After two epic bloodbaths — The American Civil War and World War II — we still have evidently not fully extinguished the barbaric ideologies of Nazism and white supremacy. This was tragically clarified by the neo-Nazi terrorist attack last weekend during a massive white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. I mentioned the “paradox of tolerance” in my previous post, and it all boils down to one critical point: The public promotion of Nazism and white supremacy should not automatically fall under the umbrella of “free speech” for the simple fact that these ideologies, by their very nature, incite violence, terrorism, apartheid, and genocide (the incitement of violence is not protected under the First Amendment).
As it currently stands, fascist douchebags are comfortable marching down the street, waving Nazi flags, shouting racist slogans, intimidating communities, and even murdering people as though it’s just a normal day in the good ol’ United States of Germany, circa 1940. This is not normal. These idiots are promoting mass extermination, and it isn’t going to fly.
That’s why it’s time to make Nazis and other white supremacists afraid (again), which, in modern times, would involve a well-coordinated effort using many complex tactics. For instance, the decentralized anarchist collective known as Antifa (short for anti-fascist), which is primarily known for their street-confrontations, also engages in intelligence gathering, doxing, and pressure tactics. The movement got some good press earlier this week after author and civil rights leader Dr. Cornel West, who participated in the counter-demonstration, said:
“We would have been crushed like cockroaches if it were not for the anarchists and the anti-fascists… They saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed, and I’ll never forget that.”
The roots of Antifa can be traced back to 1930s Germany, and anti-fascism more broadly has been instrumental in struggles for democracy around the world. In mainstream discourse, there has often been a charge of “violence on both sides” when discussing Antifa. Semantically, the term “violence” shouldn’t even be used to describe anti-fascism, since the methods in question boil down to self and community defense. Antifa is a response to fascist violence. If a woman is sexually assaulted and defends herself by punching her attacker in the face, it wouldn’t make sense to claim that “there was violence on both sides.” One side is the aggressor and one side is the victim fighting against the original aggression. But the semantics of this issue are less important than the following realization: The notion of moral equivalence between these two parties — which has been advocated by Trump and others — is a disingenuous and insidious form of victim-blaming.
We should go further than simply condemning this logically and morally fallacious argument by actively supporting and promoting groups that seek to protect the vulnerable. For instance, two additional anti-fascist organizations that have recently emerged (and whose logos are featured in my image above) are Redneck Revolt and Socialist Rifle Association. And yes, these folks are armed. With guns. But I should clarify that those of us who benefit from white privilege should be on the front lines. We need to own this. People of color and other oppressed communities shouldn’t be expected to take up arms; they already put their lives on the line on a daily basis just by existing in our society.
The history of armed resistance in conjunction with non-violence is one of the many aspects of our history that we love to omit or downplay. A great example is the untold story of how guns made the Civil Rights movement possible. Force and pacifism can be used within the same struggle; they are not mutually exclusive. We’re beginning to see an understanding of this, with some mainstream defense of Antifa, and I hope this trend continues. However, this is much bigger than just Antifa and other related movements; it’s about the concept of self-defense itself. For example, defending one’s family shouldn’t just be a conservative talking point, but a human value that transcends partisan politics. Let’s not only liberate this concept from conservative monopoly, but expand it to include the fervent defense of people of color, LGBTQ individuals, minorities, immigrants, and other marginalized members of our communities, as Malcolm X said, “by whatever means necessary,” including the use of force.
In this Trumpian dystopia, showing up at protests isn’t the cakewalk it used to be. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but simply proclaiming “love trumps hate” is a little naïve at this point (from a historical perspective, “guns trump hate” would be more accurate). It seems that, going forward, we should strive to be well organized, highly trained, and intimately prepared to defend ourselves and our comrades against right-wing terrorism. This prospect is certainly complex, and will require myriad resources and solidarity among many groups and movements. But this discussion is long overdue. In the most recent episode of the podcast Politically Reactive, community organizer Rosa Clemente passionately articulates this concern, and I’d highly recommend listening.
The battle against institutional racism and entrenched white supremacy is essential, but a prerequisite to this continued struggle is addressing the very real threat of physical violence. In a future we can all hope for, fascists of all stripes will be terrified to show their faces in public, much less organize a large public display of flagrant racism and anti-Semitism. The doxing of white nationalists is certainly heartening, and a promising tool in the fight against fascism. But we have a long way to go, and it’s time to get our shit together, because this non-violent stuff’ll get you killed.