“Fuck those who want to fight violence with violence”

27 May

So Laurie Penny has been all “controversial” again in the matter of anti-fascism (this btw is the same person who has tried to slander the people who were involved in writing this book as racists and misogynists merely for criticising her work). This is the same person who appears on platforms such as the Oxford Union pretending that shes a “revolutionary socialist” but at the same time claiming that people like Anthony Seldon are her mentors.

“Fuck anyone who believes that violence is an answer to violence” she says. In other words, fuck the International Brigades. Fuck the partisans of WWII. Fuck Anti Fascist Action. Fuck the 43 Group. Fuck the residents of Cable Street. Fuck anyone who has used violence to oppose fascism and racism.

Laurie Penny attacks the EDL and says she is not terrified of Islamic extremism, but then she gives their views a platform, she gets kettled with them and “interviews” them for twitter.

On a previous occasion she actually bought the EDL leader dinner in an expensive restaurant! o ETA: ordering the most expensive thing on the menu for him. It has been pointed out to me that the restaurant wasn’t necessarily expensive but it was a long time since I read the article. 

There is nothing wrong with writing about fascists. There is also nothing wrong with talking to people who may be attracted to fascist and far-right explanations of events and trying to change their views by challenging them. But what Laurie Penny and Vice magazine, who recently gave a platform to David Icke and also did a bit of far-right tourism in Hungary do is simply self-aggrandizing careerism, giving a platform to people like that in order to build up their journalistic reputations without considering the social and political implications of what they are doing.

I don’t want this whole thing to be about Laurie Penny but I will quickly say, that she states in the article that she is not worried or scared about Islamist extremism. I think that she is wrong and that I am scared and that she should be scared.She is also wrong to equate Islamist extremism to Islam, and the irony of her taking fascist leaders to expensive restaurants and then saying that the EDL are a threat and that Islamist extremism is not shouldn’t be lost. I am not afraid of Islam or Muslims at all, that does not mean that Islamist religious fanaticism does not worry me.

The murder in Woolwich shocked me because of the brutality and the random nature of it, and I am sorry to say that I am worried by Islamist extremism whether it’s in Egypt with the members of the Muslim Brotherhood killing protesters, attacking workers on strike and protecting government and military institutions and terrorising religious minorities, or over here. I am also worried by zionism and Jewish religious extremism in Israel and the policies of the Israeli government which are increasingly suicidal and murderous. the threat from Islamist extremism in this country is still tiny i don’t think wishing the problem away is going to solve anything.

The whole idea of “freedom of speech” does not exist in a vacuum, when you share a platform with somebody or give them a platform for their views to be aired far and wide (or for that matter allow them to give you a platform) you are not simply doing that.

No platform is not about suppressing people’s freedom of speech. The strongest advocates of no platform would oppose any attempt by the state to impose bans on fascist organisations because of the use of such legislation against any demonstrations by more progressive groups, but would argue that such organisations need to be challenged by the community and some of them would argue that the use of physical force is sometimes necessary. Some organisations such as UAF and the SWP have interpreted this to mean they can plead with the state to ban fascist demonstrations (while denouncing any criticism of far-right Islamists, who they have been quite happy to give a platform to in the past and even pander to by adopting things like segregated seating etc, as racist).

But you cannot rely on the state to protect you against fascism, or Islamist extremism for that matter. The same state which has allowed these conditions to develop. But neither can you somehow hope you can defeat these people through rational argument, by not challenging the views of hardcore fascists and accepting they’re “equally valid”, or for that matter by insulting their spelling and insulting their intelligence (and by extension the intelligence of everyone in the community they came from) as many of the members of facebook groups like “Still Laughing at the English Defence League” tend to do with their classist (and frequently prejudiced in other ways as well) sneering.

Much of the reason for the growth in Islamism and the far right is because of a break down of community and the fact that people will often seek out anything, no matter what it is – that’s why initiatives like the community unions could potentially have such a lot of potential, as well as things like football tournaments which are organised for the whole community. Things like this are very very encouraging – especially because it will drive a wedge between ideological fash and a lot of their soft support who may just be alienated and pissed off. The left used to be masters at this stuff, lets do it again and not necessarily leave it to religious groups.

But when organised groups of fascists start trying to firebomb mosques etc (or for that matter Islamist far-right extremists call for the murder of gay people) I don’t think banal platitudes such as “don’t fight violence with violence” are at all an answer because it is just drawing an equivalence between their violence and that of people trying to oppose them. The only way they can be stopped is through the people who agree with them being faced with the reality of their views being wrong, of seeing the people they are blaming for all their problems as people.

But some people won’t see it so they will often have to be physically confronted, and when the soft centre left is trying to hold anti-fascists back while at the same time giving fash views a platform in the media for no other reason than to further your career and sneering at them for being uneducated rather than engaging with their politics, thus creating the conditions which enables it to succeed, then they are worse than useless.

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9 Responses to ““Fuck those who want to fight violence with violence””

  1. Sam Marsh May 28, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I’d have thought that the sort of people Anthony Seldon might mentor are just the type to go around calling themselves ‘revolutionary socialists’. Not really sure why you think she’s pretending – always been plenty of posh socialists. Not that it matters – there’s hardly any ‘real’ socialists anyway, and if we’re honest they’re probably deluding themselves just as much, if not more.

    Insisting that the EDL are fascists faces the same problem that the left faced when it was always going on about the ‘Nazi BNP’ i.e. that at best it has no effect whatsoever. Just another example of an utterly ineffectual left’s desperation to refight the battles of the past. How many Cable Streets have we had? No pasaran! No platform doesn’t work – I don’t know if Penny claims to follow it as a principle, but lets face it she doesn’t really have a platform to give them anyway. What sort of person reads Laurie Penny? Fuck knows, but I can’t see her articles inspiring anyone to the EDL’s cause myself. No platform actually needs some kind of social movement to enforce it, otherwise it’s just yet more empty lefty bollocks. The media isn’t going to listen to you or the handful of ‘antifa’ tossers skipping about the place.

    Really it is a joke the left going around today calling for ‘no platform’ for the fascists. It is the left that has been no platformed, and its doen it to itself. Laurie Penny’s a revolutionary socialist? Why not? socialism is dead and buried. I mean, when you say the soft left or whatever is trying to ‘hold anti-fascists back’, what does that actually mean? What are these anti-fascists going to do? Smash the fascist EDL! lol anti-fascists.

    No point getting worked up about some perma student insulting the left or whatever – it’s over, time to leave the party, drop the wanky lingo and go and do something useful (or maybe nothing at all, it would often still be preferable I reckon). Leave the left and all its obsolete rituals and mantras to the likes of Laurie Penny. There’s no point fighting over its pathetic remains. But it seems like many (well relatively speaking lol) can’t let it go, not because they actually think it has any chance of success, or that it is tied to any actual movement or working class politics, but because they’re desparate to cling to the lifestyle.

    Tradition of dead generations etc.

  2. sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist May 28, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    you have some good points. i’ll reply in a bit, am at work now

  3. spineynorman May 28, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Penny definitely does claim to follow no platform as a principle (when for sensible people it was never anything more than a tactic). We know this because she said so at the beginning of the article in which she provides Tommy Robinson with a platform.

  4. sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist May 28, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    i think you might have misunderstood my point, i’m not telling everyone to call the edl fascists or anything, i’m also not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a posh socialist but it’s a bit hypocritical when she goes on about how great oxford union and the anthony seldon are when she claims to be some sort of revolutionary, i agree with you about the left and i think a large part of it is down to people like that because they become the public face and image of the left.

    i completely agree with you about a mass social movement and so on, that’s why i make the point about it that that’s what we need, to be encouraging community initiatives and doing practical work in the community, rather than just jumping up and down calling people fascists like she’s doing (and still giving them a platform anyway)

    • Sam Marsh May 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      I think I understood what you were saying, but to me there is a more wider problem with the language and politics concerning the edl (and also the BNP & UKIP), though I suppose even that’s more a symptom of the fundamental problem. With the anthony seldon/posh socialists thing I was just making a bit of a boring joke.

      I disagree that the state of the left (or maybe I ought to say the absence of a progressive working class political movement) has anything much to do with people like Laurie Penny becoming its public face though. if only they had better faces in the media, the people would be flocking to the left’s banners? It strikes me as a cop out to be honest. Can’t see why it matters what people think of as the left – what actual problems does this cause in practice? I mean, when you’re chatting about politics, if you’re getting associated in peoples heads with Laurie Penny then there’s probably more of a serious problem than her having columns in some magazines that no one reads.

      the comunity union stuff I’m not sure about, but thats probably best left for now.

      Anyway cheers for the reply and also thanks to spineynorman above for the info. On that subject I googled her artticle just to see what she said about no platform and she seems to be aware of the contradiction and tries to get around it by saying she won’t publish his opinions about muslims etc. I couldn’t be arsed to read further to see if she sticks to that, but it it doesn’t seem too unreasonable. What I read of her article was shit, mind you, but there’s not much to take exception to in that one instance imo. Admittedly I don’t know the rules about no platforming people.

      • sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist May 28, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

        oh if you’re referring to all that “smash the nazi edl” stuff lol then i completely agree, I mean I can think of a few people I know quite well who may be sympathetic to that type of politics and if you jumped up and down and called them nazis they’d just get upset and think you were an idiot lol. and i also agree the problem is a lot bigger than laurie penny lol. It’s because she’s like the public face of it but I agree that it didn’t start with her but the whole idea of vanguardism and people thinking they know what everyone in the working class wants!

  5. sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist May 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Just thought I’d add too, that the CP during the 30s did lead campaigns to defend people against rogue landlords, some of the people they defended had family members that were fash and would have been affected by the eviction. by defending them as fellow workers against eviction they were able to change their minds. Their politics in other respects wasnt great but this is one example we could learn from apart from this sneering about people’s grammar and spelling x

    • spineynorman May 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

      Also worth pointing out that while trendy liberal journos like LP certainly aren’t the reason why the left (for want of a better term) is in the state it’s in, they certainly are a hindrance (though far from the only, or even biggest one) to putting things right again. There is definitely an image of the left as being dominated by posh student types who are only concerned about stuff going on on the other side of the world or daft abstract crap nobody normal can relate to and it definitely does put people off. And people like her help perpetuate that impression (though she’s not the only one, and is more an expression of the problem than its source).

      And it does matter – no matter how much you try to relate it to peoples lives when you’re talking to them about politics, they will ask you what your politics are. And I think one of the most important principles in politics is that you are always honest with those you are trying to appeal to, so I say I’m a socialist. And I can tell from the looks I get that the word ‘champaign’ springs into peoples minds when I do so. And I have to say I can’t really blame them.

      • sometimesantisocialalwaysantifascist May 29, 2013 at 8:03 am #

        same here, i’ll never forget selling papers in the high street and one bloke goes “socialist eh? no thanks ive worked with enough of those!” Lol

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