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Issue #1758      November 23, 2016

Taking Issue – Rob Gowland

The Fascist in the White House

In the words of shocked American writer and broadcaster John Knefel, writing in the progressive journal Truthout, “The unimaginable has happened. The Nightmare Scenario, that thing that seemed impossible, has come to pass. The United States has played Russian roulette with itself and lost. It is difficult to find the words to capture just how profoundly awful this outcome is. Trump ran on a promise of deporting 15 million people and banning Muslims from entering the country ...

“This country now has a white supremacist as its president. ... There is no question who Trump is, and there never has been. To his accidental credit, Trump was incapable of hiding his sexist, racist, xenophobic impulses. He showed them to America, and the country said ‘yes’. ...

“He ran on an ethno-chauvinist platform that always intentionally excluded people of colour from the basic promises of society, by definition. ... A vast number of the people who populate the United States want to be led by a white supremacist.”

Trump is not just a white supremacist. As I have said before, Trump is undeniably a fascist. That does not mean, however, that the USA will become a fascist state when he moves into the White House – at least, not immediately.

Fascism as a system is the open, terroristic dictatorship of finance capital and the biggest corporate interests. It is a system capitalism resorts to if, and only if, it believes itself to be in grave danger from possible Red revolution.

Fascism requires capitalism to drop its genteel mask of upholding democratic rights and the rule of law. Mass imprisonment, torture and judicial murder become the order of the day. But the very act of trying to crush the people’s resistance to tyranny generates more resistance. Productivity declines and the economy inevitably lurches towards war.

Capitalism has no problem with war but finds coping with the disruption, resistance, and sabotage that accompanies a fascist police state an expensive inconvenience. “Western democracy” suits its purpose much better under normal circumstances, giving people the illusion that they actually decide who runs the country.

In fact, the ruling class usually provides a “choice” between two parties – in Australia, Labor and Liberal, in the USA Democrats and Republicans – that vie with each other to serve ruling class interests. Labor and the Democrats try to be more humane than their opponents, never threatening the system but tinkering with the edges.

Even this tinkering arouses the ire of the extreme right-wing. Obamacare, the very tentative health insurance scheme that President Obama was able to get past the US Congress, has been roundly condemned by numerous right-wing groups and commentators in America as the dreaded Socialism! And Socialism, as everybody knows, must be a very bad thing.

In the minds of a great many Americans – certainly all those who voted for Trump – Socialism is a system that stifles individual initiative, in which private enterprise is actually prohibited, and everyone is told what to do by an all-powerful and remote government. Most importantly, they know that it doesn’t work. That it can’t work, in fact. Curiously, they are at the same time afraid of it.

And yet, they have only to look around them to see that capitalism very definitely isn’t working. In the so-called “rust belt”, the former manufacturing states of the American mid-west, states that hitherto were strongholds of the Democratic Party under the influence of organised labour, have seen their industries move to low-wage countries, their towns and cities fall into decay, joblessness and homelessness grow exponentially.

Bernie Sanders campaigned for the Democratic Party’s nomination on a platform variously defined as Socialism or Democratic Socialism, offering everyone a living wage, free education and free and universal health care. The Sanders campaign pledged never to wage “wars of aggression in foreign parts” or to “outsource jobs to Third World kleptocracies”.

Sanders and his team also promised to reverse privatisation, not to “allow cops to wage war on the poor”, not to use prisons as “for profit slave labour” and “not to allow monopolies”.

Bernie Sanders is a social democrat, and his program did not threaten the fundamentals of capitalism in the USA. Nevertheless, in the American political scene, this was a very radical – even revolutionary – program and it resonated with millions of Democrat members and supporters, especially with the youth. Not quite enough, however, to win the party’s nomination in a very unfairly weighted ballot.

Hillary Clinton, who had the backing of the big business establishment, won the nomination over Sanders. Clinton had nothing to offer the people of the rust belt states. They had always voted Democrat and apparently the Clinton team assumed they always would. This time they didn’t.

With nothing on offer from Clinton, they turned to her rival, a demagogue proudly posing as a “maverick”, a rabble-rouser offering vague promises to “make America great again”. The industries that had gone off-shore would in some unspecified way be brought back; the people who had no work would be given work. The jobs that had disappeared because bosses could make more money sending their jobs to low wage countries were now deemed to have disappeared because illegal (“undocumented”) immigrants had taken them! Trump promised to deport 15 million undocumented immigrants.

However, as I said at the beginning of this article, Trump’s election does not mean that the USA will impose fascism immediately, or ever in fact. Comparisons have been drawn between Trump and Hitler, with good reason. Hitler too was elected to power – in 1933 – we should remember. Hitler also promised to make Germany great again, to restore all the jobs that had been lost in the Great Depression, to rid the country of non-Germans who were somehow taking their jobs.

But Germany in 1933 had a large and powerful Communist Party, which really did threaten the continued rule of capitalism in the country. The alarmed capitalist ruling class turned to fascism to save them from Communism, and the Nazi rabble-rouser Hitler was the means they chose.

Bernie Sanders poses no threat to capitalism in the USA (to some individual capitalists, perhaps, but not to the system itself). The ruling class in the USA can continue to rely on bourgeois democracy to exert its class rule. It has no need of fascism.

Despite that, however, with a fascist in the White House, Americans can confidently expect various anti-democratic and anti-people phenomena to suddenly become more commonplace. Expect assaults by police on popular demonstrations to increase greatly, especially demonstrations by Black or Hispanic Americans.

As progressive commentator William Rivers Pitt observed in Truthout, “Mr Trump moulded his entire campaign around hate, vengeance and violence. In doing so, he unleashed a monstrous tide.

“The people who pummelled protesters and elderly women wearing oxygen tanks, who screamed ‘Lock her up’ while wearing shirts that read ‘Grab her by the pussy’ at rallies, and who menaced people of colour who were trying to vote – they are his true master now. Nobody fears the Brownshirts more than their leader, because he is all too aware of what they are capable of doing.

“If Donald Trump does not follow his oft-repeated program to the letter, if he does not attempt to imprison Hillary Clinton for daring to challenge him, work to obliterate the Affordable Care Act, move to de-fund Planned Parenthood, strive to revoke the hard-won rights of LGBTQ Americans, try to build a wall along the Mexican border, attempt to deport more than 10 million people, try to ban all Muslims from entering the country, advocate for imposing even more surveillance and policing on Black communities, punish women for having an abortion, torture the innocent – if he does not do these things, it’s entirely possible that the dogs he let slip from the leash will turn on him ... and he knows it.”

Pitt also noted: “To see the harm a true fanatic can do, one need look no further than the George W Bush administration. Torture and any number of other cruelties were carried out in the name of protecting freedom. That the population at large never reckoned with these policies was just a side benefit. Trump, for his part, has promised to bring back waterboarding and worse. He has also pledged to kill the families of suspected terrorists.”

Trump is a staunch denier (or derider) of climate change. He has promised to revive the coal industry and will gut or even shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. Expect to see a rush to expand drilling for oil in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, at the time of writing, the most likely appointee for Secretary of the Interior (the Administration person responsible for things like the environment) is an oil company executive!

Trump will not solve any of the problems that afflict the American people. He will not “make America great again”. He will no doubt expand its aggressiveness even further however, in pursuit of that illusive “greatness”. Progressive American opinion is rightly appalled by the prospect of what is in store for them and their country. In the words of Brooklyn-based writer and broadcaster John Knefel, “Americans are confronted now with the real issue of resistance. We have to resist.”

We have also already seen signs of a very welcome resistance to the potential Trump agenda. There were even protests rejecting Trump as President outside the White House the day after the election – by young people, in the main. That resistance points the way to the future in the USA.

Next article – Washington’s “Pivot” – A debacle unfolding

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