Mass demonstrations and a left alternative needed to fight the right
Socialist Alternative, USA
The vicious white nationalist violence in Charlottesville and across the country this weekend has acted as a collective wake-up call. On Saturday August 19, one week after the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, 40,000 people marched and rallied against an alt-right “free speech” protest in the Boston Common. The anti-racist counter demonstration was announced less than a week prior and, according to Boston Police, drew over 40,000 people, a ratio of 1600 to 1.
To defeat the far right, we need the broadest possible participation in the movement. A few days before the march, Boston Socialist Alternative proposed to the International Socialist Organization that we form a Socialist Contingent for the march. They agreed, and Democratic Socialists of America, Industrial Workers of the World, and the Socialist Party USA ended up joining as well. The Socialist Contingent reached over 1,000 people during the march, showing the growing support for socialist ideas in the U.S.
The loudest chants were “Hey hey, ho ho, Nazi scum have got to go,” “Racist, sexist, anti-gay, Donald Trump go away,” and “Alt-right, you can’t hide, you support genocide,” and anything else Trump related
The far-right threat
‘Alt-right’, white nationalist, and neo-Nazi groups have organised increasingly bold, racist demonstrations since Trump’s election. While still small, the size and confidence of neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups are growing.
With the brutal murder of Heather Heyer by neo-Nazi motorist James Fields during these events still fresh in the headlines on Saturday, Trump got on national television to condemn the violence and hatred “on many sides.” His failure to specifically condemn the white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups drew immediate outrage from millions.
The sweeping public outcry against this display of violence and bigotry in Charlottesville and Boston demonstrates the real balance of forces in US society against the far right. Spontaneous mass protests are erupting in cities across the country. Alongside a plan for nationally coordinated mass protests, wherever necessary the left needs to pull together democratic community/labour defence coalitions to physically defend our movement and communities against attack.
Addressing the roots of Trumpism
While most Republican leaders attempt to distance themselves from alt-right groups, in reality their coded bigotry and racist government policies have encouraged the growth of racist and reactionary ideas. At root, the rise of far-right, reactionary and neo-fascist forces can only be understood as an international phenomenon, a result of the deep crisis of global capitalism.
At the same time, the failure of the left and labour movement to offer a bold, working class political alternative has allowed the rise of right-populist figures like Trump. It was this political and social context that allowed Trump to get an echo for his cynical appeals to nationalist pride, his scapegoating of immigrants, his naked misogyny, and his pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Cutting across support for Trump and alt-right groups will require building a mass movement which can provide a clear left-wing political alternative. The potential for this is already visible in the broad support for Bernie Sanders, especially in “red states” that voted heavily for Trump. Unfortunately, Sanders has failed to combine his radical programme with the need for a new, mass working class political party, a vital step to unite the growing Trump resistance into a coherent mass movement.
Mass protests and community defence coalitions
The Unite the Right marches in Charlottesville have outraged millions of working people who are looking for an effective way to fight back. Understandably, the vicious violence of neo-Nazis has created growing sympathy among a section of activists to physically respond. While appealing to a genuine sentiment, unfortunately, such an approach risks isolating anti-racist activists, cutting across our ability to build the mass involvement and support we need to win.
Our power to defeat Trump and alt-right forces lies in the real potential to mobilise the majority of society against them. Since Trump’s first hours in office, Socialist Alternative has been at the forefront of building the resistance to his racist, sexist, big business agenda. At every stage, we have aimed to link the movement against Trump and his far-right backers to a strategy and programme that can unite working people into a multiracial mass movement.
We must link today’s defensive struggles to a programme and strategy to challenge corporate control of society and to end the economic and social insecurity that is the soil from which racism, nationalism, and bigotry grow.