Millions are shocked in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Eighteen year old white supremacist, Payton S. Gendron, carried out his weeks-long plan of attack at a Tops Friendly Markets located in a predominately Black community. There are 13 total victims: 10 were killed, 3 injured. All but two of the victims were Black. Footage of the mass shooting live streamed Gendron shows multiple racial slurs, including the N-word, written on his assault rifle as he went on his killing spree.
Buffalo Police pleaded with Gendron to lower the Bushmaster AR-15 nozzle away from his neck as he threatened to pull the trigger. Social media videos show police arresting Gendron standing up with little force being used at all. What a contrast to when Buffalo police officers assaulted and fractured the skull of a 77 year old protester during the George Floyd rebellion (if you haven’t already guessed, the Buffalo police got away with it). One survivor of the massacre said that after dialing 911 when the shooting began, the dispatcher berated her and hung up the phone! Gendron has since pleaded not guilty to his charges.
Mass shootings and violence committed by reactionaries and racists have become more commonplace. The vast majority of hate crimes in the United States are against Black people on the basis of anti-blackness. Five years leading to 2019, there had been over 20,000 reported hate crimes towards Black people. There has been an alarming increase since then. In 2020, around half of hate crimes were toward Black people. One-third of HBCUs have reported bomb threats and other threats of violence this year. Hate crime statistics, which are vastly underreported and have dubious definitions, shows an increase of hate crimes towards Black people from the year 2019 at 1,972 reported incidents to 2020 with 2,871 reported incidents. Let’s not forget how this same ruthless racial violence is subjected upon Black working people by the hands of the police across the United States on a daily basis which isn’t not seen as a “hate crime” but “enforcing law and order.”
The Tops mass shooting also coincides with a rise of hate crimes against Asians-Americans and LGTBQ people. These attacks aren’t without rhyme or reason. Capitalism requires the threat of violence, in order to both divide the working class from one another and to continue the conditions of hyper-exploitation that working people of color are subjected to. Racist killers like Payton Gendron are an inevitable by-product of this diseased system.
Role of Far Right
Payton Gendron’s 180-page “manifesto” contains a plethora of racist internet memes, guides for others to carry out racist mass violence, and incoherent ramblings about his “boredom” leading him to be a white nationalist mass murderer. He was inspired by the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand of 2014 and sought to use similar methods of mass murderer used then. These attacks are not one-off outbursts but are driven by ideologically motivated fascists who meticulously plan attacks to impact broader society. These fascist elements have a long list of targets as demonstrated by the massacre in El Paso, Texas and Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
A key theme throughout this garbage is the conspiracy of the gradual “replacement” of white people with people of color who are supposedly “more controllable” for the elites’ purposes — the “great replacement” theory.
White nationalists have routinely played up fears of the white population shrinking or becoming “diluted” through inter-racial marriages in order to recruit into their reactionary organizations. The takeover of the Republican party by Trump has created more room for these reactionary conspiracies to be broadcast outside of small white-nationalist groupings to millions of people.
Tucker Carlson, infamous FOX news anchor who presides over the most racist show in U.S. cable television history, is a prime example of how white nationalist conspiracies are being embraced by the Republican party. Carlson has repeatedly talked about the “great replacement” theory, only adding an electoral bent, claiming that the Democrats want a demographic change where POC are a majority in the United States to win more elections. This is coupled with the so-called stolen 2020 election. The “great replacement” theory isn’t unique but a small piece in the reactionary ideology peddled by the Republican party without any shame or hesitation.
Far right establishment figures like Carlson immediately attempted to dissociate from Gendron. Despite agreeing with the broad strokes of Gendron’s politics, they claim the same old trope of a young white man inflicted with a “mental illness” outrageously trying to build sympathy for the shooter! Fringe white supremacist organizations emboldened by this mass shooting will use it to further recruit downwardly mobile white people into their ranks.
The Trumpists who now dominate the Republican Party will cover for their ideologically adjacent violent racist lone-wolfs like Gendron or underground white nationalist cells such as Atomwaffen, and use white-washed versions of conspiracy theories like the “great replacement” to whip up their base to the voting polls. As we have pointed out the actual support for organized fascist groups or white nationalist terrorism in the U.S. remains very small but the normalization of far right ideas by the Trumpists is a very dangerous development.
Hypocrisy of Biden and Democrats
Tucker Carlson’s first introduction of the great replacement theory was during his coverage of Haitian immigrants camped out on the US-Mexico Border during late 2021. What is extremely ironic in Carlson crying of an “invasion” of the southern border, somehow orchestrated by the Democrats, is how anti-immigrant the Democrats actually are!
Obama deported more undocumented immigrants than Trump. Carlson called for Biden to evict Haitian refugees from the Southern border — and Biden did just that! The Biden administration used Title 42 to prevent refugees from their right to settle in the US while they wait for their asylum proceedings. A person has to wonder what the hell is Carlson even complaining about when the Democrats are doing almost everything he wants immigration wise.
Biden responded to the Buffalo mass shooting decrying white supremacy: how it’s an ideology of hate, and a “poison.” These words are nice and all, but completely meaningless when examining the role Democrats have in upholding racial oppression in the United States. Just like their failure in codifying Roe, Democrats sat on their hands while the Voting Rights act of 1965 was essentially overturned by the Supreme Court. Biden has called for left-over CARES stimulus money to be spent on police recruitment! Just a couple of weeks ago, Biden was reminiscing over how “polite” old-school pro-segregation politicians were, and how at least he was able to eat lunch with them.
Democrats and Republicans are corporate parties with important differences. However, these differences are used by capitalism to trick working people into siding with the supposed “lesser-evil.” Democrats verbally oppose right-wing ideology, but will fight like hell to ensure the actual system of structural racism, which is built into the foundations of U.S. capitalism, remains intact.
During the height of the George Floyd uprising, millions came out onto the streets calling for defunding the police, and Democrats pretended to “reform” policing as long as everyone voted blue. Now, Democrats have embraced “law and order” as they shovel millions of dollars into police departments across this country. Not to mention the Democrat establishment’s total embrace of Eric Adams and Bruce Harell, who both gleefully use their respective police departments to administer police repression on Black and working class neighborhoods.
Threat of Rise in Far Right
Democrats aren’t going to do anything to remedy this situation. Biden has already ruled out an executive action implementing any sort of gun reform. Payton Gendron was already known to local police departments in his area when he threatened to commit a mass shooting at his high school. Biden and the Democrats’ failure to even try to stop racist terrorists like Gendron from getting guns shows clearly that no working person of color can put faith in the Democratic party to prevent future racist massacres.
As inflation pummels working people in all areas of life there is a big opening for the right and far right in the absence of any serious left alternative. It makes sense: Far-right reactionaries can point to the failure of the Democrats in delivering real material gains for working people mixed with outrageous lies to build their authority in working class communities. This is already happening as you read this article. The Democrats won’t even build a mass movement to codify Roe, let alone to fight the right-wing. If a mass movement independent of the Democrats and centered on the multiracial working class is not built, there is a high risk of demoralization and disorganization.
No matter the sentiments of the Democrats, or the racial threats espoused by the Republicans — working people are going to struggle and fight. The community vigil at Tops featured “Black Lives Matter” and “whose streets? Our streets!” chants, and speakers made connections between the lack of any economic support for Black working class communities leaving them exposed to racial violence.
The community around Tops is considered a food desert, with that store being the only site for essential food products for the overwhelmingly Black community. Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in the country. Gendron knew as much, and chose Tops community market to send a message: Even in the poor Black neighborhoods created by U.S. capitalism, Black working people still aren’t safe from violence. Meanwhile, the Buffalo police department has received a $5.4 million dollar increase. The current pro-Trump sherriff John Garcia openly supported law and order Democrat Byron Brown. The hypocrisy isn’t lost on Black working people; the question is how can we build a powerful enough movement to crush the right-wing and deliver real gains for the entire multi-gendered, multi-racial working class?
All successes of the right and far-right are predicated on the left’s failures. There is a crisis of organization and leadership that, if resolved, could reverse the gains of the reactionaries significantly. A mass organization of the working class can fight back against the far-right through mass demonstrations and protests. Class struggle along these lines would expose the interconnectedness between the Democrat and Republican parties as they coalesce to defend their system, capitalism. We saw this at the height of the George Floyd rebellion, when both Democrat and Republican governors met with then President Trump to organize a nation-wide repression of protests.
Capitalism breeds white supremacist and reactionary ideologies. Socialists understand that in order to eliminate these ideas it is necessary to crush capitalism and create an entirely new system on the basis of solidarity and working-class democracy — socialism. This doesn’t mean working people sit on their hands and wait for a better tomorrow. The struggle for socialism can be taken up through mass organizations of the multi-gendered, multiracial working class fighting with class struggle methods. This means having a program that speaks to the heart of the working class, especially the Black working class and youth who will be at the forefront of the struggle against capitalism and for socialism.