The Trump protest in Washington shows that there is a real danger if the left does not seriously organise against racism and the right, writes James Supple
The invasion of the US Capitol building showed the dangers of the movement that Donald Trump has created. But rallying around the Democrats or Congress as the defenders of democracy will do nothing to stop the rise of the far right.
Trump had called on his supporters to descend on Washington on the day the election result was scheduled to be certified, for what he said in advance would be a “wild” rally. Earlier on the day he spoke at a protest of thousands of supporters.
The Capitol riot was not a serious coup attempt. Despite his contempt for democracy, Trump never had the support in the army or the National Guard that would be needed to attempt one.
As the National Guard was mobilised and protesters were cleared out, Trump backed down, urging his supporters to “go home”, while continuing to deny he had lost the election. As the backlash grew, he released another video a few days later condemning the violence and urging his supporters not to repeat it.
But neither Trump nor his supporters are going away. He told the rally on the day he would “never concede” and that the election had been “stolen by emboldened radical Democrats”.
His actions are further radicalising a hard core of supporters, who will view Joe Biden’s presidency as illegitimate and some kind of threat to the country.
This sets the stage for further right-wing protests against Biden’s every move in office. There were similar right-wing mobilisations under Obama’s presidency through the Tea Party movement.
But Trump has spent the last four years encouraging white supremacists and the far right at every opportunity. Fascism is not the immediate danger. Trump himself is not a fascist, but he is creating an environment where these groups can grow.
There is the potential for the emergence of much more powerful fascist and far right groupings in the US.
US politics has become increasingly polarised as a result of decades of increasing inequality and desperation for sections of the working class, following the neo-liberalism offensive from the 1980s.
The renewed surge in COVID-19 infections has seen unemployment climb again, with 965,000 people in a week filing for unemployment benefits in January.
A radical program to fund jobs and support workers’ living standards is urgently needed, with the economy expected to take years to recover.
But the political establishment, both Republican and Democrat, have consistently governed for the rich. Joe Biden is another centrist politician who is not about to break with this approach.
He spent his whole election campaign distancing himself from the left-wing of his party and rival Bernie Sanders, rejecting policies like Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.
Disappointment with the Democrats will provide further opportunities for Donald Trump and the far right to take the offensive.
Trump and the far right can be driven back. In the aftermath of the white supremacist mobilisation in Charlottesville in 2017, far right protests across the US became impossible, after tens of thousands mobilised for counter-demonstrations against them whenever they tried to meet.
Building such a movement on the streets is the key to both stopping the right, and to constructing a socialist movement independent of the Democratic Party capable of fighting for working class demands that can challenge the power of the rich.
Why did the police let Trump protesters in?
The police response to the Trump protest has shown where their sympathies lie. If it had been Black Lives Matter protesters trying to invade the Capitol building, there would have been mass arrests at least, if not a massacre.
There were examples of police officers letting Trump supporters through barricades, and posing for photos with them.
Some police did try to stop the crowd getting into the Capitol building. But they were heavily outnumbered, with only 1400 police against a crowd of 8000 or more. A decision had clearly been made to go easy on the Trump rally.
Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, who resigned after the events, claimed that security officials for the House and the Senate had refused to put the National Guard on standby. Some FBI officers warned that there were groups talking of violence and “war” at the protest. This too was ignored.
Police routinely protect right-wing or far right protesters because many of them sympathise with their ideas. Police encouraged 17-year-old white supremacist Kyle Rittenhouse when he turned up to a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha with an assault rifle, before shooting two people dead. “We appreciate you guys, we really do,” one officer told him.
Active duty police officers from across the country are facing investigation after they were identified as part of the Capitol invasion.
The role of the police is ultimately to protect property and the capitalist order. So many of them end up adopting extreme racist and right-wing attitudes. We can’t rely on the courts and the police to stop the rise of the far right. It is only mass movements on the streets that can drive them back.