Everyday Antifascism in New York City

By Queens Political Education

Fascism is a petit-bourgeois political manifestation in far-right counter-revolutionary violence; it is meant to subjugate the working class and other vulnerable communities. Defining fascism is tricky because fascists make no effort to create and maintain a systematic political philosophy, but rather use violence to enforce their class politics. There is no fascist tradition in a meaningful sense, no fascist thinkers to reference, no fascist systematics to examine. Fascism is a political malignancy that comes to life when the petit-bourgeoisie loses its ability to maintain its class superiority over the working class, instead reverting to counter-revolutionary violence.

Fascists exploit alienation by scapegoating first and foremost vulnerable and historically oppressed communities, including Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ peoples, immigrants, people of color, the disabled, the poor, the homeless, and others as an avenue to maintain their class superiority. Fascists come from the working class, but they are class traitors who harm the working class on behalf of the ruling class for their own limited class benefit. The class content of fascist organizations in Europe and the US in the first half of the 20th century and in the US today is mostly made up of the lower middle class outside of the major metropolitan centers. Fascism is rooted in white supremacy and looks to demonize the diversity of the working class by exploiting racial animosity among the white working class, harnessing forms of supremacist hatred which infect white society, including eugenics, Social Darwinism, “traditional” family structures, misogyny, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia.

Fascist groups, however, grow not from leftist philosophy, but as a result of nationalist panic and imperial defeat. In such times they can become a national threat. This has always been the case. The origins of the current wave of fascism can be located in the retreat of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the partial defeat of the US in Vietnam and the decline of US dominance in the world including its misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the definition of fascism above – petit-bourgeois right-wing violence meant to suppress working class and marginalized communities of color with the aid of white supremacists – most of contemporary civil society has latent or proto-fascist tendencies. Low-level everyday fascism is like a low-level fever in all advanced capitalist societies. Even when it is not a direct threat at a national level, these fascists can act at any time as goon squads for the capitalist class by enforcing the ideology of nationalism.

Nationalism, the incubator of fascism, is accepted by a great proportion of capitalist ideologists. In the US the whole of the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party accept nationalism. Nationalism is a constant continuous threat. In fact, when it justifies imperialist violence, it will lead to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives, as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and perhaps Venezuela.

Liberal politics has a fatal weakness in its inability to confront fascism and cannot be counted on to keep the working class safe. Liberal ideology is the conceptual underpinning of capitalism, and as such, it is too debauched to confront the horrors of fascism. Like the capitalist state, liberal institutions depend on the profit motive for their viability. If racism and fascism are profitable, liberal institutions will never silence them. I.G. Farben sold canisters of Zyklon B for profit, while Lockheed Martin, a purveyor of deadly missiles, is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Liberalism’s support for the police, military imperialism, the prison industrial complex, and racist religious institutions renders it too weak to confront genocidal violence against minorities. Liberalism supports nationalism which is in turn accepted by capitalist ideologists.

New York City, with its massive population of immigrants and people of color, media attention, and political ambition is a focus for both fascism and anti-fascist struggle. The city and state political infrastructure, controlled by Democrats, is a fascist terrorist threat to immigrant communities. While NYC is a ‘sanctuary city’ in name, in practice the NYPD is in full collaboration with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). If an undocumented person is in custody in New York City, ICE is known to take them into custody and deport them. ICE also operates in the New York City courts, including family courts*. Outside of the state, the Neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn in Astoria have attempted to organize themselves in the Greek community. In the fall of 2018, a riot broke out when Gavin McInnis gave a speech at the Republican Club on the Upper East Side and a group of his Proud Boys gang attacked protestors while the police stood by as passive accomplices. In April, a group of “Polish Nationalists” rallied in downtown Manhattan to support Holocaust denialism and anti-semitism. These are only a few of countless examples of how state and non-state actors allow fascism to fester in New York City.  

Anti-fascist resistance, however, is as beautiful and multitudinous as the working class itself. The overriding goal of socialists must be to protect the marginalized communities most at risk of fascist violence. Socialists can only fight fascism by putting organized and self-conscious militant worker organizations in the forefront of their struggle. Such organizations, like militant rank and file unions, have the potential institutional power to avoid repression from the police while they are organizing resistance to fascist attacks. Such anti-fascist working class organizations must be integrated with a leadership made up of people of color and women and they must unite behind them African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ, indigenous people, and all allies who support the left. The working-class is multiracial and it is the only group with the social power to fight fascism effectively.

Groups like the New Sanctuary Coalition attempt to protect immigrants from ICE. Outlive Them NYC, a Jewish anti-fascist group, protested the Polish Nationalist rally and also provided security to a synagogue when swastikas were spray painted in Brooklyn, among other activities. As May Day approaches, comrades should follow the tips provided by MACC or by emailing wewilloutlivethem@protonmail.com if you see fascist activity in your community and want to report it safely. Never collaborate with the police. Anti-fascism takes many other forms in immigrant communities and in communities of color. Groups like Cop Watch practice resistance to police brutality, and all communities practice self defense in some form to maintain their dignity in the face of fascist’s attempts to annihilate them.  

Anti fascism is self defense of the multi-racial communities of color that are most vulnerable to fascist violence. As the largest socialist organization in New York City, the Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA) has a unique responsibility to fight the rise of far-right violence and fascism in our city. With many thousands of members across the boroughs, NYC-DSA has the numbers necessary to confront fascism across multiple neighborhoods. To do this, however, NYC-DSA must begin to think of itself anew. Much of the work NYC-DSA does is implicitly antifascist, including tenant organizing, labor organizing (fascists hate unions), mutual aid, disaster relief, and much more. The DSA attempts to be multi-racial and nonbinary (although not always with full success). Since our work is implicitly antifascist, we will naturally attract the attention and ire of fascists.

NYC-DSA must make what is implicit, explicit: by creating a citywide network of anti-fascist agents who are able to fight fascism throughout the city quickly and at different levels of entry. This network must act with a coalition of anti-fascist agents, including organizations such as Outlive Them NYC, MACC, UARF, NYC Antifa among others. Given its size, NYC-DSA should be a hub of communication and logistical support for cells of anti-fascists to confront and thwart fascists wherever they exist in our community. The endpoint of fascism is genocide. As socialists we must practice anti fascism to protect ourselves and the multi-racial communities we purport to support. NYC-DSA cannot escape fascist anger and we must welcome fascist hatred. Working with committed working class, multi-racial anti-fascist agents, NYC-DSA can help destroy fascism forever in our city.  

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*note: a recent court decision placed limits on the ability of ICE to operate inside courthouses.