Mutual Exchange Symposium: Freedom of Speech and Political Violence

Mutual Exchange is the Center for a Stateless Society’s effort to achieve mutual understanding through dialogue. As anarchists, we often try to make visible the myriad of state violence that usually goes unseen: the seemingly inexhaustible source of drone bombings, incarceration, police brutality, migrant detention, and the like, which terrorize individuals and their communities around the globe. Much of our discourse and collaboration is designed to address these issues and strategize ways to directly combat the state. However, as we move forward with the Trump Presidency and an increasingly public and normalized white supremacy in the form of historic ICE raids, Nazi marches, and everything in between, more and more people are recognizing long-standing problems that can’t be reduced to violence on the part of the state alone. Right now, increasingly fed-up people are simply looking for a way to fight back. This change in the American political climate, which harkens back to the more openly violent and divisive 1960s, demands the Center’s attention and urges new debates and explorations surrounding the anarchist response to an authoritarian culture and the increasing organizing of neonazi groups.

It is with that feeling of necessity that we at the Center want to provide a space for various activists, theorists, organizers, and writers to openly discuss the much heated debates surrounding freedom of speech and political violence currently dominating not just anarchist discussions, but the national political conversation as a whole. But unlike the national conversation, we at the Center, as anarchists interested in knowledge-yielding mutual exchange of practical use, aren’t interested in tribal bickering, self-serving equivocation, “gotcha!” arguments, insults, and all the other popular “devalue and dismiss” perversions of political discourse. The contributors to this symposium are expected to really exchange, which means genuinely putting one’s ideas out there and treating your interlocutor and their ideas with the same honesty you hope they treat you and yours with.

Anarchists are, by definition, anti-fascist. They oppose all forms of fascism just as they oppose all forms of statism, domination, and oppression. What’s left to be settled, however, is what our anti-fascist commitment entails in practice. What should our theoretical debates surrounding the nature and danger of fascist ideas imply for our practical strategies for creating the new, anti-fascist world in the shell of the old, fascist one?

More specifically, we need to understand just what fascism is and how it spreads. We need to know why fascism has any appeal at all and how to stem that appeal. We need to see how concepts like freedom of speech figure into anarchist praxis. We need to discuss what free speech is. We need to explore what constitutes mere speech and assembly and what constitutes intentionality and violence. We need to differentiate between self-defense and aggression. We need to seriously interrogate the morality and efficacy of different kinds of political violence. Most importantly, we need internally consistent ethical and strategic insights into replacing fascist ideas with anarchist ones. Failing to clarify these issues could cost us, not only our souls, but any fighting chance for anarchy left in this fragile world.

Throughout the month of November, we will hear from various individuals about the above issues. The Center has hope that a straightforward conversation around these imminently relevant problems can help anarchists in their goals here and now. We leave it to the reader to appraise the diverse perspectives presented in the symposium that follows and individually judge their own appropriate course of action.

Before the exchange kicks off, here are some preliminary texts and resources on the subject matter:

Histories of antifa, fascist entryism, and antifascist responses:

A Brief But Very Informative History of How Fascists Infiltrated Punk and Metal

The Public Face of Antifa

Antifa Worldwide: A Brief History of International Antifascism

Who are the antifa?

        Anarchists Are Killing Neo-Nazis in Greece

Arguments from antifascist activists on strategy:

Rose City Antifa: Frequently Asked Questions

On Fascism

The Divorce of Thought From Deed

After Gainesville, There Are No Excuses Left

Militant Anti-Fascism (book)

Perspectives critical of some mainstream antifascist tactics:

The Seductive Appeal of the Nazi Exception 

        On Punching Nazis

        Violence Will Only Hurt the Trump Resistance 

        Thinking Strategically About Free Speech and Violence 

Mixed or outside perspectives on antifascist activism:

Not Your Grandfather’s Antifascism

Punching Natsees (video)

Diverse discourse on free speech more broadly:

Freedom of Speech SEP Entry

Students vs. The State: The True History of the Free Speech Movement

Safe Spaces, Academic Freedom, and the University as a Complex Association

“Human Rights” As Property Rights

The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America

Does the Left Hate Free Speech? (Part One) (video)

Does the Left Hate Free Speech? (Part Two) (video)

Weaponized Sacredness

        On the Paradox of Tolerance

        America At The End of All Hypotheticals

        Should an Armed Nazi Horde Be Permitted to Invade Your Town?

Previously at C4SS:

Responding to Fascist Organizing 

Radical Liberalism: The Soul of Libertarianism

Our Wildly Different Diagnoses Of “Liberalism”

        Debunking the White Ethno-State

        Against the Pull of Simplicity & Disconnect 

        Understanding Richard Spencer’s Holodomor Denial

        Don’t Extend Gang Classification, Abolish It

        Reclaiming the Anti-Fascist Roots of Libertarianism

The Mutual Exchange

  1. Antifa as the Truest Defenders of Free Speech – William Gillis
  2. Holding Our Ground: A Critique of the Ethics & Strategy of Violence Against Fascist Assembly – Jason Lee Byas
  3. Free Speech Dreams and Fascist Memes – Emmi Bevensee

Mutual Exchange is C4SS’s goal in two senses: We favor a society rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and we seek to foster understanding through ongoing dialogue. Mutual Exchange will provide opportunities for conversation about issues that matter to C4SS’s audience.

Online symposiums will include essays by a diverse range of writers presenting and debating their views on a variety of interrelated and overlapping topics, tied together by the overarching monthly theme. C4SS is extremely interested in feedback from our readers. Suggestions and comments are enthusiastically encouraged. If you’re interested in proposing topics and/or authors for our program to pursue, or if you’re interested in participating yourself, please email C4SS’s Mutual Exchange Coordinator, Cory Massimino, at cory.massimino@c4ss.org.

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