Summary: Trump’s reactionary moves since his inauguration, with special emphasis on his racist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, misogynist, and environment-destroying actions; first presented at an International Marxist-Humanist Organization meeting in Los Angeles on “Retheorizing Fascism in the Trump Era” — Editors
Today we are here to discuss and analyze the current domestic, socioeconomic-political expressions of the United States under the Trump Regime, as well as the system and the society, which creates, allows and interacts with it. Is the current political expression “America First” moving toward fascism, already fascist or just another rebranding of the continued U.S. Global Empire – a society, corporate class and political body that has always used dominant military power and violence to exploit people and planet? What is fascism? Has it simply come out of hiding, or are we moving toward it now? Did it simply evolve and hide or are we potentially moving towards it now?
To help understand our moment and movement as humanity, we must examine, experience and analyze the most recent activities, behaviors and policies, as well as ideologies, of the current Trump Regime and the portions of society who feel emboldened by the Regime.
We must also interrogate the history of the U.S. Empire to understand if Trump is a new expression of fascism or leading to fascism, or if his actions align with a historical U.S. socioeconomic-political and ideological expression.
Let us see what has been going on since Agent Orange gained power.
When it comes to expressing racism, Trump first speaks with no hesitation, then follows with strong, irrational denial. If you believe Trump to be racist for his policies, you are in fact the racist and, to paraphrase, “The Latinos, the Hispanics love [him].”
Since his campaign and into holding office, he has declared “war” on “bad hombres”, those immigrants who supposedly destroy our country, rape our women and steal our jobs. He still is looking to build a wall, but now the funds will be coming from U.S. taxpayers and will certainly benefit the highest bidding construction corporations. Four to ten companies are poised to build prototypes, and in June the winner will be announced. Homeland Security places the cost at $21 billion, while MIT says it will be $38 billion. The proposal still needs approval from Congress for construction, and there are many Democrats and some Republicans who oppose the plan. This year we will find out whether the plan will go through.
ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) continues deportation raids and arrests without restriction. The new Trump immigration order, as stated by Sec. of Homeland Security John Kelly, will not “exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” All illegal immigrants are subject to deportation evaluation. This is a departure from the Obama Administration’s criminal-focused policy, but let us keep in mind the Obama Administration deported more people than any other president before him. Before Obama, on December 12, 2006, ICE operating under President George W. Bush raided the Swift Meatpacking Plants across Middle America and ended up deporting almost 1,300 workers. We must ask, is the escalation against immigrants a Trump phenomenon or an American phenomenon?
Whether we connect it to broader American political trend or if his strategy is truly novel, Trump’s policy does mark an escalation. Trump wants to hire 10,000 more ICE agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Protection agents. While Trump is not likely to succeed, since 500 agents would cost $100 million, his clear intent is to increase the ranks of militarized citizens. Moreover, increased deportation raids have had severe consequences for the health and safety of already embattled groups, including Latinx. In several cases, women and transgendered women seeking domestic abuse protection were detained by ICE agents. Several major cities across the U.S. report a decline in rape reports by Latinx. In Los Angeles there has been a 25% decline in such reports, and Houston has seen a 42.8% decline as well as a 13% decline in violent crimes reports. Many law enforcement officials view this trend as evidence that Latinx are fearful to seek help from authorities.
There are several legal groups such as the ACLU and National Immigration Lawyers, which have posted “What to Do” rights and guidelines if confronted with an immigration arrest. These suggestions are poor consolation, as deportation raids are still a dehumanizing process where, even if you have not committed a crime, you are treated less than a citizen. Lawyers across the country have reported difficulty locating and tracking people detained by ICE, as ICE’s own detainee locator system is not updated properly. Detainees are often moved from state to state without notifying lawyers or family members. Activists have started to report possible immigration checkpoints but many reports have come up. Officials at the local and state levels have responded by declaring their regions “sanctuaries”.
To complement the immigration raids is the Muslim Ban. This nationalist, Islamophobic, racist ban has gone through two iterations. The current ban targets refugees and citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Iraq was removed from the list because, according to the White House, it has complied with U.S. vetting protocols, visa screening and data sharing along with the work it supposedly must conduct to defeat ISIS. Refugees would not be permitted for 120 days, and visas would not be issued for 90 days. Some changes from the first ban are: only new visas would not be issued; any person already possessing a visa can travel; green card holders and dual citizenship peoples are now exempt from the ban, as well as Syrian refugees being indefinitely barred; and a loophole for religious minorities in the first ban has been removed. Further, there is no mention of religion in its current iteration. The ban was supposed to begin March 16, but as soon as the ban was put forth, a lawsuit in the state of Hawaii, initiated by Imam Ismail Elshikh, resulted in a judicial hold on the ban in the interests of the People of Hawaii. Even though Trump’s new ban did not mention Islam or Muslims, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson stated, “A reasonable objective observer…would conclude that the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.”
Historically speaking, both the immigration raids and travel bans are typical of U.S. immigration policy. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law in 1882 and went into effect in 1884. It was designed to prevent “Yellow Hordes” (U.S. President Chester Arthur) from Asia to threaten work for whites. In 1888, Congress made an addendum to the Act stating even Chinese who had certificates to return to the U.S. could not. In one case in 1888, Chae Chan Ping, who had lived in the U.S. for twelve years and was returning to California from a family visit abroad, was detained in San Francisco. His lawyers took the case to the Supreme Court and lost on the basis that Congress’s “plenary power” overrode Ping’s right to return to his home and family. Almost all Asian immigrants were halted from entering the U.S. by 1907, and the policies were not repealed until 1943. The Immigration Act of 1924 restricted immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe with a focus on Italians and Jews, highly restricted African immigration, and banned Arab and Asian immigration. This was during a time of crisis for the Jewish population and other minority populations of Eastern Europe. The Act of 1924 lasted with minor alterations until 1965.
Fortunately, contemporary abuses against immigrants has been met with outcry for a more humane immigration policy. Lawyers, led by the ACLU, have come to support, guide and represent victims of the ban, and there have been swift, massive protests at international airports as well as defiant resistance from the ‘liberal’ political class at the local, state and international stages.
Trump also signed three executive orders aimed to “prevent violence” against police officers, promote “crime reduction” and tackle “transnational criminal organizations and international trafficking”. One order states, “If warranted, legislation defining new crimes of violence and establishing new mandatory minimum sentences for existing crimes of violence against federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officers, as well as for related crimes.” In response to these orders, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson argues, “President Trump intends to build task forces to investigate and stop national trends that don’t exist. We have seen historic lows in the country’s crime rate and a downward trend in killings against police officers since the 1980s.” These orders are essentially a renewal of the failed War on Drugs, which targeted the Black community and radicals as well as Latinx communities. It gives precedent to create “crimes” designed to attack those participating in civil disobedience, direct action, and protest. Their target is especially troubling given that these policies and task forces will be headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a figure deemed too racist by Democrats and many Republicans to be a federal judge. Nothing has been put into law yet, but Sessions has started task forces to investigate communities of radicals and people of color and to design policy based on the findings.
Trump’s abuses against women abound as well. On Thursday, April 13, Trump signed legislation to cut funding from Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. Planned Parenthood could retain its funding only if it ends its abortion practices. This pronouncement came on the heels of the ‘Global Gag Rule’, which prevents U.S. funding to NGOs that provide abortion services and/or counseling. This order has been activated and deactivated, depending on the political party within the White House, ever since Reagan created it in 1984.
Further, Trump replaced Obama’s Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces executive order with his own. Corporations will not have to provide wage reports to show transparency in wage theft and wage gaps. It also reinstates forced arbitration for sexual harassment, assault or discrimination, which means a woman could not publicly disclose the details of sexual assault, and the perpetrator would not be liable for criminal prosecution or have to disclose the assault in the workplace. This also affects the LGBTQ community as it removes prohibitions against companies discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, no legal advocacy group has yet brought this to a court.
Trump’s proposed budget cuts and plans to decimate social safety nets also constitute a major assault on women. The cuts attack affordable housing, job training, securing civil legal counsel and paying heating bills. It is an attack on the “working class” folks Trump promised to help. Those who live in rural areas are 24% more likely to live paycheck-to-paycheck than their urban counterparts. Such economic attacks on the poor first and foremost affect women and people of color.
Trump also sent Lisa Correnti, EVP of C-FAM (Center for Family & Human Rights), an anti-LGBTQ hate group known for violent rhetoric, and Grace Melton, a representative of the far-right Heritage Foundation, to the UN Women’s Rights Conference. Both organizations have a strong focus on anti-LGBTQ and anti-women’s rights on the international stage. Notably, a Heritage Foundation campaign inspired Trump by to cut 25 federal grant programs under the Office on Violence Against Women.
Given his history of sexual assaults, and considering that only 23% of his staff is female, it is no surprise Trump will attack women’s rights. Further, his cabinet is filled with Christian traditionalists focused on controlling both women’s biological bodies and how those bodies are defined.
Women have mounted a strong resistance, with an explosion of Woman’s Marches around the world drawing millions of women, children, and men together to show solidarity for women’s rights. The array of political viewpoints was equally broad, and hopefully an understanding of those systemic mechanisms designed to oppress women can be utilized and amplified.
Trump’s attack on the environment is also being rolled out in haste. He has already rolled back Obama Era policies to limit environmental pollution and curb climate change while threatening to limit federal funding for science and the environment. His 2018 budget calls for a 12% ($1.5 billion) cut from the $3.4 billion budget for the National Parks Service. In a comic move, Trump donated his $78,333.32 first quarter salary to the NPS.
Trump selected former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt maintains a very cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry and has repeatedly sued the EPA, the very agency he now commands. Rex Tillerson, a former CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is now Secretary of State. Since Trump’s inauguration, climate change was completely removed from the White House website.
On March 2, Trump lifted a lead munitions ban aimed at halting poisoning of the environment and animals, including rare California condors. On March 15, he issued a reconsideration of fuel efficiency standards and a roll back of targets for fuel economy. Trump approved both the DAPL and KXL pipelines. DAPL was completed in late March and is to become fully operational June 1. KXL, if built, is poised to create a measly 35 permanent jobs.
On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to dismantle the “inefficient” climate change work of the Obama administration in an attempt to downplay future costs of CO2 emissions. The order also focuses on rescinding the Clean Power Plan restricting GHG emissions from coal plants, and slashing a 2016 moratorium on coal leases on federal lands.
On March 29, EPA Admin Scott Pruitt rejected a ban of the Dow chemical pesticide Chloropyrifos, which is linked to severe brain damage in children and farm workers. The EPA chemical safety experts advised the government to ban the poison, but it is still being used on 40,000 farms.
This slew of anti-environment policies has prompted green organizations to debate how to tackle these new policies, which are based on climate change denial and are designed to protect the corporate profit model. There have been large protests, including the March for Science, which is both very positive and promising, as many scientists have been reluctant to politicize their work for fear of losing research funding or their job. The indigenous movement, along with “frontline communities”, has become a leading voice in this movement. Whether the predominantly white environmental movement will truly allow their voice to be heard is another matter. Spurred by Trump’s climate denialism, many other countries including China, Canada and India, as well as the EU, are becoming concerned and asserting they will intensify their efforts to combat climate change. At the same time, Canada continues to be beholden to the oil companies, and under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will not be putting forth any legitimate climate policies.
Trump’s rhetoric since his campaign has been racist, misogynist, Islamophobic, homophobic, ableist and climate change denying. This has emboldened those segments of the population that connect with these ideologies, which has led to an increase in hate groups, most specifically anti-Muslim organizations. From 2015 to 2016, hate groups increased from 892 to 917 according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and you can track those groups’ rise and distribution on their website.
Hate crimes directly after the election dramatically increased as well. Some were accompanied by slogans like “Trump’s America”, “Trump Nation”, “Go Trump”, “Heil Trump”, etc., rendering the connection between hate crime and Trumpism all but indisputable. The SPLC has reported 1,372 hate crimes nationwide between the election and February 7. Most were anti-immigrant, followed by anti-Black. Overall, 2016 showed a 20% increase in hate crimes compared to 2015 based on an aggregate of organizational data from groups such as SPLC, the FBI and major city data collections. Of the 40% of hate crimes in which Trump was referenced to by name or title, most were anti-woman assaults. Trump certainly inspired hate violence directed at many different segments of the population, including immigrants, Blacks, women, Muslims, Jews and LGBTQ people.
An executive order Trump put forth on April 28 declares May Day “Loyalty Day”: “On Loyalty Day, we recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles upon which our Nation is built. We pledge our dedication to the United States of America and honor its unique heritage, reminding ourselves that we are one Nation, under God, made possible by those who have sacrificed to defend our liberty. We honor our Republic and acknowledge the great responsibility that self-governance demands of each of us…As one Nation, we will always stand strong against the threats of terrorism and lawlessness… to secure for all Americans the liberty terrorists seek to extinguish.”
One must be loyal in a fascist nation. In the Trumpian universe, we are truly one nation, under god… and that god is capitalism.
Trump has wasted no time in both implementing violent policy and perpetuating an ideology that advocates violence (physical, psychological and economic) on those already oppressed by the capitalist system. The question is, when so many suffer and have suffered under U.S. capitalism, how much violence must be wrought, how many citizens must lose their autonomy to speak their mind and act for justice, for Trump’s Regime to be classified as fascist? Moreover, who is empowered to define his regime as fascist? Would some from Black communities define the U.S. as already fascist? Would indigenous peoples? And to what extent should we consider fascism a symptom of an inherent contradiction at the heart of capitalism in all its forms?