“We have to really confront people on understanding that you have to step out of normal channels to stop this fascism.”
Coco Das and Sarah Roark of RefuseFascism.org Editorial Board, interviewed by Samantha Goldman, May 8.
Also see: Drinks at Sobibor: Will We Remain Us?
Transcript of this excerpt
Samantha Goldman: I would like both your thoughts on: You see [Trump] shredding the norms. You see him attacking people that disagree with him. And then anyone who’s loyal to him gets defended. You see these clear signs of a fascist regime, whether it’s the attacks on rule of law; the continuation of “lock her up” – Who “her” is changes but the sentiment stays the same; attacks on his opponents; the unprecedented attacks on whole sections of people. The Christian fascists in the judiciary. The anti-science. All of that. And, then, people still will say “Well we got November.” I don’t know if people don’t get or are willfully denying that once this gets consolidated, this being fascism, it closes off the ability for anyone inside or outside the halls of power to challenge or stop them. I would like to hear your thoughts on you how we help people confront this and act accordingly? How do we take on this fascist denial?
Sarah Roark: Coco, your engine is running, you go first.
Coco Das: First I want to say that there’s an article also on our home page that was originally from revcom.us, called Fascism-Denialism Is as Dangerous — and Unscientific — as Climate Denialism: Part One. It’s a very important read. Yeah, there does come a point where it becomes too late to actually stop millions of people from being harmed once the regime consolidates power. We are sort of in a race for time. So, it is really important that we confront people on understanding that you have to step out of normal channels to stop this fascism.
Exactly on the lines that Sam was talking about, yesterday I was listening to – I don’t mean to pick on him because I really like this podcast – Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan. He was interviewing somebody (Nicole Hemmer). They had a really rich discussion. They used the word fascistic, and talked about how Trump might not step down if he loses the election. I was listening really closely where he asked two questions and there was a crucial question he did not ask. I’m starting to think this a big part of where this fascism denialism lies and how we need to break through to the other side. The two questions he asked were what should the media be doing, because the media has been complicit, right? And his other question was what should the Democrats do … even after saying there wasn’t that much that the Democrats could do. The question that he did not ask was what should we do?
And it just really struck me that a lot of this denialism is to get out of that question, what do we do? What should we do? And instead looking for the savior in these norms that are being shredded. Those same people who are urging us to take the normal channels are being demonized. I mean, I got a tweet saying that the Democrats are demon-crats, right? The extreme end of this base, which is very activated, actually believes that the opposition is possessed by demons.
CD: So, this is just going to go away through an election? I think that is one way that I think we have to take on the fascism denialism, just constantly saying what are you going to do about this?
Sarah, you raised this point that what we allow is not what we just what we condone, it’s what we become. You’re becoming somebody by waiting for November. Is that the person you want to become?
And I think we do have to help people follow their own logic. I’ve been listening to this Deconstructed podcast for a while and he’s come a long way to even say that this is fascistic. But now, OK, follow your logic to the next step.
I also want to throw this out there … you have fascism denial from the fascists themselves. They’ll say “you’re the fascist.” They’ll call you names and stuff. I sort of think when that happens, like on Twitter, or if you’re out in the street you’re answering them it’s for the audience right? (You’re not going to convince the fascists that they’re fascists.) You answer for people who get confused when fascists say the Democrats are being fascist because they’re shutting down the economy. You have to answer that, not for them because you’re not going to convince them, but for the people that are listening.
But then there’s all the denialism among the people who really are on the side of humanity and are stuck in a line of thinking that is actually taking them down a road to complicity. So I was wondering if you have any thoughts on how you handle that or what you think. Have you had any epiphanies lately (laughs)?
SR: (Laughs). Not completely new epiphanies. I see the process continuing, it’s been continuing, which is why I wrote that Drinks at Sobibor: Will We Remain Us? piece, which was really about the fact that you can become something that you didn’t mean. The other book recommendation I would like to make is They Thought They Were Free 1933-45, by Milton Mayer. This is just post-war. He was a Jewish scholar who went to Germany and befriended these various guys who had been in the Nazi party, some of them because they were Nazis, some because they didn’t want to get shot. They didn’t know he was Jewish, he didn’t volunteer the information, so he got really quite intimate conversations and confessions from these men. And one of them who was an engineer and very thoughtful gave an important explanation. Because everybody at that time after the war was asking how this happened … Germans are not apes, they’re not savages so how did this all become possible in a civilized country? In fact, it was one of the countries which was considered one of friendliest countries for Jews, and sexual minorities and other people. And he said well you know it doesn’t just happen in one step. You don’t go from step A to step B. It comes in stages and if you didn’t resist in Stage B then why should you resist in stage C. And if you didn’t do anything in stage C, then what’s one more stage? And then suddenly one day you’re hearing your small child say “death to Jew swine,” and you realize that you’ve allowed this monstrosity to happen right under your nose. I’m paraphrasing. But that was basically what he said.
What he said was that you can become somebody you didn’t intend to be by your inaction and by remaining in an environment that’s becoming more and more poisonous and not questioning it, and not resisting it. And that was why he counted himself as guilty even though his joining the Nazi party was just to keep his job. So, I found that very powerful and that’s, I think, what a lot of the denialism is about.
I’ve been at presentations where people have straight up said to me – if you pin them down, they will say this – well the problem is if I agreed with you that it was fascism then I would have to do something about it. Then I would need to do something radical about it. And I’m like, okay! So you just reasoned backwards from your desired conclusion, you don’t want to do that so it must not be fascism. That’s not okay!
And there I will agree with Bob Avakian. By the way, I do want to put in the caveat for folks watching that I am not personally a communist of any kind, including an RCP communist. There are points on which I don’t agree with Bob Avakian, especially as a sort of mainstreamish Democrat. Sometimes his criticisms of the [Democratic] Party are fair, sometimes they are not. But I would encourage people, even in my sector of politics – which was considered wild and out there in the 90s and is no longer considered out there, it’s very mainstream now – open your mind and listen to people whose ideologies are different from yours. If their base principles are where they need to be, that humanity is human; that all humans are humanity; that humanity has to come first; the planet has to survive; science is a thing, you know, these basic principles, if they’re there for them, and Bob Avakian is there for those principles, listen to what he has to say. You don’t have to agree with all of it but the reason that he is quoted in some of these materials is that he has a point. And one of those points he makes is that you can’t reason backwards from what you wanted to do anyway to what the facts are. You don’t get to do that. The facts have to be what the facts are and you have to proceed from them. You don’t get to make them up. You get your own opinions but you don’t get your own facts, as the proverb says.
CD: I think this is really important and I think we will probably have to end on this. We don’t have to agree on everything, but if you agree that the future of humanity and the planet is worth saving, and that this regime is a blocking issue for anything good that any of us want, then join us, and let’s make a united front under this demand: Trump/Pence Must Go!
CD: And we can argue it out in the streets as we’re working non-violently, or we can virtually right now, but join us. And really let’s dig into what it is that is holding people back, and how do we help, with our arms wide open, welcome them into this really just cause that is historic. With that I just want to say I love talking to you Sarah. We need to do this more often. And I’m going to pass it back to Samantha.
SR: Always, Coco.
SG: I don’t want to add any more words, that was a really important way to end this. I just want to add let’s continue this discussion, let’s share this “Live.” Continue to share it, continue to discuss with your friends and family and neighbors what was brought up in this Live, and what is in the Refuse Fascism Statement and Call to Act. Go to RefuseFascism.org. Read it, share it, sign it and donate to make it a force in the world. Refuse fascism.Org, you can donate there. And Venmo: Refuse-Fascism. We need to stay save, not silent. Trump / Pence…
SR and CD: OUT NOW!