By Benjamin Rieke
Rain. Red Flags. Revolution.
The Northern Prairie Socialists (NPS), a grassroots organization of local leftists, held an anti-fascist rally on Oct. 14. They aimed to let fascists know they are not welcome in Fargo-Moorhead and inform the community on what it means to be a socialist.
“Fascism is not to be debated, it’s to be smashed,” said Xavior Jimenez, a local socialist and organizer for the rally. “They’re here. They’re not very strongly organized, but they’re organized to the extent that they’re talking to each other and they’re making preparations and plans.”
Those plans included a rally organized by white supremacist Peter Tefft. Tefft was among the thousands of far-right protestors who attended the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past August. Tefft’s rally was originally scheduled for Oct. 14 before being postponed indefinitely.
NPS organized its anti-fascist rally to protest Tefft’s rally, which Jimenez views as part of a rise in fascist and Neo-Nazi sentiments in the United States. NPS felt it was important to make its presence known even after Tefft cancelled his event.
“Coming out is still worthy, because (just because fascists) did not come out today does not mean they will not come out tomorrow,” said Jamaal Abegaz, a former MSUM student and local socialist who attended the rally. “Even if you have a different political ideology, I would like to think most people are willing to fight fascists where they are.”
Abegaz and members of NPS met outside the Fargo Public library around noon. The organization is still young, less than a year old, though Jimenez said members have been politically active for years. The event was small, with only about a dozen people coming out.
“No matter what our numbers are, we will still keep fighting,” Jimenez said.
Fortunately, no physical fighting took place at the rally. Instead, members of NPS spent over two hours outside in the chilling cold and pouring rain.
“We cannot afford our health insurance. We cannot afford our rent. And we cannot afford our education,” Jimenez said in his opening speech. “We cannot afford to live.”
Most of the rally was spent along the side of the road, where protestors carried signs with pro-socialist and anti-capitalist messages including “the union makes us strong” and “capitalism is eco-terrorism.”
The rally wasn’t without its more radical moments. Some members waved flags including that of the former Soviet Union and one featuring communist revolutionary Che Guevara. At one point, Jimenez even shouted, “The United States is a terrorist organization!”
It’s important to note that not everyone in NPS share the same opinions. Abegaz describes the organization as a diverse group of leftists who all have their own ideas on socialism. Abegaz said people who are concerned about the group’s beliefs or symbols should reach out to NPS to communicate.
“We are decidedly not authoritarian. If you see our symbolism and that raises some red flags in you, come ask us about it,” Abegaz said. “We’re an organization that’s very open to questions. We’re very open to dialogue.”
The day progressed and the weather worsened. The protestors continued, adding chants of “no justice, no KKK, no fascist USA.” At one point, they even joined together to sing “This Land Is Your Land.” A few drivers signaled their support for the group, honking their horns and waving as they drove past the rally.
Standing up to fascism was only one motivation bring out NPS for the rally. Jimenez said a secondary goal was to prove that socialist ideals are seeing a resurgence and to spread the word about NPS.
“We are socialist, and we will not compromise on that,” Jimenez said. “We will stand for the working class. We want workers’ control over the workplace. We want workers’ rights. We want complete freedom for the working class.”
The other members could definitely agree that there is a long ways to go towards being a socialist state.
“As socialists, we are for workers’ control, and that definitely looks like a completely different society than what we are living in now,” Abegaz said. “We can’t keep living in this corporate capitalist state that’s literally destroying us.”
Jimenez believes many Americans are misinformed on what socialism is and what it actually means. He defined socialism as worker ownership of the means of production, equating to workers owning their workplaces, whether they be farms or factories, instead of the production being owned by a handful of stakeholders and executives. The point is to give power to the people.
“Somehow it’s more important for a few people to sit on money than for our government to actually build what it is we need on a daily basis,” Abegaz said. “And that’s a perversion of democracy. Direct democracy is another tenant that Northern Prairie Socialists stands for.”
Abegaz was a student senator at MSUM before taking a semester off from classes. Jimenez is a student at NDSU. However, they don’t attribute their socialist views to anything learned in the classroom.
“I’ve come to socialism as a solution to a problem where society continues to eat itself, continues to tell itself that ‘these people don’t deserve’ or ‘we’re better than they are,’” said Abegaz. “And really, we’re all humans, and if we’re going to do this thing called society, if we’re gonna come together, live in communities and have things, we need to make sure that we are all at the basic level taken care of.”
Jimenez had a similar epiphany that pushed him into true socialism.
“That started my radicalization beyond Bernie Sanders, his liberal democratic policies, and moving on to actual socialist principles,” Jimenez said. “We are not liberals. We are not any mainstream politics. Bernie Sanders style socialism isn’t socialism. We are providing a true alternative and not a Band-Aid to capitalism.”
Abegaz has his own theory for why young people are turning to socialism.
“It’s because we listened to our parents. They told us to treat people with dignity. To be kind to themselves and others. To accept people for who they are,” Abegaz said. “We don’t see that being reflected in our government structures or in our society at large.”
NPS wants to be proactive and respond to the needs of the community. Future projects include gathering clothes and blankets to donate to local homeless shelters for the winter and getting school supplies for children in English Language Learners programs.