Pretty In Punk
On several occasions over the past 18 months I wanted to write about a certain topic and found that no social media platform offered a way for me to do so that wouldn't bore or overwhelm the average follower. The website relaunch became the opportune moment for me to incorporate a blog that would help facilitate longer pieces of prose, where I could elaborate on Instagram captions and such for those who were interested.
Today I start by elaborating on yesterday's Instagram post that would undoubtedly have raised some questions from activists and pacifists alike; and for the sake of continuity I include the original caption below:
As someone who is FAR left I often feel compelled to talk (and write) at length about political issues. For the most part I now avoid doing that on social media as it's a cesspool of trolls and I'm not interested in debating the semantics of [insert issue] with "devil's advocates". I make an exception today because I want to remind people of something that's often overlooked in the hours and days after an extremely shocking or violent event. Take care, not only of yourself but also your wider community. Reach out to those who are most vulnerable, emotionally and physically, and check how they are coping. Can you do anything to better help or support them? Can you do anything to build a stronger and more resistant community? Can you keep yourself and family or friends safer?
The knee jerk reaction, one of retaliation, is often the worst and ignores the very real fact that you put yourself and your community in greater danger by doing so. If we are to look at the fascist and racist attacks in the USA for example, advocating for "punching your local nazi" does nothing to fight these systemic problems. If you were to indeed punch a neo-nazi, and I highly doubt any of the people advocating for this actually would, you need to be prepared for their entire group to come looking for you or someone close to you for vengeance. I learnt this from the most hard-core German antifascist I know, by the way, who told me time and time again that my need to retaliate was both reckless and selfish.
I could elaborate on this, and perhaps I will on the blog, but for now I just say: your anger is valid - it is a real and completely understandable reaction given the circumstances - but please use it wisely.
As I now sit down to write this I am fearful I won't be able to cover all of the nuances to activism in a clear and concise way - in fact I know I can't, so bear with me if I "oversimplify" things...
When it comes to activism there are two broad groups of individuals: there are those who are directly affected by [insert issue] and there are their comrades (aka. allies). As an animal liberation activist I am a comrade to non-human animals; as an anti-racist activist I am a comrade to all people of colour; but as a non-binary trans activist I am fighting for my life. There is, therefore, a huge difference in the way I can, and do, approach such issues.
The post cited above was directed at anti-fascist and anti-racist activists who are not directly affected by the core violence, so if you are someone who is directly affected you can disregard what I am about to say.
1. Don't Make It Personal
If the issue doesn't affect you personally, don't make it personal. Yes, an attack against one is an attack against all; however an attack against a white anti-racist activist is not the same as an act of violence against a person of colour. It is our job to be present, to stand in solidarity, to support the community, but it is not our job to make it about us. The same is true for every single instance of violence against the privileged vs. violence against the oppressed.
2. Centre The Survivors
Who are the most vulnerable members of your immediate and wider community? Check in with them, offer them your assistance and support, but please, ask nothing of them. Violence causes untold trauma to those directly affected by it, and these individuals live their entire lives burdened by prejudice and oppression, so do not burden them further with your demands for a call to action. When they are ready, listen to and take lead from them. Elevate their voices, share their stories, validate their experiences. Be mindful not to centre articles, art and other such media by privileged people - in doing so you only perpetuate the very problem you are trying to tackle. Again, be present, stand in solidarity and support the community.
3. Know The Enemy
If you want to be an anti-fascist and anti-racist activist you need to know who you are up against. I do not, of course, mean that you should get to know them personally - in fact, I explicitly ask that you do not put yourself in danger by doing so - instead, learn everything you can without befriending them. Is there a core group? Who are they? How many? Where do they frequent? How do they enact their violence? The questions are infinite, but only by knowing these details can you effectively and efficiently fight them (physically or otherwise). Educate yourself, there is no substitute.
4. Communicate With Your Community
If you aren't already doing so, communicate with those around you about these ongoing issues and what's happening on a local or national level. How can you help raise awareness? How can you help establish preventative measures? Can you ask local organisations to ban certain individuals from premises so as to make spaces safer? Can you create a core anti-fascist area where fascists will know they are not welcome? There are endless ways in which each community can be made stronger and more resistant so do not limit yourself only to the above suggestions; and remember: centre the survivors.
5. Utilise Your Privilege
There is a reason why the vast majority of anti-fascist activists in the western global north are white: we have the privilege of being able to fight fascists because we aren't already burdened by the above mentioned trauma. Can you help your community by forming a local anti-fascist group that acts as the first line of defence? If so, what is the goal and how can you continually achieve it? What have been effective (and ineffective) tactics of the past? If you need to, do more research! There are 365 days in a year and the fascists aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so do you individually or collectively have the energy, resources and time to make this work? Such questions aren't meant to deter the budding anti-fascist activist, but to remind you that this is something to be taken seriously and it does require commitment.
6. Be Informed. Understand the Consequences. Be Accountable.
As per number 3. there is no point engaging in activism if you don't know what you are doing, why and what the possible consequences are. In fact, it isn't simply pointless (for lack of effectiveness) it is reckless and thoughtless. If you are to incite people punching their local Nazi are you aware of what the repercussions will be? Is there a 30, 40 or 50 strong group of local neo-Nazis that are going to hunt this person down and kill or seriously injure them? IT. DOES. HAPPEN. Do you risk violent backlash against the wider community? Do you risk bricks or Molotov cocktails being thrown through the windows of people's homes? Do you understand the potential fall out and will you hold yourself accountable if the violence escalates and further impacts local people of colour, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers? Some things simply aren't worth the risk involved. Some things are, but be mindful not to encourage others to take a risk that you wouldn't yourself. If someone is prepared to take a risk make sure that they are making a fully informed decision. The budding anti-fascist activist who is currently fuelled by fire may make a grievous mistake if ill-informed, and could burn out just as fast if not surrounded by a safe and strong community.
7. Familiarise Yourself With Security Culture
If you are an activist of any sort, learning about security culture is an absolute must. Using the above example, do you know how to get home from an anti-fascist action without inadvertently leading the fascists to your door? They are everywhere and organise meticulously - do not assume that if the person you punched didn't follow you that you aren't being followed. Do you know how to get home without leading the police to your door? Remember: CCTV. Police don't need to chase you down the street or in a vehicle to monitor your actions. Also, the police are far more likely to arrest and imprison the anti-fascist activist than the neo-Nazi. If you are posting on the internet, especially when inciting some form of action, are you taking measures to remain anonymous? Are you aware of state or federal laws on incitement and how they may impact you? It has become harder and harder to remain anonymous and avoid being monitored by government agencies, but that does not mean that we should give up altogether.
8. Play The Long Game
Don't forget that these struggles pre-date our existence and may continue long after we are gone. If not directly affected by something we always have the privilege to walk away - that is not to say that we should - so be careful not to make a mess that will inevitably need to be cleaned up by those directly affected by the core violence. Disrupting the status quo, shining a light on the violence, and refusing to be complicit in it should never make the situation worse for those already affected. Communicating on a regular basis with your community is the only way to minimise the risk of this happening. If your actions or that of another individual make the situation worse, stop.
Be smart. Stay sharp.
Love and rage,