There’s this meme I’ve seen going around about punching nazi’s. Some use Captain America comics from world war two, others explain it from the antifa punk side, and the rest are more general arguments in favour of using violence against fascists.
I’m a pacifist. Well mostly, I don’t have the absolute conviction of some pacifists. I feel that violence can become necessary, but it’s something we shouldn’t celebrate. Hurting and killing people over ideas is never good. At best it can be an unavoidable better option than being passive. So I’m not going to claim an absolute argument against “punching a nazi” but I definitely think people are making a mistake in arguing in favour of it. Here’s three reasons
You’re not good at Violence:
Violence is an easy option because it’s simple. It doesn’t require the nuance that dialogue does. The problem is that it doesn’t convince anyone of your point. The best you can do is silence your opposition. So if you advocate violence, realize that’s the end goal you’re seeking. And getting to the end is what I see as problematic. See, imagine this idea you have for a “Nazi”, try thinking of what their sensible response would be. It’s violence. Once you bring violence to the table, that is what will be passed back and forth. They will not respond with more talk, they will fight back. And what you now have to ask yourself is, are you prepared to win that fight? The vast majority of the ‘progressive’ movement are people who prefer talking to fighting. The punk/antifa groups are the exception but I’ve seen way more people not associated with them arguing for it. These people are good at talking. The fascists are the ones more likely to be good at violent intimidation. So if you bring violence, you’ve helped them. You’ve made it easier for them to win.
Captain America was fighting a war:
All these memes showing the Captain fighting Nazi’s; it’s war propaganda. We have a general agreement that it was a justified war. I’m not arguing against that. What I want to point out is that by sharing these, you’re advocating war. Few of us have directly experienced the tragedy that is a war. We experience it through books and movies and games. These are notoriously bad for glorifying war and glossing over the horrendous acts. Acts committed by both sides; the allies killed many, many civilians in their bombing raids. Some would argue they were all necessary to win the war. Some would argue against it. Either way, people in charge of the war were deciding to kill innocent people. That’s never good. When you forget that, that’s when you lose your soul.
Furthermore, what many are forgetting is that Nazi Germany was a country. You can effectively wage war on a country. The fascist groups we’re opposing are not foreign nations, they’re internal groups of people. If you use world war two as your shining example, realize you’re advocating for civil war. That’s an even uglier situation, more brutal and tragic than a standard war. The death toll and damage to your country would be catastrophic.
Talk to people who’ve survived these wars, ask them if it’s worth it. If you don’t, you may have more blood on your hands than you want; your opponents, your allies and all the bystanders caught between you.
Why are you listening to Hitler?
The worst meme I’ve seen is this quote, attributed to Hitler, about the rise of the Nazi party: “Only one thing could have stopped our movement – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
On researching this, I found the original version of the quote too: “Only one danger could have jeopardised this development – if our adversaries had understood its principle, established a clear understanding of our ideas, and not offered any resistance. Or, alternatively, if they had from the first day annihilated with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.”
The larger context was that he believed they could have been stopped with violence OR if they hadn’t been attacked in a mild fashion. They were hurt mildly and that allowed them to grow, to feel they were being persecuted. So with full context, no, Hitler wasn’t telling you to cheer on petty violence.
But really, I don’t want to engage in this.
I don’t give a fuck what Hitler thought. Why do you think it’s a good idea to listen to Hitler? At what point did you decide violent sociopaths were full of good advice?
Understanding ones enemies will help you defeat them. That is not the same as taking their opinions as fact. He was a violent sociopath. He believed he could have been stopped through violence. Of course he said that! To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Violent people believe in violence. Don’t become them. Don’t quote their stupidity.
Stop quoting Hitler.
A final note.
Bayard Rustin was a gay, african american on the forefront of the the civil rights movement. He was also pacifist during world war 2. He protested the internment of japanese citizens and he went to jail for refusing to fight the nazis. That man was incredibly brave. We need pacifists like him.