We showed up to Cal Anderson Park in Seattle just after the 5pm anti-fascist rally was set to begin. There were already hundreds of comrades gathered in the rainy evening, many in full black bloc and ready to fight. A number of people out that night were recently involved in the battles against Nazis in Olympia and although this experience gives us confidence, it also produces a feeling of dread that we are encountering an increase in fascist organizing. This raises some questions: Is there actually a greater presence of fascists in the area or are the long-standing fascists just newly emboldened? Is there a conscious effort to seize upon the racist and xenophobic atmosphere being fostered by the likes of Donald Trump and other opportunistic reactionaries? Or, are anarchists now just more aware of fascist activity?
Whatever the case, we’re becoming familiar with the nervousness and uncertainty of dealing with these extra-legal enemies, who are even less predictable than the police. Much of this anxiety was eased for me once I saw the huge crowd at the park. Upon seeing our side assembled, I felt confident that the Hammerskins who threatened to “show these liberals, anarchists, antifa and fags that we are here and here to stay” didn’t stand a chance. It seemed clear that the Nazi’s couldn’t have won a street confrontation, but the potential for them to resort to the kind of extreme violence seen in Minneapolis in late November was, and continues to be, a terrifying reality.
We marched through Capitol Hill behind a banner reading “The Pacific Northwest United Against Fascism.” The demonstration was viably powerful, yet strange tensions presented themselves throughout the evening. There was the obvious (yet minor) tension between the pacifists and the more enthusiastic proponents of self-defense. There was also a tension between those who viewed the demonstration as a disruption to the functioning of the city (including the inconveniencing of the people stuck in traffic) and those who only wanted to run off the Nazis. Predictably, there were liberals who were against the Nazis but fine with the police. Yet the dynamic I found the most difficult that night was a sort of existential tension within the bloc itself.
It seemed difficult to balance between going on the offensive against the ordinary targets and practicing restraint so as to not provoke a police attack that could have caused a premature dispersal. In other words, we had to operate differently from the usual “hit as hard as possible for as long as possible and then disperse” model in order to prioritize sustaining our mobilization for the unknown amount of time necessary to oppose the Hammerskins, should they appear.
Despite what seemed like a general atmosphere of half-restraint, there were still dispersed attacks on property throughout the night. Some condos were fittingly spray painted with the words “Smash White Supremacy,” an Amazon box truck was spray painted (and lightly looted), a news van was smashed, and probably more.
Also this tension of restraint meant that we generally didn’t engage with the racist murdering pigs before us. Hostility toward the police took a backseat to the Nazi threat. There was a bottle or insult thrown here and there but largely the crowd would not confront them. This was a dilemma. We had assembled this huge force of potentially liberatory violence and yet these enemies were hardly threatened at all. Was this restraint necessary?
Having attention detracted from attacking our enemies at hand, seems like a way that the far-right (sanctioned or not) acts in the interest of reinforcing the status-quo. They redirect revolutionary momentum into defensive activities. By representing the worst possible outcome of what a destabilization of the present order could result in (fascism), they terrify potential insurgents into resigned acceptance of the comparative security of the democratic state.
We should aim to be militantly anti-fascist while not allowing that to imply that we are pro-democracy. Anti-fascism is the lowest common denominator that brought us together that night but we should work to show that the racist authoritarianism Nazis represent is not only a fascist phenomenon but also a pillar of our capitalist democracy.
The reality is that the state form doesn’t matter so much as long as economic exploitation is operating efficiently. The more discipline the state needs to impose to maintain social peace, the more visibly brutal and authoritarian its operation becomes. One thing is consistent: At all costs, the rich and powerful must remain rich and powerful. Capital is God and the state—humanitarian or functionary— must serve it. Fascism is the emergency management plan of any state in crisis. Currently we are seeing its tenants gaining a renewed popularity as the liberal dream of progress can no longer offer solutions to fundamental and systemic problems.
After marching in the rain for three and a half hours, with no sign of the neo-Nazis, the size of the demo had dwindled and we regrouped in the park. From there most folks dispersed, although smaller groups remained on watch in the neighborhood into the night. Much like another recent call in Olympia the Nazi march on Capitol Hill never happened. It is clear that despite what the recent national upsurge in far-right activity may imply, neo-Nazis have still not been able to gain a foothold in these streets. This raises the concern of whether other right-wing extremists, such as the armed militia groups who have been appearing at anti-immigrant rallies , will pose a greater threat in the long-run (both to the struggle for autonomy specifically but also to society in general).
Nationally, the climate has shifted since the uprising in Ferguson. White supremacy and the institutions that uphold it have been under attack by both social movement pressure and full-scale insurrections. Those who feel affinity with this social order are responding. From Charleston to Olympia, Minneapolis and Seattle, we are again seeing fascists and militant racists coming out of hiding. As the far-right attempts to re-consolidate into a more palatable populism, we must oppose them while not letting this dilute or detract from our revolutionary aspirations.