i1. The quick embrace of Trump’s protectionist proposals by the steelworkers union strikes me as a bad idea. Among other things, allying yourself to Trump, especially when he seems to be unraveling and opposition to him is growing, is shortsighted.
Moreover, these proposals if enacted could easily divide the union. Canadian workers, who will be adversely affected by them, won’t be happy. Nor will steelworkers in other countries.
And who knows how serious this proposal is, It could easily be the impulsive and momentary ravings of a president who is melting down on the one hand and on the other hand is anxious to activate his base this fall and in 2020 when voters go to the polls. Remember Trump’s support for Dreamers and comprehensive gun controls? There one day; gone the next!
Finally, anyone who is a partisan of the working class, has to account for the larger impact of such proposals on the entire class of wage and salary workers. Retaliatory steps by other countries can be expected if the proposals are implemented, which, in turn, will likely come back to bite U.S. workers and cause divisions among working people here and globally.
When I was in the Communist Party, we weren’t against the regulation of trade or investment, but protectionism was never part of that conversation. Working class unity and interests, writ large, were. Not sure what the position is now, although I was surprised to read an article on the website of People’s World that had not even a hint that Trump’s proposals and the union’s endorsement of them might be problematic in some ways.
2. I just heard that West Virginia teachers and other public sector workers won a 5 per cent wage increase. And they did it in a right to work state and in the face of a mean spirited, right wing Republican legislature and governor. Against this backdrop — not to mention the decades old uphill struggle of the labor movement — it’s a stunning victory and will surely give hope and inspiration to working people elsewhere. No doubt lessons will be culled from this experience.
Others who are more familiar with the details of this strike will do that, but I would make one observation: It strikes me that the strike and its success is an inseparable part of the powerful surge of spontaneous protest actions coming on the immediate heels of Trump’s election. Led largely by women who are newcomers to activist politics and operating at a distance from the traditional labor-liberal-left organizational infrastructures and networks, these actions are reshaping the political terrain in red and blue states alike. What was considered improbably has become doable, what was considered unreachable is now within reach. Needless to say, this augers well for the future — not least the elections this fall.
3. Watching the consolidation and centralization of power by Chinese president and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping makes me appreciate once again the warning of the great Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson decades ago:
“I am told that, just beyond the horizon, new forms of working class power are about to arise which, being founded upon egalitarian productive relations, will require no inhibition and can dispense with the negative restrictions of bourgeois legalism. A historian is unqualified to pronounce on such utopian projections. All that he knows is that he can bring in support of them no evidence whatsoever. His advice might be: watch this new power for a century or two before you cut down your hedges.” (Whigs and Hunters)
4. Below is an article on Vietnam, written by C.J. Atkins. While I found it very informative, I came away with two concerns. First, does it make sense to say that a “socialist oriented market economy’ is an oxymoron? Second, can any take on Vietnam after 50 years avoid the subject of the depth and extent of Vietnam’s democratic culture and practices?