Apr 8, 2006

Organizing against the National Socialist Movement

Interview for Flint's Uncommon Sense. U.S. was an independent newspaper in Flint, Michigan.

On April 22nd, the National Socialist Movement(NSM), a Neo-Nazi organization, plans to hold their national action in Lansing. This is the same organization who’s rally in Toledo last fall turned into a riot, when they marched through a largely African American neighborhood. Community members in Lansing are planning a counter-demonstration to the Nazi rally. We sat down with a couple of anti-racist activists from Lansing to find out more.

Please introduce yourselves:
Steve: I am a 32 year old counselor and hip-hop dj. I have been doing anti-racist organizing for about 15 years, including work against fascist organizers and police brutality. Currently I work with a group called Lansing Coalition Against Nazis (LCAN), who are organizing a counterdemonstration against the neo-Nazi rally.

Chris: I’m 32 and also involved with some of the organizing against the NSM. I have been involved in anti-racist organizing since I was a teenager. When I was first getting involved in punk and skinhead music I knew kids that got turned on to the whole neo-Nazi thing, this was in the late 1980’s when Nazis were trying to take over space in our music scenes. The Nazis were a real threat and would beat people down, shut down our clubs, and tried to bury the creative, anti-racist, and positive elements of our culture. Resistance to the Nazis grew, which eventually came down to confronting and driving them out of our scenes. We organized ourselves, without reliance on the authorities or the “establishment” – we did it ourselves, for ourselves. That whole experience galvanized kids like me, and I’m still part of struggles like that 16 years later.

So why are these nazis demonstrating in Lansing, and what is going to happen that day?

Steve: The National Socialist Movement is having their national action in Lansing April 22nd to celebrate Hitler's birthday. They are attempting to recruit racists from across the country to attend their event. This is a part of an aggressive recruitment drive by the NSM that has seen them organizing rallies and marches across the U.S., including Toledo, Detroit, Orlando, Seattle in the last few months. All these events receive massive amounts of police protection, and hundreds of thousands of community tax dollars, to essentially protect the right of racists to organize for genocide.

The Lansing Coalition Against Nazis (LCAN) is organizing a visible counter demonstration to show the racists organizers that they are not welcome to recruit in our neighborhoods. LCAN is a new group which sprung up in response to increased fascist organizing in Michigan, which includes community members, M.S.U. students, and anti-racist activists.

Why demonstrate against the Nazis? Why not ignore them?

Chris: Ignoring the Nazis is a common argument that the authorities make. Ignoring them wont make them go away, their already here trying to build their base. I think we have to figure out how to educate and defend our communities against them. A lot of working class and poor people are already going through problems, I think the Nazis are one more attack on us.

Aren’t these Nazis just a joke? Who would take them seriously?

Chris: Actually, a lot of people take them seriously, and so should we. People like to see the Nazis as a Hollywood character. I think the NSM, who dress up in World War 2 Nazi costumes may fit that category at times. But I think it’s really shortsighted to think of them all as jokers and clowns.

The Nazis try and speak to people’s frustrations and fears. They present themselves as a radical alternative to a system that a load of people are really considering bankrupt in more ways than one. A lot of people feel that this society is failing it’s citizens and that they are falling through the cracks. The Nazis are a fringe, but their trying to be an ideological lightning rod. They organize to put their ideas out there.

I think it’s important that we organize and present our own vision that speaks to peoples concerns and frustrations. I’m not for trying to convince people that the “establishment does work” and that we “have patience and give our leaders time”. No way. I’m saying we got to organize and promote our own agenda of a grassroots movement based on diversity, solidarity, cooperation and a shared desire to see things radically turned around. It’s gonna be tough, but something’s got to be done. Either we keep putting up with the same old, same old and just accept the mess were in. Or movements like the Nazis are gonna try and capture some attention and possibly win support from people looking for a new direction.