After Trump’s election, Berkeley became the epicenter of far-right organizing and resistance to it. Mukund Rathi talks to us about that experience, the strategic debates and lessons learned. In our intro, we talk about why we can’t succumb to helplessness in the face of the Trump nightmare — and some ideas about how we build an alternative.
Mukund is a law student at UC Berkeley and an active socialist in the Bay Area. He has written for Socialist Worker, In These Times and the Daily Californian. In February 2017, Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to speak at Berkeley and was shut down by thousands of protesters. Mukund points out that nearly all the media coverage, including on the left, focused on a small core of antifa activists and ignored the 2,000 students who showed up to protest.
Mukund talks to us about the development of the fight against the right in Berkeley and nationally. He discusses the different strategic debates and argues both against a position of shutting the right down by any means necessary and against the argument to simply ignore the right. Instead, he argues, it has been mass mobilizations, coordinated organization and solidarity that have pushed back the right — in Charlottesville, Boston and a later round of struggle in Berkeley. We talk about how the protests in Charlottesville and the murder of Heather Heyer were a turning point in galvanizing mass opposition.
However, Mukund also points out that the far right is still organizing. They have continued to harass and threaten student and community activists in the Bay Area. This has had a chilling effect on protest. The liberal establishment in the Bay Area has refused to take this threat seriously and failed to protect activists while bending over to protect the “free speech” of the far-right. It will be up to activists to build solidarity and learn the lessons from last year’s battles.
Resources and Links for This Episode
Mukund wrote an article for Socialist Worker on the protests that shut down Milo (http://bit.ly/MiloSW). And in this article, he reflected on the lessons of the fight against the right (http://bit.ly/MukundLessonsSW).
Here, the Bay Area International Socialist Organization describes the attempt by the far right to disrupt its meeting (http://bit.ly/BayISOStatement).
Eric Ruder and François Hughes describe the “free speech week” fiasco, in which Berkeley spent a million dollars to defend Milo’s fantasy carnival of far-right speakers (which never materialized), while doing nothing to defend the rights of students. (http://bit.ly/FreeSpeechFiasco).
Mukund participated in a roundtable debate hosted by In These Times in which he defended the shutting down of Milo while arguing for a strategy of mass confrontation.
In this article for the International Socialist Review, Monique Dols discusses the debates around free speech and fighting the right on campus (http://bit.ly/ISRFightRight).
Music in This Episode
A Tribe Called Quest, We the People
Patti Smith, People Have The Power
Death, Where Do We Go From Here?
The Clash, Know Your Rights
Elvis Costello, Night Rally
Sunflower Bean, Crisis Fest
Milva, Bella Ciao