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Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, and Donald Trump.

Second article of the series “Trump’s first Steps”.

Beyond the analysis of his personality and the consequences of his politics, it is valid to question if Trump is a “crazy loose” or if he expresses a sector of the U.S bourgeoisie. The cabinet he nominated mostly accompanies his ideological profile, with very reactionary, xenophobic, male-chauvinist, anti-abortionist and isolationist figures in foreign affairs. This is Steve Bannon’s case, Trump’s main adviser, considered the brain of his government.

By: Alejandro Iturbe.

 

However, Trump in himself expresses a sector of the bourgeoisie that supports his government. In the first place, the oil sector. His Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, former president of the main oil company in the country, Exxon. Possibly, Trump also has the support of important construction sectors (the main branch of his companies), of agrarian production and of a middle industrial bourgeoisie, harmed with the relocation of industries to China and other countries. With opposition, these two latest contributed to the non-implementation of the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) at the beginning of the 21st century, and now they are pushing for a change of the situation generated by the globalization and the international free trade agreements in the country’s economic structure (reduction of the industry’s importance and a great increase of the financial and services sectors).

In an attempt of a turnaround, even if partially, to counteract the dynamics of the deep processes of global economy in recent decades Trump relies on one element of a global reality: the benefits of globalization for large multinational companies seem to have reached a limit.

An article of the British magazine The Economist analyzes that: “Their financial performance [multinational companies’ performance, NdE] has slipped so that they are no longer outstripping local firms. Many seem to have exhausted their ability to cut costs and taxes and to out-think their local competitors […]. In a majority of industries they are growing more slowly and are less profitable than local firms that stayed in their backyard.[1] This is an objective basis that aims to take advantage of the currents of what we have called “Imperialist Nationalism” (in the United States and Europe) in its attempt to reverse the “national industry” retrogression generated by “productive globalization” (and the relocation of several industries to China and other countries).

However, to make progress in this area means to confront much more complex and important obstacles than the factor that we have already discussed. Multinational and global companies controll a great deal of products and services markets in the United States and the world. They are hardly willing to give ground without a fierce fight to defend their space and power.

Let’s see two examples. Trump demanded General Motors (GM) and Toyota to move their plants in Mexico (both of them specialized in small cars) to the United States and, if they did not, he threatened to impose a 20% tax on those cars’ importations. The Japanese Toyota (the world’s second largest automaker) answered that Trump did not have the power to decide where they can manufacture their cars. GM (attached to and dependent of the U.S. state since its “reconversion” years ago) may be forced to obey the order to close their plant in Mexico. However, it is already preparing the conditions to replace the production with its plants located in Brazil and Argentina.

Another example is the U.S decree to leave the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), which involved several world’s major economies (the U.S, China and Japan). This measure received harsh criticism from politicians and big companies for abandoning a privileged commercial deal.

Such measure would be complemented by a proposal to impose a 20% tax on Chinese imports (to force relocation of industrial plants inside the United States). The problem is that this would increase the prices of industrial consumer products in the country by 14%, as estimated. For example, for cellphones and computers made in China. On the one hand, this would hit very hard the “moderate economic recovery” of the United States during the past few years, since consumption has been the main factor that stimulated it. On the other hand, it would mean a new blow to the workers and the masses’ standard of living, since the cheaper price of these imported products was a factor that partially compensated the fall in wages. It would also be a blow to the big international companies, because it would increase their costs of production.

It is not by chance, then, that several of these large companies, such as the Silicon Valley’s technopole in California (one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy in the country) or Ford itself have come out to strongly criticize Trump’s measures. Not only those that affect the economy but essentially, as we will see, his political measures.

It is necessary to point out that two measures promoted by Trump do have the support of important bourgeois sectors. The first one is the corporate taxes’ reduction (to the companies) in the same way as Ronald Reagan’s policy in the 1980s (which has led to call this orientation “trumponomics”, in analogy to “reaganomics”). The second one is the repeal of parts of the Dodd-Frank Act (passed in 2008 after the beginnin of the economic crisis and the fall of several financial giants), which included prohibitions on financial institutions to operate securities for their own benefit. Of course, this proposal, which must be discussed in Congress, has received strong support from the banking industry and the financial sector, which are always looking to take advantage of favorable situations, convenient to their interests. It is a clear attempt of Trump to unlock a sector that, historically, has been leaning towards the Democratic Party.

The Crisis Opened with the “Muslim Ban”

Trump’s numerous executive orders in his first days of government covered a wide range of matters. Some were symbolic (such as the Spanish-speaking and global warming pages’ removal of the White House website) or ideological (as the deepening of an Obama’s policy to avoid financial support with federal funds to legal abortion). Others did have practical consequences, such as the construction of a wall on the Mexican border, or leaving the TTP.

However, the one that generated a real crisis was the so-called “Muslim ban” which banned Muslims citizens of seven countries (Libya, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) from entering the U.S., including those who had previous visas for entry or residence permits already. The E.O. was made effective through detentions at the airport of Muslim people from any of these countries, including of those who were returning to their homes in the U.S. after a trip abroad. The executive order also suspended for 120 days the acceptance of refugees from those countries (with specific focus on Syria).

In an article of Workers’ Voice already published in this site[2], we analyze in depth the mass movement’s response to this measure and the reaction of other sectors in the country. We want to highlight some aspects, now.

The first one is that, in addition to the mass movement’s reaction, this measure deepened the fissure of important bourgeois sectors with Trump – which we have been discussing. Large companies, such as the Silicon Valley ones (among others, Google, Facebook and Apple) came out to criticize the measure, and Ford did the same. The large chain of Starbucks coffee shops announced that, in response to that measure, it would hire 10,000 immigrants.

Very important bourgeois media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the NBC strongly criticized such measure and provided a wide coverage to demonstrations (the Washington Post even made live transmission on its website). Other media such as The Guardian talked about the need of a “mass peaceful resistance” and even a general strike if Trump persisted with the measure.

The second aspect is that this measure produced an institutional crisis with part of the country’s judicial system. In a few days, two judges issued an opinion against it and ordered for it not be implemented. First, it was Judge Ann Donnelly of Brooklyn (New York) and a few days later the Federal Judge of Seattle (Washington), James Robert.

The truth is that these decisions caused a real mess regarding the implementation of the measure. Local police (depending on mayors), according to the orientation given by their mayors, were divided between those who did not apply it and those that did. The same happened with airport authorities. On its side, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) submitted to Trump’s orders and carried them forward. All this was done in a context of demonstrations against the ban surrounding the airports and, in the case of the JFK (New York), the strike of the taxi drivers’ union and the attendance of a large number of lawyers to assist detainees pro-bono. Even Sally Yates, Attorney General of the United States, ordered to Justice Department lawyers not to process the order, for being considered as “inappropriate.” Shortly after, Trump relieved her of her office.

With his big-mouth style, Trump attacked James Robert in several tweets: “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforce away, is ridiculous and will be overturned.” However the measure it has suffered several setbacks so far, and diverse Courts of Appeal from different states (such as Washington and California) have ratyfied the non-application of this measure. Beyond its arrogant tone, this “judicial rebellion” and, essentially, the mass mobilization forced Trump to step back and suspend the ban, which represents the first defeat of his government.

Of course the government will not give up and it has already announced that it will follow the “judicial route”, which means that this matter will eventually be defined legally by the Supreme Court. The thing is that, currently, the court has eight members and the analysts estimate that a vote today would give a tie: four votes in favor of Trump and four against. Trump hopes that the Congress will approve his candidate Neil Gorsuch as the ninth member and thus to achieve the majority in Court and a favorable ruling to the implementation of his executive order. However, Trump’s own candidate has criticized him saying that his actions “weaken and demoralize the judicial system.”

Even if this decree were approved by the Supreme Court, that does not eliminate two facts. On the one hand, the very high political and institutional cost that to be paid for it. On the other hand, the organizations that called for marches to the airports already announced that they will mobilize again if there were any new detentions and ban to enter the country.

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Translation: Misty M.

Notes:

[1] Available at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21715660-global-firms-are-surprisingly-vulnerable-attack-multinational-company-trouble

[2] See “No ban, no wall! Sanctuary for all!”: http://litci.org/en/no-ban-no-wall-sanctuary-for-all/

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Read first article of the series here: http://litci.org/en/trumps-first-weeks/