Outrage Over Fascist Murder and Imperialist Threats
Hunter College Speak-Out Against
Racist Repression and War Provocations
Students at Hunter College, City University of New York, at 31 August 2017 speak-out organized by the CUNY Internationalist Clubs against racist repression and war provocations.
The murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer on August 12 by an Ohio Nazi was met with widespread outrage. Hundreds had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to oppose a fascist mobilization “defending” a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee when a car plowed through demonstrators, killing Heyer and injuring many more. In the subsequent weeks, thousands of people poured into the streets across the country to protest the fascist violence and Donald Trump’s statement that “very fine people” were among the Hitlerites and Ku Klux Klansmen. At Hunter College in New York City, the CUNY Internationalist Clubs held a speak-out on August 31 “against racist repression and war provocations,” highlighting the connection between racist terror “at home” and imperialist war abroad.
With white supremacists and fascists emboldened under Trump, liberal pundits see this as an opportunity to shore up support for the Democratic Party. This bulwark of racist U.S. imperialism was originally formed as the party of the slave-owners. After the Civil War, the KKK was essentially the armed wing of the Democrats in the South, waging racist terror against the former slaves and proponents of Radical Reconstruction. As a number of recent studies have pointed out, the system of Jim Crow segregation that followed the defeat of Reconstruction were taken as a model by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.1
Shortly before the Charlottesville attack, and just after the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. A- bombing of Hiroshima, Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea. While some Democrats criticized Trump’s crazed rhetoric, the fact is that U.S. war provocations against North Korea have been a staple of both Democratic and Republican administrations since the Korean War, in which U.S. imperialism under Democrat Harry Truman killed 3 million Koreans. The August 12 Hunter rally was one of the only public protests to straightforwardly stand up against the horrific threat of mass murder voiced by the current CEO of U.S. imperialism.
The Hunter speak-out was attended by some 50 people. Speakers included activists from the Internationalist Club, Class Struggle Education Workers and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (Class Struggle International Workers). One member of the youth group of the Democratic Socialists of America (which campaigns for Democratic Party politicians) attended and gave a speech. Three supporters of the reformist “International Marxist Tendency” stood off to the side, but – despite invitations – refused to have a speaker or join the rally, saying they were “too tired.” In contrast, the dozens of students who participated in the speak-out enthusiastically joined in chanting revolutionary slogans and expressing the determination to defeat racist terror and imperialist war threats. The article below prints edited excerpts from the speak-out.
The rally began with Will of the Hunter Internationalist Club explaining why the demonstration was being held:
“We need to oppose these racist threats by organizing against these provocations. We need to mobilize the power of the working class to stop these attacks."
“We can see that the fascists failed to scare counter-protesters into submission. Yet in their effort to promote racist violence they carried out the murder of Heather Heyer, who was there to protest the Nazis and other fascists. A known Nazi from Ohio drove his car into a crowd of protesters and injured over thirty people, and Heather Heyer was killed. We need to speak out against these atrocities and show our solidarity with the anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, in Portland, and in the Bay Area who are fighting against these provocations.”
At this point, the demonstrators chanted: “From Charlottesville to New York, Smash Racist Terror!” Will continued:
“Amid these racist attacks by members of the KKK, by neo-Nazi groups, in Charlottesville, in the Bay Area, in Portland, there’s a president of the United States who continues to make threats against the working class abroad. We have already seen him launch missiles against Syria. And now Donald Trump is saying that ‘all options are on the table’ against North Korea, and that there is a ‘military option’ on the table to overthrow the president of Venezuela.
“We as workers and students in the United States need to show solidarity with workers, students and the oppressed all across the world. The rise of racist terror and fascist provocations here at home is directly linked to imperialist terror abroad. When the president is making violent threats against people overseas, it emboldens the racists and the fascists at home. If we stand against the KKK and Nazis in the U.S., we also need to stand against U.S. imperialism, and defend North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, against U.S. aggression.”
Internationalist activist Tristán explained this connection further:
“When president Donald Trump threatens North Korea with ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen,’ it is no joke. Let us remember today that the United States is the only country in the world to ever use the atomic bomb against another country; that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were engulfed in a hellish firestorm under a supposedly progressive Democratic President, Harry S. Truman, who (as bourgeois politicians do) appealed to god to help the United States use the bomb ‘in His ways and His purposes.’
“It was Truman who would then launch the Korean War, the ‘Forgotten War.’ Let us remember it. As McCarthyism swept the nation and an anti-communist witch-hunt threatened leftists, labor unionists, civil rights activists and many others during the Cold War, Truman utilized the scorched-earth policy to the max. During the Korean War (1950-53), the country was saturated and flattened with 635,000 tons of conventional bombs. Three million Koreans were killed within a three-year span. This equates to 20% of the Korean population, gone. The United States demolished every single city in North Korea. It’s reported that two lone buildings remained standing among the rubble in Pyongyang.
“The decimation of North Korea exceeded even the destruction in Japan during World War Two. Think about that. 503,000 tons of bombs were dropped in the entire Pacific theater of World War Two by the U.S., whereas 635,000 tons of bombs pummeled Korea during Truman’s war. This number includes 32,557 tons of napalm. This was Truman’s war to preserve ‘democracy and civilization,’ targeting communists both at home and overseas.
“Why is the Internationalist Club talking about this? Why is it important to know this history? As I said before, we want to emphasize the connection between racist terror at home and imperialist war abroad. During World War Two, 64 cities were destroyed in Japan and the atomic bomb reduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki to ash. At home, Japanese Americans were rounded up and put into concentration camps. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were framed up and executed on the electric chair. More recently, after 9/11, Muslims and South Asians in the U.S. were persecuted, and many were jailed, as U.S. imperialism revved up its Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
“Today, we bear witness to the fascist attack in Charlottesville that killed Heather Heyer, at the same time as the United States gears itself up for war against North Korea, which is what we Trotskyists call a bureaucratically deformed workers state – a place where capitalism was destroyed, and that the U.S. tried and keeps trying to destroy, but that is ruled by a conservative nationalist bureaucracy. To fight against oppression and repression here must mean taking a firm position against imperialist war. Social-patriotism will not liberate oppressed sectors in society. Not here, not anywhere. To rely on the capitalist state for liberation is to hand the bullet and the gun over to the oppressor for one’s own extermination.
“Real revolutionary Marxists said during the Korean War, ‘Hands off North Korea and China,’ and took a side with them against the imperialists and for the defeat of U.S. imperialism’s genocidal war. Today, the Internationalist Club stands in that tradition and defends the deformed workers states of North Korea, China, Cuba, as well as other countries the U.S. is targeting such as Venezuela, and says the U.S. should get its bloody claws off Syria, and that U.S. imperialism needs to be driven out of the Middle East.”
Trump’s call to preserve “our culture” against those rightly protesting against Confederate statues – vile symbols of slavery and rallying points for racist reaction – echoed the race-hate rhetoric of the Klan. The fact that racist oppression is in the DNA of American capitalism was highlighted by the speaker for Class Struggle Education Workers:
“If you came out today, you know why there was a counter-protest in Charlottesville. You know that Nazis literally held a march with torches, like Hitler did in Nuremburg in the 1930s, and they chanted Nazi slogans. And Klansmen and other fascists came out to ‘defend’ the statue of Robert E. Lee. Who was Robert E. Lee? He was a slave owner who led the slave owners’ army that tried to maintain the system of slavery – where men, women and children would be whipped, bloodied and sold. Tortured and sold. That’s not culture. That’s slavery.
“And why was it that they put up statues to criminals like Robert E. Lee? Because in the Civil War, the so-called Confederacy, which Karl Marx called the slave holders’ rebellion, was smashed by the Northern armies. But do you know what was the decisive thing that turned the tide in that fight? It was when 180,000 slaves and free black people took up arms to fight. Lincoln didn’t want that to happen for a long time, until he was forced to. And Frederick Douglass said you must arm the slaves, and Karl Marx said that you must arm the slaves. And arms in hand, the slaves and the Union army smashed the slaveocracy.
“But they put up those statues after the counterrevolution of 1877, led by the Democratic Party – the counterrevolution that overthrew Reconstruction, in which black people had gained some rights after the Civil War. The Democrats were the party of the slave owners, and they were the party of the Ku Klux Klan. So, they put up those statues not to commemorate ‘culture,’ so-called, but as a threat of lynching. And they carried out one lynching after another – and the revolutionaries said, ‘black people have the right to self-defense.’”
Some of those disgusted and angered by what transpired in Charlottesville have put misplaced faith in the capitalist state to end to such provocations. But the very purpose of police is repression, a point elaborated on by Club activist Maeve:
“At the Charlottesville rally, police refused to aid members of the clergy at a nearby park who were attacked by Nazis. When a car was driven into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people, the police turned on the anti-racist protesters who had just been attacked. The capitalist state cannot be trusted to address the problem of fascism. Fascism is an attempt by capitalists to salvage what is left of their system and to implement a dictatorship wherein they maintain power.“In the South, the police were created to round up runaway slaves. In the North, to bust unions. These organizations cannot be detached from their violent, racist, anti-worker history and obviously cannot be trusted to dismantle the system that predicates their existence. Legislative bodies may rely on censorship to tackle the problem, which would only be used to deter the dissemination of information by leftists that would aid in mobilizing workers.”
Many speakers at the protest explained that the most basic role of fascists is to serve as guard dogs for the system of private property in the face of increasing social instability. Fascists seek to blame capitalist crises on those who are most affected – black people, immigrants and all the oppressed. Jacob of the Internationalist Club drove the point home:
“Across the country, fascists and bigots of different varieties have been emboldened by President Trump to stage provocations and carry out racist attacks. We all remember what happened three weeks ago in Charlottesville, when these racists, rallying against the removal of Confederate statues, killed Heather Heyer and injured anti-fascist protesters. The CUNY Internationalist Clubs say ‘Honor Heather Heyer! Solidarity with the anti-fascist protesters! Drop any charges against them immediately!’“The events in Charlottesville are another example that white supremacists do not seek to ‘exercise free speech’ – if they had it their way, there would be none. They want blood. Their provocations spawn racist lynchings and murders. We saw this in Portland, where a Nazi previously spotted at ultra-rightist demonstrations killed two men and seriously injured a third for intervening to defend two black women that he, the Nazi, was harassing. One of the women was wearing a hijab.
“This epidemic of racist terror is a threat to us all, whether you are Asian or Latino, Jewish or Muslim, black or white. It is a symptom of the racist political system under which we live, the historical foundation of which is the wholesale enslavement of black people. The decaying capitalist system depends on race hatred and imperialist war to sustain itself.
“How do we defeat such racist scum? We look to the power of the working class, which keeps this society running, and has the power to shut it down – the people off whose backs the capitalists build their wealth. Fascists despise the working class, they seek to smash unions, have their members shot, and establish unfettered corporate dictatorship as was the case in Germany and Italy. White supremacists like the KKK see unions as institutions of ‘race mixing.’ It is clear they fear the power of working-class solidarity.”
The speakers emphasized that the fascists are still a relatively small minority and that the repressive state apparatus, significantly beefed up under Democrat Obama, is the central threat. The police, as the armed fist of capital, continue the constant killing of black people under both Democrat and Republican city administrations. And in fact, the Democrats paved the way for a Trump presidency, as Ally of the Revolutionary Internationalist Youth explained:
“I want to say that the Democrats are the ones who brought us to this point, who paved the way for Trump and his policies. Eight years of Obama’s presidency didn’t do anything to curb the murder of black people by the police, did nothing to reduce unemployment, did not end the imperialist wars and the mass murders of people in other countries. Obama deported over five million immigrants and allocated billions of dollars to I.C.E., bolstering and preparing it for Trump’s purposes.
“These issues, as my comrades have said, are fundamentally not a question of which party or which individual person is running the show. They are a question of the capitalist state. And a lot of people are worried that Trump, with his psycho Twitter rampages, and his foreign policy decisions, is going to launch World War Three. And indeed, his strategy is doubtless more reckless than some in the ruling class would like. But the truth is that U.S. imperialism under the Democrats had been ramping up the war drive all along, and they are lining up behind this, even if they prefer to carry it out through somewhat different means. The self-proclaimed ‘socialist’ Bernie Sanders even thinks that Trump has the right idea with regards to North Korea. It’s not North Korea that we need to be afraid of.”
Arrests and deportations of immigrants by I.C.E. continue unabated while both parties rattle their sabers for another war. The only solution is socialist revolution, a point emphasized by the speaker from Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas:
“Not long ago a reporter in front of Trump Tower asked me a question: ‘What do you think about the fascist regime of Trump?’ I answered him by pointing out that we don’t have a fascist regime with Trump at the head of it right now. If it were already a fascist regime, we would not be able to protest. It is important to understand this, in order to understand who we are fighting. I am an immigrant and I come from Mexico City. In the 1930s with the fascists on the way to taking power in Germany, they used a scapegoat and that was the Jews. And now they are using a scapegoat, they are choosing a scapegoat, and saying that we immigrants, Muslims, black people, according to them, are the internal enemies….
“When the fascists took over in Germany in 1933, there had already been an economic crash in 1929 that spread throughout the world. And now from 2008 on, there has been the economic crisis which illustrates the decay of the capitalist system. So right now these fascist groupings are rearing their heads. The enemy that we face today is the capitalist system governed by both of its main parties, both Democrats and Republicans. We have a hunt against immigrants using police power, and we have a hunt against black people using the police power.
“So I want to ask you, what are we going to do? We, the workers of this city and everywhere else – your fathers and your mothers from the working class – we are the people who built these schools from the ground up. We workers do not need these criminals who govern us, these capitalists. We who built everything do not have any need of the capitalists and we need to get rid of, to do away with, to overthrow, this capitalist system. The government, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party do not offer any solutions for the workers. The only solution is to build a party of the working class to destroy this capitalist system. The war cry is: ‘Asian, Latin, Black and White, Workers of the World, Unite!’”
As for the speaker from the DSA youth group (Young Democratic Socialists of America), he stated:
“Fascism relies on a hyper masculinity that has no place in a multicultural, multiracial, multigendered society. We must stand together in solidarity against racism, against fascism, and most of all against capitalism. It can only start through unity and solidarity. I implore every student, everybody here, to get politically involved. If you are not angry, you are either not paying attention or don’t care. We have to control the situation, we have to control the narrative, and we have to fight for liberty and equality for all.”
What “unity and solidarity” means to the DSA is being the biggest builders of Bernie Sanders’ “democratic socialist” scam to round up votes for the Democrats. As for imperialist war, the DSA’s real political heritage is one of fronting for the Democrats’ counterrevolutionary wars in Korea and Vietnam.
To fight racist terror and imperialist war threats means a struggle against the rule of the capitalist class as a whole. In his speech, our comrade Jacob cited the calls for workers actions against the fascists issued by International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 in San Francisco, and International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 10 in Portland, Oregon:
“When fascists announced they would be holding a provocation, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 announced they would shut down Bay Area ports, march to the fascist rally, and sweep it away. After hearing this, the fascists called off their provocation and fled.“Imagine for one moment what would have transpired if the transit workers here in New York, who move millions of people across the city daily, shut down the buses and trains when the fascists held an anti-Muslim rally here on June 10. Then the fascists wouldn’t have dared show their faces! …
“Racist terror can be defeated only when the working class breaks the chains that bind it to the system of exploitation and racist murder. This means a political struggle against the Democratic Party of the bosses, the union bureaucrats which subordinate the workers to it, and the reformists who exude illusions of Democratic Party ‘socialism’ and ‘realigning’ the Democratic Party. Across the country reformists have blocked with liberal politicians, staging love fests in front of city halls. Some have called for revocation of the fascists’ permits by the federal government, which would set a precedent for them to shut down leftists.
“As Marxists we say: fascism can only be destroyed once and for all by independent working-class action. We show our solidarity to Painters Union Local 10 in Portland, which played a central role in the Portland Labor Against the Fascists mobilization alongside members of 14 other local area unions there on June 4. When fascists announced they would go to Portland to spew race hatred nine days after the double murder on the Max light rail, union militants resolved to kick them out of town. The reformist International Socialist Organization and DSA, on the other hand, after the call to mobilize against the racists, divided anti-fascist forces instead, and literally worked with the mayor.
“The action by Painters Union Local 10 presents an example of working-class power. They passed a motion last November saying they would mobilize to stop provocations by the KKK and other fascist groups. Activists from that and other Portland unions rallied for the defense of abortion rights and clinics against reactionary attacks, and marched under the banner ‘Hard Hats for Gay Rights.’ In a historic decision last August, Painters Local 10 voted to reject the Democratic and Republican Parties ‘or any bosses’ party or politicians,’ like the Greens or others. In this resolution they ‘call on the labor movement to break from the Democratic Party, and build a class-struggle workers party.’
“What would such a workers party do? Shut down cities in protest against racist police and fascist murder! Tear down the concentration camps that hold thousands of our immigrant brothers and sisters! Strike against imperialist war! Mobilize in defense of gay rights and women’s rights! Fight for socialist revolution! And so we say: Break with the Democrats, Build a Workers Party!”■
- 1.See, for example, James Q. Whitman, Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017).