The elections are a critical moment in the resistance against fascism
Members of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League proceed along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington during the Poor People's Campaign's Moral March, June 18, 2022. Los miembros del Partido Comunista de EE. UU. y la Liga de Jóvenes Comunistas avanzan por Pennsylvania Avenue en Washington durante la Marcha Moral de la Campaña de los Pobres, el 18 de junio de 2022. | Jose Luis Magana / AP

Joelle Fishman is chair of the Communist Party USA’s Political Action Commission.

It was just two-and-a-half years ago, in the spring of 2020, that members of the Communist Party rolled up our sleeves and went to work with “Dump Trump” voter pledge cards and our “Vote Against Fascism” campaign to uphold democratic rights and the ongoing freedom struggle for “People, Peace, and Planet before Profits.”

It took a huge, unified effort led by labor and civil rights forces to defeat Trump at the polls. At that time, a lot of folks did not fully see the fascist danger underway, but we sounded the alarm based on our historical experience and our Marxist working class analysis.

Then in January 2021, when the Trumpites and white supremacist elements staged a coup attempt on the Capitol, trying to overturn the results of the presidential election, a lot more people, even in the corporate media, began to take a second look and understand the depth of the peril in our country.

The Dobbs v. Jackson decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, stacked with three Trump appointees, to overturn abortion rights earlier this year also confirmed the threat. The Bans Off Our Bodies rallies in defense of women’s health and abortion rights that took place across the country in the immediate aftermath of the draft opinion showed that increasing numbers are concerned about the growing danger.

Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov gave the classical Marxist definition of fascism in 1935.

Now, less than two weeks out from the midterms and with Republicans already trying to sabotage the vote in the courts, the call to resist fascism has to be sounded again. But to successfully resist fascism, we have to understand it.

What is fascism?

The 1930s Popular Front definition of fascism emerged out of the horrors of the fight against fascism in the days before World War II, as the extreme right seized power in much of Europe.

Building upon V.I. Lenin’s work, fascism was described by Bulgarian Communist Georgi Dimitrov as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital.”

Today, the financial, military, and energy sectors of capital are seizing more and more wealth and power in the midst of the impoverishment of the people. The fascist danger emerges within the continued intensification of the crisis of capitalism worldwide.

Fascism’s goal is maintaining complete control over the working class and people for maximum profits and global domination.

Fascism and democratic rights are like oil and water; they cannot coexist.

Fascism would dismantle democratic structures, shut down and eliminate the ability to have a voice, to assemble, to organize, or protest. Fascism foments racism with open, organized terror, relying on the sowing of hatred, fear, and division among the majority in order to create a mass base that accepts the dictatorial rule of the few.

Obstruction and sabotage of normal government functioning is a fascist tactic. Blocking nominees was used as part of the economic sabotage campaign that overthrew the socialist Popular Unity government in Chile in 1973.

Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate, House, and statehouses increasingly show a fascist-like contempt for truth, democratic process, or the common good. They will do anything to gain power.

Consider, for example, the notorious Koch Brothers, whose financial empire emanates from exploitation of oil and gas. They have been ultra-right provocateurs on behalf of the capitalist ruling class for decades, utilizing a web of think tanks and funding vehicles to influence state and federal legislation.

Charles Koch is a pre-eminent funder of outright voter suppression legislation in many states. The Koch money trail leads to the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. And the Senators they fund sabotaged the Build Back Better legislation, which would have allowed for massive investments into social programs so desperately needed, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. It would have created 2.3 million jobs every year for five years in child care, health care, education, and climate change mitigation. These are programs with wide majority support.

These most reactionary, chauvinistic, and imperialist elements of finance capital are aided and abetted by many liberal elements of big capital. While Koch Industries funds ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) to push anti-worker bills in state legislatures, other elements of capital have also given support to these reactionary laws while at times trying to maintain their distance.

The Secretaries of State who oversee elections and certify the vote have come under extreme pressure and attack in the states where Trump sought to overturn the election results. Daniel Squadron, cofounder and executive director of the States Project, which is working to raise the level of consciousness about the importance of winning progressive majorities in state legislatures across the country, issued this grave warning: “What’s happening in these states is the single greatest threat to our democracy since the Civil War era.”

The Trump forces are likewise aiming to take control of state governments around the country with the America First Secretary of State Coalition (SOS). This extreme-right clique includes candidates for Secretary of State in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Idaho, and Massachusetts.

The candidates are all “election deniers,” and SOS’ goal is to have secretaries of state installed in these states in order to be able to control the presidential election results in 2024, regardless of the decision of the voters.

The race for Secretary of State in Michigan highlights the danger. There, the GOP state convention officially joined the MAGA movement by endorsing Trump’s claims that the 2020 election results were rigged. Their Trump-backed candidate, Kristina Karamo, is another election denier and is running to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Jocelyn Benson. “This is a choice between whether or not we’ll have a democracy moving forward,” Benson has said.

The seeds of fascism are present in the rising white supremacist attacks, fake news, attempts to take over local Boards of Education to block public schools from teaching Black history, and attempts to dismantle the rights of immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and the LGBTQ+ community.

They are reflected in the continued police killings of Black and Latino youth, in attempts to deny science, outlaw abortion, overturn union rights, forbid discussion of socialist ideas, and, most of all, in the efforts to undermine and override voting rights, including gerrymandering and the outright overturning of election results.

Fascism preys on people who are hurting in the capitalist system, using lies to whip up hysteria and racist ideology, to misplace the blame on people of color, immigrants, women, the LGBTQ community, and others.

UNITE HERE knocking on doors for the 2020 Senate runoff in Georgia. | via Facebook

Unity and democratic struggle to defeat fascism

The fight to prevent fascism is by definition a fight for the hearts and minds of the whole multi-racial, multi-national working class and people. It is a fight to maintain and expand the democratic right to a voice—for the protection and expansion of voting rights in the first place—and to embrace social solidarity.

One powerful example is the role of the Unite Here union working alongside Stacey Abrams in Georgia for the U.S. Senate runoff in January 2021 that resulted in a 50-50 Senate. Despite the pandemic, they found a safe way to knock on thousands of doors in all parts of the state. It was through thousands of frank conversations about the concerns of each individual or family, and what was at stake regarding control of the U.S. Senate, that the Republican Party was beaten in that election.

In other words, beating back the fascist danger involves showing that every vote makes a difference, and that change is possible when working class people see their common interests against the 1% and stick together to fight for their rights and needs.

By way of example, one unshakable canvasser from New Haven, Conn., told the story of being met at the door with a shotgun while knocking on doors in a far-flung rural area. Undaunted, they won the support of that family by the end of the conversation.

The seeds of a mass democratic resistance movement are emerging out of—

  • the fightback against racial and economic inequalities exposed in the pandemic.
  • protests against the seizure of vast wealth by giant corporations and billionaires while the majority is struggling to survive—especially essential workers, of whom many are women of color.
  • the Black Lives Matter movement demanding police accountability and an end to murders of Black youth.
  • the uprising of young workers at Amazon, Starbucks, and other corporations across the country, for living wages, respect, and a voice at work, and a chance to build their lives.
  • the youth-led movements that are taking on fossil fuel profiteers and the military industrial complex in order to address systemic climate change and the future of humanity on our planet.

To be strong enough and large enough to successfully resist the drive toward fascism, Dimitrov and the Communist movement of the ’30s argued that Hitler-fascism’s rise to power showed the need for broad unity. This is why we call today the all-people’s united front, and it includes the multi-racial working class along with democratic-minded forces from all social strata.

Communists are an important part of building that broad united front, which by definition includes those with whom we may disagree on various issues.

For instance, some Democrats who support the struggle for voting rights, racial equity, and progressive legislation, in contradiction, go along with an imperialist foreign policy. In reality, bipartisan support for Cold War policies adds to the crisis and heightens the fascist danger.

The fight for peace objectively strengthens resistance to fascism. With strategy and tactics in mind, contradictions in thinking can be overcome, for example by emphasizing the danger of nuclear war and the devastation caused by a war economy that decimates the budget for human needs and accelerates climate change.

The recent return of Cold War rhetoric and anti-Communism presents a new challenge, which objectively weakens broad people’s unity and endangers the efforts in 2022 to vote against fascism.

How to respond? The best responses are to step up grassroots organizing for the immediate needs of the people so they know the role of Communists, to participate in coalitions around the issues, and to expand People’s World readership for a broader worldview.

Brooklyn For Peace coalition tabling event. | via Facebook

One great example is the workers at Amazon in Staten Island being introduced to and guided by CPUSA leader William Z. Foster’s writing on organizing in steel from the last century.

The fight for democracy and broad unity to resist fascism is not separate from our socialist vision. It is a vital part of the road to get there. Organizing to preserve democratic rights and voting rights, and to reject bigotry opens the door to engage neighbors, co-workers, and friends in the long-term struggle, day by day, to qualitatively expand those rights beyond capitalism.

Building the multi-racial working-class movement for socialism

The seeds of socialism are present in the uprisings underway. These are objectively taking on the contradictions of capitalism and its interwoven systemic racism, exploitation, and imperialist drive toward war.

These struggles are connected to the movement for socialism because a growing number of people, especially youth, realize that capitalism is responsible for all the inequalities they are experiencing.

The CPUSA program calls for Bill of Rights Socialism. We want to qualitatively expand democratic rights for all components of the multi-racial working class and people. Our goal is to contribute toward building a massive movement that wins control of its own destiny.

As veteran party leader Jarvis Tyner has said, “The very fight for democracy is a radicalizing struggle that has and will transform the capitalist system.”

In practical terms, what are we called upon to do today? As the saying goes, “organize, organize, organize.”

A strong Communist Party and YCL and wide circulation of People’s World are integral parts of the broad all-people’s front. We bring our ability and commitment to raise class consciousness so people can see their place in the struggle.

Members of the Young Communist League register voters in Detroit. | via CPUSA

As Communists, we understand that building the union movement and the fight against racism raises up all other struggles. The experience of building workers’ power at Amazon and many other workplaces is the heart of also building our Party among the working class. We find that people are looking for and welcoming our contribution.

Neighborhood-based struggles in multi-racial working class communities provide the opportunity to build unity and grow as well.

In New Haven’s largely African American Newhall neighborhood, community leaders, including the Communist Party club, organized a mass protest against development that would have had a negative impact. Door-knocking on issues and voter registration in the last few years have brought the ward from one of the lowest to one of the highest voter turnouts in the city. As a result, the neighborhood won city-wide support to block the development. Door-to-door distribution of People’s World is part of this fightback.

The Principles for an Emergency Relief Unity Program, issued by the CPUSA last year, provides a foundation for building unity around the immediate needs working class families face.

The program framework says, “We stand on the principles that employment, housing, healthcare, education, energy, and freedom from racism and discrimination are basic human rights for all regardless of country of origin.”

With only days to go before the election, the need to speak frankly with everyone we meet is paramount, especially as Trump continues to spew his poison and corporate dark money flows into the campaign coffers of fascist-minded Republicans.

While the drum beat in the big business media is that Republicans will carry the day in November, the story on the ground is more optimistic. Elections at every level are crucial to the future of all democratic rights and a critical moment in the resistance against fascism.

The preceding article is adapted from a presentation given by the author to the National Marxist School.


Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is an active member of many local economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the national CPUSA Political Action Commission, she plays an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights, and peace. Joelle Fishman preside el Partido Comunista de Connecticut USA. Es miembro activo de muchas organizaciones locales de derechos económicos y justicia social. Como presidenta de la Comisión Nacional de Acción Política del CPUSA, desempeña un papel activo en la amplia alianza laboral y popular y continúa movilizándose por la atención médica, los derechos de los trabajadores y la paz.