Why do so many on the ‘left’ refuse even to try to work amongst the mass of the working class?
In the wake of the events at the Capitol and the election of Joe Biden as president of the USA, a great variety of ‘left’ parties have found common cause. Their unity is based upon an incoherent and fundamentally flawed conception of the state and fascism.
Self-identifying ‘left wing’ groups all over Europe and America (and beyond) have made ludicrous statements about US democracy and the Capitol riot in recent weeks. There is general agreement amongst these groups that former president Donald Trump is a fascist and that democracy in the USA has been saved from an attempted fascist coup. Most seem united in their belief that you fight fascism with a rainbow coalition of ‘sex workers’ and cross-dressers.
The rioters – indeed, any supporter of Donald Trump along with the former president himself – are all declared to be ‘violent fascists’, ‘white supremacists’, a ‘fascist mob’ and a menace to American democracy.
In an amusing summation of the events of 6 January, Nick Wright aptly pointed out in the Morning Star: “Donald Trump’s rally on 6 January, with its bussed-in stage army, was less Nuremberg and more fancy-dress party.
“Back in the bayou, his more enthusiastic followers have stocked up on K-Mart’s finest firepower, but these crackers do not present a serious challenge to the coercive power of the US state.
“Far from seizing the centres — symbolic or real — of state power, they were shepherded around the building by a corps of Capitol cops less energetic than the stewards at an Isthmian League football fixture.” (Trump hysteria ends in anti-climax, 21 January 2021)
Fascist violence from whom?
Five died on the day and in the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riots, four of whom were protestors. These protestors are described by the RCG (Fight Racism Fight Imperialism) as “insurgents” and fascists.
This analysis of the RCG is echoed by a broad spectrum of would-be Marxists. The Party for Socialism and Liberation (US Capitol invasion: a lightning flash across the political landscape by Steve Palmer, 5 February 2021), like their former comrades in Workers World Party, call the demonstrators a “fascist mob”, though the CPUSA labels them merely as “fascists” (Imperialism turned inward: Fascist coup attempt in DC by DC Metro Club, CPUSA website, 8 January 2021), as does the MLPD in Germany (MLPD condemns fascist coup attempt in the USA, ICOR, 7 January 2021).
In India, the CPI(ML) Liberation goes further, claiming that “The Trump presidency … represented the horrific spectre of a Hitler reincarnate” (The failed Trump coup and lessons for India by Dipankar Bhattacharhya, Liberation, February 2021), a sentiment echoed in Britain only by the clinically-certified members of EPSR (Untitled article, Economic & Philosophic Science Review, 12 February 2021).
The list could go on, but parties right across the world, some of whom have many good positions, have all gone in for the narrative that Trump was a fascist dictator in waiting, that 6 January was an attempted fascist coup, and that those protesting at the Capitol building were all fascists.
Were they really a fascist mob?
Ashli Babbitt, a 35-year-old air force veteran, was shot dead at the doors to the chamber in the Capitol building. She had an American flag wrapped around her neck and was unlucky enough to have approached the doors where she was met not by the hooliganism of the ‘fascists’ but by the lethal force of US ‘democracy’. A single shot fatally wounded her and left her bleeding from her mouth over the floor of the Capitol building.
Kevin Greeson, a “white supremacist” or “fascist” (if we are to believe the RCG and others) was a factory worker. He had spent more than two decades labouring at a Goodyear plant. According to his family’s lawyer, Mr Greeson had previously been an Obama supporter … not the obvious candidate of choice for a ‘white supremacist’.
“‘He was a vice-president at the union,’ said Mark McDaniel, the Huntsville attorney representing the Greeson family. ‘He got interested in Trump because he felt he was more business-minded, and as the economy kept getting better, he kept getting more interested in Trump.’” (The radicalisation of Kevin Greeson by Connor Sheets, ProPublica, 15 January 2021)
In the same article on Mr Greeson, it was reported: “For much of the late 20th century, north Alabama was home to a number of large factories and industrial facilities that provided blue-collar jobs with decent wages to people like Greeson. But many of those positions were eliminated over the past two decades as manufacturers and plants closed or were sold to foreign companies — and as the jobs disappeared, the Democratic party’s support dwindled.
“‘I think things are getting more polarised,’ said Doug Norman, a 73-year-old retired Decatur man who ran a waste oil recycling company for many years. ‘Over the last ten years, there was a shift.’
“Over a plate of eggs Benedict at Whisk’d cafe, a lunch spot in Decatur near the former Goodyear plant where Greeson worked for over two decades, Norman said that, like many other long-time residents, he has become more committed to Republican politics over the past ten years. He, too, said he believes the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from the president.”
Poor Norman had better watch out, the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) might get together with their bitter revisionist enemies in the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) and come down on Norman and the rest of the fascists at the Goodyear factory for that sort of talk.
Laughable though it is, the abject failure of the US left, from the RCP through to the CPUSA, to have made contact with the working class has partly led to the growth in reactionary ideas.
Rosanne Boyland was another member of the ‘fascist mob’ to die at the Capitol. She was crushed in the crowds as scuffles broke out with police. Rosanne was a recovered drug user who was hoping to become a sobriety counsellor. A witness to her death described a scene that many readers may be familiar with.
“‘We got sardine-canned in there. There were just dozens and dozens and dozens pushing and pushing,’ he said. ‘Then, the police made a really hard push and started pushing out …’
“Some in the crowd carried the woman outside to steps on the Capitol and tried to revive her, the YouTuber said. He said he tried to get her pulse, but there was nothing. ‘By the time that they decided to pick the person up and give them to the police officer, she had blue lips and blood was coming out her nose,’ he said. ‘It didn’t seem hopeful at all.’” (Kennesaw woman who died amid DC chaos was among Trump’s ‘biggest fans’ by Wayne Drash and Sarah Rose, GPB News, 8 January 2021)
Benjamin Philips is the last of the four. Mr Philips had established a company selling cuddly kangaroos to Trump supporters, dubbing them ‘Trumparoos’. His website had about the same depth of political analysis as the CPUSA’s, describing his business as a “social network where American patriots can mobilise against the corrupt communist Marxist scummy democrats”. (These are the five people who died in the Capitol riot by Jack Healy, New York Times, 11 January 2021)
Those were the four protestors who died on 6 January. In the rush of the so-called Marxists to elevate every political opponent to the level of Hitler, the actual violence of the state has taken a back seat to the threatened violence (and minor hooliganism) of a tiny number amongst the motley coalition of miscreants who turned over tables and chairs and galivanted about in the corridors of power for one brief afternoon.
Clearly these misled working-class individuals, rather than being the exception, are, in all likelihood, just the sort of people in general who turned up at the Capitol Hill and have subsequently been so readily dismissed as a ‘fascist mob’.
If communists, socialists and Marxists are unable to organise factory workers and proletarians downtrodden by a corrupt and failing social and economic system, don’t be surprised if right-wing populism does. For our own part, Marxist-Leninists in Britain cannot claim to have succeeded in organising the mass of workers for anything, let alone proletarian revolution and socialism, but we are setting about that work in earnest despite accusations by other leftists of being “red-brown”, “reactionary”, “fascist”, etc.
Basic agitation amongst the workers, principally on economic matters for the most backward strata, is an absolutely essential part of our work today. We must reject the madness that brings those ascribing to Marxism to label an entire body of politically-ignorant workers as ‘fascist’ and make such ludicrous calls to arms as this one:
“We call on all our side’s organisations: the unions, the youth, the Black Lives Matter movement, im/migrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ people, women’s and gender-nonconforming people’s movements, and all working people – including unemployed, low wage, healthcare, transit, public sector, blue collar, gig, education, incarcerated and sex workers – to mobilise to crush the white supremacist fascist forces.” (Editorial: No fascist coup! Fight back with workers’ power, Workers’ World, 12 January 2021)
Whatever happened to making a rallying cry comprehensible to the working class? What ever happened to Workers of the World, Unite!?
Characterising the USA
In Britain, the RCG in its newspaper FRFI, says that “the insurgents who attempted to take over the Capitol want to establish a racist, misogynist, fascistic, theocratic Christian dictatorship”. (US Capitol invasion: a lightning flash across the political landscape by Steve Palmer, 5 February 2021)
We can only theorise that if one wishes to establish a racist system one must do so in the place of a system that is not racist. If one wishes to establish a misogynist culture one must implement a culture of misogyny in place of a system which is not misogynist. Why does anybody need to impose a “fascistic theocratic Christian dictatorship” in the United States of America of all places?!
If one is to pose as a communist, one has a duty to uphold higher standards than this. Readers of newspapers like FRFI, which has a decent line on social democracy and the Labour party, will be utterly polluted if they are fed analysis of this variety.
While native Americans were being hunted almost to extinction, tens of millions of Africans were torn away from their homelands and forcibly brought to the Americas, there to work on land stolen from the original inhabitants, thus creating through their blood and sweat fabulous riches for the slaveowners – including the ‘founding fathers’ of the USA.
Racism is inherent in US society, and the ruling exploiting class is both unable and unwilling to eliminate it. There is no need to overturn such a state unless it is to overturn it and replace it with a socialist state.
Nick Wright, one of the last cogent writers in the Communist Party of Britain (CPB, which is nurturing a new crop of idPol anti-Marxists in the YCL) correctly pointed out in the Morning Star:
“Violence is endemic to US society. Between 1999 and 2014 there were 185,718 killings by firearm and 291,571 suicides using a firearm.
“In the ‘shockingly violent’ stakes, the US capital, Washington DC, itself sits only midway in the US hierarchy of homicide, with a murder rate of 23.5 killings per 100,000 residents.
“For comparison, the 1965 military coup in Indonesia — organised by the CIA and our own MI6 — saw something between two and three million communist supporters massacred in a few months of murder.
“Of course, the 6 January events were not simply frivolous. Rather, they were an eccentric counter to the return to government by the most powerful and decisive sections of US capital that Biden’s narrow victory represents.” (Op cit)
Where does fascism come from?
The big problem for the RCG, as it is for all the Trotskyist and revisionist groups and ‘antifascist’ warriors is that there is only one ideology that ever confronted fascism. That ideology is Marxism-Leninism. There was only ever one ideology to properly define fascism and that was the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.
Furthermore, there was only ever one political movement that, having properly defined fascism, went on to confront it in a life-and-death struggle for existence and win. That political movement was Marxism-Leninism. The political party most closely associated with this victory was the CPSU(b); the political leader who masterminded the attack on fascism was Josef Stalin; and the victorious forces that tore apart actually existing fascism were the Red Armies of the USSR and Red China.
Our present-day ‘antifascists’, being bitterly hostile to the USSR, Josef Stalin, the CPSU(b), Marxism-Leninism and the teachings of Marxism, are led into labelling all and sundry as fascists, into conflating all forms of reactionary politics with fascism, into seeing in a legitimate protest against a failed ‘democratic’ system only a potential ‘fascist coup’, and into coming to the aid of the US Democrats and imperialists with left rhetoric about the ‘fascist danger’, the ‘reincarnated Hitler’ and similar nonsense.
So utterly lost and confused are these would-be Marxists they look abut them at the forces they have mustered to fight fascism and find themselves wanting. Having dismissed proletarians who are imbued with reactionary ideas as mere fascists and irredeemable white supremacists, they decide to fight fascism with jailed workers and prostitutes, leaving the factory workers at Goodyear to Trump and the church.
What is fascism?
Fascism was precisely and scientifically defined by the Communist International, which warned of the dangers of fascism at the sixth congress of the Comintern in 1928, elaborated upon its description at the thirteenth plenum of the executive committee of the Comintern and definitively examined its features and characteristsics in the main report delivered by Georgi Dimitrov at its seventh world congress in 1935.
In that report, Comrade Dimitrov characterised fascism in power as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital”.
The germs of a fascist movement are to be found in every imperialist country, and yet fascism is not implemented. There are many reasons for this, but the most important reason is that it is not presently necessary to implement a naked, terroristic rule over the workers owing to the hopelessly reactionary and backward state of the workers’ movement.
The workers’ movement is poisoned and crippled by social democracy and poses no threat to bourgeois rule; hence, fascism is not a necessity for the bourgeoisie. Until a real, revolutionary proletarian movement is to be observed in a country, bourgeois democracy, and bourgeois parliamentarism will be the prevailing political forms of bourgeois dictatorship.
“Trumpism owes its success above all to its ability to capture and abuse the legitimate anger and frustration of workers against the neoliberal establishment. Trump promises them that factories that currently produce in China, among other places, will return to the United States. He defends a nationalist (protectionist) economic policy, ‘America First’, which goes against globalisation. And, it is true, in recent years industrial workers and farmers have suffered greatly from competition with low-wage countries.
“They don’t care that Trump himself is a multimillionaire and a media mogul who barely pays a dollar in taxes. They see him as a ‘whole man’, the first in ages to speak to them a language they understand. ‘I love you, you are special,’ he told them during the assault.” (On ne combat le trumpisme qu’en attaquant les racines des inégalités, Workers Party of Belgium, 12 January 2021)
What to do?
Given all the aspects of Marxism-Leninism jettisoned by uncritical, dogmatic and aging revisionist groups, the position of the CPB expressed here by Nick Wright is streets ahead of the rest.
“The 2020 presidential election brought to a head the deep structural crisis of US capitalism – desperate unemployment and poverty in the absence of an adequate social safety net – appalling health outcomes where 60 million have no health insurance while the decayed state cannot counter the Covid-19 crisis or collapsing public confidence in basic institutions and main instruments of law and public order …
“The forces that coalesced around Trump’s thwarted bid for a second presidency cannot be retrofitted into the commonplace conceptions of a fictionalised ‘fascism’ to prettify Biden’s restoration regime …
“Capitalism is indeed in serious trouble and in both Britain and the US the failure to deal effectively with the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted just how deficient is the social system.
“But the crises are not yet deep enough, the existing systems for compelling class conciliation not yet entirely compromised, for big capital to invest its future in a figure like Trump.
“So long as working-class interests are subordinated to the stabilisation of capitalism, then chancers like Trump will find ways to aggregate the exploited and angry with reaction.” (Op cit)
Who can argue with that logic? Funny then, that one who understands all this as Comrade Wright does, chooses to fight to keep the working class chained to the imperialist Labour party machinery, fights for the communist forces to maintain the line of self-annihilation by upholding the kamikaze politics of the British Road to Socialism and ensures that the interests of the working class are subservient to those of the main social-democratic prop in society.
Such a policy in Britain has gutted the communist movement ever since it was introduced after the second world war. A good Bristolian comrade can even give an anecdote of how the CPGB office in Bristol turned him away as a teenager in the late 1970s, asking why on earth he wished to join the CPGB and directing him towards the Labour party! So upset was he that he joined the WRP (Workers’ Revolutionary Party) and wasted a good few years in the Trotskyite movement, though such is his personality that he is the sort of worker who could have a good time anywhere he goes.
Having sent workers off in every direction other than towards socialism, the Trotskyists, revisionists and social democrats stand around, all alone, whilst workers from factories, warehouses, shops and elsewhere fall prey to the reactionaries. Having no links with the masses, the ‘left’ either cling desperately to the relics of trade unionism, or to the relics of the Labour party, or to both. Or, worse, they seek out new friends from every crevice and dingy corner of social life.
There they go to rally the sex workers, drug dealers and pimps for a rainbow assault upon the Church (as though the Church needed assaulting!), white supremacy and fascism, all of which are mere cover words for the working class, whom they abjured long ago.
“I have heard some peculiar things on this matter from Russian and German comrades, I must tell you. I was told that a talented woman communist in Hamburg is publishing a paper for prostitutes and that she wants to organise them for the revolutionary fight.
“Rosa acted and felt as a communist when in an article she championed the cause of the prostitutes who were imprisoned for any transgression of police regulations in carrying on their dreary trade. They are, unfortunately, doubly sacrificed by bourgeois society. First, by its accursed property system, and, secondly, by its accursed moral hypocrisy.
“That is obvious. Only he who is brutal or short-sighted can forget it. But still, that is not at all the same thing as considering prostitutes – how shall I put it? – to be a special revolutionary militant section, as organising them and publishing a factory paper for them.
“Aren’t there really any other working women in Germany to organise, for whom a paper can be issued, who must be drawn into your struggles? The other is only a diseased excrescence. It reminds me of the literary fashion of painting every prostitute as a sweet Madonna. The origin of that was healthy, too: social sympathy, rebellion against the virtuous hypocrisy of the respectable bourgeois. But the healthy part became corrupted and degenerate.” (VI Lenin quoted in On the women’s question by by Clara Zetkin)
We have plenty enough workers to win to socialism before we get into organising every fringe section of the working class; we must replicate the spirit and energy of the socialist pioneers of our movement if we are to move ahead.
Agitational work, which was undertaken amongst the working class and preceded the formation of not only the CPGB in Britain but also the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) that preceded it, needs to be undertaken once more.
As Lenin recalled in What is To Be Done? when thinking of the days preceding the formation of Russia’s first Marxist groups: “It is particularly important to state the oft-forgotten (and comparatively little-known) fact that the early social democrats of that period zealously carried on economic agitation.” (1902)
Amongst workers who are faced with joblessness and destitution as imperialism continues to decay, we must provide clear answers to immediate concerns. If we do not, there are others who will.