#PunchaNazi became a trending hashtag this week as the fallout from Charlottesville and the President’s rather inept handling of the situation spread. The violent tendencies of the extremists on the right-wing of American society is nothing new. One only needs to look as far back as Oklahoma City and the abortion clinic bombings of the 1990’s to realize the right has long used violence as a tool to try and influence American society and public opinion. The Democratic Party regained power in the south during and after reconstruction using violence against freed African-Americans and Republicans, be they carpetbaggers or locals who had switched parties. The American right used violence in the 1910’s and 1920’s to maintain a social order in the south and in some northern cities that they viewed as “American.”
However, we on the left have a history of achieving progress through non-violence. Whether it was Gandhi in the Indian Subcontinent or Martin Luther King Jr. here at home non-violence has worked at some times. It can be argued though without the violence of two leftist groups – the African National Congress (ANC) or Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) Civil Rights never would have been achieved in South Africa or Northern Ireland. It is also argued by some that Indian independence and African-American Civil Rights owe itself as much to the violent tendencies of the likes of Subhas Chandra Bose and Malcolm X/Stokley Carmichael as much as to Gandhi and MLK Jr. Some would argue Gandhi and MLK Jr. were elevated as leaders by a white establishment and white media who were less threatened by them. MLK JR’s reliance on northern white approval (particularly among Jewish-Americans according to some who question MLK Jr’s legacy) it is argued by some actually held the movement back and made it a conservative and incomplete effort for true Civil Rights.
As I watch soccer games here in the US since Donald Trump became President, I notice more Maoist symbols in the crowd, more Che Guevara flags and even the occasional hammer and sickle. The overlap between soccer supporters culture and the new millennial left is something I’ve learned is massive, particularly during the last election. From this perspective I see a growing reverence for violent leftist figures among younger leftist Americans, which manifested itself on social media this past week.
Is this a good thing? If we begin to advocate violence in the place of non-violent civil disobedience where exactly is the line drawn on where violence is justified and where it isn’t?
After the jump vote in the poll. Feel free to leave comments in the comments section.
Violence should only be used in self defense. That should be the same for police, protesters, and our foreign policy.
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Just to clarify for anyone who has also read my post today. I don’t condone #naziPunching, and fully expect to see more non-violent #Resistance visible this weekend. As conflict photographer Zack Roberts said on Nicole Sandler’s show yesterday, violence on the side of the RW tends to decrease as they are observed. Bearing witness is an ageless form of resistance.
That might be a dated view. The right is violent and have been for years. Varying degrees of violence but sometimes “monitoring them” encourages violence. The right is even violent in the way they argue. More now than ever they aren’t civil people. We cannot live in a Utopian fantasy anymore. I am waking up from my idealism and beginning to deal in cold hard reality. Perhaps we even give the non-violent folks like Gandhi and MLK Jr. TOO much credit because that’s what the conservative media and Anglicized whites that write history want us to believe. It’s worth pondering.
Thus far at least, militancy is winning out overwhelmingly. Maybe us old timers need to adjust our thinking to contemporary realities of American society. We aren’t particularly civil anymore or willing to listen to one another.
Therefore, perhaps we should be organizing and preparing for battle? I certainly hope that isn’t the case but we cannot live in a bubble or fantasy world. It could be inevitable.
To be clear I voted no, but see the clear trend line not only in this unscientific poll but on my Twitter feed (where I lost more followers in an evening than I ever have for saying the left needs to drop #punchanazi and lauding Gandhi and MLK) and elsewhere on social media and TV. I’m not going to live on an island. I’m accepting this is the direction things are going and will adjust my thinking and behavior accordingly.
I think there’s two things going on. First, I don’t think people view antifa action as ‘violence,’ per se, in the same vein as the neo-nazis…for exactly the reasons you cite. Neo-nazi rhetoric is meant to be violent and provocative. Defending against that is simply self-defense.
Secondly, antifa has been the first to the table. They’ve been out there pushing back since the beginning, and now it’s time for #Resistance to form a line behind them. I don’t expect pink hat folks to mix it up, and wouldn’t ask them to. But their presence has value as we’ve seen in Boston (today), and Durham, NYC, etc.
I’m in favor of mass movements being as massive as possible.
Also surprised at the polling b/c the framing wasn’t soft at all. I think that’s a measure of how much “we’re not having it.” Screw a bunch of nazis.
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It might be that we will create a Robespierre on the American left. Someone who will equate virtue with service to the causes and complete and total opposition to the establishment and who paints all opponents with a broad brush- someone whose previous pacifism will be replaced by “justified” terror. It seems Robespierre might be the template some folks are looking at. I hope not but feat maybe?