In Munich Germany in 1923, Adolph Hitler instituted the “Beer Hall Putsch”. This attempted coup was a total failure as far as seizing power and it resulted in Hitler’s arrest. After a 24 day trial, which he used as a propaganda forum, he was sentenced to five years in prison. He served only nine months. In the short term, it was a setback for the Nazis, but we all know how it turned out in the end.
Of course, there are massive differences between Germany in the 1920s and the United States today and a fascist dictatorship is not on the horizon for the US in this period. However, we have to take what happened yesterday extremely seriously and understand the forces at work.
This report from Bellingcat makes clear that the violent fascists were openly agitating and organizing well in advance of January 6. They were openly calling for violence, including calling for arresting and “executing” politicians. There was every reason to take these calls seriously. In fact, even the director of the FBI has warned that the racist far right is the greatest threat to commit terrorist violence
in the US. There was also every reason to believe that the police would use a light hand with them. There is, for example, the collaboration between the police and the Proud Boys in Portland at a rally of theirs in February, 2019. Underlying this is the political affinity the police in general feel for the far right, especially in their mutual support for Trump.
Nor is this confined to municipal police forces. We have the example of Michael Reinoehl, who had been accused of killing a Proud Boy thug in Portland. Reinoehl said it was in self defense and then went into hiding. A combined force of local police, U.S. Marshals and FBI hunted Reinoehl down and shot him down in the street in cold blood. (Reinoehl was unarmed. Protests against this assassination were few and far between.)
This is why the Capitol police and other forces were not seriously mobilized in advance. It is why they used such a gentle touch. They could have easily repelled the mob with tear gas and pepper spray. In fact, at least one of them had a selfie taken with one of the terrorists who had broken into the Capitol! After the riot, all the politicians were falling all over themselves thanking the brave police who protected them. That is nothing but a cover up for the actual fact, and even the media afterwards had to recognize the cops real role. From Van Jones to Chris Cuomo, even to a few Democrats such as Mondaire Jones (Representative from New York) – they commented on NPR the next day about how differently the police treated this almost entirely white mob from how they treat black or brown protesters.
That is true, but we should not forget there is also a purely political element: It is not simply a matter of racism; it’s also political orientation. The police beat, tear gas and go out of their way to arrest left protesters in general. The day after the riot, the FBI asked for help identifying the terrorists who’d broken into the Capitol. CNN commented that that shouldn’t be too hard and posted photos with several of the terrorists, including giving their names. We will see how quickly they are apprehended. (Presumably, they are flying back to where they came from, meaning it should be no problem to arrest them at the airport.)
After congress reconvened, there were lots of speeches denouncing what had happened, with speakers from both sides of the aisle blaming Trump. That, too, was a cover up; no individual – not even a president – can be responsible for such a riot on their own. Trump has been egging on the far right, including the outright fascists, ever since he got into office. (In fact, even before, as with his support of birtherism.) But he has only been able to survive because of the complicity of almost the entire Republican Party, most especially the Republican legislators in Washington. That starts with Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
One detail that wouldn’t have ended up as a detail: According to the Washington Post, a senate parliamentarian happened to think of taking the certificates of electors votes when they fled the hall. Had that person not thought of that and the certificates been left in the hall, the rioters would certainly have destroyed them. That would have left congress without the official documents, which could have left a legalistic cloud over the counting of the votes. In that case, the far right would have been playing on that meme – “never Constitutionally recognized” – for the entire Biden administration.
Back during the impeachment proceedings against Trump, one of the supposedly “independent” Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine – voted against conviction (that is, against removing him from office). She justified this vote by claiming that he’d learned his lesson, to which Adam Schiff (D, California) replied “it’s clear that Trump has learned nothing except that he can get away with anything.” One Republican senator, Mitt Romney, voted in favor of convicting Trump on one count. He, too, is complicit, though. If you remain a member of a criminal gang, knowing that that gang is criminal, then you are guilty of the crimes that gang commits. In this case, it is Romney who remains a member of this criminal gang. He, too, is complicit.
Biden: “Work with Republicans” Instead of Exposing them
But is it only the Republicans? How about the Democrats? Which one of them pointed out the criminal role of the entire Republican gang? Did Adam Schiff remind Collins of her claim? I talked with a Democratic Party activist about this. She said that the Democrats know that they will “have to work with” their Republican colleagues the coming four years.
This should serve as a warning as far as what to expect from the Biden administration, now with a Democratic majority in both houses. At every turn, they will be trying to work with the Republicans instead of exposing them. Nor did Biden change his tune yesterday. Consider his running comments. First thing in the afternoon, he actually urged Trump to call on his supporters to pull back. “The work of the moment and the work of the next four years must be the restoration of democracy, of decency, honor, respect the Rule of Law, just plain, simple decency, the renewal of a politics,” he said. In other words, another mealy mouth appeal for national unity and “decency”. It’s like appealing to a wolf to become a vegan! An hour later, he was at it again: “America is about honor, decency, respect, tolerance. That’s who we are. That’s who we’ve always been.” Right, except for genocide against the Indians, slavery and racism, the Vietnam War, suppression of workers… you name it. He concluded his silliness with this comment later in the evening: “This is the United States of America. There’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever been a thing we’ve tried to do, that we’ve done it together, we’ve not been able to do it.” Fortunately for the Vietnamese (among others), that has not always been true.
Scapegoats instead of real investigation
In the immediate term, some scapegoats must be found. Some are already on the chopping block such as Steven Sund, US Capitol Hill Police Chief, who has announced his resignation. Others will probably follow. But the integration of far right fascists and racists into the police forces at the national and local level will continue to be covered up. As will the a coverup of the links between Trump advisor Steve Miller and also Donald Jr. and fascists.
And the Republican Party as a whole? Even after the terrorist riot there were 147 Republican senators and Representatives voted against accepting electoral college results. Maybe most prominent among them was US Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. As opposed to some other Republican Senators, Hawley did not retreat from his lying claims even after the fascist riot. As Oaklandsocialist pointed out yesterday, Hawley has made appeals to anti-Semitism, as well as sounding other classic fascist themes. In other words, he is making a calculation that the fascists and other racists and fact denialist hysterics will not go away, and he is tying himself to their continued influence in his gang – the Republican Party.
Hawley also tried to link the violence of this fascist mob to the BLM protests. “When it comes to violence, this has been a terrible year for this country last year,” he said after they reconvened. In other words, the BLM protests set the stage for these fascists. Others, including most of the talking heads on Fox (Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity), Sinclair Broadcast Group were more open: They either directly implied or openly stated that the left (antifa) were behind the riot.
As for the Proud boys and other fascist gangs, they will probably receive a setback. The bulk of “middle America” will be horrified at what they did, but many of these fascists will have seen it as a victory. This means even further division among the US population, although not along class lines. A number of their leaders may be arrested on serious charges. If any of them has any courage, they will do as did Hitler and use their trials as a forum to spread their lies, racism and xenophobia. If they serve time, they will have plenty of potential recruits among the white racist prison gangs. So, yes this may be a setback for both them and the Republican Party as a whole. What will really determine their future will be the continuation of the objective conditions that created their growth in the first place.
Those conditions were the economic crisis of US and world capitalism, for which the US working class has been made to pay; the continued decline of US capitalism as a world power, which millions of Americans see as a challenge to their pride (“Make America Great Again” – both at home and overseas), and last but not least the disastrous role of the union leadership.
Trumka and union leaders
On the evening after the riot, AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka issued a statement. “We are witnessing one of the greatest assaults on our democracy since the Civil War. Today’s attempted coup has been years in the making as Donald Trump consistently spews venom, conspiracies, hate and lies to his supporters,” he wrote. “this is an effort to violate the constitutional rights of every law-abiding American and the labor movement will not stand for it. Not today. Not ever,” he concluded. Bold but empty words. What are Trumka and the rest of the union leadership, from top to bottom, going to do about it? At least Sara Nelson of the Association of Flight Attendants called for the banning of these thugs from taking their flights home.
That would be a good step, but it doesn’t really address the main issue, which is the 75+ year war the entire union leadership has been fighting against those who struggle to maintain and revive the best traditions of the US labor movement, a war against class consciousness itself. These union leaders have belittled, threatened, even blackballed such members. They have carried out a propaganda campaign against the very idea that workers and employers have opposing interests. Time after time they have even brought representatives of the employers themselves into the unions to lecture members that they must work harder and faster. And overall, they have done everything they can to discourage the members from fighting the employers. This includes forcing down the members throats concessionary contracts and refusing to back up the members when a problem arises on the job.
Is it any wonder, then, that the most thinking and courageous of the members have been pushed into a corner, that they have less influence on the membership as a whole? Is it any wonder that in place of serious thinking and class consciousness has come denialism and selfishness – the very qualities that the union leadership itself embodies? Is it any wonder that this situation has spread far beyond the union membership itself? Is it any wonder that an estimated 40% of voters from union households voted for Trump?
What is needed is the beginnings of a drive to help rank and file members build opposition caucuses to struggle against these policies and those who perpetrate them.
Georgia and role of black women
In sum: the Republicans will see a loss in support. However, that loss will swing to the Democrats who are useless in fighting the far right, including the fascists. How can a new force develop?
There is one bright spot: That is the electoral defeat of the two Republican candidates for senate in the Georgia runoff election, an election that concluded just the day before the mob riot in DC. Although the defeat of two Trumpsters is helpful, more important was how they were defeated. Led by Stacey Abrams, it seems the black community was really mobilized in a way that has not happened in many years. And leading that community were black women. It seems inevitable that they will feel empowered by this election result. “Well, we accomplished that; what else can we accomplish?” will tend to be the feeling. In this volatile situation, and given the fact that the Democrats will not do what is necessary, such a mood among the most advanced sector of US society is dangerous for the ruling class.