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(en) ONWARD vol. 3 iss. 1 - A Rage for Social Justice? By Mark Salotte

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.onwardnewspaper.org/)
Date Sat, 12 Oct 2002 03:43:15 -0400 (EDT)


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Howard Ehrlich's column in the last ONWARD ("When
Hate Groups Come to Town" in ONWARD vol. 2 iss. 4)
seemed calculated to start a fruitless debate among
anti-racists which has already been hashed out, dragged
out and let lie in most of the movement in favor of general
commitment to "diversity of tactics." When the article
appeared, most activists in this part of the country
involved in anti-fascist organizing were busy following up
our massive success in breaking up a rally of five white
supremacist groups in York, PA. It's hard to see parts of
the article as anything but an attempt to minimize and
discredit that success. Now that the smoke has cleared
and some lessons learned from that experience, it's time
to respond to criticisms like Howard's.

The question of fascism in American culture is a crucial
one. While most people agree it is doubtful that neo-nazis
will take power here soon, their increasingly sophisticated
presence is still a danger. Howard's article was especially
clear and concise in pointing out what neo-fascists hope
to gain from holding their public rallies. But the solutions
he offers are largely inadequate.

Our understanding of fascism's danger has to color the
way we understand popular culture. It colors the way we
understand the government's wars overseas and at home,
and it has important implications for the radical left in
terms of the alliances and coalitions we build and the
culture we want to create. These things are too important
to be left up to the respectable 'specialists' and their
institutions - the professors and universities, the
"anti-hate" or "anti-prejudice" foundations, the churches
and community associations. But this is what Howard
asks us to do.

Whether fascist groups can find broad support and new
recruits depends on whether an attractive alternative can
be presented. Fascism appeals to people as a passionate,
mystical system that promises clear answers and easily
identifiable scapegoats to problems. Anarchists don't
believe in such simple, ready-made answers, but,to
provide an alternative to fascism, we need to show
ourselves as we are: as passionate and a whole lot more
radical than any jealous and spiteful white supremacists.
We know that "community groups" of the type Howard
believes in, well intentioned and sincerely anti-racist as
they sometimes are, don't have that alternative to offer.
The crucial factor in fighting "hate groups" lies in
inspiring and empowering people affected and offended by
fascism's appeal.

In York, no matter what the city council, the state
"human relations" commission or the local churches and
garden clubs intended, the day belonged to working-class
people. That was the "teachable moment." Nobody was
asking the establishment for answers. But everybody was
sure talking to each other on the streets, excited about
how they felt about racism after seeing the biggest force
the fascist movement had mustered in years scatter in
terror at the hands of local crews of teenagers.

Greg Williams, a member of the York City School Board,
said mostly white people and young children attended
activities Jan. 12. Black men in their late teens were
mostly downtown confronting the racists, he said. And
they will continue to confront them, he said (York
Dispatch/Sunday News, 1/27/02).

This doesn't discount the valuable efforts people put into
organizing unity rallies, festivals, teach-ins. Anything that
brings people together as a community to deal with
racism is good and necessary. Children, for example,
could get a lot more out of a unity rally, where racism is
explained in a safe space and black and Hispanic culture
is celebrated, than they could at a potentially chaotic and
emotion-laden scene. Maybe the white people Williams
referred to had similar needs. In any case, most militants
organizing to confront fascists recognize the need for safe
events as well as more confrontational tactics. Most of the
city people we spoke with in York saw things similarly,
and large numbers of teenagers stopped by the
city-sponsored unity rally to show support before heading
downtown to confront the neo-nazis. Typically only the
state, its allies and comfortable middle class citizens make
the distinction Howard does.

I was also bothered by Howard's constant references to
"hate groups." That term is applied to anarchists and our
friends almost as much as to white supremacists. It also
trivializes and de-politicizes the dangers these groups
pose. We all feel hate, ain't too much wrong in that. Many
nazi recruits might be motivated by spite and resentment,
but behind that pathetic front, there's an ideology that
wants to remake society in its own image of racial and
sexual 'purity,' destroy dissent and enslave more than half
the population to fund the whole project. That's the real
danger, not just "hate."

Mark Salotte, antifa@mobtown.org


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