Saturday, September 2, 2017

Pro-Con Antifa Wars on the Left Heat Up

Maybe we should put punching fascists on the back burner for a while and spend more time punching a corporation like Time-Warner instead .....
While the largely anarchist base of antifa has little regard for free speech niceties, there are some groups on the Marxist left that see things the same way....   If [Ann Coulter] had gone ahead and spoken on the originally scheduled date, would this have prompted antifa to organize (or disorganize) the same kind of adventure that made Milo Yiannopoulos appear as a victim, so much so that he earned a spot on the Bill Maher show where his repugnant ideas reached millions?..... Louis Proyect, Elderly Marxist with deep aversion to dictatorships, particularly those representing themselves as socialist.
And so it goes, as I've been expecting. Some guy on facebook supported the tactics of some in Antifa by comparing them to John Brown and calling liberals who call for free speech racists. While many Antifa people are being selective in focusing in Nazis, who is to stop any self-declared person looking for an excuse to bash heads from jumping in? And then there is the branding of people like the dirty liberals who may decide to stand up against Nazis in their own way?

And watching the sectrarian left over time, where when you put 3 people in a room you end up with 4 groups, gives me no confidence the left can every unite in a way to control this - especially variants in the anarchist wing which might verbally attack liberals/progressives/leftists as they do Nazis. As I've been saying, some of the actions of people on the left have caused me and others to question those who say capitalism is the problem but offer few realistic alternatives for this nation. I'm going to post some of my personal examples of experiences over the years where I disagreed with some of the tactics and was branded as a red-baiter, which I am sure some people may attempt to do here, ie, there are groups at the AFT which ally themselves with Antifa - and are the only ones at times running against Randi and Unity on the national level - which makes the actions of our leftist allies in UCORE curious given their lack of presence in opposition to Randi on the national level, thus in essence leaving the opposition in the AFT to be Antifa-like. (I do continue to work with some of them and so need to be circumspect.)

Note this comment from the article below by Proyect:
Even within anarchist ranks, there have been indications that offensive speakers must be silenced even when they are anarchists themselves. At a 2014 conference held at Portland State University, members of the audience tried to shout down Kristian Williams, an anarchist author who had made statements agreeing with Laura Kipnis about “sexual paranoia” coming to campus. At least they didn’t punch him in the face.
And another:
When it comes to the question of “free speech for fascists”, Marxism and the ACLU part ways. For free speech absolutists, protesting fascist events would likely be considered out of bounds but for Marxists there is an obligation to confront fascist rallies and meetings on a principled basis. For example, the students at Berkeley made the right choice to show up on the doorstep of the Student Union where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. If their numbers were so massive that it would have been impossible to get inside the building, that would have been just fine. Instead what happened was a small group of antifa dictated tactics that made it easy for the entire protest to be stigmatized as violating democratic rights. 
Some are supporting Antifa by using satire - a funny piece by Dale Pearson


When you work at something for years, really taking the time to master it, you expect a little bit of recognition. So that’s why what’s happening right now in America is really getting under my skin: I am sick of busting my ass doing neo-Nazi stuff only to have masked Antifa dipshits swoop in and get credit as the real fascists.
Let me break down just how unjust this is. Me and my friends have worked hard for years to promote white supremacy, nationalism, and eugenics. We’ve cyber-stalked feminists. We’ve burnt crosses. We’ve harassed queers in the light of day. And yet, these Antifa dorks, many of whom aren’t even fucking white, break a few windows in Berkeley and get called fascists by as many, if not more, people online as we do?
Un-fucking-believable!
These Antifa momma’s boys bought ski masks and baseball bats from whatever big-box store they shop at. I, a real, self-respecting fascist, spent the last 15 years painstakingly putting together a historically accurate SS uniform that I wear whenever I participate in any and all activities meant to usher in the Fourth Reich....
http://www.clickhole.com/blogpost/im-sick-busting-my-ass-doing-neo-nazi-stuff-only-h-6597#1

Read more at:

I’m Sick Of Busting My Ass Doing Neo-Nazi Stuff Only To Have Some Masked Antifa Dweebs Get Credit As The Real Fascists


This is satire but doesn't get into the weeds of the implications of Antifa actions.

Louis Proyect bills himself as an "Elderly Marxist with deep aversion to dictatorships, particularly those representing themselves as socialist." @LouisProyect1

I've read some of his posts before where he focuses on some of the behavior on the left. For those of us in the wilderness who are not true believers in socialism nor capitalism, reading a wide variety of left critics of the left (like Ethan Young) can be illuminating. Or confusing. I have more to post on this issue from Peter Farruggio and some responses. Meanwhile check this out from Louis Proyect, who I imagine will join Noam Chomsky: Antifa is a 'major gift to the Right... and Chris Hedges - How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right... as racist "enemies of the people" because they are critical.

Proyect shows us the differences between activists defending themselves against fascists with this story - which I can support the response.
there was a massive protest against fascist leader Gerald L.K. Smith’s talk in Minneapolis on August 21, 1946. When trade unionists began marching toward the hotel where it was supposed to be held, Smith’s goons attempted to break up their line. This led to a pitched battle that moved inside the hotel with chairs flying everywhere until the fascists were routed. It is important to note that this march was organized by trade union leaders who had been democratically elected by the ranks. This was a time before the witch-hunt had taken its toll. It is the model for the kind of movement we need today, one based on accountability, transparency and democracy—something sorely missing from the antifa adventurism.
Sadly, too many people on the left have jumped on the Antifa bandwagon without giving careful thought. They skip the organizing and go right to the rallies. If someone gets killed they have a cause.

By the way -- see if you can count how many people with masks are white.

Here Proyect talks about the long-term impact of progressives cheering the silencing of the right and how easy it will be to turn that against the left.

https://louisproyect.org/2017/08/27/no-platform-for-fascists/

August 27, 2017

No platform for fascists?

Filed under: anti-fascism — louisproyect @ 8:14 pm



Recently two important figures on the left said that they opposed the antifa tactic of using violence to silence white supremacists. In an interview given to the rightwing Washington Examiner, Noam Chomsky stated that “blocking talks” such as those given by Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos was wrong in principle and “generally self-destructive.” In some ways, this might have been expected given Chomsky’s defense of Robert Faurrison, a holocaust denier whose right to continue teaching at the University of Lyon was defended in a petition he signed. Also, during the time Chomsky was involved with protests against the war in Vietnam, he was always hostile–like Theodor Adorno–to on-campus protests that interfered with research even if it was in service of the war.

Meanwhile, Robert McChesney, a U. of Illinois professor of communications and one-time co-editor of Monthly Review, raised eyebrows when he told NPR that he sided with Richard Spencer against various Internet companies that have effectively banned neo-Nazi websites like Stormfront and Daily Stormer. 

McChesney’s interest in these measures has a lot to do with worries that they will also be used against the left: “What’s to stop them from turning around and saying, ‘Well, we don’t like these people who are advocating gay rights. We don’t like these people who are advocating workers’ rights’?”

There are already signs that this is exactly what is happening. Two days ago the NY Times reported:

An influential website linked to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg last month has been ordered to shut down, in the first such move against left-wing extremists in the country, officials in Germany said Friday.
Thomas de Maizière, the interior minister, said that the unrest in Hamburg, during which more than 20,000 police officers were deployed and more than 400 people arrested or detained, had been stirred up on the website and showed the “serious consequences” of left-wing extremism.
“The prelude to the G-20 summit in Hamburg was not the only time that violent actions and attacks on infrastructural facilities were mobilized on linksunten.indymedia,” he said, referring to the website.
The Interior Ministry said the website was the “most influential online platform for vicious left-wing extremists in Germany,” and noted that it had been used for years to spread criminal content and to incite violence.
Ideologically, Chomsky is a far cry from Marxism. McChesney is a lot closer but his emphasis is primarily on corporate control of media. He wrote about the sea change that took place in the 1920s when radio stations were no longer publicly owned in a book titled “Rich Media, Poor Democracy”. It meant that a handful of powerful corporations could set the political agenda just as they would do later on for television. The same model exists today with the Internet, even though it is nominally public and open to all. Nobody would likely prevent the Stormfront webmaster from using email, especially if it is a fake name. But when ISP’s refuse to host his website, you are silencing him.

Obviously this is not just a question of Internet freedom or the right of a Richard Spencer to give a talk on a campus. It is much deeper than that and requires an engagement with the relationship between Marxism and “no platforming”. While the largely anarchist base of antifa has little regard for free speech niceties, there are some groups on the Marxist left that see things the same way.

The Spartacist League is probably the most prominent group on the American left that shares the antifa perspective. In 1975 it organized a protest at San Francisco State that was indistinguishable from the one that took place in Berkeley against Yiannopoulos despite their presumed ideological differences:

On March 10 some 150 people responded to a clarion call for a mass demonstration to protest the scheduled appearance of Nazi party members on the San Francisco State University campus. Students as well as workers from the area joined the militant picket line which was organized by the “Ad Hoc Committee to Stop the Fascists,” a united front initiated and energetically built by the Spartacus Youth League. The angry demonstrators not only physically confronted the Nazis, but succeeded in driving the fascist vermin off campus.
Although they are far apart in terms of their understanding of Trotsky, the SWP in Great Britain also supports “no platforming” even though there is some evidence that the International Marxist Group of the 1970s led by Tariq Ali pioneered the tactic and even coined the term in the September 18th issue of The Red Mole, the party’s newspaper. In what appears to be 64 point type, the paper exclaimed: “No Platform for Racists” (i.e., the National Front and the Monday Club) and advocated tactics identical to those on the “It’s Going Down” website.

The National Front and the Monday Club were “mortal enemies of the working class” that had to be “stopped in their tracks”. The newspaper argued that these groups needed to be confronted, were “not going to be convinced by rational argument”, and called for “a concerted counter-attack” against both groups. The only way to deal with them was to “break up their activities before they grow to a size where they can begin to smash the activities of the working class.”

While the National Front was clearly a fascist group, the Monday Club was arguably nothing more than the British equivalent of the Reagan wing of the Republican Party. Would Tariq Ali and company have tried to bust up a rally just of the Monday Club? By the same token, would the antifa activists feel justified in busting up a meeting held for Ann Coulter? As it happens, Berkeley told her that a meeting sponsored by the Young Republicans would be rescheduled for a day when there were no students on campus—something she considered a form of censorship. If she had gone ahead and spoken on the originally scheduled date, would this have prompted antifa to organize (or disorganize) the same kind of adventure that made Milo Yiannopoulos appear as a victim, so much so that he earned a spot on the Bill Maher show where his repugnant ideas reached millions?

For some leftists the “no platform” net can be spread rather wide. Over the weekend of  July 2-4, 1971, the National Peace Action Coalition held a conference to organize mass actions that year. At the Friday night rally, Senator Vance Hartke and Victor Reuther, a United Auto Worker leader, were scheduled to speak but dozens of SDS’ers aligned with the Maoist PLP faction teamed up with a smaller number of Spartacist League members to prevent the meeting from going forward. They had brought bullhorns with them and as Reuther got up to speak, they tried to drown him out with chants opposing “the sellouts”. They were escorted out by the scruff of the neck.

Even within anarchist ranks, there have been indications that offensive speakers must be silenced even when they are anarchists themselves. At a 2014 conference held at Portland State University, members of the audience tried to shout down Kristian Williams, an anarchist author who had made statements agreeing with Laura Kipnis about “sexual paranoia” coming to campus. At least they didn’t punch him in the face.

When it comes to the question of “free speech for fascists”, Marxism and the ACLU part ways. For free speech absolutists, protesting fascist events would likely be considered out of bounds but for Marxists there is an obligation to confront fascist rallies and meetings on a principled basis. For example, the students at Berkeley made the right choice to show up on the doorstep of the Student Union where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak. If their numbers were so massive that it would have been impossible to get inside the building, that would have been just fine. Instead what happened was a small group of antifa dictated tactics that made it easy for the entire protest to be stigmatized as violating democratic rights.

Above all, tactics have to be dictated by the reality on the ground. For example, there was a massive protest against fascist leader Gerald L.K. Smith’s talk in Minneapolis on August 21, 1946. When trade unionists began marching toward the hotel where it was supposed to be held, Smith’s goons attempted to break up their line. This led to a pitched battle that moved inside the hotel with chairs flying everywhere until the fascists were routed. It is important to note that this march was organized by trade union leaders who had been democratically elected by the ranks. This was a time before the witch-hunt had taken its toll. It is the model for the kind of movement we need today, one based on accountability, transparency and democracy—something sorely missing from the antifa adventurism.

If it is important to build mass actions against fascist rallies, etc., it is just as important to oppose bans on such groups by the government. In the late 50s, George Lincoln Rockwell launched a career as the American Fuhrer that drew enormous media attention, much more so than Richard Spencer today. Like Spencer, Rockwell had very few followers and relied on TV and newspaper coverage to help him recruit the sort of sick and ignorant rabble drawn to an openly neo-Nazi cult. Like antifa, the state hoped to shut him down except with legal action rather than fists. As expected, the ACLU always took his case when he was denied a permit to speak and fought against legislation that would put his party on the government’s “subversive” list. The SWP, which had helped to organize the protest against Smith, also opposed such laws but for the same reasons as McChesney: “Such infringements of anyone’s rights, no matter who it may be, inevitably put in question everyone’s democratic rights. Didn’t America learn that to its cost in the witch-hunting days of President Truman and Senator McCarthy?”

I would caution my Marxist comrades to think deeply about these questions no matter their visceral satisfaction over seeing Richard Spencer getting punched in the face. There are clear signs that the authoritarian in control of the executive branch will be exploiting antifa adventurism to crack down on the entire left just as Berlusconi did in Italy in the 1980s. The adventurism of the autonomists, who are really the forerunners of antifa in the USA today, gave him just the excuse he needed to clamp down on democratic rights.

Like the Spartacist League and SDS/PLP, the Italian ultraleft sought to shut down events organized by those they considered “counter-revolutionary”. In 1977, there was a nation-wide student occupation protesting an education “reform” bill that prompted the Communist Party to intervene on behalf of the government.

On February 17 a two thousand strong detachment of CP trade unionists accompanied their leader Luciano Lama to the campus of the University of Rome where he intended to deliver a speech against the occupation. Not long after his talk began, ultra-leftists donned masks and led an assault on Lama and his supporters.  At least fifty people were seriously injured in the fracas. This violent attack gave the government the pretext it needed to launch an assault on the university. Two thousand cops raided the campus and used tear gas and clubbed everybody in sight.

A revolution in the USA will be a violent affair. Make no mistake about it.  But in the stages leading up to that epochal event, force has to be used intelligently and most of all on behalf of defending the existing movements. Right now with so much emphasis on shutting down the likes of Richard Spencer, whose naked fascism has very little purchase, aren’t more important struggles being neglected? In New York City, workers at Spectrum (a cable provider once known as Time-Warner) have been on strike for 5 months and are suffering. A NY Times article described how strikers have been affected:

Walter Smith, a cable technician at Spectrum for six years who lives in the Bronx, received an eviction notice in July after falling behind on his bills, he said. The father of two has not worked since early October, when he had surgery to remove a benign tumor on his head. When he was ready return to work in April, workers had just gone on strike.
“The strike has lasted longer than anybody could have imagined,” Mr. Smith, 48, said. “Emotionally, dealing with the tumor and then this financially, it has been tough. I have a strong family that keeps me grounded.”

With strikes being undermined for the past twenty years, a trade union resisting the bosses is something that the left should get behind. Maybe we should put punching fascists on the back burner for a while and spend more time punching a corporation like Time-Warner instead, the corporation that owns Spectrum Cable, the ever-so-progressive HBO, and CNN, the 24/7 enemy of Trumpism. After all it is capitalism that is the enemy, not just fascism.

15 comments:

  1. Identity politics made everyone a victim except straight white men. A backlash was inevitable.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is that last paragraph your own opinion? When anyone's right to speak is halted, that gives rise to something much uglier than Trumpism or Capitalism. Have you seen the new version of "The Handmaid's Tale"? It started just like this. You seem so obsessed with this group that promotes violence. Two wrongs never make a right. These guys deserve to be arrested for attacking people just because they don't agree with them. It's like the American Taliban!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only clear thing in your comment is that your reading comprehension is at a dangerously low level. I urge you to stop reading this blog for your own health and sanity.

      Delete
    2. Ugly statement. Gratuitous. Revealing.

      Delete
  3. The only thing more foolish for the Dems than their embrace of Black Lives Matter is their embrace of the violent and intolerant left. Combine that with the full-throated backing of the incredibly disliked media and the Dems better get used to being out of the mainstream

    And labelling speech one disagrees with as hate speech is both transparent and juvenile. And a turn-off for the voters.

    Nobody is buying that Trump=Nazi, Trump Voters = Fascists. Pence = Satan jive so I'd suggest a more nuanced Democratic platform.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really? Pence is not Satan? U gotta be kidding.

      Delete
    2. A vile slur of a patriotic American and man of faith.

      Delete
  4. You consider those good trAits? I speak as a man of no faith whose patriotism is to the human race.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jewish people probably invented faith, and ethics.

      Delete
  5. But you believe in satan. His followers are communists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am Satan and communists are always chasing after me.

      Delete
  6. Now that the Democratic party has imploded is there any chance the older folks like Pelosi, Schumer, Warren and Clinton can rally the whippersnappers who supported Bernie? And propose some ideas to try to gain support for a serious Democratic run in about seven years.

    Let the intolerant/violent sort such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter start their own far left-wing party. Perhaps the Russia-conspiracy crew and MSNBC/CNN can make common cause with this alt-left group.

    This second - and universally despised - group has irreparably damaged the Democratic brand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Universally" despised? Your older folks crew are more universally despised. Give me a choice of Pelosi or Antifa and I'm with them.

      Delete

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