Action not Normalisation

CxH9PvJXEAAkjoAThere are broadly three emerging responses to the coming to power of Trump and his movement in America. The first is denial (it probably won’t happen, he probably didn’t mean it, there are checks and balances), the second is co-optation and compromise (show respect, stop being antagonistic, smooth transition), the third is to demand action and resistance. The only response that has any moral credibility is the third.

The arrival of a fascist regime in America will not just send the US hurtling backwards with a government packed with racists, creationists and hucksters of the alt-right, it threatens the global climate-change agreement. As such it demands a global response.

The first category of responses is ably represented by Kevin McKenna, writing in the Herald (‘Sturgeon should take lessons in grown-up statecraft when it comes to Trump’). McKenna writes:

“To our political leaders in Scotland I would commend the response of Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach, to Trump’s triumph. “On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I am pleased to offer our sincere congratulations to Donald J Trump on his election as the 45th President of the United States.”

Faced with fascism we’re encouraged to a sick pragmatism and sycophancy. This is a disastrous response with humiliating consequences.

A better approach is offered by Senator Aodhán O’Riordáin to the Seanad:

“America has just elected a fascist and the best thing that the good people in Ireland can do is to ring him up and ask him, is it OK to still bring the shamrock on Saint Patrick’s Day? I am embarrassed by the reaction of the Irish government to what has happened in America. I can’t believe the reaction from An Taoiseach and from the government.”

The second response, offering accommodation and ‘reality’ that ‘it’ probably won’t happen is often allied with a sort of gallows humour. ‘He’s an actor’. ‘It’s showbusiness’.

Denial as a response to death is a well documented part of a mourning process. But mourn quickly and know what has died. It’s a response which springs from a quaint faith in American institutions of government. It’s a faith that looks suddenly fragile and stupid and one dimensional in the face of a political onslaught. It’s politically illiterate not to recognise that the forces that stopped Obama from acting are the same forces that put Trump in power.

Ian McEwan writes:

“Stunned disbelief, a condition at which we are beginning to be adept, is a form of denial that fades quickly, but not smoothly. It vanishes by steps, two forward, one back. But by inauguration day in January, we’ll be mouthing the words “President Trump” without incredulity or mirth. The danger is that it will begin to seem normal, this unique tragedy of national self-harm whereby a suspected con-man (the Trump University case, one of many, comes to trial on 28 November), this narcissistic and cynical vulgarian of limited attention span becomes the most powerful man on earth, ready by his own account to begin his assault on liberal democracy, rational discourse, civil liberties, and all manner of civil decencies, which are known to him as political correctness. There will be pundits and flunkies eager to persuade us just how acceptable the new situation is. But the contest for the presidency was too long and revealed too much to be forgotten.”

Either this is an unprecedented event with potentially catastrophic consequences or it isn’t. If it is, and it is, then the only viable response is to organise on a massive scale. Andrew Rawnsley reminds us

“.. his election is the Black Swan event of a generation. A serial bankrupt will be at the wheel of the world’s largest economy. A man with no experience of elected office will preside over a government machine with 2.8 million civilian employees and 1.5 million military personnel. A man who will be pursued into the White House by a pack of lawsuits will be in charge of the FBI. A man repeatedly described as unfit for the office by senior members of his own party will be the commander-in-chief with his finger on the trigger of more than 4,000 nuclear warheads.”

That’s not a scenario to respond with a shrug and a whimper.

It’s not time for a slumber party. Paul Mason offers a ten point plan for resistance:

1. Protest
2. Strike
3. Boycott
4. Build a new political alliance
5. Kill neoliberalism
6. Design an alternative
7. Create a different media
8. Reclaim the term ‘working class’
9. Choose one fight and become expert in it
10. Take the political battle outside politics

He argues for a global response: “Friday 20 January — a work day. Take it off and block the streets of your town. If you can get to Washington DC get there and block the streets. All across the world people are planning to mark #J20 with street protests and vigils — but we should do more. We should stop work in the first global mass strike against bigotry.” Read it here.  It’s a good place to start.

In Scotland we have a ‘special relationship’ with Trump and our #J20 actions can be joyous from Lewis to Turnberry. But demanding fealty to fascism from our political leaders is a sign of instant capitulation.

We need to be lucid and active not craven and accommodating. As Jiddu Krishnamurti  told us: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”.

Comments (44)

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  1. bringiton says:

    What Trump does within the borders of the USA is between him and the American people.
    However,reneging on international treaties,especially on climate change,is very much our business and we need to make it crystal clear to our political leaders that we will not accept this.
    The only way to stand up to bullies is to carry a big stick and in our case that means retaining membership of the biggest trading block on the planet.
    There have to be trade sanctions against the USA if they try to dismantle the Paris agreement on climate change and that is only meaningful when a credible threat can be brought to bear.
    Trump may think that this will bring short term benefit to American industries but the medium to longer term costs of fixing damaged infrastructure will far outweigh it.
    Idiotic,simplistic thinking.

  2. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    Mike, you have written some poor articles recently, but I’m glad to say this isn’t one of them.

    I think the reaction of Angela Merkel was spot on. However, the left has to get organised and fast. As does the EU. It’s all very well having a meeting to discuss Trump. They have to admit their failings and produce a financial investment plan to stimulate growth. This would entail the restructure of the ECB.

    I live in hope rather than expectation.

      1. Craig Miller says:

        A backhander of a compliment

  3. Thrawn says:

    Russia has had a quasi-fascist regime for over 10 years…China a fundamentally anti-democratic one for over 40…don’t remember any such clarion calls to action for their populations. And when fascist dictatorships have been overthrown due to western actions you have reserved nothing but bile and scorn for those actions.

    It’s not that I don’t disagree with the sentiment of this article but it does reek of rank hypocrisy that only now and only in reaction to an American (democratic) election are you and the left are so forcefully motivated to defend democracy and liberty

    1. Mike says:

      I walked past the Sputnik office in Edinburgh the other day. Not a whimper of protest when the Nationalists let the Russian fascists set up shop. Not too much of a coincidence that the director is the former Yes campaign manager. The hypocrisy is astonishing.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        So stopping them from setting up shop would have been the liberal, democratic thing to do? On what basis could or should Sputnik have been prevented from setting up shop?

        ‘Brave of you walking past though! ‘Can’t help being impressed.

        1. Mike says:

          All the apologists for Putin are incredible.

          1) The Scottish government has full power to prevent anyone from broadcasting (It is not simply reserved to Westminster and even if it was Sturgeon could apply to the Home Secretary for an order – Given that Sputnik are prevented from operating in other countries including rUK it would be granted.)

          2) No it is not illiberal to ban broadcasts that are fundamentally intended to undermine national security, from a regime that is highly illiberal and prevents freedom of speech at home and supports far right groups across Europe. It is responsible.

          3) Even if it was impossible to prevent Sputnik TV – you don’t have to bend over backwards to help them as Nationalists are simply because they support your narrow cause. You can pursue Scot nationalism without getting into bed with demagogues.

          4) Currently the military build up in Western Russia is sufficient to overwhelm the Baltics, Sweden, Finland and Poland in a matter of days. And now Nationalists have their dream if Trump walks away from NATO.

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            Jings! I appear to have been branded as an apologist for Putin when I have consistently warned on these very comment strings of his malevolence and the potential implications for humanity of any “deal” Trump may strike with him.

            At point 3 you tacitly acknowledge that it would probably have been impossible to prevent Sputnik from setting up, even if it had been desirable. Others have already pointed out that broadcasting is a reserved matter. It is utter nonsense to suggest that supporters of Scottish independence are “bending over backwards” to help Sputnik. Incidentally, Sputnik is a news agency broadcasting radio programmes, not a tv station.

      2. bringiton says:

        As far as I know broadcasting is a reserved matter to Westminster,so their call.

      3. Alison says:

        Who is this ‘former Yes campaign manager’?

      4. Who’s the former Yes campaign manager running Sputnik? I think you’re a little confused.

    2. leavergirl says:

      Yeah. It’s unfortunate, responding to what is happening with more of the usual “cist cist cist, phobe phobe phobe” vilification. Right now, the authoritarians are those out on the streets of America beating people up, burning and pillaging, and having a hissy fit over the workings of democracy. Just because things did not go their way, and their fellow Americans have a different point of view.

      1. Legerwood says:

        Well protesting about a result and taking to the streets to do so was something Mr Trump called for in 2012 so sauce, goose and gander.

        He also complained about someone becoming President on the basis of the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. Changed his tune now he has a band to play ‘Hail to the Chief’ everytime he appears

        1. leavergirl says:

          Legerwood, protests are fine, and part of democracy. Beating people up, arson and vandalism are crimes.

          I used to be against the electoral college, I am glad people are talking about it, it’s worth revisiting. But I am leaning in the direction of keeping it, as people who know more about it than I say that without it, the mega urban areas of the US — NY, CA and IL — would take over the election and the rest of the country would have no voice anymore.

    3. Pilrig says:

      The Right certainly can’t be trusted to defend liberty and goes against the grain.

    4. I’ve been vocal against Russia’s actions – and vilified for it. I’m no supporter of China either. This is an event of seismic change.

      I’m not sure what you want.

      1. Craig Miller says:

        The fascists are the ones NATO installed in Kiev ….Assad was elected unlike the House of Saud and invited Russia who have a naval base there to help defend his countrys democracy from amerikkkan attempts to use the Gulf Arab tyrannies as proxies for isr*al……you might not approve of the electoral college method that sees Syrian leaders elected but that’s what they have in their non confessional non sexist republic … don’t have a firm grip on the facts but never mind there is a plethora of Russophobic nonsense from daft Nicola to evil Theresa ……thru to the warmongers in every party …it’s ignorance wed to unsubstantiated Propaganda that causes you to make such I’ll considered comments

  4. Don MacDonald says:

    As I understand it, President-elect Trump was duly elected according to the US democratic process. I’m horrified by the international response to this, particularly this offensive article. Let’s go back to the good-old-days and bow down to the establishment; see the John Cleese / Ronnie Barker/ Ronnie Corbett sketch – I know my place; ignore the people or worse insult them. What a cheek to read this from a so called democracy. There are many countries that have foreign and domestic policies that we in the UK do not agree with, for example China, Russia, Saudi Arabia. Why not rioting in our streets against them?

  5. Mike says:

    Populist binary, polemical, separatists waving a Saltire get pissed off when other populist binary plemiscist wave their own flags.

    unbelievable arrogant self righteousness.

    You deal in nationalism you get nationalism. So suck it up.

    1. david says:

      Where to start….. school maybe?

    2. Craig Miller says:

      Ha ha ha…. laffing at dafties …..forbidden by yer Mum since the Fifties….now brought back by popular demand …ha ha ha

  6. Willie says:

    Trump may prove to be a better President, at least in the short term, than the mainstream media and we establishment would have us believe. Fascism is the choice of many when the economic and as social system fails. Trump can do for the USA what derrtain others did for Germany some 70 years ago. Get folk working, restore national pride, despose the enemies of the state, make America Great.But ultimately it will end in tears. The cycle will repeat. The people voted for a change of a a deeply flawed e economic system Why not to vote Trump. What not to like. The system ain’t working.

  7. Toby says:

    On this topic you might like this piece on why Trump’s election torpedoes the case for Scottish independence

  8. J Galt says:

    Bugger the Global Climate Change Agreement – I’m only interested in whether Trump is more or less likely to start WW3!

    What he does in the US internally is their business.

    1. Mathew says:

      Buggering the Global Climate Change Agreement leads directly to WW3 -or something very like it. Think it through.

      1. Jo says:

        @ Mathew

        I rather think the election of Clinton would have led more directly to WW3.

      2. Craig Miller says:

        Think it through……and bring plenty of non petroleum based lube …too big to bugger

  9. Jimmy says:

    America has been ran by a Neoliberal clique of which Hillary Clinton was one if the hawkish Neocons. She was a mass murderer with blood all over her from Libya. During the last weeks of the election, she was the ultra-macho right wing hawk boasting she would order the shooting down of Russian jets over Syria. So she was happy to take us right to the wire with a potential nuclear war! Whosoever wanted the coronation of Clinton as CEO of the Military Industrial Complex were deluded that she would be a better president because she was more politically correct? It’s time to realise SHE was the worst of the two evils. Mrs Clinton represented a normalised corporate elite of bankers and killer who had taken over the power of the state through a slow motion coup de tat. They are the smiling plausible grinning fascists whose lexicon of political control is oftentimes known as political correctness within the mental dome of neoliberalism. Trump is abhorrent but he is no mass killer. Clinton and co were the neoliberal Neo fascists. Blair became one of them. Too many arrogant runts want to talk tough to Russia to bolster their pathetic self image following the new world order propaganda pushing us towards war with Russia. The neocons (and Clinton supported them) were not going to stop until Putin was in his knees before them, such is the megalomania of these psychopaths. Like it or not, TRUMP is the lesser of the two evils and the least dangerous.

  10. Donald the Deliverer says:

    I am a Scot living in Australia, quite frankly you all make me sick with your stupid bias. Have you all been relieved of honest logical thinking, And succumbed to the reconstituted stream of propaganda emanating from the fourth estate, it appears so. Donald Trump will be one of the finest Presidents in their history.Coming from a non political environment is exactly what is required to break the nexus of endemic corruption in all of Americas institutions. Putin one of the Worlds most sensible, calm leaders respected throughout the world Scotland would be wise to establish a friendship pact with Russia which would be a massive counter balance with the next independence campaign. Russia would make a wonderful counter balance to the usual English bastardly dealings

    1. Craig Miller says:

      Ah Donald, they honestly have been primed to think of Putin as the enemy and the Military Industrial Complex as their only hope of survival against his ” aggressive” manoeuvrings ….it’s hopeless to imagine you can penetrate this self induced self reinforced stupidity …..the evidence to tell them that the aggressors boot is on the other foot is so immense and overwhelming that you would think that sensible Scots might have the nous to recognise it …..nope…..and identifying the English as the major impediment in any way to Scotland in this Alice in Wonderland so called ” Independence movement ” identifies you as a racist ……William Wallace was the biggest racist in our history ….that why the SNP are embarrassed by his memory

  11. florian albert says:

    Brexit was won because because voters in places Sunderland and Carlisle voted for it. Trump won because voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania supported him.
    The response of Mike Small and Paul Mason is to suggest taking to the streets to protest.
    Isn’t this what the left accuses fascists of doing; trying to win on the streets what they failed to win at the ballot box ?
    My own feeling is that the decline of the ‘Left’ is likely to accelerate when it treats the decisions made by working class voters with such anger and contempt.

    1. tartanfever says:

      Pointing to geographic areas gives no insight into political leanings. Brexit won because Tory voters voted ‘leave’ – some 65% of them. If the Tory party had delivered what the Liberals,SNP and Labour delivered, roughly a 60/40 split in favour of remain then we wouldn’t be leaving the EU. Add to that UKIP voters and far and away it was the political Right that carried the day.

      That is not who you think of when you say ‘Sunderland’ and ‘Carlisle’.

      1. florian albert says:

        ‘Pointing to geographical areas gives no insight into political leanings.’ I disagree.
        At the 2015 General Election, all three Sunderland constituencies were won convincingly by Labour, with 55%, 50% and 50% of the votes cast. Come the EU referendum, Sunderland 61% to leave.
        This is a solidly working class area voting against the advice of the Labour leader and party.

  12. Jo says:

    I’m uneasy with this article Mike.

    Whether we like it or not the US held an election and Trump won it. I think advocating global protest about the outcome is not the way to go.

    In the past week I’ve watched, aghast, as the Guardian newspaper has gone into complete seizure mode following the result with dozens of articles sounding off – to put it mildly – about the outcome. Indeed, it has gone further. It has taken to “moderating” posts, reasonable posts, which point out a number of facts. I had three posts removed yesterday for simply observing that the Democrats had not helped one bit by putting up the worst possible candidate against Trump. I saw similar posts from others go the same route. Is that not a form of fascism too? It worried me deeply as did many of the rants (including from Rawnsley) which passed for opinion articles and which were so one-sided it was embarrassing.

    Those “journalists” and the Guardian newspaper are well informed about Clinton’s serious flaws and even as more dodgy stuff emerged about Clinton they refused point blank to acknowledge any of them. How is that remotely honest? It was sickening. Others, the female journalists, had only one thing to say: “She’s a woman, vote for her!” Really? I think I’d rather vote for someone based on a bit more than the person’s gender. Especially when it comes to someone like Hillary.

    Clinton, for me, was just as dangerous as Trump and perhaps even moreso if her plans regarding Syria were anything to go by. She was practically frothing at the mouth at the thought of confronting Russia! His plan – to engage with all other nations to find common ground rather than to create hostility – seemed a lot more sensible.

    Are you really suggesting Clinton was the best option for the world with her track record? If there is one good thing that has come out of this it is surely that her political career is pretty much over? She was intending to take us into even more madness in the Middle East and she’s caused more than enough already there and in other places like Libya. She was panting for more.

    I don’t think America voted Trump lightly. I think many people simply didn’t have the stomach to vote for Clinton. Sanders was treated abominably by her and by the Democrats. He was cheated. And for that reason I think many who might have voted Democrat held their own noses and gave Hillary and her Party a bloody one.

    How we react is important, I agree, but urging global protests is not the answer. By doing so we’re not just insulting Trump but the US electorate and I don’t think that’s healthy. I know people who voted for Brexit. (I voted Remain.) I do not for one minute think all who voted for Brexit are stupid or racist. I voted YES to independence for Scotland and I know many people, even in my own family, who voted NO. I do not think they are stupid or that they care about Scotland less than I do.

    If Trump had lost and was now urging his supporters to get out on the streets and protest would you support that? I wouldn’t. So, by the same token, I cannot support the view that his election should be publicly opposed in America or in other countries.

    We are where we are. We need to recognise the result and see where we go from here.

    1. Thanks Jo. No I really am not suggesting Clinton was the best option at all, nor do i think all the people – or even most of the people who voted for Brexit are stupid or racist, nor have I ever said such. But I think the consequences of the far-right coming to poet in America have potentially profound and catastrophic consequences far beyond their borders. I’m also not not recognising the result, I’m recognising it as being a disaster.

      ‘We are where we are’ and ‘see where we go from here’… well to me that just sounds like a terrifying quietism.

      1. florian albert says:

        I do not think that the choice is simply between demonstrations on the streets and quietism.
        Another alternative is for the Left to look honestly at why it its opponents are being so successful in areas the Left assumes will back them.
        In the Guardian, readers – commenting below the line – bring up one point again and again; identity politics and the Left’s support for it.
        I think this is an important reason for the Left’s failure.
        At times, it appears that the failure of the Scottish football team is a legitimate subject for discussion but the electoral failure of the Left is not.

  13. Craig Miller says:

    Er ….sorry but until history and geography are considered on a par with maths and language we will have billions of dumb shits who don’t have a clue about the chronological narrative and how it relates to them in terms of their present circumstances and current location ….tens of millions of dumb shits voted for things they didn’t understand and we profess to be amazed they got it wrong again ….we are isolated in the here and now , estranged from our past , which we scorn as “full of dead people who don’t really matter NOW”……bubble headed , dumbed down , fakers of intellectualism ….a punk sensibility delivering nihilistic determinations of how ” NOW” is all we have …..stamped in your face ……forever

    1. Alan says:

      So let’s talk about history and political philosophy. The dangerous political philosophy of Carl Schmitt is back with a vengeance –although in truth it never went away. His philosophy is a full-frontal attack on liberalism. It is enormously influential because it has substance. Like him or loath him, a defence of liberal social democracy has to confront his ideas. A Schmittian would argue that people like Trump and May will arise because of the inherent weaknesses in liberalism makes them possible if not inevitable.

      Arendt, Schmitt and Trump’s Politics of ‘Nation’

  14. Alf Baird says:

    For over 300 years Scotland has been oppressed by a foreign power with its resources stolen, its name ridiculed, and its people indoctrinated/Anglicised, all in the name of a sham and undemocratic union. Scotland should be our priority, not President Trump.

  15. Southsider says:

    To Mike Small’s point “the third is to demand action and resistance,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren states it about as well as you can:

    As an American and a Democrat, It pains me that we ran Hillary when we had Warren on the bench.

  16. Interpolar says:

    The Left, despite all its rhetoric, has to become more inclusive. Clinton – and Obama (whom I otherwise very much admire) – on the stump professed mainly the concerns of minorities. While it is right that their concerns are addressed, doing this without tangible recourse to the needs of the majority is extremely alienating in itself. Trump did exactly the opposite, becoming a conduit for the fears and yearnings of a majority. Essentially, that is why he won. Had Clinton offered a perspective for more White Americans, she would easily have pushed her campaign over the finishing line ahead of Trump.

    1. Interpolar says:

      I would like to add that substantial parts of the Indy movement (not least this site, for all its strengths) risk making the same mistake.

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