On Saturday afternoon, January 7, 2017, I attended an indoor rally entitled United Against Trump at the Women’s Building in San Francisco. The room was packed to the rafters. The spirit of resistance was high. There were inspiring speeches on defending immigrants, on fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, on fighting for health care, on taxing the rich. There were calls to reform the Democratic Party, to get into the streets, and to make socialist revolution.
But during the discussion period that followed the speeches, one lone woman got up and said she was disturbed that, for all the speechifying, she had heard nothing about Trump’s foreign policy. The speakers seemed to be so focused on our immediate concerns that we had forgotten the world outside U.S. borders. Diamond Dave later reminded us that those borders are just lines on a map.
We forget at our peril that Trump has made it clear through his political appointments that his administration will be the most militarist, warlike and jingoist administration in modern history.
Trump and his cohorts will command the most powerful military machine in history, with the ability to conduct war on any and every portion of the globe. The Trump regime will inherit the ability to conduct unchecked drone warfare, special operations forces already deployed in the vast majority of the countries of the world, massive surveillance systems firmly in place, and Guantanamo.
The possible flash points for war are almost to numerous to list. The Middle East, already a theater for war and instability from Syria to Afghanistan, will be rocked further by Trump’s belligerence toward the Islamic world in general and Iran in particular, along with his fanning of Zionist aggression. Trump’s planned trade war with China could make the Great Recession look like just the warm-up to an economic crisis unprecedented since the Depression, which did not end until the whole world went to war. For all Trump’s ambiguity towards Russia, the U.S. and NATO have been gearing up for war against the stepchild of the Soviet Union for the last 25 years. Standing down from that confrontation while Trump muses on refueling the nuclear arms race will be difficult indeed. And, of course, the people of Africa and Latin America are in perpetual revolt against U.S. hegemony, with who knows what crisis on the horizon.
The Democrats and the Republicans alike are, as usual, playing right into the hands of the masters of war with all the hoopla about alleged Russian hacking and the presidential election. The U.S., of course, has for decades been doing exactly what the Russians are accused of doing – playing fast and loose with elections in other countries with every kind of disinformation campaign imaginable. Not to mention fostering bloody coups and genocidal wars in order to defend “democracy” and “free markets.”
We all know, or should know, what happened the last time the powers-that-be decided to elevate Russia to Enemy Number One. It is now called the McCarthy Period, although Senator Joe McCarthy himself was only one part of the intense repression that stretched from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. That was the period of blacklists, loyalty oaths and enforced political conformity that swept the left out of any position of power – from government, from the unions, from the schools, and from every kind of political discourse.
That repression left a mark on this country that is still not fully acknowledged. It dumbed-down the Democratic Party. It caused the labor movement to purge itself of its best organizers and strategists. It turned our schools toward the production of automatons instead of thinkers. It put fear into the heart of every human being who cherished real freedom and real democracy.
War, including Cold War, is an excuse for political repression. If war is coming, and it is, then we must be prepared not just to keep fighting the good fight, but to fight the demons that will be unleashed to shut down and shut up any kind of opposition.
That is a lesson that I wish had been talked about at the United Against Trump event. It is all well and good to gather together to renew our commitment to the fight for justice and equality in the face of the anti-worker, racist, sexist, war-mongering, wannabe fascist Trump regime. But I fear that we are not getting ready for what is coming.
Let me be a doomsayer, just as food for thought. Trump is just possibly mad enough, when he finds his regime embroiled in some war that he cannot extricate himself from easily, to reinstate the draft. The truth is that our “volunteer” army – really the poverty draft – is already stretched thin. Just over a month ago President Obama put himself on record supporting requiring women to register for the draft. We are told that this is a move towards equality for women. Is there some kind of mass movement among women to demand to become canon fodder? Are we worried that there are not enough women in body bags? We used to say that war is a rich man’s game and a poor man’s fight. Is it equality to make war a rich man’s game and a poor woman’s fight?
How fitting that United Against Trump held its event at the Women’s Building.
I am old enough to remember the days when every young man worried about getting that draft notice in the mail. It was then, and would be again today, a matter of life and death.
Trump means war. War means death. War means repression. Get ready.
Marc Norton came of age during the war in Vietnam, at the height of the mass revolutionary movement against imperialist war and racism. Marc has been a member of San Francisco’s hotel, restaurant and culinary workers union, UNITE HERE Local 2, since 1976. He is also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Copyright © 2017 by Marc Norton
This article was first published by 48 Hills.
Marc Norton’s website is www.MarcNorton.us.