Actually, Without Militant Protest NOTHING Changes for the Better...And No, We Should NOT Listen to the So-Called Legitimate Grievances of White People

April 24, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper |



On April 18, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a feature that offered “scientific evidence” that disruptive and militant protests against Trump are counterproductive and increase support for Trump. Other media outlets and Democratic Party operatives have been hammering at similar themes. The Boston Globe quoted a Democratic strategist disparaging protests: “I would prefer [people] organizing and knocking on doors. Protesting might give someone a psychological lift, but organizing gets wins.”

These arguments feed into a widespread preoccupation among many people who are opposed to the Trump/Pence regime with “winning over Trump’s supporters,” “winning over the white working class,” “winning over the majority,” and so on. The idea is, that instead of angry protests that denounce the Trump/Pence regime, we need to “have a conversation” with Trump’s supporters, seek “common ground,” and appeal to them around the issues that concern them like jobs and health care.

This viewpoint is a recipe for normalizing and capitulating to a fascist regime that is carrying out crimes against humanity right now... with far worse things shaping up for the near future.

Confronting Reality—and Acting on It

To start, let’s be clear on what the reality is, which these arguments are not confronting.

  • Donald Trump rose to power with the backing of a big section of the capitalist ruling class, including major mass media. And what led most of those forces to “take Trump seriously” (after initially opposing him) and throw in with him was his ability to whip up and cohere a fascist movement numbering in the millions, based on appeals to white racism, America-First chauvinism, and male supremacy. These are potential shock troops for a reactionary ruling class striving to solidify its grip on its own “homeland” and on the world as a whole!
  • The installation of this fascist regime has created an emergency situation for humanity. RIGHT NOW, Trump’s revved up ICE agents are kidnapping immigrants in pre-dawn attacks, tearing them from their families, and spreading terror among literally millions of people. RIGHT NOW, Trump is slashing funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers of urgently needed health care—including abortion and birth control—for millions of women, while stacking the Supreme Court with “conservatives” who will overturn Roe v. Wade. RIGHT NOW, Trump is unleashing fascists around the country who threaten, attack, and sometimes kill Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, LGBT people, Latinos, and others. RIGHT NOW, Trump/Pence are threatening the world with America’s weapons of mass destruction, including nukes, and risking the outbreak of war(s) that could cost tens of millions of lives. RIGHT NOW, the Trump/Pence regime’s attacks on even minimal steps to counter climate change and on science and truth overall are accelerating the drive toward global environmental catastrophe.
  • And even while they have not yet fully consolidated power and locked down society on fascist terms—the complete suppression of democratic rights—that is what they are moving toward. And they will utilize whatever breathing room we give them to accomplish that.

So how is this time for “a national conversation”?

This is the time for people to act themselves in ways that are commensurate to the dangerous situation in order to drive this regime from power, to challenge like-minded people to join them, and to fight like hell with those who are supporting this monstrous regime to wake the fuck up and get on the side of the people of the world.

How Things Actually Change

Second, the “militant protests alienate people” argument is completely wrong about how things change, and even on how to win over supporters of the system and of the fascist regime. When an awake minority acts with moral certitude and determination on what it knows to be true, that sets terms for the kind of “national conversation”—or more accurately, a national knock-down, drag-out argument—that we really need to have.


Think about the 1960s. Early on, public opinion overwhelmingly supported the racist status quo for Black people and America’s imperialist war in Vietnam. But a section of the youth, often starting with dozens, or hundreds, refused to accept these injustices and staged determined, often illegal protests. Black and white youths sat in at segregated lunch counters in the South; youths laid siege to military draft boards in Oakland; students at Columbia University seized and shut down five campus buildings to oppose military research and the racist seizure of park land from the Black community; thousands joined the Black Panther Party; people in the ghettos and barrios rebelled; women of all nationalities rebelled in all kinds of ways throughout society against oppression and degradation, including in the streets demanding abortion rights.

In all of these cases—and thousands of others—people acted on the basis of clarity about right and wrong. And in all of these cases, the initial reaction included a lot of “backlash,” people yelling and screaming at them that maybe their cause was just but they shouldn’t break the law, cause other students to miss classes, or damage private property. That backlash in turn gave way to debate as the rebels held firm and came back with powerful arguments—and this debate tore fiercely through families, classes, jobs as old and wrong ideas were sharply challenged and angrily defended.

It was through this process that major oppressive institutions like Jim Crow were dismantled, and all this played a major role in forcing the U.S. to get out of Vietnam. AND, not unimportantly, the polarization in the whole country changed relatively quickly, so that by the end of the decade a large majority of people opposed the war, and there was a broad social verdict that Black people had been subjected to unjust discrimination and that racism was just flat-out wrong.

We saw something similar when Trump tried to institute his ban on people from seven Muslim countries—angry protesters immediately swarmed the airports and held unruly protests that disrupted air travel and street traffic. Lots of people were inconvenienced, and many of them were pissed off. But the overall impact was to shine a bright spotlight on Trump’s outrageous action, and create a situation where at least for the time being he was unable to go forward with it.

Winning over Trump supporters, and white people in particular, and peeling some away from the fascist movement they are caught up in, is an important element of driving out this fascist regime, and of preparing the ground for a liberating revolution against this oppressive system. But first, that has to go on in the course of waging a fierce struggle to defeat and drive out this regime—it is not a precondition for that struggle. And second, these Trump people are not going to be won over to anything good without sharply challenging them on the fact that they have been roped up into a racist, fascist movement and are actively supporting horrendous things.

One thing that should be noted is that a lot of support for Trump in the election came from wealthier whites. He beat out Clinton among people with incomes of more than $100,000 and among people with lower incomes, the Trump supporters were often small business owners and skilled workers.

Do white people have “legitimate grievances”? Actually, NO, not as “white people.” Yes, tens of millions of poor and working class people who are white have been seriously fucked over by this system, particularly in the last few decades. Yes, it is a major crime of this system that coal companies literally worked generations of (mainly) white people to death, never provided them with any education or other skills, and then left them high and dry when they weren’t needed to produce profits. And yes, in this (and other) milieus of hopelessness, big pharmaceutical companies conducted a systematic campaign to convince doctors that their most powerful painkillers weren’t actually addictive, leading to an epidemic of substance abuse that is killing thousands every month. And we could go on, talking about what was done to small farmers or factory workers in rural areas and so on.

But none of this happened because people were white. And certainly none of it happened because of Mexican immigrants or because of anything Black people or Muslim people did. It happened because people live in a capitalist country where profit is the ultimate source and aim of all economic and political decisions, and the lives of the masses of people don’t matter at all. And because this is also a country that was built from its foundation on white supremacy, millions (though by no means all) of white working people have once again gone for the deal that has been offered by the rulers all too many times: stand with the ruling class against oppressed people of color in this country, and against the rest of the world, in return for some petty (and often not-so-petty) material privileges, and the “status” of being able to revel in being a white American.

This needs to be taken on, and not by convincing people that Trump doesn’t really care about them and won’t provide them with jobs. For one thing, he might create some jobs—particularly as war industry gets cranked up, armies expanded, and more and more prisons and detention centers built for Black, Latino, and Muslim people, and for dissidents... there might be an uptick in employment for poor white people. What’s so good about that?! Increasing numbers of white people need to be struggled with and won over RIGHT NOW to stand with the fight against the oppression of Black people and other people of color, of immigrants, and other battles against injustices that are raging.

We need to put it to people that they have a choice to make. They can be part of the forces struggling for a whole different and better world, where social “status” and access to the basics of life don’t depend on degrading and grinding down other people, but where all of society is increasingly working together for the betterment of humanity. Or they can be part of the machinery of murder, degradation, and environmental destruction that Trump and Pence stand at the head of.

History has shown that when this struggle is waged sharply, large sections of white workers and other white people can be wrenched out of the bullshit they are into, and become part of the movements for radical and revolutionary change. That and only that is what we should be going for.



Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.