The International Socialist Organization calls on the left to come together to confront the upsurge in fascist violence and stop this new movement before it gains more power.
The horror of the slaughter of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue has once again highlighted a lesson of the 20th century: Fascism is an existential threat to the working class. It targets the oppressed and persecuted minorities with the overall goal of the decimation of working class movements and the left. It grows through terror and violence. But history shows us that it is possible to stop this spread of organized violence and hate through the mobilization of a mass opposition.
That is why the International Socialist Organization calls for a new, anti-fascist united front to confront, demobilize and discredit the growing far right in this country and around the world.
The urgency of such an effort is clear. In the U.S., we face an organized, violent fascist threat alongside state repression of the poor and vulnerable, with police shootings of African Americans and violence commonplace across the U.S.
Recent weeks have exposed the results: the shooting rampage at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where a Trump-supporting gunman shouted “All Jews must die”; the murder of two African Americans by another white supremacist in Jefferson, Kentucky, who claimed that “whites don’t kill whites”; the murder of two women by a self-proclaimed misogynist in Tallahassee, Florida; and the arrest of another Florida man who took Trump’s vitriol against CNN and “globalists” — a veiled anti-Semitic term — seriously enough to mail explosives to media outlets and high-level political figures, including former President Obama.
These attacks followed the organized fascist mob violence by the Proud Boys in Portland, Oregon, and New York City — where Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes was invited to speak by the Metropolitan Republican Club, after which his supporters brutally assaulted anti-fascist activists.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has been mobilizing its base — and the world’s most powerful military — against desperately poor Latino immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border. Far-right militias promise mobilizations to the border that will create a more dangerous climate for the approaching refugee caravan from Honduras that carries a wave of victims of a U.S.-backed, military-dominated regime. Far-right activists have also pledged to show up at polling stations during the midterm elections to harass and intimidate those seeking to vote.
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On August 12, 2017, anti-racist activist Heather Heyer was murdered by neo-Nazi James Fields, at the Unite the Right rally organized by white supremacists Jason Kessler, Richard Spencer, David Duke and others, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tens of thousands joined massive anti-fascist mobilizations in Boston and Berkeley, California, in the days after Heyer’s murder. These actions contributed to major setbacks for some sections of the neofascist movement in the U.S. Jason Kessler’s Unite the Right 2 action this summer on the anniversary of Heyer’s death was a failure in both Charlottesville and in Washington, D.C., where 5,000 anti-racists confronted 25 reactionaries.
However, while far-right figures Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have been forced out of the White House, and media personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos and Richard Spencer have been discredited, the far-right threat is escalating again. Some of these forces now seek to organize a much more militant and violent core, a highly dangerous prospect at a time when we are already beset by far-right violence.
The conditions that made the development of this odious movement possible — social polarization and crisis — still exist. Anti-immigrant attacks organized by the government promote nativism and racism. Voter suppression and brutal police violence target the poor and Black people in particular. Ongoing anti-Muslim discrimination and violence are so frequent that they are scarcely discussed in the mainstream media. The confirmation of sexual assaulter Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court and the eliminationist attitude of the Trump administration toward transgender people will incite more gendered violence incited by the far right. Political attacks on the media and exploitation of fears of an unstable world are encouraging a new push by various far-right forces to regroup and make new inroads.
These threats of physical violence are frightening, to be sure, but far-right movements thrive on fear. Massive mobilizations that are not just symbolic, but actually march to confront the Nazis, are necessary, especially because these demonstrations can demoralize the far right. While it is true that neo-Nazis who operate in the shadows can be highly dangerous, a fascist movement that is allowed into the light has a much more ambitious — and genocidal — goal. That is why this new movement must be defeated before it can gain a foothold.
The left is coming to terms with the same phenomenon internationally. Brazil has just seen the victory of a neofascist in Jair Bolsonaro. This victory was preceded by physical attacks against the organized left, against women and LGBT people across Brazil, as well as threats to academic freedom. Bolsonaro, an admirer of Brazil’s long military dictatorship, has threatened to escalate police violence targeting poor youth of color, abolish democratic institutions, and repress the media, organized labor and the left.
In Europe, the same right-wing nationalism that underlies Trump’s family separation policy echoes right-wing nationalists who have made significant gains in recent years. In Germany, Sweden, Denmark and other countries, far-right parties have won large numbers of legislative seats. In Italy and Austria, they participate in coalition governments. In Hungary and Poland, right-wing nationalist governments are implementing much of the far right’s agenda by cracking down on immigrants, whipping up anti-Semitism and gutting democratic institutions.
Asia, too, has seen the rise of the far right, as with the authoritarian military government of Rodrigo Duterte, responsible for mass repression and the deaths of hundreds in the name of fighting “terrorism” in the Philippines. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, has given the green light to pogroms against Muslims and oppressed castes and the persecution of activists and intellectuals, while his right-wing government continues the occupation of Kashmir and fights a brutal internal war against insurgents.
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That is why internationalism must be central to confronting the far right. Far-right activists in the U.S. have made direct connections with the fascist movements in Europe. Tommy Robinson, the leader of the violent, white nationalist English Defense League, has recently been invited to tour the U.S.
In the U.S., far-right street-fighting groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, along with various neo-Nazis and white nationalist organizations like Identity Evropa, are attempting to capitalize on this climate to increase their numbers and influence.
By rebranding itself “white nationalism,” this neofascist movement seeks to exploit political polarization and the economic insecurity experienced by many to build a movement that can intimidate and direct violence at oppressed people and the left. But organized fascists seek something far beyond intimidation. They seek power. And Trump is not the only U.S. politician allying with this vicious movement for political gain. Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has direct ties to European fascist parties.
History tells us that we should not — and must not — wait until the threat of fascism is stronger before we confront it. It must be dealt a decisive blow at its conception. There is nothing inevitable about the rise of the far right. We in the International Socialist Organization believe that the left must unite with the broadest social layers and largest numbers possible to oppose these racist intimidators.
The ISO calls for collaboration among organizations and individuals on the left in join in common activity to confront this upsurge in fascist violence. International Human Rights Day, December 10, provides one opportunity among others to speak out against the fascist threat in the U.S. and internationally and to begin a sustained, organized campaign to challenge and defeat fascism.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. eulogizing the little girls murdered in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963 are a fitting perspective in this moment:
“They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They say to each of us, Black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution. They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.”