By Benay Blend*
“It’s grotesque to blame third party voters for the unwillingness of Democrats to stand up to Trump,” Steven Salaita tweeted, “just another pathetic chapter in the long American tradition of punishing the dispossessed for the depredations of power.”
With only a few days left before the US elections, tempers are flaring on social media and beyond. Those who refuse on principle to vote for Joe Biden are hit the hardest. For those who stay clear of falling into the Democratic fold there are various accusations, including, for example, what I was recently told, that my politics are just not anti-fascist enough to ward off impending doom.
Is anti-fascism effective, though, if it is not part of an international movement that includes anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and all other forms of 21st Century oppression? If the answer is no, then how can campaigning for Joe Biden, who supports the fascist state of Israel, be in any way considered anti-fascist?
“A lot of people really think the way to fight fascism is with more competent and insidious fascism,” writes Onyesonwu Chatoyer, organizer for the All African People’s Revolution Party—New Mexico, a pan-African socialist party dedicated to the total liberation and unification of the African continent under scientific socialism. Chatoyer continues:
“The pandemics, depressions, and white supremacists wandering and shooting at will – as well as a drastically expanded and increasingly brutal police and surveillance state – are all here regardless and I hope that everyone is organizing beyond electoral politics to make sure our communities are prepared for that.”
For a counter-argument, there are many precedents to draw on. Drawing on Malcolm X’s 1964 speech “The Ballot or the Bullet,” the question is “Where do we go from here?” rather than what liberals frame as “to vote or not to vote” as the central the query. The former is a strategy, while the latter is a personal matter that should be left up to the individual voter.
The thrust of Malcolm’s speech is not outdated. At its core, he suggests that if the civil rights movement becomes a struggle for human rights, then it becomes an international movement with grievances that can be brought to an international court. Moreover, he transforms anti-fascism in one country into a global struggle that includes all movements against not only fascism but also foreign intervention. Such a strategy exposes, too, the fallacy of supporting (not just voting for, but also in the form of condoning) any candidate who endorses the fascist state of Israel then calling that support anti-fascist.
In a similar vein, Margaret Flower, organizer for PopularResistance.Org, suggests decades that rather than defining the struggle as liberalism versus fascism, it is better to direct attention to end-stage capitalism as the common culprit. Since both major parties adhere to capitalist economies, whoever wins the “agenda of the power elite” will maintain control.
Strategically, Flowers recommends building grassroots organizations outside of mainstream politics, “find[ing] our areas of strength and the powerholders’ weaknesses and us[ing] tactics that build our strengths as we weaken theirs.”
Another way to look at the contradictions of a candidate like Joe Biden, so-called liberal Democrat, who nevertheless supports the fascist state of Israel, an alliance, he says, that is based on our “shared values,” is to move away from what Gabriel Rockhill terms the “one-state-one-government paradigm” that glosses over the “complex ways in which populations are governed.”
In its place, Rockhill favors a “bottom-up materialist analysis” of the various ways that government, both visible and invisible, are outsourced to state agencies that are then “mobilized for governing different populations.” In this way, “fascist vigilante violence” towards people of color, “openly condoned by the state,” can coexist in an otherwise liberal state that operates on different levels according to the population at hand.
“If liberals are tolerant of fascism,” concludes Rockhill, and defend their right to speech, “it is not because they are higher moral beings.” Instead, it is because their “system of pro-capitalist governance necessitates keeping guard dogs on call for the dirty work.”
For example, there is the idea that a vote for Biden is a vote for harm reduction, but harm reduction for whom? Perhaps there will be no change in health care, at least if the Supreme Court doesn’t manage to rule otherwise. Perhaps women’s right to chose will survive intact. But for Palestinians, and for numerous other people in other lands who have already experienced America’s extended hand, the future does not look good.
In economics, writes Jonathan Cook, “externalities” are most often “defined indifferently as the effects of a commercial or industrial process on a third party that are not costed into that process.” The military-industrial complex, he adds, “excels in these kinds of externalities. Its power derives from its ability to externalize its costs on to the victims of its bombs and its wars. These are people we know and care little about: they live far from us, they look and sound different to us, they are denied names and life stories like us. They are simply numbers, denoting them either as terrorists or, at best, unfortunate collateral damage.”
There are connections to be made at home. Referring to the Sept. 29th Presidential debate, Ramzy Baroud contends that Biden skirted around the issue of “articulating a coherent racial justice program” that would enable a positive outcome regarding “the struggle for equality and rights for Black people and other US minorities.”
Baroud’s analysis rests not on who is the lesser evil between the parties. Rather, he concludes that all of “America’s ruling elites are either unconcerned by the plight of minorities or playing the race card as a political tactic which serves their fleeting agendas during election time.”
Looking at the ways that externalities hide the damage that the US does towards vulnerable communities, it appears that those populations are disposable, not worthy of note in the debate over how to defeat fascism at home. A case in point, Mawusi Ture, organizer for Black Alliance for Peace and the Philly Tenants Union, quotes a fellow activist to make a similar point:
“Let’s make connections, shall we?
Philadelphia policing has a 1033 program budget and that new Black woman commissioner has had deadly exchange training with IDF…
Folks are rushing to the polls to vote for the man and woman who refuse to address FEDERAL FUNDING OF POLICING… not even to challenge Trump on it. And do you know why??????
Guess which administration expanded the 1033 and guess which former state prosecutor in AIPAC’s pocket invited (and praised) IDF training California police? And both want to throw $300 million MORE into policing that has expanded federal funding under Trump to existing programs like Operation Relentless Pursuit and Operation LeGend…
So much for harm reduction.”
So perhaps it is no contradiction at all for Biden, running as a candidate who cares, to support the Zionist state of Israel. Both countries define themselves as exceptional in their adherence to democratic rights. Yet beneath that self-perceived persona each knows that it can call on the guard dogs to keep the colonized in tow.
What is a contradiction is thinking that it is possible to vote away the impending fascist state by replacing it with a candidate like Joe Biden, who might impose kinder, gentler forms of violence both at home and towards various states abroad, but in the end is just the opposite side of a very rusty coin.
In Bolivia, one year after a right-wing coup in Bolivia that ousted three-term President Evo Morales, voters conveyed a decisive victory to presidential candidate Luis Arce, Morales’s former finance minister and the candidate from his Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, Party.
“It is difficult to remember the last time a US-approved military coup in Latin America failed so spectacularly,” declared the Intercepts Glenn Greenwald. To justify the power of the vote, however, based Arce’s victory is disingenuous. For the past year Bolivians have been blocking roads, fighting the police, fighting the right-wing coup, and perhaps most important, solidifying a people’s party.
In the end, voting is just one tactic to be employed in conjunction with direct action, grassroots organizing, and political education in order to bring about a similar outcome in America.
*Benay Blend earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. Her scholarly works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “’Neither Homeland Nor Exile are Words’: ‘Situated Knowledge’ in the Works of Palestinian and Native American Writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.