Why we cannot rely on the state to fight fascism

Attacks on refugees by white supremacists are treated as minor incidents in court – if at all – while at the same time the state is tiexecuting its own anti-refugee project of Incarceration & Deportaon. This week the state symbolically convicted fifteen white supremacists who had thrown firework bombs with the force of hand granades at refugee children. Their punishment? 40 and 120 hours of community service. And they have to pay 2000 euros in damages to a security guard. (No damages to the refugees of course.)

Exactly the same punishment was given to the Zeister 7, a group of activists who were accused of cutting a piece of fence at the family detention center in Zeist. They too were convicted to 120 hours of community service. Some of the fascists even got less. Apparently a simple fence has the same value as 148 traumatised people. So next time you think of throwing bombs at children who fled war, know that the horrible consequence could be one to three weeks of unpaid working.

The fact of the matter is that the state really doesn’t care about refugees. On the contrary, in a less explicit way for the last sixteen years they’ve been doing exactly the same as the Woerden fascists in October. The state has been illegalising, criminalising, incarcerating and deporting people, resulting in hundreds of reported and unreported deaths within the national borders. The only difference between the state and the Woerden fascists is their methods. The state uses bureaucratised, legally violent, institutionalised means to hunt people down, incarcerate them, intimidate them, and either deport them or force them to “voluntarily” let themselves be deported. The fascists used more blunt, explicit means, but their goal was exactly the same: intimidating the hell out of the refugees so they will go away.

This is why a trial like this is a joke. On the one hand it’s just a symbolic gesture to keep up appearances about the rule of law being about justice. On the other hand it’s reassuring the state monopoly on violence. They want to make sure they are in control of what happens. Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited the shelter after the attack to condemn it and to say it was “unacceptable”. The only thing that was “unacceptable” however was the fact a self-organised gang of fascists did what the state considers to be it’s own task.

The state has the power and the resources to protect the refugees and to oppress the violent fascist movement of today. But they aren’t doing it. Not in the Netherlands, not in Germany, not anywhere else in Europe. Instead they are symbolically condemning attacks and handing out minor punishments to fascists. It will be only a while before the state apparatuses realise that what the fascists are doing, is only beneficial for them. And then they will let the facists do their thing, pretending not to see it, or they will even actively support it by organising or funding citizen’s militias, like some right-extremist politicans are propagating already. State supported or not, fascist mobs are terrorizing the country more and more and it will only get more intense and violent.

It is now more than ever vital to start organising self-defense networks. We cannot sit around and wait until deaths are the result of white supremacist violence. I see self-defense as a two-fold thing: at the one hand targeted people (refugees, Muslims, people of colour, lefitsts) should always be ready to defend against a possible attack. This means we should be having fighting and self-defense trainings. Really, if you aren’t doing this yet, start doing it. The current situation in Germany is a reflection of what we can expect in the Netherlands. Every day there has been at least one attack on a refugee housing for more than a year now. Refugees in Germany already are taking measures because they know they can be attacked on the street at any time if they are alone.

The second means of self-defense is one for the long term and as a necessary part of our overall anti-capitalist struggle: the flight forward. As we are getting better organised on a political level, we should also organise ourselves to actively remove the biggest fascist threats. Attacking your attacker also counts as self-defense. Waiting around until your enemy starts killing you is just hoping the odds of luck will be in your favour. Survival doesn’t come down to counting on imaginary guardian angels; it comes down to being well prepared, being trained and being ready. We can only survive the tsunami of fascist violence if we are better organised than them.

Some people might argue that organising fighting squads is doing exactly the same as what the fascists are doing. Saying this is not considering the crucial fact that the goals are entirely different. What the fascists want is a whites only country, a homogeneous and violent society that would neatly fit into the existing capitalist framework, based upon genocide, exploitation and oppression. What we want is a society without classes where people are free regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. What we want is the overthrow of the white supremacist patriarchal imperialist capitalist state. Overthrowing a violent system of oppression and exploitation is not going to look nice. Considering it’s a long road towards that we had better take the first neccesary steps.

Organize among the targets of white supremacy

Fascist Wilders is going to hand out a sort-of-pepperspray to women in some village as a disgusting publicity stunt, capitalizing on the newest wave of racist anti-refugee sentiment, this time cloaked as “feminism”. It’s one of the oldest lies of white supremacy, that white people are not safe anymore with black people and people of colour around. Wilders is making the very classical move of the oppressor framing themself as the victim.

The white supremacist riots in Heesch last Monday and in Geldermalsen recently, the dozens of nazi rallies in the past few months, the police, municipality and media protection of Pegida fascists, the countless swastika sprayings and horrible provocative dead-pig-placements – they all show that the people who really need the pepperspray are black people, people of colour and Muslims. They are the primary target of the white supremacist violence, the kind of violence that has been deadly since white supremacy was born, the kind of violence that has built the Western nation states, the kind of violence that is now reproducing in the form of (un)organized fascist attacks on individuals on the streets. Fascism is not on the rise anymore; it is out in the open, it’s accepted or ignored by the people in power and it’s gaining violent force on the ground. This violence will result in deaths in not too long.

All this is fucking scary. But I have hopes too. Oppressed people will not just sit still when they’re under attack; they will not wait for things to blow over; they will not trust hypocrite politicians to represent them or the equally racist state to protect them. They are bound to stand up and organize themselves. Things like self-defense networks will emerge, groups will form. Although it’s a logical and necessary reaction to this situation, it won’t happen out of the blue. People need to put their time and energy in it. We as antifascists should be catalysts of this organizing.

The fascists may have seized this moment, this year, the next year. It may get worse and worse. But after that it’s our turn. During those years we will have organized on a mass scale, we will have grown and gained experience. And we will have created enough power to destroy fascism, vigorously and without mercy.

Death to fascism! Freedom to the people!

Taking moral high ground vs. smashing fascism

I very much regret having taken part in the kamikaze action at Utrecht Overvecht last Monday night. And I’m very frustrated by the way the leading organisation, the Internationale Socialisten, is hauling it in as a success and how they are portraying themselves/us as heroes and victims in their report. In stead of putting a positive spin on it, I think we need to be honest and admit we made huge mistakes by doing this action. The only positive thing I can get out of it, is that it’s a learning experience. If we want to stop fascism, this is what not to do.

The background in a nutshell: nazis and hooligans had silently organised a demonstration against municipality plans to use an empty building in the neighbourhood Overvecht as temporary refugee housing. The municipality was hosting an information event for residents of the area; the protest was outside on a square. We went there with 11 people to have a Refugee Welcome demonstration.

About what happened I can be brief: we nearly got lynched by the nazi/hooligan crowd. We had to rely on the police for our protection. We gave the nazis a very easy victory and morality boost, since they were able to chase us away within 15 minutes. That’s not heroic and it’s not a success.

The more I think about it, the less I can believe I actually participated in it. Clearly I hadn’t thought it through enough on beforehand. Most of the things that happened, were things we could have anticipated before. And although I was convinced of these things before, this experience retaught me some lessons:

1) do not aim at positive media coverage. That’s politically a very weak aim. Even if the bourgeois media are all of a sudden changing policy and they do portray you in a sympathetic way (which they won’t), nobody is gaining anything by it. You didn’t organize masses, you didn’t disturb a fascist event, you haven’t reclaimed the streets from the fascists: in no way you have done anything to help stop fascism.

2) do not ever put yourself in a situation where you have to rely on the cops for your protection. If you see this coming, stay home. It’s politically wrong and strategically just naive and dangerous. Cops are our enemy and oppressor. They are the ones who beat us up and arrest us all the time. They have other interests than “keeping us safe”.

3) be flexible and anticipate the situation. If something unexpected occurs, cancelling your action should always be one of your options.

4) ask yourself: what are we doing this for? Is this a goal worth reaching? How are we going to reach that goal? Do we have the capacity to do that? What greater political goals is this action serving/How does this action fit into the bigger picture of our political organizing? If you don’t ask these questions, it’s very easy to fall in the trap of political narcism and/or carelessness. (Combined with a crowd of 200 riled up nazis and hooligans, it leads to a very dangerous situation.)

5) if you’re leading the action: stay the fuck connected to the group and be sensitive to differing views and feelings.

The IS is subtly trying to portray us as heroes who dared to stand up to 200 nazis and hooligans and give the defenceless “astonished” residents of the neighbourhood the voice they had been waiting for for so long. In their report they speak of the residents who had “hopeful faces” when they saw us, which I really did not see happening (and what’s up with the white saviour complex?). One person even approached me, saying they were a refugee themself and said: “Are there this few of you”? (“Zijn jullie met zo weinig?”) But the IS also frames us as the victims of unrully fascist thugs who, surprise, surprise, turned out to be… UNREASONABLE. We knew that in advance so we did not have to put ourselves in the situation of being nearly-lynched to prove that to ourselves.

We are not heroes voicing the moral superior ideas of the left or representing refugees and Muslims who have no agency. It was straight out improvident of us to do it. It was careless and dangerous. I’m glad we all got away with it without serious injuries. It could have turned out very different.

This night taught me again that antifascism is not a game. It’s not a question of who has the moral higher ground. It is a very serious, physical and long-term fight against a movement that at the moment is growing bigger and stronger. Putting yourself at life risk so you can blog about it afterwards to tell a handful of readers that fascism is actually a danger (which your readers already knew) – that’s not going to stop fascism.

We need to be in greater numbers than the fascists in order to kick them off our streets. Until about five years ago, antifascists have succeeded in keeping nazi and fascist groups small by mobilizing the people against them, blocking their demonstrations and beating them off the streets. But times are changing: the classical antifa strategies don’t work nearly as well as they used to and fascists are gaining ground in a lot of ways. We need to change our ways of antifascist organizing if we want to succeed in destroying fascism. We need to organize among the people who are the primary target of fascists and we need to realize this is a long-term thing. And some of us need to start getting real about what the goal is: is it taking a moral high ground or crushing fascism?