Socialist Alternative wishes to express our condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the tragic shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The horror of what happened on August 5 shocked and saddened people across the country and worldwide. Wade Michael Page, a U.S. Army veteran whose ideas were influenced by the Neo-Nazi scene, went to the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee) on a Sunday morning and opened fire, killing six and shooting the first police officer to arrive on the scene, who shot him back. Eventually the shooter ended the incident by shooting himself in the head.
While Page's exact motive and thinking will likely never be fully illuminated, more and more information is coming out in the media about his apparent links to white supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups. He is reported to have played in White Power bands and been active online and in the scene.
The police and media claim this was a lone gunman who acted without outside help, but there are rumors of other gunmen. Whether or not he was the only gunman, the Neo-Nazi scene clearly played a role in these killings, even if it was indirect.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, recent years have seen a growth in far-right, racist groups. The economic problems and unemployment faced by many working-class families are fuel for the fire of racist, anti-immigrant ideas.
Racism is institutionalized in capitalist society. We see it on a daily basis, from portraying African-Americans as lazy criminals to the media coverage of the shooting itself, which included insistent repetition that Sikhs are not Muslims, though they are often mistaken for Muslims. This would seem to imply that it would somehow have been more understandable had Page opened fire in a Mosque instead.
However, while the police continue to crack down on Occupy and attack and shoot people of color, the far right is left mostly in peace. This is because in certain circumstances the far right can play a role that is useful to the state and to capitalism by fighting the left and intimidating progressive movements, such as the labor movement and movements of people of color. After all, in the face of a growing radical labor movement in Germany in the 1930s, it was the ruling elite and heads of industry in Germany who turned to the Nazis and allowed them to take power rather than face the danger of a socialist revolution.
This tragic event highlights the danger that far-right groups can present to people of color and progressives. The best way to fight back is to build a movement of workers, the labor movement, people of color, and other progressives to counter the subtle racism in the media and, when necessary, confront Nazis in the street to prevent them from growing into any more of a danger than they already are. This can help stem the problem, but it won't end it. Capitalism keeps the right wing threat around as a safety mechanism and continually regenerates the conditions of unemployment, poverty, and inequality that serve as fertile ground for the growth of right-wing radicalism. The only solution is to fight the system of the 1% as a whole.