Violence in politics today
President Trump is by no means the only person who tries to equate violence on the right to violence on the left. Many newspaper columns tell us that the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-Muslims, KKK and other splinter groups on the far right are not significantly different from splinter groups on the far left. Both, we are told, use of violence as a political tactic.
This equivalence is deceptive and is meant to deceive. Violence on the right is different from violence on the left. Neo-Nazi and neofascist ideologies openly profess to admire German Nazis who murdered mentally ill citizens, citizens with limited abilities, homosexuals, Romas also known as "Gypsies", Jews, labor unionists, Communists and others. The Nazi ideology that neo-Nazis profess to admire does not hesitate to kill human beings. Theirs is a murderous violence as illustrated most recently in Charlottesville, only the most recent murder committed by right-wing neo-Nazis. It does not respect human life. It does not respect people of different persuasions but is willing to assassinate those who disagree.
Some left-wing groups--they often call themselves "anti-fascist" or also "anarchist,"--are willing to engage in violence. But this is a very limited kind of violence. Quite explicitly it excludes harming human beings and is limited to destruction of property, to disrupting traffic, to engaging in fist fights with police and so-called "alt right" groups.
Claiming that far left and far right groups are really the same because both employ violent tactics confuses different kinds of violence, it erases the difference between at most throwing a punch, on one hand, and driving a truck into a crowd of people to kill random pedestrians, on the other.
Confusing these very different kinds of violence legitimates right-wing militias, some of whom showed up in Charlottesville armed to the teeth, and at the same time delegitimizes left-wing groups who appreciate the grave danger these right-wing militias and admirers of German Nazism constitute and are willing to oppose them with their fists.
In addition, the equivalence between the left and right violence serves also to delegitmate Anarchists who are an important component of the far left. Anarchism is a long established political movement that aims all its efforts to struggle against the many different forms of coercion in our societies. The anarchist ideal is a society where coercion is at an absolute minimum. What each person wants for his or her life, anarchists assert, should be the main determining factor of what happens in that life. In pursuing this ideal, anarchists point out to the very many situations where citizens in our society are forced to live their lives in ways they have not chosen.
The groups that are most powerful in our society have always tried to make the anarchists look as dangerous, unreasonable persons. In the interest of maintaining their own coercive power and making it look as if it were a version of a free society, distorting the message of anarchism has been an important tactic.
But the anarchist message needs to be taken seriously. In the last two or three years many white people have begun to understand how persons of color live day to day in a state of siege. In their communities they are stopped and frisked. The police that is supposed to protect them more often murders them. Excessive numbers of people of color end up in prison and once discharged from prison are often unable to find work.
White women as much as black are forced to work for lower pay than men. More often than not they are not only breadwinners, as are the men and their family, but they also are mothers and housekeepers – projects their husbands or boyfriends often participate in only minimally. A very large media apparatus forces on them bizarre standards of beauty as well as the obligation to make themselves attractive to men even when they themselves are not interested in that.
For anyone in this society whether a person of color or white, female or male, the laws supposedly made at the behest of citizens are enforced by heavily armed police. The power of the government is backed by the power to injure and kill.
Nor is that the end. Employers have tremendous power over their employees, even at times of full employment. Landlords have power over their tenants. Schools impose their rules and lessons by force and under the threat of punishment and even expulsion. The poor receive some public support and pay for that by constant supervision from the courts and social workers.
Wherever you turn in the society there is someone telling you what to do and forcing you to pay attention.
Is that "the land of the free"? The anarchists say "no." Instead of listening to the calumnies of those who compare them to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, we need to listen carefully to what anarchists say and enter the struggle to defend what little freedoms we have left in a world of constant coercion.