Mobilize Workers Power to
Stop Fascist Terror!
June 30 protest against Patriot Prayer/Proud Boys fascists in Portland, Oregon.
OCTOBER 28 – All summer long, there was a stream of violent provocations by ultra-rightist and outright fascist groups across the United States. Now in the run-up to the November 6 voting, the political polarization has escalated with a series of violent rightist and deadly racist attacks. On October 12, a group of Proud Boys fascists leaving a speech by their founder Gavin McInnes at the Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side set upon some antifascists (antifas), isolating and severely beating one. On October 23, packages with pipe bombs were discovered that had been sent to a number of prominent liberals. The sender turned out to be a regular at rallies for Republican president Donald Trump and a vociferous white supremacist who yearned for the “Hitler days,” vowing to “eradicate the Jews” if he had the power to. On October 24 a racist gunman executed two black people at a Kroger supermarket in suburban Louisville, Kentucky, but walked away, saying to a white bystander that “whites don’t shoot whites.” And on Saturday, October 27, a gunman approached the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh where he murdered eleven mostly elderly Jewish congregants after yelling “all Jews must die.”
Last year, Trump praised the KKK and Nazi scum who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia chanting anti-Semitic slogans (“Jews will not replace us”) and murdering Heather Heyer, as including “some very fine people.” Now the racist president rants against anyone who points to his responsibility for whipping up deadly violence and race hatred. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, want to use the explosion of fascist terror attacks to step up state control, calling for government censorship of hate speech on social media and more stringent gun control – measures that will be used against the left and workers movement. Various reformist pseudo-socialists have sought to organize protests against “gun violence” together with the gun-control liberals. Revolutionary Marxists, in contrast, who stand on the Bolshevik program of Lenin and Trotsky, have called for, and sought to organize, mass mobilizations of workers power to crush the fascists. We warn that the main enemy of working people and vulnerable sections of the population is not just the fringe of “alt-rightists” and assorted white supremacists and fascists who have proliferated in Trump’s America, but the capitalist state which protects the fascists, and which the liberals want to strengthen.
On June 4 of last year, thousands turned out in Portland, Oregon, to protest a “free speech rally” of the “Patriot Prayer” fascists, a few days after two men were killed by a local Nazi as they came to the aid of two young black women he was menacing with Muslim-baiting threats. The murderer had attended earlier Patriot Prayer rallies. Portland Labor Against the Fascists brought out some 300 union members and supporters from at least 14 area unions, backed by coordinated resolutions of seven of those unions calling for “mobilizing against the clear and present danger that the provocations of racist and fascist organizations pose to us all” (see “Portland Labor Mobilizes to Stop Fascist Provocation,” The Internationalist No. 48, May-June 2017). When the same outfit tried a repeat in the San Francisco Bay Area that August, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 voted to mobilize labor to stop the fascists in SF. This played a key role leading Patriot Prayer media hog Joey Gibson to call off his event (see “ILWU Local 10 Moves to Stop the Fascists in San Francisco” and“Fascists Forced to Flee San Francisco – A Significant Victory” in The Internationalist No. 49, September-October 2017).
Both on the East and West Coasts, the fascists tried in a series of provocations to repeat their terror tactics this summer. On June 30, Patriot Prayer was back at it in Portland, which has become ground zero for the putrid milieu of fascist action squads, as it was in the 1980s for the racist skinhead scene. Class Struggle Workers Portland, which works fraternally with the Internationalist Group, again called for union action, but the protest was much smaller. One antifa activist was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after being punched out by a Proud Boy thug. The police shot pepper balls toward the labor contingent and then lobbed flash-bang grenades into the anti-fascist crowd, resulting in a general melee as the fascists began marching. When Gibson (who is running for U.S. Senate in Washington state) announced another provocation for August 4, a CSWP leaflet, “Workers Mobilization Can Crush the Fascists,” declared:
“While Patriot Prayer and their Nazi allies prefer small street skirmishes where they can commit their cowardly assaults in the name of ‘free speech,’ or better yet, jumping activists in dark alleys, they would be hard-pressed to face a large and disciplined mobilization of workers aiming to shut them down….
“A mass mobilization led by workers defense guards can and must crush the fascists before it is too late.”
This time over a thousand people showed up to oppose the fascists, but the police went after the anti-fascist protesters with a vengeance. A police flash-bang concussion grenade lodged in the motorcycle helmet of one antifa activist, who would have died if it hadn’t been for the protective headgear.
The police were effectively acting as a defense squad for the few dozen, vastly outnumbered fascists. This was so obvious that even liberal media commented on it. The liberal Guardian (4 August) headlined: “Portland far-right rally: police charge counterprotesters with batons drawn.” Portland police chief Danielle Outlaw said leftists “wail and whine” about getting beaten by the cops, adding that she told Mayor Ted Wheeler that she was going to clear an Occupy I.C.E. camp with or without permission (which the liberal Democrat gave her). The Oregon ACLU complained about “the repeated use of excessive force, and the targeting of demonstrators based on political beliefs.” An earlier statement by the civil liberties group declared: “To our knowledge, no other police force in America uses crowd control weapons with the regularity of the Portland Police Bureau.” The fascists, meanwhile, gave Nazi salutes inside their police-protected pen, while several wore a new t-shirt saying “Pinochet did nothing wrong,” with a drawing on the back of people being thrown from helicopters, a reference to the Chilean military dictator who killed thousands of leftists, many whom were thrown into the ocean.
Internationalist Group at August 12 anti-fascist protest in Washington, D.C.
The next week, on August 12, well over 2,000 leftists demonstrated in Lafayette Park opposite the White House in Washington, D.C., as police escorted a couple dozen fascists in for a “rally” that was so brief that it ended by the announced starting time. Importantly, Local 689 of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) told the Washington transit authority, WMATA, that its members would not provide “special accommodations” to the fascists (a private train to bring them in from Virginia) that transit officials had promised. This statement electrified union militants around the country, and the members of ATU Local 1277 in Los Angeles voted (over opposition from the local bureaucrats) a motion saluting the D.C. union’s stand, while Local 757 in Portland wrote an eloquent letter explaining how the year before, racist murderer Jeremy Christian had been given such special transportation along with other members of hate groups a month before killing Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, and wounding Micah Fletcher on a Portland light-rail train. But in the end, the Local 689 leadership acquiesced instead of standing firm against this special protection for fascist murderers.
The same scene of aggressive police protection for fascists was repeated around the country. In Boston on August 18 cops set up a defense perimeter around a few dozen anti-communists of “Resist Marxism” against a crowd of several hundred protesters. Earlier, on August 4, at the same time as the Patriot Prayer event in Portland, in Providence, Rhode Island, 300 or so protesters from the “Ocean State Against Hate” coalition managed to drive off the anti-communists before riot police arrived. But on October 7, state police prevented leftist protesters from shutting down a Patriot Prayer hatefest flown in from Portland. In the NYC October 12 Proud Boys attack, none of the fascists were arrested at the time while three antifa activists were. Videos on the Internet show police standing around as the fascists viciously kick and pummel the lone antifa protester on the ground. In a podcast, Proud Boys founder-leader McInnes bragged, “I have a lot of support in the NYPD.” (De Blasio denied that NYC cops are sympathetic to the Proud Boys, but only after a public outcry were a half-dozen of the fascist thugs later arrested.)
Overwhelmingly, in one incident after another, in one city after another, the police defend the fascists against leftists. Furthermore, the police are indeed shot through with fascist sympathizers, including but not to limited to the Three Percenters who boast that they represent retired military and active duty “law enforcement” personnel. (In Portland, a police captain, Mark Kruger, erected plaques in a public park honoring Nazi officers, including an SS Obersturmführer and a Wehrmacht general responsible for executing thousands of prisoners of war in Greece during World War II. He was given a “We Are Portland” award by the city’s “human rights” commission!) Fascists and cops are defenders of the interests of capital against those it oppresses and exploits. From the Jim Crow South to the northern cities today, it is often true that “cops and Klan go hand in hand,” as demonstrators chant. In fighting the very real, and deadly, fascist threat to working people, African Americans, Latinos, immigrants, gays and transgender people and other vulnerable sectors, Trotskyists do not seek a counterproductive conflict with the police. But the “thin blue line” is what protects these would-be killers.
It is crucial to understand that the upsurge in ultrarightist, anti-immigrant “populist,” violent racist and outright fascist movements and attacks is an international phenomenon, and that it is a byproduct of the continuing capitalist economic crisis, the depression that began in 2007-08 and whose effects continue to be felt today, including mass unemployment (masked by misleading government statistics), stagnant and falling wages, and the destruction of public services and social welfare programs. Many of the fascist recruits are a product of this crisis.
The capitalists are well aware of the shaky economic foundations of their rule, and as they have hollowed out the fabled middle class, they have militarized the police to be able to crush mass social unrest. That is why police in Ferguson, Missouri, have armored cars and police in Hamburg, Germany, deploy “riot control” equipment designed for civil war conditions. It is not just the Donald Trumps who promote this but also liberal Democrats like Barack Obama in the U.S. and social democrats in Europe. The proliferation of fascist gangs is part of the growing drive toward bonapartist strong-state rule, which the bourgeoisie resorts to when its normal political mechanisms are no longer adequate. As Trotsky warned in Germany in the early 1930s, calling on the state to act against the fascists is a ticket for disaster.
The Internationalist Group defends antifa activists against state repression and the fascist attacks. But the inconclusive skirmishes that have taken place in recent months will not stop the violent white supremacists. We seek to organize workers defense guards to defend all those threatened by the modern-day brown- and black-shirt thugs, whether they wear Fred Perry polo shirts or olive drab fatigues. What is ultimately needed is a mass mobilization of the social power that can defeat both the fascists and their uniformed protectors: a class-conscious working class, led by a workers party that fights for socialist revolution to bring down the bloody rule of capital and sweep away all its defenders. ■