"ON AUGUST 11TH 2017, A LARGE CONGLOMERATION OF RIGHT-WING GROUPS DESCENDED UPON THE SMALL CITY OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA..."
CHARLOTTESVILLE: LOOKING BACK ON AMERICAN POLITICAL VIOLENCE AS A CAUTIONARY TALE
PUBLISHED: 9th August, 2018 | By MATT MARSHALL
It has been almost a year. On August 11th 2017, a large conglomeration of right-wing groups descended upon the small city of Charlottesville, Virginia. They did a torch lit march that night through the University of Virginia’s campus that chased away a small group of counter-protesters. The next morning the real rally began at Emancipation Park. Almost immediately it descended into violence as leftist counter-protesters began attacking the “Unite the Right” rally and the attendees began fighting back. By 11:00 am, it was a state of emergency and police “intervened”. In reality, the fight simply spilled out into the rest of the city where the unfortunate incident with James Fields and Heather Heyer occurred. By the next day, the news was ablaze.
I am not going to go into the convoluted mess of lawsuits and the complex trial of James Fields, nor am I going to examine the events that took place on the ground. I am many things, but not a journalist nor a scholar of law. There are a number of good articles by people who were actually at the event, and there is the official police report online. I am instead going to take this article to do some personal reflection and draw a number of historical parallels.
I remember watching a live stream of the torch lit march and marvelling at the spectacle of it all. Truth be told, I had been far more excited by the earlier “Battle of Berkley” where the left had been inescapably defeated and humiliated. Yet as I watched a pack of twenty or so proglodytes flee from over a hundred torch-bearing nationalists, I didn’t think the next day would be anything resembling a “victory” for the left. The next day I got the news in bits and pieces, it wasn’t until late that evening that I heard all the facts and what all had happened set in. Over the next week, media and people I knew personally entertained me by screeching never-endingly about “evil Nazis”. I wrote an op-ed that I never put out about the importance of optics, fighting in formation, not trusting the authorities, overconfidence and not holding large rallies in public places. I was furious because I thought the 2020 election had just been handed to the democrats. Looking back now, I see that a lot of my comments were armchair general tier. I still think the decision to hold the rally was a mistake and many of my critiques are perhaps valid, but something like this was going to happen sooner or later. In fact the main thing that comes back to me is how worse this could have gone.
The United States of America has a long history of political street violence, being an increasingly diverse nation born in revolution. Before the 18th Century was even over there had been a number of quite large tax revolts and of course for decades after independence there were slave uprisings and race riots, sometimes targeting white abolitionists. There were also battles between nativists and Irish and German immigrants, often reflecting religious tensions as well as competition for jobs. In 1845, however an entirely new form of political violence unseen since the Revolution was seen in “Bleeding Kansas”. From that year until the American Civil War, anti-slavery whites and pro-slavery whites fought a ruthless campaign for ideological control of the State. Pro-slavery settlers were hacked to death with swords at Potawatomie, while anti-slavery settlers were rounded up and shot at the Marias des Cygnes massacre. At the Battle of Osawatomie, hundreds of pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” ransacked an abolitionist-friendly town after driving off its defenders. Before the first shots in the Civil War had even been fired, a riot between pro-Confederates and Unionist militia broke out in Baltimore. During Reconstruction, ex-Confederate hardliners battled the Union Leagues in a proxy war by the Southern Democrats and Northern Republicans. Those trying to preserve as much of the Antebellum South as possible found implacable opponents in the radical reformers who were trying to change it into something new.
As any politically observant person will know at this point, the white-black division in the States has never gone away and probably never will. But by the 1930s, the divisions between North and South, Catholic and Protestant, and the conflicts with Irish and German immigrants had begun to subside. A new spectre had already arisen in the Railroad Strikes of 1877, as Marxist-inspired class warfare had come to the United States. Armed strikers fought state militiamen in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, and Illinois. In 1886 during a labour strike, anarchists threw a bomb at and opened fire on police. Throughout the 1890’s and into the 20th Century there were a number of strikes and riots throughout the United States. While some of these were isolated cases of bad management provoking worker’s ire, some others had clearly socialist inspiration and featured the waving of red flags and chanting of left-wing slogans. Local police or military crushed most of these incidences, but members of the American Legion put down the 1919 Armistice Day Riot. In 1949 at Cortland Manor in New York, Second World War veterans attacked a concert by black leftist singer Paul Robeson, accusing him of communist sympathies.
At this point I know a lot of people will be thinking “Cool history lesson professor, but what does all this #$%^ have to do with Charlottesville?” Hold on, because I am just getting there. There are two points to this long list. The first is to look up nearly any of these incidents and compare the body counts and property damage with Charlottesville. Both sides in Charlottesville got off extremely easily compared to their predecessors. The second is to notice several clear divisions between the pre-1960s and post-1960s political violence. Before the 1960s, police and strikebreakers had clear public support for opposing any socialist, anarchist, or Marxist inspired strikes. Likewise Southern communities often shielded their own militants during the many bloody battles of reconstruction, while Union Leagues found themselves operating in hostile territory. But due to the “Long March through the Institutions” and the rise of neo-Marxism in the late 1960s, never again would anyone deemed “far-right” enjoy the same public support. When police and military clamped down on student protests in the late sixties, the press often publicly denounced them. When New York City construction workers routed leftist student protesters in 1970, their own mayor denounced them. If they had been routing industrial strikers in the 1920s, the construction workers would have been given medals. This phenomenon became even more apparent as the 20th century ground on. While violent radicals had been previously routed in nearly every episode of civil disturbance prior to the sixties and reactionary violence had often been encouraged as the proper response to it, a new precedent had now been set. Now police would still combat left-wing violence, but it would be a deeply unpopular thing to do and the perpetrators would often be lionized, while any right-wing violence would be immediately demonized. Following this pattern, the 1979 Greensboro shootout between Klansmen/American Nazi Party members and Communist Worker’s Party members is remembered as one-sided “fascist terrorism”, despite both sides being documented as planning violence beforehand and bringing firearms. The attacks on far-right skinheads in Portland in the early 1990s by their far-left opponents received very little coverage, despite the latter managed to literally cleanse the former form the city. The more recent violence surrounding Trump protests, Sacramento and Berkeley all share the same themes. Police inaction, polite tut-tuts towards the far left and nothing but venomous contempt for the far right. It doesn’t matter who actually wins the fights, because we all know who wins the war of hearts and minds.
The naiveté of some American nationalists approaching Charlottesville and in its aftermath is noticeable. Talking to some of the people who saw their friends shot and clubbed in the vicious political gang wars of Portland might clear up some of their misconceptions. The tables have turned since the days when Marxists waving red flags would simply be routed by trigger-happy Irish cops. Everyday white Americans who voted for Trump are demonized as devotees of “literally Hitler”. Actual white nationalists are complete scum as far as massive swathes of 2018 America are concerned, you deserve any violence coming to you, and any violence you enact in return will be deemed an atrocity worthy of the front page. I realize that I will get many a comment here accusing this article of defeatism, optics-cucking, and telling you what you already know. But that is not my intention. My intention is to tell you to study people who might have been your historical enemies. You are now the Union Leagues and northern abolitionists. You are the socialist strikers. You are the early black power movement, before they gained widespread acceptance. You are operating in enemy territory and you need to realize how deadly serious this can get. Never surrender and defend yourselves as you must but also do not go to war unprepared for the consequences. We have had many white pills already and more are on the way, in many ways we are winning. But one black pill we certainly took on August 12th last year is that we will not have any public sympathy as soon as the fists start flying. Accept that, keep a cool head, and achieve victory.
FOR A NEW FASCISM IS THE SECOND FULL LENGTH DOCUMENTARY FILM BY RICHARD HEATHEN AND LIBERTY MACHINE NEWS
IF YOU ENJOY OUR CONTENT AND WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE. SIMPLY DONATE THE PRICE OF A PINT, CHEERS.