Statement by Black Rose / Rosa Negra
The 2020 presidential election has come and gone. While Donald Trump’s refusal to concede marks a departure from the established norms of U.S. bourgeois democracy, it has not amounted to the coup that many feared it would. Despite the authoritarian rhetoric that brought him to power, Trump never produced the sort of coherent ideological project which the forces necessary for a successful coup (namely the military and capital) would feel compelled to throw their weight behind. If anything, four years of Trump threatened to complicate and destabilize U.S. imperial hegemony and the smooth functioning of global markets, which the U.S. ruling class is wholly invested in preserving and reproducing.
In light of his loss, Trump has made increasingly desperate plays at casting doubt on the election results; filing doomed lawsuits, demanding recounts, and making spurious claims of fraud. The GOP will buoy these claims for as long as it remains politically expedient to do so, but this won’t last forever. In fact many have already jumped ship as this expediency begins to expire. By now, everyone save for the most captured Trump diehards understands that come January 20th, Joe Biden will assume the presidency.
Though Trump’s power-grab appears to have failed, his brazen attempt to steal the election has exposed structural vulnerabilities in the presidency, eroded confidence in the electoral system, fed into growing conspiracy theories and emboldened the far-right. It also provoked a state of alarm within popular movements. These destabilizing effects will last far beyond Trump’s term in office, presenting real threats in the coming period. In many ways Trumpism will live on.
While the Democrats have hailed Trump’s failure as proof of a functioning democracy, nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does the Democratic party represent the same rotten system which brought millions into the streets this year and gave rise to Trump in the first place — their victory against him was far from a given. Despite what the polls predicted, Biden won only by a slim margin, nearly identical to the one that propelled Trump to victory in 2016. Down ballot, Democrats were unable to secure the Senate and even lost seats in the House.
This should cast serious doubt on hopes of a Biden presidency resulting in the passage of anything resembling progressive legislation. Regardless of which party is in power, it’s only pressure from below in the form of militant mass social movements that give us a real chance at making substantial gains and advancing towards revolutionary transformation.
This election also took place against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic that has careened further out of control — a factor that seems to have played a decisive role in tipping the scales for Biden, while exposing and exacerbating pre-existing inequalities at the heart of capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and the state.
Both Congress and the executive have all but checked out on the question of providing additional economic relief. This as COVID cases spike to new and unseen levels across the country, causing our brittle private healthcare system to once again hurtle toward a breaking point. As is always the case under capitalism, the working class — especially working class women and people of color — will continue to be hardest hit by the ravages of the pandemic.
While we have little reason to place faith in the institutions of capitalism or the state to meet our basic needs, this year has shown the transformative power of social movements to force concessions and build momentum towards liberation. While we can win reforms with these movements, our ultimate aim should be social revolution.
The power of social movements was exhibited early on in the pandemic when workers in a variety of sectors demanded and often won protections in the form of hazard pay or safety protocols. Similarly, renters in major cities around the U.S. looked to tenant unions for guidance in organizing rent strikes, when it became clear just how slow the state was in acting to prevent a (still pending) wave of evictions resulting from mass unemployment. The proliferation of mutual aid networks has been another inspiring example of people’s ability to take matters into their own hands and build structures of community solidarity.
But no other event better captures just how much social movements have developed and just how radically they can change the present state of things, than this summer’s mass rebellion in response to the racist police lynching of George Floyd. The sheer size, militancy, and multiracial nature of the uprising gave it the force to move its central demand of “defunding the police” out of the realm of fringe politics and onto the agenda of national conversation. In many places the movement succeeded in actualizing this demand by exerting pressure on local governments. This pressure must be sustained if we hope to defend and build on these gains towards revolutionary transformation.
Make no mistake, the strongest social force in 2020 was not any political party or candidate, it was social movements. The question is, will these movements become emboldened or deflated by Trump’s exit from the White House?
We must do everything in our power to limit the coming demobilization of those who feel that the defeat of Trump signals an end to their political commitments. Our answer to this must be to join, build, and strengthen fighting organizations rooted in struggles around material issues. This means labor unions or organizing committees at work, tenant unions at home, student organizations at school, as well as popular assemblies and mutual aid in our neighborhoods. These organizations constitute a pole of popular power which can not only win concessions in the short term, but build the basis of a revolutionary mass movement which can transform society on the basis of libertarian socialism in the long term.
The moment we are in is one marked by precarity, alienation, and unease. We are in a transition, but it is unclear where to. The only certainty is that the struggle of working people, people of color, queer people, Indigenous communities, and others will continue. If we can sustain the power of this summer’s uprising by grounding it in organization, direct action, and a transformative vision of revolutionary change, then there’s nothing that can stand in our way.
The state has failed us, but the future is unwritten; another society is possible if we press forward in organized collective struggle.
Join us as we move together toward libertarian socialism.
Black Rose Anarchist Federation
Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra