Beyond the Crystal Ball & Unmentionable Fascism: Dark Predictions, Human Agency, and a Beautiful Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights

Photograph Source: John Tracy – CC BY 2.0

Real resisters and revolutionaries calculate and plan, but they aren’t about the crystal ball. They aren’t about the betting odds. They are about human agency and revolutionary praxis to change the odds for the better.

The Ugly Foreseeable: Six Dark Predictions

It shouldn’t be so easy to predict future terrible events.

A couple months or so ago, some friends and I reflected on what coming horrors would most likely knock the imperialist carnage in Ukraine off the top of United States’ “if it bleeds it leads” news cycle for a bit. Nominees included the following:

+1. A new Covid surge related to inadequate public health practices and policy in the U.S.

+2. An extreme US ecological/weather event rooted in climate change.

+3. The shooting of a US-American Black person – probably a young Black man – by a white police officer caught on video, leading to protests.

+4. A bigger-than-usual US mass shooting conducted as usual by a probably young white male followed by Democrats fecklessly calling for gun control and Republicans laying the blame on mental illness.

+ 5. A racist domestic terrorist attack committed by fascists who the media and Democrats would not call fascists.

+6. The US Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade (1973) in Dobbs v. Jackson (something this spring or summer), undoing women’s half-century constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives and re-imposing the vile female bondage of forced motherhood.in brazen defiance of longstanding super-majority public opinion.

Covid Lives On in its Favorite Country

How did we do? Quite well overall, sadly. Number one, a new covid surge is underway, taking the US past one million covid deaths, probably three-fourths of which were avoidable. The openly moronic ruling of an egregiously unqualified Trump-appointed right-wing judge likely contributed to the pandemic’s persistence in its favorite sanctuary nation (“USA! USA!”) by abruptly ending the federal mask mandate in public transportation. Meanwhile federal money that should have been spent on pandemic protection has been diverted to paying for US NATO proxy war in Ukraine. The good news is that hospitalizations and deaths have not come with the current surge on anything like the scale that accompanied earlier ones. This reflects more widespread immunity due to previous infections and above all to vaccination.

(More bad news is found in recent research confirming early suspicions that humanity is heading into a “pandemicene” – an epoch of recurrent pandemics – because climate change and habitat loss are bringing virus-laden bats and other mammals including humans into ever closer proximity, fueling cross-species zoonotic disease transference. Given capitalist ownership of US media, the sparse reporting on this coming [if not already underway] pandemicene deletes the important facts that climate crisis and relentless human encroachment on natural habitat are fundamentally rooted in capitalism. It cannot be acknowledged that the reigning profits-based social order is systemically wedded to anarchic competition and relentless expansion and hopelessly addicted and irretrievably invested in fossil fuels.)

Ecological Terror

We have just seen two extreme weather events rooted in (unmentionably capitalogenic) climate change: a wave of historic and ongoing wildfires fueled by extreme temperatures and drought in the Southwestern US and “hurricane force winds” that “left a trail of damage across the northern plains and the upper Midwest.” A 61-year-old woman was killed in her car by a wall of dust, dirt, and debris produced by a straight-line windstorm in South Dakota. Perversely enough, these two events have done nothing to dent the Joe Biden administration’s escalation of US oil and gas drilling in response to inflation and the competitive (Biden’s tellingly favorite word) opportunity for North American fossil fuel exports created by the significantly US-provoked War in Ukraine. Cecilia Evan Rouse, the head of corporate Joe Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers went on National “Public” Radio this morning (Thursday, May 19) to boast that Biden’s tapping of the national Strategic Petroleum Reserve meant that the US has already produced more oil this year than it did during Trump’s first year in office. Gee, great: let’s beat back inflation and Russia by accelerating the process of turning the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber.

Patrick Lyoya: Say His Name

Prediction number three went down in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the young Black Congolese man Patrick Lyoya was fatally shot in the back of the head by an angry white male cop one month ago. This brutal murder received brief national media attention and then faded along with the plaintive observation I heard from one cable news talking head that the George Floyd Uprising has done nothing to stop the ongoing murder of Black people by white U.S. gendarmes. (Indeed, as the Statista Research Department reported ten days ago, “the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing… In 2021, there were 1,055 fatal police shootings, and in 2020 there were 1,021 fatal shootings. Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 38 fatal shootings per million of the population as of May 2022.”)

Barely Mentionable Fascism Strikes in New York and Pennsylvania

Predictions four and five – a bigger-than-usual mass shooting and a white nationalist/neofascist terror attack – just went down together in one dreadful incident in Buffalo, New York.

Mass shootings – officially defined as shootings where at least 4 people other than the shooter are killed or injured – are now a regular occurrence in the USA. There have been more than 200 mass shootings (under the above definition) in the USAM (United States Armed Madhouse) so far in 2022 and nearly 900 such shootings here since the beginning of 2021. These terrible events are by now normalized and even banalized in USAM media politics culture, as is the usual pathetic joke of a “debate” that follows the gun massacres that get national media attention: Democrats fecklessly calling for some gun control and Republicans saying that “guns don’t kill people, mental illness does” (not that Republicans support a serious public mental health policy). Nothing new here: rinse, repeat, and get ready for the next bloodbath.

The “capitalist hyena press”[1] gets more serious about mass shootings when there’s double-digit body counts. That happened last Saturday in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. The 18-year-old white male racist and self-described “fascist” (and “ecofascist” – see endnote 3 below) Peyon Gendron posted a manifesto on “replacement theory” – the neo-Nazi notion that the “Jewish” global elite is trying to replace (supposedly superior ) whites with people of color – and then livestreamed his murder of 10 people in a grocery store located in a zip code he chose because of its racial composition. The adolescent Nazi drew inspiration from other young white male far- right mass-killers like Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber), Dylann Roof (the neo-Nazi who mercilessly murdered 9 Black people in a church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015), and Patrick Crusius (the fascist pig who slaughtered 23 people in a Walmart he targeted because of its Hispanic customer base in August 2019) but above all from the white male New Zealand fascist Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 Muslims in two mosques in the town of Christschurch New Zealand in March of 2019. Gendron’s manifesto was largely plagiarized from Tarrant’s own white supremacist manifesto.

The Buffalo atrocity was a fascist slaughter motivated by a fascist theory, but the reporting I have (modestly) sampled has the capitalist war and profit media’s standard reluctance to say the “F-word” – fascism[2] – in connection with yet another clear sign of the fascist malignancy that stalks the USAM. They say and write “white-nationalist,” “white supremacist,” “extremist,” “illiberal,” “autocratic,” “domestic terrorism,” “hate,” “far right,” “racist,” “radical,” “hateful ideology,” and “terrorist,” but rarely if ever “fascist” cuz…well, you know, It Can’t Happen Here. The talking heads I’ve seen on MSNBC and CNN have accurately observed that “replacement theory” is not just some fringe notion on the “far-right” margins. They rightly observe that white “replacement” talk has been mainstreamed in one of the nation’s two major parties, the formerly republican Republican Party, and at FOX (Fatherland) News, with the nightly Tucker Carlson Hate Hour in the promotional vanguard. It’s an important point, but, gosh, would they like to acknowledge fascist replacement theory’s (FRT’s) Nazi inspiration and fascist essence, as in “Jews Will Not Replace Us” and Mein Kampf?

I am told that NATO fan Joy Reid and her guests on MSDNC like to say “fascism” sometimes. Well, they sure had their chance the other day. I watched a May 16th segment she did linking the Buffalo shooting to replacement theory and fascist propaganda chief Tucker Carlson. In her conversation with the super-smart guests Tim Wise, Leonard Pitts and another sharp anti-racist liberal, the word never came up. Not once.

The young socially produced fiend Peyon Gendron (predictable outcome of national gun and assault weapon saturation and the neofascist/white nationalist pandemic) to the reigning USAM media and political class, in essence: “Would it help you all say fascist if I identified as a fascist, put up a fascist manifesto and committed a fascist mass murder? Would that help you overcome this this little language problem you have?

Following the usual script in big mass-shootings and racist terror attacks, Joe Biden shuffled off to Buffalo to console survivors and make the usual statements against racist hatred and for, you know, gun control. His mission: calm angry folks down and induce electoralist somnolence in the face of unmentionable, Dem-complicit fascist creep. Nothing new there. And of course, Weimar Joe could not bring himself to utter the F-word. Indeed, he couldn’t even say the R-word (Republicans) or the T words (Trump, Tucker, and Taylor-Greene). As the World Social Web Site rightly notes:

‘Biden’s speech in Buffalo three days after a fascist gunman murdered 10 people in a predominantly African-American section of the city was a cowardly cover-up of the role of the Republican Party in promoting the anti-Semitic and racist conceptions that inspired the killer. Over the previous two days, scores of articles appeared in the establishment press documenting statements by Republican officials and pro-Trump media commentators promoting the Replacement Theory ravings of the Buffalo gunman… In a 180-page online manifesto, Gendron cited previous mass killers who promoted the neo-Nazi claim that Jews are conspiring to replace the white race with immigrants, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims and other “inferior” races. “Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had,” he wrote.’

‘In the aftermath of Trump’s January 6 attempted coup, which the Republican National Committee has declared “a legitimate form of political discourse,” the support of Republican officials for these conceptions demonstrates that the GOP, one of the two major parties of the American ruling class, is being transformed into a fascistic organization…Yet …Biden managed to omit the words “Trump” and “Republican.” He did not name a single Republican official (Reps. Scott Perry, Matt Gaetz, Elise Stefanik, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar and others), media outlet (Fox News) or commentator (Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham) who have and continue to promote the racist and anti-Semitic themes of the “Great Replacement.” Instead, he dissolved the reality of the fascist threat into the disembodied abstractions of “hate” and “evil,” which explain nothing and serve to cover up the actual social and political forces at work. Biden declared, “In America, evil will not win. I promise you. Hate will not prevail, and white supremacy will not have the last word…” Feeling obliged to mention the replacement conspiracy theory, Biden attributed it entirely to anti-black racism, never uttering the words “fascism” or “anti-Semitism.”’ [2A]

As Steve De La Rosa writes me, “Biden is so committed to the two-party system that he refuses to see the Republican effort to create a [single ruling] White Nationalist [fascist] Party.” Indeed. How Franz von Papen and Paul von Hindenburg.

Meanwhile, the Republikaners nominated an openly racist and sexist fossil fascist and vicious anti-vaxxer as their gubernatorial candidate in the Quaker State – the despicable and demented January 6 insurrectionist Douglas Mastriano.

(The rightmost major party responded to the Buffalo massacre with their usual brilliant observation that the mass killer was mentally ill: guns don’t kill people, mental illness does. Actually, though, the most revolting comment I heard on cable after the Buffalo massacre came from former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs: “it will be interesting to see if Joe Biden can take political advantage of it.” The dumbest thing I saw on cable was some chattering skull express shock over reports that the Buffalo shooter had consulted The Holy Bible before his genocidal adventure. “He consulted the Bible of all things.” Excuse me? Fundamentalist Bible-thumping Christianity is one of the critical pillars of the specifically US-American variant of fascism, along with white supremacism and patriarchy. Sorry, wait, I heard something even dumber from an “expert” on cable: “nothing is more un-American than white supremacism.” Say what now?)

The Beautiful Unpredictable: A Leak and an Uprising

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

Or maybe NOT. Look at the sixth prediction mentioned at the start of this essay: the reversal of Roe by the (Republi-)fascist Supreme Court. If it happens, my crystal-ball friends and I get no points for clairvoyance. This woman-hating move has been getting set up for years through a toxic combination: right-wing “red” states passing bills that essentially end abortion rights + the cumulative construction of a US Supreme Court ruled by an anti-abortion right-wing majority, completed under the malignant fascist presidency of Donald Trump. The Court’s conduct during the argument of Dobbs v. Jackson (the Mississippi case that could lead to Roe’s demise) last winter showed that the patriarchal Handmaid court is poised to do the deed.

But this is where things recently got thankfully and beautifully unpredictable. USAers received a welcome and highly unusual wake-up call with the mysterious leak of far-right Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito’s draft majority Dobbs v. Jackson opinion two weeks ago. The draft decision, backed by five of the nine justices, showed that the Court’s right-wing majority is scheming not only to undo abortion but to assault numerous other majority-backed liberal legal precedents. Alito’s wild reactionary opinion opens the door for trashing other personal rights including the right to interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia), the right to contraception (Griswald v. Connecticut), the right not to be forcibly sterilized (Skinner v. Oklahoma) and the right to gay marriage (Obergfell v. Hodges). By Alito’s revanchist reasoning, all these rights lack historical and legal legitimacy and can be eviscerated because he and his fellow revanchist Supremes don’t like them. He wants to turn the clock back to the antebellum era if not further.

The leak has been a boon to abortions rights activists. It has proven to be an excellent pre-judgement organizing opportunity that has yielded two straight Saturdays of mass protest and put the Court behind barricades and razor wire. The Associated Press reported on mass demonstrations across the country last Saturday:

‘From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tennessee, to Lubbock, Texas, tens of thousands participated in events, where chants of “Bans off our bodies!” and “My body, my choice!” rang out… Abortion rights supporters demonstrating at hundreds of marches and rallies Saturday expressed their outrage that the Supreme Court appears prepared to scrap the constitutional right to abortion …In the nation’s capital, thousands gathered in drizzly weather at the Washington Monument to listen to fiery speeches before marching to the Supreme Court, which was surrounded by two layers of security fences…The mood was one of anger and defiance, three days after the Senate failed to muster enough votes to codify Roe v. Wade.’

Maybe Sam Alito should be placed in a protective bunker.

(Pathetically enough, as pessimists will appreciate, the Buffalo massacre, which took place while tens of thousands of abortion rights activists rallied across the country, knocked the remarkable protest wave off the top of the news cycle last Saturday night.)

Thankfully, rebellious and revolutionary contingency and unpredictability have not died out.

A Tale of Two Rallies in One City

The most dynamic and new force in the abortion rights movement is Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR). RU4AR is dedicated to mass disruption, including student walkouts this coming Thursday, to destabilize the normal functioning of society and send a clear message to the Court: “Post Roe, Hell No!” RU4AR refuses to join Democrats and their pro-choice allies Planned Parenthood (PP) and NARAL (among others) in angling for electoral advantage in Roe’s supposedly pre-ordained reversal, which establishment liberals seem to have essentially conceded without a fight. RU4AR insists on fighting to preserve Roe now with the power of the people in the streets.

The Get Out the (Dem) Vote and Already Post-Roe Folks

I attended both a morning establishment PP-Dem rally/march and a militant afternoon RU4AR rally/march in Chicago last Saturday. The first event was weighted towards telling people to (what else?) vote for Democrats and give money to their candidates and pro-choice groups who are already gearing up for a “post-Roe America.” Elite politicos, “activists,” and service providers promised to make Illinois a sanctuary state for abortion-seekers in (unmentionably fascist) red states, eliding the unpleasant facts that (a) most poor women in need of abortions and stuck in Republifascist (red) states will be unable to travel for procedures to Democratic (blue) states; (b) the fascist states are already moving to criminalize getting an abortion outside their jurisdiction; and (c) the woman-hating Republifascist Party is determined and on track to pass a nationwide abortion ban in 2025.

The morning rally paraded through a gentrified Near West Side residential neighborhood of no discernible and political relevance. Its march ended around 12:30 pm with no activists present to discuss next steps at a pointless business intersection at Wacker and Wells Streets in the north Loop, leaving people to wander home with little sense of further action.

The Power in the Streets Save-Roe Folks

The second event, sponsored by RU4AR, started a half hour later in Chicago’s Millennium Park, a half mile east of Wacker and Wells. It was dramatic and inspiring, full of clever chants, fiery speeches, and brilliant street theater including a mass die-in and rise-up in the middle of a central intersection of the city’s historic downtown Loop. It was a social movement tour de force notable for its youthful composition and its militant spirit. Under the banner of “Post-Roe, Hell No!,” it expressed a dramatic refusal to rely on reigning power structures and the false “realism” of establishment elites. A RU4AR flyer handed out to hundreds proclaimed:

Now is the time to put it on the line…Now is the time to fight with all we’ve got…Don’t listen to those who tell you that it is more ‘realistic’ to channel our fury in the next election (after Roe has been overturned). No! It is far harder to win back a right once they have ripped it away than to defend it when you still have it. Besides, the Democrats and others have for decades sought ‘common ground’ with those driving the fanatical attack on abortion. What is needed is an uncompromising fight for the lives of women. Only the people can stop the Supreme Court from decimating abortion rights!

In short, no retreat, no surrender.

RU4AR’s message – conveyed (full disclosure) by me and another old white guy – to folks at Wacker and Wells: “don’t go home. The fight isn’t over. Keep walking east, to Millennium Park. We can’t give up.”

The second rally did not simply disperse at its official conclusion. Hundreds stayed on, many breaking out into smaller groups to dig into the abortion rights issue and the Alito draft and to plan next steps.

The second rally was the event for those who are starting to grasp the wisdom of Howard Zinn’s March 2008 observation that “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”

It’s Not About the Crystal Ball: “The Imperative of a Minimum of Decency”

All the terrible shit coming down under the inherently chaotic and oppressive reign of capital – ecocide, mass shootings, racist terror, pandemics, the assault on hard-won human and civil rights, and, yes, (it can most definitely happen here) fascism – is easy to predict if you have a properly radical, materially grounded, and historically informed take on current events. The wonderful stuff, like the many people’s uprisings and social movements I have participated in and written about/for – the global justice movement of the late 1990s, the anti-Iraq War movement, the Wisconsin public workers’ rebellion, Occupy, the giant anti-NATO rally in Chicago (May 2012), Black Lives movements of 2014 (Mike Brown and Eric Garner) and 2015 (Laquan McDonald in Chicago), the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in (actually) Iowa the “long black snake” ran through 18 Iowa counties, the glorious George Floyd and Breonna Taylor Uprising, and the abortion rights being led right now by RU4AR – are harder to predict.

But then they aren’t about prediction, are they? There’s always the human agency of organizers behind significant rebellions. Real resisters and revolutionaries calculate and plan, of course, but they aren’t about the crystal ball. They aren’t about a silly debate between pessimism and optimism. They aren’t about pie in the sky vs. dread and doom. They aren’t about “a better world is possible” (or impossible). They aren’t about the Mandarin perch. They aren’t about the betting odds. They are about human agency and radical praxis to force better odds. They are about organizing and acting with hearts and bodies aligned with minds and reckoning in the here and now. They are about enough with this unacceptable shit, we’re drawing some lines. We’re coming out into the streets and the public squares and the schools and the dining halls and the cafeterias and the offices and the lecture halls and the town halls and the churches and the overpasses and the Tik Toks and the Instagrams and the art galleries and the gigs and the concerts and the poetry slams and the book tours and the podcasts and the subway stops and the break rooms and into all the social and cultural spaces we can find to say ‘Hell No’ to oppression. This can’t go on. A better world is necessary, and we are going to make it happen or die trying. Stop watching us, join us!

The call to militant and revolutionary change is no small challenge. It was required yesterday. Can it still be accomplished? “Any doubt,” Daniel Bensard writes, “bears on the possibility of succeeding, not on the necessity of trying.” Understanding this, Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective rightly advise us, “is now the imperative of a minimum of decency.”[3]

Endnotes

+1. This phrase belongs (reports Doug Henwood) to the late radical journalist Bob Fitch. Its full meaning never sunk in with me until I went with anti-racist comrades to the county courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin last winter to speak on behalf of the conviction of the teen Trumpist and fascist Kyle Rittenhouse for his vile AR-15 killing of two Black Lives Matter supporters in August of 2020. As I walked up to the large judicial structure, “the McCloskeys” appeared on the street in front of the courthouse. Dozens of reporters and cameramen scampered to surround Mark and Patricia McCloskey, sticking microphones in their faces. “The McCloskeys are here! The McCloskeys are here! Let’s go!!” The McCloskeys are the wealthy white racist St. Louis couple that was lionized by the Republifascist Party and Fatherland News and pardoned by the white nationalist governor of Missouri for brandishing an assault rifle and a pistol to menace George Floyd protesters while standing on guard in their sumptuous front lawn in the summer of 2020. The heavily armed couple garnered misdemeanor fourth-degree assault charges and right-wing celebrity status for their fascistic stunt “in defense of our property.” They even spoke at the online Republican National Convention in August of 2020. The mad rush of media personnel from the courthouse to the fashionable fash couple was animalistic, feral, tribal, and ravenous. It looked like a pack of hyenas.

+2. See the first chapter of Anthony DiMaggio’s important new book Rising Fascism in America: It Can Happen Here (New York: Routledge, 2021) for state of the art quantitative and qualitative analysis of dominant media and mainstream politicos’ reluctance and refusal to properly report right-wing and Republican politics as fascist. The Trumpenleft notion that liberal media and politicians’ regularly described Trump and Trumpists as fascists is thoroughly false.

+2A. The WSWS deserves credit for continuing to call out the fascist essence of the Trump-era Republican Party and the pathetic appeasement of that fascism by the equally if differently anti-communist corporate-imperialist Democrats. Regrettably, the essay hyperlinked here is marred by the site’s excessive class-essentialism regarding the race question.

+3. Andreas Malm and the Zetkin Collective are writing here about the capitalogenic climate crisis, which will – if not met and overcome by a mass global eco-socialist revolution – make irrelevant Democrats’ apparent “post-Roe” promise to someday bring back women’s right to control their own reproductive lives. There’s no women’s and reproductive rights or social justice or democracy (or birthday parties) on a dead planet. Who wants to turn a poisoned and cooked planet upside down? CounterPunchers may be interested to know that Malm and the Zetkin Collective’s book White Skin, Black Fuel: On the Danger of Fossil Fascism expertly dissects and analyzes a far-right tendency that the demented Buffalo shooter explicitly identified with in his deranged “manifesto”: eco-fascism. This short video is useful on that tendency. So is this Salon essay on why the shooter believe he was acting to save planet. “Eco-fascists” turn social-environmental and historical materialist reality on its head by blaming the environmental crisis on people of color at home and abroad. See my past reflections on Malm/Zetkin and eco-fascism here.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

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