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The Internationalist
  August 2017

“This Is a Union Town, Labor Shut the Fascists Down!”

Fascists Forced to Flee San Francisco – A Significant Victory

After cancellation of the fascist rally was announced, longshore workers gathered at 6 a.m. at their union
hall in front of the ILWU Local 10 banner calling to “Stop Fascist Terror.” They were joined by a delegation from Painters Local 10 from Portland, Oregon.  (Internationalist photo)

Internationalist Group Statement

SAN FRANCISCO, August 26 – Fascists who planned a deadly provocation in this center of union power were dealt a humiliating defeat today as they were forced to call off their rally in a federal park near Golden Gate Bridge, then cancel a fall-back “press conference” and high-tail it out of town. This was a significant victory for all who are determined to take action against the fascists. The need to prevent their violent provocations was written in blood in Charlottesville, Virginia. Key to running off the fascists was the move by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 to shut down the port and march to stop the fascist “Patriot Prayer” rally. (See “ILWU Local 10 Moves to Stop the Fascists in San Francisco,” The Internationalist, 18 August.) Galvanized by this decision of the city’s most powerful and historically militant union, thousands of determined anti-fascists planned to join the dockers in driving the fascists out.

Facing this prospect, “Patriot Prayer” leader Joey Gibson announced yesterday afternoon that the rally scheduled for Crissy Field was cancelled. Instead, Gibson declared, they would hold a “press conference” at Alamo Square Park, closer to the downtown area. But as anti-fascists organized to converge on that location, city authorities hastily set up heavy-duty fencing around the park to keep them out. Gibson then abruptly called off the “press conference” as well. Instead, thousands of counter-demonstrators filled the streets right in front of where he had vowed to hold it. With chants and speeches, the crowd celebrated the defeat of the fascists’ plans, then headed to the largely Latino Mission District, applauded by onlookers during the two-and-a-half mile march. Internationalist comrades raised the chant, “Joey Gibson ran away – Fascist thugs, not your day,” which was picked up by many of the marchers.

At the impromptu rally at Alamo Square, the last speaker was a representative of a delegation from Painters union (IUPAT) Local 10, which had come down from Portland, Oregon. Their union played a central role in the Portland Labor Against the Fascists mobilization against the Patriot Prayer racist/fascist rally held there on June 4. The speaker read out the Painters’ message of solidarity to ILWU Local 10, which concluded: “If you use your power as workers to take action against the fascists on August 26th, that will be a call to action of workers and oppressed people throughout this country. Today, more than ever, workers need solidarity. It would be a proud day for us to send representatives, and stand shoulder to shoulder with you in the struggle.” Early that morning, the Portland Painters joined longshoremen at the ILWU hall, where the dock workers held aloft a huge banner reading “STOP FASCIST TERROR.”

This gave a glimpse of the potential power of this workforce and its union which have repeatedly shut down the ports against police terror, war and racist repression. Not only the fascists, but also the cops and their Democratic Party bosses are well aware that going up against this heavily black powerhouse of Bay Area labor is quite a different matter than attacking loosely organized protesters drawn largely from student and middle-class sectors. Outraged longshore workers have the power to paralyze shipping, cost the bosses millions, and crush fascist and racist terror groups in a way they would not soon forget. The need for this has been repeatedly shown on the waterfront in the recent period when racist slurs and hanging nooses – a threat of lynching – have been left at the SSA terminal in the Port of Oakland.

After the murderous fascist August 9 attack in Charlottesville, outrage swept the country. In Boston, some 40,000 poured into the streets to protest the white supremacists and Nazis. As a result, dozens of Muslim-bashing rallies were called off. When Joey Gibson’s fascist road show cancelled its San Francisco rally after the ILWU voted to use its power to stop it, if the longshore union had taken the next step to bring out the membership in a mass labor-led victory march, it would have really driven home the lesson. Yet the dock workers’ move to make short shrift of the fascist provocation inspired many. Among them was a contingent of SF electrical workers which gathered at the IBEW Local 6 hall and together with the Portland Painters, as well as Internationalist supporters, marched to Alamo Square, chanting: “This is a union town, labor shut the fascists down” and “Up with the workers, down with the fascists.”

Militants from IBEW Local 6 (SF Bay Area) and IUPAT Local 10 (Portland, OR) join in protest to to stop fascist provocation, August 26.  (Internationalist photo)

The perspective of mobilizing working-class power in defense of all the oppressed poses the need for a class-struggle leadership of the unions and a revolutionary workers party. Far from abstract, this has been starkly shown in the recent period. Both in San Francisco and across the Bay in Berkeley, Democratic politicians and their cohorts in the union bureaucracy have sought to channel opposition and revulsion into diversionary events aimed at preventing mass struggle to stop the fascists. These events call on all and sundry to “unite against hate” far from where the fascists intend to rally. Signing on to love-ins for class-collaboration like the one called in Berkeley on August 27 are not only a long list of Democratic Party organizations but the bulk of the reformist left, from the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organization to smaller groupings.

If such diversions for class collaboration had prevailed in San Francisco, they would have let the planned provocation go forward. Instead, longshore and other workers made it clear that the fascists better stay away from the waterfront or anywhere else in SF. But the fascist danger has not disappeared. It is backed up by the far more powerful repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, presided over in almost every big city by Democratic mayors. A crucial task in the next period is the preparation of disciplined, organized workers defense guards in labor strongholds. Capitalism breeds racist and fascist terror. This understanding is a first step to doing something real and effective about it. Class-conscious action mobilizing the workers’ power to defeat this deadly system and its fascist attack dogs is vital to clearing the road to ending it once and for all. ■