Category Archives: Anti-Fascism

Antifascists Confront Patriot Prayer and Proud Boys in Portland on June 3rd [VIDEO]

By Daniel V. Media

A year after Patriot Prayer, and it’s leader Joey Gibson, brought in white-nationalist and neo-Nazi speakers for an Alt-Right rally they returned with another rally labeled as a “Free Speech” event.  This came one year after the action they held in the same location on June 4th, 2017, where almost four thousand people came out to oppose them. This charade quickly became clear when they showed up with the white-nationalist and misogynist hate-group Proud Boys and attacked journalists, one incident involving a Portland Mercury reporter being shoved and then questioned who she was reporting for.

Anti-fascist groups Rose City Antifa, Eugene Antifa, Rash NW, Pacific Northwest Anti-Fascist Workers Collective, and others organized to shut down this rally and prevent white-supremacists and those that give them a cover to organize under from marching in the streets and instilling fear in the at-risk communities that they target.

Police struggled to keep Patriot Prayer’s numbers protected which lead to panic and anger from their crowd. After several attempts by Patriot Prayer to march, all of which were prevented by the large coalition of anti-racist activists, Patriot Prayer returned back to Terry Shrunk Plaza and called it a day.

Several core members of Patriot Prayer, along with Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, who has been arrested for fighting at past events, were chased throughout the streets of Portland and finally found police protection at the Portland Waterfront. The numbers of the crowd opposed to Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys had swelled from random onlookers who only had to hear who was being chased to join in on defending their town from hate.

Rose City Antifa has continued a series of articles outlining exactly who these Proud Boys are and a call to hold them publicly responsible.

Here is the Facebook event for the June 9th action against Patriot Prayer in Kent, WA, where Patriot Prayer is targeting a Planned Parenthood location

June 9th – Say NO to Misogyny/Say NO to Hate

Patriot Prayer will also be returning to Portland, in the same plaza, on June 30th to further antagonize the city.  There will be a counter action.

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To Spite The Face: A review of Insurgent Supremacists by Matthew N.Lyons

By Rhyd Wildermuth

Reviewed in this essay: Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, by Matthew N. Lyons (Published by PM Press)

Anti-fascism in the United States has two deep problems, neither of which can easily be unraveled. The first problem, which is the foundation of the second, is that it cannot accurately identify precisely who or what a fascist actually is.

This first problem can best be shown from a rather amusing conversation I recently encountered regarding myself and Gods&Radicals Press (where I am the managing editor). It turns out, according to some deeply wise Twitter commentators, that I’m a fascist, or possibly a proto-fascist, or an anarcho-nationalist with white-nationalist leanings.

Their evidence? A recent essay regarding the commons, an essay critiquing racial and gender essentialism, and an anti-imperialist essay.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such a conversation and laugh about the general absurdity of American social media “call outs,” their error points to something much more endemic than mere ignorance or poor reading skills. The essays selectively cited do indeed contain some ideas that could be mistaken as fascist, but not because the ideas themselves are fascist. For instance: the essay on reclaiming the commons from an anti-colonial perspective mentions the word “land” a lot. Some fascists also wish to reclaim land. Likewise, the essay against imperialism shares with some fascist tendencies a disgust for the occupation of peoples by the military. And my critique of social justice essentialism criticizes non-Marxist “feminist” reduction of men to their bodies and genitals.

That is, what the commentators were looking for were signs of fascist ideology, ticking off boxes on a checklist of fascist traits. But unfortunately, opposition to fascism is not as easy as completing a Buzzfeed quiz or reading an Everyday Feminism listicle.

In this error they are hardly alone. American antifascist organizing has faced a much larger difficulty identifying precisely who’s a fascist, or even whether any particular idea is indicative of fascist ideology. This problem leads to all sorts of practical problems, particularly when it comes to organizing against groups and theorists on the far-right who don’t fit into traditional stereotypes of fascism.

Two examples should suffice to show the problem here. First of all, Jack Donovan and the group to which he belongs, The Wolves of Vinland, cannot easily be classified as fascist according to popularly-accepted metrics. Donovan is specifically anti-imperialist, criticizes capitalism and anti-globalisation, rejects racism, and is homosexual. In addition, The Wolves of Vinland might be better described as a Pagan body-cult than a “Fascist counter-cultural tribe” , particularly because they not only do they not participate in demonstrations and have rejected alliances with alt-right groups, but have absolutely no interest in seizing political power or taking control of the state. So any litmus strip we might apply to either Donovan or the Wolves of Vinland in order to determine whether they are fascist will come back completely clean.

Likewise, fascists are at least according to popular understanding supposed to be anti-Black, anti-gay, and most definitely anti-Semitic. So that makes encountering the occasionally violent ideas of Milo Yiannopolous quite difficult: he is homosexual, has a Black man as a lover, and also happens to be Jewish. That is, he isn’t anti-Black, nor anti-gay, nor precisely anti-semitic, yet we still generally see his ideas as fascist.

This nebulous nature of Fascism also means that many leftists find themselves considered fascist because of their adherence to ideas which appear (at least at first glance) to be of fascist provenance. For instance, the anarchist publisher Little Black Cart and its publications have been repeatedly identified as fascist by other anarchists because of their anti-civilizationist and eco-extremist tendencies, both of which appear (under a glance no more attentive than what is needed for a Teen Vogue article) to be identical to some white-nationalist positions.

Similarly, those who use the works of clearly leftist philosophers such as Max Stirner or even Slavoj Zizek are often painted with a fascist brush because of the similarities between both philosophers’ rejection of Liberal Democratic capitalism and the European Nouvelle Droit’s rejections of the same regime.

This inability to distinguish between right-wing (and fascist) critiques of Liberal Democracy leads to the second and more intractable problem within American Anti-fascism. That problem? By mis-identifying Marxist and other far-left opposition to Liberal Democracy as fascist, antifascists end up siding with Capitalist interests and becoming defenders of Liberal Democracy. That is, in an attempt to fight off white supremacists and other far right challenges to the state, antifascists can enable the state to continue its oppression against the very people antifascists claim to defend.

The Revolutionary Right

Thus Matthew N Lyons’ forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, is a deeply needed work.

In the title itself, Lyons begins to unravel inherited, popular misconceptions about the entire political constellation in which we (often clumsily) attempt to locate fascism. Generally (at least within liberal and “progressive” anti-fascist currents), the far right is not considered a threat to Empire, but to be the political foundation of Empire itself. But while to speak of an anti-imperialist far-right seems oxymoronic, Lyons provides an almost overwhelming onslaught of detail as to how much of the Far Right is predicated on a critique of and opposition to liberal democratic imperialism.

Opposition to global capitalism and the international governance organizations which protect it, fierce criticism (sometimes backed by weapons) of oppressive policing and surveillance apparatuses, and moral reprehension at imperialist US foreign policy in the Middle East have all been parts of many movements within the Far Right in the United States. For instance, consider the following words:

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City …

These words by Timothy McVeigh (the far-right bomber of a federal building In Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, many of them children) might just as easily have been written by indigenous resistance leaders, the Black Panthers, or other leftist revolutionary groups in the United States. Or as I note in an essay about him, many of Jack Donovan’s critiques of the police state and of liberal democracy could just as easily have been written by those same groups.

Unlike those leftist revolutionary groups and also unlike Jack Donovan, Timothy McVeigh was a white nationalist, expressing fondness for the white supremacist book The Turner Diaries, as well as selling copies of it at gun shows. And so there is where someone like McVeigh fits into our preconceived notions of what makes a fascist…except as Lyons points out in his book, white supremacist ideas are not a clear indicator of fascism, either.

That difficulty of pinning down precisely what makes someone on the far right a fascist might otherwise plague such a book as his, but Lyons wisely dispenses with the question altogether until the very end (a previously-published essay included as appendix). Rather than attempt to build a catalogue of fascist ideologies and movements in the United States, he instead details all the Far Right movements which intersect with this slippery category.

The first part of Insurgent Supremacists provide a detailed sketch of five ideological movements (Neo-Nazis, Christian Dominionists/Theocrats, The Alt-Right, the Patriot movements, and the LaRouche Network), and at least for the first four groups, readers with only a surface understanding of Right-wing ideology may find themselves surprised to learn how thoroughly different each ideology is from the others. While crossovers absolutely exist, many of the adherents of each group would be just as likely to vehemently oppose the other groups as to claim them as fellow travelers.

In the second section, Lyons then looks at each group again through the lens of their views on gender & sexuality, decentralization, and anti-imperialism, and here again the average anti-fascist may find their original analysis uncomfortably complicated by what Lyons details. Particularly of interest are the problems of anti-imperialism and decentralization (anti-federalist– or in some cases even anti-government–positions ), both of which are critiques autonomous Marxists and anarchists share with many on the far right (albeit for different reasons).

The third section, however, is the most useful and unfortunately the most short. In it, Lyons discusses the complicated relationship that police and the FBI have had with far right groups, as well as the influence the Liberal political structures (especially the Democratic Party) has had on creating the conditions for the rise of these groups as well as increasing police oppression of society at large in the name of fighting them. Returning to McVeigh’s bombing, Lyons points out:

The Clinton administration also used the Oklahoma City bombing to help win passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which loosened restrictions on the wiretapping and other surveillance of alleged “terrorists,” expanded the use of secret evidence to deport non- citizens (which means that the defendants have no opportunity to see the evidence being used against them), and, in the words of legal journalist Lincoln Caplan, “gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus, which a federal court can use to order the release of someone wrongly imprisoned.” The law made the death penalty more “effective” by making it much more difficult for death row inmates to appeal their sentences, even though a notoriously high proportion of death sentences have been shown to have serious flaws.” (174)

Antifascist Alliances with the Capitalist State

In fact, it’s Lyons’ consistent (but understated) criticism of liberal politics throughout his discussion of the Far Right that makes Insurgent Supremacists most useful. Lyons runs directly counter to most popular antifascist thought by insisting that the Far Right is not made up of idiots without political sensibilities or actual grievances. People like McVeigh were absolutely right to be incensed about the government’s slaughter of innocents in Waco or at Ruby Ridge, just as many of those who supported Trump in the recent election had absolutely legitimate grievances against the Democratic Party’s destructive hyper-capitalist economic policies and imperialist expansionary foreign policy positions.

Of course, such a position runs counter not only to the received wisdom of many antifascists, but stands directly in opposition to Liberal dismissals of the Right as merely ignorant or hateful. Accepting this Liberal position is how antifascists have gotten to the place they’re in now, finding themselves continuously pulled toward the Democratic Party’s “centrist” positions and thus unable to distinguish a leftist from a fascist.

This is not merely an unfortunate problem of mis-identification, however. As in the case of McVeigh, Lyons points out that antifascism and opposition to far right ideologies have historically sometimes served to increase State violence and power.

Many people think of growing state repression as a trend toward fascism. But these events of the 1930s and ’40s highlight the fact that antifascism can itself serve as a rationale for increasing repression, as Don Hamerquist has pointed out: “when did this country outlaw strikes, ban seditious organizing and speech, intern substantial populations in concentration camps, and develop a totalitarian mobilization of economic, social, and cultural resources for military goals? Obviously it was during WWII, the period of the official capitalist mobilization against fascism, barbarism and for ‘civilization.’” (166)

The particular difficulty here, which Lyons touches on occasionally, is that the political interests of Capital are able to manipulate opposition to far right ideologies, particularly through the Democratic Party. And here many looking for easier answers will likely either dismiss or take offense at his discussion about whether or not Trump (or the US government in general) is fascist or in “process” of becoming fascist.

Each of these claims that the U.S. government or public officials are driving us toward fascism represents a misuse of the term, one that blurs the line between fascism and the more repressive, racist, and militaristic sides of the United States’ liberal- pluralist political system (181)

In particular, Lyons critiques the dogmatic approach to Trump of Alexander Reid Ross (an antifascist writer I’ve criticized before for mis-identifying leftist opposition to capitalism as fascist or fascist-adjacent):

Radical journalist Alexander Reid Ross argued that we should look at fascism “as a ‘process’ rather than an ‘outcome’,” and that “Trumpism” was “part of a process of ‘fascist creep,’ meaning a radicalization of conservative ideology that increasingly includes fascist membership while deploying fascist ideology, strategy, and tactics.” This approach rightly emphasized that many political initiatives occupy a gray area between fascist and conservative politics and that the political character of such initiatives can change over time. But Ross simply assumed that Trump’s campaign—unlike previous right- wing populist candidates such as George Wallace and Pat Buchanan—had an inherent tendency to move toward fascism and would not be co- opted by the established political system. (197)

But then, if Trump isn’t fascist and if many of the implementations of oppressive (and often explicitly racist) policies and powers of the United States isn’t fascist either, than what exactly is fascism? In an appendix of the book, Lyons discusses the difficulty of defining fascism and looks at others’ attempts to do so before coming up with a definition that will satisfy very few:

Fascism is a revolutionary form of right- wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy.

This definition will be unsatisfactory to most because of what it doesn’t explicitly include (white supremacy, misogyny) as well as what it does include (a challenge to capitalist political and cultural power). With such a definition we are forced to question almost everything we think we know about fascism’s traits, and find none of our checklists or listicles make sense anymore.

That’s a good thing, but with a caveat. Because the culture of constant reaction within America, especially via the reductionist forms of internet “discourse,” makes it very likely that capitalists and the government which serves their interest will continue to summon antifascists to their defense. While the challenge fascism presents to capitalist power is not our challenge, we must avoid making façile concessions to the Liberal Democratic state out of fear that the fascists might win. As Lyons points out in the case of the House UnAmerican Activities Committe during the middle of the last century (which was originally set up to prosecute fascists!), supporting (or even celebrating) government repression of the far right always empowers the state to then turn its weapons on the left.

Antifascists can and must oppose both the capitalist liberal democratic state as well as fascists, and must do so always at the same time. To make alliances with the state against the Far Right which threatens it will also lead the left to abandon their own challenge to the state, cutting off our nose to spite the face.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder of Gods&Radicals and one of its co-editors. He is currently teaching a course on Marxism, and currently lives in Bretagne. Follow his dispatches from other shores here.

The Alt Right is Back Offline

The last year has been difficult for the Alt Right.

Since Charlottesville the counter-organizing by antifascists and the broader community responses have forced Richard Spencer and his growing white nationalist cadre further into the shadows. Starting in 2015, the Alt Right began moving its fascist ideology into the more public realm through publishing, podcasts, activist organizations, and by linking up with the slightly more moderate Alt Light. That all changed in the wake of Trump’s election as the counter-movement grew, and that exploded after the debacle and murder at Charlottesville.

The two largest venues for struggle were their appearances and their web platforms. Antifascists made the Alt Right throw its hands up and stop public appearances as it became too difficult to operate in public. A parallel, but equally powerful, effect has been that public pressure has forced web companies to pull the Alt Right from using their services. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, website companies like Cloudfire and WordPress, financial platforms like Patreon and PayPal, chat functions like Disqus, all have banned the Alt Right over this year, and that number only continues.

While Richard Spencer and his various websites, many associated with the National Policy Institute, thought that he had weathered the storm, he is now officially back offline.

 

GoDaddy had been handling the hosting for Spencer’s AltRight.com, a trashy tabloid style hate-site that is considered low-brow even for this most racist followers.  Composed mainly of racist blog threads, rambling podcasts, and synth-fash aesthetics, it had become a main venue for his inner-circle.

GoDaddy did issue a statement as to why, outlining the content.

In instances where a site goes beyond the mere exercise of these freedoms, however, and crosses over to promoting, encouraging, or otherwise engaging in specific acts of violence against any person, we will take action.  It is our determination that altright.com crossed the line and encouraged and promoted violence in a direct and threatening manner.

This came shortly after Spencer’s two Facebook pages for AltRight.com and the National Policy Institute were taken down, a common thread for the Alt Right.  Right now Spencer is still on Twitter, but that has a short count-down to it.

As this “shuttening” continue to limit their ability to recruit, they are starting to shrink in numbers and turn to infighting.  This is a standard cycle for white nationalists, who cannot sustain a movement when opposition is strong from organized antifascists.

Antifascism Today: A Conversation Between Shane Burley and Alexander Reid Ross

As the far-right is constantly shifting and redefining itself, both in the U.S. and in Europe, it can be hard to pin down the enemy so as to create a successful counter force.  Antifascism today requires a deep understanding of the underlying principles and behaviors of the fascist right, as well as to understand how social movements can and should operate in the 21st Century.

Below is a conversation between Shane Burley (Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It) and Alexander Reid Ross (Against the Fascist Creep) about what makes up the fascist movement today, how it is changing, and how antifascism can be strengthened.  A particular amount of time here has been dedicated to the idea of “decolonizing antifascism” and how antifascist can think about fascism as a truly international force that is not only cemented to Europe and the U.S.

The Alt Right Arrives at Michigan State on Monday, Resistance Will Follow

Richard Spencer has moved from fascist ideologue to most hated person in the country as he targets college campuses.  Spencer has relied heavily on state institutions to protect his access to public venues since private locations, such as hotels or conference centers, are often more vulnerable to organized public pressure.  Since 2016, and later with the platform denial the Alt Right faced after Charlottesville, Spencer has had a plan to exploit the loopholes in policies at publicly funded universities (Which are actually funded by massive fees and tuition that students are straddled with debt to pay.).  He will make bogus “free speech” claims to force his way onto campus at the cost of students, which he has successfully done at Texas A&M, the University of Florida, and others.

Next is Michigan State, which he was able to secure despite organized student antifascist pressure because of lawsuits put forward by white nationalist attorney, and Michigan State alumni, Kyle Bristow.  Cameron Padgett was the person who issued the lawsuit against MSU for denying him the ability to manipulate the school’s facilities.  After months of fighting, the day is finally coming where Richard Spencer will be speaking at Michigan State and bringing a bevy of angry and violent white nationalists with him.

On March 5th, 2018, Spencer will be speaking at the Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education, on the southern edge of the campus.  The choice to hold it at this facility on the outskirts of campus seems to be a method by the administration to hold back the inevitable conflict between antifascists and white nationalists in attendance.  There is also a counter-event being held at the All Saints Episcopal Church on Abbot Road in East Lansing a ways away, which is really an attempt to draw protesters away from the campus so that the university can make this go as quietly as possible.  While events like the “Celebration of Diversity Festival” are not bad on their face, they act as a safety valve to negate actual resistance that is happening at the point of contact.

Stop Spencer at Michigan State University, formed by antifascist students and community members in response to the white nationalist event, are planning the protest action right at the facility where Spencer will be speaking.  Students across the Michigan State University system have been protesting since last year, arranging student walkouts at universities and communities colleges while the administration were in negotiations with Spencer’s people about the potential of a large white nationalist event.

There are now protests planned both in East Lansing and Ann Arbor (Click here for all the logistics information, how to get there, the Facebook event, and the transportation and parking info).

Spencer’s March 5th event will likely draw a large crowd of white nationalists and neo-Nazis, especially considering there is an Alt Right conference nearby in Detroit on March 4th.  The StopSpencer coalition has put the below instructions for the event:

People in East Lansing are expecting hundreds of people out on the streets, including students, community members, staff, and faculty. The fascists are going to be rolling into town the morning of March 5th from Detroit, after attending an Alt-Right conference the day before, on March 4th.

The actual speaking event is scheduled to take part inside a room which is located within the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education from 4:30-6:30 PM. The area surrounding the pavilion is largely farmland and golf courses, and moreover, there are only several entrances into the Pavilion off of two main roads. In short, we want to flood the area with people – to shut down the Alt-Right in its tracks.

On our end, we will be mobilizing up the road at a set of large parking lots, which are located at Farm Lane and Mt. Hope Road. Parking is free, and this convergence point is located less than half a mile from the campus.

It is critical to show resistance on Monday, to make sure that campuses will not be an incubator for violent white nationalists and to make them centers for antifascist resistance.  Come out and join the movement!

Antifa: The Film

The far-right media circuit has turned “Antifa,” whatever they think that means, into their catch-all boogeyman. This movement has its roots into the fight against the rise of interwar fascism, the battle against the National Front in Britain and neo-Nazis in post-war Germany, and Anti-Racist Action in the U.S.

This new documentary sheds light on the reality of Antifa, speaking with experts like Mark Bray and the One People’s Project’s Daryle Lamont Jenkins.

Unions Against Fascism

 

Patriot Prayer isn’t known for its good taste.

 

The far-right organization, known for linking up “Patriot” militias with Alt Right white nationalists, became notorious for taking up the “free speech” rally model started by Lauren Southern in the “Battle for Berkeley.”  In Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding suburbs, their organizer, Joey Gibson, instigated violent clashes with leftist protesters as he refused to tone down the “America First” rhetoric.  In May, Jeremy Christian, a man who eagerly joined Patriot Prayer’s events, murdered two on Portland public transit in an Islamophobic frenzy.  Gibson’s response was to hold his June 4th rally just a couple of weeks later in a federal park, which drew over three thousand protesters in a show of unprecedented antifascist unity.

On August 26, in the wake of the savage race riot and vehicular murder in Charlottesville, Gibson decided to bring his act down to the Bay area, where a number of far-right provocateurs were intending to join him.  This would start with a “Freedom Rally” along the waterfront, which activists countered with a mass “poop in” by bringing their dogs to the beach without waste bags.  The following day they the “anti-Marxist” message would be brought to the streets, picking up on the white supremacist conspiracy theory that modern “progressive” values are actually the result of subversive Jewish “Cultural Marxism.”

Patriot Prayer’s plans sparked one of the quickest engagements of mass organizing in years as coalitions formed around the city with everything from radical art shows to a mass marches to disallow Gibson access to the streets or city parks.  While the Bay’s progressive line-up began their plans, it was the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 that stepped out in front to lead this community revolt.  Just days before the Alt Right was to descend on the city, Local 10 passed the “Motion to Stop the Fascists in San Francisco,” calling for “all unions and anti-racist and anti-fascist organizations to join us defending unions, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and all the oppressed.”  ILWU was instrumental in raising the antifascist coalition’s profile enough to force Gibson to cancel the event, and when he tried to move it to San Francisco’s Alamo Park, the union took to the streets and helped form a block to prevent entry.  

Right now, labor in the United States is being pushed to a state of execution.  With the political power in the hands of the beltway right, attacks on public sector unions, collective bargaining, exclusive representation, and the rights of workers to organize, are forcing labor to look past immediate contractual gains and to the larger contradictions the working class faces.  Capital’s attack on unions is happening at the same time as a radical right populism is sweeping the U.S., with Trumpism ushering in what the Freedom Party brought to Austria, Brexit offered to the UK, and what Le Pen could have leveled on France.  With the Alt Right as the militant fascist edge of this movement, organized labor is placed where it is often put in times of crisis: uniquely targeted and decisively necessary.

 

“Then they came for the trade unionists…”

Looking at the historical fascist movements that rose to power in interwar Europe, labor is crushed swiftly and decisively.  As the Nazis rose to power in Germany, the SS took control of the trade unions in 1933, banning them as working class institutions and molding their organs into the German Labor Front.  With 7 million members, Germany had one of the largest labor movements in the world, bolstered by the social democrats and the revolutionary German Communist Party (KPD).  In Italy, Mussolini took a different approach and captured the unions entirely, creating large Fascist Trade Unions with over four million members.  These organizations were extensions of the fascist state, losing their ability to fight for workers interests as Mussolini gained power by cruelly crushing socialist and anarchist partisans.  The attack on unionists was, largely, an extension of the fascist attack on the organized left as leaders rightly understood that both sides had the ability to pull heavily from the experiences of the working class.  While Hitler and Mussolini appealed to the bourgeois classes by suppressing worker movements, it was an appeal to the broad masses that gave fascism its power.  The class conflict implicit to capitalism is then suppressed in favor of mediated class collaboration; the fire for change the fuels class struggle then rechanneled into reactionary battles between identities, racial, sexual, and otherwise.  

The unions themselves were, at the time, the largest and most successful results of social movements, a hundred years of struggle to create massive organizations that took on the interests of the oppressed classes.  That strength, rooted in the ability to withhold labor, could bring the country to its knees, and its nature is rooted in the working class unity that necessitates antiracism.  If the unions are weakened, removed as militant vehicles for the desires of working people, then mass movements lose one of their key strategic vessels.

Unions today are often defined by their concessions, what was allowed to them by the state during the 1920s and 1930s.  But a union is more that Collective Bargaining Agreements and grievance procedures.  It is simply an expression of unified class power, the ability of a group of workers to exert power through solidarity.  For workers today (and throughout the history of organized labor), their subjective experiences of class and identity are more than just pay scales, but include everything from racial discrimination by management to the fear of violence they have leaving their houses in the morning.  For non-white workers, that violence continues, both from the state as police murders continue unchallenged, and through vigilantes, from the KKK in earlier generations to the Alt Right terrorizing campuses and city centers today.  Unions can expand their conception of working class struggle to take on issues not only at the bargaining table, but also throughout the world that workers inhabit, something that is only becoming more necessary as those traditional rights are legally eroded.  With a larger financial infrastructure than most left organizations and the growing injection of labor into broad coalitions, they have the tools and membership to be active in directly undermining the radical right surge.  

 

IWW General Defense Committee

For many syndicalists, the IWW has been a centerpiece of this radical experiment for a century, starting as an alternative to the increasingly compromised AFL models of negotiated labor.  The IWW continues to explode at moments of contradiction, organizing that stretches models to the point of redefinition.  The non-contract campaigns of the Burgerville Workers Union, the prison organizing of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, and solidarity networks are windows into what is possible when the strictures shackling organized labor are ignored and the basic principles of organizing are opened up to the imagination.

It is no wonder that the IWW then looked to the past to rebuild a project that could extend the reach of the organization into the increasingly caustic world of tenancy, police violence, and insurrectionary racist threats.  The General Defense Committee (GDC) was first started in 1917 as a technically-separate organization from the broader IWW to take on issues like state repression of members around anti-war protests and during later red scares.  Because it was a legally separate entity, it could take some shelter from state attacks on the IWW that seemed imminent.  The GDC was brought back to take on issues that were not strictly workplace derived, and antifascist work has become the brand it is best known by.  The Twin Cities branch chartered a GDC in 2011, yet their antifascist committee started long before that as members had previous experience as founders of Anti-Racist Action in the 1980s and the Torch Network that is known for linking up Antifa organizations.  The GDC has grown to over 200 members with committees being chartered across the country.  

The Twin Cities GDC Local 14 started by confronting a 2012 appearance of David Irving, the notorious WWII historian turned Holocaust Denier, building the praxis that would instruct their later work.  As opposed to the close-knit and highly secretive format that describes most Antifa organizations, the GDC has used a “mass antifascist” approach.  This means focusing on bringing in large coalitions of people, generally being public about their image, and trying to do popular education and engagement.  This still results in the battle over “contested spaces,” music venues, public arenas, and college campuses.  This can also mean in direct engagement, forcing the neo-Nazis out of their speaking event or meeting spaces, but it is done through appeals to huge community contingents.  Mixing a radical analysis, direct action, and broad community involvement are the same principles that have made the Wobblies such a success in workplace organizing, and it those winning methods that they are using to turn entire neighborhoods and social networks into mass antifascist forces.  Since the rise of the Alt Right starting in 2015, the GDC has been present in almost every major action, from shutting down far-right agitator Milo Yiannoupolous in Seattle, De Paul, and the University of Wisconsin, challenging Infowars at the Republican National Convention, and shutting down fascist neofolk artists like Blood + Sun.  

 

Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective

In Portland, a group of trade unionists whose roots in militant antifascism went back thirty years came back to that anti-racist organizing by looking exactly at where they work.  In places like the Carpenters Union, workers were regularly forced to interact coworkers who were openly adorned with neo-Nazi iconography, such as portraits of Hitler in visible tattoos.  For many neo-Nazis who had been involved in skinhead gangs and were felons, building trade unions provided a pathway to a good and stable job that often shielded them from political fallout and did not penalize them for criminal histories.  Organizers from the Carpenters Local 1503, Ironworkers Local 29, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 10, and antifascist organizers came together to form the Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective (PNWAWC) to confront the influx of the far-right from inside of the labor movement.

One of PNWAWC’s key strategies was to put through antifascist resolutions in union locals whose membership may actually have some allegiances to white supremacist formations.  IUPAT Local 10 and the Carpenters Union Local 1503 passed this resolution, next attempting to build antifascist committees internal to the local.  IUPAT went as far as forming an Anti-Racist Mobilization Committee that will be used to get union members to support antiracist community actions and to reach out to other trade unions to do the same.  

Their work extends to antifascist strategies that are often well known to Antifa and Anti-Racist Action groups, which many of their members started in.  This includes organizing as a coalition with groups like Rose City Antifa to confront far-right assemblies, especially in “contested spaces,” refusing access.  Doxxing, information dissemination, and popular education are all a part of this, as well as committing many of their members to act as community defense and security in situations that could result in fascist intimidation.  After a local public-sector union had been hosting antifascist events from groups like the Portland Assembly and Demand Utopia, threats began coming down on the union hall.  When several alleged far-right agitators showed up, donning masks, the collective coordinated unionists and organizers to surround the building, refusing to allow them on the property.

 

Portland Labor Against Fascists

Many organizers with some relationship to PNWAWC came together to form the Portland Labor Against Fascists coalition to have a labor presence at the growing number of collisions between far-right rallies and the public.  When Patriot Prayer announced its June 4th rally despite the pleas of the city, including the Mayor’s office, multiple groups organized to surround the event.  On one side was a more mild-manner coalition of progressive groups brought together by the International Socialist Organization, while adjacent to the in the park was the united Antifa block.  On the south side of the far-right rally was the labor coalition, organized, in part, by Trotskyist organizations like the Internationalist Group and Class Struggle Workers, and with members from the various building trades as well as Amalgamated Transit Union 757, CWA 7901, and different AFL-CIO affiliates.  

The rhetoric here was simple: destroying the narrative that the Patriot militia and blue-collar white power groups have, that they are acting in the interests of the white working class.  With Ironworkers and IBEW electricians on the megaphones, they were able to speak to worker exploitation, not from “mass immigration” or affirmative action, but from mega-corporations that are crushing wages and collective bargaining.  Since some participants in the Alt Right come from those represented trades, hearing from people in the same professions and workplaces makes a difference. This has been the strategy of non-labor specific organizations like Redneck Revolt, who use the language of gun-rights and government mistrust to speak to the same crowd that the militia movement recruits from.

 

Labor’s Turn

As the cultural wave of reactionary anger turned into a Trump presidency, many in the broad labor movement were forced to speak up out of the crisis of circumstance.  With the heavy focus of Alt Right groups like Identity Europa on campus recruitment, student and faculty groups have found common cause in confronting their threat.  The Duke Graduate Student Union and the University of California Student Workers have come out to endorse student projects like the Campus Anti-Fascist Network, which is using a nationally coordinated approach to long-term mass antifascist movement building.  As Patriot Prayer’s event loomed on the horizon in Berkeley, a large coalition formed for the Bay Area Rally Against Hate that would link up a huge swath of community and labor organizations.  This again drew from unions with an association with education and college campuses, including the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFSCME Local 3299 (a UC Berkeley local), SEIU Local 1021, and UAW Local 2865, as well as a contingent of Berkeley student workers.  The Alameda Labor Council and San Francisco Labor Council both signed as endorsers, a success for such a highly partisan affair.  ILWU Local 10 was a leader in the effort to block Patriot Prayer, bringing out retired members who had joined the movement against South African apartheid in the 1980s.   IUPAT Local 10 voted in a resolution and public statement that put their full support behind the ILWU’s decision in the bay, saying that they take from their example “in the struggle for workers’ rights against racism, war, and police repression.”

While many large unions have avoided using the language of antifascism, there has been an impetus for many to rise up on the primary issues of racial victimization in the Trump era.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined the Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff in a “categorical rejection” of Islamophobia, and after the comments Trump made after the Charlottesville violence he decisively pulled out of the American Manufacturing Council.  Trumka is far from a radical unionist, but it shows the tone that is shifting inside large labor institutions.  In years past, the rhetoric of “America First” echoed into union halls as jobs were being offshored.  This attempt to stoke a subtle racism while mobilizing workers against de-industrialization lost them the ability to effectively fight the experiences of racism that workers face, and there are signs this decision is being reversed as they continue to lose ground with their attempts at class collaboration.  The movement by many unions, from UNITE HERE Local 2850 to National Union of Healthcare Workers, to become “sanctuary unions” is another turn, acknowledging the horror of ICE deportations that are entering into their member communities.  Local 2850 has been working to add protections for immigrants into contracts as well as going for local and statewide resolutions in support of their immigrant workforce.

The role of large labor organizations is more mixed than militant unions, but with their large memberships and financial infrastructure there are opportunities they can lend to antifascist movements.  This may end up more passive than anything, the allying of resources, buildings, and participation in coalitions, while leaving the more open antifascist work to organizers free from the strictures of non-profit status.  As unions have increasingly diverse membership, they will be pressured to stand up for the issues that fascist ideologues have owned, confronting mass deportations, the victimization of racial and gender minorities, and the increased threat that far-right politics represent to their membership.

The position of unions as a conceptual force is even more central as its mechanisms of class power are some of the most profound in history.  The ability to use solidarity to dethrone the authority in a workplace can be expanded to the community, and the mass base, the ability to strike and worker empowerment can all be pivoted to see not only institutional injustice, but also the insurrectionary violence of white supremacy, as a target.  Fascist politics splits the working class, a fragmentation that spells defeat in even the most class reductionist sense, and there is every reason for union members to be on the front lines.

Originally Published in the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review

We Stand With Tariq Khan

The trolling culture that has marked the Alt Right since 2015 has been treated with kid gloves by most media outlets, seeing it almost as a form of pranksterism that avoids the real cost and violence it has ensured.  On college campuses, Alt Right white nationalists are recruiting young men, often dissidents from College Republicans or Students for Trump organizations, leading them into a world of paranoid conspiracies, racial supremacism, and vigilante harassment and violence.  This hatred has been directed at marginalized students and faculty alike, forcing many to have to leave campus fearing for their life.  Recently, antifascist academic George Ciccariello-Maher had to leave the tenured position he earned at Drexel University after facing massive harassment from Alt Right and Alt Light groups, and teachers like Mark Bray, Mike Isaacsson, and many, many others have faced this kind of treatment.

It is exactly this type of unending harassment and threats that graduate student, educator, and organizer Tariq Khan of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign has faced.  The harassment against Khan has been laid town by the organization Turning Point USA, which is affiliated with Alt Right/Alt Light movements with close associations with white nationalism.  It’s media wing, Campus Reform, has been used to create a campaign of fear against Khan and his family, drawing in the Alt Light media sphere with places like Breitbart.

Tariq Khan has been smeared for his campus organizing, confronting hateful, white nationalist and far-right contingents on campus.  TP USA and far-right supporters began mischaracterizing Khan’s work immediately, framing him as aggressive and violent and publishing his personal information publicly.  The attacks on Khan have relied on racist and Islamophobic characterizations, further targeting him because of his Pakistani ethnic background.  This further builds on TP USA’s shameful use of populist Islamophobic anger, a tool that has been successful for them in drawing in angry white recruits.  The public campaign against Khan and his family has reached a fever pitch, with articles and posts being sent out by people like former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci.  For people of wealth, power, and privilege, they are using racist attacks to brutalize a struggling teacher who is standing up against racist violence.  Khan is also an Airforce veteran, something that the far-right desperately wants to ignore as they use Islamophobic slurs to create an insufferable picture of his life.

As the Campus Antifascist Network has pointed out, this campaign by the Alt Right has also turned it’s attention to the history department in which he studies.

The Department of History at UIUC has also been harassed since this incident. TPUSA/Campus Reform posted links to the department’s public website with Khan’s contact information. Khan and others in the department have since received threatening and harassing emails, including death threats, threats of physical violence, and racist and Islamophobic language. These threats were reported to the University Police by Khan and by department faculty. For his own protection, Khan has been forced to withdraw from academic spaces, even removing his email address from the department website, at the expense of future career prospects.

It is questionable whether Khan and his partner will be able to continue their studies uninterrupted, putting their dreams on hold until racists can stop making harassment their pet cause.  This is disgusting, and it is not something we are going to stand by and just let happen.  Khan is a respected academic and scholar, a celebrated educator, a committed student, and an amazing father and husband.  We will not allow college campuses to be the killing fields for Alt Right terror, and we stand with Khan and anyone else who has been victimized by this kind of threat.

We will be standing with Tariq Khan and doing whatever is possible to support him in the organizing against this injustice.

Khan has asked three things of people to help, and we call on people to join in and give this support:

1. I need good leftist journalists to cover what is happening to me.
2. I need a lot of people to call or write in to the university’s Office of Student Conflict Resolution to respectfully but firmly demand that they drop all charges against me.
3. I need organizations to put out public statements of support for me: statements which include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.

1. The far-right fake outrage machine has been vilifying me all over the place. High profile spokesmen of the worst, most racist elements of the far right such as anti-immigration zealot Lou Dobbs, short-lived Trump White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci, conspiracy peddler Alex Jones, and fascist “Proud Boy” Gavin McGinnis among others have been publicly vilifying me, and spreading TPUSA’s dishonest narrative to smear me all over the internet because of my openly anti-fascist politics.

At the same time this is all going on, the far right has mobilized its online troll army to bombard my department and university administration with demands I be harshly punished, fired, expelled, arrested, killed, etc., and when university administrators look it up to find information, there are only far-right narratives for them to refer to. The university discipline officer who is treating me as a criminal is using as his main piece of evidence a video with a TPUSA logo on it. Think about that for a moment. Further, the way the university discipline system is set up, he acts as both the prosecutor and the judge. He was thoroughly unconcerned about the fact that a TPUSA member with a known history of stalking and harassing people made a veiled threat against my children. My attorney was not allowed to represent me in the university system. The Office of Student Conflict Resolution decided I was guilty before I ever even got a chance to defend myself, and when I was making my statement to him, he cut me off before I was even a quarter of the way through to tell me he doesn’t have time for all that. In other words, I was not afforded even a fair hearing.

Despite the attacks against me from high profile mouthpieces of the far right, no high-profile counter-narrative has emerged in the media. When university administrators get these emails and calls about me from the alt right’s troll army, they look it up online and only find the far right’s narrative. There is nothing out there challenging that narrative. Not a single story. No reporter, other than a couple of shady right-wing propagandists who I won’t talk to, has even contacted me about this for a story. The result is that the right wing has control over this narrative, and that narrative is what the cowardly, narrow-minded university administrators are now treating as the truth. This has left me isolated and vulnerable to university “discipline” which could potentially make it impossible for me to qualify for funding to finish my dissertation and cut my academic career short before it has even started. I need a counter-narrative to emerge in the media. There are plenty of great leftist journalists out there who I am friends with or friends of friends with. I need you to cover this story. I need more than one of you to cover this story.

2. I need people (as individuals or as organizations) to write in respectfully but firmly to pressure the OSCR to drop all charges against me unconditionally. My labor union, the Graduate Employment Organization did this already, but one email is easy to ignore, especially when there are hundreds of emails from the far right demanding the opposite. I need as many people as possible to write to the Assistant Dean of Students and the Associate Dean of Students to let them know that the charges they have against me are unjust, and that they need to send a clear message to the “alt-right” fascist TPUSA bullies on campus and the larger right-wing outrage machine by dropping all charges against me unconditionally. Also demand they issue a public apology to me and my family (and my children who a TPUSA member threatened, which is what sparked this entire episode) for the OSCR’s complicity in carrying out TPUSA’s malicious agenda.
Assistant Dean of Students, Rony Die: ronydie@illinois.edu
Associate Dean of Students, Justin Brown: justbrow@illinois.edu

3. I need organizations to publicly post statements of support for me. Don’t just send them to me privately. Private statement are nice and I appreciate them, but they don’t do anything to challenge the right’s very public vilification of me, which is what I need right now. Statements should include a) statement of support for me, b) condemnation of TPUSA and the far right’s campaign of vilification, racist harassment, and threats against me and my children, c) condemnation of the university administration’s complicity in the far right’s campaign to hurt me, and d) demand that the university drop all charges against me unconditionally.

I appreciate the extraordinary amount of support I have received so far in the form of donations to my legal defense fund, kind words, letters of support, and other acts of kindness. Several people have asked me what they can do to help. These three things are what I need right now. Solidarity.
– Tariq Khan

When Putsch Comes to Shove: Mass Action, Punching Nazis, and Stopping Them Before They Grow

By Jeff Shantz

Times of rising fascism are periods of open, brutal, class war (where the sheets literally slip off). Events of the last year show the desperate need for working class self defense of our communities.

One can learn some useful lessons on the need to treat proto-fascist mobilization harshly and with concerted action, before it grows, in the putting down of the Kapp Putsch in Berlin in 1920, under conditions of Weimar democracy, and two years before Hitler’s own Beer Hall Putsch. One might also ask what contributed to the decisive mass actions of the German working class that did not see a similar response to a fascist push in 1932 when the Nazis successfully broke the resistance (a resistance that never really crystallized for specific reasons we should understand. And what does it say to us about the fight against fascism today?

The Kapp Putsch was an early attempt by the proto-fascist Rightwing in Germany to make a show of strength and to overthrow the liberal Weimar Republic and institute an authoritarian Rightwing government. The revolt in March of 1920 was led by Wolfgang Kapp who was the founder of the far Right Fatherland Party and by General von Luttwitz. The putsch leaders were motivated by their resentment at the conditions of the Versailles settlement to end World War One, a resentment that motivated the Nazis as well and which was shared by many Germans. Notably, von Luttwitz’s Erhardt Brigade used as its primary symbol none other than the swastika. Like later fascist groups, including ones today, Kapp’s Fatherland Party claimed to be beyond politics, above the political fray (neither Left nor Right in today’s terms). The force for the rising was the Freikorps, the precursor to the Brownshirts.

Of some note, the fading of the workers’ and solders’ councils that had played crucial parts in the rebellions of 1918 and 1919 (the Bavarian Council Republic, etc.) played a major part in creating a context where the Rightists thought they could act. The need for compromise seemed diminished to them. They miscalculated. The German working class, and its organizations were united and militant.

In 1920, 1,700,000 German workers went on strike in order to defeat proto-fascism and the far Right but also to push past the limits of the Social Democrats. The working class found unity in its response to the far Right mobilization. The Kapp Putsch was frustrated fundamentally, fatally as workers in various regions went on general strikes. There was organizational development and there were spaces for development of ideas and debates over strategy and tactics on a large scale.

The state showed its true colors as only one participant in this armed Rightwing uprising against the government faced any jail time. And the judges gave him a break because of his “selfless patriotism.”

In Germany in the 1920s the working class was well organized and had a decent understanding of what fascism and violent Rightwing populism meant. By the mid-1930s they had been brought to despair and the institutions of the social democratic Left had played a major part in that. In 1920 at the time of the Kapp Putsch, the Social Democrats seemed to offer people a better life and an alternative to the misery of capitalism and war. This was not so by 1932 at the time of another fascist coup attempt, this time in Prussia.

The German Social Democratic Party, the ruling “socialist” party that had previously come to the aid of the German bourgeoisie in putting down the anarchist and communist uprisings of 1918 and 1919, from the 1920s onward had been at work implementing austerity policies and turning workers away from their class interests (toward phoney national ones). By 1932 German workers had less reason to defend the Social Democrats when the came under attack from the far Right. This politics also allowed some ground for the communist critique of the Social Democrats as “social fascists,” the fatal line of the Communist International. The austerity attacks on the working class allowed for a split of the Social Democrats and the Communist Party. This contributed to the context that allowed the Nazis to rise.

It was the failure of the Social Democrats, and the Left broadly, to provide any alternative to capitalist conditions and to address the desires of the working class for better lives, that motivated much of the work of radical psychoanalyst and libertarian communist Wilhelm Reich in his attempt to understand the mass psychology of fascism. For Reich, the Left bore some responsibility in not developing policies and practices that connected with working class desire. This allowed some to turn to the Right while simultaneously weakening the resolve of many to fight. What was the Left fighting for after all.

In 1932, rank-and-file members of the Reichsbanner were armed and ready for an uprising against the Rightwing government that was about to cede power to Hitler and the Nazis. It would have changed history. But the legalistic Social Democratic leadership prevented it.

In the account provided by historian Richard J. Evans:

“In the situation of July 1932, when Hindenburg, the military leadership and the conservatives were all extremely anxious to avoid provoking a civil war in Germany, an armed uprising by the Reichsbanner might have forced a climb down by Papen, or an intervention by the Reich President. One can never know. The call to resist never came. The law-abiding traditions of the Social Democrats compelled them to put a ban on any armed resistance to an act that was sanctioned by the head of state and the legally constituted government, backed by the armed forces and not opposed by the police.” (2003, 286)

 

As Evans puts it further:

“After 20 July 1932 the only realistic alternatives were a Nazi dictatorship or a conservative, authoritarian regime backed by the army. The absence of any serious resistance on the part of the Social Democrats, the principle remaining defenders of democracy, was decisive. It convinced both conservatives and National Socialists that the destruction of democratic institutions could be achieved without any serious opposition.” (2003, 287)

The communists proposed a united front with social democracy for a general strike. The working classes were in favor of a general strike. The social democratic workers, however, did not go against social democracy. The Communist Knorin (by no means a pristine source to be sure) suggested in 1934 that even limited resistance to preserve Weimer democracy (far from proletarian revolution) would have compelled the fascists to retreat and in denying the fascists power would have contributed to their collapse. It may have won over some of their soft base of support in the middle strata and  peasantry.

Even in January of 1930 there was a chance, though conditions were already not as favorable for the working class resistance. Then, too, the Social Democrats worked to prevent a general strike and opposed a communist demonstration.

In 1920, the unions and the socialists worked together to put down the proto-fascist coup, despite its support by the armed forces. By 1932 that unity was gone. A year or so later so was the Left and so was the possibility of a successful anti-Nazi resistance. By then the only option would be military.

 

Disarming Resistance and the Fatal Illusions of Electoralism

The German working class in the 1920s and 1930s was the most powerful, armed working class (non-statist) force in the industrial West. Yet in the 1930s the Social Democrats disarmed or stood down the armed wing of the working class and the party. This was true in Austria as well as in Germany. These forces outnumbered and could have outgunned the fascists at crucial points in the 1930s.

The disarming of the socialist armed wings was related to the electoral illusions of the Social Democrats and gives us some lessons on the dangers of electoralism as an approach to fascism. The Social Democratic Party was concerned with its electoral chances and wanted to maintain an image of respectability as means to election success. A futile, and historically fatal pursuit.

Thus they shut down the force that could have defeated the fascists in the baseless hope that they could achieve an electoral path to marginalizing the Nazis. It bears little additional discussion but to note that this electoral strategy was disastrous.

And it remains so today. One can see hints of it though in liberal attacks on ANTIFA and appeals to vote Democrats into power as if no lessons have been learned about how liberal centrism might work to stem the growth of angry Rightwing resentment and white supremacist mobilization. And note too that this plays neatly into ongoing projects of neoliberal social war. So-called mainstream conservatives are even calling for elections of Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections and we can refer too to neoliberal conservatives who sided with Doug Jones against the repugnant Republican Roy Moore (or at least offered write in votes rather than support him) as evidence of a new Rightist centrist (actually quite far Right itself) consensus using Trump to move politics further Rightward along with neoliberal Democrats.

The Democratic centrism under Clinton already played a part in the unlikely election of Trump of course. And the Democrats continue to provide only more of neoliberal desperation and despair that fuels Rightwing and white working class resentment and anger (with racism and patriarchalism too of course). And this could serve to broaden susceptibility to Rightwing appeals (as being the only real, possible, realistic alternative).

Now is a period of economic and political crisis. People are looking for answers. That is partly why Trump could get elected in the first place. The search for answers in a time of crisis does not always yield the best answers. People sick of the usual approaches will look outside the usual frames of politics. Democratic-patriotic and pacifist-patriotic appeals are fatal now as they were under the German Social Democrats.

 

Charlottesville and Since

In the period of 1920 to 1932 antifascism had a mass movement and strength that does not exist today. The movement is more marginalized and is by no means a mass movement with broad connections to large sections of the exploited and oppressed.

Charlottesville represented an attempt of the alt-Right to show their overall strength in one place. This was no putsch. It was merely an effort by a fascist Rightwing, feeling emboldened in the first year of the Trump presidency to come out publicly, provide a rallying point for fellow travellers there and elsewhere in the United States, and show some sign of hoped for unity and strength. But it actually showed the relatively minor significance and limited capacity of fascist forces in the US right now. The alt-Rightists picked what they thought was the best place at the best time. They sought a concentrated level of public action, one where their forces would hold a critical mass. But the response against them in Charlottesville and in cities all over the US showed how marginal they are.

And it also showed the strength and appeal of anti-fascism and what might be called the Left (however this might be conceived broadly as anarchist, socialist, communist, etc.).  This was a testament to the courageous action of people in Charlottesville opposing the fascists and of the organizing work done there. It showed the necessity and effectiveness of shoving the fascists off the stage. It did not come without a terrible cost, of course, as fascists killed Heather Hayer and injured others.

Even with a president who is sympathetic to them the fascists in the United States are not having the attraction and base that the antifascists (and the Left more broadly) are. Indeed the broad Left, and the radical anti-capitalists and anti-statists associated with it, are finding perhaps the greatest attraction they have had in generations.

A problem for the far Rightwing is that they do not have a class constituency that they can appeal to. Capital certainly cannot and will not meet peoples’ needs. The alt-Right appeals, as fascist have historically, to the disaffected middle strata, the declasse who feel pinched by capital and by organized labor. In today’s context they are a component of the middle strata who view themselves as  entrepreneurs or artisans (new tech workers, etc.) who feel deprived of the American Dream promised them as they toil in service sector work or the “gig economy.”

Some move to the far Right over a belief that they have to compete over the little that is still available in a context of austerity and social scarcity. And there is a danger that more of the white  working class can be moved to the far Right as the supposed electoral alternative of the Democratic Party continues to offer the neoliberal “no alternativism” and “lesserevilism” they put forward in the figure of Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Fascism is not at a [point where it will take power any time soon. Capital permits fascists to take power when they feel there is some pressing need for it. Right now they have no need to invest in that kind of unruly and unpredictable power. The regular mechanisms of neoliberalism are still working to repress, regulate, and control the working class and resistance movements.

In the 1920s and 1930s, fascism always rose up after a failed socialist or communist revolution. Or failed republicanism in the case of Spain.

 

Overcoming the Psychological Fundamentalism of Non-Violence

Some have expressed a squeamishness about using violence against fascists today. Debates have broken out over the desirability of punching fascists. These are largely tedious. There should be little controversy over the fact that fascists should be punched wherever and whenever they appear. While some might suggest that this is not enough and more needs to be done the answer is, yes, of course. Part of the discussion here is that mass direct action is necessary against mobilizations of fascists—particularly where they grow beyond what they are now. Building that larger anti-fascist base is essential. It does not change the fact that punching fascists is right and proper.   

Opposing and overcoming—putting down—fascism and fascist movements in  the present period will, of necessity, require overcoming and opposing the prejudices of non-violence and the ingrained, socialized, commitment to non-violence in strategies, tactics, and organizing with social movements. This fundamentalist, almost religious, commitment to non-violence, an essential feature in keeping dominated populations pacified and manageable, has infected social resistance movements within liberal democracies like Canada and the United States.

This commitment takes on a psychological (rather than strictly tactical or strategic) aspect—structuring visions of justice, perceptions of legitimacy of action, and understandings of proper or appropriate resistance behavior. It shows how we view ourselves and how we might act in the world to change the world. And it has come to be used as a moral-psychological bludgeon to attack and condemn those within our movements and communities who would pursue other means—direct action and self defense.

This fundamentalist approach to non-violence not only serves to buttress the state and its institutions of domination and control—the true source of social violence, indeed the monopolists of violence in society. It also serves to keep us vulnerable and unprotected against vigilantes of the Right—those who have no qualms about using violence and are often formally trained in the use of violence through military or police training, etc.

Make no mistake—states have no hesitation in deploying violence against movements of the exploited and oppressed. And neither do Rightists who side with the institutions of authority. And the Rightists (militias, “patriots,” Minutemen, survivalists, etc.) are way ahead of progressive forces in terms of training, equipment, and, crucially, the psychological readiness and preparedness to use force against us. We have a lot of work to do to train ourselves and to ready our minds to act, to overcome our socialized and internalized, habitual, non-violence.

Capitalism is always violence. Fascism is a more desperate, unburdened attempt to break resistance. We must understand issues of state imposed violence and repression in relation to fascism.

The state can always turn to fascism for its own aims. White supremacy already relates to racist criminalization and the policing of racialized people and communities. There is a connection to anti-terror laws, programs, and fear politics. These practices have been deployed to target migrant groups and also to break resistance movements and groups and we need to understand that.

Non-violence and legalism go hand in hand. In the face of fascist risings, even in early periods, they are disastrous.

 

Conclusion

The lessons of history, the working class response to the Kapp Putsch in particular, shows the necessity and capacity of mass direct action to put down fascists and fascism early. It shows the effectiveness of such action. And it shows the rightness of it. Regardless of what the moralists of non-violence might suggest.

At the same time another lesson is provided by the subsequent disarming of the working class in Germany and Austria by the Social Democrats. This took away the real working class force that could have overcome the Brownshirts through overwhelming force and defended communities under attack by the fascists. In the absence of this force—again, disarmed by its own would-be leaders and nobody else—those communities were left without adequate defense. We know the outcome. And no moralists of non-violence can change that. That is why anti-fascists insist on punching Nazis, And why we need more.

At the time of the Kapp Putsch the proto-fascist and far Right forces were much larger, stronger, and better organized than the proto-fascsists are today in the United States and Canada. And by quite a bit. They had already had the experience of violently suppressing the workers’ uprisings of 1918 and 1919. They had given the government something to fear. Still, the mass direct action and militant response of the working class in 1920 was able to put down the rising of the Freikorps in 1920.

The basis of antifascist resistance is that we are stronger together. The emphasis is not scarcity but sharing and caring together. A promise of some abundance and security rather than scarcity and precarity. Our strength remains in solidarity and committed, principled action together with a focus on defeating fascism and white supremacy. Our tactics can be diverse. Our goal, as in 1920, is united.

Fascists always target unions and labor organizations. We need to understand this. If it is not defeated definitively it will grow. People can and will turn to fascism out of desperation and a sense that there are no other options.

Of course the current working class and working class organizations (notably unions) in the United States and Canada have no mass based militance, no armed capacities, and few experiences of street fighting resistance. Perhaps more to the point, they have no organized self defense groupings. This is true even in US states where gun possession is accepted and regular activity and in open carry states where a public display of armed working class self defense could be made. Ironically perhaps there is an inverse correspondence between union membership and open carry laws as many open carry states are also highly anti-union and with “right to work” laws in place as well as open carry laws.

 

Further Reading

Evans, Richard J. 2003. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin

Knorin, V. 1934. Fascism, Social-Democracy and the Communists. New York: Workers Library Publishers

Autonomist Antifascism: An Interview With Kevin Van Meter

This is an interview with Kevin Van Meter, the author of the new book Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible.  Van Meter draws on the Autonomist Marxist tradition to discuss how the concept of “everyday resistance” can inform antifascist struggle.

Pick up Guerrillas of Desire from AK Press.

 

AFN: You have written about the fragmentary position of the left, especially the state of the labor movement and the changing tide of class consciousness and composition. What do you think left and revolutionary organizations should do now?

 

Kevin Van Meter: I think it is remarkable to note that the labor movement predates things like the 1886 Haymarket Massacre. It really goes back to the 1850s in the United States and Europe. It took capitalism a hundred and seventy-five years to smash the labor movement. From it’s rise and development, the formation of the American Federation of Labor, from the development of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in 1905 and its initial suppression in the 1920s. But we have never had a weaker labor movement than we have right now, and it took capitalism a fucking long time to destroy it. That is remarkable and worthy of our attention.

With that said, the activities which lead to the formation of the IWW, the rise of feminist consciousness raising collectives, of the Black Panthers, and similar formulations was the expression of prior forms of self-activity, which the left and labor in our contemporary period ignore. I make this claim in Guerillas of Desire that left organizing assumes that the people are unorganized and not resisting in their everyday lives. I think I’ve shown empirically that this assumption is unfounded. Any good union organizer is going tell you when they walk into the shop for the first time they want to see where those existing power relationships are. Who’s the trusted worker that fellow workers talk to when looking for advice? Who is taking really long bathroom breaks? Who is punching in their drunk friend? These forms of organization, communication, and resistance are already taking place.

I open Guerillas of Desire with a story about how I went on a job interview with Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known by it’s acronym ACORN. We knocked on doors to get people to sign our petition, give donations, and support legislation around getting child care. Well, it is a fundamentally different thing when you’re going around knocking on doors asking for the state to provide child care than to actually acknowledge that the people who are surviving under very difficult circumstances and are, in fact, already addressing the childcare needs in informal ways. The question should instead be about how we can assist people so that they can survive more efficiently and have a better quality of life […] from those initial methods of survival to something that’s expressed on a higher level of organization or composition. So I would argue that it’s a fundamentally different thing to demand that the state provide child care than to organize child care collectives or take existing survival methods of child care and further organize them to a higher level and then make the state pay for it. Those are not the same thing. The first is how the left behaves regularly, leading to chagrin and failure. The second is the road that is not regularly taken, to see the existing forms of self-activity and everyday resistance as the real core of effective organizing.

I’m interested in how we further struggles, how we circulate struggles, and how we understand how particular communities are surviving. Even under the horrible fucking conditions of the capitalist state and the massive deprivation of resources. So we need to understand that and to then internalize what those communities’ needs and desires actually are. Maybe they need and desire revolutionary organization or maybe they need a “survival pending revolution” programs. Who are we to decide ahead of time? Where do our needs to reproduce ourselves connect the needs for other people to reproduce themselves […] for education, for housing, for childcare, and other necessities. We also need to put the reproduction of our movements and the self-reproduction of the class on our political agenda. Those are two important questions.

 

 

AFN: How do you think the concept of “everyday resistance” applied to antifascist struggle?

 

KVM: I think these new antifascist formations must connect to the self-activity of the working class, and then we hear of projects like Redneck Revolt or the Bastards Motorcycle Club that argue just this. These things actually are emerging out of existing working class formations and new working-class organizations are forming. These new antifascist projects are coming out of some existing social sphere, so the question is what that sphere is. What things are taking place in our communities that could provide new approaches?

These antifascist groups are also going to have to address their own self-reproduction of their members and their own survival. If that is slush funds for legal counsel, if that is safe houses for organizers and marginalized people, if that’s creating infrastructure, those are all important. One of the lessons I learned from the “Green Scare” is the density and strength of social relationships among the thousands brought to revolutionary activities, and then the movements relationship to the larger community, is vitally important.  Because you want the larger community to come to the defense of antifascist forces when they’re under attack, you need that connection.  It’s one thing for someone to say they support person “X” because they’re an antifascist. It’s a totally other thing for them to say they support a particular individual, a member of their community that they know intimately. That is a different kind of social relationship. We’re going to have to consider those and I think what’s exciting about the new formulations that are coming out, like Redneck Revolt, is that they are coming out of a different social relationship and community than we often have had in the past.

I mean we have to ask ourselves what else is coming out of that community. What kind of working class needs and desires are being expressed in other ways that might not be antifascist, but are still critically important.  Something simply like “survival pending revolution” programs, these could be educational projects or workplace organizing, it could be a referral service for collective houses. All kinds of projects that meet the needs of that community. Antifascist work is just one of those needs, but not the whole need. The mistake would be to only look at what’s coming out of antifascist activity and not all the needs and projects that are emerging.  Other things are coming out to they might not be expressed yet, that aren’t fully formed, but still will be where the needs, activity, and consciousness of the class is at.

 

AFN: How do you think the broad resistance to Trump and Trumpism plays out in this context?

 

KVM: I think that’s also dangerous because that’s focusing on an abstract enemy instead of the kinds of struggles that are actually taking place.

 

We have rising rent in a lot of places. We have the eroding structure of the welfare state. People are surviving in some way, and we don’t really know what that looks like.   How do we connect the needs with the projects people are creating to survive so we can further develop alternatives to capitalism? Community gardens, alternative schools, or other projects people create to just survive. And I think we need to ask some of these larger questions.

Also, and this is more theoretical, but in fact the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress are, in fact, the same desire. We have this terrible idea that “fascist bad,” “lefties good.” But there are fascistic desires that exist that circulate. For example, the anti-Semitism currently being expressed by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire. Anti-trans politics (i.e. TERFs) by certain sectors of the left is a fascistic desire.  It’s a desire to oppress and I think what we need to ask ourselves how is the desire to liberate and the desire to oppress emerging and formulated in such a way to create different kinds of power relationships and organizational forms. I think we have to constantly ask ourselves where the desire to repress is coming from and how it is manifesting.