Part of our government is being shut down
by an Inept, Incompetent, Unstable Trump and
And, part of our economy is being wrecked.
Mr. Trump is holding the government hostage, promising a shutdown that would last “for a very long time” if Congress doesn't give him at least $5 billion for a border wall. Wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for that?
If Mr. Trump doesn’t change his mind before tonight’s midnight deadline, his tantrum is going to cost over 420,000 federal employees their pay over the holidays, and more than 380,000 would be placed on temporary leave without pay.
No one wants American troops deployed in a war zone longer than necessary. But there is no indication that Mr. Trump has thought through the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal, including allowing ISIS forces to regroup and create another crisis that would draw the United States back into the region.
An American withdrawal would also be a gift to Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, who has been working hard to supplant American influence in the region and who, on Thursday, enthusiastically welcomed the decision, saying, “Donald’s right.” Another beneficiary is Iran, which has also expanded its regional footprint. It would certainly make it harder for the Trump administration to implement its policy of ratcheting up what it calls “maximum pressure” on Iran.
Among the biggest losers are likely to be the Kurdish troops that the United States has equipped and relied on to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, considers many of the Kurds to be terrorists bent on destroying his country. In recent days he has vowed to launch a new offensive against them in the Syrian border region. Mr. Trump discussed his withdrawal decision in a telephone call with Mr. Erdogan on Friday.
Today’s challenging task is to defeat authoritarianism in a way that will help institutionalize the strength of the emergent progressive sections of society and prepare them for more advanced stages of a struggle for systemic change.
Last, we cannot help but take note that we live in the era of Donald Trump. A white nationalist surge drove him to the presidency, and unfortunately, similar regimes based in racist and xenophobic authoritarianism are afflicting many other countries across the globe.
We need to be sober-minded about this. The trick is not to deny the challenge, but to identify and nurture the shoots of resistance which are the building blocks of the future and the source of our hope.
Today there is a massive anti-Trump front taking shape in this country. Its core lies in communities of color and among young people, but it stretches all the way from corporate power brokers in the Democratic Party through the millions who turned out for Bernie Sanders and a re-energized women’s upsurge to many Marxist revolutionaries. So of course it includes players with contradictory interests. But that is always the case in truly large mass movements. And we need to remember that no radical project has succeeded when it tried to fight all its enemies at once. Divisions in a ruling elite, and movements that can and do take advantage of them, have been a key factor in every successful movement for revolution or radical reform in history, in the U.S. and around the world.
And within this huge, complicated coalition against the far right there is a growing and dynamic progressive sector, showing itself in the women’s marches, in electoral insurgencies, in defense of immigrants, in demanding an end to police killings, in the movement for single-payer health care, in the recent teacher’s strikes. If that layer can coalesce–and if it can make efforts to end militarism and war as strong as its campaigns on other fronts–an agenda of peace, jobs, justice, and saving the planet can attain a measure of power.
It is crucial to recognize, though, that after the main enemy of each phase was defeated, the coalition that defeated that enemy splintered. And in each case the ruling-class sector was able, over time, to weaken or outright crush the progressive contingent and roll back many hard won gains: Klan terror and restriction of voting rights in the gutting of Reconstruction; McCarthyism to roll back the militant workers’ movement in the 1950s; and, after the Second Reconstruction, the backlash crusade that has unfolded for the last 40 years and has now reached a zenith with extreme perils to the country and the planet now that full-blown white nationalism has captured the GOP under Donald Trump.
So our challenge is two-fold. First, to use all the elements mentioned above, from disruptive action to truly massive street protests to electoral engagement, in building the broad coalition necessary to oust the GOP and Trump an all their hangers on from power. And second, to institutionalize the strength of the progressive wing of this coalition to the point that, if and when we do defeat the right, we will not be pushed to the sidelines. Rather, we will be able to fight for and win the initiative, grab and hold a measure of political power in cities, states, and at the federal level, and have a foundation on which to move on to more advanced stages of struggle for systemic change.
And this is where building not just a progressive realignment, but a revolutionary left force within it, comes in. A radical left with a transformative vision and effective strategy is needed to keep that broader progressive current on track; as the communist manifesto puts it:
Fortunately, there are more and more young people today who, like the generation of 1968, are flocking toward a revolutionary vision and looking for illuminating theory and effective strategy and organization. The task of my generation is to get in behind the new radicals, support them, offer what we’ve learned from our experience in the spirit of “take whatever is useful and leave the rest.” And let’s see if together we can move history along a little further this time around.
Max Elbaum is is an American historian, author, and social activist. He has written extensively about the New Left, Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. He is the author of “Revolution In The Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Lenin, Mao and Che“.
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