TWO “OPERATIONS”—ONE FASCIST OFFENSIVE
From a reader:
Over the last few weeks, the Trump/Pence regime has launched two different, quasi-military operations. So far, federal forces have been sent to Portland; Kansas City, Missouri; and Seattle. Albuquerque and Chicago are on the list; Detroit has been targeted. And on July 23, Trump said “We’ll go into all the cities, any of the cities,” with 50,000 to 75,000 federal agents.1 [Emphasis added.]
These two operations—”Operation Diligent Valor” and “Operation Legend”—are different in many ways. But each is an outrageous assault on the masses of people and on constitutional rules and norms in the U.S. And if the regime is allowed to get away with this, taken together they mark a major leap in consolidating fully fascist rule—the “exercise of blatant dictatorship of the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence…”2.
Operation Diligent Valor (ODV)
ODV is a direct attack on the uprising of millions of people against police brutality and systemic racism after George Floyd’s murder. It started in Portland (and now in Seattle). In Portland, in early July, unidentified feds in paramilitary gear began grabbing people off the streets and throwing them in unmarked vans; dousing unarmed protesters in tear gas; and shooting them with rubber bullets, fracturing one man’s skull.
What’s more, this is being done in spite of the fact that Portland’s mayor and city council and Oregon’s governor and attorney general didn’t ask for these forces and are demanding they leave, joined by many other mayors. In fact, Portland’s mayor was himself tear-gassed while attending a protest.
ODV grew out of Trump’s June 26 Executive Order, in which Trump described anti-racism protests as “a sustained assault on the life and property of civilians …” carried out by “rioters, arsonists, and left-wing extremists,” some of whom “have explicitly identified themselves with ideologies—such as Marxism—that call for the destruction of the United States system of government.” And these radicals “… advance a fringe ideology that paints the United States of America as fundamentally unjust … [and] shamelessly attack the legitimacy of our institutions and the very rule of law itself.”3 Since then, Trump has justified repressing the protests by blaming the demand to “defund the police” (which has not been implemented anywhere!) for an alleged increase in violent crime.4
Besides the obvious slander against and distortion of the demands of millions of protesters who have been overwhelmingly the victims of police violence, there is something even more ominous here. Trump is criminalizing protests on the basis that they are “fringe ideologies,” or critical of core American institutions—i.e., for their beliefs. This is a screaming violation of the First Amendment. It is the regime declaring that it can decree what kind of dissent is allowable and what will be crushed. And it’s happening in plain sight.
And not only are the protesters being criminalized, so are Trump’s ruling class opponents. Trump’s Executive Order claims that local and state leaders “have lost the will or the desire to stand up to the radical fringe and defend the fundamental truth that America is good, her people are virtuous, and that justice prevails in this country….” So even though these are the elected leaders in their areas, and even though the U.S. Constitution delegates responsibility for policing to local governments, Trump (using the pretext that federal property has been defaced) is replacing the authority of these leaders with his own authority. And more than that, he has begun publicly branding Democrats as the “extreme radical left“ who are responsible for the “crimes” he alleges protesters are committing.
This leads to two other crucial points:
First, the paramilitary forces in both these operations are directly under the command of the regime. As revcom.us noted last week, “The Trump/Pence regime has faced some opposition from the U.S. military for various moves related to enforcing domestic repression, law and order.” So these operations are relying on forces under the direct command of Trump and key loyalists like Chad Wolf of the Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Bill Barr. And ODV in particular is apparently drawn mainly from Border Patrol and ICE—agencies trained to see the people they police (i.e., immigrants) as less than human and without rights. Notoriously thuggish and fanatically loyal to Trump personally, they are primed to do what the regime orders them to, without regard for the law or the Constitution.
Such a force, inserted into cities around the U.S. and working closely with local police (who are also generally Trump supporters), could give the regime tremendous leverage against opposition from any quarter.
Second, this deployment has ominous implications for the November elections. Trump is the leader of a fascist regime that has zero regard for the rules and norms of liberal democracy and is hell-bent on consolidating power. He has made very clear that he will only accept the results of an election if he deems them “fair”—and he will only consider them “fair” if he wins.
Many people are pointing out that the situation between election day and inauguration day is very likely to be confused and contested. Imagine the impact of these federal paramilitaries being deployed in major cities in the event of outbreaks of mass struggle around Trump’s illegitimate efforts to maintain power. Imagine their potential to ensure a “smooth transition”… to fascism!
Operation Legend (OL)
OL is named after four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, killed in gun violence in Kansas City, Missouri, in June. Ever since 2017, Trump has been threatening to “send in the feds” to Chicago, using the cynical pretext of concern for the terrible violence among Black youth.5 At that time he claimed a Chicago cop had told him, “We know the names of all the bad guys.” All that was needed to “solve the problem” in Trump’s eyes was to overrule the “liberal Democrat” politicians who are “restraining” the police, send in the feds and round up everyone the cops claim is a “bad guy.”
That didn’t happen at that time, but Trump continued to push for it. Now with OL, he is threatening multiple cities with large Black and/or Latinx communities. On July 21 he declared, “We’re not going to let New York and Chicago, and Philadelphia and Detroit and Baltimore and all of these—Oakland is a mess. We’re not going to let this happen in our country.”
The exact features of Operation Legend are not being made clear. Reportedly, it involves “hundreds of federal agents” drawn from the FBI, ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). Two hundred have already been sent to Kansas City and 200 are slated for Chicago. But keeping Trump’s call for 50,000-75,000 agents in mind, these initial deployments are likely just a foot in the door, with more to follow.
And what will these forces do to “end the bloodshed”? The mayor of Kansas City was told it would be “a pinpointed operation that looks to solve uncleared murders, particularly murders of young people, particularly tough cases. And it uses resources, the federal government to do things like studying ballistics on firearms, does things like tracking illegal weapons across state lines.” Attorney General Barr and Acting Secretary of Department of Homeland Security Wolf are sticking to this story as well.
Nonetheless, it is beyond belief that in the midst of the current intense crisis, a fascist regime headed by an all-but-open white supremacist is deploying hundreds—perhaps thousands—of federal agents to major cities to help overworked cops clear their cold case files and protect the lives of Black youth!
To the fascists (and to the imperialists generally) Black youth (and other youth of color) are the “problem” that has to be “solved.” Viciously exploited, robbed, and oppressed for generations by this system, which now has no future for them, these oppressed youth are seen as “dangerous” and “undesirable.” Police brutality and murder, racial profiling and mass incarceration, have been the program of both fascist and Democratic politicians for decades.
But to Trump, even the horrors that have come down have been too little—police have to stop being “too nice,” dissenters need to be “carried out on a stretcher,” and so on. Trump openly admires Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, whose “solution” to crime was to unleash police and vigilantes to kill anyone “suspected” of being a drug user. An estimated 7,000 were killed in just six months.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the regime will pursue that exact approach, but it underscores that the fascists deeply believe that the way to solve the problems that the system confronts is ruthless violence in one form or another—unfettered by the Constitution, laws, compassion, or the qualms or strategic disagreements of their ruling class opponents.
So as Trump starts down this path of pushing aside the Democrats in order to crush a massive protest movement, and to round up “the bad guys” in communities of the oppressed, THAT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, A “BREAK GLASS” MOMENT. RefuseFascism.org has long said that fascism must be stopped “before it becomes too late,”—before the point at which any voice or act of resistance will be snuffed out before it can gain momentum.
We are perilously close to that moment!
In that context, it’s extremely inspiring to see very broad sections of people—nurses, vets, “moms”—taking to the streets in the thousands to defend the protesters in Portland, night after night. And solidarity protests have now erupted in cities around the U.S.
1. “Trump: We could deploy 50,000-75,000 federal agents to cities facing increased violence,” Washington Examiner, July 24, 2020. [back]
2. “Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as ‘enemies,’ ‘undesirables,’ or ‘dangers to society’.” See “What Is Fascism” at revcom.us. [back]
3. See “Trump Regime Escalates Fascist Repression in Response to Beautiful Rising,” revcom.us, July 13, 2020. [back]
4. “In recent weeks there has been a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police department,” Trump said on July 22 at a White House event, blaming the movement for “a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.” [back]