Confronting the New Brownshirts

Over at Richmond IndyMedia Center, Phil Wilayto of the Virginia AntiWar Network presents a thorough and alarming analysis of the recent protest at the Pentagon:

march_on_pentagon.jpg' style=what we saw in D.C. was an attempt to put together a genuinely fascist movement, one that could be used not only on March 17 but in the future to prevent anti-war and other progressive mobilizations. Some of the comments posted on the GOE Web site are conservative but not crazy, while others are open calls for shedding blood -- ours. So, on the one hand we shouldn't think we are up against a broad wave of resentment by masses of vets. But, on the other hand, we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking this couldn't develop into something more serious than what we saw on March 17. In D.C., we had numbers, if not much security. At a much smaller protest back home, 20 or 30 of these yahoos could be problem.

Wilayto is describing a new dimension in the activist problem: the quasi-militarist counterprotestor whose target is not the system but the individual resister. The intimidation and thuggishness in which they deal - augmented by the passive collusion with law enforcement to promote violence and entrapment - cannot be ignored. In my opinion, this goes well beyond activist politics: what's at stake here is the physical security of a dissenting minority from a threatening majority, the very stuff of free speech.

When the police stand aside and tactitly endorse this kind of mob brutality, activists need to have a backup plan and a strategy. The most pressing need, however, is bodies - we need to address the problems of mobilization that weaken our statement and allow us to be taken with so little seriousness. We need fresh ideas and approaches. The antiwar movement needs to be able to turn its popularity into a physical manifestation of nonviolent resistance. This becomes much easier when the movement is out in front of the world and united.

Among other reasons, this pressing need for solidarity in the face of a consolidating status quo impresses upon me the urgency of a local activist group of libertarians in Richmond who can help promote common causes with the larger Left as well as promote honest dialogue and coordination. To the extent that we share goals with other movements, we should be adding our bodies to theirs in order to guarantee not just the volume of our statement but our right to make a statement. When the police and our fellow citizens shed their responsibilities to protect the debate, it's time to choose sides.

Read this article
Written on Tuesday, March 27, 2007