The response to Trump’s visit this week was emphatic and defiant, but some have criticised the rallies for indulging Liberals and tolerating other right wing state visitors. David Swanson dismisses these quibbles and argues the marches united hundreds of thousands of people at a time when it was greatly needed…
Engaging with today’s political climate can be a disheartening process. It’s easy to pin Donald Trump and his ilk as the cause of all our problems, but he’s just symptomatic of a wider malaise. A society of competition and individualism is forcibly encouraged while shady dealings and corruption are an everyday practice for elites. Trump is just the poster boy for this global acceleration of hatred. We can’t pretend the actions of the world’s leading superpower, Britain’s chief ally, doesn’t affect us. And so, to the fury of millions, a disjointed Conservative government with a rudderless leadership invited Trump to the UK for a visit this week.
All it did was highlight how out of touch the ruling class is with the rest of the population. Global arms sales, the potential privatisation of the NHS and the two countries’ ‘special relationship’ were all on the agenda as Theresa May rolled out the red carpet at public expense to welcome the most iconic figure for western fascists since the 1930s. It’s completely understandable why much of the population, watching our prime minister being helplessly led up the stairs of Blenheim Palace, would feel apathetic and just give up.
But a huge number of us refused to surrender to his supremacist ideology. Nearly a million people rallied to defy the exploitative billionaire’s claim that ordinary people in Britain support him. And so it’s worth reflecting on what was achieved this week as it can’t be underestimated. A rally isn’t just a gesture: it will have reached weary and disillusioned Americans watching on their television sets. It’s a timely show of solidarity with Syrians living an endless nightmare of US-led bombings. And it shows the forces of fascist and racist politics across the world that ordinary people won’t just sit down and be trampled on. We will resist from below until a society is created that’s inclusive of everyone, not the privileged 1%.
When considering the resonance of these demonstrations, it’s worth considering who won’t have appreciated such protests. Supporters of Israel’s illegal occupation will have been quaking in their boots. Turkish president Recep Erdogan will have observed these developments with extreme apprehension. And gracious host Theresa May has shut the curtains in her strong and stable ivory tower – Downing Street has kept almost silence on what’s been hailed as the biggest weekday protest ever held in London. The hundreds of thousands in attendance weren’t just protesting Trump’s personal indiscretions but providing a source of comfort and inspiration to all those who suffer at the hands of his administration’s dangerous policies – true internationalism at work.
Despite the success, critics remain even within our own quarters on the radical left. Many question why comrades were happy to welcome other imperialists but took to the streets to oppose Trump. Such criticisms aren’t groundless: Barack Obama was welcomed with open arms though he’d signed a record arms deal with Israel, dropped tens of thousands of bombs in the Middle East, and refused to deliver on his promises to close Guantanamo Bay or vacate Cuba. Hilary Clinton was given a rousing UK reception in 2014 despite her role in destroying Libya’s democracy as US Secretary of State and her vocal support for the invasion of Iraq. When Scottish politicians welcomed Andriy Parubiy, an avowed neo-Nazi and co-founder of the Social-National Party of Ukraine, to Holyrood a mere few weeks ago, few activists batted an eyelid.
Is the left hypocritical or misinformed on these issues? Perhaps both. However, for all these arguments are valid, they don’t justify turning a blind eye to Trump’s visit. Abstaining on such a key issue doesn’t help Palestinians who face daily slaughter at the hands of American-funded weapon systems. It doesn’t help support a planet which has next to no chance of reaching climate change targets by 2020 without US involvement in the Paris Accord. Petty grievances don’t help caged children separated from their families win their right to freedom of movement.
It’s easy enough to criticise liberals for their twee signs and fair weather opposition to injustice, but it’s worth considering that many of those who marched this week who would otherwise have welcomed the likes of Obama or Clinton have taken their first step towards radical politics. They will have heard speakers and encountered activists expressing that Democrats and Republicans are wings of the same corrupt bird, which needs to be challenged on a class-conscious basis from below. They united under different banners to create a movement of strength and courage when others decided it was better to sit at home and mock them for past mistakes. It’s crucial we welcome them and steer them as we journey towards a better society.
The far right and their champion Donald Trump have the easiest job in the world: divide society at all costs. Accuse immigrants of employment theft and slander those struggling to keep up in a neo-liberal system as benefit scroungers. Cry that the homeless are lazy and they will get where they need to be if they just work that bit harder. Viciously clam migrant workers are overrunning our NHS or that minorities threaten our society’s values. When we unite, we keep Trump, Farage, May and their media cheerleaders on their toes. By directing our anger towards those really responsible, the privileged elites who prioritise power and capital at our expense are forced to engage.
The marches against Trump showed that we aren’t willing to sit quietly while we lose what is rightfully ours. They weren’t just a symbol of our discontent with an uncouth President; they showed a willingness to channel daily frustrations into opposing the global political system we find ourselves in. We will not let history repeat itself and usher in a new era of despotism. We will unite under one banner of class solidarity to usher in the society that we want to see.