There has never been a US Presidential inauguration like it.
In 670 cities across the world – from Melbourne to Copenhagen – people took the streets to protest in the biggest global demonstration since the great anti-Iraq War marches of 2003.
The turnout was largest in America, of course. There the numbers were astounding – at least 500,000 in Washington, an amazing 750,000 in Los Angeles and huge numbers in Boston, Chicago and elsewhere. Even in Austin Texas there was a rally of 50,000. Millions across the country.
In London there were 100,000 and here in Ireland there were 5000 on the Women’s March in Dublin on the Saturday plus 300 on the Friday evening and other rallies in Galway, Sligo and Cork.
Everywhere it was the Women’s Marches that captured the public’s imagination and attracted mass support. This was in response to Trump’s repeated vile and open misogyny and the clear threat his administration poses to a woman’s right to choose.
But the demonstrations were not restricted to women or women’s issues. Every group threatened by Trumpism joined in: people of colour, Black Lives activists, Moslems, Palestinians, LGBT+ people , trade unionists, environmentalists.
They seem everywhere to have been magnificent festivals of unity and solidarity and are a beacon of hope in a darkening world.
Right wing tide
Trump’s victory in November was part of a rising tide of racist and far right forces internationally and it encouraged every fascist and reactionary from Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage to the Ku Klux Klan and the Alt-Right.
But the scale of these protests reminds us that actually Donald Trump does NOT represent the majority of the American people. He actually LOST the popular vote and was only delivered the presidency by the anti-democratic Electoral College system. And that he would have lost by more if he had faced a better candidate than Hillary Clinton.
Following on the wave of demonstrations that came immediately after Trump’s election and the huge movement for avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders, together with Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock it is clear that there is a new left and a new generation of resistance in America and that there is a massive audience and potential for this elsewhere as well.
And resistance will be needed! Nobody can be sure right now just what Trump will do or what he will be able to do, but we know what he wants to do. His appointments leave no room for doubt.
Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart and the fascist Alt-Right, an avowed racist, is his Senior Counsellor; Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary, formerly of Goldman Sachs and a hedge-fund manager renowned for aggressively foreclosing on home owners; General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mathis, Defence Secretary, a US Marine Commander in Afghanistan and Iraq; Jeff Sessions, Attorney General, from Alabama, with a record of opposing immigration, banning same-sex marriage and gay rights in the military.
The list goes on: Ben Carson, Housing Secretary, a Seventh Day Adventist Christian fundamentalist who denies evolution and climate change and opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest; Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, banker and billionaire known as ‘the king of bankruptcy’ for buying up bankrupt companies and selling them on for a fortune; Rick Perry, Energy Secretary, Texas Governor, declared homophobe and supporter of the death penalty who vetoed a ban on executing the mentally retarded.
Above all there is Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobile, the world’s biggest oil company and leading sponsor of climate change denial. This is the most extreme right wing government in US history, dedicated to rolling back progress on all fronts.
Trump’s inauguration speech, co-written by Steve Bannon, also signalled his intentions: crude and mean spirited, it contained only one idea – aggressive American nationalism.
Those who blindly hope that shouting ‘America first!’ will benefit the working people who have been left behind by neo-liberal globalisation are in for a bitter disappointment. They will discover that loud-mouthed patriotism will serve only as cover for more attacks on their rights and living standards, even if they are ‘white’.
This is why resistance will be so essential. Without it Trump and his gang will ride roughshod over every gain that women have made since the sixties, every small step forward for African-Americans since the Civil Rights Movement, and every notion of even limiting climate change. At the same time they will deepen, not lessen, the poverty and inequality that is already such a feature of US capitalism.
And we must never forget that what happens in America affects everywhere in the world, economically, politically and culturally.
But that is precisely what makes the great US and global anti-Trump demonstrations so inspiring. They show not only the possibility of stopping Trump in his tracks but also of building a movement for a better world altogether.