Summary: Islamophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria in the U.S. are compared to George Wallace’s racist candidacy of the 1960s, and to the rise of Nazism. Today’s Trump campaign is taking place in an era of economic decline, however — Editors
Today, anti-immigrant hysteria and Islamophobia is being whipped up not only in the U.S., but also in Germany, in France, and elsewhere. Inside the U.S., the Brussels, Paris, and San Bernardino attacks are being used by the state, by capital, and by reactionary political forces. Everywhere there are calls for more security, more surveillance by the state, behind the established powers of the state and of capital. Conservative U.S. politicians have fanned Islamophobia by coming out against admitting any Syrian refugees at all!
The leading conservative candidate for the US presidency, Donald Trump, called for the mass deportation of Mexicans and other immigrants, and praised Vladimir Putin in other comments, sending many rushing to their keyboards to look up “fascism.” The enemies of the state, once considered to be Communist or Jewish, are now immigrants and Muslims. Trump falsely claimed that thousands of Muslims “filled the streets” in New Jersey to celebrate the 9/11 attacks, and repeated bogus statistics falsely asserting that most killings of whites are done by Blacks. He also embraced the notion of killing the families of Islamic state members to intimidate others and suggested the open use of torture! His misguided American fears of Islam, and anti-Muslim rhetoric paid off for him in the primaries of the Republican Party!
The US media report that about half of Republican-leaning voters both support the deportation of undocumented immigrants and oppose the acceptance of refugees from Syria or other conflicts in the Mideast. Slightly more than half of that pro-deportation/anti-refugee group support Trump. However, among the voters as a whole, the polls show Sanders and Clinton are doing better against Trump. In fact, Sanders is favored more strongly than Clinton over Trump.
While the crisis of capitalism in the early 1960s during desegregation times allowed Alabama Governor George Wallace to use his name as a segregationist southern populist into a to develop a third party presidential campaign, today’s crisis of a decreasing rate of profit of capital is creating reactionary front-runners like Trump. George Wallace did not win, but his style and ideas partly helped shape the political and racial polarization with which we live today.
Increasing unemployment and decreasing benefits have created the conditions of today where middle-class people fear falling off their rung on the social ladder, and they become easy prey for right wings demagogues. We need to remember that few thought Nazism had a chance in a country like Germany. However, it received massive funding from big firms like I.G. Farben and Krupp, who were frightened of the left. Hitler was able to be appointed prime minister while leftists and centrists in Germany did not unite against the right wing, and failed to see fully the danger of fascism during the crisis of the 1920s and early 1930s. Today’s capitalist system is creating reactionary right-wingers like Trump, and it is creating both Islamophobia and Islamic fundamentalism. Islamophobia and Islamic fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin that need to be opposed.
Islamophobia paints all Muslims with the same deeply prejudicial brush, claiming that all are actual or potential terrorists, and that therefore their lives must be subject to state control.
Islamic fundamentalism is a sect that claims that all of human existence must be strictly controlled by self-proclaimed religious authorities in a totalitarian state.
In the face of this, I would like to mention the bravery and creativity of Professor Larycia Hawkins of Wheaton College in Illinois, who announced last December that she would wear the hijab as part of her advent devotion to show support for Muslims who have been under scrutiny since the mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
There was a student demonstration at Wheaton College for solidarity with Hawkins. One of the students mobilized dozens of others to wear the traditional Muslim headscarf on their flights home for Christmas. Hawkins has been asked to affirm the college’s statement of faith four times since she started teaching at Wheaton nearly nine years ago. She was first admonished for writing an academic paper about what Christians could learn from Black liberation theology, connecting the Bible with the often-troubled history of race relations in America. Wheaton College tried to fire Hawkins, but she prevailed in the end.
We on the left can intervene by pointing all this out and attempting to limit the effects of right wing demagoguery. We can increase our support for the refugees, support progressive movements in the US, especially Black Lives Matter, and also challenge the imperialist powers.