Emergency Forum of Academics to Resist a Fascist America Held at MIT
January 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On January 19, some 140 people attended an emergency forum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. The event, “In the Name of Humanity, Refuse to Accept a Fascist America—A Call to Action to Academics and Intellectuals,” was inspired by the Call to Action from RefuseFascism.org and was part of the National Month of Resistance.
A great sense of urgency pervaded the room. Professors from MIT, Harvard, and other nearby universities were there, along with students and activists. Many were entering into political life for the first time or “re-entering”—shaken and outraged by the Trump presidency.
The forum kicked off with a solidarity message sent by Fidel Fajardo-Acosta, a professor of English at Creighton University in Nebraska. He has been put on a new academic “watchlist” engineered by the fascist Turning Point group. The watchlist is designed to “name” and intimidate progressive and radical scholars and incite administrative and mob reaction against them. Fajardo-Acosta is standing firm. He saluted the emergency forum and called on people to fight attacks like the “watchlist” and take up the Call to Action of RefuseFascism.org
The first speaker at the forum was Tim McCarthy of the Harvard Carr Center for Human Rights. He described the current moment as a “train wreck” that we can’t be paralyzed by or perish in. He spoke about the tradition of resistance throughout U.S. history—and called for unity in taking on Trump-Pence: Don’t let people warn you off from working with communists, and don’t create false equivalences and divisions that prevent you from working with people in the Democratic Party. Lucas Stancyzk from the Watson Institute at Brown University spoke about the policies of neoliberalism that have been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans that have caused hardship and suffering and the need for a resurgent labor movement.
Political economist and writer for revcom.us Raymond Lotta got into what fascism is, the “window” and “responsibility” to prevent the Trump-Pence regime from fully consolidating its hold, and the need for the university to become a “zone of resistance” on a scale we have not seen before. (See "It IS Fascism—and the University Must Be a Zone of Resistance") Jonathan Walton from the Harvard Divinity School powerfully closed out the presentations. He began by welcoming a new generation of students searching for understanding and with the courage to resist. He went to the experience of Germany under Hitler, the Nuremburg Trials after the war, and what it revealed about widespread complicity under fascism, and called for resistance to a totally illegitimate regime today.
The talks were followed by questions and comments from the audience. A veteran of the civil rights movement in Alabama talked about the risks people took in dangerous conditions to do the right thing. Someone from the university community called for people to get out of their specialist silos and labs and wake up to the larger need for coalitions in action. There was questioning and controversy over whether going into the streets can really make a difference, and about the role of the Democratic Party. All in all, there was a lot of robust wrangling that continued afterward. Many in the audience were going to DC, while others were joining in Boston weekend demonstrations.
The Trump agenda of “making America great again” and cleaning up what he has called “the carnage” of the last few decades will have enormous consequences for intellectual and academic life. The MIT forum was an important gathering that has to serve as a springboard to inspire and launch serious resistance in universities.
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