Donald Trump has received considerable publicity for his so-called position on immigration. He argues that he wants to “build a wall” to keep immigrants out of this country. He also argues that he wants to place Moslems under government surveillance. This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution that says we are supposed to have freedom of religion.
Why have people voted for Trump in spite of these ideas? Working people throughout this country have been devastated by a deteriorating standard of living. When I graduated from high school college tuition was about $200 per semester. Today college tuition at the same university is $10,000 per semester.
In the 1970’s I took a day off from work looking for a job. I was offered six jobs in one day. Today, many employers will not even talk to you without a computerized application and many workers have given up looking for work.
So, when Donald Trump argues that he will “Make America great again,” this appears to be a complete fantasy. Clearly the news media isn’t interested in reporting the facts that place Trump’s vicious arguments in perspective.
The United States of America was never a “great” nation. Yes, the American Revolution and the Civil War won independence and an abolition of slavery. However, this is a class divided nation that has a long history of repression. From the times of slavery, to the genocide against Indians, to the horrendous conditions imposed on working people, to the mass incarceration today, there clearly never was a time when this country was “great.”
We can do a quick Google search for the question of: How many immigrants have been deported under President Obama’s Administration? The answer is that Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President and there has been stiff competition on that issue. My estimation is, there have been about 1,000 deportations for every day Obama has been in office. I should also mention that today there is a wall in place separating the United States from Mexico.
So, I believe that we need to take a look at the full history that surrounds the issue of immigration.
The first people to live in this part of the world are known as Native Americans or Indians. There were about 500 Indian nations living in what is now the United States when the Europeans arrived. These people have lived here for thousands of years. The Europeans had a problem with the millions of people who lived here.
Many nations shared everything and didn’t believe in private property. Women had real equal rights to men. The other difference was that Indians didn’t know what the word dishonesty meant. The word of the Indians was their bond.
Clearly, these were not utopian communities. There was inter-tribal warfare, periodic scarcities, and Indians usually died at an early age. However, the communal nature of Indian life was totally incompatible with the emerging capitalist European economic system.
The result of this European invasion was that about 90% of the Native Americans died because of diseases imported by settlers. Settlers of European decent engaged in open warfare against Indians for hundreds of years. The United States government violated about 400 treaties with Indians. After all of this history, the U.S. government sent Indian children to schools where so-called teachers punished Indian children when they spoke their native language.
So, when we listen to politicians talk about ridding this country of immigrants, we might talk about how governments throughout the Americas treated the first people who lived in this part of the world.
Most of the so-called immigrants who come to this country today are from Mexico. Many immigrant rights activists argue that the southwest of this country used to belong to Mexico. While this is true, the facts are that the Mexican people are overwhelmingly of Indian decent. In other words, most of the people who are deported from this country can trace their heritage to this land for literally thousands of years.
The government forced people to come here against their will
We also should mention that for literally hundreds of years European colonists, as well as the United States government, actually forced Africans to come to this part of the world against their will. I’m talking about every single imaginable crime settlers perpetrated in order to enslave human beings for profit.
The nation that became Haiti was the first to outlaw this criminal practice. The Haitian revolution terrified slave-owners like President Thomas Jefferson. They understood that if a slave uprising erupted in this country, like the one in Haiti, they would literally loose everything. For this reason, the U.S. didn’t establish formal relations with Haiti until after the Civil War. The very idea of negotiating with a Black person as an equal was incomprehensible to the slave-owners.
During the period of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act made escaped slaves criminals under the law. This meant that they needed to leave the United States in order to avoid the threat of returning to slavery. Thousands of freed Black people left this country for Haiti so they could live in a nation with a Black government.
The divisions between the slave owners and the capitalists in the northern states became irreconcilable. This was the cause of the Civil War. 350,000 Union soldiers died to remove slave owners from power in this country.
After the war, reconstruction governments came into being and instituted some real democratic reforms. Black and caucasian residents learned to read for the first time in the former slave states. However, by 1877 the federal government betrayed these governments and withdrew federal troops from the former Confederate states. The Ku Klux Klan took advantage of this situation and militarily overthrew the reconstruction governments. This military action, as well as the Supreme Court decision of Plessey vs. Fergusson, stripped Black people of citizenship rights in this country. Jim Crow segregation became the law.
Labor engages in open rebellion against employers
Also in the year 1877 there was a national rail strike. The government ordered federal troops defeat the workers using military force.
We might think about the fact that before unions developed some strength in this country, workers frequently lived in one-room cold-water flats. The workday ranged from twelve to sixteen hours per day. Wages were so pathetic that families needed to send their children to work in factories.
Most of the strikes until the 1930s ended in defeats for the workers. Then, after the economic crash of 1929, workers started to win real concessions that included union representation. We might keep in mind that this strike-wave erupted after the Russian Revolution.
Faced with an economic depression, and worker militancy, employers were terrified of the idea that they might loose everything if a political revolution erupted. These were some of the reasons why workers won concessions during those years. Millions of workers joined unions as a result.
The Second World War was about what capitalist power would control the world. If we read histories of the war in Northern Africa, we discover that neither the Nazis or the Allied Powers had any interest in advancing the cause of the native Arabic people. No doubt, there were few soldiers on either side that even spoke Arabic.
Yet corporations reaped super-profits because of the war. After the war, people from all over the world carried out another war to gain their liberation. Algerians lost over one million people in their revolution against French colonialism. Koreans and Vietnamese also lost millions of lives in their revolutions to free themselves from colonialism.
In the United States, workers engaged in open rebellion in a strike-wave against employers. Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike shutting down entire industries. The government countered this rebellion by going on a red-bating campaign against anyone who supported the idea of communism.
At that time members of the Communist Party were officials in many unions. The CP had supported the United States in WWII and played a largely conservative role in the labor movement. They refused to mount a defense campaign to oppose these victimizations. As a result, many unionists were driven out of their jobs. In spite of these setbacks, union workers made significant gains and the standard of living improved significantly.
The civil rights movement
Under these conditions, Black people also wanted an improved standard of living, as well as citizenship rights. Black union activists like E.D. Nixon helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This was the beginning of another rebellion that erupted demanding full rights for Black people. Although many leaders of this rebellion argued for non-violence, some people died, and many were arrested or brutalized in the struggle to overturn the Jim Crow laws.
However, many Blacks had already migrated away from the Jim Crow states. Although there were somewhat better conditions outside the south, institutionalized discrimination was a fact of life. So, after Jim Crow was outlawed, police brutality, as well as widespread discrimination, were facts of life. Malcolm X once said: “Stop talking about the South. If you’re south of Canada you’re in the south.”
These conditions led to rebellions by the Black community in hundreds of cities and towns across the United States. We should keep in mind that these rebellions came after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.
Clearly corporations didn’t like the fact that many cities in this country erupted in open rebellion. So, they dealt with this problem by advocating for affirmative action programs that gave opportunities to some people in the Black community.
The capitalist obsession to cut costs
Clearly, the advances of the labor movement and the civil rights movement were positive developments. However, we live in a capitalist system where corporations do not have this point of view.
Under capitalism the number one priority is always profits. A problem is that the percentage of profits on investments tends to decline. So, in 1929 there were sufficient materials as well as workers to make vast improvements in the standard of living. However, there were more commodities on the market than people were buying. We should consider that working people only receive a small percentage of what our labor is worth.
So, because of this over production of commodities, employers created an economy where there was about 30% unemployment. Savings accounts of workers vanished. Employed workers received pay cuts. This was the atmosphere that led to the strike wave of the 1930s.
So, employers had a problem that they clearly did not share with workers. Corporations needed to cut costs while the standard of living was improving for working people.
Corporations and banks dealt with this problem by making massive investments in nations where workers are paid about two dollars per day or less. Factories in this country closed, while new factories opened up all over the world.
Many people argue that corporations engaged in this move because of greed. They feel that the affluent can reap more money in profits from workers who are paid two dollars per day.
The facts are that if these corporations did not move to other countries, they simply would go bankrupt. The depression didn’t merely happen because the super-rich were greedy. No, depressions are not in their interest. Depressions erupt because this is an inevitable result of capitalist development.
These investments in other nations have enlarged affluent minorities all over the world. This has also created new markets for corporations to sell their commodities. Today, China has become a huge market for the auto industry. All of this has postponed the eruption of another depression. However, an all out depression is exactly where we are heading.
Understanding this history, we can now gain an appreciation of why people immigrate to this country. Is there anyone in this world who wants to work hard every day for a wage of two dollars? No, people risk life and limb to escape to a country where they might be paid more.
The facts are that the low wages in the world are a big reason why the capitalist system has avoided depression. In other words, people come to this country to escape from an environment created so the affluent might continue to live in opulence.
We might consider the conditions workers who experience wages of about two dollars per day. These conditions are similar to the working conditions in this country before there were unions, when children worked long hours in factories.
We might consider that escaping from these conditions is similar to slaves who escaped from slavery. We might also consider the Great Migration of Black people who escaped Jim Crow segregation and moved to a place where they might have a better life.
We might consider that the Jim Crow laws of legal discrimination have been pushed aside. However, legal discrimination against twelve million immigrant workers continues to this day. I’ve heard of stories where immigrant women who have been raped will not report this crime to the police. They feel that any contact with the police might expose them to deportation.
Many people in this country have followed the First Family, Barrack and Michelle Obama and their two daughters. This appears to be a happy family with the daughters who went to a private school that costs about $40,000 per year.
When we look at this family, most people don’t think about the immigrants who have children born in this country. President Obama’s Administration has deported thousands of these immigrants. Because the children were born here, they are placed in foster care while their parents are deported. Is there a more horrendous crime than forcing parents to be separated from their children?
With the astronomical costs of education in this country, many students are motivated to make as much money as they can. This has led students to major in finance or business administration. Clearly, the universities in this country aren’t interested in teaching students about the horrendous consequences of corporate “success.”
This has meant that there is a need for workers with a highly specialized technical background. Many of these workers are trained in other countries to aid the emerging industries all over the world. Some of these technical workers come to this country and work in various technical fields, oftentimes at relatively low pay.
So, immigrants came to this country to work in all kinds of fields. They are not taking jobs away from workers. They, in most cases, do the work that people in this country prefer not to do.
If Donald Trump is so concerned about immigrant labor taking jobs, there is an easy solution. He can line up for work in the mornings during the summer and pick fruits and vegetables in any of the farms all over this country.
The state of Alabama has restrictive laws against immigration. These laws have had a clear effect. Now, fruits and vegetables grown in Alabama rot on the vines because immigrant workers are not there to process them.
The owners of corporations would like us to think of ourselves as citizens of the United States. They want us to believe that we have different interests from workers who live in other countries.
In fact, workers from all over the world have the same interests. We would all like to have decent jobs where we have the resources to provide for our families. When we begin to understand that we all live under the same moon, and we all deserve to be treated with respect, we can organize a movement that can transform the world.