Badges of Shame
Red triangles were meant to designate political dissidents in Germany’s concentration camps
Facebook has banned an advertisement for Donald Trump’s campaign to designate “Antifa” as a terrorist organisation. The BBC reports:
Facebook says it has removed adverts for US President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that featured a symbol used in Nazi Germany. The company said the offending ad contained an inverted red triangle similar to that used by the Nazis to label opponents such as communists.
This is certainly an interesting development. When Twitter first started adding notifications to Trump’s more politically misleading tweets, Mark Zuckerberg disagreed with such editorial policy on social media. But now that the campaign’s tactics are straying ever deeper into hate speech territory, digging up and recruiting Nazi symbology, even the laissez-faire Facebook has had to moderate the debate.
The invention of an Enemy
Whether Nixon’s “war on drugs” or George W. Bush’s use of the horrific 9/11 terror attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq, American politics is no stranger to the invention of non-existent threats in order to inflame public opinion and reap political dividends.
However, the idea of ‘reds under beds’, synonymous with Senator Joseph McCarthy’s smear tactics, remains a perennial favourite. Like the term pedophile or feminist, the term “communist” can be flung easily to discredit an opponent. This issue isn’t about the merits of an ideology. Rather, people are willing to believe that a Communist is some kind of moral degenerate pervert who enjoys murder and anarchy.
Facing rising discomfort and massive protests against open racism and a tanking economy due to COVID, Trump’s campaign seems increasingly oriented towards portraying a nefarious organisation named “Antifa” as enemy no.1 of freedom-loving Americans. Rather than accept that there is a root cause to the grievances — the moronic brutality of systemic racism — Trump would rather blame a criminal mastermind for organising the protests, which are, by and large, peaceful.
Assuming that Anitfa actually existed, and was a terrorist organisation, one isn’t quite sure if a political national referendum is required to take care of what should be a straight-forward intelligence and policing operation. Did one conduct such a political campaign before searching for the Unabomber?The value of such an organisation to Trump’s re-election is perhaps is the greatest proof of its fiction . “Antifa” is, at best, a loose coalition of political activists opposed to a various platform of things.
What is getting ridiculous is that the term “anti-fascist” is becoming a pejorative, leading to the rehabilitation of fascism as a legitimate political ideology. The BBC, recently, went so far as to describe a bunch of racists as anti anti-racists in order to sound balanced, but ended up sounding deranged and twisted. This would be a good time to remind ourselves why World War II was fought.
Which is worse: Communism or Fascism?
In Weimar Germany, the Communists were one of the principal opponents of the Nazis . Events such as the Reichstag Fire were designed deliberately to discredit the Communists, and impose a State of Emergency so that the Nazis could capture power — ostensibly to deal with communist traitors. This was later shown to be fabricated. While it is often said that Hitler was elected, it should be remembered that the Nazis never really had more than approximately 35% of the vote share, while the Communists had increased their share to nearing 20%. Hitler gained power by suspending democracy and declaring a State of emergency — under the fabricated claim that his Communist opponents were creating a law and order problem.
Under Hitler, Germany rapidly militarised, striking an ideological alliance with Japan, Italy and Germany called the Axis. The term fascism is actually from Italian— a bundle of sticks tied together so that it cannot be broken.
One of the founding myths of Nazi ideology is the idea of the Aryan race. This is such a big and nefarious concept, that despite being debunked repeatedly, is so internalised in public discourse that many individuals, even those who are not of European ancestry, cannot accept its falsehood. Yet, the idea of a master-race was also key to the British Empire, not to mention the claim of European colonisers over American, Australian and African soil, and the right to rule over people of colour.
Many white supremacists, including members of the British royal family, felt that Germany should not be opposed in its military ambition. In fact, it was Winston Churchill’s singular genius that he recognised that the British concept of white supremacy was incompatible with the German idea of Aryan supremacy. Yet, the British elite tried to appease Hitler, but it didn’t stop him from invading. The USA was sitting the war out, until Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, forcing their involvement.
Thus, events necessitated that the British Empire, the USA, and newsflash — COMMUNIST Russia — got into an alliance to defeat the Axis powers. At the time, an agreement with Russia was necessary to neutralise the Fascist threat. However, once the war was settled, a new ideological battle broke-out.
The Cold War and the Third World
The constitution of international political organisations is a good way of understanding the post-war power balance between liberal democracies and communist ones.
When the Security Council of the United Nations was formed, five powers, the USA, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France were given veto powers. Japan, Italy and Germany were deliberately excluded from the power structure as punishment for losing the war.
Of these, Russia and China were Communist powers, while the USA, France and the United Kingdom called themselves capitalist, liberal democracies. USA and France were republics, while the United Kingdom remains a constitutional monarchy (with the added eccentricity of an unwritten constitution). It was expected that the rest of the world would ally one way or the other. Allies of the USA, France and the UK, principally under the umbrella of NATO, were called the First World. The Communist allies of the USSR and China were the Second World.
However, leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, who had trouble staying faithful to their own wives, objected to such expected fidelity and fealty to foreign ideologies. So, they came up with the non-aligned movement, and this resulted in a third orientation, the Third World. In a way, the Third Word, was a recognition that the Capitalism versus Communism debate doesn’t capture the nuance of race and Western hegemony. However, as many of these countries remained dysfunctional due to their own civilisation and cultural problems, which made them particularly vulnerable to the rampages of European imperialism and colonisation, third world has also come to denote something akin to third-class, which was not its originally intended usage.
Broadly speaking, the major political debate for most of the post-war period has been around the superiority of Capitalism over Communism. This saw many theatres of war, including the space race. After the defeat of the Russians in Afghanistan (immortalised in Rambo III), the collapse of the USSR and the combined ideological assault of Reagan and Thatcher resulting in the irresistible goodies of consumerism, by 1991, it seemed Capitalism had defeated Communism. Francis Fukayama wrote a book claiming Marx had been proved wrong, and there would no longer be any class struggles and revolutions to find a better political system than liberal democracy. Thomas Friedman, wrote a gushing book about the virtues of globalisation, claiming no two countries with a McDonalds had ever fought a war.
Of course, the chapter on what exact political beast China is, is yet to be written. Is it, after its embrace of capitalism, a first world, still a second world or a third kind of third-world? That remains to be seen.
The point here is that, given the complexity of history, a mature polity should never treat Marx and Communism like a pantomime villain. Of course, nuance and intellectual engagement is not exactly the Donald Trump brand. America’s turn towards an ethno-nationalist apartheid state is far, far more sinister.
The Red triangle and the criminalisation of political dissent
There is a reason why countries like Iran and North Korea treat political dissidents worse than rapists and murderers. An individual crime hurts only the individuals involved. A political thought crime, however, can threaten a whole system. This is exactly why the Nazis designated political detainees in concentration camps with red triangles — the biggest danger to their system.
These badges were intended to be badges of shame. They included the infamous yellow stars Jewish inmates (one shudders to think how a Jewish political dissent, marked with a red triangle in a yellow star, was treated in the concentration camps).
Today, the pink triangle is a symbol adopted by the gay community, as one of pride. It is possible a protest group may have adopted the red triangle, in a similar vein, as their logo. For the Trump campaign to seize upon this — or completely fabricate a lie — is a curious inversion of history. Our ancestors laid down their lives in their millions to fight fascism.
Now, however, through these badges, we are being told that the fascists were the good guys because they were honest and proud about their racism. That to disbelieve the theory of Aryan supremacy is something to be ashamed of.