Chaos on Capitol Hill: Trump supporters storm US Senate building in historic first

Robert Daw, is a member of the YCL’s London branch

Senators were unable to confirm Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States yesterday after a large “Stop the Steal” demonstration stormed Capitol Hill, marking the first time in history that the seat of US power has been broken into by protestors.

Following the already historic news from the Southern State of Georgia that their newly elected Senator was both black and a Democrat, Donald Trump himself addressed crowds of thousands at the long-planned demonstration aimed at declaring the election fraudulent and attempting to force a recount of votes amid fake news that he had generated claiming massive tampering with the results had taken place.

Protesters were urged by Trump to march on Capitol Hill, the building where the senate was currently in session to confirm the results of the November election which made Biden the new president, with Trump saying that he himself would join them on their march.

What followed were scenes that should not be forgotten by anyone, as they will have far-reaching implications for decades to come.

Trump addresses his supporters

Demonstrators broke police lines and smashed windows as they successfully breached the building. An armed standoff occurred inside as the crowds attempted to bash down the door to the senate floor with Secret Service members barricading their way, where 35-year-old Air Force veteran and Trump supporter Ashli Babbitt was shot dead.

Secret Service members point guns at Trump supporters attempting to breach the Senate floor

Protestors did manage to eventually make their way onto the senate floor, with one man taking his seat at the head of the room. The podium was taken from it’s place in the chamber. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office was raided, with a protestor symbolically placing his feet upon her desk. Senators were frantically rushed out of the chamber in gas masks, with others diving to the floor for cover as shots were fired in the room they have, for so long, used to calmly order military interventions across the world.

protestor jumping down from upper tier of senate floor
protestor takes seat at head of the senate
protestor places his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk

Once the dust had settled, the tear gas had cleared and order had been restored in DC, news came that 3 other protestors had died in “medical emergencies” during the day and that 53 had been arrested for their part in the events. Reports came in of Improvised Explosive Devices being found left inside the building.

Trump took his time responding to the events taking place, eventually taking to his twitter, only to remind his supporters that he thought they were “special” and that he loved them, doubling down in claims that the election was stolen — but that it was time for peace and that they should “respect law enforcement.”

Trump did not seek to condemn the actions of his supporters, although Biden and many senators had stern words about “insurrection” and “subverting the cradle of democracy.” One might suggest that even this level of response from Trump only came once massive pressure had been placed on him and his office to do so. His response led to him being banned from Twitter once more, for another 12 hours. Facebook and Instagram followed suit with 24 hour bans on his accounts.

Whilst it is clear that the crowds storming the Capitol were by no means left wing (with many of its participants carrying ‘anti-antifa’ or anti communist messages if not even just openly racist symbols such as the Confederate battle standard), even the most reactionary of movements often contains a kernel of class consciousness that can be observed within these unprecedented events and must be studied by Leninists and revolutionaries across the world.

Many of our allies and comrades have taken to social media already to ask what the police response would have been had it been Black Lives Matter protestors that had stormed Capitol Hill, suggesting that the death toll would be a lot higher than 4. While it is true, and the police response to the BLM demonstrations in DC last summer were heavy handed, with peaceful demonstrators being beaten and gassed away from the White House just so that Trump could stand for a photo op where they were previously stood, it is more important to ask why BLM protestors didn’t try and storm Capitol Hill, rather than focus on what might have happened if they had.

The answer is remarkably simple — the US left has failed to whip up the same kind of anger at the ruling class that the right has so easily been able to muster in the last few years. Leftists have spent far too long arguing among themselves and diffusing blame amongst themselves rather than focussing it on the elite, suckered into internal debates about who is more woke or more intersectional, who has the ‘right’ to be angry, who is allowed to speak, who should never ‘speak over’ oppressed groups with class based demands, and so on.

In comparison, the right has successfully managed to unite neoconservatives, libertarians, right-wing anti communist immigrant diasporas, hardline white supremacists and neo nazis alongside each other with a simple, concise message: “Stop the Steal.” Admittedly, it is harder for the left to unite around a single message like this than the right as the right’s political analysis is often much more two dimensional than that of the left, but that does not mean it is an impossible task.

If US leftists had spent their time truly calling for an insurrection against police violence and against the ruling class explicitly with a simple, anti-establishment, revolutionary message (one that the self defence against police, looting and rioting clearly showed that there is a large appetite for in American society) rather than the sectarian focus seen on each small grouplet’s different aims.

The sheer range of conflicting and often entirely rhetorical demands that came out of 2020’s unprecedented uprising against the state is bewildering: complete police abolition, the merit of apologising or paying for perceived generational sins of institutional racism and whether or not white proletarians are just as guilty as the bourgeoisie of black oppression — whether or not violence against the ruling class is justified — and so on. These circular debates blocked and confused a simple class message: the rich don’t care about us, so the police kill us with impunity because we are poor.

By avoiding this message, or being scared away from it by accusations of ‘class reductionism’ the left has so far missed its chance to be the threat to the establishment that Trump’s incoherent movement now looks to be after the events in the Capitol.

It is time to begin to try harder to work together to organise popular fronts around key, common issues of class conflict and come to blows with the true nature of their bourgeois state — and the Democrat Party and the neoliberal establishment it upholds stands in the way of this. Even the most promising and progressive member of the Democrat establishment, Bernie Sanders, rolled over and endorsed Biden once he lost the party’s nomination race, without providing any anti-establishment alternative — just as he had done with Hilary Clinton 4 years before.

Sanders had built a far more impressive support base than any left winger in recent US history, and had quite clearly been robbed of the nomination by warmongering elite democrats — but instead of calling for his own ‘stop the steal’ marches, he wasted no time in endorsing the return of “business as usual”.

Branding Trump as the “most dangerous president in history” in a tweet from last night, Sanders clearly forgot the US’ horrendous track record of former presidents, be it Bush Jr’s frankly genocidal foreign policy or Reagan’s decimation of America’s welfare budget. What happened yesterday, although appearing more visually provocative than prior US-backed coup attempts such as Venezuela last year, is no way near as “dangerous” as what former US presidents have previously perpetrated on other nations or even their own.

As the US empire crumbles, there is no more time to be wasted on ‘lesser evilism.’ So much of the left seem to see Trump as an aberration to be removed so things can go “back to normal,” with a healthy economy producing a healthy union movement, which in turn will produce America’s first social democrat administration via the Democrat Party. This is actually more far fetched than a socialist revolution; the reason that it endures is it is less dangerous, and allows thousands — possibly millions — of ‘progressives’ to carve out careers in support of the (liberal) status quo.

The US left needs to understand that its future clearly now lies outside of the remit of the Democrats, and that an enduring support base for class based politics must now be built up within proletarian communities between election drives and flashpoints.

The expressions of rage and horror at an angry crowd making Senators – the same Senators who vote to keep healthcare private and to starve and bomb third-world countries – crawl on the floor of their palace in fear should not be coming from the left. The left should be asking: why wasn’t that us? And how do we get there?

senators dive for cover
senators wear gas masks

Robert Daw

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