Battered by the slow-burning capitalist depression that has led to stagnant wages and employment, worsening conditions on the job, and spreading conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, workers want to know why the crisis continues and are looking for a political road to defend themselves and others. Many are attracted in particular to those candidates who say they speak for working people and come from outside the bourgeois political norm — most notably Trump and Sanders.
These conditions have also increased receptivity to the Socialist Workers Party, which puts forward the only working-class voice and program in the campaign.
John Boehner announced Sept. 25 he would resign as Speaker, setting off weeks of contentious debate among Republican House members. Boehner quit under pressure from a vocal minority of Tea Party-backed congressmen who had been pushing for a “government shut down” — a course most Republicans see as damaging to the party’s prospects.
There are 15 candidates contending for the Republican presidential nomination. Despite months of predictions by traditional Republican politicians and pundits in the bourgeois press of his imminent demise, billionaire real estate mogul Trump has stayed in front. The only candidate close to him in the polls is Ben Carson, a former surgeon and political novice especially popular with evangelical Christians.
Trump draws working-class crowdTrump draws a largely working-class crowd, including unionists, Blacks and Latinos, and rural toilers. Some are enthusiastic supporters, others say they come because working people face a growing crisis and they are looking for new answers.
Some liberals and the petty-bourgeois left say Trump is a fascist, pointing especially to his right-wing demagogy against undocumented immigrants, including calls for building a wall along the Mexican border. When 30,000 turned out for a Trump rally in Mobile, Alabama, Aug. 21, Chris Matthews of MSNBC referred to the area as the “Redneck Riviera.”
What’s drawing the large crowds to Trump’s rallies is not racism, but rather his insistence that a sharply different course is needed for workers and his disdain for establishment candidates and politics as usual. He says he’s a successful businessman and tough negotiator who will get things done, especially getting people working. Trump talks about rebuilding infrastructure and promoting trade policies he claims will “bring jobs back to America.”
He says all the other candidates, of both parties, have created a mess for working people. Speaking to thousands in Jacksonville, Florida, Oct. 24, he declared, “We don’t need nice, we need competent.”
Asked about foreign policy on “Face the Nation” Oct. 11, Trump said, “I want to have a much stronger military. I want it to be so strong that nobody is going to mess with us.” He argued against deeper U.S. military involvement in Syria, saying, “What, are we going to start World War III over Syria?”
And he pledged to take care of workers who have served in the military, who he notes “are treated terribly.” Instead of calling for greater conflict with Moscow, as most other candidates do, Trump says when Putin attacks Islamic State in Syria, “I’m all for it.”
Socialist Workers Party members have set up tables outside Trump events, including at his Oct. 21 rally in Burlington, Iowa, discussing politics and selling the Militant and Pathfinder Press books on revolutionary working-class politics. While some say they aren’t interested, many welcome discussion on the party’s proposals to defend working-class interests.
In the Democratic primary, Sanders presents himself as the most anti-war candidate and, like Trump, rails against the Trans-Pacific Partnership and previous trade pacts, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, from a nationalist framework. In an Oct. 24 speech he said it was not right “that American workers should compete with people making a fraction of our wages.”
Unlike almost all other bourgeois candidates, he backs President Barack Obama’s Iran deal as a help to stability in the Mideast.
Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist, is generating more enthusiasm than Hillary Clinton for some of the same reasons Trump gets a big hearing — he appeals to those who are looking for change.
In an Oct. 13 Democratic primary debate CNN anchor Anderson Cooper asked Sanders if he was a capitalist. “Do I consider myself part of the casino capitalist process by which … Wall Street’s greed and recklessness wrecked this economy?” Sanders replied. “No, I don’t.” He pointed to Denmark, Sweden and Norway — all capitalist countries that have often been run by social democrats — as models.
He presses Clinton to the left. She said she was for reining in “the excesses of capitalism so it doesn’t run amok.” In fact Sanders’ main proposals amount to quite modest reforms of the capitalist system, including increasing banking regulations and raising taxes on “Wall Street speculation” to provide free tuition at public universities.
SWP supporters campaigning outside Sanders’ meetings find interest and good sales of party literature. Stay tuned for the Socialist Workers Party’s 2016 campaign.
‘Workers need our own party, a labor party’
Socialist Workers Party campaigns in Phila.
Phila. SWP candidate: ‘New wind is blowing’
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