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In the wake of the far-right violence in Charlottesville, which resulted in the tragic murder of young activist Heather Heyer, tens of thousands of people across the United States have joined hands to oppose the “alt-right” reactionaries, fascists, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists (see our article here for more details about the events of that weekend). In Boston, for example, just one week after the Charlottesville events, forty-thousand people came together in solidarity to shut down and condemn the far-right demonstration of no more than a hundred people, completely humiliating the reactionaries who hid in an isolated gazebo and relied on the police to “protect them” from the counter-protesters.

The radicalization of large layers of the population due to these events, with many becoming sympathetic to the cause of anti-fascism and revolutionary politics, has not been isolated to the United States. In Montreal, comrades of the Canadian section of the IMT, Socialist Fightback, organized a public discussion titled “What is Fascism and How to Fight it” on August 30th, 2017 at McGill University. Despite the last-minute organizing of the event, over 40 people attended the event, and the video of the livestream has, as of today, over 1,900 views.

This mood could be observed in the dozens of new faces attending the event and was reflected in the high political level of the discussion. For example, several attendees noted the farcical nature of the far-right’s claim to stand for “freedom of speech”, which in reality is nothing more than a defense of their ability to publicly justify and promote violence against non-white people and left-wing activists. In fact this is a sign of weakness, demonstrating that they do not feel confident enough to openly present the actual ideas that they base themselves on.

Joel Bergman, of the Fightback editorial board (marxist.ca), explained the historical origins of fascism. Using primarily Germany in the 1920-30s as an example, he explained that due to the crisis of capitalism, society becomes polarized, to the left and to the right. The working class, due to its position in society, moves towards socialist revolution as a solution to its problems. At a certain point, the ruling class realizes that the continued existence of an organized working class is incompatible with capitalist rule. While they normally deal with working class uprising with parliamentary means or the police or the military, these methods are unable to completely destroy the organizations of the working class. Their solution to this problems comes from the other classes in society who are also affected by the crisis and who do not always move to the left. Particularly, Bergman said that the petty bourgeoisie, or the middle layers in society, which make up an intermediate position between the workers and the big capitalists, equally have their lives destroyed by the economic crisis. These layers, if given a strong lead from the working class will follow the workers in their fight to lead a way out of the crisis. However, if the working class fails to do this, the petty bourgeoisie can become desperate and enraged and turn sharply to the right, into the arms of the fascists. These layers were a large section of German society at the time and were used by the capitalists as a battering ram against the organizations of the working class.

The is a major difference today is that the working class has grown immensely and the petty bourgeoisie has shrunk. A lot of the layers that the fascists would normally rely on have become bastions of left wing politics. Students, teachers, civil servants, etc, all of whom provided a base for the fascists in the past, have become more and more proletarianized and tend to the left. This means that while the fascists are a threat today and we need to confront them and shut them down, they are nowhere near a mass force, due to the change in the balance of class forces which has shifted more and more in our favour.

During the discussion, an important question was raised about how we can unite the working class to oppose the far-right and capitalism when the working class is so diverse, infected with sexism, racism and many other forms of prejudice. The presenter addressed this by underlining that Marxists are steadfast fighters against all forms of oppression. He emphasized that for a Marxist, the best and most effective way to fight against oppression is through class unity. Class unity, far from ignoring the fight against oppression, is actually predicated on fighting tooth and nail against oppression in the workers movement. These divisions are openly promoted and sowed by the ruling class in order to divide the workers to better rule over us. In uniting against the common enemy, we cut the feet out from under those who attempt to sow divisions. This is also the only way that we can put an end to the barbarism of capitalism and the reactionary political tendencies that inevitably come with it.

Another important element that Bergman highlighted was the central role that organized labour needed to play in organizing against the fascists and the far right. The trade unions, representing millions of workers, have immense resources and organizational power and therefore must play the central role in this struggle. Bergman insisted that there must be a united front of all workers organizations against this threat. Organized labour can play the key role in organizing mass rallies and demonstrations in opposition to the alt-right. He noted the example of the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union Local 10, which calls for “independent working class action to stop the fascists”. Recently in San Francisco, it organized anti-fascist counter protests in opposition to a far-right demonstration, outnumbering the reactionaries and causing the demonstration to be cancelled because the fascists were “concerned for their safety”. The actions and perspectives of the ILWU Local 10 are prime examples that the rest of the labor movement should follow in order to stop the forces of the far-right in their tracks.

The far-right fears serious opposition and if confronted with a mass show of force, tends to run away with their tails between their legs. The working class is the vast majority of the society, and if organized and given a bold political leadership, could easily send the far right back to their virtual caves!

But in order to make this a reality, we must fight for these ideas in the movement. This is what we aim to do as Socialist Fightback. We must organize ourselves and work to unite the working class to fight against fascism, the far right, and the capitalist system itself, which breeds all of these societal ills. If you want to fight for the same thing, join us and help us fight for these ideas!

We also held the same event, a day later in french with close to 70 people participating. You can read a report and watch the video recording of this event here.