An Anarchist Response to the Election

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A crowd marches from Union Square to Trump Tower in protest of new Republican president-elect Donald Trump on November 12, 2016 in New York, United States. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country.  (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12: A crowd marches from Union Square to Trump Tower in protest of new Republican president-elect Donald Trump on November 12, 2016 in New York, United States. The election of Trump as president has sparked protests in cities across the country. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

In the current political turmoil of the United States, there is one major factor which has been absent. That is, a militant left force to appeal to the white working class and all the oppressed and exploited, to build a coalition of all those who are suffering and outcast, to fight against their real enemy, the capitalist class: the ruling rich. What is necessary to create such a social force?

One necessity is the realization that it is hard to beat the “greater evil” with a “lesser evil”: even the “lesser evil” is still evil. For decades, liberals, union officials, environmentalists, feminists, the African-American community, and so on, have mostly followed a strategy of working for the “lesser evil.” And not just voting on election day, but putting money and human effort into supporting the Democrats against the Republicans. As a result, the Republicans have moved to the far-right and the Democrats have moved to the center-right. So this fall, we had a “choice” between a despicable, vile, ignorant, fascist-friendly bigot, and a long-time establishment figure. Not surprisingly, many rejected the more-of-the-same of Hillary Clinton, out of hope, however deluded, that Donald Trump would make an improvement.

A significant minority, at least, must recognize that our social problems are not caused by having the wrong individual politicians in office. Political, economic, and ecological crises are caused by the social system of capitalism, the market, and the state. Nor will they be fixed by electing the right politicians to office. They will only be fixed, overall, by changing the social system to one which is cooperative and radically democratic—some version of anarchism or libertarian (anti-authoritarian) socialism. Reforms should be supported and fought for, but the necessary goal of a thoroughly different society should be our clear goal.

The capitalist democracy we live under is not the totalitarian repression of fascism or “Communist” state-capitalism. But neither is it a truly free, self-managed, participatory democracy. Liberals get alarmed about infringements of civil liberties and other democratic rights, and they are right to do so. But this is what capitalist democracy always has been—limited and distorted. Trump has been friendly to the fascists of the “alt right”—which is a danger, but doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to install a fascist dictatorship.

The real danger is that the present system will only harden—and we cannot rely on the mechanisms of elections and establishment politics to change it. Our strength is in our numbers and our strategic locations in society. The gains of the New Deal and unionization, in the ’30s, were won through mass strikes. The defeat of legal segregation was won in the ’60s through“civil disobedience” (law-breaking) and urban rebellions (“riots”). The U.S. war in Vietnam was opposed through large demonstrations, student strikes, draft resistance, and a virtual mutiny in the army. Rights for LGBT people were won through the Stonewall rebellion and ACT-UP’s civil disobedience. The women’s movement developed in the context of this popular rebellion.

Potentially the strongest use of popular power is through our status as the working class: We’re the people with our hands on the means of production, distribution, transportation, communication, and all services. And the working class is not limited to white-male, blue-collar, straight workers, but includes most African-Americans, Latinos, Arab-Americans, women, LGBT people, and white-collar workers. It is most of us. And it has the potential to shake up the system in the most profound way. The main point of capitalist politics is to keep working people from realizing their real power, to keep working people at each other’s throats and attached to different segments of the capitalist class and the state—exactly the divisions Trump’s campaign exploited so successfully. The goal of anarchist politics is to overcome these false divisions.

The Democrats tell us to “give Trump a chance.” But the nationwide demonstrations against Trump point us in another direction. They follow the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the $15 minimum-wage movement, the anti-global warming movement, the Native American blockades, the struggles by Latinos and by Muslims and Arab-Americans, and other signs of popular resistance and rebellion. This is the strategy for the future.

Photo: YANA PASKOVA, GETTY IMAGES

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