Building a United Front During Growth of Far Right Authoritarianism
Table of Contents
The Menace of Fascism in Italy and the UK
The purpose of Ted Grant’s pamphlet, The Menace of Fascism”, is to argue that fascism had carried over in the UK after WWII had ended, in contrast with the celebratory mood of the victory of democracy over the forces of fascism. The roots of fascism found in the UK could be traced back to Mussolini’s Italy where fascism first appeared in modern Europe and to Nazi Germany.1 Thousands of strikes were taking place each year in Italy after WWI, including a strike in 1920 of 600,000 metalworkers who occupied mills and carried out their own production as decided by elected shop committees. The peasants seized farmland and formed what were called Red Leagues. The pamphlet was published in 1948 as a pamphlet while he was in the Revolutionary Communist Party in the UK, which would later split into both Tony Cliff’s Socialist Workers Party and also the former Committee for a Worker’s International which Grant would go on to later split from, forming the International Marxist Tendency.
Capitalists began to subsidize armed gangs led by Mussolini known as the Fasci, who attacked workers’ meetings. Although the Red Leagues through the Socialist Party were able to win in elections, after a councillor was apparently killed by a fascist during armed struggle, Mussolini was able to build a nation-wide terror movement driven by what had then become the Blackshirts, savagely hunting down and murdering trade unionists and suspected Bolsheviks. The police assisted the Blackshirts in street fighting and recruited directly from them, while the courts cracked down hard against alleged anti-fascist crimes. The army officers across the nation were ordered to organize with the local Blackshirt groups and provide them with arms, they then began to break strikes in unison together. Thousands of Blackshirts would be driven around in trucks from town to town to attack trade unionists and break up labor organizations, they attacked labor headquarters and newspapers.
In response, the Socialists and Union leaders refused to meet the Blackshirts in combat on the streets, but aimed to challenge them through legal measures in the capitalist state courts. They attempted to reach an agreement with Mussolini for mutual disarmament, which he would have found to be ridiculous. After much pleading for support, the state then attacked the trade union organizations instead of the Blackshirts. The anti-fascists would refuse to perform reprisals against the fascists for violent offenses, calling only for more labor struggles and for help from the King to return order that would never come. The bankers and the leaders of the trade unions all thought that Mussolini needed to be elected to secure peace, so while the fascists were a small minority in the Parliament, the King appointed power to Mussolini in a coup. The socialists would then continue to refuse to take up armed struggle against the fascists, even when an assassination of a popular socialist parliamentary leader led to an revolt uprising that swept across the country, they would not command leadership of the militant opposition movement against the fascists.
The labor unions were crushed and the right to strike was ended. Wages were steadily cut and consumption of both luxuries and necessities like coffee and meat diminished for workers. Even though the fascists had promised a return of power to the “small man” of Italy, the unemployment figures were enormous. The best revolutionary fighters were jailed or murdered. When Mussolini was hung from the neck, it was demonstrated how much he and the Blackshirts were hated by the workers.
After WWII ended with the defeat of Mussolini, a neo-fascist movement immediately got underway within the deteriorating conditions of the Italian middle class which had up until then previously subjugated to their own benefit the Italian workers. May Day meetings were fired on with weapons, and bombs were thrown at workers’ organizations and Communist Party headquarters. 19 trade union organisers were assassinated by 1947, shortly after the fascist party had already been defeated. The US and other NATO aligned countries contributed to these fascist military operations through the CIA’s covert program Operation Gladio. Worker organizations in response have held public demonstrations, popular labor strikes, and have militantly attacked the headquarters of fascist organizations, while the police continued to protect the fascists. But Italy still suffered then from high unemployment and the other general conditions of capitalism in crisis, and so it will only be through international revolution that the Italian workers will ultimately prevail against fascism.
United Front with Social Democracy to Fight Fascism Prior to World War II
The social democratic German political party SPD was founded in 1875 and after a period of initial illegality it rapidly grew into a force counting millions of workers. During this time, while its leaders were already hostile to open revolution, major gains were made in regard to workers’ rights. What was remarkable about this was that unlike France and England, Germany had not gone through a liberal bourgeois revolution but instead had only recently established itself as a distinct and unified nation governed at the top by an emperor, and so the workers faced great persecution from an autocratic-backed police force. The SPD leaders would ultimately abandon Marxism and claim that capitalism would naturally end itself through the development of its own internal contradictions, without the organizing effort of a revolutionary worker’s mass movement whose power the SPD leadership feared. Internal stability and domestic peace was demanded to ensure lasting integrity to the structure of the worker’s organizations.
The SPD leadership, commanded by Friedrich Ebert, believed engaging in WWI would serve the interests of the new German state in its rivalry with other neighboring imperialist powers, even though socialists were being demeaned regularly in the German press as destructive savages unworthy of the respect of a common citizenship. As Germany began to be defeated in the war, workers turned on the ruling elite and carried out increasingly massive strikes. These advanced into a mutiny carried out by the sailors of the German naval fleet. Workers’ councils claimed power in several major cities along the northern coast. Ebert promised the German monarchy that order would be restored. As mass protests began to sweep through Berlin, famous German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg would condemn the SPD as having “transformed itself into the most powerful instrument of bourgeois counter-revolution,” retaining only its old banners and slogans.
Separate reactionary battalions and yet more newly formed Freikorps units would sweep through Berlin later that year, culminating in mass assaults against workers and executions carried out in the streets. These forces were once again being led by SPD commanders, notably the ruthless Defence Minister Gustav Noske. An SPD leader from the left faction, Eichhorn, was accused of embezzling funds from Bolshevik Russia. A new revolutionary coalition was declared in the city of Berlin when the KPD was only one week old but they would not propose any actions to be taken before they were being overrun. The trade union delegations sent to negotiate with the Freikorps were murdered.
After a short-lived provisional revolutionary coalition government was defeated by SPD-led reactionary battalions idling around in Germany post-WWI, the German Soviets were abolished and the first leader of the Republic was for a time Friedrich Ebert from the Social Democratic Party. Great concessions were made up until then to the still highly organized working class. Millions were organized in armed and trained Socialist and Communist Defence forces. Capitalists began to finance disaffected groups like ex-army officers and criminals connected to small but growing fascist parties. Among them were the Thule Society and the Pan German League, but out of these a party would appear called the National Socialist Party. They considered themselves to be anti-republican and they modeled themselves after Mussolini’s terrifying march on Rome. Within two years they would grow from being a political unknown into the second largest party in the Reichstag.
While a provisional coalition government was allowed to be formed between the elected leaders of the workers’ councils by Ebert, secretly he was conspiring to ensure that the old German parliament known as the Reichstag, in which SPD held the most seats of any party, would not lose its power in cooperation with the monarchy. Working class military battalions which remained organized together after the war were deliberately being minimized by the monarchy supplying arms to new counter-revolutionary forces like the Iron Division, Freikorps, and the Republican Soldiers’ Defence Corps. The SPD would not encroach on this delicate situation by arming their own membership in response. After a major counter-revolutionary assault on Berlin was thwarted, Ebert of the SPD demanded that sailors occupying important government buildings be fired upon by artillery.
Luxemburg and her counterpart Liebknecht at this time would found the German Communist Party KPD in response to these social democratic-led assaults on the workers. But instead of forming a unified block in the National Assembly to demand its abolition as a counter-revolutionary force, they chose to boycott it silencing their own voices and generating confusion. The KPD broadly held the trade unions to be reformist and there were elements interested in the party being decentralized against the interests of building toward communism.
Through the 1920s, the KPD shifted from being a party backed by mass movement fostering internal democracy and freedom of discussion, to a Stalinist controlled, bureaucratic and disciplinary culture. By agreeing to fight with the SPD against fascism, a majority of the working class could have been radicalized to the left and won over by the Communist Party. Opposing views were discouraged and in 1929, Thälmann as leader of the KPD and Stalin formed an ultra-left assault against social fascism. The term fascist was used to describe any enemy of the Communist Party, that included rank and file members of the SPD who may have been open to revolutionary action. At the same time, they claimed it was opportunistic to overestimate the fascist forces of Hitler even right as he was completing the task of taking power. Even when betrayed by the actions of their leadership, the KPD were then the most effective fighters against the Nazis.
The SPD who had previously held power in the Reichstag, were moved to support the conservative authoritarian Hindenburg in the 1925 election as a lesser-evil candidate against Hitler, somewhat narrowly beating him by 53% of the vote to 37% with the KPD’s Thaelmann trailing behind with 10%. After the fascist SS paramilitary was disbanded, Hitler negotiated with the monarchy to have the elected politicians replaced with ones who would agree to reinstate those forces, who immediately took to carrying out an assassination spree across the nation. Several more elections were ordered in quick succession, each leading to the Nazis carrying the most votes but being beaten by a coalition majority of SPD+KPD votes made separately for their own leaders, in spite of Hitler’s intimidating terror campaign being conducted against the workers to demotivate their political action. Legally this meant that the Nazis did not have a strong enough 2/3rds majority to pass major legislation on their own, but at this point Hitler instead simply chose to dissolve the parliament unopposed.
Street battles then broke out in major cities across Germany. Hitler and Goebbels privately admitted that had the opposing forces been better organized, they could have been permanently defeated then. Both the Communist International led by Stalin and later the 4th International theorist Ted Grant seem to agree that the Communists should have allowed the Social Democrats to be included in the united front of the workers, instead of the Communists trying to take power without assistance from any of the rank and file of the Social Democrats. In effect, it needed to be observed by the workers that the Social Democrats in power would never go far enough, whereas when the Communists tried to fight on their own, this allowed both the Social Democrats and the Nazis a chance to show that Communism itself was the problem.
The left parties in 1931 were considered by Trotsky to only have mere months to organize around a united front before the fascists finished taking power. Even though Hitler claimed he would take power by democratic means, it was widely believed by all that civil war was to be inevitable. While KPD finally called for a united front “from below” in the formation of Antifaschistische Aktion, the precursor to today’s Antifa, they still demanded that the SPD and its leadership be explicitly rejected by those involved in the united front. This obviously would have the effect of diminishing participation in the united front overall, except that many rank and file members of both SPD and KPD across Germany ended up forming local shop unions and armed defense squadrons in dismissal of the arguments being carried out amongst their leadership.
Although the left parties like the Social Democrats and the Communists in the KPD both fought against the proto-Nazi forces in the street battles that were taking place, they could not arrive at an overall strategic agreement. The SPD and the KPD, just years before the Nazis would take power, claimed in their newspapers that the Nazis were on a sudden decline leading up to their ultimate defeat. This is where we find ourselves with Trotsky’s text written in 1931, “For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism."2
Trotsky’s essay was published in Bulletin of the Opposition. It was written for a left opposition group that aligned itself with Trotsky and against Stalin first in the Bolshevik Party and then in the Communist International, whose members were expelled by Stalin from the Comintern later on. This would become the Fourth International, founded in 1938. The essay was republished in the same year in The Militant, the newspaper of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party in the US which split from the Stalinist Communist Party USA, led by people like James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman. So, the goal was for it to receive a broad international publication that could be useful for the shared interests of proletariat around the world. All workers should share in the goal of building a united front to fight against the violent, racist nature of far right parties. Trotsky also wrote this article as a critique of the German Communist Party, who he viewed then as urgently failing to rise to the challenge of building such a united front.
Bolshevik United Front in the 1917 Revolution to Fight the White Army
Trotsky cites the instance in which during the Russian revolution in 1917, Kornilov as the commanding general of the Tsarist Russian army and another leader of the moderate faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, Kerensky, led a battalion against the proletariat workers of the Petrograd Soviety. He says the communists could feel justified in arguing that to defeat the Tsar, first we must defeat the moderate Revolutionaries who act as opportunists to the movement. But this did not serve them when many of the proletariat were slaughtered in combat. Later, the Bolsheviks would align with Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries during the civil war that was fought against the anti-Soviet White Army.
Social Democracy in US Electoral Politics
Now in the US, both major parties representative of the ruling elite have threatened not to concede the election in defeat. In the event that Biden and the Democrats should win, we do not know how abominable a far right malignant figure will come forward to lead the Republicans in 2024 or in 2028, in response to what will predictably be the Democrats’ failure to manage the ongoing capitalist crises.
We will have liberals urging us to align with the Democratic party due to the fascist threat posed to us by Donald Trump, a threat which they claim can be dealt with in the next coming months - by voting. This of course will achieve nothing and both major parties in the US have developed into a threat against the workers with only the barest aesthetic differences remaining to distinguish them, such that Trump carries out the same actions the Democrats would plan on doing but only in a very openly vulgar manner that disgusts the liberal sensibilities. The German communist theorist Benjamin3 is often quoted to say that fascism is this very aestheticization of politics itself, but Ted Grant citing Trotsky from a 1932 pamphlet provides a class analysis of fascism. They describe how the encroachment of fascism entails the destruction of workers’ organizations, the reduction of the proletariat to a disorganized amorphous state, a complex system of administration to develop which penetrates deeply into all aspects of life alongside the state institutions and which obstructs the ability for proletariat to organize independently.
Trotsky complains that years are required to create a new party, and yet the present-day Democratic party, which has regressed so much in recent years, no longer makes any effort to represent the workers. Of course, we do not have much time either, because we face not only the threat of the development of the far right parties worldwide, but also approaching climate collapse which we must organize socially planned production in response to within the next decade and yet which the Democratic party has promised its financial investors to do nothing about.
The Democratic party has directed the remnants of social democracy in attacks against the proletariat. This is represented by the continuing popularity of Keynesian social welfare austerity measures that regularly manage to pass themselves off in the public discourse as populist social democratic programs. There is no Communist Party here to make a decision about how to oppose the Nazi threat. The nation-wide protest uprising led by black youth activists and developing into a multiracial, working class movement carries out strikes and makes demands for radical change. We still need to build the International which Trotsky hoped would organize a fighting united front to confront the menace of fascism.
Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Reproduction
Trump himself preys on this regression of material politics into an aesthetic attitude. The same condition of status quo normalcy which liberals plead for to be maintained serves his ability to maintain power. The capitalist reproduction of art has turned Trump’s violent discriminatory antics into memes to be reconsumed over and over again by his loyal pack of sycophants. The public is provided a way to express itself under the conditions of their exploited and unfree waged labor. Violence committed to workers and to oppressed minorities is celebrated by the right for its apparent transformative ends, that of course like the SPD would find out in its time, are in fact totally self-destructive.
Alexander Billet of In These Times, a Chicago paper formed in part by theorists like Marcuse who fled Nazi Germany, argues that for Benjamin, the movement to make human suffering pretty for political gain constitutes the introduction of aesthetics into politics and not their identical equivalence with one another.4 Whereas Democrats bemoan the death of evidence-based reasoning, Trump and his team joyfully make use of this state of affairs all the time. The left must respond by embracing rationalist critique and by clarifying the political aspects of art which are always present in it even when that truth is being actively distorted, without relying on old traditionalist concepts like genius, eternal value, and mystery that would lend one to absorbing the capitalist ideology and reproducing fascism. While we are confronted by the masses and their capacity for falling into distraction, we must see how these are not necessarily reactionary forces but that they include the potential for emancipation even in their full ugliness put on display.
Violence and the Spectacle of Fascism
Fascism consists in these same counter-revolutionary forces finding a need to turn to what Tony McKenna of CounterPunch calls, “The most extreme, barbaric and lethal form … the most prolonged and bloody form of open civil war."5 He dismisses that a set of material and social forces exist that could allow Trump to declare a military dictatorship, and that liberals mockery of his followers for falling for such a flashy, vulgar and blatantly reactionary tendency allows them to disguise from themselves their own complicity in the system that created Trump, who follows in every way after the tradition of Obama and the other rulers of the American state who came before them. In terms of detaining immigrants or invading Middle Eastern nations to plunder resources under the pretense of spreading democracy, Trump is only perfecting Obama and Biden’s program. He condemns the narrative that the right must be educated out of their ignorance that has let them be manipulated into a reactionary tendency, without providing a program that could answer the very serious material conditions that are affecting many of these peoples’ lives.
Marxists Permit Free Speech of Social Democrats but Form Their Own Publications
As Marxists, we do not navigate by quotations drawn from the text, but by the correct method. Quotations can be found to match a correct method. Trotsky cites Lenin who argues to the Comintern Central Committee in 1917 that we fight against the anti-Soviets, but we do not support the moderate social democrats, instead we uncover their weaknesses.
Since we cannot overthrow the moderate Social Democrats at the moment who will still remain in power, we explain their weaknesses to the people, we form independent Communist banners, organizations and newspaper publications, and declare freedom of Communist criticism against all state forces. The same should be extended to the social democrats and the trade unions in right of debate structured around properly materialist concerns. We should align with the Social Democrats in mass action and not in Parliamentary agreements. Trotsky says we should, “March separately, but strike together!” and that Communists should create, “a map of the fascist barracks and all other fascist strongholds, in every city,” for the purposes of building strategy. Although Trotsky repeatedly proposed such a practical alignment with the Social Democrats, the Stalinist led Central Committee of the Communist Party was never able to follow through on making such a commitment.
Trotsky on the Problem of “Lesser-Evilism”
Fascism in Nazi Germany was primarily driven by masses of disaffected petty bourgeois. After the war, they had lost their place as businessmen and shopkeepers that granted them elevated positions in the still newly forming unified German state. Unlike workers in the trade unions, they had not developed networks that could withstand an inevitable economic downturn. While many people were unemployed, trade union workers could still rely on the gains they had made in demanding the right to consistent shared work and the benefits of their own mutual aid networks. When the workers’ parties were not able to show a path forward that would also include the interests of the falling middle class, they were completely turned toward the open arms of the fascists lying in wait.
In America today, the workers have been rendered passive through decades of defeat, but at the same time Trump does not have a major paramilitary force backing him to carry out his demands for him in attacks to be made against the workers’ organizations, and the ruling elite surrounding him do not need this to be done to the extent that our supposed democracy keeps us all trapped enough already on its own.
What we do observe is a strong majority of American workers who choose not to align with any major party but instead claim Independence, as much as 2/3rd of the country identify in this way. Our task is to motivate this apolitical force into an organized fighting labor movement that can handle the kind of fascism we are struggling against, fascism which grows out of the bourgeois party’s total incapacity to do anything to actively handle control over mechanisms and operations of the state during the neoliberal era. With the defeat of key figures around the world like Canada’s Jagmeet Singh in the NDP party, Jeremy Corbyn in UK’s Labour, Lula Silva of Brazil’s PT Workers’ Party, and Bernie Sanders twice in the US running as a Democrat, we are not being presented with the immediate choice between social democracy or fascism in the world.
The question of “lesser evilism” is entirely rejected by Trotsky anyway, as was already being popularized in his own time, but he also criticizes the disillusioned Communists who have turned to supporting Hitler out of an attempt at striking against what would be referred to as the social fascist reactionary leadership of the SPD. The Communists would attack SPD-aligned workers’ meetings. The Comintern tried to make the Communist Party abstain from a Nazi referendum against the Social Democrats in power in the key state of Prussia, but the Party refused. The Comintern then boasted as though it had taken an active leadership role in supporting the Social Democrats in the referendum.
Trotsky expresses a beautiful vision of the communists aligning with the majority social democracy party first in combat against the fascists, and then taking care of the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary forces in exactly the way the Bolsheviks eventually did with them in due time, but it does not neatly apply for us in the same way. While Thälmann of the KPD considered defeat of the social democrats in the face of the fascists to be inevitable, to Trotsky’s dismay, for us we do not even have a party of the social democrats to succumb to fascism. Our fascism results from the failure of party politics representative of the ruling elite in the neoliberal era, which allows for new insurgent far right parties to grow in their place.
Use of Term Far Right “Populist”
The Hungarian prime minister Orban is now a far right leader of the Fidesz party and maybe the most popular in Europe, competed with by a more extreme fascist and paramilitary organization Jobbik which has even received up to 20% of the vote. Orban has nonetheless spent the last months of the Covid-19 pandemic declaring authoritarian measures according to a declared state of emergency in which he has acted to limit the powers of Parliament to hold him accountable to anything, expanded discriminatory policies against minority workers, and increased the size and scope of their national surveillance programs. These actions are carried out in fear of organized labor and with magnification from their local media in Hungary which contributes to the demonization of minorities and which is also facing pressure from the government to censor opposing views at the threat of hostile takeover to be reduced to state-owned propaganda outlets.
When the conservatives who are in power like Boris Johnson need to rhetorically deflect their inability to manage anything up to including the market, they turn to far right populists like Nigel Farage to help normalize a monstrous patriotic nationalist terror in conservative individuals who are made to be absolutely afraid that immigrants endanger their obviously diminishing share of the wealth produced by labor being withheld from both them and also all of the rest of the workers who they often choose to forget about. Although he could not hold highest office as Prime Minister, it was Nigel Farage who most effectively promoted the Brexit ideology in the UK that their country could make do without the EU dragging them down, which now sees them embroiled in indefinite trade disputes and succumbing to an outrageous death toll from Covid-19 as compared with the rest of Europe.
Right populist parties are often an additional party separate from the established authoritarian ruling class. This reveals their internal class divisions. The incredibly xenophobic, right populist parties we are struggling against should be compared to the far right parties that developed in the 1950s moreso than with Nazi Germany or with Mussolini’s fascist Italy directly. One of the key issues we are faced with today is that no party is in control of the state, in fact they all claim for it to be beyond the capacity for conscious effort to determine outcomes, and so it has instead become a matter of which party is better able to manage the market. It turns out that right populist parties have become very adept at selling this lie to the public, whereas technocratic state-management obsessed liberals, who like Democratic president Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s, ask us to make do with less and to work harder to contribute more to a state in which all of the social welfare programs will be scaled back, the workers then more and more blatantly being robbed of our labor. The Democrats are not at all able to sell the lie that the market can be managed so that everything will be made better again.
Far Right Parties in Central/Eastern Europe After the Fall of USSR
The final article, “Poland: The Far Right and Reactionary Ideas in Central and Eastern Europe”6, written by Paul Smith from the Polish section of ISA in 2019 makes the case that Jarosław Kaczyński of the overtly racist and nationalist “Law and Justice” party was able to take power exploiting these weaknesses of the liberal democracy. They are similar to many other right wing Christian Democratic parties recently taking power in Europe. Due to the colonial nature of capitalist Western Europe’s presence in Poland and in the rest of the region, and the repression they experienced during Stalinist rule, their underemployed workforce, abandoned by the machinations of the EU bureacratic elite, were perfectly positioned to take up a nationalist stance against both their stoked up racial hatred of immigrants for the alleged crime of stealing work, and with any socialist party that might offer the ability to organize around the shared interests of all of the workers’ collectively.
During Stalinist rule, and without the force of democracy, the nationalized planned production system of state-owned industries devolved into chaos. In the 1980’s, faced with high unemployment and the threat of economic collapse, the trade union bureacracies and liberal parties of these states resigned themselves to the demand of market reform, capitalist restoration, and the enforcement of economic austerity measures. While some countries like Yugoslavia fell into civil war, the countries nearer to the economic powerhouse countries like Germany were positioned to receive some eventual industrial development, at least up until the 2008 global economic crisis.
The prevalent anti-semitism of Poland is shared by Hungary’s far right party and around the rest of the Eastern/Central European region, that includes Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, even given the recent history of concentration camps being located there outside of what was considered by Nazi Germany to be the fatherland. This anti-semitism dates back to the Tsarist regime of 19th century Russia, which carried out pogroms against Jews and other minority groups along with trade unions. It was also even contributed to later on by Russian Stalinists in the USSR. This led to the development of Jewish community self-defense organizations.
In the Nazi concept of Lebensraum, not only would the Jewish people need to be exterminated in order to purify the Master Race, but so would the communists, and the people of Poland, and the other peoples of Eastern Europe too, because they would be considered by the Nazis to be of a lesser race. Exactly as we have witnessed here in the US, police in Poland watched over far right groups brutally assaulting Pride marches, while in other cases the police themselves have attacked anti-fascist organized protests. Their popular xenophobic slogans include “Pure Poland, white Poland” and “Death to the enemies of the fatherland”.
In Poland, a cult has been formed around the public worship of the fantasized anti-communist “cursed soldiers” who fought the state authority after WWII during its inclusion into the USSR. These reactionary partisans would murder civilians and cause a public terror in the pursuit of the overthrow of the Communist Party. They have recently been commemorated by the Prime Minister of Poland who laid flowers at the gravesite of these Nazi collaborators. They have threatened criminal punishment for anyone who excercises their free speech to argue that any Polish citizens have had any involvement in the Holocaust, whitewashing their own participation in genocide.
The UN has meagerly requested a report prepared on what the state of Poland is accomplishing in regard to anti-racist struggles, but it cannot force its member states to actively combat the racism of far right parties. Meanwhile, the Polist Ministry of Defense has organized a paramilitary force outside of the national army made up of “patriotic” citizens and what amounts to far right gangs, which they threaten to use to crackdown on protests using live ammunition. They have also infiltrated the ranks of both the police and military forces, raising the question of when we can count on national military units to reject right wing ideology.
The Kenosha Shooter and Fascist Paramilitary
On this Wednesday August 26, 2020 a 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse travelled from Illinois to Wisconsin to a protest condemning the attempted police assasssination of Jacob Blake, with a far-right militia group. In other countries these are known as paramilitary death squads. Carrying his parent’s rifle with him, he murdered 2 people and shot a 3rd in the scramble attempting to tackle him to the ground. The officer who shot Blake 7 times in the back remains uncharged with any crime and there is no report of him being suspended from active duty. Should we call the far-right militia group fascist? Is it an overstatement, will it provoke unnecessary fear and make people unable to discern actual fascism when it arrives as another force distinct from this moment?
Far right militia groups in the US now pass themselves off as civil libertarians, or “alt-right”, as in a hip new alternative right coined by the fascist Richard Spencer, and pretend to be interested in the protection of small business owner’s property which are depended on to generate an income and to provide for the business owner’s family. The militias claim to show up to the protests in respect of the free speech of all protesters, even that of Black Lives Matter. But we find in practice they coordinate with the police to cause unchecked violence to protesters who disagree with their views and to anybody who happens to be on the street at the same time as they are, most especially minority groups like black and indigenous people, women, and lgbt+ individuals. They make extensive use of the internet for better organizing vicious assaults against just such targets, and claim that their free speech is silenced by the left when they are deplatformed from capitalist-owned social media for these actions. In doing so they contribute to generating a media spectacle that suggests leftist violence taking over the streets of our American cities in a grand act of rejection of the freedoms granted to us by the Constitution.
On the off chance that members of a far right militia are targeted as an extremist group, like with the Bundy Ranch, the Proud Boys, or Atomwaffen, they will simply reform under a new name following largely the same ideology. So we see far right militias showing up to Black Lives Matter protests in Hawaiian shirts calling themselves Boogaloo Boys, and for a time this will give them cover as though they represent a good faith right wing faction of a populist protest movement sweeping across the country. Our goal here is to understand the historical roots of these divisions as they were found in pre-war 1930s Germany and how they developed until today. Although right populist parties are growing in nations all over the earth due to the globalized nature of modern capitalism, we will focus today especially on the case of Eastern and Central Europe, which shares a special relationship to both post-WWII Germany and the communist USSR.
Gigantic international corporations might come into play on this issue, so I want to introduce the term “corporatism” for such a phenomena. First, we should be careful not to let this term be used to convey a crony-capitalism that undermines a more legitimate and fair type of free market capitalism. However, it very aptly describes our conditions, taking into consideration the following factors that now apply to corporations that conduct business in the US and globally:
- corporate personhood
- unlimited political campaign spending
- too big to fail
- heavy stock market price manipulation
Therefore, with his limited theoretical ability, Mussolini was right to say that fascism is a merger of state and corporate power.
We now face a global recession that will follow after the loss of production caused by the pandemic. In the US our involvement in the BLM-led protest uprising should be to call for the formation of a worker’s party outside of the two major parties in the US, and to build the trade union movement into a fighting force that can prepare to follow through on mass strike actions. We also always need to look to connect the nationalist social revolutions taking place in countries around the world into an international force that can oppose the rise of global capital, which we are uniquely positioned to do among left parties in the US through membership with the International Socialist Alternative.
What we see is that our opposition to the publication of fascists must consist in a mass movement and not an appeal made to the government to stand in on our side for protection that we will never receive. We also must recommend that fascists be silenced but that where they are being provided a platform from which to speak that is currently out of our control, we must be prepared to debate them there so that the public will not only be allowed to hear their side. We do not condemn violence like the Democrats choose to do, but we always refocus attention back on class analysis and building a mass movement over the appealing desire for conspiracizing revenge.
Grant, Ted. The Menace of Fascism. June 1948. https://www.marxists.org/archive/grant/1948/fascism.htm ↩︎
Trotsky, Leon. For a Workers’ United Front Against Fascism. Dec 1931. https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/311208.htm ↩︎
Billet, Alexander. Donald Trump and the Aesthetics of Fascism. In These Times. 2016-01-28. https://inthesetimes.com/article/donald-trump-and-the-aesthetics-of-fascism ↩︎
Benjamin, Walter. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. 1936. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm ↩︎
McKenna, Tony. Trump, Obama and the Nature of Fascism. CounterPunch. 2018-07-04. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/07/04/trump-obama-and-the-nature-of-fascism/ ↩︎
Smith, Paul. Poland: The Far Right and Reactionary Ideas in Central and Eastern Europe. 2019-11-11. https://www.socialistalternative.org/2019/11/11/poland-the-far-right-and-reactionary-ideas-in-central-and-eastern-europe/ ↩︎