Comrades in the North Star caucus have put forward a resolution “Uniting Against the Ultra-Right” that calls for building a broad front that is both multi-racial and cross-class. The resolution correctly identifies the existential threat that the “ultra-right” represents to the working class, oppressed people, and the habitability of the planet itself. But is forming a broad front aimed at a majority against Trump and his ilk the best way to fight the right?
Marxists say no. We understand that to fight fascism, we have to not only defeat them in the short-term, but undermine the roots of the issue as well. White supremacy is an old staple of US society, but contemporary fascism has been exacerbated by the neoliberalism that the Democrats have championed for decades. They have systematically hollowed out civil society, class institutions, and the ability to provide a dignified life for oneself and one’s family. Socialists understood that when Bernie Sanders lost the primary in 2016, the alternative was a return to the conditions that created Trump in the first place. A broad front, in North Star’s view, would include everyone from democratic socialists and progressive liberals to the Biden administration, “Lincoln Project” Republicans, and the Bush family and their neo-conservative hangers-on that orchestrated and executed the Iraq War.
Why is this a problem? Because the creation of a political coalition means the suspension of our criticism and independent point of view in key moments. Take for example the infamous votes on the rail strike. In their explanation of their vote, DSA members in Congress, with the notable exception of Rashida Tlaib, played into the Democrat Big Lie that it was 42 Republican Senators, rather than 79 Senators of both parties representing the bosses, who imposed the contract. An independent socialist strategy would have stood together on the right side of the class line and, for example, held a press-conference to indict both capitalist parties for their authoritarian and oligarchic stand against workers. Mass agitation against the plutocrats rather than adaptation to one wing of them would have planted a flag in which to rally the most advanced and militant sections of the class.
Standing in opposition to the capitalist class and their political representatives as a whole doesn’t mean giving up the fight against the right. Socialists should be the “vanguard fighters for democracy” and stand for the oppressed no matter what class they belong to. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t participate in ballot measure campaigns to legalize abortion just because Democrats are working on them too.
Socialists are not merely “super-liberals,” we have qualitatively different approaches to freedom and democracy than even the most militant liberal. In fact, if we are to be the “vanguard fighters for democracy,” socialists need to grow to become hegemonic in the fight for issues like abortion rights. As more working people come to realize the Supreme Court itself institutionally empowers reaction, socialists are understood as the most consistent fighters for democracy if we consistently put forward our critique of the political system as a whole.
On January 6th 2020, MAGA fascists stormed the Capitol in a (rather disorganized) attempt to threaten Mike Pence into overturning the election results. In no way does it violate the principle of class independence to stand against reactionary coup attempts, even when they are aimed against a plutocratic constitutional regime. The Bolsheviks provide a good example. Throughout 1917, they remained in opposition to the bourgeois-socialist coalition government of Alexander Kerensky. They consistently called for the sacking of the bourgeois ministers and for an all-socialist coalition government, and were the strongest advocates of convening the constituent assembly as the provisional government kicked the can down the road, became increasingly authoritarian, and continued Russia’s involvement in the pointless slaughter of World War I.
By September 1917, it was clear that the Kerensky regime was not only going to remain in the war with the excuse of keeping the tsar’s commitment to his allies, but it had in fact even gone on the offensive. Bolshevik leaders who rallied against the war like Trotsky had been imprisoned and Lenin was a wanted man, hiding out in the Finnish wilderness where he penned State and Revolution.
When the head of the Russian military, general Lavr Kornilov came to Petrograd and seemingly threatened to take power, Bolsheviks in the Petrograd soviet became the hegemonic force in preventing a right wing coup. They were able to do this without lending an ounce of political support to the pro-war capitalist coalition government of Kerensky, and in doing so raised their profile to the millions of workers and peasants whose support was evaporating from the February regime.
In fighting the right today, democratic socialists must be consistent champions of democracy, which means not liquidating our criticism of the political order itself and the political representatives of the capitalist class in both the Republican and Democratic parties. We must remember it is a Democratic supermajority on the Atlanta city council representing the interests of developers and police (the social base of fascism!) to construct Cop City against the will of the people of Atlanta. Failing to build an independent working-class force able to stand against the capitalist class as a whole threatens to entrench the power of the ultra-right even more. In the fight against the right, the North Star viewpoint assigns the role of generals to the capitalist class and enlists socialists as loyal privates. The Marxist strategy instead aims to organize the working class as its own army—able to wage its own fight against reaction and under its own leadership and discipline—even when coordinating against one of the armies of the capitalist class that represents the more immediate threat. I urge comrades to vote against North Star’s “Uniting Against the Ultra-Right” resolution and pursue a strategy of consistent fighting for democracy.