By MICHAEL SCHREIBER
In the week following the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, which ended with the murder of Heather Heyer, anti-racist and anti-fascist protests erupted in hundreds of cities and towns across the United States. About 3000 marched in Philadelphia on Aug. 16, and 1000 rallied in Portland, Ore., two days later.
The largest mobilization of the week took place on Aug. 19, when tens of thousands of demonstrators filled Boston Common and marched through the streets to say, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascists in the USA!” The huge outpouring of protesters dwarfed a simultaneous rally of right-wingers in Boston Common.
The Boston Herald reported that upwards of 30,000 joined the counter-protest, and city officials said that 40,000 were there. They marched to the Common behind banners proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter,” and the song refrain of the militant labor movement, “Which Side Are You On?”
One counter-protester told Yahoo News: “I’m here because I stand against hate; I stand against bigotry; I stand against ignorance. A fire is being lit on that side [of the racists], and we need to squash it—we need to squash it soon. We need to show them how small a segment of our society they really are.”
The right-wing organizers had planned their so-called “Free Speech” rally for weeks, and predicted that several hundred people would participate. And although the organizers avowed that their event had nothing to do with racism, they encouraged the participation of outspoken racists and other leading figures from the far right.
Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, assured the media that KKK members from Massachusetts would be there. But in the end, the Klansmen never showed up.
Also scheduled to speak were Joe Biggs, a former writer on the Infowars conspiracy website, and Kyle Chapman, former director of the New Zealand National Front, a white-supremacist party. Chapman is facing charges of attacking anti-Trump demonstrators with a lead-filled stick in Berkeley, Calif., in March. However, it does not appear that either man attended the Boston event.
News reports said that only about 20 people participated in the right-wing event. The participants were forced to pack up early, without any of the scheduled major speakers having addressed the rally. As police escorted the right-wingers into police vans to make their getaway, the counter-protesters sang, “Hey, hey, goodbye!” and chanted, “White supremacy has got to go!” It was an important victory for the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement.
Trump gave a fresh wind to the far right
Following the election of Trump to the presidency, white supremacists and fascist forces felt that they had a fresh wind in their sails. The KKK’s official newspaper, The Crusader, and David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Klan, had endorsed Trump’s candidacy and were outspoken in their support once he was in office.
A range of far-right ideologues gleefully donned the Trump campaign caps that read, “Make America Great Again.” And in Charlottesville, once again, the red caps served as a kind of uniform for many of the rightist marchers. No doubt the wearers were emboldened by Trump’s stance against Muslims and other immigrants, and more recent declarations such as his ban on transgender people in the armed forces, his call for police to “rough up” people that they apprehend, and his speech in Poland on increased militarization in order to uphold the values of “Western civilization.”
Racist violence and other acts of bigotry, such as the desecration of synagogues and mosques, have increased since Trump’s election. In May, a KKK chapter announced it would hold a cross burning in Asheboro, N.C.; the event went on, but in private, while anti-racist counter-demonstrators took over the space in front of the local monument to the Confederacy.
Trump’s remarks following the terrorism in Charlottesville, in which he insisted on placing blame for the violence on “all sides,” further lifted the spirits of the racists, fascists, and the “alt-right.” But the huge outpouring of protesters around the country, and especially in Boston, gave evidence that mass counter-mobilizations are the surest way to deflate and deflect these reactionary forces. It underscored that masses of people are determined to join the fight against racist intolerance and the ultra-right.
Moreover, Boston showed that truly massive counter-protests are effective in helping to avoid the sort of violence that took place in Charlottesville. The huge demonstration of people who declared, “Hate has no home in Boston,” was able to scare away the Klan and other violence-prone thugs who had hoped to attend the rightist rally.
White supremacists planned at least nine rallies nationwide for the weekend of Aug. 19-20 alone. But in virtually every case, protesters came out in even greater numbers to counter the racist events.
Some of the rightists’ rallies, as in Dallas, were called ostensibly to denounce plans to dismantle the statues celebrating the slave-holding Confederacy, which were set up throughout the South during the days of Jim Crow segregation. The Dallas anti-racist counter-mobilization drew over 2000 participants, who chanted, “This is not Charlottesville!” Unfortunately, towards the end, non-violent protesters were dispersed by police in riot gear and on horses.
Hundreds marched to Martin Luther King’s tomb in Atlanta on Aug. 19 in a protest against white supremacy organized by a new coalition of civil and human rights groups, Georgia Resists. Also on Aug. 19, at least 4000 protested a right-wing event in Vancouver, B.C. The right-wingers, some of whom carried Confederate flags, said that they were opposing Islam and the Canadian government’s immigration policies.
Right-wingers have planned events in San Francisco and Berkeley on the weekend of Aug. 26-27, and broad coalitions have been formed to organize large counter-mobilizations. The Rally Against Hate scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 27, in Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Park, has won the endorsement of some 40 groups, including the Alameda County Central Labor Council and several unions, as well as socialist and community groups.
ILWU Local 10 has voted to stop work on Aug. 26, and to march to Crissy Field in San Francisco to counter the rally of neo-Nazis that is planned there (see the union’s statement below). Hopefully, the statement of the longshore union will serve as a wake-up call to the labor movement as a whole to involve itself fully in the fight against white supremacy and the fascists. It is a matter of self-survival that they do so.
Will the ruling class obtain a more “moderate” Trump?
The fact that the fascists have met resistance around the country has reinforced the understanding by the major sector of the U.S. ruling class that now is not the time to lift its mask of “tolerance” and “democracy.” Accordingly, a host of politicians and corporate CEOs have seized the opportunity to proclaim their abhorrence of racism, their anger over the events in Charlottesville, and their horror over the resurgence of overt fascist groupings—although not long ago they were happy enough to work with the fascists in the Ukraine.
And many of them have wept over the fact that Trump, by speaking his mind, has not displayed what they consider to be a “proper” sensitivity to these issues. This is one more indication, according to some politicians—including Republicans—that the impetuous Trump is proving to be a liability, both domestically and in foreign policy, and that he must be reined in.
This was revealed by Stephen Bannon, who after stepping down as Trump’s top advisor, announced that he would return to a position at the “alt-right” Breitbart News in order to “cover for Trump.” In an interview with the Weekly Standard, Bannon said of Trump, “I just think his ability to get anything done—particularly the bigger things, like the Wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for, it’s just going to be that much harder.”
And how will the remaining White House advisers affect Trump? “I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” Bannon said. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling; I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency—and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville—his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”
But whether Trump can be reined in or not will hardly matter in the long term. As the crisis of world capitalism deepens, the ruling class will ultimately seek a change in tactics. At that time, reactionary policies such as the ones that Trump currently espouses will not go far enough to suit the needs of the capitalists. They will then perceive the “horror” of fascism as their only hope, and they will attempt to unleash the fascist thugs in order to decisively crush the labor movement and its allies.
Now is the time to act! A mobilization of organized labor, as well as all people of social conscience, is necessary to give notice that “Fascism Has No Home Here.”
INTERNATIONAL LONGSHORE WORKERS UNION LOCAL 10 TAKES LEAD IN FIGHT AGAINST FASCISM
ILWU Local 10 Motion to Stop the Fascists With Stop Work Action and March in San Francisco. Passed on Aug. 17, 2017.
Whereas, the fascists, the KKK, Nazis and other white supremacists rallied and marched by torchlight in Charlottesville, whipping up lynch mob terror with racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic slogans, and
Whereas, that attack resulted in one anti-racist counter demonstrator murdered and many others injured when one of the fascist bullies ran them down with a car, and
Whereas, President Trump’s whitewashing this violent, deadly fascist and racist attack saying “both sides are to blame”, and his attacking anti-racists for opposing Confederate statues that honor slavery adds fuel to the fire of racist violence, and
Whereas, the Klan, Nazis and other racist terrorists represent a deadly threat to African Americans, Latinos and immigrants, as well as Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people among many others, and directly to members of our union and the labor movement as a whole, and
Whereas, the fascist “Patriot Prayer” group that staged violent racist provocations in Portland, Oregon and elsewhere, attracting Nazi and other violent white supremacists, has announced it will rally on Crissy Field on Saturday August 26, and
Whereas, far from a matter of “free speech”, the racist and fascist provocations are a deadly menace as shown in Portland on May 26 when a Nazi murdered two men and almost killed a third for defending two young African American women he was menacing; and our sisters and brothers in the Portland labor movement answered racist terror with the power of workers solidarity, mobilizing members of 14 unions against the fascist/racist rally there on June 4, and
Whereas, ILWU Local 10 has a long and proud history of standing up against racism, fascism and bigotry and using our union power to do so; on May Day 2015 we shut down Bay Area ports and marched followed by thousands to Oscar Grant Plaza demanding an end to police terror against African Americans and others; the San Francisco Bay Area is a union stronghold and we will not allow labor-hating white supremacists to bring their lynch mob terror here,
Therefore, ILWU Local 10 in the best tradition of our union that fought these rightwingers in the Big Strike of 1934, will not work on that day and instead march to Crissy Field to stop the racist, fascist intimidation in our hometown and invite all unions and antiracist and antifascist organizations to join us defending unions, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and all the oppressed.