nazi USA

As new US smashes records for new coronavirus infections, Ford and Fiat Chrysler report blowout profits
Shannon Jones, WSWS, Oct 30 2020

GM’s “Renaissance Center” HQ in Detroit, Michigan (Photo: Crisco 1492/Wikipedia)

In a clear demonstration of the capitalist ruling class’ real priorities in response to the pandemic, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have reported a third quarter surge in profits, beating all expectations, even as the coronavirus continues to spiral out of control. Ford’s profits rebounded to $2.4b in the quarter ending Sep 30, up from $425m in the same quarter last year. Fiat Chrysler reported $1.4b in earnings in the same period, including record profits in North America despite a fall in sales. General Motors, which does not report its 3rd quarter results until Nov 5, is expected to also report strong profits. Ford also said it had paid off the nearly $15b credit lines that it drew down earlier this year, after a wildcat strike wave forced a two-month closure of the Detroit automakers’ North American facilities during the initial wave of the pandemic. North American automakers built 4.1m vehicles in the third quarter, the same number as last year. Despite the explosion of COVID-19 cases across the industrial Midwest, Fiat Chrysler and other automakers have no intention of even a temporary pause in production. FCA says it now expects to earn an operating profit of between $3.5b and $4.1b in 2020.

The financial results for the Detroit automakers starkly reveal how all attempts at a rational and scientific plan to halt the pandemic collide with the capitalist profit motive. The increase in profits is the direct consequence of abandonment, by both management and by the federal and state governments, of serious measures to contain the spread of the virus in favor of a rapid reopening of the economy to repay the trillions pumped into the major corporations by the Federal Reserve. This is now leading to a massive resurgence of infections and deaths. Yesterday saw more than 91k confirmed new infections, shattering the previous record set only the day before. This has been accompanied by the removal of limited emergency financial aid for the unemployed aimed at applying economic pressure on workers to return to the factories at the risk of their health. This, combined with massive layoffs in the service and travel sector, has resulted since May in an eight percent increase in the number of Americans living in poverty. The imposition of a such deeply unpopular and homicidal policies is bound up with the Trump administration’s mobilization of far right forces. The right-wing conspiracy to murder Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer was reportedly facilitated by the right-wing protests in Lansing in the spring against the lockdowns, where many of the future co-conspirators met.

Even the largely cosmetic safety protocols introduced in May with the restart of auto production are being systematically discarded, with the full support and collaboration of the United Auto Workers union. Workers report that health screenings are being conducted in a slipshod and perfunctory manner. Even the wearing of masks is not being universally enforced. In September, FCA also eliminated the extra five minutes which had been added to break times to allow for cleaning. In a stark example of the inhumane working conditions which prevail in the factories, workers on the late shift at a Detroit-area FCA plant told the WSWS that the absence of medical staff on their shift meant they had to give first aid by themselves to a coworker who suffered a serious head injury until paramedics arrived. One worker told the WSWS:

The workers were using dirty rags to clean his head up, and the quality of first aid was not good. If this had been a dismemberment or something where a tourniquet was needed, the worker would have been dead.

A recently leaked internal FCA report showed that there had been two COVID-19 deaths and 59 infections at Jefferson North Assembly Plant through mid-October, numbers that the UAW and management had kept hidden from workers. Similar cover-ups are occurring at plants around the country.

The profit report also is a reflection of the way in which the automakers are leveraging the pandemic to accelerate a long-planned restructuring of the workforce. The threat of sickness and death has also been used to drive older, more vulnerable workers out of the factories through early retirements and extended leave, while thousands of low-paid temporary part time workers with no contract rights have been brought in to the plants. According to a recent report, wages for temporary workers in the auto industry are so low that the auto industry is struggling to compete with Amazon and other low-wage employers for new hires. The starting wage of $15/hr for jobs at the retail giant’s fulfillment centers is 20% higher than standard pay at most auto parts factories. As a consequence, auto companies have taken to extracting more labor out of their existing workforce, imposing forced overtime and six-day workweeks. For example, at FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant north of Detroit, management is imposing a 12-hr 7-day work schedule for the skilled trades. Production workers at the plant are routinely forced to work 50 hrs/wk or more.

Even after the pandemic is over, the industry’s shift to electric vehicles and the launch of electric cars will be used to further drive down costs. Electric vehicles have fewer moving parts than gas driven vehicles and require significantly less labor to build, cutting man-hours per vehicle from 6.7 to 3.7. There is every indication that investments in new EV plants will be contingent on even further concessions from the UAW which reduce autoworkers to the level of gig economy workers. For example, GM’s new battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, a short distance from the shuttered Lordstown Assembly Plant, will pay wages of just $15/hr to $17/hr, far less than that currently earned by most assembly workers. General Motors has also invested $75m in EV startup Lordstown Motors, which will produce the Endurance electric truck starting next year at an expected substandard pay rate of around $17/hr.

In opposition to the homicidal drive to sacrifice workers’ health and safety for profits, the SEP and the WSWS are helping workers develop rank-and-file safety committees in auto plants and other workplaces. These committees are fighting to mobilize workers around the country and the world around a series of common demands, including full transparency on the spread of the disease, universal testing with full compensation for workers who are forced to go into quarantine after exposure and the collective right of workers to halt production if necessary to protect lives. The working class must organize to demand that the full industrial, financial and scientific resources of society, coordinated on an international scale, must be brought to bear against the pandemic. The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter is helping workers to build rank-and-file committees in opposition to the UAW’s treachery, to oppose the unsafe working conditions during the pandemic. To join or to form a committee at your plant, contact us at autoworkers@wsws.org.

Trump holds closed-door meeting with Special Forces troops
Patrick Martin, WSWS, Oct 29 2020

President Donald Trump held a closed-door meeting Thursday with Special Forces troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The meeting, given the bland label “Troop Engagement” on the official White House schedule, was a private session with the assassination squad that carried out the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2019. The purported agenda of the visit to Fort Bragg was for Trump and his wife Melania to present a Unit Citation to the group and visit a Special Forces memorial on the grounds of the huge base. But it is highly unlikely that Trump would devote precious time, five days before an election in which he is trailing in the polls, to a purely ceremonial event. The importance Trump attached to the meeting is indicated by the fact that it was carried out despite dangerous weather conditions that forced his campaign to cancel an outdoor rally in nearby Fayetteville, scheduled for two hours later. The area was hit by wind gusts of up to 50 mph from the weather system that once was Hurricane Zeta.

No further details of who Trump met and what discussions were held have been made available. But Fort Bragg is a massive military installation that includes both Army SOC, headquarters for the most highly trained killers in the US military, and the 82nd Airborne Division, one of the most important rapid deployment forces of the US Army. Any effort by Trump to defy the results of the election would certainly generate mass protests throughout the US. Trump could well have used the Fort Bragg visit to discuss potential armed responses to such a political explosion, and to assess the level of his support within the military units stationed there, and among their commanders. When Trump made his initial attempt at a presidential coup d’etat Jun 1, when he threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act against the mass protests provoked by the police murder of George Floyd, he summoned troops from two locations to the DC area: Fort Bragg and Fort Drum in New York State. While these forces never actually entered the capital, they were stationed nearby for nearly a week.

Trump traveled to North Carolina from the Tampa, Florida area, the site of another key military headquarters, CENTCOM, which controls all US military activities in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the war in Afghanistan, naval and air operations directed against Iran, air and ground operations in Iraq and Syria, and drone missile warfare in Yemen. In Tampa, Trump addressed a campaign rally where he delivered his usual incoherent and delusional rants, vilifying Biden and the Democrat Party, and threatening China with retaliation for the coronavirus. His supporters began chanting “Make them pay.” But Trump’s main target was socialism, which he presented as an imminent threat. he told the crowd:

Tuesday, your vote is going to save our country. This is the most important election we have ever had. We are going to defeat the Marxists, the socialists, the rioters, the flag burners, the left-wing extremists. We are going to defeat the anarchists.

As usual at Trump’s rallies, his supporters were crowded together and largely unmasked. There is a steady trickle of reports of people infected and sick with coronavirus after attending Trump campaign rallies, which have been held in some of the hardest-hit states, such as Wisconsin, Nebraska and Iowa. Trump is holding a series of such “superspreader events,” as Dr Anthony Fauci called them last week, in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and back to North Carolina in the days leading up to the election. The Financial Times reported Thursday that there was a direct empirical correlation between the growth of coronavirus infections and Trump’s worsening standing in the polls. The newspaper said its analysis showed that in battleground states where COVID-19 cases had risen by more than 7% in the past week, Trump trailed by an average of 4.3%. In states where COVID-19 cases had risen by 6% or less, he trailed by just 1.4%.

The Trump campaign received two legal setbacks Wednesday, as the US Supreme Court declined to intervene in Pennsylvania and North Carolina against state court rulings that election officials could extend the period for accepting mail ballots, so long as the ballots had been postmarked by Nov 3. In North Carolina, the court by a 5-3 margin let stand a state court ruling that allowed the state Board of Elections, which is controlled by the Democrat governor, to extend acceptance of mail ballots from Nov 6 to Nov 12. The Nov 6 date had been set by the Republican-controlled state legislature. In Pennsylvania, the court unanimously denied an appeal by Republicans that it stop the state government from accepting mail ballots received Nov 4-6, but postmarked Nov 3 or earlier. The court did not make a final ruling on whether such ballots could be counted, and three members (Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch) said they might support suppression of such ballots, but that it was too late to issue such an order before Election Day. These were the same three justices who were in the minority in the North Carolina decision. The rulings in both cases differed from the court’s decision on a similar Wisconsin case, where by 5-3 the justices overturned a federal district court order extending the deadline for accepting mail ballots. The two justices who shifted their positions, Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts, reportedly cited the fact that in North Carolina and Pennsylvania it was state courts rather than federal courts who had made the decision, and that state courts were entitled to some latitude in interpreting state election laws.

Demonstrations against police violence continue in Washington DC, federal agents target Philadelphia teacher for protesting
Jacob Crosse, WSWS, Oct 30 2020

Four police officers involved in the killing of 20-year-old Karon Hylton-Brown in Washington D.C. have been placed on paid leave, as protests continued near the 4th District police station for the third night in a row Thursday. Hylton-Brown, a recent father, was being pursued by multiple police vehicles for allegedly not wearing a helmet while riding his scooter on October 23 before he crashed into a civilian vehicle. He was transported to the hospital and put on life support before passing away on Monday. Hylton-Brown’s death came on the same day 27-year-old Uber Eats driver, aspiring rapper, and newlywed, Walter Wallace Jr, was murdered by two, still publicly unnamed Philadelphia police officers, who have since been relegated to desk duty. The killing and subsequent release of a social media video showing Wallace’s last moments prompted an outpouring of anger in the impoverished West Philadelphia neighborhood, leading to two nights of protests in which several hundred people marched in the streets and clashed with police.

The heinous shooting of yet another person suffering a mental health crisis, who constitute nearly a quarter of all fatal police shootings in the last five years, and the subsequent outpouring of anger by the Philadelphia community have been seized upon by President Donald Trump to justify the deployment of state and local, as well as federal, paramilitary forces ahead of the election. The deployment of federal troops and the whipping up of fascist militias throughout the country is part of Trump’s strategy to subvert the election results and remain in power should he lose. To give the appearance of legality, Trump will rely on the support of the Supreme Court, and the newly appointed justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former clerk to arch-reactionary Justice Antonin Scalia, to rubber stamp his coup.

In response to Trump’s threats to subvert the election, the Democrat Party is simply urging people to vote, while Trump prepares to deploy federal agents, as he did in Portland and Seattle earlier this year. In Pennsylvania, the Democrats as they did in response to police brutality in Minnesota and Wisconsin earlier this year, have taken it upon themselves to empower the oppressive arm of the state. Five people were arrested on Wednesday night for violating a curfew that was imposed by Democrat Mayor Jim Kenney. The curfew has since been lifted. However, this does not mean a lessening of militarized oppression. On Wednesday, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf signed a proclamation of disaster emergency which authorized millions of dollars for the police and National Guard. Despite scant protests in the city Wednesday night and Thursday, National Guard soldiers are still en route and set to deploy throughout the city beginning on Friday and into Saturday. After perfunctory expressions of sympathy by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democrats shifted quickly to denouncing protesters for engaging in “violence” and “looting.” Due to the shared social interests they represent, the Democrat Party, a party of Wall Street, war and CIA, is unwilling and unable to defend workers’ interests and lives. After spending Wednesday mimicking Trump’s demands for “law and order,” Biden has seemingly dropped the matter entirely, releasing no new statements.

There are several unanswered questions pertaining to the murder of Wallace. His family has maintained from the outset that when they called emergency services on Monday, they specifically requested an ambulance to assist with Wallace, who suffered from bipolar disorder and was taking lithium. The family has also stated that police were called to the residence three times in total that day and multiple times within the last year. There is no doubt that the police officers who shot Wallace that day knew who he was prior to arriving on the scene with guns drawn. Meanwhile, protesters affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement in D.C. have claimed that over 200 unarmed protesters and community members have been injured by police during protests on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Several demonstrators claimed that police purposefully kettled protesters before deploying percussion grenades, foam-baton rounds, and pepper spray. Along with demonstrators, independent journalists and even children who were attempting to avoid the protests by hiding in a nearby McDonald’s were subjected to pepper spray.

The DC Metropolitan police department released footage on Thursday which corroborates what witnesses and the family have stated. The officers, in apparent violation of their own policy of not pursuing someone if the alleged offense is a mere traffic violation, were chasing Hylton-Brown for several minutes. While the state released a short dash cam video which shows the moment of the accident, security footage taken from a home prior to the crash shows police chasing him for several minutes beforehand. The officer leading the pursuit and driving behind Hylton-Brown has been identified by the community and confirmed by Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser as Terrance Sutton. Bowser has declined to name the other officers involved in the pursuit pending the completion of the official cover-up. Sutton was named in a DC ACLU lawsuit earlier this year for his role in an unconstitutional search and sexual assault and is well-known in the working class community he patrols as an aggressive sadist with a history of abusing young black working class men like Karon.

While federal paramilitaries, such as BORTAC agents and US marshals have yet to be ordered by Trump into Pennsylvania, federal forces are still targeting protest leaders in an attempt to snuff out dissent to unending police murder. On Thursday a federal indictment was unsealed that includes arson charges against a well-known West Philadelphia activist and social studies teacher, Anthony Smith. It alleges that Smith, along with two other men, were responsible for allegedly setting fires during George Floyd protests on May 30 2020 that led to the destruction of a police cruiser. The sparse indictment, only six pages long, does not actually allege that Smith set anything on fire. However, that did not stop federal agents from raiding Smith’s home early Wednesday morning and transporting him several hours away to the Allenwood Jail. In a statement released by supporters affiliated with Philly For REAL Justice, James Miles, a friend of Smith questioned the timing of, and the political motivations behind the arrest. He said:

After two nights of mass arrests and police brutality against community members calling for justice for Walter Wallace, seeing Federal charges brought against a movement leader like Anthony is sickening. All this makes you wonder. Is the Federal government arresting and charging movement leaders to try to scare the rest of us?

Philadelphia educators speak out against the deadly reopening of schools
Samuel Davidson, WSWS Oct 29 2020

Conestoga Valley, Pennsylvania: classroom with in-person instruction

Amid the escalating political crisis in the week before Election Day in the US, there is mounting anger among educators in the Philadelphia metropolitan region, where plans are in place to resume in-person teaching early next month. Philadelphia School District, the largest in the state with 125k students, is set to resume in-person classes after Nov 17, while nearby Methacton School District, with roughly 5k students, is finalizing plans to resume classes Nov 9 under the hybrid model. Pittsburgh Public Schools, with nearly 22k students, was planning to reopen under the hybrid model on Nov 9. Facing an immense backlash at a school board meeting Monday, the district was forced to postpone reopening plans until January.

As is the case throughout the US, COVID-19 cases have been spiking in Pennsylvania since the reopening of schools this fall. According to Worldometers, 208k people in Pennsylvania have contracted the virus and 8,837 people have died. On Tuesday, 2,751 new cases were reported by Health Dept officials. COVID-19 cases in Allegheny county, which includes Pittsburgh, are also spiking with over 15k cases and 422 deaths. Pennsylvania has a patchwork of 500 school districts, each choosing independently whether to open with face-to-face learning, online learning, or a hybrid model that combines the two. Many teachers returning for face-to-face instruction in districts across the state have reported that they have been given one face mask and a bottle of “blue liquid” as a disinfectant, while others have been provided with nothing.

The reopening of schools in Pennsylvania takes place under extraordinary political conditions. Pennsylvania voted for Trump in 2016 and is considered a must-win for Trump in the 2020 elections. As a result, Trump has been attacking mail-in balloting in the state as a fraud and is mobilizing police and right-wing militia members to be at the polls Tuesday to intimidate voters. Following the uncovering of plots to kidnap and kill several governors in swing states, at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on Monday, Trump led the crowd in a chant of “lock him up,” in a reference to Democrat Governor Tom Wolf. Despite claims that he is being overly restrictive to prevent the spread of the pandemic, Wolf has in fact adopted the herd immunity policy of the Trump administration and is pushing for the reopening of in-person teaching. Wolf has come under attack from the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled state legislature for not pushing for the reopening of the state’s economy fast enough in the spring.

In Philadelphia, major protests have erupted this week following the police murder of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr. The protests have been brutally suppressed by police, who have arrested hundreds of demonstrators, charging dozens with felonious assault on police officers. Hundreds of National Guard troops are expected to arrive in the city today, preparing for a further escalation of the confrontations with protesters. In Montgomery county near Philadelphia, the Methacton School District is pressing ahead with reopening plans, despite COVID-19 cases and deaths rising steadily to nearly 14k cases and 900 deaths. An educator from the Methacton School District who spoke with the WSWS anonymously for fear of retaliation, stated:

You are going to have students, employees and the community getting sick and possibly dying. Things are getting worse, and they want to pack these kids together. I get it, you want the kids to have school, but all Wolf cares about is getting people back to work, not the health of the students. The desks are 5 feet by 6 feet. The teachers will have to wipe them down between each class. There are not many details of how this will work. They say they will stagger classes so you don’t have so many students in the hallways, but if you bring the students in, they are going to gather. The classes will be smaller, only half the students will come on one day, the other half will be online. This will make it much harder to have to teach both at once, watching a computer screen while trying to teach and talk to the students.

A Philadelphia bus driver who also wished to remain anonymous told the WSWS:

There were about 80 to 100 drivers that showed up for our kick-off meeting. It was held in the cafeteria which is way too small. Everyone had a face mask, but there were no temperature checks.

Speaking on the unsafe conditions she faces, the bus driver said:

There is no money for additional buses. I have 45 students on my route, which means there could be 20-25 kids on any given day. The CDC recommends one student per seat every other seat. But they said they are going by Montgomery County guidelines, which are weak. For transportation, all they say is what is feasible. If they don’t have the buses, then they will have to fill up the buses they have. Contact tracing is a joke. I’m supposed to say if a student doesn’t show up for a few days and then they will contact the school to contact the parents to see what is up. By then it could have spread way out of control.

Summarizing the economic motives driving state policy, she noted:

Wolf doesn’t care about us, they just want everything open so that they can make their money.

The American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania (AFT-P) and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) have criminally enabled the drive of big business to force workers back to schools and job sites, vouchsafing plans for a “safe” reopening of schools and the broader economy. The Pennsylvania Educators Rank-and-File Safety Committee is fighting to mobilize educators, bus drivers, parents and students throughout Pennsylvania to close schools in the interests of public health, and to provide full funding and resources for online learning until the pandemic is contained. We urge all those who wish to take up this struggle to join our committee and contact us today.

Introductory remarks to “What is Left of American Democracy on the Eve of the 2020 Election?”
David North, WSWS, Oct 29 2020

On Wednesday Oct 28, the San Diego State University Dept of Political Science held an online forum with WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North and University of Pennsylvania Professor Emeritus Adolph Reed. The following are David North’s introductory remarks to the event.

Allow me to express my appreciation to the Political Science Dept of San Diego State University, and to Jonathan Graubart, Briana Wiley, Emanuele Saccarelli, and Latha Varadarajan for organizing and inviting me to participate in this discussion. Let me also state that I am pleased to have the opportunity to share the podium with a scholar so distinguished and intellectually principled, politically militant and as devoted to the cause of the working class as Professor Adolph Reed. I have had the good fortune to deliver a number of lectures at SDSU during the past few years, but it has always been in person and before a visible audience. The meetings, especially the question and answer period, have always been both lively and challenging. I intend to keep my opening remarks fairly brief in order to allow as much time for questions as possible and for an exchange of views.

I think that Latha has very well opened up this discussion by pointing to the extraordinary circumstances under which we are meeting. The pandemic is what we have called on the WSWS a “trigger event.” It is in a sense as significant an event in history as the outbreak of WW1. This is an event which, if I can speak directly to the students at SDSU, will profoundly change your lives and will have a profound impact upon the future. It is an event which will not be resolved only through science, or even predominantly through science and medicine, but rather through political action. If anything can be said about the experience of the past year, the ever-rising toll and death, the misery and tragedy, it is that it has totally and irrevocably exposed the political, social, economic, and I might add moral bankruptcy of the capitalist system. In much the same way as WW1 blew apart the myths and self-confidence of an era in which until 1917 capitalism seemed invincible, for millions of people all over the world, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, racial background, religion, in all parts of the world, the impact of this pandemic is being felt.

Latha has already referred to the death toll in America, which is probably greater than 227k. Over 1m people have died throughout the world. In Brazil, the death toll is 157k, in India 120k, in Italy 57k, in Britain 46k. Today, Germany has once again announced that it is entering into a lockdown. Every attempt to control this virus has failed, not because it’s beyond the ability of society to properly organize an effective response, but because all measures to control this virus are frustrated by the needs and interests of the capitalist system. Nowhere is this truer and more bluntly expressed than in the US. What has been called the most advanced capitalist country in the world is being exposed as the most socially impoverished, culturally bankrupt of all societies. It’s within this context that we are going to discuss the present situation in the US. And with reference again to the pandemic as a “trigger event,” it is intensifying and accelerating all the contradictions that were present even before the pandemic began. Trump did not emerge from hell. He is only the most visible and rotten expression of a very, very advanced political disease in this country.

If I wanted to keep my opening remarks really brief, I could answer the question posed in the title of this forum, “What is Left of American Democracy on the Eve of the 2020 Elections?” with just two words: “Not much.” But clearly that is not a sufficient answer. But though a more expansive explanation is required, the two-word answer is correct. We are meeting less than a week before the presidential election, and the central question uppermost in the minds of millions of people is not who will win next Tuesday, but whether Election Day will even determine who will occupy the White House come next Jan 20. What are the questions that millions of people are asking or thinking about? Will the voting process next Tuesday be accompanied by violence? Will gun-toting fascists intimidate voters opposed to Trump? Will votes cast against Trump, especially those sent by mail, even be counted?

Will the Supreme Court, whose majority now consists of vicious reactionaries, block the counting of ballots or rule invalid, for one or another fraudulent reason, tens of thousands of votes cast against Trump in critical “battleground” states? Will legislators, in states controlled by the Republicans, simply ignore the outcome of the balloting if Biden receives a majority of the vote; and then proceed to select a slate of electors that will cast their votes for Trump when the Electoral College meets in late December, as the Supreme Court indicates they can? Will Trump, even in the face of a clear determination that he has been defeated at the polls, accept the outcome of the election? All indications are, at the present time, that he will not. Trump will declare that the vote totals reported by the media are “fake news,” that the election has been stolen, and that he will remain president. And even if he concludes that he must give up the White House, Trump will remain a substantial political force, appealing to his supporters within police forces throughout the country and right-wing militia groups, declaring that he was “stabbed in the back,” and continuing to build up an extra-constitutional and paramilitary force upon which he and other elements in his entourage will continue his struggle to regain power, using violence and terror.

There is not the slightest element of exaggeration in the political scenarios that I have outlined. In fact, they are not merely predictions of what may occur. The election campaign is already dominated by violent conspiracies. Just two weeks ago, the FBI exposed a far-advanced plot to kidnap and murder the governor of Michigan. A similar plot has been exposed in Virginia. It is evident that the conspirators are part of a national network of right-wing terrorists. Even more serious than the plot itself has been the response of Trump, the media and the Democrat Party. Trump, not surprising anyone, has made clear his political and moral solidarity with the assassins, and all but openly proclaimed that he wishes them better luck in their next attempt. He has continued to denounce Michigan Governor Whitmer and has made explicit threats of physical violence against other Democrat governors and elected officials.

The media has all but buried what is the most chilling event in this election campaign. The plot to murder the governor of Michigan and overthrow the state government has been treated as a minor event, requiring only cursory coverage. Within two days the story had disappeared from the front pages of the national press, and within less than a week almost entirely from news reports. As for the Democrats, their response to the plot to murder a leading member of their party bordered on total indifference. Their expression of political solidarity with Governor Whitmer has been perfunctory. There has been no call by Biden, the Democratic Party leader in the Senate, Charles Schumer, or the Democrat House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, for a full-scale investigation into a terrorist conspiracy against Whitmer and the state government. The matter was not even raised at the last debate between Biden and Trump. What accounts for the extraordinarily muted response of the Democrats? Why have they not made Trump’s fascistic conspiracy to defy the results of the election a central issue? Why have they not issued a warning that the very survival of American democracy is in danger?

To answer this question is to get to the heart of the question posed by this meeting. This election campaign exhibits all the characteristics, speaking metaphorically, of a slow-motion train wreck of American democracy. Trump and forces around him are seeking to create the foundations for a political dictatorship of a distinctly fascistic character. There is no other way his actions can be interpreted. Trump speaks for the most ruthless sections of the corporate-financial oligarchy, whose political program in essence is the removal of all restraints on the exploitation of the working class. That is why he so openly and brutally declares his indifference to the loss of human life. Nothing must stop the opening of the economy. Nothing must stop the herding of workers into the factories, students into schools, teachers into unprotected classrooms, all for the purpose of continuing to produce profit for the coffers of the financial elite. As for the Democrat Party, I think one can almost call them the “let’s pretend party.” A party that pretend to be in opposition, that pretends to be a popular party, but in fact a party which is no less tied to the ruling oligarchy than the Republicans themselves. Their particular function in the division of labor that constitutes American politics is to exert all their influence to prevent the development of any popular movement of protest that comes to threaten the essential financial interests of those who rule this country.

Their concern, above all, is not Trump’s threats against democracy, not the danger of dictatorship, their concern is that the resistance to such efforts could acquire the character of a mass movement that threatens the financial and global military interests of American capitalism and American imperialism. That, in essence, is the nature of the situation. What lies behind it? No discussion of political reality in America is worth anything if it does not call attention to the staggering levels of social inequality. Marx was right. The history of mankind is the history of class struggle. In the modern era, it’s the history of the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. Now, if there’s any election which bears comparison to the present situation in the US, it’s the election of 1860. It was an election in which a substantial section of the country, dominated by the slave-owners, would not accept the outcome of an election which put a president opposed to slavery in the White House. When that election went against their interests, they went into insurrection and the Civil War came. The irrepressible conflict had finally erupted into open warfare.

Before the election, Lincoln had said famously that the US can’t exist half slave and half free. Well, democracy can’t exist in a country where virtually all the wealth is dominated by the richest 0.1% or 5% of the population, where there is a relatively affluent 10%, while the remaining 90% are in various levels of economic distress and outright poverty. This is the situation which is undermining American democracy, and in fact democracy throughout the world. Oligarchies rule in every country. In America, it is only the most egregious and most naked, but the same situation exists throughout the world. This is the issue which underlies the crisis here, and this is why there is no way out of the crisis and no way in which democracy can be defended unless it’s reconstituted on an entirely different basis. On the basis of socialism, on the basis of the transfer of power to the working class, the vast majority of the population.

This is not just an American question, it is a global question. It’s not a question which concerns a race, that great diversion from real issues. It concerns the fate of the vast majority of the world, which consists of working people, the working class. When we speak of the fate of American democracy, or democratic rights anywhere in the world, we must recognize that we have come into a period where the great issue is that if there is to be democracy, it is only possible on the basis of social equality, on the basis of ending the capitalist system. Speaking both as the editor of the WSWS and as the Chairman of the SEP in the US, I hope that those of you who are listening think very carefully about the situation you confront as students, as young people, as workers, and come to the conclusion that a fundamental and profound change is needed in society, one which unites all sections of the working class.

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