Socialism or Barbarism

by Matt Lester/Guest

My political awareness is shaped by what happened to my Grandfather. Of course, there are other things. But it is high on the list. It filters my world-view. Growing up in Germany during the rise of the Nazis, fleeing to a Jewish community in Shanghai, China only after Kristallnacht, changing his last name from Lewkowicz to Lester – all this drove home the point early on that politics and war happen to you whether you care or not. If you don’t pay attention to where the wind blows, it could knock you on your ass.

I’m not suggesting responsibility or guilt for what happened on the victims. I am, however, suggesting blame on moderates and those actively indifferent to the victims. My grandfather shared that people didn’t take the Nazis seriously early on. People that only care when Niemöller’s progression of victims has gone too far are part of the problem:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Recently I have seen people post comments like, “People wondered how Hitler rose to power; now with Trump I wonder if people will ask the same of us.” Some variation of that. Their lesser of evil voting and indifference to social and ecological problems and war has permitted the rise of right wing extremism. That attitude has let shit hit the fan. That’s how. People are being good Germans.

Anarchists, Marxists, radicals, and leftists have been noting for quite a while that across the country there is a rising interest and mobilization in white supremacy, neo-Nazi, hate groups. That’s usually what happens when economic crises and inequality and unending emotional and psychological costs of war wear upon people. They choose between the left or right. The light or the dark side.

Trump is just the logical political extension of that. He licked his finger and gauged the wind. Unlike the moderates and the indifferent he demonstrated political acumen.

White supremacy is inextricably linked with U.S. capitalism and imperialism. People are shocked by Trump’s rhetoric, but really Trump is essentially calling for an end to the spectacle and an embrace and intensification of what is already going on. When Trump attacks Muslims, he is doing it after years and years of Orientalism saturating movies, TV shows, books, and music. When Trump attacks Mexicans, he’s doing it when Obama detains people in cages and deports record numbers of undocumented people fleeing violence and poverty the U.S. has historically and recently helped create. When Trump kicks black people out of his events, he uses the police that can trace their organizational ancestry to slave catchers and slave patrols.

Seeds germinate in fertile soil. The U.S. political economy is the fertile soil. The seeds of fascism easily get all the nourishment they need. They have the support of the police, they have the support of an unequal, hopeless economy, and now with Trump they have political legitimacy. You’re horrified by what’s coming up, but you’re missing the roots. Just like Hitler, Trump didn’t create these conditions. It doesn’t absolve him from his actions. It just means you have to address the conditions that make fascism appealing. That’s the real way to Dump all the Trumps.

What are you moderates, you indifferent going to do beyond voting for Clinton? The neo-Nazis, KKK, and other white supremacists are just getting started. They are once again becoming political agents.

I’d prefer we start taking this shit seriously, fight and win. I don’t want to see my grandfather’s escape be in vain. Let’s build something beautiful.


Matt Lester is an activist and organizer based in Olympia, Washington.

Categories: Activism, Election 2016, Guest

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