Insurgent Movement, Government Complicity, or Both?

Three Way Fight


By Xloi and B.Sandor

This article by two Three Way Fight comrades highlights the interplay between insurgent far rightists and forces within the state itself in the Capitol takeover.

We wrote this after discussing last week’s events on January 6 and watching this video (which has since been removed) from a protester who goes by “Insurgence USA.” Our sense is that he is right wing but poses as also being pro BLM. His footage captured the front of the line throughout the storming of the Capitol and a close up of the woman being shot by Capitol Police. It was gruesome, but provided an account of the events first hand.

We cannot assume that the movement that stormed the Capitol on January 6th was at large anti-state or solely an insurgent movement from below. While elements of the movement were insurgent, this movement was egged on by Trump and other key people in his administration and in Congress. What this means is that instead of just understanding this as a right-wing assault on “democracy,” it needs to be understood as both internal to our so-called democracy while simultaneously having elements that are insurgent and anti-state. A main contingency of this movement to Stop the Steal would have gone home if the announcement was made that Trump would stay in office. Therefore, the insurgent components and government complicity at play here should be understood and confronted as such.

We saw political violence last Wednesday. We saw Confederate flags and people flaunting Nazi tattoos in the Capitol. We saw armed masses (mostly men) break through lines of police, albeit with blue lives matter flags. We know storming the Capitol was an organized and thought-out action, although they were probably as surprised as we were that it actually worked. In footage from the frontlines, you can hear protesters screaming, “criticism of the government isn’t enough, we need action,” while running to storm the Capitol, and another exclaiming, “this is a revolution,” once they break through a couple of police lines. Regardless, there was no cohesive strategy for what they would do once they actually entered the Capitol. If there was, you would have heard in the videos at least some discourse on the different thought out plans.

Man holds Confederate battle flag, walks through room with portraits and sculpture
A man carrying a Confederate flag through the U.S. Capitol
Image by Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

The mixed responses from the protesters to the police were notable, as Jarrod Shanahan discusses in his article, “The Big Takeover.” One protester shouted to a line of police, “Over the summer, we backed you when no one else did.” Another screamed, “Now, no one likes you, Black people and white people.” In other moments protesters try to win over the police, saying, “We have your back. We get it. We’re on your side.” There will continue to be major splits within the far right over alignment with the police, with many becoming politicized against the police because of what happened that day. It is also key to address the amount of ex-military and former police within the ranks of far-right militia, paramilitary, and street fighting gangs that were clearly present at the Capitol.

The next logical question is, why were there so few Capitol Police, given that the FBI and right-wing researchers around the country knew for months that protesters were planning on storming the Capitol that day? More details are coming out about the Capitol Police and the Trump administration’s possible complicity and lack of preparation. From Ibram X. Kendi to so many others, people are commenting on how little force was used relative to BLM protests and that if the Capitol was stormed by People of Color, there would have been an entirely different plan in place.

Rows of police in riot gear standing on steps of Lincoln Memorial
Police in military garb protecting the Lincoln Memorial from a
Black Lives Matter demonstration in June 2020. Image by @MarthaRaddatz

While the protesters transgressed police lines, some lines were as sparse as only 5-10 officers, leaving even middle school students commenting on the relative lack of protection of a federal building. But, very quickly, many used this argument as a justification and immediate demand for more military and police, forces that will ultimately target innocent people and the Left. Lawmakers are already using the events at the Capitol to introduce legislation to increase police presence at protests and adopt measures to further criminalize all dissent. What is this political amnesia that we have? Within a moment, the momentum and political consciousness gained after years of anti-police struggles that culminated in the mass movements against the murder of George Floyd seemingly went in reverse. We must still recognize our enemies in blue.

Narratives that bill Wednesday’s insurrection as a violent protest or insurrection, while failing to acknowledge the violence from police (against Black lives, but also against the right), reinforce the argument that the Left and State need to come together to defeat the far right, rather than pose a liberatory alternative to both.

We know cops take orders. Maybe they had been given orders to be lenient and use soft policing tactics. Until a Capitol Police officer shot and killed the woman protester, the Capitol Police attitude toward protesters looked mixed. Some looked intent on holding the line, others looked mortified and some seemed to back down seamlessly. More investigations will uncover why, for example, the Pentagon initially refused to back up the Capitol Police after requests from their chief for the military to step in. Previous investigations show that far right militia look to former national security advisers to the Trump administration for intelligence. There’s still a lot we don’t know. We will soon learn more about what was and wasn’t done and why.

We do know there was clear tactical leadership on the part of the movement to enter the Capitol and stop the counting of the votes on Wednesday, but not much beyond that. Some wanted to critique the powers that be, some wanted to stop a so-called stolen election, some wanted to restore the Confederacy, some wanted Pence’s head, and some wanted to smear shit on the walls. This lack of cohesion could tear the movement apart when there is no one person for them to unite behind. They are also already facing sharp repression with arrests as far away as Arizona. Few movements can withstand the kind of repression they are about to face, not to mention the likelihood that the movement is already widely infiltrated by state forces. Many new so-called movement leaders will eventually be exposed as undercover state operatives. Either way, under the banner of “Stop the Steal,” right wing forces will be claiming victory for years.

We are grappling with what the three way fight looks like in action in this moment. We think we should be developing a political pole that opposes insurgent and government-backed far right forces, while also reinforcing movements against the police like those that took off across the country over the summer. We need an antifascism that doesn’t ultimately back up the state on the one hand or ignore the right altogether in hopes that the state will simply smash the right on the other. While we might not yet have the capacity as a movement to really do both, it is imperative to understand that one without the other is fatal.

5 thoughts on “Insurgent Movement, Government Complicity, or Both?”

  1. The Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally was considered a disaster for the then alt-right because of the level of violence, the death of Heather Heyer and the resultant backlash. Will the "Stop the Steal" Capitol riot have similar catastrophic consequences for today's extremist right?

  2. Yes excellent analysis! Also a lot of points to unpack.. My main question is who are you referring to with amnesia? In the paragraph where you are talking about political amnesia you are discussing lawmakers who seek to strengthen the state against extremist forces. Of course lawmakers, even the woke ones, have always believed in this. Are you talking about the DSA element of the state showing their true allegiance to the state in moments like this?

    Or are you referring to BLM protesters as having amnesia? This makes sense to me. Because if I hear you correctly, you are calling out the more liberal elements of BLM. Those who say they are anti-police, but also can’t envision a world without them. I think this is the task at hand for radicals, but it seems harder to do right now since the right is getting all the attention.

    I think we need to focus on defining where BLM stands in the three way fight. Is BLM President (in all likelihood) Harris’ base, as she hoodwinks the BLM movement? Is BLM the Instagram influencers, and liberal pundits who looked down on the right wing insurrection as culturally inferior, and just focused on the viking guy, or the guy who tased his nuts to death (I mean fuck those guys, but the way Jimmy Kimmel, or pick a comedian, sounds when he makes fun of them I find problematic within the larger scope of things). Or is BLM the spontaneous insurrection we saw all summer long as the youth went toe to toe with the cops. Are these the people who are going in reverse? I don’t think they are, but I do think the Biden administration tries to pretend it has the answers Black America has been demanding for the past four years. We have to draw a line in between those who will continue to fight the police, and those who think you can end white supremacy without ending the American democratic system as we know it.

    If our pole does continue to go to war with the state as the right works out its inner contradictions and gains power, are we creating more space for the right to operate? Awesome question. I’m sure there’s tons of historical examples to pull from. But I think one thing is for sure, our pole needs to be more alert and more ready. Kenosha is a great example, as BLM fought the police this fascist fuck Kyle did what he did. The protests George Floyd and Breonna Taylor sparked obviously seem to be over for the time being. But if similar anti police movements start popping off again we need to be ready to protect each other from the far right. Philly is another example of how the far right marched with the police against BLM. So in a way, they are kinda making us fight them both simultaneously. Protect each other, and fuck the police.

    -Amanda Hugnkiss

  3. Thank you all for your comments. We wanted to start by responding to some of Amanda's thoughtful questions. The comment around political amnesia is critiquing, as you said, "Those who say they are anti-police, but also can’t envision a world without them." We know that the larger ramifications of increased policing and repression won't end with arrests against the far right. It will allow the justification of further repression against the anti-police poles within BLM, and the anti-state left more broadly. On your second point regarding defining BLM, our main goal was to draw a line in the sand with antifascists who are likely to slide into liberalism in alignment with the state against the far right. As we said in our article, while fighting the far right needs to be part of our task at hand, the most strategic thing to do is focus on confronting the capitalist state that oppresses us in order to build a more liberatory society. That can't be done by fighting the far right alone.

    George, thanks for your comments. One thing that's important to note is that many White nationalists sat out the storming of the Capitol because of splits within the movement that partially emerged after the "Unite the Right" rally. WE do think there will continue to be splits within the far right in the wake of the Capitol Takeover, but also likely a further emboldened movement that will view this as a victory.

    Xloi and Becca

  4. Not to rain on your whole parade, but I think this dichotomy and confusion illustrates that there is no meaningful three-way fight to speak of. You say "What this means is that instead of just understanding this as a right-wing assault on “democracy,” it needs to be understood as both internal to our so-called democracy while simultaneously having elements that are insurgent and anti-state.", but the insurgent anti-state elements are essentially powerless once the state decides to stop letting them throw their play-time temper-tantrum.

    Fascists operate outside the state initially, but their goal is always to infiltrate the state and take over the reins of power. They may claim to want to burn it all down and institute some kind of libertarian minimal government, but those voices are definitely marginalized (if not outright silenced) once fascists have enough of a hold on the state to make those kinds of decisions.

    Humbly, from recent events and my own reading of Forces of Labor (Silver) and Labor's Untold Story (Boyer), I must suggest that the logic of the three-way fight is outdated. Certainly there are many factions throwing bows in this pit, but if we want to succeed, we have to stop doubling our enemies and start trying to double our allies. A three-way fight where (antifascist) economic labor movements and (antifascist) political socialist movements tag team the state/fascists has a lot better odds than a three-way fight where antifascists, drifting without an economic or political base, are outnumbered by the state and fascism combined (splits aside, they are always happy to team up against leftists).

    We all know fascism is capitalism in decay. As the state overextends itself, as representative 'democracy' fails to meet the needs of the people, and their wealth is sucked upwards, populist movements lead to revolutionary moments. I have never heard of a popular revolution that leads to genuine liberatory change, unless it was backed by a massive and PREEMPTIVE labor of socialist education, training, and resourcing. That's the difference between fascism and liberation; fascism — even if well-intended — comes from knee-jerk reactionaries who can't think past tomorrow, and get played; liberation comes from people who plan the long game, plan for decades and trees they will never sit in the shade of.

    Again, capitalism is fascism in decay. The established order fights to maintain its hold on power. But eventually the popular reactionary forces take over. Then they turn around an impose the worst tyranny and austerity, against the designated 'internal enemies', that they can. Calling them one and the same does not mean 'hoping they will smash each other' or that we have to back one up to attack the other. Fascism is late stage capitalism. They are the same damn thing. So why posit the struggle as a three-way fight, doubling our enemies and our challenges? Why not posit it as a three-way beat down from organized labor and organized socialism onto the capitalist/fascist state?

    Again, Forces of Labor and Labor's Untold Story make very clear the power of cooperation (well-known by corporations) and the urgent need for movements to find and build relationships with ALLIES. If we are going to enter a melee let's enter it with backup not paranoia.

    My apologies if your parade gear is wet. But we can warm up and dry off together. Let's make 2021 a year of alliances and advances!

    A PNW comrade


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