I rage much, I sleep little. Incongruously, I have been a union activist and simultaneously a Constitutional libertarian. I am a registered nurse, a sailor, an Army veteran, and a III%er... I am a complicated man.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fascism in America?

By A.B.
I'm not without critique of antifa or diversity of tactics. I'm all about assessing reasonable impact and requisite threat levels. However, I think a lot of the pushback against antifa misses a major historical point which is that middle to high level speech acts aren't usually just speeches. They're almost always explicit or implicit paramilitary commandments. Hitlers first Putsch started in a beer-hall speech where he declared National Revolution. He took notes from Mussolini's "populist pageantry". The SS, the SA, Freikorps (social democrats can't be fascist oh my!), etc were all mobilized through speeches like this. Given specific orders. People get vague on this point like "oh we know there exists some connection between fascist speech and like recruitment or incitement to violence" and act like this is just some loose correlation. The thing is, the Overton shift is primarily necessary in order to create space to both recruit, mobilize, and command paramilitary actions with increased normalization.
You can't just go straight from Obama presidency to 5,000 non-state nazis with AR15s walking down main streets in large cities across the country you have to ease people in and create a safety bubble to overcome the vulnerable aspects of trying to signal strength when you're still just a stupid little niche racist movement. Historically, paramilitary mobilization of vets, the disgruntled youth, and political leaders has all happened on the platform. National Front organized the boneheads in France to start marching because having an armed and trained contingent made them seem like a valid group rather than just some out-there right-nationalist party. It helps to get people thinking like "okay these nazis are one part of a complex truth that is somewhere in the middle" (anchoring bias) when really they should be the farthest fucking thing from anyones mind. But it starts with a speech where people find a sense of strength and maybe a bunch of people conceal carry weapons or beat up some minorities afterwards and meet a couple other pecker-woods that were in a different county jail. The bigger the crowd of more acceptably racist and middle of the road fascists, the more the hardcore people willing to build the perception of fascist strength through violence is possible.
Even if you don't see speaking as violence, you would see a general ordering a drone strike as violence. It's a similar, although not always exactly the same phenomena. The problem is though, even if it's unethical somehow to resist speech violence (assuming even that no direct or implicit commands of violence were given) once the paramilitary aspects supporting these strong man figures have been able to mobilize, we've already lost a major battle and possibly the war. Once a formalized paramilitary outfit, with strong relationships to the state military forces and police is created, they're able to more effectively control the narrative and project anyone who resists them as terroristic riff-raff and further justify their mobilization as the clean-cut purifiers of society who must obviously be correct because they have the blessings, or at least the intentional ignorance, of the state and it's blade. Once they have paramilitary and physical power they can further diverge ideology from action and control the narrative so they no longer have to abide even by their own stated values. They can dive ever deeper into left-right crossover mythos and rally people at levels never before possible. Once they have that, they can buy whatever political power they need because they have people and military strength. The government becomes unsure who its own army would side with. That's how fucking coups happen.
The KPD saw the Nazis as being better than control by the Social Democrats who by then had already killed Rosa Luxemburg amongst countless others in the commie and anarchist left so they softened their stance on fascism and assumed that people would come to their senses and they could seize power in the meantime. By the time the KPD realized what was happening with Hitler and began to rescind their allegiances and form AFA (antifascist action) it was already too little too late. And it wasn't militant diversity of tactics from the left that caused the rise of the nazis. It was more some strong allegiances from the left and right and normalization through debate and 'strategic' partnerships. By then the nazis already had enough power to purge literally anyone they wanted not just the anarchists and the commies (and of course the Jews et al.) but also the SA (the night of long knives) and frame it all as a state of emergency and use it further project their strength and recruit and justify exponential violence.
When hitler gave that first speech to the "patriot movement" in a crowded beer hall in Munich in 1923 and ordered a Putsch to seize Bavaria, is the moment the Nazis really won. Of course the "Beer Hall Putsch" did not succeed and Hitler was sent to jail where he was given a light sentence and was allowed to have Mein Kampf transcribed. But he had to have a general in there. He had to worm around and be smarmy with his anti-semitism, catering to audiences and taking risks before that crucial moment. Had people tried to wait for him to give an explicit military command, they would have been far outnumbered, outgunned, and out-trained by the time he said the magic words. Because the moment when implicitly violent speech acts turns to explicit military commands, is but the time it takes for the sentence to form and by then you've already lost.
I'm not condemning non-violent or liberal antifascist strategies. I've said it before and I'll always say it. We need all kinds. The one-two punch is important (although the social democrats and the communists will kill you and choose the state the first chance they get). But to assume that the speech acts of medium to high level proto-fascists are not directly linked to violence is something of an abuse to the historical record. We definitely need people constantly voicing the moral high ground and holding us accountable for our excesses but also we need to be realistic about stopping looming threats. Whether or not a given fascists book gets popularized after a resistance push is secondary in a sense to the meaningful resistance capable of challenging their threats to power and striking while that power projection is still fragile to prevent it from solidifying. But I also don't consider this to be a "pre-emptive" strike. I consider this to be a response to evidence.
(rant inspired by against the fascist creep)

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