RESIST!

womens-march-protesters
Protesters at the Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C. Photo from the Dallas Morning News.

“For a hundred years or more the world, our world, has been dying,” wrote Henry Miller in Tropic of Cancer. “And not one man, in these last hundred years or so, has been crazy enough to put a bomb up the asshole of creation and set it off. The world is rotting away, dying piecemeal. But it needs the coup de grace, it needs to be blown to smithereens.”

Will President Donald Trump be that crazed suicide bomber? It is, no doubt, a frightening prospect. But as I write this on the date of Trump’s official swearing-in as President of the United States, Miller’s nihilistic quote seems the only logical way to process this once unfathomable scenario.

There is no question all working class Americans are going to suffer in the months and years to come. Some of us, to be certain, will suffer more than others—Muslims, women, immigrants, African Americans, people with disabilities, and journalists, in particular. But suddenly such misguided games of so-called “Oppression Olympics,” seem highly counterproductive, if not altogether childish.

The stark truth is we are all “deplorables,” now. The era of Trump has officially begun. It is time to resist with everything we have got.

Activists kicked off Trump’s first day and half as president with two massive protests: The “Not My President” rally on Friday, Jan. 20 interrupted the bourgeois pomp and circumstance of Trump’s inauguration, while the “Women’s March on Washington” the following day proved even larger, with more than half a million participants.

Protesters who could not make it to D.C. held local sister rallies in Chicago, Boston, Oakland, CA, New York, and Portland, Maine. And the protests spilled overseas, in cities like London, Mexico City, Toronto, Paris, and Barcelona.

Both actions sought to remind Trump that, despite his claims to the contrary, he has no mandate. Hillary Clinton received three million more total votes than Trump, yet lost the election due to the antiquated Electoral College—a relic of the slave-holding Founding Fathers. And some seven million voters (I among them) did not cast a ballot for either Trump or Clinton, opting instead for a third-party candidate, like the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Indeed, both Clinton and Trump registered record low favorability ratings since they emerged as their respective party’s nominee. What does that say about the self-appointed “World’s Greatest Democracy” when it offers voters two lousy candidates to choose from? No wonder so many Americans just skip the process, entirely.

Furthermore, the corporate media’s narrative of a “Rust Belt revolt” propelling Trump to victory has been, in the words of left-wing writer, Paul Street, “badly oversold.”

Trump basically received the same amount of support as Mitt Romney did in 2012. His election should not be taken as a sign that the nation’s proverbial political pendulum has suddenly swung to the right. Trump’s victory is due less to Republicans gaining support among working class voters as it is to Democrats losing that support.

As Counterpunch’s Anthony DiMaggio observes, the 2016 presidential election result was “more about growing working class and white voter disgust with the Democratic status quo than it was about being enamored with the Trump candidacy.”

He adds,

“If the Democratic Party had fielded a real progressive candidate who had a meaningful history of seeking to help the working class—Bernie Sanders for example—the outcome of the election may have been very different.”

The point is that you and I are not alone. We are the majority. And, as one of the marchers’ chants puts it, “We do not consent!/Trump is not our president!”

This fact was hammered home by the massive number of women (and men) at Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington. In fact, the crowd was so unwieldy protest organizers scrapped their original marching plans at the last minute, opting for just the star-studded rally. But defiant attendees marched anyway, getting as far as the Washington Monument before security stopped them.

The contingent of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), which I am a dues-paying member of, proved one of the most vocal and galvanizing forces at the march.

Even before the official proceedings began, we fenced ourselves in to a visible spot and began chanting loudly. Dozens of passerby jubilantly joined in—many of whom likely do not even consider themselves socialists or may have negative associations with the term.

This is, I hope, one step in slowly changing people’s minds.

Many attendees wore Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama pins. Others held signs proclaiming Trump is “Putin’s Puppet,” referencing the highly dubious, yet nonetheless widely accepted, belief that Russia covertly influenced the election results. And, of course, the anti-Trump slogan, “Love Trumps Hate,” was ubiquitous.

These sentiments of lesser-evilism illustrate the ideological limitations which continue to plague the left–limitations we must overcome if we are to defeat the newly empowered radical right.

The fact is Obama spent his two terms pursuing neoliberal, corporatist, and imperialist policies that were utterly devastating for the working class. And Clinton–whose husband gutted the federal welfare program, repealed Glass Steagall, and passed NAFTA–made it abundantly clear that she intended to deliver more of the same.

The left cannot continue to invest its hopes in a Democratic Party that cares nothing for working class Americans. It is for good reason that former Republican strategist, Kevin Phillips once called the Democrats, “history’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.” The unfortunate truth is the working class has no political representation under capitalism. Supporting the supposed “lesser evil” candidate every four years merely paves the way for the “greater evil”–in this case, President Trump.

To simply throw up your hands and insist the Democrats are “all we’ve got,” or that Obama “did the best he could,” is not a viable political strategy for advancing working class struggle. It is an admission of defeat.

This argument tends to be a difficult one to make to the mostly liberal activists who attended the Women’s March. But the rousing embrace the ISO received, coupled with the growing interest in socialism particularly among young people, demonstrates there is an audience for our ideas. We must seek out people in that audience and be willing to patiently but steadfastly try to win them over to socialist ideas.

Let the historical record show that the majority of Americans had no interest in “giving Trump a chance” to enact his sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and racist campaign of bourgeois hate. Trump’s first day and a half as president already generated the single largest protest in U.S. history.

One protester’s sign perhaps best summed up the weekend’s mass mobilizations: “Respeta mi existencia o espera resistencia.” Translated, it reads, “Respect my existence, or expect my resistance.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any Word Press-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

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The Folly of Lesser Evilism: The Socialist Case for Jill Stein

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Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, speaks at a rally in Philadelphia, Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during the second day of the Democratic National Convention. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

by Adam Marletta

The electoral strategy of “lesser evilism,” advanced by op-ed columnist, Wells Lyons in the Portland, Maine monthly, the West End News, has been the left’s default strategy for the last 30 years. And it has proved an abysmal failure every time.

Every four years, the left collectively throws its weight behind the supposed “lesser evil” candidate (i.e. the Democrat), arguing that conditions under the “greater evil” Republican would be “so much … WORSE!

But this simplistic distinction of “lesser” vs. “greater” forms of evil is rather misleading. It is, perhaps, more instructive to view the Republican and Democratic parties—both parties of capitalism—as two different kinds of evil.

Sure, the Republicans are more up-front in their absolute disregard for women, African Americans, immigrants, and the working class. Indeed, the modern incarnation of the GOP has long been quite unapologetic in its subservient role to big business and corporations.

The Democrats, on the other hand, at least offer the pretense of being on the side of working Americans (or, more precisely, on the side of some nebulous group they refer to as the “middle-class”). Since the years of FDR and LBJ, the Dems have positioned themselves as the natural ally of minorities, labor, and oppressed groups.

But, once in office, the Democrats inevitably pursue the very same corporatist, “neoliberal” policies as the Republicans, albeit with a more professional demeanor.

In fact, as Thomas Frank argues in his latest book, Listen, Liberal, Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have proven more adept at corralling bipartisan support for egregious corporatist bills like Wall Street deregulation, welfare eradication, the passage of “free-trade” deals like NAFTA, and the codification of drone strikes, targeted assassinations, and endless war which their Republican counterparts could only dream of enacting.

These programs have utterly decimated the working class. No wonder so many white working class voters (some of them former Democrats) are flocking to self-styled populist champions like Donald Trump.

As such, it is more instructive to view the Democratic Party not as the “lesser evil,” but as Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford puts it, the “more effective evil.”

“When they tell us … to get out of the way because we are standing in the way of the ‘lesser evil,’” said Dr. Jill Stein, upon accepting the Green Party’s presidential nomination on August 6 in Houston, “… the answer to that is that the politics of fear, which we have been told to bow down to, has only delivered everything we were afraid of.”

I will be voting for Stein on November 8, partly as a “protest vote”—a “None-of-the-above” option, if you will. But mostly I am voting for Stein because her progressive platform—which includes eradicating student debt, tackling climate change with a robust “Green jobs” program, ending wars for empire, and instituting universal, single-payer health care—comes the closest to my own socialist views.

I am not so naïve as to believe Stein can win the election. That said, there is a peculiar, self-fulfilling logic to Lyons’ claim that third-party candidates like Stein are destined to “lose badly.” If everyone who routinely tells me they “agree with everything Stein stands for,” was to take that agreement to its next logical step and cast a vote for her, she would not “spoil” the election. She would win it.

Even if Stein receives just five percent of the vote, the Green Party will be eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding. This would go a long way toward building the Greens into a formidable working class party that poses a serious challenge to the two Wall Street parties.

The Green Party is admittedly weak on both the national and local level–though some branches are, obviously, better organized than others. Here in Maine, the Greens have been crippled by a virulent combination of anarcho-liberalism and anti-communism. (The latter best exemplified by Green Party co-founder and retired Bowdoin College professor, John Rensenbrink.) And don’t even get me started on the three elected Greens on the Portland School Board who cannot even be relied on to support their own party’s candidates.

Nonetheless, we cannot hope to build a viable left-wing movement to challenge the racist, misogynist right by tying ourselves to the capitalist Democratic Party every four years. For evidence of how flawed a strategy this is, we need only reflect on how disappointing the last eight years under Obama have been.

As the radical historian, Howard Zinn writes in his classic treatise, A People’s History of the United States, “What matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but ‘who is sitting-in’—and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change.”

While it is easy to see why Hillary Clinton looks like the sane, rational, “lesser evil” choice compared to the absurdly inept, sickeningly vile Trump, we have just as much to fear—indeed, perhaps even more—from a Clinton presidency.

Clinton—who is no friend of working class Americans—is the epitome of the Establishment, “Billionaire Class” Bernie Sanders railed against in his insurgent campaign. The list of Clinton’s “flaws” as Lyons dismissively calls them is exhaustive.

There is, of course, her vote for the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which, contrary to popular belief, Al Gore also supported).

As Secretary of State, Clinton oversaw the 2009 coup in Honduras which deposed democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, as well as the violent overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (Clinton later boasted of Gaddafi’s death, “We came. We saw. He died.”)

Additionally, she played a key role in the destabilization of Syria and Yemen and is perhaps a greater Zionist ally of Israel than Obama.

Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy illustrates why it is so crucial the left reconstitute the anemic anti-war movement, which has all but folded under President Obama. It did the same thing back in 2004 when the left abandoned Ralph Nader’s independent campaign for the bellicose, John “Reporting for Duty” Kerry.

Things do not look much better on the domestic front, either.

Clinton’s alleged shift in position on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Stein has characterized as “NAFTA on steroids,” should be taken with a grain of salt. For Clinton’s true intentions regarding TPP, one need look no further than her selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate, whose political career is largely characterized by staunch opposition to unions, labor, and workers’ rights.

Yet, despite Clinton’s unyielding track record of imperialist, neoliberal policies, Lyons insists she would not represent an “existential threat” to the nation. Even assuming this claim to be true, it overlooks the fact that a Clinton presidency would almost certainly represent an “existential threat” to other nations—most assuredly in the Middle East. Yet it is those of us supporting the only genuine anti-war candidate in the race that are reprimanded for casting supposedly self-centered votes based on “privilege.” Indeed, the majority of the victims of U.S. military aggression are women, children, and people of color.

None of this is to diminish the very real danger Trump presents to the country and the world. I absolutely share Lyons’ concerns about this petulant man-child.

But, as of this writing, the Trump campaign is in full crisis mode, struggling to recover from the recent disclosure of a video of Trump caught making repugnant, misogynistic comments about women on a “hot-mic.” Polls have favored Clinton from the start of the general election, but now her victory is almost certainly assured.

Given this scenario, voters should be under no pressure to comprise their vote for the “lesser evil.” You may as well vote for a candidate you actually want.

Are there differences between these two highly unpopular candidates? Sure. But as Stein told Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh commenting on the October 9 presidential “debate,” those differences are “not enough to save your life, to save your job, and to save the planet.”

As my comrade, Todd Chretien writes in the latest issue of the Socialist Worker:

The left can’t afford to surrender our organizations and ideas to the Democratic Party every four years in order to support the lesser evil–when it has been proven many times over by history that when you support the lesser evil to stop the greater evil, you usually end up with a combination of both evils.