thread themes on outlawing fascistic racist speech

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Thu Oct 29 13:53:15 PST 1998

>>> "Nathan Newman" <nathan.newman at> 10/29 3:25 PM >>>

-----Original Message----- From: Charles Brown <CharlesB at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>
> It is common
>knowledge among activists
>that the ACLU does not
>place as much emphasis on the struggle
>against racism as civil liberties issues.

Hmm...the "American Civil Liberities Union" places its top priority on civil liberties? What a shocker. _________

Charles: Let's see this is sarcasm. So, you mean it is not surprising that they concentrate on civil liberties. But I didn't claim that it was surprising or a "shocker". I was pointing out a commonly known fact that tended to support what I was saying. I support civil liberties too, but the point here is that the ACLU has an ideology that gvies higher priority to free speech than freedom from racism. And when the two come into conflict as on the issue we are debating. the ACLU, logically gives priority to free speech. __________ To note a group places its top priority in one area is a very different factor from saying they "do little" in other areas - especially when many people consider the protection of civil liberties key to civil rights, especially given the continual attempts by the government to silence civil rights and antiracism activists. __________ Charles: Of course they wouldn't have to do little about fascistic racists, because some conceptions of free speech don't have to endorse free speech for fascistic racists. But in fact, I have observed that they are not there on the front line with us anti-racists. You refer again to their INDIRECT struggle against racism. But that's "relatively little" given the obligation that arises from their analysis that fascistic racist speech should be allowed but countered.

Also, government efforts to silence civil rights and anti-racists is a mixed thing. Most of it is indirect. There are no laws outlawing anti-racist speech. So, the ACLU doesn't do much of this. I have no recall of the ACLU defending the Black Panthers from government attack , for example.

Sure there's some connection between defense of civil liberties and civil rights, but it's attentuated compared to DIRECT struggle for civil rights and against racism. How many Black people do you know who consider the ACLU an important anti-racist organization ? _______

But then this tautology is followed by: ________ Charles: Just to keep you logically straight, whatever tautology you think I am using ( The "Civil Liberties Union" emphasizes civil liberties , I suppose is what you are referring to) I don't commit any logical fallacy. I am using the "tautology" to demonstrate an obvious fact, which is a logical way to use a "tautology".

You haven't given any evidence of the ACLU doing any hellafied direct anti-racist work to refute my claim that they do little anti-racist work, but mainly free speech work.

I said:

>I would venture to say that within the pool of free speech absolutists is
>a dramatically higher percentage of people who confront racists and
>fascists on a routine basis.
________ Charles: "It is not dramatically higher than the militiant anti-racist activists."

The ACLU's commitment to anti-racism is not dramatically higher than "militant anti-racist activists"? Again, militant anti-racist activists by definition should have a higher commitment to such than anyone else (although we can argue about whether the ACLU better serves such struggles than many of those who so self-identify). ______________

Charles: I supplied a comparative for your "higher than" grammatical construction. When you say "higher than" you have to say "higher than SOMETHING" . Higher than what ? You supply it.

But to repeat why I say the ACLU has an obligation to be "real high up" in anti-racist work, it is because their paradigm is that fascistic racist speech should be allowed AND COUNTERED. IF that is there paradigm , then they have an obligation to do more DIRECT and vigorous anti-racist work than someone who doesn't have there paradigm. ____________

>Charles: [The ACLU] don't fight
>fascistic racism directly
>as their position of
>allowing the speech would
>imply. If the way to defeat
>fascistic racists is to allow
>them to speak and then battle
>their ideas, then the ACLU
>should not just defend anti-racists'
>rights to speak (which isn't
>even challenged much) , but
>to fight the racist ideas directly.

It depends. If you think fascists ideas are so naturally attractive that to hear them is to follow them, then the ACLU is not anti-fascist. But if you think fascism breeds in environments of authoritarian repression and closed ideas, then the fight for free speech is itself the most important battle against fascism. _____________ Charles: Anti-free speech and civil liberties is one aspect of fascism, but I would say fascism is the open terrorist rule of the most reacitonary bourgeoisie. I specifically use the term fascistic racists. Racism is just as important dimension of the KKK and Nazis. Anyway, no I don't think free speech and anti-authoritarianism are the essence of fascism; and so I don't think a mere civil liberties program is the most important battle against fascism. Racist ideas are critical with the KKK. On authoritarianism , you have libertarian racists, like some Militias. ___________

And the attempt to repress fascist speech itself becomes merely a model for fascism to follow when it attains majorities. _________

Charles: They already have the model. As if they are learning something new on that. ____________

- in fact, the -main purpose of defending the fascists/racists is to create an absolutist -space for the Left to defend its activites. ___________ Charles: Yes, the liberal Left fails to see that for members of target groups of the fascistic racists this is explicitly a statement that liberal left is more concerned with protecting the Left's activities than protecting the targets groups from the murders and the rest of the fascistic racists' activities.

Well, I have a broader view of the Left than you, including exactly the targetted groups you mention. ___________ Charles: The targetted groups are the masses of Black and other people of color, Jews, and Gays. These social masses are not "the Left". Sure we aim to persuade masses to be left, but they are not the left now. _____________

It is the first Amendment that protected Martin Luther King from repression in SULLIVAN and that protected the NAACP in the 1982 CLAIBORNE case I cited a few days ago. Racists don't need free speech to murder and repress a minority; it is precisely the minority that needs free speech to fight, boycott and demonstrate. ___________

Charles: But you can't pull the logical trick of trying to make it seem that I am against free speech for MLK, the NAACP or the Left. I am definitely and militantly for Free Speech for the Left.

Once again, what I noticed looking at the history of First Amendment jurisprudence was that there is no correlation between the fascistic racists' having protected speech and the Left having protected speech.


Charles: But the history of First Amendment jurisprudence shows that the Left has not been protected by the fact that the fascists' speech was protected . All of this period the KKK and Nazis were not put in jail or arrested. (The KKK had big marches in D.C. in the 20's at the same time that Communists were being jailed )

Damn right. Majorities were supporting the KKK and they did not need the First Amendment to march. _____________

Charles: Majorities ? Are you sure ? A large KKK membership doesn't mean that a majority supported the KKK. __________

The First Amendment was largely a dead letter for most of American history and only slowly during the 20th century did it take on much meaning, as unions, black activists and the Left pushed for a new meaning - filling the jails when necessary to force a new definition. _________ Charles: The fact that there were no Supreme Court decisions on Freedom of Speech does not cut against my argument here. Nor does the fact that it was the "Left" that fought for activation of the First Amendment.

The fact that they were filling the jails supports my thesis that the First Amendment has not protected the Left much in U.S. jurisprudence contrary propaganda about the great American freedoms. ____________

It is hardly an ironclad protection but compared to the beginning of this century (the Palmer Raids and other acts you cited), it is a major advance that is worth furiously defending. ________


Again , your implication that I am not 100 % for and part of this historical struggle free speech is false. But none of these historic strugglers were struggling for the rights of the KKK or fascistic racists to have freedom of speech.

I bet John Reed, a victim of the Palmer Raids , would oppose KKK freedom of speech.

I know the Abolitionists and John Brown would oppose freedom of speech for the KKK.

Free Speech is not an abstraction. It is , like all concepts used politically correctly,historically concrete. ________

>However, it was on this planet that
>the U.S. Supreme Court put the Communist
>Party leadership in jail despite the First Amendment
>at a time when KKK or Nazis were NOT being
>jailed or even arrested ( right after a world
>war with the Nazis).

Stuck a bit in the 1920s, aren't we? _________

Charles: Nope. I'm talking about U.S. v Dennis in the 1950's _________

And you ignore the same Supreme Court eventually ruled in favor of the Communists by the end of the 1950s. And as others have pointed out, it was the Communists support for the Smith Act that helped set their own prosecution. They hoped to use the state against their opponents, such as the Trotskyists, and found the weapon turned against them. _________ Charles: Eventually was too late. The Party was effectively destroyed. The bourgeoisie had their cake and could eat it too. They had effectively destroyed CP , yet they could claim that the U.S has "civil liberty". Also, the long history of no protection for Communists (see above ;you know the 1920's) has a chilling effect. It's like intermittent negative reinforcement as more effective than continuous. Communists were stigmatized as illegitmate, if not illega. Few people would take the risk. Given the off again on again protection , the court coudl swing back and take away the protection. You know Rehnquist and Scalia. Would you really bank on them not finding a way to take away 1st Amendment protection for Communists ? What planet are you on ?

I don't support everything the CP did as toward the Trotskyists. The Smith Act doesn't outlaw fascistic racists. It is written wrong.

Also, the Smith Act probably would have passed with or without CP support.

_________ By the way, the U.S. Supreme Court never found the Smith Act unconstitutional by the First Amendment. It is still valid law. It was a side technicality in application that was the basis for releasing the CP leadership

A lesson for those who think state repression can be used against fascists and not turn on anti-fascists. ___________

Charles: WW II was "state repression of fascists" . Would you have opposed demanding that the U.S. bourgeois state fight fascism ?

As a matter of fact and law the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and all of the civil rights laws are use of the state and state repression against fascists. Do you oppose those laws because the state might turn around and use those laws or others against anti-fascists and racists. And even more, the current Supreme Court has specifically used the 14th Amendment for racism in striking down affirmative action under the pernicious reverse discrimination doctrine.

Your conclusion about not making demands of the bourgeois state for progressive purposes because it is twofaced is ultra-leftist.

Charles Brown


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