At Trump’s urging at a rally in Washington, DC on Wednesday, January 6, thousands of racists and fascists carrying confederate flags and other hate symbols marched and stormed the Capitol as Congress was counting the vote for the presidential election. The scenes of the violent MAGA mob storming the Capitol are deeply alarming and show the urgency with which we must organize against this growing force.
This is only the latest in a long series of provocations by the militant and often violent crowds of Trump supporters, with organized fascists at the core. From the racist and anti-immigrant Make America Great Again appeals in Trump’s campaigns, to the “reopen” protests and associated Covid conspiracy theories, to the “Stop the Steal” protests, the far fight has mobilized throughout the Trump presidency to create a large, angry crowd to recruit from.
During the events in DC there were also threatening marches on statehouses, including California, New Mexico, Indiana, and Georgia, where in Atlanta militia members joined in the hundred outside the statehouse, forcing an evacuation of staff. In Topeka, Kansas, protesters broke into the State Capitol. Outside the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, a large group of Proud Boys joined in with the Trump supporters, many armed. At one point they surrounded and violently beat an anti-fascist protester in the street. Proud Boys were also among the crowd of several hundred in Oregon’s capital, where buildings had to be shut.
A Trump coup?
Many are questioning why the police let this scum into the Capitol so easily and largely failed to control the situation. The contrast between the policing of the Capitol during the Black Lives Matter rebellion and their conduct on Wednesday could not be more blatant. This double standard has a long history in our structurally racist police forces, who are also broadly sympathetic to Trump. It is also well-known that explicitly fascist groups have infiltrated the police and the armed forces in the US for years.
Nonetheless, neither the military nor even the federal police are at the point of supporting an insurrection against the state. There have been lots of commentaries calling this an attempted coup. Certainly there were many in this mob (and probably Trump himself) who would have supported a coup to retain Trump’s rule, if at all possible. But the problem with this analysis, as seen from the organization Choose Democracy and others, is that when they conclude that since the election will not be overturned in practical terms, they say everything is fine, and urge people to go home.
While Trump lacks the institutional support to pull off a coup in earnest, the rally was a show of force from Trump loyalists, far right groups, and fascists as they continue to organize themselves into a dangerous, coordinated threat unlike anything we have seen in recent US history.
A right wing mob gathered in numbers that overwhelmed the organized left and anti-fascists on Wednesday. While at times they appeared as buffoons conducting a farcical reenactment of Hitler’s unsuccessful Beer Hall Putsch, they are a threat we should take very seriously. A vicious right of increasing strength can still be used against BLM demonstrators, striking workers, and the left.
While the spark for Wednesday’s violence was Trump’s false claim that he won the election, the targets of the fascists are much broader, including the recent anti-racist rebellion, the entire BLM movement, women’s bodily autonomy, LGBTQ+ people, labor unions and the organized working class.
Fascism is a movement of despair, a movement primarily of the middle classes as they are squeezed in times of crisis and see no collective way of fighting back to improve their economic conditions. We saw this throughout 2020 as the mostly middle class far right supporters demonstrated to “re-open” businesses, which would put workers most at risk. At the same time, workers protested and went on strike for safer conditions. These anti-lockdown protests, under the economic crisis and hardship of the pandemic, helped bolster support for the far right. As the government rams through more austerity measures to cope with the pandemic’s economic fallout, more people could turn to the kinds of right wing solutions Trump’s presidency offered, or worse.
Since the economic recession of 2008, the right’s rise in the US has been matched or surpassed by the left’s. Occupy Wall Street, the movement against bank bailouts and systemic inequality, seemed to overwhelm the Republican Party’s insurgent right wing Tea Party movement. Soon after we saw the rise of the BLM movement following the 2013 police murder of Trayvon Martin, re-exploding this year, and also the rapid growth of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Since the attempt to “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, mobilizations by the far right have often been countered when the left and dedicated anti-fascists have mobilized against them. But the scale of recent anti-lockdown protests, “Stop the Steal,” and the events in DC require an active response much bigger than the usual actors on the left. This latest spectacle has horrified the majority of the US.
A left response
The left must counteract this right wing force with the broadest possible unity of all anti-racists—regardless of whether they voted for Biden or not. This kind of united movement can push back the far right. To do this, we must strive to unite the millions of people the Bernie Sanders campaigns invigorated, the thousands who have recently joined the Democratic Socialists of America, the estimated 26 million people who took part in the anti-racist rebellion last year, and all people who consider themselves anti-racist and anti-fascist.
This means countering arguments from some of Trump’s liberal opponents that confronting the far right is counterproductive and they are better left ignored, as well as those who want to limit anti-fascism to the far left by excluding mainstream organizations. Marx21 members are active in local and national coalitions arguing to build this kind of broad anti-fascist resistance, and international campaigns like World Against Racism, a global network holding marches, rallies, and actions against racism and fascism on March 20 and 21, the UN day for the elimination of racial discrimination. This kind of coordinated international effort can galvanize the anti-fascist majority.
Fascism cannot be beaten back at the ballot box alone, but by mass demonstrations in the streets to stop them anywhere and anytime they appear. The participation of those who want to preserve our democracy and protect the vote in the fight against the right is a welcome sign, but we cannot be limited to this. The far right grows in influence when it is the only force making arguments against and offering solutions to the status quo.
Broad unity against the far right has never been more urgent, but this alone will not resolve the fascist threat. While building a broad mass movement, socialists also need to strengthen the anti-capitalist left that can explain and eradicate the roots of racist and fascist despair altogether.
Republicans and Democrats
The events in DC reveal a battle for the rotten heart of the Republican Party. Many of those who were part of the Tea Party movement or around Trump want to align with parts of the non-state far right to create a hybrid right party on the model of the German AfD, or even Le Pen in France’s National Rally, with contempt for representative democracy and containing influential fascist elements. The rampaging Trump supporters in DC are used for that project. In the aftermath of the invasion of the Capitol, many of Trump’s enablers are jumping ship. However, the other side of this battle (Republicans standing for a “smooth transition of power”) are not progressive allies, but also support business interests, attacks on the working class, and are ready to use racism, sexism and Christian fundamentalism to help them retain power and restore an exploitive “stability.”
Biden and Harris are also part of the problem. The disregard of the ruling class for the poor in the US is the problem. The 1% have further enriched themselves during the pandemic as workers and the poor have been plunged into uncertainty and hardship. They campaigned against Medicare For All and are suing people for medical expenses accumulated for Covid-19 treatment and hospitalization. This kind of barbarism from the top is what strengthens fascists and the far right. A return to business as usual under Biden and Harris is not an answer.
The solutions lie outside of the state mechanisms. The police and the state are built to support the ruling class and are infiltrated by fascists. The Democratic Party establishment, “moderate Republicans,” and the so-called political center are the cause—not the cure. The political center is rotten. It dishes out austerity and misery for millions. Capitalism breeds fascism and racism and the left’s response needs to be that another world is possible. Now is the time to mobilize against fascism, but also to build a fighting anti-capitalist left for the struggles that lie ahead.