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On Pacifism and Nazis August 16, 2017

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism.
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(Adapted from this thread. See here for recent positive mainstream coverage of antifascism.)

I’m not quite a pacifist, but my ideal is nonviolence, the complete absence of coercion. That’s a key reason for my opposition to the state and to all oppression, domination, and hierarchy.

The problem with strict pacifism is that you just get killed or imprisoned by those willing to employ force.

In the abstract, I’d prefer to persuade Nazis of the harm they’re doing rather than to punch them. Using pain and terror to condition thought and behavior stands out as antithetical to my values. In theory, I don’t even like shaming people for expressing Nazis or other beliefs. I want everyone to be able to independently investigate what’s true and what’s good rather than being compelled or pressured. Coercion based on ideas potentially impedes our understanding of material reality.

In a perfect world, I’d want to physically intervene in any hurtful material polices fascists and sundry tried to implement but otherwise debate them based on the conventions of rational exchange. (This includes passionately telling them how harmful their ideas are.) Interventions would be forceful without trying to cause pain or injury. Examples include crowding around folks to shut down harassment, swarming a prison or detention facility, and unarresting people without throwing punches. The principle is to take the action that involves the minimum suffering of feeling beings. Improving technology should provide increasingly effective ways to do this.

Of course, in practice the stakes are very high: fascism and other nightmarish ideologies cause vast suffering. I accept that wielding the weapons of shaming, harassment, and preemptive violence against fascists can do more good than harm under current circumstances. I wonder where it ends, but that’s not the most pressing concern. Violence may well be the last refuge of the incompetent; we’re pretty incompetent right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I hope (and suspect) we can get better.

Personally, I can’t literally bash the fash out of fear I’d enjoy it too much and spiral out of control. I respect those who manage that balancing act.