The System’s Useful (and Violent) Idiots

Police officers came prepared in riot gear and about 100 outside agitators aimed at causing chaos came armed with sticks and rocks. Some set off fireworks in the middle of Sproul Plaza. Others threw objects at UC police.

And as the violence escalated, officers pulled back…. Police gathered on the balcony demanding that the crowd disperse, but made no moves against the protesters. – CBS SF Bay Area News Police Tactics During Violent UC Berkeley Protest Questioned

In thinking more about the recent events in Berkeley and reading some of the other commentary that pointed to the the failure of the administration to prepare and the inaction of the police, I was reminded of an essay I had read some years back by Don Hamerquist(1) – Fascism and Anti-Fascism, which appeared in Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement (2002, Kersplebedeb Publishing)

The state can tolerate a certain level of anti-fascist illegality on our part just as well as it can look the other way at certain actions of the fascists. Currently, many of our “street” victories do seem to involve tacit police cooperation at a certain level; implicitly sanctioning, or at least not confronting, our tactics and deliberately choosing not to investigate and prosecute at the level which would easily be possible….. [W]hen I read Red Action’s self-congratulatory descriptions of its confrontations with English fascists—and I have seen similar reports from various ARA [Anti-Racist Action] sources—I don’t see any recognition that such success could only occur for a significant time period with police acquiescence at the minimum….

Hamerquist goes on to warn his fellow antifas that serving as a tool of the ruling class so obviously will have negative consequences in the long run:

Keep in mind that in our confrontation with the fascists, the side that is identified with the state is ultimately going to lose politically although it may appear to be winning some street fights.

Doesn’t sound like they were listening…

(1) Hamerquist is an interesting thinker whose activism goes back to a period in the CP in the 60’s, followed by a move into the new left. He spent years in the Sojourner Truth Organization as one of its main ideologues (along with Noel Ignatin – now well-known as “whiteness” historian Noel Ignatiev). Since the collapse of the STO, he has continued to write and his thoughts on “fascism” are influential within a certain sector of the “anti-fascist movement” today. (See, for example, Threewayfight and this discussion at the now-defunct Bring the Ruckus.)

Once you get past their conflation of everything to the right of George Bush into one variant or another of what they call fascism (and they even argued over whether or not Bush himself was a fascist) the discussion within this milieu of the development of the anti-system populist right is not without interest, especially since they break with the traditional left view of this movement (whatever you may label it) as simply a tool of the ruling class. Instead, they recognize its autonomy in class terms and its subversive (and perhaps even revolutionary) character. While this is really the subject for another post (or two or three…), I will just point out that while this crowd is committed on the surface to resisting both the ruling class and those they have identified as “fascists” (thus, the “three way fight”), in practice they serve as the street thugs doing the dirty work of the ruling class much in the way that the SA did in the closing days of the Weimar Republic, albeit on a much smaller scale (for now).

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