The Strategic Use Of Violence, The Intelligent Use Of Nonviolence
The place of violence in politics is rattling around the Left in the current political climate. What is the most effective response to an empowered nationalist movement that openly embraces white identity politics and Nazism?
This writer grew up in Buckinghamshire, England, just NW of London, in an area with high concentrations of immigrants. I do not want to admit what I am about to type. I used to use the word Paki regularly. Paki is a derogatory term for Pakistani people. But in the same way that Beaner or Mexican are used in America to refer to all Latinos, the word Paki covers most Britons of Southeast Asian descent.
Bigoted people were influencing me, a stupid kid.
I had an amicable relationship, not friendship, with a Pakistani students at my school. Bilal was friendly. We would chat about sports and the stupid things we did outside of school. I remember feeling validated in my bigotry when he spoke about violence and used the P-word. We never ate with each other as we had internalized segregation. He ate with the Southeastern Asians and I ate with other weird white kids.
I only used the P-word to someone’s face once, being a coward. Faisal and I were both small kids with big mouths. We were in class giving each other a hard time and I called him it. He called his older brother on me, and I almost ended up getting beat up. We never spoke again.
I would say the word under my breath when I felt slighted by a victim of my racist attitude. And I would use it when I was around other kids with racist attitudes. My friends often found ourselves getting mugged by other groups of kids who often weren’t white. We considered ourselves gangs and were basically split along racial lines. My clique identified as the heavy metal kids, we were majorly white, and we dressed in black.
When I moved to America at 16 and saw racism from an outsider’s perspective, I felt shame for having ever said the slur at all.
Ignorance: The Fuel Of Bigotry
Ignorant minds are susceptible to bigotry. Studies have shown a connection between levels of intelligence and tolerance. The linked study correlated prejudice, Right-Wing ideologies, and low intergroup contact.
Corporate attacks on public education have undermined the funding and integrity of the education provided to students in American schools. According to a study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, total funding from Federal and Local governments for K-12 schools decreased in 29 out of 50 States between 2008/15
According to a Pew Research analysis of data recorded in 2015 the performance of 15-year-old Americans in science, math, and reading lags behind that of, “their peers in other countries.” Children from the UK came in marginally ahead of Americans in every category, I’m not boasting. Canadians scored significantly better than both countries.
The degradation of American education probably factors into the current surge in populist racism.
Considering the state of American public education and the ascendance of President Trump Americans from diverse backgrounds need to expose themselves to each other and reconcile with their prejudices. A second American Civil War will decide this issue if it cannot be resolved by dialogue.
Know Your Enemy
If violence comes to pass the Left needs to discuss strategy. The Antifa brigades who have shut down several White Supremacist marches and gatherings with blunt weapons in the past year have overlooked, or possibly relish in, the fact that they live in the perfect country for escalating militant strategies.
According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center the number of domestic militia groups in the US declined during Trump’s campaign. This trend countered an eight year rise throughout the Obama Presidency. These armed groups were disbanding as they saw their political opinions enter the mainstream Republican debate. Trump’s bigotry has appealed to angry people, and a portion of them are former militia members, armed with bullets and bigoted opinions.
A pet conspiracy theory within the Alt-Right is that there is a quiet genocide against white people (I advise against visiting this link). Interracial-parenting, multiculturalism, and forced-assimilation (diversity) are the tools of this invented genocide. These theories began in Nazi Germany but they are spread today in America by prominent white supremacists.
They support anything Trump does which emphasizes the White Jesus aspect of American identity. By this I mean closed borders, business-friendly deregulation, homeland security, and legislated Christian morality. Loyalty to the current President and a history of militia membership are only complementary from the perspective of a pyromaniac.
The improvised gaggle of Captain Americas photographed as the vanguard of the Trump-side of the clash in Berkeley last weekend illustrates the Right’s advantage in the use of violence. These men knew their march would attract the Berkeley-area Antifa and they came prepared to step on some well-educated minds. Sure, the Left could attempt to recruit, radicalize, and train an intimidating Antifa Front.
But it is pertinent that the Right-Wing, anti-government, Alex Jones crowd have been preparing to fight a globalist conspiracy of Communist billionaires for decades. It would not be that big of a leap for them to instead go to war with The Resistance. Based on the threats being thrown around on the internet it seems they are preparing for this outcome.
Strategy Forward: When To Punch & When To Converse
I can hear my critics in the militant left now, calling this argument bigot appeasement. I call it damage control. Bigot appeasement would not challenge racism. It would attempt to bring white supremacists into the fold, opposing the State with liberal-minded people whose eventual goals would be vastly different. Damage control requires the Left to recognize that the Trump cohort significantly outguns and outmans them. But their ideas are weaker than ours. Their support of Trump is influenced by racist opinions.
Those seeking an inclusive future need to answer some questions before planning a response. What tools and strategies do we have to convert racists into anti-racists, misogynists into feminists, and homophobes into LGBT Allies? And how can they effectively respond to a militant threat from the Alt-Right? There is no room for compromise with any politics of genocide, but there is also more than one way to settle a disagreement.
Daryl Davis, an African American and subject of the documentary Accidental Courtesy, lived a lesson that America needs to heed. He has befriended and convinced over 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan to leave the white supremacist group. He turned terrorists into allies with words. That, if you ask me, is the best method that the Left has to reform and recruit people who currently hold prejudiced opinions about race and gender.
Assuming the Antifa forces were able to beat any semblance of white supremacist rhetoric out of the public sphere, that would leave their white supremacist rhetoric trapped in private, where it can infect the children and peers of the holder of the bigoted opinion. It would be back later and better-prepared to face violent confrontation.
If the forces of the Antifa bring this political debate to a battlefield and then lose to the army of prejudice, that would validate and further embolden their discrimination. Ghandi once said, and I agree, “Victory attained through violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.”
What Is The Right Course Of Action?
Discrimination and prejudice are immoral, in my opinion. I learned to understand this as a teenager after carrying a racist attitude for years. It is true that Congress made the 14th Amendment in the 1800s to reflect the sentiment. The immorality of prejudice does not, however, mean that it is in our past. Or even that it is losing the culture war.
I have avoided looking into the question of best strategies for the use of violence. I personally believe that the Left stands the best chance of winning if it absorbs the violence of the Right like Gandhi and gets the international community behind it. If it chooses to fight a bellicose enemy it becomes a belligerent party.
It would go from an act of terrorism against civilians to a Civil War between combatants, which I do not believe the Left will win. However, non-violence to the point of accepting death is as admirable as it is stupid and the war needs to be fought somehow. I just think the Left would do better by making it a war of values, not cracked skulls.
Bigotry needs to be removed from the minds of its holders to win this war. That can happen through the boot or dialogue but to do this in a lasting way the Left has one option. That is to engage Trump voters relentlessly where they are and expose them to the people they hate and fear, to explore and heal their motivations for discrimination.
From there, it is a small step to connect these people’s struggles together as symptoms of class struggle. This would produce the potential for a multicultural, working class coalition focused on claiming the institutions of government, and with the capacity to do it. Or, we could just continue escalating the violence while those in power watch from CNN. Admittedly that might happen whether we attempt to reconcile peacefully or not.
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