humanity do not benefit from capitalist rule. We are many; they are few.
We have power. The modern working class includes people all colors, religions, nationalities, beliefs, and practices. Without our daily work, the system would grind to a halt. Collectively, we can end capitalist rule and create a sustainable, cooperative society that meets human needs.
We must fight as though our lives and the future depend on it.
Because they do.