By Jakob Stein
On January 2, over a dozen fascists attended the anti-war protest hosted by the Denver, Colorado branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) under its front ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) along with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) at the state capitol building. Even after being warned repeatedly by antifascists at the rally, the event organizers from PSL and DSA ultimately did nothing to remove the known fascists, eventually marching side-by-side with them as the fascists held signs with PSL’s own propaganda.
These known fascists, including Russell Frankland and Joshua Yeakel from the Traditionalist Workers Party and Samuel Cordova of Patriot Front have repeatedly attempted to infiltrate and recruit from anti-war and ‘anti-imperialist’ rallies over the past several years, especially when hosted by eclectic revisionist groups like the ANSWER coalition and DSA. In pictures posted to social media, these fascists can be seen carrying the generic picket signs that ANSWER/PSL doled out to attendees.
Both the PSL and DSA avoid physical confrontations with fascists, instead opting for ‘de-escalation techniques’ which prohibit the masses from taking action when organizers refuse to do so, giving cover and protection to reactionary and fascist elements.
According to reports from antifascists present at the event, the fascists were not only allowed to hang around but actively intimidated and filmed others in attendance. Their presence was so noticeable, several protesters left out of fear for their own safety and well-being.
DSA and PSL make regular use of ‘marshals’ at rallies, which they claim are meant to maintain order and safety, but in practice function as mediators with police and work to keep demonstrators within the bounds of ‘acceptable’ protest.
In Denver, the organizers were warned before the event of possible fascist infiltration, but they placated the concerned antifascists by claiming they had a plan in place. When fascists were spotted and the PSL and DSA controlled ‘protest marshals’ were again warned at the rally, their initial reaction was passive, doing nothing to remove the fascists. Later, they ordered those who offered to physically eject the fascists to stand down, aligning completely with the fascists and their movement and offering them protection.
When antifascists decided to reject the opportunist leadership of PSL and DSA, the fascists hid behind police, and due to a lack of unity in action, the police were able to arrest one of the few antifascists willing to engage in confrontation. The utter lack of support for antifascists from PSL and DSA, who instead actively protected fascists, should serve as a cautionary example for those attending any future anti-war demonstrations hosted by either group.
In a statement posted online by PSL in response to the justified outrage at their actions, they claim that they wanted to avoid “physical confrontation that would put the whole demonstration at risk.” This only further demonstrates their subservience to bourgeois law and the toothless nature of their ‘antifascism.’ They go on to claim that “everyone who has worked with us” knows that they are not “in league” with fascists. But an analysis of revisionist collaboration with fascism can’t be based on their paper slogans but their real-life actions, which have demonstrated the opposite.
‘Rocky Mountain Antifa,’ one of the main groups responsible for exposing the fascist collaboration of both DSA and PSL in Denver, was correct in issuing harsh criticisms through their twitter account to both organizations for their tolerance and protection of fascists. But once PSL issued an empty apology, the same antifascists told Incendiary that they looked forward to “future unity and cooperation against fascism in Denver,” including with PSL and DSA.
Rocky Mountain Antifa’s about face on their initially principled response is disappointing, as both PSL and DSA have shown with their actions a complete unwillingness to actually confront fascists and instead rely on bourgeois respectability and legalism. So-called ‘constructive criticism’ has never stopped either organization from engaging in counter-revolutionary rhetoric and actions. PSL’s protection of fascists in this instance, and many others, is not to be rationalized or excused, because their promises are always dependent on their opportunist goals.
Both PSL and DSA opportunistically unite with nearly anyone who can boost their numbers, negating any revolutionary analysis as long as it gives them a bigger platform to push their phony ‘socialist’ electoral candidates and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Both groups’ right-wing orientation mirrors other eclectic revisionist groups that have also made space for and actively collaborated with reactionaries, particularly fascists, under the guise of uniting with ‘moderate’ conservative elements.
This is not the first time that the political opportunism of groups like DSA or PSL has allowed fascists to have free reign at their events. In early January, the Austin branch of DSA allowed known fascists Christopher Ritchie and Colin Whites, as well as reactionary news outlet Infowars, to go unchecked at their protest, instead agitating for the antifascists’ removal. In April 2018, PSL in Los Angeles also allowed a nationally known fascist named ‘Baked Alaska’ at an ANSWER demonstration against US aggression in Syria.
PSL especially has a long history of giving a platform to far-right elements, which can be understood as their crypto-fascist tendency. Brian Becker is a founder of PSL, director of the ANSWER coalition, and a host of the Sputnik radio show “Loud & Clear.” On Becker’s show, he has invited Ray McGovern as a frequent guest, who has a documented history working with LaRouchePAC, an organization dedicated to the ‘LaRouche Movement,’ a fascist movement known for engaging in antisemitic conspiracy theories. He has also given a platform to Mark Sleboda, a follower of Russian fascist Aleksandr Dugin and promoter of ‘Eurasianism’. Becker has hosted a number of other reactionary guests and appeared on other radio shows organized by far right personalities like Sputnik’s “Fault Lines,” hosted by former Breitbart employee Lee Stranahan.
All these examples are emblematic of PSL’s and DSA’s lip-service to antifascism while practicing protection and promotion of fascism in deed. At the heart of their revisionism and opportunism is redbaiting, (anticommunism), because communism strikes at the foundation of their existence, the US imperialist state which they pander to through elections, reformism, and legalism. But their poisonous, liberal orientation towards fascists is not limited to PSL or DSA, but is present among self-proclaimed antifascist groups as well.
Recently, at the massive 2nd Amendment rally in Richmond, Virginia, anarchists with ‘Antifascists of the Seven Hills’ and eclectic ‘leftists’ with the Pittsburgh chapter of the John Brown Gun Club not only openly admitted to collaborating with ‘moderate patriot militias’ (the most common form of American fascists) and other right-wing groups, but marched in solidarity with reactionaries at the 2nd Amendment rally. Their alliances with reactionaries not only serve to sanitize the fascist patriot militias, but also presents an incorrect analysis of fascism that gives cover to constitution-waiving fascists and only targets the openly racist groups and individuals. The leadership of these eclectic groups of activists engaging in this type of collaboration should not be considered antifascists, but dangerous and counter-revolutionary since they seek to undermine real antifascism.
Those truly dedicated to antifascism must continue to expose and confront any attempts to give space to fascists physically or ideologically. This inevitably means challenging those who co-opt the rhetoric of antifascism especially while allowing fascists’ physical presence at their rallies. Organizations such as PSL and DSA are anticommunist, imperialist lackeys among the people, as their politics and practice demonstrate. Aiding fascism and diverting revolution is built into their agendas – the people and revolutionaries must be prepared to counter the wind that these groups blow into fascism’s sails.