Trump Gestures to Fascism as US Imperialism Faces Deepening Crisis

By the Editorial Board

On July 3, Donald Trump gave a speech with heavy fascist overtones at Mount Rushmore to commemorate US ‘Independence Day.’

As the crisis of US imperialism continues to deepen and the number of COVID-19 cases in the country tops three million, Trump’s address represented the further reactionization of the state through the executive branch. The speech sought to rile up his base, especially its most reactionary core, by raising the boogeymen of “radicals,” “angry mobs,” and “far-left fascists” and painting the movement for Black lives as an existential danger.

In the speech, Trump decried the “left-wing cultural revolution” and “cancel culture” as “totalitarian” threats to the “American way of life.” He also echoed several common fascist themes when he spoke of the need to “protect our nation’s children end this radical assault, and preserve our beloved American way of life.”

“We support the courageous men and women of law enforcement. We will never abolish our police or our great Second Amendment, which gives us the right to keep and bear arms,” said Trump during the address. In the same breath, he mentions support for the police while affirming the Second Amendment, a statement which speaks directly to fascists, especially the far-right militia movement, encouraging reactionary vigilantism and armed intimidation against protesters.

Trump doubled down on the state repression of protesters, announcing that he would be “deploying federal law enforcement to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters, and prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law.” He lauded the arrest by federal agents of the supposed “ringleader” of the action which attempted to topple a statue of the genocidal Andrew Jackson, announced the recent arrest of hundreds of other protesters to an enthusiastic applause, and boasted that his latest executive order would strengthen the Veterans’ Memorial Preservation and Recognition Act (originally signed by George W. Bush), which establishes a 10 year prison sentence for anyone convicted of vandalizing a federal monument.

Trump displayed the common fascist tactic of relying on mythology by pushing a chauvinistic version of US history as the “most magnificent country in the history of the world,” and painting the ‘founding fathers’ as “heroes” and “giants in full flesh and blood.” Naturally he glossed over the genocide, settler colonialism, imperialism, and ruthless exploitation that helped establish the US as the sole hegemonic superpower in the world today.

Mixed in with Trump’s reactionary account of US history were several religious references, another aspect of building a mythology to justify his increasingly fascistic positions. During the speech, he referred to monuments, including those to the Confederacy, as “sacred,” that the “Judeo-Christian principles” which are supposedly the foundation of the US government “dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world,” and referenced Colin Kaepnerick’s protest of the national anthem by saying, “we only kneel to Almighty God.”

Trump is engaged in what he would like to portray as a holy war against the progressive movement for Black lives and the campaigns against the police and other racist institutions and monuments. He is speaking directly to the largest base of recruitment for fascism, in an attempt to mobilize support for restoring the ‘law and order’ of the ruling class through increased repression and negation of democratic rights, and he frames all of it as a defense of the current order and the supposedly sacred American culture.

In some ways Trump is correct: the mass uprisings that followed the murder of George Floyd demonstrate the immense revolutionary potential of the working people and oppressed masses in the US and foreshadow a serious threat to the imperialist state. The huge number of participants (estimated between 15 and 20 million) and the numerous rebellious acts aimed at police, state institutions, and large corporations highlight the fact that the old racist unequal society is reaching its limitations and facing unprecedented resistance. Culture is but one of the many battlefields on which this fight takes place. As the movement for Black lives begins to address unequal hiring, unequal pay, and workplace abuses it will link itself more fully with the struggle of the entire working class; this class unity is precisely what makes parasites like Trump lose sleep.

While Trump seeks to confuse people with his talk of a “culture war,” what is taking place is the reverberation of class struggle in the cultural arena. It is not simply statues and flags, but the power they represent that has provoked the ire of the people. The fundamental contradiction exists in the economic foundations of the country. If the people confine themselves to attacking mainly symbols, for now, the toppling of these symbols of Americanism is but a dress rehearsal for a much greater act–revolutionary struggle for the total overthrow of the old, decaying and racist order. The people have stood up, and no laws or grandstanding will sit them down.

US imperialism is experiencing a crisis the likes of which it has never seen before; Trump’s increasingly fascistic rhetoric is a desperate bid to hold together this decaying system. The class struggles will inevitably produce revolutionaries, and it is these advanced elements within the struggle that come together to form the Party of the proletariat, which alone can break all of the shackles of the old imperialist order and claim power for the final class in history. American capitalism, which developed into imperialism, came about on the backs of Black people, and it will be cast into the furnace of history with their liberation.

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