A United Front Against Fascism

It is said that democracy is on the ballot in this election. The current administration and Republican Party have been successful in destroying democratic norms and policies. Another four years of this administration would be disastrous, since the restraints on power have been removed, and it would be even easier to continue down the authoritarian path. Concern about Fascism is rising.

Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of far-rightauthoritarian ultranationalism[1][2] characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and strong regimentation of society and of the economy[3] which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.[4]

Fascists saw World War I as a revolution that brought massive changes to the nature of war, society, the state, and technology. The advent of total war and the total mass mobilization of society had broken down the distinction between civilians and combatants


I hadn’t understood that regimentation of the economy was central to Fascism. But that makes sense since the collapse of the capitalist economic system in this country, and elsewhere, is fueling social collapse, and increasing authoritarianism.

As many are saying, even if the Democrats win, governance based upon capitalism will continue. A significant minority of the country will continue to press for authoritarian measures. The increasing rhetoric promoting violence, and presence of guns in public will be added pressure to move toward authoritarianism. I’ve been praying, studying, and wondering what we can do in response.

Recently I’ve been blessed to have found new friends, and am learning a lot from them. I met Ronnie James at a vigil for the struggles of the Wet’suwet’en peoples and their efforts to prevent the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their pristine lands. https://kislingjeff.wordpress.com/2020/02/07/wetsuweten-updates-2-7-2020-evening/

Since that meeting last February, Ronnie and I have exchanged many messages, mainly related to his work with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA). Recently he posted this:

Happy 54th Birthday to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. The Panthers have been a lifelong inspiration and one of the major influences on how I act in this world. The Free Food Store that Des Moines Mutual Aid helps coordinate was founded by the Des Moines chapter of the Panthers and has continued to this day. I deeply value that we get to carry on that legacy. All Power To The People.

Ronnie James

I was really impressed to hear about his work with Des Moines Mutual Aid (DMMA) and the Free Food Store. After we had gotten to know each other well enough, I asked if it would be appropriate for me to help with The Free Food Store. For the past several weeks I’ve been blessed to spend Saturday mornings there, as we prepared and distributed about fifty boxes of food. On several occasions people told me these Saturday mornings are the best part of their week, and now mine, too.

When Ronnie first told me about the Free Food Store he said (as above) it was the continuation of the work of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Since then, I’ve been studying to learn more about the Black Panther Party. The Party was active in the late 1960’s when I was a student at Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding high school. I was active in the antiwar movement, but also aware of a few stories about the Black Panthers. I obviously didn’t know much because my impression was they were a threatening, violent group. I didn’t know the violence was on the part of the State, that included assassinating several leaders.

My purpose here is to provide some background related to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and Des Moines Mutual Aid. In part, because as I’ve been wondering what might happen as a result of this election, the worsening impact of COVID-19, and the increasing chaos from environmental devastation. So, I’ve been studying authoritarianism and Fascism, trying to see what could be done in response to that.

As I began to research this, when I saw information related to the Black Panthers, that caught my attention. “By 1969, the Panthers began to use fascism a a theoretical framework to critique US political economy.”

By 1969, the Panthers began to use fascism as a theoretical framework to critique US political economy. They defined fascism as “the power of finance capital” which “manifests itself not only as banks, trusts and monopolies but also as the human property of FINANCE CAPITAL – the avaricious businessman, the demagogic politician, and the racist pig cop.” The Black Panther newspaper began to feature excerpts from Dimitroff’s writings and articles with titles such as “Fascist Pigs must withdraw their troops from our communities or face the wrath of the armed people,” “Students Struggle Against Fascism,” and “Medicine and Fascism.”  The Panthers advertised local showings of films like Z about fascism in Greece and used their iconic artwork as a cultural tool to visually demonstrate anti-fascist resistance.

In July 1969 close to 5,000 activists from organizations like the Black Students Union, Communist Party USA, Los Siete de la Raza, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Students for a Democratic Society, Third World Liberation Front, Young Lords, Young Patriots, Youth Against War and Fascism, and the Progressive Labor Party flocked to Oakland, California’s Municipal auditorium in response to the Black Panther Party’s call for allies to gather and strategize against fascist conditions in the United States.  This United Front Against Fascism (UFAF) conference was an important moment in the history of the Black Freedom movement and the New Left. The Panthers hoped to create a “national force” with a “common revolutionary ideology and political program which answers the basic desires and needs of all people in fascist, capitalist, racist America.” At the opening session, Seale called for unity of action arguing that “we will not be free until Brown, Red, Yellow, Black, and all other peoples of color are unchained.”

The Black Panther Party, the International Liberation School, and the National Committees to Combat Fascism, “Poster for the National Conference for a United Front Against Fascism,” Student Digital Gallery, accessed January 23, 2017, https://digitalgallery.bgsu.edu/student/items/show/6582

The Black Panther Party, the International Liberation School, and the National Committees to Combat Fascism

KPIX Eyewitness news report from the Oakland Auditorium on July 19th, 1969, at the Black Panthers’ first national conference on anti-fascism. Reporter Ben Williams discusses the second day’s proceedings at the National Revolutionary Conference for a United Front Against Fascism, and describes a schism among the delegates that erupted the previous evening when members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were ejected from the conference for “disruptive behavior.” Williams claims that the desired result of the conference is, “the creation of a national committee, a coalition of militant leaders” who will “direct a solid front in future encounters with the establishment.” Bob Avakian is seen declaring that: “the primary ideological content of American fascism is racist white supremacist genocide.” Also features silent footage of a Black Panthers publications for sale on display; conference attendees being patted down before entering the conference; brief shots of confiscated weapons and sharp objects; establishing shots outside the Oakland Auditorium and footage of the auditorium filled with conference attendees.

Conference for a United Front Against Fascism

This is a link to a video related to the conference, United Front Against Fascism, described above. https://diva.sfsu.edu/collections/sfbatv/bundles/207569

I’m not sure where this leads me. Other than to feel more strongly that the concept of Mutual Aid is a great step in the right direction.

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