The Central Enemy Is the Capitalist State
The Fascist Threat,
And How to Fight It
Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12: anti-racist demonstrators face off with helmeted white supremacists and Nazis thirsting for blood.
Suddenly in mid-August, millions across the country and around the world were shocked into awareness of the infestation of outright fascists in the United States. People were horrified as they watched video footage of the dramatic murder of Heather Heyer (and the injuring of 19 others) by a Nazi who plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. For many it was a wakeup call, making it crystal clear that such racist killers pose a significant and growing threat. The liberal bourgeois media, as well, were jolted by the sight of hundreds of action-ready white supremacists, many of them heavily armed, in a Nazi-style night march with blazing torches chanting Hitlerite slogans like “Blood and soil” (Blut und Boden) and openly anti-Semitic appeals (“Jews will not replace us”).
The assorted Ku Klux Klans, paramilitary fascist militias, Alt-Right fascist “fight groups,” champions of the Confederate slavocracy, worshipers of the Third Reich and bizarrely costumed Internet publicity hounds that banded together in the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” march have proliferated under the cover of the Republican regime of Donald Trump. There were the usual Trump election posters and red “MAGA” (Make America Great Again) caps. Kluxer David Duke (Mr. Klan in a suit) declared that they were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” So unsurprisingly Trump’s reaction to the horrific murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville was to blame “violence on many sides,” saying not a word about racism. What else would one expect from the white supremacist in the White House?
When Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists set off a chorus of complaints from Democrats and especially Republicans, an anonymous White House spokesman declared that “of course” he condemned “white supremacists, K.K.K., neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.” That lasted barely two days before Trump was not just putting an equal sign between racists and anti-racists, but declaring the swastika-sporting, race-hate-spouting fascists to include some “very fine people” and denouncing the violence of the “Alt-Left.” But, significantly, he was soon joined by the Washington Post (the voice of Amazon), The Atlantic and other liberals, who denounced antifa (anti-fascist) groups as just as bad as the fascists. The aim of this grotesque equation of wannabe genocidal murders with those who seek to stop the Nazi-fascists in their tracks was to call for more police repression.
Internationalists at protest against Muslim-bashing “anti-sharia” rally, New York, June 10. Labor must defend all those targeted by racist terror.
We must start by calling the fascists by their right names. Liberals seek to make them seem harmless – “verharmlosen” in German (as in portraying the “identitarian” Aryan supremacists as only concerned with preserving cultural identity), “dédiaboliser” in French (painting the fascist National Front as mere populists). In the U.S., along with accepting as good coin their cynical pose as champions of free speech, the media regularly refers to these Confederacy lovers as “white nationalists,” making a parallel to black nationalists. The would-be führer of the Alt-Right, Richard Spencer, claims to seek a “White Ethno-State,” a racist conception in itself. In reality, he is a white supremacist and millionaire Mississippi plantation owner 1 who yearns for the days of Jim Crow segregation.
For opponents of racist reaction and defenders of the oppressed, the poor and working people, the issue is starkly posed: how to defeat these deadly white supremacists. Liberal Democrats usually tell people to ignore the fascists, and rely on the police. But the cops are by far the biggest, most organized force of racist killers around, and as the enforcers of capitalist “law and order,” they are often in league with and defend the fascists. Various groups that claim to be socialist but in reality seek to reform the (unreformable) capitalist system call to bring out large numbers in alliance with the liberals for “peaceful protests” that seek to prevent protesters from directly confronting the fascists to put a stop to their deadly provocations. That losing “strategy” likewise lets the Nazis and Kluxers stage their bloody provocations, recruit and grow.
Some militant anti-fascists (“antifa”) call for taking on the fascists wherever they show their faces. This horrifies the liberals and reformist pseudo-socialists who denounce such “violence.” We defend antifa against the state repression that these denunciations set them up for. But in doing so, we point out that endless inconclusive fights, or pepper-spraying them isn’t enough to stop the fascist menace. And the serious fascist outfits have made it clear that they’re not relying on their fists. What’s needed to actually stop the fascists, not just show moral indignation, is to bring out a superior power. A power strong enough to go up against the capitalist state, whose blue-uniformed enforcers stand behind (and often with) their auxiliaries in white sheets and brown shirts. That power is the organized working class, and the Internationalist Group has repeatedly called for workers mobilization and defense guards to CRUSH the fascist threat. Now, before it grows stronger.
What is Fascism?
The fascists have been growing for some time, often claiming to defend free speech, a pretext that the liberals buy into. The would-be nightriders and stormtroopers are not trying to convince people of their “ideas,” much less win a popularity contest – they want to instill fear in those who would be their victims. Their rallies are provocations to lynchings and racist pogroms, as their Black Hundreds forebears carried out, attacking Jewish ghettos in Russia before they were put out of business by the Bolshevik October Revolution, exactly 100 years ago. They are mortal enemies of the working people and every oppressed group. For those who foolishly believe “it can’t happen here,” we’ve got news: it’s beginning to happen, although on a relatively limited scale. Charlottesville was hardly the first recent case of murder by fascists.
- In June 2015, Dylann Storm Roof (a fan of the Daily Stormer web site) slaughtered nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church.2
- On March 22, James Harris Jackson (a subscriber to the Cybernazi channel and that of the National Policy Institute and Radix journal of Richard Spencer) traveled to New York City where he killed Timothy Caughman with a sword.
- On May 21, Sean Urbanski (a member of the Facebook group, Alt-Reich: Nation) stabbed to death African American student Richard Collins III at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus where the fascist Vanguard America has been recruiting.
- On May 26, Jeremy Christian (who had attended a “free speech” rally draped in a Nazi flag) murdered Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best on a Portland, Oregon street car when they came to the aid of two young black women he was berating with anti-Muslim slurs.
- And on August 12, James Fields (who was earlier photographed marching with Vanguard America carrying its shield with crossed fasci, the Roman symbol adopted by Mussolini) slammed his car into a crowd of anti-fascists in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer.
For months beforehand, videos had circulated on right-wing web sites including the Daily Caller and Fox Nation promoting the tactic of driving cars into crowds of anti-racist protesters.
In the aftermath of the election of a viciously racist, sexist and xenophobic right-wing billionaire, the pseudo-populist Donald Trump, a lot of liberals and a number of leftists started referring to Trump and his then chief advisor, Steve Bannon, as “fascists.” The Internationalist wrote that one should not throw around such terms loosely, as an epithet meaning “very bad” or “very repressive.” A Latin American military dictatorship is not the same as Hitler’s Germany or Mussolini’s Italy. We noted that Stalinists in particular often used the term in order to justify an “anti-fascist popular front,” as Stalin and his henchmen did in the 1930s, chaining workers to an alliance with a supposed “anti-fascist” wing of the bourgeoisie, and thus blocking the necessary revolutionary struggle against fascism.
In an article on “Donald Trump, the “Alt-Right” and Fascism” (The Internationalist No. 46, January-February 2017) we quoted Leon Trotsky, co-leader together with Lenin of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Fourth International, who wrote in 1932 of the rise of the German Nazis and their Italian predecessors:
“At the moment that the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium – the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat – all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.”
–“What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat” (1932)
After quoting Trotsky’s analysis of victorious fascism, which uses the methods of civil war to annihilate the workers’ organizations, we stressed:
“This scenario is not a description of what is happening in the United States today. What is happening is plenty dangerous, a drive toward increasing bonapartism, that is military/police rule. Moreover, the ominous expansion of police powers has been promoted by the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama no less than by the Republican Bushes. It is the product of decaying capitalism which increasingly discards its ‘democratic’ trappings.”
–“Donald Trump, the ‘Alt-Right’ and Fascism”
However, we added: “But while neither Trump nor Bannon are fascists, actual fascists are crawling out of their holes and looking forward to the Trump years.” And in an article written the day after Trump’s election, we warned:
“As violent racist and outright fascist forces are emboldened by Trump’s victory, Muslims and Middle Eastern immigrants in particular may be singled out for attack. Class-conscious militants should begin the work now of building workers defense guards, based on the mass organizations of the working class and oppressed, to counter this threat.”
–“Post-Traumatic Election Shock: To Defeat Trump … And the Democrats, Fight for Workers Revolution” (10 November 2016), in The Internationalist No. 46, January-February 2017
Fascists and the Capitalist State
We have been careful to distinguish between proto-fascist self-promoters and actual fascists, while countering the liberal (and reformist pseudo-socialist) refrain that shutting down such dangerous provocateurs with mass action would violate “free speech.” We noted that a Milo Yiannopoulos poses a very real danger to those he seeks to victimize, such as undocumented immigrants or transsexual people, whether by state repression or individual assault (or both). (See our article, “Milo Yiannopoulos, “Free Speech” and the Assault on Universities,” The Internationalist No. 47, March-April 2017; and also the recent Revolutionary Internationalist Youth leaflet, “Dangerous Provocateurs: Milo Yiannopoulos and His Fascist Entourage.”) Moreover, proto-fascists and crypto-fascists are frequently mixed in together with the Nazis, Kluxers and militias, as in the “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville.
Behind the fascists is the capitalist state. Police protected racist rally in Portland, June 4. Labor mobilization brought out some 300 unionists and supporters.
We have also put our calls for workers action against the fascists into practice. A week after Trump’s election, members of Class Struggle Workers – Portland (CSWP, fraternally allied with the Internationalist Group) sparked a motion which was adopted by Painters Union (IUPAT) Local 10 calling for “mobilizing against the clear and present danger that the provocations of racist and fascist organizations pose to us all.” Similar motions were then passed by six other area unions. When the locally based fascist Patriot Prayer group announced a “Trump free speech rally” for June 4, the CSWP initiated the Portland Labor Against the Fascists mobilization that brought out some 300 unionists and supporters from at least 14 area unions, the first significant labor anti-fascist action in decades.
In a lead article in our last issue (“Portland Labor Mobilizes to Stop Fascist Provocation,” The Internationalist No. 48, May-June 2017), we highlighted this important action.It stated, referring to previous articles: “We noted that in the U.S. today, there is not a mass fascist movement, since the ruling class does not feel immediately threatened by a radicalized working class, mainly due to the sabotage of struggles by the pro-capitalist bureaucratic misleaders of labor.” A comrade wrote in to correctly observe that, while true, “this is partial and one-sided,” pointing in particular to “the million-strong KKK of the Twenties, which flourished after the defeat of the post-WWI labor upsurge and at a time at which trade unions and working-class struggle were in retreat.”
The comrade also noted: “Further, and this is a separate, but closely related question, fascism does not always come to power to head off incipient proletarian revolution.” These points are particularly relevant in the current context. While fascism involves the threat and often the reality of violence against those perceived as a danger to a particular capitalist regime (such as KKK attacks on demonstrators protesting Jim Crow segregation), that is not in contradiction to having mass fascist parties in elections (such as the National Front in France). There can also be particular varieties, such as the clerical fascists with their virulent anti-Semitism in Austria and Croatia in the 1930s and ’40s, as well as Father Coughlin in the U.S. The fascists’ targets can shift, as shown by the example of the Klan in the 1920s, which while continuing its lynchings of African Americans took aim at the influx of immigrants.
The United States today has been mired in an economic crisis since 2007-08 – a depression rather than a cyclical recession – which despite rosy talk of a “recovery” (for profits!) has not reduced the level of unemployment from the figure of 23 million that it hit in 2009. Official statistics hide this stark fact by simply eliminating from the workforce all those out of work for over two years, a gimmick introduced by Bill Clinton. But these “non-people” vote, and many (particularly the ruined middle class) voted for Donald Trump. This fact is also reflected in various forms of social pathology, from the opioid crisis that has taken a particular toll on unemployed workers, the mounting death rates in areas of economic devastation (life expectancy in West Virginia is 10 years below the national average) to the growth of fascist groups.
Another key element in the proliferation of fascist and proto-fascist groups is the fact that the United States has been at war continuously ever since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union at the turn of the 1990s: Iraq (1991), Serbia (1994), Iraq again (1998), Serbia again (1999). Then after having sponsored Islamist mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s, post 9/11 the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, to fight its former anti-Soviet allies, a war/occupation that continues 16 years later. Add in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, and now war in Syria. The result of this has been a whole layer of ex-military professionals, many of them virulently anti-Muslim, itching to put their deadly skills to use “at home.” Add to this current and former police who are incensed at the Black Lives Matter movement.
Today in the U.S. there is a continuing economic crisis and ongoing political paralysis in Washington, even with Republican/right-wing control of the White House, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. Both capitalist parties are stoking “anti-terrorist” hysteria, as the U.S. has had a quarter century of unrelenting imperialist war, waged by a professional army and military “contractors” (mercenaries). Add in mass unrest over the endless murders by the racist police (over 1,100 a year killed by cops) and you have one toxic culture medium. This gives rise to a notable feature of the current crop of fascists, namely that they are acting in large part as auxiliaries to the police. This is not a new phenomenon: in the 1960s, Southern sheriffs beat civil rights marchers in the day and became KKK death squads at night. But it has been particularly pronounced recently.
This was dramatically shown in the preparations for Charlottesville. While the media and politicians professed surprise, it was prepared by two previous fascist provocations there (in May and July). In the days leading up to the August events, the ultra-right organizers were discussing their deadly intentions over the Internet. The media collective Unicorn Riot received from an anonymous source chat logs of the conversations from the chat platform Discord connected with “Unite the Right.” Participants included such fascist outfits as Vanguard America, Identity Evropa, the Traditionalist Workers Party, League of the South, Anti-Communist Action as well as a number of followers of the Internet Nazi Daily Stormer.
In these logs, there is talk of embedding screws in flagpoles to use as stabbing weapons (“impaling people is always the best”); messages urging driving into crowds of counter-protesters (#shuttle_service_information chat thread); advice from organizer Jason Kessler about bringing “MAGA” caps and “triggering” antifa to provoke a confrontation portrayed as an attack on Trump supporters; what kinds of knives and automatic weapons could be brought; a dress code (body armor, shields, okay, full KKK regalia no), etc. In an audio file of a planning meeting, answering “what if” anti-racist protesters try to drown out the white supremacists, a response was “well then they get attacked by right wing death squads.” The fascist organizers stated that they had reason to believe the Charlottesville police would be cooperative. And in fact, videos show the police standing aside to let the fascists leave after attacking anti-racists.
Capitalist “justice” at work: DeAndre Harris (on ground) beaten by fascists in parking garage in Charlottesville, August 12. Victim harris is charged with woundeing one of the attackers while the club-wielding racists go free.
A telling sequel which shows how the system of racist repression works concerns DeAndre Harris, the 20-year-old black man who was shown on video being savagely beaten by the Alt-Rightists in a Charlottesville parking garage on August 12. Harris suffered a spinal injury and head laceration requiring ten stitches. Internet sleuths have been pouring over video images of fascist rallies to identify the assailants, tracking down three, who have been arrested. The Charlottesville police, meanwhile, have come up with nothing. But on October 11, Harris, the victim, was charged with unlawful wounding of one of the attackers, Harold Ray Crews, the head of the North Carolina chapter of the League of the South. A local magistrate issued a warrant on Crews’ say-so, without any evidence whatsoever (Washington Post, 11 October).
In short, to fight the fascists it is necessary to understand their relationship to the capitalist state. Marxists do not seek to conflate the cops and courts with the Nazis and Klan, but as capitalism rots from within, they are increasingly intertwined. Fascist marches are not exercises of free speech but provocations to promote lynch mobs, death squads and government repression. They seek to terrorize vulnerable populations and bring down the force of the capitalist state against those who oppose their racist, anti-communist terror. Left unchecked, they would annihilate the workers movement and unleash racist genocide, as their forebears did in Italy and Germany. They must be stopped by mass mobilizations of the multi-racial working class to crush them in the egg before they can carry out their program of mass murder. Charlottesville was only a foretaste.
Today the struggle must be to bring out the power of the workers movement, and to begin the effort to build workers defense guards, as Trotsky advocated in the 1930s. And as Trotsky emphasized, in its terminal decay, decaying capitalism breeds the fascist provocateurs and killers it would use to annihilate the workers movement, even as it promotes “popular fronts” to hold the workers back from revolutionary action. Lasting victory over the fascists can only be achieved through international socialist revolution. To accomplish that requires the leadership of a revolutionary workers party built on the program of authentic Trotskyism, that tells the truth to the masses and calls them to action when the hour strikes. To stop the fascists, that hour is now, before it’s too late.■
- 1.See report by the Center for Investigative Reporting“White nationalist gets his money from cotton fields – and the government,”Reveal, 17 March.
- 2See “Charleston Massacre and Cop Terror: It’s Racist American Capitalism,”The Internationalist No. 40, Summer 2015
- 2These logs are presently available at:https://www.unicornriot.ninja/2017/charlottesville-violence-planned-discord-servers-unicorn-riot-reports/