Jan 16, 2021

Le fascisme de la fenêtre brisée

Gallows in front of U.S. Capitol
This is a translation of our January 6 post, "Broken windows fascism," courtesy of the French antifascist website La Horde.

1. Lorsque Donald Trump s’est présenté pour la première fois à la présidence en 2015-2016, de nombreux membres de l’alt-right l’ont soutenu, non pas parce qu’ils pensaient qu’il pourrait gagner, mais parce qu’ils espéraient qu’il aiderait à détruire le Parti républicain. Si ce n’est pas ce qui s’est passé, Trump a quand même créé une grave crise au sein du parti, désormais profondément divisé entre d’une part ceux qui acceptent la légitimité du système électoral actuel, et d’autre par ceux qui le rejettent. Un Parti républicain en morceaux peut sembler une bonne nouvelle, mais il est susceptible de profiter avant tout à l’extrême droite. L’attaque d’aujourd’hui contre les bâtiments du Congrès est le fait de l’aile militante d’un mouvement beaucoup plus vaste, et bien qu’elle exclue ou effraie certains sympathisant·e·s, elle galvanisera et enhardira d’autres.

2. De façon plus générale, le refus appuyé de Trump de reconnaitre les résultats des élections de novembre a provoqué un changement politique massif au sein de la droite américaine, car des millions de personnes sont passées – au moins temporairement – de la loyauté envers le système à une opposition au système, comme le symbolisent les Proud Boys piétinant le Thin Bue Line Flag. Nous devrions nous attendre à ce que cette opposition de droite reste active et violente longtemps après la disparition de la lutte actuelle pour la présidence, comme l’a fait valoir Natasha Lennard hier. Et comme le montre Robert Evans, cette opposition de droite est un lieu de rencontre où différents courants et idéologies d’extrême droite – comme le néonazisme et QAnon – convergent et interagissent. Il reste à voir à quel point l’opposition de droite sera unifiée ou organisée, quel type de stratégies et de tactiques elle utilisera, et si Trump lui-même continuera ou non à y jouer un rôle important.

3. L’attaque contre le Capitole est, comme beaucoup l’ont décrit, une tentative de coup d’État. Elle met en scène l’autoritarisme, la démagogie de Donald Trump et sa répudiation du système électoral qui l’ont placé à la Maison Blanche, mais il met également en évidence l’une des principales limites qui ont distingué l’administration Trump du fascisme. Le fascisme a besoin d’une organisation de masse indépendante pour mener à bien son offensive contre l’ordre politique établi. Or Trump n’a jamais essayé de construire une telle organisation ; il a habilement utilisé les réseaux sociaux et les rassemblements pour mobiliser ses partisans, mais sur le plan organisationnel, il s’est appuyé sur les institutions existantes, en particulier le Parti républicain, ce qui explique pourquoi son administration était une coalition entre America Firsters et des conservateurs conventionnels d’horizons divers. Désormais, cette coalition est en train de s’effondrer, et le contrôle de Trump sur l’appareil de sécurité fédéral s’est également avéré assez limité. Il a pu mobiliser les agents de la sécurité intérieure et la police fédérale pour réprimer les manifestants de Black Lives Matter l’été dernier, mais il n’a déployé aucun agent fédéral pour l’aider à annuler les résultats de l’élection de 2020. La foule de partisans de Trump d’aujourd’hui n’avait aucune chance de prendre le pouvoir, mais ils ont complètement paralysé le Congrès pendant des heures. Mieux organisé et mieux dirigé, le mouvement qu’ils représentent pourrait rapidement se transformer en quelque chose de beaucoup plus dangereux.

4. Une question se pose pour les mois et les années à venir : dans quelle mesure l’appareil répressif d’État sera-t-il utilisé pour réprimer cette opposition de droite ? Certes, les flics ne sont pas susceptibles de poursuivre les partisans du MAGA (Make America Great Again) et les Proud Boys comme ils le font avec Black Lives Matter et les antifascistes, mais il y a une longue histoire des forces de sécurité fédérales ciblant l’extrême droite, en particulier par le biais d’opérations secrètes. Joe Biden aime parler d’unité, mais il n’est pas difficile d’imaginer que son administration relance et étende les capacités du FBI et de la sécurité intérieure pour traquer les suprématistes blancs et d’autres groupes d’extrême droite. Il n’est pas difficile non plus d’imaginer que certains conservateurs conventionnels soutiennent activement cet effort. Rappelons-nous que l’effort le plus sérieux et le plus systématique du gouvernement fédéral pour réprimer l’opposition de droite au cours des 40 dernières années – de The Order au réseau Lyndon LaRouche – a eu lieu sous Ronald Reagan. Et rappelons-nous aussi que dans les mains de l’État capitaliste, l’antifascisme peut être une puissante raison de construire l’appareil répressif – qui finit par s’utiliser principalement contre les groupes opprimés et exploités. Même lorsque les flics et les membres du Klan ne marchent pas main dans la main, ni les uns ni les autres ne sont nos amis.

5. Au lieu de se tourner vers l’État pour lutter contre l’extrême droite, il est urgent d’agir à grande échelle sur deux fronts : combattre à la fois les forces ouvertement suprématistes de l’opposition de droite et les mécanismes moins flagrants mais toujours mortels des privilèges et des pouvoirs établis. Les quatre dernières années ont été cauchemardesques à bien des égards, mais elles ont également été une période d’activisme libérateur et dynamique à grande échelle. Il existe de nombreux exemples efficaces d’organisation militante et créative dont nous pouvons nous inspirer et tirer des leçons.


Photo: Tyler Merbler, 6 January 2021, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr.

Jan 13, 2021

Insurgent Movement, Government Complicity, or Both?

By Xloi and B.Sandor

This article by two Three Way Fight comrades highlights the interplay between insurgent far rightists and forces within the state itself in the Capitol takeover.

We wrote this after discussing last week’s events on January 6 and watching this video (which has since been removed) from a protester who goes by "Insurgence USA." Our sense is that he is right wing but poses as also being pro BLM. His footage captured the front of the line throughout the storming of the Capitol and a close up of the woman being shot by Capitol Police. It was gruesome, but provided an account of the events first hand.

We cannot assume that the movement that stormed the Capitol on January 6th was at large anti-state or solely an insurgent movement from below. While elements of the movement were insurgent, this movement was egged on by Trump and other key people in his administration and in Congress. What this means is that instead of just understanding this as a right-wing assault on “democracy,” it needs to be understood as both internal to our so-called democracy while simultaneously having elements that are insurgent and anti-state. A main contingency of this movement to Stop the Steal would have gone home if the announcement was made that Trump would stay in office. Therefore, the insurgent components and government complicity at play here should be understood and confronted as such.

We saw political violence last Wednesday. We saw Confederate flags and people flaunting Nazi tattoos in the Capitol. We saw armed masses (mostly men) break through lines of police, albeit with blue lives matter flags. We know storming the Capitol was an organized and thought-out action, although they were probably as surprised as we were that it actually worked. In footage from the frontlines, you can hear protesters screaming, "criticism of the government isn’t enough, we need action," while running to storm the Capitol, and another exclaiming, "this is a revolution," once they break through a couple of police lines. Regardless, there was no cohesive strategy for what they would do once they actually entered the Capitol. If there was, you would have heard in the videos at least some discourse on the different thought out plans.

Man holds Confederate battle flag, walks through room with portraits and sculpture
A man carrying a Confederate flag through the U.S. Capitol
Image by Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

The mixed responses from the protesters to the police were notable, as Jarrod Shanahan discusses in his article, “The Big Takeover.” One protester shouted to a line of police, “Over the summer, we backed you when no one else did." Another screamed, "Now, no one likes you, Black people and white people." In other moments protesters try to win over the police, saying, "We have your back. We get it. We're on your side." There will continue to be major splits within the far right over alignment with the police, with many becoming politicized against the police because of what happened that day. It is also key to address the amount of ex-military and former police within the ranks of far-right militia, paramilitary, and street fighting gangs that were clearly present at the Capitol.

The next logical question is, why were there so few Capitol Police, given that the FBI and right-wing researchers around the country knew for months that protesters were planning on storming the Capitol that day? More details are coming out about the Capitol Police and the Trump administration’s possible complicity and lack of preparation. From Ibram X. Kendi to so many others, people are commenting on how little force was used relative to BLM protests and that if the Capitol was stormed by People of Color, there would have been an entirely different plan in place.

Rows of police in riot gear standing on steps of Lincoln Memorial
Police in military garb protecting the Lincoln Memorial from a
Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020. Image by @MarthaRaddatz

While the protesters transgressed police lines, some lines were as sparse as only 5-10 officers, leaving even middle school students commenting on the relative lack of protection of a federal building. But, very quickly, many used this argument as a justification and immediate demand for more military and police, forces that will ultimately target innocent people and the Left. Lawmakers are already using the events at the Capitol to introduce legislation to increase police presence at protests and adopt measures to further criminalize all dissent. What is this political amnesia that we have? Within a moment, the momentum and political consciousness gained after years of anti-police struggles that culminated in the mass movements against the murder of George Floyd seemingly went in reverse. We must still recognize our enemies in blue.

Narratives that bill Wednesday’s insurrection as a violent protest or insurrection, while failing to acknowledge the violence from police (against Black lives, but also against the right), reinforce the argument that the Left and State need to come together to defeat the far right, rather than pose a liberatory alternative to both.

We know cops take orders. Maybe they had been given orders to be lenient and use soft policing tactics. Until a Capitol Police officer shot and killed the woman protester, the Capitol Police attitude toward protesters looked mixed. Some looked intent on holding the line, others looked mortified and some seemed to back down seamlessly. More investigations will uncover why, for example, the Pentagon initially refused to back up the Capitol Police after requests from their chief for the military to step in. Previous investigations show that far right militia look to former national security advisers to the Trump administration for intelligence. There’s still a lot we don’t know. We will soon learn more about what was and wasn’t done and why.

We do know there was clear tactical leadership on the part of the movement to enter the Capitol and stop the counting of the votes on Wednesday, but not much beyond that. Some wanted to critique the powers that be, some wanted to stop a so-called stolen election, some wanted to restore the Confederacy, some wanted Pence’s head, and some wanted to smear shit on the walls. This lack of cohesion could tear the movement apart when there is no one person for them to unite behind. They are also already facing sharp repression with arrests as far away as Arizona. Few movements can withstand the kind of repression they are about to face, not to mention the likelihood that the movement is already widely infiltrated by state forces. Many new so-called movement leaders will eventually be exposed as undercover state operatives. Either way, under the banner of “Stop the Steal,” right wing forces will be claiming victory for years.

We are grappling with what the three way fight looks like in action in this moment. We think we should be developing a political pole that opposes insurgent and government-backed far right forces, while also reinforcing movements against the police like those that took off across the country over the summer. We need an antifascism that doesn’t ultimately back up the state on the one hand or ignore the right altogether in hopes that the state will simply smash the right on the other. While we might not yet have the capacity as a movement to really do both, it is imperative to understand that one without the other is fatal.

Jan 12, 2021

Preliminary thoughts on the MAGA riot at the Capitol

by Kdog

Short, sharp points by friend and comrade of 3WF, Kdog, on how to understand the events of Jan 6th in DC and how the radical antifascist movements need to orient.

 

My preliminary thoughts on the MAGA riot at the Capitol:

1. This was a major flex by the far-right. And since a successful coup was not ever really in the cards - this will be felt and claimed as a victory by the far-right and fash. I’ve been comparing it to how the 1999 Seattle WTO protests impacted the anarchist left.

2. It’s clear there was state collaboration with the far-right, in order to pull this off. It’s not yet clear (to me) on what level and to what extent. I think this is worth an in-depth investigation. 

3. The ruling-class has consensus that this is an attack on the system and the state and there is near-unity on rejecting this attack and punishing Trump and the MAGA crowd. 

4. While it was headed there already, this firmly establishes MAGA as an extra-legal oppositional street force - of the kind that’s not been seen in my lifetime. I think they will be a dangerous and constant factor in national and local organizing for the next few years. 

5. I think it’s *possible* some significant state resources under Biden/Harris will go into repressing MAGA - this will damage the fascists but unfortunately also serve to help co-opt people into supporting Biden. The Biden regime will try and balance this effort with similar repression against Black, Native, antifa and other social movements of the so-called left. 

6. For me this underlines the need to build an independent, revolutionary and anti-authoritarian mass direct action movement, oriented to the working-class and oppressed communities.

Jan 9, 2021

On "The Big Takeover" by Jarrod Shanahan

For an excellent analysis of Wednesday’s Trumpist insurrection/putsch/attempted coup and what it signifies for the U.S. far right, check out Jarrod Shanahan’s “The Big Takeover.” This is just the latest of many insightful offerings from our comrades over at Hard Crackers.

Shanahan challenges the tendency by many critics to dismiss the Capitol invaders through ridicule. “For every absurd or risible image we can cite to write off the insurgents, there is another that demonstrates tactical militancy and seriousness of purpose.” We especially appreciate these passages in Shanahan’s article:

While Biden’s victory was ultimately certified amid a barrage of maudlin platitudes, the siege of the US Capitol was nonetheless a massive victory for the insurgent far-right in the US, akin to the siege of the 3rd Precinct in Minneapolis that helped catalyze and set the militant anti-cop tone of the George Floyd Rebellion last summer. The militancy of the siege is a bellwether of the changes that the US far-right has undergone in the five years since the Trump movement gave it renewed life. The siege also provides the movement a much needed opportunity for self-clarification, which will unfold in the coming weeks and months among the ragtag movement of US rightists who have hitched their wagon to Trump’s falling star. Above all, at the risk of engaging in the “crystal ball” thinking [Mike] Davis rightly warns us against, when the history of this period is written, the siege of the Capitol is likely to mark the beginning of a new chapter in the US far-right.

*          *          *

[T]he mayhem in D.C. demonstrates that a considerable segment of US rightists are beginning to unambiguously embrace a system-oppositional framework. In doing so they are aided in no small part by Trump himself, who has spent the better part of the last two months crowing that the government is not legitimate and its laws are therefore not to be respected. But this is also due to the working out of contradictions in their own theory and practice through struggle, toward an extra-parliamentary fascism, the same way moving beyond reformism is an essential for a leftists’ coming to political maturity, and is often achieved only through concrete engagement.

Shanahan also emphasizes that these events mark a radical shift in many right-wingers’ relationship with the police. Many people have emphasized the glaring disparity between how cops treated Trumpists breaking into the U.S. Capitol and the brutality they’ve repeatedly brought to bear against Black Lives Matter protesters, but that’s only part of the story. What’s new here is that Trumpists are no longer acting as pro-cop vigilantes—they are now on opposite sides of the barricades, and the two sides are literally killing each other.  As Shanahan writes,

a movement that had built itself in large part as supporters of US police against BLM and antifa began planning for armed encounters with not antifa or the Democrats, but the cops themselves. This profound ambiguity is best captured by the storming of a police line in D.C. by an insurgent waving a Thin Blue Line flag.

Shanahan is rightly critical of the unsupported conspiracy theory that the Capitol police deliberately allowed the building invasion to happen. The new reality—that a major section of the U.S. right has positioned itself in opposition to the forces of law and order, and some of them are willing to die for it—is one that clashes with standard leftist assumptions, but it is not an aberration, and it is not going away.

Jan 6, 2021

Broken windows fascism

Broken pane of security glass
1. When Donald Trump was first running for president in 2015-16, a lot of alt-rightists supported him not because they thought he could win, but because they hoped he would help destroy the Republican Party. He hasn’t quite done that, but he has created a serious crisis within the party, which is now deeply divided between those who accept and those who reject the legitimacy of the existing electoral system. A broken GOP might sound like cause for celebration, but it’s likely to benefit the far right most of all. Today’s physical assault on the houses of Congress was the militant edge of a much larger movement, and while it will alienate or frighten some sympathizers it will galvanize and embolden others.

2. In broader terms, Trump’s insistent denial of the November election results has spurred a massive political shift within the U.S. right, as millions of people have moved—at least temporarily—from system-loyalty into system-opposition, as symbolized by Proud Boys stomping on a Thin Blue Line flag. We should expect this oppositional right to remain active and violent long after the current fight over the presidency has died down, as Natasha Lennard argued yesterday. And as Robert Evans documents, the oppositional right is a meeting place where different rightist currents and ideologies—such as neonazism and QAnon—converge and interact. It remains to be seen how unified or well organized the oppositional right will be, what kind of strategies and tactics they will use, and whether or not Trump himself will continue to play an active role.

3. The attack on the U.S. Capitol is, as many have described it, an attempted coup. It dramatizes Donald Trump’s authoritarianism, demagoguery, and repudiation of the electoral system that put him in the White House, but it also highlights one of the key limitations that separated the Trump administration from fascism. Fascism requires an independent mass organization in order to carry out its attack on the established political order. Trump has never tried to build such an organization. He has skillfully used social media and rallies to mobilize supporters, but organizationally he has relied on existing institutions, above all the Republican Party, which is part of why his administration was a coalition between America Firsters and conventional conservatives of various kinds. Now that coalition is falling apart. And Trump’s control over the federal security apparatus also proved to be quite limited. He could mobilize Homeland Security agents and U.S. Marshals to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters last summer, but he failed to deploy any federal agents to help him overturn the results of the 2020 election. Today's mob of Trump supporters never had a chance of seizing power, but they did bring Congress to a complete standstill for hours. With better organization and leadership, the movement they represent could quickly turn into something far more dangerous.

4. A question for the coming months and years is: to what extent will the state repressive apparatus be used to crack down on the oppositional right? Certainly, cops aren’t likely to go after MAGA activists and Proud Boys the way they go after Black Lives Matter and antifa, but there’s a long history of federal security forces targeting far rightists, especially through covert operations. Joe Biden likes to talk about unity, but it’s not hard to imagine his administration reviving and expanding FBI and Homeland Security capabilities for tracking white supremacists and other far rightists. It’s also not hard to imagine some conventional conservatives actively supporting this effort. Let’s remember that the federal government’s most serious and systematic effort to crack down on oppositional rightists in the past 40 years—from The Order to the Lyndon LaRouche network—took place under Ronald Reagan. And let’s remember, too, that in the hands of the capitalist state, antifascism can be a powerful rationale for building the repressive apparatus—which ends up getting used mainly against oppressed and exploited groups. Even when the cops and the Klan don’t go hand in hand, neither one is our friend.

5. Instead of looking to the state to bring things under control, there's an urgent need for broad-based militant action on two fronts: to combat both the openly supremacist forces of the oppositional right and the less blatant but still deadly systems of established privilege and power. The past four years have been nightmarish in lots of ways, but they've also been a time of dynamic liberatory activism on a large scale. There are a lot of powerful examples of militant, creative organizing we can look to for lessons and inspiration.


Photo: By WiseWoman. CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Dec 31, 2020

Lockdowns, the Insurgent Far Right & the Future of Antifascism: Three Way Fight talks with It’s Going Down

Three Way Fight contributors Xtn and Matthew Lyons were recently interviewed for the It’s Going Down podcast. From the IGD description:

“We discuss the recent events in Salem, Oregon, where members of far-Right and neo-fascist groups attempted to storm the state capitol in opposition to lockdown measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We then discuss Proud Boy violence in DC, Trump’s recent comments that upcoming demonstrations on January 6th will be ‘wild,’ the push by some of his advisors to declare ‘partial martial law,’ and finally the challenges faced by revolutionary antifascists in the current period: both in terms of confronting the far-Right, but more broadly the need to address the conditions and realities that are bringing so many angry working people into ongoing far-Right formations and protests.”

Some of the themes touched on in the interview:

  • the post-election shift by large sections of the right from a system-loyal to a system-oppositional stance
  • Trump as a “weak authoritarian” and what that says about his administration’s relationship with the ruling class
  • the far right’s capacity to tap into real grievances and the need to delineate liberatory responses from fascist ones
  • the dangers of antifascism being used to bolster the state’s repressive apparatus
  • the outlook for the far right after Trump leaves office
  • the rise of a dynamic, diverse antifascist movement in recent years and the successes born of radical, community self-defense approaches.

It’s Going Down is “a digital community center for anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements across so-called North America.”

Dec 30, 2020

On Toscano’s Critique of “Racial Fascism”

By Devin Zane Shaw

Editor's introduction: Does racist state repression equal fascism? Did white supremacist capitalism create fascism in the United States long before it arose in Europe? In this post, Devin Zane Shaw applies a three way fight approach to explore Black radical thinking about fascism and antifascism from W.E.B. Du Bois to George Jackson and Angela Davis. Shaw argues that it’s important to address both the deep connections AND the conflicts between the U.S. liberal political order and fascism, and that we need related but different strategies to combat far-right street movements and the racist capitalist system.

Alberto Toscano’s “The Long Shadow of Racial Fascism,” published last October in Boston Review, is part of a broader reconsideration of fascism in light of colonialism, settler-colonialism, and the Prison Industrial Complex (hereafter PIC). His work is part of an antifascist current which is rightly critical of the mainstream discussion among liberal intellectuals, whose analyses of the far right and the Trump administration tend to rely on analogies between the present conjuncture and German and Italian fascism, eliciting—at least on social media—poor comparisons between current events and prospective Reichstag fires or the collapse of the Weimar Republic. While Toscano highlights the importance of including the Black Radical critique of PIC in antifascist thought, his account does not situate his concepts of “racial fascism” or “late fascism” (analogically modeled on the concepts of “racial capitalism” and “late capitalism”) within a three-way fight framework.

In their analogies, the mainstream liberal view often presents the recent rise of the far right and so-called “Trumpism” as a marked departure from prior American politics. Toscano, drawing on the Black Radical tradition, argues that recent events are deeply rooted in colonialism, settler-colonialism, and antiblack racism. He shows that a number of Black intellectuals in the 1930s, such as George Padmore and Langston Hughes, had demonstrated the family resemblances—though, importantly, not outright identity—between settler-colonialism and European fascism.

Black and white photo of Du Bois in profile
W.E.B Du Bois, circa 1911
We will focus here on Toscano’s reading of W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction, a “monumental reckoning with the history of U.S. racial capitalism.” His interpretation of Du Bois uncritically accepts an understanding of fascism that blocks an appreciation of the three-way fight. Toscano argues that

the overthrow of Reconstruction enacted a “racial fascism” that long predated Hitlerism in its use of racial terror, conscription of poor whites, and manipulation of (to quote the famous definition of fascism by Georgi Dimitrov) “the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist sector of finance capital.”

Toscano’s interpretation of Black Reconstruction results in a reductive view of Du Bois’s concept of the public and psychological wages of whiteness. Though Black Reconstruction and Dimitrov’s speeches on fascism both date from 1935, they present starkly different directions in antiracist and antifascist praxis. Dimitrov posited a narrow view of fascism as the most reactionary faction of capital to legitimate a popular front policy, which allowed communists to organize with social democrats and factions of the bourgeoisie which opposed their most reactionary peers.

In the United States, the popular front also led to a shift in the Communist Party USA position on Black liberation from self-determination to civil rights. And even though Dimitrov’s speeches called for the mass antifascist party in the US to fight for the equal status of Black Americans, their interests were, as Robin D.G. Kelley observes in Hammer and Hoe, his study of communist organizing in interwar Alabama, effectively sidelined in Communist Party work during the popular front.* While the Black Panther Party later adopted the popular front line under their leadership as a Black vanguard party (hence, I believe, Toscano’s invocation of it), the claim that fascism is rooted in the most reactionary faction of capitalism came to be paired, via George Jackson, with focoist underground armed resistance severed from mass organizing. We should keep these historical pitfalls in mind when developing our own antifascist praxis.

For Du Bois, the wages of whiteness functioned to establish a broad recomposition of settler-state hegemony across class lines for the white bourgeoisie, petty bourgeoisie, and working class (I will explain settler-state hegemony below). But the wages of whiteness did more than merely align racial interests against class interests. Here, we step from Black Reconstruction to Kwando Mbiassi Kinshasa’s Black Resistance to the Ku Klux Klan in the Wake of Civil War (2006). We should also note that white racists formed clandestine system-oppositional groups (such as the first Ku Klux Klan), which carried out terror in the Reconstruction South. In response, Black Southerners engaged in self-defense to fight back. On this basis, we may also conclude that the recomposition of settler-colonial hegemony around the wages of whiteness also pulled system-oppositional white racists within a system-loyal paradigm while effectively disarming Black opposition to racism and Jim Crow.

A three-way fight perspective must examine how settler-state hegemony coalesces between the interests of capital and white settlerism, so that militant antifascism can successfully fight both.

For Du Bois, the hegemony which coalesces around the wages of whiteness marked the defeat of what he called “abolition democracy” by Northern industrialists and Southern whites. In terms of the three-way fight, his account differentiates between abolition democracy, system-loyal Northerners and system-oppositional Southerners. What Toscano calls “racial fascism” would be part of a broad hegemony and not merely the most reactionary faction of capital. But Toscano doesn’t necessarily evoke Dimitrov to the letter. More accurately, Toscano adapts Dimitrov’s line to treat racial fascism as a form of “extreme” capitalism (or “late fascism,” which is as problematic a term as “post-fascism” used by others)—that is, as an extreme form of the capitalist system rather than as a reactionary or extremist faction of the bourgeoisie.

Given that contemporary forms of the system-oppositional far right emerged conditioned by, and in response to, the ascendency of the neoliberalism and the PIC, Toscano is correct to return to criticisms of PIC developed by George Jackson and Angela Y. Davis (among others). More specifically, modern forms of the far right and fascism are a reaction to liberation struggles, “preventive counterreform” even. However, it becomes especially important to untangle counterrevolutionary forces without conflating them. Thus it would be necessary to disentangle state power—embodied here in the development of PIC within generally liberal legal parameters—and its relationship to white supremacy: both how neoliberal hegemony coalesces around “law and order” and how, despite this recomposition of whiteness and hegemony, far-right groups on the ground shift toward system-oppositional currents in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The latter facets escape the horizon of Toscano’s account. 

Instead, Toscano returns to his initial challenge to liberal antifascists. On the basis of Jackson and Davis, he contends that the growth of PIC is not a departure from liberal governance but part and parcel of its modern forms. But his schematic assertions remain problematic. For example, he argues:

This [a view that takes George Jackson's and Angela Davis's concept of fascism] both echoes and departs from the Black radical theories of fascism, such as Padmore’s or Césaire’s, which emerged from the experience of the colonized. The new, U.S. fascism that Jackson and Davis strive to delineate is not an unwanted return from the “other scene” of colonial violence, but originates from liberal democracy itself.

On the one hand, in the last few years there has been a well-warranted revival of interest in Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism, but his observation that fascism was imperialist violence turned back upon Europe does not accurately describe how fascism is conditioned by a settler-colonial society. On the other hand, Toscano’s account also incorrectly draws a false dilemma between the “other scene” of colonial violence and liberal democracy in order to assert the continuity between liberal democracy and fascism. The distinction is a false dilemma because settler-colonialism—the dispossession and oppression of Indigenous peoples—is not beyond the borders of and historically prior to liberal democracy but within it and ongoing.

It becomes especially important to untangle counterrevolutionary forces without conflating them: both how neoliberal hegemony coalesces around “law and order” and how far-right groups on the ground shift toward system-oppositional currents in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Thus, I contend that a three-way fight perspective must examine how settler-state hegemony coalesces between liberalism and white supremacy, or between the interests of capital and white settlerism, so that militant antifascism can successfully fight both. In other words, an analysis of the far right and fascism in North America must maintain an analytic distinction between liberalism and white supremacy even though there is a constantly moving dialectic between them. They converge through some common interests and diverge on others.

We have seen how, according to Du Bois, these interests converged through the wages of whiteness (although his account must be modified to incorporate how the white settlement of the western frontier served in the formation of post-Reconstruction hegemony). They have diverged more recently, for example, when liberal factions of settler-state hegemony have extended formal protections for minorities demanded by civil rights movements. In response, far-right groups have turned toward system-oppositional forms of organization.

In general, I assert that far-right movements are system-loyal when they perceive that the entitlements of white supremacy can be advanced within bourgeois or democratic institutions and they become insurgent when they perceive that these entitlements cannot. On this basis, we cannot collapse the reactionary dimension of PIC and the reaction of system-oppositional far-right movements. I would suggest that the far-right street movements defending the thin blue line remain in need of interpretation—what actual material benefits accrue to them for rallying on the side of the police, and what symbolic or ideological needs are met here? Why do some far-right groups ally with state power and others reject it?

We will conclude by revisiting Toscano’s claim that fascism is a form of “preventive counterreform.” It is a longstanding view, at least since Clara Zetkin’s essay “The Struggle against Fascism” (1923), that fascism emerges on the basis of the revolutionary failure of the left. Given that the left lacks the strength it had many decades ago it is more accurate to describe the recent far-right reaction as preventive counterreform, attempting to block the formation of a mass militant antifascist, antiracist, and anticapitalist movement from growing out of the antipolice uprising during 2020. And here Toscano’s account fails us; it ends without outlining any conclusions for antifascist practice. In my view, this failure occurs because he has identified fascism as a political or state form of “extreme” capitalism, which collapses antifascism into the struggle against this system. By contrast, militant antifascism has to organize against both far-right street movements and capitalism.

Indeed, the present crisis also runs deeper than terminological choices like “preventive counterreform” imply. There were, this summer and fall, widespread antifascist and antiracist struggles against both policing and insurgent right-wing groups. The police and the far-right sometimes took up tactical alliances (even if it was merely law enforcement looking the other way when far-right groups went on the attack) and in other cases policing turned against these groups (we can see this in the federal law enforcement crackdown against the Boogaloo Boys and others).

As I have argued, during the fall of 2020, it was uncertain whether far-right groups would align as system-loyal or system-oppositional after the US presidential election. It was possible that the election would result in a reorganization of settler-state hegemony with a more prominent public and perhaps institutional role for far-right organizing. Although I thought it unlikely, I also did not want to minimize the danger of this possibility either. The other possibility, that the far-right would be pushed organizationally back toward system-opposition, appears to be the result of Trump’s defeat—though, of course, along the way the Republican party has also been pulled even further toward far-right tendencies.

Toscano helps highlight the counterrevolutionary threat of the still present mechanisms of PIC and other state apparatuses, but the far-right as a system-oppositional movement remains outside his analytic horizon. While liberal antifascists, on his account, cannot naively congratulate themselves for defeating fascism by electing Biden, Toscano’s own position is detached from a practical relationship to ongoing militant antifascist movements.

*          *          *

Footnote
* Surveying Communist Party USA organizing in Alabama, Robin D.G. Kelley argues that the party “practically ceased to function as an independent, autonomous organization…the failure of the CIO’s Operation Dixie, anticommunism within the AFL-CIO, not to mention the anticommunism of the NAACP, weakened or destroyed the Communist-led unions, leaving an indelible mark on the next wave of civil rights activists and possibly arresting what may have been a broader economic and social justice agenda” (Hammer and Hoe, xx). 

Photo: Addison N. Scurlock, National Portrait Gallery collection, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.