By STEVE XAVIER
On Aug. 4, the Patriot Prayer group, led by Joey Gibson, the GOP U.S. Senate candidate in Washington state, organized a mobilization of far right and neo-fascist groupings in Portland, Ore. This rally included the proto-fascist Proud Boys, an organization that has repeatedly, and violently, attacked the Occupy ICE camp in Portland. Militia members with confederate flag patches on their clothing joined with neo-Nazis at Waterfront Park. Proud Boys wore t-shirts celebrating the murderous Pinochet dictatorship and depicting “leftists” being thrown from helicopters.
An anti-fascist counter protest of thousands squared off against the rightists in downtown Portland, while hundreds of cops tried to separate the two opposed forces.
The counter-mobilization included unions, left organizations like the International Socialist Organization and the DSA, as well as other anti-fascist forces. The protesters outnumbered the reactionaries decisively. Unicorn Riot, an anti-fascist news outlet, reported collusion between cops and rightists.
Predictably, the cops attacked the counter-protesters with explosive “flash bangs” and tear gas. Chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” counter-protesters refused to disperse when cops ordered the demonstration to leave the area of the rightist rally. As police attacked counter-protesters, much to the delight of the rightists, some anti-fascists responded by throwing bottles and rocks. Under police cover, the reactionaries tried to take the streets only to be told to return to the park.
Activists report four arrests during the demonstrations, and one woman was reportedly taken to the hospital. Press reports say that numerous counter-protesters were injured. Willamette Week reports that “as in past protests, police force was aimed squarely and nearly exclusively at one side: the antifascists.”
The role of cops and the state
Farrell Dobbs, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party in the 20th century, speaking about the struggle against fascism, pointed to the role of police: “The line of the police is to defend the exercise of the formal democratic rights of the fascists, on the one hand, and not to “see” the violations of the democratic rights of the fascists’ victims. Meanwhile, the cops take full advantage of any violation of bourgeois-democratic law that the antifascists may commit. In any kind of confrontation between antifascist and fascist forces, the basic line of the cops is to protect the fascists in any way they can and to join in the victimization of the antifascists.”
Socialists understand that the police are the armed enforcers of the capitalist order that is upheld by the courts, prisons, and their politicians.. As Dobbs asserted, cops “protect the rights of the fascists while at the same time using fascist forces to try to keep others from exercising those (democratic) rights. One of the forces used to implement this is that most malevolent of all the repressive instruments of capitalist rule, the police forces. The police structure is of a character that makes it a breeding ground for fascists.”
Socialists advocate a mass counter-mobilization against fascist wherever they try to spew their racist filth in public. We also support the right of oppressed peoples and the labor movement, the targets of the reactionaries’ hate, to defend themselves against racist violence.
We reject the notion that Trump is a fascist. Nevertheless, Trump’s right-wing populism has given new vitality to fascist and extreme-right forces through his utilization of racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigrant rhetoric to energize his base. As one fascist leader put it, “Trump has set us free.” This was demonstrated by Trump’s refusal to disavow the fascist mobilization in Charlottesville last summer, calling some of the fascists “very fine people.”
The problem with the constant barrage of this or that Republican being a fascist is that it makes it more difficult to recognize the real thing when it rears its head. Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky characterized fascism as a mass movement of “the crazed petty bourgeoisie [the “middle-class”] and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat [shiftless and criminal elements]—all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.”
Fascism is a symptom of capitalism in crisis. While fascists often use anti-capitalist rhetoric, their purpose is to preserve the capitalist order by smashing the workers’ movement. Although the fascists are currently a fringe movement, the capitalist class will use their services as strong-arm strikebreakers, terrorists, and assassins if it appears necessary—and even, under conditions of extreme crisis, put the fascists in charge of the government, as happened in Germany and Italy before the Second World War.
Defeating fascism and the ultra-right requires mass counter-mobilizations, defense of the right to self-defense, independence from the state—police, courts, and politicians—and relentless class struggle. Fascism is the manifestation of all of the horrors of the capitalist system vomited forth for all to see. The ultimate defeat of the fascists requires the abolition of the capitalist system itself.