Workers’ Voice Statement
What Happened in Charlottesville
On Saturday August 12th, another rally of alt-right and neo-Nazis happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, in response to the mayor’s intention to take down the statue celebrating a confederate General E. Lee. We use the term alt-right advisedly – not to obscure its fundamental white nationalism and supremacy, but to demonstrate that these forces represent a coming together of multiple forces on the right, from the Christian right to the Ku Klux Klan to of course neo-Nazis. As expected and necessary, a group of local activists rallied to protest this new convergence and reclaim their town; they elected their mayor, they chose to remove symbol they find embarrassing, offensive and violent for the communities that work and live there, they were exercising their rights of democracy and self-determination. Neo-nazis and other alt-right activists who continually claim “free speech” cannot abide the inevitable and justifiable consequences of their “free speech” (that is, contestation the more sound, participatory, grassroots discourse of the counter-mobilization), so they resort to violence. This violence came in an extreme form when one of them ran a car into the counter-mobilization, killing one unarmed activist and Industrial Workers of the World member, and injuring 19 others, among them Antifa activists and Democratic Socialists of America and International Socialist Organization members who were there doing the right thing, doing what socialists do – standing up for liberation and fighting fascism.
We want to express our condolences to the family of Heather Heyer, our IWW comrade assassinated by a fascist, and our deep solidarity to the IWW, Antifa, the DSA and the ISO. We are in this together and are committed to building a united front of working-class forces to politically and militarily defeat these groups and enforce our democratic rights. As the IWW statement eloquently says, from now on “We must defend each other. That means all of us. An injury to one is an injury to all.”
The “Many [F#@*-UP] Sides” of Trump’s Comments
On Sunday August 13th, the day after the tragedy, Trump issued what so far had been his most puzzling and repulsive statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” This comes from a President that has appointed an alt-right public figure, Steve Bannon, as his personal adviser.
That the actual facts show that the violence was one-sided is irrevocable. Furthermore, politically, to equate any anti-fascist violence of self-defense to the violence of fascism is unacceptable. For those who have endured, and continue to endure the violence of fascists, that is to say Jews, Muslims, Black and Brown people, immigrant and the LGBTQI community, Trump’s words are simply an open declaration of war on these communities. By saying these words, he made his most explicit step so far towards taking a side in this conflict: the side of fascism and white supremacy. To equivocate in times such as these is to side with oppressors. We understand the obfuscation and minimizing of the daily violence exerted on these communities to be a key maneuver for fascists and white supremacists, so we are preparing for the fight of exposing these violent movements and pushing back with all of our confidence, skill, and comradeship to defeat them.
We reject Trump’s idea that “there is blame on both sides” for the terror that occurred in Charlottesville. For working people and communities of color in this country, there is only one side: the side of full solidarity with the counter-mobilization, the IWW and the family of the victim, and our dearest and firm desire to get rid of the hatred and bigotry spread by white-supremacist groups.
Trump immediately came under fire for his comments from multiple political constituencies. In fact, he was condemned by virtually all sectors of his erstwhile supporters expect the neo-nazis, who celebrated his comments as a de facto endorsement. Even major CEOs and heavyweights of the Republican party like Bush or McCain understand that one cannot equate the violence of the extreme-right with the mobilization and self-defense of the protesters fighting for democratic rights. If there is at least a shared “moral” consensus in this country that falsely appears to cross class lines, is that “fascism” is a shared enemy. Trump has revealed his position. The fact that he has revealed his interests is instructive and clarifying. In short: the economic interests he represents (the top 1% of earners in this country, who control the majority of the wealth) are not fundamentally opposed to fascism, they just do not benefit from it at the moment, and prefer to stick to the current representative democracy in which they can exercise maximum influence.
“Alt-Left” vs “Alt-Right?”
Trump has built a mass outcry out of these incidents, for he did not repeat the same idiocy once or twice, but three times. On Tuesday, August 15th, he stated again that “there is blame on both sides,” and then went even deeper in the reactionary rhetoric of blaming Left forces for standing up to fascism: “What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right’?” he asked. We absolutely disagree that there is an “alt-left” which would be the “left” equivalent of the alt-right, for this view implicitly equates both extremes, and advocates for the liberal or conservative status quo. What exists in this country is a growing polarization in society and in the working class as a result of the lack of economic recovery for working people, the non-resolution and curtailment of basic democratic rights and a continued oppression and repression.
What is this newly branded “alt-right” after all? It is a collection of slowly growing far-right political forces, which includes the KKK, the neo-nazis, white supremacist groups and the Christian conservatives. Actually, the rallying cry of the Charlottesville protest was to “unite the alt-right.” While there is a degree of variation in the ultra racist, homophobic, and reactionary programs of these groups, what they do have in common is their social base. It was not the local white working class sectors that protested the removal of the statue and came to the reactionary gathering, but rather, a horde of semi-professional protesters, well educated and with middle class backgrounds that took time off of work to come and protest at another town.
For these reasons, we absolutely disagree that there is an “alt-left” which would be the “left” equivalent of the alt-right. The lack of economic opportunities for working people, persistent oppression and repression of marginalized groups (in particular, of black people), increased restrictions of democratic rights, and slashing of social services has led to an rising polarization in this country and within the working-class. The “alt-right” is mainly led by professional and middle class elements who blame Black people, immigrants, and oppressed sectors for their social fate, their lack of prosperity in this country and the decline of the U.S. empire. Those combatting the alt-right, are political forces which have been present in the working class, anarchist and socialists mainly, whose political base and organizing power is also developing in response to the failure of the Republican and Democratic Party to satisfy basic people’s needs.
Only A Working Class and Community Front Can Defeat the Alt-Right
We don’t think the CEOs of huge multinational corporations, who exploit workers all over the U.S. and around the world, and are comfortable with a system of exploitation coming out of slavery and relying on dictatorships, has any moral or political ground to oppose fascism. Furthermore, while John McCain declared that “There is no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry,” we do not think anyone in the Republican Party that is harboring in its ranks the same fascist scum we fight in the streets, and that has repeatedly attacked communities of color and women when in government, has any credibility in this struggle. We do not believe that even the Democratic Party has a chance to stop fascism for when it is given a chance to stop the militarization of local police, and the harassment of marginalized communities, like was the case in the liberal city of Berkeley, it sided with the pro-war industrial complex and against the thousands of citizens who rallied last month at the city council to prevent the deal with Urban Shield.
It is up to us, working class people and people of color to build, with our labor organizations a united front to defeat fascism, to defeat its ideas and its social and material roots. It is a real shame that it took several resignations of CEOs from the Manufacturing Initiatives board led by Trump, a public split of the big corporate sectors from the government, for the AFL-CIO leader Trumka to resign too. It is an embarrassment for the labor movement to have occurred this way, for Trumka should not have been part of this board in the first place. Yet it is very encouraging to see how some unions, like the IBEW local 6 (electricians) in San Francisco, have broken the poisonous white supremacist alliance across classes, and exercised, in practice, a real working class solidarity by excluding from employment and disciplining one of their members, John Ramondetta, who was scheduled to speak at the alt-right Charlottesville rally. We think all unions should take a public position like the IBEW local did against this rising wave of white-supremacy and bigotry and hold educational events with their members to address this scourge in our ranks.
In this sense we echo the Democratic Socialist of America’s call for building a united front, which has been echoed and is already been put in practice by other socialist organizations like ours, Workers’ Voice, Socialist Action and the International Socialist Organization:
“We call on the left to build a strong united front against this emboldened right wing. We need to be clear and recognize that white supremacist terrorism will not simply go away if it’s ignored. This violent and dangerous movement should never be allowed to have a platform. It should always be fought against by the strength of our united front.”
The Fascists Are Coming to the Bay Area: We Are Ready for Them
In the Bay Area, we have been organizing over the past weeks in preparation for another alt-right provocation in Berkeley. We have been working with other organizations to build a principled united front to defeat the far-right and Charlottesville has only made our organizing more relevant. The alt-right group calling for the next rally is targeting leftists in particular, with their facebook event called “No to Marxism in America” for August 27th. Furthermore, another event of the same kind has been called in SF on Aug. 26th. Together with other socialists, unions, and progressive organizations in the Bay we have been building a coalition (with over 80 endorsements and continuing to add on each day) to say no to this alt-right convergence, which is comprised of the same white supremacists and fascist elements that terrorized Charlottesville.
Building a united front against the rise of fascism is not something one simply declare, it requires to build trust between communities and organizations and to appeal and involve in the planning key players: labor unions (UAW 2865, AFSCME 3299, UPTE, BFT, ILWU etc), community groups, like APTP, religious groups and political organizations. We will send a message loud and clear that the alt-right is not welcome here, we will organize a peaceful rally and are developing a security force, inclusive, democratically elected and controlled, to ensure our own peace, and of course to defend and enforce our right of self-defence if we are attacked.
Annex: IBEW Local 6 Statement
“IBEW Local Union No. 6 condemns the violence and murder that took place this past weekend in Charlottesville, VA. To be perfectly clear, IBEW Local Union No. 6 also condemns white nationalism and white supremacy, as they are in stark conflict with the expressed goals of our organization. The ‘Unite the Right’ event, and the actions that were perpetrated by those in attendance, are disgraceful examples of a small minority of bigots that seek to exploit the growing economic desperation of law abiding Americans.
Economic equality and opportunity will not be won through the marginalization or victimization of working families. Instead, IBEW Local Union No. 6 believes that only an open and inclusive labor movement will raise the moral and economic realities for workers across society. We encourage those who are frustrated and angered with the stagnation of wages, loss of employment opportunities, and workplace exploitation to exercise their right to organize in concerted effort and form a Union.”