The enemies of America’s ruling class and who Donald Trump thinks they are
My talk at the plenary session of the International Anti-Racist Conference organised by Stand Up To Racism
Two questions: “Who are the enemies of Donald Trump and the White supremacist American ruling class?”
And “Who does Donald Trump believe them to be?”
The answers to both questions are not necessarily the same.
When Trump returned to the campaign trail last Monday we heard the answers straight from the horse’s mouth – no disrespect to horses. He picked out two elements. First, he said:
Biden made a corrupt bargain in exchange for his party’s nomination. He’s handed control to the socialist, the Marxist and left wing extremists. God help us if they ever got it…we would never have the same country back again.
Then, the other element. He said:
Joe Biden is also owned by the radical globalists, the wealthy donors, the big money, special interest, who shipped away your jobs, shut down your factories through open your borders and ravaged our cities while sacrificing American blood and treasure in ridiculous endless wars.
As he spoke his hands made the white power symbol. You don’t have to be an expert on white supremacy, and their so-called “Great Replacement theory” to hear the antisemitic dog whistles, and know who he is talking about.
He tells his supporters: We are the ones standing in their way. We are the ones standing up for the American workers, the American family
He does not mention Black Lives Matter in these quotes, a movement whose powerful demands for justice and equality, absolutely challenge the entrenched institutional power and privilege of the white middle and upper classes.
But when elsewhere, he does mention it - he portrays Black Lives Matter as the street manifestation of the international conspiracy he imagines he is up against. Remember how he described Black Lives Matter protesters immediately after George Floyd’s murder by police: “looters, thugs, Radical Left, Lowlife and Scum”, and he name-checked “antifa”.
Make no mistake, Trump and his backers are frightened of Black Lives Matter precisely because it is so large, so multi-racial and so multi-generational. When they demand Justice they reflect the immeasurable depths of historical injustice Black people endured through slavery. They simultaneously speak to the issues of all the oppressed, exploited and marginalised in America, who want to overturn the existing economic and political power structures and build a country run for all citizens equally.
Boris Johnson showed the same fears when he issued guidance to schools in the UK not to use resources of so-called “extreme” organisations that want to challenge capitalism. He has Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion in his sights. How is it extreme to analyse the economic system that underpinned slavery and Empire and traps billions today in global poverty?
Trump and Johnson join the dots in a certain way. We have to join the dots conceptually and practically between Black Lives Matter, the anti-fascist movement and movements for social justice globally. Those movements that challenge Trump, Orban, Modi, Netanyahu, Johnson.
We have to defeat conspiracy theories that exist on both sides of the Atlantic. In Britain Tory complacency and failures over the COVID-crisis have provided fertile ground for an alliance of COVID deniers, anti-vaxxers, Trump supporters, organised fascists and dangerous conspiracy theorists, like David Icke. Icke has long pushed wild anti-semitic conspiracy theories.
Don’t try to reason with him but do engage in persuasive conversations with neighbours, friends and workmates, who parrot conspiracy nonsense.
As a Jewish socialist here, I am proud of the activism of Jews of Colour in America, and of the solidarity with Black Lives Matter and call to action shown by 600 American Jewish organisations in an advert in the New York Times a few weeks ago. I’m even prouder of my friends in Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and Boston Jewish Workers Circle who have engaged in solidarity work for several decades. But I am ashamed of groups here like the Board of Deputies who one week make the right noises in support of Black Lives Matter and the next week provide a platform for for the Islamophobic and racist Home Secretary, Priti Patel. Some of them feigned surprise when she abused that platform to showcase her anti-Traveller racism. I wasn’t surprised.
As the Warsaw Ghetto fighter Marek Edelman put it, to be a Jew should mean always being with the oppressed, never with the oppressors!