A22 PDX. PB and antifascist confrontation. Photo via AP
by A Comrade
I largely agree with many of the evaluations that the decision to go and confront the fascists at Parkrose was poorly executed and handed the fascists a victory. A lot of other writeups have covered things I would have covered, but I have two additional points I’d like to make.
1. Some of the people critical of the bloc that went to Parkrose have stated that without that loss, the day would have been a certain victory. I am not fully convinced of this. Yes, you can point to this happening the previous year, but that does not mean it will play out the same way again. If the bloc hadn’t of shown up, some fascists very well might have been drunk/coked up and bored enough to go looking for a fight. They might have taken it out on marginalized people or folks who looked close enough to antifa to count. We’ve seen fascists do this before, and this is part of why “we go where they go.” They might have gone downtown after all. A few of them might have gone hunting and assassinated someone in a driveby. There are many ways it might have played out differently, many of which could still have played out with a defeat for our side. Pretending like sticking to the plan and staying downtown in the park would have resulted in a certain victory is dishonest.
2. Anti-Racist Action adopted the slogan “we go where they go—never let the fascists have the streets” for multiple reasons. One was that facing up to them in the street and depriving them of a victory was the best way to demoralize them, shatter their macho and superior self-image, and impede their future organizing. Decades of anti-fascism have shown this to be the best course. Second was to counter liberalism and take the political stances that a) ignoring them doesn’t make them go away and b) we can’t rely on the cops or state to protect us. We protect us. And third, it was to protect others. The presence of armed and dangerous fascists is an active threat to all sorts of people. Letting them roam freely is not an option we can allow.
That all said, that doesn’t mean run right up to the danger irresponsibly. There are plenty of ways the fascists could’ve been opposed in Parkrose that didn’t involve a straight-up confrontation, especially an outnumbered one. Sabotage. Hit-and-run tactics. Use your imagination. “Be like water” doesn’t just apply to avoiding police kettles, it can apply to hounding the fash too. Now, every situation needs to be analyzed on its own. Some of these tactics might have just provoked the fash, spurring them to caravan away or lash out at others. But if they felt isolated and vulnerable enough, they might’ve circled their wagons and then fled.
Perhaps most importantly — a confrontation or the tactics above may have not been the best way to go about it either. Simply monitoring the fash and having a strong enough presence in the vicinity to jump into action if needed may have been enough. This could have resulted in the same end result that the fash looked silly and did nothing that some people predicted would have happened otherwise, while still being able to confront them if the need arose or if a more tactically advantageous situation presented itself. We need to be able to improvise and adapt to situations quickly.
I don’t think the folks who went to Parkrose had the wrong idea to go out there. I do think the way it went down was unplanned, disorganized, and ended up in a demoralizing rout for us. We can do better. We will do better. We have to.