Anyone who has access to a computer, a television, a radio or a newspaper has doubtless heard the news of the vast caravan of Central American peoples that was heading through Mexico, at the time leading up to the US mid-term elections. The participants were attributed with having the expressed intention of invading the USA and taking all the jobs. We were even told that Middle Eastern terrorists could be travelling in the caravan – after all, Arabs and Central Americans all look and sound the same, don’t they?
Let us add a little touch of reality here at this early point: the only thing that made this migrant caravan any different from all the others that preceded it was the US mid-term elections!
Many US citizens would probably be surprised to learn that the caravans are not new and have gone on for at least 30 years. Imperialist centres (the USA is the largest and strongest) suck the wealth from other countries and, in those countries that are hardest hit by this wealth vampirism, the most logical thing for the poorest workers, who often struggle to put one meal a day on the family table, to do is follow their country’s stolen wealth in the hope of attaining work and some small amount of security for themselves and their families and to get a little of that wealth back in wages. These wages, low as they will undoubtedly be, will increase the quality of life not only of these workers themselves but also allow them to send a little home to assist extended families. This is the reality of the imperialist stage of capitalism when the greatest and most obscene concentrations of raw materials, means of production, unsold (but not un-needed by the masses) commodities, services, properties and land, etc., are held in the hands of fewer and increasingly fewer groups of imperialist leeches until, having grabbed most of everything, they will howl and make the demand for war to take from each other as much of the stolen goods of the world that their rivals possess.
The present migrant caravan began its weary exodus on 12 October in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with several hundred people and quickly grew by several thousand as it crossed the border into Guatemala and wound north into Mexico. It was reckoned to have grown to some seven thousand going through Guatemala but dropped to around just over half that size as it trekked across Mexico as some settled for a life only slightly better in Mexico so avoiding the dangers involved in having to try to get into the US illegally or throwing themselves on the mercy of an immigration system steeply stacked against them. The idea of a walking caravan is not, as some will try to tell us, to intimidate or overwhelm guards at the border of the United States but to offer each other some security along the road from bandits who would quickly fall on small groups to take whatever few bits these poor people have.
The make-up of this caravan was mostly (about 60-65%) young men travelling in ones and twos or in groups, although there were very many young families with children already in or joining the trek, nearly all of them from wider families of farm labourers who work for abysmally meagre wages on coffee plantations; and all were looking only for the chance of a better life.
Back in the 1980s, many thousands of refugees were fleeing the civil wars and mass slaughter of indigenous Indians and/or organised workers in Guatemala and El Salvador. These refugees settled in camps in southern Mexico or continued onwards towards the US border. With the wars nominally over in the mid to late 1990s, although oppression of the masses was never far from the surface, migration continued as people looked for chances to earn a wage that might supply the basics of life in relative peace or were trying to find and join family members who had left earlier.
Many are still to this day seeking to escape criminal violence from either gangs or states deemed to be friends of the US. During 2014 the age and sex make up of refugees/immigrants really changed from being formerly mostly young men to consisting nowadays of tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala arriving at the US/Mexico border. Families and unaccompanied children make up nearly half of all the new arrivals from Central America applying for asylum.
One small group of three young mothers travelling with their five children said when interviewed that they did not plan to apply for asylum. Instead, like some other families in the caravan, their plan was to cross over somewhere between the official border points and then hand themselves in to the US Border Patrol. The thinking is simple, as women traveling with children, they hope that they will be released quickly from detention and will then be allowed to remain in the US while awaiting the outcome of their deportation cases. This is not a good long-term plan but they are willing to try to take the short-term fix and hope that something better comes up while they are waiting.
As mentioned above, the reason that this particular migrant caravan made world news was the US mid-term elections which were being fought in visual effects and words far stronger and more violent than ever before, with threats and personal abuse being bandied about not only among candidates (where they are accusing each other of being terrorists, criminals, and in the case of one of them of deserving of a golf spike to the face) most of which is probably deserved, but they have also been as rabid towards most everyone else in the world!
The Republicans under the stewardship of President Trump jumped on the caravan as an election issue almost immediately it took to the road and the airtime that the caravan has received from this quarter has probably helped its numbers to swell. The vitriol poured on the poor of Central America in order to garner the support of the poor in North America would almost be humorous if it were not deadly serious. The two thousand troops that the Republican government had already installed on the Mexican border were joined by five and a half thousand more, while the President was talking of another fifteen thousand being made available if need be. At the same time fences of barbed wire were being thrown up by these troops.
The destitute of Central America who were walking towards the USA have been given food, water, somewhere to sleep at rest stops, fresh clothing and even buggies for the children by the peoples in the countries they passed through even though many of these donors were probably nearly as poor themselves – yet in the US there are people talking of greeting the walkers and their children with guns and beatings!
When the first few of these poor and hungry walkers neared the US border, but while still on Mexican soil, at least two dozen tear gas canisters were fired at them and there are many pictures of families running in terror from this assault. Yet, when asked about this, the US President dismissed the facts and said; “We don’t use it on children.” This is not only a denial of reality in this case but also in the thousands of other very well documented cases both inside and outside of the USA! Trump defended the firing of gas at the groups of unarmed civilians in a neighbouring country simply by saying; “They’re not coming into the United States. They will not be coming into our country.”
The US Republican Party has released a video for the mid-term elections which shows clips of the Caravan before going on to clips of a criminal of Latin American origin, Luis Bracamontes, boasting about killing two US policemen. Bracamontes is from Mexico and was accepted into the US before being deported twice for criminal activity during both the Clinton and Bush administrations. The election video continues; “Dangerous illegal criminals like cop-killer Luis Bracamontes don’t care about our laws…Stop the caravan. Vote Republican.”
CNN objected to this video as racist and refused to air it from the start. NBC and Facebook both ran the ad over the weekend but then reversed that decision on Monday announcing that the commercial would be removed as it fell short of their in-house advertising standards! Even Fox News, who have been just as vociferous regarding the caravan as the Republican party, said in a statement that the network had stopped airing it on Sunday with their president of ad sales, Marianne Gambelli, adding; “It will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network.”
This all led to Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager claiming on his Twitter account: “The #FakeNewsMedia and #PaloAltoMafia are trying to control what you see and how you think.”
Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who has advised several presidential candidates, including a group supporting Mr. Trump, gave the game away when he said; “The day before the election, there’s not enough time to air the ad and have it make a difference…But if it becomes controversial, a lot of people will see it who otherwise would not.”
This, taken with the Facebook statement below, naturally leads anyone with a brain to think that not only are the Republicans appealing to the basest instincts of North America but by getting the media to ban the ad they have made it so popular that it is now going much further than it otherwise would and for free!
(“This ad violates Facebook’s advertising policy against sensational content so we are rejecting it,” a spokesman said, adding that users were still free to post the video on their personal pages.)
Our assessment of the strategy being used to get this political election ad out as far as possible is shared it seems by one Jason Kint, the chief executive of news and advertising trade group, Digital Content Next, who said that the “reaction from the networks and Facebook could end up amplifying Mr. Trump’s closing argument, rather than smothering it.”
In the end, nothing within capitalism will stop the poor trying to enter the centres of imperialism to try to improve their lives and those of their families. The marches around the world of the desperate and hungry, the scared and the scarred will only stop when imperialism is a nasty memory and capitalism nothing more than a strange oddity in children’s history books rather along the same line as ‘doctors’ treating every malady with leeches.