Thursday January 14th, 2021
We need to strategically eliminate fascism, not engage in hollow calls for peace.
By War Resisters League
For 97 years, War Resisters League has worked diligently to resist all wars at home and abroad through resisting the root causes of war: racism, sexism, and all forms of exploitation. Throughout the decades, we have worked with the knowledge that the majority of white people do not recognize the war at home. Time and time again, we have seen centrist and liberal white people react with surprise at white supremacist attacks that have “sprung up,”— but in reality this country has never adequately addressed its foundation of racism. The most recent iteration of this began on the night Donald Trump was declared the winner of the 2016 presidential election and continues to this day in the face of a growing, rageful, and organized fascist right wing, white supremacist movement actively working to instigate a civil war and most recently organizing an insurrection at the U.S. capitol in an effort to retain Donald Trump for an illegitimate second term.
Today, the right wing are openly organizing and attacking the political gains made by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) organizers at the frontlines of racial and economic justice, as well as attacking any sort of attempts to keep fascism at bay— such as the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election. In response, centrist and liberal media commentators, along with some organizations are calling for “peace” without a deeper analysis of the root causes of right wing fascism at play. In particular, this is where we diverge from other organizations who use the language of nonviolence to pursue a hollow vision of peace without the commitment to justice. These are acts of conflict avoidance masquerading as conflict resolution, and create a vacuum for the right wing to continue organizing.
Last Wednesday, the world watched as right wing fascists, after months of promising to “Stop the Steal,” stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing Congress into hiding and occupying their offices while brandishing weapons before being escorted out of the building. Many have noted the stark contrast in police treatment between white supremacists and Black Lives Matter protests, which academic Zoe Samudzi points out is both heartbreaking and rage inducing but also consistent with the logic of white supremacy. Many considered the insurrection attempt a success and we expect to see more right wing violence leading up to inauguration. There are armed rallies planned at state capitols across all fifty states.
Elements of the right wing have been murmuring about a civil war since the U.S. Civil War was lost (a common slogan being “the South will rise again”), insisting Robert E. Lee and other confederate servicemen are heroes and view the confederacy as inherent to their identity and “way of life.” White supremacists’ call for war is more visible at times, in reaction to feeling threatened by Black and Indigenous communities organizing for their own rights. The Confederate Flag reappeared after World War II, as did the re-emergence of the KKK, with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. Recently this call for a civil war gained wider momentum after the rise of Trumpism and particularly since the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017. We need to be clear this war has been going on for a long time, and we are not going to end the war without dealing with the root causes.
In mainstream conversation, “peace” is often thought of as the “opposite of violence,” although it is more nuanced than that: revolutionary nonviolence is the opposite of violence, and peace is only achieved through social, racial, and economic justice. “Peace” is also thought of as the absence of conflict, but this is also misleading: there will always be conflict in society. It’s by constantly confronting and engaging with conflict using strategic revolutionary nonviolence that we draw society closer to a more healed, disarmed place. Without a sense of this in mainstream culture, it’s easy for anyone, especially the state, to use the language of “peace” to skirt the issues of violence and create confusion among the general population.
What are strategic responses to right wing violence at this stage of the game? While the calls from progressive, BIPOC lawmakers for impeachment and expelling members of Congress who support the “stolen election” narrative are politically expedient, this alone won’t address the root causes of the issue at hand. White supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, Boogaloos, Oath Keepers, and League of the South recruit from police and military sources. Where they recruit, we must counter-recruit. War Resisters League has resources available on counter recruitment of police, military, and border patrol that individuals and organizations can use in their work against white supremacy and militarization. We can buckle down and commit to dismantling white supremacy, including: challenging ideas that “this is not who we are.” Militarized white supremacy is who we are. A major way that we are connected to it is through paying taxes, the majority of which go to fund the military. War Tax Resistance is one tactic we have to resist this. And last, it’s imperative we dig in for the long haul, alongside frontline activists who have been working on resisting white supremacy for decades. WRL believes that change happens through the implementation of revolutionary nonviolence, and we have tools for groups to analyze, plan and prepare for strategic nonviolent campaigns focused on the removal of all causes of war.
We cannot know peace before we know justice, therefore those who are invested in peace and unity must face the conflict we are seeing head-on, work to dismantle white supremacy and our destructive capitalist system, and build power around the frontline movements seeking self-determination for Black and Indigenous communities.