A Glossary for These Times
“Don’t Conciliate... Don’t Accommodate... Don’t Collaborate”
November 28, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
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Don’t Stop: Don’t Conciliate...
Don’t Accommodate...Don’t Collaborate
In the face of Donald Trump’s election, revcom.us put out a call to “REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America,” saying, “Don’t Conciliate... Don’t Accommodate... Don’t Collaborate.”
Let’s break these terms down, and look at some history:
Definition: “Conciliating” means trying to pacify an antagonist by glossing over crucial differences and seeking “common ground.” Nowadays it goes like this: one after another, Democratic politicians—Bernie too!—declare their willingness to “work with Trump where we have common ground,” like rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure and creating jobs.
Some history: After Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power in Germany in 1933, they organized major road-building and other public works projects, and later employed even more people by cranking up military production. Some celebrated this as “The German Economic Miracle.” But this was part of Hitler consolidating his political power and popularity, and getting ready for World War 2. It was not separate from his persecution and extermination of the Jews, Roma, and others, nor from unleashing his war machine on neighboring countries, killing tens of millions—it was completely bound up with that.
Those who “found common ground” helped legitimize one of the most murderous regimes in human history. And those who seek common ground with Trump are legitimizing his whole package of persecution of Muslims, mass deportations, violence against women, destruction of the environment and much more, regardless of any “criticisms” they may make of this (if they dare).
Lesson: Don’t Conciliate—Don’t delude yourself or others with talk about “common ground.” Recognize and call out this fascist onslaught for what it is and fight them hard, now, before they have a chance to completely lock society down.
Definition: “Accommodating” means accepting and adapting yourself to the new situation. “Go along to get along, don’t take any risks, learn to live with it... and maybe you can do something positive along the way.”
Some history: When the Nazis took power, most influential Germans went on with their “normal” lives. Many formerly avant-garde or “leftist” artists “kept working”—even if it meant producing art for Nazi-themed-and-organized shows. Professors were silent as their Jewish colleagues were driven out of the universities, and then into concentration camps. A once-liberal cleric wrote “guidelines” targeting and isolating Christian pastors of Jewish descent. After the war he tried to justify this kind of behavior, saying “it was sometimes unavoidable first to emphasize that one was in agreement with the major goals of the state in order to gain any kind of hearing for what one was really aiming for.”
In reality, these people betrayed whatever “good things” they thought they were “really aiming for,” and set a horrible example for the broader population. Historian Robert Ericksen later asked whether the “ordinary Germans who became killers for the Nazi state felt that they had received permission from their churches or from their universities.”
Lesson: Don’t Accommodate—People must continue to organize and act with ever greater determination, defiance, and effectiveness to STOP Trump and his gang, taking bold measures, putting careers and bodies on the line to do that.
Definition: “Collaboration.” The logic of conciliation and accommodation leads directly to collaboration—actively working with the regime to carry out its objectives, sometimes out of sheer self-interest, sometimes with the deluded idea that you can “change things from within,” or at least “do a little bit of good.”
Some history: Under Nazi rule, all Jews were forced into crowded, walled-in ghettos with little food or sanitation... and then the regime began shipping people out from there to concentration camps, where they were worked to death or murdered.
The Nazi authorities worked with the Judenrat—councils of better-off Jewish people who acted as the “civil authority” inside the ghetto, and kept things running smoothly, including by selecting and putting people on the death trains. Some of the Judenrat thought that by doing this they would be in a position to “reason” with the Nazis so that, for instance, they would “only” murder criminal, or lower-class uneducated Jews and would spare the professionals who were more “valuable” to the German economy. Others thought they would at least save their own skins. What kind of logic is this?!? And the irony is that in both cases they were proved wrong—the Nazi death machine swept up and murdered every Jewish person it could, including finally the Judenrat themselves.
Lesson: Don’t collaborate, and don’t tolerate collaboration. Those who assist the regime in carrying out crimes against the people should be exposed, denounced, and ostracized.
* * *
Looking back on the bitter experience of conciliation, accommodation, and collaboration in Germany during the Nazi era, Martin Niemöller (a religious leader who at first went along with Hitler, then opposed him and was sent to a concentration camp) summed up:
“[We make] the excuse that ‘it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out.’ We preferred to keep silent.... I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934, 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, ‘It is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 communists in concentration camps in order to let them die.’ I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine we would have rescued 30 to 40 million people, because that is what it [cost us].”
This is the orientation that these times demand.
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