Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lesson of Charlottesville: Antifa danger to working class

From the latest issue of The Militant:

On Aug. 11 a group of some 250 white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with torches across the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville, chanting “White lives matter;” “Blood and soil,” a slogan used by Adolf Hitler; “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.”
The next day these ultra-rightist thugs joined the “Unite the Right” rally of some 500 people in Charlottesville, ostensibly organized to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Organizers had claimed the action would be the largest such gathering in decades. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency, but rightist thugs and dozens of so-called anti-fascist combatants — both armed — marched and engaged in a series of bloody clashes.

After the cops cancelled the rally, one of the neo-Nazis turned his car into a weapon and drove into a group of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

The Socialist Workers Party opposed the racist actions and stands with those who oppose their anti-working-class perspective.

The white supremacists were outnumbered at least two to one by counterprotesters. But prominent in the counterprotest were groups that promote the dangerous and false view that racism and fascism can be stopped by small groups confronting the rightists arms in hand.

At the same time, the liberal capitalist media, Democratic and some Republican party politicians, and the middle-class left used the ultrarightist actions and resulting deadly violence to blame President Donald Trump — and especially the workers who elected him — for what happened. They view everything in politics today through the lens of how to get Trump indicted or impeached.

They claimed that the white supremacists are Trump’s “base,” slandering the working class, particularly workers who are Caucasian, as backward, racist and reactionary.

Solidarity Cville, a Charlottesville-based coalition of clergy and radical activists, had demanded the City Council ban the racist rally. The Council cancelled their permit to rally in Emancipation Park where Lee’s statue stands, telling organizers to hold it a mile away. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the move, saying it was unconstitutional, because it was based on opposition to the ideas of the organizers. The ACLU prevailed.

Solidarity Cville called for a counterprotest. They were joined by middle-class radicals from around the country, as well as others, including antifa, short for anti-fascist groups; Refuse Fascism!; and various anarchist groupings that advocated physical attacks to shut down or break up the rightist action.

There were groups on both sides of the street actions armed with semiautomatic weapons, pistols, chemical spray and other armaments.

By 10:30 a.m., fights were taking place. Then a couple dozen counterprotesters formed a line, using a large wooden barricade to try and block a group of white supremacists armed with shields and wooden clubs who were approaching the park. A melee began as the racists were met by organized and similarly armed groups.

Responding to criticism of police inaction, Gov. McAuliffe, a Democrat, said that protesters “had better equipment than our State Police.”

Counterprotesters chanted “Go the f--k home!” the rightists shouted back “Go the f--k back to Africa.”

University of Virginia student Isabella Ciambotti was one of the counterprotesters. “What I saw on Market Street didn’t feel like resistance,” she wrote in the New York Times. “It felt like every single person letting out his or her own well of fear and frustration on the crowd.”

Ciambotti says she watched “when a counterprotester ripped a newspaper stand off the sidewalk and threw it at alt-right protesters.”

One assault particularly disturbed her. “A much older man, also with the alt-right group, got pushed to the ground in the commotion. Someone raised a stick over his head and beat the man with it, and that’s when I screamed and ran over with several other strangers to help him to his feet.”

Later she joined a group shouting, “Get out of our town!” at the rightists as they marched by. “A woman from their line turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I hope you get raped by a n----r.’”

Shortly afterwards, neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. used his car to kill Heather Heyer, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, and wound 19 others. Fields was arrested and has been charged with murder.

Liberals blame workers who elected Trump
The meritocratic liberals and leftists lay the blame for what had happened on President Trump and workers who voted for him. An Aug. 12 column by Colbert King in the Washington Post was headlined, “These Are Your People, President Trump,” one of many variants in the liberal media that racist and rightist groups are his “base.”

“We have a bigoted billionaire-cum-president who has done precious little for the white working class whose resentment fueled his rise,” wrote Michael Dyson in the Aug. 12 New York Times. “The only remnant of this leadership they have to hold on to is the folklore of white nationalist sentiment, and xenophobic passion, that offer them psychic comfort if little financial stability.”

Workers World Party takes this distorted view to a further extreme.

“Media manipulation and financial maneuvering by a significant far-rightwing section of the billionaire class to get one of their own into the White House,” they said in a public statement, “has emboldened the most racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, misogynist, male supremacist, murderous scum of this decaying capitalist society.”

But it’s simply not true that there is a rise in racism or anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment among the working class in the U.S.

On the contrary, there is less racism, bigotry or sexism among workers in the U.S. today than at any time in U.S. history. The historic conquests of the Black rights movement of the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s dealt a crushing blow to Jim Crow segregation, pushed back racism and changed the United States forever.

President Trump wasn’t elected by racist southern workers seething over statues of Robert E. Lee coming down. He was elected by workers in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan and other so-called Rust Belt regions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, seeking change in the midst of social disaster raining down on them from the crisis of capitalism. In 2016, they rallied to Trump, his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, his disdain for the “politically correct,” and his promise to stand by the working class. Did those who backed Obama suddenly become racists?

The meritocratic pundits insist Trump gives succor to the ultraright. “Trump Gives White Supremacists an Unequivocal Boost,” ran one headline in the Aug. 15 Times.

After the armed clashes by some on both sides of the protests, Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” The White House supplemented this shortly after, saying, “of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

Nonetheless, article after article, op-ed after op-ed, the Times, Post, anti-Trump politicians of both parties and others insist he’s hooked up with reactionaries of all stripes. When Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham in a news release said that Trump hadn’t been forthright enough in condemning the racists in Charlottesville, the president responded.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Heyer,” Trump wrote on Twitter Aug. 17. “Such a disgusting lie.”

The relentless attacks on Trump are not because he is a threat to capitalist rule. He’s a billionaire capitalist real estate baron, who aims to defend the interests of his class. It’s because the meritocratic liberals see in the workers who elected him class battles to come.

Looking at things through the lens of bringing Trump down, the latest heroes of the left are the billionaire CEOs and investment bankers who stepped down from the White House business round table.

Antifa danger to working class
Some of the groups involved in the counterprotest presented a course of action that combines reckless bravado with scorn for the working class.

The New York Times ran a photo of a number of armed members of a group called Redneck Revolt at the counterprotest.

The group put out a “Call to Arms for Charlottesville” that concluded, “To the fascists and all who stand with them, we’ll be seeing you in Virginia.” They assert that “letting fascists organize publicly and without challenge is the same as standing guard while they build a bomb.”

The idea that small radical groups can smash racism and fascism in the egg by physically confronting them is not new. But it is dangerous to the fight against racist violence and to the working class.

The only way to confront their poison is to mobilize the working class. The strategy of antifa, Redneck Revolt and the like tries to substitute for the working class, a recipe for disaster. Not only does it turn working people into spectators instead of active participants in their own liberation, it gives the government and cops a handle for assaults on political rights crucial for the working class to discuss, debate and act.

Adventurism is a deadly trap for the workers movement. Maybe this time the cops were “outgunned,” but you can be sure they won’t be in the future.

In fact, the biggest danger to the political rights of the working class in the U.S. today is not from small groups of white supremacists or fascists. As Charlottesville shows, they were incapable of mobilizing more than a few hundred people. Their racist, anti-working-class views and thuggery have virtually no support among working people.

Instead, the danger to workers’ rights comes from liberals and middle-class radicals who call for armed combat with reactionaries today. And those whose efforts to shut down meetings on college campuses across the country — from Berkeley, California; to Olympia, Washington; to Burlington, Vermont — have given college administrations and cops a golden opportunity. They call for tossing rights won by the working class at great cost out the window.

In an Aug. 17 column in the Times, K-Sue Park, a Critical Race Studies fellow at the UCLA School of Law, excoriates the ACLU for challenging the ban on the rightist rally in Charlottesville.

‘We replaced you’
Thousands of people, including many students, upset with the white supremacist rallies, the killing of Heyer and the ultraleft forays, turned out for a candlelight vigil at the University of Virginia campus Aug. 16, organized by word of mouth. It was many times larger than any of the actions of the previous days.

They retraced the steps of the march where the white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us.” One participant posted a photo of the vigil with the caption: “We replaced you.”

The Militant - August 28, 2017 -- SWP protests rightist acts, killing in Virginia

Friday, August 18, 2017

Education on U.S. fascism

A comrade posted this on Facebook today:

If you think the pic on the left is what American fascism is going to look like, you'll be ill-equipped to fight the real thing.

Yes, these are violent thugs and should be met with bigger protests. But don't mistake German war paraphernalia from 75 years ago for a social movement of ruined and enraged middle classes.

Fascism will arise here, as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the working class resists. But not under swastikas.

A good start to understanding it, and learning how to fight it:

Fighting racism today

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Racist monuments are coming down

A comrade on FB:

The violent bigots who stormed Charlottesville yesterday, murdered a young woman, and beat others senseless are driven by a poisonous lie that ought to be held in the daylight and shriveled in the sun.

"Every other nation can have pride, can advocate for itself but ours" they assert. "Why is it heroic to be proud of one's blackness and villainous for us to be proud of our whiteness?"

Because there is no such thing as "white culture" or a "white nationality", and "White" is a racist fiction to begin with.

Whiteness is an ever-moving goalpost. Italian, Greek, Irish, Slavic immigrants, none were "white" when they arrived in North America. Each was brought into the fold to preserve a "majority" that has never really existed, meant to keep Black Americans oppressed and exploited, and to drive the deepest wedge possible through working people and our ability to recognize our common interests.

It doesn't help advance any struggle against racism or national oppression to think of yourself as "White". It doesn't help you orient yourself or guide how you should engage in the world. Feeling alienated and ashamed doesn't make you much of a fighter, and encouraging others to feel the same way throws fuel on the fire of a rotten myth.

There are clear battles to be fought, and clear demands to be made. If history is any indication, those fights will be disproportionately lead by Black Americans descended from slavery. But those battles belong to everyone who wants a better future for humanity, and increasingly the door is widening to bring all working people into their ranks.

The racist flags and monuments are coming down, and the reaction from the bigots is unsurprising. They're loud and dangerous, but they're losing. Remember that.

Fascism: scientific definition versus subjectivism

....Because of the decline in Marxist political culture in the world today, “fascist” is an epithet used by many on the left to mean any demagogic politician. They care little for seeking to learn the rich history of the revolutionary working-class movement’s writings on fascism from Germany and Italy to the U.S.

Fascism is the name given to reactionary mass movements that arose leading up to World War II — like those led by Benito Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany and with echoes in the U.S. and other imperialist countries — that were backed by the capitalist classes in those countries when the existing dictatorship of capital could no longer survive by normal “democratic” means.

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution, who was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1929 by Joseph Stalin as part of a broader counterrevolution against the program of V.I. Lenin that led the workers and farmers of Russia to power in 1917, wrote extensively about fascism. His goal was to lay bare the class dynamics that led to its rise and to politically prepare revolutionary-minded workers to fight against it.

Through the fascist movement “capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat — all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy,” Trotsky explained, and then uses them as thugs to smash the labor movement and its vanguard communist organizations.

The fascists “initially rail against ‘high finance’ and the bankers, lacing their nationalist demagogy with anticapitalist demagogy,” notes Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes in Capitalism’s World Disorder. In order to divert ruined petty-bourgeois elements and demoralized workers from seeing capitalism as the problem, the Nazis scapegoated the Jews as responsible for the growing economic and political crisis and whipped up calls for a “final” solution to the “Jewish question.” At the same time, the fascists “ape much of the language of currents in the workers movement. ‘Nazi’ was short for National Socialist German Workers Party.”

“Fascism is not a form of capitalist rule, but a way of maintaining capitalist rule,” Barnes said.

Fascist groups, which exist on the fringes at first, only get financial and political backing from a significant section of the bourgeoisie when the working class “puts up an increasingly serious challenge to capitalist rule itself,” Barnes said.

In Germany and Italy the working class was unable to unify and mobilize its allies to overthrow capitalism and take power because of the betrayal by the Stalinist Communist Party and the reformist Social Democrats.

In 1930 the Social Democratic Party received 8,577,700 votes and the Communist Party 4,592,100 votes compared to 6,409,600 for the Nazis. If the Social Democrats and Communist Party had formed a united front, if the trade unions they led had built workers defense guards, if they were on a political course to lead the working class to overthrow capitalist rule, they could have stopped fascism on the road to power. Instead, they did nothing to stand up to the fascist gangs and Hitler came to power without a fight.

Workers paid the price of the Stalinist and Social Democratic betrayal in blood. Millions of Jews and gypsies were sent to their deaths in concentration camps. The unions were destroyed. The working class was driven off the political stage.

Counterpunch’s Pollack says the election of Trump is “a forward space in what I term a pre-fascist configuration, i.e., analogous to Germany in 1938.” Hardly.

Trump surprised bourgeois politicians and pundits across the political spectrum. He convinced a layer of workers that he was the lesser evil compared to Clinton; not so hard to do given the anti-working-class record of Bill and Hillary Clinton when they occupied the White House. Hillary Clinton helped Trump win by calling workers who were considering a vote for him “deplorables” and “irredemables.”

That’s the same language many on the left still use today. Andrew Levine, says in Counterpunch Feb. 3, that “Trump’s supporters fall into three broad categories: dupes, deplorables, and opportunists.”

Levine says it’s “the lowlifes whose cages he [Trump] had rattled and whose passions he had inflamed” that are the problem, showing his scorn and fear of the working class.

In fact, Trump’s policies are a mix of steps designed to attract working-class support, like his disdain for the government’s fake unemployment figures and his call for infrastructure building and a repair program to provide jobs, with demagogic nationalist rhetoric that divides the working class. Like other bourgeois politicians he seeks to shore up capitalism.

Facts don’t matter to the ‘left’

To those crying “fascist,” however, the facts don’t matter.

Workers World Party leader Larry Holmes, to take just one example, said in a Jan. 29 speech, “Building the ‘Wall’ and this ban on Muslims are fascist acts.”

Holmes leaves out that about 650 miles of the “wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border has already been built, mostly by the administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Does Holmes think Clinton and Obama are fascists?

Labeling Trump a fascist, helps pave the way for resuscitating the Democrats, the rulers’ other party, as the answer.

There is another danger in mislabeling Trump and his administration as fascist. It disarms the working class politically for when fascism really does raise its ugly head once again — as it inevitably will when the ruling families see no other way to maintain capitalism.

Communist workers don’t care which bourgeois candidate any individual workers voted for — or didn’t — in the presidential election. What working people need is to organize independently of both capitalist parties.

Far from the political space for workers to discuss, debate and fight having been smashed by fascist gangs, the field is wide open. The Socialist Workers Party’s candidates take its revolutionary program and win support on workers’ doorsteps in cities, towns and the countryside, as well as on strike picket lines and social protest actions.

We say the Socialist Workers Party is your party. What we do now in building a revolutionary workers party will be decisive in the years ahead.

The Militant - February 20, 2017 -- Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class

Trotsky defines the F word

Fascism rises when capital must crush working class

This excerpt from the article “Whither France?” written by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky in October 1934 offers a concise explanation of fascism. The full article is published in Leon Trotsky on France. Copyright © 1979 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


In all countries the same historical laws operate, the laws of capitalist decline. If the means of production remain in the hands of a small number of capitalists, there is no way out for society. It is condemned to go from crisis to crisis, from need to misery, from bad to worse. In the various countries the decrepitude and disintegration of capitalism are expressed in diverse forms and at unequal rhythms. But the basic features of the process are the same everywhere. The bourgeoisie is leading its society to complete bankruptcy. It is capable of assuring the people neither bread nor peace. This is precisely why it cannot any longer tolerate the democratic order. It is forced to smash the workers by the use of physical violence. The discontent of the workers and peasants, however, cannot be brought to an end by the police alone. Moreover, it is often impossible to make the army march against the people.

It begins by disintegrating and ends with the passage of a large section of the soldiers over to the people’s side. That is why finance capital is obliged to create special armed bands trained to fight the workers, just as certain breeds of dogs are trained to hunt game. The historic function of fascism is to smash the working class, destroy its organizations, and stifle political liberties when the capitalists find themselves unable to govern and dominate with the help of democratic machinery.

The fascists find their human material mainly in the petty bourgeoisie. The latter has been entirely ruined by big capital. There is no way out for it in the present social order, but it knows of no other. Its dissatisfaction, indignation, and despair are diverted by the fascists away from big capital and against the workers. It may be said that fascism is the act of placing the petty bourgeoisie at the disposal of its most bitter enemies. In this way big capital ruins the middle classes and then with the help of hired fascist demagogues incites the despairing petty bourgeois against the worker. The bourgeois regime can be preserved only by such murderous means as these. For how long? Until it is overthrown by proletarian revolution.

The Militant - February 20, 2017 --Fascism rises when capital must crush working class

The great political and moral crisis of our time

Workers should never present today’s crisis of the propertied classes and their social system as primarily an economic crisis. No, it is the great political and moral crisis of our time. It is proof that only the working class has a chance to resolve this crisis and begin transforming society in a truly human way. Because only the working class, the propertyless class, has no interest in turning like dogs on any of the victims of the crisis-ridden capitalist system.

That is why the battle for jobs, the battle for solidarity, the battle against racism and the oppression of women, the battle against immigrant-bashing, the battle for social protection — why all these are a battle for the life and death of the labor movement. They are the battle for the time and space to prepare a socialist revolution! That is what is at stake in pulling the working class together.

Working-class leaders, not utopians

The biggest lie supporters of capitalism tell about socialists is that we are trying to create a utopia, mess with people’s lives, and engineer a massive social experiment. You want to play God with the lives of other human beings, they charge. Big governments and bureaucracy are proven enemies of common people — why can’t you socialists ever learn? That is the opposite of the truth. In fact, communists are less inclined in that direction than any group of people on the face of the earth. As Marx put it, when writing about the Paris Commune of 1871, revolutionary-minded workers “have no ready-made utopias to introduce…. They know that in order to work out their own emancipation, and along with it that higher form to which present society is irresistibly tending by its own economic workings, they will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes, transforming circumstances and men.”

Communists are materialists, dialectical materialists. We start with facts, with social realities, and how they develop and change over history — how they are shaped by shifting productive relations, social labor, and revolutionary activity. We know that our class and its toiling allies, who make up the majority of humanity, cannot organize the world on new foundations as we are. And a state bureaucracy cannot do it for us, either. We must change ourselves. On this, we are “Guevarists” to the core.

“To build communism it is necessary, simultaneous with the new material foundations, to build the new man,” Che Guevara wrote in his 1965 article “Socialism and Man in Cuba.” We agree. Workers can and will change ourselves as we go about changing the material foundations of our relations to each other. But this cannot be done without tearing down the brutal class divisions that underlie all social relations today and that will lead through war and fascism to a culmination too horrible to even imagine — unless our class organizes to take power out of the hands of the capitalists.

There is only one real equality possible in today’s class-divided world — political equality. And it only becomes possible in the revolutionary workers movement. It only becomes possible as those who make up a fighting workers vanguard collectively prepare ourselves for the battles to rid society of every vestige of exploitation, oppression, and discrimination.

The socialist revolution is not the end of recorded history, as Stalinist ideologues have tended to present it in order to rationalize the counterrevolutionary course of the parasitic caste and its claim to have established socialism in a single country. No, the workers revolution is the beginning of truly human history.

What is most important about the workers revolution is not the particular property changes that will sweep society directly in its wake — although without them, nothing further would be possible — but the fact that its victory opens other revolutions, such as the historic revolution for women’s emancipation. That will not be settled just by overthrowing the capitalist state and declaring the class struggle over. The new possibilities opened by a revolutionary victory, however, will lay the material foundations on which women’s liberation can be achieved and precipitate an explosion in the fight for real economic and social equality by the millennia-long oppressed sex. Similarly, all the manifold forms of class oppression bequeathed by thousands of years of property systems will for the first time be open to being vanquished. 

Excerpts from Capitalism’s World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. It is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for August. Written in the midst of fast-breaking events that marked the opening of the 21st century, the bulk of the book is comprised of four talks by Barnes that discuss the economic, social and political underpinnings of the significant changes that swept world politics between the 1987 near meltdown of the world’s stock markets, and the so-called Mexican “peso crisis” that hit in December 1994. The selection is from “Capitalism’s Deadly World Disorder,” presented in April 1993 to participants in a regional socialist educational conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. Copyright © 1999 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

The Militant - August 21, 2017 -- ‘Only the working class can resolve crisis of capitalism’