The International Socialist Organization invites all solidarity-minded students and other members of the Berkeley community to the launch of the “Alt Right Delete” conference. Please join us at the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue on April 27 at noon as we announce this conference and rally in defense of the oppressed majority. “Alt Right Delete” will take place at UC Berkeley on Aug. 19, at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. It will be an important opportunity for new and returning members of the campus community who want to tackle the threat posed by the political right wing, which is growing emboldened from the White House to the streets of Berkeley.
In the past four months, Berkeley has witnessed and experienced the disturbing growth of a far right that is a threat to us all. We cannot depend on the campus administration to defend us. The absurd back and forth over whether the racist Ann Coulter will be allowed to speak at UC Berkeley proves this point. The administration, purposefully or not, has impeded Coulter’s visit through bureaucratic means such as declaring a lack of appropriate venue. This has allowed Berkeley College Republicans and its far-right allies to pretend they are carrying on the legacy of the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley.
The reality is that BCR and the far right are antithetical to the FSM, which was led by militant civil rights activists and socialists. In the 1960s, the UC Berkeley administration cracked down on campus speech to snuff out civil rights activism by students, who were becoming a thorn in the side of the California ruling class. It is absurd for white supremacists such as Nathan Damigo, Ann Coulter and their BCR supporters to claim this legacy. Free speech is a necessary protection for the oppressed, whose rights are always first on the chopping block. The administration’s suspension of a student-led course on Palestine is proof of this. (The course was later reinstated after widespread criticism.)
This absurdity, however, has dominated mainstream discussions of the far right in Berkeley. And it has done so because there is no organized movement of the mass majority of solidarity-minded people that is pushing the truth. This is the problem with depending on the administration to defend us. Not only are its anti-free speech maneuvers dangerous to our side, but the administration is fundamentally incapable of mounting a consistent defense. Its record is clear: hostility toward Palestine solidarity activists, student workers and survivors of sexual violence. The only people who can defend us are ourselves.
Moreover, the fights on the streets of Berkeley on April 15 showed that we also can’t depend on a small group of anti-fascists to rebuff the far right alone. The Berkeley community rallied with us against Donald Trump on Jan. 20 and in defense of the campus against Milo Yiannopoulos on Feb. 1. But without an organized mass movement, those who want to confront the far right will conclude that the only available choice to fight back is property destruction and street fighting, while others will conclude that this is no choice at all.
“Alt Right Delete” will be dedicated to developing a new choice: a strategy that can actually win. This is the strategy of mass mobilization, organization and commitment to the politics of solidarity. The conference will consist of talks, discussions and workshops on understanding the growth of the far right, the left’s long history of anti-fascist organizing, free speech as a principle of the left and proposals for how we should move forward. We will proudly declare and defend UC Berkeley as an anti-fascist campus. This will be the first step in building an organized movement that will outnumber and out-mobilize the far right whenever it rears its ugly head.
Mukund Rathi is a law student at UC Berkeley and a member of the International Socialist Organization.