Charles' support for the antiracism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Wed Apr 21 13:06:45 PDT 1999

>>> Jim heartfield <jim at> 04/21/99 02:41PM >>>

In this characteristic broadside, Charles demands more powers for the very state that is at the moment bombing Yugoslavia (which he rightly condemns).


Chas.: I thought Jim H. ( or some other left libertarian)would come up with this ultra-left line, so I have been thinking out my response. Actually it was Professor Herbert Aptheker who first pointed out to me that the type of argument that Jim is making is ultra-leftist. (See Aptheker's argument for outlawing fascistic racist speech in "Racism, Fascism and Human Rights" in _Racism, Imperialism and Peace_ Marxist Educational Publcations, 1987). Jim's approach is ultra-leftist because it reduces to this: the left should never struggle for legal goals, for afterall , all legal changes are changes in the bourgeois state. So by this logic, the Left would have no legal or reformist demands in its program. Extreme opposition to reformism is an earmark of ultra-leftism. My proposal would not give MORE powers to the state that is bombing Iraq. The U.S. state together with the private corporations already have the sufficient power to effectively repress left speech, as in McCarthyism. One understands this when one takes a concrete rather than abstract approach to this problem, looking at the actual history of the U.S. First Amendment.This state has already curtailed left freedoms at critical points and never suppressed racist "freedoms".

The ultra-left nature of Jim H's logic can be seen by the fact that in protesting the wars on Iraq and Yugoslavia, we are attempting to influence the conduct of an imperialist, bourgeois state. If all effort to influence that state were futile , our war protest would be futile. Attempting to get the state to stop doing something is no different logically than trying to get to do something.

By Jim's logic, we wouldn't struggle for civil rights laws of any kind - to protect from discrimination women, gays, people of color, etc.- because we would supposedly be trying to get laws that give "more power" and authority for the state, the entity which enforces such civil rights laws.

One wonders if Jim would have opposed the Abolitionists' demands to outlaw slavery because it would give more power to the police and the authorities.


Jim If the American state apparatus is given control over free speech, how will it use this right? To defend working people, and minorities? Or to suppress its own critics.

Chas.: As I say, the U.S. state apparatus already has control over free speech, civil libertarian self-congratulation to the contrary notwithstanding. The actual history of the First Amendment in the U.S. is that the state has repressed left speech and allowed the fascistic racists to thrive. The U.S. state/hegmonic culture already very successfully suppresses its own critics through police force and private corporate job discrimination . Denial of the ability to make a living is as effective in suppressing speech as the use of state force. This latter point is always ignored by tunnel visioned civil libertarians.

This proposal , like a Constitutional Amendment for a right to a job, are as part of a communist program. They presume a period of working class strength to get them passed in the first place, but we can't wait for the sea change in the balance of class forces before we develop our basic programmatic points. In that context, the working class and left will be actually contesting the state power.


Jim: Charles seems to be unaware that it is precisely in terms of suppressing 'hate speech' that the US military is bombing Yugoslav television stations. It is in the name of suppressing 'hate speech' that the US troops tried to silence radio transmitters in Mogadishu during operation restore Hope. In Bosnia today, OSCE officers regularly bar Serb candidates from standing for local elections on the grounds that they employ 'hate speech'. Making similar claims, the UN has censored Serb television in Bosnia.

Chas.:I could parse the analogy between U.S. free speech history and demogogy and U.S. bombing Yugo tv demogogy, but it gets too farfetched. The situation in Yugoslavia does not support arguments tolerating fascistic racist speech and organization in the U.S. The U.S. government is not trying to end hate speech by its bombing Yugoslavia anymore than it is trying to stop hate speech in the U.S.

))))))))))))))))))))) Jim: Charles, I guess, hopes that it will be the people that define what hate speech is. But that presupposes that the people are sufficiently well- organised to pressure the capitalist state to act on their behalf. But when the people are that well-organised they won't need to act through the medium of the capitalist state, but will be able to take matters into their own hands.

Chas.: Yes, see above. Of course I am "hoping and presupposing that people (will be) sufficiently well-organised to pressure the state to act on their behalf." If that is never going to happen, then I might as well give up being a radical , don't you think ? Every reform struggle presumes this. When Marx wrote in favor of reducing the length of the work day, he proposed it as a reform of the bourgeois state. As I say above, a posture which rejects all reforms of the bourgeois state /private hegmons is ultra-leftist, "super "revolutionism. A mature revolutionary program has reforms and revolutionary demands both, adjusted to the concrete situation.

"Taking things into its own hands" is abstract ultra-leftism. I could just as much as Jim start mocking his every post by saying that "Jim hopes and presupposes that the people will take things into their own hands." Jim's whole program presumes the British state will leave people alone and let them take things into their own hands. Why on earth would the British state do that ?

And by the way, when they do take things into their own hands, what will they do with "things" ? If they don't have a program, they won't have a clue what to do. It is our job to suggest that they outlaw fascistic racism and make the right ot a job a fundamental right, etc. And we can't wait until they take things into their own hands to think through the program. (((((((((((((((((((((((((

Jim: In the meantime, demanding more powers for the police and the authorities will only succeed in arming the very people that are out to crush us.

Chas.: In the mean time before what ? Before people take things into their own hands ? Yes, Jim , what is your proposal for in the mean time ? That we sit on our hands ? That we run around meticulously doing nothing in relationship to the state ? What exactly does your in the mean time practice consist ?

Those "very people" are already saturated with "arms". Getting them more arms and power would be , in chemistry analogy, adding more solute to a saturated solution. They already have the power to suppress our politically effective speech ( as opposed to babble that doesn't hurt them but is used to demonstrate how "democratic and free" America is. ). They can have their cake and eat it too: communists are technically legal, but effectively silenced. We have nothing real to lose.

Charles Brown

In message <s71db642.040 at>, Charles Brown <CharlesB at> writes

>The tolerance of genocidal fascist organization and culture
>chills all of the civil liberties and rights of the target groups of genocidal
>fascists, who serve as privatized members of the repressive apparatus of the
>capitalsit regime. The civil libertarian freedom of speech absolutists are not
>concerned about these civil liberties and rights. For them the freedom of speech
>is a higher civil liberty and right than freedom from organization of genocidal
>and homophobic murder and terror. Fortunately, there is the possibility of
>outlawing fascistic racism without a new McCarth!
>yism. But if that were the price, are we certain we shouldn't pay
>ideological priority of the struggle against advocacy and oraganization fo
>racist and homophobic murder and terror.
>Outlaw the KKK and Nazis !

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