By Fighting Words Staff
Over 200 protestors from multiple labor and community organizations gathered outside the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison on January 12 to confront about 30 members of the fascist militia grouping The Three Percent United Patriots and the right-wing propaganda entity The Free Men Report. Members from multiple socialist tendencies, including the Communist Workers League, confronted the racist scum.
Earlier this month, the International Socialist Organization – Madison called the counterprotest in response to the fascists’ plans for their recruitment and consolidation rally and in swift order organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Chicago Solidarity Center, In Defense Of Our Lives, the Latin American Solidarity Committee-Milwaukee, the Detroit-based Moratorium Now Coalition and MECAWI, Thee Fond du Lac Underclass and the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement endorsed the counterprotest.
With only days to organize the counterprotest, members of the peoples’ organizations met for two well-attended organizing meetings, distributed and posted thousands of leaflets, created and shared social media posts and engaged in other outreach that made clear the workers and oppressed of Wisconsin need jobs, education and other needs fulfilled, not racist hate.
The evening before the counterprotest, dozens of peoples’ organizers met at the Labor Temple in Madison for work and orientation sessions. The Labor Temple houses numerous union and community organizations, contains fabulous murals of workers struggles and is generally imbued with the class struggle history of working and oppressed peoples.
Jobs and education, not racist hate!
The militia group known as the Three Percenters are self-styled “protectors of the Constitution” and “free speech” who claim no affiliation with white supremacist or fascist politics, but who are, in actuality, best known for organizing “patrols” at the U.S.-Mexico border, where they hunt down migrants and refugees attempting to cross the border and turn them over to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. They also provide armed security at Nazi rallies and other far-right events. After Wisconsin inaugurated a new governor this year (Tony Evers, a Democrat who supports certain restrictions on gun ownership), fascists in the state have worried about possible challenges to their own ability to accumulate weapons.
As the fascists and their supporters gathered at the top of the Capitol steps January 12, they were gradually outnumbered by the counter-protestors assembling at the bottom. The counter-rally began with a strong speak-out exposing the racist, fascist politics of the Three Percenters, addressing the very real economic struggles, such as austerity and lack of employment, faced by the working class of Wisconsin and the whole Midwest. Counter-protesters pointed out the true enemies of the people: not immigrants seeking an escape from imperialist violence and poverty, but rather the capitalist class and those who serve them, including the cops, the big business Republican and Democratic Parties, and, of course, the far right.
As one member of CWL explained, “CWL knew that Democrats would try to take things in a reformist direction. As communists, we had to intervene, challenging the limited viewpoint of the largely white student demonstrators, and pushing forward the ideas of the most oppressed. We wanted to draw attention to the fascism of the police forces and the U.S. military, even while we protested the Three Percenters. Only a socialist party can transform the liberal distaste for fascism into a revolutionary movement against capitalism, the source thereof.”
When the speakers concluded, the multinational protestors formed a militant picket line with chants, banners and placards. This eventually transformed into a march that swarmed up the Capitol steps, overwhelming the fascists’ rally with sheer numbers and noise, until it became impossible for the fascists to continue, and they left the area two hours before the scheduled time. The protest concluded with a triumphant celebration at the top of the Capitol steps, at the spot the protesters had taken from the fascists, with protestors chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!”
Strategic, principled unity
Despite important differences in political orientation and line, and attempts by the Democratic Party machine to liberalize the tone of the protest, this variety of progressive organizations joined forces on Saturday as a united front, on an anti-racist, anti-fascist basis, and on the strength of the knowledge that strategic, principled unity among the Left is crucial in defeating the rising fascist movement in the land now known as the United States.
Although the liberal ideology somewhat influencing the tone of the counterprotest extended to some protestors engaging cops in a friendly fashion, and the mayor of Madison exhorting the crowd to come together “regardless of class or creed,” the crowd’s response rejected these messages, booing down the mayor and cheering speakers who talked about the importance of union organizing and who spoke on the class character of cops.
Speakers from the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement (WI BOPM) and CWL also took care to emphasize the right of oppressed people to self-defense (an essential point often missing from the liberal debate over gun control) and the urgent necessity of anti-racist, internationalist solidarity.
Considering the impact of the day, one representative from the Chicago Solidarity Center reflected, “I went hoping to rally some race traitors. To find some John Browns. Was it successful? Well, it remains to be seen what fruit will bear from the seeds sown that day, but I know there would only be dirt there a year from now if nothing was planted at all.”