The history of the working class and oppressed peoples is full of positive and negative lessons about the intertwined struggles against war and fascism. Unfortunately, since the destruction of the USSR and the socialist camp 30 years ago, many of these lessons have been lost to new generations and forgotten by older ones.
At this critical juncture of an unfolding global war crisis unleashed by U.S. imperialism in Ukraine, the destruction of people’s basic rights and livelihoods at home, and the growing climate catastrophe, it is crucial to the success of working-class movements to revive those lessons.
This is the context of an event called “Rage Against the War Machine” planned for Feb. 19 in Washington, D.C., and billed as an alliance of “left and right” against the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine.
While feinting to the left, with a slate of progressive-sounding demands and headlined by some left-ish journalists and social media personalities, the event is being driven by the far right, including allies of Donald Trump.
It features racist, anti-trans, and anti-worker speakers like “Tea Party” founder Ron Paul, a former member of Congress from Texas; anti-trans bigot Tulsi Gabbard, another former representative; former judge Andrew Napolitano, a past Fox News host who was considered by Trump for a Supreme Court seat; and representatives of the Libertarian Party and Lyndon Larouche’s Schiller Institute.
The most prominent representative of the “left” on the bill is Jimmy Dore, a YouTube personality known for appearing with the likes of arch-bigots Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.
It’s no surprise that the announced speakers are almost entirely white, with no recognized representatives of progressive Black, Latinx, Asian, or Native communities and organizations, nor the LGBTQ+ and feminist movements.
Preying on confusion
The ultra-right is preying on the weakness and confusion that has plagued the anti-war movement since the outbreak of open conflict between Russia and NATO’s proxy regime in Ukraine last year. In this, the far right is attempting to lead anti-war forces into a trap that would override the life-and-death concerns of oppressed communities for the false hope of a “broad” alliance against the danger of World War III.
Its true purpose, however, is to strengthen the grip of the openly fascist, white supremacist movement in the U.S. based on anti-trans panic, hatred of migrants and refugees, censorship of Black and LGBTQ+ history, robbing women of their right to abortion, and so on.
Some of the anti-war left are desperate for an alliance with the far right, having no confidence in the multinational working class, the only force historically capable of stopping imperialist war and halting the advance of fascism. This is reflected in the details of the lineup and sponsors of the Feb. 19 event – including a libertarian wing of the Bernie Sanders electoral movement and so-called “patriotic socialists” like the Center for Political Innovation.
These “leftists” have been part of a trend that platforms fascists while denigrating and dismissing the most oppressed sections of the working class, who have the least to lose and the most to gain from a revival of revolutionary class struggle in the U.S.: Black and Brown people, migrants, Muslims, women, trans people, the LGBTQ+ community, the poor, the disabled, etc.
They argue that the struggles of these workers for their basic democratic rights somehow detract from the class struggle rather than enhance and strengthen it. Many of them also dismiss the organizing of service industry workers like those at Starbucks, who actually provide grassroots militant leadership to the labor movement.
Such a policy, put into practice through events like “Rage Against the War Machine” that attempt to play down class divisions and whitewash the far right’s war on the oppressed, can only serve the aims of the imperialist ruling class.
Is the far right really anti-war?
These leftists also ignore the real pro-war politics of the far right. While some of them, like Ron Paul, boast of their isolationism for political gain, their allegiance to unbridled capitalism, racism, and xenophobia speaks the truth about their actual stance.
While there are different schools of left-wing thought on fascism and the most effective ways to fight it, all serious opponents agree that war is as integral to fascism as it is to the imperialist ruling class.
Some on the right oppose the war in Ukraine simply because a Democratic administration is heading it, others because they are still lost in the fever dream of an imaginary “white nationalist alliance” with Russia.
It should be noted that Congressional Republicans, now dominated by the far right, have again and again voted overwhelmingly to give more money to the Pentagon and the military industry, as well as to strengthen the police waging a racist war on people in the U.S. Donald Trump boasts that his administration put $2.5 trillion into the Pentagon and armaments.
While generally progressive-sounding, the demands of Rage Against the War Machine do not mention opposing war with China, Iran, or other countries targeted by U.S. imperialism. War against those countries was a high priority of Trump and his ruling class backers and the far right inside and outside the Republican Party.
Many are advocating for open military conflict with Mexico to stem the tide of refugees – workers attempting to flee the consequences of U.S.-sponsored wars and economic devastation in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
Anti-war activists should take careful notice of the video speech given by Donald Trump on Jan. 31, in which he declared himself an “anti-war candidate” in 2024 while saying he would outlaw gender-affirming care and trans lives starting on his first day back in office. This is the destructive path Rage Against the War Machine is attempting to lead the anti-war movement down.
Divide and conquer
One of the grave mistakes that facilitated the rise of fascism in Germany in the early 1930s was the decision of the Communist Party leadership there to form an electoral bloc with the fascists in 1931 against bourgeois liberals and social democracy, giving rise to the much-maligned slogan “after Hitler, us.”
The move confused and demoralized millions of workers and the party’s members. And this alliance of convenience did nothing to prevent the Nazis from outlawing and smashing the Communist Party and the workers’ movement when it had cemented its position with the support of the big German capitalists two years later.
More recently, a similar alliance of convenience in Britain has had serious consequences for the working class after many leftists joined in the right-wing-driven Brexit movement. While the left had long opposed the European Union as an imperialist institution, those who supported Brexit found themselves tailing a white-nationalist movement which, since coming to power, has had devastating effects on the rights of workers, the national health system, the rights of trans people, etc.
There are no shortcuts to building a genuine anti-war movement. And there is no shortage of anti-war sentiment among workers in the U.S. The movement must do the work of linking the fight against imperialist war with the urgent needs of people here – against inflation, low wages, evictions, and police terror, and standing up for the rights of people who are under attack. To be successful, it must be independent of both the Democrats and Republicans.
We urge those genuine anti-war forces who have been misled by the rhetoric of Rage Against the War Machine to consider the consequences of supporting this false “left-right” alliance and to join us in organizing for the march against U.S. endless wars on March 18 initiated by the ANSWER Coalition and endorsed by the Socialist Unity Party and many others.
Melinda Butterfield is a longtime anti-war activist who has organized against U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the war in Donbass since 2014. She is author of the forthcoming book “U.S. Proxy War in Ukraine and Donbass,” co-editor of Struggle-La Lucha and a trans woman.
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