Trump’s abortive March on Rome
So Jacobin, the journal of the Democratic Socialists of America, says “The Insurrection Was Predictable”! The article is by David Sirota, who claims that he “published a series of reports on the growing threat of a coup attempt, wondering why it wasn’t being taken more seriously by Democrats and the media. We were scoffed at and eye-rolled, as if such things could never happen in America.” As evidence, he cites an article, published as late as 11 December 2020, with the telling title “Democrats Haven’t Learned from Florida 2000”, a title that reveals the insipid nature of the argument to be put forward. The whole article is really about the by-now run-of-the-mill question of the Republican Party using the battleground state legislatures to pick pro-Trump electors by invoking Article II of the US Constitution. There is not a single mention of the MAGA fascists, those loosely organised thugs that swear by Trump who stormed the Capitol on 6th January. So how is it, we might politely ask, that “The Insurrection Was Inevitable” since it was not battleground state lawmakers who accomplished the feat of interrupting a constitutionally sanctioned process of deliberation but outright bands of thugs? It is more than a bit presumptive bordering on dishonesty to claim prescience after the fact when one has said nothing that points to an “insurrection”. Apparently, Monday morning quarterbacks are never in scarcity. In effect, as we will attempt to show below, foresight in this affair was conditional on the Marxist method, which is not the methodology of David Sirota.
The more important question is, of course, not whether David Sirota had really been prescient enough to predict this king of mob rioting and invasion (a much more adequate characterisation to describe a brazen fascist onslaught than “insurrection”, full of historical connotations related to popular revolutions). The real question is how Jacobin finds the audacity of billing this on the morrow of the incident. Having pursued a policy of coy support to Joseph Biden as the method of getting rid of Trump, DSA’ers have little, if anything, to accuse others of cecity. For if Jacobin sends into people’s inboxes an article with the title “The Insurrection Was Predictable”, the immediate logical question to the DSA is “what policies did you pursue to thwart this predictable result”? Sirota asks in his December article “Where Is Democrats’ Call to Action?” And what may that action be? To organise the working class and the youth in order to stop the MAGA thugs from dominating the street? Of course not! It is the much more anodyne policy summarised as “a vociferous public campaign focused on preventing state legislators from feeling empowered to ignore their own voters”. So, this is what as late as December 11 Sirota could think of in response to bands of fascist thugs organising to dominate the streets!
The DSA has been caught asleep. No amount of trickery can hide that simple fact.
The Method and Politics of Marxism
Given the immense importance of the United States with respect to class struggles and the future of humanity all around the world, we at DIP (Revolutionary Workers Party) of Turkey have been following the US situation even more attentively than usual since the rise of Trump on the political scene in that country. This same attention was devoted to the US presidential election this year. On our international web site RedMed (www.redmed.org, sponsored jointly with our sister party in Greece, EEK, and our Russian partners, the OKP, the RPK, and the Association “Soviet Union”) and on our central organ in Turkish (www.gercekgazetesi.net), we devoted many articles, both in Turkish and English, to the developments in 2020 in America, the George Floyd murder, the vast mobilisation that ensued, Trump’s response to this and his ostensible failure, the rise of MAGA (Make America Great Again) bands of thugs, Trump’s redefining of the US political scene in his 4th of July address at Mount Rushmore, the approaching elections, and, most importantly for the topic we are discussing, the possible avenues that Trump might try to reverse the results of the presidential election in order to stay in office for another four years or, who knows, till the end of his days.
Among the methods Trump and his cohort might try to stay in office, we naturally discussed all the methods that Sirota mentions in his December article and more. But in opposition to him, we did not limit our sight with scenarios that remain within the US constitutional order. Parliamentary cretinism, we suspect, pushes the DSA’ers to taking into consideration only those. We revolutionaries know that the ilk of Trump have no respect, in contrast to “democratic socialists”, for the parliamentary (the word is of course somewhat ill-suited to the US, since there the legislative branch is called Congress) and the more general constitutional system.
This is what we said clearly: there are not two possible outcomes of the US presidential elections this time, but three. Apart from the regular normal possibilities of one of the two candidates winning, the third is the ending of the entire process in a warlike situation. Only if you have predicted this sort of outcome can you say “the insurrection was predictable” and not if you are talking about Trump’s use of the quaint intricacies of the US Constitution. Yes, for us, the mob riot and the invasion of the Capitol was predictable.
That is only thanks to the fact that since the Charlottesville, Virginia episode of summer 2017, when neo-Nazi, KKK and other white supremacist goons tried to stage a mass rally only to be confronted by the heroic counter-demonstration of anti-racist and anti-fascist forces and the confrontation ended in the death of a young anti-racist woman, we have been pursuing the activities of these bands of thugs with great attention. We indicated in our later writing that Trump’s answer during the first presidential debate when the moderator tried to corner him about far-right bands, citing Proud Boys as an example, in the mould of “Proud Boys, stand back, stand by” was a brazen admission that in the hour of need he would be summoning these bands to his aid. We thus said clearly in our pre-election articles and, later when Trump lost, in our post-election writing, that Trump was probably busy organising these bands of thugs when what he ostensibly was doing was playing golf. Significantly, one of our post-election articles bore the title “The Calm Before the Storm”. This is the kind of careful approach that is needed in order to now assert, after the event, “the insurrection was predictable”. But for that you need to be a revolutionary Marxist. That kind of analysis is hardly to be expected from a “democratic socialist”.
We also reminded our readers that provoking a war in the Middle East, in particular one against Iran, possibly bringing in the Shia militia in Iraq as an excuse, was a possible avenue Trump might try. We pointed out that the entire operation at the Department of Defence might be a step in preparation for this kind of attempt. This was before the secret trip that Netanyahu made to Saudi Arabia to meet the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and the butcher of Saudi Arabia, the darling of the Trump establishment Mohammed bin Salman. This was also before the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the number one name in Iran’s nuclear establishment, by the agents of Zionism. This was way before the sending of aircraft carriers and war planes to the Gulf to threaten Iran. This was ages before the reality of “ghost Iraqi Shia militia” became a fact on the anniversary of the assassination of Kassem Soleimani (3rd January), the Revolutionary Guard commander of Iran. We still believe that had the 6th January attempt at threatening the establishment not ended in the miserable disaster that it turned out to be, Trump would still have been in a position to force the situation by engaging in a war with Iran and declaring a state of emergency to use that to stay in power. We almost hear some democratic socialists groaning to the effect that this is too “far-fetched”. If that is the case, they still haven’t learned their lesson. Trump is a political leader who has even toyed with the idea of declaring martial law and holding the election under the supervision of the military. Trump is a political leader who has been inciting the MAGA bands to take the law in their hands. To say now that this or that is “far-fetched” is to understand nothing of the political character of the man.
And so on the night of 6th January (Turkey is ahead of EST by 8 hours and of the West Coast by 11 hours), those members of the DIP who were watching the incidents live on TV (and they are internationalists and do follow fateful events for the proletarians of other nations closely), the moment the deliberations in the Senate chamber were interrupted by the warning of security was not one of surprise or even shock as it was to many “democratic socialists”, but one of a bitter feeling of vindication. Yes, the DIP had clearly predicted the “results of the election”. This was our “third possible outcome” being played out!
And why was DIP able to do that? To explain that requires a long theoretical analysis of the world situation, the rise of what we call proto-fascism around the world and, in particular, in Europe (probably called “populism” by many a DSA theoretician), and the place of Donald Trump in that family of proto-fascist politicians. Suffice it to say that all these political forces have a fascistic nature in their nationalistic orientation that breaks with the previous globalism of the international bourgeoisie, are protectionists in their economic policy because they pursue a solution to the crisis of capitalism no longer at the so-called “global” level but at the national one, and base their politics on winning the petty-bourgeoisie and even the working class on the basis of a rabid racism. They are not fully-fledged fascist forces since they lack the militia or the stormtroopers necessary to dominate the street and fight a civil war against the organised forces of the proletariat, Thus the label “proto-fascist” that we use.
What distinguishes Donald Trump from his European counterparts (the likes of Nigel Farage in Britain (the darling of Trump), Marine Le Pen in France, or Matteo Salvini in Italy) is that not only does he not have (or did he not have one is wont to say at this stage!) fascist bands, but he also lacks a disciplined party that almost blindly follows the revered leader, the would-be Führer. We will see in a moment that these two contradictions were the basis of the disaster of 6th January for Trump.
This Marxist analysis of the international and class situation was what made it possible for DIP to predict precisely the outcome of the US presidential election.
So, we now come to the crux of the matter. We are not in a futile game of guessing political outcomes. We are engaged in class struggle whether at the national or international level and so any prognosis of the future must necessarily relate to the best method of fighting the class struggle. This is why we posed above the question of why the DSA simply contented itself with coyly supporting Biden when the danger of a mob of reactionary thugs overtaking one of the citadels of American politics was palpably lurking in the shadows and was “predictable” for them.
We at DIP deduced from all that has been said above an entirely different politics for the working class and for socialists. We tried our best to reach out to our socialist comrades across the Atlantic to persuade them about the overall situation and urge them to take the necessary precautions against the rising threat of fascism. This requires a totally different set of priorities from the DSA. We will limit ourselves to only the two fundamental axes of the policy we defend for the US (and with certain differences in the other imperialist countries). Our policy calls for, first, the formation of a working-class party opposing all bourgeois forces, in particular the two establishment parties in the US, the Democratic Party as well as Trump’s Republicans. That is because fascism is a political turn of the bourgeoisie that aims at the destruction of even the most conservative of proletarian organisations and the bourgeoisie in its entirety will support fascism when the needs of the moment push it to that position in order to salvage its domination.
This is diametrically opposed to the policy of the majority of the US left. In the case of the DSA this is obviously contradicted by the fact that DSA is hostage to a bourgeois establishment party, the Democratic Party. But there is a more general aspect to this: the US and European lefts have totally evacuated for decades now the field of class politics in order to concentrate on “identity politics”, as well as environmentalism presented under the label of “eco-socialism”. Let there be no mistake: both questions of ecology and the oppression of particular groups in society outside of class categories are immensely important for us as well. What distinguishes our politics from identity politics is that we understand that oppressed masses (the racially and nationally oppressed, women, gays, religious minorities etc.) can only be saved from oppression if they gather around the working class in a quest for political power. Thus, identity politics, by abandoning working class politics, has become self-defeating and we have demonstrated this in the case of the negative significance of the rule of Trump for the right to abortion.
The second aspect of the policy we advocated for the US left was to organise workers and their allies, first and foremost obviously those within the class and its allies who are socialists, in local and regional self-defence groups so as to counter the rise of the MAGA fascists. Anyone who delegates the task of struggling against fascist militia to the law enforcement agencies of the bourgeoisie will be in for a very rough awakening. We need only remind our readers the ease with which the MAGA fascists invaded the Capitol building and the side show of a security agent taking selfies with the thugs.
The abortive “March on Washington”
The careful reader will have noted that the title of this article makes an analogy between the events of 6th January and the March on Rome, the capital of Italy, which brought to power the first fascist government in Europe in 1922. The DSA’ers may again object to the historical analogy. All analogies are, of course, of limited power. But those who have studied Italian fascism know very well that, despite all the differences of the so-called “Blackshirts”, the squadristi of Mussolini, who had been terrorising Italy for the past 18 months before the March on Rome, from the MAGA hordes, a patchwork army marching in dispersed order, there is an important similarity: the March on Rome was itself something of a farce, nowhere near a show of force that would bring a fascist dictator to power totally outside of the regular functioning of the parliamentary system. It was, in fact, the King who offered the position of Prime Minister to Mussolini on a golden platter, from which position he was then going to establish total control over the country in the space of several years. Thus, the victory of fascism was not really the result of the fearsome power of the Blackshirts, but the web of political relations that had been established in the political conjuncture of post-World War I Italy. Most significantly, Italy had just passed through what has gone down in history as the Biennio rosso, the “Red Two-Year Period” of 1919-1920, which had rightly scared the Italian bourgeoisie that a repeat of the Russian October would take away their power as well.
No such emergency situations have occurred in the US yet. That is one of the reasons why Trump was not supported by the entire US bourgeoisie, although he is definitely backed by a significant portion of that class. There is a second difference which had its toll on the 6th January undertaking. Despite the fact that the March on Rome was far from any show of strength that would overpower the security forces of the Italian state, it was nonetheless much more organised than that of the MAGA fascists. The latter was a collection of disparate forces that was haphazardly brought together by a blind faith in the modern-day Führer, Donald Trump. Not only did it suffer dismally from the lack of inner organisational unity that is required for taking over power. It also was a light years away from the necessary mass presence that would throw law enforcement into a mood of panic and disorder. At no point on 6th January did we see on television the entire MAGA army in a single shot. But the picture of the mass that is shown in the photo on top of this page gives us an idea about how small in fact the mob was.
So, there is no surprise in the fact that this undertaking was doomed to failure from the beginning. The entire trajectory of Trump’s political career determined the miserable sight of the 6th January debacle. Fascism cannot win without a disciplined party and the battering ram of a force of stormtroopers. The “individualist fascist” is an oxymoron. You cannot win a civil war without troops. This was the quintessence of an abortive reach for power. Trump’s credibility is probably at the nadir of his entire life these days. But let no one bring down their guard!
At the time we characterised Trump a “maverick fascist” in his early days in office, the gurus of the liberal and liberal-cum-socialist establishment of America were busy consoling themselves by repeating “he will normalise, sooner or later”. This was whistling in the dark!
We cannot hold the pulse of the so-called left-wing US socialist leaderships and intelligentsia from far away, but from our correspondence with our US comrades, we understand that there is at least a certain illusion that once the abortive reach for power was averted, the danger may be deemed over. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
It seems the bigwigs of American politics, including those on the left, have still not grasped the fact that Donald Trump is not an individual capitalist trying to boost his ego still further. Witness the stupid platitude of Mitt Romney, Senator of Utah and one-time presidential candidate for the Republican Party, expressed after the mob rioting: “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride, and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning”. No, Trump is the product of a certain historical juncture, in which not only American but also European and other ruling classes are once again toying with the idea of a fascist option. And because of an economic crisis that has lasted so long (since roughly the mid-1970s), which has moreover turned into what we have been calling the Third Great Depression since the financial collapse of 2008, the labouring masses and the poor are desperately in search of an alternative leadership in each country. And when this does not take the form of a revolution, as in the Arab world or in Latin America, it is unfortunately the far right for reasons we have explained above. Biden may have received the highest vote tally in generations, but Trump’s support (74 million votes) has surpassed the winning figure for many a president! And this after four years of foul-mouthed reactionary politics at home and abroad and a deadly and deliberate mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic!
As serious is the following fact. The establishment, still “whistling in the dark”, is pretending to be contented with the fact that immediately after the failed takeover of Congress, the senators and members of the House of Representatives gathered to vote, “overwhelmingly” in their words, to certify Biden as president. The Senate vote may, indeed, have been overwhelming (93 to 6). After all, the senators, numbering only 100 in all, are select servants of US imperialism. What about the House though, whose members have always been famously much closer to the shades of opinion within the masses, be these progressive or reactionary, depending on the concrete situation. A full 138 Republican members out of a total of 211 voted in favour of the objection to the results of Pennsylvania and this after the “act of sedition” that had occurres only hours before!
This is the mood in the country despite the dismal failure of the attempt at takeover. We end our warning by reminding the reader of the last sentence Trump uttered in the video in which he called the mob “to go home”: “Remember this day forever!”
It is not to be forgotten that even Hitler failed in his first try of 1923, the so-called Beerhall Putsch.