It IS Fascism—and the University Must Be a Zone of Resistance
by Raymond Lotta | January 21, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following talk was given by Raymond Lotta at a Social Emergency Forum held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge on January 19. The event was titled “In the Name of Humanity, Refuse to Accept a Fascist America—A Call to Action to Academics and Intellectuals.” It was inspired by the Call to Action from refusefascism.org and was part of the National Month of Resistance.
It IS Fascism—and the University Must Be a Zone of Resistance
I want to thank the organizers of tonight’s emergency forum at MIT for the opportunity to share in this urgent discussion. My focus is the stakes before us: what is unfolding in society... what we must clearly and fearlessly come to grips with... and what is required of us.
We are facing an unprecedented situation in the history of this country: fascism acceding to power. Now I don’t use the word fascism lightly or for rhetorical effect. It is something very real. Let me draw on a characterization of fascism posted on Revolution/revcom.us:
Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the capitalist-imperialist ruling class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”
At the same time—and this can be seen in studying the examples of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini—while it will likely move quickly to enforce certain repressive measures in consolidating its rule, a fascist regime is also likely to implement its program overall through a series of stages and even attempt at different points to reassure the people, or certain groups among the people, that they will escape the horrors—if they quietly go along and do not protest or resist while others are being terrorized and targeted for repression, deportation, “conversion,” prison, or execution.
The brute reality is that in a matter of hours, the Trump-Pence regime is coming to power and working to consolidate power in the next immediate period. This regime is totally illegitimate for what it stands for and the catastrophe it will bring to humanity.
Look, they’ve already sent out questionnaires to government employees to ascertain who is engaged in climate change research, or done work around gender issues and equality. We’ve seen this movie before... with Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. But now it is issuing from the highest levels of government. And even if they walk some of this back... the agenda and threats are clear.
This is a president who has vowed to reinstitute and double-down on “stop and frisk”—even though it’s been ruled unconstitutional in New York. He has vowed to go after and punish sanctuary cities. Now it is a good thing, something we have going for us, that the number of sanctuary cities has grown and that more universities are committed to protecting immigrant students. But what happens when there is a terrorist incident somewhere, and FBI agents come on to campuses to detain students from certain countries of origin? Mayors and administrators have to stand by their word. Professors and students have to act. That means risking arrest and worse. And courage will be required.
Our Best Shot... Acting Now To Stop It
But our best shot is to prevent this regime from consolidating its rule. We have a window and a historic responsibility: to stop it from happening in the coming days and week. It means engaging in massive, society-wide resistance—on a scale and with intensity not seen in this country for decades and perhaps more. We are on the cusp of a potential turning point. Hundreds of thousands of people will be converging in Washington, DC this weekend. To demonstrate and to connect with others. More people must come... into the millions. And people must stay in the streets over the weekend... into next week.
A major political crisis has to be created from below, such as in South Korea, where massive demonstrations forced the impeachment of the president in a matter of months. I’m speaking of a crisis that compels every major faction of the power structure to react. There’s infighting at the top, and it’s sharpening—in Congress, within the military and intelligence agencies. And there are countless reasons (and skeletons in the closet) that could become writs to block or impeach this regime. But nothing will come of this unless there is that political crisis from below. It’s a long shot, but it’s our best shot.
And come Monday, those universities that are back in session must become “no business as usual”—teach-ins, no classes as usual, walkouts, into the streets... and if students decide to engage in direct nonviolent action and take over buildings, they need the encouragement and involvement of their professors. We are fighting fascism that is aiming to consolidate itself.
The Special Role of the University as a Site of Resistance
It’s important that we are meeting here at MIT. Because the university has a critical role to play in this emergency: it is the one institution in society where dissent and where critical and radical thinking have some initiative. It is a space that has helped incubate social movements—from civil rights to antiwar, women’s and environmental. Some of you in this hall helped make that happen.
But now the stakes and challenges are raised qualitatively. Because of what this regime represents AND the fact that the university will be targeted on a whole other scale: for educating and protecting undocumented immigrants... for facilitating scholarship that challenges the official narrative of “America’s greatness” and Trump’s sick vision of making “America great—read that as ‘white’—again”... for granting academic positions to professors from “suspect” countries and cultures.
The university must be turned into a zone of resistance. Not sealed off from but opening into society—setting an example and inspiring others to act—and joining with others in mass resistance. People cannot fall into—and it behooves everyone to follow out—the logic of “preserving” what we have or “my work.” That is the politically and morally unacceptable logic of turning inward and turning your back on what is demanded of us at this perilous time. It is the logic, whatever one’s intentions, of complicity, of going along with horrors you never imagined possible but helped make possible—because you didn’t raise your head and you didn’t raise your voice when the costs were high.
A Question and Challenge
I want to end with a challenge to all of you who are fighting this onslaught. Here we are, fascism assuming the reins of power. What kind of system has given rise to this? There is a need to question a social order in which the choice is between open fascism and all that entails—and a “democratically functioning” empire with all that entails.
But there is in fact another way altogether. It is communist revolution, the achievement of a society and world without exploitation and oppression. I would urge people to look at the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America by Bob Avakian. It is the vision and framework of a society on the road to emancipating all of humanity and protecting the planet.
I will end here. Let’s Stop This Regime!
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