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New Zealand: This is not about free speech – This is simply self-defence

Statement by the Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement: This is not about free speech – This is simply self-defence.

Originally published by Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

The far-right have developed a concern for civil-liberties over the last few years and would have you believe that they are the true defenders of freedom. Don’t be fooled, there is a huge chasm between their rhetoric and the reality. Their call for freedom of speech would quickly change if they ever got a chance of power, and they would quickly remove that right from those they perceive as their enemies.

Here in New Zealand there has been some sympathy for the cancelling of an event by Canadians Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux, who have built a reputation for making controversial, racist statements, and had been due to appear next month at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland. The Auckland City Council, which owns the venue, pulled the plug on the event, due to “security concerns” involving the “health and safety” of the presenters, staff and patrons of the event, following protests made to the Centre and elsewhere.

In response a planned event, initially in support of the imprisoned English far-right mouthpiece Tommy Robinson, has morphed into a general free speech rally to be held this Saturday 12.00 at the Parliament Buildings in Wellington, with concurrent events being planned for Auckland (Aotea Square) and Christchurch (Entertainment Triangle, North Hagley Park).

As anarchists, we have never had anything but support for freedom of speech for the reason that in an anarchist vision of society, neither the state nor any other institution should be able to determine what we can and cannot say. Additionally, as a revolutionary minority frequently targeted for repression, anarchists worldwide have consistently had speeches, newspapers, websites, and marches attacked, and individuals throughout history, and up to today, have been imprisoned and killed.

Despite this, we will not stand idly by when speech is used to threaten and cause harm to others, or when it reinforces hierarchies and injustices. In this situation, we will not shy away from confronting it in the same way we would confront any other kind of abuse or oppression.

Recently we were accused of drawing attention to Southern and Molyneux when we mentioned their banning, but ignoring them will not make them go away. Allowing the far-right to gather unhindered run the risk of them growing in popularity and influence. Richard Spencer, the prominent far-right activist in the USA, stated earlier this year that he has had to rethink his public events after a number of actions by anti-fascist protestors throughout the USA. This speaks volumes as to the importance of keeping the pressure on the far right.

Others have told us that we should let the right speak, and engage them in debate to expose the poverty of their ideas. We would argue though that it is not the quality of ideas that make people support them (you only have to look at many comments in social media made by right-wing supporters to see how much thinking goes on), but it is the chance to wield power over others in society that make them so attractive to their followers. Again this is the reason we cannot let them gather, in ever-larger numbers, without protest.

Of course, the most common objection to a no-platform stance for the right is the belief that free speech is an essential right for everyone. As we said at the beginning of this statement we are not against free speech. We oppose the far-right because of what they do, or because of what their words lead others to do. Giving them a platform to speak opens the door to their supporters feeling justified to do physical harm to other people. Public speech promoting ideologies of hate, whether or not you consider it violent on its own, always complements and correlates with violent actions. Just two examples include Darren Osbourne who crashed his van into a group of worshippers outside a London mosque, was a follower of far-right websites and twitter feeds, including those from Tommy Robinson; and again in the UK, the murderer of MP Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, had a large collection of fascist literature and shouted “Britain First”, the name of a British fascist organisation, when he committed his murder.

If you care about free speech then it is essential to mobilise against those that would take it away, but we must stress that we won’t do this by appealing to the state to decide who can and who can’t speak. One day we could find the rules being used against us. Instead, we call for this action to take the form of self-organisation and self-defence through our own organisations.

This not about free speech. This is simply self-defence.

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement, July 12, 2018.

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