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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Oppose the United Snakes: Most ordinary Americans support the Muslim ban
January 31, 2017
As covered in the media, Google’s Sergey Brin and other billionaires or millionaires have expressed their opposition to Trump’s seven-Muslim-countries travel ban by taking photos with protesters, posting on social media, or donating money to some organization.(1) The ban pertains to both refugees and people with student/work visas. So you have a billionaire in the Oval Office who claims to rule on behalf of “the little guy” while many capitalists and mostly certain assorted petty-bourgeois people in the U.S. are against the Muslim ban. Some are protesting mainly because Trump is a Republican, or because Trump is the president, and don’t give a rat’s ass about the fact that fewer than twenty thousand Syria war refugees made it to the U.$. under Obama in five years – almost none compared with the hundreds of thousands admitted by rich and poor countries far smaller. Polls had shown even not-insignificant numbers of Democrats had opposed accepting Syria war refugees altogether or preferred Christians, besides indicating lower-income Americans were more opposed to, or at least less supportive of, helping Syrian refugees.
There wasn’t much of an industrial proletariat, or a distinct group of lower-income u.$. workers who could be mistaken for it, protesting outside some u.$. airports on the weekend. And many of the attendees claiming to be a revolutionary voice of the working class were phony in one way or another. Not that there was an Amerikan proletariat in the u.$. to represent in the first place.
The wealth of someone like Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerberg is obviously based on what’s called “finance capital” in various ways and bound up with it. Finance capital (roughly synonymous with monopolies in modern rich countries’ finance industry that is discussed in the media, or increasingly money invested in various industries around the world) is involved in how exclusion from financial markets and services and from foreign investment is used as a weapon against Iran, for example. Nations will be subject to similar actions as long as finance capital exists. Blocking capital from imperialist countries, like the u.$. and Germany, is actually one way imperialism oppresses today. At the same time, finance capital is central to the development of differences underlying global inequality and international exploitation, including international-wage-inequality-related exploitation through international trade. So this writer isn’t here to sing the praises of finance capital or the extremely rich. Yet, it has to be admitted it wasn’t finance capital, mainly, that was against movement of capital and labor across borders. Privileged and anxious u.$. workers opposed capital and labor mobility, offshoring, and free trade. That is the case though both u.$. capitalists and what’s called the “labor aristocracy” benefit from international wage and industrial/infrastructure differences, and from increased international trade.
It wasn’t banks on the street in Seattle whining (and frenetically stirring up nationalist tendencies) about trade agreements from a hysterical First World worker perspective. It wasn’t mutual funds going to the southern u.$. border in 2005 to help repress migrants who didn’t care so much about joining u.$. labor unions as u.$. citizens. Though some millionaires participated or had a few favorable words to say, it wasn’t gigantic transnational holding companies – not even those with hipster, indie or liberal appeal – at Occupy making populist statements against elites and Wall Street financiers as predators who also had global interests. It wasn’t finance capital, mainly, constantly talking about alleged bourgeois Jewish and Arab corruption or influence and paving the way for reactionary policies and attitudes toward foreigners who weren’t even capitalist. It wasn’t insurance companies with multibillion-dollar balance sheets flattering the u.$. 99% during the u.$. election season, saying voters were wanting a revolution some charismatic candidate could lead, and railing against the top 1% as if amerikans were generally victims in need of federal government preference and protection. Apart from some people with retirement or securities investments, it wasn’t finance capital among the so-called anti-capitalists at inauguration protests making seemingly oblivious statements about elites, the establishment, the 1%, and Wall Street – absurdly repeating rhetoric that led to the whole Sanders-Trump phenomenon in the first place. What was surely present among those, however, was the u.$. so-called “working” and “middle” classes; they did have a barely concealed desire to use the power of finance capital and u.$. hegemony to serve the interests of a larger group of AmeriKKKans. People with more of a global view were outnumbered.
Yes – though Trump is responsive to pressure from both millionaires and so-called workers in the u.$. – it has to be said the main base for the Muslim travel ban in terms of class is the u.$. so-called working class and other u.$. petty-bourgeoisie. Some of those now protesting the ban were involved in gender-related defamation of Islam and Muslim countries for years – including during the George W. Bush presidency, when liberals and Democrats worked with neo-conservatives (some of whom came to see former President Obama or failed candidate and crusading war hawk Hillary Clinton as almost one of their own). They had problems with overseas Chinese and Indian workers. They had problems with people in the u.$. with guest/temporary worker visas. They had problems with Chinese and Arab students and tourists. They had problems with people who cared more about keeping their family together than waving the amerikan flag. They had problems with Mexicans. They had problems with Islam and Muslims. And they still do whether they want to admit it openly now or not. Another factor has to do with gender: for example, white female discomfort with unattractive or attractive Latin American, African and Muslim male and female migrants and refugees, and related amerikan male pseudo-feminism. Those playing dumb or stupid about this make themselves part of the problem by denying reality.
Supporters of the Muslim ban have a point in that the idea Obama never did anything comparable is a sick joke. Obama fucking mass-murdered people in five of the seven Muslim ban countries, using cruise missiles and drones, and for years enforced sanctions against the other two countries. Apparently, excluding Muslims from the u.$. is more racist than the lethal military action giving rise to refugees in the first place. The “Muslim ban” is bad because it exposes the myth that amerikans are so welcoming of people from countries supposedly more oppressive, but mass murder of Muslims is fine. Despite some changes, sanctions and terrorism designations were still in place by the time Trump took office. That’s not to mention all of the drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and u.$.-backed I$raeli drone strikes in Palestine and Sudan. In trying to justify the Muslim ban, Trump at least talked about avoiding war with Russia.(2)
With some Democratic critics of the Muslim ban, there seem to be no specific wars to avoid or criticize. Some are worried about the ban’s effect on u.$. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other responses were predictable, such as deflecting criticism from amerikans to protect their international reputation, fretting about a loss of influence, suggestions that Afghanistan, Pakistan and especially Saudi Arabia be added to the ban list in opposition to Trump’s business interests in Saudi Arabia, exploiting the Muslim ban issue as an occasion to make chauvinist statements regarding female and LGBTQ refugees fleeing alleged oppression in Muslim countries facing Western missiles, and warmongering against Muslim country governments allegedly targeting refugees more generally. (The text of the entry suspension executive order itself refers to “forms of violence against women,” “gender-based violence against women,” and honor killing specifically. No matter; one can outdo Trump in pseudo-feminism.) In other words, some of those touting Obama’s symbolic admissions in comparison with Trump’s refugee and visa policies are doing so in a way that is building for war. Obscuring the matter, the media is giving a misleading impression of the extent of amerikan opposition to turning away refugees, at a time when the world is still struggling to reject amerikan leadership and amerikan influence and struggling to discard illusions about amerikan progress or a long-run course reversal.
Grotesquely, some of the CIA-influenced people, with more of a civilian and diplomacy orientation, worrying about international public opinion consequences of the Muslim ban are still involved in supporting Langley-controlled illegal drone strikes – war crimes involving civilians killed by u.$. civilians.
Some of the dramatic public criticism of the ban, as if to make up for something, is unsurprising. There is much to feel bad about, or that looks bad, in terms of Syrian refugees specifically. In other ways, none of this should be surprising. Logistical issues alone don’t explain the low number of Syrian refugees resettled in the united $tates. Even if Obama had wanted to admit more during eir presidency, ey would have lacked the support to do so. Besides well-known Republican majority views and Democratic support for wars under both Obama and Bush, 30% of Democratic likely voters surveyed more than a year ago admitted to favoring “a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here.”(3) In August 2016, 38% of Democratic likely voters favored temporarily banning “immigration into the United States from ‘the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism’ until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here.”(4)
According to another Rasmussen survey, conducted just a few days ago, 34% of Democratic likely voters favored “a temporary ban on refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here.”(5) 57% of all u.$. likely voters favored the fan (would have admitted to favoring it in answer to the survey question wording). Only 33% were opposed to the ban. 10% were undecided.
According to a YouGov report for a March 24-25, 2016, survey targeting u.$. citizens over 18, about 32% of Democrats either agreed strongly (14%) or somewhat (18%) that there should be ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on’.”(6) (Those classified as being of the “black” “race” – mostly New Afrikans – were particularly less likely to agree with Trump’s proposed shutdown.) This supports the reported results of a Rasmussen survey conducted around the same time: 27% of Democratic likely voters favored “a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States until the federal government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists from coming here.”(7) A total stop to letting in Muslims from any country. At the time of this writing, the ban that Trump has approved is only a fraction of what many of the Democratic rank and file themselves supported.
Another YouGov report breaking things down by household income shows that people with smaller household incomes were less likely to think the u.$. had a responsibility to take in refugees fleeing Syria in particular and other countries.(8) Fewer of those with household income less than US$100K and US$50K were supportive of the u.$. government “allowing more Syrian refugees to move to the U.S.”
Party affiliation aside, it is clear that a majority of amerikans have supported something like the seven-Muslim-countries-citizen entry suspension. That the Republicans had higher percentages favoring bans is interesting only to a certain extent here, because – as others have noticed – it is no longer clear that the Republican Party is the “party of Wall Street” or the “party of (big) business.” Rather than fantasize about Democrats being able to get the amerikan majority to support some token Syrian refugee admissions like Obama’s, one should consider both Democratic complicity and the fact that most so-called u.$. “working” and “middle” class people may be more reactionary than many elites – a reason to engage in diplomatic, economic and political struggle appropriate to realities of the u.$. population.
Throughout the world, one increasingly sees that less-rich imperialist country people play the main role, even a vanguard role, in imperialist country nationalism. This was less so when neo-colonialism was less predominant and direct colonialism more common. Things have changed. New realities of imperialism and exploitation have emerged since World War II. Finance capital still has a national character to a degree and this is particularly evident in conflicts with Russia, which has finance capital struggling against sanctions, but at this point in history the labor aristocracy is leading the way to nationalist ruin and risky actions threatening even their own Wall Street/Square Mile retirement accounts. Rich people with various motivations disagree about what to do with Iran and Russia; finance capital was involved in Middle East wars supporting the u.$. economy, u.$. strategic position, and dollar hegemony; bankers and investors are still struggling with u.$. hegemony ideologically and in other ways and not doing all they could to oppose it; and finance capital is involved in some of the European protectionism and nationalism where they appear to be a way to cope with u.$. dominance; but it is not global financiers who are the main force behind the recent rise of ultranationalism. The u.$. entry restrictions illustrate clearly the role of non-elite amerikans.
Trump is obviously an elite as President and was an elite before the election, but struggles of nations, particularly First World nationalist movements, manifesting as disturbances in foreign relations are increasingly driven by a majority in a country pursuing their own interests independently of big investors with global interests – a consequence of the global rise of neocolonialism, global financial and economic integration, and other things. The interests of many global investors happen to converge with many non-amerikans’ at this time; there is more potential for conflict between global investors and amerikans though the difference between Obama’s paltry Syrian refugee admissions and Trump’s ban is arguably mostly symbolic. Iran, Iraq and the other oppressed countries would be within their rights to respond with their own, righteous nationalism banning u.$. citizens. Diplomatic relationships can’t be one-sided. Declining to reciprocate in some way could have colonial implications, with even more involvement of ordinary amerikans than in the past. ◊
• “Women’s March lacked strong anti-war message,” 2017 January. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-26-news-Womens-March-antiwar.md
• “What do Americans really think about Syrian refugees?” 2016 March 4. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/markaz/2016/03/04/what-do-americans-really-think-about-syrian-refugees/ “Public opinion began to shift, however, in the wake of November 13 terror attacks in Paris. Asked about the best approach to take with refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, 53 percent of Americans said that the United States should stop accepting refugees altogether (69 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats). 11 percent of Americans, including 9 percent of Democrats and 11 percent of Republicans, reported that the United States should accept Christians only.”
• “U.S. public seldom has welcomed refugees into country,” 2015 November 19. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/19/u-s-public-seldom-has-welcomed-refugees-into-country/
• “Americans again opposed to taking in refugees,” 2015 November 23. http://www.gallup.com/poll/186866/americans-again-opposed-taking-refugees.aspx
• “Historical review: Americans’ views on refugees coming to U.S.,” 2015 November 19. http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/186716/historical-review-americans-views-refugees-coming.aspx
• “Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” 2017 January 27. https://de.usembassy.gov/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states/
1. “Silicon Valley’s ambivalence toward Trump turns to anger,” 2017 January 29. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/technology/silicon-valleys-ambivalence-toward-trump-turns-to-anger.html?_r=0
2. “Trump says McCain, Graham are eager to start World War III,” 2017 January 30. http://presstv.ir/Detail/2017/01/30/508415/US-Trump-McCain-Graham
3. “Voters like Trump’s proposed Muslim ban,” 2015 December 10. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/december_2015/voters_like_trump_s_proposed_muslim_ban
4. “Most support Trump’s call for immigration restrictions, screening test,” 2016 August 19. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/august_2016/most_support_trump_s_call_for_immigration_restrictions_screening_test
5. “Most support temporary ban on newcomers from terrorist havens,” 2017 January 30. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/january_2017/most_support_temporary_ban_on_newcomers_from_terrorist_havens
7. “GOP voters still support Trump’s Muslim ban,” 2016 April 4. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/march_2016/gop_voters_still_support_trump_s_muslim_ban
8. September 10-14, 2015: https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/0t7koxok3u/tabs_HP_Syrian_Refugee_Crisis_20150914.pdf