Originally published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 63, printed October 29. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2020 issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
By Phil Wilayto
Editor, the Virginia Defender
“This presidential election may well be the most important of our lifetimes.”
It really doesn’t do much good to remind folks that we’ve been told that exact same thing every four years at least since “liberal” Hubert Humphrey got trounced by neo-fascist Richard Nixon back in 1968. Or when Jimmy Carter was shown the door by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Or when we had a chance of getting the first Black president in Barack Obama in 2008. But this time really is different.
Donald Trump is more than just a walking, stinking pile of horse manure. He’s an authoritarian oligarch who – seriously or not – is encouraging an actual fascist movement, complete with paramilitary militias. He is openly inciting white supremacists, calling on police to be even more brutal and repressive and is endangering the entire country by his insane rejection of science in addressing the worst public health crisis in a century. And he locks small children in cages after having them torn away from their parents in a deliberate attempt to terrorize other would-be immigrants.
So why aren’t we endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?
Simply put, because we can’t divide up our solidarity between people who live within this country and those who live outside it.
If the good people of the United States really knew what the Democrats have done and are doing to the poor and working people of other countries, we’re convinced they would have broken with the Democrats long ago and put their efforts into building a genuinely progressive third party.
But they don’t know. Eight years of defending President Obama from the viciously racist right-wing also meant giving him a pass on wars, occupations, coups, sanctions, blockades and CIA subversions abroad, while looking the other way at his many destructive policies here at home.
For just a few examples, the Obama-Biden administration:
- deported far more undocumented workers than any other administration in U.S. history, including that of Trump;
- largely kept silent about police racism, brutality and murders until Trayvon Martin was shot to death by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012, four years into their first term;
- expanded the war in Afghanistan, kept tens of thousands of troops in Iraq, intervened in Syria, backed Saudi Arabia in Yemen, expanded the U.S. Africa Command throughout almost all of Africa and led the U.S.-NATO bombing of Libya, which reduced the most prosperous country in Africa to a failed state and haven for right-wing extremists who have now destabilized a large part of the Sahel region of West Africa, including Mali;
- demanded that all NATO countries increase their domestic military spending – which has meant transferring money from their domestic programs to buy arms from the U.S. “defense” industry;
- oversaw the 2014 fascist coup in Ukraine, which, among other horrors, resulted later that year in the massacre of scores of progressives in the House of Trade Unions fire in Odessa;
- and, of course, continued sending more than $3 billion a year in “aid” to Israel so it could maintain its apartheid settler state and brutal oppression of the Palestinian people.
And, while mass incarceration decreased during the Obama years, it was Joe Biden who, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, largely wrote and pushed through Congress the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which did greatly increase mass incarceration.
We understand why liberals, progressives and even many self-described leftists will vote for Biden and Harris. Many are rightly terrified about what a second Trump administration could mean. Many feel a vote for the Democrats is an act of solidarity with the most vulnerable among us. We get it, and we don’t criticize them.
Our own refusal to endorse the Biden-Harris ticket rests on two hard facts:
First, Biden has demonstrated that he is fully in support of U.S. predatory wars, occupations, coups and subversions against other countries, none of which are in defense of the people of the United States and all of which are carried out to defend and expand the profits of the corporate class that controls both major parties. This actually means something to us, not to mention the rest of the world’s peoples. So voting for the Democrats on the national level is validating an imperialist party.
And second, the Democrats are no protection against the development of a mass fascist movement in this country. That’s a gross misunderstanding of history.
Fascism isn’t just a right-wing president or some white-supremacist, paramilitary organizations. It’s a violent mass movement promoted by a section of the ruling 1% that fears an anti-capitalist uprising of the working class. That was what was behind the rise in the 1930s of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Franco in Spain.
We haven’t had a powerful workers’ movement in this country since the Great Depression, but the ruling class understands far better than we do that capitalism has been unravelling for a long time, a process now greatly accelerated by the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The widespread economic anxiety, combined with the deep and broad rebellion over continuing police murders of Black people – a movement that was beginning to draw in some unions and other worker organizations – has the potential to provoke at the very least a new upsurge in economic and social demands that would threaten the super-profits of the very wealthiest who actually who run this country.
We were in Charlottesville in August 2017. We went head-to-head with Nazis, Klansmen, League of the South members and other white-supremacist fascists. We are proud of the contribution we made to pushing back that “alt-right” gathering and at least delaying the consolidation of a broader fascist movement.
We also were in Odessa, Ukraine, on May 2, 2016, when much better-funded and organized fascist organizations were threatening to murder the people who came out for the second annual memorial honoring those who died in the House of Trade Unions fire. We have no illusions about the dangers of fascism.
But we also know the solution. It’s the development of a broad, multiracial, multi-issue, working-class, antiwar and anti-imperialist movement that can unite millions under a program of economic, social and anti-racist demands, a movement that also is capable of physically defending itself from fascist attacks. And building that kind of movement is where we choose to put our time and effort.
There’s nothing wrong with voting for Biden and Harris, if it’s intended to be a vote against racism, repression and fascism. The problem is that the near-hysteria against anyone on the Left who chooses not to vote Democrat just reinforces the false idea that the Democratic Party is our only hope against the social and economic disasters for which they also are responsible.
So vote for whomever you want – except Trump. But if you’re really concerned about stopping the right-wing movement that Trump represents, either continue to be involved in real grassroots organizing, or start doing it today.
Either way, we encourage you to get in touch and see how we can work together.