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.