Interview, Matthew N. Lyon's Blog

Broken windows fascism

By Three Way Fight
January 6th, 2020

Photo: By WiseWoman. CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

1. When Donald Trump was first running for president in 2015-16, a lot of alt-rightists supported him not because they thought he could win, but because they hoped he would help destroy the Republican Party. He hasn’t quite done that, but he has created a serious crisis within the party, which is now deeply divided between those who accept and those who reject the legitimacy of the existing electoral system. A broken GOP might sound like cause for celebration, but it’s likely to benefit the far right most of all. Today’s physical assault on the houses of Congress was the militant edge of a much larger movement, and while it will alienate or frighten some sympathizers it will galvanize and embolden others.

2. In broader terms, Trump’s insistent denial of the November election results has spurred a massive political shift within the U.S. right, as millions of people have moved—at least temporarily—from system-loyalty into system-opposition, as symbolized by Proud Boys stomping on a Thin Blue Line flag. We should expect this oppositional right to remain active and violent long after the current fight over the presidency has died down, as Natasha Lennard argued yesterday. And as Robert Evans documents, the oppositional right is a meeting place where different rightist currents and ideologies—such as neonazism and QAnon—converge and interact. It remains to be seen how unified or well organized the oppositional right will be, what kind of strategies and tactics they will use, and whether or not Trump himself will continue to play an active role.

3. The attack on the U.S. Capitol is, as many have described it, an attempted coup. It dramatizes Donald Trump’s authoritarianism, demagoguery, and repudiation of the electoral system that put him in the White House, but it also highlights one of the key limitations that separated the Trump administration from fascism. Fascism requires an independent mass organization in order to carry out its attack on the established political order. Trump has never tried to build such an organization. He has skillfully used social media and rallies to mobilize supporters, but organizationally he has relied on existing institutions, above all the Republican Party, which is part of why his administration was a coalition between America Firsters and conventional conservatives of various kinds. Now that coalition is falling apart. And Trump’s control over the federal security apparatus also proved to be quite limited. He could mobilize Homeland Security agents and U.S. Marshals to crack down on Black Lives Matter protesters last summer, but he failed to deploy any federal agents to help him overturn the results of the 2020 election. Today’s mob of Trump supporters never had a chance of seizing power, but they did bring Congress to a complete standstill for hours. With better organization and leadership, the movement they represent could quickly turn into something far more dangerous.

4. A question for the coming months and years is: to what extent will the state repressive apparatus be used to crack down on the oppositional right? Certainly, cops aren’t likely to go after MAGA activists and Proud Boys the way they go after Black Lives Matter and antifa, but there’s a long history of federal security forces targeting far rightists, especially through covert operations. Joe Biden likes to talk about unity, but it’s not hard to imagine his administration reviving and expanding FBI and Homeland Security capabilities for tracking white supremacists and other far rightists. It’s also not hard to imagine some conventional conservatives actively supporting this effort. Let’s remember that the federal government’s most serious and systematic effort to crack down on oppositional rightists in the past 40 years—from The Order to the Lyndon LaRouche network—took place under Ronald Reagan. And let’s remember, too, that in the hands of the capitalist state, antifascism can be a powerful rationale for building the repressive apparatus—which ends up getting used mainly against oppressed and exploited groups. Even when the cops and the Klan don’t go hand in hand, neither one is our friend.

5. Instead of looking to the state to bring things under control, there’s an urgent need for broad-based militant action on two fronts: to combat both the openly supremacist forces of the oppositional right and the less blatant but still deadly systems of established privilege and power. The past four years have been nightmarish in lots of ways, but they’ve also been a time of dynamic liberatory activism on a large scale. There are a lot of powerful examples of militant, creative organizing we can look to for lessons and inspiration.

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