Beating Trump isn’t enough
Trump is the Frankenstein-like frontman of fascism, but the powers that really have to be tackled to stop fascism in the long term are on Wall Street. Trump must be defeated in November, but the fight to save democracy against neoliberalism will carry on, even with Biden in the White House. Here, equities traders listen from the New York Stock Exchange as Trump talks about the coronavirus on television, March 13, 2020. | Mark Lennihan / AP

Popular forces today are in crisis, reeling from a half century of neoliberal assault and organizational and ideological collapse. Unions are at their lowest density rates in a century. The historic gains of the democratic struggles to secure voting rights, access to reproductive health, and more are also under assault on all fronts. Now, together, we face down the greatest threat in a generation: the ultra-right movement that delivered this nation to Donald Trump. It is in this context that Michael Arney’s Sept. 10 op-ed in People’s World is, I would argue, dangerously misguided.

There are things Arney gets correct.

The hard-nosed reality is that today the choice for president is binary: either Trump will win or Biden will win. There is no third option based on a materialist analysis. From a practical perspective, this is the position from which we must move forward, as painful or disappointing as it is. No one said world historic struggles were going to be easy, straightforward, or painless.

The People’s Front represents a major development in working-class political strategy. Georgi Dimitrov, the renowned Bulgarian Communist leader, delivered the definitive summation in his 1935 speech to the Seventh World Congress of the Comintern. In it, Dimitrov defines fascism as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

Yet these forces, on their own, are unable to constitute a sizable enough social force to enact their brutality both here and abroad; hard-won democratic institutions prevent them. Thus, these sectors of finance capital must cast about society, cobbling together a political Frankenstein capable of smashing through those democratic obstacles by opportunistically combining bitter chauvinism, demagoguery, and fear-mongering.

Donald Trump is our Frankenstein and, as Arney says, the most important task at this moment is to prevent his re-election. Arney’s refutations of the excuses to sit on the sidelines largely stand correct. The Democratic Party includes in its coalition the organized labor movement and a constellation of non-profit and civic organizations fighting for the democratic rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, Black people, the environment, and more. These forces are totally absent in the Republican coalition. Whatever you say about Biden or Harris, this undeniable fact can’t be ignored.

Yet, in the end, Arney’s column slips into a class collaborationism that undermines his political point and can only serve to disorient and demoralize the very forces he calls on to unite against the fascist threat at the gates.

The first expression of this comes in his critique of “clear-sighted democratic socialists.” These democratic socialists argue not only for the unity of all popular forces to beat Trump, but some are even actively working for the Biden-Harris ticket. This alone satisfies Dimitrov’s singular condition for an anti-fascist Popular Front, where working-class forces place “no conditions for unity of action except one… viz., that the unity of action be directed against fascism, against the offensive of capital, against the threat of war, against the class enemy.”

So if these “clear-sighted democratic socialists” are both united in action to defeat Trump’s re-election and are also pointing out the need to defeat the main class enemy—neoliberalism—what, then, is Arney’s problem? For him, this condition is insufficient; rather, the knee must be bent to the neoliberal forces indefinitely, even after the election.

Dimitrov’s classic anti-fascist work, Against Fascism and War, is available from International Publishers.

 

Arney says: “So regardless of who wins in November, neoliberal allies will still be needed after the inauguration and the new Congress…” Neoliberal allies to whom? To the working class? Utter nonsense. The neoliberal consolidation within the Democratic Party took place starting in the 1980s and more fully in the 1990s under the so-called “New Democrats” headed by Bill Clinton. They consciously sought to shift working-class and democratic movements to the level of a junior partnership and instead focused the party on targeting educated upper-middle-class professionals in urban centers with financial backing from Wall Street. Biden wasn’t a mere participant in this process, but a leader of it unto himself.

Further, this reflects the exact same mistake that popular forces made after the election of Obama in 2008. While his election represented on one hand a historic gain by the democratic struggles against racism and a repudiation of the neoconservative right of the Bush years, it was on the other hand an unbroken continuation of New Democrat policies. The dominance of finance capital remained uncontested.

This failure to pivot from the democratic struggle of popular forces against the ultra-right to the class struggle against neoliberalism resulted in conceding populist rage to the astroturfing Koch brothers. If the core of fascism is the most reactionary sections of finance monopoly capital, then it is only the ultimate victory over those specific forces that can secure the ultimate defeat of fascism.

This must be why Arney never speaks of fascism in its class terms, instead only speaking to its nightmarish symptoms. Dimitrov warns us: “The Social-Democratic leaders glossed over and concealed from the masses the true class nature of fascism, and did not call them to the struggle against the increasingly reactionary measures of the bourgeoisie.”

Dimitrov elaborates further that “the policy of class collaboration, the policy of dependence on the bourgeoisie, leads to the defeat of the working class and to the victory of fascism.” Tailing the neoliberals and softening our criticisms to not offend those already in the pockets of transnational monopolies can only lead to greater frustration by popular forces in the face of their ever-degrading quality of life.

Left-wing and working-class forces must vigorously struggle against those monopoly forces that finance and empower fascist brutality for their own ends. Again, Dimitrov imparts tremendous wisdom: “A party which systematically calls on the workers to retreat in the face of fascism and permits the fascist bourgeoisie to strengthen its positions is doomed to lead the workers to defeat.”

Are we to think the forces now drawing close around Biden, such as the criminal neocons associated with the Lincoln Project, are somehow not a part of the monopoly forces that produced Trump to begin with? That suddenly the policy proposals of the New Democrats will take into account the real pain of working-class and popular forces without the threat of a militant, organized mass movement?

These so-called allies in the educated, cosmopolitan section of monopoly capitalism may recoil at the scent of fascism today, but when the world continues to crumble and instability builds in the face of neoliberal policies, can we be so sure of their repulsion in the future?

Dimitrov leaves us with a final point of wisdom:

“The working class must be able to take advantage of the antagonisms and conflicts within the bourgeois camp, but it must not cherish the illusion that fascism will exhaust itself of its own accord… Only the revolutionary activity of the working class can help to take advantage of the conflicts which inevitably arise within the bourgeois camp in order to undermine the fascist dictatorship and to overthrow it.”

We have to defeat Trump by as much as we can possibly muster. That means holding our nose and voting for the Biden-Harris ticket, through tears, dry heaves, or anything else. But progressive forces must have a clearer understanding than Arney has offered us of the fight that we will be in the moment Trump is defeated. Yes, we must all unite to defeat Trump now, but the stench of fascism will remain in the air until neoliberalism is defeated with it once and for all.

This article, like all op-eds published by People’s World, reflects the opinions of its author.

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CONTRIBUTOR

Bradley Crowder
Bradley Crowder

Bradley Crowder is a resident of Austin, TX. He has been involved with organizing fast food and academic workers and is currently working to support the organization of unemployed workers, especially those in the hospitality and food service industry.

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