Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 30, 2017

Peter Camejo on fascism and ultraleftism

Filed under: Fascism,ultraleftism — louisproyect @ 1:05 am

Then you started hearing them all talk about imminent fascism. The underground papers discovered that there were concentration camp sites in this country, and that some of them were being cleaned up and gotten ready. They would say to each other, “See you next year in the concentration camps.” This was a very common attitude, because they couldn’t see any force around that was protecting their civil liberties.

Then what they began to develop was the thesis that civil liberties, elections, courts, all bourgeois democratic forms, are a gigantic put-on, a fantastic manipulation. That it is all a ruling class trick. So, these people concluded that the elections and civil liberties are unreal, and the people who run the country could call them off tomorrow. Elections and civil liberties, they said, “have nothing to do with reality”.

Then came the instant fascism theory. We are about to have fascism any moment now. But this is a very confusing theory. Somehow the rallies and demonstrations continue year after year. They don’t put us in the concentration camps.

This theory is actually a mixture of deep cynicism, thinking that the ruling class is all-powerful, but it always is combined with a last hope that maybe they aren’t completely bad. Maybe there is still someone who will listen.

Sometimes a liberal becomes frustrated not getting the ear of the ruling class, and he concludes that he’ has been using the wrong tactics. So he adopts a lot of radical rhetoric. He says this ruling class is apparently so thickheaded that what we’ve got to do is really let loose a temper tantrum to get its attention. The politicians won’t listen to peaceful things, but if we go out and break windows then Kennedy will say, “Oh, I guess there is a problem in this society. I didn’t realize it when they were just demonstrating peacefully. I thought everything was OK because they were in the system, but now they’re going outside the system, they’re breaking windows, so we’ve got to hold back.”

These liberal-ultraleftists think that’s what moves the ruling class. Actually they come close to a correct theory when they say that if people start leaving the system the ruling class will respond. But they don’t believe that the masses can be won. They think it is enough for them to leave the system themselves, small groups of people carrying out direct confrontations.

For example, let me quote a thing from the New York Times that illustrates how this type of idea develops. A girl from Kent, after the killings there, was asked what she thought could be done about Cambodia and what she thought about the use of violence. This was a person who is just radicalizing, a liberal, just beginning to oppose the war.

She says, “I’m really dead set against violence. That’s also a copout. But it’s the only way to get the government’s attention. What you’re doing is drawing their attention to you, by using the same methods they use. I’m really against that. It’s horrible that the only way you can get people to listen is to have four kids killed. There was really no blow-up over Cambodia until four kids were killed. You can have all the peace marches that were peaceful and quiet, and everyone would pat you on the back and say ‘good little kids’, but nobody would do anything.”

Now, what’s in her mind? She doesn’t see any independent, mass force that’s standing in the way of the ruling class. She’s looking at the ruling class and asking, “Are we affecting them or not? Are they being responsive?” And if not, maybe the way to get them to pay attention is to go out and break some windows and use violence. It’s a very natural conclusion when you don’t understand that there’s a class struggle, a class relationship of forces.

Having given up on the masses, the ultraleft super-revolutionaries are really trying to influence the ruling class. A classical example of this unity between the liberal and the ultraleft approach was the Chicago demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Party convention. The leaders of the demonstration came from the National Mobilization Committee. They were revolutionary. Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Dave Dellinger and Rennie Davis were on hand, and their rhetoric was as radical as you can get.

But while the “militant” demonstrations were in process, Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis were apparently closeted with McCarthy’s supporters working out an agreement to help McCarthy.

According to an article in the Jan. 22, 1970 Washington Post, “[Sam] Brown [Vietnam Moratorium Coordinator] said [Tom] Hayden suggested … that if McCarthy appeared to have a good chance by Monday or Tuesday — and if that chance might be hampered by public activity [demonstrations] — then we could meet to decide whether to go ahead with the public activity.” Hayden has never denied this account.

Another example of this type of ultraleftism was a full-page ad which appeared in the New York Times on June 7. It was placed by the New Mobe and signed by guess who? Rennie Davis, Dave Dellinger, et al. This ad announces in big letters at the top of the page: “It’s 11:59.” 11:59 to what? It’s 11:59 to 1984. Fascism is due in one minute.

This is another thing that these ultraleft-upside-down-liberals have: the panic button. Since they don’t see any countervailing force, they think at any moment the whole country could just go BANG! At any moment the ruling class can make a move to the right, and they don’t see any way to stop it, so they throw in the towel, they just panic. The ad says: “If you’re reading this — don’t kid yourself any longer. Big Brother is making his list. And you’re on it. Can we stop 1984? It’s 11:59 p.m. now. The clock is ticking loudly. What in hell are we going to do about it?”

Well, what solution do these ultralefts have? What do they project should be done to stop imminent fascism? In this ad they have a five-point program.

full: https://www.marxists.org/archive/camejo/1970/ultraleftismormassaction.htm

2 Comments »

  1. Thanks for this timely reboot of Camejo. The biggest problem with antifa isn’t their Travis Bickel tendency to attack anyone who dares gaze openly upon their masked majesties–vile as that is–it’s the diversion of left energy and attention away from the broader struggle to build social equality. Antifascism is NOT the whole duty of the left.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — August 30, 2017 @ 12:26 pm

  2. […] SWP’s “ultraleftism or mass action” line we all loved so much back in the day: Peter Camejo on fascism and ultraleftism and Antifa and the Perils of Adventurism, for example, along with his latest Could Punching Nazis […]

    Pingback by A Last Post on the Antifa (For Now) – NeoPopulism — September 10, 2017 @ 7:57 pm


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