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Fascists Are Rallying Around Donald Trump

We must fight!

by ANDREW DOBBS

There was real fear in the weeks between Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States and his inauguration that he would install an autocratic government. Instead his administration has come across as more incompetent than tyrannical.

One key factor preventing the worst from coming to pass is that Trump hasn’t yet built an independent base of mass political power willing to use force as he dictates.

Mussolini had his Blackshirts. Hitler, the S.A. Other despots have had goon hordes that they could point at their political opponents or critics and force compliance. It becomes pretty moot what Congress or the courts or Constitution say when anyone stopping the leader gets the shit beaten out of them or worse. Such a force is indispensable for anyone trying to transition a democracy into a dictatorship.

Now, however, this mass element seems to be organizing itself, and fascists are taking to the streets with unprecedented audacity. In Austin, a May Day demonstration was trapped by a superior fascist force — a major turning of tables from past experience, when antifa elements overwhelmed the right.

Seattle has hosted its own militant May Day demonstrations for several years now, but this year “pro-Trump” forces joined in the fray, violently clashing with Leftists downtown. “Make America Great Again” marches on March 25, 2017 saw violence between fascists and anti-fascists in Denver, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, according to the anarchist anti-fascist website It’s Going Down.

At one especially disturbing rally in Huntington Beach, California, far-right demonstrators pepper-sprayed, kicked and beat several counterdemonstrators, and even attacked reporters and news photographers.

This followed a series of clashes in Berkeley that began with a substantial advantage for leftists but have shifted to a more evenly-matched conflict.

Two things are clear here. Whether or not Trump has called them forth, a violent, far-right mass movement is coalescing right now in the streets, and Trump is the unifying symbol animating them.

These groups seem to be very eclectic, made up of traditional neo-Nazis and Klansmen, alt-right internet trolls come up from the basement, frat guys, conspiracy theorists, bikers, the hard-right remnants of the Tea Party, pro-police advocates, “patriot” movements and militia-supporters and open-carry and gun-rights activists, among others.

The media has taken to calling them “pro-Trump” demonstrators because support for Trump is what they have in common — and because their unifying symbols seem to be “Make America Great Again” hats, Trump signs and the U.S. flag.

They also seem to be coordinating through various online channels. They’re mobile — in Austin, at least, we discovered that fascist protesters had come from hundreds of miles away.

And make no mistake, they are violent. Even more than the scrapes and scuffles and beatings they perpetrate during demonstrations, there have been credible reports of hate crimes in the hours after their actions.

Oftentimes these victims aren’t reporting the crimes to the police, considering law enforcement’s affinity for Trump. There have even been out-of-town law enforcement officers among the fascists’ ranks at some clashes.

Antifa. Flickr photo

Trump himself seems to be too vacuous and lazy to have any commitment to a fascist agenda, but his administration harbors known far-right extremists. Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president for national security, is a known member of a fascist Hungarian secret society.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is notorious already, but senior advisor Stephen Miller seems to have established a more stable base of power in the administration, and he has gone so far as to flash the “white power” hand sign during media interviews.

Even if Trump isn’t personally directing this gathering of grassroots fascists, the combination of their enthusiasm for his rule and the reactionary aims of his policy advisors are like a wildfire approaching a fireworks stand. When the two finally meet, the results will be explosive — and deadly.

This phenomenon hasn’t been well-covered by the mainstream media, but it dovetails with the big stories of the day. A lot was made of the image of Trump’s Rose Garden press conference after the House of Representatives passed their version of the American Health Care Act. Standing behind Trump — ranks of exclusively white, male, middle-aged faces.

Even Republican politicians have sought to portray a diversity of support for their racist, sexist, anti-poor policies in recent years. George W. Bush or Mitt Romney might have passed the same godawful bill, but they would have had all the women and non-white folks in the group — a tiny number no doubt — centered right behind the podium.

Trump’s Rose Garden photo-op sent an explicit message that his administration is focused on the needs and interests of white men. Fuck everybody else.

Trump’s has always promised, however subtly, to reverse the eroding value of whiteness in this country. Tens of millions of poor white folks over the decades have always been able to rest easy knowing that at least they weren’t you-know-whats.

This relieved pressure on the ruling class. The oligarchs never had to actually provide poor whites with much in the way of material support. They only had to pay lip service to whites’ racial resentment.

In the last decade, however, two forces have combined to undermine this set-up. First is the steady advance of people of color, immigrants and other “minorities,” crystallized in the election of Barack Obama.

Most white Americans had never had a black governor or mayor. Most had never had a black boss or been detained by a black cop — they had never once been under the power and authority of a black person. In 2009 that came to an end for all of them, and the stress was obvious throughout the culture.

At the same time, U.S. capitalism has seen a persistent decline in its capacity to generate sufficient profits to sustain the way of life white America has grown accustomed to. The ruling class used extraordinary acts of speculative trickery to keep things afloat until the 2008 economic crash, and since then Western corporate powers have shifted strategies to one of austerity.

Letting old white guys have nice jobs just because they’ve been around forever fucks things up on both ends, hence the widely reported freefall in white, middle-aged quality of life. They laid them off and nobody else is hiring them, leading to a soaring death rate among white men in their 50s, driven by so-called “deaths of despair” — suicide, drug addiction and alcoholism.

In 1999 white men had a mortality rate 30 percent below black men their same age. Now it’s 30 percent higher, a staggering reversal.

Trump’s appeal has been an unprincipled and empty promise to reverse this erosion and to restore white power. This is what he means when he says he will make America great again.

Restricting health care for the most vulnerable seems like a stupid way to address rising death rates among economically distressed white guys, but the twin symbols of a phalanx of middle-aged white men celebrating the vote and the death of something called “Obamacare” still work to serve his base and fulfill their psychological needs.

A political focus on such a tiny and dying, if historically all-powerful, slice of the public is necessarily anti-democratic, and the national majority has responded as you would imagine — with resistance.

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This is why such a variety of elements hostile to democracy have organically coalesced now in the streets — extremists, wackos, malcontents of various stripes. Again, if their rising power connects with the political will of the administration, history shows that democracy really will be in serious trouble.

How serious? Well Southern Reconstruction after the Civil War initially empowered some of the most progressive and racially diverse governments in the history of this country, but all this was reversed and, instead, white supremacist police states came to rule for a century.

The mechanism for this reversal was a grassroots, eclectic mass movement of racist terrorists that suppressed just enough black and progressive white votes in just enough elections in the early- and mid-1870s to allow just enough of a white majority to force through the constitutions and laws that made the Jim Crow South possible.

Liberals are hanging a lot of hopes on elections to come, even singing “nah-nah-nah-nah hey hey goodbye” on the House floor when the AHCA passed. This childish, cynical behavior may come back to haunt them if the bullies in the streets right now decide to make “voter fraud” their focus next year.

How many attacks will it take to really turn the tables? How high does the risk of violence have to be before communities of color or others decide that they simply can’t risk it?

Oh, and who is going to stop them? The Justice Department, headed by a Klan sympathizer? Local police departments dominated by officers who voted for Trump and seeded throughout by explicit Nazis, as various civil rights groups have tried in vain to warn us?

State governments have almost all been taken over by the white supremacist Republicans, and Democrats seem to be oblivious to the threat gathering under their noses.

The answer has to be that we the people will stop them, progressives and revolutionaries ready to actually resist — not just post a hashtag or give money to congressional candidates. This must entail, in part, physical confrontation with the fascists.

People drawn to these movements crave power and are drawn to efforts that make them feel strong. When they get run out of town or beat up, it strikes a major blow to their base. Antifa efforts deserve support and those capable of joining them must do so.

But these assholes in the streets are the product of very real social forces, and those forces are only reversed by major political action beyond those streets. Such actions can only be carried out by organized people, and so that work of movement building, developing a durable political base capable of expressing real power is just as crucial as antifa struggles with Nazis.

There is a tension and an affinity between these two aspects of the struggle — the fighting and the organizing, the confrontation and the community work. If we only fight, we’ll be playing whack-a-fascist forever, and every casualty we suffer will bring us closer to final defeat.

If we only organize and leave the streets to the fascists, their power will grow until they can undo all our work with violence. It takes sharp strategy and a broad united front to do this. It takes a political maturity that we may or may not have in this country right now.

One good sign — in St. Paul in early May 2017 there was one of these “pro-Trump” rallies. A force of more than 200 progressive anti-fascists — including members of mainstream unions, liberals, anarchists, communists and others — organized into a broad, diverse united front, confronted and scattered the rally.

“We looked magnificent — multiracial, all genders, all abilities, all orientations, all ages, masked and unmasked, black bloc and plain clothes,” the Twin Cities Industrial Workers of the World General Defense Committee wrote after the event. “We were in short, the working class.”

This is what has always defeated and resisted fascism in the past — a united front. If we can build that we not only win in the streets — without even having to fight sometimes — but we can build a new and better world amid the devastation we face today.

This is the hope that can allay the fears we’ve felt for months. This is the way we can, as always, stay defiant.

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