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The Difference Between a System in Crisis and the People in Crisis

The Difference Between a System in Crisis and the People in Crisis

By Dennis Loo (8/26/17)

It might be useful for me to further elaborate on two of the points I made in the last paragraph of my “An Open Letter to the NO! Campaign.” These two points concern the difference between a system being in political crisis, which this one surely is, and the people being in crisis.

The two processes obviously overlap; some aspects of what is going on is certainly increased people’s suffering. 

But there is a significant difference between these two. If you fail to see that difference and select as your focus the secondary aspect (people and the planet are suffering) of a process rather than the primary aspect (there is a political crisis gripping the system due primarily to a credibility problem), than you are making a consequential error. 

Contradictions are often like that: complicated and of varying degrees in them, where there is some (or a lot) of different strands. But if you are to extract from that bunch what is primary in them, then you can make sense of it as a whole and effect the overall process thereby. You can have, in other words, a transformative effect and bring into being something hidden to most eyes previously.

Here, for example, is an excerpt from the NO! keynote address on August 15, 2017:

Did you know that 431 measures were introduced at the state level across this country to restrict abortion for women in just the first three months of this year?

Did you know that over 200 protesters were arrested at Trump’s inauguration, charged with multiple felonies, and that 211 of them face up to 75 years in prison?

Did you know that Trump’s so-called Environmental “Protection” Agency has already moved to undo or block 30 environmental rules aimed at protecting air, water, and public health?

This is just one fact off of three of these panels—you really have to read all of them in their entirety because the scope and scale of what is being done is staggering.

These are definitely horrible measures that must be fought. The RCP does a service by calling these out – and many others - so that more people can be aroused to fight them. But these are examples meant to show that most of us and the planet are having a worse time of it and offered as a major part of their proof that we will soon be facing established and full-blown fascism.

What have we been given, by comparison, to show that the system is in crisis? None, if you were to read RCP publications only.

According to my friends in the RCP and NO! supporters, not only is this not a system in crisis with a gigantic credibility problem, but Trump, Pence and their crew are a “juggernaut” rolling over their opponents.

They say that:

THE PROBLEM is Trump is president precisely because he does not respect the norms of politics as usual—he was backed by powerful interests who recognized that he could be the vehicle to shred what have been the governing and social norms of America for decades. He was elected by a social base that has been riled up for decades behind a racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant program. They believe that Trump’s outsider outrageousness and his flouting of the norms proves that he can and will deliver. (Caps in the original).

Let me repeat part of that: “[H]e was backed by powerful interests who recognized that he could be the vehicle to shred what have been the governing and social norms of America for decades.”

Contrary to this statement, however, Trump and Pence are actually getting resistance practically every time they try something and rather than “shred[ding] what has been the governing and social norms” and getting away with it, they are going much too far for most people’s tastes and/or values, to the point where he is facing calls for his resignation and exceedingly widely seen as unfit for office.

Do you think most people are happy that POTUS won’t come out against Nazis and gets Grand KKK Wizard David Duke’s approving tweet? Of course not. Was his Tuesday, August 15, 2017 Charlottesville impromptu press conference where he let it all hang out greeted with praise? Certainly not. 

In the 1960s they called the fact that most of the people when they heard an LBJ or one of his cabinet member’s speeches “the credibility gap” because people widely disbelieved their own government. What do we now have when Trump is openly called a “liar” in headlines and where a majority of both registered Democrats and Republicans wish Trump would stop tweeting?

It is one thing to argue – correctly so – that normal channels are not adequate, and another thing to claim that what Trump and Pence do is calculating, deliberate, and working.

Here is the NO! forces speech again:

And it’s not just Trump, it’s his whole REGIME. It’s Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, Betsy DeVos. It is the Christian fascist theocrat Mike Pence who has not only backed every outrageous threat Trump has made, but also is part of a whole movement—which includes the new Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and many others packed throughout this regime at all levels—who are working aggressively to impose a fascist Biblical, literalist society that enslaves women, terrorizes LGBTQ people, erases science, indoctrinates generations of youth in Christian fundamentalist and creationist schools. This is why the whole regime must go. And they must go BEFORE it is too late.

As we say in the Refuse Fascism Call to Action, “Fascism is not just a gross combination of horrific reactionary policies. It is a qualitative change in how society is governed. Fascism foments and relies on xenophobic nationalism, racism, misogyny, and the aggressive re-institution of oppressive ‘traditional values.’ ... What is crucial to understand is that once in power fascism essentially eliminates traditional democratic rights.

You see, Trump is not only committing great horrors—he is intentionally ripping up the norms and assumptions of how society has functioned up until now. (Boldfacing, italics, and caps in the original).

In contrast, this is how Lenin put it in State and Revolution:

Another reason why the omnipotence of “wealth” is more certain in a democratic republic is that it does not depend on defects in the political machinery or on the faulty political shell of capitalism. A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell (through the Palchinskys, Chernovs, Tseretelis and Co.), it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it.

We must also note that Engels is most explicit in calling universal suffrage as well an instrument of bourgeois rule. Universal suffrage, he says, obviously taking account of the long experience of German Social-Democracy, is

“the gauge of the maturity of the working class. It cannot and never will be anything more in the present-day state." (Bolding is added)

What if Hillary Clinton had been elected instead? She won the popular vote by three million, and only lost because of 78,000 swing votes in total, due to her and her campaign’s taking for granted Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Do you think if she were POTUS she would now be exposed by the RCP for continuing White House predecessors’ trends, from Ronald Reagan on?[1] She should be, had that happened. Would it not be better to have a Democrat do these undemocratic things, mostly disguised and step-by-step advanced, rather than too blatantly the way Trump and Pence are doing it? Which would be better for capital? Which one sparks the greatest resistance?

Having said that, that also does not mean that the GOP being in the White House is automatically ruled out. They tend to alternate places between the GOP and the Democratic nominee to preserve in people’s minds that we have a “choice.”

When Obama was POTUS, many greeted his election with glee, believing that the nation had turned a corner on race since an African-American finally became president. Some of those happy at first woke up over time that the system wouldn’t and didn’t change because there was finally a black president.

Avakian’s comparison to Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler to the US today is inexact. When the bourgeoisie resorts to fascist rule, it does so fundamentally out of strategic weakness, not strength, which is another thing wrong with the NO! campaign. The campaign treats fascism as if it is nearly unbeatable and we are told that if we don’t drive them both from office soon their fascism will be a fait accompli.

Fascism comes to rule due to the ruling class reaching a point where they can no longer rule as they did before without making a drastic change, which describes Weimar Germany, but not the US circa 2016.

Further, the NO! campaign says:

Trump is bringing open white supremacy back with a vengeance, he is bringing a FLOOD of undisguised and unrelenting LIES, he is bringing threats of violence against the media and the courts and his political opponents. He is bringing Christian Fascism. He is assailing science and purging scientists. He is bringing fascist thugs into the streets. His bludgeoning methods—his violating of the norms—is not inexperience, psychosis, or blundering. It is the point. The Trump/Pence Regime is a FASCIST regime—they are remaking the governing norms of society—ripping up basic democratic and civil rights.

To quote again from the Refuse Fascism Call to Action, “We must recognize that the character of fascism is that it can absorb separate acts of resistance while continually throwing the opposition off balance by rapidly moving its agenda forward. The Trump/Pence Regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law... IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.” 

The program of the Democratic Party and their media mouthpieces is restoring the norms. So people who hate and oppose the regime are being led by them to look to elections, hearings, investigations, and protest as usual to “make their voices heard,” as if we are dealing with a normal regime. We are not. (Boldfacing, italics, and caps in the original).

What do you expect the Democrats to do but work within the existing system and dispense the bad advice that they do? Communists expect that the system’s representatives would do that and therefore it is up to those who don’t benefit from this system or who expect something else to call for working outside normal channels.

NO! goes on:

Besides, even in normal times, change doesn’t really come about by people playing within the official channels of politics in society. The Freedom Rides and sit-ins of the civil rights movement didn’t “play by the rules.” The draft-card burners and the soldiers who refused to fight in Vietnam, and the students who took over universities didn’t “play by the rules.” And again: these are NOT normal times. (Boldfacing and caps in the original).

First, we are told that Trump and Pence are both Christian Fascists, or at least, Trump was put into office because he is in the process of rapidly fulfilling the fascist agenda.

Now to be clear, there ARE people who want fascism, and a lot of them DO want these things and ARE TRYING to implement them. But it is one thing to want these things and make progress towards doing these things, and another thing getting what you want. There ARE bible literalists, but try as they might, do you see them succeeding at “erasing science” and indoctrinating generations of youth? To state their intent as the same as their achievement is very undialectical.

Second, the GOP establishment (e.g., Romney, Bush, Kasich) tried their very best to stop Trump from being their party’s nominee. It’s true that the final nominees have both got to be acceptable to the PTB, but that is not the same as saying “powerful forces” made sure the Trump/Pence ticket won. The 2016 election pitted two very unpopular figures against each other and the result of it was uncertain beforehand.

It is not necessary that we point out that “these are NOT normal times.” People already know that these are not normal times. What people need to know is how to deal with these extraordinary times and must go through a process to learn that they must mainly operate outside existing channels.

It is misleading people to take the fact that the Right overall has the initiative, to then proceed to arguing that the Right is therefore winning and will win if we don’t stop fascism in time.

By conflating trying with winning, and thereby giving fascists like Trump and Pence more credit than they deserve, the NO! campaign is taking the opening that the political crisis offers and is reducing it down into a fight against fascism and for democratic rights rather than a fight fundamentally against the system.

P.S.: This Glenn Greenwald 2013 expose is well-worth reading and serves as an antidote to even communists and leftists having a soft spot for liberal Democrats and treating fascists as something qualitatively different:

The sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.


[1] “I have written before (e.g., in my 2011 book Globalization and the Demolition of Society) the following: the executive branch of government since Reagan’s presidency has step-by-step been concentrating more powers in its hands and moving towards a more fascistic style, regardless of which party holds the White House and regardless of who holds a majority in Congress. Indeed, if you look closely at what have been the policies – and not what the various presidents have said about what they stand for – then you will see that what matters is chronology rather than party or individual. That is, Obama, for example, was worse than Bush Jr., and Bill Clinton was worse than Reagan and Bush Sr., with Obama worse than all of those who came before him from Reagan on. This is true regardless of whether we look at domestic or foreign policy. Obama made no secret that he admired Reagan more than of all his predecessors and Obama’s foreign policy was to the right of Bush Sr. Obama’s DOJ, for example, went after the one active CIA person who actually publicly condemned the CIA’s concerted practice of torture, John Kiriakou, for saying that he objected to torture and that the CIA was in its policy using torture, in a media interview, and imprisoned him for twenty-three months, after Obama’s DOJ under Eric Holder revived the Kiriakou investigation after Bush Jr.’s DOJ ended up dropping its lengthy investigation of Kiriakou. Obama also deported more undocumented immigrants than Bush Jr. And so on.”

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