town hall

A community meeting (5/24/17) in Bristol, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, sent a clear message to white nationalists who have been posting flyers in the community — You will not divide us!

by John Leslie

The meeting of about 70 community members — co-sponsored by One Bucks, The Bucks County Peace Center, The Bucks County NAACP, the Bucks County Socialists (BCS), and many local community and religious organizations — was initiated after racist flyers had been discovered posted on telephone poles in the borough. It was a member of the BCS who discovered the flyers and started ripping them down.

The same flyers have been distributed in several other Philadelphia-area communities. There have also been Ku Klux Klan recruitment leaflets discovered in several local communities. This past weekend, the Klan held a cross burning in rural Lancaster County. During the meeting, speakers for the Peace Center reported an increase in racist activity in the local public schools.

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are more than 900 organized hate groups in the US. Pennsylvania has 40 hate groups. One such group is the Keystone State Skinheads (KSS), a group that has tried to rebrand itself as “Keystone United.” Steve Smith, a founding member of the KSS, and former member of the Aryan Nation, is  a Republican committee member in Luzerne County. Smith was reelected to a second term after the GOP learned of his ties to neo-nazis.

During the meeting, BCS supporters pointed out the need for unity and to build some sort of emergency response network against racist attacks and organizing. BCS members also discussed the economic climate that makes it easier for white power groups to reach working class whites, many of them victims of the capitalist crisis and restructuring, with a message blaming immigrants, Jews, or people of color for their woes instead of the rich.

Below is the text of an information sheet prepared by BCS members before the meeting.

bristol leaflet
white nationalist flyers posted in Bristol, PA (photo BCS)

The Alt-Right: what it is and how to fight it

The appearance of flyers showing a white family, and reading “you will not replace us,”  in Bristol and other Philadelphia-area locations has sparked a debate. What does it mean? The flyers themselves seem fairly innocent, until you understand that the websites listed at the bottom are an array of “alt-right,” white supremacist, and white nationalist sites.

The term alt-right came into common usage during President Trump’s 2016 campaign as a variety of right wing extremists, including neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, rushed to support his bid for the White House. These groups were inspired by Trump’s immigrant bashing, fear mongering about Muslims, and promise to “Make America Great Again.” Many right wing extremist groups have been emboldened by Trump’s election. Racist incidents against Jewish people, Muslims and communities of color have increased since the election. These extremist groups thrive on division, conspiracy theories, and the threat of violence.

We are all familiar with robed Klansmen or neo-Nazis dressed in stormtrooper uniforms, but this is only one aspect of the racist far right. Some of these groups have fantasies of gaining power through force. Others believe that they can gain power through legal means by infiltrating the Republican Party. This idea goes back as far as the failed Presidential campaigns of KKK leader David Duke and right wing populist Pat Buchanan.  

The so-called alt-right is an attempt to rebrand American fascism in a new, less threatening package. Under the surface, the message is the same — hatred of minority groups, Jews, immigrants, women, and political opponents. Since the election, there have been more than 1000 racist incidents. (SPLC)

Richard Spencer, who coined the term Alt-Right, said “And when White men talks about ‘restoring the Constitution’—or, more so, ‘Taking Our Country Back’— leftists and non-Whites are right to view this as threatening and racialist: it implies a return to origins and that the White man once owned America.”

Spencer was caught on video after the November election saying  “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” as his supporters gave Nazi-style salutes. During his time at Duke University, Spencer worked with Trump aide, Stephen Miller. Trump advisor Steve Bannon, former head of the right wing website, Breitbart, also has ties to white nationalism.

They want to transform the US into a “white ethno-state” where non-whites aren’t welcome. Their agenda is based on the notion that whites are the natural rulers of the United States. Their goal is a state very much like German or Italian fascism. While they talk of a “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” history shows that there is no such thing as a “peaceful” genocide.  

Of course, not all Trump voters are racists or white supremacists. Many are victims of the economic changes that have been caused by capitalist economic restructuring, as good jobs move to the South or overseas, and many newly-created jobs are part-time, low wage and offer few, if any, benefits. Many voted for Trump to punish the Democrats for the state of an economy that has failed them. That said, racism persists in the U.S. as one of the primary props of a social and economic system that exploits the majority for the benefit of a few.

We need jobs, affordable health care, living wages, and education. Neither of the two major political parties, Republicans or Democrats, offer any solution to the crisis facing working people. Ultimately, they will serve the interests of their paymasters on Wall Street.

Fighting fascism and the racist far right requires the unity of working people and the oppressed against attempts to divide us, political independence from the parties of the bosses, and mass mobilization against racist attacks. We can’t rely on cops, courts or politicians to protect us. We have to protect ourselves and each other.

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