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Trump's first 100 days

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In the US, a president's first 100 days in office is always a test of the change in direction, if any, from one administration to the next. That's especially true this year, with the Republican sweep of both houses of the US Congress as well as the Presidency, plus holding on to most of the statehouses and governorships.

That it has been a tumultuous 100 days is unquestionable. Beginning with the Inauguration Day demonstrations and the massive women's march the following day, Trump has been beset with resistance to his stated agenda. In February, there was a “Day Without Immigrants” strike. Then, on March 8, there was a “Day Without Women” strike. April saw a massive “March for Science” in defiance of the administration's attacks on climate change research.

And then there was May Day. For the first time since the massive strikes and demonstrations that marked another “Day Without Immigrants” in 2006, thousands of immigrants, workers, and their supporters and allies engaged in actions in towns and cities across the country. They included not only marches and rallies, but also strikes and boycotts. Although it certainly didn't rise to the level of a “general strike”, it did exceed the handfuls of socialists who normally mark May Day in the US. As could be expected, the larger cities, notably Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City, had the biggest crowds, with some 30,000 in L.A.

The crowd in LA was made up of a mix of reformist, radical, and revolutionary socialist groups and showed a growing tendency for the various “identity politics” sections to come together in opposition to the Trump agenda. Since Latinos and other immigrants are bearing the brunt of the attacks from the Trump administration, they are now the most visible part of the leadership of this struggle.

This cooperation across “identity” lines shows that all of the communities of the racially and socially oppressed are beginning to see unity in action as a necessary and achievable goal. It cannot be repeated enough that we all need to internalize that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Of course, it helps that most of the people under attack are working class. This brings the more radical worker organizations, like Alternative Labor Organizations (ALOs) and militant locals of the two big federations the AFL-CIO, with 9 million members, and Change to Win, 4.2 million, into the struggle in support of their members and communities.

This involvement by unions is perhaps the biggest positive from a socialist perspective for May Day 2017. For the first time since Trump’s Inauguration, the resistance to the administration's attacks had significant organized working class leadership and direction.

In many of the smaller demonstrations across the country, even in places that had never heard of May Day before, the ALOs took the lead in organizing protests, rallies, and marches. This is also a positive trend, in that ALOs by their very nature have less restrictions on labor actions like strikes than their more “official” siblings in unions. They also have less to lose and much more to gain, being voluntary representatives of lower wage groups like immigrant workers who are subject to the worst abuses and excesses of their bosses.

The Character of the Resistance to Trump

Since May Day, the biggest demonstrations and actions have been in support of the oppressed sectors, the ones who are bearing the brunt of the attacks. Their tactics, with a few notable exceptions, have been mass demonstrations, marches and rallies expressing disgust with those attacks. As yet there has been little raising of the more prolonged militant tactics that will be necessary in order to halt or delay the attacks themselves.

That said, significant groupings within the resistance are arguing for more militant strategies and tactics, including the reformist Democratic Socialists of America and the various groups from the Trotskyist tradition. This more militant approach is also beginning to include the organized working class in some unions and other groups devoted to worker protection. From the ALOs that organized February's “Day Without Immigrants” to the Ni Una Menos movement that played a prominent role in the actions on International Working Woman's Day, to the May Day actions, leaderships have become more unabashedly socialist in their language and advocacy of more militant tactics like strikes and boycotts.

This clearly shows a resistance that is moving in a leftward direction. Given that the attacks themselves have not yet even begun to hit the mass of the population, we should expect that far more will follow the leadership to the left if we can continue to provide a direction for actual resistance to Trump and his cabal of billionaires.

A positive example was set by the workers of the US territory of Puerto Rico on May Day. The island has been beset by economic problems in many ways akin to the problems of Greece in the EU. From shady bank practices that got the local government into trouble in the first place when the Great Recession hit, to the austerity that is being required in order to “recover” from these problems, Puerto Rico resisted the attacks more than any other place in the United States.

The May Day “general strike” was closer to an actual general strike than anywhere else, with the economy significantly impacted for the day and massive demonstrations shutting down whole sectors of the economy, the government and day-to-day life. Was the response of the people of Puerto Rico who are being asked to pay for the recovery of capitalist profits lost during the Great Recession by sacrificing their pensions, wages, benefits, and workers' rights to unionise and collectively bargain.

Trump's popularity started out at the lowest level of any elected president and has actually dropped since the Inauguration, although he still has a core of support that will forgive him almost anything. In addition, the Republican Party has also shown itself to be divided over tactics, despite its majority.

The odds are growing that the incompetence shown by Trump, and divisions within the ruling class, could prevent him finishing his elected term. This would lead to a President Pence who would continue all of the attacks of the Trump agenda, along with a religious obscurantist overlay that would be even more threatening to women and most minorities. He would probably also bring a more focused plan for getting that agenda enacted into law. In other words, we can be sure that the resistance that has just begun will be needed whether Trump continues in office or not.

Making the resistance effective

To sum up, we need to bring everyone under attack together into committees for joint actions, supporting strikes and occupations, mobilizing mass demonstrations and organizing self-defence not only against the oppressive organs of the state like the police, ICE, the FBI but also the far right militias or fascists. To actually launch a general strike against any one of Trump's major attacks will mean organizing from below, not relying on the existing union and community leaders.

Such committees not only need to organize resistance to attacks, but also to begin the process of pro-actively tackling the problems of their communities, taking more and more power away from the bourgeois state and building a counter-power of the working class and the oppressed.

Federal and State forces, however, will not sit back and see themselves replaced by organs of workers' power and therefore a movement of resistance has to become a movement which sets itself the goal of overthrowing the power of the bosses and bankers, the police chiefs and the generals. To organize for this, more than trade unions, community organizations, or even councils of action, are needed. The struggle for political power requires a party.

That is why we need to work tirelessly to build a party of workers and the oppressed. We need one now to provide a voice in the halls of power that are now reserved only for the millionaires, billionaires, and global corporations. Obviously, given the money of the billionaires and their control of the media, it would be difficult to achieve a true representation of our numbers in Congress. Nonetheless, a workers' party would be a voice there for the rest of us, a speaker for the struggles going on day-to-day in our communities.

To orient to the “progressive” Democrats, as advocated by the Democratic Socialists of America, the US affiliate of the Socialist International, would be to mislead those forces that gathered around the Occupy, Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter and the Bernie Sanders movements. The Democratic Party has repeatedly shown its ineffectiveness in helping US workers and the poor. Throughout the Obama years, things got worse for the majority with stagnating wages, benefits, and job security. The reaction to this led directly to the rise of the Tea Party and Trump phenomena, to increased murders of black youths and racists and fascists on our streets.

The reason for this is easy to understand. The Democrats are no less a party of the Wall Street élite than the Republicans and, as such, will never prioritize our interests either in government, or in opposition.
What we need in the USA is a workers' party to develop an organized and effective resistance to Trump or, if he does not last his full term, Pence. It must be independent of all capitalist parties and be a party of struggle, not just at times of elections. It must be active in the unions and communities. Today, it must seek to politically guide and spearhead the resistance to Trump up to and including a general strike.

Socialist Alternative, the sister organization of the Socialist Party in the UK, is the most active of the far left groups in the US today. In 2013, it managed to elect Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council and played a significant role supporting Bernie Sanders, but it uses the vague slogan of a “party of the 99 percent”. It could mightily aid the development of a workers' party if it broke from this confusion. The International Socialist Organization, ISO, once linked to the British SWP, has championed the need for what it calls a “Red-Green” coalition. Both these far left groups confuse the need for a class party of the workers, armed with a revolutionary socialist programme, with woolly populist and reformist slogans.

However, if all the fighting forces within the anti-Trump movement agree not only to coordinate the struggle in a democratic and anti-sectarian fashion, but also to debate what our political goals should be and what form of party we need, then under present favourable conditions, major progress can be made.