Oct 30, 2021

It's Going Down: Paul O’Banion On The Changing Terrain Of The Far-Right, Antifascism, And Community Self-Defense



We are reposting the recent interview the good people at It's Going Down did with our friend, comrade and recent contributor to 3WF, Paul O'Banion.

from IGD,

Long-time anarchist and antifascist organizer Paul O’Banion joins It’s Going Down to discuss how the struggle against the far-Right and fascism must evolve and grow into a broader political struggle beyond (just) street confrontations in order to push back against the growing reactionary and white supremacist forces we face today.

During our conversation, we discuss the rise of the fascist current within the anti-vaxx movement, collusion between the Proud Boys and the police, and lessons from the antifascist struggle in the Pacific Northwest.

 



for more on the discussion of A22 PDX and the lessons check it : 

Oct 23, 2021

A Diversity of Tactics is Not Enough; We Need Rules of Engagement

The following is part of a series of responses to the events of August 22, 2001 (A22) in Portland, Oregon. We support any and all genuine and honest discussion that is of use to our movements regardless of whether we agree with what is raised and put forward. We also understand that real debate can be sharp and at times raw. We will attempt to be conscious of this and as stated previously, a fundamental part of our guidelines are based on 

principled responses, not personal attacks or sectarian squabbles (or, for that matter, uncritical boosterism). We also ask that submissions take into consideration issues of movement security, remembering that both the fascists and the state will be searching for faultiness to divide our movements.  

We appreciate the responses we have received and look forward to those others working to contribute to this discussion. – 3WF

A Diversity of Tactics is Not Enough; We Need Rules of Engagement

by Peter Little

PDX 2020. Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images. Use for educational purposes only.

Portland has become a focal point for far-right groupings around the United States. The ongoing mobilizations against far-right activities in the city are vital and deserve support. The countermobilization in response to a Proud Boy rally on August 22nd had inspiring and positive elements, but were overwhelmed by developments which reflect underlying ideological and practical weaknesses within the antifascist movement. We need deeper critical reflection on the questions raised if the movement is to avoid being undermined by repeating mistakes of previous generations of antifascists.

Events of August 22nd raised questions of security, the relationship between front-liners and a mass base, and the need for accountability and discipline, particularly when it comes to the application of force in combating fascism.

For those of us who have lived through previous upsurges, the nascent antifascist movement and the concurrent rise of militance in defense of black lives have overcome stale and moralistic debates about pacifism. The abandonment of pacifism as an overriding strategic framework is an encouraging development but also poses risks, though not those which most worry pacificists. The movement’s emphasis on direct action and its distance from the electoral system are also significant in its radical potential. These emerging capacities for physically confronting fascist threats needs to be matched by a framework for moderating, holding accountable, and disciplining the use of force.

We must also acknowledge the limits of force in countering fascism. Absent a collective evaluation of the risks posed, the development of organizational forms to facilitate these capacities will exert unseen influences on the internal culture and politics of the movement, and will exacerbate already existing tensions between front line groupings and the mass movement itself. An examination of the compromises inherent in a move to armed defense is central to working out how to navigate tensions between the needs and interests of front liners and the mass movement which is foundational to radical antifascism and its most radical potentials.

Absent a collective evaluation of the risks posed, the development of organizational forms to facilitate these capacities will exert unseen influences on the internal culture and politics of the movement, and will exacerbate already existing tensions between front line groupings and the mass movement itself.

What are the limits to acceptable violence? Who determines them? How are they enforced? These questions are strategically, politically, and ethically important for how their answers impact the movement’s ongoing potential. They point towards well-worn but still inadequately addressed questions about the compromises political movements are forced to embrace in militarized conflicts where open, direct, and participatory democracy exist in tension with the repressive pressures that limit their viability. Our history is tragically riddled with mistakes on both sides of this continuum, and we don’t have to look far to see examples where decisions made under duress end up undermining the most liberatory potentials of our movements.

Our Enemies, and Us

The antifascist movement’s opponents in both the security apparatus and in the fascist movement will not be hindered by the ethical constraints that rightly limit the range of options for the antifascist movement itself. The compromises our movements are forced to make can so quickly begin to undermine their most liberatory potentials. Our attitude toward violence and the limits we place on it are part of what define us, and differentiate us from our enemies.

PDX 2020. Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images. Use for educational purposes only.


The state has immense resources for repression and will employ layers of measures in an attempt to marginalize and disempower the most radical elements of the antifascist movement. Overt repression criminalizing the movement, outright violence such as the police murder of Michael Reinholdt, or collaboration with the far right may be the most easily identified forms of repression, but these initiatives always risk discrediting the organizations utilizing them if they are exposed. The security apparatuses would prefer to weaponize weaknesses within the movement, hoping to fragment and discredit it, and will attempt to employ all of the above methods in a strategic orientation that pushes the political basis for the antifascist movement into a malleable and reformist direction, thereby diminishing its most radical potentials.

The security apparatuses would prefer to weaponize weaknesses within the movement, hoping to fragment and discredit it, and will attempt to employ all of the above methods in a strategic orientation that pushes the political basis for the antifascist movement into a malleable and reformist direction, thereby diminishing its most radical potentials.

The far-right embraces hierarchy and inequality as reflective of a natural order. So, it lacks a humanistic ethic, and this removes restraint on questions of violence and force. Many camps extend this to an embrace of violence and terror. The left cannot do the same without abandoning the liberatory ideals which motivate us. Though global capitalism and the states whose apparatuses maintain it will be forced oppose fascist movements as threats to the existing order, the radical antifascist movement is unlikely to enjoy the kind of cover that the far right sometimes receives from the security forces.

PDX 2020. Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images. Use for educational purposes only.


All of this means that pending victory, we have to assume we will be physically and militarily out-resourced by our opponents. Given this, the struggle over popular support and to win significant sectors of society to sympathize with antifascism is essential. This means cultivating a base whom, though not fighters, sympathize with, support, and provide cover for the antifascist movement. This extends through a range of relations between militants and the larger base. Besides needing significant numbers of people willing to take risks confronting fascists in the streets, we also need those devoted to making repression of the movement by the state or fascists prohibitively costly, and other working to cultivate a mass culture of antifascism that is more appealing than the fascists in its prefigurative aspects.


Strategic Assessments

This full-spectrum strategy requires evaluating our activity not just by its immediate impact on fascists in the street, but by how well it expands the base of support for the movement, while discrediting the enemy. We don’t win by force alone: an important element of what makes victory possible in the face of such odds is our ability to credibly act in ways more appealing, trustworthy, and worthy of support than the better equipped and resourced enemies we confront.

Defeating fascism will require the dismantling of the system that creates its potentials. The base of the US fascist movement is largely composed of a combination of struggling small businessmen alongside some number working class people who see their material conditions and their limited privileges eroding under the pressures of a faltering system. Though in places the fascist movement may receive some forms of support from elements of the capitalist class and its security apparatus, it has to be understood as an oppositional byproduct of Capitalist relations themselves. For every fascist who is chased off the streets, global capitalism is creating the potentials for many more. Repressing fascists will not defeat them, as the social relations that produced them will continue to provide the experiences and viewpoints which are fertile ground for fascist ideology. While its supporters may be motivated by ‘hate,’ or ‘backwards ideas,' these ideas are also an expression of a perceived collective interest within a capitalist framework. A revolutionary anticapitalist alternative must develop a radical politic that can compete with and win the sympathies of those drawn to fascism, and must orient its priorities appropriately.

Repressing fascists will not defeat them, as the social relations that produced them will continue to provide the experiences and viewpoints which are fertile ground for fascist ideology. While its supporters may be motivated by ‘hate,’ or ‘backwards ideas,' these ideas are also an expression of a perceived collective interest within a capitalist framework. A revolutionary anticapitalist alternative must develop a radical politic that can compete with and win the sympathies of those drawn to fascism, and must orient its priorities appropriately.

Acknowledging that we will likely be outgunned, out macho’d, and possibly even outnumbered by our enemies should not diminish the importance of developing a capacity to confront fascist threats or to defend communities: this is essential. And though there are no road maps for producing the concrete linkages between antifascism and a potential anticapitalist block, the mutual aid projects that have emerged in response to the fires and heatwaves in Oregon all offer encouraging hints of these possibilities. As pointed out by Garrison Davis and Robert Evans, the far right in Oregon enacted roadblocks and restrictions on movement and menaced journalists trying to report on events during the natural disasters of the last year, while the antifascist movement provided shelter, food, and direct support to those most impacted by these events. As indicated by far-right ‘mutual aid’ responses to disasters in the Southern United States more recently however, we can’t assume they will continue to act so stupidly.

In contrast to deepening a mass movement, events on Aug 22nd hint towards a trajectory of vanguard vs vanguard, with the mass movement increasingly sidelined by front-liner actions which prioritize the fighters and their objectives over the development of a militant, mass participatory base confronting the fascist threat. If fascism is a semi-autonomous right wing social movement, it needs to be countered by a left-wing social movement. The struggle against fascism cannot be reduced to a series of tactics or technologies. We don't want a “standing army” of tactical specialists. We want a mass in motion, consisting of all the people willing to take those steps, with various levels of commitment and engagement. The contributions of those who for whatever reasons are not front-liners are as important as the activity of the front-liners themselves.

A World We Want to Live In, and How We Get There Matters

One notable aspect of Aug 22nd was that before the event, police and the city publicly abdicated responsibility for maintaining order. They were nonetheless present, and demonstrated the limits of their noninterventionist policies when an undercover officer emerged from the black bloc to make an arrest after a shoot-out downtown. This public retreat may reflect confidence in their ability to influence events from within the movement, and this likelihood further raises the importance of a set of agreed principles, of limits to violence, as well as accountability and discipline for all participants.

The partial withdrawal of state forces left open a particular hint of revolutionary possibilities — dual power. In such moments, our actions are important not only in accomplishing their immediate objectives of chasing fascists off the street, but as a demonstration of the politics and world we hope to see. Call it optics, call it realpolitik, but this matters immensely.

Popular support cannot be the sole metric for assessing the viability of an approach, but we cannot afford to ignore the multiple accounts from Aug 22nd where sympathizers who came down to support the action, accidental passersby, and workers in the neighborhood were questioned or felt menaced by black bloc. In one instance Chevron workers called police saying people were fighting with fireworks in their pumping station, causing them to worry about the dangers to the neighborhood of a potential gas explosion. (Police declined to respond.)

All of this points again towards questions as to the limits and potential costs of violence within the movement. Who are militants accountable to? How do the front liners maintain accountability to the movement as a whole? What will happen when disagreements within the movement begin to be resolved with force? How can individuals representing the movement be held accountable for actions like the attack on journalist Maranie Staab, without handing them to our enemies or embracing a punitive model of justice? But more importantly, how can these types of mistakes be identified and prevented in the future.

Violence and Authority

Violence, whatever the motives behind it, is a means for imposing one's will on another human being, or group. This is an immutable reality, and one that idealistic slogans about opposing hierarchy and authority will not resolve. The antifascist movement must acknowledge this reality, and that some of its actions are a form of repression. Even if justified or necessary, there must be restraints and checks on the forces engaged in such repressive action. This includes accountability for the actions of front-liners, including an honest evaluation of and ownership for mistakes. It will not be easy to do this without exposing our fighters to additional risks, and it will not be easy to work out, given the multitude of forces looking to divide, fracture, or harm the movement — but methods that balance these concerns will have to be worked out.

Without clear agreements about the limits to the use of force, any group with a repressive capacity will tend them to exert an outsized influence within the movement. Anarchism and antiauthoritarianism are not exempt from these realities. The elevation of military tactics over a political strategy risk discrediting the movement as well as degrading democracy within it. It exposes openings for state actors to discredit the movement, stir conflicts between comrades, and breed divisions which destroy the movement. It also risks the isolation and abandonment of front-liners by the larger movement.

Tactical Realities and Political Implications

In moments of physical confrontation, conceptions of direct democracy, autonomy, and opposition to hierarchy will run up against real-world constraints. As acknowledged in this post action evaluation —Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements — on August 22, there was no capacity to collectively decide how to respond to the change in location announced by the far-right organizers, in the end splitting the crowd and leading to the embarrassing scene that unfolded in Parkrose.

This is not an argument against democracy, but that people's common sense conceptions of how to function democratically under such conditions are now running up against the realities of work which requires both clandestinity and coordination of small groups with masses of supporters. Sweeping these questions under the rug with simplistic anti-authoritarian rhetoric does not resolve them — and continuing without grappling with these questions will lead to more of the kinds of setbacks we saw on Aug 22nd. This lack of discipline and coordination leaves the ground open to the kinds of debacles where an outnumbered group of antifascists march head on into defeat and members of the black bloc assault journalists or irritating but insignificant bystanders while Proud Boys attack antifascists only a block or so away.

At Parkrose, independent journalist Maranie Staub was filming the black bloc, and continued to do so after being asked to stop. When she continued to film, her phone was taken from her, and when she responded by confronting those who took her phone, she was thrown to the ground and harangued with misogynistic epithets.

This response to the security threats posed by her insistence on recording may be useful in examining some of the questions I’ve hoped to raise in this essay.

The attack on Maranie Staab has been defended as legitimate given her possible relationships with antagonistic independent journalists and the dangers of her exposing antifascists. But did it actually make anyone safer?

The response to Staab drew attention away from where Proud Boys were actively attacking demonstrators, exposed people to potential criminal charges, and attracted many more journalists with cameras. This was tactically self-defeating, and even if justified by another rubric, it can't be justified on security grounds.

Furthermore, it is worth acknowledging that undercover officers were present and in black bloc that day, and likely had their own unseen cameras — not to mention the other cameras belonging to cops, journalists, fascists, or bystanders, which one can assume were present but out of sight. Good security cannot be predicated on the assumption that we can stop other social forces from predictably exercising their own agency.

Good movement security cannot be reduced to a series of tactics or technologies. Its core is a collective capacity to analyze threats and evaluate the costs and benefits of approaches to mitigating them. This requires accountability from all participants in implementing agreed solutions, and also includes accountability for the actions of the front liners to the rest of the movement, including an honest evaluation, acknowledgement of mistakes, and a collective discipline capable of preventing their repetition. This kind of discipline cannot mean limiting debate or criticism: its healthy application actually requires encouraging a framework where a diversity of ideas and approaches are encouraged for consideration. It does mean developing methods for holding the different components of the movement (whether individuals or groupings) accountable to a set of collective principles and strategies.

State and fascist repression will of course complicate this process, and throwing comrades with poor judgement or who make mistakes to our enemies will degrade trust and cohesion within the movement. Accountability and relative transparency will have to navigate this tension carefully, and there are no easy answers. Broadly, we can say that we need to find ways to subordinate the military aspects of the struggle to the political. That requires a tactical command structure that operates in the context of a horizontal political culture — autonomy and freedom in politics, but discipline within the organizations responsible for implementing strategy.

Peter Little is long time street-level anti-fascist – and is probably guilty of many of the mistakes and excesses that are criticized here.

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

It was no Harpers Ferry: August 22d wasn’t an accident, it was a product of our thinking

Understanding A22 PDX: The Scraps

Oct 13, 2021

It was no Harpers Ferry: August 22d wasn’t an accident, it was a product of our thinking

The following is part of a series of responses to the events of August 22, 2001 (A22) in Portland, Oregon. We support any and all genuine and honest discussion that is of use to our movements regardless of whether we agree with what is raised and put forward. We also understand that real debate can be sharp and at times raw. We will attempt to be conscious of this and as stated previously, a fundamental part of our guidelines are based on 

principled responses, not personal attacks or sectarian squabbles (or, for that matter, uncritical boosterism). We also ask that submissions take into consideration issues of movement security, remembering that both the fascists and the state will be searching for faultiness to divide our movements.  

We appreciate the responses we have received and look forward to those others working to contribute to this discussion. – 3WF


It was no Harpers Ferry: August 22d wasn’t an accident, it was a product of our thinking

by Iain W


I stood in a crowd of white men, blending in seamlessly. I was just another white man. The moment of hostility came when I failed to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, failed to take off my hat, and didn't put my hand over my heart. I hadn't chosen to out myself, it's just that it never occurred to be to participate in that particular performance.  It was April 15, 2009, and I was checking out a Tea Party Rally in Downtown Portland.
 

Past the dwindling Nazi Bonehead sets, this city was leftist property. So, it was mostly a curiosity to see so many Republicans in one place.

There were several features that haunt me from that day. There were more Carhartts then khakis in the crowd, and younger people included, some wearing the Guy Fawkes mask, a sure sign of political incoherence. From the stage the speakers had no real problem calling for armed revolt and bloodletting, watering the tree of liberty and such. The GOP had no problem with the rhetoric, signing up voters for the next midterms: the GOP has always been a good deal more radical then the Democrats. The Koch brothers produced signs they carried had the slogan “runaway taxes + huge government = SLAVERY”. The "slavery" was in bold type, and from a distance all you saw was a bunch of white men carrying a sign that said "slavery." Obama as The Joker would come along a bit later.  

I recall thinking, not at that time, but in the year or so that followed, that no one seemed to be confronting the Tea Party, with its barely coded white supremacy and expression of an actual mass participatory base. It felt like a void, waiting to be filled, but the pushback never materialized. It was a missed opportunity. That same yawning chasm would open up just a few years later with Trump, but the void would be filled with the far left, most specifically by existing anarchist and communist cadre/affinity groups, to become known broadly as "ANTIFA" in the press. In some ways, ANTIFA is a trap, a narrowing of the scope of concern or proactive solutions for hundreds of millions of people wallowing in the wreckage of late capitalism. Antifascism requires fascism for meaning, and cannot help but sweep such limitations into its scope. 

But back in 2009, most of us saw only the theoretical possibility of the Tea Party slipping its libertarian corporate masters, and asserting itself as a nominally autonomous social force. We, my political collectivity included, were mostly still fighting the last war, against the remnants of the Nazi bonehead crews. 

The shadow war that took place in the decades before the current era was mostly one over counter-cultural social spaces, and territory within urban centers. This is where most the ARA tactics that got folded into ANTIFA, the "we go where they go" and "no platforming" developed. In those times most the work was physical confrontation and street level violence, undermining of Nazi and white supremacist public events and organizing, and doxing before doxing was called doxing.

What this was, was political repression — of course. We actively repressed our enemies. And the constituency for the war against the far right was the counter-cultural punk scene. In a few places, because of good work, thoughtful organizing, and decent politics, that broke past the punk scene, and incorporated broader social layers into the fight against the fascists. But by and large, aside from salacious TV shows, that war was off the national radar. Nazis and conscious white supremacists were just as marginalized as the far left confronting them. Official society didn't have much use for either of us, contrary to our shared assumptions about each other.

When Donald Trump came along, he lit the fuse to the powder keg that the elites had been packing since the 2008 capitalist collapse. And things started moving, well, rather quickly. A toxic brew of the far-right started bubbling away, 3%ers, Patriot Prayer, the Proud Boys, Spencer's Nazi's, and a grab bag of other forces contended for Trump's coattails. By and large, the Nazis and overt white nationalists lost this struggle, both within the rightist coalition, and through persecution, from the state and from the left. But the remainder is perhaps more dangerous, and a graver threat to the left and marginalized groups, not so much for its overt virulence, but its reach and potential popular grassroots support.

In typical liberal fashion, the progressive establishment had no answer for the rise of a far-right as an actual movement organizing in the streets. But the far-left stepped into that role, and suddenly became a social force with recognition on a national, if not international level. This was, and continues to be, a fundamental transformation of the political conversation in society, and a profound opportunity. To a large degree, I think we have squandered it, and are being out-maneuvered by reactionary forces. 

In typical liberal fashion, the progressive establishment had no answer for the rise of a far-right as an actual movement organizing in the streets. But the far-left stepped into that role, and suddenly became a social force with recognition on a national, if not international level. This was, and continues to be, a fundamental transformation of the political conversation in society, and a profound opportunity. To a large degree, I think we have squandered it, and are being out-maneuvered by reactionary forces.
I think most of our shortcomings lie in our fidelity to the frameworks that got built over the last several decades in confronting the far-right, and how they fail to scale up to today's moment. There seems to be little conversation about the implications of the new terrain we occupy, just attempts to reapply inherited tactics built in a different era. 

Our first shaky foundation is "No platforming," the notion that some perspectives are simply too abhorrent to allow public space, and must be repressed. It relies ultimately on a social sanction from the wider community; it demands that a side be taken, and precludes any debate of ideas. What this requires is that social intuitions, the music clubs, the media outlets, the universities, and people in control of physical spaces and infrastructure agree to where this line is. If they fail to pick our side, they have to pay a public price, and maybe some insurance deductibles as well.      

When "we go where they go" got coined, there were not several quality digital cameras on most commercial buildings. Most people did not have a video camera in their pocket. The media was composed of professionals working for slow-footed corporate newsrooms, and did not cover the beat down of a few peckerwoods at the local bar. It was a strategy of relentless pressure on the social spaces Nazis tried to cultivate and infiltrate. We do not live in that world today. When we went where they went, chances were it would not end up in court. 

When we think about the community we had been accountable to, it was us, the far-left, mostly a counter-cultural nexus composed of a few hundred to a few thousand people in most urban centers across the country. We had a rather high degree of shared values, on paper at any rate. Even here, disagreements are sharp, and propel us towards unending schism while we cancel each other — sometimes for heinous behavior, sometimes over petty sectarian beefs, often for a refusal to extend any good faith or mutual humility towards each other. But through most of it we all could get on board together for smashing Nazis. 

Today, many of the dynamics that constructed the tactics we follow are gone. Surveillance is everywhere. The media system has been shattered into thousands of little shards. The internet makes new ways to communicate and share information, and algorithms sit above it all, gathering information for whoever can afford to buy it. The social forces operating today on all sides have exploded past the rather narrow parameters we operated in for the last several decades. The entire world has shifted under us, and we have played a role in it. But our categories and understandings that inform our tactics are pretty stubborn things, and we should ask if we cling to them to explain the world to ourselves, or just to explain ourselves to each other.  

It feels like we are attempting to shove the new world back into the old one. Black Bloc attacks the media, even small-time stringers who may be sympathetic. It attacks passers-by that may have the gall to film a few hundred people blocked up in the middle of a downtown core, in the middle of the day. The bloc demands no one record or film them, when every person has a video camera in their pocket, and a platform to share content with millions of people around the world almost instantly. Does one imagine this is a winning, or even a feasible strategy? And what is the outcome of such approaches? 

We should be clear: this is repression of the press, and even of the general public. It's not a flattering feature, and it's more than a PR problem.  It's a question of how power operates, and what we do with ours. There may be a rational kernel behind it, but it opens up another set of questions, and has implications for the sort of confidences we might prefer people have in us. If we subordinate other people's freedoms for our security, there’s little chance to win society over to a liberatory project through our pathways. More than likely, people will find the public repressive display alienating and repulsive. The marginal security that is gained from attacking the press and the public costs incalculable credibility with society.  

As to the second cornerstone of Antifa, "We Go Where They Go" has increasingly become its opposite. We don't "go where they go," because we have no organized presence in the places they go, and no plan or capacity to build that. Right now the Proud Boys have no end of social space to occupy in the exurbs. Nor is it very likely that the owners of the bars would give two shits about an attempt at cancellation. They would use it as a marketing strategy, emboldening and empowering reaction.   So, we are left with fights in the urban cores that we are used to defending, and "going where they go" is really them coming to where we are. On August 22nd this was clear as could be, when a small group of people perhaps too literally applied the slogan.

As to the second cornerstone of Antifa, "We Go Where They Go" has increasingly become its opposite. We don't "go where they go," because we have no organized presence in the places they go, and no plan or capacity to build that.
When we look at no platforming, it is often the act of no platforming that constructs the very platform reactionaries stand on. This is what the current debate about cancel culture is, and I believe the right is winning there. Jordan Peterson is a great example. He would still be an obscure professor in Canada, teaching esoteric Jungian garbage to a handful of zoned out Canadians had he not seen the opportunity to build a brand on the "illiberal" left. His ideas have strength mostly because we won't be bothered to push them over, as doing so would only legitimize him, so the thinking goes. But here we miss the point.

It's not always clear where one puts the marker down for a refusal to debate ideas we find abhorrent. When fascism is clear cut, it's easy to repress it. But what about ideas that tens or even hundreds of millions of people hold as "common sense"? Do we imagine that we will repress those millions of people into accepting our notions of how the world is organized? Because if you don't work to confront reactionary ideas that have been broadly perpetrated as common sense through argument and discussion, what's our other option, besides, you know, defeat? 

Our notions of the social base of fascists often fails to recognize the disparate and contradictory elements within the broader milieu of far-right organizing, at times pushing forces together we should be looking to tear apart. We point at a truck carrying a black man, a pacific islander, and a woman shooting paintballs at leftists and call them white supremacists. Fascism is a dynamic force that we try to fit into static categories at our peril. They are making a play to cohere a new broad base, while we narrow ours to "people we can trust." Any study of revolution will show a dizzying array of mind-bending coalitions and temporary alliances so deep with contradictions and betrayals that any solid ground we find ourselves on should be foremost taken as illusion.  

Such observations must be made with humility, but I have little doubt that we are moving into even sharper times, where millions and millions of people will be drawn into a struggle to survive. We should not be deterministic about where people will jump based on our own categories, be they gendered, racial or class-informed. These are abstractions developed in a certain time, and must constantly be reassessed through acute awareness and curiosity, not simply replicated through confirmation bias. Our goal must be to build structures that can encompass the desires and dreams of hundreds of millions of people, to split the mass base away from systems of hierarchy towards egalitarian liberty and human solidarity.

I have little doubt that we are moving into even sharper times, where millions and millions of people will be drawn into a struggle to survive. We should not be deterministic about where people will jump based on our own categories, be they gendered, racial or class-informed. These are abstractions developed in a certain time, and must constantly be reassessed through acute awareness and curiosity, not simply replicated through confirmation bias. Our goal must be to build structures that can encompass the desires and dreams of hundreds of millions of people, to split the mass base away from systems of hierarchy towards egalitarian liberty and human solidarity.
We will need to be more thoughtful towards showing people a world we want to build, a more open hand than closed fist. This is not an argument against political repression, or for pacifism. There should be no doubt violence and political repression will be elements to what's ahead. Fascists should be smashed, but it does not always need to be a public spectacle, and may be more effective, and safer when it’s not. Such a context does require narrow participation, high levels of security, but it bumps less up against the perhaps greater need for mass participatory activity — not only against fascism, but for a different world. It requires less collateral repression of media actors and the general public.  And when it is the repression of fascists is a public spectacle, the concern should be in decisive victories that enjoy popular support.

Iain W is a part-time leftist who lives in Portland, OR and occasionally tries to be useful.

Related posts:

Understanding A22 PDX: discussion and analysis for the antifascist movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Three Responses

Understanding A22 PDX: Never Let the Nazis Have the Story! The Narrative Aspect of Conflict

Understanding A22 PDX: Broader implications for militant movements

Understanding A22 PDX: Response from a Comrade, "We Go Where They Go" as strategy for militant antifascism

There Will Always Be More Of Us: Antifascist Organizing

A Diversity of Tactics is Not Enough: We Need Rules of Engagement

Understanding A22 PDX: The Scraps