I think the evidence would show that the overwhelming base of support for the violent clown car attempted coup at the Capitol was not white working class, but the expected fascist base of petit bourgeois and lumpen elements.
Almost every article I’ve read about those arrested bears this out. Their social class origins may have been working class, but their current relationship to the modes of production are either self employed, small business owners, or grifters with various unsuccessful schemes in place.
The “Joe six-packs” who I worked with for more than forty years are unlikely to have been there. They are mostly too busy working overtime to pay for their travel trailers and summer cottages. Many of them may well have voted for T**** this time around, and some even voted twice for Obama and supported Bernie in the primary. They are just woefully mislead and blinded by racism and xenophobia. How to get through to them continues to baffle me.
Racist violence with minimal intervention from a sympathetic police force is a recurring theme throughout American history. The Left has long recognized affinity between the state and white supremacy as a key obstacle to social liberation. But as today’s Left grapples with a rising far-right and historic crises of legitimacy and reproduction, it’s especially critical that we learn from the lessons of our antecedents. Particularly in this moment of growing multiracial movements and a renewed labor militancy, and as we see echoes of this dark history in events like the now-infamous Charlottesville Unite The Right Rally and the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol, it is especially important to re-evaluate the legacy of the often overlooked Communist Workers Party (CWP).
In 1979, the CWP organized an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, NC, which was ambushed by white supremacists and neo-Nazis under the watch of a sympathetic police. Ku Klux Klan members and members of the American Nazi Party drove up to the peaceful picket, promptly unloaded several rifles from their cars, and massacred 5 demonstrators. The attack was led by an FBI/police informant, as well as an undercover ATF agent, yet police presence was minimal and attending officers did not intervene. The attackers escaped easily.
Yet what is especially critical about the CWP story is not the massacre itself, but rather what preceded it — and what made it such a target in the first place. The CWP had established a strong presence for several years in Greensboro, focusing on organizing predominantly Black textile workers throughout the area. Greensboro had long been a major textile producer, home to major national mills like the Cone Mills White Oak plant. Immersing themselves in the union, the CWP quickly developed a strong multiracial cadre that was successfully pushing strong organization and militancy among the workers.
In many ways, their approach prefigured the way today’s nascent Left is developing: from the intersectional focus on multiracial solidarity to the emphasis on developing existing working class institutions. And this is precisely what made them a threat to local power structures. What ultimately unfolded was a converging of interests between the state, the local mill owners, and white supremacist institutions that have long used terror to maintain a system of racial capitalism — these forces could not avoid responding in some way to the diverse working class strength that the CWP was building among a particularly strategic set of workers who could bring the backbone of the local economy to a standstill.
What today’s Left must recognize is that this model of multiracial rank-and-file organizing works, that it represents a genuine possibility for social liberation, and that therefore it will inevitably come into conflict with the state or its right-wing proxies. And as surveillance regimes only expand and become more sophisticated, it is especially critical that we remain vigilant about our security as we organize. Fortunately, many are taking these imperatives seriously. Some are even going further, which is why we are seeing the growth of organizations like the Socialist Rifle Association, which aim to coordinate community self-defense efforts.
Ultimately, if the CWP’s history teaches us anything, it is that we must remain committed to organizing multiracial coalitions, informed by our diversity, while centering a common program that speaks directly to shared needs. The severity of the efforts to prevent this kind of organizing are evidence of its efficacy. But we must remember that this makes us the target of a number of powerful and loosely-aligned antagonists. Any meaningful challenge to hegemony will generate a response. If the Left is going to build lasting change, we need to be prepared for these obstacles.
In this interview, Alaine Duncan looks at our nation as a “trauma survivor” and discusses how to transcend tribalism. A challenge for our nation’s tribes is learning to tolerate our own discomfort and not perceive discomfort as unsafe.
Alaine Duncan graduated from acupuncture school in 1990 and completed Somatic Experiencing training in 2007. She was a founding member of the Integrative Health & Wellness program at the DC Veterans Administration Medical Center where she served as a clinician and researcher from 2007-2017. She also co-founded the National Capital Area chapter of Acupuncturists Without Borders who, until Covid 19, provided free weekly acupuncture treatment to immigrants, refugees and neighbors in need. Her book, The Tao Trauma: A Practitioner’s Guide for Integrating Five Element Theory and Trauma Treatmentexplores East-meets-West approaches to restore survivor’s balance and regulation. It is available in print, audio and kindle wherever you buy books on line.
This short video from Positive Money (a British financial reform group) explains how government borrowing and interest payments to banks syphon money from the public to build bank profit. The system works the same in the US, but there is a better way: direct government spending.
From slave patrols to lynchings to last week’s assault on the US Capitol, police-enabled, racist attacks are nothing new in the US. One of these was the 1979 Greensboro Massacre in which five anti-racist organizers were killed by Klan and Nazi gunmen, abetted by local police. This month, a panel of survivors previewed a 20-minute documentary of the Massacre and summarized insights and lessons from the experience.
Remembering a 1979 Moral Moment opens with a 20-minute documentary about the Massacre followed by panel including Roz Pelles, Paul Bermanzohn, Mary Nathan and Joyce Johnson.
Our quarantine situation, and the shift to virtual events, makes it easier than ever to tell this story. And it could not be more vital at this moment. People are home and yearning for connection and conversations through such programs.
In this critical moment, it’s important to remember this history: how brave the Greensboro Five were, and how committed their comrades were to making a more equitable society. This history should motivate us to organize and reach out in our communities to address inequality. Above all, we must make the Massacre and its lessons have an impact on the youth who are leading us toward better tomorrows.