WashingtonNaziDemo/ The State: Special Repressive Force
CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Fri Aug 13 10:01:35 MDT 1999
>>> Jim Devine <jdevine at popmail.lmu.edu> 08/12/99 05:57PM >>>
(I'm going off-list, because I've contributed too much to pen-l clutter. I
also can't finish my reply because I lack the time. So it isn't finished.
Maybe I'll finish it tomorrow, before I leave town.)
Charleshad written: >>>By this approach, we would not have had the Civil War
or the Civil Rights Movement, in which the U.S. government buried slavery
and then Jim Crow. Or we would not have had the U.S. governement fighting
the acutal Nazis in Germany.<<<
Jim D.wrote: >>What approach is that? expressing skepticism about the veracity
and benevolence of the US government? being willing to acknowlege that the
US left is so weak that it can't "bury" the Nazis?<<
Charles now replies:>Well sort of. The idea that the U.S government cannot play
a role in burying to Nazis today is contradicted by the historical examples
of the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. An approach that there is
no reason to expect the U.S. government to bury Jim Crow would have
counselled not to use the strategy that the Civil Rights Movement did. It
is not trusting the U.S. government, but looking for contradictions in the
influences on the U.S. government ,as in the Civil War or Civil Rights
Movement. Surely you see that the U.S. government did play a key role in
burying slavery and Jim Crow, despite it lack of overall trustworthiness.<
_Of course_, the US government played a role; I didn't say otherwise. But
you'll note (1) it did so in response to grass-roots actions (sit-down
strikes, etc., in the case of the Civil Rights movement) which pushed the
gov't to move away from its previously _negative_ role; and
Charles: Yes it did so in response to grass roots action, including before the sitdown
strikes Ida B.Wells anti-lynching campaigns, Dubois , the Niagra Movement and the
NAACP, The Civil Rights Congress of the Thirties, The Communist Party organizing in
the South in the 20's, 30's ,40's as portrayed in _Hammer and Hoe_ , and even legal
theory and action by from Paul Robeson, William L. Patterson and Thurgood Marshall.
The National Negro Labor Council with Coleman Young ( See Mindy Thompson's paper in
AIMS occasional paper 1978). MLKing was with churches. etc., etc. I am sure you could
teach me some history. Anyway, part of this was formulation of laws, proposals for law
changes. Specifically, making Jim Crow laws illegal, unconstitutional. With respect to
the current discussion, I am proposing a law change. This doesn't mean I fail to
recognize that in the main the federal state and the whole state system in the U.S. is
a special repressive apparatus for the repression of the !
working class in protection of the rule of bourgeois private property , particularly
in this period a state-monopoly state.
(2) in both
cases, it was expanding human freedom rather than pursuing the idea that
smashing Nazi (or racist) speech would abolish the material conditions that
spawn Nazi or racist thought.
Charles: You are correct. This is a creative, not dogmatic following of historical
precedent. The aspect you describe is part of what is new in what I am proposing. It
is an extension beyond what the Civil Rights Movement did. It is actually a sort of
spiral repeat on another level of what the Civil War did , as the Confederates were
sort of archaic fascists, even worse than fascists in some of their ideology ,
perhaps, but with less firepower. Anyway, I didn't mean that the current proposal is
identical with those earlier anti-racist struggles. We are in a different period of
capitalism, and to that extent there are differences. We are at a higher level than
during the Civil War or Civil Rights Movement. As I said , we have the example of the
socialist countries having anti-fascist speech and organization laws.
>the notiion that this movement will aschew any tactic or strategy
involving influencing the U.S. government I disagree with, just as the
Abolitionist Movement had to become mass, but also had a goal of legal
abolition of slavery, which inplied influencing the government.<
I was arguing against efforts to influence the gov't to do things that
increase the state's own repressive power, which then can and will be used
against the left. Sit-ins at lunch counters don't increase the state's power.
Charles: I was arguing that the gov't has already used its repressive power against
the left, especially communists, as I layed out extensively the history of starting
with Schenck, Debs, Whitney, going to Dennis, etc. And I was arguing that I think it
is common fallacy of thinking on this issue to see the gov't repressing fascists as a
probable cause to believe that the gov't will increase repression of the left and
communists, in part because, as I said the gov't already has repeatedly repressed
communists . This is the issue of you trusting the gov't . Because exactly on this
point when you say the gov't might increase its repression of the left if it starts
repressing fascists there is the direct implication that if the gov't does NOT start
repressing the fascists (and you say increase the state' own repressive power) it
will not use (the increased power , I guess) against the left. Why do you trust the
gov't and state not to go against the left even if it doesn't "increa!
se its repressive power" ? Because , to that extent , you are trusting the gov't and
state not to go against the left while not going against the fascists. But
historically the gov't and state has gone against the left while continually not going
against the fascists ( In the 20's during the Palmer Raids and Whitney , the KKK was
marching in Washington , D.C.: the KKK was running states while the CP leaders were
imprisoned in the 40's and 50's).
Furthermore, your "increasing the state's own power" thesis of power as just so much
"stuff", suet, fungible, that power exercised against fascists is just power of the
same stuff as power exercised against lefts and communists, is a reification. There
ain't no such stuff. Or it doesn't quantify in that way. For one thing , the U.S.
state already has mega-redundant force. You need a qualitative rather than
quantitative analysis on this. To get the state to repress fascists would be to get
the state to move in the completely opposite direction of tending to go against
leftist or communists. The government would have to be extremely and verily leftwing
for it to outlaw fascism.
>>BTW, the Abolition and Civil Rights movements were not negative efforts
to suppress bad opinions (or to ask the government to do so for us).
Rather, they were positive efforts to extend human rights to everyone. And
instead of being against certain kinds of _thought_, they were against
specific kinds of _actions_ (embodied in the institutions of slavery and
Jim Crow). To equate them with an anti-free speech effort seems to insult
these movements. Is that what you want to do? <<
>This is a distortion of the exchange at this point especially your claim
that your position is the free speech position. Support for Nazi /KKK
speech is the anti-free speech position in our dispute on this thread.
Nazi speech is the advocacy of the abolition of free speech.<
It should be noted that I am not a "First Amendment Fundamentalist," who
believes that the KKK/Nazis should have free speech in all situations. One
of my points was that the KKK/Nazis are currently _not_ a threat to the
limited democracy and free speech we have. They're a bunch of misfits who
cannot be dealt with in a simple way (though Prozac might help). If the
KKK/Nazis were a threat _in practice_, _in reality_, then I'd be in favor
of suppressing them.
Charles: If the Nazis/KKK were a threat _in practice_, _in reality_, they might
succeed in suppressing you before you succeed in repressing them. You can't wait
until the Nazis/KKK are potent to suppress them. See exchanges with Wojtek. You can't
take the chance on waiting until they are a real threat. Nazism/Klanism/Fascism is one
threat that can justifiably be nipped in the bud, given its horrific history.
But I would emphasize the role of the mass movement of
workers and oppressed minorites, not the bourgeois state, in doing the
Charles: The fascists have to be repressed by any means necessary. Thus, in WWII the
communists allied with even the main states of the main bourgeoisie in England and
Charles:> So, the insult is to equate defense of Nazi/KKK speech with the
Abolitionists or the Civil Righters. <
I didn't do this.
Charles: But you did say that the position of outlawing the Nazi/KKK was an insult to
the Abolitionists or the Civil Righters, because in some sense that position was
against freedom of speech. I say the opposite.
>Especially, in the case of the Abolitionists, they may have opposed the
right to advocate the return of slavery after it had been abolished. I will
have to check. So, I am not sure you are correct that that movement was not
to stop both slaveowning action and speech. <
I am sure that they opposed the reestablishment of slavery (though many
might have turned a blind eye to the locking in of de facto serfdom and Jim
Crow). However, opposing the reestablishment of slavery is _not_ the same
as saying that people who are in favor of doing so should be shut up using
Charles: I am saying I think some Abolitionists may have favored shutting up advocates
of the return of slavery using government repression, i.e. laws (laws are backed by
the repressive apparatus of the state). Your idea that the Abolitionists were shy
about using government repression is way off. They had just prosecuted the Civil War !
Also, precedentially , the crafters of the First Amendment provisions on free speech
and assembly did not interpret it to protect Tory speech (See Aptheker _The Early
Years of the Republic_) So, the Abolitionists conception of the first Amendment and
freedom of speech may not have been the same as the ACLU of 1999 ,but rather closer to
the one I am espousing here.
>Also, you are playing with words when you say the Abolition and Civil
Rights movements were not negative efforts. They were "negative" efforts,
efforts to suppress slavery and Jim Crow.<
I was very specific about what I meant by "negative." "Positive" means the
extension of human rights.
Charles: I didn't say you weren't specific. I said you were playing with words. You
were specifically playing with words in trying to formulate and fix the notion of
"positive" on the historical events of the Abolition and Civil Rights movements in
contrast to what I am proposing.
I can play the same way. I say suppression of Nazi/KKK speech is an extension of human
rights, i.e. positiive, just like the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement. It is
positive and specific , even. Human rights are not only defined in relation to the
conventional "state". In fact , I consider the Nazi/KKK as exactly paramilitary as
well as PARA-STATE organizations, definite parts though demogogically posed as
independent, of the U.S. special repressive apparatus , the state as Engels defined it
in _The Origin of the Family , Private Property, and the State_ . This is a
non-dogmatic application of the principles there and in Lenin's _The State and
>But specifically, the slaveowners and segregationists were in power, thus
the comparison would be if the Nazis/KKK were in power today. In that case,
the first order of business would be to stop their actions. <
again, you're confusing actions with mere speech.
The Liberal conception of pure speech or thought, utterly divorced from action is, per
se , of no interest to a society trying to establish laws and political values in the
best interest of society, for if a speech or thought actually remains entirely "pure"
, i.e. in the mind of the individual thinker or between a tiny group of speakers and
listeners, it is , per se, of no interest to the rest of society. Do you see what I am
saying ? It is ONLY if the thought or speech results in ACTION that the lawmakers (
which is what we are here, deciding on the laws of free speech , etc.) are interested
The Liberal analysis of freedom of speech is flawed by a fixation on a concept "pure
thought" or "pure speech" that is per se (in itself) not pertinent to decisions about
law, which always have to do with the "impure" realm where thought or speech results
Sometimes I say it this way. Nazi or KKK thought or speech can have only one of two
results with respect to this issue. It either results in somekind of action or it does
not . We can agree to that , can't we? Of those two possible results, with respect to
society's ( the lawmaker's ) interests, society is either interested in stopping the
actions that it will result in ; or it has no interest in it if it remains "pure" and
results in no action. But in either case, SOCIETY HAS NO INTEREST IN PROTECTING PURE
FASCIST THOUGHT. (That's specific).
More generally, I am not confusing thought and action, as you say, I am purposely and
consciously treating them as integrally intetwined. The Marxist conception of the
relationship between actions and speech is different than the Liberal conception of
this relationship , as expressed in this argument by the American Civil Liberties
Union, etc. This dispute is precisely between the Marxist and Liberal differences on
this issue. It arises in a different way in the contrast between what Marxists and
Liberals consider the hiearchy of human rights. Marxists do not rank freedom of
speech, press, religion, that is the freedoms of thought and ideas ahead of the
freedoms of material existence and life such as right to a living and to be free from
genocidal and racist murder. In the U.S. context, the First Amendment freedom of
speech is not of higher concern than the 13th and 14th Amendments freedom from slavery
and racism. KKK speech can be suppressed as a violation of the 13th Amendm!
ent. The First Amendment is not "higher"than the 13th, even on the bourgeois lawbooks.
All Power to All of the People,
>>>For that matter, you are trusting the U.S. government to protect the
Left's First Amendment rights. Why do you trust the U.S. government to do
that , when it has such a treacherous history of protecting the KKK and
busting the Communists ? You seem to trust the U.S. Supreme Court to be
logically consistent: if Nazis have free speech, Communists must have it
too. But that hasn't been the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.<<<
>>I didn't say that at all. The reason why the Left and popular movements
have been able to win civil liberties has been their own struggle, not
their faith in the benevolence of the powers that be. (The US Bill of
Rights arose because people resisted the Federalist constititution, ...<<
> I didn't say you said you trusted the government. I pointed out that your
position implies trust for the government. Your reply does not escape this
inconsistency in your position. Both the original struggles to win civil
liberties and your very definite position on this thread that the Left's
freedom of speech is more likely to remain protected if the powers-that-be
do not suppress Nazi/KKK speech rights assumes that the government will
respect and protect Left speech rights. Otherwise, what are you concerned
will be lost to the Left by its advocating suppression of KKK/Nazi speech.
The fact that your position is that the Left might lose something carries
the implication that the government is protecting Left rights now. And that
means you are trusting the government to continue to protect those Left
rights ( Left rights ? :>))
>I originally said: >>>>We shouldn't side with government repression of the
>Nazis (for being Nazis, as opposed to for blowing up buildings and/or
>killing people and the like) since the same laws that repress the Nazis
>will be applied to what's left of the left as soon as it starts growing
>again. The last thing we need to do is to strengthen the repressive
>apparatus of the state. <<<<
>Charles responded: >>>I happen to have a paper on this. In fact and at law,
>the First Amendment in U.S. history has protected KKK and Nazis and has
>very rarely protected the Left. ...<<<
>Jim D. riposted: >>Once again, this tells us not to trust "our" government. I
>didn't say that the government would hold back from repressing the left
>until they were given more repressive power. Rather, I said that allowing
>them to ban Nazi speech would encourage them to do the same to us (even
>more than they already have done). But we should protest any cases where
>the government lets the Nazis or Klan off the hook, especially when that
>same hook is used to impale Leftists. It's useful to point to
>contradictions between different government actions or between government
>rhetoric and actions.<<
>Charles now says: >I don't think demanding banning Nazi speech will
>encourage them to do the same to us such as to tip some balance that by
>which they were protecting the left some now. The two are independent, and
>factually and historically they have been independent. <
>Even though in the last instance the US legal system reflects the
>capitalist class system, plus the insitutions of racial supremacy and
>patriarchy (along with popular struggles against these forms of
>oppression), it has some autonomy which means that it follows a logic of
>its own as long as it doesn't get too out of line with the overall social
>Specifically, the court system follows the principle of precedent, so that
>repression of one group's speech can be used to justify that of another,
>especially when there are so many judges (and members of the public) who
>equate Naziism and communism, as some sort of unified totalitarian
>Charles: Uh huh. But the argument for suppression of fascist racist speech
is not that it is totalitarianism but advocacy of genocidal racism,
following the UN Convention standard, which by the way, is a domestic U.S.
statute since 1988, but with changes such that it conforms to U.S. First
>I think the Court's reputation for following precedent is overstated.
>If our movement becomes strong enough to actually change the law to an
exception to First Amendment protection for fascistic racist speech, we are
likely to have the influence and public opinion to prevent the false
identification of communists and fascists.
>>>>No fascistic racists have been convicted or unprotected by the First
>Amendment that I have found.<<<
>>>weren't Nazi sympathisers jailed during WW2, simply for being Nazis?<<
>>Maybe. If they were spying. I don't know of any purely ideological
>On this issue, this discussion is beyond my expertise. Is there someone
>familiar with the history of the US government's prosecution of Nazis
>during WW2 on the list? what about the contemporaneous pursecution of
>>>Aren't you advocating that they should be convicted by law or unprotected
>by the First? <<
>>Yes, I am saying make an exception to First Amendment protection. The
>ant-fascistic racist law would be a non-constitutional criminal statute.
>France, Germany and Canada have these laws. Speech denying the Holocaust is
>a crime in France. So this type of law is not incompatible with a Western
>"democratic" system. The socialist countries had them. <
>Who is to make the decisions about what speech to crush? Janet "Waco" Reno?
>William "Whistlin' Dixie" Renquist? Bill "Rickie Rector" Clinton?
>Charles: My proposal would only be implemented as part of the program of a
rising progressive movment that had elected progressive public officials. I
don't see how this proposal could be won without such a movement.
>Germany not only bans Nazis but also Communists (last time I checked) --
>and that every time Germany suppresses a Nazi organization, a new one
>springs up under a new name. In fact, I've seen the repression of
>communists being justified by the German repression of the Nazis. (The
>German government also tries to suppress the Scientologists. Do we want to
>imitate that attitude, suppressing weird and deviant religions? Remember
>Charles: There is a Communist Party in Germany, as far as I can tell, it
is legal and not subject to the same laws as those suppressing Nazis.
>Your question about Scientologists does not touch my argument.
Scientologists do not advocate fascistic racism. This is a straw man
argument by you.
>Also, I was not defending "Western Democracy." We should remember that
>socialist democracy is supposed to be _better than_ "western (bourgeois)
>democracy," not worse, and that we should keep socialist ideals in mind
>when pushing for social change rather than compromising on such important
>issues. So we shouldn't use "what the 'West' does" as a justification. I
>can imagine: NATO smashes a small country (Serbia) to prove its cojones, so
>the Left should do the same kind of thing.
>Charles: I would say you are defending Western or bourgeois democracy when
you defend fascistic racist speech. In "Eastern" democracy, fascistic
racist speech was outlawed.
>I happen to agree with Chomsky that suppressing Holocaust denial (as in
>France) is not only contrary to socialist principles but is
>Charles: I respect Chomsky, but I think my understanding of socialist
principles is better than his on this issue.
>We should remember that the limited scope of democracy in the state
>socialist nations was a partly a result of always being attacked by
>imperialism and having been impoverished (as in the old USSR or Cuba) or
>due to the fact that "socialism" was imposed from the outside, from above,
>using bayonets, as in Eastern Europe. We shouldn't use the incompleteness
>of democracy in those cases as an excuse to drop socialist principles,
>especially since the US is not being attacked by foreign enemies and is
>Charles: However, I fundamentally disagree with you that suppressiion of
fascistic racist speech is dropping socialist principles. It is the more
freedom loving position. It IS a socialist principle. My argument on this
thread is the best SOCIALIST/COMMUNIST jurisprudential argument. This is an
example of socialist democracy being higher democracy than bourgeois
democracy. The protection fascistic racist speech by the U.S. First
Amendment is backward compared to the laws in the socialist countries.
>My argument is also the UN jurisprudential argument.
>The U.S. is behind most of the world on this. That is why the U.S.
modified the language of the UN Convention when it finally adopted it.
>Suppression of fascistic racist speech is the more freedom loving and
>>My point is that the left has not been protected by the First Amendment,
>so the typical scenario that the Left will not be protected if the Right is
>not protected is poor reasoning. In the history above, the Fascists were
>protected throughout, but it did not result in the Left being protected.
>So, the current period of grace for the Left is not dependent upon the
>The Left doesn't benefit _at all_ from the First Amendment? That's
>different from saying that the government often violates the First when
>it's leftist speech we're considering.
>Charles: Do you have a Supreme Court case in which the Left's freedom of
speech was protected ? Maybe some Civil Rights activists. As far as I can
tell, everytime Lefts were jailed for speech, their rights weren't
protected. The Smith Act is still on the books. It was not found to violate
the First Amendment. Only in the way it was applied.
>The intermittent protection effectively chills Left speech, while allowing
the U.S. to pretend to be more free. Continuous suppression is not the most
effective suppression. This is a general and unique approach of the
bourgeoisie ruling class.
>I had written:>> I think our [the Left's] "period of grace" [from
>government repression] is due to the fact that the Left is no threat to the
>established order. <<
>>Probably that's a factor. But when we become a threat to the established
>order, our only protection will be highly conscious masses of people. Very
>militant anti-fascistic racist activities and propaganda helps to build
>that mass consciousness. We must use the fascistic racists public presence
>to polemicize the public.<
>I agree that "highly conscious masses of people" are crucial and that
>anti-fascist and anti-racist activities help to build that mass
>consciousness. But anti-fascist activities by the government help build the
>government, not the movement. Even anti-racist activities can do this, if
>done poorly (the way that the bussing-for-integration policy empowered the
>Charles: Well, yea, some, just like the Civil War helped build the
government. But the tactics and strategy of this movement cannot avoid some
concessions and compromises. For example , the Bolsheviks united to some
extent with the bourgeoisie to overthrow the Czar. Or the Soviet Union
united with the Allied capitalist countries against the Axis.
>it's good to end on a note of agreement.
Jim Devine jdevine at lmumail.lmu.edu &
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