The Right to Protest is Under Attack. It’s time for a General Strike!
I’ve been seeing a recently published article repeatedly appear on friends Facebook pages that I find disturbing. It poses two ideas about Trump’s strategy regarding the Muslim ban. In spite of repeated statements by the author that he does not regard either idea as more factual than the other, it would seem that the title of the editorial says it all.
In his medium.com article, “The Immigration Ban is a Headfake, and We’re Falling For It”, Jake Fuentes posits two theoretical concepts of “whats really going on” in the Trump administration’s first week in office. With regard to the Muslim immigration ban, he first postulates that what appears to be a poorly thought out and dimly executed plan by the White House may be exactly that; the work of inexperienced leadership stumbling through implementation of Trump’s agenda without proper legal scrutiny and advice. Sounds plausible. On the campaign trail, he said that he wanted to bar Muslims from entering the country and he’s doing an expectedly clumsy job of just that.
In the second scenario put forward by Fuentes we are witnessing a cleverly hatched plot by the White House, which is going exactly according to plan. The writer puts forward the hypothesis that the Trump regime intentionally overreached, expecting to get beaten back (somewhat) in court, ultimately to be given the green light to succeed with their true objective, to vastly restrict immigration of those whose beliefs are undesirable. Meanwhile, while everyone is distracted reacting to the immediate threat, other heinous aspects of Trump’s fascist agenda will be pushed forward and they’ve managed to effectively test the limits of power. This too seems possible if one is willing to accept that the administration is not as incompetent as they appear to be. I find this difficult to believe.
What follows in the article is the part I find so objectionable. Fuentes attacks the tactic of mass action. He argues that while protests make the demonstrators feel good, “they are they relatively ineffective at changing policy”. A much stronger argument can be made to the contrary. Large and frequent demonstrations threaten the power structure, inspire the masses (including those not participating), and disrupt commerce. In these times disruption of the status quo is an essential element to the struggle. American capitalism is indifferent to oppression and misery imposed on the population as long as it does not interfere with that which is most sacred to them; self-enrichment. The wealthy class does not care if Trump’s policies are bad for democracy so long as they are not bad for business.
It has been said that the one thing we have learned from history is that we do not learn from history. It’s what Gore Vidal wrote about in “Imperial America: Reflections on the United States of Amnesia“. However, in the recent history of resistance in this country, the lessons of the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s proved that mass action does work. While the struggle continues, many battles were largely won and the country moved forward because of protest, not because of well-intentioned Democrats passing laws out of altruism. These movements, as well as the women’s movement, the environmental movement (including a decades long halt to the construction of nuclear power plants), and others achieved gains by persistent protest in the streets and monkey wrenching the economy. Public policy changed because people demanded it.
Especially now, while living in an age of institutionalized corruption, when elections are for sale to the highest bidder, nothing is more persuasive and effective than the power of the people in the streets. Soon the Supreme Court will be stacked with conservatives and the enemy of democracy will have control of all three branches of government. We will not have fair elections (we already do not). We will not have the ability “vote in” change. Achieving meaningful progress cannot happen at the ballot box without first changing the US constitution. Our system of institutionalized corruption now guarantees that money rules. Real election reform is impossible without constitutional reform. This is the only conceivable way to change campaign funding and election structure short of revolution.
Fuentes deserves credit for his defense of journalism in his piece. The press is in real danger now. Our right wing government is working tirelessly to reduce public confidence in objective reporting. They promote a narrative of “alternative facts”, which denies scientific realities and attempts to position the imperial presidency as the only reliable source of truth.
The executive branch is attacking the most important part of the constitution: The Bill of Rights. Specifically, the first amendment guarantees of freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and the right of the people to peaceably assemble. The first two were discussed. With regard to the third, look at what’s happening with the right to assemble. Several states, including Michigan, North Dakota, Washington, and Minnesota, have recently proposed legislation intended to dissuade public protest. On the federal level, the Trump administration is spouting “law and order” bullshit intended to do the same. The right of protest is under attack because they know that is all we have left. Public dissent is the only antidote to fascism.
A call was recently issued to build a coalition for a general strike on February 17, 2017. Several cities have assembled groups in support of the idea. I support the idea in spite of reservations about the effectiveness given the limited time available for planning. This country has not had great success with general strikes. Readers are encouraged to work diligently to make this an all inclusive event and build alliances with a broad range of labor groups and other supporting organizations.