Part 2: The Passive Resistance to Dobbs v. Jackson
There’s dangerous ramifications to doing this.
-White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.)’s calls for the Biden administration to use federal land to create places where people can receive abortions in states that restrict them,
Difference[s between political parties and their office-holders and candidates] will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore… Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.
-Howard Zinn, April 2008
How about them dismal, dollar-drenched, danger-free Dems! Part 1 of this two-part series detailed and denounced Democratic Party and “liberal” appeasement of US-American fascism in relation to the fascist insurrection and coup attempt of January 6, 2021. Now we examine the core Dem mission of Keeping People Off the Streets and sheep-dogged into the killing confines of right-tilted US Minority Rule electoral politics in regard to the recent Christian-fascist US Supreme Court’s cancellation of women’s half-century constitutional right to an abortion.
An Actual Fighting Abortion Rights Organization
What would a serious attempt to save that right looked like? What would a serious fight to restore and expand that right look now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned? For answers to both questions, you need look no further than RiseUp4AbortionRights.org (RU4AR). Founded by longtime leading feminist activists Merle Hoffman (the legendary author, healthcare pioneer, and founder/CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center), Lori Sokol (executive director of Women’s eNew, and Sunsara Taylor (revolutionary communist and co-host of the Revolution Nothing Less Show) last January in “shared recognition that the Supreme Court was on track to decimate abortion rights,” RU4AR has been and remains far and away the leading national organization calling for and carrying out militant and mass direct action, including numerous courageous acts of civil disobedience in unapologetic defense of full abortion rights across the entire country. Its many rallies, marches, statements, and acts of resistance across the nation this year have been true to its founding Statement which reads, in part, “We refuse to let the U.S. Supreme Court deny women’s humanity and decimate their rights! Join us in fighting for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology! The violent subjugation of half of society must not be accommodated, excused, downplayed, or surrendered to. IT MUST BE STOPPED!”
RU4AR rightly called for mass demonstrations and popular resistance as the only way to save Roe prior to the Court’s widely anticipated arch-patriarchal and woman-hating June 24th Dobbs v. Jackson ruling. Since that horrific and autocratic decision (one of many this last session) by an absurdly powerful Court that stands preposterously (in a self-described “democracy”) far to the right of majority public opinion, RU4AR has led numerous impressive actions shifting the focus from the badly poisoned judicial summit to the Biden administration and Congress, demanding that the federal government use fully available policy levers to guarantee and provide abortion services in every U.S. state, including the twenty-plus revanchist states that have outlawed abortion. A key RU4AR slogan throughout has been and remains “Post-Roe, Hell No!,” joined after the Dobbs ruling by “This Decision Must Not Stand, Legal Abortion Across This Land!” RU4AR led thousands of in chanting these and other slogans (including and “This Court- Illegitimate!, This Decision – Illegitimate!, and Abortion Bans- Illegitimate!” ) outside the Court within seconds of showing the national and global media images of proud popular defiance, not weepy surrender.
What Must Be Done Now – and How
There’s nothing mysterious about what Biden and Congress can and should do to protect and expands woman’s right to an abortion: pass federal legislation codifying Roe and more as national law; expand the Supreme Court; make a presidential declaration of a national public health emergency leading to executive orders commanding full legal abortion services and access on US military bases and federal lands across the country; enlist the Food and Drug Administration and US Postal Services in the fully protected delivery of abortion pills to anyone who needs them across the entire nation.
There’s nothing mysterious about how RU4AR and other serious abortion rights activists propose to compel the government to protect women’s rights in these and other ways: not with tired calls for everyone to vote but through mass social movement formation, grassroots organization and direct action, without which no major policy victory for the masses has ever been won in US American history. Howard Zinn put it well 14 years ago:
“Difference[s between political parties and their officeholders and candidates] will not mean anything unless the power of the people asserts itself in ways that the occupant of the White House will find it dangerous to ignore. ..The Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center…[it] has broken with its historic conservatism…only when it has encountered rebellion from below, as in the Thirties and the Sixties…Historically, government, whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, has failed its responsibilities, until forced to by direct action: sit-ins and Freedom Rides for the rights of black people, strikes and boycotts for the rights of workers, mutinies and desertions of soldiers in order to stop a war. Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.”
Advance Surrender and Cynical Calculation
Zinn’s People’s History lesson is naturally lost on the contemporary neoliberal imperialist Democratic Party and its allied pro-choice organizations. Instead of making people’s history in the present by enlisting their ample resources to enlist masses in a great popular struggle they have opted for advance surrender and adjustment to the new status quo. Consistent with their standard failed insider ruling and professional class preference for top-down lobbying and major party electoral politics and reflecting their longstanding fear of the mob (the people, that is), the Democrats and their allied pro-choice organizations Planned Parenthood and NARAL refused to join RU4AR in the militant, grassroots social movement approach that has been effectively modelled by women’s abortion activists in Latin America in recent years. PP fundraising literature referred to the supposedly inevitable “post-Roe” era many months in advance of the actual Dobbs decision – a key sign of advance surrender. Out of fear of excessive provocation, the Women’s March pathetically told demonstrators not to wear Handmaid outfits (a highly effective and evocative symbol of the patriarchal fascism behind the assault on abortion rights) and to avoid bringing coat-hangers (a key symbol and reminder of the terrible health toll botched abortions took on women in the pre-Roe years) leading up to the well-telegraphed Dobbs decision. Instead of fighting fiercely to preserve and expand woman’s abortion rights across the entire nation, the “choice” establishment chose to emphasize a service-based adjustment to the supposedly inevitable loss of the right, hunkering down in advance, inadequate “Sanctuary State” adjustment to the post-Roe era they failed to prevent.
Meanwhile, amidst all this, Democrats have cynically dreamed of how they will take advantage of a decision resulting in part from their refusal to mobilize masses for a basic human right. In a June 6th New York Times Op-Ed, Talking Points Memo founder and chief editor Josh Marshall noted that “Democrats,” Marshall wrote, “hope to make November’s midterm elections a referendum on Roe v. Wade, the linchpin decision upholding abortion rights, which the Supreme Court is almost certain to strike down this summer.” We need not see a conscious Pied Piper--style conspiracy here but the perverse logic here is clear: for the Dems to win next November women had to lose a basic constitutional right whose attainment through many years of struggle led to a dramatic improvement in women’s opportunities and freedom. The not-so leftmost of the country’s two dominant political parties reduced itself to the practical and morally pathetic low banking on the restoration of female bondage through the reimposition of forced motherhood in much of “world’s greatest democracy,” where 72 percent of the populace supports the continuation of Roe. Wow.
How COINTELPRO: Following the Money Behind Liberal and “Socialist” Attacks on the Group That Refused to Surrender
It gets worse. Following in line with a vicious hit job on RU4AR published by the liberal feminist zine Jezebel one month ago (see RU4AR’s CounterPunch response here), the self-described “intersectional socialist-feminist collective” NYC4Abortion Rights (nyc4ar) responded to Roe’s fall by – get this – publishing an open public denunciation of RU4AR signed by 23 “repro” groups including Chicago DSA’s Socialist Feminist Working Group. Curiously released one day after Roe fell, this COINTELPRO-like attack viciously and baselessly accused the nation’s leading militant abortion rights group of communist cultism, financial corruption (running “a pyramid scheme” and “diverting money from social and justice movements” to Revolutionary Communist Party leaders), homophobia, anti-transgender-ism, indifference to the need for abortion services, and indifferences to people caught up in the horror of prostitution (what some progressives like to call “sex work” and “the sex industry”) – all this and more while engaging in neo-McCarthyite witch-hunting by “exposing” the completely unhidden revolutionary communist affiliation of one of RU4AR’s co-founders (Taylor). Absurdly treating RU4AR as nothing more than a “front group” for the Revolutionary Communist Party and thereby utterly ignoring the leading roles and views of the non-communist feminist leaders Hoffman and Sokol, this malevolent and slanderous assault deleted RU4AR’s remarkable nationwide accomplishments in providing a militant national united front alternative to the pathetic surrender embraced and advanced by the fascism-complicit Dems and the conservative “pro-choice” establishment.
It’s hard not to wonder about the timing of this public condemnation. NYC4AR put it up on Instagram on June 25th, one day after Dobbs dropped and as RU4AR was calling for mass protest and civil disobedience in response – a call that was acted upon by tens of thousands in coming days.
Backstabbing neo-McCarthyite “progressives” who falsely charge principled feminist organizers with financial corruption should expect to have their own monetary backing investigated. An instructive part of the story behind the nyc4ar et al. smear on RU4AR concerns the elite bankrolling of the organizations that signed on. University of California at San Diego sociologist Charles Thorpe has dug into some of the funding behind the “left” groups that signed on to the “Statement Against Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights.” The signatories include the following grant-funded organizations: Shout Your Abortion (funded by NEO Philanthropy), the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (originally funded by the Playboy Foundation and now by [supposedly] “left-leaning foundations,” including the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Ford Foundation”), the Jane Fund (funded by Act Blue Charities, which funds Democratic candidates and “was created to service [supposedly] left-wing nonprofits and political action committees”), and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, which is headquartered on Wall Street and funded by leading financial institutions including Schwab and Fidelity.
RU4AR leaders Hoffman, Sokol, and Taylor issued the following excellent response:
“At a moment when masses of people are rising up – at last – to fight against the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, an assorted group of organizations who have done absolutely nothing to mobilize people to fight this decision when it was impending over the past 6 months, have issued a statement packed with outright lies, slanders, and out-of-context quotes against Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights, the one organization that has led and continues to lead the fight against this unprecedented, illegitimate, and egregious decision… This attack is a confession and exposure of these organizations’ capitulation to the very reactionary forces that have now prevailed in overturning nationwide abortion rights. When facing a powerful enemy that you perceive to be invincible, it becomes so much easier to slander and attack those who are not only standing up but challenging all others to join in doing the same. On the very day that women in multiple states will now be faced with the terrifying life-threatening consequences of abortion bans—these groups choose to attack the only group that has been calling for sustained nonviolent struggle and protest to stop this since January! Rise…The sad fact is that the great bulk of the ‘reproductive rights movement’ chose to downplay the severity of the attack. They simultaneously counseled people to prepare for a ‘post-Roe’ America rather than throw everything into preventing the decision. Many of these organizations attacked Rise Up for saying that this assault on abortion was overwhelmingly focused on women, even as Rise Up also spoke out against the way this assault would be used against the rights of LGBTQ people (as can already be seen in Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion yesterday) and consistently pointed to the disproportionate effect the overturning of Roe would have on Black and Latina women, and other women of color…Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights’ actions over the past months and on the day of the decision are documented in the media around the world. The record is clear…At a time when fascists in this country are not only making but carrying out all kinds of threats of violence against people who are resisting them, these attacks endanger these leaders, and should remind decent people of the kind of attacks and distancing that cost lives in the 1960’s.”
“Dangerous Ramifications”: The Cringing Cowardice of the Dismal Dems
The Dems are still doing their duty on this as on other issues. Where now is the Biden Democrats’ move to end the Senate filibuster so they can codify Roe v. Wade as national law and expand the Supreme Court to dilute the current preposterous far-right super majority produced by Trump’s three noxious appointments (Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney-Barrett)? Where are the bold executive actions required to protect women’s abortion rights on a national scale, supported by more than two-thirds of the US populace?
The day after Roe was overturned Biden said that “The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose…is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law. No executive action can do that.” This was an abjectly false statement of sheer presidential powerlessness that put all the onus on voters in the coming November mid-terms. It appears that the administration thought about and then stepped back from a gallant and serious presidential response. BloombergLaw reports that “The Biden administration considered declaring a public health emergency to preserve broad access to abortion services following the US Supreme Court’s decision last month to overturn Roe v. Wade, but officials decided against the move at the time, according to people familiar with the matter.” Four days after Dobbs dropped, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre epitomized establishment cowardice by claiming that providing abortion services on federal lands would have “dangerous ramifications.”
It’s not a pretty story. As Nolan Higdon and Mickey Huff recently wrote in a Scheer Post: essay bearing the properly provocative title “Defund the Democratic Party”:
“Rather than propose an immediate plan of action, on the day of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe, Pelosi read a poem, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted a picture of herself watching pro-choice protests, and Democratic members of Congress sang ‘God Bless America’ on the steps of the U.S. Capitol…The same Democrats who failed to protect abortion rights for ages had the audacity to fundraise off this mass assault on women’s rights …[House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi’s call to ‘act NOW’ doesn’t even try to explain why the party needs another $15 to use its current power to — act now….In her first major interview since the reversal of Roe, Vice President Harris rejected any plan to codify abortion rights, shooting down Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to expand abortion access on federal lands, declaring ‘it’s not right now what we are discussing,’ and saying, ‘We are 130-odd days away from an election, which is going to include Senate races.’ So the plan is to give Democrats $15 and vote for them in November. But to do what? Pretty much nothing.”
And let us not forget that Sleepwalking Joe planned to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime appointment as a federal judge in Kentucky a day before the Dobbs ruling – a ruling that for some strange reason took Biden by surprise.
Two weeks after the Dobbs decision, Biden has been compelled by public and progressive criticism and street protests to in fact issue an executive order said to be meant to “safeguard access to medication abortion and emergency contraception, protect patient privacy, launch public education efforts as well as bolster the security of and the legal options available to those seeking and providing abortion services.” Still, the White House has “dismissed several progressive ideas to protect abortion access, including allowing abortion providers to work from federal property in states where the procedure is banned.” (CNN). The White House continues to lamely intone that its ancient and ham-fisted leader opposes expanding the Supreme Court, which is occupied by a lethal super-majority of Christian fascists. The main thrust of Biden’s comments at the signing ceremony for his limited new order was the insistent and constant call for Americans to – what else? – vote, vote, vote, vote, vote (in the horrific US, right-tilted electoral game).
What exactly are the “dangerous ramifications” of the US government honoring women’s critical abortion rights on federal lands?! The menace is that Biden might anger Republifascists he still views as bipartisan partners in what he moronically calls “a system of governance that has been the envy the world for over 240 years” – a reactionary set-up that the nation’s rightmost major party is perfectly ready to take past bourgeois democracy and into fully consolidated white nationalist authoritarianism. The other danger is that the federal government might raise popular hopes and expectations of positive state action on behalf of human decency and social justice.
Nobody should be surprised by this cringing Dem timidity and complicity. This is the nation’s “inauthentic opposition” of passive resistance in all its glorious inaction! Slate political writer Mark Joseph Stern inexplicably tweeted this on July 5th: “If, two weeks ago, you had told me that Biden response to Roe’s reversal would be this feckless and torpid and pathetic, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s a total abdication of leadership on an issue that sits at the heart of the Democratic Party. It’s just appalling.”
Seriously? Is Stern not familiar with the neoliberal warmonger and corporatist, Republican-accommodating Biden’s long and deeply conservative political and policy record? Is he ignorant of how the Democrat have conducted themselves on Roe and other critical matters since the 1970s? “They are happy to fundraise around images of inclusivity, diversity, women’s rights, labor rights, immigration and social progress,” Higdon and Huff write, “but consistently refuse to take substantive actions to achieve the most relevant goals. Instead, they blame Republicans, the news media, Russians, fake news, overzealous progressives and the ‘far left’ for their failures. To say this is tiresome is a gross understatement.” The Dems have had abundant past opportunity to codify Roe, end the right-wing filibuster, and reconfigure the Court over the last half century. They have failed to act – this even while campaigning every election cycle on the claim that saving women’s abortion rights is the main reason to vote Democrat. The dismal Dems’ refusal to fight the Dobbs ruling should surprise nobody who has paid serious attention to the nation’s not-so leftmost major party on the “choice” issue.
How’s Passive Resistance Working for Us?
So, to ask the Dr. Phil question: how this whole Keep the People Off the Streets and Claim that People Can’t Really Do Anything but Vote for Democrats, Leave it to the Lifeless “Liberal” Class, and Give Money to NGOs thing working for we the people? Here we are 18-plus months after a fascist coup attempt led by a malignant authoritarian who appears likely to go unpunished by the spineless Democrats for trying to overthrow previously normative bourgeois democracy and rule of law. He may well announce his 2024 candidacy around the time of the last January 6th hearings, which he will laugh off. Thanks in part to the neoliberal nothingness of the bumbling, center-right octogenarian Biden, who considers Republifascists his “friends,” the Amerikaner Party of Trump, Tucker, and Taylor-Greene (the post-republic Republicans) are poised to take back Congress this November (the Dems’ Dobbs-backlash strategy will not overcome Biden and his party’s many mid-term deficits and disadvantages). Trumpist and fascist lone wolf maniacs are among the perpetrators of the more than 300 mass shootings that have taken place in the US this year, including an open white supremacist attack in Buffalo, New York, and a July 4th Parade slaughter in Highland Park, Illinois. The Trump-fash era lives on in numerous ways, including a slew of Red (brown) State voter suppression and election cancellation measures and actions, armed mobs threatening nonfascist politicians and officials, Red-brown State laws outlawing the proper teaching of past and ongoing American racist and sexist history, and a preposterously Christian fascist Trump-created Supreme Court that just completed perhaps its most pernicious and revanchist session in modern US history. The completely illegitimate Court:
+ shot down Miranda rights for arrested persons.
+ undermined Indian Country’s ability to prosecute its laws against white citizens (a not-so subtly racist ruling).
+ significantly rolled back gun safety and gun control even in the wake of horrific gun massacres in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York and as the nation’s gun violence pandemic goes red hot.
+ took away the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to limit carbon emissions – an openly insane and eco-cidal ruling as the nation and world tip into potentially terminal climate catastrophe.
+ re-imposed the de facto female servitude and bondage of forced motherhood by brutally undoing women’s half-century constitutional right to an abortion.
How have the dismal Dems’ responded to this horrifying fascist stew of supreme reaction? “As conservative justices now turn on a spigot of extremist rulings,” longtime Democratic Congressional staffer and commentator David Sirota writes in The Guardian:
“the Democratic president is giving half-hearted speeches pretending he has no power, and issuing reports declining to even support expanding the supreme court – due to concerns about protecting ‘its independence and legitimacy’…Democratic congressional leaders are singing patriotic ballads while sending out fundraising emails. They expect yet another positive response from a base that up until now has politely asked for – but never really demanded – anything from them in return.”
For decades now, Sirota says, the Democrats have been putting their own base to sleep, telling grassroots citizens that the Republicans are just normal conservatives and that:
“the most citizens can ever do to defend and advance democracy, social justice, and environmental sanity is imply line up behind party-approved candidates, crush progressive challengers in primaries, and ‘vote blue, no matter who’ in general elections – and then do nothing more, even when ‘electable’ conservative Democrats lost and the few winners produced no change. The worst thing anyone could do, they taught viewers, was criticize, pressure, or protest Democratic leaders to try to get them to do anything.”
In other words, trust and subordinate yourself to fascism-appeasing masters of passive resistance like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and Joe Biden, “who authored the crime bill, allied with segregationists, championed the Iraq war, touted social security cuts, voted to let states restrict abortion and sharpened bankruptcy laws” (Sirota).
The Christian fascist Trump Court is now gearing up to serve as Handmaid for full Republifascist control of the federal government on January 20, 2025. It has agreed to hear a case (based on the insane “independent legislature theory,” giving it a pretext to greenlight Red States cancelling popular presidential votes they don’t like in determining Electoral College slates for the 2024 presidential election. That’s bourgeois democratic game over, the authoritarian coup executed from within the “constitutional” order, kind of like Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.
We all await the heroic and urgent response of the Democratic Party-affiliated “progressive” movement for a United Front to Stay Off the Streets!
+1. There are things to more than just quibble with in this formulation from a revolutionary perspective. The Republicans are no longer “conservatives” but are now radicals of the neofascist variety and the Democratic Party never really “breaks with its conservativism – it only occasionally bends somewhat “left” to more adroitly contain and coopt popular demands. And in a time when capitalism-imperialism now promises to end the human experiment in no short historical order through ecocide and/or war, the real and ultimate task of popular organization is not simply to shake up concentrated US wealth and power and change policy but to overthrow and replace that wealth and power and the system behind with a new socialist state. And bourgeois states do not “fail their responsibilities” when they do not meet the broad needs of the populace and the common good. Bourgeois states like the US government function above all for the capitalist ruling class and its underlying profits and empire system. But these far-from minor criticisms should not deflect us from the need to forcefully advance immediate demands of great significance for women and girls and transgender folk in need of abortion rights or from the clear historical lesson on how the system is compelled – by mass popular action – to bend towards instead of away from basic humanity.
+2. WikiLeaks revealed that the Hillary Clinton campaign followed a “Pied Piper” strategy of aiding the rise of the Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee in 2015 and 2016. The Clintonites considered Trump far more beatable than his Republican rivals. That worked out great. This is similar to their apparent profoundly dangerous willingness – denounced even by the moderate Republican David Brooks (in a column titled “Why on Earth is Pelosi Supporting the Trumpists”?) – to channel funds to far right Trumpist primary candidates on the theory that such “extreme conservative” (try fascist) opponents will be easier to defeat than more “conventional” Republicans in the mid-terms.
+3. The odds are very bad on the Democrats being able to retain control of Congress this fall and the notion that a Dobbs backlash (inspired no doubt by the Clinton impeachment backlash that was supposed to have helped the Democrats in the 1998 mid-terms) will do the trick for them in the mid-terms is likely fanciful. The worst inflation in four decades + Biden’s incredibly low popularity + the giant percentage of the population saying the country is “on the wrong track” + widespread right-wing gerrymandering and voter suppression + Biden’s ongoing bumbling and sheer lack of inspirational capacity and extreme age almost certainly = a crushing Democratic defeat and Republican take-back of the House and Senate in November
+4. The depressing signatories: NYC for Abortion Rights; Reproductive Justice Collective; United Against Racism & Fascism (NYC); Fund Abortion Not Police; Feminist Collages (NYC); Shout Your Abortion; Washington Square Park Mutual Aid; Buckle Bunnies (Texas); Mujeres en Resistencia( NY/NJ); Abortion Access Front; Reproductive Freedom Fund (NH); The Jane Fund (Massachusetts); Reproductive Rights Coalition (Charlotte, NC); Tigers for Choice (Texas); Chicago Abortion Fund; National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund; SWOP Brooklyn; Brooklyn People’s March; Forward Midwifery; SMAbortionActivists; New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Women’s Information Network of NYC (WIN-NYC); Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group. The neo-McCarthyite and Nixonian attack on RU4AR by Jezebel and NYC4AR has recently been taken up by the masculinist “guy culture” zine MEL Magazine, which proudly includes a bold section on “Dicks.”