Racist Mob Assault on Congress
“Democracy” Falling Apart –
Socialist Revolution the Only
Fascist-led racist mob of Trump supporters storms U.S. Capitol on January 6.
For Workers Defense Guards
Against Fascist Threats
and to Defend the Rights of All the Oppressed
JANUARY 7 – Yesterday’s mob rampage at the U.S. Capitol was the culmination of Donald Trump’s campaign of frenzied claims that the November 2020 presidential election was “stolen.” The assault on Congress was instigated by Trump and his top lieutenants, led by outright fascists, spearheaded by white supremacists brandishing the Confederate battle flag of the slavocracy, and it was facilitated by the police. Similar riots targeting government centers are nothing new in East Europe, where they have typically been organized by the U.S. (Georgia 2003, Ukraine 2014), and Yankee imperialism has unleashed them innumerable times in Latin America. But they are seen as novel in the United States since the post-Civil War period’s racist rampages against Reconstruction. After all, Republicans and Democrats alike claim this is “the world’s greatest democracy,” a “shining city on a hill” as union-busting racist and warmonger Ronald Reagan called the U.S. That was hardly the scene on Capitol Hill on January 6. What the world witnessed was a chilling acceleration, the latest bizarre and dangerous episode, in the spectacular unravelling of “democratic” bourgeois rule in the strongest imperialist power. What it dramatically underscores is that this capitalist society is falling apart. The bankruptcy of this decaying system of exploitation, imperialism and racist oppression highlights the urgent need to fight for socialist revolution.
In the media and by numerous politicians the Capitol attack is described as an “insurrection,” “coup d’état” or failed “coup attempt.” Yet this grotesque rampage by a would-be lynch mob was not an actual attempt to seize power (for which they obviously didn’t have the forces), nor was it the military trying to disperse and shut down the U.S.’ highest legislative body. English doesn’t have very descriptive terms for such actions. In Spanish it would be an amotinamiento, in French a coup de main. It was a mob assault aimed at intimidating Congress into not confirming Democratic president-elect Joe Biden, and failing that, to galvanize hard-core Trumpers into an authoritarian movement for future action. It was not a last paroxysm of Trumpism, but a harbinger of dangerous times to come. The several hundred fascists who turned out, together with tens of thousands of enraged racists and reactionaries, are plenty dangerous, but the most powerful and central dangers come from the organs of state power of the capitalist ruling class – police, military, National Guard – which brutally repress protests for black rights and protect the fascist terrorists. Democrat Joe Biden is their new boss, and he backs them to the hilt.
Racist rioters brandished the battle flag of the slaveowners’ Confederacy and the KKK terrorists.
That the assault was directly instigated by Trump is obvious. It’s also recognized by key sectors of the bourgeois establishment in the U.S., which is genuinely shaken up by yesterday’s events. The white supremacist in the White House, defeated in the November elections, set the date for the riot, calling on his supporters to come to Washington for a “wild” time. Some 30,000 did. At a morning rally Trump whipped them up, railing against “RINOs” (Republicans in Name Only) and urging the crowd to “walk down to Congress” in order to “fight.” His lawyer, the ubergrifter Rudy Giuliani who instigated the 1992 police riot against New York City’s black Democratic mayor David Dinkins, called for “trial by combat.” Donald Jr. warned Democrats and Republicans who didn’t support the plot to annul the votes of tens of millions of voters, “We’re coming for you.” This led even right-wing Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming to declare: “The president incited the mob. The president addressed the mob. He lit the flame.”
Scripted Mayhem, Police Connivance
The mayhem was scripted by the president himself, though of course the cowardly macho-man reneged on his vow to march with his followers to the capitol. “A senior White House aide said Trump wanted his supporters to swarm the Capitol and protest loudly all day,” the Washington Post (7 January) reported. But, the aide was quoted as claiming, “There was no plan for them to go inside.” In fact, the mob was milling around outside on the balcony and steps for an hour before managing to get in the building. Once they were inside, Trump watched on television for over two hours until people were starting to leave, when he posted a (pre-recorded) video saying it was time to go home. In that video he proclaimed his “love” for the “very special” rioters, insisted that the election was stolen and told them to “Remember this day forever!” Which they will, of course. The fact that they stormed the U.S. Capitol and got away with it will embolden racists and fascists for years – and not just to vote for Trump or his surrogates, but also to attack black people, immigrants and all who would block their drive to “take back” what they proclaim is their country.
That the assault was facilitated by the police is also beyond doubt. The cops and military were obviously monitoring the social media where the fascists were openly talking of plans for the armed assault. Moreover, ultra-rightists’ armed takeover of the Michigan legislature last May had already set the pattern. From the outset in Washington, rioters surged past barriers and up the steps with scarcely any serious opposition from the Capitol Police. Subsequently videos have surfaced showing police opening barriers and standing back to let the mob in. A livestream video by the fascists shows an invader taking a selfie with a police officer. There are a few photos of scuffles over barriers and a brief standoff in the basement, but once the crowd was in, the very few police outside disappeared. Inside, the cops let the rioters have the run of building, invading and rifling offices, taking over the Senate, and then let them leave unhindered.1 “Law enforcement experts said they were mystified by the tactics that police used once the mob was already inside the Capitol,” the Washington Post reported. That the police weren’t just “overwhelmed,” that police collaborated with the mob, that this was policy, is clear. The only “mystery” – so far – is who decided it.
You couldn’t miss the stunning contrast between this “kid glove” treatment on January 6 of the white supremacist mob and the wanton brutality unleashed against Black Lives Matter demonstrators peacefully protesting on June 3 in Lafayette Park, a public space, against racist police murder. It immediately struck us, along with countless other activists (and even the bourgeois media and politicians) – if black and other anti-racist demonstrators had sought to redress their grievances by converging on Congress, much less storming the building, they would have been shot down. It’s all one more confirmation that the police at every level are a white supremacist institution, and have been since their inception as slave patrols in the early 19th century. Nor was this equivalent to the workers’ occupation of the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 (which we enthusiastically participated in) to protest a vicious anti-labor bill. This was a racist mob bent on destruction and seeking to halt one of the functions of Congress with the most far-reaching consequences, which the mob did with impunity.
When the New York Times (7 January) writes of “violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement,” those few incidents cannot obscure police connivance with the rioters. When the D.C. National Guard arrived at the end – after Trump and his Army and Defense secretaries had earlier blocked a request by the city to mobilize it – there were very few arrests, mostly for curfew violation. But now that Democratic mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a public emergency order until after Inauguration Day (January 20), it will surely be used against any anti-fascist protesters. Meanwhile, as Twitter and Facebook temporarily blocked Trump’s accounts, various pundits and legal beagles are flirting with curtailing First Amendment rights (“Have Trump’s Lies Wrecked Free Speech?” New York Times, 6 January). Again, you can bet that any bans on “extremists” will be used against leftists and anti-racists far more than against the fascists who openly organized their Capitol bash on Parler and other right-wing social media.
This was a racist lynch mob. Rioters erected gallows, threatening to “hang traitors.”
That the attack on the U.S. Capitol was led by fascists is also undeniable, although barely mentioned in the bourgeois media. They had to notice that the first rioters who stormed into the Capitol were brandishing the Confederate battle flag, though they left unsaid that this banner of slavery is also that of the racist terrorists of the Ku Klux Klan. There were also numerous QAnon flags, and the green “Kekistan” flag (based on the WWII German battle flag) used by fascists. There were gallows with a hangman’s noose – a threat of lynching – set up outside. Nazi provocateur Tim Gionet (aka “Baked Alaska”) was livestreaming from inside the building. Inside the Capitol, one of the fascists wore a sweatshirt hailing the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. And prominent among those at the front of the rioters were III Percenters (who brag about their connections to police and military), Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, wearing a different uniform than usual, with orange caps. Orange armbands and tags were also noted in similar pro-Trump mobs in state capitals in Arkansas, California, Minnesota, Oregon and elsewhere.
There was a surreal quality to aspects of the fascist-led assault, including a QAnon “shaman” with a horned helmet made of fur pelts, stars-and-stripes face paint and Norse tattoos. Another rioter with a fur pelt and a fox skin on his head stood out among the camouflage jackets and MAGA caps. But it was no joke: the invaders were armed and dangerous. During the storming, two pipe bombs and a cooler full of Molotov cocktails (gasoline bombs) were found on Capitol grounds. One of the camo-clad rioters had a handful of zip ties, indicating intentions of taking hostages, again echoing the events in Michigan last May. Had they gotten their hands on Nancy Pelosi or one of the “Squad” (Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib) vilified by Trump, or others, these fascist and racist terrorists could well have carried out their murderous fantasies to “hang traitors.”
After the rioters left, the assembled senators and representatives resumed “debate” on certifying the electors’ votes for president state by state. While a few dropped their plans to challenge electors reflecting the popular vote (like Georgia, where the Democrats just won a by-election, replacing two Republican senators with two Democrats, giving the incoming Biden administration control of the Senate as well as the House), most did not. As the night wore on, there was one pious, nauseating speech after another praising the “bipartisan” rejection of “violence,” “insurrection” and “sedition,” instead endorsing “civility,” “decency” and, of course, “our democracy.” Of course, the rioters were foot soldiers for the blatantly anti-democratic ploy by the Republican defeat deniers to throw out tens of millions of votes – disenfranchising the voters of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. In the end, Biden’s victory was confirmed, but more than half of House Republicans voted not to recognize its legitimacy.
Repeatedly over the past weeks, media pundits have waxed lyrical about how the only thing holding the line for democracy has been the “good will” of a handful of officials, both Democratic and Republican. This despite all the civics lessons about checks and balances, the power and majesty of the Constitution, and the rest. What this underscores in reality is the crucial Marxist point that the state is fundamentally armed force in the service of the socially dominant (ruling) class. In capitalist society, that is the class of owners of the wealth and means of production. It is their (bourgeois) “democracy,” and when their interests demand it, they can dispense with these forms and resort to untrammeled naked force. Counteracting the patriotic fairy tales of bourgeois ideology is an important part of unshackling the working-class power so urgently needed in defense of the rights of all.
As for bourgeois politicians’ cloying appeals for bipartisan harmony and the rest of it as the pro-police duo of Biden and the vice president-elect, Kamala Harris, prepares to take charge of administering U.S. imperialism – the biggest and most dangerous enemy of the oppressed worldwide – Marxists stand in irreconcilable opposition to this and all administrations of the capitalist state. To unchain the power of the working class from capitalism’s parties, politicians and institutions is the urgent task in order to defend the rights and interests of all the exploited and downtrodden, and to put an end to the depredations of U.S. imperialism once and for all.
What Next for U.S. Capitalism?
In the aftermath of the January 6 riot in the Capitol, key sectors of the U.S. ruling class are worried about Donald Trump remaining in office, even for the 13 days left of his term. An alarmed National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the U.S.’ premier business lobby and longtime Trump ally, denounced “mob rule,” declaring that “The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power.” The NAM called on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to exercise the 25th Amendment, which would allow removal of Trump as president for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Unsurprisingly, Pence refused. Today the two top Congressional Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, called for the impeachment of Trump for inciting armed insurrection. MSNBC host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough called for Trump, Giuliani and Donald Jr. to be arrested on the same charges. Several Trump administration officials have resigned, rats leaving a sinking ship.
Yet Trump is not the only one responsible for inciting the mob. There are quite a few Trump sycophants and enablers in Congress, some of whom have now opportunistically turned on him (like the execrable neo-Confederate senator Lindsay Graham), but who are all accomplices and co-conspirators. Ultimately, they – together with their Democratic rivals and colleagues – are all bourgeois politicians, representing the same class interests. Recall Barack Obama’s words following Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election: “We have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage.” Obama said then that what he heard from Trump was “Respect for our institutions. Our way of life. Rule of law.” Really? So was January 6, an “intramural scrimmage,” marked by respect for the “rule of law”? Leading spokesmen for capital have concluded that Trump is an unhinged adventurer, prepared to sacrifice the interests of their “team” for his own, and that he must be stopped before he does more damage to “our institutions.” At this point, they’re just not sure how to do it.
The capitalist establishment has some problems in that respect: 74 million people voted for Trump, three-quarters of all Republicans say he was robbed of victory by (non-existent) massive voter fraud, and he now has a potential party fighting force of some tens of thousands, many of them heavily armed, fanatically devoted to him. While bourgeois detractors often portray him as just a crazy person, in denial about the election, he has created an organizing myth, the “stolen election,” akin to Hitler’s use of the myth of the “Dolchstoss,” the supposed stab in the back by Jews and communists, to explain Germany’s loss in World War I. Trump does not head up a mass fascist movement such as arose in Italy and Germany after WWI, and the motley crew that stormed the Capitol on January 6 aren’t disciplined shock troops like Mussolini’s Black Shirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts. They more closely resemble the rabble that Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, then president of the French Second Republic, gathered around him as he sought to become emperor in 1851.2 Like the little Napoléon, Trump would like to use the January 6 mob as his private army for his next adventure.
Many liberals think Trump wants to be like Putin in Russia or Erdoğan in Turkey, an authoritarian elected president. But being an emperor would be more fitting for his grandiose self-image. As if. Over the weekend, Trump begged Republican officials in Georgia to fix the votes for him so he could steal the election (while accusing the Democrats of doing so). But he had no quid for the quo, and was publicly humiliated as the tape of his wheedling, threatening call was released. So Trump turned to his last-ditch ploy, whipping up a mob, but he failed once again. That the powers that be knew it was coming was shown by the extraordinary January 4 letter by ten former secretaries of defense reminding the military that any effort to “involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes” would be “dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional” and any officials involved would face “criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.” The Pentagon snapped to attention.
When Louis-Napoléon staged his December 1851 self-coup proclaiming himself French emperor, he had the backing of top generals. In the U.S. today, Trump only had the convicted ex-general Michael Flynn to conspire with about invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to impose martial law. The Pentagon generals fight for Wall Street. They got their tax cuts and are done with Trump. They have no appetite to stick their necks out for President Bonespurs (Trump got a medical deferment from the Vietnam draft by claiming bone spurs on his feet).
Biden wants to form a bipartisan Party of Order. But his lame calls for “decency” and unity, for “reaching across the aisle,” fly in the face of the everyone-for-himself, “sauve-qui-peut” (save yourself if you can) mentality of today’s bourgeois rulers. Capitalists flip from one bubble to the next, looking for speculative profits before they burst, as the capitalist system is putrefying before our eyes. They are cashing out of many companies and with their “golden parachutes” buying retreats in New Zealand and Patagonia, as far from Wall Street as they can get. Likewise, the “take no prisoners” style of Republican politics goes hand in hand with the outlook of many lawyers, epitomized by Giuliani but far more widespread, whose attitude toward the “rule of law” is to grab anything they can get away with, and the stability of the system be damned. They all fit well with a would-be authoritarian megalomaniac who holds that the truth is whatever he says it is, and that as president he could do anything he wants. But if he no longer can, many jump ship.
U.S. rulers are deeply split, reflecting the declining fortunes of American capitalism. The “American century” that began when the U.S. walked away with the victor’s spoils in World War II was to be followed by a “New World Order” of unchallenged U.S. imperialist hegemony after the counterrevolution that swept the Soviet bloc in 1989-92. Instead, there was world disorder, of “wars without end,” and the devastating consequences of the 2007-08 financial crash that unleashed a decade-long worldwide capitalist depression. That led to deepening social decay, reflected politically in the Tea Party movement and socially by the ravages of the opioid crisis, both fed by despair of ruined petty bourgeois and permanently unemployed workers. That is also a major factor in lower-middle-class and working-class votes for Trump. And now the coronavirus pandemic, the worst plague in a century that has killed 363,000 in the U.S. and 1.8 million+ worldwide, has set off an even deeper economic crisis, whose effects are only beginning to be felt.
While denouncing Trump, the Democrats avidly uphold the extraordinary, and deeply anti-democratic, powers of the presidency, built up even further during the Obama years. So how can Biden “unite the nation”? We have warned that war with China is a prime option: trade war, economic war against Chinese companies, and possibly provoking some military skirmishes in the South China Sea. It would cement ties with the Pentagon, which has been planning for this since Obama’s 2012 “pivot to Asia,” which never got off the ground because the U.S. was bogged down in the Middle East. Senate Republicans, who have promised to grill Biden cabinet choices on their position on China, would quickly jump on board. So would the misleaders of labor, who have long pushed poisonous anti-China protectionism. The opportunist left, which falsely calls China capitalist and even imperialist (and hailed the U.S.-backed “democracy” riots in Hong Kong), would barely object. Public opinion is primed with war propaganda blaming China for COVID-19, although it contained the plague while the response of the capitalist West has been a deadly disaster. But Biden would be playing with fire.
In the face of this wall-to-wall anti-China front, the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International call to defend China – a bureaucratically deformed workers state – against imperialist attacks and threats, and against the danger of internal counterrevolution.
Capitalist “Democracy” Is Bankrupt – For a Workers Government!
Marxists could clearly see yesterday’s fascist/racist mob attack coming. A year and a half ago, as campaigning for the 2020 election got underway, we warned, “The intensity of political clashes in the ruling class recalls the period leading up to the U.S. Civil War…. Today, the intensity of the political clashes in Washington and the provocations of violent racist and outright fascist groups raise the spectre of civil war. Certainly, sectors of Trump’s most rabid base yearn to avenge the defeat of the vile Confederacy. Yet there are fundamental differences from the U.S. of a century and a half ago” (“Dangerous Racist Provocations in Pre-Election Maneuvering,” The Internationalist No. 57, September-October 2019). “The frenzy of bigotry from the highest levels of government underlines again the connection between anti-black racism and anti-immigrant racism,” we wrote, underscoring that “Would-be leftists who sow illusions in Democratic ‘resistance’ can only help disarm real struggle against racist reaction.”
There have been a lot of comparisons between the present crisis and what followed the presidential elections of 1876. Yesterday, the New York Times (6 January) ran an article with the headline, “You Think This Is Chaos? The Election of 1876 Was Worse.” That contested election led to the rotten “Compromise of 1877” which gave the presidency to the Republican in exchange for abandoning Reconstruction and pulling U.S. troops out of the occupied former Confederacy. That signal betrayal of the former slaves, on top of the failure to expropriate the slaveowners’ lands after the abolition of slavery, led to the rise of the KKK terrorists and then the Jim Crow segregation that institutionalized white supremacy and black subjugation in the South for another 90 years. Those are the “good old days” that the mob of fascist-led racists who stormed the U.S. Capitol yearn for. African Americans and all working people are still paying the price for the failure to rip out the slave system by the roots following the Civil War.
Today the legacy of slavery is still with us, particularly in the racist death penalty, mass incarceration and wanton police murder of black people. It is also enshrined in the institutions of what pious liberals and labor officials praise as “our democracy.” Among the most flagrant examples are the Electoral College and the Senate, along with the Supreme Court. (See “Slavery and the Constitution,” Revolution No. 17, August 2020.) Even consistent bourgeois democracy (“one person, one vote”) would demand the abolition of these reactionary bodies. Yet capitalist “democracy” is so corroded and hollowed-out by the gangrenous rot of capitalist society that the only real defense of democratic rights for the masses lies in the fight for the proletarian democracy of a workers government. This would not be based on the cynical charades of the puppets of capital – whose campaigns depend on billions from Wall Street (over $500 million in the Georgia runoffs) – but on workers councils chosen directly by the working people.
Labor bureaucrats or reformist leftists may call to “fight the far right” in the name of “defense of democracy.” Against fascist and racist marauders, and against the constant murderous violence of the bourgeois state, Marxists are the most intransigent defenders of democratic rights. In fact, all the democratic liberties of the mass of the population were won by bitter struggle against the ruling class. But to defend those rights, it is crucial to state clearly that this is not “our democracy.” The owners of wealth, of land, of the means of production, transport and communications can sweep away all constitutions and legal guarantees if they decide their interests demand it – as has happened so many times in history, from Italy (Mussolini’s fascists) and Germany (Hitler’s Nazis) to Chile (Pinochet’s military junta) and elsewhere. In fact, bourgeois democracy is a cloak for the dictatorship of the exploiting class against all the workers and oppressed.
In the lead-up to the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, V.I. Lenin stressed, citing Friedrich Engels, that the core of the capitalist state consists of “special bodies of armed men” protecting the power and property of the ruling class. It cannot be reformed away or pressured into becoming an instrument of “the people” – mass struggle by the workers and oppressed, culminating in socialist revolution, must sweep it away to make way for a workers government, the proletarian democracy of workers councils (soviets). Right-wingers ludicrously condemn the Democrats – the oldest capitalist party in the world – as “socialists” and even “communists.” To defend the lives, most basic interests and hard-won rights of the workers and oppressed requires above all a struggle to forge a revolutionary workers party based on the genuine communist program of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, the program of international socialist revolution. In these times of a deadly coronavirus pandemic, racist attacks by the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state and its fascist auxiliaries, and another capitalist depression, forging that party is key to winning a real future for workers and youth, here and around the world. ■
- 1. One of the rioters was shot and killed as they sought to break into the House chambers. A Capitol police officer has reportedly died of injuries.
- 2. Louis Napoléon was the nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, who proclaimed himself emperor in 1804 after putting an end to the ten years of turmoil following the French Revolution of 1789 with his Coup of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799, according to the French revolutionary calendar). Karl Marx, in his famous pamphlet, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), described the lesser Napoléon’s ragtag crew (the Society of December 10) as made up of “vagabonds, cashiered soldiers, ex-convicts, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, idle riffraff, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, pimps, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars.” This lumpenproletariat, or proletariat in rags, Marx wrote, was called upon “to play the part of the people” in Louis Napoléon’s various schemes.
After January 6: What Is To Be Done?
The mob storming of the national Capitol is a first-ever in U.S. history, and has shaken the entire country. The capitalist ruling class is seeking to regroup. The Republican Party could split, or not. The Democratic Biden administration will militantly enforce its right-wing policies in the name of “bipartisan” unity with “moderate” Republicans. There will likely be increased repression against the left and movements for black rights, as the police are chafing at the bit after the millions-strong protests against racist cop repression last summer. Soon, with millions barely living off of unemployment insurance and unable to pay their rents, the bite of the coronavirus economic depression will come, as vast numbers face joblessness and homelessness. Thus a strategy for working people and the oppressed today can by no means be limited to “fight the far right.” Reformist tinkering (“Green New Deal,” “Medicare for All”) with bankrupt capitalism will go nowhere. What’s needed is a strategy leading to socialist revolution.
What does that mean in the concrete? For the last four years, the outsize figure of Donald Trump has dominated U.S. politics. Rejecting the racist, xenophobic, misogynist hater-in-chief, many young people, working people, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants have their hopes pinned on the Democrats. When Biden’s victory was announced, there was massive spontaneous rejoicing, with horns honking and dancing in the streets in cities across the country. But Marxists most decidedly did not join in – the Democrats are a party of Wall Street, they are a party of racist repression, a party of imperialist aggression, a crucial pillar of the whole system of capitalist exploitation that has bred stratospheric inequality and mass misery, paving the way for Trump. Most of the U.S. wars of the last century (WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Syria) have been waged by Democratic administrations. The Democratic Party, no less than the Republican, is our class enemy, and in many ways, it is the more dangerous enemy, as people’s illusions in it are systematically fostered and used for subjugating the working class to its exploiters and oppressors. So, crucially and key to everything else, it is necessary to break with the Democrats.
What then? Just organizing in the streets? By itself, that amounts to pressuring the Democrats, a dead end. Look at what happened with the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. When after the cop murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis millions went into the street, week after week, to denounce institutionalized racism, Democratic mayors and city councils promised reforms of the police. The protests were deflected into appeals to “defund the police,” and in the end nothing has changed. Racist cops still kill with impunity. “Speaking truth to power,” appeals to conscience and moral suasion will get nothing. Against a powerful enemy, and the Democrats under Joe Biden are exactly that, we need to mobilize a greater power, and that is the power of the working class. So a key task is the fight to build a workers party, a party with a program for class struggle to defend all the oppressed. We need a party that fights for full citizenship rights for immigrants; a party that defends women, demanding free abortion on demand and free 24-hour daycare; a party that fights against any and all discrimination and victimization on account of sexuality.
This fight cannot just be waged on paper. With the fascists on a tear, there must be a concerted effort to build workers defense guards and mobilize workers action against racist attacks. The Left Voice statement on the January 6 events ends with an abstract call to “develop our self-defense based on the democratic organization of the working class and the oppressed.” The real way to stop the fascists and racists is with workers power. The Internationalist Group and our comrades in Class Struggle Workers – Portland have for years fought to bring out labor to stop the likes of the mob that stormed the Capitol. After Trump’s 2016 election, we initiated resolutions passed by seven area unions (and subsequently by the International Union of Painters nationally) calling for “mobilizing against the clear and present danger that the provocations of racist and fascist organizations pose to us all.” In August 2016, Portland Painters Local 10 passed a resolution calling to break with the Democrats and Republicans and for a class-struggle workers party. And following murderous fascist attacks, Portland Labor Against the Fascists brought out hundreds of union supporters on 4 June 2017.
More broadly, there is an urgent need to organize the unorganized in a fight for unionization of plants and workplaces across the country. A particular focus should be giant corporations such as Amazon, which has hired hundreds of thousands of workers as package delivery skyrocketed during the pandemic. A class-struggle campaign there can highlight the explosive growth of inequality, as Amazon profits have soared. The net worth of its owner, Jeff Bezos – $180 billion, making him the richest man in the world – has increased so much that it has been calculated that he could pay $105,000 to each of his employees (most of whom barely make the minimum wage) and still be as filthy rich as he was before the coronavirus hit.1 Meanwhile, as of October 1, almost 20,000 Amazon employees have fallen ill with COVID. Such figures can drive home the vicious exploitation and disregard for workers’ safety. But the hard work of organizing requires a class-struggle program independent of the Democratic Party and which takes on the pro-Democrat labor bureaucracy which has blocked a successful union organizing drive. ■
The Opportunist Left: Still Tailing the Democrats
So what does “the left” have to say? Those who openly called for votes for Biden, like the Maoist-derived cult of the Revolutionary Communist Party/Refuse Fascism, naturally repeat the Democrats’ talk of a “coup attempt by Trump” and call “for the ‘decent people’ to make clear their determination to stop this fascist danger” (revcom.us, 6 January). The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) call for “mass mobilization in the streets” and “Building a movement to fight the far right” (Jacobin, 7 January). Socialist Alternative, which makes ritual criticisms of the Democrats, also talks of “Trump’s coup attempt” and calls to “Build a Movement to Defeat the Far Right” (Socialist Alternative, 7 January). This is your classic “fight the right” popular front of class collaboration. Opportunist leftists are always on the lookout for a new “movement” – antiwar, antifascist, anti-imperialist – so as to cobble together a “coalition” with (sections of) the capitalist Democrats. It’s what they do: sometimes it gets you big marches, but goes nowhere, and then it’s on to the next movement.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) is currently taking a somewhat more leftist tack: no “coup” talk, instead declaring, “The menace of the far right can only be decisively defeated by a militant, united front of the multinational working class” (Liberation, 6 January). So they have class-angled it. What’s absent in their statement is any mention of (a) the Democratic Party, and (b) revolution. Workers World Party (WWP) issued a brief call (6 January) ending, “Fascist Coup NO! General Strike YES!” If there were a labor movement in the U.S. worth its salt, one could call for it to smash the fascists, in which case the workers would also be confronted by the police and military backed up by the Democrats. But that militant workers movement doesn’t presently exist. In practice, both PSL and WWP are angling for a “united front” with pro-Democratic Party labor and community groups, as these Stalinoid reformists used to do when they were in the same organization building antiwar popular fronts with “progressive” Democrats.
In one way or another, directly or indirectly, the overwhelming bulk of the U.S. left lined up with Biden and the Democrats in the election. Now they have won and in much of the country, the Democratic Party has control of the capitalist state from top to bottom, from mayors and city councils, to governors and state legislatures, to Congress and the White House. Yet, as we in the Internationalist Group have underlined, the Democratic Party paved the way for Trump. Obama’s mass deportations of millions of immigrants fed the anti-immigrant hysteria that Trump whips up and exploits. Clinton’s “free trade” pacts are responsible for the shutdown of industry in the “Rust Belt,” which led many workers to vote for Trump with his fool’s gold of nationalist protectionism. And as we keep repeating, in every big city in the U.S., “Democrats are the bosses of the racist killer cops,” while Biden proclaims himself the cops’ best friend. Any real fight against fascist and racist attacks must be explicitly waged against the Democratic Party. As we wrote prior to the election, “You Can’t Fight Trump With Democrats,” and:
“Revolutionary Marxists must make it crystal clear that we would oppose the attempt to install an authoritarian government by extra-legal means but do not call for Biden taking office, from which he will repress the working people, telling his pals the cops to shoot us in the leg while Harris moves to lock us up.”
–“Repression Elections 2020,” The Internationalist No. 61, September-October 2020
Positioning itself on the left flank of the reformist left, the Left Voice group (affiliated internationally with the misnamed Trotskyist Faction) issued a statement on January 6 in which it criticizes the “electoral strategy” which has aligned the left with the Democratic Party and “siphoned our energy away from the streets and the workplaces.” While calling to break with the Democrats, it pushes for “massive demonstrations in the streets” and workplace actions “to fight back against the right wing and Trumpism.” This is the same “fight the right” line in different packaging. LV says: “we cannot trust the police or the National Guard to protect our rights and our lives.” Not trust the police or the National Guard? It’s necessary to mobilize the power of the working class in the face of those racist repressive forces answering to the Democrats.
Left Voice also says nothing about a revolutionary workers party, while anyone looking for calls for socialist revolution will encounter pleas to “tax the rich,” the common platform of social democrats and liberal Democrats. As for the very ex-Trotskyist Spartacist League, endless crisis and political degeneration have brought it to an apparent death spiral that echoes in sepulchral silence. ■