Notes from the front of 17-01-2018

Trump and May – banging the racist drum

The whipping up of racism is a central ideological offensive of right wing political forces in the imperialist states. It sows division within the working class and suggests falling living standards are due to issues of race, instead of the right’s economic policies which are really to blame.

Donald Trump in the US constantly pushes an agenda on immigration and Muslims to keep agitating his electoral base. Likewise in Britain rhetoric about immigration has been a longstanding hallmark of Theresa May.

In his recent outburst at a meeting discussing US immigration Donald Trump described African nations, Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries”.

These racist comments have provoked global outrage and been widely condemned.

The African Union – the organisation representing 55 African countries – demanded the US President apologise. Spokeswoman for the African Union, Ebba Kalondo, said:
“The African Union Commission is frankly alarmed at statements by the President of the United States when referring to migrants of African countries and others in such contemptuous terms. Considering the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the US during the Atlantic slave trade, this flies in the face of all accepted behaviour and practice.”

The United Nations Human Rights Spokesman, Rupert Colville, slammed the remarks as “racist”, stating that “you cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

In Britain Theresa May returned to her anti-immigration agenda following her clumsy Tory Cabinet reshuffle.

The Tories crushed UKIP at last June’s general election and since then UKIP has been engaging in various acts of political self-destruction –so the Tories whipping up racism does not benefit a rival party.

Currrently May’s government needs to distract the population from the acute and growing crisis in the NHS, resulting from government cuts and privatisation and the increasing problems it is facing in the Brexit negotiations.

So the government is now demanding that banks play an increased role in policing immigration. They have been told to check 70 million bank accounts against a Home Officer database of people liable for deportation or wanted by immigration enforcement. The CEO of RBS has expressed concerns about implementing these checks.

The national demonstration on Saturday 17 March, organised by Stand Up To Racism, is an opportunity to oppose this racist agenda.

German SPD in crisis – as it considers other pact with conservatives

The leadership of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are proposing that their party enters another grand coalition with Angela Merkel’s conservatives (CDU/CSU). They have drawn up a 28-page agreement with Chancellor Merkel and on 21 January an SPD conference in Bonn will decide whether the party enters formal coalition negotiations with the CDU/CSU bloc.

After the September 2017 federal elections Ms Merkel first attempted to form a government with the Free Democrats and the Greens, but these talks collapsed with both the latter parties reluctant to prop up Germany’s conservatives.

At September’s election the SPD suffered its worst election result since the re-unification of Germany in 1990. It secured only 20.5 per cent of the vote, having achieved more than 30 per cent at every federal election between 1990 and 2005.

The slashing of SPD support is due to the right wing governments it has formed with Germany’s conservatives. The SPD has joined two grand coalitions with the CDU/CSU since 2005 and is now discussing a third. Participation in the 2005-9 coalition cost the SPD nearly a third of its national vote share (falling from 34.2 per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent in 2009). The party’s vote slightly recovered to 25.7 per cent (2013) following a period in opposition, but then lost a fifth of its vote share (collapsing to 20.5 per cent) due to participation in the recent 2013-17 coalition.

Fearful of a further decline in the party’s popularity, there is discontent on the party’s left, including from its youth wing. The SPD’s branches in the eastern region of Saxony-Anhalt and in Berlin have rejected a new grand coalition outright while in Hesse the branch is calling for changes to the outline deal.

The SPD’s 600 strong delegate conference on 21 January will decide whether to proceed with the leadership’s coalition proposal. If they back the SPD leadership then the party will negotiate a detailed coalition treaty with the CDU and CSU. This document will then be put to the vote of the SPD’s entire 450,000 members.

The economic background to the SPD’s and CDU/CSU’s loss of support last September is that their coalition has presided over stagnant and declining living standards. According to official figures real wages stagnated after the 2008 financial crisis, and although they picked up after 2014 with real wage growth reaching 2.5 per cent in 2016, that fell back to less than 1 per cent by the end of 2017. These wages figures flatter the true position as the millions of ‘mini-jobs’, part-time or casual work, where labour protections and minimum wage laws are ignored, are not included in this data on real wages. It is estimated that there are over 7 million workers in ‘mini-jobs’ in Germany, a ‘reform’ first introduced by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Merkel’s governments have presided over this deteriorating situation and the parties that have joined her coalitions have also had to suffer the electoral consequences.

If the SPD decides to ally with Merkel yet again they can expect to further decline in the next elections.