From a member of the Revolution Club, Chicago

Unity and Struggle (and a Counter-Revolutionary Attack) at the Impeachment Rally in Chicago



On the night before the historic impeachment vote, thousands of people came out into the streets all over the country expressing their anger and anguish of three years of the Trump/Pence nightmare, demonstrating and marching with a desire to get Trump out as soon as possible. There was also a celebratory aspect to these marches, as the Democrats had by that point announced that they had the votes. The impeachment of Trump is indeed a good thing and these protests were very important.

In retrospect, I think we did not fully grasp how important it was that Trump was actually being impeached—the significance of this extraordinary event—and that this was something to join people in celebrating, even as we were struggling to push it higher. Some things we would no doubt have done differently on the basis of such an understanding. At the same time, there is and will be a need to struggle over the road forward and what it will take to drive out this regime

In several cities, on the basis of forging broad unity to drive out the regime now, Refuse Fascism and the Revolution Club went to take part in these protests to unite with and strengthen this outpouring and to struggle: to challenge people with the reality we confront of a fascist regime in power and the need to not rely on the norms that this regime is ripping up, but instead to drive out this regime ourselves by mass sustained nonviolent protest.

In addition, the Revolution Club in particular was challenging people to confront why relying on the Democrats leads to collaboration with fascism and to lift their sights to actual revolution to uproot this whole system and get introduced to the leadership of Bob Avakian and the new communism he’s developed. And the point of all of this was not only to challenge how people are thinking, but on that basis to organize them and bring them into taking responsibility to challenge and organize others.

In Chicago, Refuse Fascism had a big beautiful banner that said “Trump/Pence Out Now!” and lots of orange signs on sticks that circulated through the crowd and were taken up by many, with the same message as the banner and an additional message on the back, “Take to the Streets and Stay!” The Revolution Club in Chicago came as a separate contingent, in Revolution—Nothing Less! T-shirts and passing out the flyer, “The Democrats Are Showing You That They Will NOT Oust Trump and the Regime He Heads... What Will YOU Do?” which included the Points of Attention for the Revolution.

Before the rally started, the Revolution Club posted up in the middle of the plaza with a loudspeaker and began talking with the people arriving. Fairly quickly a crowd gathered around the Club of about 70 people listening intently. Some were nodding, many were just taking it in. Then a woman walked up with a sign that said “impeach” and waved it in front of the Revolution Club members. This helped to turn this scene into a discussion and debate.

The Revolution Club member on the mic asked how impeaching on its own would be able to remove Trump when the fascist Republican party controls the Senate? The woman replied on the mic, “we will protest at the offices of every Republican and let them know we are going to vote them out.” The Revolution Club member talked about how Trump and the fascist party are threatening not to leave office at all and mobilizing their fascist base in terms of civil war, including in Trump’s letter to Pelosi that day.

A man yelled out that this is America, not Germany, and that if Trump doesn’t leave office, we’ll deal with that then. The Revolution Club member talked about how Nazi Germany got to be that way. It wasn’t all at once. She went on to describe what is now happening in America: immigrants in concentration camps on the border, children dying there, doctors who show up with vaccines are arrested. And what are Americans doing? Waiting for the Democrats who aren’t even calling this fascism and even while impeaching Trump, are making deals with him that allow these crimes to go further, waiting for 2020. Nazi Germany developed over several years before the mass slaughter, years of dehumanizing groups of people, years of people getting accustomed to it. And in fact, that is what is now happening here. A woman yelled out, “She’s right!”

The man who had spoken then said something like communism is not welcome here. The Club member said something about proceeding from the interests of humanity, not America First. And in response he said, “Yes, America First!” The Revolution Club member put this back to the crowd: We are saying Humanity First and this person is saying America First, where do you stand? If you agree with America First, repeat it after me when I say it. She said “America First” and the crowd was silent. She said if you agree with “Humanity First” repeat that when I say it. She said, “Humanity First” and the whole crowd responded with “Humanity First,” which she then led people to chant a few times. Then she encouraged people to follow that through, to act on that, to take up the mission of #OutNow and Refuse Fascism, to find out about and get with the Revolution Club. People took flyers and talked with Revolution Club members and Refuse Fascism organizers.

Soon afterwards, the main rally began. After a couple speakers, there was music and a somewhat celebratory atmosphere. The Revolution Club, which was at the back end of the rally of about a thousand people, began speaking again, to put the challenge to people who were still arriving and keep working on the contradictions. This time, an incensed hater came up to scream at us, and a handful of like-minded people were drawn and emboldened by this to do the same. Others watched and listened. The Club worked to continue to open up substantive debate, putting people on the mic who had things to say.

The things that were put forward substantively are important to note and learn from. There was an argument that the protests happening in places like Hong Kong and Chile are much more radical than what people are ready to do here or need to do here. This went along with arguments that we don’t need to do that kind of protest in America because 1) it’s not that bad here and 2) we have the power to vote them out. One person angrily said that the Democrats don’t need to call this regime fascist because that doesn’t matter to 80 percent of the voters and the Democrats need to get elected.

All of this reflected a huge, dangerous blind spot: refusing to look at what is already happening to people and moving to get worse, and the fact that the norms people keep reaching for are being ripped up in front of their faces (not to mention those norms were no good to begin with). So much of this is what Bob Avakian is dealing with in his new talk, Hope For Humanity On A Scientific Basis: Breaking with Individualism, Parasitism and American Chauvinism.

If something makes people uncomfortable—and still more, if it holds out the prospect of sacrifice, necessary sacrifice, on their part—far too many people turn away from it. As I’ve pointed out before, there’s this whole attitude of approaching reality as if it’s a “buffet,” or approaching it like a consumer: “Well, that makes me uncomfortable. I’ll just leave that to the side. I don’t want to look at that because that makes me uncomfortable.”

This same kind of thinking also went into a situation where even though many people were listening and engaging—and quite a few having substantive agreement with—what the Revolution Club was saying, at the same time, there was a bad dynamic that those people weren’t stepping forward to stand with the Club and help back off the unprincipled verbal attacks. This in fact allowed space for a physical attack where someone came up to go after the person on the microphone and was able to knock down two members of the Revolution Club who were standing with her. Another member of the Club later summed up that he had been a bit off guard because we weren’t out protesting against fascists, he didn’t expect something like this at an impeachment rally.

It is unclear what was the motive behind the vitriol of the people who were yelling in our faces, and even less clear who the person was that took the opportunity to carry out a physical attack. But some features of the verbal barrage were: a person who seemed very angry that we were putting forward a message that was contradictory to the official theme of the rally and tried to make it seem as if this was a selfish thing for us to do; two people who said we were messing up the “energy” and “ruining it for everyone,” and comments floating around about us being communists and talking about revolution. One person started yelling at us “you are the problem” and got a few others to yell that. A Club member sharply talked about what the fascist regime is doing to people and said, “We are the problem? Are we doing that?” One person said no and backed off. The Club member asked another if they hate us more than the fascists and they said, “Yes, I do!”

After the physical attack, the people yelling backed off. We said some things about how fucked up it was that this happened and continued to challenge people about what are they willing to accept and go along with vs. what is needed and what we can do to change things. Then, Refuse Fascism stepped forward on the other side of the rally to lead people to march and we and others near us joined in. Several people came up to us to say they agreed with what we were saying and one apologized for not stepping forward to stand with us. There was then a lively march to Trump Tower followed by some comments by Refuse Fascism and more contention over what is the way forward.

When the Revolution Club summed up together afterwards, one thing some people pointed out was how tightly some people are holding on to the idea that the only realistic solution is to vote, and how defensive they are when challenged about this. I felt that the whole experience showed: 1) the importance of really challenging people with substance and opening up mass discussion and debate as part of really struggling for people to change their thinking, and in opening this up people can and do change their thinking even if not all at once; 2) we need to continue to model and explicitly fight for a movement where people are acting on the interests of humanity because it matters, and acting with principle even when there are big and sharp disagreements, and where this sets a tone that unprincipled attacks and certainly physical attacks will not be tolerated; 3) people in and around the Revolution Club need to be vigilant in protecting those who are taking responsibility to lead—not being provoked, being a serious force—things will continue to sharpen up and it is important we recognize that leaders will be targeted by people intending to do harm and we should adhere to standards that don’t make it easy for that to happen; and 4) I feel we need to do better at drawing forward and involving on the spot the people who are more agreeing with what we are saying, in ways that turn that into a dynamic force that is then having larger impact even through the course of one demonstration and forging something that we’re able to build off of going forward.




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