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In recent months, massive, militant and sustained anti-government protests have erupted in a great many countries. The people of Hong Kong have been in the streets for over nearly eight months now, even as the response by the Hong Kong police and China daily grows more repressive and deadly. Hundreds of Iranian protesters have been murdered in Iran, but the Iranian people seeking a freer life keep coming back to the streets. The size of the now almost daily protests in India continue to grow despite the massive arrests and state sponsored violence. A million Chileans protested a rise in transportation costs, the price rise was reversed, but the people remained in the streets despite the violence they faced. Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians braved rubber bullets and water cannons, hundreds of protesters were seriously injured, but they kept struggling against that Country’s repressive regime.

A New American Revolution

We are witnessing the most widespread expression of popular unrest and rebellion that the world has seen in decades, and it grows day by day.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, a dishonest, demented and demagogic president is allowed to run our country like a monarch or a mob boss, surrounded by a Republican Party, Cabinet and Attorney General, all of whom function as pandering sycophants. He’s imposed illegal, hateful racist restrictions on immigrants and asylum seekers, separated children from their parents and caged the children. He’s cut taxes on the rich and applauds cutting food stamps for the poor. He seeks an ever more unregulated capitalism, further strengthening the corporate oligarchy that essentially runs American today, and further impoverishing millions of Americans. He routinely threatens the freedom of the press. He openly flaunts the Constitution in too any ways to count; stonewalled and mocked the Constitutional impeachment process; all while proclaiming no law governs what he can and cannot do. He treats his impeachment more as a tool for the recruitment of voters than as a shameful scar on this Presidency. His Administration takes ever more actions that accelerate the pace of devastating climate change. He lies to the American people more often than he speaks the truth to us.

And yet, despite frequent, small and isolated protests, on a wide array of progressive causes, and generally off the public’s radar, the great majority of the American people remain comfortably and passively, albeit disgustedly, ensconced in their homes, despite their freedom to protest Trump’s actions in the streets without fear of being beaten or shot that people in countries now in revolt experience.

What ever happened to “we the people” living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? Is there really less need for a revolution today than there was in 1773 when the colonists threw that tea into the sea?

The road signs pointing to where we are headed if we do not forcethis nation to change direction, are numerous and clear for all to see: neo-Nazi protesters proclaiming, “the Jews will not replace us”; white supremacist Stephen Miller still in the White House, still a Trump favorite; church, synagogue and mosque shootings and burnings; numerous attacks on peaceful protesters by neo-Fascist, “MAGA”-Cap wearing Trump supporters; Trump and his cronies’ escalating attacks on the media, and all who dare to oppose him; and, the openness of Trump conducting his America-First” policy based not on what is good for the people of America, but what is good for Trump and for his re-election. And I could go on and on.

What is wrong with the American people? Where is our moral outrage? Where is our bravery? Do we really not remember that we have been down a road before not unlike the road we are on now? Have we forgotten where such roads end; forgotten the 6-million exterminated Jews, and the hundreds of thousands of gypsies, homosexuals, communists, and the like, from that earlier period’s despised and scapegoated “other”?

I fully realize that America is a very different place than those countries whose people are now bravely massing in the streets and staying in the streets until the repression and depravation they are suffering is removed. We are a much larger country both in size and population. And we still possess more civil rights and liberties than the counties in rebellion. But these differences are no excuse for the relative quiescence of the American people today in the face of the worse threat to our freedom and democracy since World War II. In fact, given that we do have more rights, more ability to gather in the streets without fear of being murdered than those in other countries do, it is all the more shameful that we fail to exercise those rights; to exercise them before we lose them!

No doubt there are a number of explanations for why the American people have not yet publicly demonstrated a sufficiently high degree of concern over the neo-authoritarian, neo-Fascistic road our country is traveling along. Two, in particular, come readily to mind.

There is the matter of how much energy is being spent on behalf of those small and scattered protests around issues such as the government’s refusal to employ measures to contain climate change; or to end all forms of xenophobia with its attacks on immigrants and the caging of children whose families are seeking asylum; or to end the killing of young black and brown men by the police; or on behalf of ending poverty; and against sexual harassment and assaults on women.

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But how can scattered protests on behalf of these and other worthy causes succeed if American governance, itself, is allowed to keep traveling further down the neo-authoritarian road it’s on? How can they hope to win their individual causes before they have first come together to reverse the deepening, over-arching repressive direction of America?

A second reason for the failure of the American people to appropriately, militantly, and on a sustained basis address this neo-authoritarian trend is that today in America we are more or less always in a “presidential election cycle”. American history convincingly demonstrates that at such times progressive mass movements dissipate, become distracted, and redirect their focus from the streets to electing a new president. That was true during the Vietnam War and true during the civil rights movement of the ‘60s. Large street protests diminished in number and size while the antiwar and civil rights movements focused most of their attention and energy on electing a president who, they believed, would end the war, or end the discrimination. But American history also shows how misguided it was to believe a Johnson or a Clinton or an Obama would deliver as promised; how misguided to think anything but massive numbers of we the people in the streets could win the civil rights battle, or force an end to the U. S. War in Vietnam.

Think how different world history might have been if the German people had done what I am suggesting must be done now. Think how many more lives might have been saved if the anti-Vietnam War movement had not wasted time trying to force the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam through electoral politics.

Moreover, in this presidential election cycle it is very far from certain that Trump will not, in fact, be re-elected! Given the ever-growing role of money, gerrymandering and Jim Crow voter restrictions; given the concentration of liberal voters in urban areas of America and how that can again give Trump an Electoral College win while losing the popular vote; given the real possibility that a highly divided Democratic Party will nominate a candidate seen as “too left” or “too old “or of the “wrong gender” by too many potential Democratic Party voters, a Trump second term is not only possible, it’s entirely likely...many believe more likely than not. Also, depending on who ends up as the Democratic Party’s nominee, there is the possibility of either a more liberal or more moderate “third-party” candidacy yet emerging, making Trump’s re-election even more likely. And it’s terrifying to imagine what five more years of Trumpism could do to America.

I believe the times we are in make it essential that the various progressive movements for social change, now periodically massing in the streets, recognize that their individual causes will never be won under an ever more authoritarian government; realize that at this time the critical thing they must do to advance their own separate causes is to unite their movements, reach out to the great mass of decent Americans to join them, and concentrate on fighting the over-arching authoritarianism and disunifying tribalism that has infested America; to come together in urging the American people to join them in the streets, on a sustained basis, demanding the end of that drive down the road leading to totalitarianism and Fascism; to do what the people of Hong Kong and so many other nations are doing: to assemble in great numbers day after day, week-end after week-end, and month after month. And while doing so peacefully, have that peaceful behavior include massive, organized, disruptive civil disobedience, as well. Only when we give up the illusion that we live in a true democracy where the “good politician” running for President is going to save us can we ever hope to rid our country of the growing acceptance of demagogic “strongman” rulers, racist and sexist ideologies, the curtailment of civil rights and liberties, and the end of the growing authoritarianism and greedy corporate oligarchy, all on the ascendency in America today.

I realize that due to the geographical size of the United States, this massive and sustained presence protesting in the streets might need to be largely concentrated in the Nation’s capital, and in dozens of the larger cities located throughout our Country. The Occupy Movement of 2011 spread to nearly 1,000 cities and, as an encampment, stayed in the streets seven-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day for weeks, and in some cases months. We may not be able to maintain a presence in the streets fully mirroring what we see in the streets of Hong Kong. But clearly the times demand a movement of Americans a hell-of-a-lot bigger and more persistent than anything we’ve seen so far!

We are at the “tipping point” beyond which democratic governance will have ended, and with it a decent and sustainable life for the least well off among us! We are in grave danger of losing it fully if we do not up our game; if we do not up our degree of collective commitment; get about the business of finding a way to organize a massive, militant and sustained presence in the streets.

Our specific demands are frankly less important than our presence in the streets. But of course we would demand an end to actions enhancing climate change; of course we would demand an end to the caging of kids and denials of asylum; of course we would demand an end to cut-backs of services for the poor and tax breaks for the rich; demand an end to the police murders of our black and brown brothers. Perhaps our over-arching demand would be the end of racism and sexism and xenophobia. But the important thing, the thing that would be different than today would be the fact that demands on behalf of all of these causes would be fought for collectively under the banner of ending the growing authoritarianism and fought for on a united basis, on a sustained basis, and with a commitment to not leave the streets, not leave the fight, until the real and fundamental changes we are fighting for are won!

Quite obviously, the current level of our resistance to the grave dangers and depredations we face today is woefully inadequate. Something far more revolutionary is necessary; something far more militant and sustained. As “Fat Boy”, a college dropout and one of the leaders in the Hong Kong revolution reminds us, “Freedom and rights can’t be asked for, you have to fight for them.” History will surely judge us harshly if we do not fight like hell to make America a true democracy, a democracy providing the economic and social justice that our people deserve. And so let us, at long last and before it is too late, get about the business of waging a massive, sustained and united fight; a fight equal to overturning the repression and depravation we suffer under today!

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Jim Lafferty

Jim Lafferty is a member of the governing board of the So. Calif. ACLU; the Executive Director Emeritus of the National Lawyers Guild in L.A.; and host of The Lawyers Guild Show on KPFK radio. The views expressed in this article are solely his own.