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May 6, 17

Between Flint and Trumpcare: Give the Class War Two Sides

On the eve of Trump’s inauguration, IGD along with many other revolutionary anarchist groups, organizations, and media projects all signed onto a statement that called for a mass militant disruption of the Trump inauguration. The text stated: “From day one, the Trump presidency will be a disaster.”

We were right.

But this statement, and in particular this line, feels more true now than ever before. Trump is a disaster. But he is a disaster because he himself has failed to even hold onto his grassroots far-Right support, much less the millions that voted for him thinking he would change their lives for the better and shake up politics as usual. Trump is a disaster because he has only accelerated the trajectory of neoliberalism and the status-quo. Trump is a disaster because the system itself he rules over is breaking down; from climate change, to the economy, to the very fabric of social life, and regardless of who is at the helm steers a ship which is sinking.

In the past several weeks, the Trump administration has made a series of moves, signed new executive orders, and started the process of pushing through it’s new healthcare plan. The reaction to all of these actions has largely been negative and accelerated grassroots opposition to Trump. Meanwhile, the lackluster response from Trump supporters throughout March, on ‘Loyalty Day,’ and in celebrating Trump’s ‘100 Days in Office,’ speaks volumes. Furthermore, many Trump supporters themselves will be feeling the brunt of Trump’s attack on healthcare, which for some threatens their very lives.

To many Americans, the rich kids running around Milo’s Miami office in red MAGA hats aren’t funny, shocking, or ‘triggering’ to anyone – they all just look like fucking fools, pretending to be rebels. Even some within the Alt-Right, the neo-Nazi ‘edgy shitlords’ who helped propel Trump into power are recoiling their support, while others begrudgingly continue to mobilize to support Trump events – as it’s one of the few ways they can actually manifest an offline presence.

“The veneer of ‘Trump the Populist’ is dead and the only people who still support him are Alt-Right trolls who still think it’s 2016.”

The recent actions by the Trump administration also represent a shift away from trying to placate Steve Bannon and the insurgent far-Right base, who made up a section of the backbone of support for Trump. Gone seems to be talk of building a wall and instead Trump rams through tax cuts for the wealthy, a healthcare plan that threatens the lives of literally millions, and in a move towards a more conventional conservative base, an executive order aimed at attacking the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, as mass deportations and ICE raids have continued since Trump took power, many of the news stories Trump used to drum up support for his policies have turned out to be fakes, entire town have become deserted, and across the board even most economists and business owners agree that such policies are ‘bad for business.’

These actions also aren’t happening in a vacuum, but instead against a theater of immense social breakdown and increased state repression. It seems as Trump becomes more and more unpopular, the State itself becomes less and less interested in being popular to begin with. Instead, the State remains concerned about holding onto it’s power and passing legislation that speaks to it’s real constituents: billionaires, corporate CEOs, and the military industrial complex.

Meanwhile, life for poor, working, and middle class Americans is getting worse. One of the most obvious examples of this is playing out in Flint, Michigan, where the water crisis offers a glimpse at what is to come for the rest of the US, as thousands of people are now threatened with foreclosures if they don’t pay massive water bills for poised tap water. As Jerry White wrote:

More than 8,000 residents in Flint have received letters from the city threatening them with home foreclosures if they do not pay outstanding bills for water, which is still tainted with lead and other toxins. Seeking to squeeze $5.8 million out of city residents, the letters said outstanding bills would have to be paid by May 19 or property tax liens would be issued that could result in residents losing their homes by March 2018.

The action is the latest offense against the largely working-class population in the former manufacturing center for General Motors, 60 miles north of Detroit. Residents in the city of 100,000 have fought a three-year battle against the lead poisoning of their water and the official cover-up of this criminal act by local, state and federal authorities.

The April 2014 switchover of the city’s water supply to the polluted Flint River, overseen by a governor-appointed emergency manager, was aimed at funneling more money to wealthy bondholders and furthering Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s efforts to privatize services, including public water systems. Untreated corrosives in the water leached lead from the city’s antiquated pipes into the water system. This led to the doubling and tripling of lead levels in blood samples taken from the city’s children. High lead levels can cause permanent neurological damage, and the water contamination has also been linked to at least 12 deaths from Legionnaires’ disease.

But while Flint offers a glimpse at widespread collapse, the fallout over Trumpcare is also foreshadowing a growing tide of mass anger. As Damon Liner wrote:

In the 2016 election, the GOP nominated and won with a candidate who put this populist message front and center, promising that he would be the voice of these neglected voters and act to make their lives better.

This same party just passed a bill that is guaranteed to significantly hurt millions of these very voters, depriving some of health insurance altogether, making it more expensive for others to acquire or hold onto insurance, and exposing many more to much greater risk of financial disaster should they get sick or suffer injury.

You don’t need to be a communist revolutionary to recognize that this contradiction — one in which the GOP incubates, catalyzes, and unleashes growing waves of populist fury in the very act of pursuing flagrantly anti-populist policies — is unlikely to end well. On the contrary, it is likely to ensure that the anti-establishment passions of the present will only increase. If they become intense enough, there’s no telling how much of the political system they may end up tearing down.

Trump’s plan, or the American Health Care Act (AHCA), builds on the pro-corporate stance of Obamacare. With that plan, if you were uninsured and didn’t have coverage, you were forced to get coverage or face a penalty. At the same time, people were hit with high premiums and high deductibles. This “coverage” put more money back into the hands of the insurance companies, cutting costs for the government and corporations, while providing only the most minimal care for people.

But Trump’s plan doesn’t solve any of these problems and threatens the lives and health of millions of people. What the bill does do, is slash taxes for corporations and the very rich, while at the same time, ending the Medicaid program for poor people as a guaranteed social program based on income and need. Especially at risk are those with per-existing medical conditions and the elderly, who are threatened with having their coverage denied or made extremely expensive.

Trump’s plan also means that the very rich will pay less in taxes and that the very poor will get next to nothing in Medicaid, or none at all. Such a push locks firmly into place with Bannon’s calls for a ‘deconstruction’ of the administrative state as well as those within the ‘Freedom Caucus’ who want to roll back all social and entitlement programs which seek to create a safety net for the poor and working class.

While Trump sold many voters on the idea that he was going to re-strengthen and re-affirm the power of white men in society, what he really had in mind was a full frontal attack on the broader population for the purpose of moving massive amounts of money from the poor and working-class into the hands of the ruling elite. Turns out white nationalism was really just a one hit wonder, and the band was really playing a cover of neoliberalism the whole time.

But these attacks go much deeper than just the provisions in the AHCA. Trumpcare is also coupled with the recent push by the Trump administration to drastically cut taxes on the mega-rich. As we wrote just before May Day:

The scene of a recent white house conference this week illustrates this point perfectly, as Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Gary Cohn could barely contain their excitement as they discussed the “once in a generation opportunity” to transform the tax code. It comes as no surprise that both men are both former Goldman Sachs bankers, and each worth more than half a billion dollars. This reality flies in the face of Trump’s Alt-Right rhetoric of “international bankers,” designed as a dog whistle to his far-Right base while he helps line the pockets of corporate giants.

If the Trump administration can do anything, it’s look after their own. 

These cuts will also have another effect: as federal tax revenue decreases, reactionary segments in both parties will call for the slashing of basic programs that millions of people depend on such as social security and Medicare. At the same time, the gigantic Pentagon budget balloons and grows even larger than under President Obama, as Trump pushes for all out war.

The non-profit, reformist, and bureaucratic Left, largely aligned with the Democratic Party offers no solutions for the current crisis, nor have the Democrats themselves put up any significant resistance to the Trump administration or it’s attacks on poor and working people, the environment, and immigrant populations who have been under constant attack since Trump has allowed ICE agents free reign.

What is needed instead is the creation of a grassroots autonomous force which can begin to grow, fight, and build towards its own interests, instead of waiting for those in power to rescue us and “listen to reason.” The State is not interested in reason, it is interested in governing. If we die, are poor, or live in miserable conditions it cares not – as long as we submit to their rule and keep making them rich.

“We are entering into a period where the State is less concerned about maintaining social peace as it is with simply maintaining power.”

We are entering into a period where the State is less concerned about maintaining social peace as it is with simply maintaining power. By that we mean, for the Trump administration, the gloves are off. It isn’t trying to make it’s base happy and it isn’t attempting to keep any of it’s promises. Trump has freed himself to slash regulations, taxes, and social programs all for the purpose of benefiting his own class: the billionaires and corporate CEOs. Any sort of veneer of ‘Trump the Populist’ is dead and buried and by and large the only people that still support Trump are the people on the far-Right that haven’t ‘given up hope yet’ or Alt-Right hipsters who still think it’s 2016 and people still care what they have to say.

At the same time, the insurgent far-Right is in disarray. While the cult of ‘Based Stickman’ is giving some of the Right a sense of accomplishment, in reality support for Trump has never been lower and numbers at Trump rallies continues to fall. At the same time, major splits within the various factions of the Alt-Right, militia, and pro-Trump formations are starting to appear. Ironically, the thing uniting the far-Right currently is not support for the man who they all voted for, but instead a common hatred and desire to fight anarchists, antifascists, and the Left. In short, they are in a weak, fractured, and reactionary position – and above all, having to react to us.

But while the State suffers from an extreme lack of legitimacy and the far-Right goes through an identity crisis, it is time for us as anarchists, autonomists, and anti-capitalists, to begin to think about the next phase of our struggle and where the next several months will take us in the midst of this continued social, political, and economic breakdown.

In short, it’s time to think beyond just big street showdowns, large mobilizations, and confrontations with the far-Right. While we should never leave these things behind, it is time to begin to manifest a strategy that addresses the material conditions that we have discussed. To put it simply: what would it take to create a political crisis – in the midst of this one – beyond just simply rioting? How could we organize, build infrastructure, and create counter power that would also be an affront to State power?

We would do well to remember that when Trump first won the electoral college, cities across the US held mass assemblies and meetings, to talk about what people could do in their communities in order to build not only counter power, but to meet people’s needs directly in the face of Trumpism. In this moment, there was a feeling of possibility about what we could do in the coming months. While much has been done, at the same time, we have in many ways become normalized to the regime and settled back into life as usual. Many of the plans and ideas for action that we have discussed over the past few months simply stayed that, ideas.

Now is the time to start to put those projects, programs, and organizing structures into place. We need people organizing on the ground in Flint, Michigan, not only to stop the evictions, but also through building autonomy, self-defense, and counter power. We need people across the US thinking, dreaming, and creating actual alternatives to the current heath care industry, especially as more traditional forms become less and less accessible.

The State is already illegitimate in the eyes of millions and the demand for radical action has never been more apparent. Let us enter into this moment as if our lives depended on it, because they do.

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