Capitalism’s poisons in their myriad forms are injected into the broad worker’s movement usually in small but steady doses. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, anti-immigrant prejudice, anti-Semitism, and homophobia all serve to divide and conquer—to direct the anger and frustration generated by the system’s inherent inequities and brutalities at its victims as opposed to its perpetrators. But advanced capitalist states usually prefer a “democratic” image and political forms, unless pressed by a real threat to their power.
Fascism in its full-blown form, on the other hand, capitalism’s most virulent and obscene political expression, comes at the workers’ movement with an ax rather than an apology. It is instituted when millions are mobilized and capable of a real challenge for power. Absent such a challenge, capitalism prefers and benefits more from the illusion of democracy as opposed to the Iron Heel.
This does not exclude, however, the employment by sections of the ruling rich of fascist-type formations, whose reactionary agenda serves to facilitate capitalism’s overall right-wing trajectory.
The Sept. 12 Washington, D.C., right-wing march and rally of at least 60,000-75,000, according to most accounts, marked a turning point in U.S. politics. This was the first time in some seven decades that a reactionary mobilization with fascist overtones proved capable of organizing such an outpouring. Socialists, trade-union militants, and fighters for democratic and human rights will ignore the meaning of this phenomenon at their peril.
While some well-publicized rally photographs show crowds that far exceeded all of the above figures, these have now been exposed as fraudulent by the corporate media itself.
One such photo included a scaffolded public building under repair when no such construction currently exists. The prominent Native American museum, constructed a decade ago, was missing from the same photos. These have since been attributed to a 1997 Washington Mall rally organized by Promise Keepers, an evangelical Christian men’s group. A figure of 1.2 million attributed by rally organizers to the Parks Service was similarly discredited.
But exaggeration aside, the official sponsor, Freedomworks Foundation, headed by former Republican House leader Dick Armey, joined with an array of right-wing gutter talk show hosts, FOX News, and a handful of lesser Republican Party elected officials to mobilize a significant layer of right-wing “Tea Party” malcontents around a broad range of reactionary causes. The self-proclaimed neo-patriots came replete with “hand-made, not union-made” placards. These included racist caricatures of President “Obamacare” and others such as, “Yes, I am a right-wing terrorist,” “Joe Wilson is a hero,” “Stop Communism,” “Jesus,” “Obama Lies, Grandma Dies,” “Armed and Dangerous,” and “Revolution is Brewing.”
Overwhelmingly middle-age and older and virtually 100 percent white, the crowd carried American flags and sang patriotic songs while demanding an end to big government, big taxes, and a “return” of their country, today’s code words for the Black president’s removal.
In the absence of a fight-back strategy centered on independent mass mobilizations led by U.S. trade unions, civil rights groups, and social justice organizations, a tiny layer of racist bigots has for the moment taken the streets to press forward with a racist and reactionary agenda in response to capitalism’s crisis.
President Obama, claiming without credibility that he had no idea that the D.C. rally was scheduled, took the occasion to fly to Minnesota to address a crowd of 15,000 on his “health-care” reforms. There is no doubt, however, that Obama was fully aware that Jimmy Carter hit the mark when he insisted that South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson’s Sept. 9 “you lie” outburst while Obama was addressing a joint session of Congress was “based on racism.” But Obama repudiated Carter and accepted Wilson’s “apology,” while the self-same Wilson toured the Southland basking in the “Liar, Liar, Liar!” chants of his narrow, bigoted base.
The dominant wing of the ruling rich today prefers to use the soft touch—not the racist or fascist club—especially when mass opposition in the streets to its anti-working-class policies has not yet materialized. But the same capitalists rarely object when the club is flaunted on occasion to serve their own interests—that is, to push their overall agenda further to the right.
Obama was the ruling-class choice and still is. After nearly a year in office he has exceeded all expectations in carrying out their policies. His website brags that he exacted more concessions from the UAW than Bush ever did. His record on virtually every promised reform—from global warming, card-check union recognition, health care, Patriot Act repeal, gay marriage, abortion rights, and U.S. wars abroad—indicates that he has not deviated from his predecessor Bush in the slightest. His multi-trillion-dollar bank and corporate bailouts were the largest government gifts to the ruling rich in history, putting Bush’s gifts to shame!
Obama is the ruling class’s view of change today—a Black mask on the white racist, brutal face of a capitalism in crisis, thrashing about to resolve an economic and inseparable social catastrophe. To date—with velvet voice, pleasing tone, and reassuring rhetoric—the new president has proven successful in promoting the illusion that change is forthcoming, in due time.
He has been aided in part by the fact that Americans are less racist than at any time in the past half century, Obama received 97 percent of the Black vote and the largest percentage of the white vote, 44 percent, than any president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. America is not moving to the right. But its working-class and oppressed peoples have yet to challenge their misleaders and discover a way back to the streets.
The gap between the anger of tens and hundreds of millions at the insult to their livelihoods, on the one hand, and their willingness to resist, on the other, has never been greater. As in the Great Depression era it will take some time until shock, disbelief ,and vain hope give way to collective and massive action led by a new generation of fighters and aimed squarely at the boss class and its political representatives.
Meanwhile, the right-wing mass mobilization in Washington is a twisted reflection among a small minority of the ruling-class infringements on their lives. While politically unclear and lacking a sharp focus, the D.C. outpouring included some of the elements of a neo-fascist reaction. The Sept. 12 organizers took some care to limit the crudest expressions of hate that are still relegated to the backwoods. But such crudities are stirring nonetheless, as when a late September Austin, Minn., meeting of 11 immigrant rights activists was essentially disrupted when four jackbooted swastika-wearing Nazi skinheads “joined the discussion,” spewing vile and racist insults, and generally preventing the meeting’s completion of its agenda.
In a similar but less overt form, a carefully orchestrated right-wing show of force was the main feature of the disruptions of last month’s Democratic Party-sponsored Town Meetings. As with Obama’s repudiation of Jimmy Carter’s condemnation of the Joe Wilson outburst, the Democrats chose to ignore the right-wing disruptions or minimize their significance.
Working-class activists will find no Democratic Party support for defense of their rights against fascist disruptions and attacks that will be employed in the years ahead. Our capacity to advance the cause of capitalism’s victims lies solely in our collective strength and unity. The only effective means to advance this cause is the mobilization of the vast majority of the nation’s working masses—our sisters and brothers in the organized labor movement as well as the unorganized, the oppressed, the vast immigrant communities, and all others who have nothing in common with an alliance with the capitalist rulers, their parties, or their reactionary, racist, and neo-fascist offshoots.
Working-class mobilizations against the capitalist war at home and the imperialist wars abroad are central to the fight against right-wing reaction in its new and emerging virulent forms—and even more so against the “mainstream” ruling-class offensive that comes disguised in the form of a peaceful contest between contending capitalist parties.
In the absence of a serious fightback and mobilizations based on a clear program that unites all of capitalism’s victims, the ugly face of reaction will inevitably find takers for its base solutions. The organized labor movement has to date proved incapable of any significant mass response. Its misleaders remain tethered in a death grip with reaction of another kind—the Democratic Party. Working people more than ever need a party of their own, a labor party based on a reinvigorated, democratic, and fighting labor movement in alliance with all the oppressed and exploited. —Editors of Socialist Action Newspaper