The Anti-Trump Protests: Don’t Ask: Where Were You For The Last 8 Years? by Bill Dores

Protests Erupt as Trump visits Philly

Image by Joe Piette via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

by Bill Dores
Workers World
January 30, 2017

Since the election of Trump, spontaneous protests have erupted as well as the massive counter-inaugural marches on Jan. 20 and worldwide women’s marches on Jan. 21. Some leftists and anti-war people on social media have had nothing but criticism for the protests and skepticism regarding their participants.

We republish here a response by Bill Dores, an activist since he joined Youth Against War and Fascism in 1968.

On Aug. 12, 1962, my organization, Youth Against War and Fascism, held the first protest in this country against the Vietnam war. About 70 people came to our picket line in New York. Few people in the U.S. were aware that U.S. military “advisers” were fighting against the Vietnamese people at that time.

That was a bit before my time. I became active in 1968, after the Tet Offensive — when the Vietnamese National Liberation Front stunned the then half-million U.S. troops by seizing major parts of the country for a few weeks in February — and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April.

By then the body count of U.S. troops killed and the cost of the war had skyrocketed. Hundreds of thousands were marching in the streets against the war. Students were shutting down campuses. GIs were starting to rebel. Dr. King had spoken out against the war a year before his assassination. By the fall of 1969, Nixon was in the White House and a million people filled the streets in National Moratoriums against the war.

Should we have said, “Where were you clowns seven years ago, when we happy few were protesting the war alone? You Johnny-Come-Latelys are only here because more GIs are dying, there’s a Republican in the White House and the Establishment itself is split on the war”?

That would have been foolish. The point was not moral purity, but to actually try to build a movement to stop the war. We threw ourselves into the new movement and tried to make it more militant.

We injected the slogan “Stop the War Against Black America” and raised the issue of Palestine. Sometimes we had to battle official marshals to do that, but it couldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been there.

In November 1969, when half a million people rallied in Washington against the war, we, together with Students for a Democratic Society, led a breakaway march of 20,000 that stormed the Justice Department in defense of the Black Panther Party.

The night before, thousands of us battled the cops in the streets of Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood as we tried to seize the Saigon regime’s Embassy — the U.S. supported a puppet government there — on behalf of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of Vietnam.

War on Yugoslavia

Fast forward 30 years to March 1999 and the Bill Clinton regime’s air assault on Yugoslavia. The International Action Center, many of whose older members had been in YAWF, organized just about the only protests against that war in alliance with some Yugoslav organizations. We organized marches in several cities, a march on Washington, and a war crimes tribunal against the Clinton administration and the European NATO leaders, who also backed the destruction of that multinational country.

Thousands of Yugoslav-Americans came out in protest, many for the first time. Some had voted for Clinton; others were Republicans and voted for Bush ­Senior.

Did we say, “Where the hell were you eight years ago when Bush was bombing Iraq? And where were you last month when the New York Police Department murdered Amadou Diallo in a hail of 41 shots?”

Of course not. Of course, people will respond first when they are attacked directly. It opens their eyes. We said, “Welcome to the struggle; let’s try and stop this war.” A few years later, when Bush Junior invaded Iraq, many of them joined the protests.

I find it incomprehensible that anyone on the left or who claims to be anti-imperialist is complaining that people are in the streets against the class enemy’s new commander. If you have been at the protests, you have seen that most people there were young and many from the communities most under attack. Others were from the Black Lives Matter and immigrant rights movements and have been in the streets under Bush and Obama. (Were all those who criticize the Trump protests there with them?)

A major aim of capitalist-run electoral politics is to direct people away from street demonstrations to the confines of the ballot box. Now, people are in the streets. The fear of provoking a popular upsurge was one reason many in the ruling class were leery of Trump in the first place.

Do the anti-Trump protesters need to understand Syria and Libya to protest Trump’s openly proclaimed plans to escalate the war against Black and Brown people here? If we anti-imperialists are with the people in the streets, we have an opportunity to explain the other issues to them.

Are some of them misled by the Democrats? That’s the role of the Democratic Party — to mislead. It’s only by being in the struggle and by being in contact with revolutionary ideas that the protesters learn.

Revolutionary change depends upon people coming into motion who were not active before. The point is to get people in motion.

Where else do you expect the human material for revolution to come from? It’s in the process of struggle and confrontation that people become radical.

Russia’s revolutions

The 1905 Revolution in Russia began with people following a priest in a march that appealed to “the good czar, our little father,” asking him for some reforms. The “good czar’s” police fired on that march.

Twelve years later, women in St. Petersburg went out on strike on International Women’s Day. The men didn’t join until the next day. (The women didn’t scold them for not being there “yesterday.”) Five days later, together with Army troops, the women and men workers overthrew the czar and started on the road to the socialist revolution eight months later.

My first political act, when I was very young, was giving out flyers for Sen. “Clean Gene” McCarthy, who had the reputation of being against the Vietnam War, although he too was for U.S. imperialism. Within weeks, I was supporting the Black Panthers and running in the streets with the flag of Vietnam’s National Liberation Front.

Come to think of it, we in Workers World Party organized the only demonstrations in the country that I know of against fascism in Ukraine, defending the rebellion in the eastern provinces now called Novorossiya, and supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea from the pro-fascist Kiev regime. We have also marched against U.S. intervention in Syria.

We wonder if the purists now scorning the anti-Trump protesters were there at these demonstrations. Probably not, or the demonstrations would have been much larger.

But if they join now, we won’t try to keep them away.

Articles copyright 1995-2017 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

from the archives:

From Travel Ban Protests To A Global Movement Against Global Injustices by David Swanson

Emergence: Revolution Within and Without

Protests Against Trump’s Refugee Ban

Ralph Nader: Trump’s Presidency Will Be Tumultuously Unpredictable

Chris Hedges: The Future of the US Empire Under Donald Trump

Glen Ford: There is No Such Thing as a Progressive Movement That is Aligned with the CIA

Deep Reservations About the “Anti-Trump” Movement by Caleb Maupin

31 thoughts on “The Anti-Trump Protests: Don’t Ask: Where Were You For The Last 8 Years? by Bill Dores

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  10. The article misses the point. Even if the anti-Vietnam war protesters came late to the party, at least they had the right party. Today’s liberals are just anti-Trump and run into the streets at the bidding of the MSM and the DNC. They are blinded by identity politics issues like immigration, race and gender, but ignore the bigger issue of the regime change wars that have slaughtered millions over the last decades. Liberals claim their protests are teaching people, but a mob of knee-jerk liberals who believe the lies and propaganda of the MSM is an echo-chamber, not a teaching moment.

  11. Imo, fighting EVERY nuance of this autocratic plutocrat cabal is NECESSARY.

    The major problem is are fighting military keynesianism which deeply entrenched.

    Jobs! He says. Jobs in what? F35’s? Ammunition? Nukes? More useless consumer goods made of oil-based products? Designer frocks for trophy wives?

    This cabal is swindlers, greed$o$, racists, parasites and Dominionists. It’s led by a pseudo-intellectual fascist with infantile view of history who we did not elect in any way. #Bannon Republic

    There isn’t one in the bunch against corruption. TPP was a huge swindle and their nasty minds will find a vehicle even more nasty. It”s the Powell Memo come to fruition. It will permeate SCOTUS. They will rationalize the entire demise of this country.

    We must fight The System. We must convice the newly recruited The System can never deliver wellbeing.

    The Dems will continue to high jack every dissenting action. The consequences of dissent will grow ever worse.

    Keep learning. Read the deconstruction of the Powell Memo. Study the planks and plots of Dominionism. Read Chalmers Johnson”s National Intelligence Estimate for the US.

    And keep the focus on yourself and what you are doing. All the good stuff we do accumulates. These newbies just are still very naive. They are a good and a bad thing.

    But alliances are the ONLY way to defeat these bullies who took over.

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  13. Sorry, but what is happening now is that neoliberals are completely controlling the agenda opposing Trump — and it IS personal. Chuck Schumer’s hypocritical opposition to Trump’s ridiculous and racist immigration policy is an example, with no mention of the reason WHY we have refugees in the first place. Democratic Party opposition to Trump’s appointees educate no one. A general strike could be useful in beginning to build a third party movement, but the neoliberal emphasis on identity politics stands in the way of a united opposition. As for the Vietnam War, I also organized against it, but once the draft was ended, all those ‘progressives’ disappeared into the woodwork with only a few of us remaining to fight for social justice everywhere.
    Healthy criticism is an important aspect of a free and democratic society. Silencing those of us on the left who offer critiques is just as fascist as the government we are now facing. Good work, way to prevent a real movement from growing!

    • Who mentioned working with the Democratic Party in this article? It’s talking about the actual people who are protesting now.

      From the article:

      “Are some of them misled by the Democrats? That’s the role of the Democratic Party — to mislead. It’s only by being in the struggle and by being in contact with revolutionary ideas that the protesters learn.”

  14. Yes, I agree with you Rocket.
    It’s not a matter of moral purity that I ask “where were all these protesters 8 years ago?
    As I’ve shared before on other DS posts—The reason I am upset and ask the question is because of the blatant, sheer, venomous hypocrisy coming out of the so called left/progressives and these “protests”. They are just so against the evil orange haired Hitler in the white house they refuse to see the last 30 years of solid, slick,(and as another DS poster appropriately called “silver tongued”) evil let alone the last 8. And what’s worse is that most of these current demonstrators want Mrs. Clinton as replacement! That’s the literal obscene insanity of it.
    Save for DS and a few writers/posters on OpEdNews (OPENS) and maybe The intercept, there is not a single progressive/alternative web site or radio station (KPFA in CA comes to mind) that I can bear to listen to anymore for their lack of going over the FACTS and actually covering the issues. These are the folks that should know better and help to drum into the heads of their audience and contributors that yes, we all need to tell the truth and report the facts. For them, It’s as if Mr. Trump has created all the evil in the world in one week. Well that’s not been the case.
    Everything he’s done the past week has been pretty much straight out of what’s already been policy, practice or “business as usual” for the past 30 years, save for his dissolving of the TPP. Now there’s news!.
    Like Paul Craig Roberts (he says a lot of very honest, realty based things which I think most progressives won’t even read) states in his OPENS articles, nothing is going to really shift in this country in a good way until the comfortable non profit progressive left stops focusing on “identity politics” and starts to focus on the real enemy of globalization and corporate evil. Only then will they truly begin to understand the completely abandoned working class and stop referring to the lot of them as white, neo nazis “deplorables”. And dare I say it but yes, because of the ugly free (sic) trade agreements most of the folks who grew up in the midwest have to compete with a lot of undocumented immigrants for non existent or crap jobs. If you were in their position this would suck for you as well. They’re hurting and they’re angry and have no jobs/future.
    As all of you know the pitting of one group against another is what the power structure does and we can not let them do this. We all have to focus on the real evil: Corporate Globalization in all it’s manifestations. And this includes all the unions which have been sidling up to the corporate politicians for the past 30 years.
    Trump has done something right this past week that actually addresses the biggest evil, and it’s gotten almost zero coverage. The banishment of the TPP and discussions about tweaking NAFTA–amazing. And not a peep out of most progressive media. NYT’s gave it one mention that I came across. I haven’t been able to pay as close attention as usual, as this week was very busy for me personally.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ryna.

      Yes, it’s great that the TPP dead, however, it’s not Trump as much as it is the continued protests against it for the last several years that deserve the credit. If Obama had the votes, which he did not, it would have been passed.

    • As far as the new protesters go, I say, “Welcome to the resistance.” Forgiveness is better for everyone. Some won’t be teachable, and will go back to the Democratic Party, but not all. Let’s do our best in educating those who can be educated.

      • “Let’s do our best in educating those who can be educated.”
        Agree completely—-that’s why I’m mostly really upset at the leftist/progressive media and not so much the people.

    • actually he is doing what he said he would do : JOBS .

      that is why TPP and NAFTA must go . Trumpster is moving at the speed of light to get these things done .

      the complainers are the elite and those with jobs . they have not been living in the rust belt states for decades struggling because of Neo con Neo lib policy’s .

      Trump also called Putin . he is gonna nip this anti Russian propoganda in the bud .

      my point was we are obligated to say where you been but do it with kindness and also ask them what they are really protesting . I have a lot of disagreements with Trump and I never vote two party , but one thing I love about him is that he is crushing the media . that is sweet .

      and most protesters believe the media !!!!!

      • Yes Rocket…my sentiments exactly…. and what I also have been trying to communicate in my posts…I’m afraid that my writing ability is not very good, especially in blogs and posts in comment sections.

      • What about supporting broad-based coalitions? Essentially that is what this is. Protesters are protesting for a variety of reasons on many different issues. Why not say “welcome”?

    • Nice comment Ryna. It all tends to be a matter of who we are, where we live, how fortunate or unfortunate, & whether we have some principles & can afford to choose what we do for a living. Trade deals always seem to be about kingpin ‘lords of the slums,’ never empowering communities. So good riddance. The irreversible slide into complete decadence began with Reagan in my opinion, red-lining inner cities and guaranteeing the conditions for social depravity & the explosion of toxic drugs. Thirty years on all the sick birds have come home to roost.

      I think the real problem with the US is that it’s a really big country that keeps behaving as if it’s a really small one but with big ideas, a cozy community; when truth is it’s the ideas that are really far too small, while social anarchy and self-interest reign supreme across the board.

      Trump may get away with some bold changes, but they’ll not amount to much in my opinion; because real change needs vision, not just nerve. The USA has all the power any political union could ever wish for but it lacks cohesive vision; and those great Americans who actually do have vision, especially among the indigenous are ignored or sidelined by the ‘settler’ status quo. The garrison mentality prevails and will, until groups get really organized and coordinate their intentions, reaching out to the rest of the world.

      Shame and embarrassment are strong medicine.

      Squalid ideas will lead to ever more squalor; sad but a fact.

  15. one can be tactful and ask the question . it is VITAL to ask the question to help others think who have been under a deep Obama spell .

    why is it of all important to ask the question ? becuase as soon as the pendulum swings back they will disappear into the woodwork .

    there is no need to judge or shame anyone . there is a need for those of us who have been consistent in Resistence to bring this up . Some are actually realizing it now .

    one woman said to me the other day that she got complacent the last 8 years . Just came out and said it to me . she thought the Dems had it in the bag .

    I believe we have a responsibility in a civil manner to ask the question not because we are better but because they voted for and supported a war criminal TWICE . Speaking truth to power begins with each other first .

    • Once again I agree here Rocket but the problem with Trump on this is what kind of jobs jobs jobs? Mr. Trump is a real concern when it comes to the environment. I am very worried on this score cause I know that those who desperately need the jobs will work at the god awful pipe lines and fracking sites. This is where I, as a working class person born and raised in the midwest, end up at odds with a lot of my relatives and fellow citizens. Is he going to create the jobs for the corporate interests to continue the destruction of the earth? Or will he employ people to fix the roads, bridges, sewer lines, and all the infrastructure that’s been under budgeted and left to deteriorate for the past 30 years like he promised? I heard from another activist that the Trump family eats organically? Is that going to be just for himself or will he help change Big Ag into rich sustainable organic farms and ranches so that entire families can make a living at a good and decent healthy life? This could happen through cooperatives or individual farms. That’s a big one since he’ll be up against not only Big Ag but Big Chem and Big Pharma since they control all the toxic fertilizer and pesticide industry. Anyway—I think we need to stop screaming venom at Trump and start supporting his good actions (No TTP, NAFTA nix nasty free (sic) trade agreements) talks with Russia, and good, healthy, safe jobs job jobs….

      And are we going to move away from cars cars cars and build something safer, cleaner, more efficient and better connected/accessible public transport like in Europe and Japan?

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