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The Internationalist
  April 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos, “Free Speech”
and the Assault on Universities

Self-described provocateur Yiannopoulos aims to provoke repression against immigrants, universities. Above: At University of New Mexico, January 28, where he put I.C.E. hotline number on screen, urging people to finger immigrants. (Photos: kob.com; breitbart.com)

The election of Donald Trump marked a renewed push by reactionaries waging a “culture war” to cleanse America of “foreign” elements. One of Trump’s main campaign slogans was his promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington D.C., a euphemism for expunging the federal government and inside the Beltway political establishment of elements deemed too liberal, or insufficiently patriotic or loyal to the president. This talk had Christian conservatives, right-to-lifers, Tea Party activists and alt-rightists of every stripe giddy with excitement. And with them, professional witch-hunters are revving up a drive to purge leftist and liberal professors from academia, salivating at the prospect of returning to the McCarthy era of the 1950s.

A February 1 appearance by Milo Yiannopoulos, then a senior editor at the far-right Breitbart web site, at the University of California at Berkeley was part of this operation. It was the final stop of a national speaking tour of college campuses by this self-styled “libertarian, gay, Trump-supporting provocateur,” his grotesquely named “Dangerous F***t Tour.” Yiannopoulos joined with the David Horowitz Freedom Center to “take down the growing phenomenon of ‘sanctuary campuses’ that shelter illegal immigrants from being deported,” Breitbart (31 January) reported on the eve of the event. The stated aim was to get Trump to “withdraw federal grants from so-called Sanctuary schools” and prosecute “disloyal” administrators for this “seditious movement.”

Targeted by name for prosecution was U.C. president Janet Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security who was for years the boss of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement police, the hated migra. Napolitano, who as Obama’s former deportation chief was personally responsible for expelling millions of immigrants from the U.S., has refused calls to designate the University of California a sanctuary (“we don’t use that word”). At most, a U.C. statement said, campus police would not cooperate with I.C.E. arrests “except as required by law” – which is  to say that university authorities will collaborate if the migra produces warrants.

Over 1,500 protestors gathered in Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza in the late afternoon of February 1 to protest the right-wing demagogue. After a while the anarchist Black Bloc showed up, threw some police barricades through windows, toppled a police spotlight and tossed fireworks. Thereupon the university administration, which earlier rejected calls to cancel Yiannopoulos’ speech, shut down the scheduled event. Within a couple of hours, Trump tweeted from the White House: “If UC Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

This set off recriminations from liberals and in the mainstream media about free speech and whether Yiannopoulos’ rights were violated. The New York Times (3 February) disingenuously called his planned appearance a “lecture.” That is a whitewash of what was planned. The day before the event, the university administration delivered a letter to the Campus Republicans (who sponsored it) saying, “Milo’s event may be used to target individuals, either in the audience or by using their personal information in a way that causes them to become human targets to serve a political agenda” (The Independent, 3 February). There were Twitter reports that he planned to “out” undocumented students, as he had done earlier with a transgender student.

Such actions are not exercising free speech but deliberate provocations, targeting individuals and groups with the intent of causing injury to them. If an undocumented student were publicly identified in such an event, it could lead to them being seized and deported, as the I.C.E. attempted to do when it grabbed a young woman in Mississippi, Daniela Vargas, who was part of the DACA (Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals) program after she spoke at a press conference. In fact, at an appearance at the University of New Mexico a few days earlier, Yiannopoulos, wearing a police vest, threw an image on a giant screen in the auditorium with the I.C.E. hotline number saying, according to Breitbart (28 January), that it “can be called if you suspect anyone of being an illegal alien.”

Milo Yiannopoulis is not expressing a viewpoint here, not even the vile racist, misogynist, homophobic opinions he spews out in order to get a reaction. He is acting in conjunction with the U.S. government, specifically as a finger-man for its black-shirted immigration cops. And this was surely coordinated directly with the White House, no doubt through Yiannopoulos’ former Breitbart boss, Steve Bannon, now Trump’s top political advisor. The U.S. president’s Twitter response, at 3:13 a.m. Eastern time, threatening to cut off funds to the University of California, confirms it: this was a sinister operation to trigger action against immigrants and “sanctuary campuses,” just as the January 31 Horowitz/Yiannopoulos announcement proclaimed.

The entire Yiannopoulos tour had the purpose of provoking outrage and victimizing at-risk individuals and groups. It was directly linked to Trump’s political operation. The tour was financed by Glittering Steel, LLC, which operates out of the same Beverly Hills address as Breitbart News and other companies supported by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. The media company received close to $1 million from the pro-Trump super-PAC (political action committee) “Make America No. 1,” which employed Steve Bannon and received $15 million in donations during the recent election campaign from Mercer, who has also invested $10 million in Breitbart News.1 The campus events were almost always sponsored by Republican clubs.

At the University of California Davis campus on January 14, Yiannopoulos was shut down as hundreds of protesters denouncing him as a racist walled off the event. At the University of Washington in Seattle on January 20, Inauguration Day, a Yiannopoulos supporter shot and gravely wounded a protester, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. At the University of Colorado at Boulder on January 25, the College Republicans and Turning Point USA boasted that they had hired security by bringing in police, who set up barricades as protesters burned a Confederate flag. At the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, sheriffs deputies in riot gear and on horses broke up a protest, threatening to use “chemical munitions” on demonstrators.

Yiannopoulos repeatedly denounced Islam, and particularly “mainstream Muslim culture.” When a student wearing a hijab protested at the UNM event, Yiannopoulos supporters started chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” He made a practice of personally harassing individuals. On Twitter he incited “trolls” to inundate black actor Leslie Jones with racist tweets. At the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee on December 13, Yiannopoulos publicly humiliated a transgender student (who was in the audience) who had filed a Title IX complaint against the University for access to the women’s locker room. He put a picture of her up on a giant screen, which was livestreamed on the Breitbart website, making slurs against transgender people and continuing to vilify her.

Over a thousand protestors come out to shut down racist provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at University of California Berkeley, February 1.  (Ben Margot/AP)

To single out, ridicule and publicize someone in this way could have grave consequences. Last year, according to a count by the Advocate, some 28 transgender people were murdered, overwhelmingly black people. So far in 2017, there have been eight transgender murder victims, seven of them African American and one Native American. There are no statistics on how many have been subject to violent attack. And Trump’s smearing of Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” drug dealers and criminals, even forming an “Office of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” has made immigrants and Latinos prime targets of racist attacks. According to the Guardian web site “The Counted” every year close to 200 Hispanics are killed by the police.

By threatening to go after undocumented immigrant students and others he would like to set up for attack, Yiannopoulos posed an imminent threat, and it was correct to seek to drive him out. We are for mobilizing mass action – by students, workers, immigrants and all defenders of democratic rights, including the right to free speech – to thwart such provocations and defend those who would be victimized. But we do not call on the university to ban them. Campus administrations are agents of the ruling class and its state – epitomized by University of California chancellor Napolitano, the former head of Homeland Security – which exists to repress the working class and oppressed. University  codes restricting expression will be used above all to try to silence communists and revolutionaries who seek to bring down this system of injustice.

But the Yiannopoulos campaign aiming to bring down cop repression and reprisals by the federal government is only one prong of a broader repressive assault. Leftist student groups are being harassed, in particular those critical of Zionism, in a drive to squelch protest on American campuses. Simultaneously, rightist witch-hunters are gearing up a sinister offensive to get student fink squads to record, harass and turn in leftist professors. And this goes hand-in-hand with the escalation of deportations of immigrants and plans to step up racist police repression against black people and Latinos. To defeat them what’s needed is militant defense of the oppressed through powerful working-class action.

Fascists, Provocateurs and Campus Speech Codes

The UC Berkeley protests against Milo Yiannpoulos sparked a debate over whether this self-described professional provocateur is a fascist. At first sight, it’s immediately clear that he is a raving sexist and racist reactionary, and he does traffic with fascist images. There is a photo of him on-line posing with a biography of Adolf Hitler. Another has him sporting an Iron Cross, which after the outlawing of the swastika in Germany became a de facto symbol for Nazis and their supporters. Yiannopoulos has ominously called to criminalize Black Lives Matter. With police gunning down on average one African American a day, such calls can be deadly.

Liberals and many leftists throw around the term fascist loosely, as an all-purpose epithet for an extreme reactionary or particularly repressive regime. On that basis, Stalinists and other reformist pseudo-socialists call for the formation of an “anti-fascist popular front” with supposed “democratic” sectors of the bourgeoisie – who, in order to defend their class interests, then turn around and aid the fascists. But fascism is more than extreme reaction and repression. As Trotsky analyzed it in the 1930s, fascism appears when in conditions of crisis “capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat” (What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat [1932]).

Fascism can take the form of an electoral movement or armed gangs. It whips up nationalist hatred against an “enemy within,” whether communists, Jews, Muslims, immigrants or black people. It can parade in uniforms with black shirts (Italy) or brown (German Nazis), don white sheets like Ku Klux Klan nightriders or appear on TV in suit and tie. Its hour comes when “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,” and capital must resort to the methods of civil war to ward off the threat of revolution. In power, it replaces the façade of bourgeois democracy with the bonapartist rule of finance capital. Everywhere, its ultimate aim is to smash the workers’ organizations and atomize the working class.

Yiannopoulos is more self-promoter than fascist, and the actual fascist movement hates him. The Daily Stormer, whose name is taken from the Nazi weekly Der Stürmer, is the main openly fascist website of the “alt-right.”2 Like its namesake, the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer is virulently anti-Semitic. Last August, Andrew Anglin, its mini-Führer, called Yiannopoulos “a subversive and a disease. A homosexual Jew, he jumped on the movement a few months ago and was promoted by the entire media, propelled as the representative of the ‘official movement’.” This is from the favorite web site of the white supremacist who traveled to New York to murder a black man, and of the racist gunman of the South Carolina church massacre.

Yiannopoulos’ career came to an abrupt end in late February, when he was disinvited as a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference and forced out as an editor at Breitbart News over remarks he made about consensual sexual relationships between teenage boys and adults. What Yiannopoulos said was that older men and teenagers can have consenting sexual relationships, and that “age of consent laws” are “arbitrary and oppressive.” As Marxists, we oppose “age of consent laws,” which are mainly used to criminalize teenage sexuality, especially of African American, Latino and gay and lesbian youth. The only legitimate standard in sexual matters is whether there is real, effective consent between the individuals.

Yiannopoulos’ unobjectionable comments on teenage sex put him beyond the pale for traditional “family values” Republican conservatives and the “alt-right,” while the neo-Nazis hate him for being gay and the fact that his mother is Jewish. He is not a fascist, but he is still a dangerous racist, sexist demagogue who posed an imminent threat to those he targeted.

Meanwhile, there are copycat provocateurs running around campuses, some of whom are actual fascists, like the former Marine corporal at the University of California Stanislaus, Nathan Damigo, who was head of the now-defunct National Youth Front, affiliated with the American Freedom Party founded by skinhead racists in Southern California (Los Angeles Times, 7 December 2016). On April 15, Damigo was videotaped sucker-punching a woman protesting against a “Patriot Day” event in Berekeley.

Whether it is correct to mobilize to shut down racists, on campuses or elsewhere, is not simply a function of whether or not they are bonafide fascists. In cases where there is or may be a concrete threat to oppressed groups and individuals, such as Yiannpoulos’ announced intention to go after undocumented immigrants in his scheduled UC Berkeley performance, there is ample reason to bring out hundreds and if possible thousands to put a stop to such provocation. In other cases, such as the talk at Middlebury College in Vermont by Charles Murray (author of the 1994 book The Bell Curve, which claims intelligence and socio-economic status are genetically linked to race), it is more appropriate to demonstrate to protest and expose this craven racist.

Even in the case of outright fascists, we do not call on the university to ban them, or to ban “hate speech.” We do not recognize the administration’s “right” to decide who can and cannot appear on campus, or what can and cannot be said. That doesn’t mean tolerating the “n-word,” for example. This is not just a vile insult or epithet but a threat of racist terror against black people. It stands for lynching, no matter what is in the head of the individual who spews it out of their mouth. But it is up to us, to the oppressed and working people, not the racist rulers, to shut down those who scream such racist threats.

We do not agree with campus “political correctness” speech codes, and all the touchy-feely liberalism surrounding them. The notion that language is the source of special oppression is pure bourgeois idealism. The existence of “gendered” pronouns, or of gendered adjectives in languages other than English, is not the source of transgender or female oppression! Inventing gender-neutral pronouns will do nothing to get rid of it. Nor will all the PC claptrap about “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” norms against “microaggressions,” etc., which all look to university authorities as the arbiter. It is up to students, faculty and workers to combat discrimination, racism and sexism and ensure that the entire campus is safe for those at risk.

Marxists recognize that oppression is not based on bad ideas that can be eliminated by sensitivity training, “checking your privilege” or speech codes. Giving the administration veto power will only make matters worse. Racism and sexism reflect the material reality of the historical and actual subjugation of oppressed racial and ethnic groups and women, which is rooted in capitalism. To get rid of discrimination, violence and the endless forms of aggression against African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, women and gay, lesbian and transgender people will take nothing less than socialist revolution to overthrow the capitalist system which engenders myriad forms of social oppression.

Meanwhile, there have been a lot of pious pronouncements from liberals and reformist leftists about “freedom of speech” for a racist provocateur like Milo Yiannopoulos. New York Times columnists like Frank Bruni and Charles Blow criticize demonstrators as being intolerant of ideas different from their own. Much of their ire is directed at the Black Block for supposedly instigating “violence” (whereas Yiannopoulos’ aim was to trigger violence by the state). The social democrats of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) sought to present themselves as the “good demonstrators,” while “This small group of adventurists was doing about as much to provoke the police to attack as I’ve ever seen” (Derek Wright, Socialist Worker, 8 February).

The anarchists in the crowd carried a banner proclaiming “This Is War.” Well, it’s a small part of the class war being waged by all wings of the bourgeoisie, against poor and working people and the oppressed here and around the world – as Republicans and Democrats are now united in supporting the bombing of Syria. While the ISO complains that their tactics “put the rest of us in serious danger,” our point is that tossing firecrackers and smashing windows is utterly inadequate, and even counterproductive, in terms of taking on and defeating the most powerful imperialist ruling class in the world.

At best this is simply acting out in powerless frustration – not to mention the undoubted presence of police provocateurs. To defeat Yiannopoulos & Co., whose connections go straight to the White House, it is necessary to summon a far greater force to action. That force is the organized working class, which really has the power to shut it down, not just some city streets, tunnels or a few Interstate highways, but the capitalist system that spawns this racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic scum.

21st Century McCarthyite Witch-Hunters

David Horowitz
(Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP)

The other prong of attack on the universities is the escalating offensive against left-wing students and professors. The latter have been a longstanding target of right-wingers going back to Cold War witch hunts. Under Reagan there was Accuracy in Academia set up by ultra-rightist Reed Irvine to root out campus Sandinistas. (Irvine notoriously alibied the military dictatorship of El Salvador for its 1981 El Mozote massacre.) After the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Campus Watch began harassing professors of Middle Eastern studies. In 2006, David Horowitz published The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. Horowitz’s magazine FrontPage continues to go after leftist academics.

The offensive against student groups has focused on Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and others who support the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) movement calling for universities to divest stocks in Israeli companies and to boycott Israeli academics and universities. The drive to combat BDS on campus has been amply financed by the Israeli government (which included $25 million in anti-BDS funding in its 2016 budget), right-wing Zionists like Sheldon Adelson (the casino mogul and huge Trump donor, who raised $20 million at a Las Vegas conference specifically to fight BDS in universities) and the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobby.3

Part of this drive was the passage by the U.S. Senate last December 1 of the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.” This directs the U.S. Department of Education to investigate alleged violations of the Civil Rights Act on campuses using a definition of anti-Semitism which would include “delegitimizing” Israel. Denying the “legitimacy” of the Zionist state founded on the oppression of the Palestinian people has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, meaning hatred of or actions against Jews. In fact, the Republican right wing is shot through with anti-Semites who support Israel. Liberal Jews strongly opposed this legislation as “deeply harmful” to the struggle against Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and “white nationalism” (Forward, 8 December 2016).

This issue reached a boiling point last year when the University of California Board of Regents prepared a report, “Principles Against Intolerance,” equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. While that was slightly “softened” in the final text to refer to “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism,” the whole purpose was to restrict political speech criticizing Israel. An academic council coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace commented, “This is the culmination of a campaign on behalf of pro-Israel organizations to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism” (New York Times, 27 March 2016). With Trump in the White House, Zionists are gearing up to restrict or ban student groups defending Palestinian rights.

Already a year ago the hard-right Zionist Organization of America, linked to fascistic settlers occupying Palestinian land on the West Bank, got the New York State Senate to slash $485 million from the budget of the City University of New York, accusing Students for Justice in Palestine of promoting anti-Semitism. As an example they cited a November 2015 Hunter College demo where students changed “Long live the Intifada!” (the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation). CUNY Internationalist Clubs participated in that protest and has defended the SJP. In December, Fordham University in New York banned a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, and in January brought a student up on disciplinary charges for protesting that ban.

This drive to prohibit Palestinian rights groups on campus is being pushed by a web site, Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus, which accuses the SJP of being “a campus front for Hamas terrorists.” The site is sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Foundation, the same outfit that backed Milo Yiannopoulos’ provocation at UC Berkeley. It also hosts Horowitz’s FrontPage web site, which declares that “The Democrats have become a terrorist party” seeking “the overthrow of our government,” and proclaims “A civil war has begun.”  Horowitz is an ex-leftist turncoat become raving Zionist, racist and all-round reactionary. His rants may be demented, but these 21st century witch-hunters have clout – and they’re targeting “subversive” professors.

“Exposing” leftist faculty was for years the bread-and-butter of Horowitz’s operation. But since he has expanded into Islamophobia (Jihad Watch) and Palestinian-bashing, a new actor has appeared on the witch-hunting scene: in late November, a web site was launched, Professor WatchList, encouraging students to rat out left-wing professors. The spy site is the creation of Charlie Kirk, who has never been to college but pulled in $5 million in 2016 for the organization he co-founded, Turning Point USA. TPUSA boasts of having 1,000 chapters in colleges and high schools, a claim that is more than dubious but great for attracting bucks from right-wing donors. Kirk was a campaigner for Trump, working with his children to win support among “millenials.”

These sites spy on, defame, slander and smear faculty with charges of anti-Semitism and “anti-Americanism.” But they do more. In January, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a statement warning that the increased “targeted online harassment” of faculty is “a threat to academic freedom.” “A website like Professor Watchlist,” it noted, “lists names of professors with their institutional affiliations and photographs, thereby making it easy for would-be stalkers and cyberbullies to target them. Individual faculty members who have been included on such lists or singled out elsewhere have been subject to threats of physical violence, including sexual assault, through hundreds of e-mails, calls, and social media postings.”

And, of course, the aim is to get the professors fired and blacklisted. The AAUP looks to “governing boards of colleges and universities” who “have a responsibility to defend academic freedom and institutional autonomy” by “resisting calls for the dismissal of faculty members.” This reflects and promotes the illusion that administrations and boards are part of a campus “community” and responsible to it. But these are the bodies that actually fire faculty under attack. They are trustees, regents, overseers or governors who run academia on behalf of the capitalist state, the ruling class and investors who name them. That’s why there must be a fight for control of universities and colleges by councils of students, faculty and workers.

Dr. Eric Canin assaulted by College Republicans at California State University at Fullerton, February 8.
(Katie Albertson for the Daily Titan)

The assault on academic freedom is being orchestrated from the very highest levels of political power, as the Milos Yiannopoulos affair at UC Berkeley shows. The fight against it must be centrally waged by those under attack and their allies. A prime example is the witch hunt against adjunct instructor Eric Canin at California State University Fullerton. Dr. Canin, who has taught there for 20 years, is falsely accused of having attacked College Republicans, of which not a shred of evidence has been presented, while photos and videos show him being harassed and physically assaulted (put in a headlock) by his accusers who had been disrupting a protest against Trump’s immigration ban.4 The university immediately accepted the witch-hunters’ accusations, suspending Canin without even talking with him.

Hundreds of Canin’s colleagues at Fullerton have signed a petition demanding that he be given his job back. The local chapter of his union,, the California Faculty Association, issued a strong statement of support, saying it was “outraged by the gross injustice” of the universities at the university’s action, noting that he was “the victim of harassment by a crowd carrying signs with racist messages clearly attempting to provoke a confrontation.” It demanded that the university reinstate him. But this response is much less than what’s needed: a vociferous statewide campaign by the CFA and students threatening walkouts if he is fired.

This is not “business as usual.” Eric Canin has received death threats, which campus police dismissed as merely “violent rhetoric” because “the person that is making the statement has to have the ability to carry that out.” Canin also soon made it onto the Professor WatchList, whose sponsor, Turning Point USA, co-hosted Yiannopoulos’ event at the University of Colorado and bragged of hiring police to repress protesters. In short, it’s all connected.

What’s going on, not only in California but nationwide, is a push for a new McCarthyism on campus. And whereas in the 1950s the threat came mainly from state legislatures and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), this time around the well-financed witch-hunters are trying to mobilize squads of student informers, and will have the backing of the White House, both houses of Congress and, soon enough, the Supreme Court. Those who delude themselves into thinking that the Yiannopoulos affair is about freedom of speech for a kooky reactionary are missing the big picture. This is the spearhead of a broader assault and a potentially mortal threat to academic freedom at institutions around the country.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is solidly behind this drive to “cleanse” the nation’s colleges and universities. His political mentor was none other than Roy Cohn, the red-hunter who helped send the heroic Rosenbergs, Ethel and Julius, to the electric chair, and went on to become Joe McCarthy’s right-hand-man. Cohn organized HUAC hearings across the country, where several hundred academics were hauled in to answer under the klieg lights, “are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party.” Cohn defended racist Trumps, father Fred and son Donald, from charges that they refused to rent to black tenants. From Cohn, the apprentice Trump learned “if you say it aggressively and loudly enough, it’s the truth.”5

The threat of a new McCarthyism is real. The danger is that, as in the 1950s, the intended victims fail to mobilize and vigorously fight back. At that time, around 100 faculty members were fired, many blacklisted and many more denied tenure. In her book No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism and the Universities(Oxford University Press, 1986), Ellen Schrecker wrote of the response of academics, particularly the self-professed  liberals: “They did not organize; they did not protest; they did not do anything that reversed the tide of dismissals.” In the first big academic freedom case of the Cold War, at the University of Washington in 1948, the AAUP didn’t publish a statement until 1956. Worse yet, many collaborated with the red-hunters.

May 1960 protests uniting students with ILWU dock workers broke HUAC’s grip of fear. (KRON-TV)

What finally broke the grip of fear instilled by McCarthyism was a militant mobilization of students and workers against the House Un-American Activities Committee when it came to San Francisco in 1960. One of the main targets was the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which defied the 1947 Taft-Hartley law banning Communists from union leadership positions. HUAC also subpoenaed teachers and a student. Instead of intimidation, the committee’s hearing galvanized opposition. Professors and students from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State College joined with ILWU Local 10 members and effectively broke up the hearing.

The longshoremen were key to resistance because they had power, raw economic power that students and faculty lack. Today, as well, mobilizing the working class will be key to defeating the new McCarthyism. And we have an important advantage over the 1950s, when “reds” were largely isolated and the labor movement was overwhelmingly white. Today the urban centers are virulently opposed to Trump and his crew of white supremacists. Trump got less than a quarter of the vote in most major cities, and barely 4% in Washington, D.C. In urban areas, unions are heavily black and Latino (60% in New York City). And these are also the centers of immigrants (35% of the population of Los Angeles is foreign-born, over 40% in NYC).

It’s entirely possible to organize mass labor/black/Latino/immigrant mobilizations to smash the witch-hunters, who are also race-haters, red-baiters, immigrant-bashers and union-busters. It’s a question of leadership, and political program. The Democrats’ talk of “resistance” is phony and impotent. They will side with Trump at every key moment, just as they joined with the McCarthyites in purging the unions and universities, and they have now done in hailing his attack on Syria. It will take a revolutionary vanguard prepared to defy the partner parties of U.S. imperialism and mobilize our class power to defeat them.

What’s needed is a workers party built on a program of intransigent class struggle, to put an end to the dictatorship of capital and replace it with the liberating rule of the working class. That was the program of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks one hundred years ago, and it’s even more urgent today with capitalist imperialism in a death spiral, destroying the democratic rights and tearing up social gains won through decades of hard struggle. Such a leadership will not drop miraculously from the heavens nor will it arise by spontaneous generation. It’s up to us to build it. ■

  1. 1. Muckrock.com, 24 March.
  2. 2. See our article, “Donald Trump the ‘Alt-Right’ and Fascism,” The Internationalist No. 46, January-February 2017.
  3. 3.While the Internationalist Group does not call for boycott, divestment or sanctions, which is an appeal to mass-murdering imperialists like the United States to pressure their Israeli allies, we defend “BDS” supporters against the Zionists and oppose any measures against them.
  4. 4.See “Cal State Fullerton peaceful protest ends in altercation,” Daily Titan, 8 February.
  5. 5.See “McCarthy Aide Helped Shape Young Trump,” New York Times, 21 June 2016.