Beyond Trump Protest to Solidarity with America
Jonathon Shafi argues for mass protest at Trump’s visit to Scotland, but that these protests should be about the whole new movement of the far-right and in solidarity with the people on the frontline of Trump’s America.
For the last ten years or so I have been monitoring the online activities of the far-right conspiracy theorists in America. Some of these have grown into multi-million dollar media organisations. They can reach millions of people on a daily basis. The most prominent have a direct line to the highest echelons of the Trump administration. Alex Jones of “Info Wars” who claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was a set-up is leader of the pack. He employs Roger Stone, a key architect of the Trump campaign with a long history of dirty tricks in US politics.
In recent years and since the election of Trump, such outlets have taken a distinctly fascistic turn. They relentlessly target Muslims and immigrants. They see themselves as being part of a new American revolution – and they are deadly serious. Their defence of the right to bear arms is energetic and pro-active. They link to gun sites, and encourage their millions of viewers to get armed.
Steve Bannon once said said that in the end the fight would be between the left and right. Info Wars and their like are, as we would expect, turning their attention to the left. Now the message is that the Democrats are a terrorist organisation. Every day, a slick propaganda operation declares that America is now in the grip of a civil war. The civil war is going to get hot – and they claim that the left are the protagonists. You can see where this ends up.
One of the key goals of the far-right propaganda arm is to reverse reality in a deliberate ploy to muddy the waters and generate space for their ideas. The BNP at their height did this by saying “racism cuts both ways” as a means to open a discussion on “rights for whites”. In the same way today we see much larger organisations push the line that “the left are the real fascists”. This is calculated. And now this tendency has a lightning conductor in the White House.
This is why Trump equivocated over Charlottesville. The aim is to normalise and amplify the general intervention of the far-right. It creates space for their ideas to grow. Look how far we have slid in such a short space of time. Similarly, the process of demonisation and dehumanisation has been underway for some time. When Trump recites the poem about the snake, a metaphor for immigrants, he knows what he is doing. Just as Muslims are pitched as a horde of invaders or migrants as “insects” and “illegal aliens”.
Note though that this has been a long running process, integrated into Western imperialism. Indeed Trump and the new far-right are capitalising on a pre-existing ideological backdrop. Referring to people as aliens is not new. Depicting Muslims as an existential threat is not new either –channeled as it was in modern times through the “war on terror” – a fixture of the liberal establishment who coordinated via Tony Blair and others with the neo-conservative movement behind the Bush administration.
The result of all of this is twofold. First, it is easier to be an overt racist. Second, the ideas and methods of the far-right historically are being revamped and normalised. They have space to grow. This is not just an online phenomenon, stoked by far-right websites who have struck lucky with the Trump presidency. A section of the establishment finance and support this process. A strategy underpins it.
We can see this now across Europe. Driven by the financial crisis of 2008 they have concocted a toxic but effective formulation that taps into political alienation, economic injustice and identity. Some, as a result, allocate strategic genius to the leadership of the international far-right. In truth they are well supported financially and they have the advantage of the right-wing media cartel who have pushed their agenda for decades.
And they have something more than that. They have the effect of decades of neoliberalism. This project has atomised workers and communities, privatised notions of the public good, decimated the trade unions and through technologically advanced pr and advertising campaigns sought to dissolve society in to individual consumers. Each with our own databased product history. Each with our own profile developed over time for advertisers to target us. This is a system of “created wants” in which our consumption is in-fact a highly regulated affair.
In other words the resources we need to fight back against austerity and neoliberalism have been under severe attack, at multiple levels, for a long time now. You can see how the far-right can grow in these circumstances. They provide identity through a racialised frame, an outlet for anger at the political establishment and convenient scapegoats.
Some in the liberal establishment observe the situation and scratch their head. Are people not now rational consumers? How can their political behavior be explained? Most of all they believe that things will settle down again. The laws of political gravity will in the end result in what they consider normalcy.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There is a long way to go – and we are going to witness major, world-changing events. This is in part because capitalism itself is at the centre of the crisis. The system is now coming up against what limited democratic systems we have. That’s before we get onto the collision course it is on with the environment.
That means we have to get engaged and organised with urgency and thought. Because we are not just witnesses – we are participants. And we have a world to win. It may seem counter-intuitive given the grave threats we face – but I have never been more optimistic about the future. This is not some exercise in political will. It is based in the reality we see unfolding.
Look to America. Beyond Trump and the right-wing shock jocks and the daily horrors we see. There is a movement there which I believe will defeat not only Trump but the system that produces Trump. We have seen this movement express itself in waves. The anti-war movement, occupy, and in the Bernie Sanders campaign. In this the main impediment has been the Democratic establishment. Once a real alternative has a platform, the arguments of the far-right and faux anti-establishment posture of Trump are rapidly exposed.
There are grounds for hope. In a recent Democratic primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old left-wing activist and Sanders organiser, defeated Joe Crowley, a 10-term House Democrat and potential contender for speaker, in an outer-borough New York district. “We’re in the middle of a movement in this country. I feel this movement, but that movement is going to happen from the bottom up. That movement is going to come from voters,” she said after her incredible victory.
It is in this way we are having to rebuild. It is not easy, but it is necessary. The Democratic Socialists of America are now closing in on 50,000 members. Last weekend over 800 protests took place across the US in opposition to Trump immigration policy. Things are moving.
America and Europe are now on different trajectories. In Europe the far-right is not close to peaking. But in the US, I think looking forward it is the left who are going to find themselves in the ascendancy. That doesn’t mean there is not a long way to go – but there is every reason to believe that Trump can be defeated. It is going to be painstaking. Unlike the far-right the left alternative doesn’t have the same resources – financial or ideological. Instead of seizing on the divisions in society – manufactured by the system itself – it has to develop unity from the grassroots of society.
That requires skill, tenacity and confidence. But it is happening right now, as you read this. And if opposition to Trump can be successful, that will have an impact internationally – and help animate opposition to the far-right in Europe. The tide will turn.
And that is why we must take to the streets when Trump visits the UK. Not just because we oppose Trump, but because we support the movement that is emerging in the US. It will be a shot in the arm to every activist in America if they see mass opposition to Trump in the UK. Images and videos will circulate social media and give strength to those are the sharp end of attacks.
It has the potential to reshape the conversation. To say that yes there is a line – that it has been crossed – and that we are ready and willing to stand up and fight.
We also need to be clear that this mobilisation is not simply a moral question: it is strategic.
Consider this. In 2016 a triumphant Nigel Farage flew to a massive Trump campaign rally. He said that 2016 would be remembered as the year that everything changed. Because Brexit would be followed by a Trump victory. And in this way Brexit Britain and Trumps America would re-order politics and society.
And yet, while Trump has traveled freely across Europe, it is in Brexit Britain that his visit has been postponed several times due to the scale of the protests that have been envisaged. It is a real question, discussed at the highest levels of the strained US/UK axis. The big vision outlined by Farage is already hitting the rocks. And now we have a chance to make sure that it can’t recover.
We can send a message to every community organiser. To every trade unionist. To every American Muslim. To black activists. To women on the frontline of the struggle. To every migrant and to every youth who in their own way is fighting back against the Trump regime. That message: we stand with you. We stand with you as we know you stand with us. We can build a new special relationship from below. Forged in to fight against the far-right. That is internationalism – and that is the only force in the world that can win this historic battle. We will send a tidal wave of solidarity to those who need it most.
So make sure you are there. You will not be just be protesting Trump. You will be standing up for a better world. You will be taking part in history. No more watching your computer screen in despair. No more fatalism. Shake off the idea that a neo-fascist dystopia is just around the corner. It is time to fight – and if we fight we will win. Because most people are not hateful. They want you to believe that hope is lost, to despair that humanity is not up to the task. But it is. Join the resistance. There is no membership card, or form to fill out. It belongs to you and is freely available in the streets where we will gather as a show of strength.
Katie Hopkins, and the array of foul social media hate mongers will not only despise the demonstrations – they will fear them. Just as Trump and Farage rely on division, unity is their kryptonite. Their worldview doesn’t make sense when people come together. This is why the fascists have always seen the trade unions and the left as the main enemy – because these forces breed unity. They will be dejected if there is mass opposition on display when Trump visits just as those American activists will be elated. That is how we change the discourse. That is how we force the far-right into a corner.
We will win this. But it is time we showed our power. All of us together.