Trump, Russia, climate change and resistance

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US anti trump protest

The spectre of Russia is haunting Donald Trump. Putin and Russia seem to be on a special pedestal – apparently above any criticism from Trump, while he lashes out at Mexicans, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, climate change ‘theorists’, the ‘mainstream press’, satirical TV shows, the US judiciary, the CIA, the FBI, Barack Obama, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and just about anybody else. Investigations by both the FBI and the US Congress into the Trump campaign and administration links with Russia are in progress. What is going on? Steve Palmer reports.

Before the Presidential election last year, there appeared to be evidence of attempts by Russia to influence the outcome. Before and after the election, key figures around Trump have taken part in meetings, disclosed and undisclosed, with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and other significant Russians. When he recently met with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and Ambassador Kislyak, Trump excluded the ‘mainstream’ US press, but allowed in a photographer from a Russian state news agency. Subsequent rumours claim that Trump gave highly classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak and described former FBI chief Comey, whom he had just fired, as a ‘real nut job’.

The reaction within the ruling class to Trump’s apparently cosy relationship with the Russians has varied. Some charitably interpret these activities as the bunglings of inept amateurs attempting to adjust the US relationship with Russia. At the other extreme, there are those who see Trump behaving as a Russian agent, bordering on treason, working totally in the Russian interest. At the same time, Trump has displayed instability and unpredictability. One way or another, for the ruling class, these uncertainties have to be sorted out: whose side is Trump really on? The answer has to be unambiguous and Trump cannot get away with stupid tweets, double-talk and mercurial inconsistencies forever; the US ruling class wants to know: are you with us or against us?

Investigations

There are now five separate investigations going on into the connections between Russia and Trump, his associates and his campaign, leaks, Trump’s various statements, attempts to impede investigations and so on. The most prominent one is that by the FBI, formerly headed by James Comey and now by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, previous head of the FBI. Although these investigations are formally concerned with Russian related issues, they are slowly morphing into something else.

Trump has managed to alienate all sections of the US intelligence apparatus, accusing them of various activities, painting them as his enemy. Trump is going to have to reap what he has sown, as we have seen from Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he clearly called Trump a liar, and laid the basis for Mueller to investigate obstruction of the FBI’s Russia inquiry. Trump’s lawyer countered by trying to turn the tables, accusing Comey of leaking privileged information. But there is only so much that the US ruling class is willing to tolerate, and the intelligence establishment clearly has had enough. This explains the Niagara of leaks and rumours about Trump and his cronies in recent weeks. The ‘I’ word – impeachment – has been openly aired, and not only by Democrats, while the prospect of a President Pence, reactionary and stable, is starting to look increasingly attractive to sections of the US ruling class.

Mueller has been thrust into the front line, to the delight of Democrats and other liberals. Mueller is a faithful servant of the US ruling class, beginning his career as a soldier fighting the Vietnamese people. He is responsible for turning the FBI from a criminal investigation agency into a counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence organisation after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, ballooning its payroll and budget several- fold. Key repressive projects included mass surveillance of Muslims; attacks on peace activists; framing of homeless and mentally ill people duped into ‘terrorist plots’ by the FBI, and repression of labour activists and the Occupy movement. As a ‘straight-up guy’, Mueller has been the ‘go-to man’ when the US ruling class needs to finesse its problems. In Britain, we have Royal Commissions to do the job; in the US, they call Robert Mueller.

Climate dispute

This contradiction is clearly displayed in his action in withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. Backward energy capitalists, predominantly in coal production and oil, have been chafing against restrictions placed on greenhouse gas emissions by the Obama administration, and contributing fantastic sums to buy off Senators and Representatives. At the same time, the green sector of US capitalism has been growing rapidly. Technology which was in the laboratory a decade ago has now been scaled up and rolled out, mainly in California.

Clean energy is big business in California: it has the US’s largest wind farm, the world’s largest solar thermal plant and largest photo-voltaic solar installation. In 2014, clean-energy technologies attracted more venture-capital to California than to the EU and China combined. Solar companies alone employ more than 64,000 people across the state, more than all the major utilities combined. In March of this year, more than 50% of the state’s electricity was generated by solar power. Governor Jerry Brown has vowed to fight the US withdrawal, by stepping up environmental standards even further. With a population of 40 million people, US companies are forced to follow Californian standards or lose a huge market. Washington and New York State have joined California in an alliance to implement the Paris accords.

The economics of clean power in the US have changed dramatically within the last five years. Production of electricity by solar power is now cheaper than from coal or gas. There are more than twice as many production workers employed in solar power than there are miners. In fact the number of coal miners has remained almost static since the mid-1990s: around 80,000-90,000. Coal mining is a declining industry, with or without environmental regulations. It would be a minor industry if it weren’t so dirty. Far larger industries have come out in support of clean energy. The CEOs of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Walmart, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Disney, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs all criticised Trump’s decision. It is the most backward sections of US capitalism that oppose climate change mitigation. The largest corporations have plans which stretch over decades, and want a halt to climate change. This is not to preserve humankind, but their profits.

We need to be absolutely clear that the only serious response to Trump’s reactionary anti-working class, pro-imperialist agenda is building popular resistance. The opposition to Trump represented by the Democratic Party is strictly concerned with looking after the strategic interests of US imperialism and its long term preservation. The inquiries by Congress and Mueller and the opposition to Trump’s climate policy are entirely and exclusively in the fundamental interests of the ruling class. We do not take sides in this dispute within the ruling class and recognise that a large part of the Democrat agenda is to defuse and undermine the people’s resistance which has been so powerfully evident over the past months. We have to do everything we can to support and strengthen this resistance and prevent its diversion into the dead-end of Democratic and liberal politics.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 258 June/July 2017