The Elections and Beyond: The Outcome is Up to Us
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on April 28 to compel meat-processing plants like Tyson and Smithfield to remain open, despite thousands of their workers testing positive for COVID 19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell demanded corporate immunity from liability for COVID 19 negligence. Governors warned workers if they did not show up on the job, they would be denied unemployment. Then the video circulated of Minneapolis police officers crushing the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes until he was dead, over a trivial violation that there was no evidence he even committed. Meanwhile, the billionaire class added $308 billion to its wealth in the first four weeks of the pandemic alone.
The American people have begun to respond. On May 1, workers from Walmart, Amazon, Whole Foods refused to work, and others sent solidarity messages and held car caravan demonstrations. Tenants began organizing rent strikes. Nurses and hospital workers fought for protective gear. When the George Floyd video surfaced, millions of Americans rose up in nonviolent protests that were viciously attacked by police with tear gas and rubber bullets. Unlike past Black Lives Matter protests, this time 47 million people are unemployed, with little or nothing to lose.
The raging controversy over these issues makes up the backdrop for the 2020 elections, which many are describing as the most momentous since 1860. Where once our battle was between freedom and slavery, today we fight for the right of human beings to life itself against a corporate property system that values only private profit and power.
Nightmare Vision of the Ruling Class
The pandemic is opening a portal into what society could look like if the ruling class plan for a fascist America is not stopped. Armed protesters whom Trump calls “good people” invaded state capitols bearing confederate flags, lynch ropes, and Nazi symbols. Trump himself called for attacking nonviolent protesters with savage dogs and using the military to crush dissent. Now he declares “Black Lives Matter” to be a symbol of hate, and re-tweets videos of “white power” advocates.
Defeating Trump in November is the immediate task and the absolutely necessary first step, but not the whole story. The working class needs a proactive, long-range plan to defeat fascism. The multi-trillion-dollar bailout has consolidated the merger of corporations with the State. The ruling class is fully aware that America’s working class, especially its most impoverished, cannot accept an agenda of poverty, austerity, racial oppression, and destruction of the planet. Not without a fight for their very survival, and they cannot just give up and go home. The ruling class can, therefore, only move in the direction of a permanent installation of a corporate dictatorship. The role of the Trump presidency is to hasten this process by consolidating a fascist social base and reconfiguring the legal and constitutional apparatus necessary to overthrow the limited democracy we have.
The November 2020 election itself will be a test of how far the rulers can go toward fascism, and how sharply people will resist. Elections are historically the fundamental bastion of American democracy. Trump is already sending deliberately conflicting signals about his intentions: talking about canceling the election, postponing it, invalidating results from Democrats that vote by mail, filing lawsuits to stop voting, and declaring curfews to close polling places. He is carefully gauging what he will be able to get away with. Will he steal the election through fraud and violence? If he loses, will he refuse to give up power? These very questions are the sign of a political system that cannot rule in the old way, and the intention of the ruling class to end any effective right to vote.
A Better Idea of What Is Needed
This nightmare vision of the ruling class is not the only vision, however. The working class has a better one. To save lives, the people need testing, tracking, and treatment on demand. Justice for George Floyd, defunding the police, ending mass incarceration, and releasing children and adults from immigrant detention centers have become an inseparable part of our concept of freedom. The future of the planet itself has become a critical aspect of our vision of the future.
Shelter for the unhoused, canceling the rent, ending evictions and foreclosures, and taking over vacant homes have become battle cries across the country. Medicare for All and the expansion of Medicaid has become more urgent as unemployment strips people of their health insurance, and the pandemic death toll surpasses 125,000. Basic human needs are human rights.
The fascism that threatens us cannot be defeated without this working-class vision, one where life’s necessities are distributed according to need, and people can live safely and free from harm. The contribution of the Bernie Sanders campaign was to advance the program that the people’s scattered, separate battles were already fighting for. Although Sanders had to withdraw his candidacy, it was never about one election. It was about building a movement. Sanders unquestionably won the campaign policy debate, and the movement continues. Workers cannot give up fighting for health care, food, housing, and other necessities, especially with millions more unemployed every week.
Defending the Right to Vote
We cannot fight for the new world we need without democracy. Our Constitution was written by slave owners and other capitalists who denied the vote to women, slaves, or men who did not own property. Every generation of Americans since then has had to fight to extend and protect the right to vote, often with bloodshed and loss of life. In 2020 the vote is in grave danger. The US Supreme Court gave the state of Wisconsin permission to disqualify thousands of primary votes of people who did not receive their ballots until after the election. The seesaw battles over voter suppression in Wisconsin, Florida, and Georgia are initial skirmishes in the warfare expected to break out in November.
The fiascos during primaries in Wisconsin, Georgia, and Kentucky are a preview of what pandemic voter suppression can look like. People are demanding mail-in ballots to protect the elections against COVID-related polling place closures. Trump is aggressively resisting vote by mail, but only in Democratic states. He is blocking funds for election preparation because, he said, making voting easier means “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” The Republican National Committee allocated $20 million to sue Democrats “into oblivion,” restrict voting, and organize “poll watchers” to intimidate voters in working class areas.
What’s At Stake?
This is war on our class. When November comes around, we likely will have a major party choice between pro-corporate politicians, Democrat Joe Biden and Republican Donald Trump. But it would be a fatal mistake to believe that workers have nothing at stake in defeating Donald Trump. We cannot participate in the electoral arena without taking a stand against a president who personifies the social face of the fascist movement.
A second Trump administration would lead to a scorched earth assault on the working class and a disaster for humanity. Trump has already filed a brief with the Supreme Court to eliminate health care for 20 million Americans in the middle of the pandemic. He vowed to deport over half a million DACA recipients and their families. He ended the centuries-old right of asylum. He called for ten-year sentences for peaceful protesters and told police to not “be too nice”. He declared war on voting rights. He reversed 100 environmental regulations and appointed hundreds of judges to support his program. Finally, he has inspired scores of fascist and white nationalist organizations and militias to sprout up across the country.
Voting in this election is, therefore, a life or death question. Workers fighting for their basic needs will confront pro-corporate and pro-fascist leaders in the Democratic Party as well as Republicans, but Trump is the immediate danger right now. The defeat of Trump would allow some maneuvering room for the grassroots struggles for basic needs that have forced their way into Democratic Party electoral politics. But fighting fascism means continuing to hold government accountable to meet human needs regardless of which party is in power. It can also mean moving the battle into a third party when people learn that neither Democrats nor Republicans can defend them against corporate predators.
This election is different because these are different times. In the face of police terror, we must remember that modern fascism is more than just a political system hostile to democracy. It is more than monopoly capitalism without the restraints of democracy. It is the political attempt to maintain a system of class privilege by force and violence. The existence of corporate, private property depends on austerity for the workers and obscene wealth for the ruling class. Once people see and understand the incalculable abundance the modern productive forces can create, they will no longer tolerate the lives of misery and deprivation they are now condemned to by the system.
The fascist State we face today is one where the police, charged with protecting the social relations, become a law unto themselves and answerable to none. The danger is real, and it is near. But we are many, they are few, and the outcome depends on what we do.
July/August 2020 Vol30.Ed4
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011