The Developing Mood in the US

Women's March. One of the largest protests in US history.

Women’s March.
One of the largest protests in US history.

An unprecedented ferment is developing around the country. That’s what we’ve been hearing from people we’ve talked with around the country.

New Orleans
The mood there is symbolized by the 7-10,000 that participated in the women’s march, which was the largest protest march in decades.

We talked with radical “fractivist” (anti fracking activist) Cliff Willmeng in Colorado. He’s

Cliff Willmeng confronting a spokeswoman for Encana Energy. He helped drive her out of town.

Cliff Willmeng confronting a spokeswoman for Encana Energy. He helped drive her out of town.

been holding trainings for civil disobedience to stop fracking. He says that six months ago about 20 would have showed up at a training. Now, he’s having to cap attendance at around 40 to 50. This increased activity is partly because – as he predicted some time ago – the legal challenges to fracking were exhausted, so people have no other avenue but civil disobedience. But he says it’s also due to the new mood that’s developed since Trump was elected.

“In five years of fighting the oil and gas industry,” he says, “I’ve never seen the same amount of enthusiasm and readiness to go after the industry. It would be hard to say that we’re not operating in a different climate from what we were operating in before.”

Rural Pennsylvania
Here, in the heart of Trump country, something similar is happening. A woman called a meeting shortly after Trump was elected, expecting maybe a dozen people to show up. Instead, some 30 or more came. Every meeting since then has been progressively larger. At one meeting, shortly after Trump’s Muslim ban, they went around the room, asking each person to explain why they’d come. The answers fell in three broad categories:

  • Some said that they felt they’d been silent too long; they had to speak up.
  • Some said, maybe mainly in relation to the Muslim ban, “This is not the America I know.”
  • Some had personal reasons. For example, some were afraid of losing their health care. another woman said she had a trans grandchild and was worried about the future of that grandchild.

As has been reported on in the mainstream media, like in many other areas, they’ve been turning out to town hall meetings of various Republican politicians to give them an earful.

Tacoma, WA
An activist in Tacoma has been going to meetings of “Indivisible”, which she says is getting attendance of some 200 people, mixed ages and mainly but not entirely white people.

Seattle, WA
A construction worker in Seattle reports a real mood swing among construction workers there. He says that in the past, for example, many of them actually opposed the campaign for a $15/hour minimum wage. “They should just get a real job,” was the excuse. (This from union members!) In the main, this is from the white construction workers, most of whom he believes voted for Trump. But now, these same workers are seeing things differently. For example, they are denouncing the homeless situation in the city – not to blame the homeless but denouncing the cost of living, etc.

New York City, Kings County Hospital Center
Here is what “Frankie”, a nurse at this hospital writes about the situation there:

Kings County Hospital "The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through."

Kings County Hospital
“The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through.”

“At my workplace the work pace and load is so frenzied and overloaded that we have difficulty having space and time to discuss politics. The minute we get on shift to the minute we leave we are running around trying to make it through. Lately we have been so short staffed that we often can’t take breaks during the entire 12 hour shift. Often we stay longer (1-2 hours). In relation to this, overtime has to be approved by managers, and we often don’t bother to chase them down. There have also been rumors that ‘there is no more overtime’. This is a chronic issue that is felt throughout the hospital, especially on the floors (not the outpatient clinics that are open only during the day). That said, there are constant grumblings about Trump and bouts of anger in the staff lounge. Especially the ancillary staff (PCAs, PCTs, CNAs) are often heard shouting in the lounge about Trump “asking for it”. People talk openly about how disgusting he is, his sexism and racism, how he is terrible for blacks and immigrants. There is a lot of sympathy for undocumented people who are being targeted now. People say, ‘They are just here trying to live,” and ‘this puts all of us in danger. We all know immigrants, or are immigrants ourselves.’ And how this is contradictory to the so-called legacy and history of America, the huge melting pot of immigrants (‘America was founded on immigrants! if they didn’t have immigrants, no one would do that hard work…White people don’t want to be doing this slave work.’)

“It is not clear what the union will be doing to mobilize the members to fight Trump.”

(Since we published this article, we got the following report from Wythe in Tidewater, VA. We encourage others to report on what’s happening in your area, and we will add then as they come in. Meanwhile, thank you, Wythe.) What you say is certainly true here in staid Tidewater VA (centered around the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, and Newport News), where the biggest naval base in the world is located, with many old-line VA conservatives, many new military-supporting conservatives, and large numbers of active military and retired military.  More than 2500 people — but no tv or print reporters — showed up for the Womens March in Norfolk two weeks ago.  The police used drones to monitor the unexpectedly large crowd.  There have been continuing anti-Trump protests in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and other local sites.  More than 2000 people turned out on the last two evenings to attend Town Hall meetings held courageously by a local rightwing Republican Congressperson, Scott Taylor, whose gerrymandered district stretches from Yorktown in the west to Virginia Beach in the east, and most of the questions were opposed to him, Trump, and the Republicans in general.  Taylor was consistently booed loudly when he gave his knee-jerk GOP positions on most things.  People were very angry over GOP plans to repeal Obamacare.  The other day at least 100 people turned up in Suffolk, VA, to protest the building of a pipeline through scenic and historic central Virginia to deliver natural gas to waiting ships which will take it elsewhere for profit — and they were not allowed to attend the supposedly “public comments session” except one person at a time; anger was palpable.  My GOP cousin and her husband are switching immediately to the Democrats and are going to these sorts of gatherings.  A NAACP local chapter meeting held the other day in the chilly sunshine outside Hampton’s City Hall drew at least 80 folks, and all of the speakers (local and state Democratic officeholders) were angry at Trump and his policies; a third of the folks there were white and all gave great applause to the speakers.  Something is indeed happening.

Along side this ferment, a fear is spreading within the immigrant community, due to

A serious crackdown on undocumented workers is a threat to all workers.

A serious crackdown on undocumented workers is a threat to all workers.

Trump’s new orders regarding undocumented immigrants. Since those orders include deporting any immigrant who has done anything not in total accordance with the law, and since this would include using a false social security number, for example, it’s easy to see why this fear is spreading.

Disgracefully, some people such as Yvette Carnell, who writes for Black Agenda Report (which used to be uniformly excellent), are actually giving implicit support to this repression on the grounds that undocumented immigrants compete with black workers for jobs, etc. What do people like this think is going to happen? Do they think that this spreading repression of undocumented immigrants will be confined to just this group? Given the fact that racism and repression in the US has always tended to focus on black people, don’t they realize that the black community will bear some of the worst brunt of this in the future?

Green Party

Green Party. At least in some areas they don't seem to be growing very much and are still oriented mainly towards elections only. This might be different in other areas.

Green Party.
At least in some areas they don’t seem to be growing very much and are still oriented mainly towards elections only. This might be different in other areas.

From New Orleans to Colorado to Oakland, it does not seem that the Green Party is growing very much. (This might be different elsewhere.) This is probably due to the fact that at least in these areas their focus remains mainly on elections, when most activists are oriented to getting out there in the streets.

The Democratic Party and their Allies
Two groups that are experiencing meteoric growth are “Indivisible” and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). While somewhat different, both of these groups are allied with the Democrats. Indivisible was started by some Democratic Party staffers who had the idea of building a “left” equivalent of the Tea Party. That explains their tactic of turning people out to the town hall meetings of Republican representatives, similar to what the Tea Party did some years ago.

The DSA is somewhat of a mixed bag. At least in Oakland, many union staffers are DSA members. Supposedly they have an “inside-outside” strategy towards the Democratic Party. This means working both inside and outside the Democrats. In the past, this has always meant claiming to work outside while, in reality, orienting towards the liberal wing of the Democratic Party inside. That is what seems to be happening now. For example, in California their main activity is mobilizing to support a state wide “single payer” health care bill that is being introduced in Sacramento. This is part and parcel of the emerging strategy of the Democrats overall to focus on the issue of “defending and improving” Obamacare.

The Socialist Left
We are also hearing that several revolutionary socialist groups are growing considerably. Unfortunately, almost all of them seem to be dedicated to building their own group at the expense of collaborating together to build a wider socialist trend within the resistance to Trump as a whole.

The Future
What will happen is unclear.

We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump/Bannon will be able to continue tightening the screws, first on the immigrant community as well as on groups like the anti-fracking activists in Colorado. There, long prison sentences for interfering with oil and gas drilling could possibly inhibit the movement. Then there is the black community. Trump has threatened to send the feds into this community in Chicago. If he does so, he will be sending in an occupying army that will act with extreme repression.

There is also the danger of a new terrorist attack or an individual-type assault on some cops. This would be used as an excuse to sharply increase the government repression, including the jailing of many thousands. It might even include calling out the National Guard. What would be the response to that? Would it create such an uproar, such a mass semi-spontaneous mobilization of millions that the government would be forced to back off?

It’s impossible to know.

Program and Strategy
The strategy of the reformers, who revolve around the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, is to go back to the situation that existed several years ago. Maybe with a few improvements here an there, but basically the same situation. Stability, in other words.

There are several different possible outcomes to this situation, but a return to the past is not one of them. In the 200+ year history of the US, there has never been a president like the present one.

In other words, the situation we face is unprecedented. Sometimes, revolutionaries are the most conservative of all and can tend to keep responding as they did in the past, despite the changed circumstances. One thing is clear: Even in the past, the direction that most socialists took did not work. The existence of Trump as president proves that, if nothing else does. In this period of increased ferment, new possibilities are opening up. We should use those opportunities to go directly to the working class on the job, in the communities and in the schools.

  • Explain that “an attack on one is a threat to all”, that today it may be Muslims or undocumented workers who are being attacked by Trump & Co., but tomorrow it will be you.
  • Call for and actually try to organize a united struggle in the streets, the communities, the schools and the work places to block ICE.
  • Link up such a campaign with one to make the unions do what they were built to do: fight for workers both on the job and off it. This means a campaign to get the union leadership out of bed with the employers and instead to fight for the members on the job; a campaign oppose the drive for “deregulation” and freeing up big business to further rape, loot and plunder the environment; a campaign to make the unions organize to defend the most oppressed; and a campaign to get the unions to break with the Democratic Party lock, stock and barrel and to join with the growing movement against Trump to build a fighting, mass working class party, one with a genuine socialist program and plan of action.

We hope readers of this blog site will send us in reports of what is happening and what is being said at your work place or school. You can either send them in as a “reply” to this post, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, send us an e mail and we’ll publish it without identifying the reporter.

Note: This is the third in a series about the Trump presidency. The first was on Trump and the world capitalist crisis. The second was on the internal dynamics of the Trump presidency and how far his administration might go. We also did one on the Trump-Russia connection.

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9 replies »

  1. Hey, John. Did Yvette Carnell put this claim on BLACK AGENDA REPORT itself? I can’t find it. Dont smear BAR if she wrote that somewhere else.

  2. I agree with your report and analysis John, with the exception about the liberal democrats campaigning for single payer. On the contrary, at least in my area in Illinois. they are opposing single payer , even though they all claim they support it ( but that it is not possible at this time ), and are focusing on getting people to support corporate healthcare via the ACA ( Obamacare ).

    • I should have put it this way: This campaign for single payer is just a front. It’s a set-up. I would be absolutely shocked if it passes in California. In fact, I think they’ve got it all lined up to fail. I think what they’ve got figured is that all the Republicans in Sacramento will vote against it and the majority of Democrats, but not enough to overcome the Republicans. So the Democrats can look good without actually passing anything. But it will draw some people into activity (they hope) and closer to the Democrats.

      • Yes ! That seems extremely likely ! Similar to what happened in Vermont in 2014 when then Democratic Governor Shumlin was running for re-election and was facing a challenge from a 3rd party, Shumlin agreed to support the proposed single payer bill that passed both houses in the capitol IF the 3rd party would not run a candidate. The 3rd party candidate withdrew, Shumlin was elected, and immediately upon taking office he appointed a commision to ” study ” the single payer bill, which was comprised of corporate health insurance ” experts ” from Blue Cross-Blue Shield ” and within weeks betrayed his campaign promise with the help of the Obama administration who said that they would not release federal medicaid funds to Vermont to make the single payer system a reality.

  3. the only civil disobedience needed to end fracking is to turn off your gas utility like I did. How can we expect them to stop fracking if we continue to pay them to do it? You can spot heat rooms and cook your food with renewable electricity which is becoming increasingly available by simply opting for it with your local power company. dangerous natural gas must be entirely eliminated from the nation’s energy grid and buying it is doing nothing to accomplish that.

  4. Back when Bill Clinton was pushing NAFTA through the senate, I remember reading that a couple of Democratic Senators had written him telling him they were going to vote “no” on the treaty… unless their votes would be decisive in its passing. In that case, they would vote for it. This is the shell game the Democrats play.

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