Thinking on Students and the Moment We're In

Let's Make the Argument to People...

December 25, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |


While there are huge holes in my understanding of what students are thinking about this situation, I learned a great deal at a panel on Black Radical thought, at a protest against a fascist coming to speak on campus, and at a graduate student walkout in response to the tax bill.

People at the Black Radical thought panel (made up of Black intellectuals and graduate students) were speaking to the fact that Trump represents something different. They posed this as a heightened danger of the shifting cultural norms, but I heard the argument from the panel and from a few students I spoke with afterward, that though the cultural norms around which the country is being cohered are alarming, the regime (they usually just say Trump) is failing at executing the plan.

At the protest against a fascist speaker, I realized to what degree this question of free speech is on the minds of students as that was the topic of most of the conversations that spawned in the turmoil of confronting the fascists. It is VERY important that whenever these fascists show up to campus, there is student opposition (this has to grow and it has to be led in the right direction) but even when mobilized, most students were defensive about the question of free speech, especially when it came to whether or not the fascists should be shut down. The reasons people felt compelled to come out were mostly framed in terms of the hate speech, the administration’s role in protecting students (including the absurdity of having to pay security fees to protect the fascists), and fear for the safety of sections of the student population. Based on what I have learned so far, there is little recognition that this is part of a strategic goal to consolidate fascism. Notably, one student who spoke on the bullhorn that day stated these fascists coming onto campus are conducting a recruitment process, but I wasn’t able to inquire about what he meant or how he saw this.

I think one big problem is that people are not recognizing the subversion of the separation of powers.

I was giving people an analogy to the civil rights movement, asking if they thought the Freedom Riders and the like should have been asking “pointed questions” instead of acting in defiance of the status quo as they did. The response to this, when the point was not overlooked by posing questions about democracy, was something along the lines of “it’s different—we currently have rights.” I got the sense overall that people were not recognizing the fact that those rights are being stripped away at a rapid pace.

Even at the graduate student walkout against the tax plan, something more directly related to the regime, one speaker did say the bill was an attack on intellectualism and also made the connection to other policies of the regime that represented attacks on other sections of people, but there is still a glaring lack of recognizing the larger picture and connecting the “bad policies” to the fascist imperatives of the regime and of understanding this attack within the context of all the other assaults on democratic rights and a scientific epistemology.

Thoughts on the talk and the overall situation...

I think the talk from BA (The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!) has been greatly underutilized and that it would be very helpful to sit down with people and talk explicitly about this and about why the analysis and method embodied in the talk is crucial for people to take up as a tool to mobilize the millions of people. I don’t think there is enough of an appreciation of this fact.

After I read the “The Fascists and the Destruction of the ‘Weimar Republic’...And What Will Replace It and “The Truth about the Right Wing Conspiracy... and Why Clinton and the Democrats Are No Answerpieces over a year ago now, I began to recognize the importance of people seeing this as a fascist regime and a coming together of fascist forces that have held tremendous sway in politics for decades now... that the basis for this lies in the history of this country and the nature of the capitalist system and the necessity the imperialist are having to confront.

I was coming across people who, when I lay out the definition of fascism from would reject the analysis because they didn’t agree with the framework of the definition (in relation to questions about the existence of a ruling class, the fact that bourgeois democracy is a form of dictatorship, and the underlying dynamics of the capitalist system to which the ruling class is beholden and responding to). I think these are VERY important questions to be getting into with people... we should NOT shy away from the challenge of having to fight with people over what is true, but this was posing itself as a contradiction. How do you struggle with people to recognize this is fascism short of having them take up a communist framework... how to unite the diverse sections of people needed to drive out this regime? In the talk, BA models this well. He shreds illusions about Western and American superiority, speaking directly to the obstacles holding people back as he puts forward a moral challenge to everyone with a conscience that fascism can and is happening in this country and that we have to drive the regime out in the name of humanity. He does a lot of work in identifying the contradictions for us and he models a method of talking to people about reality that we really need to be taking up. There truly is no replacement for making the argument to people and BA speaks to the basis to really mobilize millions by having them confront the necessity.

The depth of white supremacy

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how white supremacists justify themselves. The contradiction posed in The Atlantic article, “The Nationalist’s Delusion” about the age old tradition of America and Americans of all political stripes to proclaim “freedom and equality for all” at the same time as they dehumanize or go along with the dehumanization of whole sections of people. Watching the documentary on the Freedom Riders, and picking up a book called “There Goes My Everything” about how white people in the South reacted to civil rights has opened my eyes more and more to the role of American chauvinism in all this and the lack of recognition of what’s captured in the statement “America Was Never Great.” This is what BA gets into dispelling the myths about America and “the superiority of the West”... getting into the horrors of how this country and this system got started and how the wealth was built up on the backs of the people of the world and Black people in America. As I learn more about the Civil Rights era and how white people responded to this it really brings the point home that there is a real basis for things to go in a genocidal direction, that the ideological basis for this has resided in the cultural norms from the founding of this country which were transformed in the 60s but which obviously still hold a lot of sway. And BA deals with the epistemological question through challenging people to “free themselves from the GTF”—a fight that is important to be waging with people, especially in relation to the question of nuclear war against North Korea, but which has implications overall in relation to the fascist imperative to forge and violently enforce a national narrative that disregards truth.

More thoughts to come.




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