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Waving the Flag of Slavery in Charlottesville - “Alt-Right” Fascists: Shock Troops for Racist Genocide (Workers Vanguard) 28 July 2017
04 Aug 2017
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Workers Vanguard No. 1115 28 July 2017
Waving the Flag of Slavery in Charlottesville
“Alt-Right” Fascists: Shock Troops for Racist Genocide
In Virginia, the state where Confederate general Robert E. Lee was defeated and surrendered, the small city of Charlottesville has become ground zero for fascist defenders of the Southern slavocracy. On July 8, 50 Klansmen, many in the hoods and robes of lynch rope terror, rallied in defense of a statue of Lee that the city council had voted to remove. On top of this, a new breed of fascist organizations in the “alt-right” is calling for a “Unite the Right” rally on August 12 in front of Lee’s statue. The poster for the rally features armed troops marching under the battle flag of slavery, surrounded by monuments to military and other Confederate leaders and with Nazi-style eagles flying overhead. This is a direct attack against black people.
Emboldened by the “Make America Great Again” racism of the Trump administration, fascist organizations like Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker Party have been staging provocations across the country. The fascists are paramilitary shock troops that are held in reserve by the capitalist rulers and unleashed at times of social crisis against any prospect of revolutionary struggle by the working class. Their purpose is nothing less than the destruction of the workers movement, including unions and the left, and racial genocide. In the U.S., that means they especially have black people in their sights.
The roots of American fascism go back to the defeat of the Confederacy by the Union Army in the Civil War. The KKK and other race-terrorists came into being after that victory to bloodily suppress the newly freed slaves. No less than the Klan, the fascist vermin in the “alt-right” today represent a threat to the very right of black people to exist.
To date, this new crop of fascists has mainly aimed its fire at Muslims, immigrants, Jews and the antifas (anti-fascist activists) who have mobilized against them. Feeling the wind in their sails, they are now openly building for race-terror against black people through their “Unite the Right” rally, including by competing with the Klan over who best represents the “heritage” of the slavocracy. The aim of these fascists is to reverse the verdict of the Civil War.
The speakers list for the August 12 rally is a veritable who’s who of the contemporary American fascist movement. First among them is would-be führer Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute. In May, Spencer led dozens of fascists carrying torches and chanting Nazi slogans in Charlottesville in defense of Lee’s statue. Other speakers include Matthew Heimbach, head of the Traditionalist Worker Party, and Michael Hill, president of the League of the South. “Former” Klansman David Duke, a keynote speaker at the League of the South’s recent conference, is backing the August 12 rally.
Every time the fascists successfully rally, they gain confidence and win new recruits to their program of race-terror. In June 2016, when white-supremacists of the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden Gate Skinheads descended on Sacramento, they stabbed and slashed at least seven anti-fascists. This April, hundreds of fascists rioted in downtown Berkeley, where they chanted, “Hitler did nothing wrong” and attacked anti-fascists and leftists with clubs, flagpoles and knives. A week after Spencer’s torchlight rally in Charlottesville, Richard Collins III, a 23-year-old black student and Army lieutenant, was killed at the University of Maryland by a fascist. In early June, fascists rallied in Portland in what was essentially a celebration of the murder of two men who had intervened to stop the racist abuse of two women—one black, one Muslim—by a white-supremacist who had attended “alt-right” rallies.
Like the Klan, these neo-Nazis are the genuine face of American fascism. And they have powerful defenders, from the off-duty and retired cops and military personnel in the Oath Keepers who have provided security at their rallies to the regular police thugs of the capitalist state. On July 8 in Charlottesville, police arrested 23 of the more than 1,000 demonstrators who came out to protest the Klan’s provocation. Four of those arrested face felony charges, including for wearing a mask in public. With the local chief of police arguing that his main concern was “not the KKK,” cops intimidated and harassed anti-racist activists at their homes and workplaces in the weeks before the KKK rally. A spokesman for Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) told Al Jazeera (8 July) that the cops singled out non-whites for harassment at their homes. Drop all charges against the anti-Klan protesters!
Now, SURJ is appealing to the Charlottesville city government to revoke the permit for the “Unite the Right” rally. To rely on the forces that administer capitalist “law and order” to ban the fascists is a deadly delusion. It is those very forces that repress anti-fascist fighters. The protesters who had signs declaring “Cops and Klan Go Hand in Hand” had it right. While the cops were hurling tear gas against the anti-Klan militants, their bosses in the local government organized prayer meetings and “community discussion” together with assorted preachers, invoking the fascists’ “right to free speech.”
Fascism is not about free speech; it is about racist terror. Black people know only too well that when the fascists speak, it is with the lynch rope. Their “words” are fired out of the barrel of a gun. Their intent is to organize for an America in which black people do not exist. As the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party wrote in Socialist Appeal (3 March 1939), “The workers who spend all their time and energy in the abstract discussion of the Nazis’ ‘democratic rights’...will end their discussion under a Fascist club in a concentration camp.”
In contrast to the fascists, who see their road to power through extraparliamentary violence, right-wingers like Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter are racist provocateurs and ideologues. When antifa groups shut down their speaking tours, they fall right into these bigots’ trap, handing them the flag of “freedom of speech” to wave like a bloody shirt. The likes of Yiannopoulos and Coulter should be protested, exposed and refuted. But to equate them with fascists only serves to disarm people in the face of the Nazis and other race-terrorists, who must be crushed in the egg.
The thousand-strong anti-Klan turnout on July 8 shows that there are plenty of people who want to stop the fascists in their tracks. Among such activists are antifa groups across the country. But while they have often shown real courage, the confrontations waged by small groups of antifas will not stop the fascist gangs. The fascists must be met by an overpowering counterforce, based on disciplined mobilizations of the multiracial working class. As Leon Trotsky, who together with V.I. Lenin was a central leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, wrote in the Transitional Program (1938) on the fight against Hitler’s Nazis: “Only armed workers’ detachments, who feel the support of tens of millions of toilers behind them, can successfully prevail against the fascist bands. The struggle against fascism does not start in the liberal editorial office but in the factory—and ends in the street.”
The new fascist organizations are small, but they are growing, armed and dangerous. They feed off economic devastation and are emboldened by official racist reaction. But the bitter economic and social discontent of the working class and oppressed can also fuel the rise of a fighting workers movement. In the U.S. during the 1930s Depression, militant workers who had waged pitched battles against the bosses and their state in order to organize unions struck some real “fear of god” into the fascist gangs.
In Minneapolis, where truckers strikes led by Trotskyist militants in 1934 laid the basis for the growth of the Teamsters into a powerful nationwide union, strike leaders and other battle-tested militants organized a union defense guard to take on a fascist gang called the Silver Shirts. The defense guard was led by Ray Rainbolt—one of the key fighters in 1934, a military veteran and American Indian—and included hundreds of union members. In Teamster Politics (Monad Press, 1975), Farrell Dobbs, a young Trotskyist leader of the truckers strikes, recalled that the defense guard aimed to build a labor-centered fighting force that would “include the unemployed, minority peoples, youth—all potential victims of the fascists, vigilantes, or other reactionaries.” When the Silver Shirts tried to hold a rally in Minneapolis, members of the defense guard were called out to the site. The audience turned tail and ran, and, having gotten wind of the union action, the Silver Shirts leader didn’t even show up.
Today, the idea that organized labor would mobilize its power in its own interests, as well as in opposition to the fascists, might seem fantastical, particularly to youth who have seen little to no union struggle. Responsibility for this situation lies with the trade-union misleaders, who have shackled the social power of the working class to the interests of their capitalist exploiters, particularly through the Democratic Party. But labor has real power, which lies in its numbers, collective organization and, above all, its ability to choke off profits through strikes and other actions. Whether it is the factory floor, the transit barns or the docks, the workplace remains the main site of integration in racist capitalist America.
Labor can and must be organized to smash the fascists. The potential for such action was shown in a small but real way by the labor/black mobilizations initiated by the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee to stop Klan and Nazi provocations in several cities in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. Through flexing their muscle in massive, multiracial mobilizations against the fascists, the workers will come to recognize their power as a class. What must be done is to build a revolutionary workers party that will wield that power to finally fulfill the promise of black freedom and emancipate all the exploited and oppressed. It will take nothing less than a third, socialist American Revolution to break the chains of racist capitalist rule and bury the fascist gangs for good. For labor/black action to stop the fascists!
This work is in the public domain