The Mass Line: Communist Militants Speak on Dayton
This is an interview with comrades who were present at the attempted Dayton KKK rally last week. "The Mass Line" is a column where on the ground activists are encouraged to speak their minds and offer advice derived from social practice regarding organizing, offer criticism/engage in self-criticism, and promote their organizing.
RV: What made you want to go to Dayton?
C1: Honestly I agreed to go on a whim: a comrade I’ve known for quite a while who had previously moved to Dayton requested backup. I had no conflicting obligations and knowing the importance of antifascism and that I could possibly learn from the experience, naturally I agreed. After all, if not me then who?
C2: I live here.
C3: I heard about the rally through an organization I am a member of. One of my comrades was one of the organizers of an armed coalition going to Dayton to help run security for the counter protest, so I was invited to join. I believe armed counter protests have two functions, primarily to keep people safe in the event the Klan or racists decide to attack, and secondly as a show of force. As a white communist, I feel it is my duty to unite with the people in a fight against racisms and white supremacy. As well, as someone who trains with firearms regularly, I feel it is also my duty to put those skills into practice whenever possible.
RV: What is your analysis of the Ku Klux Klan as a threat?
C1: Historically significant but less popular among modern white supremacists who value social stealth. It’s not out of the question that they’ve seen a surge in activity in since the 2016 election that has emboldened fascists everywhere. To be clear, they are to be watched and opposed and not underestimated, I just think that there are larger threats out there.
C2: The Klan itself is an incredibly minor threat in my opinion, falling behind far more mundane threats (food deserts, affordable housing, safe water distribution, etc.) Additionally, I believe most reactionary organizers and “activists” would not consider the Klan to be much of a threat, or much of an ally in their case.
RV: Why do you think only 9 members of the Ku Klux Klan chapter showed up?
C1: It is simple: because they are afraid! Of being exposed or worse! But again, since I think they’re kind of on the outer orbit of white nationalism right now, I think that has something to do with it. 9 showed up because they probably don’t have many people to begin with and more cunning fascists don’t want to be associated with them.
C2: Building upon my previous point, I don’t believe the Klan is popular amongst reactionary organizers, which may have affected supporter attendance. The city government negotiated for the Klan to only admit members of their organization into the “protected zone”, and received a (generous) headcount from the Klan before the action. I was worried this would throw supporters into the general public and be a hazardous situation. The counter demonstrators were militant enough in provisioning our own security that the counterdemonstration went without incident, and no agitators/supporters of the Klan made themselves known. In recent history, reactionary demonstrations have taken a toll on the right-wing movement. Definitive victories [of antifascist forces] in the streets of Boston, and even less definitive victories in Charlottesville and Michigan have forced reactionaries to consider returning underground, as many have.
C3: When we were prepping for the action, we had intel that there were multiple groups showing up in defense of the Klan’s “freedom of speech”. Among these groups were some local neo-Nazis and some biker gangs, even Proud Boys showing up to “defend” the first amendment. I can only assume there was so few who actually showed because they are truly paper tigers. I think Mao’s quote on reactionaries really captures the essence of the entire event: “In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful… it is not the reactionaries but the people who are really powerful” (Mao, 1946).
RV: What is your opinion on anti-fascist organizing in general? What is needed? What is productive, what is counterproductive?
C1: Learn to defend yourself, because to be performing antifascism is to put your life in danger. As far as actions go, planning and reaching out and working with other organizations can help ensure success. Appraise the situation as best as you can, but have back up plans and possible escape routes. Do not escalate more than you have to. Lives are in your hands. Find some sympathetic legal (as in like lawyers and stuff) organizations to worth with. Also remember that antifascism neither begins or ends with the protests and actions. It means everything from tearing down fascist posters to monitoring/doxxing specific fascists and their organizations. Stopping the spread and flow of white nationalism is just as important as confronting it when it musters up the nerve to rear its head again.
C2: Anti-fascist organizing is foundational to progressive struggle. It lays the ground work for liberation movements, builds unity, bolsters community relationships, and is a simple entrypoint into radical organizing. Since most visible anti-fascist organizing is presently responsive, we need to segue anti-fascist organizing into sustained work. This can start with ongoing anti-fascist spaces (book stores, gyms, etc.) but needs to transition into an ongoing effort to meet the needs of the community (after school programs, childcare, centralized community meals, combating police brutality, etc.) independent of the State. Anti-fascism, in my view, is a broad umbrella with many facets that need to be addressed by organizers. Many tactics fit comfortably into the strategy, so productive vs. counterproductive comes down to the independence of the organizers from the State. Antifascist organizers should always be considering their ensuing struggle against the capitalist state ensuring victory over fascism, so it is most productive when communities learn how to organize to meet their needs sustainably and independent from the state, ultimately building their own dual power. It is counterproductive to work or ally with the state during anti-fascist struggle.
C3: I believe the Anti-fascist movement in Amerika needs to understand the situation for many is that fascism is already here. I think communists can build a stronger movement by connecting the anti-fascist forces to the mass work happening in poor and working communities. The movement should make efforts to unite with the masses and beginning building mass bases. I think the current anti-fascist movement is to siloed and separated from the masses.
RV: What do you think we can do better as communists to build a stronger anti-fascist movement?
C1: The ultimate antifascist act is to create more Communists. Aside from that, and as stated earlier learn to defend yourselves and each other. Promote community defense and spread knowledge as far as you can. We cannot watch over the masses constantly, we must teach them to defend themselves and each other.
C2: Combating “apolitical” ideology is critical to the success of all community driven movements. The idea that certain spaces should be apolitical allows room for reactionaries to breathe. On the other hand, Communists must ensure that the purpose of the space is not lost to politics, rather that the space is bolstered by its progressive values and these values may impact the direction of the space as it continues to fulfill its purpose.
RV: Why do you think the city of Dayton allowed the Klan to hold a “rally”?
C1: I am an outsider to Dayton and don’t know its history or conditions enough to say anything conclusively, but I imagine two possibilities. One is that the city was trying to vacuously uphold so-called “free speech,” a perfect example of how fascism is enabled by liberalism. Alternatively perhaps a few blatant white nationalists live at home in their local government.
C2: The city government allowed the Klan to hold a rally because they were too chickenshit to force the Klan to pursue further legal action. Perhaps they believed the $650,000 spent on security was less than what would have been spent in a legal battle.
C3: It seemed to me that it was the bullshit liberal idea that all forms of speech, no matter the content, are equal. They obviously don’t care about black people or would be willing to take a stand for them. They went to great lengths to protect the Klan, spending more than a half a million in taxes to do so by erecting a huge barricade between the Klan and protesters (which separated the two by at least 100 yards) and providing pig escorts for them. I know that the Klan was authorized to wear their hoods and open carry initially, and after a few months, the city tried to restrict that, until the Klan threatened to sue them and they backed off.
RV: What was the mass sentiment in the city?
C1: Dayton made it loud and clear that the Klan was not welcome as evidenced by the tour-de-force organizing of several organizations together in close cooperation as well as the turn-out of the masses. A clear victory and a good sign.
C2: The mass sentiment was dismay that the Klan was being permitted to organize in their city. Additional feelings ranged from disengagement to militance.
C3: This is difficult for me to know. Based on my conversations and from what I observed, people were pissed that the Klan had been allowed to come, even in such small numbers. There was actually another “counterprotest” across town, called “Peace Rally” (something like that), headed up by liberal organizations. This was supposed to draw people away from the counter protest with the idea that directly confronting the Klan would only give them promotion.
RV: What was the class character of the protest?
C1: With such a diverse turn out it’s hard to say, I didn’t see no rich man anywhere though.
C2: While there were some Dayton politicians in attendance, the attendees presented mostly as a wide spread of proletarians, working people. There were activists in punk/queer militant aesthetics, local families, university affiliated persons/recent graduates, white collar workers, blue collar workers, and even bohemian artists. Regrettably, there was a large Pentecostal contingent with a very effective sound system that decided to have service in the middle of the crowd, but they were not directly combated.
C3: The class character seemed to be a mix between white petty bourgeois and black proletarians. Additionally, there was lumpen elements as well, with a large contingent of a local Blood gang that showed up with at least fifty people. There were plenty of communists, socialists, and anarchist elements, including some liberals. An interesting experience was having been talked to by two white liberals who were getting angry with me that I had brought a weapon. They said I was “enabling violence”. During the protest, all the black folks who spoke to me thanked me, even asking my comrades and me if we would escort folks to their cars when they were trying to leave.
RV: What is your position on armed propaganda/defense efforts like those displayed by the HPNGC in Dayton?
C1: The bold open carry protest move is sometimes necessary. Its necessity requires the same discipline that HPNGC and other orgs showed with regard to armed protest. Again, legal knowledge is key. Know your gun laws, know your self defense laws, have lawyers/street medics on deck if at all possible. Secondly, remember that the goal is in fact not a shootout: it can be thought of as mutually assured destruction. It serves as a deterrent against one sided massacres.
C2: Hell yeah, that was inspiring. They were incredibly disciplined, and instilled the crowd with a sense of militant discipline, while providing security and ensuring that the police did not misstep.
C3:,Armed contingents on the left show that we are willing to protect ourselves and others. It shows that we are willing to defend ourselves by any means necessary. It shows the reactionaries and the pigs that we have guns too and if they wanna play like Nazis, we’re willing to play back with them. It was important that HPNGC and other armed contingents were there in a show of force. It opens up discussions with folks around what is necessary and possible for liberation.
RV: What can we do to build a stronger anti-fascist movement in STL?
C1: When more organizations are working together, our coordinated efforts can virtually assure a successful and safe protest or if worst comes to worst, mitigate whatever may come as much as possible. Sharing our resources and skills makes our antifascist front strong.
C2: I’m not familiar enough with revolutionary politics in STL to comment. No investigation, no right to speak.