As Democrats Still Call for "Working With" Trump...
Trump Goes Further with Fascist Team and Fascist Threats
December 5, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump will not act as the fascist he promised to be in his campaign needs to take a hard look at reality.
As we stressed two weeks ago, Trump has put together a very hard core of fascists in his team of Pence, Bannon, Flynn, Sessions, and Pompeo. In the time since then, he has filled this out further with other like-minded minions, like the Christian fascist DeVos. (See rogues gallery at "Trump Installs His Fascist Team.")
This week he did two more things: he made some more ominous appointments; and he resumed his openly fascist agitation, including a threat to strip the citizenship from anyone who burns an American flag in protest.
Promoting Militarism, Cementing an Alliance
This week, Trump appointed the former Marine Corps general James Mattis as defense secretary. This appointment comes on top of his earlier appointment of the retired general Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and goes along with Trump's very public flirtation with retired general David Petraeus for the position of secretary of state.
If approved, Mattis will be the first retired general in over 60 years to head up the Pentagon. This in itself is extremely unusual, and raises real issues about the direct role of the military in civic and political life. U.S. law dictates that army officers must wait seven years after retiring before assuming the post of secretary of defense, but all agree that a waiver of this rule will be passed by Congress. The last general to do this was mainly known as an able administrator more than a warrior.
Mattis, by contrast, prides himself on his supposed identity as a "warrior monk" and his nickname of "mad dog"—and Trump could barely restrain his glee as he uttered that nickname. Commentators agree that Mattis favors a more aggressive stance in the Middle East and elsewhere. Clearly, the appointment of Mattis both sends a message and sets the stage for an even more openly militaristic and aggressive stance toward other countries—in keeping with Mattis's nickname, you could say a more openly rabid stance.
But the significance here may go beyond policy or protocol. Bob Avakian, in the piece "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer," makes an extremely important analysis of the role of the military in the fascist political constellation:
What is also important to recognize is that within the armed forces there has been, for some time now, the development and cultivation of a situation in which the outlook of the fundamentalist reactionaries occupies a prominent place, including among higher level officers. In the book Making the Corps (which, as the title suggests, focuses on the Marine Corps but also discusses other branches of the American military) the author, Thomas E. Ricks, notes that "the military increasingly appears to lean toward partisan conservatism." Ricks cites a number of statements from people in the military illustrating this viewpoint, and he quotes a typical denunciation of "'cultural radicals, people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture...[whose] agenda has slowly codified into a new ideology, usually known as 'multiculturalism' or 'political correctness,' that is in essence Marxism translated from economic into social and cultural terms.'" Ricks goes on to observe that this "reads like fairly standard right-wing American rhetoric of the nineties," such as might be expected from Robertson or Pat Buchanan, but its significance lies in the fact that its authors were two Marine reservists and William S. Lind, "a military analyst who has been influential on the doctrinal thinking of the Marines"; and, as Ricks expresses it, their "startling conclusion" is that "the next real war we fight is likely to be on American soil."1
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This trend was further discussed and analyzed in Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, a talk given by Bob Avakian in 2007. It's worth quoting at some length:
This underscores the importance for the ruling class of a religious fundamentalist—a Christian Fascist—movement, which insists that America should have, and must have, a special relationship to God and must impose its "God-ordained mission" on the world, at the point of a gun (or through high-tech military means). It further explains (and "situates") the very fervent advocacy on the part of a section of the ruling class on behalf of this Christian Fascist orientation and program as a cohering force, in the context of the juggernaut of war and repression that is being driven forward now by the Bush regime.
Very significantly, there are two major forces and institutions in the U.S. today which, in opposition to the rampant individualism characterizing the society as a whole, embody an opposite pole. That is, two major forces and institutions which represent the interests of the ruling class and embody an opposite pole to extreme individualism in that way—an opposite pole of reactionary, fascistic-oriented, and extremely hierarchal collectivism. What are these two institutions? The Christian Fascist churches and the military. Here we see another basis for the close intertwining of the two and the great influence of the Christian Fascists within particularly the officer corps of the U.S. military.
While Trump himself "models" an extreme individualism, both those forces have learned to "make allowances" for that and are very much "down with the program." And now both those forces are strongly represented and being further welded together in the Trump core in what seems to be shaping up as an even tighter way.
In addition to the theocratic fanaticism of Mike Pence (see "Mike Pence: A Christian Fascist Who's a Heartbeat Away From the Presidency"), there is also the lesser-known Christian fascist angle of Steven Bannon, Trump's chief adviser. With Bannon, it's hard to know where to start in going into his reactionary views, and a lot of people have very justly emphasized Bannon's ties to and promotion of the so-called "alt-right"—which, as we and others have pointed out, should actually be called "neo-Nazi."
In the past few weeks, however, a talk that Bannon gave two years ago at a conference held inside the Vatican has emerged. In this talk, Bannon quite clearly lays out a "holy war" perspective of "Judeo-Christian capitalism" versus Islam. He traces this back to religious wars of the past and in the process accuses "secularism" of sapping the "strength" of the West.2
Bannon brings together Christian fascism with the unabashed promotion of white supremacy and the incredibly putrid, hate-filled, and open misogyny trafficked in by Breitbart.com, which he ran before joining up with Trump. Flynn, with Mattis and whoever else may come aboard from the military, adds in significant sections of the imperialist armed forces. This is a vicious, toxic alliance.
The New York Times Promoting Trump's Hatchet Man to Liberals With "Nuance"
Nevertheless, the liberal bourgeoisie continues to attempt to "normalize" and legitimize Trump. The New York Times, in a front-page article that could justly be called a "puff piece," last week promoted Bannon as a "combative populist." ("In Trump, Populist Provocateur Found a Man For His Mission," Scott Shane, November 28) The article was filled with "up close-and-personal" (though sometimes anonymous) character references alleging Bannon's supposed personal lack of racism, along with irrelevant material about how hard he works, etc., but included only a relatively minimal mention of the political trends he was promoting in his mission to, as he put it in July, give the "alt-right a platform" at Breitbart.com. The method here was to give a very toned-down and not-very-substantive rendition of the criticism of Bannon, then answer this with anecdotes and personal testimonies, and then move on, evidently hoping to leave the reader in a muddle—left to feel that the personal anecdotes somehow refute the political accusations, or that this guy is kind of complex. To put it another way, there was just enough negative in the piece to make it come off to liberal Times readers uncomfortable with Bannon as "balanced," while the net effect was to "humanize" him. Meanwhile, this guy is a monster methodically putting in place monstrous people and promoting monstrous things.
When some Times readers correctly protested what has to be called a "whitewashing"—one reader put it that "Populist as a euphemism for white supremacist is why the Times continues to fail its readers"—and did so in apparently large enough numbers to require a public defense, the "public editor" took the readers to task. ("When the Language of Politics Becomes a Minefield," Liz Spayd) The readers, said Spayd, did not appreciate the "bravery" of the author's use of "nuance." With this attitude, you'll "bravely nuance" your way into watching them load the trains to the concentration camps, reflecting on the complexity of Trump and his thugs and the "messiness" of the truth about him. Spayd goes on to defend the Times by trivializing the critiques of those who think that the Times is party to "duping" (her word) the public into granting Trump legitimacy. She does this by making it out as if the critics are quibbling over definitions and word usage (which in fact ARE significant) but ignores the larger criticisms of its overall stance and coverage. (See, for instance, "The New York Times Meets with Trump: A Dangerous Step in 'Normalizing' Fascism.")
She ends by mentioning that by Friday, after several other major news organizations had decided to continue using the sanitized term "alt-right" but only with definitions, the Times said it would henceforth describe "alt-right" as a "racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist." Let's leave aside that this definition itself is somewhat sanitized. What the fuck is "white nationalism" if it is NOT white racism and white supremacy, taken to the genocidal extremes of at minimum segregation and ethnic cleansing and at worst straight-up concentration camps? And let's not forget that these people were "hailing" Trump at their rally—and to call Bannon and his "alt-right platform" Breitbart.com "anti-feminist" considerably softens the extreme misogyny of the site*—do you really think we'll get a two-and-a-half-page piece any time soon from the Times on "In Trump, Neo-Nazi Provocateur Found a Man for His Mission"?3
Checks and Balances? In Your Dreams
But to return to the Christian fascist component of the Trump clique per se, while a great deal of attention has deservedly been paid to the Supreme Court—which Trump will almost certainly be able to pack with extreme right-wing and openly Christian fascist judges—very little has been paid to the federal courts below it. These courts decide a great many more cases than the Supreme Court and these decisions—including decisions which "go against precedent" (that is, decisions which change the understanding of what is constitutionally permitted or not)—often "set the table" for the Supreme Court. Right now, 30 percent of those judgeships are vacant, due to the Republican refusal for the past six years to allow Obama to fill them. Trump, with a pliant Republican Congress, will honeycomb these courts with Christian fascists.
How do we know this? Because Trump himself, in order to win over these Christian fascists, released a list last spring of those whom he would consider for the Supreme Court and other federal judgeships, and this was little more than a Christian fascist wish list.
You quite often hear people say that Trump won't really be able to institute fascism in the U.S. because of the "checks and balances." Really? The heart of the so-called checks and balances is supposed to be the courts—but these courts will be filled with Trump appointees. What then happens to everything from the rights of free expression and the legal safeguards for criminal defendants to the right to abortion and birth control, from the right for Black people and Brown people to vote or travel or go to school to the right of gay people to marry, and so on down the line?
Compounding that has been the vast expansion of executive power overseen by George W. Bush and then Obama, in which U.S. presidents literally have arrogated to themselves the power to order the deaths of U.S. citizens—without a trial, without charges, without even acknowledging they did it.
Trump Rampaging Again
Ever since the election, Trump has continued to use his Twitter account to lash out at his critics. Be the criticisms mild or fierce, dull or pointed, none must dare speak against the emperor.
Yet on Tuesday, November 29, Trump went further in this—apparently set off by a controversy at Hampshire College, where students burned an American flag in protest. Trump demanded that flag burners be sent to prison or have their citizenship stripped. As we wrote in "Trump Threatens Flag Burners... A Challenge to All Who Stand with HUMANITY": "But now the president-elect of the United States, the next commander in chief, just decreed—without any legal justification—that this act of dissent and free speech should result in people going to jail, or even becoming stateless people without citizenship, without any legal protections at all. Trump's threat smacks of the Nazi legislation—and the Nazi mentality—that made it a crime to 'profane' the swastika. This is deadly serious. It is a hint, along with so many other outrages, of the kind of fascist regime that Trump intends to impose. It is yet another reason why people cannot normalize this, but must actually undertake unprecedented resistance to prevent Trump from consolidating his regime."
Here it's important to note that Trump is not alone in wanting to imprison people for constitutionally protected protest—Hillary Clinton, as recently as 2005, put in a bill demanding a year in prison for anyone burning a flag. This is bad enough; where Trump "goes her one worse" is in the utterly illegal demand that people who protest forced patriotism be made into stateless pariahs, without any rights anywhere.
Then on Thursday, Trump held a mass rally in Cincinnati, which had all the character of his pre-election rallies—the "lock her up" and "build the wall" chants, the strutting and preening, the fact-free claims and boasts. Within this disgusting stew, Trump reiterated his call for "consequences" for those who burn the flag. (Trump's followers, organized by the fascist zealot Alex Jones, had earlier tried to both prevent the Revolution Club and Joey Johnson from burning the flag at the Republican National Convention by physically attacking them—they admitted this on YouTube—and then, when that didn't work, colluded with the Cleveland Police to arrest and frame them. See "Joey Johnson and the RNC 16 Put the System on Trial in Cleveland.")
This rally in Cincinnati was not just egomania. That's an element, to be sure, but there's method and purpose to this madness. Trump aims to continue stoking his social base to stay on the offensive as a key part of how he intends to rule.
Putting Lipstick on a Pig: The Democrats Find Something to Love, or at Least Go Along With, in Trump
In an article titled "'Putting lipstick on a pig': Experts on why Obama is lending Trump a hand," the Guardian newspaper (Sunday, December 4) noted the unusually frequent phone calls between Obama and Trump. The article notes that many think this is having the effect of legitimizing Trump. Here again the newspaper notes the charges that Obama is "normalizing" Trump, only to give pride of place (and space) to those who rush to refute such charges, assuring us that Obama is actually reining Trump in.
Really? Leaving aside who's playing who, the objective effect of making known Obama's cooperation with Trump is in fact to not just normalize Trump, but to politically disarm those who look to Obama—including a great many Black people, as well as progressive-minded people more generally—as to the dire threat posed by Trump. This has gone along with a lot of talk about respecting the process of "our great tradition of the peaceful transfer of power."
This reveals an important truth: the much‑proclaimed "peaceful transfer of power" is in fact nothing more than the relatively orderly passing of the reins of government and the organs of state power among competing factions within the same capitalist‑imperialist ruling class, with the bourgeois electoral process serving as a key vehicle through which this is achieved. In this regard, Obama unwittingly performed a real service when, in speaking to why it is proper and necessary to accept the results of such elections, even when they are disappointing, he invoked this metaphor: This is an "intramural" contest, among people on the same team.
Precisely so, for you Mr. Obama, and the rest of the murderous "ladies and gentlemen" of the capitalist‑imperialist ruling class—and thank you for making very clear once again where, and with whom and with what, you actually stand. But this is not a game for the masses of humanity, who are not on the same "team" with you and those you represent—masses whose interests, right now and in fundamental terms, are in profound and antagonistic opposition to all the atrocity and horror perpetrated and enforced by your "team" and the system it serves.
Similarly the actions of Bernie Sanders, who talks of working with Trump "where we agree and opposing him where we disagree," which amounts to saying you'd vote for Hitler to build the concentration camps but vote against actually putting the Jews in them... or of those who talk of meeting the Trump supporters halfway and listening to their legitimate grievances, as if the open espousal or at minimum tolerance of blatant racism, woman-hating, and xenophobia does not delegitimize what they do or say... all this feeds conciliation, accommodation, and collaboration. The real infrastructure it builds is the architecture of hell.
For these people, it is clear: they would rather see Trump comfortably in office, "succeeding," subject at most to some petty hectoring from Democratic politicians, than to see masses in the streets demanding that this program be stopped and prevented, and Trump ousted. Why this is so has been well-outlined in BAsics 3:11, we'll run it again here:
These right-wing politicians (generally grouped within the Republican Party) can, will, and do actively mobilize this essentially fascist social base...yet, on the other side, the sections of the ruling class that are more generally represented by the Democratic Party are very reluctant to, and in fact resistant to, mobilizing...the base of people whose votes and support in the bourgeois political arena the Democrats seek to gain. This (Democratic Party) side of the ruling class generally is not desirous of—and in fact recoils at the idea of—calling that base into the streets, mobilizing them either to take on the opposing forces in the ruling class and their social base or in general to struggle for the programs that the Democratic Party itself claims to represent and actually in some measure does seek to implement....
As an amplification of the basic point here, it is important to recognize this: Within the framework of the capitalist-imperialist system, and with the underlying dynamics of this system, which fundamentally set the terms, and the confines, of "official" and "acceptable" politics, fascism—that is, the imposition of a form of dictatorship which openly relies on violence and terror to maintain the rule and the imperatives of the capitalist-imperialist system—is one possible resolution of the contradictions that this system is facing—a resolution that could, at a certain point, more or less correspond to the compelling needs of this system and its ruling class—while revolution and real socialism, aiming toward the final goal of communism, throughout the world, is also a possible resolution of these contradictions, but one that would most definitely not be acceptable to the capitalist-imperialist ruling class nor compatible with the imperatives of this system!
Trumpism can be defeated. But it can only be defeated by stepping outside the bounds of what this system and its representatives, whether Democrat or Republican, deem to be acceptable.
The Depth of the Crisis
But there's a further point, which we must not lose sight of: This most recent bourgeois electoral process has necessitated, on the part of those representing this ruling class, an emphasis on the importance of this "peaceful transfer of power," well beyond what has been the case in more "normal" times. This illustrates both how important this "peaceful transfer of power" is as a key part of the cohering mythology of this system as a "bastion of democracy" and that this has been significantly torn and tattered through this current bourgeois electoral process, particularly through the actions of Trump and the fascist forces he has further called forth and cohered.
In short, the rise of Trump shows on the one hand the real teeth of this system and the fundamental unity of those running it, whatever their differences and however sharp they may be. We must not underestimate the harm Trump can bring down, all over the world and right here. Trump has attacked hundreds of millions of people around the world, threatening and demeaning them, and comes to office with a range of programs that take the horrors of imperialism to a more grotesque and horrific level. The threats of war, of tremendously accelerated destruction of the environment, of the all-round slamming down and slamming back of women, of an inhuman and vicious attitude toward immigrants and to anyone who is different, and a program of outright fascist suppression for Black and other oppressed nationalities within the U.S.—this, together with constant threats of legal and extralegal attack against all who oppose this program, is fascism. And this is Trumpism.
Rise Up... Get Into The Streets...
Unite With People Everywhere
to Build Up Resistance in Every Way You Can
Don’t Stop: Don’t Conciliate...
Don’t Accommodate...Don’t Collaborate
At the same time, we must not underestimate the potential for resistance to this. Again, there is the very fact that, as noted above, the legitimacy of the "process" is torn and tattered to a large degree. The fact that the liberal capitalist politicians and newspapers have to scramble to normalize Trump, and then defensively claim that they are not, shows just how volatile things are for them. There is a huge reservoir of people for whom Trump is illegitimate: this is a problem for the ruling class, which they are working on; but this is a potential strength for people who want a better, more liberated world and who, as part of that refuse to accept a fascist America. And this is something which we, all of us, must work on.
Needed: A Whole Other Level of Resistance
What is clear from the past few weeks is this: Trump intends to institute a Fascist America; there are significant forces, institutions, and people bent on normalizing this; and there is an urgent need to set different terms and to resist.
Trump must be prevented from consolidating this fascist regime. He must be ousted. And a system that gives rise to a Trump—that not only gives rise to Trump, but as Bob Avakian shows so convincingly in "The Truth About Right-Wing Conspiracy...And Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answer" and "The Fascists and the Destruction of the 'Weimar Republic'... And What Replaces It," has paved the way for this and now requires something of this order to keep going—must be overthrown.
This process must be taken much, much further. Now.
1. Democrats, and some liberals, including Ricks himself, have welcomed Mattis’ appointment, from the viewpoint that this “mad dog” will introduce some realism to Trump. This is more wishful thinking, combined with a view that the realism that Mattis stands for—more efficiently brutal use of U.S. military force, in the service of bloody worldwide domination—is actually a good thing. In fact, the “mad dog” will either obey his master’s command or he will be fired. Indeed, Trump openly boasted during his campaign, when asked what would happen if a general refused an order to commit war crimes, said “they’ll follow the orders” in a tone so nasty that the “or else” was clearly implied. Meanwhile, the militarism so characteristic of and necessary to fascism has been further reinforced, to the accompaniment of liberal wishful thinking and accommodation in advance to the horrors yet to come.
2. To get a sense of this, read the following question/answer from this talk:
Questioner: One of my questions has to do with how the West should be responding to radical Islam. How, specifically, should we as the West respond to Jihadism without losing our own soul? Because we can win the war and lose ourselves at the same time. How should the West respond to radical Islam and not lose itself in the process?
Bannon: From a perspective—this may be a little more militant than others. I think definitely you’re going to need an aspect that is [unintelligible]. I believe you should take a very, very, very aggressive stance against radical Islam. And I realize there are other aspects that are not as militant and not as aggressive and that’s fine.
If you look back at the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam [editor’s note: Islam full stop, not “radical Islam”], I believe that our forefathers kept their stance, and I think they did the right thing. I think they kept it out of the world, whether it was at Vienna, or Tours, or other places... It bequeathed to us the great institution that is the church of the West.
And I would ask everybody in the audience today, because you really are the movers and drivers and shakers and thought leaders in the Catholic Church today, is to think, when people 500 years from now are going to think about today, think about the actions you’ve taken—and I believe everyone associated with the church and associated with the Judeo-Christian West that believes in the underpinnings of that and believes in the precepts of that and want to see that bequeathed to other generations down the road as it was bequeathed to us, particularly as you’re in a city like Rome, and in a place like the Vatican, see what’s been bequeathed to us—ask yourself, 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me? What are they going to say about what I did at the beginning stages of this crisis?
Because it is a crisis, and it’s not going away. You don’t have to take my word for it. All you have to do is read the news every day, see what’s coming up, see what they’re putting on Twitter, what they’re putting on Facebook, see what’s on CNN, what’s on BBC. See what’s happening, and you will see we’re in a war of immense proportions. It’s very easy to play to our baser instincts, and we can’t do that. But our forefathers didn’t do it either. And they were able to stave this off, and they were able to defeat it, and they were able to bequeath to us a church and a civilization that really is the flower of mankind, so I think it’s incumbent on all of us to do what I call a gut check, to really think about what our role is in this battle that’s before us.
3. For example, Breitbart’s technology editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, was the point man in promoting “GamerGate,” a vicious misogynistic campaign that included a flood of degrading attacks and terroristic threats against the small number of prominent women in the video-game development community.
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