A helium-filled baby Donald Trump blimp will fly over London during the US president’s visit [Simon Dawson/Reuters]
This week, US President Donald Trump makes his long-anticipated visit to the UK. He will be met by hundreds of thousands of protesters taking action all over the UK in a “carnival of resistance” against his inhumane policies and his divisive, racist rhetoric.
From drag artists to dancing chickens, from “handmaids” to trumpeters and even a flying “baby Trump” blimp, London will host the sort of large and diverse demonstration not seen for over a decade. At the centre, the “Stop Trump” coalition will join with other groups in a “Together Against Trump” march. And those most demonised by Trump and his supporters will be in the front line.
Plans for this week’s visit started out with Prime Minister Theresa May inviting Trump to a “pomp and ceremony” state visit just one week after his inauguration – an extraordinary and unprecedented offer to a brand new president, let alone the most divisive man to hold that post in modern times. Since then, the erratic Trump has cancelled and cancelled again, afraid of the mass opposition he would face in the UK.
May’s persistence shows just how important Trump’s visit to the UK is for both parties. May hopes for proof that Brexit can work: the UK could replace the EU with the US as a principal trading and security partner. She wants to make headway on a post-Brexit trade deal.
Unfortunately for her, such a deal is deeply unpopular in the UK, where many people understand that it would lock the country increasingly into the US’ deregulated and liberalised economic model. A symbol of this deregulation has become the “chlorine-washed” chickens, bred in unsanitary conditions, which are banned in the EU. The US has insisted these chickens must be allowed into the UK under any trade deal. A “chicken bloc” will make this point at Friday’s demo.
But for Trump, Britain is also important. His approach towards China and the EU has been to threaten, undermine and constrain their power. Brexit is exciting for Trump precisely because it could trigger the beginning of the end for the EU. He wants to use it to drive as much of a wedge in Europe as possible because a weaker Europe will be easier to bully.
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So the stakes are high, and the public knows that, which is why Friday’s protest is likely to be the largest since the 2002 protest against the Iraq War.
Some say an egomaniac like Trump is best ignored. History suggests otherwise. Trump’s rhetoric, his tactics and his policies mark a definite break with the past. As brutal and imperialist as recent US presidents may have been, Trump is more dangerous with his blatant appeal to extreme right-wing groups and neo-Nazis, his erratic behaviour, his incendiary racism and misogyny, his denial of climate change, his desire to rip up international law in favour of the rule of the bully.
The history of the 1930s tells us where these developments could lead. We cannot sit back and hope he will fail. We must speak out now.
But “Together Against Trump” is not about demonstrating against one man, however powerful. Trumpism is a poison which is infecting politics across the world.
The world looked in horror as Trump’s administration separated migrant children from their parents and held them in cages. But there must be equal outrage about the EU’s migrant deal, concluded 10 days ago, which similarly undermines international law by bribing and bullying poorer countries to deal with migrants and refugees on Europe’s behalf.
There must be outrage also about the UK’s own migration policies which aim to create a “hostile environment” for those fleeing poverty and war so they leave the country. Even people who have resided all their lives in the UK have been forcibly deported, sacked from their jobs and imprisoned under this policy.
From Turkey to the Philippines to Italy and India, increasingly authoritarian, extreme right-wing governments are adopting the same rhetoric and policies as Trump. This Friday we will say no to this programme of hatred and intolerance.
But if we’re serious about beating Trumpism we must do more than complain about his intolerance. Trump did not fall from a blue sky, any more than Brexit, or the right-wing government in Italy. Support for them was laid down by decades of “market knows best” economic policies which privatised and liberalised everything in sight, creating economic devastation for the poorest, hollowing out communities, and convincing many millions of people they have no control over their lives or their societies.
The death knell for neoliberalism was sounded by the financial crash of 2008, in which the crimes of the rich were paid for by the poor.
There will be no return to that world. We must provide a coherent and inspiring vision to counter Trump, one which would dismantle the power of big business, bring social ownership and control back to our economies, and recreate a deeper version of democracy.
We can prevent a 1930s-style global slide into authoritarianism, racism and conflict, we can beat Donald Trump and everything he stands for, only if we offer something truly different – a society that puts people and the environment ahead of profit.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.