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Three-Way Fight: Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism

category north america / mexico | anarchist movement | other libertarian press author Friday November 03, 2006 09:08author by Rebel Jay C. Cornelius and Insurgente s.c. Rocinante - Tactical Defense Caucus:Western Unit Report this post to the editors

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.

¡Siempre antifascista!

* Rahim, Malik. “’This is criminal’: Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans.” San Francisco Bay View, 1 September 2005.

author by RXpublication date Wed Nov 22, 2006 03:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Three-Way Fight and militant antifascism: a short review
A communiqué from a group of western U.S. antifascists recently appeared on the international class struggle anarchist news website, anarkismo. The communiqué adopts the concept of a Three Way Fight. From the title and language it is clear that the authors have followed and find an affinity with some of the concepts and debates associated with this blog. The following review of the communiqué is more tangential than in-depth, and should not be taken as an endorsement of the communiqué.

The authors (who situate themselves politically as participants in the anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist movement) argue that there is a contemporary radical fascism that is “extremely hostile to bourgeois democracy and capitalism” as well as to the “egalitarian, anti-authoritarian values” of the authors’ own movement. This perspective parallels that of other radical and libertarian antifascists who have attempted to draw attention to the autonomous, popular and insurgent aspects of fascist movements - those historical as well as contemporary. These are sometimes seen as characteristics of a fascism in its movement developing stages as opposed to fascism in power.

This autonomous characteristic is important and often ignored (or denied) by much of the Left. Seeing fascism as a movement that is opposed to the current order helps explain why many disaffected people – middle, working, poor - are attracted to it. We can also see how such a movement can develop in the void of State order, with the reactionary forces constructing their own governing system complete with economies, defined social relations, and policing mechanism like militias.

While the authors do not deny the links sometimes existing between fascists and agencies of the State, they attempt to define fascism as being more than a pejorative for strategic approaches by a ruling class on the defensive. They describe modern fascism as a heterogeneous political consciousness based on a hyper-authoritarianism and myths for a national rebirth. These fascist ideas appeal to sectors of global society who feel alienated and marginalized by neo-liberal globalization. A central argument of the authors is made when they state,

“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… 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”

This is an extremely important position. One, it proposes that the emergence of a fascist consciousness is the product of peoples own choices, based on their own experiences in the face of prevailing socio-economic conditions, rather than their thoughts being a manufactured ideology imposed from outside (although fascism certainly is an ideology about a final imposition of values and social patterns). Two, it makes clear that anti-authoritarians are facing an opposition other than the current State.

At this point the communiqué transitions into an argument for the necessity of armed defense (offense?) against fascism. The authors use two examples to illustrate their point. The first is the 1979 Greensboro Massacre and the second is the emergence of armed White militias in New Orleans immediately following the Hurricane Katrina.

Not having any fundamental differences with either the examples that the authors outline or the political framework they are laying out, I still have some reservations and questions regarding the communiqué.

Admittedly I was prepared to not like the piece. Within the radical antifascist camps there is a tendency to emphasize the action component over the more difficult development of ideas and analysis. In part, this is because much of the U.S. Left only gives lip service to militancy and the use of force when necessary, especially in combating fascists. While politicos want to argue politics into a coma, radical antifascists understand the urgency and need for “direct action”, now, and not after the speeches and paper sales. Still, this overemphasis can easily become an over-hyping, a self justifying of the antifascist groups existence, where action gets center stage and the more difficult development of political positions is put off or superficially developed.

The result is that ideas and strategies within the antifascist movements become stunted. The lack of ongoing and critical dialogue (internal and external to the movement’s organizations) can lead to general confusion over what the struggle is about, and possibly, and unfortunately all to often, sections of the movement adopting exaggerated and potentially dangerous stances.

The title of the communiqués, Armed Resistance and Militant Anti-Fascism, and the articles emphasis on armed action, initially, reinforced what I was expecting.

The article does, if only briefly, attempt to elaborate a position, a position that is at odds with much Left conceptions of fascism. The authors then cite examples of antifascist work that attempts to build more broadly and build semi-popular action.

In the communiqué the author’s state,

“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”

There is no doubt that the action cited here defended a community against racist terror attacks. The authors point out that residents working with antifascists created new spaces for survival. This organizing, with real risks involved, is an essential in creating a radical consciousness (individual as well as collective) that defies the State’s logic. This autonomous action prepares people to act independently and can prefigure more substantial breaks with the State in the future.

Still, the armed component of the communiqué resonates louder than the examples of intersections between conscious antifascists and a community under attack. Perhaps the article is not intended to be a full analysis – it is fairly short – but I think that the possible result is that the action side of things becomes itself the political strategy.

Next, I ask what is the reason for the release of the communiqué? A survey of U.S. antifascist activity through news, periodicals or websites shows little discussion of militant antifascist action beyond street protest. While this alone makes such a communiqué valuable, I’m still trying to see what the overall message being put forth is. The piece lays out an important analysis of modern fascism, but I am compelled to ask (once again) if they aren’t overemphasizing the armed action component of antifascist struggle? Do the authors assume that domestic fascists and “proto” fascists are preparing for violent force against their opposition? Against anti-racist campaigns? Are the authors announcing in not so many words that they would be ready and capable of repelling an attack or there is a need to start organizing armed antifascist militias? Or was the communiqué only issued to draw out lessons from past and present antifascist activity? Perhaps all of the above.

Given the poverty of contemporary and radical antifascist analysis the communiqué should be looked over and debated. I hope these initial thoughts spark some of that.

Related Link: http://threewayfight.blogspot.com
author by Wayne Price - NEFACpublication date Wed Nov 22, 2006 04:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with key parts of the authors' statement: that fascism is a real danger, and that part of that danger is its posing as a radical, even revolutionary, alternative, to the existing society. I find confusing their labeling of exist society (capitalist democracy) as "state-capitalism." This is a term usually reserved for the former Soviet Union or for Cuba today. While the current US capitalism has a great deal of state intervention, it does not clarify things to decribe it as "state-capitalist."

There is also some unclarity in the authors' description of the fascists' goals. The fascists sell their program as anti-capitalist or as radically different, and no doubt many of their leaders even believe this themselves. But that does not mean that this movement would really overturn capitalism, or even that they would in fact overthrow the existing capitalist class and replace it with a state-capitalist bureaucracy such as existed in the Soviet Union. The historic evidence of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, is that the fascist mass movement may come to power with an anti-capitalist ideology ("a corporate state" or "national socialism") but in practice they will come to terms with the old ruling class. In neither Italy nor Germany was the capitalist system altered in any significant way. After WWII, the old capitalists emerged in great shape and ready to go on doing business. (See my essay on the Bureaucratic Ruling Class at Anarkismo.)

It is also true that the capitalists do not organize the fascists at first. They are a more-or-less spontaneous reaction to the failures of capitalist society. But at some point, if they are to succeed, big business will decide to hire them, in order to deal with the social crisis.

Similar points could be made about other apparently revolutionary-reactionary forces today, such as the Islamist jihadist movement (s). Neither Iran nor Afghanistan under the Taliban were particularly anti-capitalist in practice.

Finally I agree with the need for a militant fight against fascists. They are not an immediate threat, except here or there. For example, even the white militia groups in New Orleans probably did not have the goal of overturning bourgeois democracy and replacing it with a dictatorship--that is, their thinking had elements of fascism but not the whole program.

The fascists and the revolutionary anarchists are both counting on the same thing: increasing economic and political crisis, leading to the collapse of the liberal-conservative "middle" which currently dominates US politics. This will open things up for the extremists. We anarchists better be ready to outorganize, outthink, and outfight them.

 
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