State, Class and “No Platform”

Josh Hollandsworth responds to Gabriel Pierre's motion on fascism

How to fight the far right?

On 6/1/16 comrade Gabriel Pierre filed a motion titled “Against Reflexive ‘No Platform’”1 for submission to the Red Party National Convention and future vote. The motion was a response to a statement I had made earlier representing the Red Party North Carolina in regards to Donald Trump’s nomination. In particular, it was a response to one point I had made in the statement: “No platform for fascists”. Comrade Gabe had earlier critiqued my statement and privately messaged me on his opinions regarding that point, but I disagree with this difference of interpretations being a motion at the National Convention. Either way however, I will make my case against it here and if other party members feel it is worthy of debating as a motion then I welcome democratic vote on it come the Convention. Open debate on the matter will be useful not only to the party but also to non-members in seeing how the process of democratic centralism operates in the Red Party.

Comrade Gabe felt that my phrase was indicative of a support for blanket censorship by the state. I believe that this was a misunderstanding of the meaning behind my phrase. To be fair, I was unnecessarily vague in that particular line and should have clarified more. But in the context of my statement I was referring to being willing to defend against fascism. I supported my interpretation by sharing the story of Malcolm X’s experiences in Alabama, in which he kept likely harm from occurring to black Alabamans when he openly threatened the American Nazi Party that he would fight back against any violence directed towards Martin Luther King or his supporters.

Look at the parallels- Trump’s rally in Chicago was stopped by direct action against him and two of his in California were also likewise set back. These victories for the working class happened when we openly acted against giving them a platform. These were not acts by the bourgeois state, nor would I argue for such a thing. Rather, when workers are able to stop fascists from having a platform I feel that they should. We shouldn’t be too concerned about a fascist’s ability to speak, on the grounds that they might make themselves look bad- our bourgeois state and political system gives them ample opportunity no matter how we fight back. And indeed the Red Party, though supporting freedom of debate and criticism, itself has emergency provisions against fascist infiltration. We would not allow fascists a platform in our party, so why larger society?

A future socialist state, especially in America, would be predicated upon the inevitability of some sort of counter-revolution by the bourgeois and fascist populist allies. After this was accounted for, would we allow future fascist entryism into our political and legislative system? Fascism has intrinsic qualities that we will know when we see. As they are inherently anti-democratic, we should not worry about tainting ourselves by keeping them from infiltrating the democratic process.

I did qualify my statement after that sentence, saying that I don’t support “misdirected violence which accomplishes nothing” so it would not account to expecting violent reaction as the only option. And not all direct action needs to be violent either, so long as it is done by workers and prevents fascists having a platform. I have faith that where there is sufficient support by the proletariat as to successfully disrupt an event of this scale, then it is not worth allowing the far right that platform.

I do not believe that my “no platform” statement weakens our argument; rather it is a direct statement that where class conscious workers exist, they will oppose fascists. Indeed, we should reach out to those workers who have been entranced by Trumpism and I say as much in my statement as well. That does not mean, however, that we should dilute our opposition to fascism by saying they sometimes should be given a platform, not even for tactical purposes. They will sometimes have a platform, because the workers are not strong enough to fight it. But I would not defend the platform itself. In 1934 Adolf Hitler reflected upon the success of the Nazi Party saying that:

“Only one thing could have stopped our movement – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”

Even he knew that worker resistance against his platform was the only way to stop him. We must remember that quote as a cautionary line about the necessity of direct action wherever it is possible. Developing structures such as defense groups is of critical necessity to expanding this potential by Marxists. So long as capital controls this country we will always have a chance to debate Trumpists, that is for sure. And when it does not, there will no longer rightfully be such an opportunity for them. Therefore, I view the principled opposition to platforms as inexorably tied to the anticapitalist struggle.


1. For reference, see On the Trump Nomination by the Red Party North Carolina and Gabriel Pierre’s Against Reflexive “No Platform”