Monthly Review, a Marxist magazine, has called the present situation ‘pre-fascist.’ That might not be quite accurate, but it is certainly an improvement over prior positions that have been loosely slung on the internet. Their position is a bit of an antidote to the hysterical and impressionistic liberals who call every right-wing thing ‘fascist,’ or the ‘knowing’ radicals who think that the combination of corporations and government is already ‘fascism.’ The support of corporations by the capitalist state is general capitalist policy, and has been since the development of the corporation. The latter is Mussolini’s definition of fascism, not a Marxist one. Trump is not a ‘fascist’ – he is the open rule of capital, but without (yet) the need to crush opposition.
Both of these positions denigrate actual fascism and reveal a deep ignorance of history. There have been plenty of racist, sexist and nationalistic U.S. presidents and policies. Can you say ‘Japanese internment camp’ or ‘Jim Crow’ or 'bracero' or even 'Taft Hartley"? 6 million Jews, 20 million Soviet citizens, millions of Chinese, hundreds of thousands of socialists, trade unionists, Roma and homosexuals and even Jehovah’s Witnesses were victims of real fascism. So far Trump’s immigration ban, drones and bombings have not approached that level.
However Trump at this point in history is encouraging a small movement of Neo-Nazis, Klan members, ‘alt-right’ organizations, militias and white nationalists to come out in the open in the U.S. and even in other countries like France. In the past, the Nazis and Klan were isolated and vastly out-numbered. They were confronted by the left-wing and anti-racist organizations for years and had crawled back into their holes. Now the ultra-rightist movement has metastasized far beyond these groups due to the economic failures of capital and the vast concentration of wealth at the top. That is what has changed.
A key part of fascism is the suspension of democratic rights by government through various laws and police actions, but in coordination with fascists in the streets. Fascist ideology directs hostility away from the rich and capitalism and towards a long list of scapegoats. This is part of an attempt to create a mass base in the population for fascist policies. Controlling the streets by brown-shirts is a key part of the development of real fascism.
That is what is starting to happen now on a broader scale, beyond isolated incidents. Here in Minneapolis, last year a quartet of white nationalists came to a Black Lives Matter occupation outside the 4th Precinct police station and intentionally shot several people. The leader of that group has just been indicted. In Seattle, an anti-Trump, anti-Milo Yiannopoulos protester was shot in the stomach by a far-rightist. In Berkeley, 4 clashes have already occurred. Yiannopoulos was turned away by a mass protest in February, then in April, antifas – mostly anarchists and some communists - violently clashed with ultra-rightists at pro-and anti-Trump rallies. According to the right-wingers, they came out ahead in several clashes. They are basically yearning for blood, but courts are still indicting them, so they do not yet have the state stamp of approval. Recently reactionary performance artist Ann Coulter canceled her appearance in Berkeley due to anti-fascist pressure.
Yesterday, an armed neo-Nazi rally took place in Pikeville, Kentucky, while odd 'militias' claiming to be neutral also showed up. Kentucky is an ‘open carry’ state so both sides could bring guns. In response the liberals canceled their anti-racist rally and students were advised to leave town. The city council banned masks and hoods used by the black bloc, so anti-fascist protesters showed up with bandannas only. The sides were kept apart by fences and a police line and no one got hurt. The 3 small groups of ultra-rightists seem isolated. I saw one black guy across the street carrying a semi-automatic combat weapon. Wonder how long 'open carry' will exist when black and Latino groups start carrying semi-autos? (Shades of the Panthers...!) This event in the South seemed similar to prior failed attempts by neo-Nazis to demonstrate, showing their isolation.
The ultra-right understands that physically controlling the streets and normalizing fascist events is key to their progress. Some leftists – not all – also understand this. Any reading of German, Spanish or Italian history shows that street clashes were part of the fascist attempt at power. In Germany and Italy the Communists and the Nazis fought constant street battles before Hitler or Mussolini came to state power. It is inevitable.
The left has to understand that the media, the ACLU, the Democratic Party and the neo-liberals in general will never support shutting down these ultra-rightists. Not until someone is at their door! Anyone hoping the police will step in don’t know that the police can be allies of the ultra-right, and when they disappear – look out. This recently happened in Berkeley, as the police let the confrontations go on and stood back hoping the rightist fighters would win. A classic example is from Greensboro North Carolina, where a massacre took place in 1979. The Communist Workers Party and other anti-fascists protested a KKK/Nazi rally. 5 were killed and 10 wounded when the Klan/Nazi’s opened fire after pulling weapons out of their car trunks. All-white juries acquitted the fascists. Prior to this, the police withdrew and that should have been a danger signal for the protesters. If you think the cops are there to ‘quell violence’, think again, as this will not always happen.
The ultra-right will parade behind the absurd banner of ‘free speech’ – yet fascist speech is not allowed in Germany for good reason. The U.S. liberals will back the ultra-right on this though. Speech that leads to killing minorities is not really a ‘reasoned’ debate pointing to some reasonable and peaceful resolution. There is no debating them, as they don’t have ideas, just instincts.
However, given the danger, leftist tactics and slogans must be carefully chosen. Each situation is different. Sloppy voluntaristic tactics sometimes get people hurt or arrested unnecessarily. Anarchists are especially prone to ultra-leftism in their enthusiasm. Self-defense is the best tactic, but not always possible or desirable. Yet leftists who want to distance themselves from these confrontations are also making a sectarian mistake. They have to get involved too. What is needed is a permanent anti-fascist united front with weight, organization and military skills that can eventually draw in the heavy battalions of the labor movement, white anti-racists, the black and Latino community and every left group possible to shut down these ultra-reactionaries, who are a danger to us all.
In the meantime, as the Boy & Girl Scouts say, ‘Be Prepared!’
Happy Mayday! Demonstrate today!
April 30, 2017