Commentary | Smashing NAZIs

Antifa and free speech

On November 24, Nazis from across Quebec are planning a demonstration somewhere between Montreal and Quebec City. The exact location of the demonstration will not be released until the night of the 23rd – a means of security against the Nazis’ ‘ideological opponents.’ Ideally, the precautions taken by the Nazis will not have been unnecessary.

The demonstration is being planned by La Fédération des Québécois de Souche and La Légion Nationale, both of which are known neo-Nazi organizations. Maxime Fiset, the supposed leader of La Fédération des Québécois de Souche, pleaded guilty to charges of hate propaganda and possession of a prohibited weapon in 2008. Patrick Grenier, one of the alleged co-founders of La Légion Nationale, has been spotted giving the fascist salute and wearing shirts with Nazi symbols.  The behaviour of Fiset and Grenier reflect upon the behaviour of both groups as a whole, as they are quite open about their sympathies with Nazism and fascism.

Last year, on November 26, organizations in Quebec such as La Fédération des Québécois de Souche led a demonstration mirroring the one planned for this year. The group of approximately thirty neo-Nazis who participated in the demonstration were pelted by bottles and rocks thrown by anti-fascists who had organized a counter demonstration. The mainstream media, such as the CBC, La Presse, and Radio Canada, widely described the demonstrations as being held by peaceful “independence groups” and claimed they were attacked for unknown reasons.

Though I cannot speak for the anti-fascist protesters at least year’s demonstration, I would like to offer the mainstream media some possible reasons for their counter demonstration. I also offer these reasons as a justification for another, hopefully stronger, counter demonstration this year, which I hope you will attend.

Essentially, any effort from neo-Nazis or fascists to enter the public sphere must be smashed. Some will argue that we should simply ignore Nazis, as they only desire attention. This does not seem to be the case. Most Nazi political activity takes place privately, because Nazis know that they are extremely unpopular amongst the general public. Any sort of public displays organized by Nazis are usually done in order to show potential and current recruits that they hold some sort of power, or that their views are legitimate.

By combating public displays from Nazis, we make it clear that their politics are neither acceptable nor safe in our communities. Our methods of combat can vary. In Edmonton earlier this year, angry anti-fascists and local families alike chased down a small group of neo-Nazis; in Athens, squads of anti-fascists on motorcycles patrol the city at night, attacking Golden Dawn members, thereby helping to protect immigrants from attacks.

Of course, some will claim that the best way to refute Nazis is to refute their ideology academically. Certainly we can combat Nazis ideologically through articles such as this one, but this will do little to stop Nazism. Nazi recruits are often taken in because of a desire for power or belonging, not because of the intellectual merits of bonehead thugs. By ensuring that belonging to a Nazi group means belonging to a group despised and attacked by the rest of society, we will likely see a reduction in Nazi recruits.

There is also the issue of free speech. Certain free speech extremists will insist that free speech only means anything if you extend it to the views of all those you do not like. Nazis are a different case. We have no institutional power to control the literature they publish in print and on the internet. We have no judicial power to determine when their speech becomes hate speech. We also have no police power to determine when their demonstrations become illegal. All of these means of fighting Nazism are possible, but the power to realize them is largely out of our hands.

Yet we do have the power to decide that we will not tolerate Nazis regardless of their legal standing, for example, we can disrupt demonstrations such as the one on November 24. Some will state that, ‘I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ If we defend Nazis’ supposed right to free speech for too long, our death may come at their hands. This is not fear mongering or exaggeration, as it happens across the world often.

Neo-Nazis may not be as powerful here as they are in Europe, but they are still responsible for numerous violent hate crimes. To give just one example, in 2008, two neo-Nazis in Montreal attacked a group of Arabic youths and a black taxi driver with knives and fists, leaving one victim with gashes on their head requiring over fifty stitches. As such, though most racism occurs in day to day institutionalized forms, we cannot downplay the threat of direct violence.

Therefore, I call for you to show neo-Nazis that they are not welcome anywhere in Quebec: join the anti-fascist march on November 24. To receive updates on the details of the march, check out the Facho Watch website closer to the date.

Davide Mastracci is a U2 History and Political Science student. He can be reached at davide.mastracci@mail.mcgill.ca.


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