This certainly was the week that was. Trump threatened nuclear war against North Korea. He threatened to invade Venezuela. Along the way, he attacked various people in his administration and the Republican Party for supposedly letting him down. It ended on the other hand with him blaming “many sides” for the violence in Charlottesville.
The world is usually black and white, without any shades of gray, for President Trump. Except, now it’s all gray when the ugliest part of his political base, the Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, anti-Semites and lovers of Confederate traitors who supported slavery, cause death and injury to those who believe in democracy and equality. Trump’s response was late, even later than his wife’s tweet condemning the violence. And when he finally issued a statement, it was so wishy-washy as to be almost meaningless. With his comment about condemning the “many sides” to what happened, he morally equated those who brought hatred and violence to Charlottesville with those who opposed it. The fascists were thrilled with his “condemnation” and so much so that the founder of the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi white supremacist web site hailed Trump for “refusing to disavow” them.
Don’t think for a second that those coming to Charlottesville to rally to “Unite the Right” desired anything other than to brutally demonstrate their physical determination to turn America into a fascist state. They came fully armed with shields, head gear, pepper spray, and clubs. According to Virginia Governor McAuliffe, the fascist militias who came with them were better armed than the police; 80 percent of them had semi-automatic weapons. None of this was needed to exercise free speech; indeed, they came to intimidate and crack heads the way Hitler’s Brown Shirts did during his quest to take over Germany.
On that level, the ACLU deserves special mention for failing to recognize that free speech does not include the ability and intent to harm others physically. When the City of Charlottesville sought to move the fascist demonstration to another park, about a mile away, the ACLU successfully filed suit to prevent it, even though the city was saying it needed to do so to preserve public safety.
If you think that calling these demonstrators fascist is extreme, consider that they gave a torch lit parade reminiscent of Hitler’s Germany, while shouting “Blood and Soil,” a slogan created by Hitler’s party in the 1920s to proclaim their view that pure German blood evolved from Germany’s rural areas. And if that wasn’t enough, they also shouted, “The Jews will not remove us.”
There are photographs on the web of James Alex Fields Jr. holding a shield with the insignia of Vanguard America, one of the fascist groups that called for the Unite the Right rally. He is the young man who posted a baby picture of Hitler on his Facebook page, registered to vote Republican in the last election and stands accused of murder by deliberately driving his car into a peaceful crowd of people leaving the area. If you go on Vanguard America’s website, the group rails against gays, Jews, Blacks and women having sex outside of marriage. They proclaim to support the institution of the family, Christian values and a fascist state in America. “Democracy has failed in this once great nation, now the time for a new Caesar to revive the American spirit has dawned,” states Vanguard America’s manifesto, which bears the title “Fascist America.” This new fascist America, in the eyes of Vanguard America, will be “exclusively for the White American peoples” who settled and built this country.
It is worth reading their Fascist America manifesto. It explains the fascist attraction to Trump, his attraction to them, and it highlights the need today for the labor movement to educate America’s workers against fascist demagogy about supposedly caring for working people.
Like traditional fascists of the 1930s, Vanguard America pretends to oppose workers’ exploitation: “Vanguard America stands indomitably opposed to the tyranny of globalism and capitalism, a system under which nations are stripped of their heritage, and their people are turned into nothing more than units of cheap, expendable labor.”
Of course, American workers’ exploitation is due to an international Jewish conspiracy which controls the international corporations and prevents us from enjoying a truly national economy that serves our needs. Once that exploitation is lifted, according to the manifesto, the American worker will have economic security in a classless capitalist society, albeit, as directed by a benevolent national state without any freedom of the press to interfere:
- Like all independent nations, America should strive for a truly national economy. An economy that is self-contained, and free from the influence of international corporations, led by a rootless group of international Jews, which place profit beyond the interests of our people, or any people. Neither for the rich or the poor, ours should be an economy directed to act in the interest of our people and our people alone. America should protect the man’s right to fulfilling work so that every hardworking man can provide for his wife and children. His labor will be directed to serve the interests of the national community. The chains of debt slavery wrap themselves tightly around White Americans, such conditions must be reversed. A new generation of corporate leaders, who hold the interests of White America first and foremost, will naturally rise to the top of this new economy.
- The free market is not the enemy, but global finance is. Average businesses will keep their usual functions and retain a profit motive. However, the large multinational corporations that have bled this nation dry will not be allowed to continue their detrimental efforts unabated. Once they are brought to heel, our currency will no longer be manipulated on the whims of the vested few, our jobs and industry will not be exported to foreign nations, and the media and entertainment industries will no longer be allowed to poison the minds of our people.
This manifesto explains the programmatic reasons why fascist groups like Vanguard America supported Trump for he complained about globalism, about jobs being exported overseas, of unfair trade agreements that sold American out, and that he was for the forgotten common man. Of course, it also helped that Trump wanted to deport Muslims and immigrants and urged violence against protesters at his campaign rallies. Moreover, he denounced the news media as “fake news,” a term that Hitler coined, (lügenpresse – lying press) to describe newspapers that did not support him, and led the racist effort to discredit President Obama as supposedly not having been born in America.
By making Steve Bannon his campaign CEO and then elevating him to be a special advisor at the Whitehouse after he won the election, Trump signaled to the far right his acceptance of their views as part of the legitimate political discourse. Some even say that it was Bannon’s vision when putting into practice by Trump enabled him to win. He certainly won in the rust belt and other states where America’s white working class was hurting. (Bannon was the editor of Breitbart News, a far-right online news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has “pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Bannon.) It’s no wonder that Trump couldn’t condemn the ideology of the fascist hooligans of the alt-right at Charlottesville.
Trump’s failure to denounce the fascist and racist ideology on display in Charlottesville quickly met with stinging criticism from leaders within his party. U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) publicly called on Trump to condemn “white supremacists” and to use that term. He also tweeted: “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists, and this was domestic terrorism.” Gardner chairs the Republican Party’s Senate election effort.
Other Republicans denounced the fascists in the clearest possible terms. U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement decrying the white supremacist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia:
- Our Founders fought a revolution for the idea that all men are created equal. The heirs of that revolution fought a Civil War to save our nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to that revolutionary proposition.
- Nothing less is at stake on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, where a violent attack has taken at least one American life and injured many others in a confrontation between our better angels and our worst demons.
- White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special.
- As we mourn the tragedy that has occurred in Charlottesville, American patriots of all colors and creeds must come together to defy those who raise the flag of hatred and bigotry.
U.S. Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) tweeted Saturday night: “We must call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life-fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted that it was “very important for the nation to hear” Trump “describe events for what they are, a terror attack by white supremacists.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz tweeted: “The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate.” He called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation of what he called “domestic terrorism.” Even Gov. Chris Christy (R-NJ), a strong Trump supporter, tweeted: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”
On Saturday, we watched Trump finish his milk toast denunciation of violence in Charlottesville by walking out and refusing to answer reporters’ questions about why he was not denouncing white supremacists. On Sunday, an unnamed Whitehouse spokesperson emailed these reporters to put some spin on what Trump said. The Whitehouse claimed that Trump’s Saturday statement was one that “condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred, and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.” While it’s nice that the Whitehouse is rewriting history to a positive purpose, it is not enough. Trump must personally condemn those responsible for the terrorist violence. He must also personally denounce the Nazi, KKK, white supremacist, and anti-Semitic fascist ideology that propelled the violence.
Hitler’s party called itself the National Socialist German Workers Party for a reason. It claimed it was on the side of Germany’s working class. And, unfortunately, many workers believed this and voted for the Nazi Party. Of course, once in power, Hitler smashed independent trade unions, rounded up their leaders (as well as the Jews, the disabled, the communists, the Romani and millions of others) and put them into concentration camps where they died. If Trump does publicly denounce these fascist groups, it will go a long way to weakening them, in part because a segment of the unionized and nonunion American working class supports him. If Trump does not denounce these groups, they may continue to grow and become a force in our body politic and within our unions.
*Larry Cary is a partner at the labor law firm of Cary Kane LLP in New York City. His mother grew up in Nazi Germany but was able to leave because she had birth right citizenship, having been born in New York City. His law firm’s website is http://www.carykanelegal.com/