The Supreme Court Joins Trump’s Plan for a Police State as Mass Protests Resist

J Turk

Summary: Still another national mobilization – against seizures of refugee children and attacks on immigrant communities — has challenged Trump’s police state vision for America. At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court has certified the nativist, corporate, and misogynist policies of Trump and the Republican Party, which lays bare degenerate state-capitalism — Editors

The ramifications of Supreme Court decisions this week plus the opening of a seat for a Trump appointment are events as grave as they appear. In a single week the Roberts Court: 1.) limited public sector workers’ ability to withstand the pressure of the state as employer by outlawing “fair-share” fees, 2.) promoted anti-abortion propagandists and in so doing, twisted inside out the First Amendment protecting free speech, and 3.) upheld the travel ban from select Muslim countries and thereby laid a substrate for further retrogression.

Furthermore what the Supreme Court’s anti-abortion and anti-labor decisions did in the realm of law to deepen the crises which families are now in, so-called tax reform and cabinet restructuring is doing in the realm of the economy. For it is the working poor who will suffer the most from elimination of the social insurance programs, deceptively called “entitlements.”

It was the McConnell gang who paved the way for the imperious Trump administration well before he was the presidential nominee. In a constitutional coup, the Senate refused to accept President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for the seat opened by the death of Justice Scalia. Divisions between the branches on seizing immigrant children or on capitalist trade remain more about style than substance.

The gravity of the trio of decisions can’t be understated, but the next steps are not clear. Jobs With Justice reacted by hectoring: “Despite this ruling, we know the truth. No court, no greedy CEO and no corporate bully will stop working people from exerting their power in numbers” (Sarita Gupta, Jobs With Justice email campaign, 6/27/18). The truth is that the rulings will hurt the current public employee labor organizations. The question is: what new forms of organization will workers generate now? Part of the answer appears in states with teacher militancy, where the right-work-rules, now universally imposed by the Supreme Court, have been in place for decades.

The ban on Muslim visitors made permanent by the court is of a piece with the seizure of Latinx children at the U.S. southern border and with the incarceration of arriving families. About the border crossings and in response to nationwide protests, the overlords in the White House pound out one response, that the families are criminals. And national security likewise is evoked for both the anti-Muslin travel ban and the border seizures of families. Such are Big Lies of the Big Liar who rules by edict in disregard to even the existing laws allowing the criminalization of immigrants.

Protests in Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities and towns on June 29-30 showed still another face of resistance to the strongman’s vision for America. In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, residents and supporters rallied June 29 and shared stories of ICE and the police seizing men and women, some with decades-long roots in the U.S. One activist explained the reason for the desperate flight of people from Central and South America. Honduras, Guatemala, and Chile are among many countries where U.S.-engineered counterrevolutions have disrupted popular, socially progressive governments and replaced them with autocratic regimes. The ensuing corruption and repression breed anti-social environments. “The forced migrations are made in the U.S.,” he concluded. The protest of 50,000 in Daley Plaza the next day, June 30, multiplied that outrage over the seizures and incarcerations and moreover the hints of a general police state.

It is the working poor – Black, Latinx and white — who fill the plentiful cheap-wage service jobs and public service jobs. (“Big government” was the employer of African Americans when industry refused to integrate or advance black workers.) The millions who marched on May Day in Chicago and elsewhere in the Obama years and who stayed home on “A Day Without Immigrants” against Trump are the targets of court-backed edicts. The larger threat is that the broad “criminal” brush will be applied to any opposition to Trump’s nativist, anti-worker, and anti-woman plans.

When movements arise against a dehumanizing environment, state-capitalism is sure to protect its rule. In the service of the state, the Supreme Court employed plenty of guile in its anti-Muslim ruling. On the books ever since 1944 was the Koramatsu decision upholding the registry and internment of Japanese citizens and residents. Importantly Fred Koramatsu was a citizen of Japanese descent who resisted, became a fugitive, legally challenged Roosevelt’s order, and lost in the Supreme Court.  This week’s decision struck down the Koramatsu decision while upholding the thinly disguised Muslim ban. The court decision shows that any president can make racist policies without the Koramatsu precedent – when a reactionary majority can replace an old xenophobic policy with a new one.

Xenophobic immigration law always looks inward and is used as cudgel against dissent. We pointed this out in the early 1960s, even when the Supreme Court ruled in support of the NAACP which refused to turn over its membership list to southern authorities. While the decision bent to popular dislike of McCarthyite laws,  nominally against the Communist Party, state suppression of the real opponents of racist and exploitative capitalism never went away. With the McCarran Act (the “Internal Security Act of 1950”) any organization that was unpopular could suddenly be called a “communist front.” The 1940 Smith Act came two short years before President Roosevelt ordered the round-up and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese. It had been mis-reported to be about subversion by foreign governments but it was aimed at internal opponents. It “perverted Marxism from a theory of liberation to a ‘conspiracy’.” Rather than Communists – who were busy supporting the U.S. and its Allies – in 1941 the act was used against Trostskyists (Raya Dunayevskaya, “On the 5-4 Supreme Court Decision of 6/6/61,” Weekly Political Letter, 6/13/17).

And the 1857 Dred Scott decision used color – black – as indicator of national identity – African – to negate claims of citizenship and freedom for Scott and all slaves in America. As much as it was about human “property,” the decision was weighted with slave revolts, Abolitionism, and the Underground Railroad making conflict inevitable. As we wrote in 1963, “American civilization has been on trial from the day of its birth. Its hollow slogans of democracy have been found wanting from the very start of the labor and Negro struggles at the beginning of the 19th century”(American Civilization on Trial: Black Masses as Vanguard).

Still another Big Lie (and obviously so) is that Trump’s immigration edicts are executed in the name of public safety. In Philadelphia, ICE sweeps up men and women coming from AA meetings, attending weddings, or working. Two thirds don’t have any criminal records. At the Pilsen protest, Celia Garcia recounted the terror of Chicago police profiling her husband at a traffic stop and beginning the process of deporting him. He had been arrested and fined for a drug offense years ago. What was once misfortune now returned as a disaster for him and his family.

The fact is that it is the 11 million undocumented workers who are unprotected from the state. The individual stories of flight from danger are mashed and flattened into the Right’s narrative of uniform lawlessness. The Central American person and her aspirations stand in genuine opposition to the monolithic state, which differs little in this case from the former Communist state-capitalisms. In conceiving his new humanism, the young Marx wrote, “We should especially avoid re-establishing society, as an abstraction, opposed to the individual. The individual is the social entity.”

Not be overlooked, because of the shower of Big Lies from Trump, a report from the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston was released earlier this year. It warns that the “persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens” and goes on to show the Trump-Ryan tax reform is a bid to make the U.S. the most unequal society on earth. Already it has the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world. Disease and parasitic infections are increasing. Its access to water and sanitation ranks 36th in the world, but it ranks No. 1 in rate of incarcerations. Child poverty in the U.S. ranks the highest of OECD countries. This is country in crisis.

And amidst the outcry over seizures of children at the U.S. southern border, on June 21 OEB director and CFPB hatchet man Mick Mulvaney delivered a budget plan to Congress. In its scope is vitiating or closing agencies which oversee labor, education, and assistance, on the way to shredding what’s left of the social safety net. Another Big Lie is that this reorganization creates “small government.” The aforementioned Alston commented on the real intent: “There is a contempt for the poor that seems to permeate the president’s inner circle… It’s done under the banner of providing opportunity and seeking long-term solutions but it all seems designed to increase misery.” Since day one, Trump’s cabal of proxies for the AltRight, Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society, and Koch brothers has been on the inside making policy. In a very sick global economy, such policy aligns with what Marx anticipated as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, with which state-capitalists are coping with draconian force.

The criminalizations and cutbacks are a sign of state-capitalism’s mortality and its fear of being replaced by a human society. Amnesty for all undocumented workers can be the first step towards dissolving borders and the free association of all workers.

Note: This article was modified by the author on August 14, 2018.



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1 Comment

  1. Ndindi Kitonga

    Thank you J Turk for this important piece. It is timely and informative.

    The plight of the more than 11 million people who are undocumented (or in DHS language…unauthorized) along with that of masses in detention centers is a very urgent concern.

    I have been recently encountering some who in coming days or months might be rendered ‘illegal” or at a minimum find themselves in a legal limbo with the federal govt. These of course include asylum seekers affected by the Muslim ban. Yesterday I met with an activist in San Diego working with the local Somali community who are not able to visit family in Somalia or apply for asylum for their relatives. Also 100 Somalis were deported from San Diego last week many who had fled to the U.S. in the 90s (no need to go into the U.S.-led interventions and black hawk down events). I also met an Iranian woman who has filed paperwork for her partner escaping LGBTQ persecution. She is doubtful that asylum will be granted as the U.S. has only offered waivers to 2% of those applying for asylum from Muslim ban countries thus far. She also has an underground community of LGBTQ folks in Iran who can now not count on seeking refuge in the U.S. There are other countless examples.

    We can not also underestimate the ensuing chaos that will follow when folks with expiring work and student visas, children who turn 18 after being under a parent visa, visiting academics etc are unable to renew visas or change their statuses. This will affect more than the Muslim ban countries as the Trump administration intends on issuing fewer visas across the board. Folks with options might choose to leave the country but a majority will find themselves among the ranks of their undocumented brothers and sisters. There are even more issues that I will not address here (issues of poverty for undocumented and vulnerable immigrants, refugees suffering in their home countries, more labor exploitation, expanding the carceral state etc).

    In any case, I do not need to convince anyone that this whole situation is what I can describe without using strong language as a dumpster fire.

    The masses continue to dissent and the state continues to repress.

    Just yesterday, 3 activists were arrested at our march in San Diego after a non-violent direct action. They scaled a building to do a banner-drop at the federal courthouse where we were expecting mass trials of about 70 people. Their charges- conspiracy and felony burglary with bail of 25,000-50, 000 each. These charges are excessive and absurd.

    Activists in Oregon, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Los Angeles have seen their fair share of over-policing during the Occupy ICE movement over the past 2 weeks.

    We will continue to see mass protest, mobilizing and movement despite this repression.

    Thank you again for your article J Turk.