Earlier this month, the US congressman from Minneapolis, Keith Ellison, posted a selfie to twitter posing with Mark Bray’s excellent book, “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” Ellison captioned it: “At @MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump”.
Predictably, a ridiculous backlash followed from across the political spectrum. From liberals and moderate Democrats on Twitter to the mainstream media of the Washington Post and Associated Press, to their right-wing cousins at Fox News and Powerline, on through to the on-line legions of Alt-Right fascists – no one seemed happy.
The moderates worried Ellison’s “endorsement” (sic) of anti-fascism contaminated liberalism with violence; the mainstream press saw signs of irresponsibility from the deputy chair of the Democratic Party; the right-wing news machine pretended they had a “gotcha” moment with a Democrat supporting “terrorism” – and the nazis spewed their usual hate at any and all Black, Muslim or anti-fascist people.
We chuckled. The I.W.W.’s General Defense Committee is a working-class defense organization. Our anti-fascism stems from our opposition to white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. Our members have a strong history in resisting and defeating attempts by the fascists to organize in Minnesota – going back to the 1980s. The GDC has played an important role in knocking down the attempts of Alt-Right MN and other fascists to take the streets or hold ground since before Trump came to power.
We don’t really give a fuck about liberal tears or conservative wailing or the fascists’ venom. And whatever the politicians are tweeting – we will do what is necessary to defend ourselves, our families, our communities, and our class from there very real threat of the fascists.
Anti-fascism is a necessity
There are three main ways that the fascists pose a real threat to the
working-class, our communities and movements:
- Physical violence and intimidation;
- Opening space for racism and reaction within mainstream culture and
- Presenting fascism as the true opposition to global capitalism
Even though the fascists numbers represent only a very small percentage of American society – their ability to intimidate and cause physical harm and death should not be underestimated. In the year since Trump was elected murders by white supremacists were double the number of the previous year. Violence against GLBTQ people also rose. Mosques and Synagogues were threatened, vandalized, bombed and burned down. Organized fascist mobs went on the attack in Portland OR, Berkeley CA, and Charlottesville, VA. On different occasions, members of the General Defense Committees came under fire from fascist sympathizers. One member of the GDC was shot and nearly killed in Seattle WA by an Alt-Rightist. Without the determined opposition of many people and organizations – the fascists would have been even more emboldened.
Opening space for racism and reaction within mainstream culture and politics.
Another way that the fascists threaten us is by promoting and pioneering concepts and policies into the broader society. The Border Wall, for instance, was first championed by neo-nazis and Klansmen. The fear and hatred of Muslims, has been stoked by fascists at the base for some time. The new Alt-Right fascists have been particularly adept at building an on-line subculture of ironic white-supremacy, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. Anyone with a keen eye on social media could probably tell you how they’ve seen Alt-Right concepts and lingo get taken up by “regular” people that we know. In many places, discussions of feminism, immigration, police brutality and the “rights” of fascists to organize and provoke are directly influenced by the Alt-Right’s talking points.
Presenting fascism as the true opposition to global capitalism
Millions of working-class people of all backgrounds are alienated and angry about the lives we are expected to live under capitalism. All the poverty, violence, stress, boredom, and disappointment don’t seem worth the dwindling perks of living in the seat of the Empire. The fascists see all this and attempt to frame their movement as the one against those in power and the system as a whole. But their analysis obscures and lies. In place of a capitalist ruling-class, they point hysterically at a “treasonous” elite (often, “the Jews”). Instead of solidarity across borders, they conjure up the myths of Race and Nation. Instead of a liberated collective commonwealth, they offer up barely-sanitized ethnic-cleansing and patriarchal police state.
The extent to which fascist politics are a genuine threat to the capitalist order, or just an aggressive sales pitch to those billionaires with the itchiest of trigger fingers is worth investigating and debating. But it is a clear problem that much of “the Left” concedes the role of radical opposition to the Right.
Our militant opposition to fascism is different – we do not long for the old status quo complaining that “This is NOT Normal!”, we do not look to the state and its police to control the excluded, and we do not take our cues from liberal politicians.
Instead we organize unions and job-actions, we take the streets against racist police, we defend the land against pipelines and pollution, we support survivors of sexual violence and work to reduce the harm from addiction and the war on drugs. We aim to build a revolutionary alternative to both the system and the fascists.
And so when we look the fascists in the eye and let them know in no uncertain terms that “we will defend ourselves, our families, our communities, and our class – by any means necessary, you fucking scabs” – we ain’t being sponsored by Soros or the DNC.
Twin Cities GDC – Antifascist Working Group