Does getting rid of Trump matter?

 
BY:Scott Hiley| May 26, 2017
Does getting rid of Trump matter?

 

The Trump regime’s sewer of corruption is flooding into the open, and the appointment of special counsel to oversee the investigation is likely to speed up the process. Removing Trump sounds less like a liberal fantasy and more like a concrete political possibility.

As Communists—that is, as working class militants in the long struggle for democracy and socialism—we understand that impeaching and removing Donald Trump is a beginning, not an end, in democratic struggle. We recognize that capitalism is inherently racist and sexist and undemocratic, and that replacing one vicious conservative with another does not, in itself, constitute a major victory.

As the prospect of sluicing out the Oval Office looms on the horizon, however, the question is under what conditions impeachment could become a decisive step forward in the struggle for democracy.  To address that question, we need to consider both the gravity of the looming fascist threat and the mass, democratic character of the resistance to the Trump regime and its policies.

 

Impeachment, the GOP base, and the fascist threat

Impeaching Trump, and eventually convicting him or forcing his resignation, would have broad strategic ramifications.  As we saw with his [surprise] victory in the Republican primary and his [upset] victory in the election, Trump has become the linchpin of the Republican coalition.  Last spring, when the Republican Party seemed to be falling apart, his message of vulgar, hyper-nationalist, authoritarian conservatism held together evangelicals and a portion of the capitalist class (especially fossil fuels and real estate).  His populist veneer drew in trade unionists, some of whom had voted for Obama in 2008 And 2012.  And his open embrace of racist and sexist rhetoric gave neo-Nazis (rechristened as ‘the alt-right’) both a candidate they could be proud of and political cover for their message.

This Republican coalition is more than an electoral alliance.  It is the mass base that could furnish the ground troops for a fascist takeover.

As Palmiro Togliatti reminds us, fascism requires two things: the political organization of the most reactionary sections of the capitalist class and the support of a mass base.  To achieve the transition to fascism, that base becomes a wing of the regime, cooperating in the destruction of democratic procedures and institutions.  Indeed, Trump’s messaging—from calls to violence at his rallies, to his targeting of public figures who oppose him, to his troubling speech at the NRA convention—is rife with calls to take up arms against anyone perceived as a threat.

The petty bourgeois forces that brought Trump to power are poised to become the sort of mass base that Togliatti described—armed, or ready to arm themselves, to create a fascism “wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”  As we’ve already seen, perpetrators of hate crimes—including state-sponsored hate crimes like ICE raids and deportations—frequently invoke Trump’s name to justify their actions. And we’ve also seen law enforcement intensify its cooperation with ICE to target undocumented people.

Removing Trump from the Oval Office will disorganize and demobilize the most anti-democratic section of the GOP base and defuse the immediate fascist threat.  In particular, it will likely mitigate (though not eliminate) the anti-immigrant pogroms that have been at the center of Trump’s political brand since the beginning.

 

Mass demands, democracy, and ideological struggle

What makes a demand, or a movement, democratic?

It is not only the specific content of the demand, but the size and composition of the movement that fights for it, as well as the other demands to which it is linked.

One task of left and progressive forces must be to make the demand for Trump’s removal a mass demand.  At every step of the process, the public perception (and the perception of the ruling class) must be that the investigation of the Trump regime represents a response to grassroots political pressure—not simply a factional struggle within the capitalist class.

The basis for such a mass demand is already present.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of people are coming to the conclusion that the specific allegations of corruption and collusion against Trump are part and parcel of the violent, bigoted, white supremacist politics of his political brand.

Our task, as I see it, is to reinforce and insist on those broader democratic questions within the struggle to remove Trump.  We don’t need to minimize or downplay the work of the special prosecutor, the firing of James Comey, or the allegations of collusion with Russia, but we do need to consistently place them within the context of larger class and democratic struggles.  We need to insist that corruption is only one facet of the Trump regime’s assault on democracy, which includes the cruelty of the proposed budget, the targeting of immigrants, an amplified assault on LGBTQ people, support for the most vicious and reactionary trends within law enforcement…

This means we must be ready to engage in ideological struggle on the question of democracy, including with others in the anti-Trump resistance.  We are at a moment when the very notion of democracy—what it includes, how it should function, whom it should serve—has become an issue of intense public debate.  Our understanding of the racist, sexist, and anti-democratic nature of capitalism itself is a necessary contribution to, not a distraction from, the broader movement.

Engaging in this ideological struggle in a way that builds, rather than fractures, the resistance might mean replacing the “Well, actually…” approach of traditional Marxist demystification with something like the “Yes, and…” principle of improv comedy.  The “Yes, and…” principle says that you work with what someone gives you—if someone hands you a bowl of hot soup, you can’t turn it into a baseball and toss it to someone.  Instead, you use the bowl of soup to shape the story that you want to tell.

Obviously, this approach has its limits in political work.  There are some ideas we just can’t work with.  But there are others, many others, that we can extend, expand, and enrich to shape the political consciousness of our class and people.

As Lenin tells us, only the working class, in fighting for its emancipation from capital, can carry the fight for democracy all the way to its conclusion.

We can, and must, fight to remove Donald Trump from office.  Yes, and we can, and must, fight for socialism, too.

 

Photo: Wikepedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

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