By Doctor Comrade
On February 27, several Ku Klux Klan protesters marched in Anaheim, California. They were confronted by counter-protesters, and the two groups began a physical altercation that left members on both sides of the fracas injured. When the police arrested the combatants, they released all five of the KKK members, despite evidence that one of them stabbed at least three people. The counter-protesters, however, were released pending charges of varying degrees of assault.
Why did the KKK, a terrorist organization, escape unscathed (aside from their wounds), but the anti-fascist forces who gathered against them spend time in jail?
Police are part of a bourgeois institution whose sole purpose is to protect Liberal values, even when those values are harmful to society. One need only look at the differing responses to the Occupy movement, peaceful protesters on college campuses, and treatment of Black Lives Matter activists to see that the police, and their political superiors, enforce the law and maintain the order of Liberal society, often with violence. When an openly fascist terrorist organization marches in Anaheim, they are allowed to exist without molestation from police.
The KKK get a free pass because guilt-ridden Liberals are so anxious to trumpet the values of freedom and equality that they become complicit in right-wing violence. We’ve repeatedly heard the often-misattributed Evelyn Beatrice Hall quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If you want to die so the KKK can spew hate speech, then you are complicit in fascism.
If you want to die so the KKK can spew hate speech, then you are complicit in fascism.
But I want to make clear that I am not in favor of censorship. It is too dangerous to empower any group with the ability to crush dissenters and radicals in favor of law and order. But violence against the KKK is not censorship.
In a criticism of Lenin’s project of creating a dictatorship of the proletariat, notable Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg argued, “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.” This is a fair criticism because under dictatorship, where dissent is excised in the name of unity or crushing counter-revolution, oppression finds natural momentum. One cannot fight for the liberation of society by oppressing its dissenters. It’s practically a tautology: in order for freedom to exist, everyone must be free.
However, we must not allow general principles to cloud specific instances of historical struggle. The KKK, and all racial hate groups, are a special case because they oppose freedom, democracy, and free speech. Violence against the KKK is not crushing dissent because they do not believe in the principle of dissent. Dissent implies freedom, free expression, an open public sphere. When speech violates the principles of dissent, as in speech that supports the repression of dissent, then it is no longer speech. The KKK are acting politically, but only in the interest of white supremacy, the suppression of people of color, and the dissolution of open democracy. For these reasons, they must be condemned by free speech apologists, not defended. More importantly, violence against them is not only warranted and justified but completely necessary for the preservation of freedom.
the anti-fascist counter-protesters acted in a way that the police should have, if the police force had a conscience.
Moreover, there are many legal doctrines that limit free speech, including libel and slander, incitements of violence, hate speech, fighting words, and intent to incite panic. Where these KKK fascists clearly intended to incite a riot, use hate speech, incite fear in Anaheim residents, their rights to free speech were not abridged.
In essence, the anti-fascist counter-protesters acted in a way that the police should have, if the police force had a conscience. However, their views of “law and order” are too often held against radical protesters who seek to broaden and strengthen freedom in our society.
Free speech is denied to people who would upset the balance of power, challenge Liberal/capitalist/racist values, and oppose hierarchy. Free speech is not, and has never been, absolute, especially for members of radical political groups who seek to undermine oppression.
When radical movements like Occupy or BLM mobilize, they get pepper sprayed.