Uniting Against Fascism, Racism and the Billionaire Class – Q&A with Paul Jay (5/5)
Paul Jay discusses how far-right forces exploit racism to divide the working class, and how pro-corporate neoliberal Democrats have further fueled this problem by largely abandoning rural communities – From a live recording on October 29th, 2018
BEN NORTON: We have another question here from Wesley Gray. This is not directly related, but I think it’s a good question, and I’m going to slightly alter it so it’s a little more related to the issue of Pittsburgh. Wesley Gray wrote: I’ve been thinking about Fred Hampton a lot recently, and I’m wondering if you think the Rainbow Coalition he helped lead could work in our lifetime. In other words, do you think there is a way to unite the dwindling middle class and the poor in solidarity regardless of the seemingly apparent differences in ideology? And then I would add that one of the points of the Rainbow Coalition that the Black Panther Party organized was that it was working with other marginalized communities. So the Young Lords, who were Latino, a Puerto Rican group, and also the Young Patriots, who were a white group from Chicago of immigrants, internal immigrants from Appalachia and from parts of the South. So relating that, I actually think this is a good question.
And it’s trying to understand how we can have transformative politics across class and racial lines. And specifically looking at Pittsburgh, of course, when we look at how fascist ideology operates, it forces people to compartmentalize themselves, to see the world on racial lines as opposed to class lines; it forces people to have this hyper-hierarchical view of the world that sees some groups as superior to others. And of course, the Panthers, the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary socialist and also black nationalist organization, was making a coalition, a multiracial coalition with other ethnic groups, including poor whites from Appalachia.
So I think that’s a good question, and maybe related to your question your answer about the corporate state. How do we push back against this attempt by the far right to divide society on racial, ethnic, and religious lines? And instead, how do we encourage multiracial solidarity, multi-ethnic and religious solidarity, and unite on class lines?
PAUL JAY: Well, that’s a fairly big question. You’re asking how do you, how do we organize the next phase of the political revolution, or whatever you want to call it.
Let me just say this. I think that people of color are getting organized, and will do so more. And it’s critical there is a broad coalition. But the the nub of the problem right now is the sections of the white working class- and it’s not only white. It’s primarily white, but there’s sections of the working class that are Latino and black who are not immune from a form of this far-right ideology. I mean, Trump tried to play that card in 2016, splitting blacks from Latinos, and talking- you know, he had this black sheriff from Wisconsin on the stage who was as fascist as you can get, in terms of his ideology. And more than once Trump tried to appeal, saying that the Democrats aren’t really solving the problems of black sections of urban urban centers, and so on.
But the critical, critical question is going to be this majority of white men that voted for Trump, and the sections of those that are in the working class, because certainly the majority of white men that voted for Trump are wealthy and don’t want to pay taxes. I don’t know if that’s maybe their primary motivation. But the section of the working class and the poor that voted for Trump, that is a social basis for fascism. And it’s a strong social basis for fascism, even if the country’s demographics are dramatically changing, at least in certain parts of the country.
And so, I mean, all I can say is at The Real News we’re going to try to see what we can do in terms of learning how to speak to disenfranchised, disillusioned suburban and rural people, farmers, workers. Because clearly- like, you go and ask people in these areas, what’s the number one trouble? Their number one concern? You know, they don’t say immigration. They don’t say unemployment. They say opioids and heroin. Their families are falling apart. And they blame- you know, because they listen to Fox and they don’t know what else, schools don’t teach history, it’s the liberal ideology is to blame for this.
And there is some truth to that in the sense that when the Democrats, corporate Democrats do get elected, life for people doesn’t get much better and their families continue to fall apart. So we’re going to try to go to places, like we’ve picked a place in Pennsylvania to start, and learn how to exchange with people who are living in these rural areas, small towns; try to do stories and investigative work that looks at the problems and what do real solutions look like. And in fact, we want to turn this into a show that people can watch, and hopefully other people with similar views might identify with, and together with people explore what do real solutions look like, and not various kinds of scapegoating.
BEN NORTON: Well, we’re going to have to wrap up in a moment here, Paul, but really quickly I just wanted to kind of finalize reflecting on the kind of political discourse that we’ve heard in response to the Pittsburgh massacre. Trump himself, he did condemn the attack. And we talked about in many ways how Trump has fueled some of this racist violence. Of course, Trump’s response was not to talk about the roots of the racist violence. Rather, he said that the synagogue needed an armed guard, and that an armed guard would have prevented the shooting. And then at the same time, the Democratic Party responded by trying to make it an issue of gun control. And Pittsburgh’s Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto responded, claiming that the synagogue doesn’t need an armed guard; instead we need gun control so Nazis like Robert Bowers, the shooter, won’t have guns.
We here at The Real News, we were discussing how the issue is, of course, much deeper. The issue is about fascism, its roots in the political crisis that not just the U.S. is facing but much of the world is facing, and then how that fascism metastasizes, how anti-Semitism plays a key role in this fascism that goes back not just 100 years, but even proto- forms of fascism.
So concluding here, I’m wondering if you could just provide a few final comments on how both the Republicans and Democrats and corporate media are trying to frame this issue in particular ways about guns and gun control, and civility, etc. But what are your final closing thoughts on what the real problem that we’re facing in the country is, and how the Pittsburgh massacre reflects that?
PAUL JAY: We’re in the middle of an election. And in fact, this country’s almost always in the middle of an election. So everything gets framed in terms of partisan politics. So that speaking point for the Democratic Party always on these issues is gun control, and the other side it’s more guns. Everything’s turned into partisan politics. Even climate change. You know, climate change for the Republicans is just some Democratic Party talking point, and vice versa.
We need to break out of this idea that the division in the country is between Democrats and Republicans, and we can’t be framing our issues that way. Now, there is a thing that complicates that, because there is a real struggle for power. These elections do matter. And yeah, it does matter. As much as the Democrats, corporate Democrats, facilitate the rise of this far right, it’s better for people when the far right’s not in power. And so there is an issue of people, most people who have, you know, who aren’t on the right, want the Democrats to win the election one way or the other, because this far-right form of fascism is dismantling everything that’s left of any kind of social safety net. The Democrats can be very aggressive in foreign policy, but Obama did sign the deal with Iran; and these guys, Trump and his gang, they want regime change in Iran. If they could pull it off there would be war against Iran, and they’re very aggressive towards China.
So it’s a complicated mix where we have to tell people the truth, that the Democratic Party represents, at least under the current leadership, represents a section of the billionaire class. But there’s a fight going on at the same time. I don’t think one can be naive, or- I don’t know what the word is- to think that Trump is not worse and this far right isn’t worse. So while electoral politics matter, and the Democrats taking control of Congress is going to be better if they do take control of the House or the Senate, it will be better in many ways, at the same time let’s make sure we, as much as we can, all of us that are listening and talking here, let’s not fall into this idea that is a red-blue fight. Both these parties essentially represent, at least at the moment … Not just a moment; so far all history. They represent sections of the elites, primarily. Not exclusively, but primarily.
And let’s not fall into that that’s the fight. And if we don’t talk about this in terms of class, and in terms of who owns stuff, and how wealth is distributed, and who has power on class terms, if we don’t talk about things that way there are no effective solutions. And unfortunately what will happen is if the Democrats win again, and if it’s the corporate Democrats that win again, there’ll be another Trump, whether it’s four years or eight years. And this time I don’t think he’s going to be quite such a clown as this one.
BEN NORTON: We’ll have to end our conversation there. I was joined by Paul Jay, who is the executive editor and founder of The Real News Network. I’m Ben Norton, a reporter and producer here. We were talking about the massacre on October 27 in Pittsburgh, in which 11 Jewish Americans were killed and 6 more were injured by- this was carried out by a neo-Nazi who was very active on social media, and made it very clear that he was a neo-Nazi. And we were talking, of course, about the roots of fascism, and how the Donald Trump administration has in some ways fueled it, but it’s more complex because Trump himself is an outgrowth of the neoliberal policies of the Democrats.
So I hope you maybe learned something; I hope you have some new questions and ideas to explore looking toward the future. And we at The Real News Network will continue reporting critically on these key issues and investigating angles that corporate media outlets don’t want to touch. Thanks for joining us.