Category Archives: International

Community Action: Anti-Trans Speaker with Ties to Soldiers of Odin and Proud Boys Set to Speak in Vancouver on June 23

By Jeff Shantz

The University of British Columbia appears to be at it again. Mere months after hosting far-right speaker Ben Shapiro, and agreeing to host far-right figures Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern—an event that was eventually cancelled after community mobilization and outcry—the elite Vancouver university is going ahead with a talk by an anti-trans activist, Jenn Smith, with various ties to far-right groups like the Soldiers of Odin, Proud Boys, and Culture Guard. He event is scheduled for the evening of June 23, 2019. Smith has even used Soldiers of Odin as “bodyguards” at preceding events.

Smith’s talk is directed against the British Columbia educational system’s LGBTQ2-inclusive and supportive program SOGI 123 (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). Smith, “a 54 year-old transgender identified male” who uses his identity to target the trans communities is slated to speak as well against “transgender ideology” and “transgender politics.” Smith has stated “that men cannot be women (and vice versa), no matter how much they pretty themselves up.” Transphobic, anti-trans politics, have been long connected to contemporary far Right movements and viewpoints.

In response, UBC says it will rely on the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the colonial police force that was recently involved in the racial profiling of a Black graduate student at a major academic congress on UBC’s campus). The RCMP is itself a force of settler colonial domination and white supremacy. Many people are not made to fee safe by its presence. This is in addition to the threat posed by the far Right groups who have accompanied Smith previously. The perspectives being pushed by Smith make communities, schools, and workplaces more dangerous and threatening, especially for transgender students.

As was the case for the Shapiro and Molyneux and Southern events, Smith’s scheduled appearance is being opposed by UBC Students Against Bigotry and other community members. Community outrage managed to get other scheduled Smith talks cancelled at Douglas College in Metro Vancouver and Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia.

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PEGIDA Racists Rally Again in Toronto, Confronted by Antifascsists, May 4, 2019

By Jeff Shantz

Anti-fascists in Toronto had to mobilize once more to oppose far Right racists PEGIDA (the “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes”) who organized an anti-Muslim, anti-refugee rally at University Avenue and Armoury Street in the city’s downtown. Fascists were present from a range of groups, including Wolves of Odin, Soldiers of Odin, Canadian Combat Coalition and Northern Guard.

Part of a larger international network, PEGIDA is one of the most publicly active of the new far Right groups mobilizing anti-Muslim hate in the Canadian context. They began organizing demonstrations in Quebec in 2015 and have been a regular presence in several cities in Canada since. They hold monthly rotating rallies in Toronto and London, Ontario. Their rallies have been a magnet for neo-fascist individuals and groups, including the Northern Guard, Proud Boys, and the armed anti-Muslim Three Percenter militia.

An estimated 80 antifascists showed up to confront the 20 or so fascists. Toronto police again operated to provide the fascists a space to spew their hate. And spew they did. Someone from the fascist crowd set off a smoke bomb. This is something that so-called yellow vests protesters have taken to doing at small demonstrations at highway overpasses near Toronto. Andre Ch (Canadian Nationalist Party), Derek Storie/Rick Boswick (Yellow Vests), and members of Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys, and other Nationalist Party members were also involved in burning a Quran.

The fascists also tried to attack antifascists using their flag poles as weapons to do so. Toronto police, unsurprisingly, did nothing to stop that. They did however deploy violence against the antifascists reportedly using their police bikes to strike at antifascists.

The antifascists did manage to keep the fascists from marching. They remained confined to the space provided by and protected by police.

Given the recurrence of PEGIDA rallies in Canada, and Ontario in particular, much organizing remains to keep them from mobilizing.

TRUMP’S BETRAYAL OF SYRIA – PARIS COMMUNE FALLS AGAIN?

By David Van Deusen

December 22, 2018, Vermont -As an American, as a Vermonter, and as a Labor leader I have marched many times against US lead wars.  However, I do not oppose wars and US military action because I assert war as always unjust and always unnecessary.  I am not philosophically a Kantian; this is not a moral imperative for me. I am also no liberal. If truth be told it was only through war and armed conflict that Vermont and the United States became republics free from the British Empire. And like the US, Ireland would still be an exploited outpost in the same empire if it were not for the force of arms demonstrated by the IRA. Cuba, today, without their victorious 1959 revolution, likewise would remain an economic colony of America.  And further, it was only through the Allied war effort that Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy & their murderous ideologies were crushed for generations. But since my birth, from the Vietnam War, to armed interventions against Latin America, up through the invasion of Iraq, I am hard pressed to find a US military intervention that, by purpose or accident, carried with it an intrinsic moral clarity; rather contemporary US military action time and again has been launched to serve the interests of corporations and a tiny minority of wealthy elite.

For these reasons I was proud to serve as a Vermont AFL-CIO officer when we were aligned with US Labor Against The War, and when our Unions called for the rapid withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq.  I was also proud to have helped write the Vermont AFL-CIO resolution stating our solidarity with the Longshoremen when they conducted a one day strike, shutting down West Coast ports as an act of resistance against the Iraq War. And even now I am supportive of calls coming to finally end the generation-long war in Afghanistan.  But again, I do not condemn such military actions because I am a pacifist or because I am rejecting the notion of war in and of itself. I do so because I judge the conflicts which the US engages in, much more often than not, as wrong and immoral based on the specific facts and specific interests being served by these imperialistic conflicts.

For some years now the United States has provided arms and limited Special Forces support (now 2000 boots on the ground) to the Kurdish lead YPG/YPJ in Syria.  The YPG/YPJ has used these arms to extend their control over most of northern Syria. They have effectively engaged ISIS, driving them out of the north. They have also held the dictatorship at bay (and they have brought a relative stability to this region of Syria).   But what deserves our respect is not simply their military prowess, but rather the type of society which they seek to create in liberated areas. They hold socialist tendencies, but what sets them apart is their desire to organize their world according to directly democratic means; something like a secular, decentralized, Town Meeting system where all the people have an actual voice and an unabstracted vote concerning the issues that face them as a people and as a community.  Here they take political influence from the Vermont anarchist sociologist Murray Bookchin. Their vision, similar to that espoused by the EZLN & the Zapatistas (Chiapas, Mexico), is as far reaching as that which was dreamed of on CNT/FAI barricades in Spain from 1936-1939. Their fight has parallels to Mahkno and his brigades in the Ukraine in 1919. They do not fight for an ethic Kurdish state, but rather for a new social formation whereby the individual and the community collectively control the world in which they live.  Their dreams, perhaps, are not dissimilar to those who manned the walls of the Paris in 1871. And to this very point in time, remarkably, they have been winning.

The historical significance of what they have been achieving in Rojava (northern Syria) has not been lost on those in other nations who also can imagine what a truly democratic and equitable society could look like.  Presently hundreds, if not thousands, of regular working people (Americans included) have made the difficult journey to Syria in order stand with them, rifle in hand, to fight for this common dream. And many have died defending this dream from ISIS, from Turkey, and from those who instead seek the domination and brutality of a misguided & twisted Islamic state or the repression which a dictatorship or new form of fascism brings in its wake.  And still they fight, and still they organize a direct democracy, composed of Kurds & Arabs, in the lands which they have freed.

And now, our own (so called) President Donald Trump has announced his intent to withdraw the 2000 brave American troops currently deployed in this region (and who by circumstance fight with honor alongside YPG/YPJ).  And even tonight, Turkey stands in wait, sharpening their swords…

But given the long history of the US imperialism and economic subjugation, why has the US supported them?  Some would argue that the very presence of US guns mark the YPG/YPJ as no more than pawns of a morally questionable US foreign policy.  Some would say they are dupes of the CIA. After all, why would the US elite support a revolution which seeks to topple the exploitive American capitalism which underpins the old world order (and which continues to sell out American and foreign workers alike)?  How can this be? The answer is simple… The United States has supported this revolution because YPG/YPJ are fiercely opposed to ISIS and are effective fighters. The US therefore has acted on the premise that the enemy of my enemy is my friend (at least for a time).  

No one should be under any illusion that the US ruling class has supported the YPG/YPJ because they approve of the cooperative democratic society which they seek to create.  The ruling elite of the US (Republican & Democrat) would be perfectly happy supporting an authoritarian dictator as long as such a strongman would support America’s perceived long term economic and strategic interests.  But as it turns out, few in northern Syria were or are willing to engage in a protracted fight just to see the deck chairs of authoritarian politics rearranged. But the people have been willing to fight (and die) for something much more far reaching.  And this has transformed the YPG/YPJ into something far more significant than a regional militia; it has made them into a multi-ethnic force capable of constantly beating back ISIS and other reactionary elements in Syria. And for America, the short term aim was always to diminish ISIS.   Here, as the YPG/YPJ was compelled to face existential enemies on all fronts, they were glad to accept guns and logistical support from wherever they would come. When a man’s house is on fire he does not stop to ask the politics of the one who hands him a bucket of water. If that bucket comes from a Republican, it does not make him a Republican. Thus the US support for the YPG/YPJ was nothing more than a temporary marriage of convenience, and the YPG/YPJ are not defined by the politics (and motivations) of those that offer them material aid.          

But now, after the YPG/YPJ has diminished ISIS and pushed them into more remote areas, Trump has grown tired of this marriage and his Administration’s true face has begun to look up to again reveal its twisted contours.  Trump would have American troops evacuate in order to turn their attention to other more sinister projects (such as those transpiring on our southern border). And no matter that the second largest army in NATO (the increasingly Islamic-Fascist Turks) have announced their desire to launch invasions of northern Syria with the sole aim of crushing this experiment in direct democracy, the United States of America is preparing to look the other way.  The reactionary government of Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, views the YPG/YPJ as a treat in that they represent an alternative not only for Syria but also for Turkey. Further driving Ankara’s genocidal ambitions, is the government’s view of the YPG/YPJ as having close links to the armed PKK (which operates within Kurdish-Turkey and which shares similar politics with their Syrian cousins). What gives Erdoğan & the Turks pause, for now, is the presence of American troops.  Once this deterrent is removed, it is hard to envision a chain of events which does not include a devastating invasion of this island of hope, this city on the hill overlooking the chaos that is the Middle East.  And no matter how America got there, once America leaves Trump will own the history that follows. If the Paris Commune must fall again let it be known that the invaders were enabled by a country which once called itself great.       

 

In Solidarity with the YPG/YPJ & The Struggle in Rojava,

David Van Deusen, District Vice President of the Vermont AFL-CIO

 

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What follows is a link to the resolution passed by the Green Mountain Central Labor Council of the Vermont AFL-CIO in support of the YPG/YPJ and the struggle in Rojava.  This resolution was passed in February of 2018:

https://vt.aflcio.org/green-mountain-labor-council/news/solidarity-struggle-rojava

Far Right Yellow Vests Convoy Rolls into Ottawa: Met with Resistance

By Jeff Shantz

On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, a convoy made up of hundreds of semi-trucks, pickups, cars, and buses rolled into Ottawa for a protest against the Liberal federal government. Dubbed the United We Roll Convoy, the protest originated in Alberta ostensibly to protest the federal government’s policies on the oil industry and to call for new oil pipelines and extractives industry developments. However, the convoy and protest were made up largely of people associated with the far Right “Yellow Vests” movement in Canada (the original name of the convoy was the “Yellow Vest Convoy”—changed to cover up that connection). The Yellow Vests movement in Canada have nothing in common with the French Gilets Jaunes and are really an effort by far Right and white supremacist groups to give a populist dressing to their hate.

Despite spokespeople’s efforts to emphasize the fossil fuel industries, and to deny far Right and racist motivations, participants have openly stated their displeasure with the government recently signing a non-binding United Nations compact on global migration. Even lead convoy organizer, Glen Carlitt, has insisted that “Canada’s borders need to be controlled by Canada and its citizens.”

While the convoy of vehicles took up a large space, almost a kilometre of Wellington Street, in front of Parliament, the numbers of actual individuals protesting was relatively small. Notably they included far Right speakers, in fact known fascists, such as open white supremacist, self-proclaimed propagandist for the “alt-Right” Faith Goldy. Fascist supporters of the convoy included: David Selvers and Millennium Crane in Sault Ste Marie; Christopher Hayes of Soldiers of Odin and Worldwide Coalition Against Islam (WCAI). Dan Dubois, leader of the Canadian Combat Coalition, led the convoy at points along the route. The Yellow Vests movement has issued death threats against Muslims in Canada.

What is perhaps more telling is the open public support, and active participation, of several high-profile mainstream conservative politicians in Canada. This includes federal Opposition Leader and Conservative Party head Andrew Scheer, and leader of the new alt-Right Peoples Party of Canada (and former Conservative Party member and leadership hopeful) Maxime Bernier, high ranking Conservative Member of parliament, Pierre Poilievre and Conservative Senator David Tkachuk. Scheer went a step further and got into one of the trucks with a slogan on the side. Ontario Premier Doug Ford gave supportive public messages to the Yellow Vest convoy along the way, as did United Conservative Party of Alberta leader Jason Kenney.  

The convoy was confronted, and indeed outnumbered, by a counter rally organized by Indigenous Solidarity Ottawa and Ottawa Against Fascism. Under the banner Stand Up for Land Defenders, the counter rally shouted down and drowned out Yellow Vests speakers with chants of “Nazi Scum off Our Streets!” About two dozen people held a round dance in front of Parliament and the Yellow Vests. Predictably police organized to protect the fascists. They stood facing the Indigenous and antifa rally who they clearly view as the threat here.

Indigenous counter-protesters, like Wolf Tabobondung of Wasauksing First Nation, point out that the extractives projects and pipeline developments that the Yellow Vests are promoting are being carried out on Indigenous lands and imposed on Indigenous communities. Often these are unceded lands, that the state and corporations have no standing over, and in other cases are happening in violation of treaties. These are significant matters that connect issues of resource extraction, industrial development, statist “nation building,” and fascist mobilization (including against Indigenous communities).

A point that can be raised in this regard is the composition of the Yellow Vests convoy. The trucking industry in Canada is made up of large numbers of workers of color, including many recent migrants. Yet, for a rally of supposed truckers, the Yellow Vests convoy was exclusively or nearly exclusively made up of white drivers. In no way a representative expression of concerns and interests of drivers in the industry.

Insurgent Supremacist: An Interview With Matthew N. Lyons on Antifascism, Anti-Imperialism, and the Future of Organizing

Matthew N. Lyons is an anti-fascist author and researcher whose work stretches back twenty-five years.  Always at the front of understanding how the far-right shifts and reconfigures itself, he has developed deep historical and theoretical work that is directly intended to aid in antifascist organizing that sees results.

His book Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort, co-authored with Chip Berlet, looked through America’s history and dug into exactly what the elusive term “populism” means, and how it motivates working-class people to take up radical right-wing political movements.  He has been especially pioneering at the blog Three-Way Fight, named for the concept that in any revolutionary struggle you can have an insurgent force that is different that either the left and the ruling class, and it is at that point you can often find fascist ideologues building their own version of a revolutionary movement.

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In Lyons’ most recent book Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, he looks at the strains of fascism that appropriate anti-imperialist and other struggles often associated with the left, how the far-right is changing and creating new social movements, and how we can understand fascism’s future.

This is an interview with Matthew N. Lyons that asks some of these questions, how to understand populism and fascism, how fascists use anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist politics, and what we can do about it.

 

Your book spends a great deal of time discussing the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-war movements that intersect with fascism.  What is the nationalist investment in these issues?  How does their perspective break from the left’s interpretation of these movements?

In the book sections you’re referring to, my focus isn’t so much on the intersection of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-war movements with fascism. Rather, it’s on the anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-war tendencies within far right movements themselves. These tendencies have taken various forms and have deep historical roots within both classical fascism and sections of American conservatism. In the United States today, far rightists believe that the U.S. government and many transnational institutions such as the United Nations are controlled by malevolent globalist elites, who are working to weaken and destroy traditional societies and homogenize everyone to help build up their own wealth and power. White nationalists define this supposed threat in racial terms, as Jewish elites versus the white race, while other branches of the U.S. far right (such as Christian theocrats and most Patriot groups) tend to define it as an attack on U.S. national sovereignty and western culture.

There are a couple of different things going on here. Fascists and other far rightists have a long history of offering distorted versions of leftist, radical politics, to help them capitalize on people’s rebellious energy and anger at the status quo. When I describe it this way, it sounds like political opportunism, and that’s definitely part of it. But on a deeper level, there’s also a genuine conflict here, between modern global capitalism and the traditional social hierarchies such as race and nation and gender that have served capitalism well in the past but now sometimes restrict it. Modern global capitalism depends on moving goods and services and workers and investments across old boundaries, national and otherwise. This threatens many traditionally privileged social groups, whose privilege is based on those boundaries and divisions. So then you get, for example, multinational corporations pushing to let in more foreign workers, and sparking an anti-immigrant backlash. And you also get multinational corporations pushing to project military power overseas to help protect their investments, and sections of the right, fascist and otherwise, lining up against them and saying our people has nothing to gain from these wars.

On a surface level, far right opposition to military interventionism or capitalist elites or imperialism can sound leftist. But there are basic underlying differences. Leftist politics is predicated – at least in theory – on promoting human equality and dismantling human oppression and exploitation. In contrast, fascists and other far rightists believe that human equality is a sham. They say that inequality is either unavoidable or a positive good to be protected. To them, global capitalist elites are evil because they see them as promoting equality, not opposing it. A related issue is that a genuinely radical critique of power focuses on systems of oppression and exploitation, whereas far rightists generally analyze power in terms of conspiracy theories, which blame social problems on a sinister group of outsiders (such as Jews) who supposedly distort the normal workings of society.

 

How do you define fascism?

In Insurgent Supremacists and other writings I offer a working definition of fascism as “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 is based on an effort to combine two different approaches. The historian Roger Griffin sees fascism as a political ideology that emphasizes a myth of national palingenesis, or collective rebirth out of a near-fatal crisis. In contrast to that, a series of independent Marxists (from August Thalheimer in the 1930s to J. Sakai and Don Hamerquist today) have analyzed fascism as having a contradictory relationship with the capitalist ruling class – attacking the left and promoting class hierarchy but also pursuing an agenda that clashes with capitalist interests in important ways. Both of these approaches regard fascism as a right-wing revolutionary force, but Griffin is strong on delineating fascist ideology while the independent Marxists are strong on fascism’s class dynamics. Both are important.

I draw a sharp distinction between fascism and what I would call conservative authoritarianism. Most repression in capitalist societies operates more or less directly in the interests of big business. I see fascism as a drive to wrest political control away from big business and establish a new political elite. Historically, fascists have cut deals with capitalists to help them win power, but capitalists’ assumption that they could then rein in fascists has proved wrong. Instead, fascists have set about trying to reshape all spheres of society according to their own totalitarian agenda and, in the case of German Nazism, undertook a profound and far-reaching transformation of the social order in keeping with their racist ideology. Many capitalist regimes have pursued genocide against subject populations, but Nazism is the only regime that has pursued genocide against a significant section of the industrial working class, an effort that directly clashed with capitalists’ economic interests.

In the United States today, fascist politics is still driven by a totalitarian vision to reshape society, but that can take different forms. White nationalists’ vision centers on race and their dream of creating an all-white nation. But I think it’s appropriate to use the term “fascism” also for totalitarian right-wing visions that don’t center on race. The most important example is the hardline faction within the Christian right – spearheaded by Christian Reconstructionists – that wants to impose a full theocracy. That vision centers on religion, of course, but also on male supremacy and gender conformity – much more than race. Also, some fascist currents, such as the Lyndon LaRouche network, carry forward classical fascism’s vision of a large centralized state, but many fascists now want to impose their totalitarian vision in a decentralized manner – through “tribal” networks or segregated “ethno-states” or local churches and patriarchal families. I’ve used the term “social totalitarianism” to describe this kind of politics that is simultaneously authoritarian and decentralist.

 

How do you see the Trump administration in relationship to insurgent white nationalism?  Has your opinion of it changed in the time that Trump has been in office?

White nationalists – not just people with racist politics but people who specifically want to create an all-white nation – played a bigger role in electing Donald Trump in 2016 than they had in electing any of his predecessors. More specifically, alt-rightists’ skillful use of internet activism was a significant factor in defeating Trump’s Republican rivals and to a lesser extent in defeating Hillary Clinton. After the election, Richard Spencer proclaimed that alt-rightists were the vanguard of the Trump coalition. At the same time, alt-rightists were clear that Trump was himself not a white nationalist – he was useful to them, but he was not one of them. He would do some of what they wanted, and he would buy them time and space to spread their message, but he did not share their long-term goals.

Since Trump’s inauguration, alt-rightists have had very mixed feelings about his administration. They have liked his demagoguery and scapegoating and his moves against immigrants of color and Muslims, but wish he would go a lot further. They like some of his foreign policy actions, like challenging free trade orthodoxy and criticizing NATO and reaching out to Kim Jong-un. But to varying degrees they also think he has capitulated to (or maybe is being blackmailed by) the conservative establishment. They don’t much care for the staunchly conservative positions he’s taken on tax policy and destroying Obamacare. They hate his support for Israel and his missile strikes against Assad’s government in Syria. Some of them still look on Trump positively, while others think he is beyond redemption.

In Insurgent Supremacists, I argued that Trump’s administration represented a coalition between conventional conservatives of various kinds and “America First” nationalists, some of whom had ties with the alt-right. I still think that’s accurate. Several of the America Firsters have left the administration, such as Steve Bannon and Mike Flynn, but there are several still there, such as Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, and especially Jeff Sessions. They benefit from what seems to be Trump’s sincere contempt for most establishment politicians, but they’re limited by the lack of a coherent organizational base and the lack of a coherent base of support within the ruling class. The Mercers and Peter Thiel are scary, but it’s unclear to me whether they represent a larger organic tendency within the business community or just hardline right-wingers who suddenly happened to become billionaires. It’s clear there are business sectors that are happy Trump is dismantling industrial regulations, but that part of his agenda is just an extension of previous neoliberal policies. Which business sectors support America First nationalism? I’m very interested to learn more about that.

The periodic warnings that Trump is either a fascist or is moving in a fascist direction seem to be picking up momentum again. I don’t agree, although I agree with some elements of the argument. A lot of people use the term “fascism” much too loosely, to cover any and all forms of right-wing authoritarianism or repression. To me, fascism has to involve a drive to systematically transform all areas of society according to a totalitarian ideological vision. I don’t see any evidence that Trump has such a vision or has the drive to implement any such systematic change, and he certainly doesn’t have the kind of independent organizational base you would need to carry it out.

What I do think is true and is quite serious is that Trump is making the U.S. political system more authoritarian. Part of that is continuing the process of incrementally expanding the government’s repressive powers and machinery, a process that has been going on for decades under both Republican and Democratic presidents. But Trump and his supporters are also dramatically changing the political climate, ratcheting up the scapegoating and demonization of political opponents, even mainstream ones, to levels we haven’t seen since the early 1950s. Trump and his supporters have vilified news reporting to the point that the New York Times can publish a major expose of his family’s tax crimes and he doesn’t even bother to deny it. These moves don’t add up to anything close to fascism, but they do significantly weaken the liberal-pluralist framework (it’s not democracy but it’s not a dictatorship either) and make it significantly easier for some kind of systematic, organized, ideologically driven authoritarianism to emerge and impose itself. I don’t think Trump is part of that but it could come quickly.

 

How do you define populism? Why do you think that there has been an upsurge of populism around the world right now? 

I see populism as a type of politics that aims to rally “the people” around some form of anti-elitism. That’s how Chip Berlet and I defined it in Right-Wing Populism in America, and it’s based on political scientist Margaret Canovan’s work. Populism can be broadly divided between left-wing and right-wing varieties. John Judis in The Populist Explosion gives a good succinct explanation of the difference. He says that left-wing populists define the struggle in dualistic terms – the people versus the elite – while right-wing populists claim the elite is manipulating one or more out-groups – such as immigrants or Muslims or welfare mothers – so that “the people” are being squeezed from above and below.

There are serious problems with both left-wing and right-wing populism, but the problems are different. Left-wing populism can be a framework for attacking real inequity and disempowerment, and to that extent it can play a positive role, but it oversimplifies social conflict by reducing everything to the people versus the elite. So it tends to gloss over – and thereby reinforce – other forms of oppression that don’t coincide with that simple dividing line.

 

Right-wing populism glosses over lots of stuff as well, but the bigger problem is that it directly targets oppressed and marginalized groups for scapegoating and demonization, because its concept of “the people” is as much about defending privilege as it is about anti-elitism. In addition, the way right-wing populism defines the elite is itself based on a kind of scapegoating, which focuses either on a specific subset within the elite or on people who aren’t elite at all. So even though right-wing populism feeds partly on people’s anger at being beaten down, it channels that back into attacks that strengthen and intensify hierarchy and oppression and institutionalized violence.

As you say, there’s been an upsurge of populism lately in many parts of the world, and that includes both left and right versions. In very broad terms I see two big contributing factors. One is a crisis in the global capitalist system – highlighted by the 2008 financial crisis but going far beyond it – and a widespread recognition that the conventional policies that have dominated most governments for decades really only serve a tiny minority. The other big factor is the weakness of the radical left – brought about by a combination of external repression and its own internal failings – and the radical left’s inability to rally major segments of the population in most countries. So, many people are hungry for alternatives, hungry for a way out, and a lot of times populism seems like the best option.

 

Are there any examples of organized resistance happening currently that you think are a good model for combating the far-right?

I don’t know that there’s any one example where I’d say, “here’s the model of resistance for us to follow,” but I think there have been a number of very positive developments. I think the principle of “diversity of tactics” is very important – meaning actions organized so that there is room for people to take a variety of militant and non-militant approaches, and where those are understood as complementing and supporting each other, rather than competing or in conflict. I know that folks in the Bay Area and in Portland, for example, have worked hard over the past year or more to build coalitions based on this approach, and have had some important successes as a result.

I also really like the principle of “community self-defense,” as advocated by the Twin Cities General Defense Committee of the IWW and others, meaning that antifascists should not look to the state to protect us, because the state is really not on our side, but rather should look to build connections with, and base themselves in, working class communities. Another positive example I would cite is the network Solidarity & Defense Michigan, which is one of a number of groups that helped to halt the alt-right’s mobilizing drive in 2017-2018, and which has emphasized the linkages between resisting far rightists and combating institutionalized oppression in the form of housing evictions, police violence, deportations of immigrants and refugees, and so on.

I also particularly appreciate when people approach antifascist activism in a spirit of humility and willingness to learn from mistakes. I think an example of that was the article “Tigertown Beats Nazis Down,” which is a self-critical reflection on the April 2017 mass protest against Richard Spencer in Auburn, Alabama. I can’t speak to the specific events that happened there, but I thought the spirit of the article was really constructive and positive.

 

How can the anti-imperialist movement insulate against the far-right?

First, leftist and liberal anti-imperialists should have a strict policy of non-collaboration with far rightists. That means not attending their political events and not allowing them to attend ours. It means not giving them a platform on our media to air their views, and not legitimizing their media by accepting invitations to publish our articles or be interviewed.

Second, let’s recognize and combat oppressive dynamics within the left that resonate with far right politics – dynamics such as authoritarianism and transphobia and sexual violence. And more specifically let’s combat the elements of far right ideology that have influenced sections of the left itself. In the 1980s, the Christic Institute borrowed “anti-establishment” conspiracy theories from the Lyndon LaRouche network and other far right sources and repackaged them for progressive audiences. Today, groups like the Center for Research on Globalisation play a similar role. Let’s develop strong radical analyses of institutionalized power systems and reject fake-radical conspiracy theories, many of which are rooted in antisemitism.

And we need consistent radicalism specifically with regard to Israel. I’m an anti-Zionist Jew: I reject Israeli apartheid rule over Palestinians and Zionist appropriation of Jewish identity for racist and imperialist ends, and I reject smear campaigns that equate criticism of Israel with antisemitism. But it’s disturbing and dangerous when we see self-described leftists portraying Zionists as some kind of super-powerful force controlling U.S. foreign policy or global capitalism, or dismiss any concerns about antisemitism on the left as Zionist propaganda.

Third, I think we need to reject simplistic left analyses that celebrate any perceived opposition to U.S. international power as “anti-imperialist” – and that automatically equate anti-imperialist with “progressive.” The Assad government has implemented neoliberal economic policies, collaborated with the CIA’s rendition program, and murdered thousands of Palestinians, but somehow it’s supposed to be anti-imperialist now. And if all anti-imperialism is automatically progressive, are we supposed to celebrate the 9-11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Those attacks hit the centers of imperialist power more forcefully than anything Assad and his allies have ever done, but they also killed 3,000 people and were carried out in the name of a deeply reactionary ideology. And if all anti-imperialism is automatically progressive, are we supposed to join forces with the neonazis who did in fact celebrate the 9-11 attacks as heroic blows against globalist Jewish elites? What’s needed here, again, is a recognition that there are more than two political poles in the world, and – as radical antifascists have been saying for years – my enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend.

Anti-Fascist Mobilization Opposes Pegida, Soldiers of Odin, and Wolves of Odin in London, Ontario

Jeff Shantz

Pegida, an anti-Islam group active in Canada and with connections to white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Europe (particularly Germany), has been holding regular rallies in London, Ontario. While Pegida have made few inroad on their own in London, they have made growing links with neo-fascist groups like Soldiers of Odin (SOO) and Proud Boys.

On Saturday, October 13, 2018, a rally of several Pegida members along with a dozen or so SOO and a few Wolves of Odin and other neo-fascist supporters was confronted by a much larger counter-mobilization of antifascists. With cops present the fascists held their ground outside the City Hall building.

London is the sort of city one might expect fascists to receive some reception in. It is a mid-size city in Canada known to be generally politically conservative with a sizeable white collar professional workforce with many company headquarters located there. It could well be a foundation for fascism as a conservative white collar middle strata feels squeezed by economic pressures from above (capital, ownership) and social demands from below. And clearly Pegida and SOO and others see it that way given their persistence in holding events there. On multiple occasions they have held events outside City Hall.

Of note, a SOO member gave a positive shout out to   local city councillor Phil Squire. That the mainstream politicians are open in working with fascists is something that bears attention and response in Canada as elsewhere. It appears to be a more common phenomena in Canada as witness in Edmonton where three United Conservative Party candidates openly partied with SOO, including taking photos with them at a campaign event. Perhaps more infamously, Rob Ford, Premier of the country’s largest province Ontario has taken photos with fascist Toronto mayoral candidate Faith Goldy and her entourage. When called out, Ford, unsurprisingly given his own politics, refused to apologize.   

On October 13th, the antifascists gave Pegida a reason not to come back. And showed that as their numbers remain small the opposition seems to be growing in size and confidence.

Collective Opposition Thwarts Soldiers of Odin Attacks on Homeless Camp in Nanaimo

By Jeff Shantz

Twice in a matter of weeks in August the white supremacist Soldiers of Odin (SOO) threatened to assault homeless people and take down Discontent City, the shared space at which they are living, in Nanaimo. A march of SOO the first weekend in August was opposed by a collective gathering of homeless people and allies effectively turning SOO away. A week later the SOO made a threat to forcibly tear down the tent city on August 19. Again a mass turnout of people showed up to oppose them but the fascists no-showed.  

soldiers-of-odin.jpg

We must not  misunderstand the neo-Nazi basis of the Soldiers of Odin. We should all be deeply concerned about the open, brash, mobilization of the white supremacists against poor people housing themselves at the Discontent City in Nanaimo, a major city in so-called BC. It says plenty about the anti-homeless group, Action Against the Discontent City (AADC) that they would unashamedly ally themselves with neo-fascists.

It is important to view the rise of neo-fascism and white supremacy in a context of growing poverty and homelessness. It speaks to the effects of austerity politics and poorbashing by politicians and public figures in promoting and installing those policies (including stigmatizing homeless people, as “undeserving,” as “others,” etc.). It is not surprising that the structural violence (inequality, poverty, colonialism) that contributes to homelessness would give rise to bare manifestations of neo-fascist, white supremacist violence.

Notably, in Surrey, BC, where I live and work, Soldiers of Odin unsuccessfully tried to recruit homeless people on 135A Street (the Strip) against refugees, who Soldiers of Odin wrongly blame for taking housing. Strip residents had none of it.

The community responses to defend Discontent City shows a positive way forward in times of crisis. Support and care rather than stigmatizing rage and scapegoating that further harm people who are already victimized by structural violence. Solidarity works against fascists as the situations in Nanaimo have shown. It remains necessary to be vigilant and prepared.

It is curious that AADC want to pose as respectable citizens compared to the unrespectable tent city residents, yet do so by collaborating with neo-fascists and white supremacists. People on the sidelines in Nanaimo and elsewhere need to ask: “Who would you want as a neighbour: poor people acting to build a supportive community or ‘good citizens’ who would ally themselves with neo-Nazis?”

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

Antifa Worldwide: A Brief History of International Antifascism

 

By Alexander Reid Ross

 

Fascism, as we know it today, came amid the sweeping nationalism accompanying World War I. Numerous leftists shifting from left to right ported their watchwords of solidarity and insurrection over to militant formations designed to destroy the left and seize power. They were not unopposed in this mobilization of a left and right so-called “revolution.” This is the story of the revolutionaries, renegades, and warriors who broke with the powerful movement toward totalitarianism and continue to struggle as partisans for freedom and equality.

Fascism did not emerge on its own as a full cloth ideology. It developed from a complex history of anti-Semitism, ultranationalism, reactionary Catholicism, and the conditions of economic exploitation of industrial workers and peasants. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Dreyfus Affair marked the flash point for violent confrontations between left and right as ultranationalist anti-Semites framed a Jewish army captain for conspiring with the hated Prussians. The right relied on leagues and sporting clubs through which they could practice for physical confrontation while developing the mannerisms and affectations that would attempt to refine an otherwise blunt and stupid politics. Long at odds over the question of anti-Semitism, the left organized through associations, syndicates, and humanitarian organizations to support Dreyfus, organizing an important consensus that would affect future political positions.

In Germany, a financial crisis led to pogroms against Jews. Pogroms throughout Eastern Europe also led to the strengthening of Jewish workers’ defense organizations like the Jewish Bund. Tough men of the Jewish working class, the Bund stewarded marches for dignity and better wages, organized self-defense trainings, and developed autonomous aid networks within Jewish sectors. While Vladimir Lenin criticized the Bund for representing stop-gap politics, the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party went about building combat groups that would resist the counter-revolutionary forces of the Black Hundreds.[1] The anarchists of Russia went a similar direction, including Voline of the St. Petersburg Soviet, Uncle Vanya who helped organize workers’ insurrections from Samara to Ukraine.

But Fascism emerged through the breakdown in the Dreyfusard consensus, the alliance of ultranationalists and leftists around the notion of destroying liberal parliamentarianism, and in doing so managed to bypass the strongest left-wing resistance in the early stages. Instead, through the aesthetics of futurism, the charismatic leadership of Mussolini, and the syncretic positions of national syndicalism, Fascists presented themselves as marking the radical edge that could finally penetrate the armor of moderate politics. Recognizing the danger, anarchists like Errico Malatesta called for a broad antifascist front that discarded political differences in favor of resisting the vicious hierarchies and empty rhetoric of Fascists. Marxists, under the leadership of Antonio Gramsci, would brook no compromise with the anarchist-supported Arditi del Popolo (Army of the People), hoping instead for a mass insurrection of armed workers. With the resistance internally fragmented and the left under assault by an increasing alliance between the Fascists and the state, Mussolini entered government supported by a mass movement and the Fascist blackshirts continued to assassinate and apprehend leaders like Malatesta and Gramsci.

In Germany, the left stood similarly fractured. World War I ended through a massive revolution that started in a Naval mutiny and resulted in the abdication of the Kaiser, as well as a Bavarian insurrection that deposed the local government and established a “Soviet” led by anarchists and communists. Having voted to enter the war, the Social Democrats rose to power through popular left-wing sentiment and compromises with the far right—in particular, the Freikorps, a paramilitary force of army veterans who the Social Democrats would deploy to brutally crush a Communist uprising in Berlin led by Rosa Luxemberg and Karl Liebknecht and the Bavarian Soviet, as well as a renewed uprising in the industrial Ruhr Valley led by a militant force calling itself the Red Army of the Ruhr. It was only after the defeat of these three significant left-wing revolutionary uprisings that Hitler would rise in a beerhall in Munich and pretend to lead a “national revolution” of Freikorps and other paramilitary rightist factions under Nazi guidance.

The left scrambled to the defensive to set Hitler back on his heels, setting up its own combat groups (Kampfbunds) and attacking Nazi meetings and events. Even the Social Democrats, observing the fearsome rise of the brutal Stormtroopers, set up the militant Reichsbanner, but the leadership had already granted significant powers to the Freikorps and the SA simply heightened the tensions. By the early 1930s, the German Communist Party had adopted a defeatist attitude, marking the Social Democrats as “social fascists” and supporting Nazi strikes and parliamentary efforts like a significant “no confidence” vote in the Reichstagg. Those who risked life and limb in the streets fighting Nazis were placed in vulnerable positions by their own leadership. When Hitler took power, the aspirations of the Communist Party’s “First Hitler, then us!” strategy proved totally foolish, as the Nazis immediately demobilized the Kampfbunds, including Antifaschistische Aktion, and sent the left to concentration camps.

In France and the UK, resistance to fascism also manifested in street battles and strategic competitions over urban space. Famously, the UK antifascists repeatedly broke up the meetings of the pugilistic cad, Oswald Mosley, refusing to yield London’s working class East End to fascist influence by halting a march in an event that came to be known as the Battle of Cable Street. Meanwhile, French fascists asserted that they had created fascism by destroying the Dreyfusard consensus, and paramilitary formations emerged across the far right enlisting, paradoxically, the support of anti-Jewish North African Arabs in exchange for money and services. While members of the French radical left “drifted” toward fascism vis-a-vis the “neo-socialism” of Marcel Dèat and the populism of former Communist Party central committee member, “le Grande Jacques” Doriot, others confronted fascists, blockaded meeting venues, and launched antifascist boycotts. Unlike in Germany and Italy, the French and English left was able to prevent voluntary capitulation to fascism—perhaps in part as a result of the rejection of the defeatist line that “bourgeois socialists” and “radical liberals” and even moderate conservatives should be considered as bad as, if not worse than, fascism.

Perhaps nowhere was fascism more heavily contested, however, than in Spain where fascism had a significant following. In 1930, a military coup by Miguel Primo de Rivera adopted fascism “spiritually,” but generally reproduced the old 19th Century authoritarian conservatism and bare-knuckles corporatism. While General Miguel fell from grace, however, his son José Antonio Primo de Rivera, also known simply as José Antonio, rose to prominence and supported a purer form of fascist dictatorship led by the militant forces of a fascist Falange that would defeat leftism in the streets. Leftists, of course, rose to the challenge and fought tooth and nail against the fascism of Spanish aristocrats that situated itself within the working class through an alliance with the Committees of the National Syndicalist Offensive under the leadership of Ramiro Ledesma Ramos. Street fighting between the left and the Falange-National Syndicalist alliance grew extremely intense, with assassinations and beatings spilling over onto left-wing sympathizers and liberals. Following the election of the left-wing Popular Front, leftist police assassinated a leader of the reactionary Catholic conservatives named Calvo Sotelo, sparking an outcry that led, in no small part, to the invasion of Spain by the colonial military forces of Francisco Franco. Although the Popular Front incarcerated José Antonio, the Falange formed a significant, loyal, and ferocious section of Franco’s army, which met with the valiant opposition of anarchist militias hoping not only to defend the Republic but to further the revolutionary interests of self-determination, land, and liberty. Under the anarchist leader, Buenaventura Durruti, the Iron Column marched against Franco’s invading force along with a quasi-Trotskyist forces of POUM, the liberal fighters under Largo Caballero and the Stalinist-backed Communist Party. However, supplied by corporate powers across the Atlantic and tacitly enabled through Allied neutrality and appeasement, the armies of Franco beat down the antifascist resistance with Hitler and Mussolini’s overt assistance.

When Hitler’s tanks rolled into France the next year, it found relatively little resistance. Partisan forces emerged from Italy to Greece and across the Eastern Front. These partisans worked to sabotage fascist communications and supply lines, assassinate officials, and develop antifascist networks, workers’ associations, and societies to propagandize against their respective repressive regimes. After Mussolini and Hitler invaded Greece in 1941, leftists brokered a tenuous truce with ultranationalist “Hellenic Patriots” who supported parafascist dictator Ioannis Metaxas. Fighting persisted in Ukraine and the Balkans, as well, where Nazi-allied forces committed some of the worst atrocities of the war. When the US invaded Italy and occupied Rome in 1943, the partisans of the North engaged in fierce behind-the-lines struggle against the likes of the Black Prince Borghese who remained faithful to Mussolini’s government-in-exile, the Republic of Salò. Russia marshaled and lost tens of millions of people in the explicitly antifascist war to defeat the Reich and the ideology it represented, while the fascist-friendly Allen Dulles set up the architecture for a post-war insurgency inclusive of fascist “stay-behinds” fighting against Soviet influence in Europe.

 

The tenuous peace between partisans unravelled after the War and the collapse of the Reich, at which point the British supported the Hellenic forces’ military struggle against the Communist partisans with whom they had fought only months prior. Similarly, in Italy, the US’s Office of Strategic Services, later eclipsed by the CIA, recruited Fascist agents to oppose the left-wing Popular Front in the 1946 elections, continuing over the next decades to support links between Fascist networks within the government and clandestine terrorist groups targeting public infrastructure in a “Strategy of Tension” designed to pull the population toward the security state. These fascist groups like Black Prince Borghese’s Fronte Nazionale, which included the Nuovo Ordine and Avanguardia Nazionale, were schooled by the CIA-supported Greek military dictatorship that took power in 1967, and attempted on at least one occasion the similar overthrow of Italy’s Christian Democratic Party, were opposed in the streets by a mass movement of left-wing workers, students, and women in the tradition of antifascist partisans.

In France, Franco-sympathizer Pierre Poujade extended the street fights of the 1930s into the 1950s with his radical right populist party of the Union de Défense des Commerçants et Artisans, which was heavily contested by the left. The far-right paramilitary group Organisation Armée Secrète emerged out of the far-right hatred of the post-War Fourth Republic and resistance to decolonization in Algeria to plague the left and set the violent standard for fascist militants organized through groupuscules like Occident and the Groupe Union Défense. These organizations met opposition in Algeria by the militants of the Front de Libération National and in France by militant ultras. A former Poujadist named Jean-Marie Le Pen, who had purportedly lost the use of one eye in a particularly brutal street fight before rising to lead the new National Front in 1972. Some three years later, a bomb blast ripped through Le Pen’s Paris apartment, followed just two years later by a car bomb that killed Le Pen’s close ally, “national revolutionary” François Duprat.

In Italy, the assassinations, fights, and bombings between left and right grew so intense that the period between 1969 and the late 1970s became known as the Years of Lead. The “Hot Summer” of 1969, in which a wave of factory strikes and occupations spread to the general population, sparking the Autonomia movement, was followed by an explosion in Milan’s Piazza Fontana set by fascists to frame the left. Police rounded up anarchists and leftists by the hundreds, including a railroad worker named Giuseppe Pinelli who died in police custody, producing a massive outcry throughout Italy. As fascists persisted in attempting to infiltrate left-wing groups and co-opt the leadership of Autonomia, ongoing clashes and bomb blasts rocked Italy, which spilled into other countries as Italian fascists laying low abroad helped to spread their strategies and tactics elsewhere.

In Germany, opposition to fascism was similarly complicated by post-war “stay-behind” networks. Like Italy, the post-war order in Germany maintained tacit bonds between state entities like the Bundesnachrechtendienst and non-state fascist groupuscules. However, fascist groups like the Sozialistische Reichsparty faced a ban, making overt organizing difficult. At the same time, veterans organizations became breeding grounds for Holocaust denial and Nazi propaganda, and anti-immigrant sentiment was not unusual. During the 1980s, a strong horizontalist resistance movement grew in opposition to nuclear weapons, environmental destruction, and economic exploitation called the Autonomen movement, which targeted and was targeted by fascists seeking to generate mass resistance to immigration, refugees, and multicultural society. Partly in response to the Autonomen movement and the government’s ban on certain fascist parties, “national revolutionaries” developed the strategy of “Freie Kameradschaften”—small groups of 3 to 5 people committed to engaging in political violence against the homeless, disabled people, migrants, non-whites and non-straight people. Through the Freie Kameradschaften, fascists began to appropriate the strategies of the Autonomen movement, including donning black clothing and black masks to maintain anonymity. Yet they met with violent resistance from the leftist Autonomen movement, which produced a new wave of horizontalist Antifaschistische Aktion groups.

As with the Italian terrorists who fled through Franco’s Spain to promote fascism elsewhere in the world, Nazi war criminals like Klaus Barbie had escaped to areas of Latin America and worked to foster a new international movement. Throughout Latin America, and most notoriously in Argentina where the fascist-organized Alianza Anticommunista Argentina fought a “Dirty War” against left-wing Peronists known as Montoneros, fascists helped train and create anti-left paramilitary groups that instigated the conditions for Civil War and military coup. These forces found militant opposition in the form of national liberation armies like the Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional in El Salvador who engaged in a long-term revolutionary war against paramilitaries who committed such heinous acts as assassinating the Archbishop Romero during mass and raping then murdering a group of Catholic nuns. At the same time, fascist networks oriented through Salazar’s Portugal strove to maintain colonialism in African countries like Guinea-Bissau, where anti-colonial forces under Amílcar Cabral fought them.

Such far-right and colonial networks developed and/or supported by fascists found happy allies within the US government, including the fairly extensive intelligence networks created by fascist propagandist Willis Carto, Roy Cohn and Lyndon Larouche. Intimately tied to the former’s large base of supporters was a rising fascist militant named David Duke, who mass marketed a new generation of Ku Klux Klan violence as “white civil rights.” Having fallen off after its height in the 1920s, the Klan received a boost of support from the White Citizens Councils and the populist politician George Wallace in the 1960s; however, Wallace’s events faced violent resistance from community groups, and FBI support for integration hindered the Invisible Empire’s growth. The resurgent Klan found powerful opposition in the form of civil society groups and new anti-racist formations.

 

As the Southern Poverty Law Center came into effect, working within the courts and peaceful social organizations to promote diversity against hate, left-wing radicals developed more militant strategies for opposing the rise of fascism. Targeting racism through militant class struggle, the Workers’ Viewpoint Organization attempted to organize an inter-racial textile workers’ union to oppose the Klan in Greensboro, North Carolina. However, the Klan fought back, uniting with area fascists for a 1979 ambush against an anti-Klan rally that left five dead and five wounded. Other left-wing groups like the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee and the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee emerged with the desire to expose fascism within the US and to defeat racism through militant class struggle, and met with varying levels of success in the Midwest amid the rise of fascist skinheads.

As well as Latin American military dictatorships, Italian fascists also influenced the English far-right, bringing the “political soldier” concept to a group of fascists that decided to splinter front the National Front and organize skinheads as the frontline shock troops of a new fascist movement. These fascist skinheads mobilized through a network of Oi! punk bands and publications, spreading throughout North America and meeting an increasingly organized resistance by the mid-1980s. Anti-racist skinheads organized into Anti-Racist Action, Red and Anarchist Skinheads, and local manifestations of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, among other groups, to confront fascists attempting to create a violent mass movement against non-straight, non-white people in society. As fascist skinheads were beaten out of urban areas by anti-racists, fascist strategy moved toward the militia and Patriot movement during the 1990s, which provided a new kind of “leaderless resistance” based in rural areas where the left had a less formidable presence.

These small bands of violent fascists often identified with the fascist skinhead movement also appeared in France under the Parti Nationaliste Française et Européen and Troisième Voie through the related paramilitary formation, the Jeunneses Nationalistes Révolutionnaires, who at times stewarded marches of Le Pen’s Front National. With Le Pen increasingly pressuring the centrist parties at the polls, the French Socialist Party created the popular S.O.S. Racisme group, which promoted multiculturalism through large events and public gatherings. In the streets, the foot soldiers of the “national revolution” found more violent opposition from gangs like the Black Dragons and Duckie Boys. Similarly, in the UK, the large Rock Against Racism movement gave way to the Anti-Nazi League, which cultivated a mass movement against the National Front and British National Party. More confrontational and revolutionary left-wing groups also emerged like Red Action and Anti-Fascist Action, which like Anti-Racist Action joined the militant horizontal strategies and tactics of Antifaschistische Aktion. By the late 2000s, these groups and groups like them were increasingly referred to as “Antifa.”

The appropriation of Autonomen movement strategy and tactics came to a head amid the 2008 recession, when “Autonomist Nationalists” began to form black blocs from the Czech Republic to Germany and the Netherlands. The black blocs were repeated by supporters of the “CounterJihad” movement appearing in Germany as PEGIDA and in England as the English Defense League, among other places. Meanwhile, those groups have seen a rising wave of opposition, including a humiliating running battle between fascists and antifascists in Brighton that left the “March for England” in tatters. This and other events showed that groups with names like National Action and National Resistance that have emerged from Sweden to Ukraine, linking up for spontaneous street demonstrations and acts of mob violence, are virtually impossible to oppose without organized community defense.

In the US, the CounterJihad groups associated with the militia movement galvanized the anti-mosque movement of 2014, appearing outside of places of worship or community centers often with black masks armed with assault rifles and other weapons. These formations are increasingly opposed by likewise-armed community defense groups and antifas who seek to protect non-white communities from attacks and intimidation. More recently, the alt-right has emerged in league with Donald Trump, taking much of its inspiration from the “intellectual” fascist milieu that emerged during the Years of Lead to link left and right and reproduce the conditions that led to the destruction of the Dreyfusard consensus. Where the alt-right has moved into the physical space of real life, it has been dogged by antifa opposition—as in the recent protests against Milo Yiannopolos at the University of California–Berkeley.

 

Fascism has never arisen without opposition through community consensus. Instead, antifascists have worked to root out fascist infiltration and “entryism” that seeks to pass as the merger of left and right, while also militantly opposing fascist marches and meetings. Where fascism obtained power, it did so through the largely through the betrayal of the organized left by its leadership, along with state collaboration with the fascists amid significant, often violent, fighting amongst left-wing groups. If, in Italy and Germany, antifascists had decided to join with powerful liberals and even conservatives to defend their communities against Blackshirts, if the Communists of Germany had not succumbed to the temptation of labelling social democrats the equivalent of fascists while completely alienating everyone outside of a particularly small section of the industrial working class, perhaps fascism might never have emerged—perhaps it would have only been a detail in the history of Italy in the 1910s. It is wise, then, to heed the warnings of history and to maintain a form of militant antifascist action based in tactical alliances and the spirit of friendship rather than vulgar self-interest and political bravado. Where fascism is proud, we must be humble. Where fascism is divisive, we must unite. Where fascism is weak, we must strike.

 

[1] The shock troops of the merciless anti-Jewish pogroms in Ukraine, the Black Hundreds are widely seen today as some of the earliest formations of what would become the fascist movement, and it was none other than the famous writer Fyodor Dostoevsky who, with a co-author, would set out the platform of the “conservative revolution” followed by the later melding of the German “Patriotic movement” and Marxian theorists known as the National Bolshevik wing of the Nazi Party.

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Alexander Reid Ross teaches geography at Portland State University. He is the author of Against the Fascist Creep and the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab. His articles have appeared at sites like ThinkProgress, The Ecologist and the Cambridge University Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security. Project Censored recognized his work for Media Democracy in Action in Censored2016.

Antifascists disrupt National Front gathering in Marseille

A report back from an anti-fascist organizer who confronted France’s fascist Front National in France on November 5th.
The police had blocked the surrounding streets with anti-riot barriers, restricting access to the square, but we eventually make it through one by one, occupying part of the square and deploying our banners (“Ravier fuck off”, “Migrants welcome, fascists out”, “Welcome to our fellow humans”).

We chuck a few eggs at the National Front supporters, who are gathered on the other side of the square behind a line of riot police, and disrupt their speeches with chants of “Tout le monde déteste les fachos“, “Refugiés Welcome, Fachos Go Home“, “Massilia Antifascista“, “Siamo tutti antifascisti“, “Pas de quartier pour le fachos…“, “On a pas peur de toi, sale faf, rentre chez toi, sale faf” and other merry rhymes.

Eventually the pitiful and disappointed Frontists conclude their event with an attempt to play the national anthem, which is drowned out by choruses of “fuck off”s. As they finally leave under police protection, about 400 of us set off on a spontaneous unauthorised demo, determined to shout out loud our solidarity with migrants and our opposition to borders, to the National Front, and to xenophobia. Graffiti appears on walls, a few banks and insurance companies are redecorated. The bystanders we meet along the way are generally quite pleasantly surprised.

At the port, we head on towards the National Front headquarters, but when we pass in front of the tribunal a series of police vans reappear, apparently trying to block our route. We all run forward to try and get past them before they can cut us off, so the vans accelerate, nearly running some people over, but then to our great delight one of them rear-ends another. Annoyed, the police shoot tear-gas at us, forcing everyone back. After a few minutes hesitation, the antifascist demo changes route and heads back towards the town centre, chased by tear-gas, stun grenades and baton charges, before dispersing. One person was arrested, then released a few hours later. There have been reports of an injured person, who may have been spotted leaving in an ambulance, but this can’t be confirmed yet.

All in all, an energetic and combative demo which highly disrupted our local fascists’ plans. Despite the gassing and the chasing, our day was a success. And despite all the protection they had, the far right didn’t have a good time. To the proud Ravier, we say : next time, come without your bodyguards. Then we’ll see what the “silent majority” which your party claims to represent thinks of you.

Source : adapted from https://mars-infos.org/quand-ravier-et-sa-clique-font-1813 (not a 100% translation)