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On Saturday morning, 27 October, a man shouting antisemitic slogans opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the historically Jewish Squirrel Hill neighbourhood of Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed during the morning shabbat service and during a bris - a ceremony welcoming a baby to the Jewish community.
This horrific shooting is part of an unmistakable, steady rise in the expression of open antisemitism, xenophobia, and white supremacist ideology in the United States, albeit by a small minority.
This trend has accelerated since 2016 and the election of Donald Trump, and is linked to an increasing number of hate crimes against religious minorities, LGBT+ people, people of colour, women and immigrants, as well as activists and other targets.
Despite being snubbed by a mourning family and told by his own Republican party leaders and the mayor not to attend, Trump displayed his usual contempt and visited Pittsburgh three days later. He was greeted by sustained jeers from a large number of protesters.
Trump's response to this recent hate crime in Pittsburgh has been to blame the victims, to argue that arming your place of worship to the teeth leads to "far better" results.
However, terrorist acts such as this are enabled and encouraged by the attacks on working and oppressed people by Trump and by his far-right supporters. They are a logical extension of the antisemitism, white supremacy, and other hateful ideologies perpetuated by the ruling class for centuries to pit ordinary people against each other.
The corporate media and the right wing are seeking to paint the left as the source of antisemitism. Trump insider Kellyanne Conway blamed "anti-religious sentiment" for the Pittsburgh attack. Activists who oppose the Israeli government's oppression of Palestinians are given the label of antisemitic.
However the Pittsburgh shooting shows that antisemitism comes overwhelmingly from the right wing. Trump bears responsibility for enabling it.
It is not antisemitic to oppose the policies of the Israeli government and we reject those claims, as well as the fraudulent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the British Labour Party.
Historically, it is the working class and socialists who have fought antisemitism and fascism.
While many of us may be shocked to see the diseased ways of thinking of the past century flare up again today, this kind of rot in our world is present because of the same decaying social system that gave rise to the horrors of the 20th century, including two world wars, fascism and the Holocaust.
Capitalism rests on a foundation of genocide and oppression, and feeds on racism, sexism, and xenophobia, to divide and disenfranchise us, while delivering prosperity to a wealthy minority.
To crush antisemitism and white supremacy, we must not only defeat the dangerous ideology of the far right, but also dismantle the system which gave rise to it.
While Trump pursues a pro-corporate agenda designed to further enrich the big-business elite, he distracts from it by sowing division and stoking fears along the lines of race, immigration, and religion.
This right-wing populism is a feature of politics in many countries, as big business continues with brutal attacks on workers' rights and funding for social services - even as the vast majority of the benefits of 'recovery' since 2008 has gone to the richest 1%.
Trump's recent embrace of his "nationalist" label is incredibly telling. His victory in 2016, which was based in part on fomenting open racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, clearly emboldened the most despicable elements of the far right.
This culminated in the white nationalist mobilisation in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, which resulted in the death of anti-fascist Heather Heyer. The far right was delivered a serious blow by the protests at Charlottesville and after, showing that mass movements are effective against their hate.
We cannot limit our resistance to the ballot box; we cannot rely on the corporate-dominated two-party system to stand up for all working and oppressed people.
The Republican Party enables antisemitism, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia when not outright stoking it. Meanwhile the Democratic Party offers little resistance to the right's vicious agenda. In fact, its failed 'centrist', establishment politics of the past several decades have been the soil in which right-wing extremism has taken root.
There is a growing mood to fight back against racism, sexism, and homophobia. Recent struggles, like the McDonald's workers' strike against sexual harassment and the millions, led by high school students, who walked out against gun violence this year, show that more and more people want to fight through collective action.
The solidarity vigil held in Pittsburgh following the massacre brought out 2,000 people. It was called for and led by high school students in the neighbourhood who felt it was important to act immediately.
As socialists we are hugely encouraged by this, and fully believe that a mass movement of people standing against the rise of bigotry and far-right violence can win.
The most effective way to fight the far right is not through isolated actions or street fighting, but through mass mobilisations against them.
The response in Boston to the Charlottesville murder - a demonstration of over 40,000 that shut down and drowned out an alt-right "free speech" rally - pushed the far right back into internet forums.
Trade unions and anti-racist organisations have a critical role to play in mobilising the broadest forces possible against the far right and their hate-filled agenda. The same mobilisations are needed to fight back against Trump.
As society continues to polarise amid a deepening social and political crisis, we must build mass movements of working and oppressed people. We must unite in the streets, on campuses, and in our workplaces against racism, sexism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
The Muslim community of Pittsburgh has already set a power-ful example of solidarity through fundraising for Tree of Life and offering support and protection to the congregation going forward.
Socialist Alternative stands in solidarity with the Tree of Life congregation and the Jewish community. We must do everything in our power to shut down this system that encourages white-supremacist violence.
Far right (159)
Article dated 7 November 2018
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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