My last post was really me processing what had happened, a necessary evaluation and freak out to move past the initial emotional impact of our country moving closer to fascism than it ever has before. I’ve been obsessively looking to Germany from 1914-1933, and particularly the promise but ultimately tragedy of Rosa Luxemburg. But we are not quite in the same situation as Germany: there are also elements of Russia on the cusp of the October Revolution, the Southern United States during the 1960’s, and apartheid South Africa also during the 1960’s.
January 20th General Strike
This afternoon, in part prompted by calls from Kshama Sawant and other US Leftists last night during protests, there has been a call for a general strike on January 20th. This is the only response adequate for this political moment. The hegemony and its media depict the elections, and particularly the presidential election, as some statement by the population. As such I heard a lot of people saying that their “faith in humanity” was seriously effected. To restore that faith, we need mass action to show not only that there are millions of people opposed to Trump but that they’re so opposed they’re willing to take to the streets and make major sacrifices.
That being said, let us learn from the example of Rosa Luxemburg and the Spartacist Uprising. It may surprise some that the author of Reform or Revolution was not in support of starting the uprising when it happened. While we now know her through her writings, Rosa was just as much an organizer as a theorist and gave far more speeches than wrote essays. She knew, especially having studied the Bolshevik Revolution very closely, that revolutions are built in progressive stages and will almost never succeed when in immediate reaction to a rightward shift (being the Social Democrats support for World War I).
So my caution to organizers is to resist but to plan for resistance tomorrow, next year, and five years from now. By which I mean now is the time to get a passport or get it updated, download Signal or some other means of encrypting your communications, solidifying your support networks, making emergency plans, and not killing ourselves with taking on too much or always putting ourselves in the face of danger. It also means those of us who have more protection (like myself – the state is hesitant to go after white lawyers to preserve their veil of respectability) need to sacrifice comfort to protect those who will be major targets of law enforcement (notably Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock’s water protectors, LGBTQI Southerners, and undocumented organizers).
I do not want to pretend that we can strategize out of harm entirely: our people will be deported, die, and commit suicide at a ghastly rate. But that is all the more reason to renew our focus on protecting our family and friends.
Their Dysfunction Is Our Dialectic
Fascism maintains power by illusion of unity. In reality, a strong man philosophy is incredibly unstable when many different people want to be the strong man. Hitler and Mussolini both survived countless assassination attempts, most of which were not by the opposition but by people in their own party who thought that they would be a better fuhrer.
And we already know the major tension in this new fascist movement: between Mike Pence and Donald Trump, or perhaps more accurately between the evangelical right wing and the corporate right wing. Our hegemonic history has worked hard to whitewash that Christianity and corporations have always been the major components of fascism. “Fascism,” said Mussolini, “should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” “Atheism…” said Hitler, “is a return to the state of the animal” and he wrote in Mein Kampf “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”
But Hitler was not actually a Christian, and outside the public light he would say things like “Christianity is an invention of sick brains.” Rather, Hitler knew he had to maintain his coalition with the Christians. And Trump has created his own laughably fake Christianity to remobilize the evangelical vote, a major reason why he was able to win the election. But the tensions still surfaced repeatedly even in the short time of this new coalition. Trump’s former support of abortion, apathy towards transgender people in bathrooms, and Islamophobia that threatens the “religious freedom” protections evangelicals have built over decades were all issues that threatened to turn the evangelicals against Trump.
Given the pathetic capitulation of the Democrats before Trump even entered office, the major opposition to policies will likely come from within the party. Especially since Trump is more Warren G. Harding than Ronald Reagan: his focus will be on using the office to accumulate capital rather than to try to build the white supremacist patriarchal dystopia that fills Mike Pence’s dreams.
We can exploit this tension with propaganda. Not just by bringing attention to the contradictions but by emphasizing that they are contradictions. If, for example, Trump slips and admits to not caring about prayer in public schools, we should frame the issue as “Trump troubles his evangelical supporters with comment about prayer in schools.” Or conversely using the coalition to delegitimize Trump’s role as president such as by intervening in US-Israeli political relations with evidence of the antisemitism among the Nazi “AltRight.”
But it is important to look at all this disruption, whether strikes or propaganda, as creating spaces for ourselves in a political climate that will gives us little to nothing. As Rosa wrote in Reform or Revolution: “But the struggle of the proletariat cannot be carried on without a given final aim…[Without that final aim, the struggle] is an attempt to shatter the intellectual arm with the aid of which the proletariat, though materially under the yoke of the bourgeoisie, is yet enabled to triumph over the bourgeoisie.”
Or as Fred Hampton put it much more succinctly “You can jail a revolutionary but you can’t jail a revolution.” So I hope to see all of you on the frontlines January 20th to show Trump from Day 1 that he will not jail our struggle.