Beyond The Threat of Trump
by Florence Oppen
Trump and the rise of Racism and Islamophobia in the U.S.
Since Trump has begun his political campaign to reach the White House, he has not ceased to fuel hatred on the Muslim community. He has manipulated public opinion and is fabricating a false logic that equates Muslims and refugees with “extremists” and “terrorists”. By declaring that they are all criminals and dangerous people, Trump is using the same despicable rhetoric he used against Mexican and Central Americans. The only difference is that the reality of the deepening crisis in Syria and the Middle East, the rise of ISIS and the recent terrorist attacks in France and the US have allowed him to play more directly and efficiently with the fears and frustrations of the American working people, and thus he is seeking to install suspicion and division.
But Trump is not the only one responsible for the rise of Islamophobia and bigotry in the U.S.. He is just the tip of a more disgusting iceberg: the racist consensus that holds together the US ruling class, or the 1% as they have become to be popularly denominated. Some polls conducted at the end of November showed that 71% of Republicans, 45% of independents and 38% of Democrats agreed that “Muslims” (all, any kind of Muslims) posed a “somewhat serious threat” to the security of the United States.
The deepening of the anti-Muslim sentiment is not a deed of Trump alone, it is fostered in a silently accepted consensus between the major political and economic voices of the United States that want us to believe we would be “safer” without them. Of course, Republican supporters are the ones leading the most aggressive charge (43% would support the idea of the U.S. government monitoring ALL Muslims living in the United States as “potential terrorists”), but these fears and ideas did not come out of nowhere.
Behind Islamophobia: the Lies of the Bloody Strategy of the Ruling Class
Since 2002, both the Republican and Democratic Party have led a government that has invaded and occupied two countries that have a predominantly Muslim population (Iraq and Afghanistan), and they have also regularly bombed Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Pakistan. Thus, the identification of “Muslim=Enemy”, is one manufactured by the U.S. foreign policy that has only served the interests of the U.S. corporations. In order to justify not only the spending, and also putting the US territory and civilian population at risk of counter-attacks and casualties (via military conflict or terrorist attacks), the leaders of this imperialist project have fabricated a series of lies: the first one is that Islam is an “inherently violent” religion, and thus any “Muslim” can easily be “radicalized”, that is to say, become a “terrorist”, the second is that Muslims represent a threat of the security of American working people, because they “hate the United States”- obviously, they hate the American government that is invading, destroying and bombing their countries & families.
Yet, if one takes the time to look at history and analyze the recent events, it is quite easy to debunk those myths that allow Trump and his acolytes to rise in the polls. Muslims do not hate the “American people” nor is their religion more violent than all the variants of Christianity- in whose name the most bloody crusades and genocide of the Native people of America have been accomplished, in praise of which the major scientists and intellectuals were tortured and killed in Europe, and methods and instruments of torture were developed. Muslim countries do not have a higher murder rate than non-Muslim ones, nor do they witness mass murder episodes. This is an old Western prejudice, which was revived by Samuel Huntington & argues that Muslim societies are “bloody” is completely false and not backed by empirical data. What is true, however, is that “over a 15-year period ending in 2008, Islamist militants were responsible for 60 percent of high-casualty terrorist bombings, his study found, but almost all were concentrated in just a handful of Muslim-majority countries in the context of larger conflicts that were occurring — places like Afghanistan after the American invasion or Algeria after the military takeover.” That is to say they have been, because of US and European imperialism, more Islamists fighting in the recent period because of the repeated aggressions and attempts to dominate Muslim countries by the West – which is not an indicator of “Muslim bloodiness”, but of “Western bloodiness” and of Islamist’s and other non-confessional force’s attempts to exercise their right of self-defense and of self-determination of their own countries, which is a completely different story.
The construction of Arabs, Muslims, refugees, Blacks, Latinos, Immigrants as groups or categories of individuals which are potentially dangerous to the American people is made by the existing powers in order to keep us divided, and in order to blame one another for the sins and atrocious actions the U.S. government commits in the name of “America” and for the degradation of living conditions and lack of good jobs in the United States.
In order to combat Islamophobia, we need not only to patiently explain that the main “arguments” used by Trump and others are false, we also need to point at the true causes of its spread: the U.S. imperialist policy, its wars, and the fact that the U.S. government bailed out the 1% and left us, the 99%, out to dry.
The Coming of Fascism or a Bonapartist Turn?
We need to really understand the nature of the threat posed by Trump to better fight it. Some radical and socialist journals, news, activists and blog postings are arguing that Trump is a fascist and that his rise in the polls can be equated with a rise of fascism in the United States. Others argue that Trump is no different than the politicians that preceded him: he is simply a bourgeois opportunists that is using the media and social networks to shock and to tell the American people with what they want to hear: that he does not belong to the corrupt establishment, that he is successful, that he has found an internal enemy, and that if he is elected, he will set the country and the economy right, through mass deportations and millions of new jobs.
The current reality is of course more complicated, and lies between those positions, with the caveat that fascism cannot be “measured” only by the level of bigotry, violence or racism of speeches and discourses alone, for if that was the criteria, it is true that Trump’s ideas are not far from proto-fascist groups. In fact, fascism, which emerged in the 1920s and 1930s in industrialized societies as a counter-revolutionary move in order to avoid the rise of communism. It is a social phenomenon that goes way beyond words, into mass action and organization, spurred by a right-wing radicalization of the middle classes that gets organized in fascist groups and starts attacking working class organizations and Left parties. Today in the U.S. we are seeing an increase of isolated attacks to Muslims and Arabs, as we saw in the years before with the attacks and militias formed against immigrant workers at the border states.
We can say that Trump is not the leader of a fascist movement, but rather a right-wing populist (like Pat Buchanan was in the 1990s), first because he is not questioning the current form of functioning of the system. On the opposite, he wants to “fix it”, he wants to get to power through elections, not abolish them; he is using and praising the weight that the 1% corporate money and lobbying has on American politics, not to question it.
As a recent Wall Street Journal article clearly stated: “Donald Trump has built his leading position in the Republican primary race by bringing together an underappreciated segment of the GOP—blue-collar voters who aren’t especially animated by social issues—and who may be setting the stage for an unusual, three person sprint to the nomination. Mr. Trump’s appeal is a form of secular populism rarely seen in Republican primary races, and one he is pressing in part with appearances in working-class communities in Iowa that include independent voters and even Democrats who may be lured into the caucuses. The celebrity businessman’s message appears to resonate among voters who believe most strongly that political leaders are unable to put the nation back on track.”
Second, we can say this because it seems that U.S. capitalists do not currently face a political crisis, like one with a political rise of working people and Left organizations, that could motivate a sector of the bourgeoisie to potentially back someone like Trump to resort to fascism, & abandon its current “democratic” form of ruling through parliamentarism. If the situation were to change and the level of struggle were to increase in quantitative and qualitative terms in the US, it is not unlikely that the Trump-like elements of current American politics might constitute a real fascist movement, and revive their relations to groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Which Way Out?
What is more likely, however, is that the ruling class is letting Trump’s hate-mongering, chauvinism and islamophobia to playing into the current strategy of finding new scapegoats for the lack of economic recovery for working people 7 years after the burst of the economic crisis, while rallying more support to the true candidate of the major corporations: Hillary Clinton.
In order to combat Trump’s bigotry and hate speech, we cannot fall into the established bi-partisan logic of the lesser evilism. We need to combat all racist attacks against Blacks, Muslims and immigrants through united action in the streets and in the workplaces, through a mass democratic movement that would appeal to labor and popular organizations to take united and independent action. We also need to start building an independent political alternative for working people, which clearly addresses all these oppressions and raises an emergency program to uphold democratic rights and combat austerity.
Annex 1: Is Trump going to be the Republican Nominee?
The fears that Trump might win the Republican nomination are nonetheless alive. Trump has been rising and now is leading the polls, close to Cruz and Rubio as the most popular Republican candidate. Of course, these fears play well into the righteous liberal minds who want to attract the vote to the Democratic Party without offering anything new to the impoverished american working people.
The truth is that is seems quite difficult for Trump to get enough delegates to win the nominations at the upcoming Cleveland Republican Convention in July 2016. Trump needs to win half of the total delegates plus one (1,237 out of 2,472), but the game is rigged, as the ways delegates get assigned in the Republican Party (and also the Democratic Party) Convention is not based on popularity nor is it very grassroots or democratic (what a surprise!). First, states that have in the past supported the nominee or where the Republican Party has won past elections get more delegates than other states (Mississippi, a traditionally conservative state with less than 3 million people gets to send 40 delegates, while Colorado which has 5.4 million inhabitants gets only 38). But there is also the 437 (out of 2,472) “unpledged delegates” (called “superdelegates” in the Democratic Convention) which are delegates that do not get elected at the local and state level and are not bound the the same rules than the delegates. And of this 437, 168 are members of the Republican National Committee that not only hates Trump but is ganging up all the unpledged votes to oppose him. Thus, in reality, Trump would have to win 60.78% of the pledged delegates to win the nomination.
Annex: 2: Who Support’s Donald Trump?
Some inquiry and research has been done on the social base of Donald Trump. It is clear that Trump wants to appeal to the more conservative elements of the white working class to re-connect them with the Republican Party – as Sanders is trying to restore the Democratic Party’s alienated working class base.
In fact, not all of Trump’s supporters are ultra-right wing, even though a big sector of the Tea Party is clearly behind him (71% supports him), other ideological trends in the party are turning to him. Trump also appeals to a sector of Democratic Party supporters and independents. One of their common points, besides being majority white, male, and could not afford to go to college, is that they are part of the working class population who distrusts mass media, established science and research, and the education system. In addition, they are prone to believe in conspiracy theories, creationist ideas, and the idea that the whole political game has been rigged and that Trump is the only one fighting the establishment. For example, 66% of his supporters believe Obama is a Muslim while only 12% believe he is a Christian. Furthermore, the majority (61%) still believes that Obama has lied in his birth certificate.
 http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/12/donald_trump_is_expressing_ the_bigotry_of_the_republican_party_s_base.html
 “The world experienced 235 episodes of intrastate violence that claimed over one thousand lives between 1946 and 2007. A total of just over 21 million people lost their lives in these conflicts. Huntington’s thesis about Muslim bloodiness fares badly when we look at the evidence. In predominantly Muslim countries, on average, 0.65 percent of the population perished in major episodes of intrastate violence. In non-Muslim countries, 0.72 percent died in such episodes on average. In the postwar period, Muslim countries suffered slightly less severely from loss of life in major episodes of political violence than non-Muslim countries.(…) What about violent crime? Here Muslims are way behind the rest of us—and in a good way. Homicide rates in Muslim-majority countries average about two murders per annum per 100,000 people. In non-Muslim countries, the average rate is about 8 per 100,000. (…) The homicide rate in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, is 1 per 100,000—one-fifth the rate of the world’s largest Christian country, the United States. Christian countries live with murder rates that are unknown in the Muslim world.”
 http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/11/3731121/thebrutaldelegatemaththatcoulddenyd onaldtrumpthenominationatabrokeredconvention/