Sept. 1 — To many progressives among the population, Donald Trump appears to be on the ropes. They are waiting for the establishment to take him down. There is great anticipation that the Democratic Party will make electoral gains and get the chance to further discredit him.
There is the mounting public evidence of Trump’s corruption. Many in his inner circle have pleaded guilty or been convicted of lying, money laundering, tax and/or bank fraud. There is his growing anxious rage expressed in his tweets against the Mueller investigation. There is also his isolation from ruling-class society as illustrated by his exclusion from the week-long and highly publicized, super-patriotic, militaristic funeral ceremonies for John McCain.
But the fascist march in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 and the recent fascist anti-im/migrant riot in Chemnitz, Germany, show how illusory this view is that the defeat of Trump will solve the problem of racist reaction.
No one knows at this point how the struggle between Trump and his allies, on the one hand, and the anti-Trump forces in the ruling class on the other, will turn out. But it would be fatal for progressives and revolutionaries to rely on the reactionary ruling class to defeat Trump.
Moreover, while the political defeat of Trump is important, it will not be fundamental because it will not deal with the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, national chauvinist forces that Trump has conjured up and consolidated into a reactionary base. This base is not going to go away, whatever happens to Trump. The workers and the oppressed will still have to deal with this reactionary mass. What will be needed in the future is to defeat Trumpism, not just at the polls but on the ground.
Charlottesville — fascism shows its face
The world got a glimpse of the forces emerging around Trump at Charlottesville last year when the Klan and the Nazis united with other fascist forces in the “Unite the Right” armed torchlight parade through the University of Virginia campus in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commanding general of the slavocracy during the Civil War.
One anti-fascist demonstrator was killed, a Black man was brutally beaten and many were injured as the police watched passively. Trump refused to denounce the fascists and finally said that there were good people “on both sides.”
Fortunately, the movement recovered from this assault and forced the removal of Confederate statues in many cities, from Louisiana to Texas. The Unite the Right forces received an important blow when the movement toppled a Confederate statue in Durham, N.C.
Because of the militant resistance, the “Unite the Right 2” rally in Washington, D.C. on the one-year anniversary of Charlottesville this Aug. 10 fell flat.
Pro-Confederate forces in high places
However, the degree to which the racist, pro-Confederate forces in the ruling class are dug in was shown by the reaction of the University of North Carolina administration to the recent pulling down of a Confederate statue in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The statue of a Confederate soldier was pulled down by students after their campaign to have the authorities remove it went nowhere. After it was pulled down, the university and the board of governors decided it should be relocated on campus. Meanwhile, arrest warrants were issued for student demonstrators.
This incident illustrates how deeply embedded pro-Confederate sympathy is in the ruling class 150 years after the Civil War. Chapel Hill is supposed to be a liberal institution. States all over the South and elsewhere have passed laws forbidding the removal of a statue without the express consent of the state historical society, regardless of the sentiment of African Americans or progressive anti-racist sectors of the population. Liberal Ivy League colleges and universities in the North have refused to budge on this matter as well.
Racism and the face of fascism in the U.S.
The origin of this underlying racism which penetrates U.S. capitalist society goes back to the betrayal of the enslaved people after the Civil War by the victorious capitalist class of the North.
The Northern armies occupied the Southern slave states. There was a period of Reconstruction from 1865 to 1877. Voting rights were granted for formerly enslaved peoples. Many African Americans were elected to various state and local offices. During the brief period of Reconstruction, a Freedmen’s Bureau was created and land ownership rights and other rights for African Americans, such as the right to sue, to serve on a jury, etc., were enforced by the U.S. military occupation forces.
This period of Reconstruction was ended abruptly in 1877 with the withdrawal of U.S. forces after the Hayes-Tilden Compromise, in which Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency in return for troop withdrawal from the South.
The political dominance of the South by the former slavocracy was restored. The formerly enslaved were resubjugated and pressed into a form of feudalism or land slavery called sharecropping. Lynching ran riot. Rigid racist segregation was enforced. The landowners once again ran the South and did so for 100 years.
There was no attempt by the Northern capitalist class to purge the South of racism and racist officials. There was no reeducation campaign among the white population. No resources were devoted to the anti-racist transformation of the South. The capitalists of the North were quite content to build railroads and shipping lines and to create banks to profit from the land slavery of African Americans. Racism was not only enforced in the South with Ku Klux Klan violence and lynchings, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, poll taxes, etc., but it also prevailed in the North.
Chemnitz, fall of Berlin Wall, and end of denazification
Fascists, right wingers, and anti-immigrant racists of all sorts have been mobilized in this country by Donald Trump. He has fomented his anti-immigrant racism on a world stage. This anti-immigrant, right-wing trend has been reflected in Europe among fascist and pro-fascist forces as well. Indeed, Trump sounds much like the European right.
On Aug. 28, the world was treated to the ugly spectacle of a mob of thousands of Nazis and anti-immigrant sympathizers arriving from all over Germany and taking over the streets of the German city of Chemnitz and hunting down immigrants “like wolves,” as the New York Times put it on Aug. 31.
The mob formed after the capitalist press triggered the event with the headline “35-Year-Old Dies after Stabbing in the City.” The rumors were that the man who was stabbed was protecting a woman from sexual assault by immigrants. Even the police had to eventually declare that rumor false.
The following evening a reported 8,000 racists occupied the center of the city and hunted down anyone they suspected of being an immigrant. There were Nazi salutes with “Sieg Heils,” which are outlawed in Germany, and chants of “We’ll get you all.”
The German bourgeois publication Der Spiegel reported that “The police in Saxony likewise hit the headlines with predictable regularity when they, for example, prevent journalists from doing their jobs or fail to mobilize enough officers, thus forcing them to stand by passively as right-wing extremists rampage through the streets.” (Der Spiegel, Aug. 31)
Chemnitz was formerly called Karl-Marx-Stadt during the period of the German Democratic Republic, before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and capitalism was restored as West Germany annexed the East in 1990. It is the third-largest city in the southeastern state of Saxony with a population of 250,000.
Denazification in socialist East Germany
After the Red Army occupied eastern Germany in 1945, the Communist Party was merged with the Social Democratic Party to become the Socialist Unity Party. In 1949 the GDR was established following the establishment of West Germany. The new government undertook a vigorous program of denazification, unlike what occurred in capitalist West Germany, or the Federal Republic.
In the capitalist West, high Nazi officials retained their pensions and got official jobs. “A total of 25 cabinet ministers, one president and one chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany — as postwar Germany is officially known — had been members of Nazi organizations.” (Der Spiegel, March 6, 2012) This list was finally forced into the public by the Left Party.
The GDR, under socialist leadership, took an entirely opposite approach. It was undoubtedly very difficult to construct a state and a society with a population that had lived under Hitler for 12 years. Nevertheless, the attempt was made.
For example, Bruno Bruni de la Motte, no socialist himself, wrote in the London Guardian on March 8, 2007: “I was born and grew up in the German Democratic Republic. Our school books dealt extensively with the Nazi period and what it did to the German nation and most of Europe.
“During the course of their schooling, all pupils were taken at least once to a concentration camp, where a former inmate would explain in graphic detail what took place. All concentration camps in the former GDR were maintained as commemorative places, ‘so that no one should forget.’ The government itself included a good proportion of those, including Jews, who had been forced to flee Hitler fascism or who had been interned.
“In the East, thousands of new teachers had to be found overnight, as those tainted by the Nazi ideology were not suitable to teach a new postwar generation, and this resulted in schools having under-trained and inadequate teaching staff for some years; all lawyers were replaced, too….”
Nazism revived by capitalist Germany
De la Motte continued, “In [capitalist] West Germany thousands of leading Nazi army officers, judges who had sent Jews and leftists to their deaths, doctors who’d experimented on concentration camp victims, politicians and others, were left unscathed and continued in their professions.”
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the return to capitalism brought a quick shift. From the very outset there were demonstrations against immigrants. Naziism and right-wing politics resurfaced in the form of anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia.
It is no surprise that 29 years after the restoration of capitalist exploitation and with the creeping world economic crisis hitting Germany, including the youth and the petty bourgeoisie, the neo-fascist movement should take on the tone of a racist, anti-immigrant crusade.
In the U.S, even more than in Europe, racism in one form or another has always been the cutting edge of fascism and the face of political reaction.
Capitalist class never tried to root out racism
It is no accident that the KKK and Nazis rallied around Barry Goldwater in his run for president in 1964. It is no accident that Richard Nixon started his presidential campaign in 1972 with a racist “Southern strategy” to bring Southern Democrats into the Republican Party in the wake of the Civil Rights movement.
It should also be noted that in 1982 Ronald Reagan began his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., with Confederate flags flying — in a city where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 by the Klan during the voting rights campaign in the South. And Bill Clinton, besides passing racist legislation on mass incarceration, the death penalty and “terrorism,” during his election campaign showed his racism by going back to his state of Arkansas to witness the execution of a mentally disabled Black man.
Fascism at the border
Right now ICE and the Border Patrol are carrying out fascist measures against immigrants by deliberately separating families, as well as rounding up workers everywhere.
So the capitalist class has now had 150 years to root out racism and has not made any serious effort to do so. The capitalists have shown that they feel it is in their class interests to perpetuate racism.
They never instituted a thoroughgoing anti-racist educational campaign of making every student in school go to photo exhibits of lynchings to be narrated by families or neighbors of victims. Slave quarters were not preserved as exhibits for mandatory visits so no one would ever forget. And importantly, compensation was not paid to the victims of slavery nor were they given the lands of the plantation owners for whom they labored.
In short the capitalist ruling class has always preserved racism rather than destroy it, just as the German ruling class has never made a determined effort to root out Nazism.
The revolutionary forces in the U.S. must organize for struggle against the revived, concentrated racist base that has been fostered by Trump. The progressives, revolutionaries and advanced workers must also be prepared for struggle after Trump, because anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism is a lethal weapon the bosses keep in reserve for times of crisis.