Whose side are you on?

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Pyotr Tchaikovsky
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Jun 17 2012 10:36
Whose side are you on?

I've been observing a weird discussion on an even weirder site called revleft. It's about the youtube racist bitch attacking immigrants on a train. Some 'leftists' are crying foul over the jail sentence handed to her ... all in the name of free speech. For these leftists, free speech for a racist bitch is more important than an immigrant's right not to get harassed in public. I suspect real life leftists are no different from these revlefters.

So lefties ... whose side are you really on? As a nonwhite, it seems like I could trust a right-wing cop/establishment before I could trust a leftist, who in all probability would side with this woman rather than sympathize with me.

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A Wotsit
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Jun 17 2012 13:46

I think this is an interesting (and tricky) one, not sure I can do it justice...

I'm certainly not on the racist's side. I despise racists. I do not think abuse and harassment should be tolerated in the name of free speech. She should shut the fuck up. But I am not on the side of letting the state decide what we can and can't say and enforce punishments. I wouldn't rally to her defence, nor would I justify the state's response.

It's best to confront racists, and if anyone felt compelled to go to the police as a result of harassment (unable to deal with it themselves or rely on the support of others) I would not judge or criticise that. I think the guy who filmed it was right to shame her publicly, but I long for a society where people stand up for each other and put a stop to anti-social behaviour themselves rather than relying on the organs of state oppression to do it for them.

If the other passengers had united against her and stopped her harassment then I would have been in favour of that. Whether that be drowning her out and then forcing her to get off the train at the wrong stop. Even if they'd pulled the emergency alarm and kicked her off between stops and then putting up her picture locally with a warning and making the video available online. I know that's wishful thinking as most people trust the police on some level and don't trust the strangers around them to take action at times like this, but do we really want more people to see prison as the answer to society's ills?

Some people are extremely anti-social and should have their behaviour modified by social pressure or coercion, but arguing in favour of the state's role in mediating social relationships is not good I reckon. Especially since the 'justice' system itself is racist as well as classist and oppressive at it's core.

I also see the point that sometimes because that is where the power lies, at a practical level some people do feel they need state intervention when they suffer as a result of someone else's actions.

I don't really give a fuck if she goes to prison but I'm not going to celebrate it either. It does raise some really difficult questions about the role of the state in promoting social behaviour and the danger of reinforcing the notion that the police and courts are somehow our most effective way to act against racists, when I'd argue the system itself is racist and fundamentally oppresses the entire working class.

Not her side, not the state's side. Erm, can I be on the side of the passengers and the working class as a whole?

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plasmatelly
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Jun 17 2012 14:57

Well, free speech is one thing, abusing people in a threatening way is another.
She has a right to the former and not the latter. People who can't work out the difference are usually found on Revleft. Good luck Pyotr!

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Uncreative
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Jun 17 2012 15:59
Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote:
I suspect real life leftists are no different from these revlefters.

Why?

andy g
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Jun 17 2012 18:01

not really that hard - any leftie worth their salt would have confronted the woman at the time. I have in similar situations and so have others I know. TBH if you're gonna engage in baseless "i'd prefer a racist cop to you" stuff you need to know (a) it's very offensive and (b) you should be quiet

crwydryny
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Jun 17 2012 21:02

the problem is society tends to have the mentality of not getting involved. I've seen people just walk past people who are being harrased or attacked in public without so much as a sidewards glance.

people tend to be brought up with the mentality that it's not their job to help someone who needs help, but instead rely on a cop or someone else to deal with it.
there is also the problem of comforming to society, the largest chunk of the public for one reason or another fears drawing atention to themselves by doing something that causes them to stand out or doing something wrong and looking foolish around others, even when they want to help... it's the reason that when there's an accident you'll have 10 people standing around gawking at it until one person steps forward and takes charge of the situation.

yourmum
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Jun 18 2012 08:14

if someone feels insulted by a woman sprouting nonsense thats their own problem not mine. i suspect you are the biggest leftie here weighing bourgeois rights against each other, thank you very much.

andy g
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Jun 18 2012 08:17

so communists have no obligation to challenge racism, yourmum. hmmm - tend to think the history of the workers' movement suggests otherwise

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antifaoz
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Jun 18 2012 08:28

antifa = anti-racism simple eh?

yourmum
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Jun 18 2012 09:35

nobody suggested to challenge her racism yet. we've heard free speech vs non-discrimination, giving the woman a fine for her racist remarks or calling on the right to free speach. both bourgeois bullshit. if you want to challenge her racism by contradicting her premises id like that. if you want to challenge her racism by beating her with a stick, telling her to shut the fuck up or giving her a money fine i wont stand in your way but i wont judge it challenging of racism in any way.

andy g
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Jun 18 2012 10:21

yourmum - actually I did suggest challenging her....

as for bourgeois bullshit - I don't think anyone here is in a position to impose a money fine so that's a bit of a not-so-red-herring. personally, if a judge has seen fit to jail or fine her I'm not going to shed any tears. this doesn't constitute endorsement of the state and I don't look to the judiciary or police to solve the problem of racism.

of course her premises needed to be challenged but frankly if the abuse didn't stop then she did need to be told to STFU and yes, that would have been valid anti-racist activity in my book

Pyotr Tchaikovsky
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Jun 18 2012 15:06

The bourgeois state intervened, taught the racist a lesson she'd never forget, thus sending a clear signal to other racist scum that their behavior would likewise be condemned. OTOH, leftists argue and argue and argue ... jeez, I wonder why nonwhites mistrust leftists.

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Uncreative
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Jun 18 2012 16:17
Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote:
The bourgeois state intervened, taught the racist a lesson she'd never forget, thus sending a clear signal to other racist scum that their behavior would likewise be condemned. OTOH, leftists argue and argue and argue ... jeez, I wonder why nonwhites mistrust leftists.

Id like to respond to this, but im still too worried about homophobia.

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A Wotsit
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Jun 18 2012 18:27

Pyotr,

I found your reply really disappointing. I had hoped you would at least reflect on, and respond to, the points we'd made.

At the risk of repeating myself...

I think (and I think most libcoms would agree) that:

- racism should not be tolerated; firm action must be taken against racists, including coercive action if necessary, to protect others from harassment.

- the state is never going to solve racism, and it's role in mediating social behaviour is negative, even if it does (very) occasionally lock up someone we don't like.

- we should not call for her release or protest the sentence, nor should we defend what she said on the grounds of free speech.

The reason I responded in the first place is that we do want to understand why non-white people are underrepresented in libertarian communist organisations. If you can offer any real insight into why this might be the case that would be appreciated.

Your only advice so far seems to be 'don't defend racism in the name of free speech'. Well, we never did and never would.

Just in case you don’t realise this already (which you probably do after 2 years as a registered user on this site)- We are not the same as revleft. We are libertarian communists.

I'm not sure it's true that the majority of 'non-whites mistrust leftists' any more so than the majority of whites do.

Last I checked most of the non-white people I know (which is a good number, if not a statistically significant sample) have very similar liberal politics (with smatterings of radical stuff thrown in) to most of the white people I know- and both equally misunderstand what 'libcom' is.

My own view is that non-whites are massively underrepresented in political organisations, including in the more radical groups, because of subtle (and not so subtle) processes of discrimination and exclusion which are not specific to the left.

I firmly doubt it’s as simple as there being perception amongst non-whites in particular that ‘lefites can't be trusted' but rather 'political organisations are not to be trusted'.

It's coming accross like you trust the state more than you trust us, but surely you realise that the state does not want to end racism? The state and the ruling class pretty much invented racism as we know it and uses it as one of many 'divide and rule' tactics.

Libcoms want to end racism. We never ever tolerate it or protect it in the name of free speech.

If you can shed any light on what point you're making that I'm not getting that would be much appreciated.

Just to say one last time:

We want to end racism, we do not tolerate it or protect it in the name of free speech. Let her stay in jail (edit: until after or during the revolution, when we will find better ways of dealing with racists).

What beef do you have with us (not lefties in general, but specifically libertarian communists)?

vanilla.ice.baby
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Jun 18 2012 20:00

Pyotr is not on here to learn what Libertarian Communists think that is surely obvious by now.

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Uncreative
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Jun 18 2012 22:09
vanilla.ice.baby wrote:
Pyotr is not on here to learn what Libertarian Communists think that is surely obvious by now.

Maybe its obvious to those of you who dont spend all your time worrying about homophobia.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky
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Jun 19 2012 14:16
stateless_crow wrote:

What beef do you have with us (not lefties in general, but specifically libertarian communists)?

Not you, specifically, or even libcom, but lefties usually value abstract concepts more than they do actualities. For instance, workers' control of MoP. Yes, that's the goal, but in the meantime we may also consider lesser but still worthy goals such as increase in wages, reduction in working hours, strong unions, even a bit of social democracy and welfare schemes to ease the strain on workers. But no, leftists are adamant, all-or-nothing guys - it's either workers control or nothing at all. Even things that could benefit workers must be rejected because it's not pure communism. Reminds me of religious freaks. Enough said.

andy g
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Jun 19 2012 14:51

@Pyotr

nope - you must just be mixing with the wrong crowd.

for the record, I (and many others I am sure) am a member of a trade union, recently took strike action over "actualities", am involved in anti-racist and anti-fascist activity and much else. the last thing I am doing is ignoring immediate demands and waiting for the fully-formed communist paradise to descend from above

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Kureigo-San
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Jun 19 2012 15:32

I'm quite sure that state intervention on matters like this actually creates more racism, in the form of white people rolling out the 'political correctness' trope and all that silliness.

I'm not glad of her imprisonment at all - I'm just very disappointed people hold ideas like hers. There isn't much I can personally offer other than the assurance that I always confront racism.

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A Wotsit
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Jun 19 2012 17:53

Thanks for coming back on my question Pyotr. I'm glad that your comments weren't aimed at libcoms specifically because I don't think they apply to us at all.

All of the libcoms I've met seem to have a good understanding of why we need to tackle racism and many are actively involved in tackling it and I'd hope all libcoms would confront racism when they encounter it in their lives.

I'm sure some revolutionaries can overlook the importance of issues such as racism but I would hope that amongst libcoms this is only a tiny minority- and even if taking action against racism isn't seen as a priority for some, I'm confident that no one who is well-versed in libcom theory and practice would argue racism can or should be ignored.

Speaking personally, I have got involved in struggles that weren't specifically libertarian communist (though in line with our beliefs and priorities) including supporting newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers in the midst of a concerted anti-immigrant propaganda and harassment campaign (with racist overtones) orchestrated by the MSM, the right and the govt. Racist attacks were on the rise in the area I was living at the time which had a number of people arriving from Ethiopia and Eritrea- many of whom arrived extremely distressed only to be treated appallingly by the uk govt and a minority of local people- I won't go into that now and only mention it as a personal example of being involved in a struggle which was not overtly anarchist communist in nature (though we agree that there should be no borders or state persecution).

I am also involved in the sort of reformist/ defensive/ realistic here-and-now terms and conditions stuff you mention. I'm in a union and I do what I can to get involved in struggles to protect pensions and resist pay cuts. I wish we were in a position to fight for better wages and shorter hours at my workplace (and indeed start the revolution!) but I don't think we are at the moment, I doubt many people are, but we'd certainly like to help move things in that direction and not just sit around and wait for the revolution.

Personally it really bothers me that I don't know a single libcom who isn't white (edit- just remembered I do know one actually). I don't want to sound tokenistic but I think it is important that the ideas and methods libcoms advocate should appeal to and benefit all workers- we need more non-white people and we need more non-male people. We generally just need more comrades and libcom will be much stronger when it appeals to people regardless of their race, gender etc.

I'd urge you to keep reading the stuff on here and don't give up on libcom- I think you might agree with us more than you currently realise, and if you don't it's good to talk these things out.

Zeronowhere
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Jun 19 2012 20:58

So you went to an active leftist forum where just about anyone on the internet can and does sign up, and the fact that there happened to be a few people expressing a view which you disagreed with, despite the site as a whole generally tending towards the opposite extreme, was sufficient for you to make a widespread generalization about the state of 'the left' in an unsubtly provocative manner. This, of course, being coupled with an identification with an oppressed demographic on your part with implications of, 'You leftists don't understand us!'

I would reply, but I'm too busy experiencing deja vu to think about politics.

- A nonwhite.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky
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Jun 21 2012 08:05
stateless_crow wrote:
Thanks for coming back on my question Pyotr. I'm glad that your comments weren't aimed at libcoms specifically because I don't think they apply to us at all.

I have a better understanding of your politics now. But I still disagree that the state will do nothing to end discrimination. Yes, the state won't actively try to end it (it may be in its interests to keep workers divided), but that doesn't mean as leftists we shouldn't pressurize it to do so. Frankly, that's the only option left (aside from inaction and waxing lyrical on free speech), since left to ourselves we are too weak and powerless to stop racism. So why not manipulate the state into making some progressive changes?

My point is, leftists give this knee-jerk reaction every time they hear the word 'state.' They're so conditioned to believe that the state is evil that they're even willing to tolerate other evils like racism etc. as long as the state was kept out of it. This is plain silly, in my view.

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devoration1
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Jun 21 2012 16:46

There is a very large and organized left-leaning current in most places. If you want to lobby the state via "Reward Our Friends, Punish Our Enemies" Gompers-style political action, the apparatus to do so exists in the liberal, socialist, social democratic etc parties and organizations.

Attacks on the public sector in the US (I don't know about the UK and elsewhere) is largely an attack on black workers- talks of 'cadillac health care plans' and 'gold-plated pensions' are dog-whistle, racist politics.

Quote:
As tens of thousands of public sector workers in Wisconsin turn Madison into Tahrir Square, I’m nagged by a question: How much of the current demonization of public workers is racialized?

. . .

14.5 percent of all public sector workers in the nation are black, making the sector second only to health and education services as the most heavily black workforce. In all other sectors, black workers hover around or below 10 percent. Again, if you took out states with disproportionate white populations or even focused on states with budget crises, I bet you’d see an even greater disparity.

More than one in five black workers are employed in public administration, as are 23.3 percent of black women in the workforce. That compares to just under 17 percent of all white workers.

Black women in the public sector make significantly less than everyone else. Their median wage is $15.50 an hour; the sector’s median wage overall is $18.38. White men make $21.24.

http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/02/who_are_all_these_evil_public_workers_black_people.html

Yet the same state which has been freezing Federal workers wages, cutting hundreds of thousands of state jobs, enacting austerity at the county and municipal level, union busting, etc upholds legislation like the Civil Rights Act as doing their bit to end racism (including in the workplace).

Why is it hard to reconcile that some people on 'the left' oppose racism, sexism, xenophobia, but don't believe that tackling these and other issues through the state (legislation, electing different politicians) will bring about a global communist society?

Quote:
My point is, leftists give this knee-jerk reaction every time they hear the word 'state.' They're so conditioned to believe that the state is evil that they're even willing to tolerate other evils like racism etc. as long as the state was kept out of it. This is plain silly, in my view.

Who said they are willing to tolerate racism?

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A Wotsit
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Jun 22 2012 00:13

edit: bad tempered post removed will re-write later

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A Wotsit
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Jun 22 2012 01:49
Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote:
stateless_crow wrote:
Thanks for coming back on my question Pyotr. I'm glad that your comments weren't aimed at libcoms specifically because I don't think they apply to us at all.

I have a better understanding of your politics now. But I still disagree that the state will do nothing to end discrimination. Yes, the state won't actively try to end it (it may be in its interests to keep workers divided), but that doesn't mean as leftists we shouldn't pressurize it to do so. Frankly, that's the only option left (aside from inaction and waxing lyrical on free speech), since left to ourselves we are too weak and powerless to stop racism. So why not manipulate the state into making some progressive changes?

My point is, leftists give this knee-jerk reaction every time they hear the word 'state.' They're so conditioned to believe that the state is evil that they're even willing to tolerate other evils like racism etc. as long as the state was kept out of it. This is plain silly, in my view.

We do not tolerate racism. We do not use free speech as an excuse to defend racists. I think I mentioned that already a lot.

So you think we should pressurise the state to take action to end racism ?somehow? and we should apply this pressure in some as yet unspecified way which is different to taking action against it through our own organising efforts in our own communities and workplaces which we know to be effective in some cases at least (despite us being so 'powerless').

I mentioned, for example I was active in supporting refugees previously, which included directly defending them against the effects of racist government policies- the key one being 'dispersal' which meant bussing newly arrived asylum seekers coming into the city off to remote towns where they knew no one just to avoid too many foreigners settling in one area, and so appease local racists, and at the same time provide physical proof of the 'immigration problem' mentioned so much in the tabloid press to people in areas outside of the main urban centres where multiculturalism is now generally the norm. Also, not allowing asylum seekers to work (while still giving people the impression lots of 'illegal' immigrants are coming over to steal their jobs) so that people can accuse them of being benefit scroungers too. This is all the state's doing. The state stokes up racism and treats people in a racist way and then it arrests someone for getting pissed and saying racist things.

What should I have done instead of resisting the dispersal and helping with the appeals process, helping them find cheap places to buy food and make sure they knew the price of things at the market and some basic english? Talking to their white neighbours about why these people had fled their home countries. Instead of taking direct action and recognising how powerless I am should I instead have written a strongly worded letter to my MP asking them to lock up all the racists and please be nice to the asylum seekers?

I think you'll find that the state can do nothing to end racism, because the state uses racism in every election campaign, and of course the state will also use anti-racist action against people it turned racist in the first place with anti-immigrant propaganda. It will cause the problem itself by stoking fear of non-white (and white) working class youths- while at the same time the police harass them and they are offered no jobs- and of course the war on terror helps to create fear about people who look a bit like they might be muslim (and in some cases are). The state uses disguised racism to scare the racists into voting for them and supporting their policies and distracting them from who their real enemies are- the ruling class and capital. The state uses race to make us forget that class rules most of our lives.

Most racism you hear very neatly parrots state propaganda, but with a non-PC embellishment, as it does that of the tabloid press. The state can (and does) have it both ways and take action against racism and appear 'progressive' in some cases.

We are not powerless to act against racism and we can be effective by acting against the racism of the state. We can act against racist individuals and organisations by confronting their bullshit, preventing them from marching and by working alongside people in the communities they seek to recruit from to open peoples eyes to the real enemy (i.e. not the immigrants, but the state and capital and the bosses).

Promoting the view that we need to rely more than we already do on the state to police social relations will only further entrench the idea that we should not act for ourselves and just hope the state sorts stuff out fairly. People don't have time to constantly 'put pressure' on the government to act in a different way, people don't really know what the government gets up to or what exactly it should do differently.

We must oppose racism where we encounter it and organise our struggle for a better world in a way which does not tolerate racism. I don't tolerate racism at work. I wouldn't tolerate it on public transport. I watch any cop I see harassing a group of youths.

I'm struggling to understand what it is exactly you think we should do? How would we even go about 'manipulating the state into making some progressive changes?'

(giving up on the edit- soz for the length and waffle)

JonathanSharp
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Jun 29 2012 10:35

Nah, I'm personally more of a pragmatist than that. Ideally I'd like a stateless, classless society, but in the mean time, I support stronger unions, a stronger social safety net, and will even vote if I think the candidate will significantly help the working class or help secure civil liberties.

blimeybruv
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Jun 29 2012 19:31

Pyotr, do you think locking people up for racist language is going to solve racism? And how are leftists inactive on the issue of racism? That's an assumption which doesn't appear to be borne out of reality.

When faced with individual instances of racism the best thing to do is challenge it or put it to the person that they are a bigot. I know it's popular to want to take hammers to racists, but it's not a sound position. If you feel threatened by a racist then it's a different situation, but a lone mother on a bus is a lot different than a gang of skinheads.

and crow, what did you mean by 'let her stay in jail until the revolution, where we'll have a better way of dealing with racists' was that some ridiculous cold-blooded posturing or did you mean something else?

Pyotr Tchaikovsky
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Jul 1 2012 11:26

Locking racists up would make nonwhites feel safe, plus act as a deterrent. The alternative is to let racists go and harass more immigrants.

radicalgraffiti
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Jul 1 2012 12:04

the state is never going to lock up all racists, or even a significant proportion of them. And detarants don't work on things like murder, why would you think they'd work on peoples beliefs? racism isn't just isolated individuals harassing immigrants its a social structure that permeates all of society, including the state.

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Jul 1 2012 12:53
Pyotr Tchaikovsky wrote:
Locking racists up would make nonwhites feel safe, plus act as a deterrent. The alternative is to let racists go and harass more immigrants.

"Racism is what a bad individual does for no reason other than being a bad individual. It arises from nothing more than that individual being a baddy, and has no other cause than this. They therefore need to be sternly punished by some sort of totally neutral political actor, for instance the state, that exists in a vacuum and listens to reasonable arguments and acts accordingly. This will totally solve the problem 100%, is the only possible solution to the problem, and anyone who has any disagreement obviously hates non-whites and wants racists to have a free reign to murder people all over the place."

Now we know - and knowing is half the battle!

EDIT: When i say knowing is half the battle, i dont meant to imply that we are all political actors capable of doing anything ourselves, and that knowing something means we are able to go out and do something about something. As any sensible person knows, the only actor capable of doing anything at all about anything is the state - hence why we must ask the state to lock people up. The sole alternative is, after all, total unwaving support for racist violence.

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Jul 1 2012 13:47

Punishing a woman for saying thinks she genuinely believes is not going to solve anything. It's not going to prevent anything. It's not going to solve racism. It's not going to change her mind. Hence, most revolutionary leftists oppose such punishments (leaving 'free speech' out of the equation).

Arguably the far-right benefits most because now "we can't even say what we think in our own country."