The US President has poured scorn on the attempts of Honduran migrants to make their way to the USA, asserting that they will be met with force. But threats and repression will not deter those desperately seeking to survive.
Donald J. Trump has recently been an extremely busy man. While striving with might and main to make America great again, he has been obliged to fight on a number of different fronts against sinister forces that are hellbent on undermining him, and thereby preventing America from being great.
Foremost among these malign forces is the media, which, for reasons known only to itself, has taken an extreme and irrational dislike to the president. Television channels well-known for their extreme left-wing leanings, such as CNN, have been bombarding him with an avalanche of insults and fake news.
Recently, this media campaign has reached new and unheard-of levels of violence, utilising the services of the US Post Office to dispatch pipe bombs to politicians, businessmen and even famous Hollywood film stars. It is true that these dastardly attacks were all directed against well-known critics of Mr. Trump, but that is clearly all part of a cunning plan to discredit him in the run-up to the midterm elections.
Then there is the so-called Khashoggi case, which has caused so much fuss in the media. As the man was himself a journalist, this was hardly surprising. The media automatically jumped to the conclusion that he had been murdered on the orders of the Saudi Crown Prince, a trusted ally of the USA and a close personal friend of its president.
In true presidential style, Mr. Trump has maintained an air of lofty objectivity, in contrast to the hysteria in the press. He has expressed full confidence in the ability of the Saudis to carry out a full and impartial investigation of the facts, and provide us all with the real version of what happened.
The truth of the matter is that Mr. Khashoggi, pursuing a campaign against the Saudi regime in general, and Mohammed bin Salman in particular, went to the Saudi embassy in Istanbul and deliberately tortured himself to death in a brazen attempt to discredit the Crown Prince.
This obvious provocation was clearly an attempt to upset US-Saudi relations, which up to this point were proceeding extremely satisfactorily. Fortunately, Mr. Trump did not fall for this. He had already been informed by his Saudi friends, in the middle of his famous sword dance, that this kind of thing was all part of the great religious and cultural traditions of the kingdom, which have kept it safe for thousands of years.
This provided him with a clear understanding that murder, torture, the severing of hands for theft, stoning to death for adultery, crucifixion, the financing and arming of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and many other terrorist groups, the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the genocidal war against the people of the Yemen, were all part of a necessary plan to preserve civilisation in the Arabian Peninsula – a region of vital importance to America’s strategic and economic interests.
Whilst in the midst of all these annoying crises, the president’s attention was drawn to a new threat on America’s southern borders. A horde of Middle Eastern terrorists, disguised as migrants from Honduras, was heading straight for the frontier, armed with dangerous weapons like babies’ pushchairs, pots and pans.
Immediately understanding that this monstrous invasion represented an existential threat to the USA, Mr. Trump took the only possible decision. He mobilised the army, dispatching more than 5,000 well-trained and motivated troops to defend the frontier, waving the flag of “true patriotism”.
The president naturally blames the Democrats for this threatened invasion. He tweeted last Thursday that, “Democrat inspired laws make it tough for us to stop people at the border” and said he was using the military to respond to what he called a “National Emergency”.
The migrants in the sprawling caravan — once estimated by the United Nations to number more than 7,000 — are hoping to make it to the United States. Most are Hondurans, seeking to escape poverty and violence, and include families, many with children.
The caravan swelled dramatically soon after crossing the Mexican border on 19 October, but sickness, fear and police harassment have reduced its numbers. By the time they reach the US frontier, the numbers will have fallen still further. But this fact has not improved Mr. Trump’s mood in the slightest.
Trump: “go back to your country!”
Trump tweeted a direct message to the migrants Thursday, urging them to return home. “To those in the caravan, turnaround,” he wrote. “We are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!”
Such appeals seem not to have had the slightest effect on a mass of desperate people, who know perfectly well that their applications for US citizenship will have about as much possibility of succeeding as Donald J. Trump renouncing all his worldly wealth and retiring to a monastery.
The migrants pay no attention to the hostile news reports about them. Even if they had access to the news, their plight would still spur them on in their horrific march to escape poverty, misery and death. When asked about Trump’s tweets, they respond that he should stop attacking them and said they would keep heading north.
Candy Guillermo, a 37-year-old migrant in the caravan who had heard about the plan to deploy troops, was surprised she and the children in the group would be considered a threat. “Trump should be more humanitarian,” she said. “We only want to give our kids a better future.”
But Mr. Trump is determined that no such future will be available to them. Migrants who do reach the U.S. border can claim asylum under U.S. and international law. But even those lucky ones who clear an initial screening must wait until their cases are decided in immigration court, which can take several years.
Troops on the border
The U.S. had 331,700 asylum claims in 2017, more than any country in the world, according to the UN Refugee Agency. That’s nearly double the asylum claims the US fielded in 2015 and nearly quadruple the claims in 2013.
The planned deployment of active duty troops is in response to a request from the Department of Homeland Security, which manages the Border Patrol, a US official said. In addition to the army, the National Guard has been deployed. But all these measures will only have a limited effect in preventing illegal crossings.
The troops of the National Guard are under the control of state governors and are limited to support roles such as providing surveillance. But experience shows that where the despair of people has reached breaking point, nothing will stop them.
It is not at all clear why the army was sent, because National Guard troops can perform the same functions. Federal law prohibits the use of active duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S. unless specifically authorised by Congress. Earlier this year, General Mattis authorised Pentagon funding for up to 4,000 National Guard troops on the border and thus far only a little over 2,000 have been used.
The number of troops being deployed is more than double the 2,000 who are in Syria fighting the Islamic State. And soldiers in the US Army will resent being sent to act as the police force to drive away helpless women and children from the southern border instead of fighting terrorists in the Middle East.
Trump seemed to hint at the troop announcement to a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday. “Wait’ll you see what happens over the next couple of weeks. You’re going to see a very secure border,” he said. “You just watch.”
Sea of human misery
But the borders of the USA can never be secure against the sea of human misery, which is the result of the horrific economic and social collapse of many poor countries in Central America. As long as these inhuman conditions prevail, no amount of force, threats or even walls will stop the flood of desperate people attempting to find a way out of the nightmare in which they are forced to live.
There was a time when the USA welcomed immigrants. America is, in fact, a land of immigrants, who have contributed massively to its development and wealth. On the Statue of Liberty are inscribed the immortal words: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
It seems the time has come to eradicate these words, and replace them with the grim tweet of Donald Trump: “Go back to your country and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!”
The inhuman attitude shown towards these poor people, whose only crime is to wish to escape from poverty and find a better life for their children stands in stark contrast to the generosity shown by ordinary Mexicans, who have shown sympathy and understanding to the plight of the brothers and sisters.
At every stage in the march of the caravan, poor people in Mexico have turned out to express their support, providing free food and whatever accommodation they could improvise. Owners of cars and trucks have been picking up migrants and carrying them many kilometres towards their destination.
One man, whose truck usually carries cargoes of mangoes and other fruit to the USA, is now carrying a cargo of migrants without charge, making repeated journeys back and forth. He commented to an English journalist: “I carry mangoes to the USA on my truck, and they are admitted without any problem. Why can’t they admit people?”
Brutality of the nation state
That is a very good question. During its progressive period, the bourgeoisie swept aside the artificial barriers that separated one region or town from another. In this way, they united the productive forces in one single unit: the nation state. But now the productive forces have outgrown the narrow limits of the nation state.
Every nation is forced, on pain of extinction, to participate in the world market. We live in a globalised economic system, but one that is hampered by the continued existence of borders, tariffs, taxes, competitive devaluation and all the other paraphernalia of protectionism that are relics of the past and obstacles to the development of the productive forces and human civilisation itself.
The so-called refugee crisis that has created a nightmarish situation for millions of people cannot be solved on a capitalist basis. The bourgeoisie has no solution to this problem, except for razor wire, armed troops, dogs and violence. And even these measures, in the last analysis, will prove to be useless.
Just as it was the task of the bourgeoisie to abolish all local particularisms, so it is the historic task of the proletariat to take a big broom and sweep away that barbarous relic of the past that is the nation state. We stand for the abolition of the private ownership of the banks and monopolies and the institution of democratic, planned production, not only nationally but internationally.
For socialism throughout America!
A socialist revolution in the USA would immediately signify the overthrow of the reactionary regimes south of the Rio Grande. A socialist federation of Central America, linked to a socialist United States in a common democratic plan of production, would rapidly eradicate the horrific conditions that have created the problems we see on our television screens every night.
Nobody but the most desperate people would embark upon a long march through difficult and dangerous conditions to escape from even worse conditions. Only by guaranteeing work, houses, health and education worthy of human beings can the problem be solved. But none of these objectives can be achieved without first overthrowing the parasitic cliques of landowners and capitalists that dominate these countries and condemn their populations to misery.
A harmonious plan of production would mobilise the huge productive potential of Central America, putting to work the entire population in the work of social reconstruction. United with the gigantic industrial power of the USA, a socialist federation would rapidly transform the entire situation. The countries of Central America should be a paradise on earth. But under capitalism, they have been transformed into a living hell for millions.
Let us remember that before the Europeans came, Central America was home to a marvellous civilisation. Under socialism it will flourish once more, returning the wealth to those who produce it. Central America will again become a beautiful garden, which nobody will ever wish to leave.
Top image by Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0