All Articles All Articles

DennisLoo.com

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path.

DennisLoo.com Banner

Trump and Pence: What Is and Isn’t

Trump and Pence: What Is and Isn’t

By Dennis Loo (9/14/17)

In a talk delivered to a Party working group in summer of 2017, entitled The Problem, the Solution, and the Challenges Before Us, was published online as of August 31, 2017. I am glad that in that speech Bob Avakian expands on the relationship he sees between the NO! campaign and socialist revolution. I previously did not see how he was making that connection based on the other two pieces by him that revcom.us has been recommending. You can see my earlier commentary on those here.

I cite extensively from Avakian’s new words and others, with my remarks interspersed, because you need to see the evidence yourself. This is a rather long article, but as you get into this, you will probably see why.

Let me say at the outset: I still don’t see how Avakian gets from the NO! campaign to its contributing to revolution in this new speech, except insofar as more people will be gathered together to oppose the Trump/Pence regime in November, 2017, (a date they are now aiming for) and so in the general sense that is a good thing and perhaps contributes in a way to that aim. But it is based on a wrong premise and true scientists (of society) do not want that.

Avakian’s mode of argumentation in regard to the NO! campaign is flawed. It is not with pleasure that I say that because I think that if there’s to be revolution in this country, the RCP is the only presently organized force working towards that. The stakes here are exceedingly high. Even for those who do not yet think a socialist revolution is called for or possible, at least growing numbers of people realize that capitalism and imperialism pose an extremely serious danger to this planet (consider the hurricanes and extreme weather patterns that accompany global warming!) and something dramatic and radical must be done.

The reader will make up their own mind and hopefully my interpretation will do some good. Even if you disagree with me thoroughly, the effort reading this will be well worth your time.

Avakian states:

I think it’s important to identify what we can call the triad of fascism, that is, the unapologetic aggressive assertion of white supremacy, male supremacy and American supremacy (or racism, misogyny and bellicose xenophobic jingoism, if you want to use other terminology), reinforced with defiantly—not apologetically, defiantly—ignorant and belligerent opposition to science and rational thought, combined with equally ignorant and belligerent assertion of the “superiority of western civilization,” as evidenced in Trump’s recent speech in Poland.

Certainly, these are traits one finds in abundance within the Trump/Pence regime; there is no disagreement between the RCP and I that Trump and his camp are indeed fascist.

But where we disagree about is how you organize people for revolution and where we stand now. What he especially does in this speech is say that the American fascists are going to impose their a) literal understanding of the Bible on the entire country and b) what Trump and Pence will do fairly soon, if we don’t drive them from office first, is install fascism.

Relatedly, the NO! campaign has repeatedly said – in boldface print – that fascism and bourgeois democracy are qualitatively different things and that people need to understand that difference and work urgently to defend against a fascist takeover soon.

Why is Avakian saying these things and how does he get from A to B?

Yes, there are Christian fascists and they are literal-minded about their wanting the Bible to act as the touchstone document.

Will they and are they getting their way? I don’t see that at all, except insofar as there is not a bright line dividing bourgeois democracy from fascism (more on that later and why this is a different understanding than has prevailed in the communist movement historically).

Among the public, among “the chattering” classes, and even among some of Trump’s most important supporters, both GOP figures like Senate leader Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker, and increasing numbers of those who voted for him, Trump is a growing embarrassment. He is an object of ridicule domestically and internationally. He can’t get a bill passed through Congress even though the GOP controls both chambers. His letting it all hang out in Charlottesville where he effectively sides with white supremacists, the KKK, and neo-Nazis was almost universally condemned (except by the fascists themselves, who loved his remarks). His own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an unprecedented move, distanced himself from Trump. Staff are reportedly taking bets how long Chief-of-Staff Gen. John Kelly will last, given Trump’s fickleness. The recent unprecedented storms in Houston and Florida only make this worse.

Contrary to NO! campaign characterizations that others in the ruling class refuse to call Trump and Pence fascists and they are merely upset at norms being broken, not the content and style the fascists are using, increasing numbers of opinion-makers name this explicitly fascism (such as Paul Krugman in The New York Times in 2017, The New Republic in 2016, Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institute in the Washington Post in 2016, the Foundation for Economic Development’s Jeffrey Tucker in Newsweek in 2015) and call for Trump’s resignation (e.g., Al Gore, Keith Olbermann, Tony Schwartz (the real author of The Art of the Deal).

Contrary to the RCP doubling down on their characterization of Trump as deliberately and consciously breaking norms, no evidence is offered for this ridiculous claim that Trump is by design doing this and it is working. While it is true that Trump gets a perverse pleasure out of breaking norms and getting away with it, with lots of evidence supporting that personal history, Trump is alienating wider and wider circles by his actions now that he is POTUS, at least some of this (if not a lot more than some of it, perhaps all of it) evidenced and constantly mocked by comics, ranging from Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Trevor Noah, SNL, to Weekend Update and others. There are also commentators like Keith Olbermann and David Pakman who have made convincing cases that Trump is not all there.

If all that the above have said is insufficient for you, then consider the comments and actions of scores of journalists such as Anderson Cooper, Chris Wallace, Shepard Smith (the latter two Fox News people), and Joe Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski (who used to be Trump fans and are now objects of Trump scorn).

While Trump has signed many executive orders and is presently doing real damage to the denizens of this planet, how does he go from being seen as a buffoon to winner of it all? Sit and talk to virtually any table about politics nowadays and except in communities which Trump carried by double-digits, people are sick to death of Trump (who has never read a whole book at least as an adult and who gets his news from TV), even some who voted for him. I have never seen anything like it, even sentiment hostile towards Nixon during the height of Watergate was less than this in how quickly anti-Trump feelings spread and how intensely people are appalled by this.

Yet the RCP calls Trump/Pence a “juggernaut[1] and says that is it precisely because Trump doesn’t follow the norms that makes him desirable to “powerful interests” that want him to and are seeing him roll-over others.

Trump’s fascist juggernaut is moving full steam ahead to replace these norms with the iron fist of fascism, new norms which serve his program.” (Boldfacing and italics in the original.) Where is this “juggernaut” getting its way? If he was a juggernaut and an “iron fist” then why does he seem so unhappy and out-of-place almost all the time? Why does he pick fights nearly every day (including with his staunchest allies and friends) and why is he still tweeting about Obama and Clinton if he is getting his way? Jeff Sessions is doing much of his dirty work and much of that is not covered, but all this fascism is being put in place and they aren’t facing resistance of all kinds, including tremendously increased number of digital and traditional subscriptions to The New York Times, Washington Post, et al, those watching CNN, MSNBC, growing hugely while Fox News is losing its lead in TV for the first time in several years? This is from The Street in March, 2017:

Trump, of course, has become the greatest source of lead generation the American press has ever seen, his campaign and then election inspiring hundreds of thousands of Americans to rush to buy digital news subscriptions and memberships. [John] Oliver provided some seed, name-checking The New York TimesThe Washington Post and ProPublica in a legendary journalism-affirming appeal in August, which so far has generated 7.4 million views on YouTube.

A month ago, the big number that generated the big headlines was that of the Times, as it passed the 3 million subscription threshold. It is now the numbers generated by dozens of media companies that certify the Trump bump as a major trend in the news publishing business.

In the magazine world, January was the biggest subscription month ever for Conde Nast's The New Yorker. Between the Nov. 8 election day and the end of January, the 92-year-old title sold 250,000 subscriptions. That's up 230% compared with the same three-month period a year ago. January alone produced 100,000 subscriptions, a 300% increase over January 2016. The magazine now has its largest circulation ever, at more than a million.

Its fellow magazine hard-charger, The Atlantic, also broke records. First, November saw an all-time record number of subscriptions to the magazine. Then, December doubled the November numbers. Those two months accounted for one-third of all subscriptions placed online for The Atlantic in 2016. January continued to see outsized growth, up 200% year over year, though down some from December. Even single-copy newsstand sales -- the laggard of magazine sales -- jumped both in January (with a 40,000-issue reprint, due to demand) and 15% for the year.

In newspapers, The New York Times has lit the way forward. By the end of this month, it expected to have added 500,000 new net subscribers over a six-month period, unprecedented in U.S. history, moving past its recently achieved subscriber milestone. Meanwhile, its partner in surge, The Washington Post said that January generated more subscription starts than any other month, beating what had been a record-setting November, with the Post overall seeing "doubled digital subscription revenue in the past 12 months, with a 75% increase in new subscribers."

Sources said the newspaper now can count about 300,000 digital-only subscribers for the first time.

What are we to make of such figures? Does this not tell us something real and major that is occurring?

The Leaks

In addition to record numbers of viewers and readers for the mainstream media, why are we also seeing many leaks (e.g., transcripts of Trump’s international calls to allies). Why is Trump so upset about the leaks?

Many people want to fight against xenophobia, bigotry, patriarchy and so on. One way that happens is some of the leaks are from within the federal bureaucracy itself, as people seek ways to show how appalled they are, and to make some difference. Trump’s outlandish views create an opening to fight for the grassroots shaping the dialogue, as the system is making a grand mess of things and yes, it’s a system error and you can show this in a multitude of ways, but this isn’t mainly because it’s fascism but because of capitalism-imperialism, whose governing logic is profit. You run the real danger of tailing people rather than unleashing them by making the edge of your appeal that Trump and Pence are first and foremost fascists.

Fascism is a version of bourgeois rule. It is not their normal way of exercising bourgeois rule, but it is still nevertheless bourgeois rule. You need to tell people that and keep reminding people of that, instead of emphasizing that this is qualitatively different, as this NO! campaign does.

Depicting their fascism as an offensive move rather than a defensive one is per se incorrect. Not only is it empirically incorrect but it is wrong theoretically. I have spoken to this in prior articles. See, in order of appearance: here, here, and here.

Thirdly, how do you go from some people trying to do this, to actually doing it?

This is where Avakian particularly goes wrong methodologically, confounding statements and actions towards fascism with something successfully done. The degree to which the fascists are trying to impose their view is in a situation where they are vastly outnumbered and greatly outsmarted by others. Avakian says:

Along with this, we have the fascist thuggery—both physical thuggery and intellectual thuggery: mindless storm troopers, coupled with perverted pretensions of victimhood and irrational rationalizations for atrocities. Think about it: You have these stormtrooopers—you know, the Oath Keepers, the Ku Klux Klan, and all the rest of these people, the Proud Boys, or whatever they’re called—out there in the streets carrying guns, and so on. And you have the NRA videos basically calling for people to engage in civil war against anything positive in society. But you also have the Ann Coulters and others out there with their intellectual thuggery, presenting at one and the same time the Christian Fascists and other fascists as victims. Somehow these people—whose representatives are in power, with a fascist regime implementing its program—somehow they’re the victims, they’re the Christians in the coliseum with the lions being turned loose on them. Why? Well, there is this book by this guy—his name is, it’s not Jimmy Kimmel, it’s another Kimmel (Michael Kimmel)—called Angry White Men. And he made a statement which I think speaks to a lot of this sort of mobilized resentment, this frustrated entitlement. He said: If you’ve been in a situation—speaking about men who feel aggrieved these days because “the bitches are getting everything their way”—if you’re used to having everything 100% in your favor, and then it’s cut down to 75%, I guess it feels like you’re being persecuted. And that’s essentially what’s happening here. There have been certain concessions to the struggle against things like white supremacy, and patriarchy in different forms, and so on and so forth. So this feels to these people like their birthright of superiority—even if they’re not wealthy and powerful, all of them, some of them are—their birthright is being undercut and diminished and destroyed by these minor concessions. I think this is very important to understand. Then there’s the irrational rationalizations for atrocity. I mean just look at Ann Coulter—pure irrationality but in the service of all kinds of horrendous things—advocacy of horrendous acts: Go in (to Muslim countries), and kill all their leaders, convert them all to Christianity—on and on and on—you can cite these things endlessly.

When George W. Bush was about to invade Afghanistan the Russians tried to warn us. CIA Counter-Terrorism Coordinator under Bush Jr. Cofer Black’s response to that warning was like Coulter’s fulminations: “We’re going to put their heads on sticks; we’re going to rock their world.”

How is that working out for the US in Afghanistan?[2] It’s now the longest war the US has ever been in. It is as if Avakian accepts fascists at the fascists’ word, which isn’t like him normally, but in order to posit them as soon winning if we don’t derail this juggernaut first, you have to accept fascist rhetoric as equal to their deeds. Do you really want to do that? Isn’t there almost always a gap between what you say, whoever you are, and what you do? Isn’t that gap an inevitable characteristic of ideas (as expressed in words etc.) versus deeds? Here I will cite Avakian on this very point:

So the foundation is the underlying economic system, and it’s in the superstructure where this gets battled out and where the changes get fought out. And the superstructure is a very dynamic sphere; the realm of political struggle, the realm of culture, the realm of ideas is not one-to-one a mere passive reflection of what the underlying economic system is, but it’s full of contradiction and struggle. People who perceive, like Marx did, the contradictions and analyze deeply and scientifically the contradictions in the underlying economic system, were able to recognize the possibility of transformation to a radically different economic system and therefore to formulate the theories and ideas that would lead to that, that would lead to that process of struggle, that could make that possible. This is why Marx said that the sense of the permanence of the existing conditions breaks down in theory before it is actually broken down in practice. Or, as we emphasize, this is why theory can and often does run ahead of practice. Theory has its ultimate point of origin and point of verification in practice, in the actual material world—that’s where ideas arise out of, and that’s where they’re proven ultimately to be true or not true and to find a basis or not find a basis among people. But in that overall process, people can perceive—out of reflecting on the contradictions and motion and development of the underlying relations, they can perceive changes before those changes are actually brought about. If that weren’t so, there could never be any radical change in society.

So this is all very important to understand. What are the actual relations here?

Indeed, what are the actual relations?

We need to get this right or as right as we are able because we need to be scientific about this. Mao famously put it this way: US imperialism is a paper tiger. Avakian has stressed on many occasions that we should take the enemy tactically very seriously but strategically we have contempt for them because, as Lenin put it, the Colossus has feet of clay.

Here again is Avakian in another way that I agree with him:

And our ideas, in order to play this role, in order to be a powerful force, have to be in accord with an actual scientific understanding of reality and constantly struggling to further develop and refine that understanding, including because life is constantly changing. But if, in fact, they are based on that scientific approach to the correct relation of things in society—the correct relation between the underlying conditions and the realm of politics and thinking and culture—if they more and more reflect a correct understanding of that, they can be a very powerful pole attracting people toward the only resolution of the contradictions they are caught up in that is fundamentally in their own interests and in the interests of humanity as a whole.

Genocide?

I confess I never understood and do not agree with the RCP that genocide is on the table for those that rule. It is one thing to say, correctly, that slavery played a crucial role in making the US what it is, and one thing to say, correctly, that black people especially suffer from the drug war’s new Jim Crow, and another thing to assert that the US government will move from a slavery history and the new Jim Crow onto genocide. Genocide has a specific meaning and a term that should not be lightly tossed about. It is one thing to intend and another thing to do. They are not the same thing. Avakian continues:

And we have to understand, and struggle for people to understand, the straight-up Nazi mentality of this fascism and its consciously genocidal—not only implications but intentions. I go back to that comment, once again, by that “sleazy Congressman,” Adam Schiff. I remember seeing him talking about the original Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act, or whatever they call it) when it was passed. One of his constituents came up to him and asked him how he voted on it, and he said he voted for it, for Obamacare. And his constituent is obviously displeased and asks him: “Why’d you vote for it?” He gave a number of reasons, and then he said: “Well, and besides, one of the main reasons is that people who otherwise couldn’t afford health care can now get it.” Then this guy said: “And you think that’s a good thing?” Adam Schiff said: “Yes, I do. Don’t you?” And the guy said: “No! If they can’t afford it, they shouldn’t have it.” Now, think about the implications of this kind on mentality that’s been built up and primed among sections of the people into a fascist force. This depraved world view that certain types of people—including obviously Black people, other oppressed peoples, but also old people, sick people, women and so on, especially ones who want to have birth control and abortion—that these are people who are seen by these fascist forces as a drain and a stain on society and civilization, and who, therefore, deserve to die (or, what is the same thing, do not deserve to live or to be assisted to live). (Boldfacing added).

Avakian cites the words of one Schiff constituent and has him stand in for a “primed … fascist force” ready to commit genocide against minorities and the disabled, women, and so on. The constituent is repeating a conservative talking point and he himself possibly (and most of Trump’s followers certainly) benefit from Obamacare, so even if the GOP were able to pass a replacement for Obamacare, which they couldn’t do twice, you go from one talking point to … genocide against all these categories of people, including at least some, if not many, Trump people themselves?

There is an epistemological point here. It has become fashionable lately to have words mean intentions and intentions mean deeds, but from a materialist we are also seeing this? In assessing fascists’ literalist intentions, we have to make a distinction between words, intentions, and deeds. Avakian treats the three here, however, as the same thing. That is where he goes wrong methodologically.

Fascism, Bourgeois Democracy, and Bourgeois Rule

If fascism is indeed a form of bourgeois rule and there is agreement among Marxists, at least, that it is, then we need to ask: are the US imperialists adopting fascism as their mode of ruling soon? If so, why and can they do it? You do not answer the second question by only answering the first. The second question receives no attention from Avakian, at least in what has been published so far: are fascists able, strong enough, and popular enough to accomplish their goals?

It goes without saying that the fascists are a small minority to begin with. To say that fascists hold the White House, some key leadership positions in the bureaucracy, and that Trump and Pence have some followers “whipped up” in a fascist frenzy, is not enough.

The fascists would have to run the entirety of society itself. White privilege is not the same as being pro-neo Nazi or a white supremacist. Yes, racist and bigoted attacks are way up, but that itself does not mean that there is a large enough social base for their imposition of fascist rule. Judges, prosecutors, police chiefs, leading figures in nearly all arenas would have to go along and also the people they command all along the way. It isn’t enough to have all the commanders with you. You also would need those that are in the bureaucracies to follow you. Do we have that now or any prospect of that on the horizon? Quite to the contrary, every leader in business through science et al are distancing themselves from Trump, abhor (at least open) white supremacy, see (at least usually) due process as necessary, are mostly pro-immigration, and pro-diversity for practical economic reasons and politically.

Many examples can be cited for this. For example, here is Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame) on August 17, 2017:

"There's considerable evidence that there's a consensus developing in the military, at the highest levels, in the intelligence community, among Republicans in Congress, including the leaders in the business community that the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is unfit to be the president of the United States," Bernstein told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "That's the undercurrent."

In the same article:

"Trump is under siege," Bernstein said. "Also from a special prosecutor, his family is under siege from a special prosecutor. But more than anything else, I think there's a sense among military, congressional, business leaders that he's in a kind of freefall, and he may not have many parachutes left except for his base to land safely, and that's awful thin cushion."

The United States has "never seen anything like this," Bernstein continued. "We don't know where it's going. We're in a presidential crisis of leadership, because his moral authority is gone with these constituencies that are essential for him to govern."

Bernstein also said that he's spoken to military leaders, who he did not name, and they "believe this president traffics in racism."

"We're talking about a military in this country that's 30 percent non-white, 40 percent non-white if you include Hispanics in the definition," Bernstein said. "They have no use for what they are seeing. They have given up on this president."

The chairs of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have issued separate statements condemning racism following a white nationalist rally that turned violent over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia in a move The Los Angeles Times reported was made to distance themselves from Trump.

Trump’s Election

Yes, Trump’s election proved a con artist could parlay his whiteness and maleness into a backlash victory after Obama served as the first African-American POTUS. See this from Ta Nehisi-Coates:

Asserting that Trump’s rise was primarily powered by cultural resentment and economic reversal has become de rigueur among white pundits and thought leaders. But evidence for this is, at best, mixed. In a study of preelection polling data, the Gallup researchers Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell found that ‘people living in areas with diminished economic opportunity’ were ‘somewhat more likely to support Trump.’ But the researchers also found that voters in their study who supported Trump generally had a higher mean household income ($81,898) than those who did not ($77,046). Those who approved of Trump were ‘less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be employed part-time’ than those who did not. They also tended to be from areas that were very white: ‘The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.”

But Obama wasn’t just a black man. After all, a lot of Trump voters were Obama voters first. See this from a 9/6/17 article at Huffington Post:

“16 percent of Obama/Trump voters … now say they regret their votes, according to a newly released set of polling.

“Between 6.7 million and 9.2 million Americans may have backed Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, according to an analysis Geoffrey Skelley of Sabato’s Crystal Ball conducted earlier this year. He concluded such voters ‘played a crucial role’ in Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. According to the Voter Study Group, they represent about 9 percent or 10 percent of Obama’s supporters.

“‘Among the people who supported Trump, they’re showing some of the highest levels of dissatisfaction,’ said Robert Griffin, the director of quantitative analysis at the progressive Center for American Progress and one of the participants in the Voter Study Group. ‘I think there are some people who argue this is a segment of the population the Democrats can’t win back, but this is already a population that’s already shown itself to have some flip-flopping tendencies to vote for one party and then to vote for another. So, I think the evidence would suggest that this is a group that’s in play. They’re by no means lost to the Democratic Party.’”

Obama had to dash many people’s hopes on neoliberal shores first before this backlash became a reality. His actions added wind to the Tea Party’s sails.[3]

See, however, this important insight from Jamelle Bouie, Slate’s chief political correspondent:

During the 2008 election, FiveThirtyEight relayed an anecdote from the campaign trail:

So a canvasser goes to a woman’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she’s planning to vote for. She isn’t sure, has to ask her husband who she’s voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, “We’re votin’ for the n***er!”  Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: “We’re voting for the n***er.”

At the time, this was presented as an anecdote about Barack Obama’s popularity—about the possibility of racial solidarity. With hindsight, we know that reading was wrong. What this suggests, in truth, is that these voters tolerated Obama as the best available choice. He wasn’t a transformative figure; he didn’t signify a change of heart. At most, he wasn’t George W. Bush. At best, he was “one of the good ones,” someone they could respect, even if they viewed his group with fear and suspicion. And four years later, he wasn’t Mitt Romney, a man who embodied plutocracy in approach, affect, and attitude. These Americans voted for Obama and kept the white racial frame that shaped their understanding of their place in this country.

Obama served two terms and he infamously bailed out the bankers responsible for taking the world’s economy to disaster. He refused to offer a government option plan in a secret deal he made with the health insurers. He declined to use his sweeping mandate for “hope” and “change” to roll over a discredited GOP and congressional objections. He declined to release more torture photos that would have buried the GOP for a long time. He deported more immigrants than George W. Bush and at a rate exceeding Trump,[4] he prosecuted three times as many whistleblowers as of all his predecessors combined, his DOJ was more right-wing in its assertions of executive power than his predecessor, he copped out of his pledge to close Gitmo, hypocritically citing Congress as blocking him when he knew he could have overruled Congress easily, did not restore habeas corpus despite his campaign pledges to do so, carried out a foreign policy that was more bellicose than others – using drones whenever possible to kill thousands rather than imprison them, and lied bald-facedly about NSA’s ubiquitous spying. The Democratic Party, in short, dismissed the white working class and other whites before the white working class and other classes with whites fled the party.

All of the Bourgeoisie Moving Right

This is very important and reflects a different understanding of this phenomenon than I had before: it is not enough to say that the right-wing has the initiative because it is not the right-wing’s doing it as much as it is the whole bourgeoisie doing it – all of them moving rightward. You can make a very good argument in fact that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are more responsible for the whole ruling class moving rightward than the GOP. After all, the Democrats first moved rightward – Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made no secret of the fact that they were not liberals - and then forced the GOP to position itself to the right of them, because the GOP certainly aren’t going to position themselves to the left of their electoral rivals. This is why the GOP has to adopt shriller and more ridiculous positions, because of the Democrats.

This raises a larger point. Are the Democrats and Republicans more different or more alike each other and how does that relate to bourgeois rule? There is a great difference between seeing that the bourgeoisie is moving rightward due to the GOP taking the initiative versus seeing that they are both moving rightward and that it just falls to the GOP to be on the cutting edge of that and to play a more open role that way more often. In the first instance, you are attributing more agency to the GOP for what’s going on and in the second instance you are arguing that there exists a kind of division of labor between the two parties, but they are mainly colluding overall.

All of the evidence underscores the second interpretation. You are being misled (e.g., the NO! campaign) into thinking that one party is a teensy bit better than the other one, but this point bears repeating: they are both bourgeois parties! They will adopt what seems best for their overall class interests, whether that is fascism or bourgeois democracy.

I have already previously made this point here, in footnote one. I have also said this: “If you are going to fool people into thinking they have a choice through the vote, then you are not going to put forward two candidates who are exactly alike because then the ploy does not work: people will see that there is no difference between the two parties and they will rebel. Thus, you are forced to make some distinction between the (in this country two) main political parties. When Obama offered Obamacare – a retread of Romney’s plan as Massachusetts’ Governor, which was modeled after the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation plan – the GOP isn’t going to position itself to the Left of Obama, but was forced by Obama’s actions even further Right. From that perspective and more, Obama bears a lot of responsibility for what the GOP and its social base have become.”

Thus, this anti-fascist campaign led by communists and others is leading people the wrong way and is based on an incorrect reading of what is happening and why.

What Can We Do Instead?

Which brings me to what we ought to do now instead of the NO! campaign.

The bourgeoisie are facing a credibility and an operational crisis. The main danger is failing to recognize this, not a fascist juggernaut taking over.

First, let me discuss why they are facing a credibility crisis. The Trump/Pence camp represents the logical extreme of the direction we were headed towards beginning with Reagan’s presidency in 1981. They are so extreme that they are widely straight-up not believed as soon as it comes out of their mouths or twitter feed, whether it is Trump, Pence, Huckabee-Sanders or some other figure, regardless of whether it is spelled correctly or not. Getting people to go along with you matters, more than force. Even when Nazis held power in Germany, they depended on acquiescence more than they relied on force. If you are not believed and are considered someone who doesn’t know what they are doing, then you have a credibility problem to a major degree.

Second, and this may be even more important from their perspective: the bourgeoisie is in an operational crisis. Trump had to be corrected eleven times in a single conversation by German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the meaning of being a member of the Euro Zone. Trump has given away secrets just because it pleases his ego, about how many submarines patrol off of North Korea, actually said out loud to PM Netanyahu that he never said “Israel” was the source of telling the Russians about the possible threat of exploding laptops on airplanes, thus unknowingly affirming what was already suspected, or reverse-engineered, and so on. No one in the Intelligence Community (IC) trusts Trump not to blab their most important secrets. Israel and Britain both announced publicly that they were no longer sharing certain sensitive matters with the US because of this. US imperialism needs at its head someone at least smart enough to know they are not the smartest person in the room and can turn to the smarter people as needed. Trump doesn’t even know this! Moreover, since global warming is setting in with earnest now, do you think these simpletons can even begin to deal with unprecedented storms?

Trump cannot, nor can Pence, direct the empire, much less engineer a fascist takeover when they are as stupid as they are. This isn’t merely a matter of intent but also a matter of ability. Remember that the White House since 1981 has been concentrating more and more power in the executive. Why? Because the US is the only imperialist superpower and it cannot run its far flung and extensive empire without concentrating power is a few hands and in the executive, POTUS. The entire bourgeoisie has been moving rightward because they need to “embrace” their superpower status and in some ways, be more open about force by the state (e.g., drones to kill, “collateral damage,” and torture). But the POTUS must be competent, not a nincompoop. This point deserves further elaboration.

Remember that Obama rescued this system from the hatred that people felt toward Bush and Cheney. Remember that Obama had to (falsely) promise major “hope” and “change” and that many who voted for his successor Trump did so because they wanted a true outsider, not because they wanted fascism but because they were thoroughly disenchanted with what the existing system was doing.

It is also a matter of just who is in your camp and who isn’t and what they are capable of and what they are not. The Christian Fascists, to put this simply, are riddled with crazy and stupid people and they simply don’t command enough of an army to make fascism a reality. Yet Avakian states:

[T]he fascists are moving to resolve in their own way by getting rid of the appearance and moving to grotesque outright dictatorship.

If you buy into this logic, that some elements are seeking to move to “grotesque outright dictatorship” - even if we accept this as 100% true - how is that working out so far? If the Christian Fascists continue down the same path they have been on – since being flexible is not in their repertoire – why do you expect the resistance will die off or weaken? Wouldn’t it stiffen and broaden? Isn’t that our experience? People are going to back down because fascists say so?

What you are doing if you are siding in some ways with bourgeois democrats against “the fascists” to defend democratic rights is that you are being deceived by those bourgeois democrats who will throw you overboard as soon as they get the chance. As I said in my book Globalization and the Demolition of Society in 2011:

The law no longer represents the standard that people must abide by in order to avoid having police actions and prosecutions imposed on them. The new standard is that one can be subjected to governmental or private social control measures simply for being a perceived threat or source of discomfort to someone. This undermining of the rule of law is being carried out across the full spectrum of bureaucratic and corporate purview and policy-making from top to bottom. As [Magnus] Hornqvist puts it: ‘It may seem absurd that a single area of policy should cover everything from truancy and drug sales to acts of terror. But it is absurd only because so many of us have not learned to proceed from a concept of security that has broken away from the logic of the law.’ From this perspective Bush and Cheney’s express violations of the rule of law are not unique to them. They were merely on the cutting edge of that trajectory. And Obama’s perpetuation of their actions represents a further advance of that neoliberal project. This means that attempts to restore the rule of law will not succeed as a strategy separate from challenge to the entire logic of the system itself.[5]

This passage as a whole is worth studying at length. The last sentence in italics (in the original) especially demands close attention. The ruling class in this country is represented by the two main parties and both parties have been following neoliberal policies. What this sentence is saying is that in light of what neoliberal policies dictate, no matter which party you are from, and no matter what rhetoric you employ, there is no going back within the existing system. There is, in other words, no going back or defending democratic rights so they don’t disappear under fascism. They have already breached the rule of law, but many including the RCP, are unaware of what that means. There is no bright line here but a kind of slow creep to fascism that has been underway for thirty plus years and has been happening worldwide. Having said that – and my book devotes a lot of ink to this – doesn’t mean that all rights are gone for everyone. But this breaching the rule of law and the larger relationship between what one says versus what one does (think especially of Obama) is what determines things on a fundamental level and is the cutting edge of where things are headed.

Trump and Pence got into office because of a loophole in the bourgeoisie’s policies. They were not supposed to be nominated and elected. Trump especially has even less intellectual capacity and experience than Sarah Palin. At least Palin knows on some level that she can’t cut it intellectually; Trump doesn’t even see that. He thinks he is a smart person.

If you see beneath the surface appearance of things you see what’s really going on – both parties are implementing neoliberal policies and both favor the interests of capitalism-imperialism. If you see that, then you will direct your fight against capitalism-imperialism and neoliberal policies, which is what a lot of Trump voters (mistakenly) thought they were doing with their votes.

Since I have criticized positions arrived at by assertion rather than through evidence, I will provide some further evidence for my conclusions.

I am republishing the first one here for primarily two reasons: the first is to show why, even if you have very progressive people in positions of power, in this case, the City Councilmen, the needs of the system override this inevitably. The second reason is to underscore how systems have system logic and that logic trumps the individuals within those systems. You don't triumph over those systems by replacing the existing faces with different faces. You change system outcomes by changing systems.

To Those Who Put Their Faith in Progressive Democrats and Obama

By Dennis Loo [9/12/2008]

Two items in the news offer us rare glimpses into how public policy is actually arrived at and what differences there really are between Democrats, even progressive Democrats - let alone centrists such as Obama - and Republicans.

The first item concerns the Minneapolis City Council's role in the police state tactics used at the St. Paul RNC and the other item concerns foreign policy and Pakistan in particular.

Both are related directly to the so-called war on terror: what both major parties call the central issue of our time.

It is clear that the fulcrum for today's politics involves the "war on terror" and whether the dominant paradigm about it that both major parties subscribe to will carry the day, or a different paradigm wins out that originates from among the people.

First item:

At OpEd News on September 11, 2008 Michael Calvan reported the inside dirty dealing in the all progressives Minneapolis City Council in which the council gave the green light to the police to use the storm trooper tactics before and during the RNC. I quote from the piece at some length as follows:

"In the months before the Republicans came to town, there had been a flurry of activity. Local activists were keeping a close eye on their local elected officials. Initially, there had been a so called Free Speech Committee set up, supposedly to look at how authorities could allow free speech during the RNC and keep order.

“We found out that the Free Speech Committee did not allow any members of the public to add our input. Only City Council members on the committee and lawyers were allowed to speak. There was no free speech allowed at the misnamed Free Speech Committee.

“Nonetheless, activists followed the Committee's actions closely and were present during each meeting.  The City Council of Minneapolis is almost 100% Democratic. In fact the only real opposition in Minneapolis is the Green Party which currently has one Green on the City Council, Cam Gordon, who was a small light in a very dark room.  But, we were to discover, even that light was to be extinguished.

“The so called Free Speech Committee would change the time and locations of its meetings.

“There was also discussion on protest groups being required to register themselves and even their members, to be 'allowed' to protest. At these times, Cam Gordon spoke eloquently on behalf of the community and in opposition to these repressive measures."

“Then suddenly [after months] we found out that the Free Speech Committee had their last meeting, July 16th. The meeting itself was unannounced, unlike the other meetings which at least had a pretense of openness and public inclusion. At the next Minneapolis City Council meeting July 25th, the recommendation of the misnamed Free Speech Committee was announced.  The Free Speech Committee Resolution passed unanimously, even by our one small light, Councilman Cam Gordon.

“The Minneapolis Police were given 'legal' authority to shut down any protest or group of 25 people or greater. They were also authorized to use rubber bullets, mace and the other array of non-lethal weapons on innocent, peaceful demonstrators, practicing our First Amendment Rights. Also violated repeatedly was the Fourth Amendment Right protecting us citizens against illegal search and seizure. Police violated the laws of assault and battery and destruction of evidence of their crimes, as evidenced by their targeting journalists."

Calvan notes, probably correctly so, that even if the city council had not approved these fascistic tactics that they would have been by-passed and the police and various state and federal officials would have done it anyway.

Despite months of efforts by grassroots activists and even a Green on the City Council - making grand speeches about protecting free speech - despite the people doing the very best that they could to monitor, participate and speak out, the fix was in and democratic participation was merely a charade for the real power being exercised, even on the nearest thing to local control as you can find in the government - at the City Council level - and even in one of the most left-influenced places in the country.

Second item:

As reported by the New York Times on September 11, 2008, in July 2008 Bush secretly approved Spec Ops forces to launch ground military attacks inside Pakistan without prior approval from the Pakistani government. The NYT essay notes: "It is unclear precisely what legal authorities the United States has invoked to conduct even limited ground raids in a friendly country." It's unclear because such actions are blatantly against international law. (During the Vietnam War when President Nixon announced on April 30, 1970 that he had begun bombing Cambodia and thereby expanding the war, a fury broke out in America. During the widespread protests that followed, four students were famously shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4.)

The Times' article continues: "Pakistan's government has asserted that last week's raid achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

"'Unilateral action by the American forces does not help the war against terror because it only enrages public opinion,' said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington, during a speech on Friday. 'In this particular incident, nothing was gained by the action of the troops.'"

What gives this story even more resonance is the fact that the Bush regime is now finally embracing the tactics that Obama had called for back in August 2007.  At the time, Bush, John McCain and the other Democratic presidential hopefuls including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton derided Obama for offering such a bellicose proposal. Bush said: 'he's going to attack Pakistan' in disbelief.

As Reuters reported on August 1, 2007: "Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"'If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will,' Obama said."

So there you have it: the reactionary Bush White House has now adopted a plan that it previously publicly described as overly aggressive - can you imagine this White House thinking anything is too aggressive? - a plan offered up by the Democratic Party's standard bearer, Obama, the man that many progressives pin their hopes on.

This reminds me of the line from a comic who wondered what the world is coming to when the world's best golfer is black and the best rapper is white.

What is the world coming to? The labels certainly don't tell you the story. You have to look carefully and critically at what people are actually saying and what they are doing. And you have to examine carefully how political policy is actually made, not how you might have learned about it in civics class and not how it is presented everyday in the news.

Obama himself has said - correctly so - that people should pay attention to what he's saying. He does not oppose all wars, just "dumb wars." He approves of the war on terror. His differences are over tactics and whether the goals of the "war on terror" are being best pursued. In other words, is the US imperialist empire doing what is in its best interests? This is like campaigning for Godfather and saying that the existing Godfather isn't being efficient enough in his extortion, racketeering, drug running, torture, brutality and death dealing.

If the city that may be second only to Berkeley in the degree to which progressives hold political office colludes, conspires and cooperates with the police state, even while some of the progressives make fine sounding speeches but vote with the gendarmes when push comes to shove, and if the one "realistic" choice on the national level that the people are being given to oppose the Bush regime's reign of terror is a man whose foreign policy is now being adopted by the very same hated Bush regime that Obama says he is a "change" from, then what's realistic now? What good does your vote do? Just what kind of democracy is this?

The only ones we can trust are the people themselves acting independently of the political parties and the normal, acceptable political channels. You must speak out, protest, show how you feel and call on others to do the same. A movement of the people that becomes a mass movement that must be reckoned with by public officials and the media and that does not subordinate itself to either public officials or corporate media must come into being. What is more democratic than that?

Here is another example. Note especially two things, the rise of Public Order Policies and Greenwald's discussion of "Villian Rotation":

December 2, 2011

By Dennis Loo

Yesterday the Senate passed a bill, the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012 (S. 1867), that makes a suitable matching pair for the prior day’s forcible police action evicting the last remaining large occupation, Occupy LA, and that of the Occupy encampment in Philadelphia.

This bill represents a return to the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," (S. 3081) introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on March 4, 2010 that did not pass and that received no mainstream media coverage at the time except for an article expressing alarm by Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic. That bill and today’s S. 1867 mandate the military to detain anyone indefinitely, including U.S. citizens, here at home or abroad, on the grounds that someone in authority in the military designates that person as a “terrorist” or someone who “substantially supports” Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces” (Sec. 1031). The mere accusation, in other words, is enough now to put you away for life.

What is remarkable and disturbing (but I have to say, unfortunately not surprising to those among us who have been closely following statecraft during the Bush years and under Obama) is that despite those bills’ nullification of due process and therefore straight up fascist character, the mainstream media with only one exception did not deem it worthy to bring up the fact of its introduction in its earliest incarnation as S. 3081. One would have thought (and as I wrote at the time) that the bill’s sponsors, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, the immediate past GOP nominee for President and a past Democratic Party nominee for Vice-President (Al Gore’s running mate in 2000) respectively, and thus a “bipartisan” move, would have made the bill noteworthy by itself, let alone the fascist nature of the bill, to publicize. But no, these are not ordinary times. These are the times of the “War on Terror.”

As I point out in my book, however, this trend to a radically different paradigm for governance, public order policies, in which everyone is treated as a suspect rather than those who have actually committed and thought to have committed a crime (i.e., a legitimate suspect based on evidence), has been underway since in the 1970s, in other words, prior to 9/11. These policies have been becoming more and more explicit and sweeping since the 1970s, with 9/11 and other terrorist incidents in other countries, serving as the fig leaf justification for policies that do not have to do with terrorism per se at all.

The treatment of the non-violent symbolic free speech and free assembly protests by the Occupy Movement as vermin who must be removed (and famously, pepper sprayed by Lt. John Pike at UC Davis as if he were spraying bugs) and their forcible and at times extremely brutal evictions and treatment, are part and parcel of this perilous and odious trend. You may not, under these new rules, petition your government for redress of grievances. You may not, under these new rules, speak out in public or private space (e.g., Zuccotti Park) if what you are saying is inconvenient, embarrassing, or exposing of those who run the society. You may not, under these new rules, act as if you have any rights to due process, because authorities can and are designating you as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism or merely someone who doesn’t show respect for others’ views (as LA Mayor Villaraigosa dishonestly described Occupy LA), and you will be forcibly removed, beaten, or detained until you die, without recourse to a day in court or a chance to confront your accusers (does this sound Kafkaesque to you?). Crime and terrorism is anything authorities don’t like and want to remove, shut down or shut up.

[T]he forces insisting that order is under siege and that repression and extralegal measures are necessary to cope with that disorder are the same forces creating disorder in the society by dispossessing increasing ranks of the people, endangering the planet’s biosystem, and provoking greater and greater levels of social insecurity.

Neoliberal regimes’ ever-growing inequities produce dissension and dissatisfaction, not because the disaffected elect to feel disaffection—although the already privileged tend to see it that way, as if there is bounty for all if everyone would simply put their noses to the grindstone, there being no structural logic to the dispossession of so many for the wealth of the few. Rather, the disadvantaged’s status brings them into conflict with those that the system favors. The position of the disadvantaged is what makes them criminal, dangerous, and potential terrorists. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 153-154)

Some people are holding out hope that Obama will veto this bill. Three things should be pointed out specifically about that hope, as Glenn Greenwald has written. First, “as Dave Kopel documents, that ‘it was the Obama administration which told Congress to remove the language in the original bill which exempted American citizens and lawful residents from the detention power,’ on the ground it would unduly restrict the decision-making of Executive Branch officials. In other words, Obama officials wanted the flexibility to militarily detain even U.S. citizens if they were so inclined, and are angry that this bill purports to limit their actions.” The bill’s sponsors had excluded American citizens and lawful residents and Obama wanted them put in.

Second, the objections being raised by the Obama White House to the bill are not that the bill abrogates due process and that entirely innocent people could have their rights stripped and be detained indefinitely. Their objections are that the bill interferes with the Executive branch’s free exercise of these powers unto itself.

Which brings us to the third point.

This bill, as horrible as it is, is essentially a “Me Too” bill signifying the Legislative Branch’s jumping wholly and enthusiastically onto the “We’re Against Terrorism Too!” bandwagon, showing how willing they are, as is the Supreme Court and the White House, to use torture, ubiquitous surveillance, and powers befitting not a country that respects due process as the linchpin of a society that is not a tyranny, to suspend people’s rights and exercise dictatorial powers.

Notably, as Greenwald also points out, the bill only passed because sixteen Democrats joined the majority of Republicans, including some “liberal” stalwarts:

Every GOP Senator (except Rand Paul and Mark Kirk) voted against the Udall amendment, while just enough Democrats – 16 in total — joined the GOP to ensure passage of Levin/McCain. That includes such progressive stalwarts as Debbie Stabenow, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeanne Shaheen and its lead sponsor, Carl Levin.

I’ve described this little scam before as “Villain Rotation”: “They always have a handful of Democratic Senators announce that they will be the ones to deviate this time from the ostensible party position and impede success, but the designated Villain constantly shifts, so the Party itself can claim it supports these measures while an always-changing handful of their members invariably prevent it.” This has happened with countless votes that are supposed manifestations of right-wing radicalism but that pass because an always-changing roster of Democrats ensure they have the support needed. So here is the Democratic Party — led by its senior progressive National Security expert, Carl Levin, and joined by just enough of its members — joining the GOP to ensure that this bill passes, and that the U.S. Government remains vested with War on Terror powers and even expands that war in some critical respects. (Boldfacing added.)

The GOP and the Democrats, in other words, have both already abrogated a lot of your previous rights, both de facto and de jure. The public and the RCP itself lags behind in their understanding of this. If the Democrats (and “socialists” and social-democrats, who govern off and on in other countries) have gone along with this neoliberal trajectory, then why are we talking about a GOP take-over, if many of the stages of this have already happened? The NO! campaign seeks to prevent some of the more overt expressions of fascism, but in so doing they are missing the bigger picture and leading people the wrong way. Fascism as Hitler or Mussolini practiced it will not happen anytime soon in the US because the social basis for it does not exist in large enough numbers here.

The GOP tends to attract the most absurd types and encourage stupidity, but that makes them less, not more, able to gather enough people to their banner. It alienates them more to the mainstream American, not less, even as in general both parties encourage credulity overall.

We are battling against capitalism-imperialism and the fighting within the ruling class does not mainly take the character of Bible literalists versus others. It takes the form of an unable-to-govern POTUS and his VP who is also unfit to lead the empire from the standpoint of those who want this empire to persist. The ruling class faces a real dilemma. How do they get rid of Trump and not let too much dirt and scandal out and make the problem worse still? Neoliberalism makes the gap between what is actually going on and what the Parties say is going on, further and further apart. That is our opening.

When Trump bragged that incidents involving police and recalcitrant citizens would end immediately upon his taking office, he was also demonstrating his lack of understanding that power is a complicated matter involving lots of different elements and lots of back and forth. The Avakian fascism argument lacks several different elements and as a result misses the opening that the ruling class and its system is providing.

While it is perhaps understandable that the RCP treats mainstream media somewhat simplistically, a more nuanced analysis is called for. Under its noses investigative journalism is enjoying a renaissance that it has never seen. Yes, the overall framework for the reporters is limited by their outlook and too narrow, but they are repeatedly called “an enemy” by Trump and their response to that label has been to reinforce their duty to stating verifiable facts because they know any slipups on their part will be broadcast for a very long time. At least hundreds of thousands, perhaps more, have newly signed up for the digital editions alone of the press such as The New York Times and Washington Post as part of their disdain for what Trump and Pence bring to the table: utter nonsense which a very small number will follow. 


[2]One noted that Afghanistan was ambush heaven, where the guerrilla fighters had demolished the Russian army. ‘With regret,’ the Russian said, ‘I have to say that you're really going to get the hell kicked out of you.’

"’We're going to kill them,’ Black said. ‘We're going to put their heads on sticks. We're going to rock their world.’" Bob Woodward, Bush at War, p. 103. Also viewable here.

[3] As I wrote in 2013: “The bailouts of big business by public officials, both Republican and Democratic, also deeply trouble at least some of the Tea Partiers and had Obama taken office and not bailed out the big banks he would have taken much of the wind out of the sails of the Tea Party in its early inception stages.”

[4] The RCP, beholden as they are in this case to surface appearances, describes Trump immigration policies “on steroids.”

[5] P. 155. Hornqvist is cited here for “The Birth of Public Order Policy,” Race and Class 46, no. 1 (July-September 2004), p. 37. 

Add comment

We welcome and encourage discussion and debate. We find truth via contention.


Security code
Refresh

Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12