Totebagger Antifascism?

Totebagger Antifascism?

The New York Times published a useful article on how a town in Montana fought back against a neo-Nazi hate campaign:

WHITEFISH, Mont. — Richard B. Spencer, the most infamous summer resident in this town, once boasted that he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by President Donald J. Trump. Things have changed.
“I have bumped into him, and he runs — that’s actually a really good feeling,” said Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent targeted in an antisemitic hate campaign that Andrew Anglin, the founder of the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, unleashed in 2016 after Mr. Spencer’s mother made online accusations against Ms. Gersh.
Leaders in Whitefish say Mr. Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s $3 million summer house here, is now an outcast in this resort town in the Rocky Mountains, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization has dissolved. Meanwhile, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing trial next month in Charlottesville, Va., over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there, but says he cannot afford a lawyer.

Basically, when fascists try to infiltrate a community, intimidate its residents, and eventually seize control of it, you can't fight back by reasoned argument. Violent racists are not going to be convinced as to the error of their views with facts and reason. You fight back with bareknuckle politics – legal harassment, social ostracization, and so forth. Fascists thrive in an indulgent environment; when someone attempts the kind of white supremacist terrorism Anglin did it's important that they be driven from polite society and ruined financially.

I previously considered the history of the February 1934 riot in Paris, where an attempted far-right putsch mobilized a huge counter-attack from the socialist/trade union left, in the context of John Ganz's point that there is no left of remotely comparable strength in this country – very few workers are in unions, and there is no mass socialist party.

However, it strikes me that the Whitefish story is an example of how antifascist organizing can be done in the current American context. Probably the largest political tendency in this country is what we might call normie liberalism – the plurality of the citizenry composed of mild-mannered Democratic Party NPR listeners who like both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Such people are often unprepared to deal with the incoherent nutcases screaming about masks at the local school board meeting, much less actual neo-Nazis.

But the Times piece shows that if those folks can come to understand a real threat and process what must be done about it, they can be quite a formidable force given their numbers and social position. If they can do it so can others.

As usual, you can subscribe to this newsletter here, and check out my latest podcast episode where we talk with Lyta Gold about Afghanistan and The Green Knight here. On to the articles!

First, on Joe Manchin's sudden movement against Joe Biden's climate agenda:

Very few people are so evil that they can willfully consign their own society to catastrophe for the sake of avoiding a fairly modest tax increase. It's just the common behavior of ultra-privileged humans: When faced with a situation requiring any sacrifice, they make up excuses why it shouldn't have to happen. And they'll keep denying they could be hit by disaster — like a wildly unusual tornado ripping up a wealthy New Jersey suburb — until the rising seas close over their heads.

Second, on the de facto banning of abortion through bounty hunters in Texas:

Hey presto, abortion is effectively illegal in Texas. I had always figured that sooner or later Roe v. Wade was getting overturned by this court. But I did not think that they would do it through granting vigilantes and bounty hunters a wide-open route to file nuisance lawsuits by the millions. Basically Texas is saying "we're allowed to violate the Constitution, so long as we deputize private citizens to do it," and the Court is agreeing.

Third, on Joe Biden's remarkable unwillingness to back down in the face of a full-scale media meltdown:

The third (admittedly somewhat speculative) lesson is that courage creates political energy. When a leader of a political faction caves in the face of criticism, or does straight-up terrible things, it demoralizes his or her supporters — particularly if that criticism is bad-faith B.S. When panicked Democrats killed the voting rights group ACORN because of racist lies from a right-wing operative (and later convicted criminal), it drove many liberals to despair. Re-starting a war because of Richard Engel's wounded imperial pride would have the same effect.

Finally, the case for trying to normalize relations with the Taliban:

On the one side, the Taliban would like to avoid a shattering economic crisis and a civil war, and certainly doesn't want another U.S. invasion. On the other, the U.S. would presumably like to avoid the most extreme possible version of Taliban rule (ruthless suppression of women, the infamous beard police, destruction of priceless artifacts, and so on) as well as a humanitarian calamity that would lead to mass deprivation, death, and emigration, and hence yet another zone of unbridled political chaos where anti-American extremists might organize.

See you next week!

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