Some people seem to forget that there was such a thing as the Russian Revolution, and that it ended up killing millions upon millions of innocent people — all in the name of the highest ideals of equality. It was all done on the left. If it seems ridiculous to some in these divisive times in America to recall the Russian Revolution, we agree. But we do so because if the extreme leftist model is far-fetched, so is the Nazi model. This country is not going to the Bolsheviks, and it is not going to the Nazis.
But if there remains a legitimate concern that certain forces in America seem to threaten to spin out of control, then the focus needs to be twofold. A mob is a mob. If the neo-Nazis march and attack with their hateful slogans and violence, then those who oppose them peacefully have nothing in common morally or tactically with those they oppose and cannot be mentioned in the same breath. At Charlottesville the only killer was a Nazi and is not to be equated in either concept or action with the person he killed. Nazism stands for genocide, while those who oppose the current neo-Nazis oppose genocide. It’s black and white.
What is not black and white is the emerging implication of the stated intentions of some of the opponents of the neo-Nazis. Some of those who oppose the neo-Nazis articulate and support their own explicit philosophy of violence. Ideological distinctions to the contrary notwithstanding, advocates of violence are potentially as dangerous as neo-Nazis.
It is necessary to highlight this precisely because of the obviousness of the neo-Nazi brand. Does anyone need a reminder of the consequence of Nazism —the Jews killed in the Holocaust and the many more millions of innocent Russians, Europeans and Americans killed by the Wehrmacht? No reminders are necessary. Less remembered are the dangers that can sprout from the left. The best time to be alert to the prospects of mob violence is when it threatens, not when it happens. No division in this country will be healed by violent, criminal attempts to put down neo-Nazis.
“You need violence to protect non-violence.”
“ . . . there is no such thing as non-violence.”
Both quotes are from radical left spokesmen or websites in the US. We have here no mere oxymoron or violence done to the English language. We have a rejection of American civil society. You need violence to protect non-violence, that is, my violence is good, your violence is bad. When one part of a violent crowd says it means well and the other part is said not to, there is, in actuality, no difference in effect. As the Wall Street Journal put it, “Antifa’s censorious criminality resembles the very political behavior it claims to fight.” As much as we must oppose the political behavior of neo-Nazis, we must be alert to those who justify violence in opposing them.
We must oppose the political behavior of neo-Nazis wisely. If there really were a serious allegiance to neo-Nazism growing in this country, the tactic most lacking in wisdom would be populist violence. It did not work against the real Nazis. If the neo-Nazi idea were to take hold in America, the opposition, to be effective, would have to articulate the opposite idea. At its beginnings, it was the evil idea on the left and on the right — from the Bolsheviks to the Nazis —that won over adherents and grew like a cancer. The surest way to cloud the battle between the extreme ideas on the neo-Nazi right would be for opponents to get out there on the streets with clubs and guns and cars. Again, while this is far-fetched, we thought that the prospects of neo-Nazis marching with their swastikas was also far-fetched. We take the two extremes seriously not because the two have become equivalent in their behavior, but because we respect the power of ideas to change seemingly impregnable institutions.
There is no one except the duly constituted police in this country who can and should protect against violence perpetrated by neo-Nazis. We would like to believe that those people who advocate violence against neo-Nazis would not actually show up with weapons at the next demonstration, but if they did, and if the neo-Nazis did, we would witness the same obliteration that Bolshevism and Nazism ironically achieved: the swallowing up of ideological differences within the tragic unity of paroxysms of violence. Let us be alert to this possibility and speak against it now.
The moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those who peacefully oppose them is non-existent. There is none. The right to peacefully demonstrate for or against anyone or anything in this country is a sina qua non; and certainly commendable in the case of those who demonstrate against the repugnant, would be Brown Shirts in our midst. Violence in the context of a constitutional society, however, would undermine, not sustain, the internal cohesion of our society. Was not the example of Bull Connor and his like in the 1960s searing evidence enough? Even the talk of “principled” violence damages the fabric of American society.
We need a good dose of sanity in current discussions about the rise of hate groups and of voices who legitimate violence. They are both at loggerheads with the institutions that constitute our democracy.
Copyright © 2017 by the Intermountain Jewish News