Friday, February 3, 2017

Fighting Fascism. Thoughts on methods of Black Bloc.

British Workers smash Fascists in battle of Cable St.  
Sean O'Torain.

There is an article today in the NYT on the Black Bloc. It is titled   "Anarchists Vow to Halt Far Right's Rise, with Violence if Needed."  (It has a different title in the online edition). It is by Farah  Stockman and on the front page.  It is not very complete or detailed but worth reading. It does not explain the differences between various types of anarchists, and this is not helpful.  The article refers to the role of the anarchists, which wing I am not sure, in closing the WTO conference in Seattle, and their role in Occupy and the slogan of the 1%. The article claims the anarchists were the inspiration behind Occupy and the 1% slogan. If this is so, and I think that it is at least to some extent correct, they would have to get some credit for that. These events raised the consciousness of the working class. The idea of the 1% made people think how much this country was divided between the rich and the poor, increased class consciousness. 

However while giving credit where credit is due, the tactics of the anarchists and the best known of them, the Black Bloc, have to be looked at. In doing so we have to see that there are racists and there are fascists. They are not always the same. While both have to be opposed by the working class because both divide and weaken the working class, we have to recognize that there is a difference between racists and fascists?  If all who were racist were fascist, then the entire Republican Party and most of the Democratic Party would be fascist. This is clearly not so. 

The difference is this. Racists hold racist views and express racist opinions. But fascists do more than this. Fascists make propaganda and organize military wings to physically enforce their racist views. They do this with their speeches and Nazi/fascist symbols and salutes and by organizing military wings to physically attack working people, minorities and anti-racists. This is the difference.

It is this difference that makes it correct to physically stop the fascists from speaking and organizing, to deny them the opportunity to speak, to deny them the opportunity to organize. Hitler said that he could have been stopped, but only if he and his forces had been physically driven off the streets and out of the workplaces and their organizations physically destroyed and their voice physically silenced. 

The difference between racists and fascists is that fascists are those who espouse racist views but also espouse and organize violent means to enforce those views. This is why it is correct to physically stop them. This leads to the question of the debate over the Black Bloc and their tactics. In relation to the the Black Block, Facts For Working People, is in favor of closing down the fascists and preventing them from speaking for and organizing for, their aim of building military forces to carry out their objectives. We are not fooled on this. When the fascists wear the swastika and give the Nazi salute at their meetings they are advocating building a Nazi party and a military force. There should be no ambiguity, this is what they are doing and why they should be shut down.

There is another question on which those of us around Facts For Working people wish to engage the Black Bloc.  We agree it is correct to close down fascist forces but there is the question of how. Here we have differences with the Black Bloc.  We do not see this to be the task of the middle class youth. Of course, we want the middle class youth to oppose fascism, but we see the task and the power that can defeat fascism to be the united working class. Consequently we see it as the task of the working class to defeat fascism and the working class must be united to do so.

To that end, instead of directing the anti fascist forces to mobilizing mainly middle class and student youth, we seek to mobilize the working class to oppose racism and defeat fascism and to close down and crush the fascists. We are in favor of directing our orientation of directing our work towards, workers, the union rank and file, the work places, the working class communities, the schools and colleges and explaining why racism and fascism has to be opposed, how they have to be opposed because they divide and weaken the working class and so allow the capitalist class to rule. Racism and fascism both divide the working class. Fascism goes further and organizes fighting squads to divide the working class. Fascism must be crushed.  

And fighting squads and forces of fascists can only be stopped by the working class mobilizing and taking them on in mass movements and mass movements that build our own fighting squads prepared to physically confront them in the streets and workplaces or wherever they show their faces.
Facts for Working People's difference with the Black Bloc comes from this point of view. Their tactics makes it more difficult to interact with the working class, to convince the working class to act as a collective force to fight racism, their tactics are orientated mainly to the petit bourgeois youth and tend to put off the working class.

They should put their resources to turning to the working class and explaining their opposition to racism and fascism and also link the need to fight these, including fighting the fascists physically. In doing so we also explain the need to unite the working class in the struggle for better wages, benefits, conditions, health care, education, housing against wars and foreign occupations, mass incarceration and police brutality. The same police and security forces will be used against workers in strikes and on picket lines and it is the same jails that will house us. We also explain that US capitalism can no longer afford “guns and butter”, it cannot afford its foreign interventions and wars to safeguard profits and relatively stable living standards at home. 

We can anticipate that the Black Block will answer our criticism by pointing to their role in the WTO, in the Occupy etc. And they have a point. Facts For Working People understands that to convince people of our ideas we have to earn the right to criticize. We have to explain our position and explain also that while we have very little resources we seek and have always sought to mobilize the working class against racism and fascism. 

We have that in common with the Black Bloc and all anti -racist and anti-fascist forces but we fight racism and fascism along the lines we explain here, by seeking to mobilize and unite the working class, and we explain that we think that the method of the Black Bloc is counter productive as rather than mobilizing the working class and uniting the working class it alienates workers and puts off the working class. It does not help to get large numbers of workers to gather to close down the fascists if they have no input into the decision making process of groups like the Black Bloc and know that they will likely end up breaking windows and smashing automobiles.  

In explaining our position we separate ourselves from the capitalist elements, the pacifists, the liberals and the trade union leaders who attack the Black Bloc. These capitalist and pro capitalist elements all line up to criticize the Black Block. We ourselves criticize the methods of the Black Bloc. But we have to look at these capitalists, these liberals, these pacifists and in particular the trade union leaders with their 14 million members: do they have the right, have they earned the right, to criticize the Black Block? They have not.  They have done nothing to stop the fascists. 

This is especially true of the trade union leaders. They have never lifted a finger to mobilize their 14 million members against the racists and the fascists, or even to defend their own members against the capitalist offensive. It is only when they do that they will have earned the right to criticize the Black Bloc. People have to earn the right to criticize.


G de Leon said...

comrade, i don't think the "working class" is as squeamish as you assume. and you're right until the respectable commies show their mettle and actually gain some credibility in some of the various movements and the working class, i doubt the kids drawn to "black bloc" tactics will give the respectable commies much consideration. those of us who are dyed in the wool i.e. older commies & anarchists need to realize that these young anarchists don't accept the responsible left's mantras of discipline, hierarchical organization, and (in some cases) mainstream media friendliness.

i would never ask that the angriest, most militant sectors of our movement be more passive, patient, wait til manana for the working class to mobilize as a whole... these same arguments are used against BLM, immigrant rights activists, women's liberation fighters and many other more militant sectors of the working class. as far as the labor bureaucracy is concerned, i've grown old waiting for them to act in our class interests or be replaced by left commies.

this smacks of condescension though i give you respect for not buying into the bile of some of my FB friends especially Louis Proyect who refers to the "black bloc" kids as "douche bags" and cites lessons from the 1930's and 1960's on how he and his fore-bearers handled the fascists... by mobilizing public opinion, liberal democrats, the aclu, etc. in their bile, they accept the mainstream media's characterization of demonstrations of 1000's in Berkeley and other cities by the actions a few dozen over-excited kids. let's make sure these kids know we're on their side by helping with bail or medical expenses where necessary.

my hope is that these kids are not harmed by the police and that eventually, they will see that mass action within and/or without the structures of organized labor is required to smash fascists and gain a socialist future.

Richard Mellor said...

Not sure what you're saying here Gilberto. The Kids "drawn to black bloc tactics" as you say I would guess are not working class youth but petit bourgeois and even upper middle class with regard to their class composition. I think it's not a question of being "squeamish either. I notice you describe yourself as an "older commie" to be honest, I think it is completely worthless referring to oneself as a commie, older or otherwise.The Stalinists and that experience has rendered this term useless.

I have to respectfully disagree with you with regard to tactics, I do not think smashing up a student union does anything except give a certain amount of pleasure to the self indulgent petit bourgeois who practice this method. I agree with the position taken here. We do not attack them, but their methods are not useful for the workers movement. I do recall you being in Afscme, active in a union. Did you advocate this strategy to your members, co-workers? To be honest, I found the left sects to be worthless in my efforts to build an opposition to the capitalist offensive. I had a number of left group members in my local, all useless when it came to fighting the boss and raisng consciousness.

Sean said...

Thank you G De Leon for your comment. But I am a bit disappointed. I see as a priority the struggle against sectarianism. Success in this struggle demands that we honestly appraise and characterize the positions of others. Comrade you know that facts For Working People and Comrades like Richard do not wait for tomorrow for the working class to organize. You know that we have and especially Richard has a long record of organizing and mobilizing, Afscme Activists, EBMUD etc. If we mis characterize the position of others then there is no way we can have an honest debate and there is no way the working class can make honest judgments on the various positions put forward. In relation to calling on movements to go on the offensive or not this is not so simple. You say you would never ask the more militant sections to be more passive etc. for the working class to catch up. Neither would I I would campaign for the working class to catch up. But in doing so the resources of the more militant sections might have to be directed to the broader layers of the working class. This might mean that the more militant sections might have to put their emphasis in this direction. Take the July Days in Russia. Sections of the more militant workers wanted to go on the offensive. The Bolsheviks estimated that the broader masses were not ready for that yet. So they put their resources to holding back the more militant sections meanwhile campaigning for the broader layers to prepare. If they had not done so the more militant sections would have been wiped out and October would not have happened. Richard has reminded me of a quote from Lenin where he speaks of the role of the most advanced sections of the working class and if they are thrown into battle when the broader masses are not ready for battle that this is to use Lenin's words "criminal." The Black Bloc have some resources. They should use these to develop a program which gets support amongst the working class, they should turn their resources towards the working class and in this way help to build rather than hinder the building of a mass working class movement against fascism. Sean O'Torain.