by Margaret Viggiani and Luma Nichol
This summer Trump made a campaign promise to bar all leftists from immigrating to the United States. He declared, “We’re going to keep foreign, Christian-hating communists, Marxists and socialists out of America.” He also wants to pass a law “addressing” native-born Marxists. So much for freedom of thought in Trumplandia.
Anti-red is not a new theme for The Donald. While president he addressed the United Nations General Assembly stating, “Socialism and communism, are not about justice … [they] are about one thing only — power for the ruling class.” That typical bluster is Orwellian doublespeak. The Left is all about creating a just egalitarian world for all, not just a privileged few, as Trump would have it. Muddying the waters on what socialism is about is an intentional gambit.
Why the need to malign socialists? Socialism is capitalism’s nemesis. Radical ideas and workers’ rights are gaining strength, which is worrisome for Trump, a dyed-in-the-wool entrepreneur and boss, and his ilk.
Capitalism’s failures are becoming ever more apparent. While a handful of mega-rich grab most of society’s wealth, workers get inflation. This injustice has led to the largest strike wave and workplace organizing in ages. (See: “Los Angeles: From anti-union town to Strike Central,” and “UPS contract approved.” )
Add economic problems to imperialist wars and capitalism’s destruction of the planet and people look for alternatives to a failing system. Half of the young nowadays are favorable toward socialism.
Enter a new Red Scare modeled on the 1950s witch-hunt that purged the labor movement of radicals. Whipped into a frenzy by Senator Joe McCarthy, it destroyed lives and reputations. Thousands of people, including Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) founder Clara Fraser, were blacklisted for their political beliefs. It took Fraser years to find full-time work, and she was one of the lucky ones.
Anti-communism is also effective in mobilizing the MAGA base. It is certainly convenient to Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Trump-wanna-be, who recently claimed that “woke” is “a form of cultural Marxism.” This was intended to justify his attacks on the history and rights of African Americans, gays, trans people, feminists, and people of color.
DeSantis’ phrase is called red-baiting. It aims to discredit an opponent by instilling fear of a communist association. It was the tool of the McCarthy era and is still popular with the right wing. As the U.S. vs. China rivalry heats up, so does the mudslinging.
Tool of fascism. Fascist ideology has an end goal of propping up faltering capitalism. To do this, it must crush the working-class organizations and destroy unions. And so, it attacks the Left, champions of the working class.
Hostility to Marxism was central to Hitler’s ideology and communists were some of the earliest targets of Nazi violence. This helped sow a fatal division between liberal unionists and radical labor militants in 1930s Germany. Had these wings of the toiling class united, they could have stopped Hitler. Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky exposed this in his excellent analysis of how to fight fascism (check out “A socialism starter kit”).
Similarly, Trump’s anti-communist rhetoric divides and weakens the working class. His racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, anti-queer, and xenophobic policies are those of modern Nazis and white supremacists.
The Freedom Socialist Party does not characterize Trump as a fascist. But he and his supporters are preparing to take a hard right turn in 2024. A September Los Angeles Times article reported on plans from the arch-conservative Heritage Foundation to replace thousands of federal workers with their handpicked people should Trump be elected. FSP National Chair Guerry Hoddersen commented, “The Heritage Foundation is trying to put together the operational foundation for a coup. Federal workers, especially unionists, will have something to say about this and so will the FSP.”
No doubt resistors will be called commies. It doesn’t matter if the shoe fits. Red-baiting is an attempt to poison solidarity and must always be opposed.
Originally published in Socialism.com