TINAF Special on Washington Nazi Demo --

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Wed Aug 11 14:42:58 MDT 1999

"Craven, Jim" wrote:

<<Yes, absolutely use whatever "freedoms" (speech, association, assembly,
equal protection etc) can be used but be under no illusions about what it
takes ultimately to deal with very ugly forces bent on very ugly ends and a
very ugly society; to assert our freedoms of speech etc does not depend
upon or even demand, our "defending" fascists who would use such
"freedoms" in the particular to destroy them in general. I can't use freedom
of speech to commit libel or slander for example, no "freedoms" are absolute,
and it does not make me a hypocrite or call into question my assertions of
my own rights when I suggest that there is absolutely no parallel whatsoever
in progressives asserting/defending freedom of speech for progressives and
yet not demanding/defending the same rights for fascists who will only use
any rights in the particular to destroy those very same rights in general.>>

I think Jim lumps together here two rather different questions.

(1) Should we on the left "defend" the rights of fascists? It seems to
me quite obvious: No, we should not. The left (at least as I conceive
it) is not a branch of the ACLU -- and free speech is not an absolute.

(2) Should we on the left  (given our present strength or the lack
thereof) make state suppression of fascist speech (or of hate
speech) a particular part of our program? Clearly this is more
debatable, though I myself think Jim Devine's arguments on this
point are pretty persuasive. I'm a little skeptical even concerning
the usefulness of counter-demonstrations -- given our numbers,
our strength, and the plenitude of issues to choose among. Do
such demonstrations attract more potential activists to our
ranks? If not, we've got better things to do.


P.S. However one answers the second question, separating them
clarifies the issues.

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