By Andy Barns
Communists are often accused of being against free speech. Of course, we at Red Rose Socialists support free speech. No truly democratic society – to say nothing of communism – can function unless differing opinions on policy, action, and theory can be expressed.
But not all ideas deserve such respect. What we are against are ideas that seek or promote the destruction of our fellow human beings in mass. Because of this, so-called “hate-speech” is something we do not tolerate.
But before I can get into the meat and potatoes of this – which I hesitate to call an “argument”, as I think of it as a self-evident moral truth – we need a brief civics lesson:
Free Speech, 101:
As can be googled, the first amendment of the US Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”
This is a clause prohibiting the government (“Congress shall make no law…”) from restricting your right to free speech.
It does not do the following:
-Protect persons from the consequences of their speech (insult someone’s mother, get punched).
-Allow you to engage in speech which directly harms people (yell “fire” in a crowded theater when no fire exists).
-Force individual citizens to listen to you.
-Force individual citizens to tolerate you.
The Constitution of the United States has flaws, but the 1st amendment is not one of them. But we have to understand the law to use it.
With this all in mind, why would we, and other like-minded folks, be against the “free speech rallies” promoted by the Alt-Right? Isn’t free speech a human right? Yes it is.
But it is also a human right to live freely.
So, what happens when someone advocates for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” (an oxymoron), as Richard Spencer has done? We communists oppose it. We will shut it down. Why is this?
The simple answer is that advocating for the destruction or removal of people from society you deem “inferior”, is not merely factually null (and subjective in the most idiotic sense), but morally indefensible. It is not an opinion worth tolerating. Talk of turning America into a “white ethnostate” necessarily implies the removal, displacement, deportation, or outright destruction of millions of human beings.
Speaking personally, as a human being, I’m against that. I like human beings! Sure, sometimes I get in a bad mood and need a little time by myself away from them… sometimes I get annoyed by this guy at work who stares at me, and my boss is an asshole! But I much prefer to see my kin leading happy, fulfilling lives.
Who are my kin? They include, among others; people of color, white people, disabled people, queer people, prisoners, Muslims, Christians, blue-collar workers, Thai fishermen, immigrants, and, yes, even my asshole boss. They are my kin because I am a human being. If this attitude seems absurd to you, then I have nothing to say to you and you need to leave now.
No human civilization worth the name, would tolerate such an idea as an “ethnostate”. It is most certainly an idea worth forcing out of the conversation. It is an idea worth crushing. By force if necessary. The sheer evil of the idea cannot be expressed enough. Using violence to oppose such an idea is not evil, but it is rather the duty of every decent human being.
So naturally, if some white supremacist decides to come out of the woodwork to promote genocide… it matters not to us that they are rallying for “free speech”. We will continuously encourage the workers be there, in force, to obliterate them.
Because the harsh truth is this: there are certain forms of speech that are worth suppressing. If we, as a society, cared about freedom and justice (I mean, actually cared), there would be not one moment’s hesitation:
“Is it morally OK to punch a Nazi?”
One common refrain you often find from persons who engage in hate speech, and especially online, is that it was all a joke. “It’s a joke, and therefore is of no harm. People who take it seriously should get a life.”
Is it of no harm? This is very doubtful. This is because words have power, and some words have more power in certain circumstances.
Currently, people of color have a raw deal. They don’t need to be told this. But it seems some white people still need to be told this. POC have a raw deal in housing, criminal justice, job opportunities, and police relations, among other things. They do not have equal political power or standing in American life.
And there are plenty of white people out there who harbor real negative feelings towards people of color. Hate crimes are still common. Hate groups are now growing in size. Joke or not, this shit is real.
Indeed, the history of concentration camps, slavery, and Jim Crow are also not too far behind us. Today’s system of mass incarceration is heavily biased against people of color. Need I mention the Trump Administration, stopping terrorism by targeting nations based on their religious demographics, rather than the number of terrorists born there? Such brilliance.
In such a situation, “lol we should have white only USA lol” is not harmless. Satire requires a target and must critique that target. You are not using satire if you are simply the thing you wish to satirize. When one “jokes” about a white ethnostate, they are, functionally, no different from Mr. “Hitler did nothing wrong”.
As far as we are concerned, they should be treated the same: with no respect whatsoever.
It should go without saying that the Alt-Right, in its attempts to mask its genocidal agenda in irony, will not pass this skepticism. It is still genocidal speech, and as such, we communists oppose it. Irony be damned.
Once They Unite…:
Beyond basic human compassion, communists reject genocidal speech for the following reason: racist/nationalist movements generally, and the Alt-Right phenomenon specifically, benefit the capitalists the most.
Allow me to explain.
With each worker who falls to the Alt-Right, that is one less worker united in struggle against the capitalists. They instead are in struggle with other workers. A class traitor, if you will.
As Marxists, we continually advocate the socialist solution to our problems: collective action of the working class to overthrow their capitalist oppressors (the ones who take their healthcare, send them to die in war, pay them poverty wages, invest in advertising propaganda, make them toil for 50 hour weeks, and hoard all the wealth). As the workers continue to in-fight, this struggle becomes more difficult.
This Earth, with its plenty, combined with our technology (factories, farms, internet servers, airports, power plants, etc) could offer a life of leisure and plenty to all of us. Capitalism restricts this potential, being driven by profit and not human need. If we took control away from the capitalists we could collectively begin the process of building a world where all of us are welcome and all are provided for. Where all human beings could lead a fulfilling life. As a human being, I’m all for that! We can get robots to do the work and still pay ourselves!
White supremacy is beneficial to capitalism because it attempts to restrict uniting. White supremacy intends to exploit (or kill) the black and brown workers and hoard society’s products for a white middle class. The irony being that it is the capitalists, not the white fascists, who will benefit from this, as they will be in a much better position to exploit not just black and brown workers, but all workers. For those so inclined to doubt this, even a white supremacist capitalist will not suddenly treat his completely white workforce like kings. He still has to make a profit to stay competitive. He still has to have a workforce who earns a wage, and a worker has a cost associated with it, whatever their color. The capitalist will use his power over the means of production to extract more labor out of the worker, returned partly as the worker’s wage, but most retained as profit. It does not matter their race (Although an oppressed race will be easier to exploit). When these workers fail to see their common chains and attack each-other it is all the easier for the capitalist!
Race war is Working-Class civil war. In the end, the Alt-Right would only galvanize their own chains.
We communists encourage the working class to resist white supremacy and fight for the benefit of all workers. We encourage actively opposing genocidal speech, for there will be no place for it in a socialist society. The workers will not allow genocidal ideas a foothold in reality because it is not the reality they will choose to make. They will reject genocide, and all those buffoons who lick capitalist boots.