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Trump, impeachment and the need for an independent workers' party
Dave Reid, Socialist Party national committee
Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat speaker of the House of Representatives, has announced the beginning of an impeachment process against President Trump.
If the House of Representatives impeaches him, he will face a trial in the Senate. In theory he could be removed from office.
This would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which the Republicans control. Nevertheless, the impeachment process could be a blow to Trump's presidency and re-election campaign.
The Democrats' main accusation against Trump is that he attempted to withhold US military aid to Ukraine, as a bargaining lever with the Ukrainian president, in order to rake up corruption allegations against Hunter Biden, son of the Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden. It is against US law to work with a foreign power to further an election campaign.
Two whistle-blowers from a US intelligence service claim that they have evidence of a phone call Trump made to the Ukrainian president explicitly demanding that action be taken.
The majority of working people in the US would welcome seeing the back of the 'Predator in Chief'. Trump's right-wing populist presidency has ramped up attacks on the rights of women, minority groups, and workers.
Tax cuts for the rich
He has carried out pro-big-business measures, like tax cuts for the super rich and removing regulation protecting workers, consumers and the environment. He has fired the first shots in trade wars, especially with China.
Most capitalists welcome his tax cuts for them, and sections support the trade protection measures against China. But for the majority of the US capitalist class, he is a very unreliable representative of their interests. Large sections of the establishment would prefer a safer pair of hands.
He's a maverick populist who threatens the stability of their system. His attacks on workers', women's and immigrant's rights, and encouragement of far-right and even fascist groups, threatens a backlash, causing further instability and damage to capitalist profits and interests.
Trade wars undermine economic growth and big business access to free trade. And all the foreign policy strategists of American imperialism oppose the announced withdrawal of troops from Syria (see page 3).
Trump has clashed with the leadership of state institutions like the military, FBI and CIA. They don't want to be used for Trump's own purposes or adventures. It is likely that the whistle-blowers are working with the approval of senior intelligence officials.
The impeachment threat is an early shot in the 2020 presidential election campaign. The Democratic primaries begin next month to select their candidate.
Bernie Sanders made a huge impact in the 2016 primaries, by standing as a self-described socialist on a programme of pro-working-class reforms.
But he faced insuperable barriers because he stood within the capitalist-controlled Democratic Party. Democrat party bosses engineered the process to ensure that Hilary Clinton got the party's nomination.
The Committee for a Workers' International called for Bernie to stand as an independent socialist in the presidential election. That could have acted as the launch pad for an independent workers' party to compete with the two main capitalist parties.
This is not a rerun of 2016. Rival Democrat candidates have learnt their lesson from Sanders' popularity then. All pose as radical alternatives to Trump. Even Joe Biden, the establishment's choice, presents himself as the workers' candidate and appears to distance himself from his big business backers.
There is an openess to socialist ideas in society, which represents a significant potential for the development of an independent workers' party in opposition to the two parties of big business. But there is a danger that this potential will be absorbed into the Democrat machine or turned into demoralisation.
Even before Sanders suffered a minor heart attack, throwing his campaign into question, he had already been overtaken by Elizabeth Warren. Warren, an open supporter of capitalism, has stolen some of his clothes - supporting Medicare for all in words, for example.
Sanders needs to clearly distinguish himself now from these establishment Democrats, launching the call for an independent workers' party and breaking from the Democratic Party.
The impeachment campaign by the Democrat leaders in Congress holds serious dangers for them. The perception that the ruling class is conspiring against Trump could strengthen his image as the victim of an establishment stitch-up.
His approval rating strengthened after the impeachment announcement. And the exposure of Hunter Biden's shady dealings in Ukraine could reinforce Joe Biden's image as part of the corrupt capitalist establishment.
If the Democrats select an establishment candidate then Trump could still win. There is still huge dissatisfaction with the status quo. Trump could use populist rhetoric and the perception that 'the swamp' is conspiring to defeat the 'rebel'. But there could also be a big surge to the 'lesser evilism' of 'anything but Trump'.
Sanders has been capable of rallying huge support for a radical alternative. But workers in the USA cannot rely on a sole individual.
He must cut loose now from the Democrats and move towards the establishment of an independent workers' party with clear policies including public ownership.
The first step in that direction would be to call a convention of all of his supporters. Such a strategy could win over workers who have voted for Trump as well as the new young layer searching for socialist ideas.
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In The Socialist 9 October 2019:
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