Workers Vanguard No. 1143
2 November 2018
Democratic Party: Enemy of Immigrant Rights
Down With Trump’s Racist War on Migrants!
Hondurans Flee Devastation Made in USA
OCTOBER 30—In recent weeks, President Trump has sought to whip up the nativists in his base by making the Central American migrant caravan the defining issue of the midterm elections. Daily Trump rallies feature hysterical chauvinist rants against the “onslaught of illegal aliens,” a reference to the Hondurans and other Central Americans desperately fleeing the poverty and violence imposed on their home countries by U.S. imperialism. With the White House pledging to stop them at all costs, yesterday the Pentagon announced the deployment of at least 5,200 active-duty U.S. Army and Air Force troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, dubbed “Operation Faithful Patriot.” There they will join 2,000 National Guardsmen and the battalions of the U.S. Border Patrol. A few days prior, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen ominously commented that “the rules of engagement” were still being worked out: “We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people. They will be apprehended, however.”
The Trump administration had already enlisted the Mexican authorities to do Washington’s dirty work to prevent the caravan from moving further north. After crossing Mexico’s southern border, the once 7,000-strong caravan was met with detentions and deportations and is now reduced in size. Two days ago, as a smaller caravan trailing behind entered Mexico, a Honduran man was killed by the Federal Police.
Spewing his characteristic vitriol about Latinos and other “criminals” invading white America, Trump also has plans to invoke his presidential powers to close every door to their legal entry to the U.S., whether by banning them on “national security” grounds (similar to the racist anti-Muslim travel ban) or summarily denying asylum claims. We oppose these measures as well as all other racist, nationally discriminatory immigration laws and regulations.
The Democratic Party, the other party of racism and U.S. imperialism, has largely evaded the matter of the caravan so as not to alienate more socially backward potential voters. While there may be differences in what they say and how they say it, any policy differences between the Republicans and the Democrats boil down to how best to administer American capitalism. When on October 26 Democratic honcho Nancy Pelosi issued a statement regarding Trump’s anti-migrant “fearmongering,” it was to push “comprehensive immigration reform to protect our borders,” that is, a version of Trump’s wall.
The Democrats certainly know a thing or two about “protecting” the borders, as evidenced by the anti-immigrant crackdowns of the last two Democratic administrations. Bill Clinton’s 1994 “Operation Gatekeeper” militarized the U.S.-Mexico border, including through the building of a fence to seal off entry points. Two years later, his draconian “immigration reform” law established the detention and deportation apparatus seen today. For his part, Barack Obama not only deported a record 2.5 million people, but also massively expanded the detention system. During his reign, border enforcement was bolstered by National Guard troops and Predator drones as agents engaged in widespread abuses and repeatedly gunned people down, including killing three Mexican teenagers on Mexican soil.
All this paved the way for the current White House’s declaration of war against immigrants. I.C.E. raids, deportations, detentions and family separations have been part of the daily web of terror. Trump’s revocation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) threatens the forcible removal of nearly half a million people by January 2020. These immigrants, from countries like Haiti, El Salvador and Honduras, have legally lived and worked in the country for years. (In 2016, the Obama White House without warning called a halt to new TPS applicants from Haiti, stranding thousands on their way to the U.S.) At the same time, Latino citizens, especially in the borderlands, have been caught in a racist State Department dragnet that strips them of their U.S. passports under the pretext that their birth certificates were falsified.
Trump is now mooting the overturn of the right to citizenship for children born in the U.S. to non-citizens. That fundamental right is embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment, one of the gains of the Civil War that destroyed black chattel slavery. This attack underscores that anti-immigrant chauvinism always threatens black people as well.
It is vitally necessary for the labor movement to take up the fight for full citizenship rights for everyone who has made it here, legally or illegally. The same capitalist class taking aim at vulnerable undocumented immigrants also increasingly grinds down the working class as a whole. The bosses use anti-immigrant chauvinism, as well as anti-black racism, to divide the workers and weaken their struggles. A class-struggle fight against deportations and I.C.E. raids, together with a concerted drive to organize undocumented workers into the unions with full rights and protections, would go a long way toward advancing the unity and fighting capacity of the working class.
But the unions are not mobilized to defend the interests of their own members, much less the immigrant population, due to their traitorous leadership. Labor officialdom is committed to maintaining corporate profitability and the very system of capitalist exploitation, clearly shown in its allegiance to the Democratic Party. Today, the AFL-CIO tops are also giddy over Trump’s trade tariffs, which coincide with their longstanding calls for “American jobs for American workers”—protectionist poison that also fans the flames of anti-immigrant bigotry. Labor needs a new leadership dedicated to class struggle and proletarian internationalism. That requires breaking labor’s ties to the Democrats, Trump and all capitalist parties and politicians.
U.S. Imperialist Domination in Honduras
Those in the migrant caravan are attempting to escape the destitution and pervasive violence plaguing Central America as a result of U.S. imperialist subjugation and the corrupt and repressive rule of the local bourgeoisies. For well over a century, U.S. intervention in the region has left behind a grisly trail of death and devastation. Since its emergence as an imperialist power at the end of the 19th century, the U.S. has made the Central American republics, along with Mexico, its exclusive preserve, enforcing its diktats through coups d’état and giving free rein to the infamous United Fruit Company.
More recently, the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) threw open local economies to U.S. imperialist pillage. That economic ruin was exacerbated three years later by the global financial crisis triggered by Wall Street. CAFTA has reduced the peasantry to abject misery, forcing millions to migrate to the cities or to the U.S. in search of subsistence, as NAFTA has done in Mexico for nearly a quarter-century. Washington’s plan to replace NAFTA with a new treaty, the USMCA (United States, Mexico and Canada Agreement), will only deepen the imperialist looting of Mexico. From the beginning, we Trotskyists of the International Communist League have opposed NAFTA (as well as CAFTA). What is needed is joint class struggle on both sides of the border to bring it down.
The social fabric of Central America was ripped apart by the dirty wars of the 1980s amid the anti-Soviet Cold War. Senior Honduran officials on the CIA payroll tortured and killed supporters of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and leftist guerrillas in El Salvador. Clandestine cemeteries in Honduras are littered with the remains of the desaparecidos (disappeared), and survivors testify to the torture they endured at the hands of U.S.-trained military personnel.
After the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the U.S. had less interest in using Honduras as a front line for anti-subversive operations, but continued to supply millions of dollars in military aid under the guise of the “war on drugs.” In the name of fighting el narco, Washington has provided weapons and military training to Central American armed forces, which are totally interpenetrated with the drug cartels. Far from protecting the population, the purpose is to augment the bourgeois state apparatus of repression against the exploited and oppressed. Down with the “war on drugs”!
The conditions for Honduran workers and the urban and rural poor have grown even more dire since 2009 when then president Manuel Zelaya was toppled in a coup engineered by a section of the national bourgeoisie and headed by a general trained at U.S. imperialism’s notorious School of the Americas. One of Obama’s opening shots after first being elected Commander-in-Chief was to prop up the post-coup regime of Porfirio Lobo, including by funding security forces to smash the protests rocking the country. Since the coup, under successive reactionary Partido Nacional regimes, unemployment has skyrocketed and criminal gangs have mushroomed. In that time, at least 30 trade unionists have been killed as well as several activists, such as indigenous leader Berta Cáceres.
Cáceres was reportedly on a military hit list given to the elite TIGRES police unit, which was set up in 2013 by the Honduran government in conjunction with the U.S. State Department. Washington gives aid, training and advice to these killers who have terrorized poor communities like those defending their land rights against the huge U.S. and Canadian mining companies. The TIGRES death squads also hunted down those protesting the results of last year’s presidential elections, which were marked by fraud when Juan Orlando Hernández, a longtime U.S. ally, was re-elected after “computer malfunctions.” At demonstrations and in midnight home raids, some 35 were killed and over 1,000 detained.
Down With Repression Against Caravan Migrants!
Although still far from the U.S. border, those in the caravan that started on October 12 in Honduras have undertaken a perilous journey just to make it to southern Mexico, braving weeks of scorching temperatures, lack of food and water and brutal state repression. The Mexican government, acting as a guard dog of its U.S. imperialist master, regularly hunts, jails and deports Central American migrants. The caravan migrants have been treated as subhuman “lawbreakers” with no rights, sprayed with insecticide and attacked by Mexican riot police and military forces. This chauvinism is of a piece with the bigotry toward Mexico’s deeply oppressed indigenous population. Our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México say: Full citizenship rights for those in Mexican territory and no deportations! These demands include the right to move through the country and to receive free health care and education.
The caravan was initiated by immigrant rights activists, including Arizona-born Pueblo Sin Fronteras director Irineo Mújica, who was arrested on October 18 in southern Mexico on the false claim that he had no papers. Now released on bail, Mújica was already in the sights of the Mexican authorities, having been arrested and beaten by federal agents while documenting the abuse of immigrants in Oaxaca in 2008. Last week, Mújica and other caravan leaders rejected a cynical proposal by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto that the migrants could apply for refugee status in Mexico on the proviso that they remain in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. The offer was an attempt to contain the “problem” for the U.S. imperialists through an empty promise of jobs when there are none.
Back in 2014, Peña Nieto was the one who launched the “Plan Frontera Sur” (the Southern Border Plan) with sponsorship from the U.S. State Department. The plan was pushed by Obama after he declared a “migration crisis” that same year, when U.S. border guards detained over 50,000 unaccompanied Central American children trying to cross into El Norte. Washington has provided nearly $200 million in funding to expand Mexico’s deportation machine under Plan Frontera Sur. Since its implementation, the Mexican government has deported over 600,000 migrants, overwhelmingly back to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. We say: All U.S. police and military forces out of Mexico and Central America! Down with the Plan Frontera Sur!
Nothing will fundamentally change when president-elect and founder of the bourgeois-nationalist Morena party Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials AMLO) takes the helm of the Mexican state in December. As our comrades of the GEM point out in the current issue of their paper (Espartaco No. 50, October 2018), AMLO opposes Trump’s border wall but promises to put the brake on “illegal” immigration to the U.S. if the imperialists were to pour more funds into Mexico and Central America, money that supposedly would be used to create jobs, in addition to strengthening “border security.”
As the GEM emphasizes: “Despite the (timid) nationalist rhetoric of bourgeois politicians like AMLO, the reality is that in underdeveloped capitalist countries, such as Mexico and the Central American countries, the weak national bourgeoisies are incapable of breaking with the imperialists, to whom they are tied by a thousand threads.” It is impossible for the local bourgeoisies to satisfy the needs of the population under capitalism.
There is a powerful and young proletariat in Mexico that can lead all the oppressed, including the poor peasantry, the indigenous populations and the undocumented, in the fight for socialist revolution to expropriate the bourgeoisie and collectivize the means of production. As part of this perspective of permanent revolution developed by Leon Trotsky, we understand that the international extension of the revolution, especially to the U.S. imperialist colossus, is essential to defend the workers government and to proceed on the road to socialism. A revolution in Mexico would electrify the multiracial proletariat in the U.S., with its large Mexican and Central American components.
Only Proletarian Revolution Can Sweep Away Imperialism
Imperialism is not a policy but a global system rooted in the drive for profit. Under this system, a handful of advanced powers dominate the colonial and neocolonial world as they compete with one another over markets, raw materials and sources of cheap labor. U.S. imperialism cannot be reformed to be “humane” but must be overthrown through proletarian revolution that shatters the capitalist state machinery, which includes the cops and border enforcement, and establishes a workers state.
In contrast, some reformist outfits pretend it is possible to convince the capitalists to stop policing their borders. The pseudo-Marxists of Left Voice—U.S. section of the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International, whose Mexican affiliate is the Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas—have recently published a series of articles calling to open the borders, including one titled “The Migrant Caravan: A Challenge to Donald Trump” (24 October) that concludes, “Today more than ever we socialists fight for #OpenBorders.” Such calls are a liberal utopian pipe dream; no capitalist ruling class has voluntarily given up control of its territory, and none ever will. The modern nation-state arose with the advent of capitalist property relations and will remain the basis for the organization of the capitalist economy until the profit system is swept away.
An earlier Left Voice article titled “Abolish ICE, and Abolish the Border Too: A Socialist Perspective” (30 July) dresses up a favored slogan of the anti-Trump “resistance.” While many of these Democrats and their hangers-on propose to “abolish I.C.E.” simply to replace it with a different immigration enforcement agency, Left Voice presents the slogan as a variant of “abolish the borders,” further imbibing in the liberal delusion that the capitalist state will dismantle itself through sufficient pressure. In addition, their call for “an end to national borders and all enforcement apparatuses” has a reactionary content. It would not only open up Cuba, China and the other bureaucratically deformed workers states to counterrevolutionary attacks, but also intensify the imperialist plunder of dependent countries and obliterate the right to national self-determination.
Borders, and the state itself, will disappear only in the communist future. Getting there will take a series of revolutions around the world to establish an internationally planned socialist economy. The resulting vast increase in the productive forces will make it possible to eliminate material scarcity and lay the foundations for a decent life for everyone. In order to make this perspective a reality, it is essential to forge genuine Leninist-Trotskyist parties, based on the experience of the Russian Revolution of October 1917, in the U.S., Mexico and beyond, as part of a reforged Fourth International. Here in the belly of the beast, that party will largely consist of and be led by black people, Latinos and other minorities and will be internationalist and revolutionary through and through.