The Shutdown of Trump in Chicago: Reflections on Legitimacy Crises and Real Revolution

March 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors’ note: The following is correspondence from an RCP supporter reflecting on experience in Chicago. Towards the end of these reflections, the author notes questions that were raised by various people but doesn’t say how these were answered. We invite our readers to write to us about how you’ve explored or should explore these questions with people.


Protesters confront Trump supporters on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, March 11. AP photo
Protesters confront Trump supporters on the campus of the University of Illinois-Chicago, March 11. AP photo

The crisis concentrated in the candidacy of Donald Trump reached a new height in the powerful and very justified disruption of Trump’s scheduled rally in Chicago on March 11. Thousands of protesters, including many students of color, confronted the fascist rally and essentially forced Trump to cancel it. In the following week, determined protests against Trump spread... Utah, Arizona, New York City. At the same time, what happened in Chicago and elsewhere intensified the legitimacy crisis among those ruling society—a crisis over HOW the representatives of the capitalist class that rules America carry out its rule.

The March 21 Revolution article, “The People Run Trump Out of Chicago—The Crisis Sharpens,” analyzing the strategic significance of the cancellation quotes from an article in the New York Times: “Behind the showdowns is a climate of frustration and fright not seen since the 1960s, or even the 1850s when, in the words of Joanne Freeman, a Yale historian who has studied violence in American politics, ‘each side was convinced that the other side was about to destroy America—or what they believed to be the fundamental essence of America—and each side totally alienated the other side.’” (“Donald Trump’s Heated Words Were Destined to Stir Violence, Opponents Say,” March 12, 2016)

This crisis in the ruling class is also reflected in what is playing out in the clashes between the Trump supporters and people who are horrified that Trump is a legitimate candidate. In the days leading up to Trump’s scheduled rally at UIC (University of Illinois, Chicago), the campus was roiling. This is a campus that prides itself on its diversity. The recognition that Trump might actually get the Republican nomination, and widely seen videos of Trump supporters viciously attacking small groups of protesters, compelled the students and many others to act.

When a student Facebook page called for a protest at the rally, within hours there were more than 1,600 RSVPs. Everyone knew it would be a very tense scene and they made plans to go with friends. Illinois Congressman Luis Gutiérrez and other Latino Democratic politicians who have criticized government policies on immigration called on people to join them in the streets to oppose Trump. But he called for restraint and arranged for protests to be staged in an area (pen) across the street from the pavilion, where the rally was to take place. Gutiérrez specifically called on people not to protest inside as it would be too dangerous.

Meantime, hundreds and hundreds of students and others organized themselves, going online to get tickets to the rally and then arriving hours early in order to be able to get inside to protest. Black community activists active in the fight against police murder and brutality also went to real lengths to get inside to protest.

An earlier Revolution article noted that Trump

has pulled together a section of the fascist movement in America in a much more visible and aggressive way. He is organizing those who feel left out and “disrespected,” who have been taught that their white skin and American identity make them special but who don’t “feel special” anymore, and who blame it on those they have been taught to despise as being “beneath them” in society.... He is aiming these angry people at immigrants, at Black people—against, in short, the most oppressed; he is aiming them against “foreigners” and “the different,” and in particular against all Muslims: and he is aiming them against anyone who would refuse to go along with the crimes of this system or who even dares differ with Trump.
(“On the Rise of Donald Trump... And the Need for and Possibility of Real Revolution,” March 7, 2016)

One student who made it inside the pavilion described the following: “At the beginning, the MC made this announcement that was so scary, it reminded me of the voice-over at the start of The Hunger Games: ‘This is a private event, if you see a protester, do not touch them, hold up your event sign and say, Trump, Trump, Trump so that security can identify and remove them.’”

Revolution--Nothing Less

In the hours before the event, three Black women said they ran into four older white Trump supporters and were called the “N” word straight up, and then viciously threatened: “If we see you after the event, we will fuck you until you can’t move. I will make you my slave.” Many youths were stunned by just how vicious the Trump supporters were and they asked older people, “Is this what it was like in the civil rights days?” They said they had seen images of white mobs attacking people, but never personally felt anything as ugly and blatant as how the Trump supporters treated them.

Outside the pavilion, thousands gathered in the streets as the start time for the rally approached, refusing to go to the protest pen. They were a diverse mix of people—mostly young and very multinational. Many were UIC students, but there were also groups of high school youths, people from other colleges, people from all walks of life from all over the city and suburbs, and people from Indiana and Michigan as well. Across the board there was anger and outrage over Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim program.

There were also crowds of Mexican youths, some carrying enormous Mexican flags, shouting out swear-word-laden chants in Spanish. (UIC has a 25 percent Latino student body.) Chants of “undocumented and unafraid” rang out. Youths in shirts with slogans like “Muslims Against Trump” and young women in hijabs joined the protest. There were groups of South Asian students, Black students, and community activists, many white students and youths with shirts and buttons for Bernie Sanders. There were also older people of all nationalities, including some who only spoke Spanish.

In the face of all this, Trump canceled his Chicago rally, much to the dismay of his followers and much to the surprise and jubilation of the protesters, who inside swarmed onto the floor of the pavilion. One Black UIC student described her experience leading up to and at that moment: “We got in line with 15 friends, all people of color, to be together for protection. We picked up Trump signs as a way to ‘blend in.’ We went to the main floor and saw only one other Black person and she was for Trump. We were terrified by the looks we were getting. We thought we were in the minority. Then the announcement came that Trump had canceled and all these white people tore off their shirts and had shirts underneath that said, ‘White people against racism’ and ‘Feel the Bern.’ We Blacks linked arms and formed a circle and the white protesters formed a circle around us. The Trump supporters looked really, really angry—it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen because the Trump supporters were not able to act like they wanted and the white people were protecting us.”

As we noted in “On the Rise of Donald Trump... And the Need for and Possibility of Real Revolution,”

there is, and there must be more, resistance ... —not in the form of voting for a Democrat—but building on the kind of thing you see already in people going into these Trump rallies and calling him out. But the most important thing we have to understand is this: The turmoil at the top of society right now... the emergence of political figures who aim to change how the people are ruled, in possibly dramatic and extremely disruptive ways... the fighting amongst the rulers over what to do about this... opens new possibilities, and new necessity, to expose the system that has spawned this and to build a magnetic pole around an organized force that represents a real alternative: real revolutionary hope on a solid scientific foundation. All this taken together is part of a process that could create an opening in which a force that is going for revolution, and willing and able to lead people to do that, can make tremendous gains and possibly even open up the chance to go for it all. That is, to lead millions to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.

This is not the only possible outcome, nor is it necessarily something that would grow one-two-three out of the present situation. But revolution will NOT be made in a ready-made, easy-bake situation; it will necessarily involve turmoil, upheaval, and advancing in the face of sharp repression. The point is to analyze, grasp, and work on those possibilities now. (emphasis added)

Chicago, March 11. (Video:

The revolutionary communists were on the scene and among the crowd with a sharp presence. This crew reported, “We had two enormous enlargements of the cover of Revolution #428-429 (Mein Trumpf) and 80 picket signs of the same cover in both English and Spanish which were immediately snatched up by protesters who made donations for them as the crowd gathered. It would be an understatement to say the image was very well received. With BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts over our coats, we agitated over the loudspeaker and got out hundreds of copies of Revolution newspaper and even more BA palm cards: BAsics cards with ‘American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives’ and one with ‘Internationalism, The Whole World Comes First.’ Another palm card says on one side ‘What we need is an actual revolution—and if you are serious about revolution, you have to seriously get into BA,’ and the flip side has the powerful quote from BA on the ‘potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness.’”

The report continued, “Agitating that Trump is not an aberration but a concentration of what America is all about, going through the genocide and slavery it was built upon up to the crimes it commits today, led some people to stop in their tracks. When we made clear that we were talking about an actual revolution as opposed to ‘Bernie’s revolution,’ people also stopped. We found many young people newly awakening to political life listening seriously and open to what we were putting out. There was an openness and interest based on how messed up things were. Most in the crowd had never heard of Bob Avakian before. Some people felt that we do need a revolution and were excited to learn about this revolutionary leader they had never heard of. There was a sense among some in the crowd that something big, ugly, and serious was going on and maybe revolution was the solution.”

At UIC and at Sanders rallies the following week, there was a lot of contention over what kind of system spawns a representative like Trump and why the Democrats are not the answer. There was struggle, too, among the revolutionaries over how not to simply unite with the anti-Trump sentiment that was very widespread on the campuses, but to really get into why a genuine revolution is what is needed, the new synthesis of communism, and the leadership we have for this in BA. Why we do not have to accept the terms and choices that all end up preserving capitalism-imperialism, and how there could very well be major openings to wrench a future that is in the interests of the great major of humanity in the whole world out of this cauldron of contradictions.

Interestingly, in response to the Mein Trumpf cover of Revolution, more than one person made reference to the Weimar Republic in Germany. The Weimar Republic was the informal name given to the bourgeois democratic government that ruled Germany after World War I. The Weimar Republic was replaced and forcibly abolished when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in the 1930s.

The discussion in an article by BA, “The Fascists and the Destruction of the ‘Weimar Republic’…And What Will Replace It” from 2005, is very relevant to the necessities and complexities we now face. In this historical analogy, “Weimar Republic” is similar to the ruling class Democratic Party which has a more “multicultural” facade for HOW to rule in the interests of U.S. capitalism-imperialism.

BA makes the point, “we should recognize and not be blind to what it means when these fascists put the ‘Weimar Republic’—by analogy, the liberals in the ruling class—in the camp of the enemy, and go so far as to label them traitors, and go after them in that way. What is that preparing the ground for, what are the implications of that?” (emphasis added)

Since this was written, we have seen the Republicans routinely denounce Obama and refuse to see him as legitimate, including not even recognizing his authority to nominate a Supreme Court justice. BA then goes on to say:

The “Weimar Republic” does need to be replaced, and superseded. The bourgeois republic—the rule of capitalism and imperialism, in its bourgeois-democratic form—is in fact a repressive system of rule, rooted in a whole network and process of exploitation and oppression, which brings untold, and unnecessary, suffering to millions, and literally billions, of people, throughout the world, including within the republic itself. It needs to be replaced and superseded, however, not by an even more grotesque and more openly murderous form of the same system, but by a radically new society, and a radically different kind of state, that will open the way and lead finally to the abolition of all forms of oppressive and repressive rule and all relations of domination and exploitation, throughout the world.

There is much history to learn from this whole period. And it is important to know that BA has studied this period and mined this for lessons in a way nobody else has. People need to get into this. If you are concerned about the current situation and what is developing, you must get into his work. (See The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era and other works by BA at Bob Avakian—The Vision, the Works, the Leadership for a New Stage of Communist Revolution.)

Again, there is a tremendous challenge to lead mass resistance to attacks on basic democratic rights by fascists like Trump (and Cruz, et al.) while doing so in a way that does not stay confined within the framework set by the capitalist system’s bourgeois-democratic terms, which only keep the nightmare of capitalism-imperialism going. The challenge is to repolarize—repolarize for revolution right in the midst of these tumultuous and rapidly developing crises, speaking to whole blocs of people, many of whom are being drawn into political life for the first time. Agitation is very critical in doing this, both through Revolution and out on the street.

Some people who hate Trump and were overjoyed at the cancellation of his Chicago rally also said that they thought a Trump victory in the general election would be the way to accelerate a revolution. To adopt that orientation would be a horrible mistake. As BA put it,

I have spoken to this phenomenon of the unraveling of what for some time has been the “cohering center” of the society and the rule of the bourgeoisie in the U.S.... I have emphasized that all of this will not, by any means, be positive in the short run, and left to itself—and it is not the role of communists, it is not meeting our responsibilities, to simply stand by and celebrate all the unraveling of the existing cohering center and form of capitalist rule and think it is going to mean that something positive is bound to emerge from this and in fact is just going to “fall into our lap.” We have to take up the tremendous challenge of repolarization—repolarization for revolution.”
(“The Fascists and the Destruction of the “Weimar Republic”...And What Will Replace It”)


One other general point off this experience:

It is very important to engage young people being drawn to the Bernie Sanders campaign. They are being drawn into political life and thinking about big questions, like the oppression of Black people, some for the first time in their lives. Not surprisingly, there are many different views, insights about the current situation, as well as many illusions about how the system actually works and what the solution is to the outrages and horrors that they see. More needs to be quickly learned about the patterns of youths and students who are awakening to political life, what are their views and sentiments, and how they are changing, including in the wake of an action like the one at UIC in particular. We have found a few Latino youths who have been part of the gang scene who are promoting Sanders. We need to investigate if this is more widespread and if it is linked to Trump’s attacks on immigrants.

The following were typical of responses from Sanders supporters:

» A young man agreed with some of our analysis of Trump, that he was a fascist and the product of a rotten system. But he really saw Sanders as part of the solution; e.g., he argued that Sanders was against war, “had voted against all the wars.” He was for “socialism,” like Sanders, but saw it as “a whole different animal” from communism. He described the European welfare states as his view of socialism.

» A young woman who is a Bernie Sanders supporter agreed Trump was part of a system that was thoroughly rotten, rooted in slavery and genocide. But she also saw Sanders as part of the solution, a “step in the right direction.” She saw him as being anti-capitalist, representing revolution. She quoted Sanders’ comments on the super-rich, etc. to make her case.

» A young person asked how would the revolution deal with things differently. This Included wanting to know how a new society would deal with the kind of people who are supporting Trump.

» A campus organizer for Sanders put it this way: “I agree with Marx about how communism is the solution. But I think we have to go about it in a way that people will listen to.” She explained it in terms of marketing—at this point, most people think communism is bad, but you can get them to consider “socialism.”

Revolutionaries dug into all this going into the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA. In all these situations hundreds of papers and palm cards were distributed, and dozens and dozens of names and contacts were made, with specific follow-up plans in mind. This is a highly politicized situation, one that demands that communists be communists.

The orientation from “The People Run Trump Out of Chicago—The Crisis Sharpens” addressed to all those who are agonizing about the way forward, standing up to protest in the face of intimidation and fascist mobs—is essential:

So listen. You are questioning. That is critically important and indispensable. You are fighting. That can be very positive. As you do that, as you intensify that, learn about, get into, struggle over what humanity really needs: revolution, a real revolution. Get into Bob Avakian (BA) and his work and leadership. Get into the way of scientifically understanding the world and what drives a society forward and what the real possibilities are for social transformation that he’s brought forward. Get into the blueprint for a whole new society, on the road to the elimination of all exploitation and oppression that he’s concretized in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. Get into the strategy he’s developed for getting to a situation in which millions would be won to and be prepared to go all-out for revolution and win. Get into and spread this website, Get with the Party BA leads and the Revolution Club led by that Party, and get into the whole movement for revolution and the process of “fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.

Whatever happens with the immediate crisis—whether those on top succeed in defusing it, or whether in fact it sharpens—the most crucial thing is that there be a vanguard, with real roots among the people and a real magnetic pole among millions FOR revolution. There is work to do NOW. Be part of it.



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