There is no denying that Hitler and Stalin are alive today… they are waiting for us to forget, because this is what makes possible the resurrection of these two monsters. (Simon Weisenthal)
It is interesting that Weisenthal, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, mentions two men in this quote. One of them the man responsible for his own internment and the other a man who helped to liberate him. Seems odd, right?
The Soviet Union, led by Joseph Stalin, played a decisive role in the defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. And yet, despite that fact, Weisenthal creates an equivalency between the two men in his quote. How is this possible? How can the man who played a pivotal role in defeating fascism also be regarded as a monster?
Simply put: Hitler’s evil is remembered, but the great evil represented by Stalin has been largely forgotten.
There are constant reminders about Nazi crimes against humanity in movie portrayals and museums. Marxists, however, have escaped the same accountability for their atrocities—their mass murders remain mostly concealed behind the steel curtain, and modern adherents are good at hiding themselves in the latest social cause.
Some things to remember…
1) An Enemy of Your Enemy Is Not Your Friend
Fascists and their racist contemporaries are easy to hate. It is not popular to be a white supremacist in modern America. Democrats have cut their ties with the Ku Klux Klan years ago, Republicans remain the party of Lincoln, and it is safe to say that most people in this country (conservative or liberal) strongly oppose Nazism.
I am, like most people in America today, opposed to racism and fascism in all their forms and therefore am opposed to rallying around those ideas. And, while I support the right to free association and public protest, it is completely incomprehensible to me why anyone would want to unite under a banner of racial prejudice and hate.
That said, my opposition to the KKK and neo-Nazis does not equate to support for Antifa or other leftist groups that deface property and engage in violent protest as a means to advance their own hateful ideological agendas. The events in Charlottesville, while defined by a young white supremacist plowing into a crowd, was a clash of two historical monsters and we need not pick one over the other.
Unfortunately, many people have an overly simplistic view of current events and history. In their initial emotionally reactive (and virtue signaling) response they are willing to condemn Nazis—the cliché Hollywood villains—but not the violence of groups that hold to an ideological perspective equally divisive and dangerous. It is probably because most people do not know what Antifa is.
Many seem to assume that since Antifa is fighting white supremacists that they are good. Yet that fails to comprehend the reality that these left-wing extremists are a different side of the same coin. They do not just fight against actual fascists, but elsewhere they have been initiating violence and, underneath their cowardly masks, are simply the latest iteration of Marxist thugs.
Marxism has been rebranded in many different ways—it is sold as “social justice” and “sticking up for the underdog” and anti-fascism. Yet, despite the new sheep’s wool, it remains the same old wolf that gave a man like Stalin power to kill with impunity. No matter where Marxism has been tried the end result is always the same—the murder of millions and the totalitarian rule of a few elites.
Yes, it is true many millions died as a result of fascism. However, it is also true that many more millions died because of Marxist ideologies. In fact, according to Reason.com, Marxism is the leading ideological cause of death in the past century:
The 94 million that perished in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe easily (and tragically) trump the 28 million that died under fascist regimes during the same period.
During the century measured, more people died as a result of communism than from homicide (58 million) and genocide (30 million) put together. The combined death tolls of WWI (37 million) and WWII (66 million) exceed communism’s total by only 9 million.
Perhaps we do not oppose Marxism as strongly because those who died were foreigners?
Perhaps it is because their stories were interned and buried with them…
Whatever the case, it seems we have forgotten that those who use “fascism” as an excuse to do violence will, given power, apply the term to anyone who disagrees with them and kill them too. Stalin may have helped defeat the Nazis, but he was not a good man himself nor are the modern promoters of Marxist ideologies who justify their own violence as anti-fascism.
Don’t be fooled by the different packaging…
2) The Next Hitler Won’t Be Another Hitler
That is the great irony here. The next Hitler probably won’t wear a Swastika, “Seig Heil” or goose step, he will likely not be a white nationalist or foment hate against Jews. The next Hitler could very well be a globalist, a smooth talker, pushing “tolerance” in the daylight and then letting others do violence against his/her political opponents in the dark of night.
Nazis and the KKK are less dangerous because they announce their extremism and are widely opposed. Many Americans don’t even think they should be allowed to march and thousands show up to denounce, belittle and taunt them when they do. But, truth be told, there is little a chance a relatively few angry white guys fighting for lost causes will gain much traction. We already know who they are and have rejected them.
What we should be wary of is the backlash. It is the overreaction that justifies our own evil that we should guard against. Overreaction to one evil oftentimes leads to another and greater, more insidious, evil. What the history books seem to have forgotten is that Nazi Germany did not arise from nowhere. It is, in part, a consequence of onerous and unfair war reparations that led to economic collapse and desperation.
More significantly, before Hilter’s rise to power, Marxist agitators tried (and failed) to overthrow the German government in 1918-19. It is actually that event which helped to fuel the rise of the National Socialist German Worker’s (or Nazi) Party and later gave their charismatic leader an excuse to round up those whom he deemed to be a security threat and eliminate them.
What’s more troublesome to me (than the violent extremists themselves) is political opportunists who take advantage of tragic circumstances and use the raw emotion of the moment to advance an authoritarian agenda and curtail freedoms. We need voices of calm and reason, those who do not excuse violence against anyone (including violence against their own ideological enemies) or we risk going the way of Nazi Germany ourselves.
I can still recall how my guarded optimism about President Obama ended abruptly when he refused to correct those who used the epithet “racist” to silence those who opposed his policy agenda. He decided to look the other way rather than be the leader of all Americans and speak up for those misrepresented. It encouraged polarization, it ended the reasonable conversation and is probably how we ended up with Trump several years later.
Antifa isn’t only attacking people we would regard to be fascists either. A week later, in Boston, they were attacking police officers protecting free speech—that a day after six officers were shot and a young woman killed seemingly at random. Those who don’t see the problem with a bunch of anonymous hoodlums running around playing judge, retaliating against anyone they construe to be fascist, are at best naive and enablers at worse. We need to stand opposed to the Marxist extreme as much as we oppose fascism or we are inviting an escalation.
Violence leads to violent backlash. Not addressing the violence of Marxist agitators—especially glorifying their violence and treating them as heroes—could have terrible unintended consequences. It could lead to something worse than the evil we see. Lest we forget, both Nazis and Klansmen were also once enabled by a sympathetic public that saw their cause as righteous and justified.
Let’s see, hooded vigilantes, breaking windows, dehumanizing and terrorizing anyone who opposed them, sanctioned by the Democrats, approved by Christians—where have we seen this before…
Nah, nevermind, what could possibly go wrong?
3) Hate Is Not Overcome By More Hate
We should oppose racism, condemn all racial supremacy movements and warn against all ideological extremism. But what we should never do is use the hatred of other people as an excuse for our own. The answer to hate is not to hate the hateful. We can and should oppose bigotry—and also oppose violence against those labeled (correctly or incorrectly) as bigots.
Hate is not solved through shouting slogans or protest. What happened in Charlottesville has accomplished nothing besides the death of one woman and will only serve to further divide our nation if we let it.
Racial purity or ideological purity movements, especially those who pursue the elimination of competing perspectives through brute force rather than logic or reason, should be rejected rather than joined or justified. It is hypocritical to denounce the hatred and violence of Nazis and then totally ignore that of Marxists. Instead, we should choose “other” which means to reject the ideologies and loving those on both sides.
There is a Yiddish proverb, “If someone throws stones at you, throw bread back,” which basically means to overcome evil with good, and that applies as much today as it ever did.
The problem is our assumptions about those who throw stones. When we assume they are irredeemable we can easily justify our own evil in response and throw stones back. But, when we see our adversaries as human, as a person influenced by circumstances, worthy of a little love and respect, then there is the chance of redemption.
That is not to say we should stand idly by or oppose the punishment of evildoers—police are responsible to reign in the violence and we should not stand in the way. However, that does mean our part is to do good:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
If you think a racist white nationalist is beyond hope, then think again. There are several accounts of courageous men, like Daryl Davis, taking the gracious approach against their enemies (as described in the passage from Romans above) and convincing them to repent of their hate. At very least, even if the effort fails, we have not been overcome by evil. Hate never wins when we refuse to hate those who hate us.
Don’t choose one evil over the other. When asked to pick a side, don’t choose “the lesser of two evils” (as those who are sympathetic to one side or the other will urge you to do) and instead reject both extremes—choose “none of the above” and choose love for all people.
Marxism was and remains an evil alternative to fascism. When two ideological monsters resurrect themselves in modern form we do not need to pick one or the other. When far-right clashes with the far left we should always choose against both extremes. We should fight against extremist ideologies, not people. We should resist with love rather than try to fight hate with hate.
Ignore the many different justifications from the partisans. Hate and violence, all hate and violence, springs from the same evil well.