Posts Tagged ‘Fascists’


Over the last week, we’ve seen several violent clashes between Nazis and counterprotesters. (Nazis might call themselves “alt-right,” “white separatists,” etc. Rather than give any credence to such rebranding, we’re calling them what they are: Nazis.)

It’s necessary to resist these losers, these tools of the powers that be. Violent defense of self and others is perfectly justified to repel physical attack.

But physically attacking people who are merely exercising free speech, no matter how loathsome, is never justified.

Last night, I saw a video of antifa protesters physically attacking Nazi organizer Richard Spencer, who was standing before microphones answering reporters’ questions. I was horrified on several counts:

  • Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. The principle of free speech applies to even the most loathsome speech — especially to the most loathsome speech. Once you start making exceptions for speech you really hate, it’s a very slippery slope to banning speech that anyone really hates, in which case freedom of speech vanishes. (“Anyone” here applies to any individual, group, or organization with the physical power to intimidate or beat others into silence.)

Another antifa protestor provided exactly the justification you’d expect for the assault on free speech, labeling it “violent speech,” saying that it was too “dangerous” to be allowed. (Speech is speech. Violence — physical attack on people or animals — is violence. These two wildly different things are not the same, and mere conflation of the two is not a convincing argument that they are.)

This is a broken record, the same rationale cited by every thug and bully since time immemorial who wants to deny others the right to free speech.

To bolster their position, one half expects antifas to begin citing the ancient half-witticism by authoritarian jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. concerning “yelling fire in a crowded theater.” (Again, political speech is political speech; yelling fire isn’t — short of transubstantiation, it’s impossible to make the two identical.)

  • The antifa protestors physically attacking Spencer do not understand the most basic anarchist principle: The ends do not justify the means; rather, means determine ends. If you employ violent, authoritarian means, you’ll achieve violent authoritarian ends. In this case, the attacking antifas abrogated to themselves the right to determine what others can say. This is straight up authoritarianism.

Beyond that, there’s the simple matter of optics.

  • The video of the attack was shocking and repulsive. How in hell did those guilty of the assault expect people who witnessed the assault to react to it? “Good for you! A group of you beat up an unarmed man to prevent him from speaking! What a display of principles!”

As others have pointed out, such assaults give the moral high ground to the Nazis — the only moral high ground they can claim. Those who attacked Spencer achieved the near impossible: making a Nazi appear sympathetic.

In a related matter, I saw an interview with an antifa protestor blithely talking about deliberate property destruction during demonstrations. Yes, yes, yes, property is just property, vandalism and sabotage are not violence because they’re directed against things, not people or animals. Agreed.

But again, don’t they understand the optics?

When people see protesters smashing in the windows of, for instance, a Starbucks, it’s a fair bet that a good majority of them won’t say to themselves, “Another inspiring blow against global capitalism!” It seems more likely that they’ll say, “Why the tantrum? Why don’t they just grow up?”

An important matter here that no one seems to be talking about is that such property destruction is not a sign of strength; not a sign of good planning; not a sign of the organization necessary to the free, egalitarian reorganization of society.

Rather, wanton property destruction is a sign of weakness.

Real revolutionary change involves taking over existing structures (including physical structures) and transforming them, not wantonly trashing them — which is a sign that you’re letting off steam because you have no idea of how to get from here to there, no idea of how to get from this authoritarian, racist, sexist, exploitative society to the the society that you say you want.

Again — and it shouldn’t be necessary to say this — defending yourself and others from violent assault from fascists is completely justified.

But don’t confuse that with suppressing free speech.

Please realize that the ends do not justify the means. Means determine ends.


Amidst the weeping, wailing, and grinding of molars over Donald Trump’s victory, there are some reasons for optimism. Yes, there’s a lot to fear, and Trump and his extreme right cohorts will do a lot of damage–notably to the environment and reproductive rights–but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic:

  • Trump’s election has energized the left more than anything since Occupy Wall Street in 2011. There are demonstrations and myriad organizing efforts all across the country, and they don’t seem to be slowing down.
  • A Republican is inciting the left, and it’s probable that this time the Democrats, locally and nationally, won’t conspire with the FBI and corporate security firms to destroy a dissident movement — as they did in 2011/2012 when they were complicit in suppressing the Occupy movement. They’ll try to co-opt the emerging movement, but they probably won’t try to destroy it.
  • The corporate-lackey, identity-politics Democrats’ quadrennial good cop / bad cop blackmailing of the public didn’t work. They found the one candidate who could lose to Trump: a widely disliked corporatist synonymous with the status quo; they rigged the primary process to ensure her nomination, expecting that the Republican nominee would be so odious that they could cram their candidate down our throats. They were wrong. They’re now trying to divert attention from their culpability by blaming voters, pointing to “racism” and “misogyny” as the reasons for the electoral disaster they engineered. But a lot of people are finally wising up to their extortion tactics and realizing that the corporate Democrats are not the friends of working people.
  • As a result of the corporatists’ arrogance, bungling, and all-too-obvious ethical bankruptcy, there’s a real chance that “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” will seize control of that party. I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but for the first time in decades there’s a real possibility that it will.
  • The Democrats might start opposing mass surveillance, erosion of civil liberties, and persecution of whistle blowers. Most of them abetted Obama in his assaults on whistle blowers and civil liberties, and his continuation of the mass surveillance begun under Bush. Now, they might show what passes for spine.
  • The alt-right is small and fractured. Current Klan membership is estimated at 5,000 to 8,ooo, and the largest neo-Nazi group in the country, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), has an estimated 400 members. In the 1920s, the Klan had at least 3,000,000 members and perhaps twice that. Taking population growth into account, that would equate to at least 9,000,000 members today. In the 1930s there was a plethora of openly fascist and pro-Nazi groups in the U.S. Just one of them, the German-American Bund, had at least 8,000 members, twenty times the membership of the NSM.
  • Alt-right members will continue to commit horrific hate crimes, but the alt-right is not a great national threat. Had the corporate Democrat won the presidential election, and predictably done next to nothing while public anger and hunger for change grew, it would have provided four more years for the alt-right to grow and metastasize.
  • We lived through eight years of Bush; we can live through four years of Trump.