Please note - a number of the pictures included below may be upsetting. Don't scroll if you don't want to go there.
Wedding rings taken from couples arriving at Buchenwald concentration Camp.
A chapter on tackling extremism from inside the Resist activists' booklet. The focus is on Nazism, the 'Alt Right' and Neo-Nazism, but radicalisation and extremism occur at either end of the political spectrum and sometimes in-between.
The F Word
Fascists, Nazis and Alt Right are a few now familiar terms attached to supporters of far right totalitarianism. Those involved sometimes claim the three are unrelated due to isolated differences of detail or policy. In reality the ‘thinking’, the prejudices and the bulk of the hateful policies all fit well under the same authoritarian label of fascism.
Fascists, (such as those found in 20th Century Nazism, Spain and Abyssinia, or in the United States in the early 21st Century), agitate for racial supremacy, racism, forced labour and genocide as matters of policy. In Nazi Germany they slaughtered the Socialists.
To compare the hate politics of fascism to those described by fascists as ‘the Left’ or the recently invented ‘Alt-Left’ is absurd. People protecting Human Rights, calling for Fair Pay or protesting cuts to education are the type of people who worked to deliver most of the human and civic rights many benefit from. Employment rights, holidays, pensions and universal health care are what ‘the Left’ campaign for. To try to bundle ‘the Left’ or all ‘liberals’ as violent agitators is to mark yourself as at best ill-informed.
The emptiness of fascist ideology can be laid bare on many levels, as it essentially involves becoming servile and brutalised. One example of the internal contradictions involved sees fascists continue to use the very employment rights, holiday entitlements, pensions and universal healthcare they seek to tear down.
Prisoner at Jasenovac Concentration Camp having his head sawed off.
If you are assaulted by Nazis or other extremists under any normal circumstances you can protect yourself using the minimum force necessary. Beyond that lashing out in retaliation, matching extremist aggression or turning vigilante takes us right back in the direction of becoming locked into conflict.
The White Rose Movement’s rebellion inside Nazi Germany (1942-1943) began when people started to received pamphlets in the mail, which were then copied and distributed around Germany. At the same time graffiti began to appear on buildings and across roads, using large lettering to calling for an end to the regime and for freedom.
The mainly young resistance fighters faced torture, concentration camps and/ or death, but still refused to resort to violence. Instead they called for determined passive resistance:
Clearly, despite the regime and the extreme risks, the White Rose Movement was settled on non-violent protest. We can to try to understand why they thought that way by considering how close they were to the obscene injustices they fought against. Under such circumstances they more than most would, perhaps, have been aware of the loss of authentic resistance involved in rushing to adopt the aggressive tactics of the dictatorship they challenged.
Alternatively, we can look to the words of Sophie Scholl to gain some insight to the reasons behind a commitment to a resistance made more of passion and determination than of reprisal and opportunism:
Perhaps a couple more quotes may put across why passive activism was considered the only route available:
Put another way, whatever else was in the minds of the White Rose Movement it appears being in such close proximity to the terrors of totalitarianism did not encourage them to endorse or carry out violence. Sabotage against the Nazi war effort is proposed and under the circumstances this is hardly surprising, but this was to be conducted as a passive resistance.
One of the Sonderkommando photographs showing atrocities at Auschwicz.
Sabotage is a very broad term applied to situations from sabotaging a career through to destroying a bridge. In the extreme circumstances of Nazi Germany industrial sabotage certainly seems justified in terms of the nature of the regime and the impacts of the war effort.
Nevertheless, most forms of damaging or disruptive sabotage have the potential to either run out of control or to be easily brought under control. And, ultimately, as acts of disruption if not destruction, feed into the standard antagonistic interplay fostering only division.
Consequently, while a display or demonstration can make less of an immediate splash than a more dramatic act of direct defiance, a piece of street art with a bold, thought-provoking message is much more likely to step outside the adversarial and to be remembered or thought remarkable to all concerned.
Nazi Policies Check
Does your party or group agree with any of these Nazi policies?
- Funding largely from the very wealthy.
- Setting up camps for the indefinite detention of minorities.
- Rejecting any genuine freedom of speech and spying on the population.
- Brutalising disabled people.
- Making young people join military organisations.
- Basing the whole education system on micromanaged over-regulation.
- Basing the economy on militarisation and forced labour.
- Keeping state registers of minority groups and ethnic communities.
- Launching unprovoked military invasions and supporting dictatorships in other countries.
- Returning women ‘to the home’ and conditioning them for inequality.
- Normalising aggression, abuse and personal attacks as political weapons.
Does your party or group back anti-Nazi policies?
- Concentrating spending on education, health and transport.
- Prioritising early education.
- Employing sensible immigration to boost aging populations.
- Looking to work with those of different opinions.
- Encouraging businesses to pay employees a genuinely Living Wage.
- Inviting more women and young people to take part in politics.
- Speaking out against war and weapons of mass destruction.
- Supporting broadly appealing sensible legislation.
- Seeking legislation against domestic violence.
- Working in close economic and social co-operation with other nations.
But I’m Not a Racist or A Fascist
If you vote or voted for the parties of the extreme right in the US or any of Britain’s nations, I do understand the sense of frustration against the system as it is. And I get the need for change.
What I cannot understand is why you would believe that doubling down on inequality could help to solve anyone’s problems. And why you would get up and go to the trouble of voting for anyone who boasts about violent assault on women, taunts the disabled or hates on child refugees.
The fact of the matter is the far right candidates’ racism and aggression weren’t deal breakers for you. Somehow you told yourself attacking the poor and the disadvantaged would let you ‘take back control’ - in return for discarding democracy and pursuing freedom.
So don’t tell me to mend fences when you mean normalise bullying. And don’t tell me elections fought on lies and racism are democratic, simply because you claim to have ‘won’.
But do feel ashamed for the consequences of your actions. For the lives lost and the wasted opportunities resulting from choosing to support white supremacists and misogynists.
Perhaps the worst part of all this is the way you’ve discarded the high values and principles you so often talk about, and torpedoed your kids’ futures, for nothing you can actually point to.
If conflict is in the air and threats are being made face-to-face it can be tempting to default to outright opposition towards those who are escalating the situation. You can escalate along the route they’ve taken and largely dispense with the issues and even politics, which become subordinate to the breakdown in whatever relations may be there. Alternatively, you can escalate your protection and ingenuity in dispersing and tackling hostility. For example:
- Become quick and effective at reporting, recording and escaping incidents, including knowing routes out when you go in.
- Let extremist troublemakers know they are being logged and recorded.
- Get hold of protective clothing and a personal alarm.
- If you feel you have to break something don’t pick a person.
- Inform, talk and co-operate with legitimate law enforcement.
- Meet hostility with f2f Like Attacks in the form of a ‘gift’; qualifying statement identifying common ground; or a positive performance put to political ‘opponents’.
- Meet online hostility with decorative Like Attacks, e.g. put positive memes and counter-narratives into negative feeds or hold a solutions-focused discussion on a negative page.
- Opt for banners and tops carrying messages instead of insults.
- Share snacks, photos and greetings across lines when possible.
- Train to get out of trouble, e.g. Parkour or Judo.
- Use performance and music to change the atmosphere/ uplift.
- Use technology to track and share awareness of how a situation is developing.
Resist is a personal handbook for activists seeking to combat extremism and realise social change. The book draws on experience of using peaceful, but determined, resistance to win support for change.
If you can help out by backing the project, any funds are solely for the 500 Pages project and suggestions on what you'd like to see getting done are most welcome. The list of completed pages is here.