Fascism, unity, and resistance

BY:Joelle Fishman| October 20, 2022
Fascism, unity, and resistance


The following is adapted from a presentation given to the National Marxist School on May 14, 2022

It was just two years ago in the spring of 2020 that we in the Communist Party rolled up our sleeves and went to work with the Dump Trump voter pledge cards and the Vote Against Fascism campaign to uphold democratic rights and the ongoing freedom struggle for “People, Peace and Planet before Profits.”

It took a huge, unified effort led by labor and civil rights forces to defeat Trump at the polls. At that time, a lot of folks did not fully see the fascist danger underway, but we sounded the alarm based on our historical experience and our Marxist working class analysis.

Then in January 2021, when the Trumpites and white supremacist elements staged a coup attempt on the Capitol, trying to overturn the results of the Presidential election, a lot more people, even in the corporate media, began to take a second look and understand the depth of the peril in our country.

The recent Dobbs v. Jackson decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, stacked with three Trump appointees, to overturn abortion rights also confirmed the threat. The Bans Off Our Bodies rallies in defense of women’s health and abortion rights that took place across the country in the immediate aftermath of the draft opinion released earlier showed that increasing numbers are concerned about the growing danger. Solidarity actions taken by California, Connecticut, New York, Illinois and other states to become safe havens for abortion services are just the beginning of the response.

To successfully resist fascism we have to understand it.

What is fascism?

The popular front definition of fascism emerged out of the horrors of the fight against fascism in World War II. Building upon Lenin, it was described by Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

The financial, military and energy sectors of capital are seizing more and more wealth and power in the midst of the impoverishment of the people. The fascist danger emerges within the continued intensification of the crisis of capitalism world-wide.

Fascism’s goal is maintaining complete control over the working class and people for maximum profits and global domination.

Fascism and democratic rights are like oil and water; they cannot coexist.

Fascism would dismantle democratic structures, shut down and eliminate the ability to have a voice, to assemble, to organize or protest. Fascism foments racism with open, organized racist terror, relying on the sowing of hatred, fear and division among the majority in order to create a mass base that accepts the dictatorial rule of the few.

Obstruction and sabotage of normal government functioning is a fascist tactic. Blocking nominees was used as part of the economic sabotage campaign that overthrew the socialist Popular Unity government in Chile in 1973.

Republican leaders in the US Senate, House and state houses increasingly show a fascist-like contempt for truth, democratic process, or the common good. They will do anything to gain power.

Consider, for example, the notorious Koch Brothers, whose financial empire emanates from exploitation of oil and gas. They have been ultra-right provocateurs on behalf of the capitalist ruling class for decades, utilizing a web of think tanks and funding vehicles to influence state and federal legislation.

Charles Koch is a pre-eminent funder of outright voter suppression legislation in many states. The Koch money trail leads to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. And the Senators they fund are sabotaging the Build Back Better legislation which would allow for massive investments into social programs so desperately needed, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. It would create 2.3 million jobs every year for the first five years in child care, health care, education and climate change mitigation. These are programs that have wide majority support.

These most reactionary, chauvinistic and imperialist elements of finance capital are aided and abetted by more liberal elements of big capital. While Koch Industries funds ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to push anti-worker bills on state legislatures, other elements of capital have also given support to these reactionary laws while at times trying to maintain their distance.

“What’s happening in these states is the single greatest threat to our democracy since the Civil War era.” – Daniel Squadron of State Project

The Secretaries of State who oversee elections and certify the vote have come under extreme pressure and attack in the states where Trump sought to overturn the election results. Daniel Squadron, cofounder and executive director of the States Project, which is working to raise the level of consciousness about the importance of winning progressive majorities in state legislatures across the country, issued this grave warning: “What’s happening in these states is the single greatest threat to our democracy since the Civil War era.”

The Trump forces are likewise aiming to take control of state governments around the country with the America First Secretary of State Coalition (SOS). This extreme-right click includes candidates for Secretary of State in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Idaho, and Massachusetts. The candidates are all “election deniers,” and SOS’ goal is to have secretaries of state installed in these states in order to be able to control the Presidential election results in 2024, regardless of the decision of the voters.

The race for Secretary of State in Michigan highlights the danger. There, the GOP state convention, seen as a major test of Trump’s influence in the upcoming elections, officially joined the MAGA movement by endorsing Trump’s claims that the 2020 election results were rigged. Their Trump-backed candidate for secretary of state, Kristina Karamo, is another election denier and is running to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Jocelyn Benson. “This is a choice between whether or not we’ll have a democracy moving forward,” Benson said.

The seeds of fascism are present in the rising white supremacist attacks, fake news, attempts to take over local Boards of Education to block public schools from teaching Black history as integral to U.S. history, and attempts to dismantle the rights of immigrants, indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQ+ community. They are reflected in the continued police killings of Black and Latino youth, in attempts to deny science, outlaw abortion, overturn union rights, forbid discussion of socialist ideas, and, most of all, in the efforts to undermine and override voting rights, including gerrymandering and the outright overturning of election results.

Fascism preys on people who are hurting in the capitalist system, using lies to whip up hysteria and racist ideology, to misplace the blame on people of color, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, and others.

Unity and democratic struggle to defeat fascism

The fight to prevent fascism is by definition a fight for the hearts and minds of the whole multi-racial, multi-national working class and people. It is a fight to maintain and expand the democratic right to a voice—for the protection and expansion of voting rights in the first place—and to embrace social solidarity.

One powerful example is the role of the Unite Here union working alongside Stacey Abrams in Georgia for the US Senate runoff in January 2021 that resulted in a 50-50 Senate. Despite the pandemic, they found a safe way to knock on thousands of doors in all parts of the state. It was through thousands of frank conversations about the concerns of each individual or family, and what was at stake regarding control of the US Senate, that the Republican Party was beaten in that election.

In other words, beating back the fascist danger involves showing that every vote makes a difference, and that change is possible when working class people see their common interests against the 1% and stick together to fight for their rights and needs.

By way of example, one unshakable canvasser from New Haven told the story of being met at the door with a shotgun while knocking on doors in a far flung rural area. Undaunted, they won the support of that family by the end of the conversation.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are emerging out of the fightback against racial and economic inequalities exposed in the pandemic.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are emerging out of protests against the seizure of vast wealth by giant corporations and billionaires while the majority is struggling to survive—especially essential workers, of whom many are women of color.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are emerging out of the Black Lives Matter movement demanding police accountability and an end to murders of Black youth.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are emerging out of the uprising of young workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and many other places across the country, for living wages, respect and a voice at work, and a chance to build their lives.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are present in youth-led movements that are taking on fossil fuel profiteers and the military industrial complex in order to address systemic climate change and the future of humanity on our planet.

To be strong enough and large enough to successfully resist the drive toward fascism, Dimitrov and the Communist movement argued that Hitler-fascism’s rise to power showed the need for broad unity. This is we call today the all people’s united front, and it includes the multi-racial working class along with democratic minded forces from all social strata.

We Communists are an important part of building that broad united front, which by definition includes those with whom we may disagree on various issues.

For instance, some Democrats who support the struggle for voting rights, racial equity and Build Back Better, in contradiction, go along with an imperialist foreign policy. In reality, bipartisan support for Cold War policies adds to the crisis and heightens the fascist danger.

The fight for peace objectively strengthens resistance to fascism. With strategy and tactics in mind, contradictions in thinking can be overcome, for example by emphasizing the danger of nuclear war and the devastation caused by a war economy that decimates the budget for human needs and accelerates climate change.

The recent return of cold war rhetoric and anti-Communism presents a new challenge, which objectively weakens broad people’s unity and endangers the efforts in 2022 to vote against fascism.

How to respond? The best responses are to step up our grassroots organizing for immediate needs of the people so they know the role of Communists, to participate in coalitions around the issues, and to expand People’s World readership for a broader worldview.

One great example is the workers at Amazon in Staten Island being introduced to and guided by CPUSA leader William Z Foster’s writing on organizing in steel from the last century.

The fight for democracy and broad unity to resist fascism is not separate from our socialist vision. It is a vital part of the road to get there. Organizing to preserve democratic rights and voting rights, and to reject bigotry opens the door to engage neighbors, co-workers, and friends in the long term struggle, day by day, to qualitatively expand those rights beyond capitalism.

Building the multi-racial working-class movement for socialism

The seeds of socialism are present in the uprisings underway. These are objectively taking on the contradictions of capitalism and its interwoven systemic racism, exploitation, and imperialist drive toward war.

These struggles are connected to the movement for socialism because a growing number of people, especially youth, realize that capitalism is responsible for all the inequalities they are experiencing.

Our party program calls for Bill of Rights Socialism. We want to qualitatively expand democratic rights for all components of the multi-racial working class and people. Our goal is to contribute toward building a massive movement that wins control of its own destiny.

As comrade Jarvis Tyner said, “The very fight for democracy is a radicalizing struggle that has and will transform the capitalist system.”

In practical terms, what are we called upon to do today? As the saying goes, “organize, organize, organize.”

A strong Communist Party and YCL and wide circulation of People’s World is an integral part of the broad all-people’s front. We bring our ability and commitment to raise class consciousness so people can see their place in the struggle.

As Communists, we understand that building the union movement and the fight against racism raises up all other struggles. The experience of building workers’ power at Amazon and many other workplaces are at the heart of also building our Party among the working class. We find that people are looking for and welcoming our contribution.

Neighborhood based struggles in multi-racial working class communities provide the opportunity to build unity and grow as well.

In New Haven’s largely African American Newhall neighborhood, community leaders, including the Communist Party club, organized a mass protest against development that would have had a negative impact. Door knocking on issues and voter registration in the last few years has brought the ward from one of the lowest to one of the highest voter turnouts in the city. As a result, the neighborhood won city-wide support to block the development. The People’s World door to door distribution is part of this fightback.

Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania—where Denise Edwards has just been elected president of the borough council by acclamation—is being held up throughout that region as an example of fighting in a unified way to successfully address police brutality and the housing crisis.

The Mass Poor People’s & Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls on June 18 and the call for a Third Reconstruction brought all these struggles together. This action, and its large Communist Party contingent, gave a powerful example of the solidarity and unity needed going forward.

Looking toward November, the need to speak frankly with millions of people door to door is paramount, especially as Trump tours the country spewing his poison, and corporate dark money flows into the campaign coffers of fascist minded Republicans.

While the drum beat in the big business media is that Republicans will carry the 2022 election, the story on the ground is more optimistic. For example, in Wisconsin’s spring school board and local elections, a diverse coalition helped elect a number of progressive candidates of color, defeating divisive, right-wing Republicans.

Elections at every level are crucial to the future of all democratic rights.

The 2022 election is connected to day to day organizing on the ground for a just recovery for all from the pandemic.

The Principles for an Emergency Relief Unity Program issued by our party last year provides a foundation for building unity around the immediate needs working class families face.

The program framework says “we stand on the principles that employment, housing, healthcare, education, energy, and freedom from racism and discrimination are basic human rights for all regardless of country of origin.”

The extreme right wing mantra being touted in the 2022 elections for austerity in a time of inflation is inhumane. As the Economic Policy Institute said in a recent report, the rise in inflation “has been driven by higher corporate profit margins and supply-chain bottlenecks.”

The best response is to fully fund programs for jobs that will serve human needs and advance climate sustainability by taxing the billionaires and shifting funds away from military spending.

Out of these struggles for the common good, candidates can emerge who are diverse working-class champions.

The 2022 elections are a critical moment in the resistance against fascism. At last month’s national committee meeting, Joe Sims called for collective unity of action by our party.

“This collective unity of action is stitched together in voter registration drives, fundraising initiatives, rallies, occupations, door knocking, picket lines, phone banking, and get-out-the-vote efforts. It’s woven in the process of contacting neighborhood associations, PTAs, lodges, women’s rights groups, and environmental organizations, along with reaching out at grocery stores, bars, pool halls, barber shops, beauty salons, dry cleaners, and county fairs. And it’s sewn into an unbreakable thread by demonstrating, sitting in, and writing letters to the editors, outlining the issues and supporting candidates who back them—including when possible our own party candidates.”

Every new voter registered is someone who can become involved in ongoing organizing and collective action on their own behalf. It is no wonder that taking away voting rights is at the heart of the fascist right-wing agenda.

To summarize, the key components of our strategy to win against the threat of fascism include building a broad peoples front of all class and social forces committed to preserving and expanding democratic rights. Raising working-class consciousness to build unity in action against racism, hate, bigotry, lies, fear and division is a core feature of building this unity.

In practical terms, this means participating with labor organizing, civil rights struggle, and peace movement building. It means working with labor and other allies at the door-to-door level, registering new voters and getting out every vote on the basis of issues and ongoing collective action for basic needs. It also entails building a bigger and stronger Communist Party, YCL and People’s World readership, rooted in multi-racial working class communities, workplaces and campuses in order to mobilize for emergency relief and offer a longer term vision of socialism.

Our extraordinary comrade Art Perlo understood how to engage co-workers and neighbors in action and raise class consciousness. We carry his legacy forward in the mobilization to vote against fascism and in the inspiring growth of the Communist Party.

Images: demonstration for voting rights by UNITE HERE (Facebook); Georgi Dimitrov quote (CPUSA); UNITE HERE knocking on doors for the 2020 Senate runoff in Georgia (Facebook); Brooklyn For Peace tabling event (Facebook); YCL rallies with the #CloseRikers campaign in NYC (CPUSA Twitter); Detroit YCL voter registration table (CPUSA)



    Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. She was a candidate for Congress from 1973 to 1982, maintaining minor-party ballot status for the Communist Party in Connecticut's Third Congressional District. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance that defeated the ultra-right in the 2008 elections and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.



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