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It’s Time for the Civil Rights Movement to Once Again Confront the Democrats and Lead the Struggle Against the White Fascists

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I woke up very early Wednesday morning to celebrate the great victories of Pastor Raphael Warnock, a courageous Black man from Ebenezer Baptist Church and John Ossoff, a Jew who defeated two reactionary Republicans in the heart of the old confederacy but also the heart of the Reconstruction victories. Big props to Stacey Abrams. The racists and voting rights destroyers will long regret messing with that powerful Black woman who knows the art of the payback. I also knew the great significance of a 50/50 Senate with Kamala Harris breaking the ties. I am part of the large group of grassroots movement people who well understood, “Let’s work together to defeat Trump and the Fascists and then take on the Democratic neo-liberals.”

But within an hour I saw a mob of armed white fascists assaulting the capitol to try to overturn the election while the whining talking heads at CNN and MSNBC, Jake Tapper among the worst, call on, of all people, Donald Trump to call off the very storm troopers he has organized? Note the Democratic apologists at CNN and MSNBC would never call out to Biden and the Democrats to protect the damn election that 81 million people fought to give them.

The Democrats knew full well this was coming as did the D.C. police force. The Democrats knew the Republicans were going to contest the election—unlike Al Gore who conceded his victory to George W. Bush before even the votes were counted—wanting to set the record for the earliest concession speech in history which is his real Inconvenient Truth. They knew this was the latest round of Trumpicans refusing the accept defeat—how funny that pathetic liberals chant into the wilderness “abolish the electoral college” but it is Trump who said, “Great idea, let’s overturn the entire election.”

The Democrats knew that Trump was mobilizing his base inside and outside the capitol. They knew Trump’s people were armed, dangerous, and many on crystal meth. Why didn’t Biden, Harris, and Obama call on Black folks, Latinos, union members, and the leaders of grassroots movements to come to D.C. to protect the election? Why D.C. Mayor and Democrat Muriel Bowser gave the fascists unchallenged run of the city, “In the face of organizations that are more than willing — and in fact eager — to engage in violent acts, counter-protestors can only serve to inflame an already dangerous situation.” So let’s get it straight. Armed white fascists can protest but the civil rights Movement cannot “counter-protest?” So much for painting Black Lives Matter on the street if the Black movement is barred from marching.

Why didn’t the D.C. and federal police make a massive show of military force including yes, arresting every demonstrator and using the great force on the racists while pledging to never use that force against Black folks and the Movement?

The reason? Because the Democratic establishment knows the U.S. is a white settler state and knows that any efforts to support a Black led resistance against white fascism is a human rights imperative but an electoral disaster. Their message to the Black community and their electoral supporters? “We get it, we know, (wink, wink) that these are crazy, armed, white thugs, but let’s us take care of it” And we wonder how Bill and Hillary managed to send so many Black people to prison and so many Black women off the public assistance with so little resistance. Yes, the Clintons are the true super-predators.

But wait, finally, a determined Joe Biden comes to the TV stage to confront the situation. Did he call on people to come to D.C. to confront the fascists? Did he call for mass arrests of the demonstrators? Or a shoot to kill order against armed counter-revolutionaries? No, his mock outrage was another signal to white Amerika that you won’t even get a slap on the wrist for trying to overthrow the government by force and violence (while communists who fought for socialism were arrested, imprisoned, exiled, tortured, for just discussing a socialist revolution—see W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson,

“Our democracy is under unprecedented assault unlike anything we’ve seen in modern times. These violent events are an assault on the rule of law. I call on this mob to pull back and allow democracy to go forward.” And once again Biden broke out the old okie doke signal to white folks that he would rather reach “across the aisle” or even across the lynch mob to “find common ground and be president for all Americans, even those who didn’t vote for him.” But then again, after God Bless America and more statements about our great democracy (tell that to four million Vietnamese people who were murdered by our government) Biden told us that he was shocked and outraged. This is not decent, it’s chaos,” he said.

Oh my God. He sure put those white racist fascists in their place! But just to add insult to injury he nominates Merrick Garland for Attorney General as a slap in the face of the civil rights and Black movement.

But we should not be surprised. Remember, Joe Biden’s most militant statements in his campaign were, “I am not a socialist. I am not against fracking. I am not for the Green New Deal. I am not for defunding the police.” As my mom used to say, “With friends like this…”

So, let’s be clear. The Democratic Party, starting with Barack Obama, is the party of Demobilization while the Republican fascists under Trump are the Party of Mobilization. Now the question is, where is our Movement since the Democrats will only conciliate with the fascists and in fact embolden them?

We saw some great organizing to defeat Trump at the ballot box and as one of many examples, saw great marches in Kenosha Wisconsin to defeat Donald Trump and to get Justice for Jacob Blake. But as we see time and time again, the organizers did succeed in delivering Wisconsin to Biden and Harris but there was no justice for brother Jacob who is still paralyzed while the system exonerated the policeman who shot him in the back.

As Justin Blake, his uncle, explained, “This is going to impact this city and this state and this nation for many years to come, unless the people rise up and do what they’re supposed to do. This is a government for the people by the people, correct? We talk about this constitution everybody’s supposed to be so committed to, and yet we stand in the state that has the most convictions of African Americans in the United States. So they’re weighing heavy on one side of justice, but they’re allowing police officers to rain down terror on our communities. It’s unjust.”

But we rise up without illusions. When white racist mobs rise up they are safe. When a Black led protest movement rises up and “does what its’ supposed to do” we know there will be more police killing. So yes, we rise up but with no illusions about the systematic police violence of the white settler state.

During the height of the Civil Rights Movement we marched into the heart of segregation “down south and down North” as Fannie Lou Hamer said. We took the tactical initiative and carried out confrontations against the structures of oppression in our workplaces, schools, hospitals, and unions. And while we marched often, we also took the struggle into every institution in the U.S. It was CORE and SNCC and SCLC and yes, NAACP, Urban League, Nation of Islam and later Black Panther Party who called the question every day and took the tactical initiative. As a result we pushed Kennedy and Johnson on civil rights and forced a confrontation with the Democratic racists inside the party. We ran Black candidates for Mayor from Carl Stokes in Cleveland to Ken Gibson in Newark, and yes, built the National Black Political Convention in 1972. Out of some great counter-hegemonic organizing, that cost Martin and Malcolm and so many others their lives, we created the conditions for the great George McGovern for President Campaign and the later Jesse Jackson for president campaign both of which were sabotaged by the Democrats. But we were a real Movement and we forced our way into making history. We passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and ended the war in Vietnam. And the System has been retaliating against us ever since.

We have to go back to what we understood—direct action organizing including the right of self-defense is what is needed. We in the civil rights, Black, Latinx, Indigenous, human rights, women’s environmental, and climate justice movement have to put our bodies on the line and directly confront the white fascists through the most strategic and carefully constructed tactical plans. And yes, we need very tight tactical leadership to prevent provocateurs and self-appointed anti-fascists (many of whose groups are heavily infiltrated) from having any tactical role in our actions. And yes, it can be done. I have seen with CORE, SNCC, SCLC, and today with some excellent leadership from Black Lives Matter L.A. that a demonstration can and must have disciplined leadership and marshals to enforce the laws of engagement. We can get to the complex “how and when” question of tactics at a later point. But here is my conclusion.

The challenge each of us to question or our level of commitment, willingness to fight, and yes, confront them. We have to ask ourselves— do we believe Biden/Harris, Schumer/Pelosi, the Supreme Court, the CNN and CNBC babblers, the police, the army, or God can protect us? We are on our own sisters and brothers so let’s look in the mirror, get together, and at least plan a serious engagement on new steps.

Our expanded tactical confrontations will require great tactical discussion and agreement and trust. But I do believe that when the civil rights movement confronted the segregated lunch counters, went deep into the heart of Klan territory, confronted the white racist Democrats in Cicero, Illinois who tried to kill us, we were calling the question and forcing every force in U.S. society to deal with our initiatives. I think we know that is what is called for again and great respect for those already moving in that direction.

As I watch the fascist mobs with their white power confidence I am asking myself how much more fight do I have in me? As I learned when I first came to work with CORE In 1964 and still confront myself today, I have less fight than I wish I did but as much as the movement needs. I learned that courage is collective and if we fight together and take on the fascists there is a sober, collective courage that is exhilarating as we know this is why we were placed on this earth. We in the Movement know that if a Black led movement confronted our government and moved to take over the capital there would be 500 dead Black folks in the streets and thousands of us in concentration camps as “sedition” and “treason” are only enforced against Blacks, Jews, and communists. And yet, I want to fight. I want to push myself to put my body back on the line because I do not want the fascists and the neo-liberals to keep getting away with murder.