Right-wing politicians throughout history have never been a fan of labor unions. So it should come as no surprise that President Trump has officially set his sights on them.
Sleepy Joe Biden is having his first rally in the Great State of Pennsylvania. He obviously doesn’t know that Pennsylvania is having one of the best economic years in its history, with lowest unemployment EVER, a now thriving Steel Industry (that was dead) & great future!……..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
I’ll never get the support of Dues Crazy union leadership, those people who rip-off their membership with ridiculously high dues, medical and other expenses while being paid a fortune. But the members love Trump. They look at our record economy, tax & reg cuts, military etc. WIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 29, 2019
While generally being opposed to labor unions may be GOP orthodoxy, the argument can be made that something more sinister is going on with Trump. Socialists and unions are always the first people fascists go after, largely because they represent organized opposition to corporate and totalitarian power. As we have seen time and time again, Trump cannot stand challenges to his authority.
The POTUS is circumventing the Senate confirmation process in order to appoint administration officials. He has fired those who dare question his authority or defy his orders. Examples of this include now-former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Director James Comey, and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielson.
There has also been a troubling streak of cruelty to these firings. James Comey found out about his firing on the news. Jeff Sessions was repeatedly attacked on Twitter before his forced resignation was revealed on that same medium. Kirstjen Nielson was forced to resign for not being cruel enough on Trump’s border policies. There were also reports that Trump would call her at strange hours to shout at her about the border.
Trump is now setting his sights on institutions that represent organized opposition to his authority.
It’s been a major point of contention whether Trump’s behavior more closely resembles that of a dictator than an American President. His most recent attack on unions exacerbates such beliefs. Adolf Hitler first went after the Socialists and Trade Unions because he understood that they represented organized opposition to his authority. He promised to take care of the workers, all while dismantling the avenues that they had to push back on unfair treatment.
At the beginning of his reign in 1933, Hitler viewed the unions as a threat to his quest for ultimate power. The workers had to be controlled – and not by union leaders. Hitler’s solution was simple: He banned all trade unions in his version of Germany. The execution of this ban was swift. The police stormed the union headquarters across Germany and disbanded them. To ensure that there would be no secret organizing, union leaders were thrown in prison or sent to concentration camps.
However, Hitler made sure the working class believed that the Nazi Party would be better for them than any trade union ever could. History Learning Site puts this careful manipulation thusly:
Hitler announced that the German Labour Force, headed by Robert Ley, would replace all trade unions and would look after the working class. The title was chosen carefully. The new organisation was deliberately cloaked in patriotism, as it was now a German entity as was seen in its title. The working class was now a ‘labour force’. The Nazi Party did all that it could to ensure the workers felt that they were better off under the guidance of the Nazi Party via the German Labour Front.
When looking carefully at Trump’s tweets, the parallels cannot be ignored. He sees Joe Biden, a son of Scranton, Pennsylvania, as a threat to his power. Trump thus touts the strength of the economy and the condition of the working class there who turned the election in his favor. At the same time, he denigrates the people and entities that might seduce the workers who handed him rust-belt victories away from him.
Another alarming authoritarian tendency is Trump’s intense desire to privatize the economy. Reports have surfaced about plans to privatize military operations with Erik Prince. While this might alarm those who understand the careful ordering of democracy, “free market conservatives” seem to revel in the massive deregulation and privatization. Republicans in Congress have so far refused to exercise their Article I powers to act as a check on Trump, most likely because of the efficacy with which he advances their corporate agenda. In Nazi Germany, many conservatives at first turned a blind eye to Hitlers more radical rhetoric, reveling in the tax relief and deregulation he delivered them.
The ideas that Trump is putting forward are not those of a man who wishes to preserve democracy. They more closely resemble those of an authoritarian hell-bent on total control. Attacks on the free press, trade unions, and “socialists”, along with efforts to privatize military operations make that clear.
Shannon Barber is a progressive queer feminist and budding political scientist. She is passionate about issues of social justice, including but not limited to racial equality, criminal justice reform, pro-Black politics, and LGBTQ equality. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.