April 11: Academic Antifascism (Self-defense strategies in response to the Alt-Right)

This panel will feature Kayum Ahmed (Columbia), George Ciccariello-Maher (Hemispheric Institute), Dana Cloud (Syracuse) and Ozzie Monge (San Diego State).

  • Date: Wednesday, 11 April 2018
  • Time: 7:10pm-9pm
  • Location: 301 Pupin Hall, Columbia University

Day 3: Academic Antifascism

Fascism is capitalism plus murder.
― Upton Sinclair

Speaking of his party’s rise to power, Adolf Hitler once remarked how it gives him “a very special, secret pleasure to see how unaware the people around us are of what is really happening to them.”  At the time, Germany was a liberal republic with strong democratic institutions and certain protections for speech and the press. Yet, the political establishment never did take Hitler and his movement seriously: he was ridiculed, seen as a joke, as someone who could never rise to power if society adhered to the baseline of rule of law and rational debate. Few realized what in fact was happening until it was too late.

Fascism needs to be understood as a movement that mobilizes its sympathizers around racism, chauvinism and other forms of hate and uses this power to mainstream its politics, building hegemony over liberal institutions, if only to subvert them. The university is one such establishment and, in the United States, it is one of the spaces most under threat.

Over the past couple years, White Supremacist / Neo-Nazi groups have been found organizing on hundreds of campuses across the country, recruiting students and seeking to create an environment of fear for the people it targets. Their ideology is not only racist and chauvinist, it is also violent and authoritarian. Their physical attacks and individual killings are on the rise; the Southern Poverty Law Center has singled them out for killing dozens of people last year alone. But they also commit mass murder: Note the names Nikolas Cruz, William Atchison, Dylann Roof, James Fields.

Yet more insidious than these outright fascist “alt-right” groups are those who maintain a more “reasonable” public image, claiming not to be violent fascists at all, but instead argue that they are simply victims of a “left-wing fascism”. These so-called “alt-light” adherents, groups like Turning Point USA and racist trolls like Mike Cernovich, feign ignorance. However, every so often their hidden links to fascist/white supremacist groups are exposed – as Buzzfeed recently did to Milo Yiannopoulos.

Still, there have been victories, such as White Supremacist Richard Spencer’s admission that anti-fascist groups have ruined his campus tour. What, then, can we do to challenge their ideology on campus? How do we defend progressive professors against their attacks? How can we prevent them from taking over our universities?

The following speakers will speak directly to these questions:

  • Kayum Ahmed, Doctoral Fellow at Teachers College and Lecturer in Law at Columbia University. Ahmed is the former CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission and his academic work and activism focus radical social movements, human rights, critical theory,, decolonization and antifascism. His current research focuses on South Africa’s #RhodesMustFall student movement.
  • George Ciccariello-Maher, Visiting Scholar at the Hemispheric Institute (New York University). His work focuses on political theory, decolonisation, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution and has been an outspoken supporter of anti-fascist organising. His most recent book is Decolonizing Dialectics.
  • Dana Cloud, Professor of Communications and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. Cloud’s work focuses on rhetoric, cultural theory, gender theory and queer theory and has been active in opposing alt-right threats to academic freedom. She is best known for her book Control and Consolation in American Culture and Politics: Rhetoric of Therapy.
  • Ozzie Monge, Lecturer in American Indian Studies at San Diego State University. He is an indigenous activist educator whose work focuses on social and political issues deriving from settler colonialism and has been active organizing in response to racism on campus. He has written the following thesis as a critique of SDSU: “Fail Montezuma! : The last vestiges of an obscured yet stubbornly persistent culture of racism at San Diego State University”.