The Klan & the Government: Foes or Allies? [Sam Marcy]

Klan to March in Washington

The Broad Political Issues

November 19, 1982

A potentially serious setback to the civil rights movement, to the working class, and to all oppressed people is likely to develop unless an aroused movement quickly takes notice of what is about to go on in Washington on November 27.

For the first time in half a century the Ku Klux Klan has scheduled a demonstration in the heart of Washington, D.C. Not since the middle 1920s have they dared set foot in the capital.

Some may shrug it off as nothing of significance while others may view it with some concern but permit themselves to be passive to this situation.

For many weeks now the Klan has been gathering momentum, raising its ugly head in one city after another, leaving a trail of violence, burning crosses in some smaller rural cities, and in general exhibiting a renewed confidence which goes back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

It should be mentioned that its provocative appearance in the heart of Boston in October 1982 produced one of the largest anti-Klan demonstrations yet, perhaps as many as 10,000 on one day's notice.

There is absolutely no question that the Reaganite victory stimulated and encouraged the Klan and it is now trying to move more swiftly and boldly.

Role of capitalist media

A counter-demonstration for November 27 has been called by the All-Peoples Congress (APC), which also-called for the Boston demonstration. The capitalist media, which have seen fit to give the Klan leaders free time to promote racism on the national networks, have conveniently overlooked this scheduled counter-demonstration.

The national networks have thus far failed to reply to the many requests for interviews from leaders of the All-Peoples Congress.

There have been many press releases sent out, but only a few of the local papers and the Black press and radio station have given it attention. However, the foreign press has shown interest. But to this day the great dailies of the imperialist press monopoly – The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The New York Times – have given it virtually no notice. The Washington Post has seen fit to give it only minor notice in its metropolitan section, as though this were a matter merely of local concern.

The capitalist government, however, has shown no such indifference.

For weeks the Klan was trying to set a convenient date for its projected provocation in the capital. The Klan tried to keep both the date and the site secret so as to take the oppressed people, the progressive movement, and workers generally by surprise.

But organizations like the All-Peoples Congress and others, which are determined to see that no Klan demonstration goes by unnoticed without protest and mobilization, have been working energetically to pursue the matter and to rally the masses.

The broad public ought to know that when interested organizations concerned with mounting a counter-demonstration tried to pursue the matter with the federal government in order to find out when and where the Klan would meet, they were politely advised that the information should be sought through the Freedom of Information Act.

Such is the situation!

However, in the interest of mobilizing its own thugs and would-be murderers, the Klan was then forced to make its demonstration public by filing an application for a permit. They were expeditiously granted it.

They chose a date around the holidays, when the broad masses of people are concerned with other matters.

When word was received about the granting of the permit to the Klan, leaders of the APC approached the federal authorities to protest the granting of the permit as inherently provocative. The APC also vigorously protested the denial of a permit for a counter-demonstration at Lafayette Park, where presumably the Klan, too, was planning to demonstrate.

Government officials maneuver against anti-Klan forces

After much delay and maneuvering by the federal authorities, a meeting was held between the APC representatives and the federal and metropolitan agencies on November 18. This was a most extraordinary session.

The government was represented by about 30 people: the National Park Service, Metropolitan Task Force, various other agencies, and a representative of the Justice Department.

The interest of the Reagan administration is shown by this virtual army of representatives.

What came out of it was a denial of the APC's application for a demonstration at Lafayette Park, but an approval of one for McPherson Square. However, the meeting was significant for what it indicates about the orientation and direction of the Reagan administration, which orchestrated the positions of the various agencies represented.

A representative of the government not only upheld the right of the Klan to march in the heart of this virtually Black city but said that they would not permit any other marches in the city during the time of the Klan march. There was no opposition raised by the Justice Department representative.

This is the clearest possible example of a gross and flagrant violation of the right of the people to demonstrate against the Klan wherever it goes.

The Justice Department stuck to its guns during the entire course of the meeting. This was all planned out in advance by the Reaganite administrators.

They have not only permitted an open provocation against all the oppressed people, and especially Black people, but they have enlarged the rights of the Klan while depriving the people of the same.

'Administrative prerogatives' vs. freedom of speech

To justify this mutilation of the law, the Justice Department came out with a patently absurd formula: We have a right to use administrative prerogatives in this situation.

Prerogatives! What prerogatives? A prerogative by an administrative agency – to do what? To invalidate the fundamental right of freedom of speech – the First Amendment. Thus for administrative convenience – for the convenience of the capitalist bureaucracy – they will accommodate a march by the Klan.

Administrative prerogatives! Where have we heard that formula before? It comes from the arsenal of fascist dictatorships and repressive regimes all over the world who employ this threadbare formula to cover up their violation and destruction of the civil rights and liberties of the people, all for the purpose of suppression.

Thus the Reagan administration is taking a leaf from the most repressive and outrageously reactionary police dictatorships.

As though this were not enough, the Justice Department also said it would be ready to invoke a newly passed local ordinance regarding the wearing of masks, cross-burnings, and so on, which the City Council had aimed at the Klan. But this law would be used to arrest counter-demonstrators (!) whose dress, according to the interpretation of the Justice Department, falls into this category.

This was aimed against people who wear Middle Eastern headdress who may be in the progressive counter-demonstration. It is an evident attempt to twist a local law meant for other purposes in order to intimidate, harass, and persecute demonstrators whose national custom is to wear certain forms of dress which do not suit the sensibilities of the Reaganite Justice Department.

The APC has protested all this in a letter to Attorney General William French Smith and will pursue it further.

By whose authority?

There is also a broad layer of bourgeois liberal officialdom whose position does little to help in the struggle against racism in general or the Klan in particular.

This position has been expressed by almost all the mayors in the various cities where Klan demonstrations have taken place. They have said ad nauseam that they have no authority to stop the Klan, no legal right to ban it.

Yet whenever the masses are about to move, whenever a truly gigantic outpouring of the people is about to take place, almost all of these mayors find ample authority to declare a state of emergency, to prohibit their demonstration under pretext of imminent danger.

Even that most liberal mayor of New York, John Lindsay, falsely invoked emergency laws in order to stop important demonstrations of the people. So did the mayors of Wilmington, Delaware, and, as recently as three years ago, of Miami, Florida.

The question of authority has never stopped the bourgeoisie from doing what they have to do in the interest of their class.

Cromwell answers mayors

There's a great historical example that is germane to the struggle of the oppressed and the working class in general regarding the right to exercise authority against the Klan. It comes from English history.

During the civil war in the middle of the 17th century in England, Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the revolution against the nobility (bourgeois revolution), set an excellent example that ended the long and abstract controversy over authority between the monarchy and the Parliament.

As a result of the revolution, Cromwell was able to confront the King and hand him an arrest warrant. Reading the arrest warrant, the King asked Cromwell, "By what authority can you arrest me?"

"It is," replied Cromwell, "upon this question of authority that the civil war has turned and been won."

A civil war, when it represents a revolution, is the highest possible authority. A revolution is not merely a bare transfer from a reactionary to a more progressive class; it carries out the will and determination of large masses of people who intervene to change history.

A revolution is the locomotive of history, that is, of progress. It accelerates progress.

Whoever opposes the verdict of the revolution opposes progress. Whoever opposes the revolution commits treason against the people, of which the revolution is the highest social and political product.

No law is superior to the verdict of the revolution. All laws after the revolution must be in conformity with the verdict of the revolution for purposes of implementing it.

Right to abolish Klan won in Civil War

This should be borne in mind today when the question is: Who has the authority to stop the Klan? It was the Civil War in the United States, the revolution that abolished slavery and affirmed in the Emancipation Proclamation the right of self-defense, that gave the people the authority to abolish the Klan. For the Klan is a relic and tool of the slavocracy, perpetuated even by the Reagan administration to continue oppression of the people.

Millions died in the Civil War in order to establish the authority by which slavery was abolished. And millions of Black people made that victory possible by carrying out what has been called (by the great scholar W.E.B. DuBois) a "general strike" ; by renouncing involuntary servitude, refusing to aid the war effort of the slavocracy, abandoning the plantations, fraternizing with white workers and farmers.

No exceptions were made for any remnants of oppression, persecution, or inequality. No room was left open by the Emancipation Proclamation and by the acts of Reconstruction to permit a terrorist organization, such as the KKK, dedicated to genocide, which everywhere is regarded with horror and abomination.

The Ku Klux Klan came later. It was a venomous, treacherous product of the attempted counter-revolution of the slavocracy and has been perpetuated by the capitalist government since then to one degree or another.

It is the Ku Klux Klan therefore that is subversive of the revolution, of the will of the people, because it challenges the verdict of history – the revolution; it challenges the people; it challenges all laws implementing the verdict of the revolution. It is, therefore, destructive of all the progressive values emanating from the Civil War.

The Ku Klux Klan, therefore, should have no real legal standing. Its defense and encouragement by the capitalist government is both illegal and an attempt to undo the historic verdict of the Civil War.

Facilitating the program of the Klan and accommodating them to march in the heart of the city, escorted by the military and police forces of the government, is to trample upon the authority which was won in blood over a century ago and continued in the glorious struggles of the 1960s, all of which the Reagan administration is bent on invalidating.

A march of the Klan is the march of a genocide squad, a march of the Nazis of pre-war Germany, of the Phalangists who massacred the people in Lebanon.

Every effort must be made to give the Reaganites a proper rebuff. While the time for this is necessarily short, it is most important to pursue it energetically and arouse the broadest and widest sections of the masses. They must be alerted to the danger that lurks behind the ugly scene of a genocide squad parading under the protection of the police and the government.

Last updated: 18 August 2017