The woman, in her late 20s, has been maced. Recovering slowly, she looks a bit sorry for herself, and complains indignantly.
“As soon as I went into the Capitol, they maced me, right in my face.”
Interviewer: “Yes, but why did you go in?”
“Go in? For the revolution, of course.”
Not since fascists wielding cut-throat razors tried to invade the French Chamber of Deputies in February 1934 has there been, in a functioning bourgeois democracy, anything like the occupation of the Senate and Representatives chambers in Washington on 6 January. A large crowd rampaged through the building looking for “traitors”, offices were ransacked and wrecked, the elected representatives had to hide, some fearing for their lives, a policeman was beaten to death. At least one policeman posed for a demonstrator to take a selfie alongside him. Some people carrying a noose chanted “Hang Mike Pence” (the hitherto Trumpite vice-president). One of the rioters carried a clutch of plastic handcuffs to restrain prisoners they intended to take. Some of the invaders wore sweatshirts that blazed Nazi antisemitic slogans across their chests — such as “6 M N E” (six million not enough).
Like a lot of those who took part in the armed demonstration outside and inside the Capitol in Washington on 6 January, the maced young woman had been told, and she believed it, that they were re-enacting 1776, when the American Revolution against Britain, the war of independence, started.
They too were fighting to “take back our country”, to free themselves from “them” and from alien rule.
The identity of “them”, of the rulers of the USA against whom “we” were making the 1776 revolution all over again, varied. For some, it was “the deep state”. For others, it was ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government that “really” rules the USA. For yet others “they” are a species of lizards, disguised as people, who are also paedophiles.
In any case, it was “us” fighting to take back our country from “them”, those who had robbed Trump of his landslide victory in the presidential election last November.
Vast numbers of fraudulent ballots have been used to do down the great patriot, “President Donald J Trump”, especially in heavily black areas like Detroit. Vast numbers of officials had participated in the conspiracy against “President Trump”. And it was a very tight conspiracy. Not a single one of those involved could be found who would confess to it.
The courts, too, were in on it, even judges appointed by Trump himself. Of over 60 court cases brought by Trump to contest election procedures and results, they lost every single one. Not once was evidence of electoral fraud presented in court.
The Supreme Court, with a right-wing majority of six to three, and three of the nine judges appointed by Trump himself, refused to hear Trump’s complaints. The Supreme Court refused to entertain a case brought by the state of Texas and backed by 124 members of the House of Representatives to disqualify the voters in four states and make Trump president.
The conspiracy to steal the presidency from Trump was vast and all-powerful. None of the vast number of conspirators involved in it all across the USA had a change of heart or mind; not one of them blew the whistle on it, no one has confessed.
So how did the demonstrators know there had been fraud? It stands to reason, man! “President Trump” could get 50,000 to a rally. Almost no one came to Biden’s rallies. “President Trump” got 74 million votes, ten million more votes than he got in 2016. How could he lose? It must be that millions of the 81 million votes Biden got were fake votes.
“Trump lost by way of Biden getting far more votes; Biden did not hold rallies to avoid spreading the coronavirus”. Fake news!
Trump had run an election campaign against the election itself. The keynote: “The only way we can lose is if the election is rigged against us”. Trump losing is proof positive that the election was rigged.
The denial that the votes really were what every reasonable test, including those in the courts, said they were; the claim that the presidency had been stolen from Trump and “The People”; the branding of Biden as not a real but a fake, president; the assertion that Trump was the rightful president; the stage by stage attempts at a legal coup, culminating in the demand that, on 6 January, Congress should override the November election, disenfranchise the electorate and “give back” the Presidency to Donald J Trump — that all pointed to civil disorder and the breakdown of the democratic mechanisms.
Some prominent Trumpites publicly advocated that he should declare martial law and re-run the Presidential election in four states. Nothing came of it, either because Trump lost his nerve or because prominent militarists and all former Secretaries of Defence still alive said the armed forces would not allow themselves to be used in politics. All that was left was an attempt to strong-arm Congress.
The crowd broke into the Capitol, some waving Confederate flags, some with a noose, chanting “Hang Pence” - Trump’s loyal echo and enabler for the last four years, now a target because, as chair of the Senate session to receive the election results, he did not do as Trump demanded, and reject them, in the last hope for a legal coup.
In fact that was a fantasy born of desperation: Pence did not even have the power to reject the results of the election. The quasi uprising of 6 January was the only move left for the Trumpites to make.
Trump spoke to those who came to Washington to “stop the steal”, to stop Biden being certified as president by Congress. He told them not to accept the “steal”. He urged them to march down the road to the Capitol and be “strong”. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, urged them on to a “trial by combat”. Trump’s son Donald, as they were about to march to the Capitol, urged them to “fight”.
But with Trump there is always buffoonery. Trump told them he would march with them on the Capitol, that he would lead them, and then he got in his bullet-proof car and went home to the White House to watch what happened next on TV! Trump wound the clock, so to speak, and then went home to see and listen to it strike on television.
That was typical of Trump’s mix of demagogy and hollow bravado, and the timorousness of one who thinks only of his own skin and his own interest.
This time the institutions held. But a fascistic Trumpite movement still has control of the Republican Party.
In four years (or five, including the 2016 election campaign) Trump has wreaked havoc with the bourgeois-democratic culture of the USA.
Shameless demagogy. Lies, big, small or frequently outrageous. It has been calculated that in the last four years, the president of the USA has lied in public, 29,000 times.
The lies, as they spewed out, were simultaneously exposed as lies, as the lies about the rigged election have been. That has had little or no effect on those who chose to believe Trump because they find it emotionally most satisfying to do that.
Within hours after the occupation of the Capitol Trumpite members of Congress were standing up to assert that the insurrectionists were not Trump supporters at all, but left wingers and “antifa” people. Right-wing media were saying the same thing.
As for those who reported the facts, registered the realities, brought film and sound from what had happened, who were direct witnesses, they were “fake news” mongers, journalists — those who, Trump had told them, were collectively the enemies of the people.
Inside the USA, people hold two incompatible visions of the same reality. The Trumpites believe what they’re told. It is like nothing so much as the Cold War world of the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
This time, inside the USA. The Trumpites are in the role of the Stalinists who held to their inner vision of what the Stalinist-ruled world was and blocked off real information and criticism of that world. All criticism was “capitalist lies against our socialist fatherland”, the USSR. Now facts, for tens of millions of US citizens, are “fake news”, liberal propaganda.
In the Stalinist parties there was always a large streak of religiosity. And so there is in the Trump movement. Early in his reign, Trump said that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, New York, and his followers would not hold it against him or withhold their support.
Trump has again and again showed the American people that he talks and acts as an unquestioning supporter of Putin in Russia. The Trumpites chant that in the USA, there are only patriots and traitors. Yet Trump has shrugged off evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to back him and help him win. He sides with Russia against the US intelligence agencies. Again and again the patriot president has supported the Russian accounts of contested events.
He has been shown playing sycophant to Putin on camera, like a little boy in the presence of a revered or feared grown up, or like somebody sexually in thrall. That has not affected his standing with his “patriot” followers or their belief in his “Americanism”.
He has given massive tax cuts to the rich, and done his best in the midst of the epidemic to destroy Obamacare. He has refused to take or to advocate precautions against Covid-19 when, now, 4,000 Americans a day are dying of it. He has made that refusal a party political badge of honour.
The Trumpites ignore the realities of Covid, they behave as if it is a hoax or they are immune to it, on the say so of their medicine, their shaman, in the White House.
The publication of a taped interview with Bob Woodward early last year proved that Trump knew perfectly well how deadly the virus was, when publicly he was telling Americans that Covid-19 was harmless. The revelation that Trump has been promoting a “create herd immunity” tactic by spreading the virus, or letting it spread, as widely as possible has not shaken his cultists’ beliefs.
The Trump movement has been and is a mass movement against bourgeois democracy in the USA. In the last four years, there has been a collapse of the norms that gave viability to the old US political culture, norms about ways of doing things, like the orderly transfer of power after an election, and acceptance that certain things are not done, like appointing a Supreme Court judge-for-life during an election campaign.
Trump has told so many lies that they are as thick in the political and social atmosphere as is lethal asbestos dust after a bag of asbestos has burst open.
There are always lies in bourgeois politics. Not only the great lies, such as the idea that a worker is socially and politically the equal of a billionaire, but many smaller lubricating untruths.
But the basic minimum belief that in politics, as well as in other areas, there are some things that are objective truth, and ways of ascertaining what they are and are not — that, the party polarisation and Trump have destroyed in the USA.
Biden thinks to restore it by good will. But plainly a vast number of Americans are alienated from the system, for many reasons, some of them good reasons, class reasons for instance.
They are locked into the Trumpite mindset, into a positive political identity which serves their emotional needs, and which, in its hostility to those it brands as “out-people”, is vicious, fascistic nonsense.
The labour movement needs to confront them with a better, more rational, more benign, less exclusionary sense of identity and sense of purpose.
Trump tried to behave as if he were an old-time king, with the powers and prerogatives of a king. In fact, immense power is invested in the presidency. In fact, the USA is not the democracy it claims to be. For example, two times this century already, presidential candidates beaten in the popular vote, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, were declared to be the winner by the Electoral College. Trump, in fact, got three million votes fewer than Clinton.
American socialists need to work out and fight to win a straightforwardly democratic constitution. They can start with the sort of ideas advocated by Leon Trotsky for French socialists to propose after 6 February 1934.
“Down with the Senate, which is elected by limited suffrage and which renders the power of universal suffrage a mere illusion! Down with the presidency of the republic, which serves as a hidden point of concentration for the forces of militarism and reaction!
“A single assembly must combine the legislative and executive powers. Members would be elected for two years, by universal suffrage at eighteen years of age, with no discrimination of sex or nationality. Deputies would be elected on the basis of local assemblies, constantly revocable by their constituents, and would receive the salary of a skilled worker.
“This is the only measure that would lead the masses forward instead of pushing them backward. A more generous democracy would facilitate the struggle for workers’ power.”