Jan 18, 2021
The following is the text of the Spark presentation given by Gary Walkowicz in Detroit on January 10.
On January 6, maybe 20,000 or so people were in Washington, rallying to support Donald Trump’s claim to somehow overturn an election that Trump lost by 7 million votes. But there was more than just a rally. A crowd of several hundred people, led by white supremacists, invaded the U.S. Capitol. Encouraged by Trump’s racist rants, they were waving Confederate flags, wearing racist T-shirts, wearing T-shirts celebrating the extermination of Jewish people, they even built a gallows with a noose. They took over the U.S. Capitol for a few hours. The white supremacists who invaded the Capitol had obviously planned and prepared for this, since many of them were armed with weapons, bats, shields, chemical spray and even had ropes to scale the walls.
How could the police and authorities allow this to happen? Were the police totally incompetent and unprepared for this attack? Not very likely, since the police have been dealing with protests all year and there were many posts on right-wing social media talking about “storming the Capitol” and “bringing civil war” to Washington. Many people who planned and led this invasion were from well-known white supremacist organizations like the Proud Boys, the 3 Per-centers and QAnon. They were from known militias, neo-Nazi groups, gun rights groups and anti-abortion groups. Were the police so stupidly blinded by the racism of this society that they didn’t believe that white people would do something like this? Maybe. Was it a deliberate decision to let these white supremacists have their way? Possibly.
What is clear is that the response of the authorities was completely different with how they responded to Black Lives Matter protests. All summer BLM protesters were often confronted by police in riot gear using tear gas, batons and rubber bullets against protesters, arresting tens of thousands of them. We saw that at times in Detroit, and we saw it even more so in other cities where protesters were attacked by the cops. We saw what happened at BLM protests in Washington this summer, where the authorities overnight erected a perimeter wall that went for blocks to protect the White House; where they called in the military to clear the streets of peaceful protesters and arrested hundreds of people. This past week in Kenosha, Wisconsin, authorities erected barriers and called in the National Guard BEFORE they announced a decision to not charge the cop who shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake. And in Minneapolis in November, the cops arrested or charged 650 people who were briefly walking on a freeway protesting police brutality. It is clear whose side the cops take when it comes to people protesting racism. What do you think would have happened if it had been BLM protesters trying to invade the U.S. Capitol?
After the riot at the Capitol this week, the media, political leaders and business leaders were quick to throw blame and shout outrage, most of it aimed at Donald Trump. Twitter and Facebook shut down Trump’s account. Yeah, after 4 years of social media making millions of dollars off of Trump’s lies and racist rants, now they decided it was a problem.
There is even talk about removing Trump from office, now, less than 2 weeks from the end of his term. As if they just now realized that Trump is a liar and a con man, who has spent the last 4 years inciting racism, hatred and encouraging right-wing violence.
One way or another, Trump will soon be gone from the White House. But the real issue for us, the real issue confronting the working class is not about Donald Trump, it’s about the growth of the right wing in this country.
Trump has always made clear he was racist against black people; he spewed hatred against Muslims and immigrants; he despised women and tried to restrict their rights. Trump encouraged and pushed all the things that divide the working class. But Trump’s words and actions wouldn’t have meant much if there were not already right-wing forces and racist, right-wing attitudes in the population. The only difference between Trump and these far-right organizations is that the white supremacist groups are even more explicit about saying that they want a whites-only nation or that women have no place, like the Proud Boys say.
Right-wing forces like these have always been here under capitalism. Sometimes they are quietly in the background. And sometimes they appear openly. But they are always ready to carry out violent attacks. In times of economic and social crisis, like today, if the working class is not fighting, these right-wing forces can grow stronger, pulling in some white workers, especially from small towns and rural areas, people who are desperate and looking for a radical change. Trump certainly pulled some of these people to support him.
When you saw on TV the people at the Trump rally in Washington; I’m not talking about the people who invaded the Capitol; I’m talking about those people who are at the rally outside the Capitol. You saw what looked like a lot of ordinary people—people who maybe work in a small shop or are self-employed, small business owners—people who work for a living. A lot of them are from smaller towns and rural areas. These are people from areas where Trump got his biggest votes.
Trump was able to get their votes in different ways. Some of them agreed with or at least went along with Trump’s racism and his attacks on immigrants. Others liked Trump’s opposition to abortion. But there have been other politicians who espoused these views. What seemed to make Trump different is that he portrayed himself as an outsider who attacked the establishment. He attacked politicians from both parties, he denounced the “elites” who looked down on ordinary people. The more these elites and politicians denounced Trump, the more support and votes he got from a section of ordinary white people. And in the last election, Trump picked up more votes from black people and immigrants, people who work for a living, but are in desperate situations today and were looking for radical change.
Those 20,000 or so ordinary people who came to Washington, and many others like them, see Trump as the only person who they believed took their side. Were these people fools for believing that Trump was on their side, when Trump’s only major legislative achievement was to give trillions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations and to rich people, like Trump himself? Were they fools for supporting someone whose executive orders were designed to make rich people richer and make ordinary people, like themselves, poorer? Yes, we can say they were fools. But they supported Trump because, in their minds, he sounded radical; someone who would shake things up, and they didn’t see anyone else who sounded radical.
Sooner or later, Trump will be gone. But white supremacists and right-wing organizations will still be here and they can pull people, like these Trump supporters, and other working people behind them. They already have pulled some behind them. And that is what the real danger is. The danger is these right-wing organizations are not going away.
Incoming president Joe Biden scolded these right-wing forces who invaded the Capitol for not being nice. But so what? Those are just words. And words sound pretty weak compared to what just happened in Washington. Actions speak louder than words.
Now that there has been a big outcry about the invasion of the Capitol, some of these right-wing people will probably be arrested. But will they face any serious charges or jail time? But regardless, look at what they just did; they invaded and shut down part of the U.S. government. They chased all the Congressmen and Senators out of their chambers and into hiding. Certainly, these right-wingers must have been emboldened by what they did.
We saw similar things on a smaller scale here in Michigan. First, the right wing organized protests outside the Capitol building in Lansing to “Unlock Michigan". Next, armed-to-the-teeth right-wingers marched into the Capitol building. They brought their weapons in, not to protect themselves, but to intimidate and demonstrate. Then you had militia members plotting, or at least talking about, kidnapping and killing the governor. All these recent actions have only emboldened the right wing.
And make no mistake about it, this is a danger for the whole working class. Many black workers understand this today. Many Latino workers, too. Maybe a smaller section of white workers also understand.
Today the capitalists and their politicians and their mouthpieces in the media may denounce Trump and those white supremacists who invaded the Capitol. But tomorrow, the capitalists would not hesitate to use the right wing against the working class. They have done so before. They tolerate them today, so they can use them tomorrow.
The capitalists, and the politicians and police forces who work for the capitalists, they have always known of the existence of violent right-wing forces, but they let them continue to exist. The capitalists sometimes fund them behind the scenes. And sometimes the police forces are part of these right-wing groups. That certainly was the case with the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK was organized after the Civil War to terrorize the former slaves and the poor whites who tried to build better lives for themselves. The KKK has been used against the black population for 150 years. The Black Legion was a right-wing organization in the 1930’s that attacked working class militants and union organizers, with the complicity and support of the capitalists and their police forces. We know the capitalists will not hesitate to use these kinds of extra-military forces again.
So the working class faces a dangerous situation. The only answer is for the working class to make a fight for its own interests. I know I am saying the same thing that many people have heard us say before, many times before. But there is no other answer.
When workers in a big city or a big workplace begin a real fight for their own interests, they will pull along with them other workers. Look at the GM strike in 2019, look at how many other workers supported the strike and came to the picket lines. When workers begin to fight, they can also pull along with them those ordinary working people from smaller towns and rural areas, people who are also exploited, people who maybe support Trump today. When the working class begins to fight, they can even pull along with them some of those ordinary people who followed the extreme right to Washington on January 6.
When the working class is fighting, it can organize to defend itself against any attack from the right wing, as we have seen the working class and black population do in the past. When the black population was fighting, they found the ways to push back the KKK. When the working class was making a fight, they were able to deal with the Black Legion. An organized working class is stronger than these right-wing forces. They can deal with them.
When the working class is fighting, as a whole class, for its own interests, it can take that fight even further—to fight against the whole system that exploits all working people, and fight for a system run by the working class.