The dangers of a fascistic shift are now so palpable that the only people who can’t see them are the ones who directly align themselves with the Trump administration and its ultra right-wing allies. American society is going through the same process of escalating human rights abuses against refugees in detention centers that Germany went through in the years that preceded the Holocaust. The targeted migrants in 1920s Germany were Jews, and the ones of our time are Hispanics. And like was the case with Germany’s debate over how to treat the refugees, there are many people who refuse to entertain the idea that the detention centers are concentration camps, and who are ideologically aiding the progression towards worse atrocities.
Yet even among many of the people who are alarmed at these developments, there’s a continued sense of duty to align themselves with the Democratic Party-and therefore a continued state of denial about the crisis that we’re facing. History has shown that the unwillingness to step outside of the means for dissent that the capitalist class allows is what enables the rise of fascism. This is the reality that the American left needs to acknowledge, and that represents the most immediately compelling argument for becoming truly radical and joining the communist movement. Here are the distinctions between the Democrats and the anti-capitalist left as they relate to resisting fascism.
The Democrats will support the fascists at crucial moments. The communists will fight the fascists no matter what.
The Democratic Party has its early 20th century German parallel in the Centre Party and the Social Democratic Party, which enabled the rise of the Nazis in different ways. In 1919, the majority Social Democratic government put down that year’s anti-capitalist Spartacist uprising by assassinating German Communist Party leader Rosa Luxemburg. Ten years later, the anti-fascist resistance group the Red Front was banned by the governing social democrats. After the social democrats had suppressed these strains of the opposition to the
fascist movement, the Centre Party’s members of parliament voted for the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler dictatorial powers.
The similarities to today are obvious. Last year, the same Democrats who’ve denounced Trump as an authoritarian voted to give Trump vast warrantless spying powers; House and Senate Democrats have reliably voted to fund military budget expansion bills, which Trump has used to get the funding for sending troops to tear gas migrant families on the southern border; Democrats have been working with the Trump administration to provide the resources for the persecution of undocumented immigrants, which Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib recently defended by claiming that all we need to do to prevent future human rights violations within the migrant detention camps are “accountability” and “more training” for the immigration officers.
What the supporters of the “leftist” Democrats must recognize is that the problem comes not just from the centrist Democrats, but from all the politicians who align themselves with the capitalist and imperialist Democratic Party. Tlaib, one of the four Democratic congresswomen who’ve been affectionately nicknamed “The Squad” by progressives, has enabled the systems of capitalist and imperialist violence. Tlaib and her fellow Squad members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley have all failed to oppose the Trump administration’s regime change attempt in Venezuela this year. The same is true for Sanders, whose record includes many incidents of support for imperialist policies. Even the supposed anti-imperialist Tulsi Gabbard has been complicit in the Zionist colonial project, with her having voted for a resolution from this summer which misrepresented and harshly condemned the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement.
All of these actions need to be scrutinized, both because supporting imperialism is always unacceptable and because an unwillingness to oppose all of the reactionary right’s destructive policies helps facilitate the slide into fascism. The policy failures of Sanders and the other “leftist” Democrats also reflects upon Sanders’ unnecessary support for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Democratic National Convention, wherein the candidate was nominated who proved to be a weak opponent against Trump. The “leftist” wing will no doubt fall behind the next establishment Democrat candidate after the DNC again rigs the primary in 2020, resulting in Trump’s re-election.
The fascists will win if they’re up against opponents who are tied in with the capitalist and imperialist systems that enable fascism, and who bend to the will of the reactionaries in between rhetorical objections to their agenda. Antifa and its ideological allies in the anti-capitalist movement see the futility of working within capitalist institutions like the Democratic Party. They’re focused on building the independent institutions that can mount a resistance to the capitalist order, and to the deadly police state and fascist paramilitaries that are causing harm to vulnerable groups. As the socialist Chris Hedges has written about the need for building these radical institutions:
Politics is a game of fear. Those who do not have the ability to make power elites afraid do not succeed. All of the movements that opened up the democratic space in America—the abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor movement, the communists, the socialists, the anarchists and the civil rights movement—developed a critical mass and militancy that forced the centers of power to respond. The platitudes about justice, equality and democracy are just that. Only when power becomes worried about its survival does it react. Appealing to its better nature is useless. It doesn’t have one.
Democrats want to disarm the poor and the marginalized. Communists want to give them the tools to protect themselves.
This month, the black activist Killer Mike said in response to the gun control proposals of Democrats Kamala Harris and Cory Booker that “I don’t trust black leadership that wants to de-arm black people.” He’s right to be disturbed. With the intention of stopping mass shootings, Democrats conventionally seek gun control policies that would widely prohibit firearm ownership. But in our socially and economically unequal society, these laws would primarily take guns away from the people who need them the most for self-defense: the poor and nonwhites. Should these Democrats succeed, they’ll effectively be perpetrating an act of violence against society’s threatened groups.
The Hispanic community in El Paso, as well as the nationwide members of armed left-wing groups like the Socialist Rifle Associationand the Civil Defense Corps, have been becoming armed and trained for good reason. Shootings like the ones in El Paso and Christchurch have made violence from racist vigilantes into a prime fear among the groups who are targeted by the far-right. That Democrats would try to disarm these groups at a time when they’re under growing threat from violence shows just how unfit the Democratic Party is to lead the opposition to fascism.
What further demonstrates the Democrats’ complicity in this rising fascistic violence is that while they try to prohibit armed self-defense among the threatened groups, they support ICE, don’t support prison abolition or an alternative to policing, and vote for the funding of the military. They’ve rationalized their enablement of these institutions for state violence and their simultaneous attacks on the self-protection abilities of the marginalized through the same line of reasoning that Tlaib used last month: the belief that America’s inherently racist and violent law enforcement institutions can be fixed through reforms, and that it’s therefore unnecessary for the targets of state violence to defend themselves.
This centrist, ruling class-aligned attitude towards gun ownership has had dire consequences for societies in the past. Throughout the 1920s, the Centre Party and Social Democratic leaders enacted partial bans on firearms. This had unintended consequences when Hitler’s paramilitary forces were able to become armed despite the control laws, and when many people were left unable to defend themselves during the Third Reich’s onslaught of racial, religious and political persecution.
In the history of the Third Reich and its preceding events, the only factions that consistently defended the threatened groups and the principles of democracy were the radical anti-capitalist strains. The communists, the anarchists, and their ideological allies in Germany’s anti-fascist movement supported the right of poor people and minorities to bear arms, with the Communist Party of Germany having proclaimed in 1930 that they were “the only anti-fascist party.” The Communist Party had shown this by forming a paramilitary and propaganda wing of their organization called the Red Front Fighters League, which went into the streets to defend the public from the armed assemblies of the fascists.
Unlike the social democrats, the communists saw the rise of the Nazis as the symptom of capitalism in crisis. And they tried to create a system which wouldn’t enable reactionary politics like capitalism does.
Capitalism, which allows for fascism to rise, is supported by the Democrats. Communists have a pathway to ending capitalism.
At their worst, the Democrats are neoliberals who want to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, further deregulate Wall Street, and cut social services. At their best, they want to expand regulations and social services while keeping the structures of capitalism and imperialism in place. The Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party represents the latter category, which is ultimately helping facilitate the rise of fascism as much as the former.
At a time when the United States government is moving towards presidential dictatorship, when the capitalist class is using military force and making alliances with the extreme right to combat growing working class mobilization, and when climate change is accelerating, whatever reforms that politicians like Sanders can make will not be enough to alleviate the crisis we face. The power of the capitalist state won’t be overcome by a “leftist” leadership that supports America’s law enforcement institutions and enables militarism and empire. The violent momentum of the fascist forces which seek to take over America won’t be countered by pro-capitalist politicians who want to take away the self-defense tools of the poor and the marginalized. An adequate reduction in carbon emissions won’t be reached by trying to reform capitalism, as Ocasio-Cortez wants to do with her watered-down and pro-corporate “Green New Deal.”
This is because social democracy, which is the ideology of the Sanders wing, isn’t the enemy of fascism but rather its natural enabler. As Joseph Stalin wrote in his 1924 work Concerning the International Situation:
It is not true that fascism is only the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. Fascism is not only a military-technical category. Fascism is the bourgeoisie’s fighting organisation that relies on the active support of Social-Democracy. Social-Democracy is objectively the moderate wing of fascism. There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie.
What should give us hope is that as history repeats itself, both the bad and the good are once again presenting themselves. While both pre-Hitler Germany and modern America have fascists and their liberal enablers, our time has also seen the rise of modern versions of the Red Front Fighters League. We have armed socialist organizations like the SRA, which are supported by anti-capitalist parties like the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Party of Communists USA.
These far-left vanguard groups serve as crucial allies for the activists and organizations which aren’t militant or communist, but which are still helping combat the attacks on democracy; the American Civil Liberty Union’s recent blockage of the Trump administration’s attempt to put the citizenship question in the 2020 census is one which wouldn’t be as effectual without the presence of the reliable anti-fascists.
We must fight for the end of imperialism and colonialism, which entails defending socialist countries like China and the DPRK from U.S. propaganda. We must oppose capitalism not just in the rhetorical way that Democratic Party branches like the Democratic Socialists of America do, but with a commitment to not supporting pro-capitalist politicians and policies. We must educate, agitate, and organize with the end of capitalism in mind, because the consequence for moderation on the left will be the victory for the darkest forces in politics.
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