Striking While the Iron Is Hot: Trump and the Antifa Resistance
Brenan Daniels I Social Movement Studies I Interview I March 9th, 2017
This is a transcript of a recent email interview I had with JA, an administrator of the Facebook page Anarchist Memes where we discuss Trump's rise to the presidency and how people can more actively resist the fascist-esque politics that are currently being put in the mainstream.
[HI] Regarding Trump's ascendance to the Presidency, many argued that he would never make it. Seeing his rhetoric and proposed policies at the very beginning, what were your initial thoughts? Do you think that his tapping into social and economic unrest was purposeful on some level?
[AM] I thought that Trump was too unpolished and goofy to beat a career politician of Clinton's caliber. It seemed to me at the time that his ascendency to RNC nominee was the result of in-fighting and disarray within the GOP. I never imagined he'd win the presidential election.
I don't think that anything Trump does is particularly strategic on his part. Even when it is apparent he's trying to stick to a narrative, he still seems to go off-script, and delve in to bizarre and perverse tangents. I think the man is totally untethered to objective reality.
[HI] There are those who would argue that in some ways a Trump win is impressive seeing as how the media and a large amount of The Establishment was against him. What are your thoughts on this?
[AM] I think he is popular for the same reasons right-wing, racist, proto-fascist demagogues are ever popular. Namely, the combination of socio-economic despair and a chauvinistic dominant culture. My intuition is that, those who are deeply invested in the narratives and affirmations of the dominant culture, resolve the emotional and cognitive dissonance of their socioeconomic predicament within the culture as well as dissent against it...by going deeper in to their nationalist fairytales and faulting scapegoats and/or lack-of-purity/faith as to explain the present conditions.
Trump's utter stupidity, incredulity and narcissism allowed him to say and declare things that a more strategic and refined politician would-not. I think this allowed him to out-flank his opponents in the GOP and DNC alike. Likewise, the media seemed either unaware or unconcerned that its tittering responses to Trump, amplified his popularity.
[HI] Currently it seems that Trump is hitting the ground running by doing a number of things such as the recent Muslim ban, proposing that the US leave the United Nations, and reinstating a ban on US funding overseas, to the glee of many of his supporters. However, there are those who are expressing dismay over other policies such as a freeze on government employee hiring and salaries. What do you think will happen if/when people realize that many of Trump's policies are going to hurt them? Will we see an increase in violence against marginalized communities?
[AM] I think it's decidedly possible that the white-reactionary milieu will react violently if/when their economic conditions are negatively impacted by Trumps policies. Some certainly will. But the flip-side of that, the only possible silver-lining to any of this depravity and cruelty, is that the shock of trumps failures on the reactionary white working class, may bump them out of their racist, right-wing stupor. I think it's incumbent on radicals to strike while things are amorphous and strange, and try to capitalize on the shocks that do come.
[HI] What would you make of the liberal's reaction to Trump? There are some who argue that this is an opportunity to push them further to the left, but on a personal level, I have some doubts about that seeing as how they supported Clinton, who seemingly wanted to push us into a war with Russia.
[AM] I think it's a mixed-bag. I think some liberals have been bumped ever-so-slightly to the left, become disillusioned with the DNC, with their patriotism, with capitalism etc. I think there are also liberals who are looking for an excuse, a scapegoat, someone or something to blame for the ascension of Trump. I've interacted with both types. Some who have shown an interest in radical philosophy and explanations where before there was a lack of interest...and I've also met some who have tried to blame Sanders or everyone to the left of Clinton for the outcome of the election.
[HI] Seeing the rise of the far right in Europe and finally it coming to the US, how would you say that Trump fits into a larger global context of elements of the Western world embracing far right fascistic (and actual fascist) politics?
[AM] I think what is happening in the US is a similar phenomenon to what we've seen and is happening in Europe. Where economic stagnation or depression generate a resultant lashing out by those enamored with the dominant culture's narratives and mythology...as well as anyone else critical of that mythology.
[HI] Given the recent J20 protests and the black bloc actions, what should anarchists do now that we are in a Trump presidency, someone who many would argue is close to, if not entirely, a fascist?
[AM] I think the most useful and necessary and impactful thing radicals can do is join an organization - and start organizing. As well, I think radicals needs to make a concerted effort to try and organize, radicalize, and bring-in working class and rural white people - as tempting as it is to just write-off anyone who is even the slightest bit reactionary (and I wouldn't blame anyone who does), I think work needs to be done to change these people's minds - to help them find another path materially and ideologically.
[HI] Seeing as how I have used the term fascism and fascist in the last two questions, where can people go to get a solid understanding of fascism, both historically and modern day as it seems that it is a word that can be misapplied.
[AM] There's a ton of literature out there, people just need to reach out and grab it. They can go to the source, like Mussolini or Jose Antonio to even out their understanding of Nazism - or to any number of books comparing and contrasting the various strains in fascism. As well, there is anti-fascist literature which also gives great insight in to what fascism is and how fascists behave (AK press just released Confronting Fascism for free in ebook form, and I know M. Testa's Militant Fascism is available in pdf form for free on the internet).
That said, I think people's impulse to use the label is usually generally correct - in that the people they're assigning the label to exhibit (generally) the basic features of fascism...even if not in an explicitly ideological or intentional way.
[Hi] In what way(s) can people be organized today to support antifascism and push for change beyond the ballot box, including those who lack time/funds due to personal situations?
[AM] Join an organization(s) and just do something - anything one can - for that organization(s)...and try not to fall in to complacency after an absence from involvement. Being broke, having kids, work, social life, health issues etc all invariably inhibit our ability to maintain commitments to organizations we'd like to be involved in and the tendency to stay-away after an absence is common. Try to remember, that our participation is needed, and wanted, and beneficial.