Trump/Pence Fascism Takes the Offensive Internationally

The Method to the Moron…

October 9, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


This past week has seen an open rift between Donald Trump and his secretary of state Rex Tillerson and, to perhaps a lesser degree, his secretary of defense James Mattis. Disagreements flared openly around Korea and Iran, with Trump insisting on much more aggressive and warlike policies on both.

This rift does not signal an administration in disarray, nor is it just Trump blowing smoke. In fact, it is an illustration of the point from the Refuse Fascism Call that “Fascism has direction and momentum.” What this is marking—what we are witnessing—is the further consolidation of the fascist regime and fascist program, in the international sphere.

Last Sunday, October 1, Tillerson announced that he was working several channels to open negotiations with North Korea over their nuclear weapons. He announced this while visiting China, which implied that he was working with the Chinese to make this happen. Trump immediately tweeted that Tillerson should not “waste his energy” and continued his mocking and provocative insults of Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un. A few days later, word leaked that Tillerson had considered resigning over the summer and had called Trump a “moron” to others. In an extraordinary press conference, Tillerson denied any rift with Trump, though he did not explicitly deny his “moron” statement (though this was later done by a spokeswoman for Tillerson).

Meanwhile, Trump—who has been attacking the agreement that the U.S. signed with Iran that compels the rulers of that nation to stop any production that could even contribute to a nuclear bomb for 10 years—threatened that he was going to label Iran “noncompliant” with the treaty on October 15. (The president must certify that Iran is compliant with the treaty every 90 days.) That means that Congress could reinstate economic sanctions (that is, economic warfare) against Iran, which would essentially mean the end of the treaty. Secretary of Defense Mattis, testifying in Congress, said that he thought the U.S. should stand by the Iran deal. The backdrop for this is that nobody actually thinks that Iran has not complied with the terms of the treaty, but now the U.S. says that Iran is violating the “spirit” of it. These so-called violations essentially amount to ways in which Iran, coming from its own interests as a petty exploiter and wannabe dominator of the region has run up against the actions of the U.S. and its Israeli and Saudi Arabian proxies in the Middle East. In other words, Iran has NOT violated the treaty, and forces like Mattis openly worry that this will a) make allies and adversaries alike less likely to trust the U.S. and b) heighten the possibility of war involving Iran. Trump nonetheless continued to hint that he was going to decertify.

Finally, on Thursday night, October 5, at a gathering with top military commanders and their wives, Trump suddenly re-called the press corps into the room and stated that what they saw in that room—military commanders and spouses in evening wear—was “the calm before the storm,” and then refused to clarify what he meant. This of course led to rampant speculation about what he DID mean.

To draw this together: On two of the most pressing and explosive conflicts in the world—between the U.S. and North Korea over North Korea’s insistence on developing a nuclear deterrent to U.S. attack, and between the U.S. and Iran over U.S. insistence that Iran knuckle under to U.S. dictates in the Middle East—Trump has publicly rejected attempts by his top advisers to avoid war for the moment, and instead has provocatively ramped up direct threats of war or treaty-breaking.


Of Morons, Methods and Madness

To Tillerson—and to the sections of the ruling class he represents—Trump is indeed a moron. People like Tillerson, who came to the cabinet after heading up the bloodsucking imperialist Exxon Corporation, view the current world order as one that U.S. imperialism can work within to continue its domination and plunder. These forces are hardly averse to war to protect and enforce that order—but this section of the rulers wants to maintain at least the appearance that the U.S. wants to avoid war, that America is “the good guys,” that the U.S. only goes to war when all other alternatives are exhausted, and when “the whole world” agrees with this.

Moreover, there is an entire structure of geopolitical and economic alliances through which the U.S. has enforced and managed this order for over 70 years. Tillerson, Mattis, and those kinds of forces want to essentially maintain those structures and alliances but strengthen the U.S. domination within them. To be clear: this “world order” has meant the death through U.S.-waged or U.S.-sponsored war of over 10 million people in those decades; it means the needless deaths through starvation and disease of millions of children a year, and the grinding up of billions, year after year after year, into the maws of capitalism-imperialism.

On one level, Trump represents a different version of that. He, and the forces he has united, see those structures as essentially tying down and restraining U.S. power. They see it as imperative to break apart those structures and reassemble a different set of alliances based on different “cohering norms”—that is, different ways of settling disputes and justifying actions. So he rampages and does extraordinary things like forcing the generals and their wives to be party to his issuing of half-joking threats (the Washington Post noted that when he did his bit about calm before the storm, the eyes of the attendees “darted around the room” in panic). This parallels his approach domestically, where he continually breaks apart what people have become accustomed to as “how things are done” in U.S. politics.

To Tillerson, stuff like this and still more so Trump’s taunting of Korean ruler Kim Jong-un is indeed moronic, with no understanding of and respect for what the imperialists have put into place. But essentially, the Tillersons of the world don’t get it. Trump’s open and even jocular threats of war are not blunders or him being “tone deaf”; it’s a strategic approach. And moreover, it is a strategic approach that demands that sooner or later you actually go to war, and that when you do, you do so with overwhelming, disproportionate, and barbaric force. There is method to the seeming madness. Again, as Refuse Fascism says, there is direction and momentum to all this.

So while on one level this is a fight between global predators, on another these maneuvers and threats by the Trump/Pence regime are moves toward crimes against humanity that are perhaps unprecedented in human history. While we can’t say with certainty how any one situation will turn out, we can say that if this regime remains in power the probability that the U.S. will end up in a war that will either begin as, or become, nuclear is greatly heightened. Trump’s threats and intentional unpredictability make a miscalculation or “accidental” war much more likely and trifle with the lives of literally billions of people. Indeed, what Trump represents and is doing qualitatively heightens the danger to humanity, including the very future of humanity.

Who’s “Reining In” Whom?

Many people still delude themselves that Tillerson, Mattis, and Trump chief of staff General John Kelly are reining Trump in. In actual fact, these “moderate fascists” are being either forced out or publicly undercut or even humiliated, and it is increasingly clear that Trump alone is dictating policy, and if Mattis goes and says something else at some Senate hearing, it is essentially Mattis who is impotent, not Trump.

When Trump came to power, the presence of people like Tillerson, Mattis, Haley, Priebus, and then later McMaster was a concession by the fascist hard core, a way of calming down their bourgeois rivals and the general population, convincing people that Trump was willing to work with and take advice from these “wiser heads.” (This is very reminiscent of Hitler’s first cabinet, which only had four Nazis, and mostly not in key positions.) No need to panic, goes this logic, because he won’t be allowed to do anything rash.

But what does it say that even reactionaries are increasingly forced out or elbowed aside, that the Trump/Pence clique alone dictates policy, and if any of these other people contradict that, they are dressed down, often publicly, and ultimately gotten rid of? The media refers to this as “chaos,” and of course there is a significant aspect of chaos, but it is essentially fascist consolidation proceeding through chaos. The time to seek refuge in comforting myths is long since past; the time to struggle, in our millions, is long overdue.




Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.