Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ayelet Shaked and the fascist ideology

Israel/Palestine Jonathan Ofir on September 11, 2017
Mussolini, Italy's fascist leader, in 1934

Yesterday, Haaretz columnist Rogel Alpher published a piece titled “Israeli Minister Shaked Takes After Mussolini”. In it he opined that Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was literally, not just metaphorically, a fascist. Alpher was referring to that speech where Shaked said: “Zionism should not continue, and I say here, it will not continue to bow down to the system of individual rights interpreted in a universal way.”

Ayelet Shaked

The minister’s announcement of a “moral and political revolution” aimed at strengthening national principles at the expense of universal individual rights was comparable to Mussolini’s “doctrine of fascism,” the columnist said. He cited Mussolini’s “revolutionary negation” of individualism and liberalism, wherein the nation “was a superior, super-personal reality … a moral law, a tradition, a mission binding together generations past, present and future, and all the individuals”(quoting from Jacob Talmon’s “The Myth of the Nation and the Vision of Revolution”).

Rogel Alpher

Alpher’s column came after Gideon Levy’s column, which was also based on the speech Shaked gave, on that same critical sentence about Zionism and individual rights. But Levy actually thanked Shaked for “telling the truth” and for “speaking honestly.” And that truth was, as Levy put it: “Zionism contradicts human rights, and thus is indeed an ultranationalist, colonialist and perhaps racist movement.”

But now we need to step back a bit, and combine these two angles into a kind of intellectual 3D picture:

If Alpher is calling Shaked an actual fascist, based upon what she said, and if Levy is concluding that those words are a true and honest representation of Zionism itself, then the combined logic must be, that Zionism is itself a form of fascism.

That actually makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t have to mean Zionism is a carbon copy of Italian fascism, just like the crime of Apartheid doesn’t require identical features to Apartheid South Africa (and as I have recently opined, Zionism is Apartheid, and worse). Racist, ultra-nationalist endeavors tend to flock together in alliance, just like the Mussolini-Hitler alliance, or more recently the Netanyahu-Orban alliance (wherein Netanyahu threw Jewish philanthropist George Soros under the anti-Semitic Hungarian bus). There has of course also been the actual alliance between the Zionist Revisionists of Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky and the Italian Fascists. Jabotnisky’s ideology, which informed the Jewish terrorist Irgun and Stern Gang factions in Palestine, was the informer of Menachem Begin’s Herut, which morphed into Likud.

When Jabotinsky’s fighters were training in the 1930’s, a leading Italian naval publication stated:

“In agreement of all the relevant authorities it has been confirmed that the views and the political and social inclinations of the Revisionists are known and that they are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine. Therefore, as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.” (Noted in Eric Kaplan, The Jewish Radical Right: Revisionist Zionism and Its Ideological Legacy, 2005, see p. 149-171).

Alright, alright, some will say – that’s the right-wing Zionism, but what about the left wing?

Well, I believe that Ben-Gurion’s famous words from 1938, where he said that

”If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel”

are an epitome of that essentially fascist ‘revolutionary negation of individualism and liberalism, wherein the nation was a superior, super-personal reality, a moral law’. It is that will to sacrifice individuals – aye, even children – for the supposed ‘greater national good’. Note that Ben-Gurion was not speaking about soldiers fighting in a war. He was speaking about children, who weren’t even citizens of any “Jewish state” and never signed up for it. Under this all-encompassing Jewish ‘national’ notion, every Jew is considered a part. This comes full circle with Netanyahu speaking on the supposed behalf of Jews all over the world, saying to them “Israel is your home” in the wake of terror attacks on Jewish targets.

All Zionists understand this, even if it is at an instinctive level. The will to sacrifice Palestinian rights (as well as other rights) for the ‘national Jewish home’ is a core tenet of Zionism. There are no real moral qualms in Zionism about ethnic cleansing of Palestinians; any such qualms are quelled by the claim that it’s ‘complicated’. When a Zionist like the self-proclaimed ‘leftist’ Israeli historian Benny Morris finally concedes the fairness of the term ‘ethnic cleansing’, it comes with the supposedly-exonerating caveat–

“There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing.”

Morris echoes Ben-Gurion’s words: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see anything immoral in it” (as quoted in Morris’s own book Righteous Victims). Yet Morris opines that Ben-Gurion should have gone further in his ‘transfer’: “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job.”

So these are the more ‘honest’ voices of Zionism. The voices that forgot to keep the mask of political correctness. They come from both right and left, but the right seems more prone to drop the mask.

Incidentally, Benjamin Netanyahu’s son Yair recently posted a virulently anti-Semitic meme, where George Soros is depicted as a global manipulator, controlling a reptilian, a caricature ‘Illuminati’ Jew, and a train of other figures who are supposedly the ‘food chain’ feeding off the Netanyahu family, all (except the reptilian) holding their hands in the “happy merchant” fashion. The meme, congratulated by the Nazi Daily Stormer as “awesome,” caused quite some outrage in Israel, especially in the left. But Communication Minister Ayoub Kara, who is Netanyahu’s ‘Arab puppet’, asserted that Yair Netanyahu was “just a kid playing on Facebook.“

Yair Netanyahu’s meme is an example of how Zionism brings anti-Semitism full circle (as I wrote last year). And when it does that, many distance themselves, temporarily, because it looks bad.

But what if it’s not temporary? What if Zionism is, indeed the embodiment of fascist ultra-nationalism, and is racist at its very core? This would mean that it is also, inherently, anti-Semitic, because it would turn against Jews for being Jews – if they do not toe the ultra-nationalist line. These would be “the wrong kind of Jews”, as Zionist leader (and later Israeli President) Chaim Weizmann said to Lord Balfour. The same Chaim Weizmann who met with Mussolini four times between 1923 and 1934.

Understanding that Israel is enacting Apartheid is not a very complicated conclusion nowadays. To understand that this Apartheid is part and parcel of the basic Zionist ideology informing it can be a bit harder, but it’s a logical step to make. Again, Israel does not have to copy South African Apartheid for the crime of Apartheid to be enacted, as was cogently and meticulously documented in this year’s UN commissioned report on Israeli Apartheid by professors Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley.

Likewise, Israel doesn’t have to copy Italian Fascism precisely for Zionism to be regarded as a fascist ideology. Alpher’s appraisal of Shaked’s words are actually an appraisal of Zionism, with its revolutionary, ultra-nationalist notions. And Levy says that Shaked is actually telling the truth about Zionism.

So the plot thickens, the net tightens. And for those who follow the logic of this, the question is really reduced to: Do you want to support a fascist ideology?

Saturday, September 9, 2017


Mariam Elba
September 8 2017, 11:54 a.m.
IT SHOULDN’T BE surprising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become an idol among white nationalists in the United States.

During the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally several weeks ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, Baked Alaska, an infamous far-right YouTuber, livestreamed an encounter with a demonstrator wearing a T-shirt that read “Bashar’s Barrel Delivery Co.” The shirt alluded to the Assad regime’s frequent, horrific use of barrel bombs — weapons employed to indiscriminately target rebel-held areas of Syria.

That rally-goer shouted, “Support the Syrian Arab Army!” and “Assad did nothing wrong!” They gloated over how Assad can “solve this whole ISIS problem” with just two chemical bombs. James Fields, the 20-year-old white supremacist who allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, posted a portrait of Assad, in military regalia and aviator sunglasses to Facebook. A superimposed caption read: “UNDEFEATED.”

There’s a simple explanation for how the American far-right became curiously infatuated with the Arab totalitarian leader: Their hearts were won over by the Assad family’s years-old propaganda campaign at home in Syria. Assad’s authoritarianism uses the same buzzwords as the far-right to describe the society he’s trying to build in his own country — a pure, monolithic society of devotees to his own power. American neo-Nazis see Assad as a hero.

As the chaos of Charlottesville and its aftermath was unfolding, Assad addressed a group of diplomats in Damascus about the ongoing war in Syria. “We lost many of our youth and infrastructure,” he said, “but we gained a healthier and more homogenous society.”

Whereas white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity, for Assad it means a society free of any kind of political dissent, excluding any Syrian living outside the territory his regime controls. Anyone who does not fit Assad’s specific definition of what it means to be Syrian is up for execution.

Alexander Reid Ross, a lecturer of geography at Portland State University and author of the new book, “Against the Fascist Creep,” said Assad is a figure that is central to a realization of “Eurasianism.” The notion “holds that Russia will lead the world out of a dark age of materialism and toward an ultranationalist rebirth of homogenous ethno-states federated under a heterogeneous spiritual empire,” Reid Ross said.

In other words, the Assad dynasty, with the strong backing of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian state in Russia, is the Middle East’s leading force toward creating a society that is spiritually, socially, and politically “pure.” Cosmopolitanism, with diversity in political thought and social identity, is an obstacle for those aiming to realize this vision.

Assad is a key figure in confirming the white nationalist worldview. “Holding on to Syria,” Reid Ross said, “marks for them a crucial foothold in a larger geopolitical mission — one that has everything to do with that spiritual purity associated with family, tradition, and nation.” To the far right, Assad is at the front lines in the fight against the Islamic State and, more broadly, the forces of “Islamic terrorism” in the Middle East under a nationalist banner that looks very much like their own.

And the admiration doesn’t run in only one direction. The Assad regime has cultivated relationships with far-right white nationalists for decades. One of these was allegedly Alois Brunner, who actually died in Damascus in 2010. There is reason to believe that Brunner advised Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad on torture techniques used in Syria’s infamous prison system, even as the regime has denied ever harboring Bruner.

Syrian children hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad during a gathering in support the ruling Baath party at a school in the government-held side of the northern city of Aleppo on November 17, 2014. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian children hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad during a gathering in support of the ruling Ba’ath party at a school in the government-held side of the northern city of Aleppo on Nov. 17, 2014. Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
IN SPITE OF the Assad regime’s track record of being the primary perpetrators of escalating Syria’s civil war — which has likely left half a million dead and spurred a massive exodus of refugees — the United Nations, the United States, and certainly Russia are all looking for solutions to the Syrian crisis that keep Assad in power. Assad’s relationship-building and connections with fringe politicians in the West has contributed to creating international legitimacy for his continued rule, as well as fueling a propaganda machine that paints the dictator as one of the final Arab leaders standing up against American imperialism and “Islamic extremism.”

Radwan Ziadeh, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and a prolific, longtime Syrian dissident, said that the Assad dynasty’s central strategy in forging international legitimacy was to cultivate an image as a guardian of Christians in Syria and the wider region.

This mythos he built around himself has worked well in garnering support for the Assad family from outside Syria. Aside from Brunner and other Nazis taking shelter in Syria, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke visited Damascus in 2005, addressing a “demonstration” in support of Assad’s fight against Zionism, propping up Assad’s image as an anti-imperialist. (Palestinian refugees within Syria have suffered greatly under Assad’s sieges.)

Even more recently, as journalist Alex Rowell recently pointed out, far-right politicians from the French National Front, Golden Dawn in Greece, and Vlaams Belang in Belgium, among many others, met with Syrian government officials in Damascus over the past few years. The meetings came as the regime began to gain momentum against opposition forces with the help of Russian military intervention and support.

The Ba’ath Party, a multi-national party which was led by Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Hafez al-Assad in Syria, held meetings with international far-right parties. The Iraqi Ba’ath Party met with the National Front in France and Die Republikaner in Germany, both far-right parties in the E.U., according to Reid Ross. “The radical right and fascists see them as nationalists like them,” he told The Intercept.

Though Assad has also won some support from international political forces on the left, Reid Ross argued that the support from the right is crucial to Assad’s success. “The most important international support for Assad stems from a white supremacist base and a white supremacist administration in the U.S.,” he said.

Assad’s vision of creating a “healthy” and “homogenous” society is what white nationalists have aspired to create for themselves. We don’t need to look as far back as Hitler’s Third Reich to see what their world vision could be. We only need to look at Syria today.

“He destroyed Syria,” Ziadeh said. “The population of Syria dropped before 2011 from 23 million people to into 17 million and you have millions displaced inside the country. It’s a country in ruin.” What’s left, Assad hopes, is a society that uniformly supports his rule.

Correction: Sept. 8, 2017, 2:36 p.m.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the death toll of the Syrian civil war as being in the millions. Around half a million people have died in the war.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Roger Waters: Congress Shouldn’t Silence Human Rights Advocates

September 7, 2017
Op-Ed Contributor

Members of Congress are currently considering a bill that threatens to silence the growing support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian freedom and human rights, known as B.D.S. This draconian bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, threatens individuals and businesses who actively participate in boycott campaigns in support of Palestinian rights conducted by international governmental organizations with up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

By endorsing this McCarthyite bill, senators would take away Americans’ First Amendment rights in order to protect Israel from nonviolent pressure to end its 50-year-old occupation of Palestinian territory and other abuses of Palestinian rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the bill, which the American Israel Public Affairs Committee is lobbying for, as a threat to the constitutional right to free speech.

All Americans — regardless of their views on Israel-Palestine — should understand that potentially targeting and blacklisting fellow citizens who support Palestinian rights could turn out to be the thin end of a thick authoritarian wedge.

This is not new. Some two dozen anti-B.D.S. bills have been introduced in Congress and state legislatures across the country as part of an insidious effort to silence supporters of Palestinian human rights — some have already passed. In most cases, these bills bar states and the federal government from doing business with, or investing in, companies that abide by boycott or divestment campaigns related to Israel’s violations of international law. None of these laws has been tested in court yet.

This criminalization of support for B.D.S. in the United States mirrors similar efforts in Israel. In 2011, the Knesset passed a law that permits Israeli citizens or organizations who publicly endorse B.D.S. to be sued by anyone who has been affected by the boycott call. And earlier this year, it passed a law that allows Israel to deny entry to foreigners who have publicly supported boycotts. It was under this law that Alissa Wise, an American rabbi who was part of an interfaith delegation to the Holy Land, was recently prevented from boarding a flight to Tel Aviv.

Criminalizing boycotts is un-American and anti-democratic. Boycotts have always been accepted as a legitimate form of nonviolent protest in the United States. In 1955 and 1956, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., incited by the protest of Rosa Parks and others, became one of the foremost civil rights struggles against segregation in the South.

More recently, the National Collegiate Athletic Association refused to hold championship events in North Carolina after state legislators there passed a law that curbed legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and set discriminatory rules regarding transgender bathroom use in public buildings. Numerous artists, including Bruce Springsteen, refused to perform in the state; major corporations canceled investments in North Carolina. The voice of boycott in support of civil rights was heard and the bill was repealed, albeit as part of a problematic compromise.

In these cases, progressives lauded these boycotters as champions of equality. So why do national lawmakers — including supposedly progressive Democrats — want to make an exception for those who support equal rights for Palestinians?

When the cause is just, boycott has shown itself to be an effective method of shining light on human rights abuses and the flouting of international law. That is why the Israeli government and its supporters are so determined to silence those who support B.D.S.

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Pro-Israel groups have for years attempted to demonize supporters of B.D.S. — trust me, I know. I am currently in the middle of a 63-date tour of the United States and Canada. Audiences of tens of thousands are coming together at our “Us + Them” shows, which embrace love, compassion, cooperation and coexistence and encourage resistance to authoritarianism and proto-fascism. These appearances have been greeted by a few sporadic protests by right-wing supporters of Israel.

These protests would be of no consequence, if they did not occasionally have truly negative consequences. For instance, the city of Miami Beach prevented a group of school children from appearing onstage with me after pressure from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. I understand that city officials have a democratic right to disagree with my opinions, but I was shocked that they were willing to take it out on kids.

These attacks are routine and relatively minor. But the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is serious “lawfare.” Officials in Nassau County in Long Island are threatening to take legal action to shut down two shows I have scheduled there next week, using a local anti-B.D.S. law passed in 2016. If the Nassau County attorney proceeds against the operators of the Nassau Coliseum, we will have our day in court and argue on behalf of all those who believe in universal human rights and the First Amendment.

Polls show that nearly half of all Americans, and a majority of Democrats, would support sanctions against Israel because of its construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Indeed, more and more churches, student groups, artists, academics and labor organizations are backing the tactics of boycott and divestment as a means to pressure Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians. If passed, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act could put them all, from archbishops to altar boys, artists to artisans, at risk of arrest on felony charges.

Those who are attempting to silence me understand the power of art and culture. They know the role artists played in the civil rights struggle in the United States and against apartheid in South Africa. They want to make an example of us to discourage others from speaking out.

Instead of working to undermine B.D.S., Congress should defend the First Amendment right of all Americans and stand on the right side of history by supporting equal civil and human rights for all people, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Zionist Tango

Why the racist honesty of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is preferable to the fake views of the Israeli left

Gideon Levy Sep 03, 2017 1:22 PM
 from Haaretz

Ravit Hecht attributes a “fragrance of true love” for my “honest, brave princess,” Justice Minister Shaked, in her op-ed “When Gideon Levy fell in love with Ayelet Shaked.” Hecht knows my taste in women is slightly different than that, and that, despite what she writes, I don’t know how to dance the tango. But my appreciation for Shaked and her ilk is that they do not deceive: they openly acknowledge their nationalism and racism. 
They don’t hide their belief that the Palestinians are an inferior people, indigenous inhabitants who will never gain the rights Jews have in the Land of Israel-Palestine; that no Palestinian state will ever be established here; that Israel will ultimately annex all of the occupied territories, as it already has done in practice; that the Jews are the Chosen People; that Zionism is in contradiction to human rights and superior to them; that dispossession is redemption; that biblical property rights are eternal; that there is no Palestinian people and no occupation; and that the current reality will last forever.

Many of these views are also held among the Zionist left, Hecht’s ideological camp. The only difference is that the Zionist left has never admitted it. It envelops its views in the glittering wrapping paper of peace talks, separation and hollow rhetoric about two states, words it has never really meant and has done precious little to realize.

That’s why I prefer Shaked. With her, what you see is what you get – racism. In its actions and deeds, the Zionist left has done everything to implement Shaked’s views, only in polished words and without acknowledgement. The Zionist left is embarrassed by things Shaked and her colleagues are not ashamed of. That doesn’t make the left any more moral or just. It has merely been quasi-Shaked in its actions.
The occupation was no less cruel under left-wing Israeli governments, which was the founding father of the settlement enterprise. Those princes of peace  Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin established more settlements than Shaked and caused the deaths of more Arabs. The left has enthusiastically defended every military action Israel has carried out and every brutal act committed by the Israel Defense Forces. It hasn’t just sat silent in the face of such acts; it has been supportive. Always.

Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge in Gaza (in 2008-09 and 2014, respectively) involved thousands of senseless deaths, and most of the Zionist left supported them. The majority of those on the left supported the siege on Gaza, the checkpoint executions, the nighttime abductions, the administrative detentions, the abuse, dispossession and oppression – the left remained silent throughout. 

But the truth is that it’s not Shaked and it’s not the left. It’s Zionism. Havoc has been wreaked, as Hecht herself wrote. But instead of trying to repair the unstable foundations, all of Israel – and not only the right wing – has done everything to undermine them even further. 
Yes, this involves the 1948 War of Independence, which has to be discussed even though it’s uncomfortable. The spirit of 1948 has never stopped blowing here and, in this respect, Shaked and Hecht are in the same boat. According to this view, there is only one people here that needs to be considered, only one victim, and it is entitled to do as much harm as it wishes to the other people. That is the essential evolution of Zionism. 
It could and should have been rectified, without derogating the Jews’ right to a state. But the Zionist left has never done this. It has never acknowledged the Nakba suffered by the Palestinians, and never did anything to atone for its crimes. This never happened because the Zionist left believes in exactly what Shaked believes in.
It is true there are many other issues in which the right causes national disasters the left never would have created. But on the other side of the line lives a people that for the past 50 years – the past 100, actually – has been suffering and oppressed. Not a day goes by without horrible crimes being committed against it. We can’t say, “Be patient. We’re busy at the moment with the status of the Supreme Court.”
And on the truly crucial issue that overshadows all others, Shaked and Hecht are performing a perfect tango together, with a fragrance of true love exuding from them both – a Zionist tango.

read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.810226?utm_source=smartfocus&utm_medium=email&utm_content=opinion/.premium-1.810226&utm_campaign=Gideon+Levy&utm_term=20170903-02:28&writerAlerts=true

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Despite Trump: What is and What isn’t—Charlottesville to Boston

30 Aug 2017

Despite Trump: What is and What isn’t—Charlottesville to BostonPosted in Guest Commentaries By almariam On August 30, 2017
Guest Commentary: August Nimtz

Watching the images from Boston on August 19, and reading the reports I couldn’t help but think about how much has changed in the U.S. despite Trump. In April 1976, a major battle took place there when racist gangs sought to obstruct court-ordered school busing, groups that were far larger in number than any of the crowds who’ve been emboldened by the Trump election. Boston attracted national attention not unlike Charlottesville. But unlike almost all of the present crowds— except for one in Charlottesville whose main perpetrator is now being prosecuted —the ones in Boston, without any prompting from White Supremacists like the KKK, actually pursued bodily harm against Black people, especially the Black students on the buses.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who grew up in Boston in the immediate aftermath of that period has long apologized for having been seduced by that ethos into actually committing vicious racist acts—evidence of how pervasive the climate was in the city and environs. The iconic image is a bunch of angry racists attacking a Black businessman in a three-piece suit, who had nothing to do with busing, with a long pole to which an American flag was attached.

It was the perfect propaganda image for those of us who mobilized nationally to defend the Black youth on the buses. We used that photo in all of our advertising for building one of the largest marches in the city’s history. Though not as large as Saturday’s August 19 action, which attracted somewhere between thirty and forty thousand and, thus, dwarfing the fifty to one hundred who stood behind police cordons exercising their right to “free speech,” it was a decisive moment in Boston’s racial politics. It, along with other advances for racial equality in subsequent decades, go a long way in explaining why so many in Boston and environs would come out in such numbers in opposition to what had once been unapologetically displayed on its own streets only a few decades earlier.

To make sure that we could attract the largest number of participants, we not only advertised our march as being a peaceful response to the violent racist gangs but we actually organized ourselves to make sure that our protest remained peaceful. Unbeknownst to me the high school aged daughter of a very influential senior colleague in my department wanted to attend the march. Her parents said she could if, first, she’d be one of the passengers in my car, and, second, that I assure them that she’d be safe. As a still untenured member in the department I had a personal stake in making sure the protest remained peaceful.

The march against the racist forces was organized by a coalition of organizations, one of which was the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) to which I belonged. Not every organization in the coalition was on board with the march being peaceful though the majority voted for that position. Based on prior experience, the SWP organized a contingent in the march to closely monitor any forces who might want to break discipline and physically engage the racists. I was assigned by the party to the contingent. Sure enough, a group of what we call in the movement the ultra-leftists tried to divert the march from the agreed upon course into a confrontation with the racists. Our task was to prevent that from occurring. To do so, we cut the cord of their bull horn once they began employing it, thus, preventing them from doing their confrontational thing. Had violence occurred, triggered by the ultra-leftists, it would have been not only disruptive but could have also endangered people who attended the march believing it would be a peaceful.

In 1980, another tragedy occurred in Greensboro, NC. Four members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were brutally murdered (one seriously wounded who I knew) by the KKK after appearing to want to confront the racists with guns. An all-white jury refused to convict the Klan members who committed the murders. Of course, we and other progressive forces denounced the blatant jury nullification though we vehemently disagreed with the CWP’s needless provocation. The idea that a small group of people, however courageous, can beat back entrenched racist and other reactionary forces flies in the face of what history teaches.

Another example of how much has changed in the U.S. is that of Heather Heyer who was run over by the 20 year-old white supremacist driver, James Alex Fields, in Charlottesville. Heather wasn’t a northern liberal but a young Caucasian woman from Charlottesville, and, without a college degree—as many liberals are so want to point out about Trump supporters. And listening to her mother’s pride about her daughter in her very Virginia working class accent brought home the power of Heather’s example and what it registers; which makes her death all the more tragic.

Unfortunately, Heather was a member of one of the organizations, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which tend to look for confrontation with the racists and the police. I speak from personal experience when I say this. We had to put IWW members on a short leash when we had our Rodney King demonstration in Minneapolis in 1992 (one of whose key organizers, by the way, before he left the streets for the suites, was the young Keith Ellison, now congressman and Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee). They hated the fact that we prevented them from trashing downtown stores as we were marching, 5000-plus strong, in one of the largest demonstrations ever seen in Minneapolis. It is true, we have to admit, that there are indeed individuals and grouplets on the left who do engage in violence and rely on confrontation as their mode of operation. Not only is such conduct dangerous for their own members and those who want to participate in peaceful protests but it also enables agent provocateurs, that is, those on the payroll of the police who seek to discredit progressive movements (such as what happened with the protests against the Republican National Convention when it met in St. Paul in 2008).

Lastly, the most obvious example of the depths of the changes in the U.S.: Who would have believed on November 9, 2016, that more Confederacy monuments would be torn down during a Donald Trump presidency than during any other presidency? I confess that I never expected to see in my lifetime the Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans removed where I walked and rode by so many times.

As the renowned historian of Reconstruction Eric Foner puts it in his recent NYT essay: “Historical monuments are, among other things, an expression of power—an indication of who has the power to choose how history is remembered in public places.” David Duke and his ilk can’t prevent the removal of the monuments despite all their fawning before Trump. The massive largely proletarian-composed mobilizations of the sixties known as the Civil Rights Movement rendered them impotent. Steven Bannon is right in his characterization of them. “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns.” And they should never be confused with Trump’s hard core base. Bannon knows who that base is and would never have used such language about them.

The first protest action, by the way, I ever helped to organize, in spring 1964, against the sentencing of Nelson Mandela, took place in front of the White House. Within an hour—I can’t remember exactly—we were greeted with a counter protest by the American Nazi Party and its leader George Lincoln Rockwell. We never felt threatened in any way by their small picket line. As I think about it now, I wonder how they heard we were there. Did someone—I ask almost tongue in cheek—in the Lyndon Johnson White House let them know?

There will indeed be a real fascist movement one day in the U.S.; but only when the ruling class feels threatened by its working class which, we have to admit, is not the case today. It will have to be a situation not unlike what Germany’s ruling class faced in the 1930’s when it decided to ‘send in the clowns’—a totally virulent variety. Until then it’s a serious political mistake to think as some do that fascism is now knocking on the door since November 8, 2016. To do so is to concede unnecessarily to reaction and to ignore the opportunities to do mass work.

I emphasize the glass half full side of the story without in the least ignoring the fact the glass is also half empty. I do because it’s the profound changes I’m highlighting that will be the necessary ingredients in forging the kind of effort to address the half-empty side of the story. It’s not rocket science to recognize that as long as capitalism is in place, there can be no racial equality. Capitalism like all previous class societies is fundamentally incompatible with social equality. And the failure of the struggle for racial equality in its first and second Reconstruction editions is sobering testimony to capitalism’s continuing grip on social reality. I contend that this claim is not unlike what MLK was saying in the last year of his life exactly fifty years ago. I’m referring to his epiphany, in the aftermath of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that for there to be racial equality in the U.S. “there would have to be a radical redistribution of economic and political power.” For that to happen there will have to be a mass multi-racial, multi-national, multi-gendered working class movement.

My basic claim is that owing to the profound changes that have taken place in the U.S. over the last half-century, our side, progressive-minded forces, is in a better position today to realize such a goal than we’ve ever been in the entire history of the country. I’m not claiming, of course, that such a mass working class movement in all its skin colors, nationalities and genders is inevitable but only that we’re in a better position today than ever to construct one. The Boston demonstration, the example of Heather Heyer, and the removal of the monuments are simply the most recent evidence of the kinds of opportunities progressive forces have today that have never existed before. And it behooves us to not only recognize but to act on that reality and not merely be passive spectators.

August Nimtz is a professor of political science and African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Ugly Side of Antifa

by Leighton Woodhouse | Aug 28, 2017 | Uncategorized |
The Ugly Side of Antifa
Y esterday, at the anti-Alt-Right rally in Berkeley, I watched groups of masked Antifa members in Black Bloc formation swarm individuals who were apparently antagonizing them, and pummel them with their fists, feet, and flagpoles. When the victims tried to escape, they were run down, and in at least one case, cut off by the Antifa mob and beaten down some more. In the incidents I witnessed, about 5 or 6 Antifa members at a time participated in the attacks, while perhaps 100 others stood behind them, forming an impenetrable wall that blocked bystanders from intervening, or documenting the violence on camera. Those people would also help chase the victims when they fled.
In one case, as a crowd of non-Black Bloc protesters yelled at the assailants to let their victim go, an Antifa activist yelled, “He’s a Nazi!” over and over again, justifying the assault. Then, abruptly, maybe after realizing that the victim was not, in fact, a white nationalist, he changed his mantra. “He doesn’t have to be a Nazi!” he now shouted. The suggestion was that even if the victim wasn’t a fascist, he still deserved to be beaten. For what was unclear. Maybe because he supported Trump? Or he objected to Antifa’s tactics? Or refused to do something they ordered him to do? Who knew? The only thing those of us watching from a few yards away could tell was that a man, by himself, was on the ground, with a bloodied face, covering his head with his arms, being kicked and punched by a group of masked people, who were shielded by dozens of their comrades. My guess is that a lot of the Antifa people in the crowd who were passively assisting in the violence, including the guy yelling that he was a Nazi, didn’t know anything more than that, either.
Last week, Mark Bray, a historian of Antifa, said on Trumpcast, Slate’s podcast on all things Trump, that Antifa members are “some of the most caring and compassionate people I’ve met.” I just finished directing a short documentary about the online origins of the Alt Right, for which we interviewed several Antifa members, and I can affirm his depiction. To a person, our interviewees cared deeply about egalitarianism and anti-racism, and spent much of their day-to-day lives either working professionally or volunteering for organizations and in activist groups that fought for the social and economic rights of the disenfranchised. They gave eloquent and persuasive explanations for why fascism must be confronted head-on, with tactics up to and including violence.
But parsing out the nuances of moral justifications for violence in a quiet room somewhere is an entirely different thing than standing in a park with a mask on and a flag in your hand, with hundreds of your comrades, and making snap decisions about whose ass to beat and whose not to. Or whether to back up your comrades when they start beating someone up, when you have no idea how the altercation even began, or who the victim is. Or whether to go online afterwards and claim that everyone who got beat deserved it because they were all Nazis.
What happened in practice in Berkeley yesterday was that anybody who challenged the Black Bloc made themselves a target, whether they were a white supremacist looking to stir shit up (and there were maybe five or six of those in a crowd of thousands), or a liberal who yelled their disapproval at their tactics, or a reporter taking pictures after being commanded to stop. If you pissed someone in the Black Bloc off, and someone came after you, the rest of the bloc followed. Suddenly you were facing a hostile mob, the time for arguing your case expired, literally fearing for your life.
I was at the protest with a film crew, working on a documentary. We were in a public park. It was a big news event, where everybody knew there would be media. Activists in the Black Bloc were concealed by sunglasses and ski masks to protect their identity for exactly this reason. They carried flags and banners, to make themselves a spectacle. Yet for their personal security, many of them decided that it was their right to command photographers not to take their pictures, to physically block them from doing so, and if they persisted, to smash their equipment and assault them. That’s what apparently happened to the guy who the Antifa member kept calling a “Nazi,” until he changed his mind. One of my filmmaking partners and I got pushed around by Antifa, too. We were targets because we had cameras. The only reason we didn’t get administered a beat down is because when we were ordered (not asked) to point our cameras elsewhere, we only pushed our right to film them so far. Had we pushed it a bit farther, we probably would have ended up with some smashed equipment and black eyes.
There was a moment of triumph during the demonstration, before all the violence began, when just after facing what looked like the beginning of a confrontation with the Black Bloc, the police line that surrounded the park retreated, the checkpoints into the park, where police were searching bags for contraband, were taken down, and everybody outside of the perimeter flooded onto the field. Following upon the unambiguous victory over the Alt Right in San Francisco the prior day, it should have been the capstone of the weekend. The Alt Right had surrendered; the people had taken their public space back from both the “fascists” and the police. But it probably hadn’t been an hour before that feeling dissipated entirely. Soon, it was Antifa, instead of the police, who were occupying the park. The rest of the crowd, who many of the masked radicals probably disdained as wimpy, bourgeois liberals, shrank from the violence that had begun to overtake the scene, as well as the yelling and the physical domination and the general sense of schoolyard bullying emanating from the massive Black Bloc. At one point I turned around and all I could see was Antifa. They had spread throughout the park, and everybody else had gone home.
When you criticize Antifa members or their defenders for the tactic of mob violence, the reflexive response is usually something like, “There are literal Nazis marching in the streets, and you’re attacking us over your precious little non-violence principles?” But Antifa doesn’t have a monopoly over concern for what’s happening in this country. They’re no more woke than the squishy liberals who showed up to protest with their signs and their voices and not with their fists. The revulsion to violence on the part of most people on the left, from liberal to radical, is not born of naïveté over the scale of the right-wing threat. It’s the expression of basic moral principle, as well as a pragmatic political understanding that random mob violence by masked vigilates on the left isn’t going to defeat the Alt Right. In the Bay Area this weekend, the Alt Right was already defeated. All Antifa did was transform that message of people-powered victory into a cascade of headlines bolstering Trump’s “both sides” talking point.
The revulsion to Antifa’s violence is also an indication of the paucity of trust Antifa has established with much of the wider, non-activist world. People want the white nationalist movement smashed into dust; that’s why they’re showing up by the thousands and the tens of thousands to protests against the Alt Right. That doesn’t mean they want to hand leadership over to a subcultural vanguardist movement that barks at them from behind masks and shields and threatens to beat those who disagree with them into submission.
Most Antifa members are anarchists. It was an ironic thing to see these anti-authoritarian, anti-government activists essentially acting as a de facto state on that little quarter acre of lawn, ordering photographers around, deciding who could be in the park and who couldn’t, responding to dissent — even from liberals — with physical confrontation, and dishing out violence on whoever they decided deserved it, whether they were a “Nazi,” a non-compliant liberal protester, or a reporter with a camera. It was a bleak alternative to the far right dystopia we face under Trump. It was much more like the last days of the Occupy movement than like the first. It was dark, it was scary, and it was ugly.

Monday, August 28, 2017

How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’

Like the Aviva Chomsky post, Hedges hits the nail on the head. Its very good and very important. What's so impressive is that it is also very, very POLITICAL. The politically illiterate and holier than thou moralists who fixate on stopping the racist right's rallies are suckers responding to sucker-bait. I usually find Hedges a bit too moralistic, but this article is very hard headed and realistic. --RC

from Truthdig

Chris Hedges. Aug 27, 2017

Behind the rhetoric of the “alt-right” about white nativism and protecting American traditions, history and Christian values is the lust for violence. Behind the rhetoric of antifa, the Black Blocand the so-called “alt-left” about capitalism, racism, state repression and corporate power is the same lust for violence.

The two opposing groups, largely made up of people who have been cast aside by the cruelty of corporate capitalism, have embraced holy war. Their lives, battered by economic misery and social marginalization, have suddenly been filled with meaning. They hold themselves up as the vanguard of the oppressed. They arrogate to themselves the right to use force to silence those they define as the enemy. They sanctify anger. They are infected with the dark, adrenaline-driven lust for confrontation that arises among the disenfranchised when a democracy ceases to function. They are separated, as Sigmund Freud wrote of those who engage in fratricide, by the “narcissism of minor differences.” They mirror each other, not only ideologically but also physically—armed and dressed in black, the color of fascism and the color of death.

It was inevitable that we would reach this point. The corporate state has seized and corrupted all democratic institutions, including the two main political parties, to serve the interests of corporate power and maximize global corporate profits. There is no justice in the courts. There is no possibility for reform in the legislative bodies. The executive branch is a dysfunctional mess headed by a narcissistic kleptocrat, con artist and pathological liar. Money has replaced the vote. The consent of the governed is a joke. Our most basic constitutional rights, including the right to privacy and due process, have been taken from us by judicial fiat. The economically marginalized, now a majority of the country, have been rendered invisible by a corporate media dominated by highly paid courtiers spewing out meaningless political and celebrity gossip and trivia as if it were news. The corporate state, unimpeded, is pillaging and looting the carcass of the country and government, along with the natural world, for the personal gain of the 1 percent. It daily locks away in cages the poor, especially poor people of color, discarding the vulnerable as human refuse.

A government that is paralyzed and unable and unwilling to address the rudimentary needs of its citizens, as I saw in the former Yugoslavia and as history has shown with the Weimar Republicor czarist Russia, eventually empowers violent extremists. Economic and social marginalization is the lifeblood of extremist groups. Without it they wither and die. Extremism, as the social critic Christopher Lasch wrote, is “a refuge from the terrors of inner life.”

Germany’s Nazi stormtroopershad their counterparts in that nation’s communist Alliance of Red Front Fighters. The far-right anti-communist death squad Alliance of Argentina had its counterpart in the armed guerrilla group the People’s Revolutionary Army during the “Dirty War.” The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels during the war I covered in El Salvador had their counterparts in the right-wing death squads, whose eventual demise seriously impeded the FMLN’s ability to recruit. The Serbian nationalists, or Chetniks, in Yugoslavia had their counterparts in the Croatian nationalists, or Ustaše. The killing by one side justifies the killing by the other. And the killing is always sanctified in the name of each side’s martyrs.

The violence by antifa—short for anti-fascist or anti-fascist action—in Charlottesville, Va., saw a surge in interest and support for the movement, especially after the murder of Heather Heyer. The Black Bloc was applauded by some of the counterprotesters in Boston during an alt-right rally there Aug. 19. In Charlottesville, antifa activists filled the vacuum left by a passive police force, holding off neo-Nazi thugs who threatened Cornel West and clergy who were protesting against the white nationalist event. This was a propaganda coup for antifa, which seeks to portray its use of violence as legitimate self-defense. Protecting West and the clergy members from physical assault was admirable. But this single act no more legitimizes antifa violence than the turkeys, Christmas gifts and Fourth of July fireworks that John Gotti gave to his neighbors legitimized the violence of the Gambino crime family. Antifa, like the alt-right, is the product of a diseased society.

The white racists and neo-Nazis may be unsavory, but they too are victims. They too lost jobs and often live in poverty in deindustrialized wastelands. They too often are plagued by debt, foreclosures, bank repossessions and inability to repay student loans. They too often suffer from evictions, opioid addictions, domestic violence and despair. They too face bankruptcy because of medical bills. They too have seen social services gutted, public education degraded and privatized and the infrastructure around them decay. They too often suffer from police abuse and mass incarceration. They too are often in despair and suffer from hopelessness. And they too have the right to free speech, however repugnant their views.

Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti-capitalists.

The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous building of relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities, as is happening with Cooperation Jackson, a grass-roots cooperative movement in Jackson, Miss. As long as acts of resistance are forms of personal catharsis, the corporate state is secure. Indeed, the corporate state welcomes this violence because violence is a language it can speak with a proficiency and ruthlessness that none of these groups can match.

“Politics isn’t made of individuals,” Sophia Burns writes in “Catharsis Is Counter-Revolutionary.” “It’s made of classes. Political change doesn’t come from feeling individually validated. It comes from collective action and organization within the working class. That means creating new institutions that meet our needs and defend against oppression.”

The protests by the radical left now sweeping America, as Aviva Chomsky points out, are too often little more than self-advertisements for moral purity. They are products of a social media culture in which we all are the stars of our own life movie. They are infected with the American belief in regeneration through violence and the cult of the gun. They represent a clash between the bankruptcy of identity politics, which produced, as Dr. West has said, a president who was “a black mascot for Wall Street,” and the bankruptcy of a white, Christianized fascism that produced Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

“Rather than organizing for change, individuals seek to enact a statement about their own righteousness,” Chomsky writes in “How (Not) to Challenge Racist Violence.” “They may boycott certain products, refuse to eat certain foods, or they may show up to marches or rallies whose only purpose is to demonstrate the moral superiority of the participants. White people may loudly claim that they recognize their privilege or declare themselves allies of people of color or other marginalized groups. People may declare their communities ‘no place for hate.’ Or they may show up at counter-marches to ‘stand up’ to white nationalists or neo-Nazis. All of these types of ‘activism’ emphasize self-improvement or self-expression rather than seeking concrete change in society or policy. They are deeply, and deliberately, apolitical in the sense that they do not seek to address issues of power, resources, decision making, or how to bring about change.”

The corporate state seeks to discredit and shut down the anti-capitalist left. Its natural allies are the neo-Nazis and the Christian fascists. The alt-right is bankrolled, after all, by the most retrograde forces in American capitalism. It has huge media platforms. It has placed its ideologues and sympathizers in positions of power, including in law enforcement and the military. And it has carried out acts of domestic terrorism that dwarf anything carried out by the left. White supremacists were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2006 to 2016, far more than any other extremist group, according to a report issued in May by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. There is no moral equivalency between antifa and the alt-right. But by brawling in the streets antifa allows the corporate state, which is terrified of a popular anti-capitalist uprising, to use the false argument of moral equivalency to criminalize the work of all anti-capitalists.

As the Southern Poverty Law Center states categorically in its pamphlet “Ten Ways to Fight Hate,” “Do not attend a hate rally.”

“Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something,” it recommends. “Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate. Hate has a First Amendment right. Courts have routinely upheld the constitutional right of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups to hold rallies and say whatever they want. Communities can restrict group movements to avoid conflicts with other citizens, but hate rallies will continue. Your efforts should focus on channeling people away from hate rallies.”

The Nazis were as unsavory to the German political and economic elites as Donald Trump is to most Americans who hold power or influence. But the German elites chose to work with the fascists, whom they naively thought they could control, rather than risk a destruction of capitalism. Street brawls, actively sought out by the Nazis, always furthered the interests of the fascists, who promised to restore law and order and protect traditional values. The violence contributed to their mystique and the yearning among the public for a strongman who would impose stability.

Historian Laurie Marhoefer writes:

Violent confrontations with antifascists gave the Nazis a chance to paint themselves as the victims of a pugnacious, lawless left. They seized it.

It worked. We know now that many Germans supported the fascists because they were terrified of leftist violence in the streets. Germans opened their morning newspapers and saw reports of clashes like the one in Wedding [a Berlin neighborhood]. It looked like a bloody tide of civil war was rising in their cities. Voters and opposition politicians alike came to believe the government needed special police powers to stop violent leftists. Dictatorship grew attractive. The fact that the Nazis themselves were fomenting the violence didn’t seem to matter.

One of Hitler’s biggest steps to dictatorial power was to gain emergency police powers, which he claimed he needed to suppress leftist violence.

What took place in Charlottesville, like what took place in February when antifa and Black Bloc protesters thwarted UC Berkeley’s attempt to host the crypto-fascist Milo Yiannopoulos, was political theater. It was about giving self-styled radicals a stage. It was about elevating their self-image. It was about appearing heroic. It was about replacing personal alienation with comradeship and solidarity. Most important, it was about the ability to project fear. This newfound power is exciting and intoxicating. It is also very dangerous. Many of those in Charlottesville on the left and the right were carrying weapons. A neo-Nazi fired a round from a pistol in the direction of a counterprotester. The neo-Nazis were often carrying AR-15 rifles and wearing quasi-military uniforms and helmets that made them blend in with police and state security. There could easily have been a bloodbath. A march held in Sacramento, Calif., in June 2016 by the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party to protest attacks at Trump rallies ended with a number of people stabbed. Police accused counterprotesters of initiating the violence. It is a short series of steps from bat and ax handles to knives to guns.

The conflict will not end until the followers of the alt-right and the anti-capitalist left are given a living wage and a voice in how we are governed. Take away a person’s dignity, agency and self-esteem and this is what you get. As political power devolves into a more naked form of corporate totalitarianism, as unemployment and underemployment expand, so will extremist groups. They will attract more sympathy and support as the wider population realizes, correctly, that Americans have been stripped of all ability to influence the decisions that affect their lives, lives that are getting steadily worse.

The ecocide by the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries alone makes revolt a moral imperative. The question is how to make it succeed. Taking to the street to fight fascists ensures our defeat. Antifa violence, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, is a “major gift to the right, including the militant right.” It fuels the right wing’s paranoid rants about the white race being persecuted and under attack. And it strips anti-capitalists of their moral capital.

Many in the feckless and bankrupt liberal class, deeply complicit in the corporate assault on the country and embracing the dead end of identity politics, will seek to regain credibility by defending the violence by groups such as antifa. Natasha Lennard, for example, in The Nation calls the “video of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face” an act of “kinetic beauty.” She writes “if we recognize fascism in Trump’s ascendance, our response must be anti-fascist in nature. The history of anti-fascist action is not one of polite protest, nor failed appeals to reasoned debate with racists, but direct, aggressive confrontation.”

This violence-as-beauty rhetoric is at the core of these movements. It saturates the vocabulary of the right-wing corporate oligarchs, including Donald Trump. Talk like this poisons national discourse. It dehumanizes whole segments of the population. It shuts out those who speak with nuance and compassion, especially when they attempt to explain the motives and conditions of opponents. It thrusts the society into a binary and demented universe of them and us. It elevates violence to the highest aesthetic. It eschews self-criticism and self-reflection. It is the prelude to widespread suffering and death. And that, I fear, is where we are headed.