Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, August 13, 2017

On Fascism And Charlottesville

There will be a lot of pixels spilled about what happened over the weekend.  I would just add this: While there is no one who deserves to be punched in the face more than a Nazi, you simply can't meet fascists with violence, and that means that the antifas movement is incredibly counterproductive.

The Beer Hall Putsch was a joke, and up until the death of the young woman yesterday, the Charlottesville rally was a joke.  A national call to "Unite the Right" was answer by about 1500 virgins with bad haircuts and tiki torches.  Tiki torches?  Really?  The losers and sociopaths that marched in Virginia represent a tiny group of people.  At best, they represent tens of thousands of people in a nation of 320 million.

The language of fascism is violence.  It is the air that ideology needs to breathe.  Strip violence away from them, and their entire ideology collapses.  Fascism first defines the nation - its nation - in racial terms, and then it militarizes that nation in opposition to other nations/races/ethnic groups.  That's it.  That's the whole ideology. And that's why - aside from a unique historical moment in Europe brought about by the collapse caused by World War I - it has never really found purchase anywhere else.  Crypto-fascist regimes like Argentina in the '70s or North Korea today are isolated and rare.

The defining moment for fascism in Germany was the burning of the Reichstag.  The Nazi party was a minority movement that exploited the violence of the Reichstag fire to seize control of the state.  In fact, they themselves lit the fire and blamed it on Communists to seize that power.  There are simply not enough Nazis in America to pull that off.

What IS worrisome is that a significant part of the Republican Party is eager to follow an authoritarian figure like Donald Trump.  Trump lacks the discipline or "vision" of Hitler.  He's a patrimonial kleptocrat, not a true fascist - though he relies on the Authoritarian Right as his "base" (and that word works double duty here).  The news that around half of Republicans would support cancelling the 2020 election if Trump asked for it is profoundly troubling.  But that represents less than a quarter of Americans.  If you read the responses of Republicans like Orrin Hatch and John McCain, it's pretty clear that there remains about half the Republican party, almost all independents and all the Democrats opposed to this authoritarian spasm.

Up until it gets violent.

Trump's bullshit statement about "many sides" is being treated with the contempt it deserves.  However, there are plenty among the Authoritarian Right who agree with him.  And isolating them and attacking them will only entrench their agreement.

The tricky needle opposition movements need to thread is how to resist this burgeoning authoritarianism without fueling it.

The single best moment from this weekend was the group of students and residents who surrounded the Jefferson monument and were then surrounded by the Tiki Torch Nazis.  They stood resolute and non-violent and the Nazis were left with nothing.

I would also add mockery to the appropriate response to these assholes.  Mock them, belittle them.  They are who they are, because they are small, fragile men who have sublimated their fragility into hate.  They embrace power and strength because they have none of their own.

Point this out.  Repeatedly and loudly.  Mock them, meet them with numbers, embrace the ethos of King and Gandhi.

Because THAT IS HOW YOU WIN.  And winning this fight needs to be more important than the emotional catharsis of punching in the face some dipshit in a polo shirt holding a tiki torch.

I completely understand the outrage that people of color feel when they look at the response to Charlottesville and compare it to Ferguson or Baltimore or Baton Rouge.  You're right, it's appalling that white people can march with automatic weapons under a Nazi flag and Tamir Rice gets shot on sight for playing with a toy gun in a park.  Again, I understand the cathartic appeal of violently resisting a system that tolerates that.

But tactically and strategically, if you embrace violence, you give fascism and the Authoritarian Right the opening they need.  Fascism and Authoritarianism need the breakdown of laws to justify overriding the Rule of Law.

Everything in this historical moment resists perspective. The perspective that the "Shite" Supremacists represent a tiny minority; the perspective that the laws actually do still work, if imperfectly; the perspective that calm, firm resolve will win in the end.  That's why perspective is so important at this very moment.

It could be easier to destroy two centuries of of the democratic Rule of Law than to preserve it.  But the effort is more important than the moment.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well if they were carrying automatic weapons they should have been arrested, I doubt they had the Federal permits for those. However if they were carrying semiautomatic weapons then they had a right to do so. Note there was no gun violence at Charlottesville. The murder was committed with a weapon that everyone has, a car.