Urgently Needed: Struggle in the Streets

The Senate Vote to Suppress Witness Testimony Is a Victory for Fascism

| revcom.us


Editors’ note: a version of this article appeared on revcom.us on February 1. As developments have continued and as our understanding has deepened, substantive changes have been made to some parts of it.

Friday, January 31, the Senate voted 51 to 49 to refuse to hear further witnesses in the impeachment trial of Trump. Every Republican senator, with two exceptions, voted against hearing witnesses. They did this despite the fact that John Bolton, one of the former top officials of the Trump/Pence regime, had offered to testify. By all accounts, Bolton was ready to verify that Trump had personally admitted to him withholding military aid to force Ukrainian president Zelensky to publicly announce an investigation of Trump’s political opponent Joe Biden for corruption. In other words, Bolton would have likely given first person direct evidence that Trump was corruptly and illegally using the power of the presidency for personal gain to discredit his main political rival in the upcoming presidential election.

Prior to this, a large part of Trump’s defense had rested on the fact that no witness had yet been able to testify that Trump had directly stated to them his motive for withholding aid. Why? Because Trump refused to cooperate at all with the impeachment inquiry. He forbade anyone in his administration from testifying. In other words, Trump’s lawyers and Senate Republicans had said that Trump should not be impeached because there were no direct eyewitnesses. Now, when a credible eyewitness presented himself, they refused to let that witness testify and scurried to end the trial!

This cleared the Republican path to acquit Trump this coming Wednesday, February 5. And in fact, this had been part of their plan all along—with Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, openly saying before the trial that he was coordinating with Trump and that Trump would be acquitted.

A Big Step Towards Fascism

An acquittal of Trump on these terms is a big step towards a fascist America. Conducted by craven fascist Republicans, this trial seriously undermined the rule of law. The trial legitimated the dangerous idea that truth has no role in governing with the result being that whatever Trump, or any president says and does, goes.

This is a further leap towards fascism which is, in short, a different form of rule by the ruling capitalist class—a blatant dictatorship of open terror and violence by the state, and the discarding of what are supposed to be civil and legal rights as well as what have been traditional bourgeois democratic principles and norms of governance.1 As Bob Avakian points out in “What IS Fascism” and many other works, this fascism did not just emerge with Trump—it is deeply rooted in both long-term and more recent American history and a response to very sharp contradictions in the world today. But it has taken a leap with Trump. The terms of this trial and its actual course underline that point.

Ominous Implications

This vote was a defeat for the rule of law.

Trump’s lawyer Alan Dershowitz literally mounted the defense that if Trump, or any other president, “does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo [a deal] that results in impeachment.” Dershowitz argued that this is because, “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest.”

What does it mean that the president now gets to define what is legal or not, depending on whether he or she believes that their being elected is in the public interest? How is this different from the president being “a law unto himself”? This argument from Dershowitz gives legal expression to Trump’s bogus theory that—to quote him directly—Article 2 of the Constitution means that “the president can do whatever he wants.” This is the unvarnished version and real meaning of the theory of the “unitary executive” put forward by the fascist attorney general William Barr. And now the Senate has effectively enshrined this. At this point one must ask, is there anything under these rules that Trump—or any other president—could NOT do?

This vote is a defeat for truth.

Bolton’s testimony could have helped get to the truth of what actually happened and opened up the way for others to testify. His testimony might well have led to further evidence of even more criminal activity by Trump and his fellow fascists-in-power to emerge. Faced with this prospect, the Republican senators moved to block this as soon as possible. Bolton is coming out with a book soon that reportedly includes some of the things he would have testified to in the impeachment if witnesses had been allowed. But it is now far from certain that Bolton’s book will even see the light of day, as the White House could move to invoke its “national security” power to censor the key portions of it or even the whole book. What does it mean to the ability of people to know the truth when the executive power can openly and without penalty suppress evidence of its own corrupt and illegal activity? This is an epistemology, as Bob Avakian has said in another context, in which the criterion of truth has been replaced by “might makes right.”2

A Victory for Fascism... That Could Get Still Worse

This is a victory for fascism. As gone into, the denial of truth and the gutting of the rule of law were given official sanction by the trial proceedings. Moreover, if Trump is acquitted, and even more so if there is not significant opposition in the streets, it will be manipulated into a further seal of approval for what has gone on.

Trump himself is almost certain to take revenge against those who opposed him. This could include figures like Adam Schiff, who in many ways spearheaded the impeachment effort and did, from his point of view, make a compelling case that Trump had gutted the rule of law. And in fact, even in the course of this impeachment, Trump made a number of threats that could at least be interpreted as involving violence—threats which no prominent Republican disavowed.

But this will get still worse if what happens now is a single-minded pivot to the elections, with no examination of what really happened here—of the deepening of the fascist threat and what must be done to stop it. There is a larger critique to be made of the role of elections under capitalism (see Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian, in particular these excerpts from pages 29–49), which we will not go into now. But for the purposes of this article it can be said that a) as people like Adam Schiff have predicted, Trump will use what is in fact newly won freedom to do everything he can to mold the elections his way; and b) even if Trump himself were to somehow lose and be removed from office, not only would the deep social contradictions that have given rise to this fascism continue and intensify, but these fascists would also actively seek new ways to redouble their offensive.

Democrats vs. Republicans: A Sharp Divide at the Top that Leaves Humanity in the Lurch; Unless the People Act in Our Own Interests

As the impeachment process showed, there is a sharp split “at the top” between the Republicans and Democrats. But it is important to see what this split is over... and what it is not.

First, the Democratic leadership refused to impeach for almost three years and then when they finally did, they only did so when their then leading candidate for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, was being attacked. President Trump pressured—essentially tried to extort—the government of Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for foreign aid to defend their country against Russia. The Democrats saw this as Trump abusing his official power to “cheat” in the 2020 election. And the whole Ukraine affair reflected sharp differences between the Democrats and the Trump/Pence regime over national security. especially concerning Russia. Distilling this, Bob Avakian wrote: “[F]rom their bourgeois perspective, their concern is very real in regard to the imperialist ‘national interests’ of the U.S., the ‘norms’ of how this system’s rule has been imposed and maintained, the importance to them of a ‘peaceful transition’ from one administration to another through elections—and the danger posed to this by Trump’s trampling on these ‘norms'...”

But they didn’t indict Trump for the regime’s many crimes that violate U.S. and international law and which are also outrageous abuses of power. For instance, to take just one of the many outrageous crimes of this regime: the separation of immigrant children from their parents along with putting them in cages and the turning away of refugees desperately seeking asylum contain violations of U.S. and international law and, along with his racist vicious demagoguery that has fomented violence against immigrants, should certainly have been part of his impeachment. And, the same could be said for his outrageously harmful words and deeds against women, LGBTQ people, Muslims, Black people, the environment, and his breaking international norms and law raising the danger of war, even nuclear war. By not indicting Trump on these broader grounds, the terms of the impeachment left the interests of humanity out of the picture, with the result being that the whole Trump/Pence fascist program is further legitimated. This contributed to many people not recognizing the stakes for humanity in the impeachment process—that our interests are not the same as those of the Democratic Party, and why masses of people need to act outside the confines of the normal channels to fight for the future of humanity.

The Democrats do see Trump as a threat... to American capitalist-imperialist interests and legitimacy. On that basis they have real conflicts with him. Indeed, the consolidation of fascism requires the destruction or neutering of their opposition in the government. This is what Trump’s calls to “lock her up,” and labeling opposing politicians “traitors” reflect. The move to impeach marked a heightening of those conflicts. But the Democrats also worked to keep that within the narrow political constraints outlined above AND they refused to seriously call into the streets the millions in society who hate much or all of what Trump stands for. Along with that, they almost to a person have refused to call this regime out for what it is: fascist. Because if they did do that, then the implication WOULD be for people to do everything they can to stop such a thing; it could deeply shake people’s faith in that system and its “proper procedures,” spur people to take the streets in genuine resistance that could get out of their control, and spark a search for larger and more fundamental solutions to what we face.

At the same time, the fact that the Democrats did feel driven to impeach, even on narrow terms and even without themselves calling people into the streets, did make a difference. The impeachment itself was a blow to Trump, at least temporarily. The impeachment dragged to light even more ugly crap from the regime and the act itself did raise people’s hopes. In fact, on the night of the House impeachment vote tens of thousands around the country DID come into the streets.

But that, unfortunately, is where it stopped. There were protests involving hundreds and at times several thousands nationwide, and small groups did sit in Congressional offices at different times. Yet imagine the difference it might have made had tens and hundreds of thousands been sitting in at Senate offices, taking over the streets all across the country, demanding the removal of this regime, and making clear their determination to refuse to accept a fascist America. While nothing is certain, even in the short term it might have resulted in two senators voting differently and a whole process where even more of the truth began to spill out, leading to more mass outpouring, and a whole back-and-forth process.

What Must Be Done Right Now

These next few days will very likely witness the culmination of a certain stage of this struggle concentrated around the impeachment. Yet for all the reasons stated above, this conflict is not going away. Those who went on Twitter on Friday night to denounce the verdict have a responsibility to show up now in the streets, wherever you are. Those of you caught up in the elections who in part are driven there by your hatred of Trump and the fascist threat represented by him and Pence also have a responsibility to put your body in the streets.

On Monday, senators will make final arguments in the case. Tuesday night, Trump gives his State of the Union speech, in which he will almost certainly take the offensive against those who impeached him. Then on Wednesday, the Senate will vote. At this time, fascist victory in the Senate seems all but certain.

But what people do—what YOU do—in the next few days will matter greatly to the future. It will make a huge difference whether people in their masses continue to sit passively, either absorbing themselves in the elections as a substitute for action or sitting on their couches despairing for the future, or whether there is serious protest in the streets saying NO! and declaring determination to fight on, truly resist, and ultimately drive this regime out. It will raise a standard and challenge the tens of millions who do hate this regime but as yet do nothing to directly confront it, and it will give hope to those here and around the world who suffer its grave attacks and terrible injustices.

The months to come are not necessarily going to be smooth sailing to the elections. Severe jolts—including perhaps occasioned by attacks on prominent Democrats or forces aligned with them—could occur. The question is what kind of opposition those will meet, and where will it go. And that is up to us.


1. What IS Fascism? – a full definition

Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”

At the same time—and this can be seen through studying the examples of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini—while it will likely move quickly to enforce certain repressive measures in consolidating its rule, a fascist regime is also likely to implement its program overall through a series of stages and even attempt at different points to reassure the people, or certain groups among the people, that they will escape the horrors—if they quietly go along and do not protest or resist while others are being terrorized and targeted for repression, deportation, “conversion,” prison, or execution. [back]

2. Bob Avakian wrote:

For humanity to advance beyond a state in which “might makes right”—and where things ultimately come down to raw power relations—will require, as a fundamental element in this advance, an approach to understanding things (an epistemology) which recognizes that reality and truth are objective and do not vary in accordance with, nor depend on, different “narratives” and how much “authority” an idea (or “narrative”) may have behind it, or how much power and force can be wielded on behalf of any particular idea or “narrative,” at any given point.

BAsics 4:10 [back]

Read more

Bob Avakian—the direct line from the Confederacy to the fascists of today—illustrated film clip

Reposted from RefuseFascism.org:

A Big Step Toward Fascism and the Challenge Before Us

Senate Republicans have blocked witnesses and gutted the rule of law, clearing the way to acquit Trump on February 5.

This Cannot Go Down Unopposed!

Urgently Needed: People in the streets Monday through Wednesday refusing to accept this.

Read more

Go to RefuseFascism.org to read more.




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