Anti-Repression, Anti-Fascist Strategizing Suggestions

With the rise of the Golden Dawn fascist group in Greece, and their attempts to build a base here in the U.S. (link) , anti-fascist strategies are becoming more and more crucial.
Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if the police continue to “out- source” political repression to private groups (fascists, gangs, white supremacist populists, private security forces, etc.) as budget crises deepen.
This weekend, after anti-colonial marchers were arrested,  San Francisco papers  published their photos  and  someone put up posters calling for violence against Bay Area anarchists.  All of this could be part of a trend in this direction, and this blog post is an attempt to prompt a discussion about how to deal with these forms of repression and violence.
I’m not suggesting the posters themselves are a secret plot by the state, and I am not suggesting that they are produced by fascists or by gangs.  It seems they represent some sort of political beef emerging out of Occupy Oakland that is related to racial and class divisions within Oakland and within Occupy Oakland.  I am not there, and I don’t know the context, so I won’t hazard a guess. If anyone wants to clarify in the comments below what is really going on, I welcome any corrections.
 I do know that the papers publishing photos of arrested activists opens up the possibility of vigilante attacks from various political tendencies, or private repression in the form of people being fired from jobs, blacklisted, tracked by private security agencies, etc.   So we need to think about how to deal with this from a variety of angles.  How can we get to the point where we are deeply connected with our neighbors, our coworkers, etc. where we support each other on a daily basis, so they will support us in situations like this?    I do think that we are making progress toward this goal in Seattle, and the Who You Callin’ Illegal group emerging to support our comrade Dede against deportation is a good example. But we still have a long way to go.  I also know I am not saying anything new here – most radicals want to build communities that are this strong; it is simply a question of how to do it.
When I was in the Philippines recently,  I spoke with activists who face much more severe repression than we face here – from the state, from private security forces, and from vigilantes and gangs that serve corporate interests.  They rely on fellow workers, fellow poor people, and fellow peasants to back them up.  They are part of the communities they are organizing in, they are not separate- so people understand an attack on them to be an attack on the whole community. This is a result of decades of patient organizing where they have earned people’s respect and trust.
Recently, some revolutionaries have made criticisms of slow patient base-building work (what’s often called “community organizing” or “labor organizing”), pointing out that political developments might happen much faster in this time of crisis, and revolutionaries need to be flexible enough to put specific organizing work  on hold temporarily in order to intervene in mass ruptures and upsurges like Occupy, ruptures which are impossible to predict ahead of time, no matter how good our theories are.  I agree with this.  However, if you aren’t doing any community building and day-to-day organizing, when you do intervene in a rupture, it’s easier for the state to isolate and crush you once that rupture subsides.
I think this debate between ruptures and base building is largely a function of our existing radical circles being so small that we don’t have time to do both.  As we grow, this will become less of an issue – it is also a good argument to prioritize growing.   I also want to highlight that this is not an anarchist vs. Marxist issue.  At least in Seattle,  both anarchists and Marixsts do community base buidling, and both intervened aggressively in the Decolonize/ Occupy movement, alongside lots of people who don’t identify with either philosophy.
In my view, our goal should be to  build mass-based communities, networks, and organizations that can intervene together in ruptures, go through the experience together, and grow.  Also, we should get to the point where we can consolidate mass communities, networks, and organizations out of ruptures – so that ruptures create communities that are not isolated and cliquish, that are open to the rest of the working class and oppressed people.  Again, I know most radicals want to do something like this – only a handful of radicals are actually against being social.  The question is how to do it better.
As we think about that,  I’d also like to share some resources that might help us strategize about how to deal with privatized repression and rising vigilante threats.  Not only is this crucial for building a revolution, but it may be necessary to make sure we can stay alive  long enough to see the revolution.
1) on the privatization of repression, check out Barack, Badiou, and Bilal Al Hasan by Don Hamerquist. This article argues that the US is increasingly governing via gangs, vigilantes, and private mercenaries in the Middle East, developing forms of counter-insurgency that could spread to other zones of conflict around the world.  While I don’t agree with all his points in this article,  the core point relevant for this discussion is Don’s necessary focus on how state forms are changing in the current moment.
  As anti-authoritarians, we tend to focus on the state apparatus as the biggest oppressor, partly to compensate for the statism of past communist movements.  We do need to oppose the state.  However, we need to recognize that state forms change over time, prompted by contradictions within the capitalist economy and clashes of class forces, and that the ruling class governs through a whole other set of apparatuses outside of their formal state  institutions.  As states become “hollowed out”, they might increasingly rely on private forms of repression.  We need to oppose hierarchy and repression everywhere, not just in the state apparatus.
2) On that note, check out the website of John Robb, one of the ruling class’s most intelligent counter-insurgency experts.  He advocates privatization of repression because he thinks the US military and police are unable to deal with “open source”, decentralized revolutionary movements that can outthink and outmaneuver slow state bureaucracies.
I’d highly recommend reading his book Brave New War which summarizes the most cutting edge theories of guerilla warfare from movements around the world and then makes a case to the US rulers for how they can defeat these through new forms of privatized repression that mirror them.
In other words, he acknowledges that decentralized movements can outpace, outsmart, and outmaneuver clunky and slow state bureaucracies, so he is trying to convince the capitalists to organize their counter insurgency efforts in similarly decentralized forms – guerilla cells for the global capitalists.
Robb argues that movements like Occupy represent “nonviolent”  guerilla movements and open source protests.
Sometimes it’s unclear whether he’s cheering on these protests or calling for open source warfare against them in order to defeat them. In either case, this is some bizarre and brilliant ruling class strategizing that we need to pay attention to so we don’t get caught off guard by followers of Robb who want to co-opt and/or kill us.
3)  Privatization of repression has already started to happen in parts of the  US through the police dividing and conquering gangs against each other – because they can only kill a limited number of Black people without prompting uprisings, they rely on gangs to do the rest of their work for them.   The police sometimes operate as the largest gang in the city, and they sometimes position themselves as a force to destabilize any peace efforts between gangs, in order to keep Black neighborhoods divided and conquered.
 For example, when the Bloods and Crips tried to form an alliance in 1992 against the LA police, the police allegedly confiscated a Crip O.G.’s car and did a drive by out of his car in a Blood neighborhood to re-start the war.  This sort of divide and conquer strategy, coupled with deindustrializing inner cities and the rapid expansion of public and private prisons, is partially how the state neutralized the Black Power movement over the past 40 years.  This is documented in the movie “Bastards of the Party” by Athens Park Blood O.G. Cle “Bone” Sloan
4)   I am not a Trotskyist and disagree with Trotsky on many things, but I happen to think that some of his strategic thinking on how to oppose Nazism in the 30s is highly relevant to the situation in Greece today and possibly in the US in the future.    Here is a summary of his work.
I haven’t read his original book yet, I just ordered a copy of it, so I’m just going off this piece because it is free online.  But based on what I read here, if anarchists in Greece today were to apply his strategy, they would invite Syriza and the socialists to form a united front coalition against Golden Dawn, and to confront them directly in the streets, instead of through parliamentary maneuvers.  The socialists are running for office through Syriza, thinking that the state apparatus will keep them safe, but it won’t – the police often side with the fascists.  If the fascists grow, they will kill immigrants, anarchists, socialists, union members, LGBTQ people, an anyone else in their way. Perhaps the anarchists and anti-state communsits could try to convince the socialists that they need to think outside of the state in order to stay safe.
 Together, Syriza and the anarchists might have the physical force necessary to stop the fascists, but alone they are weaker.    If the anarchists try to go it alone without Syriza’s support they could all be murdered by the fascists and the cops.  Trotsky would probably say that only together can they prevent the rise of fascism, but it needs to be an alliance on radical terms, not something that relies on petitioning the state for protection from the fascists.
My only caveat with this is that a lot of Trotskyists seem to push this toward a Popular front – telling the anarchists they need to tone down their message in order to reach out to working people who still support reformist groups, electoral politics, etc.  This is reminiscent of the Communist Party’s Popular Front, where they said fascism is the bigger enemy than imperialism, and revolutionaries should stop being militant in order to unite with the liberals (Democrats, etc.) against the Nazis.  The Communist Party even red-baited radicals who lead strikes during World War II .  We need to oppose this Popular Front logic, because it led to opportunistic outcomes, like subordinating the Black liberation struggle in the US , telling Black people to wait to rise up against US white supremacy in order to secure American national unity in World War II vs. the Nazis.  We need to argue firmly against anyone who wants to repeat this today.
Instead, what Trotsky is advocating is a united front – each group maintains its politics, the radicals don’t subordinate or hide ours, we simply enter into a tactical alliance of mutual protection that operates at the street level, not the electoral level. The goal would be to mobilize all workers and oppressed people to defend each other, even if they have reformist politics. Again, this is similar to what we are trying to do now with the anti-deportation organizing in Seattle.
I’m not sure what a united front against fascism would look like in the US context since there is no analogous large social democratic force, and no large anarchist/ communist force here.  Luckily, fascism has also not grown as rapidly here as in Greece.  All 3 could grow simultaneously in future movements, so we need to keep thinking about this.
My last reservation with applying Trotsky’s strategy is that we need to account for how some of the fascists are an insurgent right-wing movement from below.  They are competing with the Left and the anarchists to  express the anger that many people feel against the capitalist system.  Any force that gets too close with electoral reformism could get discredited as this reformism leads to new rounds of austerity and capitalist crisis.  This could happen to Syriza too.  All the other socialist electoral parties have ended up imposing austerity and subordination to imperialism and global capital.    If Leftists get too close to these parties and do not criticize them, the fascists can say “look, the Left failed to fight austerity, we are the only force left capable of doing it, so side with us”.
I don’t know what Trotsky’s answer would be to this – but I do think that any adaptation of his united front against fascism should be a loose tactical alliance in which the radicals can maintain our distance from the state and from statist parties, while pledging mutual defense of all working class, feminist, LGBTQ, and people of color grassroots institutions and communities against fascist attacks, even if we do not have the same politics.
In a Seattle context, we may disagree with groups like Freedom Socialist Party, the ISO, the NAACP, or the unions.  But if their offices were attacked by fascists, I hope we’d rally to their aid, and I hope they’d rally in turn if our communities were attacked.
5)  Building of my concern about right-wing insurgent fascism, I would also highly recommend the book Confronting Fascism by Don Hamerquist, J. Sakai, and folks from Anti Racist Action.
It explores possibilities of insurgent / revolutionary fascism and its relationship to the legacy of colonial settlerism, and the possibility of this settlerism breaking down in the current economic crisis, opening up right-wing and left-wing revolutionary potentials among white workers.
Excerpts are available here
This builds on anti-fascist strategies developed by the Sojourner Truth Organization in the 70s, archived here  and summarized in the book Truth and Revolution that just came out.
I hope we can strategize how to deal with these new forms of fascism, anti-radical vigilantism, and privatized repression.  We should keep all of this in mind when we debate things like the strengths and weaknesses of specific uses of the Black Block tactic by radicals. The privatization of repression, the rise of insurgent fascism in the wake of failed reformist strategies, and the need for broad-based united fronts of mutual security are all factors we should consider in these tactical debates.

About mamos206

Mamos is my pen name. My writings can be found at these sites, along with the thoughts of friends I collaborate with:
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11 Responses to Anti-Repression, Anti-Fascist Strategizing Suggestions

  1. Steve Leigh says:
    Article on organizing against Golden Dawn in the U.S.

    FYI: Syriza is already actively involved in grass roots organizing against GD .

    • mamos206 says:

      Is Syriza working with anarchists to physically confront Golden Dawn? Are they defending anarchists when anarchists are attacked by the fascists?

  2. Steven says:

    Thanks for writing this. I really appreciate the connections you have drawn between the evolution and privatization of political repression and the need for tactical alliances operating at the level of the street in radical communities and beyond. From my perspective here in Oakland, we have started to see small but promising signs of those kinds of alliances over the last few weeks.

    I would like to offer some additional context about the flyer that you mentioned though. Over the last few months and weeks one individual in particular has made threats against a number of organizers in Oakland’s radical communities including queer,feminist, organizers, folks who run a social center, etc. This flyer cannot be viewed outside of this wider climate of intimidation and violence. I think it would be a mistake to say that this flyer represents “some sort of political beef emerging out of Occupy Oakland that is related to racial and class divisions within Oakland and within Occupy Oakland”. This is not political beef based in very real class and racial tensions within Oakland and what remains of Occupy Oakland. This flyer should be called out for what is, COINTELPRO 2.0. It is a form of repression that works to divide and isolate anarchist millieus from the larger radical community in Oakland and the Bay Area through intimidation and the threat of physical violence.

    The flyer cannot be viewed outside of the larger climate

    • mamos206 says:

      Hi Steven,

      I appreciate the feedback. I’m also glad to hear that those broader alliances are being built in Oakland.

      I agree that the police could manipulate tensions around the flyer quite easily, and we should be on guard against that. However, precisely for that reason, if you do not have specific evidence linking the person who made the flyer to the police then I don’t think you should be calling it COINTELPRO 2.0. We do not allow such accusations to be made on this site without proof. I just made the same point in response to Wise Old Snail who suggested that some people in the Black Bloc may be police agents:

      ” I almost didn’t publish your post because it comes very close to violating our house rules. In the last paragraph of what you just posted, you came very close to accusing specific people in Oakland of being paid infiltrators and disruptors, without giving any proof. That is bad security culture and creates unnecessary divisions. We cannot contribute to a culture of making such accusations without proof, because state agents can use that culture to accuse other people of being agents when they are not, in order to discredit them. This happened routinely in the 1960s with the COINTELPRO program that destroyed the Panthers. If you say you want open debate and solidarity, then you need to take your own advice and do not accuse people of shit you cannot prove.”

      I would suggest focusing on the problematic behaviors that specific people are engaging in, and criticize those, instead of calling people police agents for engaging in them. Whether or not people are agents, these behaviors should be unacceptable in the movement.

  3. Vince says:

    Your comments on John Robb are silly. At worst he is ambivalent toward Occupy and other social movements. His opinion, so far as I can tell, is simply that the days of modern Nation States are numbered and that we ought to be building resilient communities to defend ourselves from oppression (from the state or otherwise.) As to state oppression, if you read his body of work around drones you’d find that he calls for people to build and operate their own drones before the state outlaws them. The reason? Because he is concerned that if the state holds a monopoly on drone technology then they will inevitably use them to automate oppression in a “comply or die” sort of scenarios.

    • mamos206 says:

      I read Robb’s Brave New War. It seems clear to me that Robb is giving advice to the capitalist ruling class, providing them with options for how to build their own resilient communities instead of relying on an obsolete state security system. That clearly makes him a ruling class strategist. He is a partisan of privatized warfare, mercenaries, and gated communities for those who can afford them. I’m not sure how viable his strategy of resilient community building would be for the rest of us who don’t have extra cash lying around to purchase drones. If the nation state does collapse as he predicts, it seems more likely that the ruling class will secure themselves behind walls guarded with private mercenaries, and use drones to oppress the rest of us outside the walls. If we simply try to secede from the Empire and defend our own communities, how could we possibly have a chance when they have more money to buy all the infrastructure necessary to build the most resilient communities at our expense. If they want to take our resources, our land, etc., what would stop them? I mean, they do all of this already right now – what will stop them from continuing to do it, but through privatized colonialism instead of state colonialism?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an authoritarian statist, and I’m not saying that public repression is better than private repression. I am also not saying we all need to be part of some socialist global government. I certainly support indigenous autonomy against colonialism, and am open to the idea of bioregionalism and local autonomous direct democracy. But without a global working class struggle, the ruling class can regroup and recolonize autonomous territories. I think the only way to stop that is for the people who work for them to rise up. And at this late stage, that requires a global movement. And that movement is already starting – from the South African mine strikes and occupations to the riots and strikes at Chinese Foxconn factories.

      Finally, I read your comrade Keith Preston’s critique of my piece. I understand the fascists and the cops are not on the same side, and that fascists are a rebellious force from below. But that does not mean we should ally with the fascists against the empire! Both want to kill us.

    • Vince says:

      I’m not so sure John Robb advocates for some sort of gated community style resilience. Have you read his blog at resilient communities? He’s advocating for decentralized manufacturing, open source hardware, gardening, DIY sustainable energy and CHEAP drones; as in drones you should be able to build yourself.

      As to his development of his global guerrillas concept; I’ll admit that I’ve absorbed most of it from his blog and reading William Lind; but my understanding of his thesis is that industrial civilization is fragile; a $4,000 operation against a pipeline can cause $4,000,000 in damage to the Nation’s economy. I’m sure you’d agree that the US’ armed forces aren’t protecting us from invasion, they are protecting supply lines for the global capitalist economy. This is the life blood of the ruling class; and it increasingly more and more vulnerable because the sort of technology needed to bring it down is widely distributed, cheap and easy to make.

      So yes, we are moving toward a world of private armies, tribal & gang warfare, etc. The question is whether we are going to shoot for the moon for an unrealistic utopia or plan to take advantage of an extremely important, historic opportunity.

      Thanks for the reply!

    • mamos206 says:

      The most unrealistic utopia is the idea that indigenous communities and white nationalists can both secede from the empire and live side by side each other in peace.

      If private warfare does become as cheap as you and Robb are predicting, won’t some of those private armies attempt to (re)colonize indigenous resilient communities?

      Also, if regions like Cascadia seceded and built resilient communities, what should people living here do when there are waves and waves of refugees from California or other places that are turned into toxic wastelands?

      I fear a situation similar to post-Katrina New Orleans, where the “resilient communities” of white suburbanites were gunning down Black refugees trying to flee the city.

      I could see something similar happening here in so-called “Cascadia” if there is not a movement against white supremacy, capitalism, and the legacies of colonial settlerism here, linked to global struggles against capitalism and ecological oppression. I don’t want to be part of Cascadia if it means being drafted as a border guard to keep out refugees from other territories that are still facing the brunt of capitalist terror. That sort of thing needs to end with the United States of America.

    • mamos206 says:

      The Seattle Police Department bought some drones and are trying to use them. The pigs had a public meeting where they tried to sell the idea of drones to the public. Our comrades went there and disrupted it. The Seattle Times comment section is usually very conservative and anti-radical, but in this case comments about the meeting were mostly against the police. It seems that our comrades disruption of the pigs’ PR campaign has touched a nerve among people who are wary of growing government power:

  4. mamos206 says:

    Here is Keith Preston’s critique:

    Here is my full response:

    This is nothing like the mosque at ground Zero.

    I am not suggesting that the US state should repress Golden Dawn. I do not see the US state as a lesser evil, and I do not want to increase it’s repressive capacities in any way, since those can also be used against anti-authoritarians.

    I understand the fascists and the cops are not on the same side, and that fascists are a rebellious force from below. But that does not mean we should ally with the fascists against the empire, or the empire against the fascists! Both are authoritarian and both want to kill us.

    My piece was attempting to address the emerging threats from both.

    Golden Dawn is attacking anarchists and immigrant communities in Greece. That is not a phantom. Are you for that or against it?

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