LGBT activists in Georgia cancelled a Pride march in the capital Tbilisi after violent attacks from right-wing groups July 5. Activists began five days of Pride celebrations last week which were to culminate in a "March for Dignity" in central Tbilisi, despite opposition from the Orthodox Church and conservatives who said the event had no place in Georgia. But as marchers were gathering, they were set upon by counter-protesters, who ransacked the office of the organizers. "The situation is really bad," Tbilisi Pride director Giorgi Tabagari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone, saying he is still being stalked and threatened by mobs, and that some members of his team have gone into hiding in fear for their lives. (EuroNews, Openly)
Let's start by stating the obvious. Under long-ruling dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a fascistic order has long obtained in Belarus—and it may now be going over the edge into outright fascism. Since 1994, Lukashenko has maintained power through the usual admixture of electoral fraud, party patronage and state terror. When the fraud became a bit too blatant in last August's presidential race, the country exploded into protest. Lukashenko unleashed riot squads and army troops on the protesters, but the movement stayed strong—for months holding weekly demonstrations demanding the fall of the regime. This movement was finally beaten back in a wave of harsh repression earlier this year; tens of thousands have been detained, and hundreds have been subject to torture. Anti-fascists and anarchists have been particularly singled out for persecution under Lukashenko, and the current wave of terror has been no exception. Regime propaganda has been periodically punctuated by paranoid anti-Semitism. And this machinery of repression has, of course, been amply lubricated by foreign capital, which has invested heavily in the regime.
In Episode 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposés of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross "works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents." This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts.
In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn't (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country's progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of "winning" and denigration of "weakness." The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 61 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg warns that following Trump's instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, violence in the final lead-up to Inauguration Day could provide the expedient for execution of his long-planned coup d'etat—precisely as had been foreseen in the novel It Can't Happen Here. Despite fascist-abetting denialism from elements of the "left," even members of Congress are now asserting that the ransacking of the Capitol was carried out with complicity of elements of the security forces. Republicans meanwhile engage in despicable propaganda that equates the insufficient Democratic support for the Black Lives Matter uprising or protests against ICE putting kids in cages with Republican support for an attempted right-wing putsch. The statement by the Joint Chiefs of Staff holds out hope that leaders in the Pentagon may refuse Trump's orders. But a popular outcry to #StopTheCoup could be critical in giving them the courage to do so.
In Episode 60 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's instrumented right-wing insurrection at the Capitol building, which should be properly viewed as the first step in the actual execution of his long-planned coup d'etat. It is now imperative that Congress launch new impeachment proceedings and that the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment. Even if there is not time for these processes to play themselves out before the scheduled inauguration on Jan. 20, they are still critical—they will provide another cloud on Trump's presidential authority, which could give leaders in the Pentagon the courage to refuse his orders. And next time, Trump's assault on Congress could come not from a mere rabble but from the military—as was seen in Russia in October 1993.
Pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington DC on Jan. 6 after Trump supporters rallied by the thousands on the National Mall. President Donald Trump had addressed them in a rambling speech laden with grievances and falsehoods just after noon and encouraged them to move on to the Capitol. As they did so, the House and Senate were evacuated, and the Capitol building and surrounding locations put on lockdown. The rioters breached police lines and security barriers at several points and appeared to roam the Capitol corridors at will. Several broke into the House and Senate chambers and sat unopposed in the chairs of the presiding officers. The scenes were disturbingly reminiscent of the moment in 1814 when invading British forces seized the Capitol and their commanding officer mounted the empty Speaker's Chair, and asked mockingly, "Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it will say 'Aye!'"
In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.