fighting the far right and the state

Stuart Lawrence stuartwl at
Sat Mar 10 17:54:42 MST 2001

> I don't know about the particular incident Louis is referring to, but
> certainly some sections of the British left have been willing to confront
> the far right physically (rather than shouting at them from behind police
> lines or relying on state agencies), so much so in fact that the British
> National Party abandoned public meetings and marches from 1994. I don't
> claim any personal involvement (so in that sense Louis's criticism is
> justified) but I think it demonstrates it is possible to fight fascism
> outside of the state.

I would have to ask if the example you give is comparable . The relative
scarcity of guns in private (especially right-wing and racist) hands in Britain
vs. Texas makes me think it's not.  The state has a lot to do with setting up
the situation where a clash of racists and antiracists will or will not involve
guns, let alone what the consequences for those on either side of the fight.  Do
you assume that a bunch of racists marching in England are armed? In Texas or
North Carolina, you should assume they are.

It's impossible to discuss the state without recognizing the importance of
private but state-sanctioned use of force, which is what the KKK represented as
long as it served its function.  In the US, particularly in the south, the white
racists were identified with the state to such an extent that their posession of
guns and their use of violence was anything but a threat to state power. To this
day in Texas, North Carolina and much of the rest of the US, white racists are
assumed to have guns for self-protection until it is proven otherwise, while
nonwhites with guns are assumed to be criminals.  It's pretty clear that anyone
on the right or left who wants to challenge the state's right to set the
boundaries for the use of force has to be prepared for the severest repression.
"Fighting fascism outside of the state" seems to contrast admirably with
imposing order from above, but if it is attempted in the absence of mass
mobilization it is, as Louis says, just an adventure.

The virtual impossibility of self-defense by those who suffer most from violence
has obviously led to a lot of contradictory attitudes about the role of the
state.  With so much weaponry in private hands, the incredibly high level of
armament of the police and paramilitary forces in the US has been easier to
justify.  The question of how and against whom all this state and private use of
force is used is second only to consumer culture in the consciousness of modern
US society.

Stuart Lawrence
stuartwl at

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