According to iconic jazz poet Gil Scott Heron “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. The same can’t be said for 6 January’s counter-revolutionary attempt, when a delusional and demented far-right mob stormed the Capitol building.
Cameras rolled to record the invasion of the legislature by a rabble of fascists and crazed believers in conspiracy theories who trashed the building in the hope of overturning the Presidential election result.
Some participants in the ransack wore costumes as bizarre as their QAnon beliefs. Others raised the Confederate flag. In all his attempts to capture Washington for the slave owning South during the Civil War, Robert E Lee never got that far. Lincoln must be spinning in his grave!
It was not just a harmless fancy dress party. Though they couldn’t believe their luck getting into the Capitol, many in the mob had murder in mind. At least one journalist narrowly escaped with their life and many others were assaulted. If the mob had gotten hold of elected lawmakers they would have tried to kill them.
A gallows was erected outside to display such intent. The principal victim was to be none other than the President’s formerly loyal lieutenant, Mike Pence.
The crowd assembled in Washington was 40,000 or so strong in a nation of some 350 million. This was a far-right fringe protest with significant participation by openly fascist groups such as the Proud Boys. Nevertheless, polls say that the action to violently overthrow the democratically elected Presidency of Joe Biden had the support of up to a quarter of American voters and a 45%-43% plurality of Republicans.
The episode raises two major questions. Who incited the mob? And why was the Capitol’s security so easily breached?
Regarding incitement we don’t have to look too far. The Trump clan had fired the protesters up earlier in the day with a rally near the White House. Demented lawyer Rudy Giuliani talked of “trial by combat”. Don junior delivered such a foul-mouthed rant attacking “disloyal” Republicans that prim and proper Fox News dropped live coverage of it.
The high point of the rally was a lengthy tirade against real and imagined enemies from Trump himself. He encouraged the assembled rabble to march on the Capitol, and said he would be marching with them, but in fact went back to the White House to watch TV.
It would be easy to regard the breach of the Capitol’s security as some kind of conspiracy, but it may have been more like a cock-up. The population of Washington DC hates Donald Trump, who only got 5% of the vote there in the Presidential election. DC’s mayor is Democrat Muriel Bowser, a woman of Afro-American heritage. She certainly had no desire to see Congress overrun by a pro-Trump mob.
She didn’t want Washington turned into an armed camp, like in summer during some of the Black Lives Matter protests, and didn’t feel the need to call on the National Guard. It looks like she saw the storming of the Capitol as unimaginable, like most of the American population!
Some members of the Capitol police had Trumpist sympathies and may even have given inside information to rioters. Many treated the mob with kid gloves. There were a lot of police injuries too. One officer was battered to death with a fire extinguisher, and another has since committed suicide.
Watching it all on TV, Trump expressed himself delighted although he regarded the participants as “low class” and ineligible to grace his exclusive golf resorts. Trump’s behaviour could have resulted in his Vice President being lynched, but he’d throw his own mother under a bus, if she were still alive, to serve his ends.
Here is a man who has lied, cheated and stolen throughout his entire privileged life and suffered no consequences. Will he ever be punished for the countless crimes he has committed whilst in office, never mind beforehand?
A big test for the Biden administration will be the extent to which it is going to prosecute Trump, if at all. He’s added considerably to the charge sheet with the recent debacle. Escaping justice sends a message to any future aspiring autocrat that they can get away with anything on becoming President. Four, eight or twelve years down the line another proto-fascist could well follow the path Trump has blazed, only more cleverly and successfully.
The American left cannot rely on the Democrat leadership to tackle the danger of fascism in the USA, particularly as mass unemployment and evictions come as fallout from the pandemic. Socialists need to establish anti-fascist organisations to combat the influence of the fascist groups. They must also demand inequality in American society be addressed.
Universal health care will be a major issue in this and can cut the ground under the feet of fake “champions of the left behind” who only have nihilism and fascism to offer.