Workers Vanguard No. 1158
26 July 2019
Down With Trumps Anti-Immigrant Drive!
Pelosi, the Squad—Democrats Are Enemies of Immigrant Rights
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
The sadistic treatment of immigrants at the border has once again become a political football for the two bourgeois parties. Tens of thousands of asylum-seekers are jailed in overcrowded and filthy detention camps, while military-style I.C.E. raids and deportations stoke fear, threatening to tear apart families and destroy livelihoods. The current Commander-in-Chief revels in unadulterated nativist bigotry, but Washington’s war on immigrants is thoroughly bipartisan. Barack Obama and his predecessors enforced the same racist program—from the militarization of the border to nightmarish detentions and mass deportations. The Democrats’ chastising of Trump for his brutality is a cynical attempt to cast themselves as the party of “decency,” aiming to dupe working people and minorities into supporting their bid for the White House in 2020.
The Republican and Democratic parties represent the capitalist class, whose rule is based on the exploitation of labor and racial oppression at home and the drive to strengthen imperialist domination abroad. Creating the desperate conditions that force countless migrants to flee north, the U.S. imperialists have for over a century ravaged their semicolonial backyard in Latin America and the Caribbean through economic subjugation enforced by military intervention, coups and puppet regimes. These are the workings of imperialism—a system in which a handful of the richest, most advanced capitalist countries have divided and redivided the world as they compete for control of markets, raw materials and access to cheap labor. Interimperialist rivalries have already resulted in two world wars.
The current feud in Washington kicked off in late June when four black and minority first-time Democratic members of Congress known as “the Squad,” opposed a bill funding border police facilities. Trump launched an anti-immigrant tirade against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” (They are all U.S. citizens.) The four have received death threats, especially Omar, who, as a Muslim born in Somalia, is particularly targeted.
In capitalist America, where anti-black racism has always been the touchstone of social reaction, Trump’s diatribe is ultimately directed at black people. “Go back to Africa” has long been a rallying cry of white-supremacists against black fighters for equality. It is part and parcel of the racist message that this is a “white man’s country” where black people must “know their place.”
In response to Trump, the Democrats seized the chance to posture as the friends of the oppressed and to stage a show of unity. This was all mere theatrics. Far from the “socialists” they are sometimes labeled as, the members of the Squad are capitalist politicians who retail the con that working people and minorities have a stake in choosing between what Malcolm X described as the smiling fox and the growling wolf. As he pointed out, “They’ll both eat you.”
Against all parties of capital, we fight to build a multiracial workers party committed to the struggle for socialist revolution. Such a party would raise the call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants—everyone who makes it here, no matter how, should be entitled to all the rights of those born in the U.S. Crucially, it would seek to mobilize the social power of the labor movement to demand: No deportations! Free all the detainees!
Nancy Pelosi and the Squad are just as committed as Trump to border security, immigration control and the interests of U.S. imperialism. In one of their first votes after being elected last year, the four “progressive” Congresswomen supported funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which runs I.C.E. Their real concern is that Trump’s rants are an obstacle to selling U.S. imperialism’s “democratic” credentials. In her July 12 testimony to a House committee, Ocasio-Cortez complained that abuses like family separation at the border detention centers were occurring “in front of an American flag.” With Trump as a convenient cover, her denunciations of the migrant detention centers as “concentration camps” gloss over the history of such camps under her idol, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who interned some 120,000 people of Japanese descent, the vast majority U.S. citizens, during World War II.
For her part, Omar is fond of remarking how Trump violates the “core beliefs” and “values” on which the U.S. was founded—this about a country founded on the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of black people. Meanwhile, Tlaib declared in her July 12 House testimony that the situation at the border was dehumanizing not only to migrants but also to the border agents! This was after the revelation of the secret Facebook group of thousands of border agent thugs boasting about the death of immigrants, posting vulgar and misogynistic threats, including against minority Congresswomen.
The call by the Squad and other Democrats to “abolish I.C.E.” amounts to nothing more than replacing one bloody anti-immigrant police force with another. According to Ocasio-Cortez, instead of being housed under DHS, which was set up by George W. Bush, immigration enforcement should be under the Justice Department like the original la migra, the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Under Bill Clinton and for decades before, the INS was infamous for carrying out roundups against immigrants, including to break up union organizing drives. Never raised by the Democrats before Trump’s presidency, their slogan to “abolish I.C.E.” is simply a maneuver against their GOP rivals. You certainly never heard it when Obama used I.C.E. to deport a record number of people and expand the immigration detention system.
The capitalist state exists to defend the rule and profits of the bourgeoisie through violence and repression. It can never be reformed to represent the interests of the working class and oppressed. The bourgeoisie’s anti-immigrant regulations and laws, which represent their particular economic and political interests, are necessarily repressive and chauvinist, no matter which party is in power. Trump relies on I.C.E. raids in order to sow terror, like the one at an electronics repair company in Texas in April that arrested over 280 immigrants, the majority of them female. During his reign, Obama relied on desktop raids based on investigations into workers’ residency status, which were less disruptive to businesses.
Immigrants, especially those who are undocumented, are in a vulnerable situation, but they are not just victims: immigrant workers form a vital component of the multiracial U.S. proletariat. Often with experience in class and other social struggle in their homelands, as well as awareness of the brutalities of U.S. imperialism, these workers have the potential to serve as a human bridge linking U.S. workers with their class brothers and sisters internationally.
Undocumented immigrants in particular are used by the ruling class as scapegoats for the miserable conditions workers suffer, while often being forced into the most dangerous and exploitative jobs. Defense of immigrants is crucial for advancing the unity and strength of the whole of the working class—black, white, Latino; native-born and immigrant—in its struggles against the capitalist exploiters. Some unions have declared themselves “sanctuary unions” by, for instance, providing legal advice and incorporating certain protections for members into contracts, such as prohibitions on employer retaliation based on immigration status. Well and good. But this is a far cry from what is needed: a class-struggle fight in defense of immigrant rights, including through strike action.
The American labor movement is crippled by a misleadership whose fundamental loyalty is not to the workers but to the U.S. capitalist order. Chaining the working class to the Democrats, the labor tops have sapped the unions of their strength, doing little to defend their members in the face of attacks on wages and benefits. The protectionist “America first” poison pushed by the AFL-CIO tops peddles the lie that U.S. workers have common interests with their exploiters and inflames anti-immigrant prejudices against “foreign workers.” Demonstrating their fealty to the capitalist state, the AFL-CIO organizes border agents.
There needs to be a political battle inside the labor movement to forge a new leadership, one based on the understanding that the interests of capital and labor are irreconcilable and that workers must be mobilized independently of and in opposition to the bosses’ parties and state. At a “Socialism Conference” in Chicago in early July hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America—an arm of the Democratic Party whose prominent members include Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib—its Jacobin publication and Haymarket Books, we intervened into a panel on “How to End the Bipartisan War on Immigrants.” Countering the notion that some “bright horizon” would arise with the next elections, our comrade said:
“Democrats are the enemy of the working class and the working class needs its own party, a revolutionary multiracial workers party that will fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, that will fight for black liberation, that will fight for women’s liberation and that will fight to smash the capitalist state. What you guys are talking about is rearranging the deck chairs on the capitalist Titanic. What we need is a whole new party, a workers party that will fight for a workers government.”