On May 14, a white supremacist in military gear launched an attack on people in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 and wounding three. For a militant anti-racist answer to such attacks, here is a strategy statement from Sam Marcy, the late Chairperson of Workers World Party — a communist party founded in Buffalo. The excerpt is reprinted from “The Klan & the Government: Foes or Allies?”
The Nazi Party announced it would demonstrate in Buffalo, New York, on January 15, 1981, Martin Luther King’s birthday. This came at a time when a string of shocking racist murders of Black men had occurred in this same city. A coalition of labor, progressive and community groups immediately called for a counterdemonstration. It was only then that the mayor of Buffalo banned all demonstrations. Two thousand people demonstrated anyway against two Nazis heavily guarded by police.
Lessons of Buffalo
The Buffalo experience has shown in microcosm what the bourgeoisie is capable of doing, when faced with a fascist threat. When the mayor of Buffalo was finally forced to take cognizance of the Nazi/KKK demonstration, he and the capitalist establishment, with the complete cooperation of (if not in conspiracy with) the capitalist media, moved to ban the anti-fascist demonstration, under cover of banning both the right and the left.
This is a classic example of how a terrified capitalist city administration reacts when challenged by a neo-Nazi/KKK threat. First, they try to do nothing. Then they get their liberal friends and luminaries to ridicule the neo-Nazi menace and say that it doesn’t exist. And then when the menace shows determination to demonstrate in the heart of the city, they advise the workers and the oppressed to boycott it, ignore it in the face of racist murders which have yet to be solved.
When all this fails, and when a counterdemonstration against the KKK and Nazis shows promise of encompassing a broad coalition of civil rights, progressive and working-class organizations to effectively confront the KKK and Nazi thugs, then (and only then) does the capitalist city administration assume its posture of “fighting” against the Nazis. But how? By presumably banning both demonstrations, but in reality, aiming to ban only the anti-fascist demonstration.
What was truly important about the Buffalo experience was that a militant and progressive coalition demonstrated a determination to go through with its demonstration in the face of an illegal and unconstitutional ban. And finally, the mayor and the capitalist establishment were forced to abandon the ban in the face of this militant and inflexible determination to hold the demonstration and not surrender the right to freedom of assembly in the face of the combined threats by the capitalist government, the press and the police.
In a further effort to try to displace, discredit and frighten the mass of the people away from the militant anti-fascist coalition, the mayor and the city administration were obliged to sponsor their own government-supported and establishment-controlled rally to honor Martin Luther King Jr.
Intransigence and the working-class struggle
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 attempts to achieve the broadest possible alliance with all elements willing, ready and able to put up a vigorous struggle.
Buffalo was a microcosm of what the ruling class can and will do in the face of a fascist menace.
It is also a microcosm of what can be done by the working-class movement to achieve victory in the face of what appear to be overwhelming odds.
WW Photo: Joe Piette