On August 12 a fascist attacked a group of peaceful protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia, who had assembled to contest a gathering of ‘white nationalist’ neo-Nazis. This attacker wounded 19 of our comrades and killed one. Among the targeted and wounded were comrades from Industrial Workers of the World, Solidarity, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, and our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Socialists of America. We mourn the victims of this tragedy and condemn the attacker — and the political movement he represents — in the strongest possible terms.
We have seen rumors that the attacker, James Alex Fields, was a military veteran. Yesterday, the U.S. Army confirmed that he enlisted and was subsequently expelled from the Army due to his failure to complete basic training. As such, he is not a veteran. Nevertheless, in service of clarity, we wish to unequivocally condemn him as veterans, as socialists, and as human beings.
That the growing fascist movement in America would exercise violence should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention. This comes from the top; Donald Trump’s endorsement of shameless racists like Jeff Sessions, Sebastian Gorka, and Steve Bannon are meant as dog whistles to his hateful and opportunistic base. In this year alone we have witnessed the murder of Army Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III by a self-described ‘white nationalist,’ the murder of two Good Samaritans on a train in Oregon, the bombing of a mosque in Minneapolis, and legion reports of harassment across the country. Neo-Nazis and fascists are not subtle in their rhetoric. They brag endlessly of their desire to kill, and given power they will do exactly as they say. We have a choice: fight them now or allow them to realize their goals.
However, there is an impediment to our fight: an argument exists among establishment liberals and centrists in America that presumes we can defeat fascism through debate. It privileges decorous behavior above all else, chastising those who confront the enemy and even those who simply call it by its actual name. It presumes that, in a neoliberal world of permanent competition, the righteous ideas will rise to the fore without any intervention. It is the language of cowards and dilettantes who will never suffer the consequences of an emboldened fascist threat. They will bend and compromise to fascists at every turn; it is plain to see that they are already in the process of doing so.
As veterans of the United States’ imperial wars, we have seen in person the effects of wanton violence. We are socialists because we hate war and we hate violence. We categorically reject it, refuse to incite it, and will not support any organization or individual calling for more of it. That is non-negotiable.
However, it was not by happenstance that this fascist attacker drove his vehicle into a peaceful protest that brandished the DSA flag, the red flag, and signs reading “Black Lives Matter.” As socialists and anti-racists, we are the intended target — because we subscribe to a radical politics of equality, and because we refuse to accept the marginalization or subjugation of anyone in our community — and we must acknowledge this. To use a military term: we must understand our operational environment. Fascism is here and is committing violence against us. We must stand ready to repel it. If we ignore it, it will fester. If we debate it, it will lie and slither its way around the rules. If we appease it, it will take everything for itself.
We will defeat fascism through overwhelming numbers, overwhelming solidarity, and overwhelming physical presence in the streets. We will defeat fascism by making it impossible for fascists to show their faces without unbearable consequences.
As veterans, we mourn in solidarity with our fallen comrades. As socialists, we exhort those would occupy the callow center to examine the real threat before us. As human beings, we call upon those who are silent to speak up. The choice is clear: socialism or fascist barbarism, social justice or fascist hatred, class solidarity or fascist violence. We have made our choice and will stand behind it. They shall not pass.
DSA Veterans Working Group