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No, fascists are not the same as those who oppose them

(Jess Picard/ Daily Collegian)

How much does it speak to the failure of the American education system that we must actually debate what fascists want to accomplish? When Neo-Nazis take to the streets to shout “Jews will not replace us,” their intentions are clear; we know from history what their solution is to the so-called Jewish problem. When white supremacists take to the streets to chant “white lives matter,” we know from history what happens when white grievance becomes a political platform.

It is ultimately not the responsibility of a marginalized person to convince their oppressor of their humanity, and it is absurd to claim that that tactic even works. The Holocaust would not have been stopped if all of European Jewry sent Hitler birthday cards. Slavery and Jim Crow would not have been abolished had Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. sat down for tea and cookies with Robert E. Lee and George Wallace.

And of course, one only needs to look at how the Pilgrims repaid the Wampanoag Tribe’s hospitality after the first Thanksgiving dinner to see how easily this tactic can fail. Although not all indigenous tribes of the Americas shared the Wampanoags’ fate, evading total eradication is a low bar to surpass, and mass famine, disease, murder, poverty and the suppression of thousands of religions and languages is hardly a better fate. For this reason, white supremacist ideology needs to be destroyed before it is allowed to fester.

No matter how right-wing demagogues like Richard Spencer want to spin their ideology to make it politically correct (he absurdly claims he wants a “peaceful ethnic cleansing”), the goal of those who espouse this ideology is to commit genocide – broadly defined by Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to include both physical and nonphysical (i.e. verbal incitement and emotional abuse) forms of harassment.

Although not all white nationalists may take to the most violent measures that mass murderers like Dylann Roof and Anders Behring Breivik took, their endorsement of the rhetoric that Spencer, Christopher Cantwell and other thought leaders have propagated feeds into this larger system of fascist terror. We need only look to history to see what happens when these people are empowered.

It is a horrifying truth to acknowledge, but it is the truth. Tolerance of Nazi ideology in the public sphere inevitably leads to its political legitimacy, which allows fascists to enact their goals on a systemic scale, and leads to the mass extermination of Black and brown people, Jews, Muslims, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people and anyone else who stands in their way.

Therefore, while there can be nuanced discussions and criticism of the specific tactics and organizing methods that activists can undertake to oppose fascism (and no, “love trumps hate” does not count as a legitimate form of praxis), this idea that anti-fascists are somehow the moral equivalent of fascists is as intellectually vacuous as it is dangerous.

With the renewed media attention on fascism in the wake of Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer, this summer has produced some staggeringly bad analyses on the aims of white supremacists, Nazi violence, fascist organizations and the proper way to respond to their ilk.

A good example, in a microcosm, of the political establishment’s inability to accurately respond to this threat comes from the president himself, who denounced both the so-called “alt-left” and the alt-right. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi joined him and denounced Antifa – an amorphous, decentralized movement with the purpose to undermine and stamp out any fascist presence – because “we must never fight hate with hate.”

It is not the Nazis who are writing these trash think-pieces that condemn anti-fascist organizers as the moral equivalent of people who want to terrorize entire populations. It is not the Nazis who call for unity and love as if a Klansman can be talked out of a lynching if he’s hugged hard enough.

Centrists, whether they know it or not, are doing the work of fascists for them. In the parameters of acceptable discourse within American politics, contempt toward genuine agents of social change is always a bipartisan affair.

After Charlottesville, most mainstream journalists did what they do best and tap-danced to the tune of the State’s will – wouldn’t want ethics to get in the way of that precious press access after all. Representatives from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, Bloomberg and The New York Times all joined hands to prattle and moan about the “kinship” between the white supremacist right and the far-left.

These voices come from both mainstream liberals and conservatives, a group of people whose distinctions, ultimately and ironically, are far less apparent than the fringes they lump together. Their problem with groups like Antifa, it seems, is tone rather than any analysis of their goals. These pundits see the justified hate and vitriol that anti-fascists have for fascists, and see it as akin to the hate and vitriol that the alt-right has for people of color and immigrants. One might think that it’s an absurd comparison to make (and it is), but it’s the underlying argument behind all these op-eds.

When fascists, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists take to the streets to announce their “blood and soil” rhetoric to the world, their aim is to inflict violence. Period. This is not a time for dialogue. This is not a time to timidly insist on “hearing both sides.” To provide these people a platform – to legitimize them – only allows their cancer to spread.

Thankfully, there a plenty of groups who do indeed put their lives on the line to stand against fascism in all its forms. Although Antifa has become the media’s favored punching bag, groups such as the Movement for Black Lives, The IWW, The Democratic Socialists of America, Movimiento Cosecha, and many others all have posed as tangible resistance with concrete results.

As South African apartheid activist Desmond Tutu said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, then you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” American citizens face an enormous moral crossroad. One side gleefully advertises their contempt and hatred. The other side has taken to the streets to oppose it. There is no in-between. There can be no equivocation and no middle ground. To choose neutrality is to choose complicity.

Nate Taskin is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at ntaskin@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @nate_taskin.

Comments
2 Responses to “No, fascists are not the same as those who oppose them”
  1. Nitzakhon says:

    Socialism. Because 100 million dead in the 20th century wasn’t enough.

  2. Andrew says:

    Ah yes Nitzakhon, the great American tradition of ascribing arbitrarily large death tolls to socialism while uncritically consuming narratives for why the millions that the US murders abroad deserve to die

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