Voices of the new resistance

The huge turnouts for protests during Inauguration Weekend and since proved that the opposition to Donald Trump hasn't been intimidated or demoralized into silence. But the challenge now is to build the resistance into a bigger and better organized force, represented in every struggle in every corner of society.

In Washington, D.C., and afterward, SocialistWorker.org asked a wide range of people--authors and activists, people coming to their first demonstrations and veterans of many struggles--for their thoughts about the resistance to Trump and its next steps. Below is part one of the roundtable--click here to jump ahead to the second half.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

Taking the streets against Trump's anti-Muslim ban (Let's Talk Politics)Taking the streets against Trump's anti-Muslim ban (Let's Talk Politics)

When Trump was elected there was a general sense of fear, shock and disbelief. This transition period has helped people to move from just that shock into an understanding that now we have to actually do something.

The historic turnout for the protests over Inauguration Weekend was a signal that literally millions of people have moved from shock and disbelief into defiance and understanding about the need to confront Trump and Trumpism--that this isn't something we can just passively complain about, but something we have to actively combat.

But there has to be an additional pivot from coming out to a protest his inauguration into the type of organizing and movement-building that will be necessary to take on the range of his attacks.

At the "Anti-Inauguration" forum in Washington on January 20, Naomi Klein said that in the first weeks in the Trump administration, there would be an attempt to overwhelm and shock with an onslaught of attacks. I think we're very much in the midst of that now: the gag orders on public agencies, the announcements about the wall and restrictions on immigration from Muslim countries.

These are all things that Trump talked about and laid out how he would do them in his first 100 days. This is smash-and-grab operation intended to reset how we even understand about the role of government.

At a meeting of corporate leaders, Trump said he aims to turn the U.S. into the most business-friendly place in the world--which, of course, is an insult to ordinary people who have seen their living standards either stagnate or go in reverse, and who look to whatever anemic social welfare state exists in this country to bridge the gap.

The need to organize has never been clearer, and there have to be a few levels to that. There has to be a local response to the fallout of these policies, where they will have their greatest impact. For example, where the attacks on immigrants are most acute, there needs to be a response.

But there also has to be the organization of some type of national vehicle that ties individual and local struggles together in such a way as to create coherency across the country and across local movements, so that people are able to learn and generalize from different groups' experiences, and get a full picture of what's happening.

I think the initial steps toward a structure for this local work has been in formation for a while, extending somewhat from the twilight of the Obama administration. But there still is no national means by which activists and organizers communicate with each other in an open way.

There are all sorts of individual meetings and conference calls and people in the know who talk to each other. But these have been organized for the most part on an informal basis. That kind of informality is not sufficient to what is happening right now.

So in the same way as after elections, we had to get beyond the shock of what happene, we have to get beyond being overwhelmed by the multiple simultaneous attacks that Trump has signaled right now--and move into organizing immediately.

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Bhaskar Sunkara

Founding editor of Jacobin magazine

What happened on Inauguration Weekend was absolutely inspiring. Millions marched, many of whom had never attended a political protest before. It was hopefully a sign of things to come.

Yet what this broad movement is for is less clear than what it is against. It wasn't that the march was populated largely by liberals--American socialists are used to being a minority, and it's hard to imagine a vibrant left that doesn't work with and win over a lot of Clinton supporters.

It was more the presence of and early attempts at co-optation by Democratic Party elites that we should worry about. A movement that has Chuck Schumer in it won't be able to change much of anything.

The broad sketches of our politics in the Trump era are emerging. Socialists will continue to do their part building and work to be the leaders of social movements organized around social-democratic demands--not encouraging people to follow the lead of liberals and settle for "winnable" half measures, but intransigently fighting for what we want--to expand the base for our politics, while using elections as vehicles for outreach and propaganda for our ideas.

Both of these things will put us into direct conflict, first and foremost, with centrist politics, and that's exactly what we want.

That shouldn't obscure us from an unfortunate truth--the Democratic Party is a strong and stable. It's not going to collapse any time soon. It's more united than it should be. For those of us concerned about resisting Trump, I think that's a problem.

But at the moment, we can't build a party. I think Seth Ackerman's recent Jacobin piece offers a great account of the structural problems that would confront us in such an effort.

Where practical, though, we should run for election as independents. But in certain circumstances, running in the Democratic primary makes sense. What's key is that these candidates run as open and committed socialists, with a clear and explicit platform, with their own network of funding and support that can hold them accountable.

Our immediate step must be to continue building the majoritarian left alternative we saw emerge with the Sanders campaign, while pushing polarization and conflict--with our swords against Chuck Schumer (who should have to confront protests when he tries to show up at anti-Trump rallies) and Hillary Clinton, while shielding against the reactionary policies of Trumpism.

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Jillian Nowlin

Activist from Northern Virginia

I had to be here. This is unprecedented in our history. Our country just elected an illegitimate, corrupt autocrat, and that's not what democracy is.

You can go on and on and on about all the groups that he has hurt with his words and actions. The people who support Trump need to know that what they stand for is unacceptable--economically, socially, politically, religiously, it's wrong.

They have Congress and the White House, and I'm scared about our rights being taken away. I'm also worried about the environment, because under the law, the environment doesn't have the same kind of protections that humans do.

It feels heartening and jubilant to be here with all these people, and to see all the diversity, but the reality is that we have a long fight ahead of us. Today, we are protesting, and there are going to have to be more protests.

It does scare me that although we have a constitutional right to protest, we have a militarized police force in our country. And there's a long history of corporations and the government confronting protesters and their rights with violence and force, even when the protests are peaceful. So right now, we're all out here, but I know it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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Kirstin Roberts

Chicago public school teacher and member of the Chicago Teachers Union

For teachers, under both Democrats and Republicans, we've faced a pretty continuous assault on the entire ideal of public education for more than a decade. The Trump administration really represents a sort of culminating, existential crisis in a fight that we've been waging for a while.

When I say the ideal of public education, I mean the idea that there should be a guaranteed right for every child, no matter what their income, race, gender, disability and so on, to have access to education.

The huge, $5 trillion education industry is comprised of many corporations ho have been trying to get their share, and they've spent a lot of political capital to do so. And the one organized force that consistently could stand up to them was the teachers' unions, and they see that as a problem. So we've been on the receiving end of a lot of crap for a long time.

Now, with the wholesale corporate hijacking of political power in this country that the Trump administration represents, you have the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary--a women who is an avowed and proud enemy of public schools and that ideal of equal access to schools for all children.

So I think we're in for the battle of our lives.

Couple that with the outright attack on a huge proportion of our students: students of colors, immigrant students, refugee students, students who might speak a different language. Our kids are also under threat.

So we in the Chicago Teachers Union see this as a battle for the very existence of public education at the same time that we have to unite our forces to defend the students we teach from a whole range of attacks. They're not just trying to take our schools, they're trying to really ruin people's lives, in the name of corporate hegemony and profits, and increased power for the 1 Percent.

That's what we're looking at right now, and it's frankly unnerving.

In the Chicago Teachers Union, we held a day of action in conjunction with our parent union sister education union. We did walk-ins and rallies before and after school, where we publicly said that we stand with families and our students against the attacks by Trump, as well as in opposition to DeVos and the privatization agenda she represents as Education Secretary.

These actions were very powerful--some 1,500 schools around the country participated. In some schools, the whole faculty and all the students and parents came out and wrapped their hands around the schools--to demonstrate that our schools will not be a place where the federal government can come in and demand lists of Muslim students, or lists of immigrant students whose parents may be undocumented.

We're not going to participate in that--we will not turn over information, and we will not allow public education to be stolen from working people in this country. It's a fundamental right that working people, Black people, immigrants and more have fought for and won, and we're not giving it up.

Danny Katch, Alan Maass and Eric Ruder contributed to this article.