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

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

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.

Penny Rimbaud

Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement

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