The US election as a turning point
Nonviolent resistance to Trumpism
by Bernd Drücke
[This article published on Dec 1, 2016 is translated from the German on the Internet, www.linksnet.de.]
Karl Marx modified a Hegel quote to the effect that world-historical facts always happen twice, namely "one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" (1). Since November 9, 2016, we know that they can also occur simultaneously as tragedy and farce. "It almost seems as if neoliberalism is now also concerned with the process optimization of world history," says sociologist Rüdiger Haude with a raised eyebrow.
A farce as tragedy
The election in the United States on November 8, 2016, was a farce. Two extremely unsympathetic and anti-social people stood for election for the office of Commander in Chief of the most powerful state on earth.
On the one hand, Hillary Clinton, supported by, among others, the powerful U.S. military-industrial complex, Wall Street and the liberal "establishment." Clinton, as a senator, supported the neocolonial wars of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan instigated by the Bush regime, and is thus partly responsible for more than a million mostly civilian war deaths since 2001 (2) and for the emergence of the "Islamic State" that grew out of the wreckage of the Iraq war. As U.S. Secretary of State under Obama, Clinton is directly responsible for the expansion of the drone war, to which numerous people fall victim every day.
She is a war criminal. In a television documentary about Clinton and Trump, on October 5, 2016, on arte, it was seen how Hillary Clinton triumphed after former Libyan leader Gaddafi was assassinated by a mob in Libya on October 20, 2011, as a result of the Libyan War, which Clinton played a major role in organizing as U.S. Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton's off-the-cuff, inhumane comment on the matter, "We came, we saw, and we killed him."
Also shown again in the arte documentary was Clinton sitting in front of the screen with Obama and other U.S. government officials watching bin Laden executed without a court order by a U.S. military hit squad on May 2, 2011, in the name of a democratic state.
It is a tragedy. That individuals like the extreme narcissist, racist, sexist and misanthrope Trump and the war criminal Clinton (can) come to power in the world's most powerful state shows how fragile parliamentary democracy is. And it is proof that the anarchist critique of it is correct.
How massively the stultification and brutalization of large parts of especially the white, male population by capitalism and mass dumbing-down media have already progressed is proven by the election results of November 9. Dark times.
Popular Marxist and FAZ columnist Slavoj Zizek wished for Trump's victory in the run-up to the election. While Trump is every bit as "vulgar, racist, misogynistic, and dangerous as he is described" (3), his presidency is the only chance that the social change the radical left has long demanded will occur.
Much like this leftist Zeitgeist philosopher today, some leftists in Germany before 1933 also thought that an election of Hitler and the NSDAP would not significantly worsen the political situation in the Weimar Republic, but would almost certainly trigger a general strike or even a social revolution, as in the Kapp Putsch of 1920. Among quite a few members of the KPD at the time, there was the illusion that "After Hitler, we'll come!" Many of them ended up in concentration camps shortly thereafter and did not survive the Nazi era. Given the historical knowledge of Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy, Spain and elsewhere, however, Zizek is largely alone within the left today in his exceedingly naive assessment.
"Clinton is a rotten piece of s---t, but Trump is a fascist. That's why I'm going to vote for Clinton, to prevent Trump," was the comment made by a resident of an alternative settlement in California on ZDF before the U.S. election. Many left-wing Americans probably thought similarly to this young activist before November 9, 2016. Some of them did not even go to the polls in view of the forecasts that declared Clinton a sure winner even before the election. Everything seemed to be clear anyway. Anyone who remembers the equally false forecasts that ruled out a majority for Brexit before the referendum on June 23, 2016 in the United Kingdom should have known that election research cannot really predict the outcome of a vote. And that forecasts can also influence an election in problematic ways.
I had hoped that Clinton would win the election, thus preventing the presidency of the even more disproportionately evil sexist and racist Trump. In fact, in the run-up to the U.S. election, there were even calls by U.S. anarchists to vote for Clinton in order to prevent Trump, the candidate of the Ku Klux Klan. And as modern fascists of the 21st century we must indeed understand Donald Trump and his extreme right hand man Stephen Bannon (4).
Bannon was editor-in-chief of the homepage "Breitbart News," the main mouthpiece of the "Alt Right." "Formally, 'Alt Right' is short for 'Alternative Right,' de facto a euphemism for neo-Nazis, right-wing nationalists, and anyone who believes in the superiority of the white race." (5)
In August 2016, Bannon joined the Donald Trump team as a senior adviser. Now the future president's chief adviser becomes arguably the second most powerful man in the largest nuclear power. Bannon is a nationalist "who does not want to send his children to a school with 'too many Jews,' and who engages in racist and anti-Semitic agitation on his website," criticizes the "Jüdische Allgemeine." (6)
Immediately after the election, Trump called himself the "president of all Americans." He is not. With his racist, sexist and anti-disability slogans, he is the president of the angry white men, the anti-Semitic "Alt Right."
The powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) is rejoicing over the victory of the Republican gun lobbyist, who has announced plans to abolish gun-free zones in schools. As president, that is expected to be one of his first acts in office.
The patriarch, who is massively supported by Deutsche Bank, among others, is a beacon of hope for the U.S. coal industry, which hopes this climate change denier will bring it back to the coal age. For ecology and the world's climate, the victory of the coal, nuclear and fracking lobbyist is a super-GAU.
The "friendly fascist" in the White House.
In an interview, left-wing U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore commented on the election results on Nov. 9: "Bertram Gross wrote the book 'Friendly Fascism' in 1980. He predicted that the fascism of the 21st century will have no concentration camps, no death trains or anything like that; instead, fascism will have a friendly face and perhaps come to us via a television show. Today we have elected a fascist of the 21st century. Someone who is a misogynist nationalist and racist." (7)
When satire becomes reality
What was an ironic joke in an episode of the comic series Simpsons in 2000 becomes bitter reality on January 20, 2017. The rabble-rousing billionaire and notorious liar, who humiliated people in his low-level reality shows and bragged about his sexualized violence against women ("Grab her by the pussy") (8), was voted the most powerful man in the world by 60 million US Americans.
Very many white U.S. men over the age of 45, as well as 52 percent of white U.S. women, actually voted for this anti-feminist.
In an interview conducted with him by the "Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung" and published on November 13, 2016, U.S. anarchist Noam Chomsky outlines possible reasons why the real estate mogul received a high proportion of votes from white U.S. men, across all strata, but especially among people with low levels of education and middle or low incomes.
The linguistics professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) notes that there is a lot of pent-up anger and disappointment among these people about the neoliberal policies that elites have pursued over the past generation.
Even at the height of the economic boom in 2007, he said, the purchasing power of the income of working people in ordinary jobs was lower than it had been at the beginning of neoliberalism. Moreover, he says, there is a prevailing belief there that the government is only supporting minorities, that the hard-working white working class is being disadvantaged, and that its culture is being lost.
Chomsky explains, "Culturally, the U.S. lives to a large extent in a pre-modern era. Nearly half the population assumes, for example, that the earth is only a few thousand years old and that climate change is not a problem because Jesus Christ will return in the coming decades. If scientific findings clash with the Bible, science must be wrong in their eyes. One must realize that until World War II, the U.S. was scientifically and socially backward compared to Europe. In parts, this has not changed."
According to Chomsky, the Democrats stopped representing the interests of white working people in the 1970s: "Since then, they have rallied behind their class enemies from the Republicans. This is because the Republicans' tax policies serve the interests of the rich and powerful alone. But they give themselves a down-to-earth image, just like George W. Bush, who staged himself as someone you'd like to have a beer with. Trump has managed something similar." The soon-to-be 88-year-old intellectual sees other reasons for the demagogue's election in the fact that many U.S. citizens have lost their jobs and there is a great willingness to look for scapegoats - such as immigrants.
"Also, polling showed that an overwhelming majority of voters wanted change. They were dissatisfied with the status quo. Hillary Clinton, however, stood for that very status quo." (9)
Potential consequences of the election
Already in the first days after the election of the intellectual firebrand, more than 500 racist attacks and crimes became public, in which the perpetrators mostly directly referred to their leader Trump (10).
Trump incited during the election campaign against "illegals", Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, blacks, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, disabled people and emancipated women. Now it is to be feared that the Pandora's box opened by his extremely aggressive election campaign cannot be closed. The hatred of the "Trump movement" he awakened and the attacks against minorities and feminists will become commonplace under the Trump administration and will likely continue to increase.
For many children and adults in the U.S., a president is a role model. So Trump, who has risen from vicious horror clown and ruthless bullying king to U.S. president, will almost certainly continue to make sexism, racism and homophobia more hopeful in the coming years. It's a disaster for all emancipatory-minded people, and a physical threat to all non-whites as well.
It is a setback for feminism and for all people who respect human dignity. Many of the political and social gains fought for in recent decades, even elementary civil rights, are under massive threat under the Social Darwinist Trump administration.
Above all, the more than eleven million illegalized people in the United States are also under extreme pressure. Trump announced in his first interview after the election that he wants to deport two to three million "illegals" to Mexico or have them imprisoned in the first months of his term.
During the election campaign, the misanthrope made it clear that he wants to re-legalize waterboarding, the torture method practiced by the CIA under war criminal George W. Bush and banned again by Barack Obama, and have it used. In addition, he wants to introduce, Trump said literally, "much worse things." Torture works as an interrogation method, he said in February 2016.
Human rights and empathy have no meaning for this self-declared "winner guy." And the jubilation that the patriarch's victory has caused among Orbán, Le Pen, Petry, Wilders, Erdogan and other misanthropes around the world leads us to fear the worst for further developments in many countries around the world.
Fascist movements and right-wing nationalist parties see themselves emboldened by Trump's success and are also speculating on growth and electoral success in many countries in Europe. Autocrats are on the rise and can count on a brother in spirit in the White House.
Indeed, an end to the European Union would probably also be in sight if the far-right Hofer (FPÖ) is elected president in Austria in December 2016, Geert Wilders' right-wing nationalist Partij voor de Vrijheid wins the March 15, 2017, elections in the Netherlands, and Marine Le Pen has a real chance of being elected the first female president of the Front National in France in May 2017. (11)
The election of a xenophobic rabble-rouser as the 45th U.S. president is a turning point, but not for the better
Noam Chomsky expresses concern: "The most important news this week is not the election in the US. But a report from the climate conference in Morocco showing that global warming has accelerated and the ice area in the Arctic has decreased by 30 percent. At the same time, the most powerful country on earth has elected a party whose goal is the destruction of humanity. But all the media is reporting only the superficial consequences of the election. I find that shocking."
Trump made the absurd claim back in 2012 that the "concept of global warming" was "invented by the Chinese" to hurt the competitiveness of American industry.
During the campaign, he announced that he would withdraw his signature from the Paris climate agreement. Trump had "chosen someone to de facto abolish the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. who openly denies climate change. This person is even proud of the fact that he has environmental protection organizations like Greenpeace as his enemy. He will make sure that the Environmental Protection Agency will no longer have any influence," Chomsky fears.
Trump and the war
Trump has announced an arms buildup in the U.S. on the one hand, while at the same time he wants to largely reduce U.S. military involvement abroad and focus on "destroying" IS, with military cooperation with the equally autocratic and homophobic Putin regime likely.
Henrik Paulitz suspects that the new U.S. president's alleged "isolationism" will not lead to fewer wars, but to a redistribution of tasks among the global war powers. In doing so, Trump is following developments that have already been pushed forward for years: "The Federal Republic of Germany is being asked to spend far more on armaments in the future and to become a 'leading' military power in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to Central Asia. An extremely threatening scenario." (12)
After the U.S. election, German War Minister Ursula von der Leyen expressed shock at Trump's victory on the one hand. On the other hand, she gleefully accepted his demands and wants to push through a drastic increase in German arms spending, against the will of anti-militarists and large parts of the population. The arms industry and reactionary circles, which have long dreamed of Germany's resurrection as a major military power as well, are rejoicing.
Perspectives of emancipatory movements
New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, ... Since November 9, there have been large, non-violent demonstrations against the preacher of hate in most cities of the USA under the slogan "Not my president!".
The shock about Trump's election victory as well as the politicization, i.e. enlightenment about power and domination relations, lead to the radicalization of many emancipatory activists. Grassroots movements in the tradition of Martin Luther King, non-violent mass movements against the plans of the Trump regime are growing. For Jan. 21, feminists are mobilizing for a Million Women March to Washington, D.C. (13).
And in Germany? The protests against the G-20 summit on July 7 and 8, 2017 in Hamburg are also to become a large anti-Trump demonstration. This was announced by the interventionist left (iL). The G-20 summit will bring together the heads of state and government of the 20 richest countries. Tens of thousands of activists are expected to attend the protests. "G20 is the summit of global capitalism where Angela Merkel will shake hands with right-wing demagogues like Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin. Established politics cannot tame the monsters of a strengthened right that it has created itself. The integrative power of the ruling order is diminishing day by day," said iL press spokeswoman Emily Laquer. All who stand for a society of solidarity are invited to join the protests. (14)
Anti-fascist resistance, civil courage in an increasingly aggressive everyday life, a networking of emancipatory movements and solidarity with refugees and the marginalized will be more necessary than ever in the coming years, here, in the USA, worldwide.
With the election victory of big business, anti-capitalist and emancipatory struggles have suffered a setback. Nevertheless, these struggles are not lost.
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and known for his extreme right-wing positions, called his friend's election victory "one of the greatest victories for the American people since Andrew Jackson."
"Who was Andrew Jackson?" many will now ask.
"Andrew Jackson was a land speculator, a merchant, a slave trader, and the most aggressive enemy of the Indians in the early stages of American history," according to U.S. historian and nonviolent anarchist Howard Zinn (1922 - 2010) in his standard work, "A People's History of the United States." (15) The focus of Zinn's historical research was the civil rights and peace movements. As a practitioner of "history from below," he offered a revision of American historiography. His book attempts to describe American history from the perspective of groups, including powerless "victims," otherwise little considered in historiography. The World Needs People Like Howard Zinn.
Anarchist critique of parliamentarism after the U.S. election.
As anarchists, we do not want to rule or be ruled, even by majorities. I want my decisions to be self-determined and collective. Grassroots revolutionaries know that the non-violent, non-rule society is still a utopia today, but its realization would be the most humane form of social organizing.
In the "Special Issue on the Critique of Parliamentary Democracy" (GWR No. 146/47/48), published in 1994, it says: "In contrast to the nationalist and neo-Nazi critique of parliamentarism, anarchism does not criticize parliamentarism for too much, but for too little free discussion; it does not criticize its apparent incapacity, but its effectiveness in governing. (...) Direct action is the immediate form of self-determination; parliamentary representation, on the other hand, is the surrender of the right of self-determination to others, that is, self-disenfranchisement."
As correct as the analysis outlined above still is today, in my view it would be wrong to call for an election boycott now on the occasion of the presidential election in Austria in December 2016. In Austria, a racist with a national socialist worldview and a green bore are standing for election. If a little cross can help not to lift a fascist into a position of power, then anarchists also make this little cross.
An election result like the one in the U.S. results in an extreme social and political regression and can move us much further away from the realization of a free socialist society. So, in choosing between fascism and liberal democracy, we are choosing the clearly lesser evil.
This does not mean that our anarchist utopias are wrong or will be realized at the ballot box from now on.
Just how problematic a system is that enables a misanthrope like Trump to push the red button and thus wipe out humanity is something that many are becoming aware of as a result of the U.S. election results.
More and more people are realizing that the capitalist-democratic system of rule has a potential that endangers humanity.
The goal of anarchism is to interrupt the continued reproduction of domination.
Therefore, we seek emancipatory methods of decision-making that organize social life without leaders, command and obedience. We need enlightenment, a free press critical of domination, counter-publics, and social movements that fight for the dignity of all people.
We will write history from below - and it will look different than that of Trump, Bannon and Co.