The recent events in Charlottesville are firstly the fruit of growing political hate at both ends of the political spectrum. Self-appointed patriots and supporters of Confederate culture had a permit to concentrate to protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate general. They were confronted by antifascists with whom they clashed violently, causing the death of the member of the Industrial Workers of the World, or wobbly, Heather Heyer, killed by a fascist terrorist. (The IWW is commonly considered to be a leftist anarchist movement. Its members called “wobblies” are on the far left and have been engaged in anti-fascism together with other left wing groups.)
Anti-Fascists and leftist around the world showed solidarity with her family and she has become a symbol of anti-fascism in the 21st century. These antifascists and social justice warriors decided that they would not let the alt-right express their views because the Confederacy had supported the losing side of a war which they wish to forget and even erase as something shameful and evil.
They seem to have forgotten a few facts. First, that history is written by the winners, which implies that the events will be explained in the most favourable light possible for them.
Second, that so-called antifascists come in all shades of peaceful or aggressive. In Europe, many fear the antifa as much or more as the fascists they claim to fight.
Third, that many self proclaimed antifascists also call themselves anarchists which is in the majority of cases simply not true if we take into account the definition of anarchism.
1: a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
There are quite a few members of antifascist groups that like to think of themselves as anarchists because they believe it gives them a certain air of coolness associated with the revolutionary history of anarchism.
Apart from this, and before anyone points out to me that anarchists have often used ‘the propaganda of the deed’, meaning using or advocating the use of violence, I will point out that this doesn’t mean just any type of violence, but that type which is destined to crush structural state violence. Therefore, it is safe to determine that the antifascists that took part in the Charlottesville were not also anarchists as they were not fighting the state or any of its institutions.
Anarchists can be rather varied, however they all share a few common traits. The abolition of class and anti authoritarianism. The majority of anarchists you’ll see in the media are most likely leftist anarchists, however far right anarchists do exist.
Some leftist anarchists are antifa and the two movements share a few goals and values, however they are not the same. A person might be both, but antifa isn’t anarchist in and of itself. Many anarcho-capitalists have gone as far as to support the extremist right wing.
The riot in Charlottesville is furthermore a failure of law and order. The authorities’ first job is to keep the peace, while protecting the free speech rights of even the nastiest among us. According to accounts on both sides of the Charlottesville incident, police were there but effectively did nothing to defuse the situation.
The racists who marched in Charlottesville tempt people to silence them using violent means. I’ve felt that way often watching other groups of pro-life (but not pro-welfare) activists exercising their freedom of speech rights for example. But using violence in this instance is wrong. It’s wrong against congressmen and Antifa marchers, against neo-fascists and pro-lifers, alike.
Governments should enforce laws and keep people from getting killed in the streets, not routinely wave off the anti-speech violence of one rabid political faction (Antifa), then be shocked when haters on the other side (the Alt-Right) decide to escalate. That’s what happens when the authorities giving orders to the police choose which side gets to break the law because they are after all protesting against the bad guys, right?
That’s how Germany in the 1920s and 30s descended into chaos, then welcomed tyranny. When only one side is the ‘right’ one, we risk stumbling down that same road. When police and other authorities allow either side to use violence to intimidate or silence people, they are giving that side permission to believe themselves above the law, thus causing the opposite side to feel aggravated. The democratic German establishment let Nazis come to dominate key departments in universities via conspiracy, fear, and silencing. Programs emerged to study Jewishness as if it were an illness, in the way they’re studying “whiteness” and “maleness” today in some universities.
Remember how the Nazis came to power? The establishment let them. It considered them idealists — rough around the edges, but with their hearts in the right place. They were vigorous, even dangerous. But at least they were fighting the greater evil, the real threat: the Communists.
By the 20s and 30s, before the Nazis had emerged as a political movement, the USSR had already committed mass murder and was running concentration camps holding millions. Surely the Commies were the greater evil.
When leftist thugs fought in the streets, the police went in and cracked down on them hard. Whenever proto-Nazis and Nazis did the same, they got a pass. When Nazis terrorized moderates or religious conservatives, they got slaps on the wrist, the way the authorities let Antifa off after they take over campuses and terrorize faculty and silence speakers while wearing hoods and wielding weapons. A stern warning and a covert pat on the back are enough punishment.
They’re technically breaking the law, but it’s for a good cause.
When Hitler actually tried to overthrow the government in the Beer Hall Putsch, under German law he deserved to be shot by a firing squad. Instead he got a couple of years in a comfy cell with plenty of visitors, and a typewriter on which he wrote Mein Kampf.
People whose views are deemed false and wicked, whose races and heritage are studied in school as if they were cultural illnesses, whose countries are changing radically around them, who learn from their own elites that they don’t deserve to be a majority anywhere on earth are bound to feel bewildered, disenfranchised and let down. If you add to this that their countries are under pressure from massive immigration, you might not be surprised to see some of them overreact, even accept nasty and false racist ideas about their own “superiority.” It would be wrong, but comprehensible.
White racism is wrong. Saying that in the 1850s or even the 1950s was bold. It’s still true today. There can be no question of this.
There is, nevertheless, the need to acknowledge that although this is true, it is no less true that in the process of lifting up minorities and bringing justice to wide sectors of the population, a new variety of tyranny has taken root in the form of policing and counter policing people’s words, actions and attitudes and forcing only one acceptable view on anyone who wishes to be accepted socially, lest you be ostracised, criticised, vilified and treated like a subhuman being.
Those who say they champion tolerance and defend freedom of speech are relentlessly becoming the least tolerant of all.
We should learn the lessons that history teaches us before we wake up one morning to find that the truths that we clung to so desperately trying to be good have paved the way for evil that we have not seen the likes of in decades.