Let’s not mince words: Wednesday’s storming of the United States Capitol building was the work of fascism. That it didn’t and couldn’t succeed, and that Donald Trump is days from being out of the White House, should not blind us to the reality of larger social forces at work.
The Orange Menace possibly finished off his personal political prospects with his pathetic attempt at a putsch — although I suspect the shameless toadying of Republicans seeking to capture his base for future elections will continue — but, as I have already written, Trump’s base isn’t going anywhere. Neither are Trump’s fans among the police.
By midnight Wednesday, police had arrested a total of 52 people, counting from Tuesday afternoon. Contrast that to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, when at least 430 people were arrested.
Consider the difference. White people storm an important seat of government, terrorize those inside and stage the equivalent of an armed insurrection, yet it takes hours for police reinforcements to arrive and those who don’t leave are allowed to mill around for hours past a curfew. Police claim they were surprised by the size of the crowd even though Trumpites had announced their intention days ahead of time, the Orange Menace himself told his followers to go to the Capitol that morning and Trump consigliere Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat.”
In contrast, peaceful protestors motivated by the injustices of police brutality and indifference to Black lives walked down streets and are met with massive force and indiscriminate arrests. Multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies brought in tanks and other vehicles and built an eight-foot-tall fence surrounding Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. And that show of force was hardly limited to Washington. By June 4, less than two weeks after George Floyd’s murder by police, more than 10,000 people had been arrested across the U.S., according to an Associated Press tally. Here’s what The Associated Press had to say that day:
“As cities were engulfed in unrest last week, politicians claimed that the majority of the protesters were outside agitators, including a contention by Minnesota’s governor that 80 percent of the participants in the demonstrations were from out of state. The arrests in Minneapolis during a frenzied weekend tell a different story. In a nearly 24-hour period from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, 41 of the 52 people cited with protest-related arrests had Minnesota driver’s licenses, according to the Hennepin County sheriff. In the nation’s capital, 86 percent of the more than 400 people arrested as of Wednesday afternoon were from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”
Those “outside agitators” must have had sophisticated teleporting equipment to have been in so many cities at once. What a pity they haven’t shared it with us.
Police show their preferences
During Trump’s inaugural, more than 200 protestors were arrested, including journalists. Earlier this year, tear gas and force were used to disperse peaceful demonstrators just so Trump could wave a bible in front of a church. So we have a pattern here.
The skin complexion of the demonstrators has much to do with these different approaches on the part of law enforcement. We can all imagine the body count that would have resulted had a Black group decided to storm the Capitol. But political affiliation is not absent. It’s no secret that police heavily favor Trump and are well to the right of the populations they supposedly serve, and police unions across the country took a few minutes off from screaming for officers to be entirely beyond accountability to endorse Trump.
Pictures of police posing for selfies with the invaders inside the Capitol began circulating by Wednesday evenings, and videos circulated showing officers allowing the mob through a gate, facilitating the invaders’ ability to get inside the building. Anybody who was watching the television coverage as the events unfolded, as I did, could see that the Capitol invaders were handled with kid gloves. Police were seen walking with the invaders down the steps of the Capitol and only hours later slowly pushed the mob away with periodic advances, taking care to give the mob plenty of time to move back.
Nor was the storming of the Capitol a spontaneous event. As housing and feminist activist Fran Luck noted, there was the appearance of preparation:
“While watching coverage of the terrorist incursion into Congress today, when I saw the group of burly men effortlessly scale a 20+-foot wall surrounding the Capitol, it occurred to me that they must have had military training to do this — it’s not easy to climb straight up vertically without much to hold on to — but it is what they teach you to do in army basic training. I also noticed they were dressed similarly, with flag handkerchiefs hanging out of their back right-hand back pockets. In my opinion, this was a staged action — probably rehearsed by a ‘militia’ and consciously created for future propaganda for the purpose of attracting new recruits This might also apply to the photo they released of the man wearing a MAGA hat and holding a rifle while sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s computer; it could be used to convey the message: ‘Look how far we got this time — next time we’ll be ready to go all the way!’ ”
Again, a most sharp contrast to Black Lives Matter protests, repeatedly violently attacked by police. And police violence at demonstrations for Left causes is routine. Again, it is impossible not to notice the bias in policing. Recall the 2016 standoff in an Oregon national wildlife refuge, when a pack of White far right militia members took over the refuge’s headquarters, seeking to spark a national uprising, yet were allowed to come and go as they pleased and to destroy Native American artifacts.
White privilege was fully on display during Wednesday’s Capitol invasion, in addition to police demonstrating plainly their political preferences.
Aspiring fascist leaders need violent mobs
“What else is new” shouldn’t be our response. The conclusion to be drawn from Wednesday’s events is that we are almost certainly at the beginning of a fascist upsurge. There is no other conclusion to be drawn. Trump doesn’t have the intelligence or sufficient ruling-class backing to be a fascist dictator, and we can only hope he’ll be seeing the inside of a courtroom soon and then the inside of a prison. But it is quite possible another demagogue will arise, and the next one might not be such a buffoon.
That is only part of the equation — there can be no fascist movement without street thugs and followers willing to use violence. The shock troops were on display Wednesday. Not nearly enough to pose an immediate threat and certainly too few to actually take over the Capitol even with police assistance. But with millions believing Trump’s lies and ready to move on his word, a latent threat exists. And, perhaps, those shock troops might transfer their loyalties to another wanna-be dictator, one perhaps with more ability.
Nor can we take solace in the fact that formal democracy remains the preferred method of governing; with most United Statesians still willing to believe they can better their circumstances through electoral politics, there is no need for U.S. industrialists and financiers to impose an outright dictatorship, especially as they continue to have an iron grip on the country’s government, mass media and institutions, and exert decisive influence over both major political parties.
The threat of fascism always looms in the background as long as capitalism exists. If a capitalist ruling class comes to a consensus that dictatorship is the only way to maintain their profits and power, then they are willing to unleash fascism, as happened in Italy, Germany, Spain, Chile, Argentina and other countries across the 20th century. The imposition of fascism arrives with shock troops — street thugs — augmented by police and the military, although sometimes, as was the case in Chile and Argentina, the street thugs augment the police and military.
The street thugs following Trump have now shown their willingness to spring into action. Are the rest of us willing to step up and out-organize them?
PSL Statement: Trump Incites Fascist Insurrection Against Congress — What Comes Next?
Party for Socialism and Liberation
January 6, 2021
Today, a fascist mob — called to action by Donald Trump and acting in obvious collusion with elements of the Capitol Police, the Department of Defense, and possibly other armed forces — stormed the U.S. Capitol building and dispersed Congress. Trump himself spoke at today’s main protest rally outside the White House as part of his campaign to desperately hang on to power. The extreme right wing that assaulted the Capitol today is united above all by the figure of Trump. Shortly before the mob marched on the Capitol he declared, “You’ll never take back the country with weakness. You have to show strength.” Trump more than anything else wants to avoid criminal prosecution once out of office, and retain his political control of the Republican Party.
The heavily armed Capitol Police put up almost no resistance as the fascists pushed over barriers, smashed windows and invaded the chamber of the Senate. One woman was shot and killed inside the Capitol Building. But at the end of the mayhem, after they had accomplished their goal, the mob was calmly escorted out of the building instead of being arrested. If an action remotely like the pro-Trump mob’s dispersal of Congress had been attempted by anti-racist protesters this summer, for instance, they would have undoubtedly been met with deadly and overwhelming force.
Today’s events could not possibly have transpired without some level of cooperation between the fascists and the police. It is inconceivable that the police were not monitoring the communications of the pro-Trump protesters traveling to D.C. and that they were simply unaware that there was any possibility that an assault on the Capitol Building was being discussed.
The role of the Pentagon in this crisis is another central question. The National Guard in Washington, D.C. is under the control of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army, not the mayor of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requested yesterday that the Department of Defense deploy the D.C. National Guard, but her request was ignored. Now the Guard is reportedly being sent into the streets, but only after the fascists succeeded in storming the Capitol.
The conflict within the ruling class
The Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, is not an independent figure. He was a relatively low-ranking Special Forces officer before being elevated to a place of central importance by Donald Trump, who he owes completely for his current position of authority. Last Sunday, all 10 living former Secretaries of Defense issued a joint op-ed in the Washington Post demanding that the military not intervene in the transition of power to Joe Biden. They wrote that “Acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and his subordinates” must “refrain from any political actions that undermine the results of the election or hinder the success of the new team.” The group of co-authors includes figures like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Mark Esper — who served as Secretary of Defense until less than two months ago. There must be a profound reason why a group of highly influential figures from disparate ruling class factions united to put out this remarkable statement. It suggests that they already were aware of discussions within sections of the state about precisely this type of plot or action.
The events that transpired today are a serious embarrassment for the U.S. ruling class on the world stage and weaken the global position of U.S. imperialism. Governments that have traditionally played the role of junior partner to the United States, including Germany, the UK and Canada, have issued statements condemning the mob that stormed the Capitol building. Jen Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, said, “Shocking scenes in Washington, D.C. The outcome of this democratic election must be respected.” A broad ruling class coalition could come together to take down Trump, who has trampled on a key pillar of the stability of capitalist class rule in the United States — the “peaceful transfer of power”. Key CEOs, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and other pillars of corporate America have spoken out condemning Trump. Congress reconvened several hours after it was dispersed by the fascists, and the pro-Trump mob was condemned by Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell at the re-opening of the session.
In a brief and weak statement today, Joe Biden made an appeal to the fascist mob to withdraw and offered empty platitudes about patriotism. What really must happen is that all those responsible for today’s historic act of fascist aggression be brought to justice. This especially includes Donald Trump, and those in the military and police hierarchy who used their positions to facilitate today’s events. A coalition built on collusion between the police, elements of the Department of Defense, and a fascist mob has launched an unprecedented attack. The menace of the far right can only be decisively defeated by a militant, united front of the multinational working class.
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