Workers Vanguard No. 896

3 August 2007


Covering for the Reformists, Again

IG: Hot Air Over Fascistic Minutemen

The centrist Internationalist Group (IG) has been in a lather over our article “Fascistic Minutemen and Anti-Immigrant Bigotry” (WV No. 891, 27 April), ludicrously charging in the Internationalist (May 2007) that the Spartacist League has joined “the company of bourgeois liberals who defend the fascists’ supposed ‘right’ to stage their immigrant-bashing provocations.” As we will show, behind this smear job, which has been posted on Indymedia sites, stands the IG’s appetite for the company of opportunist leftists for whom the struggle for immigrant rights is yet another means to push pro-Democratic Party politics.

Our article on the Minutemen put forward a Marxist position on how to combat these nativist reactionaries and, more generally, defend immigrant rights through mobilizing working-class power against the racist capitalist rulers. We described the Minutemen as fascistic, expressing the fact that they engage in anti-immigrant vigilantism and are penetrated by fascists but are not at this time an outright fascist movement like the neo-Nazis or Ku Klux Klan. Our position on what action to take against the Minutemen depends on concrete circumstances. When Minutemen vigilantes engage in physical provocations against immigrants and their allies, we are for workers and minorities stopping them and have joined in such action, for example at last year’s L.A. Labor Day gathering (see “Racist Minuteman Provocation Spiked,” WV No. 876, 15 September 2006). When Minuteman spokesmen appear on campus to spew reactionary ideas, we advocate protest and exposure of their anti-immigrant poison.

For Marxists, a different approach obtains when dealing with the Klan/Nazi fascists. The Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee have initiated mass labor/black mobilizations in many urban centers against these race-hate terrorists, who “debate” with the lynch rope and firebomb, who stage provocations in order to recruit to a program of racist genocide and the destruction of the left, trade unions and all working-class organizations through instituting totalitarian capitalist rule. Mass fascist movements are extraparliamentary mobilizations of the petty bourgeoisie, made desperate by economic and social crisis, along with the lumpenproletariat and even a section of backward workers. If fascists succeed in smashing the workers movement on behalf of the capitalists, as in Germany in the 1930s, the end product is a bonapartist bourgeois regime with sections of the fascists absorbed into the state apparatus and others purged (as was the Nazi SA in the June 1934 “Night of the Long Knives”).

The Minutemen, however, are similar to other single-issue right-wing movements like the Boston-based anti-busing outfit Restore Our Alienated Rights (ROAR) of the mid 1970s or the anti-abortion Operation Rescue. These organizations also have included violent vigilante components and attracted fascist participation, and we have sought to mobilize the power of the multiracial working class to stop them when they have attempted provocations and violence. But the primary aim of such groups is to pressure the bourgeois politicians and state agencies to further their reactionary agenda.

The self-proclaimed aim of the Minuteman border patrols, for example, is to act as auxiliaries to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), sheriffs and National Guard, agitating for the government to more thoroughly “secure” the border. And as we noted in our article in WV No. 891, “Though consisting primarily of white racists, the Minutemen have sought to recruit blacks and Latino citizens who buy into anti-immigrant bigotry, with some modest success.” Needless to say, such is not the case with the KKK!

Not so long ago, the IG itself described the Minuteman Project in an April 2007 Internationalist article as a “fascistic vigilante group” (emphasis ours). One month later, however, the IG denounced us for “making believe that the deadly Minuteman terrorists are not fascist, and merely ‘fascistic’.” What’s up with that?

The IG’s wordplay has precious little to do with the nature of the Minutemen and everything to do with providing a militant-sounding cover for the antics of the reformist left. This was seen at Columbia University last October, when the College Republicans brought Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist to speak on campus. The protest against Gilchrist was co-sponsored by the College Democrats and built heavily by the reformist International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL). As demonstrators rallied outside, the ISO, PSL and some others went into the speech and unfurled a couple of banners on the platform denouncing the Minutemen, whose supporters physically attacked the protesters. The leftist protesters subsequently faced reprisals from the university.

A leaflet issued by the New York Spartacus Youth Club defended the protesters while pointing out that their actions “played into the hands of the reactionaries’ false and absurd claim that the left is trampling free speech, when in fact it is the right-wing bigots that have been waging a massive campaign to purge the campuses of leftists, immigrants, blacks and any voice that is in opposition to the ruling-class agenda” (see “Defend Anti-Minutemen Protesters at Columbia!” WV No. 879, 27 October 2006). The leaflet quoted an SYC speaker at the protest outside the speech who denounced the anti-immigrant policies of both capitalist parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

Predictably, the ISO and PSL breathed not a word of criticism of the Democrats in their newspapers’ coverage of this event. For its part, the IG’s May 2007 article kept a discreet silence about the reformists’ pandering to the Democrats except when citing our polemics against the fake left. The IG writes: “The SL rightly excoriates groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) for working with the Democratic Party, in ‘antiwar’ coalitions and elsewhere.” Actually, the point is that the ISO, PSL et al. do not denounce the Democrats—the other party of American capitalist imperialism—in their joint actions with the likes of the College Democrats. The reformists played a similar role during the massive protests for immigrant rights last year, which were led by bourgeois liberals, union bureaucrats and others whose aim was to “make the Democrats fight” in the mid-term Congressional elections (and who demobilized those protests as the elections approached).

The IG, salivating over the sheer size of the protests, have gone hook, line and sinker for the reformists’ campus stunts. And bolstering the reformists’ “anti-fascist” credentials and slandering the SL is the price of admission into this “broad movement.” Thus the IG’s diatribe accuses us of being “well to the right of the ISO and PSL reformists.” Never mind that the ISO has never met a genuine anti-fascist mobilization it did not seek to sabotage. To take but one example: in New York City in October 1999 the Partisan Defense Committee initiated a labor/black mobilization that drew 8,000 people to stop the Ku Klux Klan, which had announced its intention to rally. The ISO worked in league with black Democratic Party politician Al Sharpton to derail this expression of labor/black power, building an anti-anti-fascist rally that included Latino cops.

Should bona fide fascists set foot on campus or anywhere else, we advocate mass, labor-centered mobilizations to drive them off. But when it comes to reactionary ideologues, we oppose the idiotic liberal “no free speech for racists” appeals by the likes of the ISO, which essentially call on the bourgeois campus administrations to regulate speech. In February, College Democrats demanded that the union-busting New York University administration revoke the charter of the College Republicans, who had staged a vile “game” of “find an illegal immigrant.” As we wrote in our article on the Columbia protest: “We oppose demands on the campus administration and on the capitalist state to police ‘hate speech’ because it bolsters the repressive power of those institutions, enabling them to use such codes and laws to victimize student protesters, minorities and leftists.”

At Columbia, our comrades participated in the protest outside Gilchrist’s speech. As for the misguided attempt to “shut down” the meeting, we defended these protesters while explaining how we differed with their tactics and the liberal politics from which those tactics flow. Huff and puff as it will about driving the Minutemen off campus, the IG, as the Internationalist article recounts, took part in the same protest we did—outside the speech. Unlike the IG, we took up the political cudgels against the reformists.

But “fighting fascism” is not the point of the IG’s polemic against us in the first place. Rather, it is to pledge anti-Spartacist allegiance to the “Anybody but Bush” crowd in the U.S. The IG’s “anti-fascist” hoopla over the Minutemen also obscures the fact that the main source of violence against immigrants seeking to cross from Mexico into the U.S. is the capitalist state, with its border guards and other armed forces. The Mexican bourgeois state carries out its own murderous attacks on immigrants at its southern border.

The IG has quite a track record of “anti-fascist” demagogy in the service of “fight the right” opportunism. A case in point was the French presidential election in 2002, when the fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen ran in the second round against right-wing president Jacques Chirac. We noted at the time that while the elections marked a sharp shift to the right in the bourgeois political spectrum and would further embolden Le Pen’s National Front thugs, his success was mainly an electoral phenomenon. Since the proletariat did not pose a threat to bourgeois rule, the French rulers saw no need to unleash their fascist dogs as a last resort to annihilate the workers movement.

In the end, Le Pen was defeated by Chirac, who had the support of a class-collaborationist alliance extending from the Gaullist right to the “far left.” While the reformist group Lutte Ouvrière (LO) drew a crude class line against voting for Chirac, our comrades of the Ligue Trotskyste de France could extend no electoral support, however critical, to LO given its pandering to the racist security campaign that was going on in the country. The IG threw its lot in with the bulk of the “far left” by screaming about the imminent danger of “fascism.” The IG also falsified our position on the subsequent parliamentary elections, accusing us of giving “conditional critical support” to LO. As the LTF wrote in “Why We Still Don’t Call for a Vote to Lutte Ouvrière” (see WV No. 782, 31 May 2002):

“Such absurdly flagrant lies have all the hallmarks of political desperation. The IG has been trying to posture as the militant in-the-streets wing of the anti-fascist electoral ‘unity’ pushed by the French left in the tow of the popular front—beating the drums for mass mobilizations, even for ‘demonstrations and workers strikes’ to ‘boycott’ the second round of voting. While admitting in passing (in its 4 May statement) that ‘Le Pen is not about to take power,’ the IG’s articles are full of the same ‘fascism is around the corner’ rhetoric—with analogies to Adolf Hitler in Germany, Marshal Pétain in France, etc.—that the French ‘left’ used to justify lining up behind Chirac.”

The IG sang the same song two years before, when Jörg Haider’s openly racist Freedom Party (FPÖ) entered a coalition with the right-wing People’s Party (ÖVP) in Austria. Social democrats across Europe howled that Austria was on the verge of a fascist takeover and mobilized to pressure the ÖVP to kick out Haider and reinstate its longstanding coalition with the Austrian Socialist Party (SPÖ). While noting that Haider’s political outlook was indeed fascistic, we wrote: “Haider’s FPÖ is purely an electoral machine and does not correspond to what Marxists understand by fascism. Reactionary views alone do not define fascism” (WV No. 730, 25 February 2000).

Denouncing us for “lulling the masses,” the IG devoted 20 pages of the Internationalist (June 2000) to “proving” that Haider’s FPÖ is fascist. So does the IG believe Austria is fascist today? Have the unions been crushed, political parties driven underground, concentration camps set up? No, in fact the SPÖ now once again heads the Austrian government. By the IG’s lights, victorious Austrian fascism came and went—but nobody noticed. Wielding “anti-fascism” as an electoral prop for “democratic” bourgeois rule serves only to prolong the capitalist order, which is the very basis for the existence of fascism in the first place. (We also refer our readers to our polemic against the IG on the question of the capitalist state, “The IG and Executive Office: Sewer Centrism,” in WV No. 895, 6 July.)

Behind all its “militant” bluster, the fact is that the IG is ensconcing itself comfortably on the left bank of the reformist stream. In contrast, our role as Marxists is, as Trotsky pointed out, to swim against that stream as we fight to build the vanguard party necessary to lead the exploited and oppressed in sweeping away the racist capitalist order through socialist revolution.