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Mole's Progressive Democrat

The Progressive Democrat Newsletter grew out of the frustration of the 2004 election. Originally intended for New York City progressives, its readership is now national. For anyone who wants to be alerted by email whenever this newsletter is updated (usually weekly), please send your email address and let me know what state you live in (so I can keep track of my readership).

Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

I am a research biologist in NYC. Married with two kids living in Brooklyn.

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  • Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Right Wing Violence in America

    I have been writing about right wing violence in recent years, from the Delaware Pogrom to Teabaggers and neo-Nazis. Now we are seeing more right wing violence, encouraged by the likes of Fox News and even Republicans in Congress, directed at Democrats who voted for expanding healthcare for Americans.

    But it is worth remembering that there has been a long-standing connection between right wing politics in America and violence. There was an excellent article on Daily Kos discussing this connection. Here are some excerpts (check out the original for full discussion including comments):

    The 1930s: The CIO and the Business Coup

    America's leading capitalists were in a panic after Roosevelt's first 100 days. Accustomed to enjoying complete control over the government during the preceding 12 years of Republican rule, they found FDR's rhetoric and more importantly, action to constitute a threat to their dominance of American economic and political life. They looked abroad and saw ruling Fascists in Italy and Spain and a rising Nazi Party in Germany and thought their fortunes would fare better under a similar regime if it could be instituted in the United States.

    These were men of action: Rene DuPont of the chemical fortune, the Heinz family, several wealthy men connected with J. P. Morgan includng Thomas Lamont, and Prescott Bush whose connections with the Nazis continued through 1942. Politicians were included as well as Wall Street interests. Among them were two previous Democratic Party candidates for President: John Davis and Al Smith.

    Their plan was to overthrow the government of the United States.

    Their plan depended upon three distinct elements:

    1. The Public Face: The American Liberty League Funded by the DuPonts and U.S. Steel, General Motors, General Foods, Standard Oil, Birdseye, Colgate, Heinz Foods, Chase National Bank, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the League was "the front for the whole thing" according to Gerald MacGuire, the New York City stockbroker who was one of the conspirators.

    2. Fascist thugs like the Black Legion, the Silver Shirts, and of course, the Ku Klux Klan. The Black Legion was organized into arson squads, execution squads and anti-Communist squads. They wore a skull and crossbones on their uniforms to boast about the Communists they had murdered.

    3. The Super Soldiers, an army of 500,000 veterans mobilized by the American Legion. The troops would gather in Washington, surround the White House and demand Roosevelt's resignation. If he said no, they would kill him.

    The conspirators needed a trusted, charismatic leader for their private army, and tried to recruit retired Marine General Smedley Butler. This was their mistake because Butler had no use for these capitalists. He led MacGuire and his backers on long enough to get the details of the plot, then blew the whistle on them.

    The House Un-American Activities Committee convened hearings and heard Butler's testimony, most of it in private. They returned with a whitewashed report that focused on MacGuire but expunged all the information given them by Butler about the plutocratic backers. Butler expressed his disgust with the report, "They have slaughtered the little guys and let the higher-ups escape." The press quickly let the matter vanish from its pages, and some historians believe that Roosevelt allowed the conspirators off the hook in exchange for their toning down their attacks on the New Deal.

    While the DuPonts and the Bushes spent the 1930s plotting coups, funding fascist murderers and importing Nazi spies, Walter Reuther was trying to organize workers to fight for fair wages and safe working conditions. He worked on Ford's assembly lines until he was laid off during the Great Depression. Looking for work, he went to Soviet Russia where he worked in a factory in Gorky. He returned in 1936 to become the president of auto workers' union local in Michigan. During an organizing campaign, Reuther and a fellow organizer stood on an overpass over which workers passed on their way to and from a Ford plant. Ford "security men" came up behind them and began to beat them:

    Seven times they raised me off the concrete and slammed me down on it. They pinned my arms . . . and I was punched and kicked and dragged by my feet to the stairway, thrown down the first flight of steps, picked up, slammed down on the platform and kicked down the second flight. On the ground they beat and kicked me some more.

    The Ford thugs beat Reuther, broke the back of fellow organizer Richard Merriwether, attacked female UAW members who were passing out leaflets and tried to destroy the cameras and photographic plates of Detroit News employees who were there to chronicle events.

    Dearborn, Michigan police stood and watched as this all took place. Later, the National Labor Relations Board did reprimand Ford. No one was ever prosecuted.

    A year later, company thugs attacked Reuther in his own home, leaving him hospitalized.

    After being elected president of the UAW in 1947, Reuther survived an assassination attempt at his home that left him permanently crippled...

    The 1960s: Breakfast Programs and Church Bombers

    In 1963, the civil rights movement was gaining momentum Sentiment in much of the country was turning against Jim Crow segregation. The response of the Radical Right in the South was to do what it had always done: use terror.

    On September 15, 1963, a Sunday morning, a bomb went off killing four little girls attending a bible class. No one was arrested. After a two-year "investigation," J. Edgar Hoover announced that there was no significant chance of prosecution. It was not until 1977, with Hoover gone and the country going through the post-Watergate period of "reconciliation," that anyone was arrested.

    The event was hardly the exception. The Southern Poverty Law Center's Civil Rights Memorial remembers some of those who died in the fight for equality. Most of their murderers were never punished...

    The Power of the Left

    Why has the American government repeatedly allowed Right Wing terrorism while, at the same time, it has waged open, unconstitutional war on Leftists?

    The most obvious conclusion is that the government is invariably the servant of the same capitalist interests that fund and recruit Right Wing thugs.

    The less apparent but more important answer is that powerful interests in America are united in their fear and loathing for Reds. Open racism is fine, even if expressed against the President of the United States. Fevered advocacy of violence is no problem, as long as the advocate is a Right Wing mouthpiece. Actually engaging in violent behavior, even large conspiracies like the Klan, is permissible as long as the victims are Leftists, women or minorities.

    The capitalists who run this country know that their power hangs by a thread. They know that they cannot maintain their stranglehold without the acquiescence of the mass of people. Even armed forces and militias can rebel when the legitimacy of their orders is widely questioned. Even private armies can desert if the opposition appears too strong.

    For 40 years, the Left has slept. Jailed and beaten, harassed and betrayed, we sank into silence and cynicism. Without an active Left, the capitalists were free to wage their wars, steal vast sums of money and impoverish an entire nation.

    We have reached a critical point, the last push by the capitalists to crush the will of the American people once and for all with the goal of reducing the mass of workers to the abject poverty common in India or China. They expect some resistance. They fear a resurgent radical Left. They are showing us their pit bull, still leashed, but at the ready should we rise up.

    We are hardly something to be feared. Disorganized, mostly unarmed and untrained, we are hardly a revolutionary vanguard. But it was never us that struck fear in the heart of the most powerful capitalists; it was our ideas. In the end, it will be our ideas that will win.

    There is a lot more in the article that is worth reading. There are also many other examples that could be added: Oklahoma City bombing, the strength of the KKK in San Diego county (under father and son Metzger) and their campaign of terror against Hispanics, etc. etc. But you get the gist of it. Violence is often a tool of the right wing and they are doing it again.

    Let me close by once again highlighting my son's current favorite song...one that seems particularly apropos to this discussion:

    Hang in there folks. We may be ineffective and disorganized much of the time. But we gotta keep at it and keep strong even in the face of right wing thugs like the Teabaggers.


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