– George T. Summers
According to the Fall 2017 issue of the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association newsletter Pax Centurion, the members of the Resist Marxism Rally, who have since rebranded as Super Happy Fun America and staged the Straight Pride Rally on Sept 1, are “an eclectic band of 40 or 50 kooks supporting a cornucopia of causes…” but “there were no Nazis,” (emphasis original) amongst them. According to this article the real trouble makers were the antifascist protesters who were using the counter demonstration as pretext for “an anti-police riot” (emphasis, again, original). The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have taken much the same line in response to anti-fascist demonstrators at the Straight Pride Rally. In recent statements to the press, both insinuated that anti-fascists took the opportunity to provoke and assault the police present at the event, including those imported from Somerville, just out of pure unmotivated antipathy for members of law enforcement. In response to allegations made by counter protesters that the police presence fostered the fascist movement, this sentiment is best encapsulated by the most popular chant that day Walsh and “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.” In response, Somerville mayor Joseph Curtatone tweeted that Somerville police involvement was minimal, and reacted only as appropriate. Walsh made a similar statement series of tweets dismissing the idea that in a progressive state such as Massachusetts, police could serve the interests of far right groups, and any connection between police and fascism is mere rhetoric from the counter-protestors.
There’s more to this idea than Walsh gives credit for – to say that there is no relationship between agencies that enforce the law and fascism is to gloss over quite a lot of the history of fascism. To pick just a few examples, the German Freikorps that went on to form most of the muscle for Hitler’s Nazi party were often formally comissioned by the German Chancellor Friedrich Ebert as a means to enforce law and restore public order through such dirty work as assassinating Rosa Luxemburg. Mussolini’s Fasces began by being deputized by local governments to put down “unlawful” strikes in the Po River Valley. The founder of the Spanish Falange movement José Antonio Primo de Rivera was quite literally born from the repressive regime of his father General Miguel Primo de Rivera, the dictator duly appointed in 1923 by the monarchy to “restore law” after several coup attempts. To ignore the possibility of fascist movements growing out of official law enforcement agencies is to be ignorant of history, especially when they are given tacit approval by governments that cannot otherwise handle challenges to the social order.
That last provision is why the counter protesters’ strongest argument that the actions of the police under the Walsh administration promotes fascism. Boston has recently been faced with a series of daunting problems: ridership on the MBTA is down resulting in higher public transit deficits for the city, and the opioid crisis has led to many people struggling with addiction to be without a home on the streets of Boston. These problems will continue if the only solution the city administration can find is an old-fashioned police crackdown. Fare losses on the T are combated by aggressively patrolling for fare jumpers. The police presence fixes the T’s woes in the same way the Nazi party addressed the transit problems in Germany, which contrary to popular belief, did not run on time under the watch of their stormtroopers, delays of up to half an hour were all but expected even on the best of days, but rather limited complaints about the trains running late with a threat of a sock on the jaw. The presence of unhoused addicts was addressed by Operation Clean Sweep, a callous string of brutal raids on homeless encampments near methadone clinics. The repression of counter protesters at Saturday’s rally is just the same tactic deployed fruitlessly once more. The pepper spray and the heavy handed arrests are a naked display of force that wouldn’t be out of place under fascist governments and would be just about as effective.
In The Anatomy of Fascism historian Robert Paxton examined who the members of historical fascist parties actually were. While some indeed were disaffected soldiers, and others whose job it was to project state power, which the Boston Police Department has been proving has always been their function, for each one of these the fascists recruited “his little brother too.” These “little brothers” are those who buy into the myths that soldiers and police are fighting the noble fight against the forces of anarchy and acting as righteous protectors of the state, and are upset that they haven’t had their turn to do the same. These little brothers then go out looking for enemies of the state to fight, whether they are there or not, and gleefully commit political violence against these invented enemies. A speaker at the Straight Pride Rally made explicit that they aim to divide the righteous straights and the dangerous and immoral gays. This is why they antagonize those they understand to be Marxists, those of other races and sexual and gender identities, and why they cheered when the police deployed their riot batons. Two of the three vehicles that served as floats in the parade sported bumper stickers indicating they had family members in either law enforcement or the military, and have certainly grown up under the intense security culture of the post 9/11 world. The police response to the Straight Pride counter protest is to them a comfortingly familiar sight – it is what they have grown up seeing, Big Brother in his fleets of police motorcycles and squads of black clad SWAT Teams ready to wade into the fray, and the organizers of the Straight Pride Parade felt there hadn’t been enough of it lately, so they went out and made it happen. The police helicopters and pepper spray are used by the Boston and affiliated police forces to remind you that Big Brother is watching you, and to make sure you stay in line, but what they don’t see is that Little Brother is watching them all the while and learning quite a lot.