MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: The Fight Against Fascism in the USA 3.
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—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—
The Fight Against Fascism in the USA
Should Fascists Be Allowed the Right of Free Speech? A Working Class Point of View On The Question That Was Brought To The Fore Again By The Professional Democrats When The Nazis Mobilized At The Garden.
Reprinted from the March 3, 1939, issue of Socialist Appeal
It seems that the only point of importance that the professional liberals and democrats could see in the big mobilization of the Nazis at Madison Square Garden last week, was their “right of free speech and assembly.”
Mayor LaGuardia kept reiterating emphatically that his attachment to Democracy compelled him to grant the Fascists the right to hold their meeting and provide them with extraordinary police protection.
The American Civil Liberties Union rushed into print to insist that the right of free speech be extended to the Hitlerites.
One of the numerous committees of the Jewish bourgeoisie, anxious to demonstrate that it loves fairness above all else, did likewise.
Even the wretched little Jewish anarchist weekly published in New York indignantly reproached the Trotskyists for the lack of sense in “demanding the right of free speech and assembly for oneself and at the same time trying to prevent the freedom of speech of our opponents. . .”
Freedom For Nazis But Not For Pickets
Before going further into the consideration of the question of “free speech for Fascists,” it is interesting and important to record the fact that all the above-mentioned who showed such touching concern for the “democratic rights” of the Nazis, are entirely unconcerned with the brutal police suppression of the picketing rights of the workers who assembled outside the Garden.
The Mayor simply refused to see a delegation which came to protest against the violence of the police who rode down and slugged the picketers.
The American Civil Liberties Union, apparently exhausted by its noble efforts in behalf of the Nazis, didn’t utter a peep about the democratic rights of free speech, assembly and picketing being denied the 50,000 anti-Fascists who came to protest the Nazi rally. Ditto for the Jewish committee.
As for the anarchists Freie Arbeiter Stimme , it says not a word about the police assaults, but villainously insinuates that the Terrible Trotskyists were really at fault because, Mr. Police Commissioner, they planned a violent attack on the Nazis who were innocently celebrating Washington’s Birthday. Unbelievable, but here are its exact words:
“But there are times when people who endeavor to do social work must reflect ten times, a hundred times, before they come out with an appeal for acts of violence.”
What The Problem Really Involves
The question of “democratic rights for the Nazis” cannot be resolved on the basis of liberal phrasemongers. All such a discussion can produce is a bewildering tangle of words and abstractions. At a more decisive stage, as all recent experience has proved, it produces a first class disaster not only for the working class but also for the professional liberals and democrats themselves.
How many of them, indeed, are there in the concentration camps, in prison and in exile who are continuing the thoroughly futile and abstract discussion over whether or not the Fascist gangsters should be granted the “democratic rights of free speech and assembly”!
And what is most decisive—this is the point which leads us directly to a solution of the problem that seems to agitate so many people—is the fact that in Italy, in Germany, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, in Spain, the democrats were so concerned with preserving the “rights” of the Fascists that they concentrated all their attacks and repressive measures upon those workers and those labor organizations which sought to conduct a militant struggle against the Fascists and for the preservation and extension of their truly democratic rights and institutions.
It is when the bourgeois “democrats” like Giolitti in Italy and Bruening in Germany, had done all in their power to smash the most progressive and active sections of the working class—as LaGuardia and his police tried to do on a smaller scale in New York last week—that the Fascists concluded successfully their march to totalitarian power. Whoever forgets this important lesson from abroad, is a fool. Whoever tries to keep others ignorant of this lesson, is a rogue.
A Simple Example
Let us take a simple example which every worker has experienced dozens of times.
A strike is called. The authorities promptly jump into the situation in order to protect the “democratic rights” of the scabs and the company gunmen who guard them. The “right to work” of the scab, which is guaranteed by the capitalist government, amounts in reality to his “right” to starve out the striking workers and reduce them to helpless pawns of the employers.
Millions of workers have learned the futility and deceptiveness of the academic discussion of the scab’s “democratic rights,” as well as of appealing to the government and its police to “arbitrate” the dispute involved. They try to solve the question, as they must, in the course of struggle. The workers throw their picket-lines round the struck plant. The conflict between the scab’s “right” to break a strike and the workers’ right to live, is also settled in the course of struggle—in favor of those who plan better, organize better, and fight better.
Same Rule Applies On Broader Scene
The same rule applies in the struggle against the much bigger scab movement that Fascism represents.
The workers who spend all their time and energy in the abstract discussion of the Nazi’s “democratic rights”—to say nothing of working themselves into a lather in defense of these “rights”—will end their discussion under a Fascist club in a concentration camp.
The workers who delude themselves and waste their time begging the capitalist democrats in office to “act” against the Fascists, will end up in the same place, just as the workers of Italy, Germany, and Austria did.
The workers have more vital concerns. They are and should be interested in defending and expanding their democratic rights. But not in any abstract sense. These rights are the concrete rights of free speech, assembly, press, the right to organize, strike, and picket, without which an independent working class simply cannot exist.
A decaying capitalism—of which Fascism is only a natural product—seeks constantly to restrict and destroy these rights, which are not truly genuine even in “normal” times. These rights can only be defended from the assaults of capitalism and its ugly offspring Fascism, in the same way in which they were acquired: by the tireless, aggressive, unbending, independent struggle of the working class.
The wailing and weeping about the Nazi’s “rights” can safely be left to the prissy liberals and the phony democrats.
The self-preservation of the working class demands that it cut through all abstract chatter and smash the Fascist gangs by decisive and relentless action.