Lives in the Balance… Which Will Win? Trump’s First Days: The Heavy Hand of Fascism and the Spark of Resistance

January 22, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

On its first weekend in power, the Trump-Pence regime moved quickly to establish a fully fascist state. At the same time, millions of people around the world demonstrated against Trump and Pence in the Women’s March, demonstrating the tremendous potential for resistance.

The fate of billions now directly hangs on whether Trump-Pence will be able to fully consolidate this fascist state… or whether this massive opposition can be marshaled into a force to prevent its consolidation and move to oust it from power altogether.

Two futures contend. There is still time to stop this, but we must act soon.

Fascist Terms Are Set

History is filled with examples where people fought against tremendous odds and were fictorious...
Through Trump’s inaugural address and then his speech to the CIA, as well as through use of the White House website and handling of the press, the Trump-Pence regime made chillingly clear its determination to radically and quickly reorder the current form of political rule in the U.S. into fascism. We’re going to walk through the key points of what this is, and in a separate appendix to this article we annotate each point with examples from Trump’s two speeches.

Trump’s inaugural address privileged those who voted for him as the legitimate citizens, directly addressing them above all. He claimed his supporters as a “movement” of “forgotten Americans,” who will now be taken care of… by him. He recited a list of their grievances—some real, some imagined, and all of them distorted through the fascist, racist funhouse mirrors of Trumpworld. He stoked their resentment against “the elites”—by whom Trump clearly means intellectuals, artists, scientists, political people who opposed his election for whatever reason, as well as those who attempt to win some reforms on the more egregious abuses of this system, and not the finance-capitalist billionaires, the “mad dog” generals, the stone-cold racists, and lunatic religious fanatics with whom he has stocked his cabinet—and he portrayed himself as the champion who will now vanquish those enemies.

The racism and sexism, the systemic discrimination that permeates U.S. society is totally denied in Trumpworld—while there may be some vague “prejudice,” that can be washed away in the blood shed by patriots. Trump goes so far as to say that “at the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will discover loyalty to each other.” Please note: “bedrock” and “total allegiance” (emphasis added). If you can’t see how stunning this statement is, then substitute the word Germany or the “volk” for “United States of America,” and tell us why such a statement would not work for Adolf Hitler. Those who are not white, those who may have at one time or another dissented, may be allowed into this brave new world, but only on condition of their submission and “total allegiance.” This is a world in which the fascists, and white people in general, will have rights and privileges and legal standing, and those who are not fascists—or who are not white males—will live as second-class citizens at best.

In line with this, in a move that was as unusual as it was ominous, Trump said nothing in his speech about the Constitution and the primacy of the rule of law over the whim of individual rulers, but said that he owed his allegiance—and presumably derived his authority—from “you the people.”

Trump aggressively threatened the entire rest of the world with American power, reviving and popularizing the fascist slogan from the 1940s of “America First,” and calling it a “new decree” and “a new vision that will govern our land.” In every encounter, according to Trump, the U.S. will assert its interests and mess over whoever must be messed over to gain them. Trump promised to “eradicate” those he deemed to be enemies “completely from the face of the earth.”

At the CIA, Trump—who has falsely claimed that he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning—nonetheless said that once there, the U.S. should have taken the oil, and went so far as to enunciate the principle of “to the victor belong the spoils.” The U.S. military—already larger and more powerfully armed than the next six militaries after it combined—will now be further put on steroids. Trump said that he would support the CIA 1000 percent—meaning, given his campaign promises, that kidnapping, torture, assassination, unlimited drone strikes, and all-round brutality will no longer have even the pretense of checks. People should check out the American Crime series to get just a hint of the literally millions the CIA has killed and tortured over the past 70 years, all over the planet, in the service of U.S. imperialism. Trump promises, in a world in which U.S. power faces new challenges, that he will take this exploitation and domination to a whole new level, enforcing it if need be with nuclear arms, and that he will let the CIA, the military, and the police totally off their leashes, supporting them “like never before.”

Trump unleashed a war against the press. Trump whipped up the CIA against the press in his speech to the agency, a blatant threat to the right to free expression. Further: he violated what has been an accepted norm for centuries that the army and other forces of the state are to remain “neutral” or “apolitical” in the sense of not siding with one or another faction of the ruling class; instead, Trump bragged in his CIA speech about his great support in the military, the intelligence agencies, and the police. This whole speech—given on an off-day of work, so that most of the people who attended were those who favored Trump and who gave him a chillingly enthusiastic welcome—smacked of forming a faction within the agency to directly serve his interests against other forces. This goes with Trump’s unprecedented seeding of his cabinet with “retired” generals. To return, however, to the muzzling of the press, it is true that the big media in U.S. society generally train people in the outlook of capitalism-imperialism and the ruling class, and generally act as stenographers for “government sources”; but Trump has already begun to intimidate and suppress anything in the media that he deems to get in his way and in the way of the radical re-ordering of society that he is moving forward with.

Trump made clear in his inaugural speech a genocidal thrust toward communities of color, painting stereotypes of subhuman communities and implying extreme repression to “stop the carnage.” It is not for nothing that Trump has expressed a certain kinship to Rodrigo Duterte, the ruler of the Philippines who has unleashed a reign of terror in the ghettos there, carrying out thousands of extra-judicial street killings in less than a year. You could say the same about Trump’s call for nationwide stop-and-frisk (against Black and Latino people “to stop crime”), or his appointment of the most consistently racist senator in the entire U.S. Senate to be his attorney general. And it is extremely significant—and extremely ominous—that one of the first things on the White House website was a call to take the supposed restraints off the police and to enforce law and order.

Trump and Pence have made the theocratic Christian fascist movement a key part of their ruling alliance, with Trump now draping himself in the clothes of someone “chosen by god.” How else to explain his seemingly serious remarks to the CIA on how god interrupted the rain so that he could give his inaugural speech? Or the chilling medieval passage in his inaugural speech in which, after detailing the changes he would make, he said that god and the U.S. military and police would protect us? Indeed, the Trump-Pence regime is an anthill of Christian fascist fanatics, beginning with Pence himself, but also including Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, and Steve Bannon.

Trump attempted to impose an alternate reality of “Trumpworld” on public discourse, a world in which the facts are what Donald Trump says they are and those who disagree will be threatened and silenced. In this bizarro world, Trump’s attacks on the CIA all through December and January for their finding that the Russians had conducted “cyberwarfare” intended to help his election never happened; it was all an attempt by the press to create a feud. In this bizarro world, Trump’s inauguration attendance broke all records (when in fact it was rather pitiful by comparison with Obama’s and other past inaugurations). In this bizarro world, the press secretary takes no questions but tells the press what is reality and insults and threatens them for reporting what actually did happen—for reporting the most simple and minimal facts which everyone can see. Yes, there is an egomaniac psychopathology to Trump, but that is not at the heart of this: Fascism always seeks to impose an absolutist and fantastical version of reality on society and to straitjacket any attempts to get at the objective truth of anything.1

Trump called out and attacked other sections of the ruling class—for the purpose of silencing them and bludgeoning their acquiescence in his fascist reordering of society. Trump directly blamed those who have ruled the U.S. for the past quarter century for the problems of the masses, claiming that they enriched themselves while plundering the people. And it is certainly true that sitting on the stage of the inauguration were big-time criminals and criminal accomplices who have indeed ordered and carried out terrible things. But Trump is essentially attacking and implicitly threatening them for not being criminal enough, in his eyes, and he’s doing this to extract their cooperation, or at least silence, in his move to fascism. Forget the lurid tales about Russian prostitutes—Trump figuratively pissed all over his rivals at his own inauguration. And then, at the banquet afterwards, like the pimp and con man that he is, he played the “nice guy,” the “schmoozer.”

Resistance to the “New Order”

Throughout the week leading up to the inauguration, resistance began to grow. By Friday, Trump’s inauguration was forced to share the headlines with demonstrations in the streets that went all day and into the night, full of spirit and determination.

Then, on Saturday, millions of people in the U.S. and around the world turned out at “The Women’s March,” expressing serious but exuberant opposition to Trump. These marches swept up many, many people who do not normally demonstrate and are far from politically radical, but who cleared the day and in some cases came hundreds and even thousands of miles to make their statement. This in turn represents a broader layer of humanity and, potentially, billions. In short, this was something to take real heart from, and to welcome.

At the same time, the ways must be found—now—to take this further. Haunting this march was a precedent: the weekend shortly before the launching of the war against Iraq by George W. Bush, in which perhaps eight million people around the world came out to voice their opposition. This, too, was a great thing; but Bush held in his hands the power of state, and he ignored the marchers and launched what has turned out to be an utter and truly horrific disaster not only for the people of Iraq, but for people all over the Middle East and, indeed, the world. The toll in deaths and trauma of that war is terrible to contemplate, it continues today, and it will continue for some time.

The vows back then to “punish them at the polls” were worse than meaningless; they derailed people from building the fierce, unyielding opposition that was required. People around Bush crowed that they were “creating reality on the ground” that others would have to relate to—an approach taken up by Trump, in spades—and they did in fact set new terms, effectively silencing most opposition for several years until the war they launched ended in such an utter disaster for U.S. imperialist interests in that region and around the world that they lost initiative.

Such an approach with Trump and Pence—the idea that the road forward is for people to take over and “revitalize” the Democratic Party—is wrong on many, many counts, but in terms of the current moment it is most wrong because it disarms people in the face of an extremely dire threat. The Trump-Pence “brand,” to use the parlance of the day, is not conservatism, or populism, or even “just” reactionary and ugly racism, sexism, and xenophobia (though it is indeed all that)—it is FASCISM. Fascism is greater than the sum of its parts—it is, to again cite the definition we’ve used in these pages over the past months:

…the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”

At the same time—and this can be seen through studying the examples of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini—while it will likely move quickly to enforce certain repressive measures in consolidating its rule, a fascist regime is also likely to implement its program overall through a series of stages and even attempt at different points to reassure the people, or certain groups among the people, that they will escape the horrors—if they quietly go along and do not protest or resist while others are being terrorized and targeted for repression, deportation, “conversion,” prison, or execution.

The danger is this: while you are setting out to do “the hard work of grassroots organizing for the long haul,” Trump and Pence are gearing up the machinery of a fully fascist state, rousing their social base, and moving to crush the masses of people and any efforts at such grassroots organizing that they cannot neutralize in an extremely telescoped time frame.

As for the Democrats, and all those antiwar people who were drawn back then into working so hard to “remake” the Democratic Party only to find themselves supporting the essentially pro-war candidate John Kerry, we must quote the bitter truth put forth by Bob Avakian:

If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are. (BAsics 3:12)

Now, to be clear, there is in fact a path of hope, a way forward. But to find that way, we have break out of the channels and, indeed, constraints that set the terms for our thinking.

What Is To Be Done?

The logic of fascism is to stay on the attack, to move quickly and to threaten and bludgeon anything or anyone who gets in their way. The method of fascism is shock and intimidation, one outrage after another, until people are reduced to crouching and cringing in the face of repeated and unpredictable blows.

We now face a situation in which Trump and Pence hold in their hands the power of state and in which they have begun to work that logic. But as yet, this power is not consolidated.

There is not much time… but there is yet a window that still exists.

If on Monday and Tuesday of this week, people answered the call of refusefascism.org in sufficient numbers to begin to stop business as usual, and to call forward others to do that…

If as the week went on, others answered that call, in a snowballing effect, and—as happened just last fall in South Korea when millions came into the streets and in the space of a few months drove the president from office—thousands and then millions came into the streets, in many different forms of protest…

If these men and women and young people refused to be divided and deterred, but stuck to the simple truth of the NO! to Trump-Pence fascism…

If this reached into every corner of civil society and the culture at large…

If this combined with over-reaching by Trump-Pence, or with yet another outrage that “crosses a line,” and if all this further opened people’s eyes to the true nature of this regime and what it would mean for humanity, and still more growing numbers of people, reaching into all of society including the government itself, found ways to resist…

If those who knew and had access to the facts were inspired to find the ways to get out any of the real stories behind Trump-Pence and their means and methods and motives and histories, and this created even greater unease, scandal, and crisis…

If the sheer numbers began to demoralize and even peel away or win over some Trump supporters (even as it would inevitably energize others), and the momentum began to shift further so as to make not just the lack of support but the fierce and growing opposition to this fascist regime clearer, and there were breaks in the opposition camp…

If forces in the power structure itself, some of whom are for various reasons disquieted by the move to fascism or seriously concerned by and opposed to some of what Trump is aiming to do (which, after all, IS a radical and extremely risky restructuring of how the ruling class “normally” rules), and some of whom may feel directly threatened by it, but who will not act unless the actions of all society begin to make them feel that they have to act… if those forces began to come out in serious opposition in an effort to put the regime on the defensive (as was done, in fact, in the 1970s when ruling class forces came together to force Nixon out of office)…

If, in short, a serious political crisis arose… then this regime could be stopped.

To those who say this can’t happen overnight, we are tempted to say it could best happen overnight; that comparable instances like South Korea last fall or Egypt in 2011, when the dictator of 30 years was driven from office in the space of less than a month, show the possibility of doing this; and that the terrible and grievous experience of Germany—where Hitler used the time he had after his initial ascent to power to step-by-step wipe out his opposition and radically (though “legally”) alter the laws of Germany—shows the dangers of not acting with speed. But instead, we’ll say only that this IS possible and that attempts to defeat and uproot this regime later on would be immeasurably harder than it would be right now.

This is not to say that this path would not be difficult, nor to minimize the dangers. It IS to say that the path of waiting to see would be worse.

The momentum from this weekend has created a rare opening; it will not last forever. Let history not judge that we squandered it.


1. Indeed, Trump’s narcissism is right out of the fascist playbook, in which the followers personally identify with and put blind faith in the “strongman,” seen as anointed by god to “redeem” the nation. [back]

[Scroll down for annotations]

Tahrir SquareEgypt, Tahrir Square, 2011
In the winter of 2011, five years ago, the people of Egypt flooded into Tahir Square and rose up in rebellion against decades of brutally oppressive rule by the Mubarak regime—a regime backed by and playing a key role in preserving the interests of the U.S. Empire. They stayed in the Square in the tens and hundreds of thousands until on February 11 of that year, Mubarak was driven from office. (Photos: AP)

South Korea In South Korea, for almost three months now, people have gone into the streets, week after week, demanding the immediate removal of President Park Geun-hye. In a country of 50 million people, there have been 2 million at some of the protests. Park and her family is hated: Her father, Park Chung-hee, brutally ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979 after seizing power in a military coup. Park Geun-hye is accused of corruption, the government has been forced to impeach her, and a court is now deciding whether to uphold this decision. Protests are continuing, with the people demanding the immediate ouster, arrest, and imprisonment of the president.

Annotations

Trump’s inaugural address privileged those who voted for him as the legitimate citizens…

Trump began the inaugural speech by addressing the people in general. He said that now “the people will become the rulers of this nation again.” Directly after that paragraph, however, Trump performed a rhetorical sleight of hand and made clear that he was addressing only those who voted for him, saying that “you came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.” While he did take the oath of office, at no time in the speech did he mention the Constitution or the importance of the rule of law (there is no phrase to the effect that “this is a government of laws, not of men and women”). The entire thrust of the first part of his speech was to actually posit a new legitimacy of Trump voters.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump aggressively threatened the entire rest of the world with American power…

In his inauguration speech, Trump said, “We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be only America first, America first.” And later, “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” Trump then made clear what that means, and what extreme military measures he will take, when he said, “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones—and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.”

In his speech to the CIA, Trump reiterated his threat: “We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. Radical Islamic terrorism—and I said it yesterday—has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the earth.” Right in the beginning, Trump previewed a theme of his talk: “We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.” Then he said, “There can be wars between countries. There can be wars.” Trump talked about all the military people he is putting in his administration, saying, “the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful.” And then he talked about the Iraq war in order to put forward his agenda for why the U.S. should utilize its military might ever more aggressively and more viciously in the world. He said, “The old expression: ‘to the victor belongs the spoils’—you remember? You always used to say ‘keep the oil’.” Trump then lied: “I didn’t want to go into Iraq.” But then he followed that up with, “Maybe we’ll have another chance.” In this way Trump made it clear that he intends to use the full extent of U.S. military might, including nuclear arms, to wipe anyone considered an enemy of the U.S. off the face of the earth. And by telling the CIA, “I am with you 1,000 percent,” Trump made clear he will back any and all measures, including torture and other unconstitutional practices, in the service of U.S. imperialist interests.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump unleashed a war against the press…

Trump bragged about his support in the military, police, and CIA. He said in the speech at the CIA: “You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking—but, all of it—but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength.”

A major part of his speech to the CIA was to continue his attack on the press. In the first minutes, he said, “I always call them ‘the dishonest media.’” He also said, “They [media] are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” Trump tended his whole speech to the CIA with lies about the turnout for his inauguration address. These claims—or what were called “alternative facts” by those in the Trump camp—have been proven to be lies by photos, historical facts, and other evidence by the press. Trump called the press liars for saying the turnout was 250,000: “We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed… It looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was… and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people. Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie.” And then Trump threatened: “So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.” So on day one of his presidency Trump has made it clear he is going to intimidate and suppress anything in the media that gets in the way of his fascist agenda.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump made clear in his inaugural speech a genocidal thrust toward communities of color, painting stereotypes of subhuman communities and implying extreme repression to “stop the carnage”…

At the end of the first part of his inauguration speech, Trump mentioned the conditions of “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities,” and blasted the education system, ending with “And the crime and gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.” It is this last sentence that carries the weight of the paragraph—clearly targeting Black and Latino youth caught up in the gang life as the source of the problem. And then he followed up with: “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.” In the one mention of the conditions of Black and Latino people in the inner cities, Trump clearly blamed the conditions on a section of the victims themselves, left out any mention of institutional and systemic racism, including mass incarceration and police brutality and murder, and went so far as to purloin a major slogan of the movement against police murder (No More Stolen Lives!) for his own purposes. In this context—and with a page posted at the White House webpage that very day titled “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” saying that “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration”—this is a threat, not a promise.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump and Pence have made the theocratic Christian fascist movement a key part of their ruling alliance…

In the CIA speech, as part of his diatribe against the press for reporting the fact that there was low attendance for the inaugural, Trump said: “And they said ‘Donald Trump did not draw well.’ And I said, ‘well it was almost raining.’ The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said ‘we’re not going to let it rain on your speech.’” This is, on one level, lunacy—but it is deadly serious. Trump is claiming that he has the blessing of god, and he will use this claim to justify all sorts of horrific actions. In a similar vein, Trump declared in his inaugural speech, “We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we will be protected by God.” The close connection he makes here between the military/police and god is aimed at advancing the claim that whatever the military and police do is, again, blessed by god.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump attempted to impose an alternate reality of “Trumpworld” on public discourse…

In the CIA speech, once again as part of his attacks on the press, Trump said, “And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly.” Here Trump simply denies the fact—amply recorded in his many tweets and quotes—that he has been repeatedly attacking the CIA and other spy agencies in the last couple of months.

~~~~~~~~~~

Trump called out and attacked other sections of the ruling class—for the purpose of silencing them and bludgeoning their acquiescence in his fascist reordering of society…

After some perfunctory acknowledgement of the presence of previous presidents at the inauguration and the help of the Obamas in the transition, Trump immediately launched into a verbal assault on the other sections of the ruling class: “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.” Trump didn’t name names—but it was clear he was including in this attack many of those in his audience he sees as ruling class rivals to the fascist vision and program.

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