Why ignoring the Ku Klux Klan sends the wrong message

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The Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women issued the following statement in response to a recent Ku Klux Klan rally in South Carolina. The Klan was protesting the removal of the Confederate flag from the capitol building.

Every time the Klan or some other anti-Semitic, white supremacist group announces a rally, voices are raised advising the public to “just ignore them” as a lunatic fringe.

Anti-Klan demonstrators are counseled to turn their backs on the bigots in silent protest, to rally across town, or even to stay home. Meanwhile the police turn out in droves to protect the bigots’ First Amendment rights, and the media coverage all goes to a handful of prancing thugs.

The upshot of this approach is to give the Klan a recruiting bonanza with which to attract disaffected whites, especially youth like Dylann Roof, murderer of nine African Americans in Charleston. Roof and his ilk are blinded by a racist ideology that rationalizes their lack of opportunity by scapegoating Blacks and other people of color, immigrants, Jews, unionists, the LGBT community, socialists and feminists.

For a vigorous exercise of free speech by civil rights advocates. The alternative to passivity and avoidance is to mobilize our communities to stand up to the white supremacists and show our unity in action. Counter-protests put the voice of those who support equality squarely at the center of the discussion. They also demonstrate which side is stronger, braver, more numerous, and willing to stand up for each other.

For a decade, the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, organized against the White Aryan Resistance (WAR) and Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations in Boise, Idaho.

From the first rally until the Aryan Nations folded, the police, local politicians, businesses and NGOs aligned with them told the public we should not demonstrate when the Nazis marched through Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, or WAR tried to burn crosses on Whidbey Island, Washington.

But working with the United Front Against Fascism, we persisted. Gradually, the public began to see that ignoring the fascists was playing into their hands. More and more people took up the direct action philosophy, so that wherever the Klan or other bigots tried to rally, they were met with an outpouring of community and labor opposition.

Instead of the Northwest becoming a “white homeland,” as promised by the Nazis at the beginning of the 1990s, there hasn’t been a white supremacist demonstration in years.

Solidarity is the key to burying the Klan. Whether they wear suits or sheets, the strategists of the racist ultra-right are intent on building a mass political movement to disenfranchise the multi-hued, working-class majority in this country.

In times of economic distress, they trade in the politics of fear, offering scapegoats to the deprived and deranged. They are the product of capitalism which must divide to conquer so that the 1 percent can fly high while the majority struggles to survive. They constitute a nascent fascist movement whose beneficiaries are the super-rich and the industrialists. Their ideologues run the gamut, from the Council of Conservative Citizens to racist, anti-immigrant Republican presidential hopefuls like Donald Trump and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a virulent opponent of affirmative action and public workers unions.

The power to bury the Klan and their more respectable fellow travelers is in workers’ hands. All it takes is for their intended victims to come together across our differences of race, age, immigration status, sexuality and gender to form alliances, or united fronts, of groups and individuals under the slogan “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

We who share a common class interest against a mutual foe need much more than the removal the Confederate flag, a hated symbol of slavery and oppression, from the South Carolina statehouse. Working-class folk of all colors are still suffering in an economic “recovery” that has left many people behind. We need jobs, low-income housing, quality affordable childcare, affirmative action, elected civilian review boards over the police, an end to the school-to-prison-pipeline, and immigration reform to start with.

By standing together with the Black community today against racist violence across this country, and helping to build a national movement to confront the proto-fascists, we can make a difference for future generations.

— July 18, 2015

Also see: The rising threat of 21st-century fascism

And read a report on the demo in Columbia: Good news from Columbia, South Carolina

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