The Contradiction of Anti-fascism

I am an atheist and a socialist. My disbelief in God offends people. My socialist views are widely believed to desire the enslavement of humanity and are blamed for the deaths of tens of millions of people in the twentieth century. There are people who find my views too offensive and dangerous to tolerate. Should I be censored?

If radical and extremist opinions are criminalized, then the state will have license to target atheists and socialists for repression, as they have in decades past. If it is widely accepted that dangerous opinions justify violence, then socialists and communists are at greater risk for violence, state and popular. If I assemble with others and publicly proclaim my politics, then anticommunists can say that my identity, my opinion, my presence, provoked the attack on my person, that I am to blame for their violent actions against me, that their actions are just.

It is absurd to argue that people understand the threat of fascism but see the good of socialism and draw a distinction. Don’t deceived yourself. That distinction does not exist in popular thought. Even if it were supposed to be otherwise, fascists may reasonably ask why their views are being suppressed while the views of socialists and communists are permitted an audience with understood immunity from violence. The moral character of communism will be viewed in relative terms, or in terms that uphold the status quo. Communism will be depicted—as it already is—as yet another dangerous ideology to be suppressed, by law or by force. This is why, in some states around the world, those that sacrifice their civil liberties, all “totalitarian” and “extremists” symbols are restricted. And don’t you anarchists think they won’t come after you.

Free speech and assembly is what allows me to meet and discuss politics with my comrades. It’s why I can write this post with a sense of a degree of safety. It’s why any of you can say what you want say.

The ideals of free thought and assembly to one side, it is of immediate practical interest to me, as an atheist, as a socialist, that the fascist’s right to assembly and free speech is protected and that the brand of anti-fascist ideology that seeks criminalization of fascism and advocates violence against fascists be marginalized. Those who argue for the suppression of speech and thought, fascist or anti-fascist, are, at the very least, equally dangerous to human freedom, however the ideology is dressed morally, because they undermine the grounds for free exchange of ideas and opinion. Anti-fascists who do not seek to suppress speech and assembly, who do not advocate violence against those expressing their opinions are not a threat to my interests.

There are two types of anti-fascists. There are the authoritarian types and there are libertarian types. I used to proudly proclaim my anti-fascism. But I have become cautious as the distinction between authoritarianism and libertarianism among those claiming antifascist politics is collapsing. For those of you who advocate aggressive violence, you imperil my freedom. But you also imperil your own freedom and the freedom of those you claim to defend.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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