Link to audio file, article by Eric Andrian, and texts of the presentations by Nigel Mayers and Ravi Bali
London Launch of MHI Perspectives Pamphlet
by Eric Andrian
On 17 July, London-based members and supporters of Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) organised a special public meeting to launch our pamphlet entitled “Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation): Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s Perspectives for 2018” (RTR). The launch meeting took place at Houseman’s radical booksellers in the King’s Cross area of north London.
The launch meeting began with presentations by Nigel Mayers and Ravi Bali that were followed by open discussion from the floor. The talks (which are below) gave an overview of why MHI is needed, the recent upheavals since Trump’s inauguration, the contents of the pamphlet and why there exists such a large Resistance to Trump/Trumpism. We argued that Trump and the forces he represents are qualitatively new phenomena in American politics, that this development is dangerous to the world, and that we must oppose it tooth and nail.
A lively and comradely discussion ensued, driven by questions and comments from the audience (audio here).
At the end of the meeting, a call was made to join MHI in putting out a statement of solidarity with the US Resistance and helping to find ways to involve other grass-roots movements internationally.
The publicity for the launch had stated:
As the Queen greets Donald Trump, visiting here at the invitation of the British government, we stand in solidarity with the people of the United States (documented and undocumented). Trump’s regime threatens to destroy the country’s liberal democracy, curtail voting rights and greatly exacerbate white supremacy, misogyny and nativism. The pamphlet explores how to fight Trumpism and the far right on the foundations laid by Karl Marx. We argue that #theResistance deserves our solidarity and support; those on the Left who seek to normalise Trump’s regime ignore the reaction it has unleashed and the real threats it presents. Social progress in the US requires that Trump be removed from office and Trumpism suffers a thorough defeat.
The launch followed MHI’s publicity drive for the RTR pamphlet in the lead up to the massive, quarter-million strong “UK Carnival of Resistance” against the first ever official visit by US President, authoritarian and Liar-in-Chief Trump the previous weekend of 14 July, and a pro-Trump, far right rally the following day attended by around 4,000 counter-protesting anti-fascists (see: A Tale of Two London Protests).
We gained new friends and supporters from the meeting, but just as importantly, we were able to continue to concretise “the necessary public process of demonstration and rigorous scrutiny… for the continued development of Marxist-Humanism” (The Self Thinking Idea does Not Mean You Thinking).
As the publicity for the meeting said:
Activity and protests are vital, but not enough. Serious theoretical work is needed to work out how to ensure that #theResistance is not co-opted by ‘politics as usual’ forces in the Democratic Party or ‘Leftists’ who would thwart it or subsume it under their agendas.
Please join us to continue our work on these vital issues!
Nigel Mayers’ Presentation at Pamphlet Launch
Good evening! I bid you welcome to this special public meeting to launch our new pamphlet, Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation): Marxist-Humanist Initiative’s Perspectives for 2018.
Who are Marxist Humanist Initiative?
Marxist-Humanist Initiative (MHI) aims to contribute to the transformation of this capitalist world by projecting, developing, and concretizing the philosophy of Karl Marx (1818-1883) and its further development in the Marxist-Humanism articulated by Raya Dunayevskaya (1910-1987).
We are not a political party. Nor are we trying to lead the masses, who will form their own organizations, and whose emancipation must be their own act. But we have seen that spontaneous actions alone are insufficient to usher in a new society. We seek a new unity of philosophy and organization in which mass movements striving for freedom lay hold of Marx’s philosophy of revolution and recreate society on its basis.
As our leaflet says: “We are sharing our Perspectives to generate discussion on the way forward in these extremely testing times” because “the challenges we face require some clear thinking about how we got here and how we get out of it.”
So why is there a need for a pamphlet about Trump given the mass of commentary since he took office?
Oscar Wilde apparently said that “It is through disobedience that progress has been made – through disobedience and rebellion”
We hold this meeting in the wake of the enormous outburst of UK opposition to the first (and perhaps only?) official visit last week of US President Trump, a visit cancelled twice before because of fears of protest; third time unlucky for him, as up to a quarter of a million people turned out in London alone, and tens of thousands more harried his every move. (My favourite being the Greenpeace paraglider buzzing him at Turnberry golf course up in Scotland – with the slogan “Trump below par”!).
Women, men, gay, straight, Trans people and more, people from all walks of life, organisations, of Britain’s multi-ethnic working class …. In their opposition to Trump have extended both the hand of solidarity and internationalism directly from people in the UK to the North American Rainbow Resistance who bravely “through disobedience and rebellion” have been fighting to maintain social progress achieved against the Trump awakened reactionary forces. In doing so, people are uniting in new ways across all the barriers of race, sex, gender, ethnicity etc – that usually divide us to oppose the greater threat.
Although Trump appears to be his own worst enemy, we should not forget that his agenda, which Liberals do not appreciate, is to see how far he can push the dismantling of bourgeois democratic norms in favour of more authoritarian forms of rule and the promotion of unreason (politely called “post-Truth” politics of conspiracy and just plain “lies” ). This is something even right-wing parties and regimes in the nominally liberal democracies of Europe are keen to emulate, as the post-war consensus cracks under the continuing economic crisis and they retreat into a similar isolationist nationalism.
Trump’s boast “that if you overwhelm people with change, you will stun them, and therefore be able to get things done.” has resonance to every would be dictator, strongman and their supporters if they have the most powerful person in the world to emulate; grudging respect for Putin (not really “one of us”) can give way to a new way of doing things for Europe and America – authoritarianism in the heartlands rather than the periphery of post War Western civilisation. Hence this manifest coming together of strands of Conservatism and extreme right politics with the same agenda of harking back to a mythical hierarchical/patriarchal era – one where no illegals (foreigners) cross well defined borders, immigrants are heavily controlled so as to not commit crimes (or be deported), where the male is accorded his proper and most natural place, women are happy mothers/housewives, where people are simply heterosexual, families are nuclear, and people respect Tradition, fear God and serve Nation (and Leader?!). And, of course! Globalisation in economics is curtailed harmoniously in the national interest – perhaps to the point of capitalism in one country! These people desperately dream of putting the genie back in the bottle, and reversing every facet that has made society vaguely tolerable to its diverse members.
Trump the authoritarian is a personification of social forces, unable to control society economically, lashing out politically for stability and order they believe is possible, and our rights and lives are in the firing line.
Our pamphlet is aimed at the Left who desire to make excuses for or to normalise Trump – because – they say for example – untested he is at least better than neo-liberal Hillary, or that the “white working class” support him because of their lack of economic prospects, or that he is shaking things up, or those who say he was democratically elected – all hinging on the premise that “we can vote him out next time” by perhaps winning over his supporters; meanwhile just who is going to be affected while we wait? And at what cost?
The myth of “we can change it back to how it was when the good people are elected” is not shown by history and is not trusted by the US Resistance now, hence the complete and total rebellion against the greater threat of Trump from day one of his inauguration. In his seeking to overturn the social consensus of hard won rights, how can it be business as usual?
Not a day goes by without yet another assault – the ongoing scandal of children being separated from parents for their protection because of the illegal act of crossing the US Mexico border, the coming appointment of a supreme court judge which has embolden reactionaries to consider reversing the milestone 1973 Roe v Wade decision on allowing the provision of abortion – “shock and awe” indeed!
This pamphlet has been written collectively because we think that some of the Left’s arguments are deliberately aimed at disarming and demotivating the Resistance and the unity from below that it is forging; they have forgotten that to be Marxist is to engage with others in building a philosophy of liberation, to pose the question and begin to answer “What comes next?” And “how can we transcend capitalism?” instead of putting themselves first.
Our pamphlet is in 6 parts that cover our arguments in detail.
Part 1 “Trumpism in Power, Aided by the Soft-on-Trump Left, Threatens Life and Liberty” gives examples of Trump’s strategy of overwhelming and stunning people with change, documenting the rapidity of his assault from the offset on the bipartisan consensus, by use of executive order, and how quickly the Republican opposition to him have lined up with him to stay in power despite their misgivings. Also, why Trumpism is a threat to world peace.
Part 2 is on “The Resistance: A Permanent State of Revolt Against Trumpism” and describes who they are, the “movement’s firm and indefatigable commitment to get rid of Trump, not reform him” and why they recognised very quickly the greater threat to their being; the movement is, in this regard, ahead of many left commentators and the Democrats who sought to work with him.
Part 3 covering “Economic Mythology of Left-Populist Alternatives to Neoliberalism” is a critique of the Left’s version of populism structured around fighting so called “neoliberalism” as the greater evil. This bizarre outlook has ended with Trump being elected and almost led to the election of the FN in France because the anti-neoliberal left stood aside from stopping them, instead regarding the centrist but “neoliberal” Macron as the main enemy.
Part 4 “Combatting Post-Truth Politics, in Practice and in Theory” regards post truth thinking — the obfuscation of a clear understanding of the world and the fight for it — as an impediment to the self-development of the independent working class. Without clarity, a respect for Truth and Reason and insistence on the need for Proof, how can the world be changed?
Part 5 on “Combatting White Nationalism: Lessons from Marx” unveils Trump’s most fervent supporters — his base — are from a pre-existing social stratum with a historical and uniquely American white nationalist outlook and describes how and why Marx sought to combat it over the issues of slavery during the American Civil War and the struggle for Irish independence.
Part 6 looks at the importance of “Individual Responsibility for the Collective Development of Marxist-Humanism” — everyone has responsibility for developing and the testing of our ideas by entering into a dialogue with a wide audience.
Ok I’d like to end there, and look forward to the discussion.
Ravi Bali’s Presentation at Pamphlet Launch
There is an argument going on within the left on whether Trump represents a dangerous departure from politics as usual or whether he is just the continuation of the same but just with more flair and showmanship.
The spontaneous emergence of the active opposition to Trump in the US has been named #The Resistance. The Resistance has presented the soft-on-Trump Left with a problem. How do you characterise a movement that by one estimate is 30 million strong in the US and numbers hundreds of thousands in the UK and proportionately similar numbers in other European countries. Over in Finland on Sunday and yesterday there were demonstrations against both Trump and Putin having their talks in Helsinki. There is no dispute that opposing Trump is a global mass movement. There have been estimates that a quarter of a million people showed up for the women’s march in London on the day after Trump’s inauguration. Last Friday’s estimates for the protest, on a weekday when people are normally at work, were 200,000. People travelled from outside of London to join the national protest and there were again regional demonstrations around the rest of the UK.
If I was to try to explain why the soft-on-Trump left are playing down the significance of #The Resistance it is because it is afflicted by a vanguardist mentality and sees the liberal establishment as a greater problem than Trumpism. This is the outlook that people do not, without tutelage from left intellectuals, just spontaneously rise up against the real threats that emerge in capitalist society. I have seen these soft-on-Trump left intellectuals try to denigrate the anti-Trump protesters as unserious and more interested in having a party than making a serious point. They ridicule the “pussyhats” worn on the first demo in London calling them “vagina hats” missing the whole point of highlighting Trump’s boasting to an entertainment journalist that he didn’t even ask, but when he saw an attractive woman he would sometimes just “grab her by the pussy”.
The protest here last Friday was billed as a “Carnival of Resistance” and did have a celebratory tone, this has been taken by the soft-on-Trump leftists as an indication of a lack of seriousness in the message they were trying to get across. Even the Greenpeace protestor who used a motorised paraglider in the air exclusion zone above Trump’s Turnberry golf course flew a banner that used a pun of Trump being “well below par” a golfing term that more generally refers to someone being disappointing, got criticism on social media for when going to so much trouble, have the mildest of slogans on the banner. The criticism runs in order to be seen as clever to be able to create a pun around golfing he is only expressing a disappointment. If you want to be finicky then you of course can criticise the exact manner in which that paraglider expressed his opposition, but the use of humour and irony to attack authoritarian figures has a rich history. Only a pedant who wanted to defend Trump would use that kind of criticism when someone is brave enough to fly a banner with armed police ready to respond to any perceived physical threat to Trump.
What I want to do in this talk is establish why #The Resistance to Trump has been swelled internationally with never before seen hostility to a democratically elected leader – even if he did not win the majority of votes or as is now clear Trump was illegally helped by Russian agents. These Russian agents hacked into the Democratic Party’s computer system and used bots to spread misinformation on social media. The soft-on-Trump left excuse these actions by asking questions like “do you think that the American people are so gullible that they could be influenced by Russian agents on social media?” To say people can be influenced by those posing as friends in their online social networks is not a far stretch. It is not unique to Americans it could happen anywhere. There is a reason that free and fair elections are held up as a democratic norm and having people paid to bypass all the explicit announcing of what is a paid political campaign message, is definitely an interference and violation of that free and fair criteria.
Trump has tried strenuously to deny that Paul Manafort or even Steve Bannon were ever important to his campaign, they were only with him for a few weeks – which like many of his lies, he just maintains is true even when multiple sources of evidence are produced to show there was conscious collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents. The Robert Mueller investigation is uncovering more and more of Trump not only benefitting from Russian interference, but that members of his team were fully aware of it and colluded with it. Whether that can be tied directly to Trump himself is likely to depend on whether those from his team arrested already, will flip on the president in order to reduce their punishments.
As the MHI perspectives makes clear, stopping Trump is not the same thing as stopping Trumpism. We might get rid of Trump and still have to deal with the forces he has unleashed or enabled. The turn towards a xenophobic, ethno-nationalist politics goes far beyond the U.S. and while it is not that far advanced here in the UK yet, it is in many other European countries and beyond. The point about this those who are part of this reactionary trend, that is overtly hostile to sections of their own society and betrays an anti-human attitude to people in general, is that they recognise and support each other.
So when Nigel Farage was still the leader the leader of UKIP he went over to speak at a Trump election rally in Jackson, Mississippi. Farage’s UKIP was a major force in pushing former UK Prime Minister David Cameron to call the Brexit referendum, largely on an anti-immigrant platform.
The current leader of UKIP Gerard Batten spoke at a pro-fascist rally last week calling for the release of far-right activist Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League, who is being prosecuted for his harassment and encouragement to violence against Muslims. In the internet age the coordination of far-right activity can occur rapidly both within countries and internationally. There are active networks of these racist groups that form alliances with less extreme right-wingers to give them a cloak of respectability. Many have defended Trump saying he is non-ideological and therefore cannot be accurately called a fascist or even a proto-fascist. Even if this were true, which I don’t think it is, Trump’s rise has been characterised by a willingness to embrace anybody who can help him, and it is this flexibility that makes him such a perfect conduit for racist authoritarian ideas to permeate further into the mainstream.
But Trump is fairly clearly a racist as both is overt supporters and his opponents know. He calls for black American Football Players to be sacked for “taking the knee” during the playing of the national anthem, when they were protesting racist police brutality, Trump referred to them as “sons of bitches” and then called for them to be fired.
The most glaring example of Trump’s affinity for racists and their ideas is the aftermath of Charlottesville. He clearly sided with neo-Nazis, the KKK and neo-confederates who came to protest a council decision to remove a statue of the Confederate Civil War General, Robert E Lee from a public Park. Trump said we should respect our history and drew a moral equivalence between the anti-Nazi protestors who objected to the defence of a slave owning culture and those who wished to preserve it.
He famously referred to African countries as “shitholes” and then insisted he had been misquoted and taken out of context, without any clarification of what he did say or mean. He continually attacks the media as “fake news” for reporting on his “slips” (what could more accurately be called his “lies”). But these are not slips. Trump has a good instinctive understanding of what plays well with his hardcore base of support. He continually presents himself as the strong man who will not play by the rules which were evolved as democratic norms, and this is what can pave the way for fascism. When you look at his “America First” or “Make America Great Again” slogans these are in context clearly not meant to include all of America, or all Americans. In context, this is a racialised politics.
Stephen Miller, who is still on the president’s team, and former advisers Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorker are by anyone’s definition, driven by racial prejudice and all have long history of inflammatory words. Steve Bossie, John Kelly have both made racist comments while serving Trump and then there are the real nutters who were part of Trump’s team: Rich Higgins and Michael Anton the latter of whom is now on Trump’s National Security Council. That he is so comfortable with so many racists in his team suggest Trump, is more than just being strategic in how he pivots around issues of racial justice, but that he is racist himself. Even before his presidential run he expressed his horror at finding out one of his accountants was black, he retorted he only “wanted Jews counting his money”. Then there is the exposure of the discriminatory rental practice of his property companies that were upheld in court; all are all reasons to think Trump is a racist and has long been one.
The fact that Trump symbolises all that is backward in our modern society, with bigotry and prejudice not only expressed as an occasional slip, but a refusal to withdraw from his statements when he is called out on them means he has lowered the standard on what it is possible to get away with. Unlike with previous presidents Trump has pushed an extremist agenda not only on race, but misogyny, discrimination against LGBTQ people, trashing environmental protection measures, a defence of using torture on military prisoners and much else besides. That he personifies all that is backward, divisive and anti-human him being in charge of the world’s most powerful country is what draws so many to rise up against him. That does not mean that people who went on the anti-Trump protests internationally think there are no problems at home or that we don’t have our own home-grown examples of those ideas in many different places.
One of the problems that plague anti-racists activists in Britain for many years is that we had a reputation as a tolerant liberal country. The result of the referendum was seen as expressing a hostility to those who were seen as non-British. The moral collapse of some on the left who are trying to ride the populist wave of hostility to foreigners in an effort to redirect it in a less divisive direction are failing to confront the xenophobia that is gaining traction in many parts of the world. These soft-on-Trumpism leftists see Trump’s shake-up of politics as a necessary blow to the for-many-years dominant establishment consensus of neo-liberalism. This dangerous assumption by some left-wing anti-neo-liberal types is that Trump is so extreme that he will overreach and then there will be space for something else once neo-liberalism has been proved to be not invincible.
The developments in UKIP, in which first Farage supports Trump and then the new leader Gerard Batten supports a self-declared racist Tommy Robinson and so does Trump’s ambassador Sam Brownback lobbying the UK government for Robinson release, shows the international dimension to these reactionary elements. Just as when Trump retweeted an anti-Muslim video by “Britain First” (which is another fascist group over here) that were lifted from total obscurity to be internationally known. Trump has been conspicuous in supporting far right activists here in Britain. Trump slammed the US media in a tweet for not covering the arrest of Tommy Robinson for contempt of court when he videotaped defendants, who he highlighted as Muslim, when they were brought up on charges of running a grooming and sexual exploitation gang.
We have xenophobic parties emerge as major players or even as the driving force in European governments in Denmark, Turkey, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Norway, and Slovenia, as well as making a marked impact on politics in France, Germany, Sweden and Finland. We also have ethno-nationalist parties in power further afield in India, Israel, the Philippines and Brazil. And the authoritarian nature of the Russian and N Korean regimes is why Trump feels more affinity for the strongman approach to getting things done than the consensus seeking institutions of NATO or the G6/7. However problematic these institutions are for coordinating imperialist powers and in the case of NATO some non-imperialist powers too, the bilateralism that Trump wants to strike up with individual countries (which makes it easier for him to lever US advantage when it comes to making deals) leaves the world a more fractured and dangerous place.
So how do we respond to the global rise of Trumpism – the first thing to recognise is that we do not ignore the massive and sustained character of #The Resistance to Trump. The opposition to Trump has been total in character with people opposing multiple aspects of Trump’s agenda. This is not just that he comes across as uncouth and bullying, but his way of doing politics has shifted the national conversation. So while most Republicans have gone along with Trump’s hijacking of their party from a conservative/liberal broad church and turned into one appealing to ethno nationalism, and the Democratic Party has been largely ineffective – the grassroots movement largely outside of party politics have been the only force to stop Trump going even further.
The active resistance to Trump in the US is reliably estimated to be 30 million strong. The coverage of the anti-Trump demonstrations here in the UK have shown that those resisting Trump inside the US are not alone and are joined by millions of people internationally. It is precisely because of the pivotal role that the US plays in global affairs that we should encourage the development of the resistance there and offer whatever support we can from over here. It is recognising that in every country there are two worlds, one world of the rulers and those that support them, and then there is the other world, the millions who have no interest in maintaining their rotten system. And when those millions of people take action, as #The Resistance has, we need to be clear that we stand against our own leaders who will cosy up to Trump and try make deals with him.
If you want to take an immediate barometer of who is not to be trusted, it is anyone who treats Trump as a normal politician. Anyone who says we should respect the office of POTUS even if we don’t like its current holder. Or anybody who tries to minimise the huge damage Trump is doing to our politics internationally. It is no small thing when the supposed leader of the free world, will cosy up to dictators, and collude with those dictators to win power. It is in recognising the solidarity we have with the American people against their government that we give an expression to the idea of two worlds in every nation. We also recognise that those who live under dictatorships such as Russia or North Korea have the same division in their countries.
As a first step in expressing our solidarity with #The Resistance to Trump in the US we would ask you to sign the statement as the “Solidarity with the People of the United States” and persuade your friends to do so also. This is about working class internationalism and a rejection of all the division that Trump represents. While other world leaders are prepared “to do business” with Trump we show we are part of the millions that reject Trump and not just Trump himself but every similar Trumpist tendency wherever it is in the world.
Correction, October 12: The second sentence of the second paragraph of Eric Andrian’s piece has been changed. The original version indicated that the presentations by Nigel Mayers and Ravi Bali were located elsewhere on this website, rather than within the present article.