Socialist Worker

Joe Biden refused to tap into the power that can win change

Issue No. 2729

Part of an estimated 10,000-strong Black Lives Matter protest in Eugene, Oregon, in May this year

Part of an estimated 10,000-strong Black Lives Matter protest in Eugene, Oregon, in May this year (Pic: David Geitgey Sierralupe/Flickr)


Inspiring mass ­movements of struggle and resistance have sprung up repeatedly under Donald Trump’s reign.

They show where the real power to beat Trump lies. Yet Joe Biden’s lacklustre campaign refused to tap into this potential.

Millions of people across the US have had enough of Trump.

A poll in August revealed that 56 percent of people who planned to vote for Biden said their main reason for doing so was that he isn’t Trump.

The anger has been fuelled by Trump’s disastrous handling of the coronavirus ­pandemic, his racism and his backing of killer cops.

Trump fought to keep businesses and workplaces open, then openly dismissed ­workers’ anger at the rising virus death toll.

In some workplaces, ­workers took action in response—with strikes, walkouts and protests.

Some 1,100 wildcat strikes have taken place in the US since March.

But by far the ­greatest show of opposition to Trump was the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that exploded back onto the streets in May.

BLM has become the largest movement in US history. An estimated 26,000,000 people have taken to the streets this year alone.

Anger at the police murder of George Floyd quickly grew into a far-reaching struggle against a racist system.

It raised radical changes to society and made them seem possible.

It drastically altered the political mood and encouraged a confidence to resist Trump and the racism he encouraged.

Resistance

The BLM movement crowned four years of resistance to Trump. The five largest mass protests in US history took place during his presidency—beginning with the huge Women’s Day March the day after his inauguration in 2017.

More mass protests met Trump’s assaults on Muslims, and migrants at the US border with Mexico.

And there have been high-profile strikes—such as a major one by teachers in West Virginia, considered the heart of Trump country, in 2018.

Yet all of this anger failed to stop Trump picking up significant votes. Biden, by campaigning on a ticket that promised a return to “normality”, failed to inspire many people.

Many of the biggest unions in the US endorsed Biden for president. They included those representing “blue collar” workers that Trump claims back him.

The United Steel Workers, the Teamsters, United Auto Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers union all backed Biden.

So did the AFL-CIO federation, representing 55 unions with 12.5 million members.

But Biden’s campaign failed to convince many workers.

James Williams of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades said Trump’s scapegoating and lies about jobs chimed with many.

He said, “They connect with his fear-mongering going back to when he was first elected with, ‘Be afraid of the immigrant. The immigrant’s here to take your job.’

“That resonated with our membership.”

There is rightly deep bitterness in US society among working class people who have been failed by the system.

The Democrats offer no solution to it.


‘General strike’ raised

Some trade unionists in the US raised the prospect of holding a general strike int he wake of the election. The moves followed Donald Trump’s threat that he would ignore the result.

Union groups in New York, Seattle and western Massachusetts all passed motions backing a walkout.

In Seattle, the MLK Labor federation of 150 unions said it was “committed to the defence of democratic rights”.

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, with 35,000 members, encouraged “all union members to plan to participate in mass actions”.

A general strike is not on the cards.

But Dan Maloney of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation said the idea had “gotten a lot more legs than I ever thought it would”.


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