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Trump’s ‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign and the Early Resistance

Posted on Feb 2, 2017

By Paul Street

(Page 2)

Straight Out of Goebbels

And besides, Trump insists, and most of his base seems to agree, he didn’t actually lose the popular vote. Trump’s fraud charge, recited again and again, is straight out of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Third Reich propaganda minister.” Repeat a lie a thousand times,” Goebbels said, “and it becomes the truth.” Goebbels used that principle to run his horrific campaign against Europe’s Jews.

It’s the same idea with Trump’s preposterous claims that the U.S. is being ravaged by wild hordes of illegal-alien criminals or that climate change is not indisputably the result of human activity. Recite the myth again and again—like the insane right-wing claim that Hillary Clinton and Obama were radical leftists—and it becomes a material force in history. That’s what happened with the Bush administration’s ridiculous allegations that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was linked to al-Qaida and 9/11 and was stockpiled with weapons of mass destruction—gigantic deceptions that were disseminated with no small help from the mass media, including no less of a “liberal” outpost than The New York Times.


The Not-So-Super Power of Huge Marches

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Speaking of Bush, the invasion of Iraq, mass demonstrations and The New York Times, we recall that newspaper’s description of the giant U.S. and global demonstrations that occurred against Dubya’s forthcoming arch-criminal invasion of Iraq. “The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge anti-war demonstrations around the world this weekend,” the Times wrote in a mid-February 2003 headline story, were “reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” The article was subtitled “A New Power in the Streets.”

Did Bush, Dick Cheney (Dubya’s “de facto president”) and the rest of the neoconservative cabal that made U.S. foreign policy in Bush Junior’s presidency care about the other “superpower in the streets” in March of 2003? They did not. The “Shock and Awe” bombing show exploded in Baghdad even as millions protested the criminal assault in U.S. streets and around the world.

France’s then-president Jacques Chirac was “stupefied” when Dubya gave him the following reason for the invasion: “This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.” (I don’t mean to suggest that Iraq was invaded primarily to fulfill Bush’s demented evangelical understanding of Scripture. Dubya was a man out of his depth, manipulated by neoconservative petro-imperialists hoping to buy another half century of unchallengeable U.S. global hegemony by securing imperial control of Iraq’s vast petroleum reserves—and then marching on to grab Iran’s.)


If It Walks Like a Duck

Trump is not driven by evangelical (or any other kind of) Christianity. But where is he coming from with this incredible, white-nationalist policy blitzkrieg in his first two weeks? In some educated parts of the U.S. left, it is fashionable to smirk at the notion that Trump is a fascist or any other kind of ideologue. He’s just, the line goes, a really rich, incredibly selfish and wealth-, celebrity- and attention-worshipping narcissist—an amoral man-child who says and does whatever he can to grab and hold wealth and power.

It’s hard to know what really goes on in the mind of a sociopath like The Donald, but there are reasons to suspect something darker. His first wife reported that Trump kept a collection of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside—a possibly relevant fact. His top political adviser and newly minted NSC boss Bannon is a cryptofascist at best, and a real one at worst. And if Trump walks and quacks like a fascist duck, it may not really matter how conscious he is of how his authoritarian, corporatist, militarist, imperial, sexist, racist, nativist, hyper-masculinist and white-nationalist Venn diagram overlaps with fascist ideology and style past and present. As the left journalist David Talbot notes in his recent collection of interviews with Chris Hedges, “the beast with orange hair … tapped into the long-simmering rage and resentment of these working families and underclass. And along with the electrifying leader, came all the other hallmarks of classic fascism—the over-heated rhetoric, the scapegoating of minorities, the thuggish violence.”


Resistance: Beyond Anti-Trumpism

So how do you fight American fascism? Like many on the “hard left,” I’ve been worried that the mass marches against Tyrant Trump’s inauguration might end up like the ones that preceded Dubya’s re-crucifixion of Mesopotamia—a big, momentary blast of liberal fury largely devoid of longer-term political and organizational movement power beneath and beyond the quadrennial electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as “politics,” the only politics that matters. I’ve feared they would remain captive to the all-too-pervasive definition of meaningful citizen participation as marking a major party-dominated ballot once every four years and then going home to let other and much richer people run the world into the ground. I’ve also fretted that they’ve been overly driven by the fact that the new president, atop what Mike Lofgren called the “visible state”—itself a cloak for the underlying, unelected, and interrelated “Deep State” dictatorships of money, class and empire—is, like Dubya, a nasty, white, Republican Bush and not a more outwardly smart and (neo) “liberal” Democrat like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama.

Progressives must not let Trump become a great red cape in the hands of the ruling-class matadors. We charge, screaming “Down with Trump” while the owners plunge their weapons into our passing hides. We must learn to head for the masters who hold the swords and spears behind the cloak. Those masters are the same, whichever major party and personalities hold power in Washington. Resist Trump/Bannon we must, but we cannot afford obsession with Trump.

With the impressive mass protests that have occurred in U.S. airports (and not just the major ones) in response to Trump’s Muslim travel ban, there are reasons to think that the anti-Trump/Trumpism resistance might have strong legs beyond the election cycle. The president can count on more mass opposition to the many provocative policies he has yet to unveil. Wait until the openly ecocidal, climate change-denying Trump administration (which installed the CEO of the leading greenhouse gas crime syndicate, ExxonMobil, as secretary of state) takes on Standing Rock, the great Native American-led vanguard of the desperate popular struggle to protect prospects for a decent human future by keeping fossil fuels in the ground. That could prove to be an epic confrontation.

Serious progressives must work to make all this anti-Trumpism about much more than just doing the neoliberal Deep State’s work by getting Trump and other Republicans out and some new combination of more palatable Democrats and Republicans in elective power. As the resistance gathers and expands, we must strive not merely to defeat one terrible Trump policy after another or to oust the big Republican meanies. Upton Sinclair got it right in the original socialist newspaper version of “The Jungle”: The Democrats and the Republicans are “two wings of the same bird of prey.” They are not identical, and there are more than just tiny differences between them, but they both function in their own ways and through both conflict and collaboration with each other for the same reigning wealth and power structures of class, race, money and empire. It’s the dismal, dollar-drenched and neoliberal nothingness of the Democrats (rightly described by the late political scientist Sheldon Wolin as the nation’s “inauthentic opposition” party) that sets the ever more right-wing and wildly unpopular Republican Party up for victory again and again. 

The movement we need has to be about something much bigger and different than merely elevating the political power of corporate- and empire-captive Blue America (home to the multicultural airport protests) over corporate- and empire-captive Red (“heartland”) America. We must be careful not to feed the hateful ruling-class game of racial, ethnic, regional, gender, partisan and territorial divide-and-rule, which pits the more white, rural, evangelical Christian and Republican “flyover zones” of “the heartland” against the more urban, multicultural, “educated,” bicoastal and Democratic zones (where the big planes land and take off) while Wall Street, Silicon Valley, the military-industrial complex, the military and police state and other parts of the permanent government bureaucracy concentrate wealth and power ever further upward.

We should struggle more ambitiously to bring down the whole structure of ruling-class governance and “marionette theater” electoral and parliamentary politics that has brought us to the present dystopian moment. The revolution we must demand cannot be just a “kinder and gentler,” more outwardly but superficially democratic and constitutional version of the same system that created Trump. We need to build organizations and develop movement cultures and political strategies fitted for a long-term popular struggle to restructure politics and policy in accord with the principle of popular sovereignty—the ultimate nightmare of those who have stood atop the American system from the War of Independence through the current new Gilded Age.

A now savagely unequal (the top 0.1 percent in the U.S. is worth as much as the bottom 90 percent), openly plutocratic and arch-imperial American system that delivers the fake-democratic choice between “lying neoliberal warmonger[s]” like the Clintons and Obama on one hand and deplorable white nationalists and militarists like Trump and Bush Junior on the other is long overdue for something bigger than just another deceptive “change” election or even an impeachment. It is ripe for revolution.


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