Donald Trump, White Nationalism and America's Colonial Legacy

"American Dream" by Bahar Mustafa

Rosa Soros discusses the colonial legacy of America, how it is still felt deeply today, and why we need a grassroots, revolutionary working class movement to fight - not just the forces of reaction brought about by the Trump administration - but the tide of liberalism that secured his power.

Submitted by rosasoros on March 6, 2017

Since the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the international public’s response to it, you’d think America has suddenly become a hive of racists and fascists. This is not to suggest that Trump’s presidential campaign and subsequent victory hasn’t emboldened the far-right and white supremacists in the States: we’ve seen white nationalists attempt to intimidate Black Lives Matter protesters at Trump rallies; a sharp rise in armed anti-Muslim protests by right-wing extremists in places like Arizona, Atlanta, and elsewhere across America; and an anti-fascist protester shot and in critical condition by a Trump supporter at an alt-right Milo Yiannopoulos event on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. While we are correct to respond and respond fiercely to this wave of reaction, we need to be careful not to get swept up in the tide of liberal discourse that would have you think that Donald Trump is the Devil and if he is defeated then the people will be free! It goes without saying, Donald Trump is a vile, racist, misogynist, shit-stain and an authoritarian: but racism and white supremacy in America is nothing new - when Trump falls, who will replace him?

The United States was literally built on the savage onslaught and pillaging of its indigenous people and on the backs of black slavery. The United States has a shameful legacy of public lynchings, racial segregation, and criminalisation of black people and non-black people of colour - and neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton did or could do anything to challenge the structurally racist foundations on which the USA was built, and continues to sustain itself. Institutional racism from the top down begins with racist legislation, such as the infamous Jim Crow Laws enforced up until 1965, and is enacted sharply at the bottom with attacks on black, Brown, Jewish and Muslim communities, such as the horrific Charleston church shooting by white supremacist Dylan Roof. In a sobering documentary, ‘13th’ the mass incarceration of black people in America is considered the modern day slavery, and demonstrates how since its abolition a clause known as The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. This conveniently coincided with the State’s campaign to criminalise and prosecute black people in huge numbers, making them a legitimate and expendable source of free labour. Racism and the prison industrial complex continues to uphold capitalist production and represent the interest of the State.

The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the States are an ultra-violent white supremacist organisation that spans 150 years (established first in 1865) whose membership is about 30,000 strong. They are one of the only far-right extremist groups who have a collective knowledge and history of organising that has been passed on from generation to generation. They've never been smashed the way most other far-right and fascist groups have. We need to understand this in the context of the legacy of racism, colonialism and imperialism that the United States is built upon and stop this sudden panic as if things were getting better until Trump came along.

Racism and colonialism is sewn into the very fabric of the Red, White and Blue, and we need to look beyond the more explicit manifestations of white supremacy and nationalism in order to defeat them. It’s easy to destroy the Devil if it wears its horns so gaudily: but if it’s hidden behind a pearl necklace, a rehearsed smile, and speaks of feminism while simultaneously supporting a war which kills hundreds and thousands of brown women in the Middle East, the Devil will continue to walk among us. Hillary Clinton, the 'lesser of two evils' candidate supported the 1994 Crime Bill by her husband and then President, Bill Clinton, which saw extraordinarily harsh sentences for low-level crime, targeting predominantly black people and destroying thousands of working class ethnic minority families. Hillary Clinton would not have been the answer to America’s problems. Hillary Clinton would not have stopped the mass murder of working class black people at the hands of police. Barack Obama did not stop the mass detention and deportation of undocumented migrants under his administration (in fact, Obama deported more immigrants than any other US President!).

Trump and his supporters are not the cause of the problem, but a sharp reactionary symptom of liberalism and capitalism in crisis.

This isn’t to say that we should ignore the swell of fascist and far-right support Trump has fostered: there is a reason over 800 polling stations in the Southern states were closed and people were being intimidated outside polling stations by Trump supporters. There has to be a militant and organised working class movement in the States to resist this. For example, Black Lives Matter, American Antifa groups, and Standing Rock protesters are doing incredible and inspirational things. Former Republican working class communities are now mass organising in their workplaces and neighbourhoods because they’ve seen that the elite do not represent their class interests. But there needs to be a joined up resistance: not just in the States but internationally.

As revolutionaries we need to build international working class solidarity and resistance to this onslaught by the reactionary elite. We need to move beyond parliamentary tactics because they're defunct. We need to stop resorting to single issue struggles where we fight simply for equality. I don't want to win equal rights to that of my white, male counterpart because I don't think what he has is good enough! We need to fight for class emancipation and real liberation. We need to stop using identity politics and the language of privilege as sticks to beat each other with, and the Left needs to challenge the sexism, racism and academic elitism that exists within it. We don't need allies - we need comrades. When Trump falls and we’re asked, who will replace him? Let’s fight so the answer is us.


Mike Harman

7 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Mike Harman on March 8, 2017

I enjoyed this, it's really important to stress the continuity of Trump with both recent and further back US history (and where it relates to UK, that much of the same has been happening here too before and after the Brexit vote).

There's a couple of bits in the past two paragraphs that I wondered about though:

For example, Black Lives Matter, American Antifa groups, and Standing Rock protesters are doing incredible and inspirational things.

We need to stop resorting to single issue struggles where we fight simply for equality.

So I don't think you're saying the above three groups are 'single issue struggles where we fight simply for equality', but unfortunately people have, for example Adolph Reed (whose answer to his strawman, often based around specific self-selected spokespeople was to... campaign for Bernie Sanders instead...) vs. say John Clegg's piece which deals critically with the way the class struggle elements of the movement are counterposed against representationalists.

There are real questions for how to connect 'single issue' campaigns in the US as well - for example the relative success in gaining successions of the #NoBanNoWall airport protests - there's been a new, watered down, executive order this week but it was watered down a fair bit and there could yet be new protests depending how it's implemented. Compared to deportations of undocumented people via ICE raids which have been ramped up in the same period and haven't seen the same levels of mobilisation (and especially not media coverage etc.) - despite a much longer track record of immigrant groups, workers centres etc. organising against them.

A lot of liberals aren't making connections, and there's a lot of good immigrant vs. bad immigrant rhetoric mixed up in who gets support as well (i.e legal US green card holder who helped the US army in Iraq vs. undocumented Mexican immigrant with one driving conviction or something). The VOICE agency is only going to make that worse unless there's a serious reaction against it too. Difficult to see a way forward.

We need to stop using identity politics and the language of privilege as sticks to beat each other with, and the Left needs to challenge the sexism, racism and academic elitism that exists within it.

Again this is tricky. "Identity politics" has in many ways become the equivalent of "political correctness", where it's used a strawman precisely to undermine people organising against sexism and racism within the left (and in general when we see someone like Stephen Kinnock use it). For example in this Morning Star article against no platforming the SWP over their rape cover-up, which is really nasty:

Can they seriously believe - having been in it a combined 20 or 30 years - that the organisation’s primary purpose is to lure sixth-form students into its torture dungeon? Moreover, Seymour was himself hounded out of the International Socialist Network, which he co-founded after leaving the SWP, over just such a confected storm of identity-politics pitchfork-waving. His stubborn commitment to the method is, at this point, truly tragic.

So there's a question here on how it's possible to criticise liberal identity politics calling for more women police officers, giving the Home Office LGBT 'ally' awards and inviting UKIP to pride marches etc. without reinforcing what's become a sustained ideological attack on any kind of anti-sexist or anti-racist organising painting it as some kind of irrational censorship exercise. Not sure what the answer is to this except adding tonnes of caveats. Thinking of writing something on it though.

On the other hand

We don't need allies - we need comrades.

100 times this, I had the word 'ally' so much.