On the Rise of Donald Trump... And the Need for and Possibility of Real Revolution
Two: Trump has pulled together a section of the fascist movement in America in a much more visible and aggressive way. He is organizing those whose feel left out and “disrespected,” who have been taught that their white skin and American identity make them special but who don’t “feel special” anymore, and who blame it on those they have been taught to despise as being “beneath them” in society. This sense of frustrated “white male entitlement” runs deep in the marrow of white America; it is openly played on by the Republicans and “politely respected” (while being played on its own way) by the Democrats—and now Trump has taken it to a whole other level. He is aiming these angry people at immigrants, at Black people—against, in short, the most oppressed; he is aiming them against “foreigners” and “the different,” and in particular against all Muslims: and he is aiming them against anyone who would refuse to go along with the crimes of this system or who even dares differ with Trump. He stirs “his people” up with a vision of America rampaging, murdering, and openly torturing all around the world—open, crude, unapologetic gangsterism, as opposed to the “refined” gangsterism of Obama. His rallies are not complete without some of his minions mobbing and beating up anyone who would dare to raise a voice against this, to the raucous cheers of the mob that Trump has summoned. And should anyone criticize Trump online, he has millions of followers who, piranha-like, create a “virtual mob” to go after them.
In doing this, Trump has swept in many people who may not be dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries, but whose dissatisfaction and yearnings, coupled with their naiveté and even more than that the historic advantage and status afforded them as “white people” in America, make them susceptible to Trump’s appeal—which makes him all the more dangerous.
All this and what it says about the larger society, even if there were nothing else (and there is plenty else), concentrates the need for a real revolution.
The Makings of a Crisis in LegitimacyBut there is more. Third, Trump has seriously exacerbated the ongoing legitimacy crisis in the way that the American empire is ruled. “Legitimacy” refers to the way in which people very broadly, in normal times, perceive the rules by which the system runs—and the armed force that is used to back up those rules—as being “legitimate.” They may object and protest when these rules seem to be bent, or violated, by those in power, but in normal times they mainly accept the rules themselves. However, when these rules begin to be questioned and violated by those who hold power, when those in power fall out in disagreement over what the rules should be, when the rules do not seem to work, when the working of the rules becomes so odious that people are driven to resist, or when acts of resistance call the rules into question... people may begin, on a mass scale, to question the very rules themselves. Where did these rules come from in the first place, and who and what do they serve? When people in their millions are wondering about this, these questions become very dangerous indeed for the ruling class.
For some time now, there has been fierce contention between two groupings in the ruling class, more or less centered in the Democratic and Republican Parties, precisely over forging new “legitimating norms,” or rules. This contention has gone on for two decades now and takes many different forms—right now, the very sharp and unprecedented fight over whether Obama will be allowed to exercise his constitutional duty to nominate another Supreme Court justice is one example. But at bottom is a fight over what will be the “legitimating norms”—the cohering consensus of the “rules” of society—in a time of great change and upheaval.
The system as a whole faces multiple crises on different fronts—the globalization and “turbo-charging” of the world economy, which has led to the hollowing out of the domestic industrial base and the downgrading of the living standards of tens of millions of people, accompanied by an extraordinarily pronounced income inequality... the fracturing international situation, with a direct challenge to the U.S. (and Western Europe) mounted by the fundamentalist Islamic jihadist forces but also coming from other rivals... the tumultuous changes in the role of women, economically and culturally, especially in relation to the family... and changes in the “racial” makeup of America—the increasing necessity to rely on immigrant labor coupled with the actual removal of millions of African-Americans out of the labor force, and the institution of a genocidal system of mass incarceration... and the intensifying ecological crisis. There is widespread alienation and a feeling, among many different sections of people, that the system is not working and the rules are not being applied fairly.
The Center—Can It Hold?Here the observations and analysis in the article “The Center—Can It Hold? The Pyramid as Two Ladders,” from the pamphlet The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, by Bob Avakian (BA), are very relevant. BA writes that “when a legitimacy crisis occurs, when the ‘glue’ that holds society together begins to come undone, and there is an attempt to forge a new ruling consensus, then it is acutely posed whether that attempt to forge a new ruling consensus (a new ‘social glue,’ so to speak) is going to hold and work.”
Faced with this, the Democrats have in the main gone for a more “multicultural” approach. They pay lip service to and attempt to recast and channel the struggles of the different oppressed nationalities that have been historically severely discriminated against to allow room for some small sections to advance, while locking the majority into even more desperate conditions (for example, the “welfare reform” cuts and mass imprisonment carried out under the first Clinton regime). They generally prefer to wrap their military aggression in “soft power” and alliances overseas while continuing to carry out vicious war crimes by drone and wage really savage wars through proxies like Saudi Arabia. They make some reforms in the “social safety net” in a “business friendly” way, even while presiding over draconian cuts overall.
Those mainly grouped around the Republicans have opted for the openly aggressive use of military power AND the building up of a fascist base within the U.S. around the imposition of fundamentalist Christian beliefs and values, a cult of the military, and a much more unrestrained capitalism, which has included the further gutting of the unions. In this dynamic, the Republicans have for decades been far more aggressive, and the Democrats have over and over sought to conciliate with them—while the Republicans have denied the very legitimacy of the last two Democratic presidents.
Right now, each of these groups has encountered problems in the current electoral campaign. This finds expression within the Democrats in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, running on a platform of a “people’s revolution,” and as a “democratic socialist” who professes his aim to bring people into the electoral process in the form of the Democratic Party. Never mind that his candidacy is NOT a people’s revolution, nor is he a socialist, and that getting people to put on the straitjacket of the Democratic Party (even a supposedly slightly roomier straitjacket) will make it impossible to actually confront and solve the problems facing humanity.
But these problems are much sharper in the Republican Party. The main forces in this party find themselves going up against the person leading in the nomination fight in a way that has not happened in living memory. To be clear: Trump has, from the beginning, been backed by larger forces; he is not quite the “independent actor” he poses as. The wall-to-wall coverage he has gotten since last summer—which until recently was quite respectful—is not simply explained by “ratings.” But right now the main forces in the Republican Party have indeed grouped up against Trump in a rather unprecedented way.
For years, the Republicans have used the very same themes with the very same people that Trump is now ringing with such success. In fact, Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz, is himself an extreme fascist, many of whose positions are even more reactionary than Trump’s. Cruz also is fighting with Trump for the Christian fascists—Trump has a significant hunk of these, but has also expanded this base to other sections and has been welding all this together under his command, which is part of the particular threat he poses overall, and part of the threat to Republicans—but also part of why people like the Republican governor and former candidate Chris Christie are drawn to Trump.
But the fact that all these Republicans, and the party as a whole, have based themselves on these themes is why, once they perceived him as a possible threat, they had no real way to counter him (at least at first). When they attack him for being a racist apologist for the Klan... when they attack him for being a hater of women (a misogynist)... well, it rings hollow, because this is what their whole party has relied upon, this has been at the very core of their appeal. The more this goes on, and the more the underlying dynamics are dragged into the light, the more people may wonder why this racist, chauvinist, fascist party has been viewed as legitimate at all. They may wonder why the Democrats have not only sought to cooperate with the Republicans, but have bent over backward to conciliate with them. Who and what does this serve? Which class and what class interests?
Conversely, if Trump is put down by the Republican establishment, how would his base respond to that? Already, the militia movement and similar groups are all over the Trump thing—they don’t even conceive of the current government as legitimate. What then if those in charge violate their own rules to deny Trump the nomination? They may, to be sure, be able to do this in a way that discredits Trump among the people he has up to now called forward, and do so without real damage to themselves. But they may not, either.
As BA also said in this same series (“The Danger of the Christian Fascists and the Challenges This Poses”), “you can’t keep making promises to these forces, as the Republican Party does—you can’t keep making promises and then leave them unfulfilled.” Trump has exposed and taken advantage of the fact that the section of the ruling class grouped around the Republicans has not, over decades, really “delivered” to this base. The vaunted American military has been defeated or bogged down all over the world by foes who are much weaker militarily. Black people have not only NOT been “put in their place,” they have in the past few years led a huge questioning of American racism and the streets have been filled, at different times, with all kinds of people uniting and putting it on the line against racist police murder.
And even though Obama in fact is nothing but an instrument—in fact, the commander-in-chief—of this very same empire, for the people in this hard core Republican base the very idea of a Black man in authority—let alone president—is totally intolerable and illegitimate. And there’s more: gay people, rather than being ostracized and cast out, have been much more accepted, with the Supreme Court even granting the right of marriage equality. And while, yes, they have continued to hammer at women, and have taken away the right to abortion from millions, this doesn’t satisfy these followers of patriarchy; further, if the Supreme Court rules against the savage, woman-hating new abortion restrictions in Texas and other states that are now coming up for review, these people will be highly inflamed. Finally, there have been the ongoing serious cuts in the living standards of tens of millions that we referred to above, which form a backdrop and underpinning of all this.
The Rise of a Would-Be American HitlerTrump now comes and claims to redeem these frustrated promises. He aims to cohere a section of the longtime Christian fascists, with newer people who share many of the same feelings of resentment and rage, ultimately based on white American entitlement.
The implications loom very large, even as things are still in a great deal of flux. If Trump wins the nomination, then this movement would likely be further unleashed, with extremely ugly consequences in every part of society. If Trump becomes president, this would reach a whole other dimension, with Trump himself then moving to implement the program he has run on.
And what if those in the ruling class who perceive Trump as a threat, and are now—after letting him build himself up for months, after promoting him during those same months—attacking him... what if they succeed in derailing his quest for the Republican nomination? Well, they would have a problem: What do they do with this movement that has now cohered around him? It is not clear in that case what either Trump, or the people he has drawn around him, would do.
Further, this situation could increasingly pose problems for the Democrats as well. For instance, what if a section of the people stoked up by Trump is either disappointed by him being denied the nomination or, alternatively, is emboldened by his winning it, and escalates their violence against the people whom the Democrats consider “their base”? The Democrats continually conciliate with the fascists—what if they do so again, and refuse to lead people to confront this... when there are people in a mood to do so?
These are the type of things that those who make the decisions in the American empire might have to confront: What would cause more instability and harm for their interests, as they perceive them?
What to Do and How to Proceed in the Face of this Fascist ThreatWhatever immediately happens, the times are becoming heavier. There will be repression. The current polarization—in which tens of millions of people are looking for a way out, but see their alternatives as being between fascists like either Trump or Cruz, and the Democrats (including the supposedly “radical alternative” of Sanders)—is NOT good, and left to itself would lead to disaster. There must be RE-polarization for revolution—and this must be wrenched out of the current situation. There will NOT be any easy road to something better.
There is, and there must be more, resistance to this—not in the form of voting for a Democrat—but building on the kind of thing you see already in people going into these Trump rallies and calling him out. But the most important thing we have to understand is this: The turmoil at the top of society right now... the emergence of political figures who aim to change how the people are ruled, in possibly dramatic and extremely disruptive ways... the fighting amongst the rulers over what to do about this... opens new possibilities, and new necessity, to expose the system that has spawned this and to build a magnetic pole around an organized force that represents a real alternative: real revolutionary hope on a solid scientific foundation. All this taken together is part of a process that could create an opening in which a force that is going for revolution, and willing and able to lead people to do that, can make tremendous gains and possibly even open up the chance to go for it all. That is, to lead millions to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
This is not the only possible outcome, nor is it necessarily something that would grow one-two-three out of the present situation. But revolution will NOT be made in a ready-made, easy-bake situation; it will necessarily involve turmoil, upheaval, and advancing in the face of sharp repression. The point is to analyze, grasp, and work on those possibilities now.
The complexities of that... all the challenges that would pose... all that is beyond what we are going to get into in this article or this issue. But we DO have an article guiding you into the works of Bob Avakian, who has developed a whole way of scientifically understanding this kind of social upheaval and how extremely dangerous situations can be seized on, with the right kind of leadership, to make huge gains. How to apply those principles will be very much on our site and in our pages over the next months, as this unfolds. And you, our readers, have a definite role to play in getting into these works, and writing in with your thinking provoked by them.
Right now, though, some things that CAN and MUST be said about what the rise of Trump, even now, means for those working for revolution:
It means, most of all, getting out to people that there is a REAL and NECESSARY alternative to all of this: revolution. This means, right now and in the coming months, seizing on the highly charged atmosphere to get BA out to millions—his way of understanding the world, the vision of a new society he’s developed (concretized in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America), and the strategy to accomplish this. And this includes, as part of this, going out to those attracted to Sanders’ message and winning them to see that what we face cannot be dealt with in the terms Sanders is proposing—this is, as we said recently, an illusion... a “wisp of painless progress.”
It means preparing ourselves, the movement for revolution, and the people to deal with the much more repressive atmosphere already being unleashed, and the heightened repressive measures and actions that now loom with the ascendancy of Trump (and which, whatever happens to Trump, his candidacy is creating public opinion and organization for). This means very much building a wall of support around BA—based on people understanding what he is all about and coming to respect and love him on that basis.
This is extremely important. Without a REAL alternative, people will remain locked on the same deadly treadmill they now find themselves on.
It means getting out among the people and showing very vividly how Trump actually embodies what America stands for and does not in any fundamental way go against it, and that the solution is not to return to the illusion of “America’s democratic traditions,” nor to throw our energies into electing a Democrat as some kind of defense, but to actually fight to get rid of a system that produces no end of Trumps, Reagans, and, yes, Clintons, once and for all. It means getting out both to those opposing Trump and to those who are currently seduced by him but whose most fundamental interests and aspirations can only be met by communist revolution and who, through struggle, can be won to see that. The basis to do this and to succeed in doing it lies in the contradictions of this social system and what it gives rise to, in so many different ways—and that Trump is not an anomaly, or some weird exception, but a concentration of this social system at a time of crisis.
It means getting revcom.us and Revolution newspaper way out there into society. In a time like this, when people are unusually hungry to understand what is going on and what to do about it, this website and paper must truly be, as BA has called for, “the guide, the pivot, the crucial tool in drawing forward, orienting, training, and organizing thousands, and influencing millions—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution—hastening and preparing for the time when we can go for the whole thing, with a real chance to win.” And it means this on a whole other level.
It means continuing to mobilize people to fight the power, both to tap into the righteous anger and defiance that people do feel toward Trump, reaching out to and joining with those who disrupt his rallies and, at the same time and even more important, continuing to fight—and to draw more people into the fight—against police terror and other forms of the oppression of Black and Brown people... against the oppression of women and, right now, the vicious attempts to deny tens of millions of women the right to abortion... against the demonization of immigrants... the wars... and the plunder of the environment.
In short, these are times of danger... and times of great opportunity. Prepare to rise to the challenge before us.