US: Government of Police Powers

Need to Confront Government of Police Powers
by Building the New

The following presentation was given by Kathleen Chandler of the U.S. Marxist-Leninist Organization at the meeting on the significance of the U.S. election results for the working class movement, organized by CPC(M-L) in Hamilton, Ontario on December 10, 2016.


The most significant issue to address when looking at the U.S. presidential election results is that the U.S. ruling circles have resorted to a government of police powers. This has been developing for some time, especially since the Bill Clinton administration, with Bush and Obama further developing this direction. There is clearly very serious contention within the camp of the rulers in the U.S. and the election did not serve to sort out the differences between them, as elections are supposed to do. Nonetheless, Donald Trump has now been selected to expand police powers, have them streamlined and unfettered — and to do so blatantly, openly and with complete impunity.

The election also shows how completely the old arrangements of government of laws, with functioning political parties and a functioning political process, are finished. A huge effort is being made by the imperialist rulers and their monopoly media to have everyone focus on and react to every tweet and comment Trump makes. This is to make it look like it is just a matter of Trump’s bad policies, which is done to deprive the people of the outlook which leads them to conclude that it is they who must give birth to the new. They cannot depend on one camp or the other within the imperialist ruling class to resolve the problems they face.

The fact that now the peoples of the U.S. and the world will be saddled with a U.S. government of unfettered police powers shows that the old forms given rise to in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries no longer function to provide governments with legitimacy. They no longer serve to get the people to submit to the elitist rule. Today this rule is perceived as an instrument of making the rich richer and the poor poorer while the so-called American dream lies in tatters. Meanwhile, wanton aggression is launched against countries that refuse to submit to the U.S. dictate. As a result, now, the police powers are put forward as if they are a government of laws. On election night, we saw the contending factions immediately call for a peaceful transition of power, hailing the U.S. democracy to the skies.

The situation gives rise to grave dangers for the peoples at home and abroad. We need to be pro-active by having our own program which gives rise to new forms and gives birth to the new. As we respond to all the attacks on the people, if we are pro-active, the resistance movement will make great headway. Political discussion and analysis on the significance of the U.S. election results is the starting point to creating a political movement which favors the people.

The rulers have the problem of how to pursue a government of police powers while keeping the people in check and the union preserved. Trump is seen by the rulers as a deal-maker who can put and keep the U.S. in the game where everyone is threatening everyone else. He will on the one hand strike deals, likely behind closed doors and using his executive powers; on the other, brandish the full might of U.S. police powers without concern about legitimacy, abroad and at home. In their desperation this is how the faction of the ruling class championed by Trump thinks it can make headway.

The president’s executive powers include powers to regulate important issues like immigration; the implementation or waiver of environmental laws; trade and border regulations to favor U.S. annexation, as Canada is already experiencing; expanding use of drone warfare, torture, special forces, criminalization of those resisting abroad and at home; and more. This enforcing of police powers will take place internationally, where Trump will potentially strike deals directly with military forces, or individual leaders, bypassing legitimate government channels. The relationship is to be a direct one with the president and it is one where deals are more an offer that cannot be refused, as the threat to use nuclear weapons is always on the table.

It is notable that in appointing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as UN Ambassador, Trump specifically said she was a “proven dealmaker.” Her experience as Governor is making deals to bring monopolies, including foreign ones, into South Carolina, usually by paying them millions, deferring taxes, etc. Trump’s recent deal with Carrier is an example of more of the same in the future. He made the deal in secret with the CEO, with the union having no say. The state of Indiana, where Vice President-Elect Pence can deliver funds, agreed to pay the monopoly $7 million. Then, when the union president Chuck Jones made clear the actual facts concerning the number of jobs to remain, 800, not the 1,100 Trump promoted, Trump attacked him personally. So far, just on Twitter. But one can see that far more could occur in conditions where workers refuse a deal, or a state government, or a foreign government, does. The reason for personal attacks is to incite passions and reduce the level of political discourse to zero so that people cannot come together in a political movement for empowerment, peace and rights.

This mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs has been widely used in the U.S. to give the monopolies more than $80 billion yearly in just state and local public funds. At least three-quarters of state and city subsidy dollars go not to local businesses, but to monopolies like Boeing, Intel, GM, Nike, and Dow Chemical. Foreign operations like Royal Dutch Shell and Nissan rake in large amounts as well. Some of these are “megadeals,” like the $5.6 billion that New York State gave Alcoa, or the nearly $9 billion that war monopoly Boeing extracted from Washington State. These colossal packages carry with them an average cost-per-job of nearly $500,000. And most of the time, while the funds are delivered, the promised jobs do not materialize. Trump now is positioned to streamline and increase such deals, putting the weight of the presidency openly behind them.

While Trump talks about jobs, the Carrier deal is one that serves the oligopolies, and likely includes promises for future contracts for government infrastructure projects for example, or defence contracts and the like. During the campaign Trump emphasized that he will treat government as a business, which is another way of saying social needs and services are not a concern. In his victory speech, he said, “I’ve spent my entire life in business, looking at the untapped potential in projects and in people all over the world” and “That is now what I want to do for our country.”

Business is run on the basis of the “bottom line” and treating human beings as things, even products, to be disposed of. Steelworkers are very familiar with being treated as things, to permanently losing jobs and pensions, and to whole communities being destroyed. The choice of Wibur Ross as Secretary of Commerce brings to mind that it was Wilbur Ross who made billions in the United States buying up bankrupt steel companies and eliminating the retiree benefits of 190,000 steelworkers before repackaging and selling the plants. Responsibility to society and to meet the needs of society are not main considerations of a government of police powers.

In looking at these developments, it is important to recognize that police powers by their nature are arbitrary and implemented on the basis of broad impunity. It is not just a matter of police and military forces of various kinds taking action, but rather a means of governance in a situation where the rulers have no solutions and where they are compelled to block the striving of the people to modernize and broaden democracy. From its origins the U.S. state has had two aspects making a single unitary power. One is the government of laws, including the Constitution, treaties, legislation, courts, etc. The other is police powers. What we are seeing now is the elimination of a government of laws, with Trump positioned to do so even more blatantly and with greater impunity than previous presidents.

It is also the case that while a government of laws must at least have the appearance of legitimacy and concern for social needs, a government of police powers does not. Its concern is to punish all dissenters so as to preserve the state.

Legitimacy of government is also not a main concern. Police powers are to criminalize, destroy, even whole nations and the human productive powers they encompass. This is what happened with Libya, what is happening with Iraq and Syria. The election also showed that at home, the rulers are no longer concerned with maintaining even the appearance of a functioning political process, with functioning political parties, which are all part of legitimacy. Trump is the embodiment of this reality.

This issue of legitimacy is a very important one when we are considering our tactics for resistance and advancing our own program of fighting for politics of empowerment in the course of defending the rights of all. A government concerned about legitimacy appears to “listen” to the public and to uphold the constitution, with freedom of speech and assembly and the right to life and liberty. A government of police powers has no such concern. It acts to criminalize protest and to make clear that you, as individuals and collectives, are to do as you are told or face the wrath of police powers. The current struggle at Standing Rock is an example of both this government wrath and of building the resistance. And it is being done by the Obama administration not Trump.

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