The Undying State: An Anarchist Examination of 2018
From It's Going Down by Ami du Radical
Errico Malatesta wrote that an organ of the State, deprived of its original function, will either wither and die or, when possible, construct a new function for itself. “A police force where there are no crimes to solve or criminals to apprehend,” he said, “will invent both, or cease to exist.” As we speak, this eventuality is fast approaching the political landscape of so-called America.
With 2018 on the horizon, both the Republican and Democratic parties are hastily organizing strategies for the midterm elections and, more broadly, to the 2020 presidential election. Eager to relegitimize themselves after the rolling catastrophes of 2017, the political elite have reacted to the explosion of civil unrest with opportunism and brinkmanship. This is a process anarchists have been anticipating, wherein the GOP becomes irreversibly beholden to neo-fascism in a headlong pursuit of its corporatist agenda, and the Democrats pounce on a terrified and weary population, snapping up whatever centrist voters they can by eschewing any ideological consistency. Both parties see an opportunity to build a political dynasty upon the fear and uncertainty of the public.
“More and more it seems the Democrats are expecting some kind of bloodless coup, a unilateral restoration of State supremacy, using one branch of government to overthrow another.”
Meanwhile, the general population is experiencing a fissuring of its own. Antifascism has grown in strength and scope, along with the myriad of anti-authoritarian, anti-racist, and liberatory causes which have gained traction in the past year. The capacity of the Alt-Right to publicly organize has been severely curtailed, reducing the supporters of white nationalism to short-lived “flash mobs” and sparsely-attended, secretive meetings in remote locations. Yet for all the new citizens fighting back against state oppression and far-Right intimidation, many more are holding out hope that if the firestorm of 2017 abates, things will be as they were in 2008; neo-fascism will die, racism will belong only to Klan members, and America will be restored to its “former glory.” Their desire for “normalcy,” a return to the Obama years without a substantive change to the material conditions of American life, presents the State with a chance to capitalize on civil uprising, rather than being threatened by it.
The situation in America is highly fluid, and it would be pointless to theorycraft and suggest where, specifically, comrades should dedicate their energy and resources. Rather, this essay will examine some of the significant trends which will likely have an impact on how anarchism, and antifascism, change in anticipation of an uncertain, volatile future. The American empire has entered a phase of decline which seems self-perpetuating, and it will be up to individual participants and larger liberatory organizations to define themselves, and the anarchist movement, through their responses to an increasingly strict rulership. The coming year should be regarded as a tipping point, where the momentum of our movement is either absorbed by a partisan shift in the government, or ignites a chain reaction towards genuine change.
THE POWER VACUUM OF STATE AUTHORITY
Recent Gallup polling has found that the public’s confidence in practically every institution of the American State has diminished during the 21st century. In some instances, this depletion of trust is nearly universal among respondents; Congress, always a lightning rod for public dissatisfaction, has an approval rating which perpetually bobs between low teens or single-digit percentages .
But other organs of the State have become surrogates for the escalating culture war. The approval rating for police, who enjoyed bipartisan support as late as 2012, remains at a historic average. But closely examining the data reveals a more nuanced cross-section of public opinion. That “average” is actually the result of post-Ferguson progressives, non-whites, and younger respondents losing faith in the institution of policing, while older voters, conservatives, and the majority of whites are redoubling their support . This is unsurprising; as liberal-minded youngsters have grown accustomed to images of police brutalizing frightened civilians and performing broad-daylight lynchings, the right-wing has used the police as a self-justifying vehicle for white anxiety, restoring social order through street violence in the style of Bull Connor. Black Lives Matter was not alive for even a year before “White Lives Matter” was invented as a cheap, reactionary countermovement.
Liberal voters, however, are also finding outlets for both their partisan angst, and their anxieties regarding an increasingly unstable society. Responding to the sprawling controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia, a whopping four-in-ten Democrats now consider Russia to be the top threat to America – more than during the final years of the Cold War . The Democrats are now fixated on finding a means to prematurely unseat the president; impeachment has become an obsession for the party, and for much of their voter base . After the firing of James Comey, their fury over his “interference” in the Clinton campaign suddenly turned into a defense of the separation of powers . Keen readers will notice these appeals to the powers that be are always framed as patriotic concern over the “safety of the republic” posed by Trump and his allies, while ignoring the threat to liberty posed by the FBI itself, an organ which in the ’60s monitored, threatened, and attempted to kill numerous black liberation leaders. The very process of impeachment relies on the authority of the State keeping itself in check, and thus paradoxically bestows that same authority with more trust and greater leeway, rather than restraining it. More and more it seems the Democrats are expecting some kind of bloodless coup, a unilateral restoration of State supremacy, using one branch of government to overthrow another.
These two trends – conservative support for an unambiguous police state, and liberal demands for a Russophobic inquisition that would make HUAC blush – are rooted in the urge to replace a dying authority by rejuvenating one of its components. The far right has simultaneously developed a fear of a shadow government working against their heroic president, and a thirst for unmitigated police violence. The liberal bloc merely wants the Trump presidency erased, a black-bag job conducted by the same intelligence community that Obama empowered to ruthlessly spy on the public. In both cases, the gut response to one form of authority losing its legitimacy is to find an opposing force and boost its influence. A return to “normal” necessarily entails a return to some form of coercive authority holding sway over society.
“Their desire for “normalcy,” a return to the Obama years without a substantive change to the material conditions of American life, presents the State with a chance to capitalize on civil uprising, rather than being threatened by it.”
Most frightening of all is that while police, Congress, and the Alphabet Soup agencies are viewed with mixed approval, there is one element of the State that enjoys a permanent PR carte-blanche: the military. Support for the military has remained in 70-or-above territory since 2002 , almost 70% of Americans believe the US must remain the dominant military force on the globe , and nearly half of all Americans support a mandatory national service . An annual increase of $80 billion for defense spending in the Trump budget earned bipartisan approval. Beyond that, the military is gaining support specifically as a counterweight to the unhinged Trump presidency. Ezra Klein, writing for Vox, articulated this disturbing development:
“This should calm some nerves,” wrote Peter Daou, the former Hillary Clinton staffer… Daou was referring to a CNN report in which Gen. John Hyten, head of the US Strategic Command, warned that he would resist any illegal orders from President Donald Trump — or any president — to launch nuclear weapons. “He’ll tell me what to do, and if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen?” said Hyten on Saturday at the Halifax International Security Forum. “I’m gonna say, ‘Mr. President, that’s illegal…'”
It is comforting to know that Trump cannot order a nuclear holocaust as easily as he can launch a tweetstorm. But behind these hearings and headlines lurks the unnerving way in which many have come to see the military as the last, best bulwark against our erratic commander-in-chief…
There is no thought of a coup here, at least not as traditionally defined. No one expects, and no one wants, tanks on the lawn of the White House. Instead, these comments envision a military that acts less like an institution under the complete control of an elected president and more like a quasi-independent actor willing to ignore or distort orders it sees as dangerous. “The military is restraining the civilian leadership rather than the other way around,” says Mary Dudziak, a foreign affairs historian at Emory University’s law school.
This should be deeply troubling to anti-authoritarians in general, but especially to the anarchist cause. Trump has revealed a ghastly reality to the average voter: the much-vaunted American system of checks and balances was fatally flawed all along. It turns out that, like a safety valve malfunctioning after decades of being unneeded, there was actually nothing preventing the rise of full-blown fascism in America except the absence of certain social conditions. But rather than recognizing elitist representative democracy as a farce, and capitalism as the incubator of fascism and global destruction, the bulk of the population is desperate for something to fill the void. They have looked to the police, the intelligence community, and the military first, because these organs are our most familiar forms of social control: hierarchal, monopolistically violent, patriarchal, and militaristic. Unfortunately for the optimistic liberal bloc,
Trump has specifically chosen the police and the carceral system as his instruments of correction. Waiting for a “good” source of authority to repair the rupture of social cohesion has merely allowed a power vacuum to form, later to be filled with more brutish types of repression. Meanwhile, some liberals have begun to shamefully wax romantic about the “dignity” of the Bush years – evidently, a war criminal who can hold a knife and fork with grace is enough to satisfy them.
THE TWO TYPES OF POLITICAL PRISONER
In addition to the sweeping support he gained from police, and from both major police unions in America, Trump has loudly bellowed his encouragement of authoritarian practices in law enforcement. He has employed “law and order” dog whistling, emotional appeals relating to the deaths of police officers, and once “joked” about his expectation for law enforcement officers to rough up their arrestees. He has removed Obama-era reforms that restricted police access to surplus military equipment, and has said in no uncertain terms that he approves of police militarization . Apart from the non-stop slayings and random violence visited upon citizens by officers, police occupations of civilian space have become routine. Ferguson, Milwaukee, and St. Louis are among those cities to experience In Baltimore, a city whose police department has already come under fire for being particularly corrupt and unrestrained in its use of violence, the death of Detective Sean Suiter unleashed the full potential of a department which views the local community as wartime enemies. Police patrolled the Harlem Park neighborhood unceasingly, harassed residents, and posted a record-breaking reward for information on the case. Writing for the Intercept, Rachel M. Cohen unpacked the situation:
As police cars lined the perimeter of Harlem Park for days, residents were unable to enter their neighborhoods without showing IDs. Some complained about helicopters flying above their homes, flashing lights from police cars, and being subject to harassment and pat-down searches. Non-residents were barred from entering. On social media, many called to #FreeWestBaltimore…
In 2008, police in Washington, D.C., set up a military-style checkpoint in Trinidad, a neighborhood in the northeast part of the city, in response to spates of shootings and murders. Cops stopped people driving into the area and required them to show IDs and justify that they had a “legitimate purpose” to enter. D.C. modeled its checkpoint after a similar one established in New York City in the early 1990s, which was ruled constitutional by a federal appeals court in 1996. In 2009, a federal appeals court ruled that the Trinidad checkpoints were unconstitutional. 
Beyond the localized actions of police departments, the Trump administration has also begun to employ the judicial and carceral system to weed out dissent, and cripple the street-level power structures taking root in America. The first six defendants of the J20 case have been found not guilty, but it should never be forgotten how cruelly they were treated, and how brazenly they were targeted for expressing their political beliefs.
“The problem is that these candidates are entering a political party fundamentally opposed to their plank: as stated above, Bernie Sanders himself, a supposed champion of the worker, isn’t particularly concerned with defending women’s’ rights if it interferes with party dominance.”
As we know, thanks to tireless coverage by revolutionary media sources, the inauguration protesters were arrested without legitimate cause, infiltrated and surveilled by police and far-right operatives, held for eight uninterrupted hours during the kettle, were blamed for the burning of a limousine five hours after they were detained by police, physically brutalized, and presumed guilty of conspiracy to riot because of their matching clothing. The arrest itself was conducted without proper procedure, and the prosecution has been astonishingly candid about the lack of evidence tying any single defendant to any recorded crime. Police testimony has shown multiple inconsistencies in stories that changed during cross-examination. All told, this is a truly grotesque case of political repression and state violence, as even the handful of acquitted defendants have been forced to spend a year in turmoil based on fabricated charges and presumed guilt. From the Unicorn Riot coverage:
The defense asked Deville, “In your opinion, was everyone who was with the group rioting from the limo to the point at 12th & L?” He answered, “yes.” The defense then played the Commander a series of video clips showing people at the march (after the time at which Deville claimed the protest had become a riot) walking in the street calmly, often chanting and/or holding signs. Deville defended his characterization of everyone present as rioting, claiming “there was a core group that was together…”
Officers were asked by Kerkhoff to identify items taken from those they had arrested, such as hats, backpacks, and bandanas. Upon cross-examination several officers appeared to not actually know anything about defendant’s’ property. One said of the defendant he arrested, “I don’t know what was in her possession.” Another defendant’s arresting officer said he did not know which officers were involved in searching the defendant…
The defense asked Officer Howden if he said police were “extremely wild” with OC spray on inauguration day. Howden answered “I did not say that.” Defense then played body camera video showing Howden saying those exact words. Howden then said the defense was taking “side conversations” “out of context“. Officer Howden also testified on direct examination that he had recognized Officer Grubbs at the police line on 12th & L when the mass arrest began. Defense pointed out Grubbs would have been getting his wrist injury treated at that time & wasn’t present. Upon cross-examination, Howden claimed to not recall the day’s events clearly. 
Federal prosecutors have made it clear that they intend to push forward with the case, which means that 188 of our comrades are still facing decades in prison based on faulty testimony, inconsistent timelines, zero physical evidence, video provided by four-time exposed hoaxer James O’Keefe, and of course, outright contempt for anarchists, a label which cannot be fairly applied to each defendant.
A statement issued by the D.C. Attorney’s Office read, “We appreciate the jury’s close examination of the individual conduct and intent of each defendant during this trial and respect its verdict. In the remaining pending cases, we look forward to the same rigorous review for each defendant.” This means all 188 people will be tried just as rigorously, a process which will last for months yet to come, on equally absurd charges. The State is determined to make an example of the defendants, either by tearing their lives apart in drawn-out trials, or by finding some small fraction of them guilty, and delivering what amount to life sentences to that unlucky few, as a warning to the rest of us.
The Trump administration has not been successful in terms of branding or policy. He is the least popular president since Eisenhower, holding a 35% approval rating at the end of his first year, and only figures like post-Watergate Nixon have achieved lower ratings at all . But Trump has been highly successful in leaving his mark on the machinery of the American state; specifically, his administration has focused on spreading conservative influence throughout the legal system. During the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the GOP invoked the “nuclear option,” as the Democrats did during Obama’s tenure to secure appeals-court justices, altering their voting policies to force a right-wing Supreme Court justice onto the bench for life. Trump has appointed the least diverse pool of judges since the Reagan years, and he has seated them at a breakneck pace; by this point in their presidencies, Obama had appointed just three federal appeals judges, and Bush just six. Trump has confirmed 12 so far .
There’s a reason Trump has spent so much energy ramming judges through confirmations and trying to pack benches anywhere he can. The appointees Trump has been selecting are drawn from the conservative Federalist Society, which assembled the list of 21 potential Supreme Court picks from which Trump selected Gorsuch. It is a group which has been engineering hard-right court nominees since the Reagan administration, and Trump made a promise during his campaign to work alongside the Society in the nomination process. This was a guarantee to his voters that rather than basing his appointments on merit, Trump would fill the lower courts with conservative loyalists, dominating the ideological spectrum of the judicial system. This is a success for his base, the same people who nearly elected Roy Moore, a man who considers Christian fundamentalism to supercede civil rights or constitutional law. But now, three judicial nominees have been withdrawn after humiliating displays of incompetence – footage of Matthew Petersen failing to answer basic questions about his potential job went viral, raising concerns about Trump’s vetting process. Writing for the Atlantic, David A. Graham spelled out the roadblock which has materialized as a result of Trump’s rush to fill vacancies:
How could the Trump team’s brightest spot suddenly dim? One reason the president has been so successful with judicial nominees so far is that he scarcely has had to rely on his own partially staffed, often-inexperienced, and bumbling staff to get the task done. In effect, the administration has farmed the selection of nominees out to the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, which has carefully groomed and selected candidates for the bench. So far, that has worked well for Trump. The president has not expressed a coherent legal ideology, but he has long recognized judgeships as a key issue for conservatives and sought to use it to forge an alliance.
Now that seems to be hitting turbulence. In part, the president may be a victim of his own success. In short, the bench for the bench is getting thin. This week, the Trump administration set a record for number of circuit-court confirmations in a president’s first year, and Trump has likely set a record for district-court confirmations as well. Given the pace, the White House may simply be struggling to vet nominees quickly enough to keep up. 
Tens of thousands of cases are brought to federal courts every year. Only 100-some of those will ever reach Supreme Court, effectively guaranteeing that hundreds of decisions on discrimination, abortion access, immigrant rights, and civil rights violations will be ended by the hand of a Trump-approved conservative in a lower court. Our comrades in the J20 case, water protectors, and undocumented immigrants already face steep odds of finding justice; in the future, they may face worse odds still. This is to say nothing of Trump’s growing list of empowering policies regarding the carceral system: the growth of private prisons, horrific treatment of detained immigrants, myths about the rampant crime in American cities, a new crackdown on marijuana courtesy of Jeff Sessions, and decreased oversight of police departments and crooked officials like Joe Arpaio and David Clarke . Trump’s presidency has been marked by a contempt for the rule of law, civil rights, and due process, which will last long after he’s gone in a nation where any presidential hopeful needs to unquestioningly support the institution of the police.
While Trump is attempting to produce political prisoners by filling courtrooms with idealogue judges and blanket arrests, the Democrats have moved to capitalize on the fear and exhaustion of the people who stand to lose the most under neo-fascism. Cringingly epitomized by one of their new slogans – “Have You Seen the Other Guys?” – the Democrat strategy now revolves around brinkmanship and the threat of mistreatment at the hands of Republicans. It is a disgraceful form of hostage-taking, using the possibility of a worse future to frighten voters into supporting a half-baked party of centrist carrion beetles, without having to design a meaningful political platform. To the Democrats, the more precarious life becomes for the people, the more voters will be reliant on the Duopoly pendulum to rescue them from disaster. And it shows: we can still remember the Democrats mockingly singing “Hey Hey Goodbye” while millions had their access to healthcare jeopardized. More recently, Democrats have softened their stance on female autonomy, suggesting that “litmus tests” for Democrat nominees, like being pro-choice, should be abandoned to bulk up their numbers and draw more national support.
After 2016, Bernie Sanders was applauded for “moving the party leftward,” but any influence of pro-worker ideology has been purely cosmetic. Nancy Pelosi, speaking on abortion rights, dismissed the notion that Democrats should be stringently pro-choice.
Sanders himself, asked about the same issue, expressed a staggering level of detached gamesmanship: “If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose,” he said, “at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation. And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.” According to Sanders, maintaining partisan control of the government supersedes having a definitive stance on the issue of abortion access. The possibility of single-payer healthcare has similarly been derided as an unnecessary distraction, despite a public plurality and two-thirds of Democrat voters supporting the idea . In fact, Democrats aren’t really running on any new solution or dramatic shift in policy, other than the ephemeral “return to normal.”
— Senate Democrats (@SenateDems) November 30, 2017
Gauzy-eyed nostalgia for the man whose tax plan choked the middle class to death.
It’s a disregard for public interest and ideological principle that is reflected in the Democratic party’s approach to 2018. In November, the Democratic Socialists of America saw a number of successes as their platform found public support and won multiple elections, securing seats in city councils and teacher’s boards. Certainly, even an anarchist can recognize the significance of a local office being filled by an unapologetic socialist in the forever paranoid, Communist-fearing American landscape.
The problem is that these candidates are entering a political party fundamentally opposed to their plank: as stated above, Bernie Sanders himself, a supposed champion of the worker, isn’t particularly concerned with defending women’s’ rights if it interferes with party dominance. Socialist senators would be subsumed by a crushing majority of pro-business, imperialist, centrist Democrats headed by the explicitly pro-capitalist Pelosi. And the Democrat leadership is fully aware that whatever points they can score for “accepting” socialists will not pose a threat to their agenda. Doug Jones is the perfect example of what Democrats will employ to win votes in 2018 and 2020 alike; a safe, nondescript, centrist politician who avoids radical language, wouldn’t pursue a $15 minimum wage, doesn’t support single-payer, is willing to vote Republican, and thinks the country should “move on” from Trump’s comments on sexual predation . With more candidates like Jones, Democrats can win the maximal combination of voter demographics, and sweep into power in the midterms simply by appearing more emotionally stable than Trump.
“This is an effort to defang and absorb leftist momentum, preserving capitalism by appeasing just enough angry workers, while merely bolstering the ranks of the Democratic Party.”
This is an effort to defang and absorb leftist momentum, preserving capitalism by appeasing just enough angry workers, while merely bolstering the ranks of the Democratic Party. Though democratic socialists have demonstrated an admirable drive, the decision to work within the Democratic party is a step backward. America does not need its own SYRIZA. Genuine, revolutionary change is required.
Democrats have no incentive to truly reshape the country in any tangible way, especially while riding the tidal wave of anti-Trump fear mongering. Speaking with Ezra Klein in an interview regarding her new book, Hillary Clinton reminded us all that her position on politics hasn’t changed since 2016: “We’ve shrunk the political process to such a narrow set of questions,” she opined, “and that’s in the interests of both the far-Right and the far-Left, both of whom want to blow up system and undermine it. I think we operate better when we’re kind of between center right and center left, because that’s where, at least up until recently, most American were.” Curious advice, coming from the person who tanked the least challenging presidential election in modern history by expecting a handout coronation from progressives, chasing red state votes, rejecting socialist influence, and entirely ignoring the concerns of millennials, the poor, and people of color.
FINANCIAL CRISIS AND MODERN FEUDALISM
2009 marked the generally-accepted birth of the Tea Party, a movement conceptualized as the enemy of runaway government spending, overtaxation, and the welfare state. It combined the loose threads of Randian libertarianism, traditionalist conservatism, and nationalism into a semi-coherent social entity. They wanted the “little guy” to have a chance at financial success and liberty again. Then, with funding from the Koch brothers and direction from such luminaries as Sarah “Word Vomit” Palin, Tea Party supporters helped elevate Republican representatives who tore apart any remaining workers’ rights , removed environmental regulations and antitrust measures to benefit big business, and allowed their unprincipled rage to be redirected at “lazy” minorities, “welfare queens,” immigrants, and the homeless. For all their talk of pitchfork revolutions, Tea Party members were nothing more than fawning servants of the same wealthy, white supremacist aristocracy that bled them dry in the first place.
Lo and behold, nine years after the Tea Party invoked the concept of “rebellion by bowing down to the moneyed elite,” yet another swath of pissed-off white Americans blindly entrusted their future to a billionaire on the promise of 1920s factory work and the gratification of their racial animus. The sad reality of conservatism in America is that, long after William F. Buckley and the New Right made a vow to end the tyranny of “big government,” not a single rank-and-file rightist has noticed that they are uniquely dedicated to pursuing an authoritarian oligarchy of the wealthy few. Conservatives, and plenty of liberals, remain convinced that by reducing ourselves to serfdom for the benefit of the rich and powerful, we will eventually be rewarded with prosperity. The perception becomes that any financial weakness must be the fault of the “dead weight” in America, the poor, defective, parasitic, or unemployed, and so these elements of society must be removed for the rest of us to prosper. When that mindset becomes militant, we arrive at fascism – or, as Mussolini also called it, Corporatism, a mix of capitalist and military supremacy in society.
Enter Donald Trump, the money launderer who became president by offering economic stability at the expense of certain people’s civil liberties. His promises were empty, of course. Not only are steel industry jobs not returning to America, they’re leaving altogether . Nearly every “new job” created in America since 2005 is temporary, many belonging to the so-called “gig economy,” a cute euphemism for day labor . This includes the “growing economy” of the Trump administration, which is actually just creeping back to the strength it had in 2007, before the housing collapse. Now, he has successfully forced his tax plan into reality, a package of tax cuts for the wealthy which will add over a trillion dollars of debt to the national budget, paid for by stripping away billions in spending for health care, education, and welfare. Even $20 billion in farming aid, direct support for Trump’s so-called “forgotten Americans,” is not safe from the rapacity of his fellow noblesse . This wholesale theft will exacerbate wealth inequality dramatically, consolidating even more into the hands of the elite and, of course, Trump’s own family . But the true zenith of our desperation is yet to come, according to historian Robert S. McElvaine. Having extensively studied the Great Depression, he penned this warning for the Washington Post:
… the plain fact that the trickle-down approach has never worked leaves Republicans unfazed. The GOP has been singing from the Market-is-God hymnal for well over a century, telling us that deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, and the concentration of ever more wealth in the bloated accounts of the richest people will result in prosperity for the rest of us. The party is now trying to pass a scam that throws a few crumbs to the middle class (temporarily — millions of middle-class Americans will soon see a tax hike if the bill is enacted) while heaping benefits on the super-rich, multiplying the national debt and endangering the American economy.
As a historian of the Great Depression, I can say: I’ve seen this show before. In 1926, Calvin Coolidge’s treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, one of the world’s richest men, pushed through a massive tax cut that would substantially contribute to the causes of the Great Depression. Republican Sen. George Norris of Nebraska said that Mellon himself would reap from the tax bill “a larger personal reduction [in taxes] than the aggregate of practically all the taxpayers in the State of Nebraska.” The same is true now of Donald Trump, the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other fabulously rich people. 
The GOP has flippantly lied about the contents and intentions of the tax plan, insisting that a corporation is an innately benevolent entity, willing to share increased wealth in the form of higher wages. Nobody, to date, has explained why this has not already happened, nor why the Economic Policy Institute estimates that employers steal billions from low-wage workers, as much as $15 billion annually, no matter how profitable the company responsible may be . While one half of the tax plan engineers a massive looting of public wealth, the other half is geared towards attracting foreign investors. As part of the Trump tax plan, the corporate tax rate is slashed from 35% to 21%, although realistically no company in America was paying that much in the first place; thanks to various loopholes, the effective corporate tax rate was 22%, and about a hundred Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes whatsoever from 2008 to 2015 .
But this de facto reduction also makes foreign investment more profitable; investors abroad already own more than $6.5 trillion in American equity, and some companies like Pfizer and Coca-Cola have publicly stated that whatever windfall they see from the slashed tax rates will go to their shareholders, not their employees . A provision included in the GOP tax plan authorizes drilling operations in Alaska’s national wildlife preserve, coinciding with a deal between Trump and Chinese oil company Sinopec to construct a $43 billion dollar natural gas pipeline therein . This paints a much different picture of Trump’s policy of “economic nationalism.” Rather than redirecting wasteful government spending into infrastructure jobs, the GOP is selling off the bones of a dying empire to enrich themselves, splitting the difference by starving the public of resources.
The unforeseen consequence of this kind of blatant plutocracy is that it is becoming harder to conceal the actual functions of the government. Just like the GOP tax plan, which has one of the lowest approval ratings of any tax hike since the Reagan years , the overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of the decision to repeal net neutrality . Yet both of these policies have been implemented as methods of stripping the last bits of flesh from the corpse of the people’s prosperity. Crimethinc, in an article addressing the FCC’s decision, examined the implications of an unregulated market for what was formerly a public utility:
Want to buy bandwidth from your favorite Telecommunications company, like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast? How about Telco Lite, with access to Wikipedia? That’ll be $59.99/mo. Oh, you want Telco Super, with YouTube bundled in? $79.99. You dare to ask for Netflix, a competitor to Comcast’s own Hulu service? Sure, Telco Ultra can give you that—for the price of $99.99.
Let us be clear: this repeal only benefits the ISPs. It allows ISPs to use their privileged position as the proprietor of the physical infrastructure for home Internet access to squeeze out profit from both sides of the pipe they control—to gouge both content creators and regular users alike. Everyone else, like 74% of Americans who favor Net Neutrality, or the overwhelming majority of people who submitted unique comments to the FCC opposing the repeal in the public feedback phase, be damned. 
And the public has no recourse. As of this writing, over a third of all Americans only have access to one ISP . The “free market” ideals that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai uses as a justification for repealing net neutrality are a childishly transparent dodge; what possible incentive does a company have to refuse greater profits? Corporate consolidation has left us with fewer total ISPs, and fewer major media companies, who can now decide amongst themselves how best to squeeze every possible cent out of their consumers, without resistance from the government or any competitor. And as the internet is a vital element of our modern lives, this is not a choice; we have to pick an ISP, even if there is only one available in our area. It’s the most obvious, undisguised example in recent memory of how little liberty there is in “free market” capitalism, and how little separation exists between the ownership class and the government. And the greater threat of that consolidation is not just the immediate economic strain of increased ISP prices and throttled content access, but that consolidation raises the probability of a collapse.
In the ongoing bidding wars over which city will be graced by Amazon’s new headquarters, proposals have included ludicrous incentives. Detroit offered to allow Amazon to pocket income taxes paid to its employees for 20 years, stealing resources from the city inhabitants, in addition to $106 million in public subsidies. Newark offered $7 billion in incentives including property tax abatements. Of course, 50,000 high-income employees suddenly being foisted upon a city means expectations for more high-end restaurants, lavish homes, and boutique shopping, meaning a huge increase in gentrification. Facebook went a different direction, announcing plans to build a new town for its employees in Menlo Park, complete with a grocery store and pharmacy. Historically, a relationship to property in which a worker labors in exchange for housing and food owned by their boss is called “feudalism,” but because Facebook is a corporation, this would technically be a company town, like those which kept 19th century workers trapped in life-draining debt during the expansion of railroads in America.
“The kind of power consolidated by Silicon Valley tech entities has numerous economists convinced that tech will be the epicenter of the next financial crisis.”
The kind of power consolidated by Silicon Valley tech entities has numerous economists convinced that tech will be the epicenter of the next financial crisis. There is a combination of hubris, insular worldviews, and monumental economic influence in the tech sector that mirrors the attitude of Wall Street, but somehow even more arrogant – social media users enjoyed a round of mockery for such unnecessary, harebrained products as Juicero and Bodega, the height of libertarian tech-bro self indulgence. But it bears remembering that between Facebook’s data collection, Amazon’s torturous work conditions, Uber’s drive to replace all cabbies with AI, and the growth of “fintech” services, there is a colossal amount of money – investors’ and customers’ alike – entrusted to a highly sensitive and fickle industry. Imagine how cataclysmic the next financial bubble could be, when everything from our public transit, to our internet access, to our financial transactions, and possibly an office HQ that already stole billions from the public just by being constructed, come tumbling down.
Beyond that, climate change has worsened the prospects of future economic turmoil. Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States have felt the crippling blow of a natural disaster which persists long after the storm has died. It is a certainty that climate instability will increase, meaning the wildfires in California and the floods in Texas and Puerto Rico are merely the beginning of a cycle wherein certain regions are always paying off the last disaster when the next one arrives; climate debt, if you will.
CAN ANARCHISM SURVIVE?
Let’s quickly summarize what’s on the horizon for would-be American revolutionaries.
There is an immense machine of political oppression being built by the Trump administration. Police militarization is being actively pursued and streamlined, while officers themselves are being encouraged to ignore procedure, disregard civil rights protections, and treat the public as an enemy combatant. There will be fewer barriers in place to prevent misconduct, and heightening mission creep as agencies communicate with one another on a greater scale. When our comrades in sister-movements are arrested, they will face a court system which is being geared towards criminalizing protest. It is possible that even without evidence to connect them to a crime, protesters could find themselves in the shoes of Dane Powell or Red Fawn. If they are sentenced, they will enter the largest prison population on the planet, suffer daily abuse, possibly in a for-profit facility, and potentially used as cheap labor.
The right wing in America has been parasitized by fascism, and is now forfeiting any pretense about their preference for an authoritarian state. Their intention is to seal the border, eject the undesirable, consolidate political and financial power, reduce protections for the working class, and escalate American imperialism. As a means to that end, the GOP has openly embraced such cornerstones of fascism as media control, political repression, cronyism, and corruption. Meanwhile, the Democrats are rushing to construct a reformist bulwark of voters, sapping the inertia of social movements to secure power for themselves, playing the role of a heat sink for the country’s unrest. Nowhere in the vast ocean of the Duopoly is there room for a single shred of worker advocacy, whether through social programs, an end to global conquest, or security of water, food, medicine, or shelter.
And somewhere in the near future lurks the inevitability of boom-and-bust capitalism, the next wave of financial collapse that will deliver ruin to the public while enriching the elite. Wealth inequality in America is worsening; over the past 50 years, families in the top 90th wealth percentile have seen their fortunes increase fivefold, while the poorest 10% have gone from merely being penniless, to being $1000 in debt on average. The top 1% of the nation now controls 40% of the wealth, a disparity mirroring the late 1920s in scope . Corporate consolidation is depriving us all of safety, making it easier for oligopolies to fence off huge portions of our utilities, our media outlets, our schools, and the stolen land upon which the nation was built. When the collapse arrives, we will have a thinner safety net than ever, with less access to health care and food, and less ability to legally defend ourselves.
The question is this: by the end of 2018, will the anarchist movement – or any anti-authoritarian movement – have the capacity to help the people? Most citizens in the United States do not identify with any leftist cause, and hyperpartisanship has produced a population which cannot grasp its own sense of power outside of the authority of the two major parties. And while figures like Zoe Samudzi, Mark Bray, and Dan Arel have shown that anarchism is capable of expanding, Americans at large cannot wait for convincing political arguments; fascism is here, and economic and climate disasters are on the way. Yet at the root of each problem is the State, the constantly repressive entity that engineers our suffering for a profit.
There is no space in this article to enumerate the smaller ways in which mutual aid has proven its worth this year alone. But the successes have never hinged upon asking the recipients of mutual aid about their political affiliation. Blake Simons continued the legacy of the Free Breakfast program in Oakland, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief dove into Puerto Rico to help distribute aid, and J20 defense fund has drawn support from all over the country. What these actions have in common is that they have stripped a form of power away from the State, delivered it into the hands of the people, who have then organized their own protection. This is what anarchism and anti-authoritarianism has to offer the public, as state oppression begins to ramp up during the next three years.
— Brotha B (@BlakeDontCrack) December 11, 2017
It is a monolithic prospect, but we should take heart and remember that when the Alt-Right claimed its greatest victory and ushered in the neo-fascist movement, it was only months later that they began suffering their most humiliating defeats. The beast which had terrorized women unchecked during the days of Gamergate was broken over the knee of our movement, due largely to our ability to merge with other comrades and collaborate with hearts full of compassion. The fascists have never had the upper hand for more than a few hours at a time, unable to organize due to their poisonous egotism and inability to reach the public. If that model can be expanded and strengthened, there is no telling what could be accomplished. Rather than allowing the State to heal itself, regrow its severed heads, and mutate yet again, we might see the reemergence of the kinds of popular power not seen since the 1900s. And considering the alternative, the doomful future that might condemn us to more generations of impoverishment and oppression, we have little to lose.