24th December 2021
Editors Note: The following was posted on Facebook as three seperate posts. We feel it is an important contribution to the debate on the fascist threat in the US among Marxists and deserves a wider audience. We published with permission of the author. Minor changes have been made for flow and privacy reasons.
Post #1 – The task of opposing MAGA whilst rejecting lesser evilism
A respected contributor to this page recently wrote: “Biden keeps DeJoy on board. Remind me again why he’s better than Trump?”
We have had repeated statements like this above…. every time the current establishment-Democrat administration does some new imperialist crime, or pursues some well-identified reactionary policy.
This time, I’ll bite.
Starting here: I really think (for an audience of reds) that this is a pretty lame strawman.
Did anyone here really believe that Biden (like previous Dem administrations) wouldn’t pursue war crimes, drone-strikes, deportations, reactionary policies, etc.?
Sure, I’ve met a lot of LIBERALS who thought Biden (as such) was “better than” Trump (or any other Republican).
And sure, when we explained to such mainstream liberals who Biden actually WAS throughout his career (border state segregationist in 1970s, aggressive promoter of coded “anti-crime” bills through the 1980s, father of mass incarceration in the 1990s, pro-war imperialist on a series of criminal aggressions…. etc. etc.) their answer often came back:
“Don’t waste your time explaining all that to me. I’d vote for a scurrying alley-rat over Trump.”
But isn’t it a cheap shot to assume that many of us HERE (who are raising this alarm over fascist dangers) are merely making some tired liberal “lesser evil” claims?
Here, in a room full of socialists and communists, thought BIDEN (as a figure, a career pig) was “better” in the sense that he wouldn’t be a typical U.S. imperialist of an intolerable reactionary kind? The very kind we have exposed, fought, opposed, undermined and rejected all our lives?
OUR argument has had to do with the PARTICULAR way that the MAGA movement has been moving AGAINST that previous imperialist social and political order. (Not against capitalism, but the previous structural norms of politics and social life.)
The argument is that there is something new and different about this MAGA rising.
And our argument is that there are ways in which a future, rightwing, authoritarian, violently repressive dictatorship would radically WORSEN conditions for socialist political preparations (and, obviously, worsen conditions for many millions of people).
The real question has been:
What do you do when the hated mainstream imperialist political establishment is suddenly challenged by powerful, energized, very serious forces on the much-more-extreme right?
What do serious revolutionaries do, when such forces start to grow, restructure, train, infiltrate and mobilize — to influence the defining norms of society and (step by step) start to take over major chunks of state power?
It is a classic question of fascist dangers. (Even though we should avoid dribbling off into another sterile semantic discussion over what exactly defines fascism.)
And it is a recognition that SOME sharp turns within bourgeois politics can be very hard for revolutionary-liberatory politics to recover from.
And this is especially true, if the change demanded contains a real overt preparation for violent purging (“Day of the Rope,” “lock ’em up!” hundreds of armed paramilitary units, etc.)
* * * * * * * * * *
The main responses I’ve seen (here, among radicals) divide into two opposing summations:
* One (essentially) denies that Trump’s MAGA-rise represents as serious hostile challenge to the existing imperialist political and social order. (In my inner mumblings, I call that the “pooh-pooh thesis.”)
Some, for example, even mock the idea that January 6 represented a crude early attempt (and dress rehearsal) for an election-negating, coup-like seizure of power.
* The other view seeks to both oppose the dominant capitalist-imperialist order (and strain to overthrow it), WHILE ALSO, in effective short-term ways, seeking to help thwart the MAGA movement from having its way.
And more: It is worth asking ourselves if the mass sentiment to stop, neutralize and disperse the MAGA movement may not (itself) offer possible way of bringing millions into political life and OUT OF familiar subordination to bourgeois politics.
* * * * * * * * *
There have always been faux “lefties” who are defined by their permanent “lesser evil” argument.
The CPUSA have made this into a defining doctrine since 1936. They’ve always been “the boy who cried wolf” — because EVERY election (for them) supposedly involved an immediate danger from the “ultra-right.” -And that practice has moved them fully into the camp of “just one more bourgeois political variant.”
We all know about the social democrats who are “Rainbow” dabbling within left liberal Democratic party circles (using blurred-and-overlapping justifications like “inside-outside,” “lesser evil,” “liberal” misrepresented as progressive, etc.)
The argument about THIS moment can’t be rejected — just because SEEMINGLY similar arguments WERE bullshit in PREVIOUS moments.
And those raising an alarm over MAGA (including me) can’t simply be chalked up to “former anti-electoral die-hards finally taking that tired reformist plunge.”
There IS something quite novel, hyper-militant, growing, determined and consolidated about THIS MAGA political up-swelling (and its fusion with high-level bourgeois support).
This is not confined to the lurky fringes (like the John Birch Society, or the Klan, racist skins, or the 1950s Minutemen, or the German-American Bund, or….).
* * * * * * * * *
So if you want to discuss this controversy, let’s at least deal with the REAL issues.
The question for most people here was never “We expect and promise qualitatively ‘better’ policies from Biden.”
It was always:
“If a MAGA-remaking of U.S. society is a real danger (under Trump, or a more competent successor), then how do we help prevent that dangerous change WITHOUT abandoning our strategic targeting of this whole imperialist system (with all its various political, military, police, intellectual defenders)?”
Post #2 -Task two: How should Marxists intervene into the clash between fascism and bourgeois democracy
IN our ongoing debate over the meaning of MAGA, several people have listed the many crimes of Democratic imperialists. All of these crimes are real and intolerable. And if the point is that Obama, Clinton and Biden are all imperialists — who carry out vicious reactionary policies to protect U.S. capitalism — well then there would not be much to argue about.
But this list of Democratic imperialist crimes is being reassembled HERE in order to claim that there is nothing distinctive or unusual or strategically relevant about the startlingly rapid Trumpian takeover of the Republican party.
And THAT argument is pretty seriously mistaken.
I have seen it argued (repeatedly):
* That there is nothing fascist about the MAGA movement (an argument that rests on an oddly narrow 1930s definition of “fascism” — so that we get mired in semantics.)
* That the January 6 Capital events was not an attempted coup (focused on forcefully disrupting and overturning the 2020 election results).
* That there is nothing particularly different between Trump’s MAGA and previous reactionary-conservatives (like Reagan, or Goldwater, etc.)
I’m going to argue that there is something quite different and even unprecedented in this capture of the Republican party by quite militant, frantic, determined fascist forces (who are also, simultaneously, from on high, encouraging heavily armed neo-nazi formations that are escalating their campaigns of terrorist attacks at the grassroots).
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Biden, Obama, the Bushes and even Reagan all conducted their reactionary attacks on the people from within the framework of bourgeois democracy (and its elaborate “rule of law.”) Their class built that political system and its concentric framing rings of tradition, law and structure.
And it is very very rare that this existing system of politics has ever been challenged from the right — with the open intention of restructuring, remaking those norms. Until now.
And the deep hostility the MAGA exhibits (including its ruling class sponsors and leaders) toward the existing status quo is a key marker that something very unusual has arisen. Something that arises from and in many ways shapes the extremely unpredictable nature of this conjunctural moment.
* * * * * * * *
Within the U.S., the bourgeoisie (including for a century after it became imperialist) has operated quite comfortably within its own system of bourgeois democracy.
As part of that system, it has carried out brutal repression and violence in countless routine ways (including internally)…. but it has remained, overall, a electoral system resting on a structure of laws.
There have been some exceptions. General MacArthur toyed with the idea of a strongman takeover (after Truman sacked him) — but couldn’t muster enough high level military support. And certainly the regional Jim Crow system was never “bourgeois democratic” in many ways.
But, the point remains: The difference between fascism and bourgeois democracy isn’t somehow that fascists carried out oppression and violence, and the bourgeois democratic rulers don’t.
That is a common, but false, liberal view — that, in deeply flawed ways, is deliberately blind to the bourgeois DICTATORSHIP that is inherent, fundamental and defining of all CAPITALIST state systems (including bourgeois democracy).
The fascist challenge is, by contrast, a radical rightwing demand to remake the existing status quo — it represents an un-mooring of powerful forces from the dominant bourgeois democratic system in the U.S.
And this emergence is rooted in a larger set of historical problems (faced by the ruling class now) that suggests (to some of them) that they can no longer just rule in the old way.
There arises WITHIN bourgeois politics a radical challenge to the dominant and historic way of “doing business” — and with that a demand for a series of structural and ideological changes in how the U.S. is politically and socially organized internally.
* Challenges to the rule of law (including a long list of court precedents),
* Open disdain for the electoral system — especially if demographic changes threaten to produce sequential country-level political defeats for the MAGA-types
* A encouragement of armed extralegal vigilanteeism (to a degree not seen since Reconstruction and the bloody 1920s), and
* A demand for forceful transformation of ethnic demographics in the U.S. — by ending non-white immigration, by driving out tens of millions of Latin American immigrants (all to preserve a permanent white majority, and impose a violent reaffirmation of white supremacy).
* * * * * ** * * *
My argument rests, in part, on the observation that this degree of fascist challenge (to the U.S. bourgeois democratic status quo) is relatively unprecedented.
Yes, Trump is not merely today’s Reagan or Goldwater. The political goals of his MAGA movement is qualitatively more marked by a sneering rejection of the existing political norms than anything that previously dominated the Republican party.
The two main parties are (yes) equally imperialist, equally dedicated to capitalism, and certainly they are both deeply stained with the blood they have spilled all over the world.
THAT’s not the issue. Even if some keep acting as if it is the only issue.
But we are facing a highly “polarized” bourgeous political terrain in which radically different vision for future (capitalist) America are colliding.
And we need to break that down and understand its implications for communist anti-system strategies.
I’m not making an argument for subordinating (or even allying) the communist movement with the Democratic imperialist establishment. (Even if, that is the recurring kneejerk claim by those who don’t understand what is happening.)
It is, simply, a recognition that something quite new and dangerous has arisen within bourgeois politics — with a great deal of desperate energy and with the determined support of tens of millions of white people. This is a seismic political shift that is not going away — until it is neutralized and defeated.
One way or another, this MAGA challenge to existing bourgeois political norms will (under one leadership, or another, or perhaps under serveral rival leaderships) deeply mark the politics, landscape and struggles of the next decade.
* * * * ** * * * * * * * *
In the U.S. in particular, the fascist currents have (previously, historically) been confined to a significant-but-unempowered wing of the Republican Party and to the regional Southern Dixicrats.
Within the modern Republicans, there has always been a section that believed that significant sections of the Democratic party (i.e. its liberal and social democratic currents) should be criminalized and suppressed as defacto “communists.”
These forces have (generally) been carefully subordinated to the geopolitics of the “Republican establishment.”
They were periodically unleashed as instruments of imperialist power (Oliver North, Curtis LeMay, Joe McCarthy).
But even Ronald Reagan’s militant conservatism was well confined within the quite traditional framework of his minder(s) (Howard Baker, George Bush 1, Jim Baker etc.) — rather than launching a serious, determined challenge on the existing U.S. political norms.
* * * * * * * * * *
In short, we are witnessing something new arising from within (and against!) the mainstream norms and structures of U.S. politics.
It is conjunctural in the sense that U.S. imperialism is facing as serious crisis in the way its system is functioning:
* Because of its decline on the world stage,
* Because a stable white majority is now at an end,
* Because of the rustbelt undermining of previous forms of bourgeoisification, etc.
The public sphere of discussion (within the system) has shifted from fretting over a sterile “stalemate” in the power structure, to a deep concern over the entrenched unresolvable “polarized” state of their politics, and (increasingly) to speculation over whether the rightwing threats of “civil war” are credible (and even prophetic).
In short, we are seeing a conjunctural fascist movement arising with great power, contending WITHIN “mainstream” U.S. bourgeois politics. It is consciously seeking overall power.
And none of us know how this historic inner-bourgeois political struggle will be resolved.
But we do know that the issues being fought over (immigration, women’s reproductive rights, new formal obstacles to voting, theocratic anti-science intrusions, etc.) DO AND WILL affect the masses of people (even though the Democratic establishment is obviously not representing the interests of the people in that fight.) And we also know that the masses of people already perceive that their own futures are bound up with how this political conflict unravels.
What WE have to decide (in discussions like this) is how revolutionary and communist forces can operate, survive and grow (!) within that “polarized” fight.
Will the political landscape remain two-sided (forcing the people to pick one or the other of the imperialist camps)….?
Or can we help a new liberation politics emerge as a powerful attractive pole within the intensifying and unresolved conflict(s)?
Post #3 Why January 6th was a coup attempt and how fascists come to power
Another contributor co-wrote a comment below a nearby post that denies there is any fascist nature to the Trump movement, and claims to know (!) that nothing particularly disturbing will happen if Trump regains power.
Sentence by sentence, I disagree on every point that they make.
And I think it is worthwhile to dig into their arguments and conclusions.
* * * * * * * * *
They write: “If, as seems increasingly likely, Trump is reelected in 2024, that would merely be the first Trump administration all over again. “
They can’t possibly know that. And the evidence suggest they are wrong.
I suggest that everyone listen to Steve Bannon’s remarkable lectures on how MAGA should prepare for Trump stage 2:
- Train and implant a new level of hardened cadre,
- Take control of the election verification centers in swing states,
- Refrain from reinserting old RINO types in key posts of any new administration,
- Aggressively dismantle the “deep state” and the “administrative state” in a new systematic way.etc.
You will see that there is a significant plan circulating in distribution for something radically new after 2024 — just as there was a high-level plan for retaining Trump’s power that was in motion for January 6.
* * * * * * * * * *
The contributor writes ” [Trump’s first administration] wasn’t fascism or anything like it. “
This argument misunderstands both my analysis and the reality of those first four years.
Trump’s first four years weren’t fascism, yet .
The U.S. can have an ASPIRING fascist in power, and a growing, metamorphing, self-radicalizing fascist movement backing him — without the overall society being fascism….. YET!
Significant highly placed fascist forces can be frantically attempting to push “the ball” toward the endzone without getting there this time, yet.
In fact, isn’t that often how it works?
Hitler came to power by appointment in January 1933.
But the establishment and consolidation of his new corporate-fascist order was (necessarily and inevitably) a protracted process with numerous nodal points.
That process kicked off with Hitler’s appointment, but then kicked IN with the Reichstag fire.
That shock event enabled the Nazi coup de main, its mass arrest of communists, its criminalization of other parties — and then a larger social order evolving step by step over time, through Gleichschaltung, protracted purge processes, Nuremburg Race Laws (by 1935), youth militarization, isolation-then-round-up of Jews and more.
Hitler’s 1933 stormtroopers didn’t “storm” the parliament building with weapons, right? Not even with clubs.
Further, General Franco came to power through a military coup attempt — that split the country, and produced a protracted civil war. His new clerico-fascist order was imposed after victory.
Unlike some here, I don’t assume any “classic” mode of operation. There is far too much assumption about “classic forms” and typical motion.
By contrast, there is a lot of variation, diversity, accident, and particularity in how things happen.
I don’t assume that a future American fascist transition will necessarily resemble any previous one…. or even end up in a closely similar place….
Neither universally common means or identical final end states are pre-determined by necessity — or required by communist theory. (And that goes for socialism and communism — as well as for fascism.)
But the rise of power of fascists and the emergence of a whole fascist order are two separate moments of a possible process (and they may be thwarted at numerous points, given the right conditions).
I’m arguing that Trump marshalled and helped transformed the “Tea Party” forces, in steps and stages, toward a fascist movement (while also winning the loyalty of diverse neo-Nazi and militia grouplets.)
You can see the progression of changes: A movement that started proclaiming itself “constitutionalists,” was found four years later seeking to overturn an election, disperse congress’s rubberstamp on the electoral college.
* * * * * * * *
The contributor writes: “January 6 was not an attempted coup for a simple and obvious reasons. None of the alleged “coupists” brought any guns into the Capitol! Given modern military technology, the notion that one could carry out a “coup” with improvised clubs is simply laughable.”
Everything the contributor asserts is (supposedly) “simple and obvious.”
Everything the contributor rejects (they soon explain) is “simply laughable.”
Their belief in rigid “classic” forms (of necessary and typical motion) obscures his eyesight and analysis, and yet it pumps up their strange unjustified certainty.
First, fascist coups aren’t inherently rooted in armed men storming defensive installations. And that is because fascism isn’t a change of CLASS nature for the state.
It is a rupture of continuity seeking a change of form and norms for the bourgeois dictatorship.
How was it possible that Hitler’s decisive 1933 coup de main didn’t involve his armed cadre storming the old state. They didn’t even do it with clubs.
Hitler dispersed the Weimar constitution and criminalized the other political parties from the heights of power (while the Wehrmacht had been sidelined and neutralized through a secret deal).
Fascism is not inherently installed “from below” by the emerging mass fascist-populist revanchist movement storming the old power centres.
It is often called into being by sections of the ruling class themselves, who often inhabit powerful positions in the existing ruling class structure, and who have decided “they can’t rule the old way” (as Lenin puts it).
There is a break in the stability and legitimacy of the existing bourgeois order — and a demand for a new, much hardened, more repressive, more reactionary order built on violent purges and repudiation of previous precedent.
Fascism’s emergence is (in many ways) a split in the ruling class over the forms and norms of society — with the high-placed sponsors of fascist forces encouraging, training and deploying a mass fascist movement to purge and remake society.
It is (by contrast) the proletarian socialist revolution that can’t just “lay its hands” on the old state and take over.
January 6 (the conspiratorial phone call demands, and the court cases that surrounded it) was an attempt at a radical power seizure to maintain the current commander in chief of the armed forces…. while he was still formally in command.
More, it is clear, if you read the small print, that Trump expected the election ratification to fail (if Pence did his duty).
There was a plan for him to declare a national security emergency — and deploy the special powers that gave him. And there was an expectation that (when confronted with such fait accompli, the key republican state governors would step in to help nullify the election and provide Republican-legislature electors for Trump.
Meanwhile, there was speculation (both in the White House AND among the street actors) that significant sections of the high command and the military would step in on Trump’s side (if things went right).
There were lots of street interviews that reveal how (when those first National Guard troops arrived and surrounded the Capitol) many of the MAGA forces believed that the troops had arrived to help keep Trump in power. They had been COUNTING on that And, QAnon had, after all, promised this.
Also, it is worth noting that some of the militia forces had brought explosive devices and small arsenals into DC… and it might well be that those were intended to create incidents to help justify a national emergency.