In an exclusive interview with Spero News, author Joshua Muravchik -- who has written a number of books on politics and international relations, including ‘Heaven on Earth: the Rise and Fall of Socialism’ -- spoke to the current political and social climate in America, especially with regard to rise of radicalism. When he was asked to give an initial survey of the political climate, Muravchik said, “It’s really mixed up.”

Muravchik said, “There are two counter-posed valences here: on the one hand there are some extremist groups that are racist and anti-Semitic. And it was shocking to many people to see marchers in Charlottesville who were proclaiming themselves to be Nazis or were imitating Nazi German symbols and slogans, and it is perhaps this fringe of the extreme right has been energized by the election of President Trump." 

Going to comment on radical Antifa protesters, Murvachik said, "And then on the other hand, there’s an element on the extreme left of which the most prominent part is this group that calls itself ‘Antifa’ that is violent, advocates violence. They are not communists, I don’t think they’re communists...They speak of themselves as anarchists. The funny thing is that they behave themselves like fascists. They hide their faces and wear these black uniforms. Black shirts having been the symbol of [World War 2 Italian dictator Benito] Mussolini’s original Fascist movement in Italy. And they’re very open about their belief in violence."

Muravchik spoke about the clash between white supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan, and counterprotesters, who converged on Charlottesville VA in August. One counterprotester was killed, while two police officers died in a helicopter crash on the day of the protest. White supremacists conducted a torchlit march through the college town, while some bore the symbols of German National Socialism (Nazism).  Muravachik mentioned that armed men threatend a synagogue in Charlottesville during the tumultuous protests. According to Reuters, Alan Zimmerman of Congregation Beth Israel said that three men wearing military garb and bearing rifles stood across the street from the synagogue. Marchers filed past the place of worship chanting "Sieg heil! and anti-Semitic epithets. Some carried Nazi flags and symbols. The syngagogue has since hired armed guards, citing a refusal by local police to provide protection during Sabbath worship.  

Muravchik said, "The picture was confused in Charlottesville because there were violent people among the extreme right marchers and there were violent Antifa people countering them, as well as other people countering them who were not so extreme. But the violence that comes from Antifa is not just in response to the violence, because we saw them be very violent here in Washington on the day that President Trump was inaugurated." During the Inauguration Day protests, Antifa protesters were seen in clusters in Washington DC, smashing windows, destroying property, and setting at least one private vehicle alight. Antifa protesters have been involved in dozens of protests and riots since then. It was only last week that the Department of Homeland Security dubbed them a domestic terrorist group.  

"It’s debateable whether Fascism or Nazism, at least in their original form, were properly part of the Right," recalled Muravchik. Remarking on the ambiguity of the terms "right" and "left" as applied to politics, Muravchik said, "They both called themselves Socialists and in the case of Mussolini’s Fascism had originated in the Left as a breakaway element of the Italian Socialist party and, by the same token, the Antifa people we can call ‘extreme left’ but they are anarchists and don’t fit very neatly in that spectrum. We use these short-hands, but they are very inexact but there is a point when the extreme right and the extreme left are hard to distinguish one from one another.”

When asked whether setting these various groups in a continuum between liberty and totalitarianism, Muravchik said that such a spectrum would be more meaningful than the right-left shorthand used by pundits and the media.  Another useful spectrum, he said, would refer to the behavior of these groups: “One of the spectrum being these people who believe in the democratic ways of doing things -- people who believe in civility, respect, and peaceful exchange of ideas -- versus those who take to violence as a way of getting their way. “

“We got to socialism because there were people who thought of this beautiful idea of socialism that everyone would be brothers, everyone would be equal, everyone would share everything, and there would be no more invidious distinctions between people. And this was a lovely idea and then it turned out it didn’t work and most people didn’t want it. That is: they wanted brotherhood and equality but they didn’t want an economy that was so controlled that everything was apportioned by some higher power and everyone was involved in everyone else’s lives. So, free people tended to, once they heard this pretty song that Socialism would be and then saw what it meant they tended to reject it.”

Concerning the current political climate, Muravchik lamented that while at one time it was possible for Americans to enter government buildings and the houses of Congress freely and without major security measures, “That has been taken from us.” While, for the most part, foreign terrorists have been to blame, domestic extremists are also blame, said Muravchik. He recalled that Leftists have used violence in the past, citing the example of The Weathermen, who detonated a bomb in the Capitol Building.

“Antifa,” he said, “is of a piece of that. It makes it so that people can’t hold a peaceful demonstration if they’re on the right side of the political spectrum, because they’re threatened with violence from this group. Ultimately, just like The Weathermen couldn't bring down American democracy -- they were too small and marginal -- but by forcing us to take protective measures they did diminish and sully our national political life and Antifa is trying to do the same thing and may succeed in doing that.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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