On the 24th of January, Governor Abbot of Texas issued an inflammatory statement mobilizing the National Guard to restrict migrants from entering the country, invoking the “invasion clause” of Texas’ constitution. This was an escalation of an ongoing standoff in which the Texas National Guard tried to erect an illegal border fence in the middle of a national park on the Texas-Mexico border, a direct violation of Supreme Court orders. In response, the Republican party’s governors have almost unanimously offered verbal support, with several sending their own state’s National Guards to reinforce Texas. In effect, a reactionary rebel army composed of the forces of several states is being mustered in the Southwest, under the leadership of a party that believes the election of the sitting President was illegitimate. We’ve all seen this one before, so we know what comes next: the government rises to meet the rebels’ challenge, and then there will be civil war.
Yet Biden and the other Democratic leaders have not risen to the occasion, to say the least. Despite Abbot’s provocative letter (which appears to have deliberately emulated South Carolina’s letter of secession) and the context of the Republicans’ attempted insurrection on January 6th, liberal media and political figures are generally ignoring this crisis. The Biden administration, for its part, seems to be playing ball with the Republicans, engaging with this militant activity as a negotiating tactic for harsher immigration policy. Federal forces are being sent in not to repress the anti-government army, but rather to join them in enforcing the brutal border regime. The electoral prospects for anti-fascism do not look good either. A massive Christo-Fascist rally has emerged in support of Abbot’s army and Trump’s hypothetically harsher immigration policies, while Biden responded to an overwhelmingly leftist, anti-Zionist rally of similar size by bypassing Congress to increase funding for genocide in Gaza. The current approval ratings of the two foremost Presidential candidates reflect their respective treatment of their bases.
Why are they acting like this? That’s a big and complicated question, and an in-depth answer goes beyond the scope of this letter. For now, it suffices to say that the system has produced a situation in which the Democrats are heavily incentivized to aid and abet the Republicans in terrorizing their own voter base: the working classes. Unlike the Republicans’, the Democrats’ bourgeois class interests conflict with the demands of their base, so they can only take a totally negative, defensive stance. The one thing they can offer their voters is the role of hollow placeholder, the ability to hold space that would otherwise belong to the fascists. However, the more this “bulwark against fascism” routine defines the Democratic coalition, the less capable they become of actually fulfilling that promise. Fear of fascism is the only thing holding the party together, so they cannot afford to actually stop it. Besides, any actual solution to a problem like immigration would have to run far to the left of their financial backers’ comfort zones, so the Democrats cannot articulate any solution, leaving the discourse entirely in the hands of far-right narratives. They would therefore rather run a completely unelectable candidate than a candidate who might undo some of the damage being done by Republicans. Thus, in effect, they have become controlled opposition.
“Should we side with the Democrats to prevent fascism?” is a really confusing question because the answer is theoretically “yes, of course we should,” but the Democrats are not preventing fascism. This question has been everywhere on the left since 2016, but it’s completely the wrong question, shunting us into a political world of pure fantasy. Stopping fascism would have meant locking up Trump for treason rather than waiting for campaign season, fielding candidates with anti-fascist policies, prosecuting purveyors of hate speech, or, at the very least, preventing a fascist army from organizing in Texas. It’s hard to suggest with a straight face that the Democrats would ever even try to do any of those things.
Furthermore, with this new development, it is unclear whether Biden will be able to continue as President of the United States for much longer. The massive military build-up in Texas is not necessary to “secure the border,” which was already the site of extreme levels of state violence. This may be just a publicity stunt, but if the troops remain organized into November then something else is clearly the goal here. It is very possible that the National Guards of these Republican states will be kept in place in order to create a military option for the party to seize power, should Trump somehow manage to lose the election. Even if Biden wins, the farce on January 6th may yet be repeated as tragedy.
In a way, the premise of this letter is inaccurate. We’ve been in a civil war for years now, but it’s a completely one-sided one. Far-right extremist groups are taking over all levels of government, particularly school boards, turning young people into political refugees to “blue” states. Fascist paramilitaries and lone wolves engage in increasingly brazen terrorist acts on marginalized groups. The Democrats do nothing to stop it. America is in a historically unprecedented situation in which there is cultural polarization to a degree that political violence is commonplace, and the state is proving increasingly unable to maintain any kind of national unity, but only one side is seriously organizing to fight the other. There’s really no historical parallel here. If we can imagine the Spanish Civil War without the Popular Front, the American Civil War without the Republicans, and then set the whole drama in the most powerful nuclear-armed empire in history, then we can maybe begin to understand how bad this is.
How should we combat this threat? There is only one place to start: break free of the controlled opposition. One might wish it were otherwise, but the Democratic party has effectively positioned itself as a shield for the primary enemy, ensuring that any direct political attack on the far right will end in failure. Until the Democrats’ poisonous hegemony is broken, any electoral anti-fascist action we can take will be sabotaged from the top down. This task grows more intimidating and undesirable every day, but that is exactly why we need to commit to it as soon as possible. One need only imagine the better position we would have now, in 2024, if the DSA and other progressive forces had broken with the Democrats as far back as 2016. This dangerous procrastination serves no one except the oligarchs and their fascist puppets.
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