Workers Vanguard No. 1138
24 August 2018
One Year After Charlottesville
Only Labor/Black Power Can Stop the Fascists
Break with the Democrats! For a Workers Party!
On August 12, a score of fascists rallied just outside the White House to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their murderous rampage in Charlottesville, Virginia. Outnumbered by more than 2,000 anti-fascist protesters, these race-terrorists, guarded by an army of police, carried out their rally for “white civil rights”—code for deadly violence against black people, immigrants, Jews, leftists and the integrated union movement. In Charlottesville, where one year ago hundreds of armed fascists waving swastikas and Confederate flags stormed the streets and killed protester Heather Heyer, a state of emergency was declared. Although there was no organized fascist presence, police in riot gear flooded the streets to impede marching by anti-racist activists. Students at the University of Virginia nailed the collusion between the cops and their fascist auxiliaries with a banner reading: “Last Year They Came with Torches, This Year They Come with Badges.”
Fueled by Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant “Make America Great Again” crusade, fascist terror has been on the rise. And the cops, the day-to-day enforcers of capitalist “law and order,” protect the fascist killers. On August 18, the cops accompanied more than 100 fascists marching with guns through downtown Seattle. Two weeks prior, on August 4 in Portland, more than 400 fascists organized by Patriot Prayer and the Proud Boys rallied while cops attacked counterprotesters with tear gas and flash grenades. One protester suffered a traumatic brain injury from a grenade that pierced his helmet and penetrated his skull. In Berkeley, a number of those protesting an August 5 “alt-right” rally were arrested and “doxxed” by police who posted their names and mug shots on Twitter. Doxxing leftist and anti-fascist protesters has become routine police procedure, an ominous set-up for lethal violence. We demand: Drop all charges against all anti-fascist protesters!
The fascists are paramilitary gangs whose purpose is the destruction of the workers movement and carrying out racial and ethnic genocide. Feeding off economic misery and fomenting murderous chauvinism, the fascists recruit mainly from sections of the enraged petty bourgeoisie and unemployed. With class and social struggle at a historic low, the American rulers currently have no need to unleash their fascist thugs against the organized workers movement. But they keep these shock troops in reserve for times of social crisis, when the normal mechanism of state repression under bourgeois democracy is not enough to restrain the workers’ organizations, black people and the oppressed, and to preserve capitalist rule.
The race-terrorists must be crushed in the egg, before they grow into a mass force. The power to do that lies with the working class: integrated trade unions marching at the head of all of the intended victims of the fascists and sweeping these scum off the streets. As Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 October Revolution, wrote in the Transitional Program (1938): “The struggle against fascism does not start in the liberal editorial office but in the factory—and ends in the street.”
No one should be lulled by the small number of fascists that showed up in Washington, D.C. They got away with their rally, and this will encourage them to commit more acts of racist violence. The counterprotests led by groups like the International Socialist Organization, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America and the ANSWER coalition, associated with the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL), did not aim to stop the fascists but to channel outrage into impotent “hate not welcome” and “protest against racism” gatherings.
Their strategy to “unite against hate” pushes the deadly illusion that fascism is merely a question of racist ideas. Fascism is not about “hate” or right-wing ideology, but lethal violence, which in this country is directed particularly against black people. The fascists hope to reverse the outcome of the Civil War that smashed black chattel slavery. In D.C., one fascist, after thanking the police for VIP escort service in and out of Washington, called on Trump, the “great white hope,” to address “the interracial rape by black men of 40,000 white women every year.” Defense of “white womanhood” has long been the battle cry for KKK lynch-mob terror.
The liberal politics of the D.C. protests against the fascists were captured in the numerous signs such as, “Bigotry Has No Place in Our Democracy.” Such pleas fit neatly into the Democratic Party’s portrayal of the bigoted Trump administration as some “un-American” aberration. Far from it. This country was founded on the genocide of Native Americans and built on the backs of black slaves. Racial oppression is at the core of the American capitalist order, whether administered by Republicans or Democrats.
For its part, the bourgeois media gave loads of airtime to the fascist filth around the time of the rally. The liberals at National Public Radio provided a platform for Jason Kessler, the organizer of this year’s “Unite The Right 2” protest as well as last year’s Charlottesville horror, in the name of presenting his views. Fascist “views” are expressed through lynch ropes, bullets and gas chambers. Militants who buy the liberals’ “free speech” argument must be warned, as our forebears in the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party stressed in Socialist Appeal (3 March 1939): “The workers who spend all their time and energy in the abstract discussion of the Nazis’ ‘democratic rights’…will end their discussion under a Fascist club in a concentration camp.”
The mostly black Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689, which operates D.C.’s transit system, had the power to stop the fascists from even getting to their rally site. After transit management made plans to provide special train service for the fascists, Local 689 president Jackie Jeter blew the whistle, declaring that the union will “draw the line at giving special accommodation to hate groups and hate speech.” But these were empty words.
Management did run a special train with a designated car to get the fascists and a gaggle of press from the Vienna station in suburban Virginia to D.C. And the union leadership did nothing to stop this. Two top union officials were present at the Vienna station when service was provided to the fascist killers, and one even boarded the train to “witness” the scene. After the rally, the fascists were transported back to safety the same way. Black workers operating those trains described feeling “crushed” and “devastated.” They were betrayed by their own union leaders.
Jeter has tried to cover up the union tops’ treachery by placing the blame on transit general manager Paul Wiedefeld, who had claimed that the plans had been scrapped. Wailing that he “lied,” she calls for his firing. Jeter said the union will “talk to politicians” and organize “as tax payers” so that this doesn’t happen again.
These labor bureaucrats have no intention or clue how to organize real union power! The ATU should have shut down the train, literally stopping the fascists and their police escorts in their tracks. Jeter, who heads the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, had the connections with other labor forces to back up such actions. Other integrated D.C.-area unions such as the Teamsters, Postal Workers and Laborers could have been mobilized to show up at Vienna station and make sure the train didn’t run. What could have been a much-needed victory for labor and minorities ended in a demoralizing defeat because of the labor tops’ reliance on the bosses’ word and the capitalist politicians’ good graces. This class-collaborationist program has disarmed the unions in the face of the bosses’ decades-long class war, which has led to the driving down of wages, benefits and working conditions.
The power that workers have to stop the fascists was shown in a small but real way in Washington, D.C., in November 1982, when the Spartacist League initiated a united-front labor/black mobilization against a planned KKK march called against immigrants. Some 250,000 leaflets proclaiming “STOP THE KKK! Be where the Klan says they’re going to start their march!” were distributed. The action was endorsed by over 70 union officials, exec boards and union locals around the country. Some 5,000 people, including many black D.C. residents whose families had firsthand experience with the terror of Southern nightriders, came out behind the power of the organized labor movement, stopped the Klan and took over the streets for a victory celebration.
At the recent D.C. counterprotest, one black demonstrator who bought a subscription to Workers Vanguard said with pride, “You know we stopped them in 1982.” There is a reason why the memory of this action resonates in the city to this day. Our purpose was not only to spike a dangerous fascist threat but to promote among labor and black militants an understanding of the social power of the working class and the need for a revolutionary workers party, one built in political opposition to both the capitalist Democratic and Republican parties.
The 1982 success required a constant political battle against Democrats like black D.C. mayor Marion Barry, whose cops did everything they could to try to intimidate the anti-Klan protesters. It also required combating the reformists of Workers World (from which the PSL later split), who tried but failed to sabotage the labor/black mobilization by organizing a diversionary rally well away from the Klan’s intended march route. Our mobilization showed in embryo how a workers party in this country could act as a tribune of the people and fight on behalf of all the oppressed, with labor at the head of minorities and the poor in struggle against the common capitalist enemy.
We noted last year in the lead-up to the fascist mobilization in Charlottesville:
“Today, the idea that organized labor would mobilize its power in its own interests, as well as in opposition to the fascists, might seem fantastical, particularly to youth who have seen little to no union struggle. Responsibility for this situation lies with the trade-union misleaders, who have shackled the social power of the working class to the interests of their capitalist exploiters, particularly through the Democratic Party.”
—“‘Alt-Right’ Fascists: Shock Troops for Racist Genocide,” WV No. 1115, 28 July 2017
Playing off Trump’s overt anti-immigrant bigotry and dog-whistle appeals to anti-black racism, Democratic Party liberals are dusting off their phony image as the friend of blacks, women and workers, the better to gain a majority in Congress and retake the White House. But make no mistake. The Democrats in office will offer workers and the oppressed continuing U.S. imperialist terror abroad and racist cop repression and attacks on working conditions here at home. This is exactly what happened under Obama, whose own attacks on working people, immigrants and the oppressed set the stage for the rise of Trump reaction.
A serious fight to put an end to fascism must be based on a revolutionary proletarian perspective to do away with the capitalist order that breeds the fascist scum. In this country, the fight for black liberation through socialist revolution is the key to winning liberation for all the exploited and oppressed. The Spartacist League/U.S. is dedicated to building a multiracial workers party to fight for a workers government, which will complete the unfinished tasks of the Civil War by ripping the means of production out of the hands of the capitalist exploiters and establishing a socialist egalitarian society.