This past week, in Portland, Oregon, as a Black Lives Matter demonstration was staging at a park, a man who reportedly lived someplace in the area attacked the organizers. He killed one woman and injured three other people. There’s not much information yet but the scant reports say some demonstrators exchanged fire with him.
Sadly, there’s not much new in some fascist moron attacking people organizing a march and rally. It happens almost every time something like that is organized, although the media seldom reports it.
But this is different because it appears that, finally, somebody shot back at the guy. I say “finally” without celebration but without condemnation. As a father, an elder and a human being, I’m sickened by the specter of people shooting at each other, of lives lost and wrecked. I know what it’s like to be shot at. I know what it’s like to be wounded. No benefit comes from it…ever.
On the other hand, I also know these fascist idiots are going to keep shooting at us, attacking us with impunity under the mistaken impression that we’re a collection of wimpish nit-wits who have no conception of self-defense. That, by the way, is true of a lot of our movement — not the “the conception part no the nit-wit part” — but that is changing quickly…very quickly.
What happened in Portland is happening with more frequency all over and that, in my opinion, is the start of our civil war.
Those envisioning an armed confrontation, battle strategies implemented, between two opposing masses ignore some realities: the size of the country, its urban/rural demographics, the strikingly sophisticated advances in technology and the importance the capitalist class places on preservation. While it’s clear that class is divided over how to do the preserving in a span from the liberalism of Soros to the open fascism of Koch, it sure will unite around the importance of that preservation.
So, when we talk of the “coming civil war”, we can’t really expect a repetition of what happened in the mid-19th century. This will be a civil war that matches the complexity and sophistication of the 21st century’s most advanced country.
The character of this “civil war” and its reasons and potential outcomes is a conversation we all need to have. I’m going to assume it will be characterized by local conflicts (like the one in Portland) happening almost every day, intense conflict over the communications networks (already happening), the battle over democracy including voting rights (ditto) and vicious lie-based political attacks to undermine progressive thinking.
Okay, so there are other possible elements and maybe some of the ones I mentioned aren’t necessarily civil war material but, if you’re happy with my checklist, you agree that we’re at the start of a civil war. Like I said, we need to talk about that.
But while we’re talking, we need to prepare to defend ourselves because they are already armed and organized and, still, we for the most part aren’t.
When I say “prepare”, I’m not talking about weapons training or some such romanticized vision of struggle. I think people on the Left should know how to shoot but that’s not anything on my political radar at all. My “preparation” is one of discussion and unity.
If there was ever a moment to unite this unruly throng of resisters we call the U.S. Left, it’s now and the way to unify is around political intent and not tactics.
So while I think progressives in legislative bodies at all levels is a centrally important tactic which I consider one of our greatest achievements, it isn’t the anti-fascist strategy we need.
While I think issues of personal identity, life-style and intentionality are critical to any program for change and fully support their inclusion into any strategy, that’s not an adequate strategy.
I don’t have to tell regular readers (or anyone who knows me) what I think about racism but the struggle against white supremacy in all its forms, as central to all our struggles as that is, isn’t a strategy.
I think all of this, and probably what you do in your work, would implement a solid strategy, if we had a solid strategy. So we need to develop one.
You can see where I’m going here: the strategy we need is to build a unified movement against fascism by incorporating the essence of many struggles into a program that is aimed at defeating and destroying this fascist movement. Unity isn’t easy, as we all know, for many reasons but one big one is that each of us joins a coalition to force it to implement the entirety of our thinking.
We need a central idea and I’ve been thinking about what that might be. We are facing this fascist movement, experiencing the collapse of capitalism world-wide, reasonably expecting the start of human extinction because of climate change and being victimized by capitalism’s profit-dependent inability to care for its people (because that’s the lesson of the Covid crisis).
Given that, isn’t the issue that we have a need for more time to fix all this? Isn’t the primary issue human survival?
I think we should confront fascism with a strategy based on our insistence that the human race doesn’t end with our generation and build a program of human survival that includes so many of the issues we all work around.
Human survival as the strategic drive. I’m going to write some more about that in the coming days.