By David Sole
The failure of the rightwing coup d’etat of January 6, 2021 has not stopped other forms of attacks on the poor and working people of the United States. One arena for the assault on basic human rights is now the United States Supreme Court. The question is: What can be done about it?
Some of the most vulnerable sections of the working class are growing more and more alarmed at the brazen and brutish conservative majority on the highest court in the land. Some of the court’s decisions involve: outlawing affirmative action in higher education and by extension, more widely; allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people (and by extension to any oppressed group) claiming religious freedom; limiting labor unions’ right to strike by holding the workers responsible for losses by their exploiters; barring the government from forgiving student debts overturning a woman’s right to choose thus losing control of her own body. The court had also, earlier, overturned key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Voting for Democrats not the solution
These serious reversals of fundamental rights demand a response. Unfortunately the Democratic Party, which poses as a “friend of the people,” offers only the “solution” of voting in more Democrats.
This has three problems. One is that voting only takes place every few years and does not address immediate concerns. Secondly, even when the Democrats controlled the Executive branch and both houses of Congress they did not secure important rights in law.
More fundamentally is the fact that the Democratic Party is, at its core, run by the capitalist ruling class that is no friend of the working class. Sure, they speak more liberally than the Republican politicians. But more progressive Democrats don’t hide the fact that their party is controlled by its “corporate” wing. With the capitalists controlling the mass media and most of the national, state and local politicians, that imbalance of power in favor of the rich ruling class cannot be overturned.
Only a mass movement that pulls together large sectors of workers, poor people and the middle class has the power to force serious change. That rank and file power won union rights, social security, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and helped put an end to the Vietnam War.
Mass movement must and will emerge
Such a movement can, must and will emerge in the coming era. Each generation has to discover the ways and means toward unity and struggle. Sometimes a powerful struggle will explode onto the scene. But if it isn’t ideological, if it doesn’t deeply understand the class nature and dynamics of this society, it will inevitably dissipate away.
One of the strongest weapons in the arsenal of the working class is the general strike. U.S. history has many examples of localized general strikes by workers and communities. What is needed, though, is a national general strike with clear demands and respected, centralized leadership.
But a general strike cannot be called into existence overnight. Even just talking about it will bring forth howls of outrage from the corporate and banking bosses, their media mouthpieces and their paid off politicians.
Timid leaders will immediately chime in how it never has been done, never can be done and is not the way to struggle. Only a real grassroots upsurge that refuses to be cowed and refuses to stop organizing can push aside enemies and weak-kneed friends alike. This movement must be completely independent of the Democratic Party which would only seek to derail any mass struggle.
A national assembly to gather the forces
A national assembly or congress of the people must be built in a very serious manner. Local assemblies can precede a national gathering and be used to bring together organizations and individuals. People must be able to hammer out a program of demands so that everyone can see their own interests are incorporated in the final documents.
Especially important will be to concretely show that needed social programs can and must be paid for by taxing the corporations, the banks and defunding the Pentagon. The military budget, including the costs of U.S. military bases and imperialist wars like in Ukraine, must be redirected to finance peoples’ needs.
Government officials conspired with January 6 insurrection
The lack of preparation back in 2020 on the part of the Democratic Party and most labor leaders, while Trump and Company openly planned a fascist takeover of the government, almost led to the destruction of “democratic” norms. How serious was the threat that culminated in the January 6 insurrection?
The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a report in June 2023 on the “intelligence failures in advance of January 6th, 2021.” This 106 page report (“Planned in Plain Sight”) rips into the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security Office [DHS] of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). It charges that “At a fundamental level, the agencies failed to fulfill their mission.”
Citing in detail the huge amount of evidence of the dangers to come on January 6, “the bureau [FBI] continued to downplay the overall threat, repeatedly noting that FBI ‘identified no credible or verifiable threat.’”
The report quotes specific threats of violence from “armed patriots” coming to Washington, D.C. for Trump’s rally, including “sharing a map of the U.S. Capitol Building.” “Despite that intelligence, as late as 8:57 AM on January 6th, a Senior Watch Officer at the DHS National Operations Center wrote ‘there is no indication of civil disobedience’.”
The Senate Committee attributes the failures of the intelligence offices, police and military establishment to a lack of coordination among agencies and urges improvement in communication and coordination for the future.
What is totally ignored is that the January 6 insurrection had the sympathy of or criminal complicity from important sections of the FBI, Homeland Security, police and military officials. The report barely mentions that the Committee itself “faced challenges in obtaining full compliance with its requests” thus hindering them from getting the full picture of the depth and breadth of collusion of government departments with the insurrection.
Organizations and individuals concerned with the ongoing rightwing threats, whether from the Proud Boys, the Republican voter suppressors or the Supreme Court, will find no real relief in the courts, police agencies or through the legislative process or voting. Experience, itself, is the best teacher but experience will be a hard teacher.
Some proposed a general strike before January 6
In the months leading up to Trump’s electoral defeat and the January 6 insurrection a few grassroots organizations gave warning. The most alert labor leaders did pass resolutions calling upon labor unions to carry out a general strike if Trump tried to overthrow the election. But these were few and far between.
National media gave some attention to those local initiatives. However, the national leadership of the AFL-CIO refused to follow the lead of the various central labor councils and made no call for general strike preparations. So when January 6 took place there was no independent mass progressive movement in place to respond.
The Supreme Court and the legislative rightwing attacks are more dangerous than the attack on the U.S. Capitol in 2021. Every progressive group and individual should give thought to how they can promote understanding of the power of a general strike and take steps toward unity and action to achieve it.