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