Much fun has been had on Twitter with the clip of one of Trump’s fascist White-supremacist friends being hit around the face by a protester over the weekend. After the “alt-Right” neo-Nazis whined about this shocking act of violence, the fun drifted to light-hearted discussion of “is it okay to punch a Nazi?”
This morning I saw a tweet that asked, “would we be so free with talking about killing Nazis?” And I answered, I would not be free with such talk but I have prepared myself for the possibility that it will become necessary. This post is to look a little bit into why I feel that way.
Where to start? Let’s try here:
A long time ago, when I had just finished university there there were riots in Bradford. For several days the Pakistani Muslim community erupted in violence. There was a concerted effort afterwards by the police to find those captured on CCTV and punish them.
The story does not start with rioting Muslims.
The story starts with BNP fascists and their ilk (think these days of the EDL, Britain First etc) organising a series of marches and rallies in cities across the North of England where there were large Muslim communities. Each time the march went off peacefully with the Muslim communities staying at home – intimidated by the BNP and by the police presence inevitably found at any “protest” gathering. I remember Oldham in particular. I know there was at least one before that.
So then the BNP picked Bradford. As mentioned, I lived in Bradford as a student for a while. I saw how militant the people there were. I saw the stickers and posters with radical Islamic messages and so on; I wasn’t perturbed because I also knew some of my Muslim neighbours (for a while I shopped at a halal supermarket). So I was not surprised when, prior to the BNP march (maybe even before they announced it) the Bradford Muslims said, “If they come here, we will oppose them. We will confront them.”
The BNP brought their rally, and the Bradford Muslims confronted and opposed them. And the police – well, I shall be diplomatic – in carrying out their duty of preventing violence, they tended to see the confronters, and not the provokers, as the problem.
After the BNP went home, the police were still the enemy and the riots continued.
After that, the BNP didn’t hold so many marches or rallies (memory says that a few years later there were more confrontations in Oldham).
The reason I tell this story is, I hope, clear: in order to stop fascists, at some point you may be required to do so physically.
Another story, from rather more recently.
On my bus journey home from work, a group of “lads” (young men) became violent and abusive, particularly to the driver. It started as they were boarding but it was when it came time to disembark that it became scary. The most violent guy was lean ing his head into the driver’s cab to shout at him. Some of the other guys were fighting one another. An amply-proportioned female passenger was already confronting the violent “lads” and I decided I had to step up as well and offer my strength and weight (I also being an amply proportioned person) if needed to restrain and prevent further violence. Fortunately, no such action was required.
~ * ~
There are people who point to figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, as proof that violence is not necessary for change. If you just abandon violence, and talk calmly, then people will accept the strength of your position and you will have the rights and freedoms you desire.
None of those figures, nor their movements, happened alone. There was violence in India against British colonial rule. For every MLK, there is a Malcolm X and a Black Panthers movement. Nelson Mandela was the titular head of the ANC’s paramilitary wing, and Oliver Tambo as ANC’s leader in exile spoke passionately and eloquently in defence of the ANC’s decision to abandon non-violence, since non-violence had proved utterly ineffective. His case had elements in common with that made by the American colonists in their preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
Very few significant human rights advances have taken place without the threat of violence by those seeking equality and freedom, and without blood being shed.
~ * ~
2003. The largest ever political demonstration in the UK. The official figures claimed 1M people; the organisers claimed 2M. Either way, it was more people than had ever gathered for a single purpose before or since.
A seven-figure number of people marched past Whitehall, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament.
And they made not a single iota of difference to policy. The policy they opposed still came to be.
If those same people had come to seize power, to oust and tear down the government that paid such scant heed to their demands, and physically remove them from the places of power and hold them until a new regime that would listen to the anti-war demands could be created, then nothing could have stopped them.
The day Tony Blair took the UK to war against Iraq, under GWB’s leadership, in defiance of that march, was the day that I realised that peaceful protest is not enough and will not be enough.
~ * ~
Between the two world wars, my grandfather was a member of the Peace Pledge Union. He and his friends were pacifists who dearly wished to ensure no future war could happen. They failed. In failing, my grandfather wrote eloquently of the challenge then facing him as news of Hitler’s atrocities started to reach Allied Europe.
His conscience would be plagued either way, but he chose in the end to say that evil such as the Nazis had to be confronted and stopped.
~ * ~
My last story:
In the 2001 General Election campaign, deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was on the campaign trail in Rhyl, where the Labour party’s rural policies were somewhat unpopular. Some smug twat threw an egg at close range at Mr Prescott and thought it a jolly jape indeed, until Mr Prescott reacted like the Yorkshire seaman he used to be and reacts to the impact by throwing a punch and manhandling his attacker.
“Egging” people seemed to be a popular means of protest back then, and typically done by people who expected no possible comeback for themselves.
On this angle, you can see how premeditated the attack on Prescott was:
Now, I’m not calling that guy a Nazi, nor Prescott a paragon of social justice – regardless of the rights and wrongs of the issues that little tussle was over, it doesn’t come into that category.
My point is, there are people, and the fascist neo-Nazi, “alt-Right” groups chief among them, who believe that they are immune from, and will never be the target of, the violence they mete out, either by rhetoric or fact, to others.
Which is where we started.
Only when they discover that they are not, and that their violence will be met by the collective anger and hatred and, yes, violence, of those who stand for social justice, freedom, and universal human rights, will they be stopped. Every inch we allow them as somewhere comfortable to stand, as long as their platform is the same denigration of others’ humanity, is just greater encouragement to them to hurt more people, harder.
As @Waitingirl13 put it on twitter:
Fascists should be in hiding They should be afraid to speak They should be lonely isolated and wondering if they are wrong This is basic
As to why fascists should be those things – it’s because that’s the state they want everyone else to be in, not for things they believe but for things they are.