The Hardest Thing

S. Artesian

An audio version of this article is available on SoundCloud

The April 15 “Free Speech Rally” planned by various fascist groups for Berkeley, California was both bait and trap.  Black bloc and “antifa” swallowed the former and were swallowed in turn by the latter.

This isn’t about courage or commitment or dedication. Nobody doubts the courage and dedication of the Black bloc or the antifascist fighters.

This isn’t about whether or not Black bloc is immature, irresponsible, juvenile, disruptive, and or a giant pain in the ass.

Least of all is this about the use of violence.

This is about the fact that the events in Berkeley amounted to a serious defeat for “antifa” and a serious victory for the nazis.

Face-to-face combat with nazis is not like confronting Trump Republicans outside or inside a rally. It’s not like breaking Starbucks’ windows, or setting a dumpster on fire.  It’s not like throwing rocks at cops, or tipping over a police car.  Hell, all those things are on the menu at every college spring-break party town.

Combat with nazis is combat with night riders, death squads, terrorists.  Success when engaging these groups requires organization, discipline, expertise in small unit maneuver, and the ability to apply overwhelming force at a precise location at the precise time.  It requires mass mobilization to protect, and reinforce the small unit maneuvering.

Anti-fascism is not, by itself, close to enough.  It does not automatically bequeath organization, discipline, expertise upon its members and supporters.  It certainly doesn’t automatically ensure overwhelming force or mass mobilization.  When overwhelming force and mass-mobilization are not present, then the organization, discipline, and expertise of the anti-fascists must find a way to avoid the conflict.  If conflict is unavoidable, then the task is to organize a  retreat, to disengage from the conflict.

Easier said than done?  By a mile…believe me.  By ten miles.  Most difficult task in a conflict is executing an orderly disengagement from a superior force.   It has to be done.  It can be done.  Find a way.

More than that– it’s about class; it’s about preparing, mobilizing, facilitating a proletarian class response to the maneuvers, physical and ideological, of the nazis.  So…when Richard Spencer or some other would-be Stürmer advertises that he is going  to give his canned speech about the “glory,” the “beauty” of what the “white man has created in America,” we preempt  the point:  what has been created in America has been created through the extermination of the indigenous people, through the relentless exploitation of labor– black labor as slaves, as sharecroppers, as industrial workers; brown labor as agricultural workers; immigrant workers from Italy, from Central and Eastern Europe and now from Mexico and Central America; Asian workers before, during, and after the construction of the transcontinental railroad, and always through the ongoing exploitation of women who are compensated at about 80 percent of that of men for equal work, and are not compensated at all for the labor of bearing and raising children.

When the nazis show up to speak lovingly of the honest farmers, the small-town virtues of rural America, we will have preempted the point,  detailing how the devastation of rural America was the result of the “get big or get out” farm policies initiated by Nixon and Earl Butz, and the resulting collapse of commodity prices and rural supports brought about by the policies of  that most holy father of these bastards… Ronald Reagan. And……

…and that might be all we do.  We might only do things beforehand.  At the actual time and place we might do nothing.  It depends.  On what?  First it depends on the quality of our reconnaissance.

We, or one,  gather(s) information.  We, or one, dress(es) like everybody else on the street.  We all wear sunglasses, like everybody else.  We, or one, cut(s) our hair like everybody else.  We don’t send the same person, the same people to do this each time, or even successive times.  We or another one observe(s) the nazis.  We remember.  We call that salute.  Size, Activity, Location, Unit, Time, Equipment.  How many?  What are they doing?  Where are they (and routes in,out)? Are there any recognizable groups?  How long have they been there, estimates as to how much longer they will be in that location? What are they carrying?

But all of that is tactical and is meaningless without strategy, program, and most importantly the class itself to execute the tactics, decide the strategy, fashion the program.  The social conditions spawning these nazis are the same that have spawned other nazis.  The conditions are capital’s need for a counterrevolution.  That need is fundamental to capitalism and can’t be preempted.  It can only be extinguished by the workers’ revolution.  And that’s the hardest thing.