THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO!
In The Name of Humanity,
We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America,
A Better World IS Possible.
On Thursday, May 24, 60 people gathered at UCLA to attend a film screening and panel discussion of a talk by Bob Avakian, THE TRUMP/PENCE REGIME MUST GO! In The Name of Humanity, We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible.
A diverse audience attended the screening, including 15 students. The film was followed by a panel who responded to Bob Avakian’s talk, and then a Q&A with the audience. The panel included Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books, NY and co-initiator of RefuseFascism.org and Juan Gómez-Quiñones, Professor of History at UCLA. Dr. Reynaldo F. Macías (Chicana/o Studies, Education and Applied Linguistics, Affiliated Faculty in Afro-American Studies and in Civic Engagement, UCLA) who was one of the event’s co-sponsors, provided opening and closing comments and Tala Deloria, a student at UCLA in the Revolution Club and volunteer with The Bob Avakian Institute emceed.
For those who are seeing it the first time or those who have seen it before, watching the hour-long talk from Avakian, with others, in a dark room and on a large screen, was impactful and even jarring. Someone familiar with the film said re-watching it, in light of all the recent events, was scary because you have to confront again what is really happening and where it’s headed. A couple of members of the Revolution Club commented that each time they go through the film, they learn something new from the way in which Avakian pulls together the links of what’s happening to provide a deeper analysis of the driving contradictions that have led to this fascist regime.
“A regime that could destroy civilization…”
After the screening, Deloria posed the question to Zee and Gómez-Quiñones: “The promotional materials for this event say ‘a regime that could destroy civilization… you think you know, but you don’t.’ Having just heard the argument from Avakian made scientifically and with a lot of heart, could you both speak to the first aspect of that statement in terms of the potential destruction of civilization?”
Zee opened by saying that day’s events sharpened the urgency of that question. He pointed to the cancellation of talks with North Korea with the “unbelievable gangster logic and threat of nuclear annihilation in Trump’s schoolboy letter that nonetheless had an incredible threat, once again, to wipe out North Korea, saying we have a nuclear arsenal that could blow you off the planet should you not agree with me.” Zee, in one of four points of reference to discuss from the film, linked this back to one of the most important parts of the film, Avakian’s exposure of the “Great Tautological Fallacy” that underlies the disgusting American chauvinism and false belief that America is a force for good in the world. This provides the justification for so much of what the Trump/Pence regime are doing internationally, including how everyone in this society is trained to think.
Second, pointing to the silencing of NFL protest, of “owners” telling their “40 million dollar slaves” when to stand and sit, Zee said this also calls to mind why Avakian began the film with the discussion of slavery and rape and the whole history of this country and the direct link from that to today. And, that we could get into Avakian’s sharp point that, “When you confront that squarely, how could you honestly say that fascism couldn’t happen here?”
Zee also highlighted two other points in the film he wanted to open up for discussion. “Why it is that in order to stop this fascist juggernaut, we have to act outside the bounds of normal political processes? What are we talking about with Refuse Fascism?” And why is it that “a better world IS possible, what that revolution is all about and how in fact we can go about doing it.” He pointed people to HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution, a statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party which is a strategy for revolution and what we have to do today to begin working towards that time when a revolution could actually be made; and to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, authored by Avakian. This is a blueprint for “a place where people would actually want to live because it’s a society that will be in transition to a world where we could live without exploitation and oppression.”
Juan Gómez-Quiñones gave an impassioned talk about the danger we are facing and the importance of the struggle against this with the understanding that a better world really IS possible. He opened with a reference to the second line of the title of the film, “the call for humanity is more powerful when the next phrase follows, that is the intention to struggle for a better world and to struggle against fascism, in particular now.” He sounded the alarm: “To us, fighting fascism is immediate. Given the fact that fascism has advanced in this country.” He walked through the heightened danger in the fact that the fascists have a majority in every major part of government, that you cannot rely on Congress, the courts, the governorships, law enforcement. Law enforcement which does not “spend their time saving babies, but are in fact the cudgels of society… they will beat you up and if necessary, they will snuff you. With no legitimacy, no reasonable cause for doing so.” He dismissed those who say that Trump is a clown, “if he is a clown, he is a clown who is achieving his agenda…” This underscored the question and challenge Gómez-Quiñones posed, “Where is hope in world if there isn’t struggle?” He ended his comments by pointing to the fact that “people do dream of a better world, that is a very powerful incentive. That’s not easy, but we have to keep at it.”
Following this exchange, they took questions from the audience. The questions mainly focused on the situation we’re in with Trump/Pence, in particular the contradiction Avakian speaks to in the film on order vs. justice. One person asked how we break through the fear of disorder. Another drew on Carl Jung (a Swiss philosopher and psychoanalyst) and discussed the fear that is held deeply in the collective unconscious, asking how to break through that to get to justice. An indigenous student activist raised a question about the role of indigenous sovereignty in revolution and the new communism. The first question was about how to break through in the media and in other ways, given the ignorance about what fascism is and its history: fascists can fill rooms, but at this moment, those fighting against them aren’t cohering into the movement needed.
In answering this question, there was an important exchange between the panelists. Gómez-Quiñones drew another lesson from the history of Germany, posing the question: “What happens to a left that is mistaken or weakened in some vital way even though it has many, many thousands of people as members?” He talked about the persecution of the German socialist party by the social-democrats (akin to the Democratic Party of today) which entered into an alliance with the right wing section of the German government after World War 1. Gómez-Quiñones argued that this history holds more lessons for us today than the deals made between Hitler and Hindenburg (the German president) in the early 1930s, which led to Hitler’s rise to power. Without walking through all this history, Zee emphasized that an essential lesson in what Gómez-Quiñones was pointing to was the importance for us today of breaking with American chauvinism. The German socialists were one of the many parties during WW1 who supported their own country in waging that war, “they ideologically disarmed the people who could stand with them and gave tremendous initiative to the ruling class parties of that time.” In summing this point up, Zee argued that “if you think you can fight your enemy by waving his flag, you are cutting your legs off in that struggle and especially when your government is the most powerful government, and enforcing its rule around the world, this is going to completely disarm the people.”
He also briefly, but sharply, pointed out how this American social chauvinism ran through the “anti-fascist struggle in this country in the run-up and through WW2.” Concluding, he pointed again to why Bob Avakian spends almost a quarter of the film on this question: what is the actual foundation of this country, what it has done and continues to do around the world, and why is it so urgent for people to break from American chauvinism.
Throughout the Q&A, Zee brought people back to the film and other key works from Avakian on the questions people raised. He also called on people to get organized with Refuse Fascism, discussing more about their plans and approach, to get organized with the Revolution Club which is recruiting people now into the ranks of the revolution, going to work on that revolution, and to be part of spreading the works of Bob Avakian with The BA Institute.
In answering the question on the role of indigenous sovereignty in the new communism, Zee drew from and read directly from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. He answered the question specifically but then talked about the importance of this Constitution, above all else, as a framework for a society in transition to communism, to uproot all forms of exploitation and oppression all around the world.
A last-minute fight for the event to go forward
In the days leading up to the event, there was a last-minute fight for it to take place. About 30 hours before the event—which had been widely publicized for a couple of weeks on the campus, the school administration told the organizers that because of new UCLA rules, they would have to pay thousands of dollars for police and an “events coordinator” to hold this program. They said this was because they deemed the event “controversial” and they specifically cited a disruption of a pro-Israel program by five student groups outraged at the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza that took place the week before. Students, and in particular the faculty co-sponsors, fought very hard up until the last minute to prevent these fees from being charged and enabling the event to go forward. The fees and restrictions were rescinded seven hours before the program was to begin.
These kinds of restrictive policy measures are being passed at campuses all across the country. They will have a chilling effect on campuses nationally, contributing to repression of political dissent on campuses and fascistic culture throughout society. It was very important that professors, students, and The BA Institute really stepped up to fight this through—in particular given the topic and the urgency to break open debate and discussion on the profound and immediate dangers that humanity faces from the Trump/Pence regime.
Learning more what drew people, and what held them back
Those attending came from a diverse range of political perspectives and backgrounds. From UCLA, there were student organizers with Students for Justice in Palestine and Eagle and Condor Liberation Front. There were students and others who are serious about getting organized in different ways: with Refuse Fascism, with the Revolution Club and with The Bob Avakian Institute.
The Revolution Club and The BA Institute fought hard in the weeks before the event to spread the word and work with students to organize others. However, it was not the turnout that was needed and they will be aiming to learn more about this in the next days. While there are some positive things happening on that campus in terms of a renewed desired for protest among some students, this is not predominant and even there, there’s not a correct understanding of what is happening in the bigger picture and what that requires. In the face of tremendous crimes being perpetrated by this regime, the level of “ignore-ance” among students is rampant. Even among those who don’t like what the Trump/Pence regime are doing, they are not paying attention to what is happening and are not taking responsibility to do anything to stop it. Instead, they are mainly focused on their own lives, their homework, careers, and personal futures. This is nothing but being a “Good German” in the face of consolidating fascism; it is unacceptable and has to change. Bound up with this is a tremendously deep-seated and mainly unspoken American chauvinism—the underlying assumption that, after all, American lives (and my life in particular) is more important than other people’s lives. The basis for this lies in a stability that exists in this country because of the great wealth the U.S. has gotten through global exploitation and plunder, ramped up and extremely volatile with this fascist regime in power. Among those who do recognize some of the horrors happening, there seems to be a refusal to confront the full dimensions of this, instead bearing down on one question absent an understanding of the changing dynamics given the fascist regime in power. This gets bound up with identity politics and proceeding very narrowly within the interests of one section of the oppressed vs. looking at what is needed for humanity. There really needs to be a much sharper struggle for people to see the bigger picture, the larger dynamics shaping things, to really recognize—and be forced to confront—what actually is happening and what must be done.1
All this highlights the importance of people broadly seeing this talk from Avakian which provides that bigger picture: What are the roots and dynamics that have given rise to this fascist regime in power? Can fascism actually happen here? What can be done to stop it, and how? Is a better world possible and how can we struggle for that today? One lesson that someone from the Revolution Club raised after seeing the film again was that in making the case to others for why they needed to make the time to be there—and to bring others—they did not enough really proceed from the film, wielding it for people to lay bare the reality of what we’re facing and why it’s so urgent to have this discussion and debate.
“…consciousness provides a confidence to overcome fear…”
In his closing remarks, Professor Macías spoke to the importance of this kind of discussion to changing our consciousness in order to overcome fear. “Fear is a very powerful tool of the bourgeoisie and of nation states through the mechanism of state terror and cultural terror to silence… information, books—virtual or hard copy—discussions, teach-ins like this, speeches that have analysis and perspective are so critical to overcome fear because it does raise consciousness, and that consciousness provides a confidence that allows for acting on that understanding.”
Macías thanked Zee and commended in particular his role as spokesperson for Revolution Books. He also thanked The Bob Avakian Institute for its role in co-sponsoring this event and encouraged people to find out about the other programs they’ve sponsored, including the Dialogue between Avakian and Cornel West in Harlem several years ago. Macías closed out the night with the following: “So there are materials being produced by The BA Institute, by Revolution Books, by other units to provide us with the kind of information that helps us learn and understand, analyze our situation, that gives us the confidence to overcome the fear and the terror and the shock and awe of the state, in order to be able to act and move forward and change the world as we envision a new and safer world for all of us.”