Here’s how 2018 ended.
Trump ordered a withdrawal of troops from Syria.
Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis issued a public rebuke in his resignation letter, stating “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. … Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”
In a gesture amounting to “You can’t quit. You’re fired,” Trump ordered Mattis out by January 1st.
Just before the holidays, the government shut down over funding for the border wall.
At the end of the week when all this was going down, Chuck Schumer said, “This may have been the most chaotic week of what’s undoubtedly the most chaotic presidency in the history of the United States.”
Through all this chaos, the Trump/Pence regime remains standing, poised to make even more shocking moves to reshape government, society, and empire, tossing aside existing norms, tearing apart the old alliances, and eliminating the roadblocks to ethnic cleansing and open tyranny. Consider this statement by Mike Shields, a CNN commentator and former RNC chief of staff: “…people that have followed the president will tell you that there’s a lot of things he issues that are not top of the list for him. Healthcare, taxes, are not the things he’s talked about for years, when he ran on, what he really deeply believes, what he and Steve Bannon worked together on, was changing our trade policy, changing our immigration policy and changing our policy overseas. And they knew that they wouldn’t be able to do it without massive disruption and people saying it’s chaos. People expected this. I think what you’re seeing is the President finally getting to the point in this presidency where he’s like, I’m going to carry out the policies that I ran on. And I don’t really care how much chaos you think there is, that’s what’s going to happen when you’re changing things.”
In some ways, this chaos is the very vehicle by which this regime frees itself from the constraints imposed by the established domestic and international order. We become obsessed with the chaos, while the vicious fascist program beneath it becomes secondary or invisible. Even during his campaign, Trump brought and promised a destabilizing level of chaos. The raucous lynch mobs whipped up at his rallies, the constant rumors and scandals that shocked and titillated but never brought him down, the insults and threats against opponents and the press. We should assume that fascists like Trump have an infinitely high tolerance for the kind of chaos that sends other sections of the ruling order reeling. We should also assume that those sections, in their desire for stability, will seek that stability by capitulating to the demands of a fascist regime. This is what we can learn from history, and what they are already doing. But fascists are not ultimately tempered by compromise. They go after the totality of what they want, maintaining their momentum in what the historian Robert O. Paxton calls, “an ever-mounting spiral of ever more daring challenges,” toward a final stage in which dreams of racial purity and expanding power are realized, at great cost to humanity.
A year ago in a statement for Refuse Fascism called The Crisis They Haven’t Faced Yet, I wrote, “What the Trump/Pence regime has survived thus far is the turbulence it promised, a turbulence necessary for tearing up the existing norms and bringing about a qualitative change in how society is governed. This turbulence will give birth to a new order, the order of fascism, where everyone in society knows their place and doesn’t dare step out of it.” For two years, people have been taking the chaos of this presidency as a sign of incompetence or unraveling. This is a dangerous illusion. At the same time, this chaos can become a source of vulnerability for them, IF the people, thousands growing into millions, act in determined mass protest to stop them.
We don’t know what will follow the withdrawal of 2,000 troops from Syria or Mattis’s resignation, but we do know that there are more than 5,000 troops at the U.S. Mexico border right now, that the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia continue to escalate war cries against Iran, and that U.S. airstrikes and bombs will not stop pounding civilians in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, and many other countries. We know that millions in Yemen are facing famine and genocide caused by a U.S. funded, Saudi-led slaughter. We know that this regime dropped “the mother of all bombs,” that Trump has asked repeatedly why we can’t use nuclear weapons if we have them, and that the most recent Nuclear Posture Review expands the circumstances under which the U.S. would consider using nuclear weapons.
Here’s how 2018 ended for us. Two Guatemalan children have died in U.S. detention at the border, their precious lives lost in the hands of this regime. What do we owe those children, and the lives around the world hanging in the balance? Our mission today is as clear as it was when we began, to bring millions into the streets in a sustained, non-violent movement to demand, in the name of humanity, the Trump/Pence regime must go. There is much turbulence roiling above, but the waters down here are far too calm. There is only one kind of disorder a fascist regime fears, the disorder and disobedience of the masses of people. We must very soon take advantage of the divisions at the top with a massive disruption from below, to un-calm the waters on our terms and wrench a different future out of this turmoil.