Why do people of color join the ultra-right?

In the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 riot in Washington, DC, a photo of a man holding a walis tambo (Filipino whip broom) inside the Capitol went viral online among Filipinos. The man was Kene Brian Lazo, a Filipino immigrant who was later charged with multiple crimes.

Seeing the South Vietnamese flag in the crowd, some Americans of Vietnamese descent expressed their disgust on social media, while others were proud of it.

Earlier, on August 4, 2018, Enrique Tarrio, who identifies as Afro-Cuban and grew up in Miami’s Little Havana, was one of dozens of black, Latino, Asian and Asian American men who paraded the sides of white supremacists in Portland, Oregon.

Tarrio is the leader of the Proud Boys, blatantly misogynistic street brawlers who call themselves “Western chauvinists”. Joey Gibson heads Patriot Prayer, a group in the Pacific Northwest keen to pit the “antifa” (anti-fascists) against the leftists. He is half Japanese and capitalizes on this heritage to promote the group’s “multicultural” agenda. Gibson’s deputy, Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, is Samoan.

Tarrio, Gibson, and Toese deny their organizations are white supremacists. But groups play a leading role in the far right today.

Participation and leadership in such groups by people of color is nothing new. In 1994, James J. Johnson, an African American, co-founded a group of “patriots” called E Pluribus Unum and became spokesperson for the unorganized Ohio militia.

Why are these men attracted to xenophobic groups allied with white supremacy? While people of color are a small minority on the far right, their presence is inexplicable and disturbing to many.

In fact, this phenomenon reveals the deep class divisions within every racial, ethnic and other social group under capitalism. The rise of fascist movements and the presence of people of color within them can only be understood in the context of the class struggle.

Fascism and small businesses. Leon Trotsky, Marxist thinker and co-leader of the Russian revolution, analyzed and fought against the rise of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. Trotsky explained that fascism is a last ditch attempt of big business in times of crisis economic to crush the resistance of the working class to extreme austerity and repression. The capitalists are funding a mass movement made up of small entrepreneurs and the desperate unemployed, with the aim of separating them from the side of the working people.

It’s no surprise that Tarrio, Gibson, Kene Lazo, and other ultra-right participants own real or fake business ventures. They believe their actions strengthen their class status.

Political socialization in the homelands. For people of color, their experiences or those of their parents in the countries of origin often play a role. For example, most of the older Vietnamese in the United States are from South Vietnam and came to the United States as refugees. Many have brought with them strong anti-communist beliefs and oppose social movements for economic and racial justice.

Some immigrants come from authoritarian regimes and equate the rule of the iron fist with law, order and prosperity. Most contemporary Filipino migrants in the United States grew up during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, when conservative views were an official dogma taught in schools.

The news of the Proud Boys receiving contributions before the attack on the Capitol from members of the Chinese diaspora featured a woman saying, “You have to understand how we feel – we are from Communist China and … appreciate so much here. ” For these immigrants, being on the right is the path to the “American dream”.

But the aim of fascism is to crush the working class and its organizations, starting with those below, including women, people of color and immigrants. Individual rights and freedoms, from freedom of expression and the right to vote to reproductive freedom, are the primary targets. And, the best interests of the people in small businesses really rest with the workers, because eventually the big companies will betray them.

A united front to push back the reaction. United fronts are an urgent necessity for people of color and other oppressed minority groups, especially at this time of capitalism’s long-term economic decline. In this formation, different groups retain their autonomy but come together for a common defense. Radical leadership of the working class is needed to ensure that the objectives of the front are democratically achieved and not sold.

Individual communities of color cannot defeat white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Even people of color together cannot beat them in isolation from their white allies. Together, the targets of fascism are the majority of the working class: people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ + people, Jews, Muslims, trade unionists and leftists.

By acting together, they can effectively counter the far right. Examples of united front efforts were a number of anti-fascist community actions against the “White Lives Matter” rallies held across the United States on April 11, 2021. (See “The“ White Lives Matter ”Gatherings were arrested and yelled at. ”)

A standing united front would be a key self-defense mechanism for people of color against right-wing violence and for building a multiracial labor movement. This is crucial for the very survival of everyone.

Sharon Quinsaat was born and raised in the Philippines and is a sociology professor based in Grinnell, Iowa. She is a full member of the National Caucus of Comrades of Color of the Socialist Freedom Party and Radical Women. Send comments to [email protected]

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