The Necessity of Taking Back the Streets

Notes on DSA

December 26, 2021

If the notion of class war is something more than a metaphor to be understood in a purely figurative sense, the Left has to confront the problem of strategy.1This paper was originally given as a talk to DSA’s Communist Caucus in November 2021. It’s not that the word is absent from discussions of what various organizations think they are doing, or plan to do, but rather that the term “strategy” is used in such a broad variety of contexts (from sports to finance) that its relation to power and the equilibrium of forces, that is, its military origins, has been largely forgotten. The coincidence of inflation of the notion of strategy over the past few decades with a long process of disintegration and marginalization of the Left in the US and globally, led to a further emptying out of the concept. If we are honest with ourselves, we will further admit that the left (with a few exceptions) adapted to its own marginality and relative powerlessness by retreating into propagandism or an electoral orientation focused on the Democratic Party, neither of which required a frank appraisal of the extent and capacities of the authoritarian and white supremacist coalition that emerged around the Trump campaign and then in support of his administration’s offensive against workers, immigrants and African-Americans.

The Left’s Response to the Far Right Mobilization

DSA in a very real sense is the Left, incorporating both tendencies referred to above (and others). However tenuous the unity between the very different traditions and tendencies of which it is composed, the fact that it exists in practical forms beyond the Democratic Party, in unions, international solidarity movements, immigrant defense, etc., has prevented the demobilization and dispersion that typically come with the ebb and flow of popular movements. DSA has the potential to play an important role in deciding the outcome of the struggles just ahead of us; in fact, it is the only entity capable, under the right circumstances, of gathering the existing movements and groupings into a force that, properly organized, might exercise the power to stop the march towards an authoritarian regime whose outline is becoming clearer each day. The fact that much of the left refuses to acknowledge the continuing advance of the far right at every level of government, including law enforcement and all the branches of the military, and just as importantly the ability of even the most extreme organizations to march unopposed in most of the nation’s major cities and terrorize elected officials with impunity, is a worrisome sign of a level of disorientation and sheer denial that will not be easy to address. The far right, in contrast, knows it is at war and has successfully adapted the tactics of European fascism (before it came to power in Italy and Germany) to its campaigns at the local and state levels.2For a comprehensive account of such tactics in the Italian case, see Michael R. Ebner, Ordinary Violence in Mussolini’s Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Alex Callinicos and Alastair Hatchett discuss fascist tactics in late 1970s Britain in “In Defense of Violence” (1977), www.marxists.org/history/etol/writers/callinicos/1977/09/violence.htm For its part, the Left, to the extent it recognizes the steady advances of the far right at all, has responded with two opposing but unequally ineffective approaches:

1. Partisans of the “White Working Class”

A small but not insignificant sector inside and outside of DSA sees the far right, not simply Trump voters, but members of militias and street-fighting organizations, as made up primarily of white workers, alienated by the neoliberal policies of the Democratic Party and justly critical of the identity politics promoted by Black and Latinx elites (this includes BLM, seen by this tendency as a movement manipulated from above to benefit African American elites). As such, we are told that we need to talk to the far right, rather than deny them a platform by any means necessary. By engaging in dialogue with them, we can help them understand that their self-interest is best achieved by united working class action. Fighting racism, even pointing out the importance of racism in the history of the US, as well as today, are seen as attempts to shame and silence white workers and in doing so divide the working class. In other cases, members of this tendency simply recycle far right outrage at “woke” culture, identifying “the progressive stack, language policing, mandatory pronoun disclosure . . . and the constant weaponization of claims of disability,”3“Let them Clap,” Class Unity, August 9, 2019. not as attempts to create unity through measures aimed at the active inclusion of previously excluded groups, but as anti-(white) working class practices. Similarly, their criticism of what they regard as the Left’s overemphasis on racism coincides to a surprising degree with that of the current movement against the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools (where it has never been taught), on the grounds that a focus on racism and white supremacy shames white students and makes them uncomfortable, thus creating division where there was once harmony. Finally, the enormous movement that arose following the police killing of George Floyd, according to this group, was undeserving of the support of the Left, because of the acts of vandalism and looting (the “destruction of property”) that in certain places accompanied it – a bizarre position, considering the enormous Marxist literature on the importance of riots far more destructive than these as forms of class struggle and the popular redistribution of wealth.

How can we explain the extent to which this tendency simultaneously denies the threat of the far right and borrows from its rhetoric and propaganda? The answer lies in the ever-increasing physical power of the far right, its ability through the use of violence, intimidation and threats to affect policy decisions and voter participation, to render laws or legal orders supported by majorities unenforceable and inoperative, and to build sufficient support within law enforcement agencies to secure more or less open pledges not to enforce laws opposed by the far right (the wearing of masks, temporary closures of non-essential businesses). The very fear it inspires, the nearly invincible power it projects, endows it with certain power of attraction that extends to its otherwise discredited ideas. Sections of the left produce imitations of these ideas, partial and distorted to be sure, but whose ability to persuade nevertheless derives from the arrogance of the powerful. As one commentator remarked of the German Communist Party’s disastrous mimicry of fascist slogans in 1931: “these wretched revolutionaries, in a conflict with a serious enemy, think first of all how to imitate him, how to repaint themselves in his colors and how to win the masses by tricks, not by revolutionary struggle.”4Leon Trotsky, “Against National Communism!” (Lessons of the ‘Red Referendum’). https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/germany/1931/310825.htm This diffuse assemblage, torn between the goal of becoming a social democratic sect, and the powerful attraction of the far right, has principles from which no clear political action can result and takes political positions whose theoretical basis remains unspecified. Nothing resembling a strategy can emerge from it.

2. The Democratic Party Strategy

During this same period, another, larger, part of the left followed the line of least resistance and sought refuge in the Democratic Party at one of the most unpropitious moments in its history: the moment of its full embrace of neoliberalism. This section of the Left reacted to the experience of marginalization not by adapting to it, but by concluding that the Democratic Party, once regarded as the “graveyard of the Left,” was the only site of political action that offered a real opportunity to bring about progressive change. Strategy in this context came to mean getting Democrats elected to office, while simultaneously building a left or progressive wing around Bernie Sanders within a resurgent Democratic Party. Whether this wing would remain in the party and transform it or at some future point break with the Democratic Party to create a Labor or Socialist Party was a matter of debate, but there was general agreement on electoral strategy and on the need to integrate social movements into this strategy. Such a plan was based on the unquestioned assumption of a fairly predictable and stable political environment, in which the only serious obstacles to its realization were the Democratic Party leadership and a lack of resolve by those assigned to carry it out. This plan often came with a characterization of the economic period or moment as stable but nevertheless showing signs of a coming crisis that in the medium term (thus allowing the Left time to prepare for its arrival) would likely lead to an intensification of class struggle and the possibility of social transformation. The reality of Trump’s electoral victory, the vast far right mobilization that followed, and finally the array of political issues around the pandemic, caught the Left unprepared. To confront the increasingly unfavorable relation of forces will require a thorough evaluation of the Left’s response to these developments, both within the Democratic Party and independently of it.

The far right knows it is at war and has successfully adapted the tactics of European fascism (before it came to power in Italy and Germany) to its campaigns at the local and state levels.

Many in DSA will argue that a focus on electoral work in the Democratic Party is the most effective way to reverse the growth of authoritarian white supremacy and its increasing extralegal violence. After all, the emergence of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party would seem to offer both an opportunity to push the Party to the left, that is, towards the model of social democracy, and a chance to take up positions in the Democratic Party by becoming a permanent, institutionalized activist base for its progressive wing. To refer to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, however, forces us to confront yet another problem: in what sense does such a wing actually exist in practice, that is, as something more than a name applied to (or claimed by) a very diverse group of elected officials?

Just as important is DSA’s increasing orientation to the Democratic Party, practically and politically, motivated by the perception of opportunity, which in turn suggests that it is powerful enough to affect the Democratic Party and has the capacity to take advantage of this opportunity? With the collapse of the Sanders campaign and no other choice than to support Biden (albeit unofficially and without any formal endorsement), as the far right emerged in the aftermath of BLM newly energized by Trump’s appeal to prevent the stealing of the election, work in the Democratic Party at all levels appeared to many in DSA to offer the most effective, if not the only, way to stop Trump and build the progressive wing of the Party. But it also represented a retreat from the increasing violence of far-right attacks, as attendance at BLM demonstrations dropped.

It was in this context that Kyle Rittenhouse killed two men and severely wounded another, which occurred against the backdrop of mobilization in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23, 2020, spirited but small enough to embolden a local militia to send an armed detachment to protect commercial property. In fact, 2020 witnessed over 2000 far-right demonstrations, an increasing number of which were counter-demonstrations aimed at BLM and Antifa. As the election neared, attention shifted to Trump and to the renewed efforts to slow the spread of Covid (masks, school closures, and other safety measures), the number and size of far-right actions increased substantially.

It was around this time, the last few months of 2020, that the Left ceded the streets in nearly all instances to the far right. The explanation for this, however, does not lie solely in the sense of urgency surrounding the 2020 elections; just as the far right had retreated in the face of the massive demonstrations led by BLM in June 2020, the Left, intimidated by the violent tactics of groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, and fearful of the increasing participation of armed militias such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, began to shift activities away from rallies and demonstrations, even in cities considered hostile to far-right politics.

The retreat from confrontation was clearly the only rational course of action. The problem was rather that the retreat was not recognized as such, that is, it was not a tactical retreat carried out as part of a broader strategy (unless we consider electing Biden a strategy) and did not lead to serious preparation for conflict either at the most advantageous moment for the Left or if the Left is forced to defend itself and conflict is unavoidable. There was and is no such preparation. Instead, at the very moment the Republican Party has come dangerously close to establishing the conditions, legal and extra-legal, at the state level for imposing its candidate as US president against a majority vote, even when this majority is reflected in the electoral college, much of DSA acts as if we are in a juridically normal state, in which laws are generally obeyed and enforced. In fact, at the moment that the forces of the far right have been de facto exempted from so many laws that it is difficult to keep track, laws permitting violence against demonstrators are multiplying across the nation – including deadly violence by means of motor vehicle or firearms, even in cases involving threats to property alone.

The Democrats’ Response to the Challenge of the Far Right

Can DSA count on the Democratic Party to at least protect itself from the very real threat of seeing its electoral victory stolen?  Is the Party prepared for a level of calculated voter suppression sufficient to prevent Democrats from winning an election? More to the point, can DSA count on the progressive wing to save the Party from its own lassitude and gross political incompetence? It’s not clear that the groupings in DSA most committed to the project of transforming the Democratic Party or building a socialist tendency within it have explained (or even fully acknowledged) the serious weaknesses of the progressive caucus.

I’m referring not simply to the recent house votes on Israel’s Iron Dome (seven votes against and two abstentions) or the Infrastructure Bill, when progressives couldn’t muster more than six votes to oppose it. More importantly, the balance sheet of the progressive caucus’ alliance with Biden to achieve New Deal-type reforms shows that this alliance has proven incapable of securing the passage of the very legislation that was held up as the reason to elect progressive candidates in the first place! But what of legislation to stop the increasingly bold and widespread attempts at voter suppression and election tampering, to adequately address the threat of climate change, or to bring about universal healthcare and establish a social safety net? Several of these urgent reforms were blocked only by the Republicans’ use of the filibuster, which a significant number of Democrats have shown no inclination to abolish. And it’s an illusion to think that these failures are due to the actions of two rogue Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrstin Sinema.

A number of Democrats now say that they supported even a gutted Build Back Better package only because it included relief for the upper 10% of income earners (the SALT deduction). This particular measure means a loss of hundreds of billions of dollars, and is listed as the second most costly provision in Build Back Better. Now that the bill has passed the House, its most important components will certainly undergo further reduction, with the tacit support of a number of Democrats, and the acquiescence of even more.

Republicans will never win the hearts and minds of the majority in the US, and they now know they don’t have to. They have not only accepted the fact that they are a minority party, but they have embraced it and have been liberated by doing so.

As the prospects of a Republican majority in the House following the 2022 elections appears more likely, we will see increasing pressure on the leadership of the party to oppose genuine progressives in primary contests, as was the case with Nina Turner’s congressional campaign in Cleveland. This was even the case in general elections, as in the Buffalo mayor’s race, where India Walton was defeated by a rightwing Democrat who won through a write-in campaign financed by a coalition of Republicans and Democratic Party centrists. How and why the Democrats failed and the current impotence of the Progressive Caucus and Bernie, are questions that those who see the Democratic Party as the primary vehicle for social change must answer – and urgently.

Yet none of these failures is as disastrous as the Democratic Party response to the political reality revealed on January 6, 2020.  The party leadership is incapable of comprehending politics beyond inter- and intra-party maneuvers understood in terms of “influential individuals” acting within the limits of strict legality. Of course, the Democratic Party claims to oppose the threat posed by white supremacism and neo-fascism, but in reality has done little more than instrumentalize this threat as part of an electoral strategy. In doing so, their focus is on the figure of Trump and his immediate periphery and documenting their violations of existing law through endless hearings. These conclude, at best, in meaningless, symbolic victories, doing nothing to stem the growth of the far right or discourage its violent tactics. Moreover, the consequences of the January 6 takeover of the Capitol Building were quite different from what the Democratic leadership had predicted. Not only was there no split in the Republican Party around the extremism of the Trump supporters, let alone a mass repudiation of Trump himself; but the Party as a whole moved (after a brief period of disorientation) to embrace Trump and the politics of his base. While the Democrats cling to the rule of law as the guiding principle of their futile attempts to stop the far right, Republicans have repeatedly shown their scorn for mere legality, just as they very deliberately violate the customary restrictions on openly racist and Islamophobic speech, declaring they will not be silenced by so-called “cancel culture.”

We need to be very clear about the political effects of January 6; the fact that the events appalled liberals is far less important than its appeal to those in and around the Trump movement. In this sense, its failure served the movement well: a large group, mainly men, appeared unstoppable in their righteous anger. The occupation ended when they chose to walk away, not because they were overpowered by law enforcement agencies. Had they succeeded in capturing Pence or Pelosi in an ill-prepared coup attempt that would have quickly collapsed, they would have projected weakness instead of strength and endangered the very mobilization of the base for which they hoped. It should be very clear now that the spectacle – not simply of violence, but of mass violence, with the active or passive support of a significant number of law enforcement personnel and the cooperation of members of Congress­ – was a very successful example of propaganda of the deed.

Since then, the far right has applied similar tactics at a smaller scale. The drive to take over state and local governments throughout the nation is not focused on winning a majority to its political positions: the Republican Party at this level knows that they can win elections only through the ever-increasing exclusion of the majority of the electorate. This, however, cannot be achieved by legal means, such as voting restrictions and redistricting, alone. To win elections, supporters have targeted declared and even potential Democratic candidates with violence, threats, and intimidation to discourage them from running for office or seeking re-election. In an increasing number of rural counties across the country, even Democratic voters are targets of vandalism and threats – and the effects will be felt in the 2022 elections. Because local law enforcement is often integrated into far-right networks, these acts are carried out without fear of legal consequences.

It is not the Left but the far right today that recognizes that electoral victories and the acceptance of their increasingly draconian policies necessarily rest on the most favorable possible relationship of forces, that in turn requires extra-electoral mass mobilization and, when deemed necessary, the application of force. The far right has identified a series of sites that are both vulnerable to disruptive intrusion (because of their physical layout and their ineffective security measures) and of strategic importance: hospitals, vaccination centers and county health briefings, as well as schools and school board meeting sites, together with city and county briefing rooms. As was the case in the January 6 events, the incursions often appear circus-like, the activists singing the national anthem at seemingly arbitrarily chosen moments or delivering incoherent addresses, but the rhapsodic proceedings are often punctuated by perfectly articulated and coherent threats, aimed at doctors, teachers, administrators and elected officials and/or their spouses and children. On a certain number of occasions, these have been accompanied by assaults. Not only do these events serve to drive their targets to resign or not to run for re-election, but they are videotaped and put online, where they are enthusiastically viewed by hundreds of thousands of supporters who feel empowered by what they see.

If the Republicans win in 2022 and 2024, however, it won’t be because of their ideas or policies, but because of the success of voter suppression through legislation at the state and local levels and just as importantly, through the fear and withdrawal produced by a campaign of threats and intimidation among those who otherwise reject the politics of the far right. Republicans will never win the hearts and minds of the majority in the US, and they now know they don’t have to. They have not only accepted the fact that they are a minority party, but they have embraced it and have been liberated by doing so. For the Republican Party leadership now, “realism” means finding the way to achieve and maintain minority rule, exploiting every loophole in the law at every level of government and experimenting with violating laws that appear difficult to enforce, or that require deliberate action on the part of identifiable law enforcement agents who, once identified, become susceptible to various kinds and degrees of pressure. Moreover, while the Democrats increasingly fear mass mobilizations, like BLM, on the grounds that they inevitably produce a “backlash,” the Republican Party embraces and is learning how to deploy its own mass movement, which it has armed with military grade weapons, and which, as the Rittenhouse verdict has shown, it has succeeded in indemnifying against legal liability. Republicans have learned that where they can’t win elections, they can neutralize the outcomes through a level of violence and harassment they now understand as both legitimate (referring to the Constitution and freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to bear arms) and necessary to the realization of their goals. They have also learned how to render laws unenforceable through the counterforce of sheer numbers and then to treat, for example, laws against making death threats, as if they ceased to apply. The Democrats, in contrast, act as if the relative stability of a law governed society continues to exist, even after a vast cast of characters from Trump to Rittenhouse, have walked away from legal proceedings exonerated or simply unpunished, having demonstrated that the law can be manipulated or ignored by the most egregious violators who have the power of a movement behind them.

Their Strategy and Ours

There is a strategy at work here, even if it isn’t conceived by a central command and disseminated to the troops. Drawn extensively from the repertoire of fascism, the tactics though which this strategy operates are communicated and developed through mimicry more than through discussion (at least at this stage), and this may be an important factor in the success of the far right, allowing them to avoid the effects divisive debates over doctrine might produce. But because there is an identifiable strategy guiding the extra-electoral activity of the far right, it is clear now that the left no longer has the luxury of thinking that a collection of principles and blueprints for the transition to socialism amounts to strategy.

To allow the far right to occupy or simply have total freedom of movement without opposition in an increasing number of cities and towns, and enable them to restrict the ability of the Left, labor, and anti-racist movements to mobilize, is to allow them to establish the necessary conditions for the overturning of elections or declarations of martial law.

If a far-right strategy exists, however, what are its objectives, what are the stakes of the struggle as it is understood in the combined networks of the far right? We have already heard the voices of denial and fear on the left, telling us that many of these battles concern issues of representation and identity and can therefore be written off as epiphenomenal distractions from the only struggle that matters: the class struggle, preferably at the point of production. Let us therefore examine one of the most prominent struggles today: the campaign to purge primary and secondary education of Critical Race Theory. Are the objective effects, irrespective of the diverse and often irrational intentions and motivations of the activists, limited to preventing the teaching of the place of racism in US history? This movement emerged from, and to some extent remains intertwined with, the movement against requiring children, as well as teachers, to wear masks during school hours, which in turn emerged from the movement to force teachers to engage in in-person learning at the start of the pandemic. In some very real sense, none of these movements is truly disengaged from the broader class struggle: teachers resist the imposition of working conditions that will endanger their students, families, and communities, as well as themselves, while rightwing movements, as well as state and local governments, and before 2021, the Trump administration, denounce them as cowardly, selfish, and likely to require an untenable level of government assistance.

Further, the implication that masks were unnecessary and that the risks of Covid were greatly exaggerated, delegitimized the health care system as a whole. This was not because it was inadequate, but because it was a bloated, overreaching bureaucracy in league with big pharma to extract huge sums from taxpayers by creating an unfounded fear of Covid and countless other diseases that might be cured by much cheaper and more widely available drugs. From this perspective, the demand for universal health care was an attempt to perpetrate a fraud.

Meanwhile, the right wing discovered that teachers were teaching the importance of racism in US history and required students to learn about the reality of slavery, even if parents did not want their children to be exposed to such topics. Teachers are now defined as a condescending liberal elite, always complaining about their salaries and working conditions. They also happen to be one of the most militant sectors of the labor movement, with a recent history of job actions and strikes who thus may well find themselves facing a far-right mobilization of significant proportions, cheered on by the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and a legion of social media outlets that will no doubt attempt to intimidate teachers and stop strikes before they start. In a number of state legislatures, laws encouraging parents and students to report suspicious activity, such as teaching about the effects of racism, on the part of teachers, are under consideration.

This all displays a remarkable economy of force: with a relatively small number of activists deployed against schools, school boards, and supported by rightwing state and local governments (including law enforcement agencies who refuse to enforce laws against death threats and assaults), the far right can prevent schools from teaching what it regards as anti-American propaganda, discourage even the threat of teacher strikes, and mobilize against increased funding for education.

At the same time that they have applied similar tactics to local and state health departments, city councils, and state election offices, their allies in numerous state legislatures have introduced nearly 400 bills designed to criminalize demonstrations. Some of these bills impose mandatory prison sentences for the destruction of property during demonstrations, while indemnifying those who drive their cars into crowds of demonstrators if they affirm that they feared being attacked. Most recently, rightwing activists gained the right to enter demonstrations, like those carried out by BLM, and use deadly force in defense of any property they believe is at risk – and they don’t even need to own it. And worse, whatever defensive violence on the part of demonstrators they are able to provoke becomes a justification for murder. We have to see how and to what extent the Rittenhouse case will affect the tactics of the far right, but they have every reason to celebrate the verdict. We should assume that they are even now thinking about how best to use this opening, and under what circumstances.

The insignificance of the Left and the relative weakness of the pre-MAGA far right allowed us to ignore the reality of class war, or more precisely, a racialized class war. We could ignore it because we did not pose a threat and consequently were not ourselves faced with any real threats. Most on the Left did not think in terms of war, and thus did not think of the present as defined by a specific relationship of forces that would either allow us to undertake offensive action or compel us to engage in effective defensive action; such talk appeared archaic or simply grandiose. Now, however, BLM and Antifa are identified as legitimate targets and face the real possibility that deadly force will be used against them precisely when and if they are engaged in mass action. To the extent that DSA can play a leadership role in building broad coalitions in support of strikes or organizing campaigns or against racist actions, it too will become a target – something many of its members already know.

DSA is the only entity, by virtue of its numbers, its geographical spread, and its politics, in a position to initiate an effective campaign to stop the advance of the far right. To do so will not be easy, and it will require a strategy thoroughly attuned to the actual state of the far right, its strengths as well as its weakness and vulnerabilities. The first step towards such a strategy is “reconnaissance” in the broadest sense: gathering as much information as possible on the most active groups. This means looking beyond the Proud Boys, Patriot Prayer, the Groyper Army to include Let Them Breathe and other anti-vaxx and anti-CRT organizations, as well as the most active militias (both national and local, as well as those patrolling the border) to determine their personnel, politics, and strategic discussions. It is just as important to determine the extent and depth of opposition to the far right in the areas in which they are active, and whether and under what circumstances this opposition can be mobilized.

In the same way, we have to evaluate the Left’s own activity: where and how have we succeeded in diminishing the power of the far right, and where have they prevailed. To change the balance of forces, the Left must be able to take the struggle to their strongholds, to local meetings, to defend groups under attack from anti-vaxxers, homophobes, transphobes, and racists. But all of this must be done with extreme care, understanding everything about the terrain, numbers, habits, customs, etc., and with sufficient numbers. We know now that the police will aid the fascists (as in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse) and that we cannot count on the protection of the law, which on the contrary will be used against the Left.

The Democratic Party is absolutely incapable of stopping the far right or of even understanding its strength. Biden’s response to the Rittenhouse verdict, praising the jury system, is typical. The party’s current fixation on legal proceedings has succeeded only in showing how the threat we face is not going to be contained by law. Does anyone believe that the Democratic Party can effectively respond to an election in 2024 in which rightwing state legislatures set aside the popular vote to place their preferred candidate in the presidency? How exactly would they do so? Call on a Supreme Court packed with Trump supporters? Or a military that is the primary breeding ground of the US brand of neo-fascism?

There is one thing, however, we know they will never do, no matter how dire the consequences: call for a general strike and for the masses to take to the streets. Should we be relieved if it doesn’t come to that, that is, a single moment, a single decision, that determines all that follows? Such moments never appear out of nothing; on the contrary, they arise as the outcome of a multiplicity of conflicts, each of which may appear as limited in significance until they converge to determine the general configuration of forces. To allow the far right to occupy or simply have total freedom of movement without opposition in an increasing number of cities and towns, and enable them to restrict the ability of the Left, labor, and anti-racist movements to mobilize, is to allow them to establish the necessary conditions for the overturning of elections or declarations of martial law. Short of these dramatic events, if allowed, they will attempt to destroy the Left and reimpose a culture of white supremacy.

This is why what happens in DSA matters and why the question of strategy is so important. And strategy is above all knowledge: a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of our adversaries, their strengths, weaknesses, their ability to maneuver, to absorb attacks and adapt to new circumstances, their geographical distribution nationally and even within cities themselves. Equipped with this knowledge and examining the experiences of anti-fascist campaigns elsewhere, DSA can develop tactics that do not simply mimic those of the far right, street brawling or displays of firepower for purposes of intimidation, however necessary these may be under certain circumstances. Mass action is always preferable, but it may not always be possible, especially as the far right increases the level of violence precisely to demobilize and disperse movements. Developing tactics that can counter and blunt this violence will be necessary to the defeat the forces of reaction and build a mass movement capable of removing any possibility of the imposition of an authoritarian regime in 2024. The members of DSA are faced with a choice: either continue to behave as if there is no such danger (and that if there were, “the authorities” would surely intervene to prevent it), or as if passing the Build Back Better bill will weaken the resolve of the far right, or begin to prepare a campaign to confront and prevail over the shock troops of authoritarian white supremacy.

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