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Click here to read the Transcript.
Coco Das comments on the recent CNN-hosted Trump Town Hall (aka Klan rally) and Democratic reactions. Read her commentary here: Biden’s Camp Cheers on Trump’s CNN Town Hall: An “Opposition” Party that is Worse than Useless. Follow her on Twitter at @Coco_Das.
Plus: Sam interviews Akin Olla, National Press Secretary for the Dream Defenders, and contributing opinion writer for The Guardian, about the Dream Defenders’ recent mobilization against Florida Governor Ron Desantis. Follow @Dreamdefenders on Twitter and learn more about their work at dreamdefenders.org. Follow Akin on Twitter at @thisisrevshow.
Do not wait to see what plays out in the courts, act now!
Monday May 15 – Wednesday May 17 act in bold ways big and small to demand: Fascist Judges: Hands OFF the Abortion Pill
In the Philadelphia area? Join host of the pod Sam Goldman at a Teach-In at Drexel University: Hands off the Abortion Pill: the Christian Fascist Plan for a Federal Abortion Ban Wednesday, May 17 6PM Disque Hall Room 108
Refuse Fascism is more than a podcast! You can get involved at RefuseFascism.org. We’re still on Twitter (@RefuseFascism) and other social platforms including the newest addition: mastodon.world/@refusefascism
Send your comments to [email protected] or @SamBGoldman. Record a voice message for the show here. Connect with the movement at RefuseFascism.org and support:
Music for this episode: Penny the Snitch by Ikebe Shakedown
Beyond Fake Opposition And Honeyed Words
Refuse Fascism Episode 156
Sun, May 14, 2023 8:20AM • 44:19
Akin Olla 00:00
The fear is how fascism has worked in the past is kind of like the slow bubbling over time. The first thing is not going to ever be concentration camps. The first things are things like criminalizing drag shows, making it easier to execute people. So it’s these kind of smaller forums that end up building us closer and closer towards a fascist state.
Sam Goldman 00:44
Welcome to Episode 156 of the Refuse Fascism podcast, a podcast brought to you by volunteers with Refuse Fascism. I’m Sam Goldman, one of those volunteers and host of the show. Refuse Fascism exposes analyzes and stands against the very real danger and threat of fascism coming to power in the United States. I promise, I’m on a new antibiotic and should be sounding more normal soon. Apologies in advance, and much appreciation to listeners who reached out to make sure that I was okay. In today’s episode, we’re sharing analysis from Coco Das on Biden’s camp cheering on Trump’s CNN town hall and an interview with Akin Olla, spokesperson for Dream Defenders regarding the nonviolent civil disobedience at Governor DeSantis’ office that took place earlier this month.
Thanks to everyone who goes the extra step and rates and reviews the show on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. If you appreciate the show and want to help us reach more people who want to refuse fascism, be a gem, and go write a review and drop five stars. Wherever you listen to your pods. Here are two from this week as proof we read every one of your reviews. Miss liner, titled her review, Resistance isn’t futile, gave us five stars and wrote: “I never really thought it could happen here, but if we’re going to meet and defeat the spread of fascism in the U.S., I need to both understand it and have some idea of how to fight it. Sam and friends provide nitty gritty info that’s hard to find elsewhere.”
And this from Slippy83, who titled their review, The most important podcast, with the best interviews, gave us five stars and wrote: “The refuse fascism podcast is absolutely my favorite podcast by far. Each guest brings a vast amount of knowledge and intelligent insight of what we’re up against with the threat of fascism here in this country. This podcast is so fascinating that I continue to listen to older episodes.” Thanks to you both, Miss liner and Slippy83 and really agree, listen to those older episodes — they continue to be relevant and worthwhile.
Go be like Slippy 83 and Miss Liner and tell the people out there in podcast land why you listen and they should too. Of course, after listening to this week’s episode, subscribe/follow so you never miss an episode. And of course, keep up all that great commenting and sharing on social media. Thank you to everyone on Patreon.com/RefuseFascism for supporting the show at $2 more a month. Thanks patrons. To those who just became patrons off of last week’s episode, we see you and appreciate you. Not one yet become one at patreon.com/RefuseFascism.
Before we get into it, I want to talk briefly about the CNN Trump town hall, which you’ll hear more about from Coco, but I gotta say a couple of things myself. Nobody can doubt that the 2024 election is a powder keg moment. The fascists have not relented, and instead show us an escalation in going for the seizure of power by hook or crook, going all out for the consolidation of fascist rule, decimating civil and democratic rights. They are rabid with revenge and wild eyed with ambitions of the annihilation of political enemies and those they deem subhuman.
And yet, CNN platformed this fascist as entertainment, as news, as if 2016 had never occurred. As if for four years, the atrocity he unleashed on the world was nothing. As if he were a normal candidate. As if he didn’t orchestrate a deadly coup attempt. As if the coup has ended. As if the fascist coup attempt wasn’t paved by a refusal to hold Trump and his fascists accountable again and again and again. The CNN town hall of Trump fans and unabated peddling of hate, lies and delusions is a painful look ahead of the media’s accommodation of fascism.
Training people to deny the threat posed, training people to believe despite all evidence that there is a center and that it will hold, that there need be no investigation, no need to counter myth, no need to provide history or context. To answer Anderson Cooper’s wild self justification that people are only mad at CNN for airing this town hall because it took them out of their silo: The way to actually accomplish the task would be to provide those investigations, that history, that context. Cover the fascist movement aiming to take over the United States and the global fascist movement which this is a part of for what it is, and sound the fucking alarm. Chris Licht, CNN CEO, said regarding the townhall: “I absolutely, unequivocally, believe America was served very well by what we did last night” If you believe that it is served well by fascism, then this is true. But humanity and its future was spat on.
Today marks the first Mother’s Day since the Supreme Court ripped away the constitutional right to abortion. Motherhood, let’s be clear, can be wonderful and beautiful when it’s wanted and by choice, and when it’s not, when it’s forced by the state, it’s enslaving. Over 23 million women live under abortion bans. Post the Dobbs decision last summer, over 32,000 Women forced to give birth against their will. This Mother’s Day, we’re thinking about all the women and girls whose bodies, lives, and futures were ripped apart against their will, forced into motherhood against their will, often driven deeper into poverty and abuse.
We think about the women who very much wanted to be mothers who were nearly forced to die when their pregnancy was not viable because the state prevented them from accessing abortion care, or bled out from lack of miscarriage management. We owe it to those mothers — who are the majority of those who seek abortion care, most people who get abortions are already mothers — and all those who wish not to be, to fight for and win legal abortion nationwide on demand and without apology. In North Carolina, a fascist abortion ban was approved by a gerrymandered legislative supermajority. But this story is continuing to develop. Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the ban.
But unlike Biden and the National Democratic Party leadership, and unlike the leadership of the so called reproductive rights movement, he has not resigned in advance to the “veto proof lock” that the Republican Party has gained over the state government. Listen to this from the AP report on the event: “Andrea Leung, a 42 year old mother of three from Cary, said she was honored to be part of an electric crowd on what she called a historic day for freedom in North Carolina. “I couldn’t stop crying tears of joy seeing the governor holds up the veto stamp, but I know it’s an uphill battle to keep this momentum going.” He is going on a tour of the state, not to get out the vote, but encourage vocal support for abortion rights and public opposition to the ban to change the outcome of the override vote, in recognition of the basic fact that the power to stop this shit lies with us the people.
The point is not to lionize this governor. It’s not to encourage, or worse, passively hope that other Democratic Party politicians will take similar steps. The point is that the real power lies beyond the voting booth. It lies in transforming the passive, demobilized, demoralized, decent people of this country into an un-ignorable force that must be reckoned with. It’s deadly and ridiculous for us to wait on unleashing that until some politician decides to break from the script.
We wanted to share the latest from my friends at RiseUp4AbortionRights.org, who issued a call to act that reads:
“Hands Off Abortion Medication. Do not wait to see what plays out in the courts. Act now. Monday, May 15th to Wednesday, May 17th, act in bold, ways big and small to demand: Fascist judges hands off the abortion pill. Women need legal abortion on demand and without apology to be free. Wednesday, May 17. A panel of judges from the Fifth Circuit of appeals will review a decision by the Federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to completely ban mifepristone nationwide; a medication use in over half of the abortions in this country.
This decision has been partially blocked while it is being reviewed by the higher courts, but hangs like a sword over the lives of women across the country who need access to abortion to live full and free lives. This assault on abortion medication nationwide is the latest and most far reaching move by the Christian fascists anti abortion fanatics since they succeeded in overturning abortion rights nationwide last year at the Supreme Court. They will not stop in their attempts to ban all abortions everywhere, unless we stop them.”
So go see the link in the show notes for their full call to act. I just got to add a little bit more on this panel and theocrats that’s hearing this case. I just want to give you a brief who’s who of these fascist fucks. Starting with Jennifer Walker Elrod, a George W. Bush appointment. In 2014, she upheld a Texas anti abortion law that required abortion doctors to get admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This forced abortion facilities to comply with expensive standards of hospital style surgical centers and it shut down 32 of the 40 clinics in the state. The same law also banned abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and heavily restricted the use of abortion pills.
Next up, James Ho, a Trump appointment, has written gratuitously about the “moral tragedy” of abortion. He upheld a Texas law that required abortion facilities to bury or cremate fetal remains. Ho authored a concurring opinion in the Mississippi abortion case, Jackson Women’s Health Organization vs. Dobbs, 2019. He said that a trial judge’s ruling which struck down the 15 week abortion ban, and which was affirmed by the Fifth Circuit under the then standing Roe precedent, displayed “an alarming disrespect for the millions of Americans who believe that babies deserve legal protection during pregnancy as well as birth and that abortion is immoral, tragic and violent taking of an innocent human life.”
One more fun fact: He was sworn in to the Fifth Circuit at the private home of infamous fascist billionaire Harlan Crow. And last, but definitely not least, Corey Wilson, another Trump appointment, voted for bills as a state legislator in Mississippi that would ban abortion and voted for the defunding of Planned Parenthood. He has explicitly said that abortion should be illegal even to save a person’s life. And earlier this year, wrote the majority Circuit opinion for upholding gun rights for domestic abusers. And yes, they are all Federalist Society Christian fascists. They support voter suppression and attacks on LGBTQ people and the overall fascist agenda. Instead of relying on elections and a state by state fight that women and girls are already losing, now is the time to be rising up for abortion rights.
Now, here is Coco Das contributing editor to RefuseFascism.org, and frequent guest and guest host of the show.
Coco Das 13:00
Biden’s camp cheers on Trump’s CNN town hall — an opposition party that is worse than useless. Let me get this straight, at this late hour, you’re relying on the Democrats and the 2024 election to stop Trump? What about the fact that after Trump’s CNN town hall, an atrocity of normalization where he had free rein to spout his white supremacy and misogyny and his fascist lies that the 2020 election was stolen from him, all to a wildly cheering audience, gleeful Democratic strategists and pundits were all over the airwaves spouting their dangerous message: That this was good for the Democratic party going into the 2024 election.
Stop, and wake the fuck up. Trump remaining the front runner and ever popular leader of the MAGA movement is not something to dismiss, laugh at, or celebrate. How can any decent person celebrate the fact that Trump is still free to hold his unhinged Nuremberg style rallies? and given a huge platform on CNN to spout his hate, despite sparking a violent coup attempt? despite calling white supremacists in Charlottesville fine people? despite boasting about sexual assault and doubling down on the right of celebrities to grab women by the pussy? despite having stacked the Supreme Court with Christian fascist judges who overturn Roe v Wade? despite inspiring stochastic terrorism against immigrants, black people and Jewish people? despite his lawlessness?
This is accelerating the consolidation of fascism, not stopping it. Whether Trump becomes the 2024 candidate or not, Trumpism is leading the way. All this is continually setting terms on the national political stage and throughout society. Fascists are on the march, and all of them, whether they like Trump or not, are marching behind him and what he made possible; tearing up norms, clearing the warpath, stoking his base to be even more white supremacist, misogynist, patriarchal, and murderously and genocidally lunatic.
The cynical strategy of the Democrats celebrating the advancement of extreme MAGA candidates, because it hands them electoral victories is delusional and deadly. Right now, women are being enslaved. Trans people are being erased. Black people are being disenfranchised. Immigrants are being hunted. And all they can think about is winning elections on a totally transformed landscape, where a failed coup attempt has become a dress rehearsal, and the GOP is poised to hammer into place every mechanism they can to subvert elections.
And here’s the worst thing and opposition party relying on Trump and all the terrible things he has unleashed to help them win the next election will continue to stop you from doing what humanity needs. They will keep you off the streets. They will urge you to use your vote as your voice. They will tell you to swallow your rage until the next election. They will kill your moral determination to resist with every fiber of your being. They will keep you in a web of ignorance and passivity.
The road to fascism is paved with fake opposition and honeyed words. The only force that can be a real match for Trump and Trumpism is us, the people in our millions sounding the alarm on the danger we face, calling out dead end strategies like relying on the Democrats to stop this threat, and building a nonviolent mass movement of real resistance — refusing to accept these terms and flooding the public square on public discourse with our moral conviction, no matter what the Democrats tell us.
Sam Goldman 17:05
Check the show notes so that you can read Coco’s piece. Spread it, and find more from Coco at RefuseFascism.org or by following Coco on Twitter @Coco_Das. Now here’s my interview with Akin Olla from the Dream Defenders.
Sam Goldman 17:25
Dream Defenders and others staged a non violent sit in Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, blocking its entrance, to protest his fascist agenda. A spokesperson for the Dream Defenders said in a statement to the media that the day that have happened — which was now, when we’re uploading, two weeks ago, he said — we’re trying to avoid chasing after each attack, but instead unite the people of Florida against DeSantis and his attempts to destroy the remnants of democracy in Florida.
This is an agenda that Dream Defenders has aptly labeled as fascist. They refused to leave the office until DeSantis would meet with them. At 7pm. on that Wednesday night, DeSantis still had not met with them and 14 people were forcibly removed, arrested and charged with trespassing. To talk more about the action, why they took it, what this fascist movement is, and the resistance that’s needed now, I am so happy to be talking with a Akin Olla, National Press Secretary for the Dream Defenders and also a contributing writer at The Guardian. Welcome to the show.
Akin Olla 18:34
Hi, thank you for having me.
Sam Goldman 18:36
So, first, tell us a little bit more about the protest. We saw some clips, we played some clips; the singing, I think it was all these fascists bound to lose [All You Fascists Bound To Lose by Woody Guthrie] — we played that clip. It really looked like a spirited determined group of folks of a pretty wide range of ages and backgrounds, really united and spending the day together, raising their voices and rising up. I was just hoping you could tell us a little bit more about what stood out to you and those that participated.
Akin Olla 19:10
Yeah, the action was a long time coming in a lot of ways. I think a big part of it has been this narrative that people in Florida aren’t doing anything. People in Florida don’t actually care about what’s going on. So I feel like this was bubbling in the hearts of a lot of people — across organizations, though, particularly the Dream Defenders, just given our continued resistance to right wing governments in Florida.
It was really the culmination of 10 years of Dream Defenders since the last occupation in 2013, and a lot of people just fed up across the state across organizations across communities, and really coming together to do something that we hope to not only get attention and make people see that there was a resistance to DeSantis. Because we’re not the first protests, there’s been walkouts that were led by high school students, walkouts led by college students. There was drag show protests at the state capitol earlier in April.
So, there’s actually been quite a lot of resistance, but there hasn’t been enough action that the entire state is paying attention to, or the entire country is paying attention to. So, we’re hoping to bring all those efforts together into one big action that can at least spark something larger than itself and send the signal to the fascists that are currently in government, that there will be a challenge to their rule going into the coming election, but permanently, as this is going to be a long term fight and not just a one off protests.
I think it was in true Dream Defenders fashion — something that was also joyful for the people who participated — we started the entire day with, basically, a dance party at the capitol in the courtyard — which we did get some criticism from online because people are always mad about something. But then we transitioned that into a much more lively rally, and that that led into a people’s tour of the State House, where we talked about all the things that were going on, we led people to the statehouse doors in the state senate doors, and then led to the occupation.
So yeah, I just have a deep appreciation of the culture of the Dream Defenders and this ability to take joyful action that was also serious. I mean, there were some heated moments between us and the police. There was at least one moment that was captured on camera, in which police officers shoved a door into the backs of two of the protesters, one of them who was currently still in a lot of pain as a result of it.
Sam Goldman 21:37
It was the kind of action that was both inspiring, and also people, I think, felt like they were there with others. And I think that that makes people want to act, not just in that aspirational way of: Oh, I wish I did something like that. But, maybe: I could, I can see myself doing that. I think that that is definitely part of the culture of Dream Defenders. Another piece that stood out to me, as you were speaking, was this notion that people aren’t rising up or that people aren’t speaking out or there hasn’t been action.
On our show, we’ve featured the voices of high school students who’ve led walkouts, college students who’ve led walkouts, and ordinary teachers who’ve organized actions to get books into the hands of students. In each of those interviews, I was struck by how much each of those individuals — whether they were high school student, or whether they were the middle aged teacher — how deeply they understood the connection between what too many see as separate outrages, whether it be: Oh, this is just attack on drag, or: Oh, this is just an attack on LGBTQ rights at schools, or: Oh, this is just an attack on history education.
There was a real sense from a lot of these folks that these issues are intertwined. I wanted to hear more from your perspective, if you could tell us a little bit more about what is going on in this fascist laboratory that is Florida under DeSantis’ tutelage and how you’ve correctly put your finger on this fascism. And why you see that as such?
Akin Olla 23:26
I believe the Santas his strategy is one that fascists have done before one is targeting vulnerable groups of people in hopes that you can divide them from the rest of the public. I think we’ve seen his attacks on trans people as something that the Nazi Party has done before, and also I think he’s going further in terms of trying to divide trans people and queer people in general, and like the queer… especially a coalition that has been created, and like crafted over the last, like 60 years, and I think a lot of people are looking to drive fissures in the community. And then it does work. We’ve seen gay men speak against trans people. That’s part of why he’s doing it.
It’s also a strategy that I think also really plays into how the nonprofit organizing world works, where grants are very much based on issues, instead of like trying to develop long standing institutions or like really building the left. The idea that all these organizations are now going to, instead of unify, they’re going to fight in their siloed issue areas, and really be focused on what’s impacting their base. Which isn’t true. Any given base of any organization is going to involve people from the working class, it’s going to involve black people, queer people, but organizations are often forced into fighting one fight at a time. I feel like that’s most likely what our organizations are going to fall into, just how they function, how they work.
So I think DeSantis understands that and that’s part of his strategy in ensuring that we’re fighting one bill at a time. And this effort was an attempt to prevent that from happening, to bring different organizations together. To also start painting a picture for the future. So we had all of our speakers during the rally. That was everything under the Freedom papers we crafted in 2018. The freedom papers are basically a seven point program, detailing a future that we actually want to see in the United States and the world more broadly, since it’s an internationalist framework. The protest was an attempt to really start building a movement that won’t fall into the traps of the nonprofit world or into what DeSantis is setting up in terms of dividing our bases and getting them to turn against each other, and to see each other as the problem.
There’s also the reality that an anti fascist movement is inevitable, I think, in this country, we’ve seen it before under a Trump think it’s likely going to happen again, as we have just more power grabs, because the DeSantis isn’t only attacking different vulnerable populations, and people are marginalized people. He’s also trying to destroy any sort of ability to resist against him, which I think is part of the playbook, too. So he’s making it so that school board elections are more frequent. He’s trying to ensure that school board elections are partisan, so people have to declare a party to run. And that way, he’s also created a list of school board members that he wants to replace.
He’s really thinking about power, and reforming the system so that he can even if we defeat a couple of these bills, by the end of his tenure, he’s positioning himself to control as many school boards as possible in the state so we can continue his agenda regardless. At the same time, last week, he passed legislation that would ensure that he’s able to even run for the president while remaining governor of the state, which is something that has been somewhat of a safeguard to prevent Republicans from using their governorship as somewhat of a political platform and as propaganda for their primary election.
DeSantis is now able to continue to use the state as a means of showing primary voters and the Republican Party that he is a much more efficient version of Trump. A lot of this was an effort to call attention to DeSantis as a specific, unique threat, and he’s not the only one, really. That’s part of it too, where we want to give people hope and inspiration and some direction in terms of what they can do to resist on a statewide level, on a local level, and start getting this more disruption against their politics.
The fear is how fascism has worked in the past, is kind of like this slow bubbling over time — I wish I could remember the exact quote — how the first thing is not going to ever be concentration camps. That is the end goal of these kinds of strategies. The first things are things like criminalizing drag shows, making it easier to execute people and to give the death penalty by decreasing the amount of jurors necessary to enact the death penalty.
It’s these kind of smaller reforms that end up building us closer and closer towards a fascist state. One that’s not even that incompatible with the current government that we have in the United States. A lot of the anti-immigrant policies that he’s pushing are very compatible with a lot of what the Democratic Party is doing. So it’s become clear that we need to create a sense of urgency in the country, and to create a sense that there is resistance against fascism in the country. So that’s where a lot of the action has stemmed from.
Sam Goldman 28:47
Part of what I’m hearing from you is the challenge of the fact that this fascism gets normalized so quickly, and accommodated to. I was talking, I guess in the last interview, to someone, and was just thinking about some of the things that DeSantis says that now just aren’t challenged at all. He talked about, as if it’s fact, the chopping off of teenagers penises, as that’s just what doctors do. He did it with such hatred, and with the pornographic detail. No one challenges it. It’s just DeSantis being DeSantis.
That then becomes the next whoever has to go further and be even more vicious. There’s this Olympics of cruelty. DeSantis is not the only one by any means, as you spoke to, but he’s definitely thrown the gauntlet down, in which you have Abbott and others being like: Ooh, you thought that was fascist? You thought that was anti immigrant? You thought that was anti black? Let me show you something else. It just keeps going. It’s just seen as a horse race for a moment, and then just normalized. There’s, maybe, an initial shock and then okay, this is how we do things now. And the need to break through that, that you were speaking to … also made me think about how you use the word disruption that there needed to be action that disrupted.
That is very different than what people are being led to right now. Even if they see it as anti fascist action, even if they’re doing it as antifa, the way that people are being led is primarily, when you look at single issues that say, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, let’s say: We’ve gotta win in the election; our vote is our voice. And that’s it. It is totally debilitating. It is paralyzing. Not only is it a dead-end strategy, in the fact that these fuckers don’t care about your vote. They’re suppressing it and they’re ready to use violence if needed. What do people think January 6th was about? If you think you’re gonna rely on that, woo, wake up.
Then, as you were talking about: Okay, well, what’s the Democrat’s stance on some things? You look at something like abortion, they had 50 years to do something, they never did. There was a point with that. The point was disrupting and that’s standing out is something different. You had said, I think in an email to me, but you’ve also said it somewhere else, lots of other places publicly: There is this danger of a — your words, were — a potentially empty anti fascism that would simply maintain the same system, that allows for the festering and flourishing of fascism. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about what does that empty anti fascism look like? so that people can compare and contrast.
Akin Olla 31:39
I think it’s gonna look like people voting for Joe Biden in the primary, but also in the general election — which I don’t think is inherently a bad thing, but I think that’s going to be that framing of what it means to be anti-fascist in the next coming year, is we must elect Joe Biden no matter what. I believe that that’s essentially saying that we must maintain the system that is creating the conditions for fascism to exist in the first place. People can do the electoral work around Joe Biden.
I think there is some clear danger to having someone like Donald Trump or DeSantis as the President, particularly around the court appointments that we’re seeing with the Supreme Court, and we’re going to keep finding out with federal judges. There is a very real tangible impact that they have when they’re in office. Admittedly, Democrats will sometimes still appoint conservative justices too and judges too, but we are more likely to get just less terrible judges and appointees under Joe Biden than we would under Trump, and I’m not a fan of Biden whatsoever.
But I think what’s likely to happen, we’re just gonna have to have the same fight again, in the next four years, and then after that, we’re gonna have the same fight every midterm election, every election, we’re just going to keep having to elect Democrats to ensure that the more you no explicit fascists don’t come into power. It’s like they’re going to disappear, or the Republican Party is going to go back to its fascism light anytime soon. It seems to be working for them. I mean, Donald Trump is completely demolishing every other candidate in the polls right now, and then DeSantis is a far second, but then DeSantis compared to all the other candidates, he’s completely demolishing everyone else after him. So their strategy is working for, at least, the Republican primary voters.
So there’s no reason to believe that it’s just gonna disappear and stop anytime soon, even given Donald Trump lost the election, and people are still backing him. I believe we need to set a higher standard than just being literally, not a fascist. We need to set a standard that is transformative, that calls for a new country, a country that acknowledges what we all just went through with COVID, that acknowledges the state of our economy and the emiseration of working class people in this country, the amount of stress that everyone has under, the amount of poverty that has been inflicted upon people, and create a blueprint for something that will give working class white people something to hang on to that’s not fascist rhetoric that is turning them against their peers, that will give middle class white people who also are a big part of this too — I think we often do scape goat, and look at working class white people is just the problem, when a lot of this is being backed by middle class white people, and a lot of is being run by upper class white people.
So, just giving people hope and a sense of a better country in a better world, something else to fight for, and something’s actually live for: A country that actually prioritizes health care, mental health care, over private profit, a country that that is actually moving towards a real democracy. But, I think right now we’re on a course of just demanding that Joe Biden not be a fascist, and that everyone vote for him because of that. I think that’s a mistake. That’s going to end with us doing this fight all over again in four years with whoever Joe Biden successor is.
Sam Goldman 34:59
It won’t stay the same either. The fascist base will not stay the same. They are upping the ante and upping and upping and upping. They’ve seized state houses. They’re in power across the country. It is not nothing that they have their hands on the levers of power in Texas and Florida. That, what is it now, 19 states have restricted or outright banned abortion in this country because of GOP control. This does have life and death implications, right now, and they’re not going to stay where they are. If people thought that the coup attempt that was, was the end, it’s continuing.
This country is being cleaved apart. When people are talking about the makings of a slow Civil War, this isn’t a joke, it’s actually real. There are people gunned to the teeth, ready to go. And right now, this would be a one sided Civil War; it would be a fucking genocide. These are the stakes. I think that you’re completely right about the danger posed, and about where automatically or spontaneously, people go in terms of how we resist or how we fight back. I differ on what I think is the solution. I don’t think that the system is reformable. I think that that’s a whole separate conversation.
I think that we’re going to need a lot of people that think that this is reformable in the fight to stop this fascism. That’s how I see it. You pose some specific things in terms of actions that can be taken by those in power to kind of, I think you use the words, stem the tide. What does resistance need to look like now? If it isn’t: I just gotta vote in the next election, and I gotta get my crew to vote, and I gotta get voting on the minds of Gen Z. What do we need? What does resistance look like? And how can that be part of bringing that hopeful future that you spoke of into being?
Akin Olla 36:51
To be clear, I don’t really believe reforms are going to work, because I don’t think the Democratic Party will engage with them. I think the Republican Party has stacked the deck in a lot of places. I just think we need to hold on to something, partially so we can cleave part of the Democratic Party base and part of the Republican base into new organizations. I think we do that by putting the Democrats in a position where they need to say we actually don’t support democracy either. I think that’s what pro democracy demands are going to do, and give us an opportunity to actually start building, not necessarily a third party, just…
Sam Goldman 37:25
Not to interrupt, but I think that was a brilliant way to put it: Getting them to have to say that they don’t support democracy, either. Yeah.
Akin Olla 37:33
Yeah. I think we need to build an organization that is able to coordinate people across the country, that gives people a political home and a political direction for the long term — a place where we can debate and argue about strategy for the long term, and then also have mechanisms in place where our conversations and our debates and arguments can become campaigns instead of — I think a lot of the work I’ve done in the last 15 years of my life — there isn’t that much strategic debate about the future or long term visioning because we kind of go from campaign to campaign to campaign with no big thinking.
I think we need to build organizations that are capable of that, but I’ve also been in many organizations that are capable of arguing all day, without actually being able to transition them into action. I mean, that’s why I joined the Dream Defenders. We spent about two and a half years trying to develop a long term strategy, and are still in the process of developing a long term strategy that’s really looking at what it looks like to win for the left the United States within our lifetimes, and to build a national movement to build an international movement on top of that.
I think the pro-democracy movement — and this is something I’m still trying to convince many people of — is part of that. It really strikes at the heart of capitalism and the Democratic Party because it’s incompatible. Capitalism has never been compatible with democracy, and the Democratic Party has ever been compatible with democracy because it’s a capitalist party at the end of the day. I think that we ought to be doing organizing that seeks power. I think a lot of the left has left labor organizing to the side for quite too long. That’s also a result of the nonprofit industrial complex, and its single issue focus. Building student power and the ability for students to self organize on campuses, even through student governments, which I think has been neglected in the United States for the last few decades, but the history of a lot of the left has relied on student organizing as a base of power, and I feel like the left has completely abandoned that in any meaningful way. Student governments used to be a thing that left wing people were part and parcel of, and able to actually utilize to win victories.
Basically things that allow people to organize a base of people that are fixed in some sort of location and have some sort of power over the future of the country. I think the power that students have, for example, is to influence the minds of vast amounts of their generation, as well as just a lot of people who are also now workers as students who are also able to disrupt institutions that participate in the development of weapons, that participate in the training of capitalists in the first place.
Sam Goldman 40:09
I want to thank you so much for coming on and sharing your time, your perspective, your insight. I wanted to give you an opportunity to let folks know where they can go to learn more from you, and the Dream Defenders.
Akin Olla 40:25
You can check us out @DreamDefenders on Twitter. Also DreamDefenders.org. Definitely the Twitter, right now, is great, because I’m helping to run it, so it’s a lot of fun. But I’m also @ThisIsRevShow on Twitter. Should we get off of Twitter? I don’t know. Probably, but in the meantime, that seems to be a place to be. Definitely, yeah, recommend people checking out my podcast: This is the Revolution. Especially, I’d like to engage with revolutionary theory as it is, and tactics and strategy in a way that I think a lot of the left has been afraid to, and I was taught to be afraid of. Really engaging with how we function, what we ought do, what we ought not to, and the different effects of different strategies and tactics.
Sam Goldman 41:07
Thanks again, so much.
Akin Olla 41:09
Thank you. Appreciate you.
Sam Goldman 41:10
One closing thought off of this interview: I think it’s important to recognize that whatever their personal motivations, the political success of Trump and DeSantis, along with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Hawley, and all the political representatives of their movement, isn’t based in some electoral pragmatism. Fascism is working for them. Not just as an electoral strategy, but as a ruling strategy. Consolidating fascism is how they see resolving the crises that the American Empire is mired in, facing and anticipating. And it’s a resolution that powerful sections of the ruling class are fighting for. We’ll continue to get at this in future episodes.
Sam Goldman 41:56
I want to let folks know that I’m speaking this week at a teach in at Drexel University in Philadelphia: Hands off the abortion pill, the Christian fascist plan for a federal abortion ban. The teach in is taking place this Wednesday, May 17 at 6pm at Disque Hall, room 108. If you’re in the area, come and join me.
Sam Goldman 42:19
Thanks for listening to Refuse Fascism. We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts, questions, ideas for topics or guests where lend a skill. Tweet me @SamBGoldman, or drop me a line at [email protected] You can also find us on Mastodon, or leave us a voicemail. Links to do both are in the show notes. Want to support the show? It’s simple. Show us some love by rating and reviewing on Apple podcasts or your listening platform of choice, and, of course, follow/subscribe so you never miss an episode.
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Thanks to Richie Marini, Lina Thorne, Coco Das and Mark Tinkleman for helping produce this episode. Thanks to incredible volunteers, we have transcripts available for each episode, so be sure to visit RefuseFascism.org and sign up to get them in your inbox. We’ll be back next Sunday digging into the fascist white supremacist murders in Texas and the fascist violence this is a part of. Until then, in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America.