Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, outside the WSU Law School during a demonstration against police brutality and misconduct in the city of Detroit. A 7-year-old was killed the day before by the police. (Photo: Cheryl LaBash), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Racism and Fascism in the Service of the One Percent
How corporate rule and the supremacy of imperialism works today
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following talk was delivered at a public meeting held in Detroit on August 4, 2012 examining the rise of racist and fascist organizations in the United States. This event was held just one day prior to the Sikh Temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wisconsin right outside of Milwaukee. The suspect was a well-known white supremacist. This program was in support of the Tinley Park 5, a group of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists now facing felony charges in Illinois. This program was sponsored by the Detroit branch of Workers World Party.
It is quite timely and relevant that we are discussing the rise of racism and fascism in the United States today. With the deepening of the global capitalist crisis the state will inevitably become more repressive in order to facilitate the intensifying exploitation of the workers and the oppressed.
Recent statistical reviews indicate that poverty is increasing in the U.S. and in the advanced capitalist states in Europe. The near-collapse of the banking system in 2008 has created desperation among the international bourgeoisie.
The re-structuring of the labor market and the lowering of wages along with the “acceptable” levels of unemployment among the captains of industry requires a greater reliance on coercive mechanism by capital and state organs. After the global recession of 1975, there was a large-scale downsizing of labor within industry.
By the mid-1980s, hundreds of thousands of auto and steel workers were terminated from their jobs. These changes put pension funds, municipal governments and public education systems in peril.
The false prosperity of the mid-to-late 1990s increased the money supply along with the extension dangerous levels of personal and public credit. In 2000 the first shocks were felt when the so-called dotcom boom fizzled and the Clinton era would fade into the Bush presidential administration where after September 11, 2001, the full force of the legislative, media, security and military apparatus was mobilized for “permanent war.”
After 9-11 there was the passage of the USA Patriot Act and other forms of draconian legislation. Secret covert operations became open and the use of informants, mercenaries, assassins were moved out of the shadows of darkness into the light of day.
Of course the security apparatus was the domestic arm of the further militarization of the state and its foreign policy. The U.S. and its allies would invade Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003, Haiti in 2004, Libya in 2011 by air and sea bombardment and the use of counter-revolutionary insurgents, Somalia since 2006 through the CIA and allied regimes in the region and the utilization of the U.S. Africa Command which is broadening its reach throughout the continent.
In recent months the U.S. administration has escalated tensions in the South China Sea through the dispatching of troops to Australia and naval maneuvers in the Asian Pacific specifically targeting China. The war in Syria it was revealed again this week is a major not so covert operation to bring down the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The budgets of the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon go largely without question by the Congress and the corporate media. Combined the Department of Defense and the various federal intelligence and enforcement agencies have a budget over $1 trillion annually.
On a domestic level police brutality and terrorism has increased since 2000. The prison population has grown exponentially since 1980 where now over 2.5 million are incarcerated in jails and prisons while many millions more are under judicial supervision and prosecutorial investigation.
The U.S. has moved from welfare state capitalism of the1960s to national security state capitalism of the 21st century. Through both the corporate community and the state, hundreds of millions are under surveillance by the ruling class and its agents.
Just recently there was the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that provides for greater monitoring and repressive tactics. It is not an accident that the passage of the NDAA came on the heels of the crushing of the Occupy Movement which was attacked viciously in every city throughout the U.S. between October and December 2011.
Yet despite these authoritarian efforts by the U.S. capitalist ruling class and the state people are continuing to resist. In Wisconsin during 2011, a people’s mass mobilization fought the imposition of union-busting legislation and tremendous lessons were learned.
This same type of mass mobilizations took place in various states throughout the country. In Michigan the passage of Public Act 4 in 2011 was a direct assault on the working class and the oppressed.
The denial of the right to vote for local officials, the abolition of collective bargaining rights, the use of the corporate media as the public relations wing of the banks and their agents within the state, has become the order of the day.
Anyone who dares to speak out against the vilification of unions and the right to self-determination and full-equality for African Americans, Latina/os, women, the LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities and other groups, are denounced by the media of capital while the defenders of the rich are given praise and accolades.
Although the ruling class may have thought that it had eliminated the Occupy Movement, the upsurge in participation within May Day demonstrations proved them wrong again. A whole new layer and generation were brought into international workers day and the linking of various social and political issues were evident.
The murder of Trayvon Martin, no matter how tragic, did bring out hundreds of thousands of African Americans and progressive youth and workers across the U.S. It was this mobilization of forces that resulted in the indictment against George Zimmerman.
Perhaps the most representative action taken in recent weeks against racism and repression was the community response to the murder of two men in Anaheim, California. For the last two weeks people have been in a state of agitation and rebellion.
The corporate media of course have kept the situation in Anaheim off the television screens. They do not want these actions to spread across the country because in every oppressed community throughout the
U.S. there is an Anaheim waiting to explode.
The rise in poverty, the escalation of police violence and terrorism against youth, the destruction of the public sector and public education, the ongoing epidemic of home foreclosures and evictions, the rising costs of healthcare services, the re-drawing of congressional districts on the state and federal level to weaken African American and Latina/os voting power and the restrictions placed on voting rights and the rights of voters, is enough to anger even the most peaceful and moderate person.
Even more provocative is the total denial of these realities by most of the political elite who focus on character assassination and false promises to divert people’s attention away from real issues impacting the 99 percent.
Racism and Fascism: Past and Present
There has been the tendency in the U.S. to define racism and fascism based upon the development of these political outlooks and movements during the 19th and 20th centuries. However, as capitalism, as an economic system has evolved and changed, so has its offspring of institutionalized racism and fascism.
Modern Europe and its outposts in the Western Hemisphere were built on racism and genocide. The indigenous peoples of the Caribbean were nearly wiped out during the rise of colonialism and slavery between the late 15th century and the 19th century.
The indigenous peoples of South America, Central America and North America were systematically exterminated, enslaved and colonized with the onslaught of the European feudalists and capitalists. Those that were not killed were subject mass removals and further exploitation.
Africans were brought to the U.S. in the millions as slaves between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Even after the so-called “revolutionary war” against British rule in the late 18th century, Africans remained in legalized slavery until 1865 with the passage of the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the end of the civil war.
Even after the Civil War and the failure of Reconstruction, it would take another 100 years to achieve any semblance of civil rights and due process for African Americans. Lynch law was the code established to reinforce the oppressive and exploitative conditions under which Black people lived.
The aftermath of the Civil War witnessed the formation and rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other paramilitary organizations designed to repress African Americans and other oppressed groups. The Klan represented the
extension of the Confederacy which was defeated at the conclusion of the Civil War.
The Klan represented the oftentimes secret wing of the southern and even northern ruling class with its aboveground components found in groups such as the White Citizen Councils. These civil groups were designed to prop up the system through laws and customs.
Law-enforcement was heavily founded and infiltrated by the Klan and other racist organizations. This was true of both the South and the North.
In Europe the fascist movements are often traced back to the period of World War I when there was a split among the workers and left movements over intervention in the imperialist conflagration. For example in Italy, the Socialist Party opposed the war due to internationalism, but others, even among the syndicalists supported war against Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire on the basis that the defeat of these foreign feudal and bourgeois regimes was necessary
to build socialism.
Eventually fascist movements such as the so-called Revolutioary Fascio for International Action were formed in 1914. Benito Mussolini became a supporter of intervention in the World War I and eventually would rise to power in Italy during the early 1920s.
In Germany the sociologist Johann Plenge coined the phrase “national socialism” as a declaration of war against the ideas of the French Revolution of 1789. Plenge spoke of German racial identity, discipline, law and order that would supersede notions of equality and liberty.
The fascists in both Italy and Germany appealed to the workers during the 1920s. They called for reforms such as the eight-hour day, universal suffrage, a tax on capital and the lowering of the retirement age.
Nonetheless, in practice they formed an alliance with other right-wing elements and the capitalist bosses. They outlawed other political parties and harbored extreme disdain toward left parties that opposed intervention in World War I.
Fascism took hold in several European states and Japan during the 1920s and 1930s. In Germany Hitler came to power in 1933 and in Spain, the fascist staged a coup in 1936 leading to a civil war.
In Japan Hideki Tojo became Prime Minister from 1941-1944 and was the leader of the Taisei Yokusankai, a coalition of fascist and national parties that established a totalitarian regime through a one-party state apparatus. Japan attacked British interests in China during the 1930s and would occupy China sparking a united front between the nationalists and communists during the period.
In Italy, Mussolini would call for the resurrection of the Italian colonial empire and therefore invaded Ethiopia in 1935. Thousands of Ethiopians were slaughtered when Italy used chemical weapons against the people. They would maintain control of Ethiopia until 1941.
In Germany, Japan and Italy the fascists were defeated during World War II with the armed resistance of the left, the partisans and the allied forces including the Soviet Union.
Fascist regimes took power also in other European countries of Greece, Lithuania, Poland and Yugoslavia. In Brazil the Integralists led by Pinio Slagado claimed over 200,000 members during the 1930s prior to a crackdown on their activities. In Chile, the fascists attempted a coup in 1938 resulting in the Seguro Obrero massacre.
However, in Spain and Portugal fascism would remain the dominant political force until the 1970s. Both Spain and Portugal maintained a position of neutrality during World War II, although in Spain there were “volunteers” who fought on the side of the axis powers.
In Portugal Antonio de Oliveira Salazar controlled the country as a fascist between 1932 and 1968. Portugal maintained some of the most ruthless colonial policies in Africa and was one of the first European nations to engage in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
During World War II, unlike Spain, Salazar allowed the Allies to utilize the Azores for the establishment of a naval base for Britain. This was designed to preempt a possible U.S. seizure of the islands.
However, Portugal still conducted trade with the Axis powers and would maintain colonies in Africa and Gao until the left-wing military coup against Caetano, the successor of Salazar, in 1974. Despite its authoritarian fascism, Portugal would remain one of the least developed states in Europe.
Even though the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, there were large fascist movements that arose during this period inside the country. Many of these organizations opposed the U.S. intervention in the war against Japan and Germany from the right.
Groups like America First were sympathetic to Germany. Nonetheless, these groups were given the latitude to operate freely leading up to the war.
In relationship to Japan, the internment of Japanese Americans from 1942-45 has become one of the most revealing phenomena of the 20th century. Over 110,000 people were detained in California and Utah despite the fact that there was no evidence of a plot aimed at national insurrection in support of Japan.
During the 1960s when the Civil Rights and Black Power movements were emerging, the racist state within the U.S. carried out mass surveillance, arrests, politically-motivated assassinations against Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Hampton and others. By the early 1970s some of the most dedicated and militant fighters were forced into exile, murdered or held on trumped-up charges by the prison system.
The 1960s saw the rejuvenation of the Ku Klux Klan, the White Citizens Councils and the repression of activists and movements by the FBI, the CIA, army intelligence as well as local law-enforcement agencies and white vigilante groups such as Breakthrough here in Detroit.
In 1968, when George Wallace ran for president on a third party right-wing platform, the police in the northern cities were his strongest supporters. The cops were mobilized as the frontline troops against the Black Liberation Movement and the New Left.
Many on the left at the time questioned the characterizing of repression against the Black Liberation Movement as fascism. Yet the leading forces in the movement, such as the Black Panther Party, formed a United Front Against Fascism that would encompass a broad alliance against repression.
Workers World Party would form even prior to this the Anti-Fascist Youth Committee, later known as the Youth Against War & Fascism which opposed racism and the Vietnam War. YAWF were defenders of the Black Liberation Movement and the New Left from political repression.
Fascism and institutionalized racism are still a major force today. The Tea Party, with its anti-government rhetoric and notions of lowering taxes, promotes racism and anti-immigrant bigotry. The Tea Party attacks socialism and falsely labels the Obama administration as socialist in an effort to denigrate genuine proletarian forces in the U.S.
Can fascism exist without a mass movement of the brown shirt variety with their own separate political parties and organizations? Does the existence of racist and fascist elements within the military and law-enforcement constitute a fascist movement?
In answering these questions we must look at the threats that already exist for the workers and oppressed. The notion that both the Democratic and Republican parties cannot be fascist because they are not overt in their propaganda calling for the repression of civil rights and self-determination, are misleading because the objective conditions of the masses reveal that bourgeois democracy is becoming even more of a myth within the U.S. and Western Europe.
The busting of unions, the escalation of police repression, the corporatization of the media and the gutting of social services for the working class and poor clearly represent an escalation in repression. The large-scale demonization and deportation of immigrants without any recourse is totally unjustified and violate human rights tenets.
While some question and debate whether fascism and institutionalized racism exists, the people are becoming more impoverished. The prison system is becoming more privatized and the justification for greater state repression is based on lies of threats against national security and the so-called “American way of life.”
Irrespective of the political party in power, the capitalist class is taking more of the rights of workers and the oppressed away.
Through successive Democratic and Republican administrations the prison populations continue to grow and the wars against “enemies” abroad and domestically increase demanding more of the tax dollars of the working class.
Building an Anti-Racist and Anti-Fascist United Front
The escalation of police terrorism, imperialist wars, the impoverishment of the workers and the oppressed necessitates the broadening of our alliances to fight all forms of injustice, political repression and economic exploitation. These alliances must be committed to fighting racism in all its forms.
African Americans, Latina/os, Asian Americans, Women and all oppressive groups must unite to fight the rising specter of repression and the erosion of fundamental rights. The major threat to the peace of the U.S. and the world is the capitalist class based on Wall Street and its armed apparatuses in the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies.
The fight against racism must be linked with the struggle against imperialist war and the further impoverishment of the 99 percent. The one percent has a vested interest in maintaining the lack of organization and mobilization of the workers and oppressed.
We must form new networks of struggle to respond to the calls for defense of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists. We must expose the government’s role in disrupting people’s movements in their attempts to maintain the status-quo.
Racism and fascism will not be destroyed until they are attacked at their root. The root cause is the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. Therefore, the fight against fascism and racism is ultimately the fight against the ruling class and it agents.