The Greatest Enemy of Fascism is and Always Has Been a United Working Class Movement.
The whole world watches the upcoming elections in the United States. While there are other powerful imperialist nations in the post-cold war world, the U.S. remains at its center. Speculation on the election directly affects the daily ebb and flow of investment in the global market, as capitalists consider the opportunities created by the over 1,000,000 lives lost during the COVID-19 outbreak and greater instability in the imperialist core. For Americans, the first term of Trump’s presidency has greatly empowered the radical right-wing, seen the intensification of the oppression if immigrants, and the chipping away of basic bourgeois rights like voting. Right-wing violence against oppressed peoples has not only continued through the state’s repressive forces, but also through the militant right wing movement that is emerging from the shadows of Charlottesville. In so many ways, this election casts a long shadow over the lives of everyone living in the United States.
There are many on the left that have decided that Trump must be defeated and that endorsements for Biden are the logical call to action. It cannot be denied that Trump must be defeated and that his presidency represents a grave threat to the working class in the US. But in this urgency, we cannot refuse to acknowledge the simple truth that these fascist policies and movements existed before Trump and will exist, stronger than ever, after Trump. There is no need for Trump to form a paramilitary group when the reactionary citizenry has been cultivated for generations upon generations into being that force. The police have been getting away with the violent suppression of oppressed peoples from the get-go. The American state, for all its talk about liberty of the private citizen, has no problem wielding great authoritarian power when it suits the needs of the ruling across, both at home and abroad. All the pieces existed before Trump, exist terribly under Trump, and will exist after Trump.
No Communist group in the United State has a meaningful level of influence over public opinion. Yet, many organizations have thrown their hat into the ring of endorsement, committing themselves to the electoral cause. There is pragmatism behind this but not much else. One might even argue that a Communist group in the United States endorsing a candidate would hurt that candidate more than anything else. After all, the liberals hate the radical left, and Communists especially, many times more than they hate the right-wing and fascism, the attack on even the social democratic Bernie Sanders campaign shows this.
As the election looms over US political life, from the unemployment lines, to the immigrant detention facilities built by Obama and Biden and made a home for eugenics and family separation by Trump, to the wealthy suburbs Biden and Trump both focus their campaigning on, we say that the slogan of “defeat Trump” is insufficient. As Malcolm X said in 1964, and as the Bolsheviks argued in 1917, the ballot can be a tool for revolutionaries, one that shouldn’t be ignored. But we should never, particularly as fascism grows in power in the United States, reduce our slogans to the old electoral games of “this election is too important.” Our lives as working people are too seriously imperiled by resurgent state and right violence to refuse to see, as the whole country did during this week’s debate, that we lose in either case—without a real popular movement.
The Long Decay into American Fascism
In the treatment of any disorder, it is necessary to get to the root cause of the disease. Treating the symptoms of the disease, while important, is not a cure, and will only provide temporary or partial relief to the sufferer. Trump is not the disease, he is a symptom of the disease, the festering rash the disease has brought up. The disease is capitalism. But, identifying the disease is not enough. It’s also necessary to trace its pathology.
Fascism is nothing new in American political life. From the second generation Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s to Father Coughlin, the German-American Bund, and the Silver Shirts of the 1930s, to the American Nazi Party of the ‘60s and ‘70s to the Alt-Right of today, overtly fascist organizations and ideas have had a persistent presence on the American political scene. What is new is how these groups and the ultra-reactionary ideology they represent have moved from the fringes and shadows to the center stage. It is evident that they have been encouraged and emboldened by the Trump presidency.
It must however be strongly stated that, while clear and open fascism has only recently crawled out from the cesspool into the light of day, fascist tendencies and the process of fascistization has been a feature of American society for decades. Fascism is the crisis of capitalism in decay. Fascism is the uniform put on by a capitalism that is no longer able to effectively manage the class struggle and continue ruling in “the old way.” It is the terroristic dictatorship of the most reactionary elements of finance capital. Seen in this light, fascism in the United States is not a question of this or that lunatic fringe group. Rather, it is part and parcel of the development of American capitalism in its final, imperialist stage.
The fusion of monopoly finance capital with the machinery of the state has been noted and commented on since the 1950s — the much vaunted ‘military-industrial complex’ assuming economic dominance. In the social sphere, there has long been an ongoing process of militarization in American life; with an increasing level of police violence and repression. Indeed, with the police presence in immigrant communities and communities of color taking on the aspect of an occupying army. On the ideological front, the Civil Rights, Women’s, anti-war, and social change movements of the 1960s and 1970s triggered a conservative backlash that has continued to this very day. Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s accelerated the attempt to undo many of the liberal policies enacted over the previous two decades. In the 1990s, both the ostensibly liberal Democratic Party and the overtly conservative Republican Party shifted to the Right. This rightward trend has not abated, it has intensified. This is ingrained in the very structure of American politics.
Thus, Trumpism must be seen as a part, and a particular manifestation of, this deeply rooted ongoing process.
The Historic Crimes of the Trump Regime
Yet, in tracing and understanding this history, we shouldn’t lose track of the shifts and accelerations of criminality undertaken by the Trump regime. The crimes of the Trump government against the peoples of the United States are severe and innumerable. His response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been an utter failure, prioritizing profits over human health and distrusting scientists and experts in general, resulting in 200,000+ deaths. The coronavirus has disproportionately affected the African-American population, as well as causing untold deaths among Americans with no healthcare coverage, over 10,000,000 of which lost their insurance during the COVID-19 recession. Official figures of unemployment in the U.S. currently stands at over 30 million people, with no relief in sight except one pitiful $1200 stimulus payment that barely covers one month of rent and living expenses for most U.S. citizens.
His government has been virurently racist and anti-immigrant from the start, and now U.S. policy manifests in ripping children from their parents and imprisoning them indefinitely into what must be called concentration camps. This atrocity is only compounded by the recent reports of forced hysterectomies within these detention camps, an outright genocidal action. The Trump regime has overseen a continuous erosion and rollback of the democratic rights of the people for self-expression, assembly, protest, and speech, through the use of murderous police terror and calls for violence against peaceful protestors, targeting of political opponents, and attempting to list the broad anti-fascist forces and Black Lives Matter actvists as terrorists for opposing right-wing reaction and fighting for civil rights. All this points to a larger program of the suppression of dissent and the people’s democratic rights.
On top of this, Trump himself has made plain his intent to destroy and sabotage the remaining vestiges of bourgeois democracy still remaining, intentionally withholding funding from the Postal Service to sabotage mail-in voting, giving speeches with false claims of voter fraud designed to disenfranchise Americans, instituting a block of payroll taxes designed to defund and dismantle Social Security (primarily hurting the elderly and working poor), and openly stating he will “negotiate” to serve a third term in office, despite threats of impeachment and calls to abolish the Electoral College that permitted him to win the 2016 election in the first place. All this is part of a clear agenda by Trump to move toward becoming an autocratic ruler.
The Trump government is actively working to destroy what is left of human rights and constitutional bourgeois democracy in the United States, as well as roll back social programs for healthcare and public education, bodily autonomy through Roe v. Wade, the right to organize in a union, minimum wage and protection for workers, basic universal voting rights, all the while clearing the pathway for the wealthy owners of monopolies and corporations to seize more power in society than ever before, not to mention ignoring and aggravating the natural disasters from the existential environmental crisis of climate change. The racist oppression of immigrants and the sabotaging of democracy echo the fascism of the past. All the historians, all the experts, all the survivors of authoritarian regimes of the past, all the mass organizations, all the human rights groups, all the working poor of this country, and all the rest of the world, agree on this singular issue: we must be prepared to stop the rise of fascism in the United States at all costs.
The Unique Features of American Fascism, and Our Unique Responses
Many left commentators have been slow to recognize this fascist progression in the US since 2016, because they conceive of fascism as a rational, objectively identifiable ideological movement. In 2016, when the American Party of Labor identified Trump as a proto-fascist, we were often attacked, and accused of reformism for not attacking Hillary Clinton enough. Leftists and liberals attacked us for flying a banner that equated Trump and Mussolini.
But we know that Fascism has historically moved in many different patterns and has its own character in each country it festers in. Instead of a pure aryan race, we have a more general white supremacy, replacing the Japanese Fascist desire for a Pacific empire we have American Exceptionalism and international hegemony supported by both blue and red. Yet all of these explicitly American concepts have a common theme, they are anti-rational manifestations of the general fascist desire to bring about a despotic dictatorship of the most chauvinist forces in the country and capital. There is little one can do to sway a white supremacist because the entire frame of mind relies on a rejection of reality, as the recent debate proved with little doubt. Due to this the standard political discourse falls short of removing Fascism from power. As Jean Paul Sartre argued of the fascists, “They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play
Recognizing the threat of American fascism cannot blind us to the fact that the Democrats have time and time again proved either incapable or unwilling to combat that Fascist threat, in fact they have often aided their efforts in congress or directly with state sponsored violence against protestors and the rounding up of undocumented people to be sent to concentration camps. The time has long passed to “vote blue no matter who,” this is the time to explicitly and intentionally build unity amongst all workers separate from bourgeoise Institutions. Only we can save ourselves. As Malcolm X said in his famous “Ballot or the Bullet” speech, the time is now, not tomorrow, not next election, but now, to build a united front that delivers the demands of the workers not in the halls of power but on the ground in every city in this country.
Building a Real Working Class Alternative
Given these historical circumstances and the challenges the US working class faces in the era of resurgent fascism, it is essential that we bring this united banner of solidarity against hate, real democracy, and universal access to healthcare, jobs, housing, and the tools necessary to live fulfilling lives to every corner of the country. It is the business of electoral reformists to conceive of the country as “red and blue states.” For too long the US left has lived exclusively in urban enclaves and favored national issues campaigns over local organizing.
Everywhere reaction and hatred is, we must be there to counter it with working class organization, journalism, and mutual aid. In Orlando, Alabama, New Jersey, New York City, and beyond, the American Party of Labor has found success in organizing through and allying with local working class organizations that bring a national program of working democracy and socialism. Stronger local organizations bring the great urgency of our platform to working people, and orient them with greater accuracy to the needs, worries, and demands of the working class.
In this era of electoral red, blue, and purple states, communists must intentionally cross those lines. In doing so, however, we have to be willing to speak to local people, address their concerns, and be willing to educate and discuss with those who hold reactionary positions. The US left is often quick to praise the work of the interwar CPUSA in organizing the south and black communities, but in contemporary practice often renounces the deep ideological struggle required to do such things, and refuses to redress themselves to the contradictions within the US working class, even sometimes refusing to acknowledge that US working class exists. To defeat fascism, we have to face those influenced by the fascistization of US politics and discuss and educate them.
As fascism rises in the US, refusing to do the hard work of revolutionary organizing could prove a fatal mistake. For this reason, we say that we must defeat the rise of fascism with radical working class organizing, not just Trump, and not just with cynical, pragmatic, and “tactical” electioneering. More than anything else, we have to amplify the power of the workers of the world, who often feel powerless and blown about by fascist policy and anti-science fanaticism in 2020. We all felt and saw how alienated most of the country felt, both right and left, by the recent debate. That is the power of the socialist movement, to weaponize the discontent of the working class into organization and power. A national organization of working class people, deeply-linked with local organizations, can, like the revolutionary movements of the past, fundamentally remake society and vanquish fascism once, and for all.