By JOHN LESLIE
At the first presidential debate, the candidates really didn’t present much to average workers to excite their interest. But amid the blather, Trump did offer some cause for alarm. When asked by the moderator, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, whether he would repudiate white supremacists and militias, Trump refused. He then pushed back, saying, “Give me a name.” When Wallace called out “the Proud Boys,” Trump said, “Proud boys, stand back and stand by—but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem.”
The Proud Boys and their supporters were quick to show their appreciation. In one post, the words “Stand Back, Stand By” were added to the Proud Boy logo. There is no doubt that Trump’s words were a signal to the most reactionary and racist sections of his base.
Far-right message boards exploded with joy at Trump’s validation of their violence. One anonymous poster wrote, “Slaughtering leftists in droves will not be a punishable crime 2 months from now.” Another referred to Nov. 3 (election day) as “the day of the rope.” Proud Boy Joe Biggs posted that “Trump basically said go f*ck them up! This makes me so happy!” Biggs expressed that the Proud Boys are ready to deal with Antifa in service of Trump.
Just hours after the debate, Portland police arrested Proud Boy Alan Swinney on charges of assault, attempted assault, unlawful use of a weapon, unlawful use of mace, menacing and pointing a firearm at another person.”
The violent Proud Boys are a far-right outfit that avoids overt imagery of fascist regimes of the past such as in Italy or Germany. Since the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” event in 2017, the Proud Boys have achieved some operational unity with militia groups, neo-Nazis and other extreme rightists. In Portland, the Proud Boys, working with the reactionary Patriot Prayer grouping, have engaged in attacks on anti-fascists and Black Lives Matter activists. In Portland on Sept. 26, Proud Boys wore t-shirts printed with an image of the Kenosha shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse.
Additionally, Trump called on supporters to engage in voter intimidation in the guise of poll watching. Trump continued the drumbeat of disinformation about voter fraud, setting the stage for post-election claims that the election was stolen.
The threat of fascism
There is not currently a mass fascist movement in the United States. Fascism is a symptom of capitalism in decay based on the ruined petty bourgeoisie and declassed workers.
The bourgeoisie uses the fascist movement as a weapon against the workers’ movement. The triumph of fascism requires the defeat of the working class and the destruction of its mass organizations. If there is no fascist movement currently, it is because the ruling class does not yet need one.
Leon Trotsky pointed out in his pamphlet “Fascism: What It Is and How to Fight It” that the rise of fascism requires “a feeling of desperation of large masses of people. When the revolutionary parties betray them, when the vanguard of workers shows its incapacity to lead them to victory—then the small farmers, the small businessmen, the unemployed, the soldiers, etc. become capable of supporting a fascist movement, but only then.”
Even though the fascist movement does not have a truly mass base at this time, these groupings remain a danger to oppressed people and left activists. There also remains a danger of so-called lone-wolf attacks like those against the Tree of Life Synagogue or the El Paso Walmart. Many on the far right see these sorts of attacks as the opening shots that can spark the “race war” they desire.
We cannot rely on the capitalist courts, cops, or politicians to protect us. Certainly voting for a career, pro-imperialist neoliberal politician like Joe Biden is not the answer to stop the right. When Trump tried to tie Biden to the so-called “radical left … that wants to go socialist” inside the Democratic Party, Biden staunchly denied it, announcing, “I am the Democratic Party.” So much for any pretense of the Democrats being “on our side.”
Working people need to defend themselves
When the far right mobilizes, we have to build the largest possible united front counter-mobilizations to drive the rightists from the streets. Such mass actions also teach the masses their potential power as working people. The unions and organizations of the oppressed are central to this. Even when the unions don’t move, we have to keep demanding that they take to the streets.
Additionally, we support the right to self-defense by workers and oppressed peoples. This especially true when these armed militia groupings and the Proud Boys have armed themselves and seem primed for a post-election pogrom. Self-defense does not mean isolated and unaccountable groups and individuals taking action but the organized and disciplined collective action of the oppressed and exploited.
The workers movement needs a unified response to stop these thugs in their tracks! An injury to one is an injury to all! When we fight, we win!
Photo: Randall Hill / Reuters
For further reading: https://socialistresurgence.org/2020/09/28/how-can-we-defeat-the-fascist-militias/