Mass shootings are nothing new in the United States of America. They focus on children, black or brown-skinned people, religious groups, etc, and reflect the violent intolerance, bigotry and racism that is so deeply ingrained in the US psyche.
Mass murder in El Paso
One of the latest mass murders occurred at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, on 3 August 2019, where roughly 83 percent of residents are listed as being of Hispanic or Latino origin by the US Census Bureau.
A single gunman opened fire in the store, killing 22 people and injuring 24 more. Patrick Crusius, in a signed affidavit, has admitted to being “the shooter”, and claims he chose the location for his crime the better to “target Mexicans”.
Apparently, Crusius had posted a file online on the messaging board ‘8chan’ roughly 20 minutes before the shooting, which police claim was “filled with hatred of immigrants and Latinos”. It is further claimed that he had stated online that he wanted to stop the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
The specifics of Crusius’s horrible crime are freely available online and we don’t propose to repeat the details here, but his act is relevant in trying to understand why so many in the USA, which was essentially built by immigrants, have such a deep antipathy toward those that they now term ‘immigrants’.
What passes for the left in the US are keen to tell us that it is President Donald Trump’s ‘hate’ speeches and tweets that are to blame, and we are sure that they don’t help matters. But even the most cursory of glances at American history tells us that these crimes were occurring long before Donald Trump assumed the presidency.
In response to the El Paso mass killing, social media sites exploded with outrage, as users calling for a variety of measures in response, from gun controls to better mental health care, an end to video games, or the impeachment of the president for incitement to murder.
Interestingly, US media report that this post-shooting internet activity is a regular feature of such cases, and typically lasts around ten days before subsiding totally, showing that social media are playing the role of a pressure valve for the system – providing a place where workers can let off steam in the comfort of their own homes, before forgetting the incident that so offended them and moving on to find the next trigger for their (safely contained) outrage.
Immigration raids in Mississippi
Amongst the demands were repeated calls that President Trump should to go to El Paso to express grief and declare solidarity with victims and their families, which he eventually did. However, his visit on 7 August coincided with a massive raid against Latino workers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who hit seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi.
Some of the raids concentrated around the town of Forest, in Scott County, Mississippi, leading to the arrest of almost 700 Latino workers in various low-paying big agricultural factories and plants.
The confusion and horror of members of the large Latino community in Forest was overwhelming, as many of them, whether classed as ‘illegal’ or not, went underground out of fear of meeting more ICE capture squads on the streets. Local workplaces were brought to a standstill, and those shops that were able to open had no customers.
Chaos also reigned in local schools and nurseries as uninformed education authorities were literally left holding the baby when parents failed to collect their children. Telephones were buzzing everywhere as family members were sought by schools to take care of bewildered and crying children, and food and temporary lodgings were being hastily organised by Child Protective Services (CPS), which had likewise only found out about the raids after they had happened.
Some older children slipped through the CPS net and ended up having to fend for themselves in empty homes or on the streets. The New York Times reported that a spokesperson for Mississippi’s CPS told its reporters at the time: “We have no idea what the number of children is, or where they are.”
Immigration spokespeople were at pains to tell anyone who would listen that all the children of those arrested were safe and being cared for, but Jackson news reporter Alex Love stated on air that many of the children had been left behind when the ICE agents arrested their parents, and many had nowhere to go.
By the evening, many of those who had been arrested ‘in error’ were released – some with tags to trace their movements, and others just set free. All the other arrestees were taken to a detention centre in Louisiana for continued questioning.
A spokesman for the ICE told a local paper: “About three hundred of those arrested had since been released because they had no reason to be held.” Of those who have been tagged, it is unlikely that any of them will return to work in the short term for fear of re-arrest and deportation, which throws into doubt not only their own future wellbeing but also that of their dependants.
Tony McGee, Scott County’s superintendent of public education, complained bitterly about the ICE tactics, pointing to the economic damage done to the area – not just to the workers arrested and publicly dragged out of their places of work, and who along with their families will now suffer deprivation, but to the companies that employ them, or that supply raw materials and transport finished goods.
Mr McGee also pointed out that the main problem for the education authorities in the affected areas will be getting children back to school, and that a huge counselling job will now be needed to cope with the trauma that many children will have experienced as a result of the disappearance of parents, the consequent crash in family budgets and the potential loss of their homes.
One of the stranger knock-on effects of the El Paso shooting on the people of Forest is that the local Walmart store replaced its greeter (a person who stands at the supermarket door saying hello and offering help) with an armed guard in a bid to make the customers feel at ease. After the raids, the rumour spread that the guard was an ICE agent who was surreptitiously checking customers’ immigration status, and so nobody would use the shop.
The 2020 presidential race is under way
The White House defended both the raid and the tactics used, but a spokesman admitted that the timing was a little ‘unfortunate’ so soon after the El Paso murders.
CNN has reported that the government has since ordered ICE agents to identify similar targets across the country. As in Mississippi, further raids would be specifically aimed at workplaces.
The 2020 presidential election campaign in the USA is well and truly under way, and the incumbent has chosen four of his most useful subjects from 2016 to campaign around in regard to the millions of people who live south of the Rio Grande: immigration, drugs, trade and the existence of two socialist-orientated states in the region.
This is an easy target when seeking the support of working-class people, large numbers of whom have fallen for the endlessly-repeated lie that immigrants ‘take’ their jobs.
In reality, however, it is imperialist interests that are to blame, not immigrants. The political system of the USA demands the greatest profit possible from investment of capital. The greatest profits come from advanced robotic systems, which cut the workforce down dramatically, or from exporting jobs away from the US to low-wage, low state-interference countries.
Most immigrants are taken in to perform low-wage jobs that white American workers will not do, and, as is always the case, illegal immigrants are by far the cheapest to employ, since they have no rights and therefore cannot complain about their pay or conditions.
The majority of applications for entry into the United States are from the countries to the south of its border, and so it is convenient for the capitalist class to depict the Latino/Hispanic worker as lazy, stupid, sly and totally without morals.
In truth, the immigrants’ intelligence, knowledge of work systems, eagerness to work/learn and morality are as diverse as those of any other peoples, but it must be recognised that most of those who either apply for US citizenship or try to cross the border illegally are doing so directly or indirectly because of the foreign policy of the USA, which is causing social upheaval or extreme price rises at home (the only exception to this would be a natural disaster).
Narcotics are not the first choice of crop for most farmers. It is only the demand coming from the US that gives the drug lords the impetus to mobilise local farmers in countries such as Colombia to grow crops that can be transformed into the various drugs coming across the US/Mexican border or sailed/flown into US sea and air ports.
If the US cannot stop the demand, how, without huge assistance, can poorer countries be expected to stop the supply? It must also be remembered that the US has used drug sales to its own people to promote and finance civil wars in other countries against popular governments that it wants overthrown. Nicaragua was a prime example of this in the 1970s.
The trade that the US deals in with the southern half of the American continent is heavily weighted in the USA’s favour and helps towards the impoverishment of those southern countries. Existing trade agreements, poor as they are, are better than nothing, though, and they are always in danger of being snatched away to ensure total subservience to the political and economic will of the USA.
The present administration in Washington has treated Mexico as a political scapegoat, particularly on immigration and trade, and a radical policy shift on both these issues has been promised by President Trump.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has bent over backwards in his efforts to accommodate Trump’s unreasonable demands on his country, efforts that include working out an updated Nafta (North American Free-Trade Agreement) and allowing refugees from all over central America to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are considered by the US authorities.
President Trump threatened recently to cut off congressionally-appropriated funding to countries south of the border in retaliation for the latter allowing “immigrants and drugs to pass through their countries towards the US”, leaving many of governments concerned wondering just it is that they are supposed to do.
Governments such as those of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have been perfect puppets of US imperialism and have tried to do everything possible to accommodate its demands on all fronts – they are even considering moving their embassies in Israel to Jerusalem.
Venezuela and Cuba
Talking tough on Cuba and funding the Venezuelan elite’s regular coup attempts are policies directed more at bolstering votes in south Florida than anywhere else; but they are policies fraught with possibilities of aggressive military activity. Donald Trump is the president and must take full responsibility for these dangerous policies, but it has not been difficult to see the hand of national security adviser John Bolton in the background.
A short history of Mexicans in the USA
The population of Latino/Hispanic workers in the US at present numbers some 19-20 million, and is growing fast. There is a myth in the US that this is because of super-increased immigration, but this is not the case.
Such a narrative takes no account whatsoever of the many Mexicans who were swallowed up by the United States when 55 percent of Mexico was grabbed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.
This treaty marked the end of the Mexican-American War, which saw Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California forcibly taken from Mexico at the point of a sword, with the treaty being nothing more than the legal ratification of this massive land theft.
The stolen land was not empty, and since the huge population occupying it was too big to slaughter, it had to be put in its place. After stealing this massive chunk of Mexico, it was only a small matter to steal individual ranches and farms, and there were plenty of white settlers ready to perform the necessary deeds.
As a result, Mexican-Americans suffered the same regular lynchings of ‘uppity’ (ie, resistant) members of their communities as did the black ex-slaves further north. In just the same way as the black workers, these Mexican-Americans were denied property as far as possible, were kept mainly to working the land, and were denied voting rights or even the possibility of organising or representing themselves.
Unlike the black workers who had been stolen from their land and brought to America as slaves, Mexican-Americans were incorporated as a cheap labour force when their land was stolen by the USA.
As industrialisation shot through the US, more Mexican workers were recruited to satisfy the chronic but temporary labour shortages during the late 19th and early to mid-20th century. The border remained porous, and there was even a ‘guest worker’ programme in operation between 1942 and 1964 that gave the Mexican workers no rights other than that of seeking employment in the US.
Latino/Hispanic workers in today’s USA have won some rights for themselves, in the same way that black workers have, but both groups still suffer the same entrenched racist stereotypes and indifference to their plight and the aspirations of their children, often expressed in extreme and brutal violence against them for the imagined crimes of being somehow subhuman – ‘feckless’ criminals, without human decency.
This depiction of the victims of prejudice and violence as subhuman ‘speaking beasts’ is the same as was used to justify the greatest holocaust that the world has yet seen – the near complete extinction of the indigenous North American peoples.
The documented thinking of the ‘great Americans’ from history reveals much. For instance, not quite ten years after drafting that lauded document of fraternity and democracy, the American Declaration of Independence, the freedom-loving Thomas Jefferson suggested that the United States should snatch Latin America “piece by piece”.
John Adams declared that taking South America “would be agreeable”, but added that he didn’t want anything to do with “a people more ignorant, more bigoted, more superstitious, more implicitly credulous in the sanctity of royalty, more blindly devoted to their priests … than any people in Europe, even in Spain”.
Later still, President William Taft would say of the American continent: “The whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally.”
Understand the root of the problem to find its solution
When looked at with this historical perspective (and much has been left out of this brief account), it can be seen why those ancestors of the white European immigrants/settlers who now place themselves at the head of the USA as the ruling class have promoted such a low opinion of those who they describe as ‘outsiders’.
Through the consistent propaganda of the ruling class, this distorted view has become lodged in the collective mindset of the majority of US citizens. Of course, not every white American personally agrees with or accepts this racist narrative, but its legacy exists not only in US history but also in the laws and policies of the present US state.
So, before we all jump on the ‘blame everything on Trump’ bandwagon, let us consider that there were record high deportations of undocumented Latino immigrants under the Obama administration, along with the introduction of a militarised border, and a strongly beefed-up interior immigration enforcement.
That is not to excuse Trump. His part in the suppression of both Latino and black people (all workers, in fact) is no less despicable than that of every other president, but all US presidents are pawns of the class that they represent and of the imperialist political system, and it is these which must be seen as the real demons – demons that will only be defeated when we stand together as workers, regardless of colour, birthplace or language, and take a hammer to the whole rotten capitalist-imperialist edifice.