No Time for Celebration
March 27, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To understand the roots and the dynamics of Trump's election, get into these two pieces by Bob Avakian:“The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy… And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer”
“The Fascists and the Destruction of the 'Weimar Republic'...And What Will Replace It”
We cannot afford to be deceived, or deceive ourselves, as to the meaning of these events; the stakes are way too high.
Contradictions and Setbacks—But NOT Mortal Blows or DerailmentTo put it bluntly, this raft of difficulties and setbacks does NOT necessarily signify that the regime has suffered or will soon (with the Russia investigations) suffer mortal blows. Nor does it necessarily mean that the system of checks and balances can be counted on to stop the continued march of the Trump/Pence fascist assaults on the people and the law, or that the Trump/Pence regime is somehow on track to self-destruct or, at minimum, find itself unable to exert its will. All these notions are out there spontaneously, and being promoted as well. And they are having a negative effect.
It was not good, for example, that only a few turned out to protest against the Muslim ban on March 16, with many groups canceling their participation after learning about the court order that temporarily stayed the ban pending appeal. Court order or not, there needed to be massive demonstrations making clear the breadth and determination of opposition. The turnout and temper of these demonstrations was far short of what was needed, and sent the wrong message to both foe and potential friend.
Now, unsurprisingly, the regime has found other means to implement a travel ban that is even more sweeping.1 Meanwhile, Trump has been stoking the anger of his core social base against the courts at rallies in Tennessee and Kentucky. All Trump would need would be an incident similar to what happened in London last week to go on the offensive and to actually attempt what Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh have called for in regard to the travel ban—defying the courts and daring them to stop him. Not for nothing did Trump make a spectacle of laying a wreath at the grave of Andrew Jackson, that slave-trading president who also led genocidal military campaigns against Native Americans. Besides expressing his deep resonance with the combination of demagogy and racism that Jackson used to create American populism, Trump was harkening to Jackson’s history of defying the Supreme Court. When the Court ruled against him, Jackson embarked anyway, asking “what army are they going to use to defend their order?”
There’s a similar dynamic in play with health care. No doubt, Trump/Pence would have preferred victory; this was a setback. But the people at the core of this regime are hardly going to be deterred or thrown off course by this. To quote the fascist ideologue and key Trump adviser Steve Bannon: “If you think they’re going to give you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.” Trump all but telegraphed the strategy on Friday, in the wake of the health care bill defeat: further wrecking Obamacare and pinning this on the Democrats (while no doubt exacting payback from those Republicans whose recalcitrance actually doomed the bill) and then, perhaps, later on passing some version of a reform for which he will claim credit. Yes, Trump would have preferred to win—but typical of how fascism develops, he can still benefit from a scenario of “rising Phoenix-like from the ashes of defeat to exact retribution and win redemption.”
On the Russia controversy: a little later we’re going to get into why taking sides on this Russia controversy is actually poison to building the kind of movement that is needed. But even those who are caught up in it on its own terms should think about this: it may be the case that Trump himself indeed knowingly colluded with the Russians to win the presidency and it may be the case that there is good evidence to this effect that will surface. May. But what if it turns out either that there is no direct evidence of Trump being involved and/or that his underlings “fall on their swords” and do not implicate Trump or Pence? Should that happen, then not only will this end up fizzling, but Trump will seize on it to further discredit the media and those parts of the intelligence agencies with which he is in conflict. He will use this to not only further convince and inflame his base of support, but also actually to win over others that all this was just a lot of hype and lies to “steal my victory.” And those who have banked everything on this will find that misleading people to think that they should focus on this—even though, for reasons we explained last week, is NOT the issue—will now backfire, in a very serious and damaging way.
So yes, there have been setbacks. But one, it is easy to envision how each of these setbacks could either be turned into an opening to further consolidate the regime or be rendered irrelevant by some new development in the world or initiative from the regime. And two, generally speaking, fascist regimes proceed through struggle, setbacks, improvisation, and bludgeoning their way out of fixes.2
Even With Setbacks, the Trump/Pence Move to Consolidate Fascism Proceeds ApaceMeanwhile, beneath the radar, the offensive rolls on with ever-growing force and viciousness. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has been unleashed and will be beefed up. Undocumented immigrants now live in a state of terror and immigrants more generally are being continually made to justify their presence.3 The spike in hate crimes continues.4 The police murders of and brutality against Black and Latino people have gone on, even if the coverage has not, and this regime promises to “take the handcuffs” off these killers in blue and to put many more people in prison.5 New laws have been proposed (or old ones “reinterpreted”) in at least eight states to make penalties for protests significantly harsher.6 The new budget will seriously gut science.7 Trump’s recent interview with TIME magazine, in which he reasserted virtually every single baseless accusation and lie he’s spread in the past year, served the dual purpose of reasserting this epistemological line to one and all and puffing up his base. Incalculable harm is being done to the environment, with new outrages every day.8
Internationally, the U.S. has been ratcheting up its aggression against all kinds of countries with whom it is not officially even at war.9 The perils of the situation in Korea can barely be overstated. With both seemingly “unhinged” rulers (Trump and Kim Jong-un), there is actually a method to the madness and a logic to the logic that is extremely dangerous (and here, too, if they even go to the brink this could well be the pretext for very sweeping and draconian repression).10
Even the failure thus far of the regime to maintain the normal pace in making appointments to thousands of federal government slots can be misread as fecklessness, as a combination of incompetence and ineffectiveness. In actual fact, they have made numerous temporary appointments—NOT subject to congressional approval—and sent “teams” into all the federal agencies to begin the remaking process. At the same time, part of their restructuring program is in fact to hollow out certain departments.
No, they are not all-powerful, and no, this is not proceeding all according to some hard-and-fast, airtight master plan. Again, the setbacks were real; but this is a course that necessarily proceeds through chaos and struggle, with ups and downs and improvisation. This has been true of fascists before, and it is playing out in roughly similar ways now. But to paraphrase Bannon, you don’t think they’re going to let us defeat a serious attempt to institute fascism without a fight—a huge fight, beyond what’s been seen in decades—do you?
Questions of Method, Questions of Framework
An Interview with Ardea Skybreak
The conventional commentaries—that Trump cannot do the business of counting votes, that Trump cannot just cater to his base but must move to the center like a normal president, etc.—miss the point that Trump is NOT a normal president. Trump is a president determined to institute a fascist regime based on an unbridled and hyper-virulent white Christian/European political, economic, and cultural supremacy and corresponding persecution of those who don’t fit that “norm”; an extreme and aggressive chauvinism toward the rest of the world; a toxic and aggressive combination of theocratic old-school patriarchy/porn culture misogyny in which the rights of women are hammered back; a truculent, sneering cult of the ignoramus; a necessarily hyper-aggressive and militaristic foreign policy (along with an amping up of the cult-of-the-military “warrior culture” in this culture); and a shredding of those democratic rights supposedly guaranteed by the Constitution. The Trump/Pence strategy relies precisely on continually firming up and further inflaming his base—very literally “weaponizing” them against those being persecuted by the regime—and turning any setbacks they may suffer to that purpose. It relies on wielding whatever it takes to accomplish his purpose; and remaking/destroying those parts of the state machinery that stand in his way.
In a nutshell, it is “the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as ‘enemies,’ ‘undesirables,’ or ‘dangers to society.’” (From “What IS Fascism?”)
Analysis, to get at the essence of things, cannot proceed from applying an empiricist methodology (being utterly focused on and swayed by the latest superficial phenomena) within an irrelevant analytical framework (the normal workings of the two-party bourgeois-democratic dictatorship), but from a dialectical analysis based on the underlying contradictions and dynamics. The regime is trying to impose a different form of bourgeois rule. This is a sharp transition and necessarily fraught with contradiction and jockeying from the different sides—not just the fascists vs. the conventional bourgeois democrats, but within the fascist camp itself. This makes it complicated and challenging for the regime, but no less dangerous to humanity around the world.
Humanity or USA?Then there is the element of framework. Let’s go back to the Russia obsession (one that festers with almost maniacal intensity with someone like Rachel Maddow). Beyond the ways this could backfire, the deeper problem is this: the whole terms of that focus up around “the interests of the U.S.”—which reduces very quickly to the interests of U.S. imperialism and how best to plunder and, when needed, slaughter the people of the world.11 The fascists and those who oppose them at the top of the Democratic Party, along with Republicans like Lindsay Graham, are fighting over how best to enforce those interests. But a) those interests are NOT the fundamental interests of billions of people worldwide and hundreds of millions even within the U.S.; b) if you fight fascism on those terms, then the logic of your position will lead you at a certain point to acquiesce, because certainly—from the standpoint of U.S. imperial interests—going along with fascism would be preferable to the dislocation and possible damage to those imperialist interests that would be involved in the kind of massive upheaval that actually would be necessary to oust the regime; and c) the very basis on which you’ve been arguing to remove Trump will lead you to line up behind the U.S. in any significant military action or war which the regime (along with its Democratic Party critics and people like Graham and John McCain) will pose as involving an “existential threat to American interests.”
People now awakening to political life against Trump and “demanding their country back” must be led to come to grips with the real crimes their country has committed and still commits, with the bedrock truth that “America Was NEVER Great.” This doesn’t mean that everyone will get this all at once, or that unless and until people do get that, that revolutionaries should not unite with them; but it DOES mean that people should use the resources on this website to make that case and to struggle with people in a good way to come to that understanding.
Finally, there remains both a reluctance to get out of the confines of the normal channels and means of politics, and a difficulty in imagining what that means. This was captured in an exchange on the Bill Maher show on March 24, following the defeat of the health care bill. Maher’s guests, in different and limited ways, agonized over the normalization that continues to go on and they seemed to be reaching for something different and more radical. And Chris Hayes, the MSNBC host, tried to refute this, saying:
[W]e do get used to things and I think normalizing it is a threat, but the other thing I would say is that in some ways one of the things we saw this week was normal politics working. In the sphere of healthcare, that was a very normal kind of thing. Like, they proposed a bill, the bill was bad, people rebelled. So we reach for these abnormal solutions, which is like hit a pause button, which I understand the impulse to but the only real victories that have come have been victories through normal politics, fighting on that terrain.No, Chris Hayes, you are wrong—dead wrong. This is a prime example proceeding from the framework of politics as usual; it’s not only totally inadequate (and irresponsible) to espouse this in the face of fascism, but it isn’t even true in normal times. The only way that real victories have ever been won has been when people stepped outside the normal political framework and put everything on the line. This has meant—and this must mean now—going into the streets and voicing opposition to this regime in a way that cannot be hidden, cannot be silenced, is not depending on someone in power but is determined and unyielding to such a degree that everyone must respond to our demand. This must mean going beyond, way beyond, Chris Hayes’ beloved “normal politics” and instead actually putting your body, your reputation, and your public platform on the line to say NO, relying on ourselves, going OUTSIDE politics as usual.
Needed: A Struggle to Unleash the Vast Reservoir of Those Viscerally Opposed to Trump/PenceRight now, the wrong methods of understanding and the narrow (and ultimately immoral) framework for acting being criticized in this article are being widely propagated.
Let us not forget, though, that millions of people remain viscerally opposed to this regime and have shown over and over again, a desire to act. If we want them to act now—and such action is crucially needed—it is up to us to go make the case. The case that what we face is, yes, fascism, and that is not a curse word but a way to scientifically understand the problem we confront. The case that what this will mean, and already is meaning, is truly terrible things for humanity beyond what people face right now, and terrible things as well for humanity’s hope and ability to fight for a better future. The case on which we must undertake this battle is from the interests of all humanity and not from within the terms of “what’s good for America,” which only has and only can mean devastation for the people all over the world, including here, and the planet itself.
Now we face a crossroads. On the one hand, it is very likely that Trump will attempt to bounce back from the setback in health care, perhaps perpetrating some new outrage to change the terms, while in any case proceeding apace with the other deadly elements of his agenda. At the same time, major demonstrations are already scheduled for April 22 (the science march), April 29 (defense of the environment), and May 1 (immigrant rights). In addition, April 24 is the date for this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. And April will be the last real window for the much-needed outpouring from students which as yet has not happened.
What happens in this next month could well be pivotal.
Whether those millions in anguish over Trump are led to confront the real depth of the horror here, or whether they are deceived with seeming victories and shortcuts... whether those now identifying with the resistance are summoned to actually rise to being the resistance we really need—in fact and not just in name—and, as part of that, to take the streets with growing determination to drive out the regime or whether there is, instead, a detouring and dead-ending of this sentiment into the confines of politics-as-usual... all this will have high stakes, one way or the other, not just for people in this country but all over the world. What happens in response to any new threat or offensive by Trump... and what goes on during that period toward the end of April... matters.
It is up to us to make it count toward getting rid of this regime at the soonest possible time. The image and reality that must come through in this month, reaching into the May 1 demonstrations, is that of a major step toward millions in the streets who are determined to drive this regime out.
2. Hitler, too often portrayed as an all-knowing mastermind, actually illustrates this. The Nazis were able to consolidate a much more repressive set of laws more quickly than Trump. But it still took time before they basically consolidated, and this actually necessitated a violent purge within the Nazi party and, simultaneously, against elements of the coalition that brought him to power. The high-stakes gambles undertaken by the Nazis, both with their domestic stimulus and their international moves, meant that they had to move fast before others could fully react—a point that Hitler made to his minions. Again, Trump does NOT equal Hitler in some mechanical sense, and there are different necessities and challenges that face each regime—but there ARE patterns to how fascism operates. [back]
3. See ”Trump/Pence Regime Lays Siege to Immigrant Communities: Fascist Escalation of Attacks on Immigrants.” [back]
5. See “To Departing Chicago U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon as He Leaves Office: Farewell... And FUCK YOU!,“ “Black community members begging for “resources”—be aware,” and “Gang Injunctions and Databases: In the Hands of Trump & Sessions, It Will Be Horror Upon Horror.” [back]
7. See “The March for Science on April 22—Why It Matters” and "Michael Slate Interviews Scientist Peter Gleick: “When you take bad science or you ignore science all together to push an ideological point of view, we’re in deep trouble.”. [back]
8. See “Trump Order Gives Green Light to Dakota Access Pipeline—Tramples on Native American Rights and People’s Struggle,” “Resist Trump’s Approval for Keystone XL Pipeline,” and “Resist Trump’s Moves to Disembowel the EPA and Wreck the Environment.” [back]
9. See “A ‘Surge’ in the U.S. Slaughter of Syrian and Iraqi Civilians” and “Navy SEAL Raid in Yemen: ‘Securing Our Nation’ by Slaughtering Children.” [back]