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There has been a tremendous amount of left press on how bad the Trump Administration will be, how all progressive policies and programs will be lost, how we’re going to be thrown back decades, etc. So let’s buck that trend with some good news followed by some simple advice.
Fears are not facts: There have been a lot of articles that start out with whoever Trump might/will pick for cabinet posts, and then postulate the worst things these people could do, almost as if it had already happened. The impression created is that they are omnipotent and can do anything and everything without opposition. This is simply not true, this administration’s agenda will be opposed, and the worse it is, the more opposition it will attract. So let’s not just assume “we’re all gonna die!”
They are afraid of us: Hard to believe, perhaps? Consider the response at Standing Rock. Our side – totally nonviolent – people praying, people doing nonviolent civil disobedience, people literally just standing where they aren’t supposed to stand. Their side – water cannons, industrial sized pepper spray and tear gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, sound weapons, baton charges. Their explanation? That we are actually violent, and threaten them. Yes, it’s an obvious lie, but it’s also a reflection of how frightened these people are that we refuse to behave in the way they want us to. Same with many of the police shootings. Cops scared to death of young black men because…they are young black men.
It is going to be much easier to recognize our enemies: The silver lining to a Trump victory is that we won’t have to spend time explaining to people that, no, the President is not your friend. Remember how mystified people were at first over what Obama was doing? Where was all that hope and change he promised? How come he was appointing bankers like Timothy Geitner to Cabinet posts? That would have occurred even with Hilary as President; but given his planned Cabinet appointees, there will be no illusions in what Trump has in store for us.
The standard for opposition punditry is bound to rise: Many of our current left pundits developed their careers when opposition was at a low level, and mass movements, let alone union struggles, were periodic at best. The new reality is that movements are going to develop, opposition is going to grow, and people are going to go into struggle, if for no other reason than they have to. These pundits have neither the experience nor the advice to go with it. Think of Noam Chomsky, who is reduced to scolding us for not voting for Hilary, and predicting the end of the world. Who needs that? Nobody, that’s who. These people are going to fall off the stage of history like an understudy who falls into the orchestra pit because he can’t figure out where his marks are.
Youth, as always, will lead the way: The most hopeful sign of what’s to come is how the youth are reacting. They formed the backbone of support for Bernie, they filled the ranks of those who were out demonstrating the night after the election, and they are the people with one simple question: how do we fight? It extends all the way down, in some cases, even to the middle schools. Bless them, this was the same youthful energy that blew the lid off things in the 60’s, and they’re going to do it all over again.
And now for some advice:
Unity means stitching together, not blending into a mush: As opposition to the Trump administration escalates, it’s going to get very complicated out there. A lot of different forces with a variety of politics, strategy and tactics are going to be in the streets. That’s fine, history will sort out who’s effective opposition and who isn’t. In the meantime, trying to impose one set of politics for the sake of “unity” is not only useless, but counterproductive. You take up your politics, I’ll take up mine; the masses will decide the winners and losers in their own good time.
Imagination is crucial: One of the biggest mistakes the movement against the war in Iraq made was to assume we could just pick up the strategy and tactics of the 60’s and 70’s and reapply them. So we held teach-ins, marched around in circles, held vigils, showed movies, wrote our Congress, and…nada. The administration didn’t even blink. They knew we were neutered, and our opposition could be ignored. They were right. So this time, we need to re-invent out opposition in a variety of ways to give it the ability to punch above its weight. Which brings me to my next point…
Mario Savio was right: In case anyone has forgotten the quote, it goes like this; “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop.” Yeah, like that. I wish it could be easier, but it’s just not. People are going to get hurt, people are going to go to jail. People are going to have to engage in activities they never could have foreseen. Because that’s just what it’s going to take.
The most important quality is hope in the future: Despair is easy, sarcasm a convenient tool, and cynicism seems a refuge. Please, people, let all that go. If progress was impossible, we’d still be living under a monarchy. The really important struggles are always hard. The powers-that-be want you to believe that nothing really changes. Bullshit. This isn’t the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning. The real work starts now. The preamble is finished. It’s now a straight up fight against the system of capitalism. But humanity advances, in spite of all reaction. The other side will always have more money and more guns. But that doesn’t decide the future. In the end, we do. “When we fight, we win” is not just a slogan. So let us move boldly and unafraid, and make our mark on history once again.
Tom Barnard is a socialist activist and a member of Socialist Alternative. He is currently living in Seattle, WA.