Extreme History

by Toby O'Ryan

Revolutionary Worker #1249, August 15, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

Some time soon, in a month or two, students in a history class will crack open their books and read about a leader who came into power with a minority of the vote, installed by a special group in the political establishment. They will learn that shortly after he took office, a well-known national symbol was attacked and destroyed, and they will find out that the leader responded harshly: rounding up thousands of people, detaining them without trial, and torturing them. They will be taught how, with the intimidated cooperation of the nation's legislature, he repealed long-standing liberties, and how he used special laws and measures against one minority group in particular, claiming it was justified by their actions against the nation and their alleged international connections, and even implying that it was for their own protection. They will learn that too many "good people" did nothing and they will study the intellectuals who made a few objections around the edges, while overall echoing the leader that "yes, steps must be taken."

They will study how the leader fabricated threats to his country as a justification for unprovoked wars, and how his handlers produced militaristic spectaculars to invest him with an aura of greatness. The students will read his speeches, full of great hopes for his people and great optimism for their future--while subtly signalling his much more repressive, restrictive program to his closest core followers.

Then the students will be tested, and when asked the name of this leader many will correctly answer Adolf Hitler.

But the ones who answer George Bush should also get full credit, and then some.

What Is Up

Today the very highest officials--Condoleeza Rice, for example--warn of a likely "terrorist strike" before the election. A government commission undertakes studies on the feasibility of cancelling the elections. Word gets out of easily hacked computerized voting machines in key states installed by a major supporter and funder of Bush, and of voter lists in other states that disqualify tens of thousands of Black voters. Sudden "terrorist" threats are announced that turn the media hysteria up to 150 decibels and fill the streets with soldiers toting high-powered guns. Could it be any clearer that the clique around George W. Bush will use extraordinary measures to stay in power?

After all, they have big plans. They have plans for Patriot Act II. They have plans to use the 9/11 commission's recommendations to increase their powers to spy even further and to remove even more of the checks on them. They have plans to continue to bring forward their Christian Fascist hard-core followers into yet more positions of power--in the courts, the army, the educational system, and the culture as a whole. And yes, they have plans to intimidate, bludgeon and invade more countries. Over two years ago, Bob Avakian said that "the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled" and that "the America we have known will not exist in the same way anymore." Chairman Avakian's observation is being borne out in spades with every hysterical newscast and every soldier on the corner, every new picture of a man in a hood with his genitals wired for burning, justified by a Justice Department memorandum. Welcome to the age of George W. Bush.

What To Learn

The argument here is not that you can plot the trajectory of the next few years onto Germany circa 1937. Obviously, a great many particulars are different. At the same time, there is a larger similarity. In both cases you have an imperialist power facing an extremely unstable situation, full of unprecedented challenges at home and abroad. In both cases you have the most dynamic section of the ruling class--the one that set the terms and acted with the conviction to keep its grip firmly on power--choosing a program of high-stakes aggression overseas and a concomitant locked-down, repressive and chauvinist politics and culture at home. In both cases you have radical departure from what had been the "social contract"--the agreed-upon norms--of decades. The length of the eerie list of similarities between Hitler and Bush may have more than a bit of the coincidental about it, but the coincidences themselves are rooted in an underlying homology--a parallel dynamic that gets set in motion once a government embarks on a course like this.

In the face of this, the very worst thing that you can do is to hope that someone wiser will step in and make it all go away. We've seen where that's led in the past and we can even see where it's already led today and where it's heading even as we speak. If we don't want to go there, we have some work to do. The future is yet unwritten--yes, there is a very vicious dynamic at work with a lot of momentum, but it is a high-risk dynamic that depends on our intimidated acquiescence.

What To Do

The first thing is, we need to speak clearly and unapologetically about what is going on. Over the past year or two, columnists, rock stars, political organizations and even some politicians have been blasted for invoking the Hitler analogy. "Responsible journalists" and White House spokespeople have called them "hysterical" and accused them of "political hate speech." Au contraire. It is an eminently sane response, indeed a very healthy response to insistently point out, over and over again and from different angles, the fascist direction of the Bush team's domestic program--it is like the immune system of the body politic recognizing a new strain of an old and deadly virus. No, the first step is to make the diagnosis so sharp that people can come to grips with the seriousness of the illness.

The second thing we must do flows out of the first: we must RESIST. A crucial nodal point is the RNC in New York where more than a million are being called to say NO! But that is not all. It also means stepping forward to support those who refuse to comply with the new fascist rules and regulations and to give the benefit of the doubt to all those who are victimized, slandered, prosecuted and persecuted--a long-enough list already, and one that threatens to grow by leaps and bounds in the months ahead. Just keep in mind who it is that is persecuting them and their record of lies and distortions. For me, this diagnosis and resistance flow not only from a profound sense of the unreformability of the system and the reality that only revolution can wrench power from the class that keeps producing such madness, but a vision of a communist future--the necessity and potential for humanity to throw off the dead weight of the past, to radically rupture from all the property relations and ideas marked by class oppression. And those of us who share these views see uniting with millions in resistance as part of the road to this future.

Resistance means developing communities of resistance--book clubs, movie discussion groups, or just bars or coffeehouses where like-minded people chill--that take it on themselves to study, for example, the lessons of Nazi Germany and the attempts to resist, and to figure out what applies to here and now, and to do something about it.

It means more. It means reviving the orientation, traditions and knowledge of the sanctuary movement of the '80s and even drawing on, yes, the underground railroad of slavery days. It means insisting that people have the right to not only dream but to speak about and organize for another world--that we have the right to talk about the need for revolution without being demonized, outlawed, threatened, jailed and killed. It means popularizing a standard where no, someone is not "guilty" just because the government calls him or her a "bad guy," and no, someone is not made into a pariah because some right-wing journalist attacks them, and no, supposedly liberal organizations do NOT cooperate with government blacklists, and yes, people unapologetically defend those under attack for their political views, and yes, people rally together with those who dare to take action against these repressive moves, and yes, they organize themselves in a million ways out of the government's prying eyes, because they know this government intends only to squash any serious resistance to its plans.

But where to start? How about the guy you saw at Fahrenheit 9/11?Or the neighborhood kid with the "The Roots" T-shirt. The gal on the train listening to the Dixie Chicks. The woman in the laundromat who rolled her eyes when Ashcroft came on CNN while you were both folding clothes. The guy at the bodega where you buy milk, who shook his head reading about the latest roundup.

Talk to 'em. It's late. Talk to 'em. Now.