If only in 1991 there had been a John Brown Gun Club, a Pacific Northwest Antifascist Workers Collective, a Socialist Rifle Association, or even a communist caucus within the Democratic Socialists of America, I wouldn’t have been visiting a Stalinist at a Victorian overlooking Delores Park, in San Francisco.
But then again, I wouldn’t have enjoyed that reefer in the park, either.
Somewhat delirious after frolicking in the Castro during Gay Pride, I sat in the parlor of a woman who was an aficionado of the great abolitionist, John Brown. In fact she called her organization the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee (JBAKC–what an acronym!). A committed Stalinist, she held forth at length about ‘Uncle Joe’, and was a militant and mostly nonsectarian (really) antifascist. But between the two of us–I am not in any sense a communist in the Stalinist tradition–we did what we could, from within a political environment vastly different from that of today, to stem the tide of fascism. We shared intelligence on fascists, protested fascists, and fought them in the streets, all the while hoping to ignite a prairie fire of resistance and rebellion. But all this we did at a time when radicals who were socialists, anarchists and communists, were not so frisky. Most people from these traditions split the difference as ‘progressives’, the remainder operated from radical grouplets. The most dedicated and principled among us did prison support work to honor and protect comrades on the inside.
Much of our conversation in that Victorian proceeded in the manner of a seasoned dialectician gently head-patting a skeptical neophyte:
“Kicking the shit out of Nazis seems to be at least somewhat effective,” I would say. My Stalinist friend would reply, “well, I agree with you in practice, and will even do it with you, but, look here,” pointing to a passage from Stalin’s Dialectical and Historical Materialism, “I’m not sure it works in theory.”
What the Antifa practices works, damn the theory.
The theory will come round, eventually.