Home / Current events / After Trump fires Comey, time for a real “anti-fascism”

After Trump fires Comey, time for a real “anti-fascism”

The political events of the past few days have been downright frightening. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey puts on full display the fact that the current president has no intention of abiding by the rules of democracy.

The New York Times noted in the wake of Comey’s abrupt dismissal that the FBI director “was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president,” referring to the Russia scandal, and “whether the presidency was effectively stolen by a hostile foreign power.”  The Times, continued that “this is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history,” and that the Russian situation could be “one of the biggest political scandals in the nation’s history.”

Much like the famous frog in the pot of water that slowly starts to boil, the American people are watching the democratic norms that once governed our nation stripped away. Unlike the frog, though, we have been fighting back, and have scored some important victories. Nonetheless, the constant barrage of insane statements coming from the presidency, conflicts of interest, and openly anti-democratic rhetoric and actions have left many of us unable to fully recall the feel of more democratic days, very recent, but quickly being shrouded by the fastest moving mists of time we’ve seen.

The authoritarian threat is real, and there is a line that, once crossed, the republic is unlikely to recover from. Trump has to be removed, or, at the very least, his administration has to be seriously crippled. To accomplish that, we need an anti-authoritarian movement or, as some might call it, an anti-fascist movement.

Real anti-fascism has to mean the widest, broadest possible front against Trump. So called “Antifa” demonstrations that have caused some annoyances recently (an example local to my city) are the exact opposite of what America needs. “Antifa,” short for “anti-fascist,” demonstrations are generally anarchist gatherings, with people chanting revolutionary slogans and breaking glass, marching around without permits, blocking traffic on interstate highways, etc. Obviously, this sort of thing alienates many, and isn’t helpful in building a broad, actually anti-fascist front.

Also not helpful is some continued push to move the Democratic Party to the left. While it is nice to try to bring progressive issues forward – the fight for $15, for example – we can’t let any issue divide the movement against Trump and his extremists (another example from my hometown; in defense of the Antifa groups, though, here’s a video of them helping to divide the Trump movement in Minnesota). The coalition that defeats Trump and his national and local allies, if it can, won’t be a left grouping. Probably it will not even be a solely center-left grouping.

If we look to history, at the great anti-fascist movements of the early 20th century, or the movements that brought about the end to dictatorships in nations across the world, we see the successful ones all have one thing in common: diversity of political tendencies, with major weight given to centrists. They included everyone from the left to centrists to even, oftentimes, conservatives who opposed fascism. This was the case the first time fascism was fought, in Spain as well as in Germany and Italy, and across Latin America. Anyone who supported basic democracy was part of the movement. The tactics of the movement, when successful, were based off of that need for a united coalition.

It was generally not a slide to the right that those who fought for democracy had to worry about. Often, it was the left that was the problem. I’ve written about this in reference to Germany. In Spain, more “revolutionary” elements caused problems. While the communists and republicans were working together to fight Franco (including many Americans who went there to fight as part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigades), a group of anarchists and “left-wing communists” decided that it was time to end capitalism altogether, and fought both the fascist and republican forces. The infighting, of course, led to the victory of fascism in Spain, which lasted up through the 1970s.

We have to avoid these mistakes. While the “Antifa” groups are small, it’s important to make sure that they are not seen as representative of the larger movement. More of a worry is some in the camp that supported Sanders, even after Hillary won the primary, who have made a fetish of criticizing everything the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, do or stand for. I would take issue with their characterizations of the DNC in general, but now is certainly not the time to wage internecine wars within the party. Especially troublesome, though thankfully small, is the strain of thought around Jill Stein and the Green Party.

Indeed, while the Democratic Party is the umbrella for the vast majority of the movement, to be successful, we need allies even beyond that. The real anti-fascist movement in America has to include everyone opposed to Trump’s agenda. That will include some of the more moderate and democratic (with a small “d”) Republicans, people who in normal times would be opponents, e.g. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham. We have to fight to bring these people into the democratic coalition, with phone calls and letters to all of those who are wavering. We saw an example of how such a coalition can function earlier, when some top Republicans defected to defeat Trump’s attempt to repeal an Obama-era methane rule. (Of course, this does not mean giving up on principled issues: it’s important to organize against, for example, any repeal of Obamacare, even when this means calling out those who side with Trump on that particular issue.)

It’s clear that Trump won’t allow the FBI to do its job. We need to build a democratic united front that can pull a few Republicans over to vote for an independent, well funded investigation into what happened in Russia. Of course, all sections of the Democratic coalition have to be completely united, with no litmus tests whatsoever on any issue, to change the makeup of the House and Senate next year, as well as this year in municipal elections across the country. Across the country, state Democratic Parties will be having their conventions. It is important to push as much as possible for the adoption of good, progressive policies, but not in a way that dis-unifies the party.

And if a broad enough coalition can be built, with enough Republicans brought over, it is possible to impeach Trump and then remove him from office. But that will require, before anything else, that the left section of the Democratic Party (of which I consider myself a part) work constructively with the center and more conservative elements within it.

And, aside from in eye-catching headlines, I’d probably ditch the term “anti-fascist” or “Antifa” altogether, and instead use something like “fight to save American democracy” or a phrase along those lines.

Image by Feral 78, used under a Creative Commons license.

2 comments

  • uneven-compromise

    Hahaha, we shouldn’t even criticize the DNC I guess. This is the incompetency of American establishment liberals, seeking alliances with GOP ghouls that despise accessible healthcare, think police can do no wrong, and have marched lockstep with Trump ever since they realized he was gonna get the presidency. But the radicals that seek to challenge structural problems by disrupting business as usual (marching around without permits? how DARE they) are the bad guys to be looked down upon and avoided. At least as long as liberals and the Dems think like this their party will continue its downward spiral and maybe something better will emerge.

  • Oh boy, where to begin… I guess we gotta start somewhere.

    “Not helpful is some continued push to move the Democratic Party to the left. While it is nice to try to bring progressive issues forward – the fight for $15, for example – we can’t let any issue divide the movement…”

    That’s just factually false. The American electorate is overwhelmingly in favor of left-populist policies like raising the minimum wage, cracking down on Wall Street, stronger environmental regulations, raising taxes on the wealthy, single-payer healthcare, etc. If there’s anything the American electorate can unite around to defeat Trump, it’s left-populism.

    “Of course, all sections of the Democratic coalition have to be completely united, with no litmus tests whatsoever on any issue, to change the makeup of the House and Senate next year, as well as this year in municipal elections across the country.”

    So your strategy is to run terrible candidates, then? Corrupt candidates beholden to corporate interests? Have you learned nothing?

    “In Spain, more “revolutionary” elements caused problems. While the communists and republicans were working together to fight Franco… a group of anarchists and far-left communists decided that it was time to end capitalism altogether…”

    Oh, right, the anarcho-syndicalists. Those people who created a utopia unlike anything seen before or since. Yeah, they were pretty cool for the most part. Can’t image why you’d bring them up here… unless you were trying to lie about how things went down.

    “…Those people and fought both the fascist and republican forces.”

    …That’s extremely misleading. The CNT-FAI (the syndicalist organization at the forefront of the Spanish Revolution) and its allied militias initially worked WITH the Popular Front. It was only after the Moscow-backed Spanish Communist Party effectively seized control of the PF and began attempting to covertly purge the anarchists and their affiliates that the CNT-FAI began operating independently of the PF, and even then, the anarchists didn’t respond with violence until the PF literally outlawed the CNT-FAI, the POUM (a Marxist, anti-Stalin militia closely allied with the anarchists), and numerous other Revolutionary groups and actively started attacking them. Please, for the love of god, get your history straight.

    “The infighting, of course, led to the victory of fascism in Spain, which lasted up through the 1970s.”

    The infighting hurt the Republicans, for sure, but it was ultimately not looking good even from the start. The capitalist powers like Britain, France, America, etc had all agreed not to interfere in the civil war, which meant that only the Soviets backed up the Republicans (which likely had a lot to do with the PF’s rapid fall to Stalinism). Meanwhile, the Nationalists were backed up by both Germany and Italy, giving them a serious boost. This, in addition to PF forces mostly consisting of rag-tag militias, made Nationalist victory overwhelmingly likely.

    When you wrote this article, I don’t know if you genuinely didn’t know what you were talking about, or if you set out to mislead, but either way, this is deeply unimpressive.

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