U.S. activist: We demand full recognition of Lugansk and Donetsk from Trump

On January 20, 2017 the inauguration of new U.S. President Donald Trump will take place, and Washington will be restless for a few days. Supporters and opponents of Trump will be holding demonstrations on Inauguration Day and the day after. In addition, actions will be held in more than 100 U.S. cities.

Protests are being held not only by the mainstream opponents of Republican Trump — the Democrats — but by other forces in the U.S. who also support the Donbass in its just struggle against Ukrainian neo-fascism. Their struggle in the United States is not easy, as the authorities have for many years organized a complete information blockade and police and security services are waging repression. This alternative force in America is the U.S. left — a number of public and political organizations with leftist views, internationalists and antifascists.

In Washington on January 20 a protest will be held called J20 Resist, in which leftist will present their demands to Trump. These demands include the immediate cessation of U.S. military and economic aid to the Kiev junta, lifting of all sanctions against Russia and the Donbass republics, full recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, as well as recognition of Crimea within the Russian Federation, a full investigation of the massacre in Odessa and Ukrainian-American war crimes in the Donbass, and reparations from Washington.

Journalists of the site Lugansk Comments talked with one of the organizers of the J20 Resist rally, the well-known communist internationalist and representative of the international department of Workers World Party (U.S.), Greg Butterfield.

Donald Trump’s victory caused a very strong reaction in U.S. society. Why? If Hillary Clinton won, would the protests have been the same?

Donald Trump’s election campaign attacked the most vulnerable and oppressed sectors of the working class in the United States. His often crude attacks against immigrants and refugees, against Muslims, against the fundamental rights of women and African Americans to equality and respect, against labor unions, gained him support from powerful capitalists and the police, disgruntled members of the middle classes and some workers. Trump’s demagogy created a political climate were neo-Nazis could raise their heads and have a claim to legitimacy in the mass media.

Those of us in the U.S. who fight for workers’ rights and international solidarity have long experience with Trump. People around the world know him mainly from his campaign and television show, but we know him as a supporter of racism, police violence and attacks on labor, going back decades. He first gained fame by using his wealth to campaign for the death penalty against four African American youths who had been falsely accused of rape in New York City.

Since Trump’s election in November, incidents of racist and xenophobic violence have skyrocketed. Fascists and other reactionaries feel emboldened by his victory. Trump’s cabinet appointments of billionaires from some of the largest monopoly corporations have encouraged bosses to harden their anti-union position. His appointments of some of the worst U.S. war criminals, and his public threats against numerous countries – China, Iran, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea, to name a few – promise a further expansion of U.S. wars abroad.

For all these reasons, many workers, youth and other sectors of the population see Trump’s ascendancy to the most powerful political office in the world as a threat to their very existence – the same way that millions of people in Russia and Donbass felt Hillary Clinton was a threat to theirs.

This is why tens of thousands of people, especially young people, took to the streets to protest Trump in the days and weeks after his election. These protesters were not primarily supporters of Hillary Clinton, but young people who had not voted at all or who supported alternative candidates like Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, or Monica Moorehead.

On January 20, thousands of people will travel to Washington, D.C., for protests against Trump’s inauguration. Mass protests are also planned that day in hundreds of cities and towns, not only in the U.S. but worldwide, from Vancouver to Manila. I am helping to organize one of the Washington demonstrations, called J20 Resist: Against Trump as the new face of U.S. imperialism, against racism, sexism and all oppression, against both the Republican and Democratic parties of capitalism, and to fight for a socialist future. 

New York, USA. Conference of Workers World Party, 2016.
If Hillary Clinton had been elected, we would still be protesting on January 20, although the immediate response from masses of people might have been less. For many decades, the U.S. ruling class has cultivated a popular view of the Democratic Party as the party of working people, oppressed minorities and women, and the Republican Party as the party of open white supremacy and big business rule. This allows them to switch back and forth when one party falls out of favor. In reality, both parties carry out the same fundamental program of defending the wealthy, oppressing the poor and waging war on the people of the world.

However, cracks in this myth are beginning to show. The 2016 elections saw a fundamental change in how the Democrats were perceived, especially by youth. Many young people were excited by the left-liberal campaign of Clinton’s opponent Bernie Sanders. When they saw how Clinton and her backers used all kinds of dirty tricks to prevent Sanders from being the Democratic nominee, many refused to support her – even after Sanders asked them to. They boycotted the election or supported progressive third-party candidates.

Clinton actually won the popular vote by a narrow margin. Trump won the presidency thanks to the undemocratic and archaic Electoral College system, which is supported by both capitalist parties.

Actions are planned in Washington on Inauguration Day. What are their goals? What are the demands put forward by the protesters?

Several actions are planned in Washington on Inauguration Day by different sectors of the left, including communists, socialists, social-democrats and anarchists. Many of these forces are working together in an amicable way, sharing resources such as housing and permits, and supporting each other against attacks and infiltration by police and neo-Nazi Trump supporters.

The Democratic Party is not organizing any significant protest in Washington that day. I know that some international media portray these anti-Trump protests as creations of Hillary Clinton and her supporters. But this is not the case. It is the left opponents of both capitalist parties who are standing up to Trump on J20.

Our communist-initiated demonstration, J20 Resist, will raise the most basic and popular social demands of the mass movement: against the domination of the banks and big business, against racism and police brutality, against the mass deportation of immigrant workers, for jobs at a living wage, health care and education for all, and for an end to all U.S. wars and sanctions abroad.

A very important part of our demonstration will be to clearly reject Democratic Party propaganda blaming Russia for the election of Trump. Our lead banner carries the slogan, “Capitalism caused Trump – not Russia! Stop racism and war!”

We will also urge workers, threatened communities and the left to create self-defense organizations. We expect violent attacks by fascists and state repression to escalate under Trump.

Using police restrictions and media slander, the ruling class is trying prevent people from protesting on January 20. But we are determined to show the workers of the U.S. and the world that there are fighters who will stand up to Trump’s attacks from his very first day in office.

Picket at UN headquarters in New York demanding protection
of human rights in the LPR and DPR, December 2016.
What is the role of the U.S. left forces in the protest movement against Trump? What are the demands put forward by the U.S. left? How do they see the future of the United States?

The left movement is the backbone of the resistance to Trump. In some cases, the Democratic Party tries to take over or influence the demands of the movement in various ways – such as with its attacks on Russia. But we are used to dealing with this kind of behavior.

The Democratic Party and affiliated NGOs have a big role in the Women’s March on Washington on January 21. However, even in this case, many women will come who are not supporters of Clinton, or who can be won to a more radical perspective. It is our role as revolutionaries to go among the people who may be confused or newly awakened to political life and win them to an anti-capitalist viewpoint.

The last decade has seen important breakthroughs in the class struggle in the U.S., which have given hope to people struggling against U.S. imperialism all over the world. It began in 2006 with the mass movement of immigrant workers demanding legal recognition and rights. These workers, many from Mexico and Central America, brought their militant traditions with them. Through them, May Day was revived as a day of struggle for the whole working class. Occupy Wall Street and the fight for a $15 minimum wage mobilized young people who saw no future for themselves under capitalism. Black Lives Matter brought people into the streets against the most egregious racist violence by the state.

All these movements grew up in opposition to a Democratic Party administration as well as a Republican Congress. The young people who bring life to these movements understand that neither capitalist party has any solutions to offer them. It is our task to win these young people to a revolutionary, internationalist, and socialist perspective.

One of our big challenges is to broaden the anti-imperialist, anti-war perspective of the movement. There are good signs, such as the growth of solidarity between the Black Lives Matter movement and the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. But we still have much work to do.

New York. Stop the war against Syria, September 2016.
In this regard, I have seen some commentators, who call themselves friends of Russia and Donbass, compare our protest movement against Trump with the Maidan. In fact it is just the opposite. Trump is a wealthy oligarch and right-wing demagogue, like those Ukrainian oligarchs who funded the neo-Nazis on Maidan Square and the massacre of May 2, 2014, in Odessa. The program of Trump’s supporters is to foment racial and national hatred, scapegoat the poorest and most defenseless, and employ violence and slander against their opponents – just as the Maidan fascists did. Our movement against Trump is part of the same historic current as the anti-fascist resistance in Ukraine and the Donbass republics.

As communists, we have learned the lessons of history, from the Great Patriotic War to the recent history of Ukraine and Donbass. When fascists rear their heads, it is not the time to “wait and see” what will happen. It is time to organize and take action to demand our rights and push back the ultra-right, as the people of Donetsk and Lugansk did in 2014.

Lugansk. Celebration of Victory Day, May 9, 2016.
What are your demands regarding relations with Russia, ending the war in Donbass and the violation of human rights by the Ukrainian regime?

While Trump has made overtures to Russia, we know that imperialism is a system which does not change its nature when one ruling class faction pushes aside another. Of course, we understand that countries facing U.S. aggression must take advantage of any opportunity to gain a breathing space and strengthen their defenses. But it would be a dangerous mistake for people anywhere in the world to put faith in Trump to fundamentally change U.S. imperialism’s drive to war and expansion. Only the revolutionary struggle of the workers and their allies can stop imperialist war, as the people of Russia proved so magnificently 100 years ago.

For our part, on J20 and afterward, we will continue to stand in solidarity with the free people of Donbass and those suffering under the Ukrainian regime, while also fighting Trump. We demand an immediate end to U.S. military and economic aid the Kiev junta, an end to all sanctions against Russia and the Donbass republics, full recognition of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, and recognition of Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. We demand a full investigation of the Odessa massacre and U.S.-Ukrainian war crimes in Donbass, and payment of reparations by Washington.

Lugansk. Greg Butterfield in the office of the International Forum
“Antifascism, Internationalism, Solidarity” (AIS Forum) in May 2016.

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