The threat of fascism rears its head in Washington

Let’s not mince words: Wednesday’s storming of the United States Capitol building was the work of fascism. That it didn’t and couldn’t succeed, and that Donald Trump is days from being out of the White House, should not blind us to the reality of larger social forces at work.

The Orange Menace possibly finished off his personal political prospects with his pathetic attempt at a putsch — although I suspect the shameless toadying of Republicans seeking to capture his base for future elections will continue — but, as I have already written, Trump’s base isn’t going anywhere. Neither are Trump’s fans among the police.

By midnight Wednesday, police had arrested a total of 52 people, counting from Tuesday afternoon. Contrast that to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, when at least 430 people were arrested.

Consider the difference. White people storm an important seat of government, terrorize those inside and stage the equivalent of an armed insurrection, yet it takes hours for police reinforcements to arrive and those who don’t leave are allowed to mill around for hours past a curfew. Police claim they were surprised by the size of the crowd even though Trumpites had announced their intention days ahead of time, the Orange Menace himself told his followers to go to the Capitol that morning and Trump consigliere Rudy Giuliani called for “trial by combat.” 

In contrast, peaceful protestors motivated by the injustices of police brutality and indifference to Black lives walked down streets and are met with massive force and indiscriminate arrests. Multiple federal and local law enforcement agencies brought in tanks and other vehicles and built an eight-foot-tall fence surrounding Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. And that show of force was hardly limited to Washington. By June 4, less than two weeks after George Floyd’s murder by police, more than 10,000 people had been arrested across the U.S., according to an Associated Press tally. Here’s what The Associated Press had to say that day:

“As cities were engulfed in unrest last week, politicians claimed that the majority of the protesters were outside agitators, including a contention by Minnesota’s governor that 80 percent of the participants in the demonstrations were from out of state. The arrests in Minneapolis during a frenzied weekend tell a different story. In a nearly 24-hour period from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, 41 of the 52 people cited with protest-related arrests had Minnesota driver’s licenses, according to the Hennepin County sheriff. In the nation’s capital, 86 percent of the more than 400 people arrested as of Wednesday afternoon were from Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”

Those “outside agitators” must have had sophisticated teleporting equipment to have been in so many cities at once. What a pity they haven’t shared it with us.

Police show their preferences

During Trump’s inaugural, more than 200 protestors were arrested, including journalists. Earlier this year, tear gas and force were used to disperse peaceful demonstrators just so Trump could wave a bible in front of a church. So we have a pattern here.

The skin complexion of the demonstrators has much to do with these different approaches on the part of law enforcement. We can all imagine the body count that would have resulted had a Black group decided to storm the Capitol. But political affiliation is not absent. It’s no secret that police heavily favor Trump and are well to the right of the populations they supposedly serve, and police unions across the country took a few minutes off from screaming for officers to be entirely beyond accountability to endorse Trump.

Pictures of police posing for selfies with the invaders inside the Capitol began circulating by Wednesday evenings, and videos circulated showing officers allowing the mob through a gate, facilitating the invaders’ ability to get inside the building. Anybody who was watching the television coverage as the events unfolded, as I did, could see that the Capitol invaders were handled with kid gloves. Police were seen walking with the invaders down the steps of the Capitol and only hours later slowly pushed the mob away with periodic advances, taking care to give the mob plenty of time to move back.

Nor was the storming of the Capitol a spontaneous event. As housing and feminist activist Fran Luck noted, there was the appearance of preparation:

“While watching coverage of the terrorist incursion into Congress today, when I saw the group of burly men effortlessly scale a 20+-foot wall surrounding the Capitol, it occurred to me that they must have had military training to do this — it’s not easy to climb straight up vertically without much to hold on to — but it is what they teach you to do in army basic training. I also noticed they were dressed similarly, with flag handkerchiefs hanging out of their back right-hand back pockets. In my opinion, this was a staged action — probably rehearsed by a ‘militia’ and consciously created for future propaganda for the purpose of attracting new recruits This might also apply to the photo they released of the man wearing a MAGA hat and holding a rifle while sitting at Nancy Pelosi’s computer; it could be used to convey the message: ‘Look how far we got this time — next time we’ll be ready to go all the way!’ ” 

Again, a most sharp contrast to Black Lives Matter protests, repeatedly violently attacked by police. And police violence at demonstrations for Left causes is routine. Again, it is impossible not to notice the bias in policing. Recall the 2016 standoff in an Oregon national wildlife refuge, when a pack of White far right militia members took over the refuge’s headquarters, seeking to spark a national uprising, yet were allowed to come and go as they pleased and to destroy Native American artifacts.

White privilege was fully on display during Wednesday’s Capitol invasion, in addition to police demonstrating plainly their political preferences.

Aspiring fascist leaders need violent mobs

“What else is new” shouldn’t be our response. The conclusion to be drawn from Wednesday’s events is that we are almost certainly at the beginning of a fascist upsurge. There is no other conclusion to be drawn. Trump doesn’t have the intelligence or sufficient ruling-class backing to be a fascist dictator, and we can only hope he’ll be seeing the inside of a courtroom soon and then the inside of a prison. But it is quite possible another demagogue will arise, and the next one might not be such a buffoon. 

That is only part of the equation — there can be no fascist movement without street thugs and followers willing to use violence. The shock troops were on display Wednesday. Not nearly enough to pose an immediate threat and certainly too few to actually take over the Capitol even with police assistance. But with millions believing Trump’s lies and ready to move on his word, a latent threat exists. And, perhaps, those shock troops might transfer their loyalties to another wanna-be dictator, one perhaps with more ability.

Nor can we take solace in the fact that formal democracy remains the preferred method of governing; with most United Statesians still willing to believe they can better their circumstances through electoral politics, there is no need for U.S. industrialists and financiers to impose an outright dictatorship, especially as they continue to have an iron grip on the country’s government, mass media and institutions, and exert decisive influence over both major political parties.

The threat of fascism always looms in the background as long as capitalism exists. If a capitalist ruling class comes to a consensus that dictatorship is the only way to maintain their profits and power, then they are willing to unleash fascism, as happened in Italy, Germany, Spain, Chile, Argentina and other countries across the 20th century. The imposition of fascism arrives with shock troops — street thugs — augmented by police and the military, although sometimes, as was the case in Chile and Argentina, the street thugs augment the police and military. 

The street thugs following Trump have now shown their willingness to spring into action. Are the rest of us willing to step up and out-organize them?

11 comments on “The threat of fascism rears its head in Washington

  1. dylanfreak says:

    Thanks, Pete, for another excellent piece.

  2. Playing right into their hands. It feels like most of you folks went out and put your brains in a box on a top shelf. Good luck with the roll out of Society 5.0 – Cyborg Avatar Capitalism. So damn frustrating.

  3. Engineered “equity” ugh – I mean “equities.” All about the human capital bond markets and the hedge funds folks. Wake up to the realities of the bio-nano things biosecurity state – compliments of CommonPass – Rockefeller, / WEF / Cornell-Tech Small Data Lab – JP Pollak – Deborah Estrin – embedded sensor networks. Don’t think Harris and her Bay-Area techno-predatory-philanthropacapitalists don’t know what’s coming down the pike. Biden of course is too senile to understand much of any of this. TBH I feel bad for him.

    • Hello, Alison. Good to hear from you, and thanks for your work in exposing the machinations of the corporate elite.

      From your first link, I read: “To overcome the challenges of a declining birthrate, aging population and associated labor shortage, the key is to realize a society free from the limitations of body, brain, space, and time. … Our R&D will develop core technologies related to cyborgs and avatars, called ‘Cybernetic Avatar’, allowing expansion of human physical, cognitive and perceptual abilities, and build the ‘Cybernetic Avatar Infrastructure’ in cloud while accessing social acceptance of our future society.” Really scary that there are people out there who could think this seriously. Do we really want to be reduced to data stored on a server?

      Readers are encouraged to read (or listen to) Alison’s talk in the second link she has posted here, where she again lies out the plans of corporate elites to use digitization as tools of social control while reaping huge profits.

      And a timely reminder that violent thugs sent into the streets are ultimately expendable by fascist puppet masters. Recall that Hitler made short work of the SA and Mussolini made short work of his street fighters once they had obtained power. But we do live in another day, and corporate domination doesn’t need street violence to maintain itself as long as everyday people continue to accept class rule and ignore what they plan.

      • They want us fighting one another over partisan politics. We are not meant to know of their plans for a cybernetic future navigating a biosecurity police state. It seems impossible to wake people up to this fact – our common enemy are sociopathic billionaires, fin-tech, AI and nano-tech. I mean we should be paying attention to things like plans for the Internet of Bodies and the Internet of Bio-Nano Things. But everyone is caught up in divisive politics, ideology and deep state spectacle. The “left” is totally MIA – ceding ground to the “patriots.” It is a confounding and baffling situation all around.

        • Very scary ideas. There seems no limit to the schemes for control on the part of corporate elites. I have no argument with your statement that “our common enemy are sociopathic billionaires, fin-tech, AI and nano-tech,” especially the sociopathic billionaires and their financial arms.

          Nonetheless, a “fight” over “partisan politics” can’t be avoided, and shouldn’t be avoided. I am not suggesting that there is some life-and-death difference between Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, Labour and the Tories, etc., etc., and I myself have decades of movement work outside the political system. Having people working within the system is good — simultaneous inside and outside work is what is effective, although the “inside” people don’t get too far without a lot of pressure from the outside.

          Struggles tend to be on multiple fronts, and if we ignore the warning we received from Wednesday’s sacking of the Capitol by people trying to coalesce themselves into a fascist street formation, we would be committing political malpractice and leave ourselves in grave danger. There are dark days ahead of us, and we’ll need to create effective movements against the machinations of corporate-elite schemes for plans such as “the Internet of Bio-Nano Things” and their endless attempts at control and against attempts to “solve” capitalism’s contradictions though the imposition of a fascistic dictatorship. Implementing a far right dictatorship would in fact make it much easier for corporate elites to implement the sorts of plans you are warning us about.

          Too few people took the Nazis and Hitler seriously, and social democrats and communists refused to work together to combat the Nazis. That is a lesson that can’t be forgotten.

  4. Obnubilation says:

    Even a dictatorship will be unable to create profits. We already manufacture trillions in corporate welfare and still unemployment climbs. Capitalism is already over, but leftists are too scared to proclaim it; they are afraid of actual communism.

    • Capitalism may or may not be on its way out, and if it is on its way out the process will take decades to unfold unless movements intervene. We can’t count on capitalism going away on its own even as it decays; we are going to have to push it off the historical stage.

  5. Yes trump failed his pathetic attempt at a putsch, but that does not mean the danger is over.

    Rember that Hitler also failled at its 1st coup in 1923, but managed attain power in March 1933.

    • Greetings, Patrick. And thanks for a reminder we should not forget. History does not repeat itself exactly, but we nonetheless need to learn from it. It is never too early to stand up to fascistic movements.

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