Authoritarianism on the Rise

MAPA Newsletter October 2020

by Joseph Gerson

The Authoritarianism Working Group has shared and discussed readings and organized two excellent webinars featuring Noam Chomsky, Van Gosse, Ty dePass, Mic Krenshaw and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. Among the lessons from the readings has been the central role of middle classes in determining the outcomes of struggles over the rise of fascism and counterrevolution. Webinar videos can be viewed here.

Essential points from the webinars include:

  • “The incumbent owns all of the instruments of power” and has sycophants in charge of most of those instruments with the possible exception of the military. Strategic deployments of federal law enforcement and likely Homeland Security contractors to Democratic stronghold cities reflects a strategic testing.
  • We face a unique confluence of crises: pandemic, closer to nuclear annihilation than ever before, the climate crisis which could end life in this century, white supremacist racism, and the assault on the democratic foundations of the government.
  • The US has never lived up to its declared visions, but with democratic advances since the 1960s, we have something to protect.
  • We are threatened by Trump’s creeping coup of illiberal democracy, in which the façade is maintained. Purges of governmental institutions (inspector generals ousted, intelligence and other agencies no longer accountable to Congress) are already underway.
  • Police violence and the exploitation and discarding of Black and other People of Color workers is an extension of the 400-year-old integration of racism and capitalism and an extension of the plantation system.
  • The brutality of police repression in Minneapolis and Portland directed against largely white protesters is designed to scare whites away from solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other oppressed people.
  • The basis of law and justice implemented as revenge, retaliation, and retribution – power over. Reforms haven’t worked, hence “Defund the Police.”
  • A second Trump Administration, based on appeals to racism, xenophobia and ethno-nationalism will pulverize the government, a lawless regime with loyalists in all government positions, green lights for police and militia violence, all tolerated by courts.

Essential Responses:

  • Centrality of election protection and getting as many people to vote as possible
  • Media must understand this is not a typical election. With final results unlikely for several days, must avoid making predictions or announcements as polls close.
  • Solidarity with Black Lives Matter and other oppressed peoples.
  • Most 9-11 calls best handled by social service agencies, not police.
  • Forces emerging from the pandemic will determine humanity’s future.