Filed under: Anarchist Movement, Anti-fascist, Capitalism, Featured, Immigration, The State, US
“If you are monomaniacal in pursuit of both sides, you ignore a reality where there may be one side.”
This past two weeks have seen not only a continuation in far-Right, neo-Nazi, and pro-Trump violence, but also an escalation that has set new horrific standards for domestic acts of racist murder.
This violence does not appear out of nowhere, and the response to it from the established political circles within the United States, is deafening. Trump, who over a year ago suggested that Jews were behind attacks on synagogues in order to make him look bad and who has pushed the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory of George Soros the puppet master along with the immigrant caravan “invasion” just as hard as the rest of the far-Right and Fox News combined, had the audacity to suggest that the massacre in Pittsburgh was the fault of the Tree of Life synagogue itself, because they weren’t properly armed. The message was clear: it was their own fault, those Jews.
On Monday, after Pittsburgh Jewish leaders called on Trump not to hold a rally while the city laid to rest the dead, Trump announced he would in fact visit the city, even though officials claimed they wouldn’t have enough resources to protect both the funerals and Trump’s entourage.
Meanwhile, what the Right calls “the Left,” but what is properly understood as the political Center and headed by the Democratic Party, simply repeats a set of stale talking points around civility and “bringing the country together;” gloating that Trump had once again done a poor job of responding to yet another far-Right massacre, made possible by his own rise to power.
To most people, the rise in far-Right violence is clear: the political Right along with the auxiliary Right have both been calling their troops to arms; both in terms of the polls, but also in the streets. The key rallying cry is fear: fear of Muslims, of immigrants coming from the caravan, of ‘ANTIFA’ supersoldiers, and at the center of it all, fear of “being replaced in one’s own country.” This fear has lead Trump and others to suggest violence will be used against their enemies if they don’t get their way. Even hinting that riots would erupt if enough Democrats were elected, or if Trump is deposed through a democratic process. To paraphrase the Nazis, democracy will give fascists the means by which to destroy it.
Meanwhile, the Democrats are attempting to coral the working class back into the ballot box after two years of wildcat strikes that have exploded out of their hands, and an increasingly radical millennial generation raised on a diet of Black Lives Matter freeway blockades and punched Nazi memes. Like the Republicans, the Democrats are running on a platform of fear – fear of continued Republican rule. On the other hand, they are also attempting to appeal to a growing left-wing base by “running on ideas,” touting “medicare for all” and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as basic campaign tenants.
Unsurprisingly, these piecemeal crumbs were opposed as too “radical” or “socialist” just two years ago, and now two years later, $15 an hour is even more so a poverty wage and the DNC rubber stamp of the Republican tax cuts may have already sealed the fate of programs like medicare.
True to form, the Democratic Party has never been a vehicle that advances working-class interests, but instead manages and contains them, in an attempt to move class struggle off the streets, in a downward spiral of wages, conditions, and living standards – to say nothing of building a movement towards autonomy, community control, and sustainability.
Meanwhile, the fascist movement, has been building.
Blood On the Streets
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
“This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”
Over the last two weeks, the push towards violent insurgency on the side of the far-Right has only increased. In New York, Proud Boys and ultra-nationalist skinheads worked openly with Republicans, and beat people in the streets in two different cities. Business cards for the neo-Nazi group, Patriot Front, were left at an autonomous community center in Carbondale, Illinois, while the city council literally cancelled its weekly meeting in the face of paramilitary threats leading up to a campaign rally from Donald Trump. Across the US, Cesar Sayoc, a racist Trump supporter that attended campaign rallies and decorated his van with pro-Trump stickers, was arrested for mailing over a dozen pipe-bombs across the US to former presidents, prominent Democrats, George Soros, and CNN. In Kentucky on October 24th, Gregory Bush attempted to enter a black church, and then proceeded to murder two African-Americans in a parking lot. According to Raw Story, “One eyewitness, who grabbed his revolver after hearing gunshots, said he came face to face to Bush, who told him, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.” Then on October 27th, Robert Bowers opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh during a religious service, killing 11 people, in what the ADL describes as the largest anti-Semitic attack on US soil. Posts on social media suggest Bowers targeted the Tree of Life due to their work with refugees and immigrants, an apparent statement on the approaching caravan from Honduras.
This is to say nothing of the ramping up and escalation of both rhetoric and policy from the Trump administration. From attempting to legally exclude transgendered people out of existence, praising the assault of journalists, greeting the new fascist President of Brazil with open arms, and the ramping up of fear against a caravan of refugees seeking asylum, State preparation for amassing troops at the border, the political climate of violence within State politics and the mainstream media has only accelerated in the lead up to the US midterms.
“The irony of Trump’s call to “Make American Great Again,” is that it celebrates a period in time that would be considered “socialist” by today’s standards, and more over, was made possible, as are all advancements in poor and working-class conditions, by a class fighting to impose their own interests against another.”
This reality has been building for some time, as over the decades, the Democrats have swung to the Right, yet stayed firmly in the Center, while the Republicans have pushed farther and farther to the far-Right, in a process known as “asymmetrical polarization.” This has been coupled with a Republican strategy that played out under Obama, of fighting the administration over every policy proposal, while the Democrats attempted a path of ‘compromise.’
Now under Trump, by design, the Right has pushed the idea that there are escalating threats against American citizens, or more often, ‘Trump supporters,’ coming from everything from ‘ANTIFA’ to the migrant caravan, rich career politicians being interrupted at dinner, to the impending threat of the Democratic Party taking more seats in the upcoming election. When looked at logically by anyone outside of the Right, such claims appear baseless and steeped within conspiracy theories and literal lies – because they are. However, when viewed from the eco-system of Right media, that flows from the gutters of 4chan to the Twitter account of Donald Trump, it makes sense that such manufactured calls are produced by those within the echo chamber, often stemming from below, and aimed at achieving maximum reverberation as it moves upward.
In many ways this is what makes the Alt-Right, broadly speaking, revolutionary in a sense – it is one of the first political movements that judges its success by the degree in which it is recuperated by the State structure. Who needs COINTELPRO when you have 8chan?
And since the election of Donald Trump, this conspiracy laden rhetoric devoid of facts has been flung into high gear. No longer are immigrants just coming to “take our jobs,” but instead they are coming to physically rape and kill us. Trump flat out lies, and proclaims that within the current caravan coming from Honduras, there are “middle easterners” and members of MS-13 hidden within the group. Moreover, even mainstream Centrist politicians, such as Hillary Clinton are presented as “evil” while conspiracy theories argue that the Clintons and the Obamas are involved in everything from child Satanic sacrifice to pedophilia.
And the broad categorization of enemies if the regime as “evil,” “pedophiles,” or “communists,” is important, because it helps to build a base of support for their potential removal, incarceration, and exclusion. This same process is also repeated with broad sections of the population; migrant workers become “rapists” and members of MS-13, while refugees fleeing civil war become “members of ISIS.” With this drum beat in mind, which of course, always leaves room for those spewing this filth a cloak of plausible deniability, more and more, lone wolves have picked up weapons to defend the homeland against such enemies.
As Arun Gupta wrote:
Trump…uses the bully pulpit to spread “stochastic terrorism.” This concept was defined in 2011 as using “mass communication to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.”
Right-wing stochastic terrorism took root during the Obama years. FOX News was the platform of choice for stochastic terrorists like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, and Lou Dobbs. They would demonize targets repeatedly — Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, the left, feminists. Eventually, a “lone wolf” — almost always a volatile white man — would act.
A neo-Nazi angry about Obama rapes and murders non-whites in Massachusetts. A Florida man kills two Chilean exchange students believing “foreign illegals” are going to “overthrow us.” A fan of Glenn Beck and white supremacist radio kills three cops in Pittsburgh, believing Obama is trying to confiscate guns or imprison Americans in FEMA camps. An anti-Muslim member of the neo-Nazi Hammerskin Nation kills six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, which appears to be another deadly instance of Sikhism being confused with Islam. An anti-government conservative kills six and wounds 14, including a U.S. Congresswoman, in Arizona.
In each case, right-wing commentators immediately dismiss the incident as a lone wolf, as evil, as a nutcase. They deny responsibility while immediately getting back to inciting the next attack.
The rhetoric of the far-Right; that of invasions, of those that would prey on children, rape white women, and steal what is ours, is not just inflammatory language, but language that is designed to call upon those that spend their lives preparing to be mobilized by the State, by the homeland – to defend it from the Other.
Meanwhile, the Center, in a constant state of “Why I never” seemingly with cocktail in hand, instead of realizing what is being manufactured, attempts to produce a call of its own. This is a call for civility, “both sidism,” bringing the country together, and for Donald Trump to finally appear “Presidential.” And, the closer we have gotten to the midterms, the more the Center has attempted to present itself not even as #TheResistance, but instead as those that simply want a return to the way things were, before Trump. The new conservatives. Bring back the neoliberalism that was!
Only a movement that understands the dangers of the fascist creep coupled with the impotence of Centrism, the failure of neoliberalism, and calls for ‘civility’ as all parts of the same engine of late capitalist civilization, can hope to build a material force against the current nightmare.
Why the Right Wins
Before the 2016 election Zizek stated something to the affect that despite his dislike for Trump, he would still consider voting for him because at the very least, Trump meant change; a destabilization of the system after 32 years of neoliberal rule. This is fundamentally what so many of the Left do not understand about the rise of Trump, just as many cannot believe that voters in Brazil would turn in part towards fascism after years of the Workers Party in power. In short, the Democrats have become the party of neoliberalism and corporate globalization, now coupled with the power of tech capital and silicon valley.
To understand why this is significant, we have to go back in history. After World War II, American workers returned both from the war, and from working in a variety of industries that before had been closed to women and workers of color. A strike wave kicked off as workers demanded better pay and the right to form unions, and as Jeremy Brecher wrote: “By the end of 1946, 4.6 million workers had been involved in strikes; their average length was four times that of the war period.” Meanwhile, taxes and regulations on corporations were much higher than today, college education was much less expensive allowing baby boomers to attend college in record numbers, the path to home ownership was made much easier, and the civil rights movement and growing post-war industries, allowed African-Americans some assemblage of a better life. In short, the ruling class bought social peace from the working class.
But baby boomers who came of age in the 1960s and 70s also came up against the real structural limits of settler colonial democracy, both in the Jim Crow south, in the streets of Oakland, in the fields of California where immigrant laborers toiled, on Native reservations, in the factories in the face of sped up production, and in the white ghettos of Chicago. Compounding it all was a growing anger at an unpopular war in Vietnam as well as the draft, which preyed on poor and working class youth.
By the early 1970s, things were literally exploding across the US, as liberation movements and struggles popped in poor neighborhoods, outside of army bases, at college campuses, and everything from communes to armed struggle groups were formed. In the summer of 1971, would be Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell argued in the so-called Powell Memorandum, which was sent to the Chamber of Commerce, the major business lobby, that argued that business interests were in fact “losing control” over the United States.
But what now concerns us is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.
But one should not postpone more direct political action, while awaiting the gradual change in public opinion to be effected through education and information. Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be assidously (sic) cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination — without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business.
As unwelcome as it may be to the Chamber, it should consider assuming a broader and more vigorous role in the political arena.
Four years later, the Trilateral Commission made a similar assessment, as Noam Chomsky noted in the film, Requiem for the American Dream:
Over on the liberal side, there’s something exactly similar. The first major report of The Trilateral Commission (a non-governmental group founded by David Rockefeller in July 1973) is concerned with this. It’s called “the crisis of democracy.” Their flavor is indicated by the fact that they pretty much staffed the Carter administration. They were also appalled by the democratizing tendencies of the ’60s, and thought we have to react to it. They were concerned that there was an “excess of democracy” developing.
Previously passive and obedient parts of the population, what are sometimes called, “the special interests,” were beginning to organize and try to enter the political arena, and they said, “that imposes too much pressure on the state. It can’t deal with all these pressures.” So, therefore, they have to return to passivity and become depoliticized. They were particularly concerned with what was happening to young people. “The young people are getting too free and independent.”
Along with a counter-insurgency strategy from the FBI and the police that they gave us everything from SWAT team raids, COINTELPRO, and broken windows theory, as Chomsky argues, the economic counter-insurgency was based around two key aspects: financialization of the economy and the offshoring of production through globalization. In short, neoliberalism. This system led to workers being precarious and often floating around, without a center of power or community to organize from and always desperate for work. In today’s world, this reality is compounded by gentrification and the rising cost of living, while wages of also stagnated since the 1970s.
Trade agreements such as NAFTA, and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) further cemented these policies into law, helping to mainline “neo-colonialism” in developing countries, forcing structural adjustment programs that pushed deregulation and privatization – looting countries of their wealth and resources. Meanwhile, capital and jobs were free to move, but workers were firmly locked behind ever more militarized borders, such as “Operation Gatekeeper,” passed by Clinton directly after NAFTA went into effect, forcing the migration of millions of economic refugees and leading to the deaths of thousands in the desert.
After the financial crash of 2008, the economy re-organized itself, bailed out key industries and the big banks and the wealth gap between the rich and poor exploded, Wall Street saw record profits, and African-American families lost more wealth that at any time since the Great Depression.
“today under Trump, we can’t turn on the TV without hearing about how great the economy is doing, but what what this means, even with relatively low unemployment, is simply that many Americans are working more and more for less and less money, often juggling several part-time jobs and hustles in an attempt to cobble together a life.”
At the same time, we saw a rise in the service industry as well as the so-called gig economy. But today under Trump, we can’t turn on the TV without hearing about how great the economy is doing, but what what this means, even with relatively low unemployment, is simply that many Americans are working more and more for less and less money, often juggling several part-time jobs and hustles in an attempt to cobble together a life.
In many ways Trumpism is simply a continuation and acceleration of the neoliberal process; rolling back a wide variety of workplace, environmental, and financial regulations coupled with an attempt at trade war, which by and large, has been a failure. Despite Trump’s tough talk on bringing back productive forces to the US; to reverse corporate globalization, this has simply been that: talk. Almost all of the factories that Trump pushed to keep open during his campaign have now closed. Meanwhile, Trump has sought to “make America great again” by repealing reforms, for instance in coal, which elevated the standard of working-class life in the first place in favor of capitalist interests. At the same time, all studies suggest that it will be the service and gig economy which grows in the future, as Forbes predicts by 2020, half the workforce is expect to work “freelance,” and 40% or more of jobs are expected to be impacted by automation in 10-15 years. This is to say nothing of the fact that another economic crisis looms.
The importance of pointing all of this out, is that by and large liberals are not able to address the counter-revolutionary nature of neoliberalism as a political and economic order, and more over speak to the communities that have been devastated by it. Trump positioned himself as an insurgent against neoliberalism (decried in far-Right terms as ‘globalism’) within both parities. He claimed to speak of the forgotten men and women left behind by neoliberal polices, and while he framed this in terms of white identity politics, in truth, neoliberalism has left behind large bodies of workers of different colors.
The irony of Trump’s call to “Make American Great Again,” is that it celebrates a period in time that would be considered “socialist” by today’s standards, and more over, was made possible, as are all advancements in poor and working-class conditions, by a class fighting to impose their own interests against another. But while #MAGA is a fairy tale and not based in reality, its still a lie that sells, and one that people want to hear.
Because of this, Trumpism, American proto-fascism, has been able to present itself as both radical and opposed to the dominant economic and political order, and as a return to a mythical, traditional past. When you couple this with a push to reaffirm white supremacy and the racial caste system in the face of grassroots social movements from below and the support of various economic elites, such as the Mercer family, we can come to an understanding of why Trumpism wins.
The Tribe of Centrism
In the wake of the rising body count and a growing world wide fascist movement, the Center has responded with half-baked calls to reject “tribalism,” and instead bring the country together. But such a push for “civility” on “either side,” is neither a strategy for stopping the growth of fascism, nor in stopping the growth of far-Right violence.
From the start of Trump’s presidency, a fierce resistance popped up, from the riot that shut down Milo Yiannapoulos and other Alt-Right events, mass defiance which shut down airports, to the walkouts and freeway shutdowns that exploded in the wake of Trump’s selection by the electoral college. In short, there were signs that a combative grassroots resistance was going to grow and expand in the face of Trump’s escalation of attacks. But quickly both the Right and the Center bought into a narrative of “increasing” left-wing violence, and constructed out of it the trope of ANTIFA, the personification of “the bad protester” and the “outside agitator,” which quickly became a catch-all term that could morph into any situation or be accused of a wide range of violent acts against the second biggest trope of our time, “Trump supporters,” which of course were always victims, and never engaged in violence.
Instead of landing on the side of antifascist resistance against Trump and the far-Right, the Center instead of course stood on the side of “civility” and came down harder on autonomous grassroots movements, while greasing the wheels of political repression.
But the Center, through both mass media outlets, the State apparatus, and the Democratic Party, has shown itself to be useless in the fight against ongoing assaults coming from the Trump administration. This is by and large because the Democrats have simply been largely a rubber stamp for Trump’s imperial military build up and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but moreover, have been unable to stop everything from the appointment of Kavanaugh to the rolling back of protections and regulations.
Moreover, much of the Center has promoted a worldview that America has broken down into “tribes,” and that they represent a return to “civility” within politics, while Trump represents a chauvinism that is “un-Presidential.”
In reality, America is not split among “tribes,” but instead divided into classes which is organized against itself by race, gender, and immigration status by the ruling class who benefits from such division. Moreover, America has never been “civil,” but always been a Nation a war with its own population, from the genocidal conquest of Manifest Destiny, to the brutality and horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the brutal class war that saw the US Air Force used to put down strikers. Lastly, the idea that a social contract exists, that removes the need for the wretched of the earth to ‘lobby’ through extra-parliamentary means, has been shot to shit through a system that has rolled back by and large the gains made during the Great Depression and the Civil Rights movement, and to this day, cannot even secure basic voting rights for African-American citizens.
Lastly, for the Center to speak of “civility” in a time when literally millions of voters are being kicked off the roles simply because of the color of their skin and the political class readies itself for an attack on medicare, Medicaid, and social security, shows that like the State itself, the Center prefers a passive population, albeit one invested in the political system, than one that is fighting, rioting, occupying and striking for its own interests.
With the release of various reports on climate change that point not only towards the extremely apocalyptic reality of continued life within industrial civilization, but moreover, that elites with the Trump administration simply do not care about this reality, any serious talk of a social contact should be met with both contempt and laughter. In short, the elites have forfeited any reason for supposed control over our lives.
There is no way to ‘bring the country together’ because this is a settler colonial society, built on stolen land, and divided by class and organized by racial caste. To bring the country together would require exactly what Trump and Bannon are selling, a new nationalism, most likely forged through war and the mass exclusion and elimination of millions through deportations. To this, by and large the Center, agrees, it just argues that such a project should be more “civil,” as to not arose the anger of the population.
We too wish to bring people together, but along lines of class interest that starts with the end of the American plantation and ends with the creation of the communal block party from here to eternity.
The Path Ahead
The recent election of a fascist in Brazil is a warning, as is the push to amass troops a long the border in the lead up to to the migrant caravan approaching the US border. And the warning is clear: there is a growing threat of fascism in the US, and a growing threat of further government clampdown on speech, organizing, and protest against the current regime. Now is the time to mobilize, organize, and build power outside of the political parties.
Jewish demonstrators calling on the GOP to confront white nationalism outside Manhattan’s Metropolitan Club, which recently hosted the head of a hate group. pic.twitter.com/dgL3Sh2ESw
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) October 30, 2018
“If life under Trumpism has shown anything, it is that the more resistance there is, the safer we are. When things have slowed down and become tied to the political, the scarier things have become, and closer we have inched towards a police-state.”
We need an updated antifascism that takes into account the reality that the State is working openly with the far-Right, and the far-Right is openly supporting the State. We also need to push for mass demonstrations and protests; we can’t wait for the big Left organizations to call for them, as they have shown time and time again, they lack the capacity to bring people out or the will to.
Towards this end we need it all: speaking tours bringing news of struggles to new places, wheatpaste, graffiti, banner drops, and sticker campaigns. We need mass teach-ins and educational events. We need survival programs, collective self-defense to fight for bread and butter, and the building of revolutionary infrastructure such a food distribution networks and clinics.
If life under Trumpism has shown anything, it is that the more resistance there is, the safer we are. When things have slowed down and become tied to the political, the scarier things have become, and closer we have inched towards a police-state. Despite all of the talk from the Center about the sanctity and robustness of democratic institutions, or even the ability of the ‘deep state’ to correct Trump if need be, none of these things have come to fruition.
As if it wasn’t clear enough already – it’s up to us to save ourselves. Because no one is coming to save us.