The ascendance of Donald Trump has mobilized an unprecedented coalition of organizers, activists, and every day people from diverse backgrounds to fight back, transforming the term ‘intersectionality’ from a theoretical concept into a living, breathing movement.
In cities across the country – and the world – millions of people participated in the Women’s March, the day after Trump’s inauguration, making a declarative statement that they will stand up and together, against all forms of bigotry and oppression. It was one of the most powerful and positive testaments to the potential strength of the opposition to Trump, so far.
In this first of a series of articles about the resistance, I will be writing about organizing principles that can be used against the Trump administration, especially the importance of a people-centered approach to sustained movement-building.
In The Baffler, Megan Carpentier recently wrote that “In America, we learn that Hitler and the Nazis committed the Holocaust; in Germany, German children learn that they all participated in it, because the Germans came to believe that acknowledging their collective culpability as individuals was the only way to prevent it from ever happening again.” This sort of people-centric approach to history and activism is precisely what is needed to fight back against the Trump administration, because it gives agency to everyone and galvanizes movement-building.
Already, we are seeing this sort of activism take hold. A ‘People’s Climate March’ has been announced to take place on April 29, one day before Trump’s 100th day as president. A ‘Tax March’ has been declared for April 15, which is Tax Day weekend. We can expect to see more marches take place throughout the country and the world.
As symbolic and powerful as these protests are, however, they speak more to the potency of the opposition to assemble quickly, rather than to maintaining a sustained grassroots movement. As Zeynep Tufekci wrote for The New York Times, “[i]n the digital age, the size of a protest is no longer a reliable indicator of a movement’s strength. Comparisons to the number of people in previous marches are especially misleading. A protest does not have power just because many people get together in one place. Rather, a protest has power insofar as it signals the underlying capacity of the forces it represents.” In a people’s approach to politics, protest should be understood not as a vital component of resisting, but as one piece of the puzzle. In a recent piece for Muftah, my colleague Sarah Moawad underscored the importance of political work to supplementing such demonstrations.
For leftists, engaging in sustained political work means aligning with, or winning over the center-left, center, and perhaps even the center-right on fundamental issues. Maintaining ideological purity and engaging in sententious political posturing must take a back seat to winning people over through revolutionary love.
If we are to defeat the juggernaut that is Trump and his cabinet, we must utilize the strengths, talents, resources, and power of all those unflinchingly opposed to him. Writing in A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, Howard Zinn, the iconic historian and patriot, wrote:
On the other side are formidable forces: money, political power, the major media. On our side are the people of the world and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth. Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson – that everything we do matters – is the meaning of the people’s struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.