It seemed like it would be remiss of me to post today without mentioning the day’s biggest news: the storming of the US Capitol building by far-right extremists. Now I’m sure there are many people out there who are more informed, posting more insightful commentaries on the day’s events and all the years of developments that have been building up to this moment. So please don’t take this as an attempt to be on par with those people 😌 This is simply me recording what came to my mind, personally, once I found out what had happened (and as I scrolled through Twitter subsequently).
Clearly today’s events have only been possible because the far right has been thoroughly emboldened in recent years, not only by right-wing media outlets (including that global vampire, NewsCorp) but by, in the US, the president himself. But it would be wrong to say that this is a problem that started with Trump that can be easily fixed once he’s gone. For a start, far-right politics is rising in prominence and power all around the globe. In recent years a number of countries have gone from having Western-style liberal democratic governments to being ruled by far-right autocrats – countries like Turkey, Hungary, India, Brazil. Some of these countries might still have electoral systems strong enough to unseat the autocrat and try to repair the damage done, but whether or not that remains possible, damage has still already been done – erosions of the basic, limited rights that liberal democracy is supposed to offer us, like freedom of the press. So in that light, the US is far from unique: it’s one of many countries engulfed by the same trend.
I also find it annoying to see “American exceptionalism”-style commentary, like “this is un-American”, “this is banana republic/Third World stuff, not fitting of America”, “this is not the America I know”, yadda yadda yadda. Alarming as today’s events might be, the fact is that the US meddles in foreign countries' politics, down to outright instigating coups, literally all the damn time. Just in October 2019, I was following Twitter in a similar frenzy because far-right US allies launched a coup in Bolivia, ousting the government that had literally just been democratically elected. It’s also only in the last few years that US allies in Brazil rigged the elections there (by jailing the major left-wing contenders) to hand the presidency to that proud fascist, Jair Bolsonaro. And it’s not like this shit just started under Trump, either – Obama’s presidency was marked by its fair share of backing right-wing coups in foreign countries (see Honduras, etc.) and since WW2 alone, the US has been involved in literally dozens of coups. Even here in Australia, where we haven’t had a coup coup since 1808, the US Embassy was heavily involved in our “constitutional crisis” of 1975, ensuring that the key players who could have prevented the “legal” handover of power to the unelected right-wing opposition would not get involved. No government has tried launching left-wing reforms again – instead we get the ALP gaslighting us trying to insist that the neoliberalism of the Hawke/Keating era is radical left-wing politics, but I digress…
That said, while I object to liberals' “this is fine for the Global South, but not America!!!!” whining, there are obviously a lot of Americans who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, as the far-right goes from strength to strength, and it would be really wrong to be like, “pfft, leave them to their fate,” just because their government is shit. (And always has been shit, not just since Trump.) The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement speaks to how deeply racism is embedded in American society (and of course, not just the US – Black people in Australia are fighting for many of the same demands). The very police who act with such brutality, taking a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude to Black Americans, seemingly just opened the gates for far-right extremists to storm the Capitol today. But of course, cops everywhere tend to be sympathisers of fascism – certainly here in Australia we’ve had things like cops high-fiving the far-right protestors they’re supposed to be policing. This is exactly why we should be so contemptuous of them. But, of course, there are many other groups beyond Black people who also face oppression – working-class people, women, LGBTI people, disabled people, progressive activists, and so on. All of these people deserve better than far-right domination.
I think a lot of people have been searching for simplistic answers as to why this (or indeed, any of the far-right events of the last few years) has happened. “It’s Twitter’s fault”, “it’s Trump’s fault”, “it’s Facebook”, “it’s the Republicans”, etc. etc.. In reality it’s going to be a lot of factors. There’s the US’s racist history, one that it’s never left in the past and never really can without actual radical change (not unlike other settler-colonial states, of course). Some proportion of the white population are too racist to accept even the minor incremental change that has been happening in the US, and Obama’s election in 2008 seemed to make them start spiralling into fanaticism. The right-wing news media, social media, and figures like Trump have fanned the flames, of course. But the flame started burning a long time ago, probably around the time that European ruling classes decided that enslaving, dispossessing, and ethnically cleansing people was a good way to get rich. Sometimes I’ve seen people be like “I miss normal Republican presidents like George W. Bush 😢” and it’s like, u wot??? The warmonger? Who stoked hella racism against Muslims and anyone dispshit racists mistook for Muslim? He of the “you’re either with us or you’re against us”? That guy?? Geez man.
While four people died, the Capitol building was eventually cleared of the far-right extremists. Honestly while I saw people describing the whole thing as a “coup attempt”, that seems unreasonably complimentary to the dipshits. It doesn’t seem like they had any actual plan for what they’d do once inside the Capitol Building, much less any real intention to seize power and hold onto it. Maybe they hoped they could disrupt the whole process that leads to Biden getting inaugurated and somehow magically keep Trump in office. Maybe they even hoped they could bully officials into ignoring actual vote counts and handing the next term to Trump. But really, their intention seems to have been to scare people, to intimidate, to make people less willing to go against their far-right agenda because they’ll worry about the consequences.
This is the kind of problem that will not magically go away when Biden gets inaugurated. It’s also the kind of problem for which we need a strong and militant Left (and yes, since we’re talking about fascists – that means antifa!) in order to have a hope of suppressing these dickheads and not having our Overton Window redrawn alarmingly to the Right. This is not just a task for the US Left, either. It’s critical in Australia as well, where a number of right-wing politicians are echoing increasingly far-right talking points, and we still have fuckheads like Pauline Hanson (🤮) in our Senate. Given the rise in far-right politics around the world, I’m sure there are many, many countries in which the Left needs to respond more effectively. I think it’s worth investigating the reasons why this isn’t happening, too. The Left is often afflicted by sectarianism, gatekeeping, navelgazing, etc. and it would be good if we could look at the basic questions of what needs to be done and how can we get more people doing those things. Because the alternative seems to be letting our world get worse and worse.