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July 13, 2020
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Chair of the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic: It's normal to oppose Fascism and racism

26.9.2018 10:29
Ivan Bartoš, chair of the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO:   Pirátská strana)
Ivan Bartoš, chair of the Pirate Party in the Czech Republic. (PHOTO: Pirátská strana)

This is getting a little boring, don't you all think? As always, before the elections, so this year too there are "sensational" photos being republished of me carrying an Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) flag and wearing Good Night White Pride (GNWP) paraphernalia - as if it is somehow wrong to be against racial superiority and racism.

Back in the 20th century, the world experienced a great deal of the idea that society could function on a racial basis. Not just Jewish people, but also Romani people and members of other "inconvenient" ethnicities were all but completely annihilated in Europe.

Today we are living at a time when it is socially acceptable to be a racist, but a person photographed with anti-Fascist symbols must explain himself to the public, as if that were something he should be ashamed of. It's as if it is no longer appropriate and normal to be against Fascism.

I am a liberal and a pacifist (even though in my youth I practiced athletic JuDo, although even that is a "Gentle Way"). I am in politics because I believe in the democratic process and in the rule of law, in holding everybody to the same standards irrespective of position, power, religion or skin color.

I am not a member of the AFA. I bought that flag a couple of years ago in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighorhood as a symbol of the resistance offered by German society to the Nazism that was on the rise in the 1930s.

That "famous vacation snapshot" of me was taken right next to two plaques commemorating Holocaust victims in Berlin. Antifaschistische Aktion was created in 1932 in response to the endless murders and street violence being committed by the infamous Nazi militia, the SA.

The flag is also symbol, to me, of history - it symbolizes the idea that we must never back down in the face of evil. Today we are living at a different time and in a different place, and fortunately we are also living in a democratic state.

If I had to choose whose political methods I most identify with, I would mention Gandhi and Martin Luther King, who believed in the power and value of non-violence. That is exactly the positive kind of politics that can bring people together and build bridges between them.

If we take care to make sure nobody is excluded from society, history will not repeat itself. What about GNWP, though?

Good Night White Pride is an international, long-running campaign on the music scene against the efforts of neo-Nazis to infiltrate various musical subcultures and spread their agenda there. Is this campaign "self-serving"?

If neo-Nazis had not previously managed to co-opt a big part of one of such subculture, the skinheads, then GNWP would have never been born. I do recognize the right of musicians to express themselves.

The skinheads were a subculture that arose among Black Jamaicans [and English youth in London in the 1960s], and in the beginning they were once absolutely free of any kind of racism. The fact that many people today perceive skinheads just as racist street brawlers proves that the efforts by the neo-Nazis to repeatedly infiltrate musical subcultures are not a chimera of some sort.

This neo-Nazi infiltration is happening, for example, in hardcore metal music today. I am willing to object to that infiltration by supporting the merchandise of the GNWP movement.

Why not - after all, I'm a musician myself, I share the idea of that campaign, and once again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. What about those photographs of me at those demonstrations, though?

Absolutely, over the course of my life I have attended many demonstrations, I demonstrated for the rights of refugees in Prague, just as I stood up in Krupka when the neo-Nazis were marching there, and in Varnsdorf, and in Ústí, where I played accordion at one of the residential hotels full of terrified children who were being targeted. Attending the demonstrations in support of refugee rights does not mean I am in favor of granting asylum to just anybody, though.

I do believe refugees are our fellow human beings and the victims of war should not be dealt with as if they had created the conflicts they are fleeing. That is all my attending those demonstrations meant.

The Pirate Party advocates a rational approach toward refugee reception, which we have demonstrated through our work in the Chamber of Deputies. So much for the constantly-repeating photos of me from 2015 and 2016.

I have never been an AFA member, I am not today an AFA member, and I am not a member of any ideological organization other than the Pirate Party. I do not recognize violence as a solution to any problem.

My approaches are didactic and political. Non-violent protest is an approach I use in cases where I believe it is necessary.

When Mr Konvička, or people from the Úsvit movement, or Mr Okamura, or the antisemite Adam B. Bartoš and other front-runners of this wannabe wave of Czech nationalism go so far in their exhibitionism as to set up a gallows on a public square, then I feel it is my moral obligation to clearly say "NO" to that way of their presenting their opinions. For example, in February 2016 there were two big exhibitionist exercises of that sort in Prague inciting hateful sentiment in Czech society - Mr Okamura repeatedly appeared on Wenceslas Square in support of the Czech antisemite and nationalist Adam B. Bartoš, and there was a demonstration in front of the Loreto, where a man from Okamura's "camp" was arrested for firing a pistol into the air while shouting the slogan "The Knights of Blaník are ready!"

That person was later sentenced to performing community service. Elsewhere in Prague at that same time there were two other assemblies that were calling for tolerance.

The first of those was called by the "No to Racism" association, who named their event "Solidarity without Borders - March against Racism and Xenophobia", and the second was convened by the Anti-Racist Assembly who called their gathering "Sunlight and Coffee vs. Xenophobia and Kalashnikovs". I attended both "happenings" against racism and xenophobia.

I am not ashamed of having attended those events and it seems very odd to me that anybody expects me to be embarrassed about having done so. That's my position, I'm proud of it, and even though I cannot take any credit for what others do, I am proud of all those who set a good example through their own behavior and public appearances, because opposing Fascism is the right thing to do.

Ivan Bartoš, chair of the Pirate Party, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Extremism, Neo-Nazism, Pirátská strana, Racism



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