By David Sole
On August 25 President Joe Biden publicly warned that Trump supporters “have made their choice to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division.” He characterized the Trump movement saying “it’s like semi-fascism.”
His speeches in Maryland that day echoed what many progressives had been saying often throughout the Trump presidency and especially during and after the 2020 election. An article in Fighting-Words.net after the January 6 Capitol insurrection likened it to Hitler’s 1923 “beer-hall putsch.”
Biden’s remarks were welcomed by many. What needs to be said, however, is that neither Biden, nor the Democratic Party leadership and not the “liberal” wing of the ruling class, can or will stop the growing threat of fascism.
Breaking up the mass base of fascism is of critical importance. That requires a bold and dramatic economic program that addresses the working class and middle class fears of financial ruin. The Democrats have offered, so far, only anemic relief for the very real problems of unemployment, lack of health care, housing, student debt and inflation.
The Democrats have also failed to mobilize the progressive base. There has been no motion on confronting voter suppression, defending reproductive freedom or challenging union busting.
Expecting vigorous action on these issues ignores the fact that the Wall Street bankers and bosses, known as the ruling class, do not want to channel any of their massive profits back to the workers who created the wealth for them. And the ruling class doesn’t want anything that might stir up a mass movement which could raise expectations of the masses and get out of hand. The capitalist class has firm control of both big political parties. The Democratic and Republican Parties, despite many differences, both serve the capitalist system.
Fascism aims to divert the attention of the masses away from their real enemies in the ruling capitalist class. Instead, the frustration and anger of the working and middle classes are directed against people of a different race, ethnicity, sex or sexual orientation. Base prejudices are exploited. Trump openly appealed to racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ hatred, anti-disabled persons, anti-Arab, anti-immigrant sentiment and more.
Another weakness in confronting fascism is the fiction that the military and police forces will not let those extremists go too far. Faith in the armed forces, local and state police and the F.B.I. to stop fascism is a dangerous illusion.
German “democracy” fell with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. For the years between the end of World War I (1918) and the Nazi regime the police forces and the military establishment had vigorously suppressed working class struggles. But those same armed forces either openly welcomed or quietly accepted the Fuhrer and his stormtroopers. The German capitalist class, after all, figured that fascist capitalism was better for them than a working class socialist revolution.
From 1970 to 1973 the elected socialist president of Chile, Salvatore Allende, carried out many radical working class programs and encouraged mass mobilizations of Chile’s workers and poor. But Allende ignored the dangers of right-wing organizations backed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.). Allende assured the masses that the Chilean military had always been and would continue to be apolitical and would not interfere in the developing struggle for socialism.
The “peaceful road” came to an end on September 11, 1973 when the Chilean military carried out a bloody coup organized by the C.I.A. President Allende heroically fought back and was killed, gun in hand. But the mass political movement had not been prepared or organized to fight back. Captive of the illusion that the military would “defend democracy”, tens of thousands of communists, socialists and other progressives were rounded up, tortured and murdered.
There are many other historical examples that should alert the people of the United States that they ought not depend on the police and the military to protect our rights and our lives.
On December 18, 2021 the Washington Post ran an opinion piece signed by three retired U.S. generals urging “the military must prepare now for a 2024 insurrection.” These generals noted that in May, 2021,124 other retired military officers signed a letter “attacking the legitimacy” of the 2020 election.
More alarmingly, the generals warned of “the potential for a military breakdown mirroring societal or political breakdown…and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military” which “could lead to civil war.”
On September 7, The Guardian published an article by the Associated Press titled “Oath Keepers membership rolls feature police, military and elected officials.” It reveals that a review of 38,000 leaked names of Oath Keepers membership showed that 370 people are in law enforcement “including as police chiefs and sheriffs.” More than another 100 are currently in the U.S. armed forces and 80 more were “running for or served in public office as of early August.”
The Oath Keepers are an ultra-rightwing militia that played a role in the January 6, 2021 pro-Trump Capitol insurrection. Wikipedia lists their membership at 5,000 of which “two-thirds …are former military or law enforcement, and one tenth are active duty military or law enforcement.”
The Congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection has revealed some interesting information. However it has not explained how the mob was able to run wild for hours outside and inside the Capitol Building with no intervention by the various armed bodies pledged to defend the Constitution.
Why did the police on the scene, being assaulted and beaten, fail to use their weapons, except for one notable exception? Across the country on a regular basis police draw their weapons and gun down people of color for no reason.
Where were the reinforcements from the D.C. police department? Where was the National Guard? Where were military units that are on call by the Pentagon? Where were the FBI agents?
It has been documented that acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller had issued a detailed letter two days before January 6 limiting what the D.C. National Guard could do if they were called out. He ordered that the Guard “is not authorized the following:”
- To be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.
- To interact physically with protestors, except when necessary in self-defense or defense of others, consistent with the DCNG Rules for the Use of Force.
- To employ any riot control agents.
- To share equipment with law enforcement agencies.
- To use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities.
- To employ helicopters or any other air assets.
- To conduct searches, seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law enforcement activity.
- To seek support from any non-DCNG National Guard units.
Of course there are many other right-wing organizations and many individuals who are simply “semi-fascist” in their sympathies. This information confirms that it would be folly to place confidence in the established military and police to stop fascism.
Who then can stop fascism if it threatens another insurrection? The only reliable force is the power of the working class and oppressed peoples. Independent, militant, organized anti-fascist forces, unarmed or armed, send a message to the ruling class elements that are the backbone of the fascist movement. This message is that the people will not meekly stand by in the face of fascism and that a confrontation of major proportions will ensue. That threat alone might be enough to limit the support the capitalist right-wing gives to its storm troopers, since a sharp conflict might disrupt business and the flow of profits.
It is most significant that just prior to the November 2020 election, when Trump already was threatening not to accept a possible defeat, several local central labor councils across the United States passed resolutions threatening a general strike. The general strike is a powerful weapon where all workers refuse to go to work in response to a political crisis. It has rarely been used in U.S. history. This is one type of action that working class organizations can popularize well before any such crisis arises.
Another initiative taken before the 2020 election was a call issued by several organizations to members of the armed forces. It appealed to them to refuse illegal orders that Trump might issue prior to, or following his defeat.
These initiatives point in the direction that needs to be taken by the broadest layers of the population as we face the growing threat of a fascist movement.