The emergence of neofascist vermin from under their rocks to demand “reopening” businesses — a demand dear to super-rich capitalist rulers — makes it imperative for the left to develop a blueprint for countering the fascist threat, a threat that has constantly reappeared in U.S. history.
On April 30, hundreds of right-wing protesters — some armed with automatic weapons — stormed Michigan’s Capitol building in Lansing. They demanded that state protections against COVID-19 be lifted and businesses be reopened. Police allowed armed neofascists inside the building and into a visitors’ gallery overlooking state legislators in session. Some legislators sent media posts saying they feared for their safety; others donned bulletproof vests.
Over the May 1 weekend, similar reactionary protests were held throughout the U.S. by a mix of white supremacist militias, religious fundamentalists and groups funded by right-wing foundations like Coors and Koch. On May 1, President Trump tweeted support for the Michigan armed fascists, calling them “very good people” — praise he previously bestowed on similar gangs marching in 2017 with Nazi symbols and Confederate flags in Charlottesville, Va.
The bankers and billionaires who back the Trump administration have been demanding workers risk their lives and get back to work — and quickly resume putting profits in the bosses’ pockets. They manipulate the fascists to promote this program.
The date chosen by the neofascists was no accident.
May 1 is International Workers’ Day. On this May Day workers in the U.S. were in the middle of an almost unprecedented surge of job actions — slow-downs, sick- outs, walkouts, wildcats, union-approved strikes and other rank-and-file organized protests. In the pandemic, workers are demanding job safety and protective equipment from the bosses, as well as sick pay, job protection against layoffs, health insurance and more — even “Medicare for All.”
The big business media gave the neofascists hours of airtime on May Day yet hardly glanced at the historic worker actions taking place. The armed right-wingers are simply an extension of capitalist “business as usual.”
The same types of gangs were the militias of colonizing settlers, the plantation patrols of the Southern slavocracy, the strike-breaking shock troops of Northern industrialists. Over centuries, these extra-legal forces have been the Posse Comitatus, Ku Klux Klan and now the Proud Boys.
U.S. owners of land and industry have always called out and funded their “bully boys” when oppressed peoples and workers have organized and made a break for freedom.
The function of these neofascist forces was clearly defined by Workers World Party co-founder Sam Marcy in his 1983 book “The Klan and the Government: Foes or Allies?”
“It has to be remembered that the use of violence and mass repression is a congenital tendency of the capitalist state. Even in the so-called best of times the capitalist government not only tolerates terrorist organizations like the Klan, but once the class struggle of the workers and oppressed people takes on the character of a genuine mass upsurge, the capitalist government is more likely than ever to encourage and promote the likes of the Klan and other mediums of repression.”
Workers are rising in the U.S., fighting for their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. And the ruling class is calling out its shock troops to try to push them back.
As socialists, as left activists, as workers, our job is two-fold: First, we must staunchly support and organize with other workers and oppressed people to forge bonds of solidarity against all forms of capitalist oppression.
Second, we must resist the propaganda of demoralization and remember that over and over peoples’ resistance has risen to push back and defang these reactionary forces.
From Indigenous resistance that continues to this day to the centuries of enslaved peoples rising in rebellion, from the 1981 march that shut down Nazis in Buffalo, N.Y., to the 2017 united left organizing that broke the white supremacist march on Charlottesville, we have militant histories to inspire, instruct and strengthen us.
As Marcy wrote of the resounding 1981 defeat of the Nazis:
“Intransigence, which is so indispensable in any working-class struggle, did not alone account for the victory of the anti-fascist progressive coalition in Buffalo. It was also careful assessment of the political relationship of forces in the area and in the country. It was good, efficient organization, free from any dogmatic approach to the phenomenon of fascist violence, free from sectarianism. It was reliance on the mass of the workers and progressives, and [on] attempts to achieve the broadest possible alliance with all elements willing, ready and able to put up a vigorous struggle.”
There, in one paragraph, is a blueprint for action against the current eruption of neofascist forces.