Progressive politics is possible only if it rejects anti-communism
Trump is taking aim particularly at new women members of Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, blaming them for introducing allegedly dangerous socialist ideas into the Democratic mainstream. Trump aims his fire at representatives like them because he can attack women, Muslims, people of color and supporters of socialism all at the same time. Ocasio-Cortez at the rally to defund ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, February 7. Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Trump’s State of the Union address aimed to unite a right-wing base and drive a wedge between Democratic moderates and progressives and the entire anti-extreme right-wing alliance, just as the 2020 presidential campaign gets underway.

Trump spoke before a dramatically changed political landscape marked by. a new Democratic House majority and after a humiliating government shutdown. A majority of voters reject his right-wing policies and appeals to hate and fear, including his call to build the border wall. His popularity is at its lowest level, and his administration is hounded by corruption and questions of its very legitimacy.

A record number of women, people of color, labor and grassroots activists who emerged from the opposition to the extreme-right agenda were elected to Congress and state legislatures, helping transform these bodies.

Anti-communism and anti-socialism – peril to unity

Trump’s conjured up a country under siege from domestic and foreign threats. The southern border is overwhelmed by criminals, rapists, and drug cartels. They pose a dire threat to national security and safety and will take jobs from American workers, drive down wages, and force communities to bear extra costs to education, health care, and other services.

The border wall is a matter of security, morality, and patriotism, according to this argument.

His demagogic and fear mongering remarks were laced with anti-communism and anti-socialism. This served two purposes. First, to paint all Democrats as dangerous radicals and socialists, who pose a domestic threat to American values and then to drive that wedge in the anti-extreme right electoral alliance.

Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill) was clear on the intended purpose. “Every authoritarian regime of the last century has prefaced their grab for power by saying you’ve got to stop the left. Sometimes they call it socialist, sometimes they call it communist,” he said.

One important dynamic driving the anti-extreme-right electoral alliance is shifting attitudes toward socialism. A majority of Democratic voters, particularly youth, have a positive attitude toward socialism, as they understand it.

The old anti-communist scare no longer has the same impact, especially for generations born after the Cold War. But Trump and the extreme-right evidently think they do.

This is why Trump has been attacking Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the two newly elected female Muslim representatives, and  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the young Latina representative from New York. He combines his hatred of women, minorities, the Muslim faith and his anti-communism and anti-socialism in attacks on those three. They are described as insidious subverters introducing socialist ideas into the Democratic Party. They make even better punching bags for him than does Nancy Pelosi.

Trump linked Democrats and socialism with Venezuela, characterizing the anti-monopoly, pro-people social programs as a system unable to provide food and medicine to its people. When he declared, “We will never allow socialism here,” the hall erupted with applause including from several announced Democratic candidates.

It’s indisputable that Venezuela is in crisis and that the Maduro government has made serious mistakes. However, the roots of this crisis lie in U.S. sanctions, sabotage by Venezuelan capitalists and an economy that relies primarily on oil revenues, a legacy of colonialism. Plunging global oil prices precipitated this crisis.

Trump’s platitudes about democracy cover up an alliance of his administration with the extreme right and fascist pro-business elements in Venezuela, Columbia, and Brazil to carry out a coup in Venezuela. War criminals John Bolton and Elliot Abrams, along with Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, and Marco Rubio are driving Trump’s Venezuela policy.

Unfortunately, some sections of the Democratic Party leadership, elected officials and their foreign policy advisors seem to have developed a case of amnesia when it comes to foreign interference in the 2016 elections. They support the coup policy and are objectively aligned with Trump, the extreme right, and fascists on this issue. They include Durbin, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Support for a coup by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) and various Democratic representatives in Florida is based on the presence in their states of large, vocal right-wing and anti-communist communities of Cuban, Venezuelan, and other pro-fascist exiles from Central and South America.

Florida is a crucial swing state in presidential elections. A section of the Democratic Party fears alienating this voting bloc. This fear blinds them to possibly long-term catastrophic consequences of interference in Venezuela.

They should heed the warning of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our irrational, obsessive anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it were a mode of scientific thinking.”

The old Cold War foreign policy that was based on the idea that anti-communism was more important than the national sovereignty of other countries continues to influence Democrat elected officials who take progressive positions on many domestic issues. This foreign policy gave the U.S. the right to intervene in any country anytime. It has cost the American people hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions in military spending, including the Korean and Viet Nam wars. It has produced suffering and stood in the way of national independence across the globe from South Africa to Chile, from Central America to Indonesia.

This foreign policy approach is an Achilles heel of the Democratic Party. It poses a threat to the unity of the broad alliance that has been built to counter the extreme-right. This alliance is composed of multiple class and democratic forces and a wide range of political currents.

Venezuelan Coup and geopolitics

The Venezuelan coup is unfolding in a broader geopolitical context. The aim of the neo-cons, capitalist-dominated foreign policy establishment, and corporate media is to reassert the complete dominance of U.S. corporate might in the hemisphere. The aim is to eliminate any gains by progressive forces in the region that would interfere with profits. The aim is to undermine economic competition by perceived rivals including capitalist Russia and socialist-oriented China.

They seek to completely wipe out any challenge to U.S. finance capital in the hemisphere by eliminating all alternative paths of development, including socialist oriented-models by Cuba and Venezuela, and any alternative financial institutions not under their domination.

The same corporate and extreme-right forces that the American people are up against at home are pushing for military intervention to carry out regime change in Venezuela, followed by Cuba and Nicaragua. The neocons are for achieving this with unrestrained military force if necessary.

If a coup succeeds, it could precipitate a civil war, an invasion by Colombia, Brazil or the U.S., vast destruction and death and a humanitarian crisis.

Trump’s pro-corporate, extreme-right, warmongering foreign policy is also unfolding on other fronts, including regime change in Iran in alliance with the feudal monarchy in Saudi Arabia and the extreme-right government in Israel. If not stopped, the world could face two significant crises.

U.S. abrogation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia in addition to the $2 trillion nuclear modernization, will spark a new nuclear arms race with Russia and China. The global rivalry with both countries calls for unchallenged military domination while also building a global alliance against China to undermine its socialist project.

These issues pose fundamental challenges for the broad anti-extreme right and democratic alliance where the broadest unity is needed to defeat Trump and the extreme right GOP in 2020.

An overarching people’s agenda is emerging which includes the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, broad reforms to voting rights and electoral laws, criminal justice reform, taxing the rich and wealth redistribution, and immigration reform.

What’s needed is a people’s foreign policy, one that recognizes rapidly changing global dynamics, including the growth of socialist-oriented economies and alternative paths of development. The American people need a foreign policy rejecting the old Cold War and anti-communist policies while promoting diplomacy and peaceful relations.

This means calling for a reduction in military spending, closing down foreign military bases, dissolving military alliances including NATO, and conversion to a peace economy.

We need a people’s foreign policy which respects national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries – a policy built on cooperation between countries regardless of their social system to tackle the urgent issues facing humanity including the climate crisis, poverty, migration, and inequality.

The time for this discussion is long past due.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.