Not Our President! (part 1)

Part I. Giant Demonstrations Challenge Trump’s Seizure of power

One day after Donald Trump’s bellicose, nationalistic inauguration speech, with its racist overtones, millions of women and their allies took the streets in Washington, New York, and six hundred cities in the U.S. and world-wide. As Trump’s support plummeted to 32% in the polls, the N.Y. Times reported that Saturdays’ protest was three times the size of the Inauguration crowd [1], This massive, self-organized resistance will be remembered as an historic event with no precedent.

The President’s new press secretary Sean Spicer immediately stormed into the press room to attack the Times’ report and lied multiple times about Trump’s inauguration, falsely claiming more people had attended or one of the cleverest signs in the protests predicted: “Donald J. Trump Will Lie About This!” While Trump’s speech repeated again and again his regime’s watchword, “America First” (reviving a 1940 slogan supported by isolationists and pro-fascists), the Women’s March brought together unprecedented masses to state loud and clear their solidarity with all oppressed people – women, exploited workers, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, civilian casualties of American imperialist wars abroad. In the words of actress America Ferrera:

We are gathered here and across the country and around the world today to say, Mr. Trump, we refuse. We reject the dehumanization of our Muslim mothers and sisters. We demand an end to the systemic murder and incarceration of our black brothers and sisters. We will not give up our right to safe and legal abortions. We will not ask our LGBTQ families to go backwards. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance. We won’t build walls, and we won’t see the worst in each other. And we will not turn our backs on the more than 750,000 young immigrants in this country currently protected by DACA.

Against Trump’s open misogyny and racism, the marchers maintained that women’s oppression is the basis of all oppressions. The speakers and signs proclaimed mutual solidarity among the social movements they represented – while at the same time maintaining their own group’s demands. Many signs took up the 2011 slogan of Occupy Wall Street: “This is what America Looks Like.”

There were very few references to the 2016 election debacle and almost nobody pronounced Clinton’s name. The crowds’ orientation was clearly towards the upcoming struggles. Visible among the marchers were masses of people of color, men as well as women, and young people participating in their first public demonstration side by side with veteran marchers of Vietnam War and Martin Luther King vintage.

To quote Michael Moore: “Trump is a great organizer.”

The massive Women’s March signaled the advent of a united resistance movement against a government which is clearly asserting its intention to destroy the social rights won through the struggles of the past half century: women’s emancipation (abortion rights), black peoples’ emancipation (voting rights), workers’ emancipation (union rights), freedom of speech, press and association, social security (retirement rights, healthcare), oppressed minorities’ civil rights. “We refuse to go back to the 50’s,” read many signs.

The rise of popular resistance against Trump

How did this gigantic, militant and unified demonstration organize itself? Popular resistance to Trump’s election started as early as the night of November 8th when, shocked by this unexpected result, tens of thousands of Americans (mostly women) spontaneously took to the streets in the main cities shouting “Not our President!” The next day, students across the land spontaneously organized hundreds of strikes, leaving their high schools to demonstrate in the streets. The wave of the popular feeling of Trump’s illegitimacy grew stronger in the following days as people learned that the president-elect had lost the popular vote by nearly 3 millions votes (while benefiting from questionable maneuvers in his favor). By the end of the week, the editorialist of the stately progressive magazine The Nation proclaimed: “It is time to summon everyday massive nonviolent civil disobedience on a scale not seen in this country for decades.” [2]

On November 9th in Hawaii, a 60-year-old retired woman, stunned by Trump’s open misogyny, created a Facebook event page calling for a march on Washington to contest Trump’s inauguration. In one night, thousands of people joined the event. Two days later and thousands of miles away, in New York, another woman called for the same idea and recruited three longtime activists (including a Palestinian) to organize a great march on Washington against the Misogynist-in-Chief. They were soon to be joined by millions of women and eventually 200 organizations, which succeeded, in spite of identity conflicts, to unify and undertake this feat of national organization.

Similar marches were organized in hundreds of American cities and across the world – once again thanks to the Internet and social media, which enable individuals to overcome geographical isolation, communicate and unite in real time. As resistance and uncertainty surrounding the election results continued to grow, there were attempts, through legal means, to force a recount in the three key states where the nation’s fate was decided only by a few thousands votes.

On the other hand, in Washington, elites of both political parties responsible for this anti-democratic debacle attempted to close ranks when confronted by the questioning of their political “duopoly.” Obama, smiling, invited Trump to the White House to let him know that “we will now do anything we can to see you succeed because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.” The Establishment was attempting to smooth things over, normalize the situation, trivialize evil.[3] But the President-elect didn’t want to play along and he continued on horrifying the public with his staggering Tweets (two millions of “fraudulent votes” for Clinton) and his repeated personal attacks against his critics (including the likes of Meryl Streep, Neil Young, Whoopi Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson and John Oliver and dozens of lesser-known citizens.)

Faced with Danger, the Social Movements Close Ranks

The mostly autonomous social movements that characterize the U.S. political landscape soon realized the reality and gravity of the new situation: all of the three branches of government were now in the hands of the reactionary Republican Right of the Tea Party and the white nationalists. Faced with this obvious peril, they began to put aside identity-politics divisions and unite in order to prepare for a long struggle for survival. Let us summarize:

· The call for the Women’s March opened the breach and, as we have seen, the other movements soon joined in.

· The courageous resistance of the Standing Rock Indians and their allies’ against the oil companies and the violent North Dakota police served as a vanguard and won a temporary victory against the construction of a pipeline on their sacred lands.

· While street-level attacks on minorities increased in the wake of Trump’s electoral victory and the impunity of policemen murdering unarmed black men continued unabated, resistance among antiracist movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, the NAACP, the ACLU, black churches and cultural organizations solidified in defense of the civil rights won in the era of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

Same reaction in the sexual minority community (LGBT et al).

· Millions of immigrant families, mostly Latinos, already strongly persecuted by Obama (two millions deported, millions of women and children held in private jails), closed ranks and prepared for upcoming struggles. In solidarity, churches, cities and regions offered them “sanctuaries” and are refusing to cooperate with federal forces when deportations are attempted.

· The workers’ movement, partly seduced by Trump’s promises to create jobs and favor “American” (i.e. white) employment is now facing reality: Trump’s infrastructure plan is a fraud. [4] Now the movement is turning toward the low-wage, insecure, young and minority-group workers of the “precariat” pushing forward the class demand for a $15 minimum hourly wage.

· Artists, actors, musicians and writers – women and men – began to seize every public occasion to proclaim their resistance to Trump in the name of human solidarity and freedom of speech. Almost unanimously, they declined to participate in the Inauguration’s shows, reduced to country singers, patriotic songs, and bagpipe parades.

· While the Democrat elites kept on defending their disastrous choice of an unpopular elitist candidate, independent senator Bernie Sanders pursued his social-democratic crusade. Within the Democratic Party a young progressive vanguard was attempting to take control, proposing Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison — man of color and Muslim faith – as DNC chair.

· Finally, on both coasts, public authorities in various cities, regions and states declared their resistance. Mayors, governors and representatives promised to defend their habitats and inhabitants against the Trump government’s depredations by refusing to cooperate with Federal authorities. For instance California, proud of its statutes protecting the environment, just passed laws blocking Federal intervention to over-ride them. California has also declared it will provide paid legal assistance for immigrants arrested by the federal government, whereas administrators at every level are encouraging their employees to bureaucratically sabotage harmful orders coming from Washington! [5].

A United Front from Below

Thus, from week to week, this generalized resistance was getting organized and federating around the proposed January 21 march. Women, indigenous, ecologists, immigrants, black, poor workers, antimilitarists, civil rights advocates, students, ethnic, sexual and religious minorities (especially Muslims) were uniting, maintaining their specific demands while allying with those of other targeted groups. It developed into a genuine “united front against fascism” built from below by activists of previously rival social movements and joined by previously unorganized masses.

Obama, at the very last minute, tried to save his “legacy” (!) by pardoning the young whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. But nobody has forgotten the fact that Obama imprisoned more journalists than any other president, thus preparing the legal precedent for Trump’s declared war on the freedom of the press. In his moving farewell address, Obama praised the immigrants’ contribution to the nation. Thus the “deporter-in-chief” attempted to make amends and position himself as the possible spokesperson for the opposition in Washington. “Pathetic” as Trump would say.

Only the self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders emerged from the slime of the 2016 election debacle with his head held high. With all the talk the Russian’s promoting Trump through Wikileaks, the media have forgotten the content of those leaks: the shameful actions of the Democratic National Committee to sabotage Sanders’ wildly popular insurgent campaign in order to force the unpopular, shop-worn, pre-chosen, elitist candidate Clinton down peoples’ throats! The old Vermont Senator (an Independent, not even an actual Democrat) fights on alone in his camp, admired by all.

Perspectives

Thus, the magnificent mass demonstrations of January 21st in Washington, across the country and around the world were the actual demonstration of a generalized resistance against the seizure of power of an authoritarian, nationalist, racist, proto-fascist chief at the head of a crony-capitalist Cabinet of reactionary billionaires who want to eradicate the social progress of the past 50 years. If the spirit of these demonstrations spreads, if the movements’ unity strengthens, if this solidarity grows deeper and continues to organize, then this resistance will be truly historical.

But in what perspective? Clearly, the representatives of the various movements who marched and spoke out on January 21st hope to move from the defensive on to the offensive. As the renowned author and art critic John Berger wrote years ago:

Theoretically demonstrations are meant to reveal the strength of popular opinion or feeling: theoretically they are an appeal to the democratic conscience of the State. But this presupposes a conscience which is very unlikely to exist. […] The truth is that mass demonstrations are rehearsals for revolution: not strategic or even tactical ones, but rehearsals of revolutionary awareness. The delay between the rehearsals and the real performance may be very long […] but any demonstration which lacks this element of rehearsal is better described as an officially encouraged public spectacle.
[6]

Next installment: “The Nature and Composition of the Trump Regime”

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/22/us/politics/womens-march-trump-crowd-estimates.html
[2] https://www.thenation.com/article/welcome-to-the-fight/See also : https://www.laprogressive.com/how-democrats-lost/
[3] https://www.laprogressive.com/elites-support-trump/
[4] Trump’s infrastructure public works projects, like his hotels, are fraudulent enterprises designed to enrich Trump and his cronies by employing foreign workers and not even paying them. Trump wants to target foreign workers and governments (Mexicans, Chinese) as scapegoats in order to pacify unemployed U.S. workers. Actually, U.S. capitalism’s productive output (and profits) have grown over the past few year. Indeed, automation is responsible for cutting jobs much more than outsourcing.
[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/california-strikes-a-bold-pose-as-vanguard-of-the-resistance.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0
[6] http://www.redwedgemagazine.com/online-issue/the-nature-of-mass-demonstrations

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