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Vol. 81/No. 7      February 20, 2017

(commentary, special feature)

Anarchist ‘black bloc’ politics pose threat to
working class

Claiming to be fighting fascism, anarchist groups in the U.S. have carried out numerous actions in recent weeks that pose a deadly danger to the working class — from sucker punching rightist Richard Spencer as he was speaking to a reporter, to assaulting workers who express support for President Donald Trump, to disrupting and shutting down campus speeches by individuals they disagree with.

These thuggish “black bloc” actions flow from the petty-bourgeois view that a minority of adventurers can substitute themselves for mass actions and change society. But the result is their actions close down political space, hand the government and its police agencies a golden opportunity to clamp down on political freedoms, and become a hotbed for provocateurs.

That’s the opposite of what the Socialist Workers Party stands and fights for: mobilizing the working class to organize politically independent of the capitalist rulers and their parties, joining today’s labor and political struggles seeking to build a revolutionary party capable of overthrowing capitalist rule and its dog-eat-dog social relations.

Rich articles about the destructive effects of the anarchists can be found in the works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Farrell Dobbs.

One of the most striking things about the anarchists’ actions — such as the riot they organized in Berkeley, California, (see article below) — is that they reduce workers to bystanders, erasing any possibility of mass protest.

Writing in The Nation Jan. 22, Natasha Lennard gives a graphic description glorying in the black bloc she joined in Washington Jan. 20 during Trump’s inauguration. “Disrupt J20 aimed to directly impede, delay and confront the inaugural proceedings,” she writes. “This message was delivered with human blockades, smashed corporate windows, trash-can fires, a burning limousine, ‘Make America Great Again’ caps reduced to ashes, and a blow for Richard Spencer.”

Spencer is a white supremacist and president of the National Policy Institute. He was speaking to a reporter on the street when a black-clad assailant sucker punched him in the face and ran away. A video of the blow went viral on the internet, accompanied by tweets such as, “We all have to stay strong and survive so that we too can have the chance to punch Richard Spencer in the face.”

‘A righteous mob’
That video shows “anti-fascist bloc tactics par excellence — pure kinetic beauty,” Lennard declares. She waxes lyrical about bottle rockets flying, bricks hurled through bank windows, clashes with cops and “mild altercations with rowdy Trump supporters.” She says, “If that sounds to you like a precondition for mob violence you’re right. But this is only a problem if you think there are no righteous mobs.”

Anarchist black blocs have targeted speaking engagements of Milo Yiannopoulos, an editor for Breitbart News, at many campuses. At the University of Washington in Seattle, they forced their way to the front of a Jan. 20 protest, throwing bricks and paint to try to stop people from attending his talk. A member of the anarchist Industrial Workers of the World was shot and wounded in the confrontation. A man who had come to hear Yiannopoulos later turned himself in to the cops, claiming he fired in self-defense.

Similar groups tried to stop an event organized by the College Republicans at New York University Feb. 2 for comedian Gavin McInnes, who calls himself a “Western chauvinist.” McInnes was pepper sprayed on the way in.

In all these incidents, targets have included individuals wearing pro-Trump hats or signs. The anarchists join the liberals in slandering workers who voted for Trump, fed up with the grinding depression conditions that world capitalism is producing, those Hillary Clinton called “deplorables.”

Neither Trump nor the workers who voted for him are part of a fascist movement. (See article on front page.) But as the class struggle deepens and the danger of fascism is posed, the stakes for working people in rejecting anarchism and its methods will only grow.

An anti-working-class course
Attempting through violent attacks to silence those you disagree with from expressing their views is a method that can and will be used against the workers’ movement. Groups that carry out such attacks are fertile ground for provocateurs, and to breed actual fascists. And their provocations allow rightists such as Spencer and Yiannopoulos to appear to stand on the moral high ground as defenders of freedom of speech.

“If you start by attempting to hastily gather together a vanguard force and crush fascism in the egg, you are playing into the hands of the fascists,” said Socialist Workers Party leader Farrell Dobbs in a 1975 discussion titled Counter-Mobilization: A Strategy to Fight Racist and Fascist Attacks, published by Pathfinder Press. “You are losing ground in the mobilization of the real class that can do away with fascism.”

The workers movement has a long history of experience with anarchist currents, going back to the political battles of communist leaders Karl Marx and Frederick Engels against Joseph-Pierre Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin in the 1800s. (See Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy and an 1873 article “The Bakuninists at Work” by Engels.) The anarchists destroyed the International Workingmen’s Association led by Marx. They bore much of the responsibility for the disastrous defeat of the working class in the Spanish Revolution of the 1930s. Those and many other examples are the political continuity of today’s black blocs.

The anarchist perspective is marked by opposition to political action by the working class. They favor the action of small groups to the mobilization, education and organization of the working class to take power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers and begin to reorganize society in the interests of the toiling majority — as both the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the 1959 Cuban Revolution showed was possible.

Other recommended reading on anarchism and its deadly record in the working class includes Dobbs’ two-volume series Revolutionary Continuity: Marxist Leadership in the U.S. and The Spanish Revolution (1931-39) by Leon Trotsky.

Related articles:
Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class
Berkeley: Anarchists shut down speaker, attack workers
Fascism rises when capital must crush working class
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