The struggle against fascism has not been a pristine contest between it and antifascism. During the past decade, it has become intertwined with issues that many people on the left (and apart from the left) would not have anticipated. But all of these issues are clearly based on political forces that we have been dealing with for decades. As a result, the forces arrayed against fascism are smaller than they should be.
While millions stood against racism and the police state and faced injury and death from the cops and the right, relatively few are ready to risk their lives and safety opposing fascists and their law enforcement allies. This is due to many political barriers that have made a clear-sighted analysis of the danger difficult. An issue that constantly arises is whether or not fascism actually exists and if so, whether to fight it. The political establishment (regardless of their politics) have answered both questions “no.” Most urban areas controlled by liberal/ centrist governments are actual police states where the local establishment has no control over the police and their violence. This is one of the enduring lessons of the uprising when the push for defunding and abolishing the police hit a wall. Given such a situation, we can’t expect any opposition to fascists if they are in league with the police. The DFL in the Twin Cities imposes limits on the demands that can be made and the police are an important no go area. Opportunist groups such as nonprofits and some activist groups observe the limits in exchange for maintaining their little fiefdoms and a token input into electoral politics. One of the largest and most consistent abolitionist groups over the past three decades, Communities United Against Police Brutality, is not an antifascist organization.
In addition to this, some prominent left factions are aligned with Putin, who not only supports fascists in Europe such as AfD, but who has begun a campaign of repression against antifascists in Russia. The red/browns have no interest in joining us to fight fascism and don’t even acknowledge that it exists. The reality is that only a part of the left is antifascist, a situation that seems almost incomprehensible but which has a history dating back to the first appearance of fascism in the 1920s and the Iron Front. (This history is explored in Alexander Reid Ross’s “The Fascist Creep” and Anton Shekhovstov’s “Russia and the Western Far Right”. The antifascist left today is comprised largely of anarchist syndicalists and a smattering of Marxists of varying backgrounds who have remained true to the class struggle. We are all united by a fight for socialism and a recognition that fascism is an attack on the working class by the capitalists.
Portland has had the most experience with trying to mobilize sufficient numbers to confront near constant attacks by Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer since 2018. The city has a vicious, unaccountable police department that openly sides with the fascists. Fielding sufficient numbers against them and dealing with burnout were problems until the Summer of 2020, when Trump sent in an anonymous federal “army” made up of Border Patrol and other federal law enforcement. Their job was to crush the demonstrations no matter what the cost. The struggle there was supplemented, as Shane Burley noted, by people streaming into Portland from all over the West Coast because they understood what was at stake. The federal thugs were finally driven out after several weeks.
The recent spate of violence by the fascist Proud Boys and militias around the election have created ambiguity where there shouldn’t be any. There have been warnings of violence since the voting started, but it didn’t really hit until it became obvious the count was going against Trump. Some think they’re being more violent because they’re desperate over Trump’s loss. This overlooks that had Trump won, they would likely be as violent as they are now. It’s a mistake to read much into how violent they are; what matters is how much they are backed by the state. And here, there can be no argument. When Michael Reinoehl shot a fascist in defense of himself and a friend, he was hunted down and assassinated by the federal government. With every confrontation, the police show whose side they are on, not arresting violent fascists, arresting their victims even when they require medical help, and attacking anyone who tries to defend against the fascists.
There is also the question of whether the current actions of fascist elements are part of Trump’s “coup.” It appears that they are and many expect the “system” of electoral politics and checks and balances to put an end to this coup. But there has been an anemic response on the part of the bourgeois state to Trump’s authoritarianism since he was “elected”. Voter suppression, the sabotage of the Post Office to prevent mail-in voting, the intimidation of workers counting the votes, and the obstruction of the “peaceful transfer of power” which has been marked by violent attacks by fascists are only being countered by the masses of people at the risk of police violence on top of fascict violence. So far the strongest response has been from the military which has refused to move against the left.
All of this is to summarize what we are up against as we wait for a centrist government to make its painful way to power and possibly provide some breathing room for the beleaguered workers and refugees in this country. But we should be reminded at every step that fascism has never been voted out of power. That the heroic effort of the people to do so while threatened by a pandemic that Trump has allowed to spread is worthy of respect. But we have to be ready to defend that achievement of the people with our bodies.
Since November 21st, Proud Boys and assorted Trump supporters have been demonstrating nearly every Saturday at the Governor’s Mansion and State Capitol (in coordination with fascist groups nationally). They have been opposed by antifascists despite their numbers being greatly augmented by police. On Wednesday, January 6th, there will be an upsurge of demonstrations and attacks as they attempt to stop Congress from recognizing the election. The plan for the Twin Cities is a march near the Capitol on Saturday January 9th opposing fascism and austerity. Meet at noon near Summit and Milton.
Authors’ opinions may not reflect those of the TCDSA.