Today at the first mass general assembly of the #occupyphoenix movement, neo-Nazi members of the National Socialist Movement showed up, armed and in their "Arizona Border Guard" militia fatigues, to counter protest. Sporting assault rifles, they posed flanked by dozens of cops. Recognizing key NSM organizers in their midst, several people confronted them and set about informing the generally ignorant crowd that before them stood actual fascists, armed to the teeth.
Ignorant liberals behaved in a variety of idiotic ways. Some contending that the Nazis were part of the 99% as well, if only confused. Others were actually intrigued by the word "socialist". "I kind of like socialism," one old lady said. Other confused liberals mistook the fascists for soldiers, forgetting their self-assumed pledge of non-violence (which apparently exempts the military as well) and posing their children for a cool shot with the army guys.
One liberal pacifist came up to confront people speaking loudly about the Nazis, telling them that the protest was supposed to be non-violent and that by using loud language we were being "violent". She made no such attempt to approach the Nazis, highlighting the deep contradictions and blindspots in the ideology of nonviolence as practiced by this movement, which so far has only deployed this ideology inwards to control participants rather than outwards towards the genuine threats.
This attitude towards the NSM scum played out, quite predictably, along racial lines, with whites being the only ones to express attitudes of tolerance towards them. This points to the continuing importance of addressing racism and the continual appeal and relevance of racial privileges within the movement. Indeed, we can expand this argument to the whole attitude of the bulk of the white movement towards the police. Experiencing policing in quite different ways than people of color in general, white middle class liberals mistake their own experience for that of others, and routinely attack anyone who questions the alleged 99% status of the police, or points out their quite obvious tendencies towards violent action, as violent themselves. To question the violence of the police is to be violent, according to this backwards analysis.
The presence of an armed fascist street-level opposition to our movement, in the form of the National Socialist Movement and it's "Arizona Border Guard" front group, is one major reason to reject dogmatic pacifism and poorly thought-out nonviolence. Instead, what we heard from protesters speaking during the general assembly were declarations of the most naive nonviolence imaginable. Arizona is a right wing state and the forces of reaction are huge and easily overwhelming if they want to be.
#Occupyphoenix organizers should not kid themselves about their numbers or power. This movement clearly has capability to attract large numbers, as evidenced by the several thousand that showed up today for the general assembly and will march later to set up camp at Margaret T. Hance park. But we need to be honest about our political circumstances and the forces of reaction arrayed against us. Today is a reminder for those who are paying attention.
When the fascists finally departed, one man in a motorized wheel chair came up to me to ask me who they were. When I told him, a cheer went up from the crowd mocking the vacating Nazis. He looked at me and said, "They're gone, but don't mistake their absence for the absence of fascists in general." Standing behind him were the cops. Another lesson the #occupyphoenix movement has yet to learn.