Certainly there’s been no surfeit of ink spent on ‘how to fight #FascistTrump’ by self-declared anti-fascists, and millions have taken to the streets to either oppose him or depose him; pre-impeach him or ‘wait him out cuz: ‘Next: Dems will rule™; ‘we need better Dems!’. Now whether or not you believe that the millions were largely Dem Libruls or not, this ‘crisis of democracy’ arguably might lead to something radically different that ‘a return to Ole Obama Days’ (more about that theme in Part II), it does seem that the resulting now weaponized chaos is at or near an inflexion point of Inverted Totalitarianism, the condition, according to Sheldon Wolin, when government is subservient to corporations, especially of the multinational sort. He has written that what’s been left for a long, long, time in this country is a “managed democracy’ by elections the corporate kleptocrats and their minions totally control; he traces the beginning of the trajectory back to the Axis Powers fighting the Cold War since the 1940s.
To me, the crucial questions concerning the many marchers and protests across the US and world are i) are they reformists and ii) if most are that, can they learn to see that a radical, revolutionary polity must grow from the grassroots up, and that #FascistTrump is just the naked, bald, demagogic and vulgar face of what may be the last gasp of end-times capitalism that ‘even’ Obama and other Ds have wrought? And as well, iii) how many of the true leftists understand that at the same of a potential Great Awakening…that creating a better world in our local communities is paramount, as the Panthers did in a way with their free breakfasts and such, but even more widely, and not only put our bodies into the gears of The Machine as Mario Savio called for on the steps of Spruel Hall so very long ago.
Update: In his ‘The Resistance and Its Double’, CJ Hopkins calls it a war between the neo-nationals and the Neoliberal Liberation Army, and notes that “…the so-called “resistance” to Trump is centered around issues like racism and misogyny, rather than any kind of cogent reading of the global political dynamics at play here.” He hopes that by the time Herr Trump’s official war on Islam is launched, that:
“…The Withering Gaze and the Pussy Hat People (most of whom had zero qualms about Obama bombing seven Muslim countries to serve the interests of the neoliberal establishment that has been aggressively restructuring the Middle East since the end of the Cold War with total impunity) will have morphed into an actual revolutionary army, one that doesn’t get decommissioned whenever a Democrat moves into the White House, but I kind of have my doubts about that.”
Oh, yes; it’s deeply analytical, funny, cynical and…I love it.
A Rabble class-friendly transformative movement has to be based on what it’s for, not just what it’s against, so not only do activists on the ground need to meet and kick around ideas, and especially: listen, but to work to feed, clothe, and shelter their precarious and immiserated brothers and sisters.
There are boatloads of epistles out there in the vein of “Oh, leftier-than thou ___ fill in the blank’; I’ll feature this one for now, and iirc, it’s first title was just that, as it was originally a Facebook rant by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor published at socialistworker.org. But it’s made it all the way to the Guardian now, small wonder.
‘Think the Women’s March wasn’t radical enough? Do something about it; It might not have been as black, brown or working class as many might have liked. But criticizing it from the sidelines doesn’t help anyone’
“The United States has just experienced a corporate hijacking. If Trump’s inaugural speech did not alert you to the fact that they intend to come after all of us, then you are not paying attention.
The scale of the attack is as deep as it is wide, and this means that we will need a mass movement to confront it. To organize such a movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated – those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop the arrogant and moralistic chastising of anyone who is not as “woke”.
The women’s marches in Washington DC and around the country were stunning, inspiring and the first of a million steps that will be needed to build the resistance to Trump.
But look around social media, and you can read critiques and even denunciations of the marchers: where were all of these people before? Why are they only getting involved now? Why doesn’t the march have more radical demands? Why did march organizers, who are politically liberal, allow only … liberals to speak?
All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.”
Now leaving aside the author’s implication that ‘corporate hijacking’ was a Trump invention, he or she notes that all radicals began as liberals who were frustrated by their experiences with the System, and calls out those radicals who dismiss those whose consciousness is less developed infantile, and says Pfffft to them, and by that, I mean: me, s well. I’d ask: if Obama’s Reign didn’t radicalize one, what would? Well, maybe Trump will, is the implication. He/she also notes that no challenge to Herr Trump will be beneficial unless it’s anti-racist, and more brown people and working class trade unionists show up.
But he/she does end with calls to meet, learn together, facilitate debate, and notes that:
“Revolutionary socialists have a long and rich tradition of building united fronts, which seems more real now that 3 million people were in the streets.” (his/her essays at Socialist Worker)
In a way, this is omewhat related: ‘The Nature of Mass Demonstrations’ by John Berger at Counterpunch, originally published in 1968 at New Society
“This article by John Berger, who died this month at the age of 91, originally appeared in New Society, 23 May 1968. Many thanks to Bill Ayers for bringing it to our attention.–JSC”
A few noteworthy outtakes, again: from 1968:
“The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long: their quality – the intensity of rehearsed awareness – may, on different occasions, vary considerably: but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.
A demonstration, however much spontaneity it may contain, is a created event which arbitrarily separates itself from ordinary life. Its value is the result of its artificiality, for therein lies its prophetic, rehearsing possibilities.
A mass demonstration distinguishes itself from other mass crowds because it congregates in public to create its function, instead of forming in response to one: in this, it differs from any assembly of workers within their place of work – even when strike action is involved – or from any crowd of spectators. It is an assembly which challenges what is given by the mere fact of its coming together.”
“Demonstrations express political ambitions before the political means necessary to realise them have been created. Demonstrations predict the realisation of their own ambitions and thus may contribute to that realisation, but they cannot themselves achieve them.
The question which revolutionaries must decide in any given historical situation is whether or not further symbolic rehearsals are necessary. The next stage is training in tactics and strategy for the performance itself.”
Now I’ll grudgingly link to ‘Revolt Is the Only Barrier to a Fascist America’ , Jan 22, 2017, by Old Sourpuss Chris Hedges at truthdig.com, partially cuz he sees the Trajectory to Trump and mentions the necessary street cred of helping the immiserated on the ground. Of course, Hedges has been Revoltin’ for a long time, most recently in 2014. ;-)
“The destruction of democratic institutions, places where the citizen has agency and a voice, is far graver than the ascendancy to the White House of the demagogue Donald Trump. The coup destroyed our two-party system. It destroyed labor unions. It destroyed public education. It destroyed the judiciary. It destroyed the press. It destroyed academia. It destroyed consumer and environmental protection. It destroyed our industrial base. It destroyed communities and cities. And it destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans no longer able to find work that provides a living wage, cursed to live in chronic poverty or locked in cages in our monstrous system of mass incarceration.”
“Our only hope now is an unwavering noncooperation with the systems of corporate control. We must rebuild … democratic institutions from the ground up. We must not be seduced into trusting the power elites, including the Democratic Party, whose seven leading candidates to be the next chair of the Democratic National Committee demonstrated the other night at George Washington University that they have no interest in defying corporate power or backing democratic populism. We must also acknowledge our own failures on the left, our elitism, arrogance and refusal to root our politics locally in our communities. Rosa Luxemburg understood that unless we first address the most pressing economic and physical needs of the destitute we will never gain credibility or build a resistance movement. Revolt, she said, is achieved only by building genuine relationships, including with people who do not think like us. Revolt surges up from below, exemplified by the water protectors at Standing Rock.
Politics is a game of fear. Those who do not have the ability to make power elites afraid do not succeed. The movements that opened up the democratic space in America—the abolitionists, suffragists, labor movement, communists, socialists, anarchists and civil rights and labor movements—developed a critical mass and militancy that forced the centers of power to respond. The platitudes about justice, equality and democracy are just that. Only when power is threatened does it react. Appealing to its better nature is useless. It doesn’t have one.”
One last link for Part I; Part II will be more radical, I promise. ;-)
‘Our Streets: The Story from the Front Lines & How We Fight’, by Eleanor Goldfield, occupy.com via popular resistance, Jan. 26, 2017
(58 minutes was far 2 long for me 2 watch) but:
“This week on Act Out!, in a special hourlong episode, we not only fill you in on the actions from the streets of D.C. last weekend, we more importantly discuss, analyze and project a path forwards. Local D.C. musician, activist and writer Jason Yawn will join me to talk tactics, what to do now, and the role of artists in the movement.
A particular focus of their conversation was the black bloc tactics used by some of the protesters. Goldfield correctly points out we need to constantly rethink our tactics in order to measure our effectiveness and build people power. Black bloc tactics are put into the context of the weekend, which included actions at every security checkpoint that led into the inaugural march that were quite varied in themselves, as well as the mass Women’s March.
Goldfield and Yawn also put the black bloc tactics [wd here: Chris Hedges’ “the Cancer in Occupy”] into the context of the violence many face in the United States and many more face from the United States around the world. Why is it violent for a Bank of America window to be broken and boarded up, but not violent when Bank of America forecloses on a family, forces them to move and their windows are boarded up? Why is it not violent when tens of millions of people in the United States face food insecurity and poverty every day?
Yawn points out that condemning black bloc tactics divides us and that we should not limit ourselves to only permitted protests. He asks: what violence would have to be done to you before you fight back? Is that being done to others in our country? Is it being done by the United States to others around the world? With these questions in mind he points out that opposing black bloc tactics comes from a place of privilege, the privilege of not suffering violence at the hand of the state.
Goldfield raises the question, is there such a thing as a useful tactic that does not disrupt anything? Yawn responds that he is against permitted marches because we do not have to ask permission to protest, it is a human right and one already protected in the US Constitution. These types of tactics are not engaged in to be cool, they must be carefully considered and thought through: will they be effective, is the danger worth the risk, does this protect the lives of others or will they make them worse? What kind of political discussion will come from these tactics? Will there be law enforcement blow black that will do more damage? Will these tactics justify police violence and turn people against the movement?
These are difficult questions that must be considered. We know from the history of successful social movements that movements that succeed are mass movements. Fringe movements fail. We also know that a mass movement needs to build and draw more people to it. If black bloc tactics are not clearly justified, they can have the effect of pushing people away from the movement. We also know that over the last 100 years broad-based movements weaken the power structure by pulling people from the power structure to the movement. The group that has the biggest impact when they join the movement, or when some of their members do so, are law enforcement and the security state. When they come to the movement, the existing power structure has lost. Do these tactics help achieve that goal?”
“The real show of solidarity and people power is yet to come. What happens now is what people do next.
There is much more in the discussion, and also a discussion of the important role of art in the popular movement. I urge you to listen to it. And, there are some great photos and videos worth seeing.”
(the black bloc video doesn’t seem to be embeddable.; it’s from Facebook, at the end here; not so much about art, as far as i can tell.)
(Deray of the blue vest had retweeted: “This.” by @rosesurnow “I guess my favorite thing about the @BarackObama administration was being able to sleep at night.”
And a gag-worthy irony alert from “It was worth it” Alldark as deep as a dungeon:
Bonus #2: a quote from Jeffrey St. Clair:
“Suddenly the once chilling notion of a “deep state,” the permanent shadow government that really runs the show, is being viewed by many liberals in a more comforting light, as a stabilizing force, a hedge against Trump’s mad impulses. How else to explain the hyperventilating reaction of elites to Trump’s amusing rant at Langley, as if he had somehow sullied the reputation of the CIA.”
(hat tip jason)