What Did Happen, Why, and Why It Is Significant
The most significant thing that happened was this: the major spokespeople for the Democratic Party – Bernie Sanders, Barack and Michelle Obama, Joe Biden as the nominee – to a certain degree rang the alarm on the situation we face with Trump.
Obama, speaking with the Constitution as the background, warned, “Don’t let them take away your democracy”; Sanders, who is Jewish, said his family and others know “the insidious way authoritarianism destroys democracy, decency and humanity,” obliquely referring to Hitler and the Nazis; and Biden himself ended his speech by recalling how Trump praised as “very fine people” the racists, fascists and anti-Semites who paraded around Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and ended up killing a counter-demonstrator. Crystallizing this danger, Biden said, “Decency, science, democracy… They are all on the ballot.” All this, without using the word, invoked the specter of fascism, a form of bourgeois rule in which rights are dispensed with, vicious mobs are unleashed against the people, and there is blatant dictatorship exercised by the regime.
The Democrats in the main also put forward a very multicultural lineup, going against Trump’s blatant white supremacy, and continually spoke to the importance of equality and the struggle to end institutionalized racism. Such a lineup and the profession of such ideals served as a contrast to the unapologetic white supremacist future represented by Trump. They also went after the gross negligence and anti-science mentality of the way the regime has handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on a basic level, the convention was BEB – Bourgeois Electoral Bullshit. The Democrats once again made promises to be “better than” the Republicans, from social welfare to national security. In reality, this means to do better at presiding and ruling over this system of capitalism-imperialism: a system of bitter exploitation and global plunder; a system that has “baked into” all its social structures the ugly relations of white supremacy, male supremacy, the plunder of the environment and the oppression of the majority of the world and the endless wars to defend all that; a system that has now brought things to the point where humanity faces the real prospect of a consolidated fascist America.
But again, the Democrats also signaled to the world that what we face in the Trump regime is different. They put out, from their own standpoint and in a way that they have not done before, that there is a unique threat concentrated with this regime.
This threat is also posed against them directly, as Trump has explicitly threatened to prosecute, jail or even execute his opponents in the ruling class, without regard for what have been the norms (or normal standards) of how the ruling class settles differences among themselves. This includes not only political opponents like Hillary Clinton (“lock her up”) and Obama (“Obamagate”), but also those like ex-FBI Director Comey who oppose Trump.
But it is not just, or even mainly, that. Trump has also, as Bob Avakian has said, not only sought “to suppress the votes of people who will vote against him but is also preparing to utilize forceful, violent repression to remain in office if he is not declared the winner in this election” (from ON THE IMMEDIATE CRITICAL SITUATION, THE URGENT NEED TO DRIVE OUT THE FASCIST TRUMP/PENCE REGIME, VOTING IN THIS ELECTION, AND THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED FOR REVOLUTION). This too was pointed to, if not explicitly, and decried by Obama and others.
Coming from their own interests as defenders of this worldwide system of plunder, the Democrats see Trump as damaging those interests around the world.1 Moreover, in their eyes, his fascist regime runs the risk of dangerously “destabilizing” U.S. society itself, leading to possible social upheavals.
In short: the convention illustrated that the contradiction between those who want to lock in fascism and those who oppose it is a sharp contradiction at the top ruling levels of society.
What Didn’t Happen, Why… and Why That Is Even More Significant
What did NOT happen at the convention is that none of the major speakers used the word fascism from the official podium.2 Why?
If they were to use that word (especially in a formal speech and not in a wink-wink tweet or somewhere else),
a) What does that say about the history of this country and the nature of their system, a system that gave rise to this ugly fascism and of which the Democrats are a ruling class party? And
b) What does that say about how the fight should be waged to prevent that form of rule from being imposed?
Think about it: if Obama were to say that we had to face down and fight a fascist regime in the White House, what would it say about their system that let it get there? What would it say about the strength of white supremacy – that even after a Black president, white supremacy is still strong enough to turn back the so-called “moral arc of the universe”? What would that imply about how “dug in” and interwoven this problem (and others like misogyny) are with this system and society?
To say that we are facing fascism would admit that the rights and protections which are supposedly guaranteed to people by this government – even as hemmed in as they are by the domination and, yes, ultimate dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist class – actually can vanish. To say that word would admit that the victories that people do win are not some story of gradual but steady progress, but concessions wrung out of the ruling class by blood that can be snatched back when the system finds itself up against sharp contradictions and dominant sections of the ruling class decide to resort to extreme measures.
The second reason they did not mention that word is that, if they were to admit this is fascism, you must come to grips with this truth, laid out in Bob Avakian’s statement quoted above:
Relying on, and confining actions within, the “norms” and “regular channels” of this system, including the upcoming election, cannot solve this profound and urgent problem, especially when dealing with a fascist regime and its fanatical followers that are determined to trample on and tear up those “norms.” (CRITICAL SITUATION…, emphasis added)
And nobody even came close to doing that – to calling on people to step outside the norms of their system and engage in mass political resistance. All the focus and reliance was put on voting, voting, voting – despite dire warnings at the same time that Trump is engaged in voter suppression.
Yes, it is important, as Bob Avakian has put it, that “a decisive defeat” be delivered to “Trump and the whole fascist regime” in the election. Why? Because as BA goes on to say, on the basis of masses taking the streets and demanding the ouster of the regime, such a defeat “would create far better conditions for continuing to wage the struggle against everything represented by the Trump/Pence regime and all the oppression and injustices of this system, and would be a great gift to the people of the world.” (ibid.)
Biden is not Trump – he is not attempting to implement fascism – and for that reason people should vote for him and resistance must be waged against any attempt whatsoever to prevent people from voting.
But that will not be enough – and cannot be relied on.
Look, Trump is already hinting at, showing us and at times even telling us what he will do: how he will use trickery and force to prevent people, especially Black people and other people of color, from voting; how he will sabotage the vote-by-mail efforts; how he will falsely claim fraud; how he will hack the results; how he will tie up the courts while he calls out his armed followers and perhaps even the army itself; and on and on and on. How does just voting prevent any of that?
All this again drives home BA’s point from CRITICAL SITUATION: “Simply relying on voting to oust this regime will almost certainly lead to very bad, even disastrous results.”
What We URGENTLY Need to Do… and to Set in Motion NOW
If we can recognize that we face a fascist regime with its hands on the levers of power, one that is moving relentlessly to use the election to make a leap in the brutal exercise of that power… then we must come to grips with the need for massive protest, in the streets, beginning as soon as possible to drive this regime out of power. This has not only been done in other countries – many of you now reading this participated in or at least witnessed a powerful mass uprising right here, in the spring, with the defiant demonstrations that demanded justice for George Floyd and spread to take on police terror in general and institutionalized racism.
Do you remember how overnight the impossible suddenly became possible, in so many ways? How the perverted injustices of this system, so long accepted as the “way things are,” were suddenly “put on trial” by the people and hateful statues toppled? How people found solidarity with each other, told each other the truth, and learned how to stand together in a society that a day before had been one of total isolation and me-first? And how the police were forced to back off, how even the army was forced to apologize,3 and how the fascist mobs – at least at the beginning – did not dare come out, at least in the open?
At the same time, the top Democrats face a sharp contradiction. To actually rally the majority to defeat what actually IS a threat to them, they do need to say some of the truth. Thus they warn of the “danger to democracy”; this badly understates the depth of the problem, but even that carries the risk of alarming people and potentially making them more open to protesting.
The conflict at the top between the fascists concentrated in Trump and the Republican Party on the one hand, and the Democrats on the other, matters. It can make a difference in relation to what is most needed: the thousands and then millions of people mobilized and led in sustained resistance till this regime is driven from power. The two paragraphs we run on our website capture this dialectical relationship, dynamically interacting aspects:
The Democrats, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, etc., are seeking to resolve the crisis with the Trump presidency on the terms of this system, and in the interests of the ruling class of this system, which they represent. We, the masses of people, must go all out, and mobilize ourselves in the millions, to resolve this in our interests, in the interests of humanity, which are fundamentally different from and opposed to those of the ruling class.
This, of course, does not mean that the struggle among the powers that be is irrelevant or unimportant; rather, the way to understand and approach this (and this is a point that must also be repeatedly driven home to people, including through necessary struggle, waged well) is in terms of how it relates to, and what openings it can provide for, “the struggle from below”—for the mobilization of masses of people around the demand that the whole regime must go, because of its fascist nature and actions and what the stakes are for humanity.
1. For instance, Colin Powell said, in a theme echoed by others in the national security establishment, that Biden “will restore America’s leadership in the world and restore the alliances we need.” [back]
2. AOC did call the regime fascist during the convention – and has done so before – but did not do this in her allotted official time of 90 seconds. [back]
3. After initially going along with Trump’s violent dispersal of protestors in front of the White House on June 1 and posing for a “photo op” with the fascist-in-chief, Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking person in the military, felt compelled to apologize by the massive outcry outside, but also inside, the armed forces. This was truly unprecedented. [back]