Political and constitutional crisis: The extreme-right threat to democracy
In this Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump sits at his desk after a meeting with Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, left, and members of his staff in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Just after taking office, Trump and his allies started acting immediately to dismantle regulations the government passed after the 2008 financial crisis to tighten oversight of banks and protect consumers and taxpayers. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

This is part 4 of the full main report, “Unity to save people and planet; For full equality, democracy, peace, and green socialism,” to the 31st National Convention of the Communist Party USA held in Chicago, Illinois, June 21-23, 2019. Other installments available here.

The abbreviated oral presentation is available here. John Bachtell served as CPUSA national chair from 2014 to 2019. Rossana Cambron and Joe Sims were elected as the new CPUSA co-chairs.

Compounding the ecological and climate crises, militarization, nuclear war danger, and the crisis of wealth extremes is Trump, the GOP, the extreme right-wing, and their corporate backers—and the threat they pose to capitalist democracy. We face an unprecedented political and constitutional crisis.

The extreme right danger and political crises are global, especially where extreme right-wing, nationalist forces threaten to take power or already have.

The extreme right and fascist movements are fueled by anti-immigrant hate, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. Communities of color, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews are being scapegoated to maintain power and divert anger away from the corporate ruling class for wealth concentration, profound changes in the economy and society, and declining standards of living.

And without breaking the domination of the extreme right on U.S. politics, the working class and people cannot address the threats to our existence posed by the climate crisis, militarism, and wealth inequality, the outbreak of a new economic crisis, and the oncoming disruption by robotics and AI.

New features of the extreme right danger

The limited democratic, social, and civil rights won by the working class and people under capitalism are always threatened. Now they are under assault in unprecedented ways.

With the extreme right takeover of the GOP and the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, the CPUSA recognized the emergence of a new kind of danger. Gus Hall, who was general secretary of the party then, described it as a “whiff of fascism.”

The right’s aim was, and remains, dismantlement of the New Deal-era reforms of the 1930s, the Great Society reforms of the 1960s, and the gutting of every worker and civil right protection. We were among the first organizations to sound the alarm and call for the formation of an all-people’s coalition to defeat the extreme right.

This threat has evolved and gotten more dangerous with the extreme concentration of wealth, the Koch-funded ALEC takeover of the GOP and state governments, and the right-wing takeover of the Supreme Court.

To one degree or another, the extreme right will always pose a danger to democracy, so long as its capitalist support base exists.

The GOP is in crisis because traditional conservatism is a dying ideology. The party is dominated by those forces responsible for unprecedented threats facing nature and society. It is without solutions, and its only objective is to maintain power by any means necessary.

With a declining base of voters, it maintains power with vile appeals to hate and division, obstruction of progressive legislation, voter suppression, gerrymandering, authoritarianism, and the institutionalization of its power and policies through stacking the courts.

The GOP crisis created an ideological vacuum which allowed the insurgent Tea Party extreme-right and Trump to take over its apparatus.

The extreme right and its support base include sections of finance capital, fossil fuel industries, the military-industrial complex and state security apparatus, gun manufacturers, and parts of finance capital. It aggressively builds its base among disaffected members of the working class, neo-conservatives, social conservatives, religious conservatives, Christian Evangelicals, white supremacists, and anti-immigrant hate groups.

The ascendance of Trump represents a qualitative advance for right-wing extremism, a radical departure from mainline conservatism, and an increased danger to democracy, peace, and the planet.

The Trump administration is characterized by authoritarianism, lawlessness, daily attacks on democracy, breaching of constitutional norms, and the erosion of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances.

The Trump administration has open links to white supremacist, male supremacist, and fascist groups and networks. They and their ideas have been brought from the political and internet fringes into the White House. The activity of fascist terrorist networks and hate crimes has grown since 2016.

Trump’s hateful ideology is a concoction of anti-Black and anti-Mexican racism, anti-immigrant hatred and national chauvinism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.

Trump draws directly from the “alt-right,” or rebranded fascist, playbook: exploit people’s fears and insecurities by conjuring up dire external threats of immigrants taking jobs, Muslim terrorists, and the “Jewish global conspiracy,” and internal threats like the “deep state conspiracy,” criminal immigrants, terrorists, socialists, and communists.

A crucial part of Trump’s base and administration are right-wing religious fundamentalists and nationalists, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence. They put their stamp on every policy and judicial appointment.

The Trump administration is the most corrupt in history, and he is a gangster masquerading as president. When the full Mueller report is finally released without redactions, it may actually only begin the work of uncovering Trump’s vast network of money laundering, bribery, obstruction of justice, connections with global criminal syndicates, and other criminal behavior.

The criminality of Trump and his cohorts underlies the collusion with foreign powers including Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel, to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and the subsequent obstruction and coverup.

Foreign election interference undermines national sovereignty and democracy. It is wrong when the U.S. violates the national sovereignty of other countries, and it is wrong when it is done to the U.S. and affects our working class and people.

Trump belongs in prison. We support beginning an impeachment inquiry in the House, which is the most effective way to expose Trump’s corruption and lawlessness. However, this is not possible without a shift in public opinion and unity of the House Democratic Caucus. Convicting Trump of his crimes in the U.S. Senate is even harder. None of it should divert us from total focus on the 2020 elections.

Right-wing propaganda eco-system

A right-wing media eco-system has been built to broadcast extremist propaganda to the masses, with a special emphasis on stoking racial and ethnic division. | John Locher / AP

Another new danger to democracy is the unprecedented daily assault on truth. It is revealed through endless attacks on the press and the development of a vast right-wing media and propaganda eco-system. Fox News, Infowars, Breitbart, and other media outlets are propaganda arms and policy shops for the Trump White House and GOP.

This right-wing media propaganda eco-system is showering tens of millions of people with massive disinformation, conspiracies, racism, paranoia, and vile hate.

The existence of social media has allowed progressive, Marxist, and socialist ideas to be disseminated widely and is a powerful organizing tool. But it has also been corrupted by the greed of the social media corporations who look the other way when disinformation is used.

Foreign powers exploited social media networks in the 2016 election and continue to do so. Social media is being used by the extreme right, neo-fascists, and global right-wing to organize and spread hate, confusion, and disinformation.

The fascist danger

A group from the white supremacist Proud Boys organization confronts anti-Trump protesters during a rally, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. Trump has repeatedly given the ideas of such groups a greater public hearing by using the tribune of the presidency. | Chris O’Meara / AP

The Republican Party has become the cult of Trump. The threat of the emergence of a full-fledged fascist party with a mass base of support and propaganda machine cannot be discounted. Fascism never comes into existence full-blown but morphs in a step-by-step process and must be fought at every turn.

Fascist ideology spreads by the dehumanization of whole groups of people—which is happening already through Trump’s vile racist rhetoric; the criminalization of reproductive rights, Islam, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants and asylum seekers; the terrorization of immigrant communities; and the attack on “globalists,” a traditional anti-Semitic trope.

It’s no surprise that male supremacist groups that advocate online the subjugation of women are identified as the “gateway” to right-wing extremism and white supremacist groups.

They promote the idea of “victimhood”—that whites are the real victims of racism, and men are the real victims of sexism.

The extreme right, white supremacist, fascist, and so-called “alt-right” elements have a more sinister goal: to slow down, stop, and reverse historic demographic shifts. The U.S. will be a majority people of color country by 2050, and birthrates among whites are historically low.

These forces believe their hold on power rests on winning a substantial majority of whites to white supremacy and passing laws that suppress the rights of people of color, particularly voter suppression, ending immigration and asylum, and carrying out mass deportations, while at the same time breaking the power of the organized labor movement.

Fighting for unity in rapidly changing times

The U.S. and the world have undergone rapid, tumultuous, and profound economic, political, social, and demographic changes since the end of the Cold War. But even these changes are small compared to the storm bearing down on humanity and nature.

It’s not just changes, but their scale, scope, and speed that are overtaking us now. People’s lives, livelihoods, and communities are being upended overnight. They are profoundly unsettling, confusing, and involve seemingly distant and powerful global forces. They have left millions of working-class people fearful, anxious, and insecure.

U.S. society has also witnessed tremendous positive social and cultural changes as a result of transformative social movements, however. These include blows to white supremacist and male supremacist ideas, advances for equality, including the election of the nation’s first African-American president, the passage of marriage equality, and the nomination of the first woman to run for president of a major party.

Our country’s population, with its multiple languages and cultures, is becoming more diverse than ever, continuing the historical process of creating a uniquely American working-class culture. These demographic and cultural changes have heightened understanding of racial equality, multi-cultural awareness, and appreciation for the rich and growing diversity of our working class and people.

But it has also left many people, particularly many whites, feeling fearful, insecure, and threatened. The idea of a loss of status and perceived advantages have left many whites vulnerable to appeals to racism and “white identity.”

The advances of women and the militant upsurge of the #MeToo movement raised awareness of gender equity; freed millions of men from male supremacist ideas; challenged them to become better partners, fathers, and friends; and changed social relations for the better.

But it has also left many men feeling insecure and threatened. The idea of lost status has left millions of men vulnerable to appeals to sexism.

The advances for the LGBTQ community represent a victory against homophobia and for democracy, inclusivity, and new understandings of sexual identity, gender, and gender fluidity.

But it has also left many heterosexuals feeling insecure and threatened, radically challenging traditional norms, including that of the family.

The fascist chant, “We will not be replaced,” shouted at the Charlottesville neo-Nazi torchlight march in 2017 was meant to tap into these fears.

Throughout our nation’s history, every time our multi-racial working class and people win social advances, reactionary corporate forces attempt to turn back the clock, as happened post-Reconstruction, during the McCarthy period, and in the post-Civil Rights era. And the rise of Trump can be understood in no small measure as a reaction to change, including the election of President Obama, and advances for people of color, women, labor, and the LGBTQ community.

Powerful capitalist forces feared these advances, particularly the election of the nation’s first Black president. But the one thing they fear most: the power of a united working class and people.

Consequently, the Koch brothers and other right-wing billionaires created the Tea Party movement. Trump rode to fame on the racist “birther” lie against President Obama, attacking Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and promising to turn back the clock and “Make America Great Again.”

While the soil has been tilled by decades of right-wing and racist ideological assault on the American people, and white working people in particular, the ruling class and extreme right have been working feverously to divide and turn a section of white workers against their class interests.

Class oppression, racism and white supremacy, and male supremacy have been fused throughout U.S. history, most notably the legacy of slavery and inequality. Voter suppression, criminalization of reproductive rights, and union-busting are attempts to divide and weaken the movement, reassert domination, and restore oppression based on class, race, and gender.

Trump and the extreme right aimed their sights directly at the growing class and people’s unity. Anti-immigrant hysteria, Islamophobia, racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, anti-communism, and anti-socialism and massively spreading lies and disinformation are desperate attempts to divide and hold power.

People’s economic insecurities and anxieties over social changes are manipulated by conjuring up dire threats from internal and external enemies.

Economic nationalism is aimed at exploiting fears and insecurities and turn the U.S. working class and people against the working class and peoples of other nations and whip up Trump’s base.

As Jamelle Bouie writes, “Never mind the jobs or economic growth, what ‘Make America Great Again’ looks like in practice is the imposition of social control on groups that threaten a regressive, hierarchical vision of the country. MAGA is the Muslim ban; MAGA is child separation; MAGA is a woman in handcuffs for thinking she had the right to her own body.”

Continued in part 5: Defeat the extreme right – Path to transformative change


CONTRIBUTOR

John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is in the Illinois Bureau of People's World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. Previously, he was Illinois organizer for the party, and is active in labor, peace, and justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio and currently lives in Chicago.

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