Statement from the National Executive Committee of Freedom Road Socialist Organization/Organización Socialista del Camino para La Libertad (FRSO/OSCL)
Here is some of our thinking on our immediate and longer-term tasks as revolutionaries in the wake of Charlottesville.
We must unmask the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” forces for who they are- for their violent, white-supremacist history that goes back to the Confederacy.
We don’t call the right-wing groups that provoked the Charlottesville violence the ‘alt-right’ because that makes them seem part of the mainstream. It erases their long, violent history and the sinister, undemocratic nature of their intentions. The folks who are defending these monuments are part of organizations that have been using the same tactics as the original confederacy.
To defend slavery and white minority rule, the old Confederacy seceded from the nation and tried to overthrow the government–and they lost. The Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally came together to defend a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and what he fought for: slavery and white supremacy. These monuments are a living symbol of the ongoing Confederate agenda. Like nearly all Confederate monuments, this one was put up decades after the Civil War, as part of a crusade by white right-wing Southerners to re-write history, re-casting the Southern Civil War as a righteous lost cause and slavery as a benevolent institution. The Charlottesville Lee statue was erected in 1924, during the particularly intense post WWI period of racist violence that included attacks on thousands of African Americans in the cities of Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Tulsa.
The Ku Klux Klan had been dismantled in 1870 but revived in 1915, and by 1924 it had 4 million members in 4000 chapters across the US. Fifty thousand robed Klansmen marched in Washington in 1925, and it controlled at least 8 state governments. At that time, The Klan was strongest not only in Southern states like Georgia, Alabama and Texas, but also in Indiana, Oregon, Kansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Ohio. Klan members in the 1920’s were typically middle class–small business owners, professionals and farmers. The Klan was just the most overtly violent of a broader movement to institutionalize white supremacy and Jim Crow that also targeted and vilified Jews as well as Catholic immigrants. In 1924, Virginia passed the ‘Racial Integrity Act’ that prohibited ‘interracial’ marriage, and the US Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 to keep out all but Northern European Protestants. Sound familiar?
We must also expose the links between the Charlottesville white supremacists and the broader political force we call the New Confederacy, which is the dominant political force in the US now– the one we need to unite against and overthrow.
The New Confederacy is the current manifestation of the white united front that has ruled the U.S. since the founding of racial slavery, consolidating its rule by rallying the white middle class and white workers around the leadership of the white ruling class. Like the Old Confederacy, the New Confederacy is rooted in the most reactionary, racist, imperialist and anti-democratic forces in the country—the old Dixiecrats and the defenders of Jim Crow. The New Confederacy embodies a form of right-wing populism that seeks to drastically reduce democracy, to impose both white and male supremacy, and to establish a more authoritarian dictatorship within the borders of the U.S. To achieve this, the New Confederacy is constructing a militant white base, an increasingly repressive state (police, ICE, etc.) and a restrictive voting franchise. It is rolling back the popular advances of the New Deal and the Great Society era. And, like neoliberal and some other more centrist elements of the capitalist class, it is committed to dismantling public services and institutions.
The New Confederacy originated in the South and the Mountain states and captured state governments there with the Republican Party as its vehicle. The New Confederacy is funded by wealthy conservative individuals, corporations and foundations, and has built a huge machine that includes a wide range of organizations that move forward its agenda: research and policy arms like ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council); communication operations like Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting and Breitbart; and paramilitary training programs like the ones that armed the Charlottesville extremists. By 2017, the New Confederacy has come to dominate the Republican Party in the majority of states and to control the governorship and both legislative branches in 26 states.
Trump came to power with the support of a broad right-wing populist movement rooted in the New Confederacy, which includes the right-wing white supremacists, nationalists, and neo-fascists who marched in Charlottesville.
We need to take this head-on and call it what it is; and we need to drive a wedge between Trump and other Republicans, and also between the violent elements and the broader right-wing. The Trump campaign and presidency has fed on public displays of white supremacy and misogyny. It has legitimated and encouraged the groups that exist to provoke racist violence, like the armed groups that marched in Charlottesville. These groups are the most extreme, neo-fascist elements of the broader New Confederate movement that has the same dangerous goals, but which cloaks them in less visibly violent and undemocratic tactics–relying on ‘law and order,’ redlining and housing discrimination, predatory fines and other institutionalized white supremacist tactics instead of armed mobs.
The national response to Charlottesville shows that even some right-wing politicians and many corporations are afraid of being linked with the neo-fascist groups and their violent tactics. (This week we heard Jeff Sessions talk about ‘white supremacists’ and Ted Cruz condemn ‘domestic terrorists’!) The Charlottesville rally aimed to build right-wing unity, influence and numbers; but instead it is splitting the right.
We can disorganize the right-wing bloc by calling on every Republican and Conservative to denounce Trump. Every politician from both parties, at the local, state and national level, has to speak out publicly against the Trump administration’s white supremacist policies and their most visible advocates, including Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and the entire Trump cabinet. We must make the links between the Charlottesville neo-Nazis and the Trump administration’s attack on immigrants and Sanctuary Cities. This is also the time to organize a broad campaign demanding that the Federal and State governments actively dismantle armed right-wing groups: treat them as terrorist groups, bring charges against their leaders, and freeze their funding.
Building a Path to Power: the Charlottesville attack exposed the increasing polarization of US politics and pushes us to see this is a contest for power that we MUST engage in.
We believe that the left can no longer just respond to external events, and we can no longer focus only on the national level. We must create a strategy that brings together people who are opposed to the neo-fascists to build independent political power to fight white supremacy and the new confederacy, starting at the local and state level. We believe we need to be creating the agendas that govern society, not just trying to influence them. We can’t do this without political power: power to contest elections and make policy, as well as power to take direct actions. Our upcoming Durham Mobilization, which will contribute to our fight to win power at the City level in that city and at the state level in North Carolina, is one opportunity to be part of this.
5. A Strategic Alliance must be built on multiracial solidarity against white supremacy, with an anti-racist, working class program.
We have to build a political force that working-class people of all races and genders can see as a force for their own liberation and a force that is contending for power, reaching out to millions of people who don’t see themselves as part of the left we are now. And it is up to us, the left: the Democratic Party’s attacks on workers, from trade to charter schools, and its inability to envision or advance an inclusive working class force and program is a major reason why Trump is in office today.
Just as the Charlottesville march points out the ongoing role of white supremacy as a tool for consolidating power in the hands of the rich, Charlottesville also gives us an opportunity to lift up the importance of bringing working class people of all races together to fight white supremacy as an integral part of dismantling capitalism.
Charlottesville showed us, for the thousandth time, the critical role that Black radical organizations play in leading the resistance to white supremacy and capitalism. Historically, we know that just as Black leaders and fighters have so often been murdered by white supremacists in or out of uniform, it is not unprecedented for white fighters who stood with them to be cut down by the same violence. We honor Heather Heyer as the Civil Rights movement honored comrades Viola Liuzzo, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner —by fighting hard for what they all believed in. it is true that due to white privilege the murders of white protesters often gain more attention; but this should not take away from us building on a growing white commitment to fighting white supremacy and being part of a truly multiracial movement.
To defeat the right, our United Front must be led by this Strategic Alliance that is broad enough to win over the middle forces that the New Confederacy is also contending for. This United Front will need to have an inside/outside strategy that includes working with liberals and neoliberals in the Democratic party as well as outside of it, to defeat the right-wing.
We need to welcome new supporters from wherever they’re at and create opportunities for them to take the steps they’re ready for—what the NGO world calls a ‘ladder of engagement’ –without setting an impossibly high bar or turning people off with rhetoric.
The right-wing extreme forces have a likely base in the Trump electorate and are trying to win over and lead masses of people. The majority in this country does not support the neo-fascists; that’s why we saw mass protest against the Charlottesville terrorists, not in favor of them. But some of them do support the broader right-wing populism, and we need to try to reach them. We believe that with a multiracial working class program , we can both isolate the neo-fascist agenda and speak to the many working class and middle strata people who would otherwise be turned off by politics altogether or sympathetic to the Right.
It will take millions to defeat the right. After Charlottesville, millions of people are seeing the connection of neo-Nazi violence with a broader and systematic project to wipe out the gains won by Black people and other peoples of color and intensify white privilege–the New Confederacy. And millions are also seeing how Trump’s presidency emboldens these forces. This is a watershed moment when we can show the connections between the Right-wing Republicans controlling state government, the increased oppression of people of color, low-income and working class people, and the empowerment of neo-Nazis, especially in those Republican-dominated states.
To neutralize Nazis, we need power in the streets too.
While FRSO/OSCL’s current strategy as an organization is focused on building political power, we understand that different roles are needed. Cornel West put it dramatically when he said that he was standing in Charlottesville with 20 clergy in non-violent witness and they would have been killed or seriously injured if 300 young people, of all colors, hadn’t come forward to defend them from the neo-Nazis. Different movement forces can develop working understandings about different roles they are willing and able to play. We uphold the people who pull down statues and we make preparations for self-defense when planning counter-protests or events where we know we may encounter neo-Nazis. We have to join in the mobilizing, to greet the fascists with massive numbers, as well as working to track their spread, staying on top of their tactics and preparing for possible new attacks.
We know from history that an approach that is primarily electoral or parliamentary has never been sufficient to stop fascists! Historically in white-majority countries, Fascists and Nazis have come to power through elections, or have manipulated elections and cheated in elections to stop their opponents from winning, have overthrown elected governments and assassinated officials, and have eliminated checks on their power once they’ve taken office. So even if we elect not just Democrats but even radical and socialist candidates like ourselves to government offices, as long as the capitalists still control production and much of the permanent state structures, that will not stop fascists. Masses of people need to put their bodies on the line to stop them. We challenge ourselves and others, including those new to the movement, to come out of our comfort zone and put our bodies on the line to stop neo-Nazis.