Trump’s Trade War was Born out of Class Struggle in America

us china trade war

David Dodwell writing in today’s (5/27/2019) South China Morning Post states that “Increasingly, the Trump administration’s trade war is not about tariffs but about keeping China in its place, regardless of the costs to US companies and consumers – and the world.”  Of course, what he is saying is, on the one hand, true in so far as it goes,  and on the other, not completely true in that it doesn’t go far enough.  In saying that the trade war is not about tariffs but about holding back China’s growth, he is right. in failing to take into consideration the historical origins of the growth of economically powerful nations.  In fact, it was on the one hand, the class struggle in America and the attempt to expand the profits of American companies, that give rise to globalization.  In turn, it was globalization that brought into being the rise of nations with more efficient modes of production…nations such as China.

That Trump is at war with the world, or that portion of it that does not align with America’s blatant self-interest, goes without saying.  This war is the attempt of a “great” power to eliminate all those who in any way challenge that power in any dimension.  For decades the great challenge was and still is the desire to eliminate socialism and communism in all its forms because they represent the pure negation, the direct contradiction of the economic principles of American capitalism and liberal democracy.  This battle continues but is now secondary to the greater threat to America’s economic supremacy.  The greatest threat to that economic supremacy is China, which is also one variant of socialism, although that fact is seldom acknowledge by the media of any nation.  To do so would be to acknowledge that when socialist values and principles are combined with and forced to compete in a capitalist world, they have been proven to be more efficient than those of the crystal-clear capitalism of America.  China’s successes are the result of American failures.

So Dodwell is correct in saying that the ultimate goal of Trump’s imposition of tariffs is to keep China in its place.   Tariffs, and sanctions, are the nonmilitary weapons that Trump uses to fight the battles of his war for American hegemony.  The fact that he is relying on economic rather than military weapons reflects the fact that not only is America economically weaker than it once was, but also, it is so militarily. The war is  all about sustaining what economic and political dominance America has in the world and regaining the economic and political ground it has lost through globalization and the concomitant rise in the wealth and power of other nations that has arisen out of globalization.

The dialectical irony of globalization is that it was the result of America’s attempt to expand its economic range and power; to exert ever greater control and extract ever greater profit in the world.  The logic of this expansion was that it was driven by class struggle within America.  The American working class had emerged strong from the Great Depression and WWII. A vast social network had been put in place, a “welfare state” had emerged which offered social security to the elderly, welfare to the poor and to single mothers, unemployment insurance, and various other forms of state assistance.  Massive, powerful, organized unions existed which, while providing a living wage and good benefits to workers, could and did challenge the absolute power of American corporations and industries.  The United Auto Workers Union, produced American automobiles; the International Ladies Garment Workers Union produced American clothing, The United Steel Workers produce America’s steel, a multitude of construction unions built the country’s great cities, etc.  After the death of Franklin Roosevelt, who allowed the unions to organize and created the welfare stat, after WWII when America began to achieve a new era of wealth, prosperity and power, Americanconservatives set out and succeeded in dismantling the welfare state, and capitalists and their organizations, made a concerted effort to maximize profits by destroying unions.  The destruction of unions was achieved in several ways:  by persecuting communists during the years of the Red Scare; by applying the still relatively new field of industrial psychology to manipulating workers into increasing productivity and turning away from unions; but most significantly, by shipping production overseas.  Soon, workers from all over the world were making parts for American cars, for American technologies, and the clothes Americans wore, now so much cheaper to buy and so preferred, were being produced in other countries…..most particularly China.  It was this the class struggle in America which, in the end, resulted in the decline of American capitalism that we are witnessing today;  and that Trump is trying to restore by bringing about the decline of the economic power of other nations.  He is attempting to make America great, by making other nations weak and small, and not by building the strength and solidarity of the American working class.

In destroying the welfare state and unions, the first examples of American decline ensued.  The working class became ever more impoverished.  The destruction of union benefits and the dismantling of the welfare state left the people without adequate medical care.  Without adequate wages the people could not properly feed themselves or educate their children, and the result was a hungry nation, an ignorant and unskilled people.  American corporations such Microsoft, could fill their need for educated, skilled and healthy workers from anywhere in the world, American educational institutions could fill the seats in their classes with the finest minds from around the world, American restaurants and hotels could draw their employees from the poorest nations and pay them the lowest wages.  But somewhere along the line, other nations began to produce their own technologies, employee their own people, build their own great universities which could draw people from around the world.  As a result of the degradation and impoverishment of the American people, the playing field became leveled, and then tilted and ever increasingly tilts away from America.

It is America itself, and the class struggle there, which gave rise to China’s power.  The war Trump is fighting is against an enemy that America has itself created as a result of trying to diminish the power of its own people.   American decline is the result of its indifference to the well being of the American people.

Mary Metzger is a 74 year old semi retired teacher. She did her undergraduate work at S.U.N.Y. Old Westbury and her graduate work In Dialectics under Bertell Ollman at New York University. She has taught numerous subjects, from Public Sector Labor Relations to Philosophy of Science, to many different levels of students from the very young to Ph.D. candidates, in many different institutions and countries from Afghanistan to Russia. She has been living in Russia for the past 12 years where she focuses on research in the Philosophy of Science and History of the Dialectic, and writes primarily for Countercurrents. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and the great grandmother of two.


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