by Karyn Pomerantz, 1-7-2021, revised 1-9-2021
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 to stop Congress from validating Biden’s and Harris’ win, and to warn people fighting to reform or overthrow capitalism that they would face violent retaliation. This was an action to terrorize activists demanding antiracist equity and related changes. The response highlighted the extreme differences between the violent attack by Trump supporters and the uprisings against police murders, the ongoing hunger strike by 140 immigrants held in New Jersey detention centers, the union campaign by Google workers, demands for Covid-19 protections and universal healthcare, and demonstrations for jobs, housing, and debt relief. The likely collusion between the police and the Trump mob, the ease with which the mob entered the Capitol, and the ability to recruit thousands will embolden right wing groups, leading to their growth and confidence.
On the other side, the medical and economic repercussions of the pandemic, the wider visibility of police violence, and the acknowledgement of centuries of racist oppression have inspired large uprisings across the US and other countries of multi-generational, and multiracial and multiethnic groups of workers and students. The movement against police murders of black men and women sparked by the killing of Trayvon Martin expanded with the execution of George Floyd with thousands taking to the streets. The diversity of the rebels alarms the people who control the economy and government (the ruling class). At this point, antiracist leaders call for abolition of the police, prisons, and other oppressive conditions, trusting that abolition is possible when we have no power. Their hesitancy to call for and build revolutionary change weakens our fight and obstructs the possibility of a better future.
The potential of a growing, more militant movement threatens US capitalism, which leads to the ruling class building and supporting fascist organizations to terrorize and repress us. We have a tremendous opportunity to unite millions of black, white, Asian, indigenous, and immigrant workers over these common problems around the world. We can build a movement to demand radical changes and to seize power. We have a long way to go but must prepare now
Why does the ruling class build fascist movements?
Can the US actually impose a fascist government? What would provoke that? Fascism is not caused by a power hungry ruler, like Trump or Hitler. Economic and political conditions provoke its development, such as a crashing economy, and threats from other countries, such as China. It develops when the working class erupts in class struggle and threatens the the rulers. The ruling class that owns the factories, corporations, and banks also controls the government and media. If people cannot be controlled by superstition (refuting climate change), racism and xenophobia (blaming immigrants for unemployment and crime), and patriotism (supporting wars), it will resort to repressive measures. Fascism can show the strength of the rulers but also their weakness when they have to resort to repression, a sign of rebellion.
The ruling class uses these right wing movements to attack working class struggles, like strikes, build terror, and blame black, brown, and Jewish people for the bad economy. You don’t have to be fighting the fascists in the streets to face their terror and repression. Fascist gangs under police protection will attack people holding demonstrations to stop evictions, petitioning to remove police from schools, picketing for safer workplaces, striking for jobs, and demanding Covid-19 care. Fascist governments, such as Chile under Pinochet, rounded up thousands of liberals, union members, and students who were not activists. They destroyed communist organizations and unions, and sent thousands to their deaths. Fascism clearly reveals the power of the state; it is transparency at its finest. It grows when people ignore it or pray it away.
Will the Democrats Stop Fascism?
Some hope that all will change when Biden, with his softer, more inclusive rhetoric than Trump, takes over on January 20th. His Cabinet is more diverse, which many liberals acclaim without criticizing the horrible policies they implement. Kamala Harris wanted to fine and jail parents whose kids missed school while Yellen takes 100s of thousands of dollars from corporations to give speeches. The Democrats represent the same corporate class as the Republicans do. In 2009, the Democrats under Obama and Biden deported over 3 million immigrants and increased family detentions. They failed to mitigate mass incarceration and ignored demands by black organizations to release incarcerated people and stop racist policing. Instead, the Administration lectured black citizens to shape up, placing blame for black poverty on poor lifestyle choices. Under their Administration, wars in Asia continued, including drone attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq, and bombings in Libya to secure strategic positions and oil resources.
Racism Revealed – Again
The racism of this brief siege is breathtakingly obvious. If Black Lives Matter (BLM) or other antiracist organizations invaded Capitol Hill offices, the cops would have opened fire and arrested hundreds of them as they did at Lafayette Square this summer. The Capitol Hill police force employs 2600 officers; few were seen trying to stop anything although Trump supporters announced their plans weeks earlier. With so much advance notice, it is likely that the leadership of the military and police had a plan to allow the assault. The Defense Department initially refused to allow National Guard deployments, only reversing their decision way too late.
Unfortunately, BLM and other organizers relied on Mayor Bowser, local businesses, like hotels, to stop the Trumpsters’ demonstrations:
“We want you to be the leader you play on television and stop these so-called Proud Boys and blatant white supremacists from running roughshod over our city. Mayor Bowser, if Black lives really matter to you, then protect all of our sacred spaces — our churches, our BLM Plaza and our communities. But most of all, protect us; protect Black people’s rights and lives.”
They warned people to stay away, a good decision considering our inability to involve enough people to confront the MAGA goons. However, there was no call to start building a movement to take them on when we are stronger. As the events proved, Mayor Bowser did nothing to avert the violence, calling on the National Guard and establishing a curfew after the damage occurred.
To reduce the harms of policing, some call for community control of the cops, CCOP, meaning that community residents determine the hiring, deployment, and functions of policing. How would one establish this when workers do not hold state power and when policing’s primary purpose is to control workers and protect wealth? Wishful thinking? We cannot afford to be deluded by electoral politics, liberal democrats like AOC and Sanders, or the abolition of policing under capitalism.
Some Anti-Racist and Anti-Fascist Movements
However, we can learn from the successes and mistakes of previous anti-fascist, anti-racist movements. Note the important role of mass counter-violence in all of them. Individual acts of violence, such as assassinations and bombings that endanger the general population, do not stop racist violence. (See the post on violence at VIOLENCE UNDER CAPITALISM – The Multiracial Unity Blog).
Several examples to inspire and caution us:
- Enslaved Haitians and their allies fought ferociously against French and English armies to establish the first black run government in 1804. The French surrendered the Louisiana territory to the US but charged the Haitians with expensive reparations that only ended in the 1970s.
- Abolitionists in the US demanded an end to slavery (but not always racism), organized against the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, protected escapees from capture, ran the Underground Railroad, and fought slavers with John Brown in Missouri and beyond.
- The armed Deacons for Defense and Justice protected their communities and civil rights workers from Klan attacks during the1960s.
- Progressive Labor members and friends physically stopped Klan and Nazi demonstrations in the 1980s, shut down the Arlington, Virginia and Chicago Nazi Headquarters, and integrated a segregated beach in Boston. The Grand Wizard of the Klan claimed our attacks decreased their membership. Baltimore neighbors stopped a skin head demonstration at City Hall.
- English anti-fascists fought street battles against the British led Nazi Party, ending the development of fascism in the UK.
- Spanish Republican anti-fascists joined by the international brigades from the US and other countries fought the Hitler backed Franco government in the 1930s but lost their struggle to avert fascism in Spain.
- Jewish Europeans locked down in ghettos rebelled against German Nazis, most famously in the Warsaw Ghetto, and concentration camp prisoners led mass escapes from camps, such as Sobibor.
- French resistance members led by the Communist Party sabotaged Nazi supply routes, and spied on and reported Nazi activities to the Allies.
- The Soviet Red Army fought valiantly against Nazi troops, ultimately winning the war at the cost of 27 million lives.
- GIs in Vietnam mutinied against their orders, refusing to fight and killing officers. Even two Air Force pilots refused to bomb Cambodia, and sailors sabotaged their ships. The US government acknowledged that they could not continue to wage the war under such rebellions and pulled out the troops.
- South African communists led mass rebellions against the apartheid rulers, also sabotaging railroad lines, and demanding housing and education. Unfortunately, they settled for political leadership but retained the same corporate control of the country, leaving people jobless and homeless. Today, Cyril Ramaphosa, a revolutionary leader, became a member of the Board of Directors of a major mining company.
- Anti-fascist parties revolted and overthrew repressive, deadly regimes in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and other South American nations.
Yet, several bad decisions caused their failures. Chief among them was relying on liberal politicians to stop fascism. The German Communist Party depended on the government to stop Hitler. When he was appointed Chancellor, he abolished the legislature, the Reichstag, and took power. In El Salvador, the anti-fascist party, the FMLN, fought for years before winning an election but were replaced by the fascist Arena government years later. The French Resistance, advised by the Soviet Union, worked with anti-communist parties in the Popular Front to throw out the Nazis and gave up their socialist goals, becoming bourgeois politicians in post-war France.
We have a tremendous opportunity to develop a rebellion against the racist, repressive actions of the government. More people see the danger posed by racist militias and vigilantes, the egregious differences in policing black versus white led protests, the torture of migrants and their children, the failures to curb Covid-19, and the deepening impoverishment of tens of millions of workers and students from all “racial” categories. None of this will lead to change, however, if we don’t reject liberal politicians, pacifism, and the racism, including xenophobia, that separates us. We can embed ourselves in campaigns for jobs, housing, health, decarceration, and other life enhancing conditions. We can build a base to replace capitalism with a system run by ordinary people that does not require racism and profit.