The Socialist Party strongly condemns all violence used in political discussions because we know that, no matter from what quarter it comes, it is harmful to the working class and to the case for socialism. The capitalists use their control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, to suppress working class resistance. That that is contrary to working class interests needs no arguing. Fascists and neo-Nazis, under the usual pretence of promoting the welfare of "the public" or even the interests of the workers themselves, are prepared to use violence at their meetings, probably because they believe it has some value to them as an advertisement. That violence, wielded by an organisation which stands for capitalism, is every bit as harmful to working class interests as is the violence used by other defenders of capitalism. Lastly, we have the te Leftists and others advocating street-fighting, and boasting of their activities in the direction of organised interference with public meetings of all kinds. Every one of these forms of violence is directly and unqualifiedly anti-working-class in its effects, even although those who are responsible for it believe that they are helping the workers thereby. The success of violent movements depends upon frightening people and not upon convincing them. It is as well to bear in mind that it is not the capitalist who is frightened, for he has the armed power at his command to crush out opposition when he desires to do so. The Left's assertion is that unless “fascism” is crushed we are in danger of the rise of a dictatorship party, which would suppress democracy and persecute its opponents and those it did not favour. If that danger exists it is represented equally by the organizations of the Left. What is THEIR aim? To suppress democracy and put down rivals so to obtain support by posing as the defenders of freedom.
Violence is not a successful method of convincing people of the soundness of a case. In fact, it is usually an admission that the case is threadbare. A case is not destroyed by violent methods, though those who are putting it forward may have to tread cautiously for a while. Anyhow, the use of violence only provokes violence from the opposition. Violence of this kind is harmful because it distracts the attention of the workers from the real problems of winning over the majority to socialism and of capturing the machinery of government; because it gives the capitalists an excuse to suppress socialist propaganda and to drive organisation underground; and because it prevents the workers from hearing and considering either the merits of the socialist case or the hollowness of the right-wing and white supremacist case. Those who organise or encourage and participate in such activity are to be condemned from the standpoint of working class interests and socialism. It is only by free and open discussion that the workers can grasp the essentials of their present condition of servitude and the way to abolish it. Until they have this knowledge it matters little which of the capitalist parties they support.
As far as the information goes, there does not appear to be any doubt that organised groups went to Charlottesville and Berkeley with the deliberate intention of creating disorder. Why, then, is so much fuss being made over the fact that they were roughed up? One thing that stands out clearly, however, is the fact that these methods play right into the right-wing's hands. They have shown a desire for the spectacular and the publicity from the beginning, and the nature of the opposition they are receiving is giving them just the attention and advertisement they need. The use of violent methods is an attempt to foist on to some people views which they are unwilling or not ready to accept based on the justification that the time for debate and discussion is past, and the time for action has come. It fosters the growth of secrecy and the ubiquitous agent provocateur. It plays to the emotions and the worst elements in the population get a footing in the movement or use the movement to cloak their own actions. This has been illustrated time after time in the history of the working-class movement, and it is therefore essential that those who are genuinely interested in pushing forward the workers’ struggle for emancipation should resist all incitements to violence.
The notion that neo-fascism can be destroyed by violence has not a shred of evidence to support it. Everywhere the leftists have tried this tactic it has failed disastrously - what happened to their red-shirt “street fighters” in pre-war Italy and Germany is proof of this.
Ideas are rooted in the material conditions of life; people are influenced by the economic and historic situation they live in. It is no accident that fascism flourishes whenever capitalism is in one of its periodic slumps. Then fascist demagogues, by blaming problems like unemployment and bad housing on the presence of blacks or migrants are more likely to be listened to. Fascism feeds on poverty, insecurity and fear and since these are inseparable from capitalism then fascist ideas will persist as long as capitalism lasts, no matter how many heads are cracked or meetings broken up.
The claim made by the “Anti-IFA” that they are defending freedom by preventing the racist organisations from holding meetings is absurd. Free speech can only exist when it is open to all and it cannot be defended by those who in fact abolish it. Not only does political violence not preserve existing democratic rights, it positively weakens them by creating a situation in which the authorities may restrict or ban many forms of political activity. This much is certain: the chances of getting the socialist case across in such an atmosphere of intolerance will be considerably lessened.
The only way to deal with white supremacists is to demolish their obnoxious, anti-working class ideas at every turn. We would welcome any opportunity to confront them in open debate before an audience of working men and women. We have nothing to fear and everything to gain from this because we are confident of the workers’ ability to understand the socialist case and of our own ability to present it. Of course, this will not sound exciting enough for the Black Bloc looking for their adrenaline hit, but whatever the right method of dealing with fascists may be, theirs is absolutely wrong.
The Socialist Party has never been in any doubt as to the crucial importance of democratic methods as a means of achieving socialism. Unlike the parties of the Right and the Left, which contemptuously use the rhetoric of democracy in order to maintain capitalism in one form or another, the Socialist Party has always accepted that a fully democratic system of society can only be brought about by thoroughly democratic tactics. For that reason, socialists (while recognising that capitalism will never be fully democratic) have urged workers in countries where they lack democratic rights to obtain them for the sake of building a socialist movement. It was, therefore, quite obvious that the socialist response to the fascist dictatorships was one of total opposition, firstly because they were capitalist governments, but additionally because they were anti-democratic.
The importance of democracy for socialists is that under democracy, the workers are allowed to form their own political and economic organisations and within limits, freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press is permitted as well as the freedom of the electorate choosing between contending political parties. This is not to say that democracy in itself was enough: Democracy, in itself, cannot solve a single problem of the working class. As long as the working class supports capitalism and capitalist policies, it will, in the long run. ultimately give its support to that policy best calculated to meet the political and economic needs of capitalism - even though that policy may be fascist. The way to counter right-wing racist nonsense with which Trump supporters and neo-fascists today poison the minds of workers is not for us to become more capable and better thugs but to present a clear, practical alternative to the frustration bred by the system. Fascism is part of the messy business of running capitalism; only socialists. with our principled case for social revolution, offer workers a weapon which will blow fascism and capitalism from the face of the earth. A sure way of preventing the spread of anti-working class doctrines is to get these demagogues on to a public platform and expose them for the wind-bags which they really are. Those organisations who claim a monopoly of so-called "anti-fascism", who they can only oppose with disruption and disorder use tactics which the fascists welcome and by which they thrive. The fascistic threats will last as long as capitalism itself. The answer lies not in futile struggling against effects but to establish a society based on production for use and universal brotherhood which is only possible when the world's workers understand and desire it. As this will require knowledge rather than physical strength we emphasise that the battleground is the minds of men and women and not battling on the streets.