Over the past couple years I have been in contact with a Kurdish socialist living in Turkey. He is a member of a socialist party called “the Freedom and Solidarity Party”. The surreal chaos in the United States over the past few months is tame compared to the events that have occurred in Turkey.
In an effort to learn more about the political situation in each others’ countries we decided to interview one another. What follows is part one of two interviews. It contains the questions the Kurdish comrade had for me and my answers.
I will publish part two in few weeks. The interview was passed on to another member of the Freedom and Solidarity Party where the questions are currently being translated and answered- then the answers will be translated and sent back to me. I hope to get it out as soon as possible. The situation in Turkey and Kurdistan is rapidly changing and increasingly dangerous for Kurds and socialists. I believe it is important to share their story with people here in the United States.
Until then I hope you enjoy this interview. It will eventually be translated and published in the Freedom and Solidarity Party’s journal. So if you speak Turkish or Kurdish keep an eye out for that.
- What were the conditions of the socialist movement in US before elections and currently, how has its condition changed after Trump?
The material conditions for a socialist movement have existed in the U.S. before the 2016 election. Since 2008 people, especially young people and poor workers, have been looking for alternatives to the current system. The Occupy movement was a crude expression of this desire. But the material conditions that can lead to a socialist movement can also lead to a right-wing populist movement. This is partly what has happened in the United States.
The Left in the United States has been completely decimated since at least the early 90s. This has been the result of three major factors.
- Decades of anti-communist propaganda. From the time we are children American’s are taught to fear communism. Anti-communism is part of U.S. culture. Anti-communism is reflected in our media, schools, places of work, etc. It is very hard for people to conceive of communism as anything other than Stalinist totalitarianism. Many people in the U.S. believe that the USSR was worse than Nazi Germany.
- Attacks from the state. At the turn of the 20th century the union movement and left wing politics were growing at a fast rate. The state attempted to violently crush the labor movement. If you look at the history of the early American labor movement you will find that it is a bloody history, full of workers being massacred by soldiers and by mercenaries called “Pinkertons”. This culminated in the first “Red Scare” after the October Revolution in Russia. Socialist groups were driven underground, leaders were thrown in jail, and an active state propaganda campaign was initiated. There was a massive resurgence of the left in the 1930s, but a second Red Scare occurred in the 40’s and 50’s. Another upsurge of social movements occurred in the 60’s and early 70’s. This is the era of the civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, the anti-war movement, the feminist movement, and a renewed socialist movement. Unfortunately the state intervened again. They infiltrated Leftist organizations to spread misinformation and distrust between members. The state murdered and imprisoned many of the leaders of the black civil rights movement and black revolutionary movement. n the 80’s Ronald Reagan attacked the unions and embraced neoliberalism wholeheartedly. Bill Clinton continued this throughout the 90s. We have not seen an upsurge in socialism since the 60s.
- We are split between a number of small sects. The propaganda and attacks from the state have led to a situation where the left is small and fractured. The largest socialist group in the United States is the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), with about 15,000 members. They are a broad tent reformist group with a small revolutionary left-wing. The next two largest groups are Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and International Socialists of America (ISO). From what I’ve heard they each have between 700-900 members. After this is the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), a Marxist-Leninist group. PSL probably has about 300-400 members. There are various Maoist groups and anarchist groups across the country but they do not reach the same numbers as the groups mentioned above.
This leaves us with roughly 30,000-40,000 organized, but bitterly divided, socialists in a country of 300 million people. That’s .013% of the population. I would even argue that only about 17,000 of this number are active.
Back to the point about the material conditions for a socialist movement: the conditions have been there since 2008- but the Left hasn’t. A majority of the jobs that have been regained since the 2008 crash have been very low paying jobs, with no benefits and terrible hours. Schools are falling apart in many cities. People are in an incredible amount of debt that they will never pay off. Our health care system is still a disaster. Drug addiction and suicide rates are higher than they have been in decades. The working class is being crushed and the capitalist class is getting richer than ever before. Without a Left to organize them and fight with them, a vacuum has been created. The far Right has filled this vacuum. It blames the suffering of the working class on immigrants, minorities, and not enough capitalism. The Liberals have failed the working class and the working class knows it. This is why a segment of the working class supports the Republicans and Trump in particular. They rail against the elite liberals that have overseen a decline in living conditions and wages.
But large sections of the working class also supported Bernie Sanders. Sanders is not a true socialist in the sense that you and I would define it, but he did use the term socialism. The fact that he could advocate for “socialism” and still receive millions of votes is encouraging. It means that the propaganda of the 20th century is wearing off and the word is becoming destigmatized. This opens up space for socialists to spread our message.
After the election of Trump almost every socialist organization, especially DSA, SAlt, and ISO gained hundreds of members. DSA gained 2,000 members in about a month. With the recent growth of socialist organization, the Black Lives Matter movement, the movement against oil pipelines being built through indigenous people’s land, the mass mobilizations against Trump, and the occupations of airports in response to the Muslim ban, I am cautiously optimistic. We have a small chance to make an impact, which is a best chance we’ve had in my lifetime.
- How does the socialist movement evaluate or define the “Trump”, and can they predict what will happen in the future with Trump’s government?
Different socialists define Trump differently. Certainly everyone considers him and his administration our enemy. Some socialists see him as a neo-fascist, while others define him as an authoritarian right-wing populist. The most accurate prediction that we can all agree on is that things will be bad. The Republicans and the far-right have been trying to implement their agenda for the past 8 years. Luckily Obama was able to veto most of their legislation. Trump will not veto anything the Republicans in Congress pass. It will all become law, maybe with the exception of free trade deals. Additionally, he has been signing executive orders to push through a right wing agenda even faster than anticipated. Trump has also chosen a right-wing judge to sit on the Supreme Court, which shifts the balance of power to the Right. One of the most vile aspects of his presidency has been the surge of the far right. The KKK, white nationalists, and Nazis feel empowered. We fear they will attack people on the streets, and they have. Just recently an elderly Korean woman was beaten in broad daylight by a white nationalist. College campuses across the country have seen racist posters and flyers hung up around campus. Currently Steve Bannon is Trump’s “Chief Strategist”. Bannon is the former editor of “Breitbart”- an online magazine. Breitbart is an extremely racist far-right publication. They are white supremacists in every way except the name. It has been rumored that Bannon has been crafting all the executive orders. He was recently appointed to the National Security Council. The fact that this man has so much power is just as concerning as Trump having power.
Under Trump black people will continue to be killed in the streets by police officers, their communities will continue to suffer under de-facto occupation, and they will continue to be the main target of mass incarceration. Social welfare programs will be cut or eliminated entirely. Oil extraction will increase and federally protected land will be opened up to fracking. Off-shore oil drilling will also increase. Wall Street will be completely deregulated. There will be large tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Voting rights will be curbed. Abortion could be banned. The chance of more wars will increase exponentially. Mass surveillance will continue. Deportations will increase and refugees will not be accepted. It is not a good situation.
This isn’t happening simply because of Trump though. This is the result of the Republican party moving very far to the right over the past 20 years and the total collapse of the Democrats. During Obama’s presidency the Democrats lost control of the Senate, the House of Representatives, a majority of state legislators, and almost every state governorship. They have been essentially destroyed. In the wake of this the Republicans have gained total and complete control of the country.
Many socialists, including me, believe Trump is an incompetent moron . He is a good showman and that’s it. Trump’s ego is too large to have a stable administration. Information is leaking from the White House everyday- which implies he cannot trust his staff. The stories that leak paint the picture of a man who has no idea what he is doing and is more concerned with his own image than with the country or the world. I don’t know if Trump will be reelected or impeached or will serve for 8 years, but it almost doesn’t matter. The unique threat of Trump is his stupidity, his unpredictability, and his Cabinet picks. The rest of this disaster is the result of the far-right having captured power. Mike Pence would be just as damaging, as would Ted Cruz. Trump simply represents all the collective desires and ambitions of the petty bourgeois far-right and his election means the actualization of the far-right agenda.
- Can you compare and contrast the Trump and Clinton campaigns?
I want to start by providing some context. Clinton’s campaign relied almost entirely on what the U.S. media dubbed the “Obama Coalition”. The Obama Coalition refers to the groups of people Obama was able to mobilize to vote for him. The black community, the latinx community, women, working class whites, wealthy intellectuals, and young people all came out in high numbers to vote for Obama. Obama was able to mobilize millions of people because he is, regardless of what you think of him, and incredible public speaker. His speeches are inspiring, dignified, and vague enough that anyone can see their own desires in his words. People projected their hopes onto Obama and his administration.
The Democrats did not realize that this would lead directly to disaster. The country had high, though misplaced, hopes in Obama. He came to office in the midst of a economic and political crisis. His first term was a list of centrist compromises and reconstruction of the capitalist system on the backs of workers. After his first term many people believed he would fight more for the worker and move to the left, since he would not have to worry about reelection. This did not happen. Obama expanded Bush’s national security state, expanded the war on terror, expanded the power of the executive office, expanded the deportation machine, and implemented neoliberal measures in an attempt to fix the economy. Meanwhile workers across the country suffered, most of the jobs gained back since 2008 are low paying and/or part time jobs, inequality is growing, the black population is still segregated, there has been a severe outbreak of heroin addiction throughout the country, the list goes on and on. The average American, and the world, continued to see their quality of life decline under the neoliberal reign of Obama.
Simultaneously over the past 8 years elections held at the state level have eviscerated the Democrats. There are only 4 states out of the country that have both a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature. At the federal level Democrats lost both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2016. This was a direct result of the people’s disillusionment with Obama and the Democrats.
This brings us to Clinton’s campaign. The Clinton campaign believed that Hillary would inherit the Obama Coalition- but she did not. First, because she simply was not Obama. She could not match his charisma which had motivated so many people to vote for the Democratic Party. Second, because people suffered greatly under Obama. One of Clinton’s slogans was “to continue Obama’s legacy”. The Democratic party did not realize that for millions of people life under Obama was terrible. She assumed she was going to be the next president but hundreds of counties in the Midwest that had voted for Obama twice, didn’t turn out to vote for Hillary.
The Democrats took for granted Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania- which are key states. Clinton did not even set foot in Wisconsin and Michigan. Trump won all four, and by winning these four he won the election. It all comes down to these 4 states.
Each of the four have a large working class population that has been decimated by capitalist globalization and neoliberalism.Clinton did not offer anything to these people. They knew the Democratic party had held executive power for 16 of the past 24 years, they saw their lives get worse and worse, and they heard Clinton offering the status quo.
Only 9% of Clinton’s ads spoke about the economy. That says a lot about Clinton and the Democrats.. Chuck Schumer, the current leader of the Democrats, is quoted as saying “for every working class vote we lose in rural Pennsylvania, we will gain two votes from Republican women in the suburbs”. Instead they lost the working class vote, and Republican women voted for Trump because, after all, they were Republicans.
And it’s not that voters voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million. But in key states with a large working class population voters simply stayed home.
It was this hubris that brought down the Clinton campaign. She was so isolated from the mass of people that she could not sense the overwhelming anger and disillusionment with the Democrats. They ran a typical “good” campaign during an election that was anything but typical. She may have gotten more raw votes but that’s not how our elections are decided. Her arrogant electoral strategy carelessly lost key demographics in important states.
Trump, on the other hand, ran an atypical campaign. His campaign was a disaster by every measure. There were constant scandals and chronic mismanagement. The media tried to bring his campaign down with these scandals. In the United States when a politician is involved in a scandal they usually apologize for their behavior and resign. Trump didn’t do that- he persisted. I’ve read that this left some reporters shocked.
Trump had one message: Make America Great Again. He spoke about “draining the swamp” (Washington D.C.) of the elites that were destroying the lives of average citizens. And in some respects he is right. The elites in Washington should be overthrown. But Trump simply wants to replace one faction of elites with a different faction of elites. He lost the popular vote. Millions of Americans are disgusted by him. He won simply because he was able to energize his far-right base and Hillary was unable to mobilize the Obama Coalition.
I’d argue that a majority of Americans viewed Trump and Clinton as the two worst presidential candidates in U.S. history.
- What structural changes to the state does Trump plan to implement? For example, regarding Obamacare and gun rights.
It’s hard to predict anything Trump will do. He’s going to make the state apparatus even more reactionary than it was before. He recently signed an executive order that calls for the hiring of thousands of new border patrol agents. The Democrats have done this before too, so as disgusting as it is it’s not unprecedented. Trump also expanded the definition of “criminal” in regards to undocumented immigrants (which the right refers to as “illegal aliens”). The Obama administration deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. It was terrible. Obama had a system in place where deportations were, nominally, carried out by priority. Immigrants who had committed felonies, in other words very serious crimes, would be the first to be deported. They were high priority. Trump has repeatedly stated that he would be deporting “dangerous criminals”. Some believed “criminal” might mean the very worst offenders, but of course it doesn’t. Trump has expanded the definition of “criminal” to mean people who have committed minor crimes such as speeding or not paying a parking ticket. This effectively does away with the priority system. Obama also protected undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. He would not deport these people. Trump will. Just this week an undocumented woman, a mother, who came to the U.S. when she was 14 years old, was arrested by immigration officers and deported.
Additionally, Trump has signed an executive order which dictates for every 1 new government regulation on business, 2 existing regulations must be eliminated. The Republicans aim to make the market even more laissez-faire. This executive order sounds like a bureaucratic disaster though. I have no idea how they would implement this. I imagine it will give many administrators a headache.
As far as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as “Obamacare”, it may be a more complex issue. Socialists don’t really like the ACA. It is not nationalized health care. It is actually marketized health care. I won’t get into all of the details here- it’s a big, complicated law. But essentially what the ACA does is create a health care market in each state. I would go to the website, select my state of residence, and be directed to an insurance market. In the market I would browse a list of insurance plans to choose from. Each insurance company competes with one another in the market. The logic is that the competition will drive prices down. To ensure that this works properly Obamacare mandates that everyone is required to have health insurance. If you do not purchase insurance then you have to pay a fine.
What this really does is give the insurance companies a monopoly. Their customers are guaranteed by the government. The insurance companies compete with one another to a degree, but since everyone is mandated to buy health insurance the companies can keep prices high. No matter how high the prices go, you legally still must purchase insurance. This is far from free universal health care. Socialists maintain that health care is a human right and should not be subject to the market.
But the Affordable Care Act does come with some genuine positive aspects. For example, in the past insurance companies used to charge more or deny patients coverage due to “pre-existing conditions”. This means that patients who had asthma, allergies, diabetes, cancer, and more would be charged more for or denied coverage for medical treatment. As if it wasn’t bad enough, insurance companies would even stretch and manipulate the term “pre existing condition” to the limit. Almost anything could be considered a pre existing condition. The insurance companies made a lot of money doing this, and a lot of people died because of it. The ACA got rid of this. You can no longer be denied health insurance coverage because of a pre existing condition.
There are a few more popular measures implemented by the Affordable Care Act, such as the expansion of Medicaid, but in the end a nationalized health care industry would have been much better.
The Republicans have been trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act since it was put into place but it seems like, in all that time, they have not come up with a replacement. If they were to repeal the Affordable Care Act then millions would lose their health insurance and much worse. The Republican party itself is divided on how to replace the ACA. People are incredibly upset with the Republicans for this. Even people who voted for Trump are upset. There have been news reports on Trump voters that believed Affordable Care Act and Obamacare to be 2 different programs. The Republican propaganda machine can take credit for that misinformation. Now that it might disappear and not be replaced, it looks pretty bad for Republicans.
As far as gun rights I think laws will stay basically the same. Gun laws are generally drawn up on a state to state basis. I do not think the government will change Federal firearm laws. But if they do it would be to give people more freedom to purchase deadlier weapons.
In addition to the above domestic changes, there will be foreign policy changes. Expect the United States to become even more aggressive in international politics. Trump has signaled he may stop supporting the YPG. He has also taken an extremely hostile line toward Iran. The nuclear treaty that was negotiated and signed during the Obama administration will most likely be repealed. Expect ground troops in the Middle East at some point in the next 4 years. The Trump administration has more ex-generals on its staff than other administrations. I can’t say for sure, but I imagine Trump will order troops into Iraq or Syria. The new administration will also take a tough stance against China, especially in regards to territorial disputes in the South China sea.
Trump has also claimed the United States will pull out of TTP/TTIP negotiations. He is aiming to have a more protectionist economic policy. This is at odds with other Republican leaders, as most Republicans are staunch neoliberals.
- Is there any non-compliance in bureaucracy against Trump, for example in DOD? If this is possible, does Trump have enthusiasm to revise these institutions?
There have been instances of resistance to the Trump administration from within the state bureaucracy, though not from the Department of Defense. Many national parks continued to post facts on social media about climate change- Trump ended up implementing a gag order against them. The interim Attorney General refused to enforce the immigration ban and was fired for her resistance.
I’m not an expert on the topic, but it seems that there are elements of, what some call, the Deep State that are actively against Trump. In the days following the election, the intelligence community, which Trump has criticized on numerous occasions, leaked pretty unconvincing documents tying the administration to Russia. The documents basically implied Trump is an agent of the Kremlin, which is absurd. But in recent days real evidence has been presented to show that General Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, had spoken with his Russian officials before Trump became president to ensure Russia that Obama’s sanctions against them would be lifted under the Trump administration. This is a serious charge and Flynn has been forced to resign because of it. What’s interesting about this is that intelligence agencies had monitored Flynn’s phone calls. This all has led to a strange situation in which many liberals are openly hoping for the CIA or FBI to throw Trump out of office. Liberals are suddenly on the side of two horrible, reactionary organizations.
Another serious issue plaguing the Administration is the amount of leaks coming from inside the White House. The press has received an unprecedented amount of leaks from staff at the White House and officials working with Trump. It’s a sign that Trump cannot trust his staff. What’s worse for Trump is that the leaks paint a picture of an inexperienced President, surrounded by an incompetent inner circle, causing chaos throughout the government’s bureaucracy. This chaos is much more of a threat to Trump’s administration than individual bureaucrats committing acts of resistance.
- What is the Trump Administration doing differently from the Democratic Party in regards to financial regulations? How does he plan to prevent a crash similar to the 2008 crash? How does Trump interpret the 08’ crisis? How will his financial policies affect the working class?
I’m not necessarily the best person to ask for this question. I’m not knowledgeable enough to get into the specifics of financial regulations but I’ll try my best.
After the financial crisis of 2008 the Democrats passed a bill commonly called “Dodd-Frank”, named after the two senators that sponsored the bill. The bill was mostly toothless but did provide some more regulations to Wall Street as well as some consumer protections. Trump plans to entirely gut this bill. Wall Street would go back to the way it was before the 2008 crisis. I don’t believe Trump plans on preventing the next crash, and I don’t believe that he has a plan for it either. The only comments he’s made in reference to the 2008 crisis were that he was “excited” for it. He was excited because as a real estate magnate he could buy property for low prices.
A new crash will undoubtedly harm the working class, but there will always be a new crash. Financial disaster is built into the nature of capitalism.
- What is Trump’s approach to Middle East politics? How will U.S. Middle East policies change during Trump’s term?
Trump as an individual probably has no knowledge of the Middle East besides a list of countries he has property in. He’s an Islamophobic, racist, bigot. He once said that the United States should be “going after” family members of known terrorists. His approach will be very, very, aggressive.
Trump has surrounded himself with the racist far right, neo-conservative warhawks, billionaires, and military officials. The Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) is the former CEO of ExxonMobil, the Secretary of Defense (Gen. James Mattis) is a former high ranking general, and his Chief Strategist (Steve Bannon) believes that there is an inevitable clash of civilizations between the West and the Middle East. Bannon believes, in his own words, that
the Judeo-Christian West is in the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict … an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism—an enemy that, unless harsher measures are taken will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.
These are the types of people in control of United States foreign policy. Trump’s policies will be worse than Obama’s.
The Obama administration sold billions of dollars worth of weapons to Israel and turned a blind eye to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, but he paid lip service to the rights of Palestinians, chastised Netanyahu privately, and kept the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Trump will move the embassy to Jerusalem, he gets along great with Netanyahu, he will not even pretend to care about the Palestinians, and he will help to oversee the acceleration of West Bank settlements.
The Obama administration bombed seven different Muslim majority countries. He used a combination of drone strikes and special forces in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Iraq. Trump will continue these bombing campaigns and will probably add many more ground troops.
The Obama administration was harsh on Iran but negotiated an important nuclear agreement which lifted certain sanctions on the country. Under Trump the Iranian nuclear deal is going to be dissolved. I’m worried that the U.S. could end up at war with Iran.
The Obama administration gave some light arms and air cover to the SYD/YPG. This will likely end under Trump. The betrayal of the Kurds that was inevitable under Obama will happen much more quickly under Trump.
Overall expect a more violent Middle East foreign policy.
- What if Clinton would be elected?
Clinton’s policy toward the Middle East would be somewhere between Obama and Trump. She is more of a warhawk than Obama, but not as bluntly violent as Trump. If Clinton were elected it would be a continuation of Obama’s policies, but maybe a little harsher.
Clinton’s foreign policy overall would be more dangerous than Obama’s. Obama’s “Asian-pivot” was a direct threat to China and Hillary would continue to raise tensions with China, though not at the same level as intensity as Trump will. Clinton’s scariest foreign policy stance was in regards to Russia. She wishes to continue the New Cold War. She would take a very tough stance against Putin and I think she would escalate tensions dramatically.
Her domestic policy would be a continuation of Obama’s policies but maybe a little more friendly toward Wall Street. She would not have been a transformative president. As she made clear in her campaign she would be a continuation of the status quo.
- How do you interpret the concept of political establishment being identified with Clinton and anti-establishment being identified by Trump?
I think that to consider the 2016 election as a battle between establishment and anti establishment is broadly correct. But it is, of course, more complex than that. It is important in answering this question that we keep in mind that the capitalist class is not a united class. They fight with one another over how to maintain the system and they compete for positions of power. This is usually what the divide between the Democrats and Republicans consists of. The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain isn’t a fundamental difference in worldview or even ideology. They both support capitalism and wish to maintain it via neoliberalism at home and imperialism abroad. The difference between the two lies in implementation.
As I stated earlier, Clinton represented the status quo. She is the center or center-right of U.S. politics. She represents a significant faction of the ruling class. Trump, on the other hand, represents only a small faction of the ruling class. The faction of the capitalist class that supports Republican candidates were strongly against Trump, though I do think they are satisfied with him for now. During the election they supported Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich. After Trump became the Republican nominee many moderate Republican capitalists jumped ship and began supporting Hillary Clinton. This is because Trump represents and was carried in on a wave of radicalism.
Trump is the manifestation of the radical petty-bourgeoisie. Trump’s base consists of small and medium sized business owners and professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, managers, mid level administrators, police officers, etc. In addition to this is a smaller layer of the working class who are mostly white. In general, the petty bourgeoisie strongly support capitalism while simultaneously being threatened by the competition of the big bourgeoisie that normally run Washington DC. So in this sense, yes, Trump is anti-establishment because he represents a class that is normally not in control of the United States government and Hillary is the establishment because she represents the big bourgeoisie who run the country.
- During the protests after the results of election, who were the armed hammer-sickled flagged people? Liberals saw this as a provocation, but for old communists it was excitingly nostalgic.
These protesters were members of a Maoist group called the “Red Guards”. There are Red Guards in a handful of U.S. cities and while I do not agree with their analysis and stance on many things, I support them against racists, police, and the Right in general.
These armed protesters were attending a counter-demonstration of “All Lives Matter” activists. All Lives Matter is a loose affiliation of white nationalists, cops, and generally Trump supporting types. They are anti “Black Lives Matter”.
It was good to see communists carrying guns, even if their symbolism was a little over the top. The Left needs to arm itself because the Right is armed to the teeth in this country. I cannot stress enough how armed the Right is. They have organized militias out West that patrol the border with machine guns. Many of these people are military trained too. It’s disconcerting to say the least. So it was good to see leftists carrying guns. It also showed a number of people that the Left is willing to fight and die to end racial oppression as well as all other forms of oppression.
- What do Socialists think about the migrant issue and the bans? What are you planning about these?
Every socialist that I know believes in open borders and taking in as many refugees as possible. We are strongly opposed to the immigration ban. The United States has bombed almost all of the countries on the ban list. Refugees coming into this country were displaced because of U.S. imperialism. We need to take them in.
The recurring problem for the U.S. Left is that we have no power. This limits our ability to do anything about the immigration ban, or any other of Trump’s reactionary policies. Socialists have organized marches throughout the country in protest. When the ban was first announced liberals and socialists alike occupied airports in dozens of cities.
We are good at mobilizing people but we are not good at building sustained resistance. Marches can only do so much. We need to organize more occupations, organize more strikes, build solidarity networks, and build working class institutions. If we do not find a way to do all of these things then we will continue to lose.
- During the election Bernie Sanders was described as a socialist and seen as a hope in both the U.S.A. and the entire world. Did you see him this way? What expectations did you have for him?
Bernie Sanders can be a divisive topic in the U.S. Left. He calls himself a socialist but he is not a socialist as we understand it. Bernie Sanders is a social-democrat, similar to moderate politicians in the Netherlands or Sweden. He believes in “a mix of capitalism and socialism”, even though they are antithetical to one another. Many socialists saw Bernie as a “sheepdog” for the Democrats, which means they viewed his function as drawing people from the Left into the Democratic Party, having them engage with the party again, and then with Bernie’s inevitable loss, have him convince his followers to vote for Clinton.
I don’t believe Bernie thought this way. I think he genuinely wanted to turn the United States into a social-democracy. This is impossible though. The time of social-democracy is over. Europe, and even the Nordic countries, have implemented austerity and embraced neoliberalism. The system has stomped out social-democracy as a political project. We are back to the old dichotomy of socialism or barbarism.
So no, Bernie did not provide me with much hope. In the beginning he may have, but once I found out more about him the hope faded. If Bernie had won the presidency we would not have the reactionary attacks of the Trump Administration, but we would also not have socialism or anything close to it. If Bernie were president at the end of the next business cycle, then the crash (ironically) would be blamed on Bernie and socialism. The Left would lose even more legitimacy.
His supporters do provide some hope though. What Bernie did was inspire millions of workers and young people. He offered a vision of a society most people in the U.S. can only dream of, and like I suggested before it is only a dream. But it is a powerful vision and now people who were previously scared of socialism are learning about Marxist socialism. They are more willing to occupy, protest, and fight against the capitalist class. Many are reading socialist literature too. I would argue that more people in the United States are currently learning about Marxism than were twenty years ago. Socialist organizations have not seen an increase in membership solely because of Trump, but also because of Bernie. I disagree with the man a lot, but he is responsible for a renewed interest in socialism and revolutionary socialists need to capitalize on this.
- Erdoğan gathers local authorities (muhtar’s) in Turkey at regular intervals and talks to them. In recent news, we had seen that Trump invited chiefs to the White House in order to organize a meeting regarding the wall over at the border of Mexico. Can you make a comment on this?
To my knowledge this does not happen often, though Obama has done it too. After the killing of black people by police came to national attention Obama invited police chiefs from across the country to a conference. They basically spoke about small solutions to racist policing. It was all for show. Nothing substantial came out of it. It seems that Trump has gathered police to reassure them that he will support them over the black community and to discuss the deportation of immigrants.
He has signed executive orders deputizing local police forces to act as federal immigration agents. I think we will see more overt support for the police. They will receive more funding, more weapons, and less oversight. I think the meeting was a sign of an increase in police violence toward immigrants, latinx communities, and black communities.
- Would you mind explaining the anti-Trump protests? In which states do these protests continue? Approximately how many people attended the protests? Can you make a class-based analysis on the participation to anti-Trump protests? Also what is the role of identities (Blacks, immigrants, LGBTs and et cetera)? So, what is the social source of these protests in general meaning?
The first big protests occurred the day after Trump was elected. Thousands of people showed up in various cities around the country. I’ve heard estimates of 10,000 in New York and 2,000 in Boston. The next protests were on the day of Trump’s inauguration. Again thousands of people turned out in different cities, including Washington DC. These inauguration protests, also called the J20 protests, were organized primarily by socialists. The day after the J20 protests there was the “Women’s March”. This was organized primarily by liberals but it was by far the largest protest. Something like 3.5 million people marched in cities around the country. The most recent mass protests were the occupations of airports and corresponding marches in response to the immigration ban. Since then there have been occasional protests but they are smaller and less frequent.
The current protest movement is made up of liberal Democrats and socialists. So far it is a cross class movement. Rich liberals and poor working class people are marching side by side against Trump. I do not think this is a winning long term strategy. We need a mass workers movement to make any real change. But for now if the protests succeed in stopping or slowing down the Trump administration then that’s great, and along the way socialists should try to bring left leaning liberals to our side.
- Are these protests an ad hoc case or are they revolutionary in character?
These protests are not revolutionary. They are in direct response to Trump’s policies. If a Democrat had been elected the only people protesting would be the socialists and ex-Bernie supporters. These protests are still encouraging though. People are getting involved in the political process beyond voting. This is an opportunity. We have a chance to introduce socialism to some of these people who are new to activism.