In Charlottesville, Virginia 32 year old anti-racist Heather Heyer was run down with a car at an anti-fascist protest on August 12. This murder by a white supremacist touched off a fury of democratic rhetoric by the very political forces that have cultivated this political violence for decades.
Prior to the protest the local authorities allowed neo-Nazi militiamen to take over the site of the march in Charlottesville. The protest against the removal of a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee had touched off the ire of the nationalists who only arrived after the militias had temporarily established control. Elements within the Republican Party had been encouraging vehicular manslaughter as a weapon to be used against leftist protesters and they have been doing so for years, though particularly in the wake of a long string of highly publicized murders of African American men by police that saw massive protests culminating in their systematic suppression by the state. This the state’s answer to the popular demand that crystalized in the slogan "hands up, don't shoot". The response of the state was made clearest of all in the total state lockdown on Ferguson, Missouri. Since the protests the numbers killed by police continue to climb. The response of the ruling class was quite clear. In this respect calls to allow drivers to run down protesters in roadways have grown into legal form with such laws being debated in the legislatures of several different states. 1 The issue motivating this conflict is a diversion from the concrete and practical needs of the working class.
The Democratic Party has taken it upon itself to start removing statues of Confederate military officers. The monuments themselves were put up throughout the Jim Crow period 2 and have graced Democratic Party-run cities and towns for years. The American bourgeoisie wrote the bloody script that played out on the streets of Charlottesville. The protests have had an anemic stage-managed aura about them. It is easy to overestimate the numbers attracted to the neo-fascist as they have the attention of the press and the counter-protesters are in effect advertizing their cause.
With Jim Crow itself the monuments to the Confederacy were themselves visual propaganda with the intent to enshrine racist social violence whose roots are economic in nature and bound with the need to control an African-American workforce, to maintain social segregation and isolation from other workers. The deification of the conquered south was a phenomenon that is tied to the industrialization of the country that accelerated after the Civil War. Most of these monuments to Confederate generals having been put up in the epoch of imperialism, post WWI. The dominant ideas of the bourgeoisie have tended to place race and nation at the center of all things. This classic bourgeois conception is found among the right and left wings of capitalism that ideologically feed off of it.
Over the months and years neo-fascist elements have become more and more violent towards the left. This was seen in Portland, Minneapolis and many other cities. Right-wing violence gets a wink and a nod to carry out acts of violence from the very state the anti-fascist elements defend. You can’t fight fascism by defending bourgeois democracy and fascism is nothing less than the real face of bourgeois democracy in periods of crisis. With the growth of social protests the right has been mobilized to attack with ever greater leeway culminating in the events in Charlottesville. Trump's own political opponents inside the system hail the triumvirate of generals in his cabinet who are now making sure that his administration doesn't completely go off the rails.
Both the main political expressions of the bourgeoisie intentionally stoked this conflict. The Republicans need to distract from the circus around the President and the Democrats need to distract from the complete lack of opposition to the current reign of political reaction at the helm of state. What has been occurring is the bourgeoisie, as a collective entity embodied in the state, has been replacing the original Trump cabinet with one that is more acceptable. What is more acceptable is another troop build-up in Afghanistan. What is acceptable now is the "food shaming" of poor children by making school cafeteria work a precondition for receiving a school lunch. The main event is happening in the halls of power. Pay no attention to the austerity, or the constant threat of war and more war. Forget that the US will be in Afghanistan for at least another sixteen years of war.
The ruling circles in the highest levels of the US Government have long cultivated ties to neo-Nazi organizations. Under the Bush administration FBI investigations into white supremacist extremists (WSE-official designation by FBI) had been wrapped up and brought to an end. At that time the US military reversed its general policy not to recruit known neo-Nazi gang members. At one point Bush even started allowing the fascist group called the “Minutemen” to patrol the US/Mexico border in a volunteer capacity. The US has long supported neo-Nazi organizations all over the world as a part of their NATO "strategy of tension". This extended internally to the US. By the 1970s, the FBI had so infiltrated the existing Klans that they were able to use the KKK as a front for their own purposes of political repression. The fascists have powerful friends in the bourgeoisie. The KKK has been in decline overall for decades, especially since the financial liquidation of the United Klans of America in 1987. Now there are over eighty smaller klan organizations. Likewise most of the fascist type organizations are small and despised. The real difference is that they are demonstrating publically while the police, the FBI have been going easy on them and looking the other way when they attack people. The greater political growth is towards a left which has no working class agenda. As a result it is set to the task of brawling with fascists in the street, in defense of the democracy of the capitalists.
The fascist side of the bourgeoisie was always there, it was not somehow magically unleashed by the election of Trump. These forces have been present for years doing the exact sort of thing they've always been doing, killing people. The entire political trajectory of the bourgeoisie has simply encouraged them to step forward. This conflict was cultivated by both sides. Anti-fascists have functioned as the whipping boys in the conflict to be set up for beatings and killings. The fascist side has been more often seeking out places like Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, where their presence is bound to cause a fight.
Former Trump junta member Steve Bannon, in an unusual interview given to the liberal American Prospect magazine, revealed some of the political calculations at work among the ruling classes in maintaining this diversionary variety of social antagonism:
“The Democrats,” he said_, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ‘em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats_.” 3
What is meant by the program of economic nationalism? Nothing more than the aggressive pursuit of American imperialist aims, the same trade wars, all the same conflicts pushed even further to the extreme. The entire system behind these political reactionaries must be overthrown, or they will forever be a tool in the service of capitalist order. The current conflict among the bourgeoisie is about how best to carry this out. The official posture of strength that the bourgeoisie shows their own desperation in the face of capitalist crisis they cannot solve. The fears of the dominant class reflect themselves in the dominant ideas and are shown in the face of political reaction.
It cannot be enough to be simply against a thing. A spectacle motivated by factions of the ruling class is played out on the streets the class is mobilized into the service of factions of the bourgeoisie. The two factions can control layers and circles around them, the Democrats and the unions and leftists that follow after them, or the Republicans with their fringe of neo-fascists. It is time to fight for the thing these reactionaries all hate the most, communism. And by that we don’t mean the state capitalist monster that was the USSR but one true to the original vision of Marx where the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” will apply.
Monday, August 28, 2017
- 2 The Jim Crow Laws started in various states in the South in the late nineteenth century depriving blacks of their legal rights as citizens and imposing segregation. They legally ceased in 1965 but their consequences remain.
- 3 Kuttner, Robert. Steve Bannon, Unrepentant. The American Prospect. August 16, 2017
So this is much better than
So this is much better than the rather bland text previously put up by comrades in 'Internationalist Perspective' - that gathered something of a stormy reaction from other valued comrades here - in it's attempt to analyse the specifics of the current political situation with 'Fascism' and 'anti-Fascism' in the USA following Trump's election, although it perhaps skirts the fringes of 'conspiracy theory' in it's presentation? and is probably still open to the accusation of avoiding the practical problems of day-to-day responses to 'fascist' street violence. Still worthy of some considered discussion.
Yeah, Mike I had the same
Yeah, Mike I had the same thought.
Overall I thought the blog was pretty good. However, while I am aware of the US working with neofascist groups internationally in the 60s and 70s, I'm not aware of there being evidence of collaboration with domestic fascist groups. Is there any more info about that?
I guess during the civil rights movement, the FBI was trying to fight it, the FBI had also infiltrated far right groups, and far right groups like the KKK did murder a bunch of civil rights activists. But is there evidence that the FBI either knew this was going to happen, or provoked it deliberately or anything? Or if the blog is talking about something else, what was it?
Quote: Over the months and
If 'Portland' refers to the stabbing on the metro, then it wasn't violence 'towards the left', it was originally verbal abuse against young muslim women and then a fatal attack on the men who intervened.
While you don't mention them in the article, the stabbing of Timothy Caughman in New York, and of Richard Collins III on a campus in Maryland were both far-right killings of black men, not 'the left'.
Republicans such as Mitt Romney have opportunistically 'condemned white supremacists' in the wake of Charlottesville - this is perhaps the first sign of what we might recognise as a 'liberal anti-fascism' compared to the fashion spreads of less than a year ago. But this is in no way distracting from the circus as you put it - instead you have Trump giving off the cuff speeches about 'all sides', namechecking anarchists and antifa, calling open white supremacists 'great people' and pardoning Joe Arpaio.
Similarly, Democrats may be up in arms about the 'alt-left', but that's an extension of the 'Bernie-bros lost the election'/Russia stuff they've been on for months. So this seems very conspiratorial for something which is not really a massive boon to either of the parties. We could say that the media attention to it might have this effect - the massive over-reactions to the Berkeley protests, constant anti-antifa thinkpieces from 'left' and 'libertarian' commentators, but that doesn't need a conspiracy - it fits very well into left academic and sect attempts to restrict struggle to easily co-optable marches and libertarian absolute free-speechism's click-baitiness.
This assumes that attendance at counter-protests is a zero-sum game - that the people showing up to oppose fascists won't be involved in working class self-organisation and that it diverts people who otherwise would from that task. It also ignores that the campus protests which preceded the latest wave of anti-fascism included disruption of fascist organisation and recruitement on those campuses not just 'opposing speakers' - the Maryland killing was by someone who was involved in far-right politics on campus.
I don't think this zero-sum argument holds up to scrutiny in the US at the moment - for many young people it may be their first ever political activity. It's generationally distinct from Occupy (and some of the Occupy characters have ended up on the alt-right sides in these protests). Ferguson and Baltimore are considerably more recent but the street movement against police violence was already waning considerably in 2016.
If we look at a group like the Democratic Socialists of America, they had a massive surge in membership post-election, and now local chapters are out on street protests. It's just as likely they could have been organising canvassing for 2018 senate election candidates around now. The election of Danny Fetonte (a police union organiser, CLEAT lobbied for laws making running protesters over legal amongst other things) to the NPC of the DSA has caused a massive schism in the organisation - partly because the new influx of members has been face to face with the police recently.
There needs to be a serious discussion about how to apply the same energy currently happening with anti-fascism to workplace and tenant organising, opposing ICE raids and detention, police killings and white-supremacist murders vs. set-piece counter protests, but painting this as a strategy to demobilise/redirect people from other activity doesn't cut it for me. Disrupting organisation of street fascists also allows some space for those things to happen - far right groups were disrupting meetings earlier this year.
Steven. wrote: Yeah, Mike I
There's plenty of evidence of individual ICE, police and prison officers being members of far-right groups, and this being tolerated at least up until the point there's a media outcry - can think of a few cases just this year. That can be true without an active conspiracy though.
Hi all, I wrote this piece. I
Hi all, I wrote this piece. I appreciate the comments. It will help when I attempt to write something hopefully of better quality.
There are lots of articles about the FBI's prosecution of the KKK in the sixties and seventies, but some of that was collusion through assistance to high ranking leaders turned informer and the data out there makes it look like the FBI was fighting a grand battle against them, this wasn't always exactly the case. I read a great article on the subject but now I can't find the thing at all.
Bush II actually rescinded the general rule that known gang members would be allowed to serve in the military, during a time when they were having difficulty getting volunteers to go to Iraq. The result was they knowingly gave lots of white supremacist gangsters military training and it was all done right out in the open for purposes of filling in military uniforms. The case of ethnic Ukrainian Nazis, they've received support both internally in the US and externally in the Ukraine, the usual jobs and political patronage in the US and monetary support abroad. One example was Mykola Lebed's son, an american neo-nazi son of a Ukrainian nazi. The collusion between the US government and white supremacist groups is more via osmosis than any conspiracy. The repressive forces of the state naturally tend to gather other repressive forces to themselves.
Mike Harman's comment gets to the matter:
Dems have by far the most resources to harness this political energy to their own purposes and they will use it as far as they are able to drain all political life out of anything they find.
Quote: Dems have by far the
While I'm sure they'd like to do that and this is their usual role, I'm not sure they're capable. You have Nancy Pelosi calling for arrests and prosecutions at protests where in some cases tens of thousands of people attended: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/30/nancy-pelosi-denver-violent-antifa-activists-should-be-prosecuted-dont-represent-democrats/ - this very different from a '30s popular/united front situation. If Sanders had been the presidential candidate, but lost to Trump, then they'd be in a much better position to do so in otherwise similar circumstances, but this has been curtailed by the constant red-baiting thus far.
That's national politics though, it seems more feasible for this to happen by a turn towards city and state-level politics by groups such as the DSA but again I think 'anti-fascism' is currently making this less likely rather than more.
Mike, I take your point about
Mike, I take your point about the past 'derailing' potential of the Democrats had Sanders been the defeated candidate, but Sanders and his Democratic supporters and the likes of the DSA might still perform that function over time and the opening text points to the potential of the Republican/Democratic state apparatus manipulation of events in other ways less obvious perhaps.
Over here in the old UK of course we can see the likes of the SWP and other Corbynite supporters milking the whole anti-racism, anti-fascism thing (both locally and on the back of events in the USA) for all it's worth in their opportunistic recruiting drives.
This seems like
This seems like dogma-by-numbers - a predictable restatement of the left-comm line eternally applicable since the 30s. Avoids dealing with any concrete needs of real proletarians - ie, how to deal with potential fascist encroachment in their lives - and spouts only abstraction based on the holy canon of the ancient sacred texts set in stone. Concludes with an idealistic ahistorical call for a sudden decision to 'fight for communism' regardless of current realities with no regard of what such an historical process entails starting from where we are; the same kind of assumption of a rapture and revelation occurring that much modern communisation millenarianism is based on.
There’s a theme here common in left-comm analysis; the ruling class is always an active conspiratorial subject doing manipulative things to a largely passive proletarian object with the proletariat awaiting its acquisition of absent left-comm consciousness – everything prior to this acquisition is no more than a deception done to it. That is a simplistic narrative with a simplistic resolution – acquire the consciousness on offer from its left-comm guardians and ‘begin the fight for communism now’.
Also ignored is that, for the fascists, basically anyone who isn’t right wing is considered part of their prime target of “the left” (even the rare breeds of left communism), with none of the niceties of distinction made by radicals themselves. Apart from the left, there is a real threat to sections of the proletariat – but, as IP & others see it only as an idealised abstraction, they show no interest in considering how 'The Proletariat’ can deal with threats of racism and repression.
This may be less applicable to the less paranoid IP, who broke with their ICC parent org; but contrast this disinterest in dealing with real working class needs of defence with the hysteria among some left communists when someone breaks with their group or criticises them – then it’s ‘a vicious attack on the proletarian milieu’ (often by supposed police spies or freemasons) for which ‘solidarity must be expressed’ etc ad nauseum. Yet when there’s a real threat to real proletarians from fascists all that’s offered is holy scripture.
Red Marriott wrote: Yet when
Some of Red's strident
Some of Red's strident criticism above reflects points I've made in somewhat softer tones on the IP thread and elsewhere but criticism of the bland/vague conclusion to this particular opening text should not be taken by readers as a valid reason to dismiss all of the activity of the ICT/CWO or others within, or from, the Left Communist tendency as divorced from or uninterested in the day-to-day struggle of 'The Proletariat', and certainly the CWO does not subscribe to quite the same assumptions as some of the Communiser tendencies that Red refers to, if for different reasons that we might still criticise. Red is right of course to remind the CWO and other small ultra-left groups that they are as much 'the enemy' of the different ultra-nationalist and 'fascist' groups around as the Left in general and that sometimes there is a practical necessity of common defence when under attack at street level.
Red and I share some of the same criticism of the ICC's past organisational practice and 'mind-set' but again this should not deter readers from giving due consideration to the theoretical contributions of the varied Left Communist tendency.
Spikymike wrote: criticism of
otoh i support unequivocally the actions of the antifascists here in the states in these days; otoh, the left communists i've known have been deeply involved in immediate workers' issues. so i agree with spikeymike's admonition.
1. I'm not against
1. I'm not against anti-fascists, they are brave people. But I don't see any logic in their actions. If they are so much against hate-speech, why don't they attack those who wear the flag of the USSR? And most importantly, what I write below, I don't understand what is the connection between this work and the preparation of the anarchist revolution? Antifa beat the extreme right subculture people? OK, I'm happy. But what about supporters of libertarian socialism and where does the struggle for communitarian libertarian revolution? There's no connection. Here is what i think :
2. I agree partly with the left-Communist critique of anti-fascism. Of course, if we see a strong movement of self-organized workers, which is threatened by fascist groups, we must act immediately and build self-defense and Perhaps the left Communists underestimate the danger of fascists mobilization. But I don't see in America the social revolution. I see just the fight of two relatively small subcultures. I have nothing against. But it is simply irrelevant to the social-revolutionary work.
It would have been helpful if
It would have been helpful if Red Marriott had quoted the passages he considers to be just conspiracy theory. As far as I can see it simply dealt with the way in which the Democrats on their side play the identity politics game as they have nothing to say to the working class whilst some sections of the Republican Party pander to the alt-Right in all its forms. The article is also about Charlottesville and not about anti-fascism in general. There is a vast difference in two minorities facing off against each other over some symbol or monument than defending working class areas from fascist attacks. Members of the CWO have stood with other workers in defending their areas against racist thugs in the past as we consider it elementary but we don't do so in defence of democracy. There is a serious discussion to be had here. Most (but not all) anti-fa groups seem to dedicate themselves to confrontations over things like mosque building rather than the more difficult and boring job a trying to make propaganda in localities. Often in these confrontations the local people don't know who the fascists are (two women once standing behind me said they thought we were the fascists because we were in favour of building a mosque. I started to explain but gave up when I realised they were not listening). And the biggest threat from the fascists (far greater than the current physical threat) is that their simple but nasty ideas circulate more inside the working class than ours do - indeed some look pretty mainstream if you read the Sun and the Mail. But fighting fascist encroachment has to be done on a class basis and that means not playing the Labour left game of dissolving the class into defence of "democracy".
Cleishbotham wrote: But
I don't think any of us really disagree with this, but it would've been helpful if you provided quotes to support the allegation that anti-white nationalists -- like antifa -- are brawling with reactionaries in defense of democracy.
Because at worst this is simply abstract left communist boilerplate that has nothing to do with a critique of the actual limitations of resistance to the rise of white nationalism in the U.S. I don't agree with all the tactics of antifa, but I'm fighting on the same side as they are and I don't agree with abstract missives that flippantly throw them under the bus in the name of "communism."
Cleishbotham wrote: There is
On the Friday evening, a large group with torches marched up to a local black church which was holding a service. That's a clear act of intimidation against the local community. It's not a street gang marching through a residential neighbourhood, but US fascists aren't quite at that point yet from what I've seen - you could say they're trying to build up to it with the park rallies though - should people wait for this point?
As I've pointed out before in this discussion, the Democrats are so far to the right that they're not in a good position to recuperate anti-fascism at all. There's not a mass strike movement that can be diverted into cross-class anti-fascism, instead you have people otherwise not engaged in any direct political activity taking part in protests and the history of working class resistance to fascism being discussed both all over the place in social media and in a very distorted way in mainstream publications. In that sense it's not remotely equivalent to the '20s or '30s.
meerov21 wrote: If they are
Civil Rights figures like Paul Robeson visited the USSR in the '30s , then got blacklisted under McCarthyism. Fascists attacked one of his concerts in 1949 on Labor Day at Peekshill -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peekskill_riots. Would you argue that anti-fascists should have taken on two fronts at Peekshill: against Paul Robeson and his black working class fans on the one hand and the fascists on the other, or are you just posturing? The reality at that concert was thousands of people from local trade unions organised into a defense force for the concert against fascist street gangs. Robeson wasn't a CPUSA member, but was treated as if he was one by both fascist anti-communists and the US state.
Not to mention a lot of the young people in the US with hammer and sickles just associate it with 'communism', not specifically the USSR or US stalinist groups like the RCP - this is not at all equivalent to a swastika where intentions are pretty clear. This is really horseshoe theory crap I'd expect from someone like Peter Daou or Louise Mensch rather than a poster on this site.
Workers had to fight against the Bolsheviks in Russia from 1917/18 onwards, and Stalinist parties have had very negative impact on movements in France, Italy, Spain historically - but they were opposed when their actions and ideology were directly opposed to working class organisation, not because some random teenager drew a hammer and sickle on their placard to look edgy. People born in 2000 don't necessarily have all this history to hand, but rather see both fascists, Republicans and Democrats red-baiting anyone to the left of the Democrats and embrace it.
Cleishbottom wrote: It would
It would be helpful if you read more carefully. I didn’t say anything was “conspiracy theory”, I said it’s a left-comm cliché to portray the ruling class as an active conspiratorial agent acting on a passive working class. Eg, this implies a simplistic view of how a conspiratorial ruling class dominates;
So there was no self-determination at all for those who turned out to oppose the fascists? The fact that liberals & leftists are involved in a struggle or protest automatically compromises all others who’re involved? Were the anarchist black-bloc and other antifa only acting on the motivation of the Democrats? Anyway, apparently not all the statue removals have been part of the machiavellian plans of the Democrats; https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/durhams-civil-war-monument-and-the-backlash-to-the-backlash/536889/
But the following quotes are more generally critical...
That’s just a typical liberal argument, ‘don’t give them the oxygen of publicity’. As if the inevitable publicity of an unopposed invasion of public space or neighbourhood would be better and not encourage more boldness for fascists to apply their tactics. Yet IP agree that the fascists are becoming more violent, though their apparent solution is not to confront them;
So anti-fa activity is automatically equated here with statism. That seems similar to saying supporting a non-wildcat strike is automatically defending unionism. And so opposition to fascism has brought murder upon itself? And because some leftists and liberals are involved in opposition the whole thing can be written off as just the strategy of the bourgeoisie? Yet when IP (proud upholders of their critique of unions) support strikes they support workers acting in their own interests – despite the leadership of unions and the participation of liberals & leftists. They don’t quickly dismiss the whole event as hopelessly compromised (though some left-comms do sometimes come close to such absolutism). This division of labour between economic & social struggle indicates a reduction of proletarian existence to a workerist caricature; mirroring the ruling class reduction of workers to labour power. Yet, even if IP don’t see it, the bourgeoisie & the working class know that workers are exploited, repressed and divided in areas of life wider than just the workplace.
This is mistaking the appearance for the substance – again, no consideration that the symbolism of an appearance on the streets represents a rallying cry for a desired practice of fascism. IP remains itself at the level of spectacular appearance by judging all only on momentary political statements and symbols rather than what content is represented, its unfolding development and its relationship to working class life. It also implies that the resistance can’t have any agency of its own and avoid being mere dupes of democracy. Nor that it can be in a process of development. Nothing is as black and white as IP are trying to paint it here – unless there are no proletarians at all coming on to the streets due to a perceived threat of a growing fascist presence in society and the need to resist that. Whatever the shortcomings of anti-fa opposition and valid criticisms of their outlook, to reduce them and their diversity to just being dupes of the Democrats seems remarkably unconvincing with no evidence shown for that. It’s just wheeling out the stock left-comm anti-anti-fa ‘line’ regardless of particular content.
But if the worst case scenario was true and the content of all anti-fa activity was composed of weak liberalism and statism, that would still beg the question; what does the working class concretely do against fascism now and is it a terrible failure of the working class to abdicate anti-fascism to the liberals? It seems there’s little distinction made between bourgeois anti-fascism and the necessity of resistance to the anti-working class priorities of fascism.
The article’s conclusion is a resort to the same old workerist mantra; ‘only an organised working class, centred on the workplace, can defend the working class.’ That may be a reasonable generalisation (though technological changes in Western workforces & workplaces make it a vastly different proposition than when it was coined) but many specific cases are exceptions to that dogmatic line. Eg, the 1990s poll tax in Britain was not defeated by resistance in the workplace – as the SWP & co claimed was the only possible way – but by local neighbourhood struggles and mass protests. Deaths at the hands of the police are another obvious example.
(Leaving aside that not all proles in their areas are “workers” except in 19c marxoid cliché-land) I’m sure you have and my response was never to imply that you wouldn’t; and in doing so you surely stood with workers & others with all sorts of democratic, liberal & leftist illusions, because that is messy reality rather than ivory tower purity. The same is undoubtedly true for anti-fa resistance too, so it and its potential can’t be dismissed so quickly as is done here. As Hieronymous said;
This article is a further
This article is a further defence of the left communist critique of anti-fascism, and responds to some of the arguments contained in this thread, as well as the one around the libcom statement on 'why Chomsky is wrong on antifa'.
This contribution by the ICC
This contribution by the ICC starts out with some promise in distinguishing the current situation from that back in the 1930's and makes some valid points about the actual dangers from a revolutionary perspective of the ideology of anti-fascism in the past and indeed the potential dangers of that ideology in the present, but still fails to convince that they have got to grips with some of the day to day problems of dealing with the attacks of today's fascist style groups against their perceived myriad of enemies, in which seeking to identify who on a personal level we might defend or be defended by cannot be drawn along any narrowly defined ideological grounds. And certainly the ICC define their grounds in some exceedingly narrow terms that one has to suspect might even exclude some of their own ex-comrades! In that it shares some of the acknowledged weaknesses in the opening ICT/CWO text which was otherwise useful in opening up the discussion.
They also just tried to attack the Houston Anarchist Bookfair. There's a really, really good report back from the bookfair organizers that people should read.
I agree with Red's points very deeply. The left communist critique of "anti-fascism" as defense of democracy and a distraction from the class struggle has metastasized throughout other sections of the left and in many cases merged with those who take up the liberal critique of antifa, that it denies free speech, or is a purely subcultural struggle, etc. In reality, all of these perspectives end up merging and reinforcing each other.
So, in reality, it looks like a bunch of people backing each other up on the internet when they try to troll IWW members who have been promoting mass anti-fascism (as opposed to squad-style anti-fascism) and community self-defense. The critiques range from defending "free speech", to referencing Gilles Dauve and saying that anti-fascism is a defense of liberal democracy and a distraction from the class struggle, to saying that there is no fascist threat and it's all been made up by the media and the democrats. What unites them is a severe opposition that the IWW should be at all associated with anything approaching anti-fascism. They've been very loud online this past year, but the recent Convention voted overwhelmingly to say that the IWW supports engaging in mass anti-fascism and community self-defense.
I bring up the IWW example as one way that this plays out in the broader left, as its the example I'm most familiar with. But I don't think it's unique. (The IWW is, of course, tiny, but it's still on a different scale than any of the more ideological micro-groups.)
If it was so important to ICC
If it was so important to ICC to reply to my comments, why not in the discussion they were originally part of? Cos then they couldn’t selectively use some quotes and ignore other parts that didn’t fit their response? Maybe I should ‘reply’ by posting an article somewhere else?
It’s ironic that when the ICC grouped together some other fellow politicos to defend their meetings from fascist threat this is implied to be part of the real class movement – but when the 43 Group and other anti-fa have done anything similar it’s condemned as being outside the class movement and so lapsing into bourgeois anti-fascism. This appears to claim that possession of certain ideas changes the whole meaning of similar actions and turns one from bourgeois illusion to proletarian virtue – a completely idealist view. Were all defenders of the ICC meeting staunch left-comm proles with a critique of bourgeois anti-fascism? Was that a criteria for support being accepted? If not, was it then a ‘bourgeois anti-fascist alliance’?! Would that have mattered at the time? How did you vet people to avoid that sin you so grievously accuse others of?
The rest of the article is the same old predictable dogma, dealing in absolutes, as if all anti-fa activity - except theirs, presumably due to possession of a dusty critique - must lapse into bourgeois anti-fascism.
Few are against learning from relevant lessons of history but ICC & co just wheel their holy texts out as a substitute for dealing with the specifics of the current historical situation. All involved in the discussion have heard ‘the line’ from the 30s 1000 times before and know where to reference it but the left-comms mechanically parrot and regurgitate it every time anti-fa is mentioned. Due to this mechanical ideology reproduction they immediately paste the familiar categories of the 30s critique onto the present with no sensitivity for historical change, despite these changes being pointed out by others. Despite it being repeatedly shown, they ignore that not all anti-fa are unaware of or unsympathetic to that critique (allowing for its historical limits). One would struggle to know from the left-comm moans that any anti-fa were quite aware of the pitfalls of bourgeois anti-fascism or that there could be a consciously class-based response to fascist threats in the here and now (beyond defending tiny left-comm meetings). But perhaps they want followers to think that - as otherwise the uniqueness and supposed superiority of their ideological brand is reduced? There are surely various motivations and outlooks among anti-fa activity, many of them not conforming to 1930s stereotypes. Fascism and its practice is a real class issue, one desired method of maintaining class relations and rule – the fascists know that even if the left-comms seem a bit dim on it and treat it as a distraction from ‘real’ class issues.
1930s critiques badly reapplied ignore that, unlike then, there is now no mass workers movement to be led astray (eg, Rojava is not Spain 36 replayed, no matter what some anarchists & leftists claim). The Western working class is far more fragmented without many large concentrations of workers clustered around factories – its culture and remaining solidarity is quite different. Simply appealing to an abstract re-emergence of a new workers movement as a golden ideal solution to fascism & other problems faced now is an intellectual cop out and a thoughtless repetition of received truths. And an attitude that makes fascist success more likely; using the absence of this ideal proletarian movement as an excuse to defer any opposition to a fascism that explicitly seeks to prevent such a re-emergence is hopeless. Claiming that there can be no relation between the development of such a movement and any anti-fa activity is similarly useless. Claiming that anti-fa activity inevitably becomes colonised by bourgeois politics is similarly lazy thinking. It’s not that the left-comm critique of the 1930s is a “dead dogma” – it’s that it’s misused as a shield by today’s left-comms for retreating from any considered discussion or effective engagement with the real needs of proletarians who are affected by fascism.
Rather than any real discussion of the needs of the moment the ICC are more concerned only to defend their ideology and again try to show its superiority to anarchism as a guiding light to ‘the proletarian milieu’ etc. It doesn’t really matter though how one responds to the inadequacies of the left-comm criticisms – they will continue to quote the received 1930s line – the ideological glue that bonds the group in their safe abstractions protected from the test of practical historical application.
Are the ICC for active defence against fascists? How do they determine what fascist activity is worth defending against – apparently threats against tiny left-comm meetings are worth defending against but fascist invasions into the streets of, eg, Charlotteville – where many working class people live – aren’t? Attacks against explicitly political targets like meetings and bookshops are worthwhile defending against but more general incursion into proletarian social life on the streets aren’t? This mirrors the separation between economic and social struggles I criticised ICT for;
They may project the new workers movement as a second coming to deliver us all; but missing from the left-comm criticism is the effect of further encroachment of far-right views within the working class and its prevention of w/c solidarity. This is encouraged by the continuing growth and influence of the far right, whose main function – in the absence of any chance of political state power - is to help popularise divisive ideas and so shift mainstream politics further right. This doesn’t mean most workers will become fascist, but is another obstacle to the growth of the solidarity necessary for the emergence of a new working class movement.
Yes, anti-fa activity has certain potential pitfalls, but most people left-comms are preaching at here to try to prove their supposed ideological superiority already know that. But finally it seems left-comms are against any confrontation and only grudgingly accept adopting defensive measures when forced on them (an attitude that can have obvious long-term weaknesses).
ICC & co need to get it through their rather dense heads that many they lecture are long aware of the critique of bourgeois anti-fascism – whether via Barrot, anarchist critiques of Spain, the left-comms or whoever – and have concluded that it's not in contradiction to necessary measures to resist fascist attacks on working class life now. Endlessly long-windedly repeating 'The Lessons Of The 30s' regardless of nuance, context or historical development refutes nothing in itself but only confirms the historical irrelevance of such repetition. Nor does it have any use for those proletarians forced to deal with fascist encroachment. The ICC & co see transformation of consciousness as key to building the next workers movement, with this process seemingly seen as acquisition of certain of their eternal truths - rather than as a praxis where truth is found through a historical practice informed by reflection and analysis. But when a historical and materialist critique becomes a rigid and abstract dogma it’s an obstacle to engagement with reality and real needs.
By popular request, I am
By popular request, I am answering here…
I won’t respond to Red’s long post at equal length but I think it’s necessary to take up one key issue relating to the problem of what we call the “class terrain” – of the criteria for recognizing whether or not a movement or organization has a proletarian character. I think that Red mixes up two things with his comparison between the 43 group and the measures we took to defend our meeting from a threatened fascist attack:
“It’s ironic that when the ICC grouped together some other fellow politicos to defend their meetings from fascist threat this is implied to be part of the real class movement – but when the 43 Group and other anti-fa have done anything similar it’s condemned as being outside the class movement and so lapsing into bourgeois anti-fascism. This appears to claim that possession of certain ideas changes the whole meaning of similar actions and turns one from bourgeois illusion to proletarian virtue – a completely idealist view. Were all defenders of the ICC meeting staunch left-comm proles with a critique of bourgeois anti-fascism? Was that a criteria for support being accepted? If not, was it then a ‘bourgeois anti-fascist alliance’?! Would that have mattered at the time? How did you get people to avoid that sin you so grievously accuse others of?”
The defence of a revolutionary organization from fascist (or leftist) attack is just that: a small minority defending itself in order to carry out its activities. We obviously consider these activities to be part of a proletarian practice, and thus on a “class terrain”, but we wouldn’t describe the measures we took as a “class movement”. In today’s conditions, where revolutionary groups are rarely recognized by workers as belonging to them, it’s inevitable that such actions will tend to be reduced to a few “politicos”. On one or two occasions workers at factory gates have defended our right to distribute leaflets when Stalinists (this was in France, where CGT goons can be quite vicious) threatened to kick us out, and we certainly didn’t ask those workers to state their political positions before accepting their solidarity. But that’s not something we have been able to count on. In the thirties the threat from the Stalinists was even worse and comrades of the Italian Left sometimes went to the factories with leaflets in their hands and a gun in their pocket.
But in essence this argument is beside the point because the real comparison the article made, and which Red doesn’t take up, is between a massive movement such as the one in Cable Street in 1936, which gave us an example of genuine class solidarity in the face of the fascists and the police, and the activities of the 43 Group.
As it happens, I knew one of the founders of the 43 Group and its main historian, Morris Beckman, in the last part of his life, on the basis of a neighbourly connection going back to the days of my grandfather (you can look for the connection in Morris’ book The Hackney Chronicle). I had a lot of respect and affection for him. We talked at length about the 43 Group and he told me a lot of interesting stories about its activities, but I never thought that the methods of the 43 Group were the methods of the proletariat. They were always a military style group with one aim: to forcefully stop the fascists from holding meetings. According to Morris, they often had an informal agreement with the police: if they managed to overturn the fascists’ platform, the police would step in and stop the meeting. This reflects the changing situation of the fascist groups before and after the war. In Cable Street the fighting was mainly between the local population and the police who were protecting Mosley’s forces.
The 43 Group didn’t call on the proletarians of the East End to develop a wider class response to the fascists but relied on the fact that the group was made up of tough guys who had seen military service and were very often better fighters than the fascists. In other words, they acted in the absence of a class movement rather than as part of it. The group tried to be “non-political” but the guiding thread was the idea that “we fought a war against fascism and we’re not letting them back onto our streets”. Morris also wrote a book called The Jewish Brigade which chronicles the development of a specifically Jewish force in the British army, set up with Churchill’s backing. He also shows the link between many of the core elements in this brigade and the foundation of the forces that fought for the Zionist yishuv after the world war. All these ideological elements were strongly present in the formation of the 43 Group. In other words: even if they were formed as a somewhat independent group (the established Jewish organizations were initially rather hostile to them as I recall) their trajectory could only be towards incorporation, ideologically and politically, into a variety of bourgeois frontism. It could be argued that they dissolved before this process was completed but think that the history of the group provides us with further reasons not to underestimate the pressures that drive activity on a purely antifascist basis towards the politics of the ruling class.
I see that there is an old
I see that there is an old thread about the book on the 43 Group.
Also a link to an interview
There's also the major one on youtube:
But it would be good to put the book in the library here, it's not so long. Morris regarded himself as a professional writer and stood for making money from his books, so I don't know whether he would approve of putting his books online for free, but he was also a generous man.
I know he would also, if he was still around, be happy if you bought his book: