E&L has already pointed out the connection between Trump’s attempt to block the confirmation of 2020 presidential result, with prior US attempts, backed by the Democrats too, to subvert elections in Latin America. The following article, which is based one from Socialist Democracy (Ireland) shows a connection much closer to home – in the North of Ireland.
The attack on the US Capitol has led to an outpouring of shock and condemnation. How could these Trump supporters so casually trash the symbol of US democracy and threaten the lives of elected officials, remaining defiant and unapologetic afterwards?
Yet in many areas of the world the dynamics of the Trumpian revolt will be all too familiar. In any region where race or sectarian division are major mechanisms of capitalist rule, the revolt of the Populist Right and the compliance of the state are well understood. Even in the US any knowledge of the country’s history would inspire instant recognition of the links between the white supremacists and the state.
In Belfast, in the North of Ireland, all that is needed is a glance at the TV screen for the viewer to say “Fleggers”, a reference to the 2012 mass Loyalist protests at restrictions on the number of days the British flag was flown at the City Hall.
On a microscopic scale the metaphor is pretty exact. There was a democratic vote in the council which simply adopted standard practice in Britain. The local Trumpists were arguing that the flying of the Loyalist flag took precedence over any vote.
As in the US, those nearest the camera in the Belfast mobilisations were the socially marginalised and politically disorientated thrown forward by the Right wing forces. As in the US, behind them stood the paramilitaries, in the North of Ireland’s case, the Loyalist, groups. The actual leadership was not the poor or dispossessed but the well to do of the Democratic Unionist Party and their capitalist backers.
The ‘Fleggers’, and the Trumpists, are looked down upon by the political elite and their media backers, as illogical imbeciles. What this does is distract from the actual leadership of the movement who are bad but definitely not mad. The incoherence of the various conspiracy theories and the toleration for cognitive dissonance between contradictory conspiracies allows these movements to be presented as mass insanity. The reality is that the members of racist and sectarian groups behind this become skilled in not only never saying what they believe. The various conspiracy theories act as camouflage.
However, when the actions of the Far Right are taken as a whole, they show a perfectly consistent logic. Full rights are reserved for their group who should rule society.
If the analogy holds, it is not good news for workers in the US. In the initial attack on Belfast City Hall the police were almost invisible. There is also a long history of collaboration between police and right-wing paramilitaries. The leaders of the state, mobilised to control the situation, relied on a combination of massing sufficient forces to smother the reaction while at the same time placating them in the hope that they would become exhausted. At one stage the police were found guilty of perverting the law to allow the ongoing demonstrations. (They were later cleared on the grounds that “operational independence” allows them to do whatever they like).
The approach of the PSNI and Garda has been very different when it comes to a movement which has challenged the US and UK state. The Black Lives Matter protests reached Ireland. Rather than any movement to accommodate the protests, new laws were made up on the spot to crush the demonstrations.
Eventually the Irish protests ran out of steam. However, the state’s approach gave impunity to right wing organisations, to widespread corruption and bribery and to an acceptance of the constant drive for apartheid and intimidation of minorities.
This is all standard. The bias towards the Right is inbuilt in capitalist society and in the police and state forces. It is possible to crush reaction, but this is normally the task of a mobilisation of the working class and oppressed, a task to be undertaken on the streets rather than on the parliamentary stage. In Ireland the independence movement had been tamed. Sinn Fein, now a constitutional nationalist party, looks to the UK state to provide an opening for Irish reunification. Irish nationalists (Sinn Fein and the SDLP) now form part of the machinery of UK rule in the North of Ireland. As a consequence, Irish nationalist politicians have been desperate to placate the Loyalists and preserve the patronage they now have through the local assembly.
The ‘Trump whisperers’ of Belfast see a similar process playing out in the USA. US capitalism is in decline, but there is no need, as yet, to resort to fascism. The state will face down the Trumpists but it will try to gently overwhelm them through force of numbers and to placate them when they can. The small fry will face trial and the treason of the great and the good will sidelined. The state will prove its good intentions towards the Right by redoubled attacks to the Left.
The role of the Democratic Party is crucial here. For four years they tried to use one section of the state (e.g, during their first attempted impeachment) while Trump took over other sections of the state apparatus and ignored those that did not suit him. When Bernie Sanders attempted instead to focus opposition to Trump’s social and economic policies, he was marginalised by the Democratic machine. The Democrats’ main strategy has been to appeal to the Republican leadership to disown Trump. With Biden now in office, they have already indicated that they will run a unity offensive towards those they regard as the more moderate . That’s bad news for the working class.
At the same time that they failed to fight effectively against Trump, the Democrats played a special role in repressing and absorbing a new alliance of black and white workers in the “Black Lives Matter” protests. So, when the attack on Congress took place, the BLM , and those young socialists initially organised in the Sanders campaign, had been twisted towards electoral politics. Many had supported Biden’s election campaign. The movement on the streets had been wound down and the US state has a relatively free hand in how it deals with the Trumpists.
But in the longer run the battle will be between the state and its reactionary allies and the working class and oppressed. Police brutality, homelessness and a lack of health care, along with a bloodthirsty foreign policy, will continue to be the order of the day. The Right is likely to grow in strength. The starting point for resistance in any area of the world is working class independence. And that involves building movements not controlled by career politicians, trade union bureaucrats and other careerists. There is also an urgent need to begin the preparation for a new internationalist party of the exploited and oppressed.
The original material for this article has been lifted, but also amended from the Socialist Democracy (Ireland) website and can be seen at:- The Trump whisperers of Belfast