The US corporate media has passed over in near silence the fascistic content of a speech delivered to a chanting audience of right-wing Venezuelan and Cuban exiles along with right-wing Republican operatives at Florida International University in Miami Monday night.
The speech was staged ostensibly to deliver a bellicose ultimatum to the military of Venezuela: either capitulate to the US-orchestrated regime change operation or die. He stressed that absent a “peaceful” coup, “all options are open,” meaning a direct US military intervention.
Trump likewise spelled out Washington’s intention to follow up the overthrow of the Maduro government in Caracas with similar US campaigns to topple the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua and to assert undisputed US hegemony throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The speech’s overriding theme, however, was a diatribe against socialism, the likes of which has never been heard from a president of the United States. He used variations of the words “socialism” and “communism” 36 times in his barely 30-minute address, in which the crisis-ridden bourgeois nationalist government of Nicolas Maduro served largely as a strawman to illustrate socialism’s alleged evils.
To chants of “USA, USA, USA” and “Trump, Trump, Trump,” the US president presented himself and his government as leading a global crusade to stamp out socialism and an intractable struggle to prevent socialists from ever coming to power in the US itself.
“To those who would try to impose socialism on the United States, we again deliver a very simple message: America will never be a socialist country,” he said.
He in particular indicted socialism for its failure to “respect borders” and for “always seeking to expand,” a reflection of the American ruling oligarchy’s fear of the class struggle spilling across the US-Mexican border and bringing together workers united in an internationally integrated process of production into one mighty army against their common capitalist exploiters.
The theme trotted out in Miami echoed remarks that Trump included in his State of the Union address: “Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
The same corporate media that has ignored this rant against socialism has largely evaded the frontal assault on democratic rights and constitutional norms contained in Trump’s proclamation of a national state of emergency on the US southern border. Posed by this development is an increasingly clear danger of dictatorship. Trump’s extra-constitutional power grab has been accompanied by his call for the execution of those convicted of drug trafficking, his attempt to whip up xenophobic hysteria against refugees and migrants, the Gestapo-style raids of ICE and his recent call for “retribution” against the NBC comedy program “Saturday Night Live” and its star Alec Baldwin for satirizing his speeches. While Baldwin has justifiably expressed fear for himself and his family, the media has largely ignored or trivialized this threat as well.
In response to Trump’s appearance in Miami, the New York Times, the erstwhile paper of record of the liberal establishment, expressed no concern about the fascistic content of the president’s speech.
Instead, it treated it as part of the small change of electoral politics, stating that Trump had gone to South Florida as part of a “bid to win over what may be a critical bloc of voters in the 2020 presidential race.”
As for his vilification of “socialism,” the Times described the US president’s use of the word as merely an “all-purpose epithet for his newly empowered Democratic adversaries in the House.”
This is a gross misinterpretation of Trump’s target. He is not concerned about the pallid proposals of the like of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but rather the threat of a challenge to the capitalist order from below, bringing masses of workers into a confrontation with the capitalist system.
The most critical observation in the Times’ coverage of the address was the following: “Many Democratic lawmakers in South Florida have also called for Mr. Maduro’s ouster. But the White House has repeatedly opted not to invite Democrats to official events on Venezuela.” Democrats, the paper added, felt Trump had neglected “promoting bipartisanship on the Maduro issue.”
Nothing could more clearly express the reactionary and complacent character of both the Democrats and the corporate media. Both parties of the US ruling class should be united in support of regime-change and a criminal imperialist intervention in Venezuela, they insist, but Trump is dividing them for political reasons.
The Washington Post carried a similar report, stating that “As part of his reelection effort, Trump has sought to brand his Democratic opponents as socialists, often using the example of Venezuela as a warning to voters,” and stating that Trump had “said those who support socialist policies in the United States had flawed reasoning and insincere motives.”
The TV network and cable news programs—outside of Fox which predictably lauded Trump—ignored the speech in Miami entirely.
This reaction dovetailed with that of the Democratic Party, none of whose leading figures chose to comment on Trump’s remarks.
While ignored by the media and the Democrats, Trump’s tirade against socialism deserves to be taken with deadly seriousness. This is not merely about winning votes or intimidating the Democrats, though, no doubt, they will react with predictable cowardice and duplicity. Nor is it merely a means of vilifying the Venezuelan government in preparation for imperialist intervention.
Foreign policy, Marxists have always insisted, represents a concentrated expression of domestic class relations. The revival of Yankee imperialist aggression in Latin America and the turn by Washington toward an “America First” foreign policy which targets ever real and potential rivals for global and regional hegemony are bound up with the growth of social tensions driven by unprecedented social and economic inequality and, above all, the growth of the class struggle combined with increasing political radicalization, particularly of the younger generation.
It is against these very real threats to the wealth and power of the American oligarchy which Trump represents that his diatribe against socialism is directed.
If he is resurrecting the language of Adolf Hitler—whose speeches reportedly served Trump as bedtime reading—it is because the objective logic of the class struggle is bringing the working class, both in the United States and internationally, into a direct confrontation with a capitalist profit system that has systematically transferred society’s wealth from the masses of working people into the coffers of a handful of billionaires.
Hatred of socialism and violent opposition to the international unity of the working class have always constituted the essential traits of fascism. The calculations of Trump and his advisers, such as the repugnant Stephen Miller, are based not merely on the next election. They are seeking to create the foundations for a fascist movement in the US.
In this endeavor, they can count on the cowardice, duplicity and right-wing orientation of their nominal opponents in the Democratic Party, and the complicity of a corporate media that has become an ever more pliant propaganda arm of the capitalist state.
Trump’s Miami speech must be taken by the working class as a warning. It points to the urgent necessity of breaking with the Democrats and the entire two-party system and building the Socialist Equality Party as the leadership of a mass socialist movement.