By Edward P
“And there’s hope because we are going to save ourselves.” That was the message Sarah — a member of Boston Feminists for Liberation (BFL), delivered as part of a panel discussion and town hall on anti-fascism in Boston on August 15th, in the lead up to the rally to counter-protest fascists in Boston on August 18th.
Organized by a coalition of groups dedicated to anti-fascism and chaired by Boston DSA’s own Peter B, the panelists, Chip Berlet, who researches the far-right, Martin Hanson, of Black Lives Matter Boston (BLM), Sarah, Kitty Pryde from Boston DSA, and Michael Fiorentino of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) spoke to a crowd of between 60 and 70 people in the basement of the Arlington Street Church. The panelists discussed the rise of organized fascist groups in the US, why we have to disrupt their organizing, the current tasks of the anti-fascist movement, and how we win in the long run.
Who Are We Fighting?
According to panelist Michael, Trump was a trojan horse into the mainstream for fascist groups. His candidacy and subsequent presidency gave them space within the political conversation to operate openly. In Boston, the far-right has coalesced around Boston Free Speech (BFS) and Resist Marxism (RM). Both groups paint themselves as being “moderates,” but that only seems to mean they have swapped Nazi Germany iconography for memes about Pinochet, according to Kitty. Despite the way they attempt to portray themselves to outsiders and the media, they are still definitely fascists.
The panelists pointed out the links between RM and other far right groups, including Patriot Prayer who held a violent rally in Portland on August 4th. Michael pointed out members of RM were among the heavily armored fascists at that rally.
Kitty spoke about how fascist groups love to ‘disavow’ other far-right groups when these other groups are caught engaging in outright violence or using extreme rhetoric. They seem to believe it’s a magic word that dissociates them from whatever behaviour or action the media has focused on. There are still deep ties between RM, BFS, and the organizers of the Unite the Right (UTR) rally where Heather Heyer was murdered. Kitty talked about how a UTR organizer spoke at RM’s first rally in New York.
Finally, as Martin reminded us, the far-right is not so far right in the course of American politics. Groups like the Klu Klux Klan have been around for decades, always present at the edges. Fascism was, for black people, also expressed in a variety of mainstream, pro-white institutions. For Martin, the police and prison system represent another kind of fascism. “The police officer putting a finger on the trigger of their gun as they talked to me is militant,” he said.
Why Must We Oppose Them?
To figure out why we must oppose the far-right, we have to think about why they are holding these rallies. Panelist Sarah discussed how these rallies were organizing opportunities for fascist groups. The rallies allowed them to meet each other and network as well as build camaraderie and shared sense of identity.
Chip talked about how the fascist narrative feeds into more mainstream right-wing politics. Right-wing populism is a form of scapegoating, blaming some “other” for the ills of society, and fascist rhetoric gives mainstream right-wingers targets for their scapegoating.
Michael pointed out that all of us turning out last August put a huge break on their movement’s momentum. After tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Boston, a whole swath of Islamophobic rallies were cancelled around the country. RM’s demonstrations have been consistently smaller, but, as he put it, it’s better to facedown 12 to 20 fascists than a couple hundred heavily armed ones like we saw in Portland.
Sarah also said that we can’t just ignore them. Fascist aren’t just fascists when they’re in the streets. They’re the people who go home and abuse women. They’re they people who gay bash. So if we can’t stand up to them now when they’re most obvious, where else can we stand up to them?
What Can We Do Right Now?
All of the panelists emphasized that it’s important to turn out on Saturday. Sarah mentioned telling all your neighbors and bringing 10 other friends with you. Chip talked about building the broadest possible coalition to the oppose fascists. We shouldn’t limit it just to people whose politics we agree absolutely with. In terms of talking to people, Chip spoke about asking people questions and really just letting them talk. Lots of people are distressed about the rise of overt fascism, but organizers need to start by building a connection to someone else before asking them to turn out. Martin spoke on the necessity of using different tactics to oppose fascists and said we should be ready to fight them in any way we can.
In terms of logistics for the weekend, Peter — the event’s chair — talked about the the large number of marshals and medics who have committed to help keep the counter-protest as secure as they can. In response to an audience question, he talked about showing up and leaving with a buddy because fascists have previously ambushed people as they go to and from counter-protests. He also said that if you didn’t have someone to go with, you could reach out to any of the sponsoring organizations, and they would help find someone to go with you.
How Do We Win?
Martin talked about how we could not defeat fascism without building an entirely new world. Fascism is ingrained in institutions like the police and prison system and until they are destroyed, we will never be entirely free from its threat. Martin talked about building new systems of solidarity and economic justice as a path to a new society and emphasized — in response to an audience question — that we need to educate ourselves about economics and how the world really works in order to talk about new systems with people and demonstrate how nonsensical fascist ideology is.
Sarah similarly talked about how a world without fascists is a world without police, prisons, or rape and we have to have hope it is possible. She had that hope because, as she put it, “we are going to save ourselves.” She spoke about taking anti-fascism out of just organizer spaces like the one we were in and getting community members involved. It is possible, she said, because we saw thousands of people turn up last August, to the Fight Supremacy counter protest, to say, “Fuck No.”
Come out on Saturday
Opposing fascism is part of our duty as people dedicated to acting in solidarity with the oppressed of the world, wherever they are. If you are able, please come out this Saturday to remember the life of Heather Heyer and tell the Boston Fascists, “Fuck No” again.