Three-Way Fight: Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism
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Friday November 03, 2006 09:08 by Rebel Jay C. Cornelius and Insurgente s.c. Rocinante - Tactical Defense Caucus:Western Unit
Many theoretical writings focus on armed resistance against the state-capitalist system, and the need for militantly opposing state imperialism and police repression. This “Us” against “Them” position has a lot of valid points. However, this position neglects third parties that are also extremely hostile to bourgeois democracy and capitalism as they stand now, yet are no more sympathetic to our egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values: modern day fascism.
Three-Way Fight: Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism
By Rebel Jay C. Cornelius and Insurgente s.c. Rocinante 2006
Many theoretical writings focus on armed resistance against the state-capitalist system, and the need for militantly opposing state imperialism and police repression. This “Us” against “Them” position has a lot of valid points, and we would by no means criticize the imperative nature of militant resistance against the state and capitalism in particular. However, this position neglects third parties that are also extremely hostile to bourgeois democracy and capitalism as they stand now, yet are no more sympathetic to our egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values: modern day fascism.
Fascism is a term that stiffly resists concise definitions, but for the purpose of clarity, one will be attempted anyway. Fascism is a violent, reactionary mass political movement that seeks to replace the current ruling elite with its own idealized class and impose its brand of totalitarian order on the rest of the populace. This is not the single ‘golden’ definition, as fascism wears many different faces depending on where and how it arises. Hopefully this definition will provide a nominal understanding for the purposes of this essay.
Like anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist ideas, fascism in its many forms has found increasing support globally from the downtrodden and dispossessed masses left behind by neo-liberal globalization and the expansion of modern empires. From the suicide bombing ranks of Al Qaeda-type groups to the border patrolling Minutemen in the U.S., this ‘proto-’ or ‘neo-fascism’ does not always look like the traditional forms of fascism that we see in the histories of Spain or Italy in the early parts of the 20th century. It is still built on authoritarian ideologies and belief systems, often based in fear or stereotypes, but may use anti-authoritarian or “leaderless resistance” language, strategies and even tactics to achieve its goals. Modern fascism, like anti-authoritarianism, may seek to eliminate the dominant neo-liberal policies, but fascists strive to remake society in their own mythical self-image with their visions of power and ultimately domination.
It can only be expected that as global capitalism continues to dominate and alienate more people, the various forms of fascism, like anti-authoritarianism, will continue to gain ground, though not necessarily at a comparable pace. The uncertainty of global climate change and peak oil adds to this reality. A global economic or ecologic crisis will send a lot of people looking for answers, and some people will find the superficial self-serving answers they are looking for in fascism.
Thus, it is important that we keep anti-fascism within our organizing framework and let it help inform our strategies, including in the use of arms. While fascism is an enemy of the state and capitalism (as they stand today) it is inconceivable that the forces of the state will annihilate fascism for us, or defend us from fascism on any significant scale. Quite the contrary, it is likely that the state will use fascism against us (to the degree that they can) or at the least stand by while we fight it out, because the more time fascists spend fighting anti-authoritarians, the less time either spend fighting the state while using up their meager resources comparatively. When pitted against an enemy that fundamentally believes we don’t have a right to exist, an enemy that operates by and understands only force, the logic of armed defense emerges.
Armed defense against fascists is not a theoretical, abstract concept. It is a physical reality that has been implemented before (successfully and unsuccessfully) and will be again. To stick to the focus of this pamphlet, we will emphasize two modern instances of armed anti-fascism in the United States: The Greensboro massacre of anti-Klan marchers in 1979, and white militias in post-Katrina New Orleans of 2005.
On November 3, 1979, the Communist Workers Party held an anti-Klan march in Greensboro, North Carolina. At CWP rallies in the area over the previous months, they had openly carried firearms for self-defense due to many death threats and acts of violence against them, as permitted by North Carolina law. However, for this particular event, local law enforcement had stipulated that the CWP remain unarmed to receive a permit.
During the march, a caravan of Klansmen and members of the American Nazi Party drove up to the CWP march and stopped. The fascists emerged from their vehicles and pulled fire arms from the trunks and opened fire, killing five CWP members and wounding several others. Unlike previous similar events in Greensboro, local police were not present during the march or shooting, lending credence to suggestions of police collusion with the fascists in their attack of radicals. Whether there was police collusion or not, it is quite clear that the CWP’s unarmed presence at this march provided the impetus for an open fascist attack. One unarmed CWP member got to his car to retrieve his firearm and returned fire with a handgun, though ineffectively, as he failed to ward off the attack before hand or even cause casualties to the opposing side. Had the CWP maintained an effective armed presence at the march as they had at others, it is extremely unlikely that the attack would have ever occurred.
In New Orleans immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the mainstream media was having a feeding frenzy over the “lawlessness” in the city, continually showing endless clips of black people “looting” the necessities of life from stores and spinning exaggerated or fabricated tales of murder, rape, and disorder. But there was another product of the post-hurricane power vacuum, a threat the media ignored or gave very little coverage to.
White militias had formed in several neighborhoods throughout New Orleans. One of these militias was in the Algiers Point neighborhood on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. Algiers Point is a wealthy white neighborhood about ten blocks long that borders the much larger Algiers and West Bank neighborhoods which are predominantly poor and black.
The militias were comprised of white men from various socio-economic backgrounds who saw it as their right and duty to protect their private property and locally secure law and order in the absence of the state. Taken at face value, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in reality it was. Their mode of “law and order” amounted to intimidation and harassment of any black person on the street alone, or in any number smaller than the patrolling militia.
Former Black Panther Party member and co-founder of Common Ground Collective Malik Rahim put it quite succinctly in an article: “There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, ‘Stop! You're going to start a riot.’”*
White men with no cultural sensitivity were riding around, armed, in an old truck in largely low-income black communities, meting out justice as they saw fit. They were threatening many desperate unarmed civilians and possibly even killed people, which they later bragged about to Danish media. The actions of these militias and the white supremacist attitude of many white rescuers of the state added gasoline to the fire of the undeclared war between all who were desperate and left to their own devices.
Local elements of the state, or what little presence remained, stood by and let these events happen with no interference. Their prevailing attitudes about these traditionally marginalized communities allowed them to stand by while the militias went far beyond defending themselves or their ‘private’ property.
A small group of anarchist organizers had made a brief trip to post-Katrina New Orleans in an attempt to find a former Black Panther and provide relief. However, they soon returned to Algiers at the request of local resident and former Black Panther organizer Malik Rahim, armed and ready to support the defense of the community and their comrades from the ongoing racist attacks of the militias. They, with some residents of the neighborhood, sat on their friend’s porch and went out on informal patrols with arms to keep the threat of the white militias at bay. At one point, a brief stand-off ensued, which ended with the Algiers Point militia leaving abruptly. It is quite likely that without the presence of an organized, armed opposition to the white militia, violence against poor people of color in Algiers could have been much worse. The presence of whites and blacks working together to defend a community against the racist militias was often cited locally by residents as having helped ease the tensions in a racially and economically divided area that was devastated before Katrina ever came ashore. The militia’s power had been clearly diminished after facing armed opposition, and their power withered away as free medical clinics and aid distribution sites were developed into full operations.
Armed resistance to the state-capitalist system is an important part of our long term revolutionary strategy, and something that we must begin preparing for now. But there are also other players in the equation besides the neo-liberals and the anti-authoritarians. Fascists have made overt attacks on our communities and our allies before, and as the three sides in this fight vie for influence, we can be sure that they will again. Armed defense against fascists has been successful in the past, and it is one of the many prongs of our strategy that we should focus on. It is understandable that not everyone will want to actively participate in this particular aspect of the struggle, but like with any other aspect of the struggle, those that do not wish to take active part in preparing for armed defense should work to create space and build support for those who do. It is only through the development of all the facets of struggle, including armed defense, that we can build the world we wish to live in.
* Rahim, Malik. “’This is criminal’: Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans.” San Francisco Bay View, 1 September 2005.