The White Rose Debate...And the Need for Extraordinary Resistance

Revolution #026, December 12, 2005, posted at

The struggle to defend the Hampton Seven spread widely and quickly through the internet, generating support and debate. I want to call attention to, and comment, a particularly important exchange on the site Inside Higher Ed.

First, the exchange:

The White Rose Society

The Hampton University administration should read about the White Rose Society. This small group of students distributed fliers calling for people of Germany to oppose their fascist leaders. They did this during the World War II. They knew the risks and were eventually caught and executed for excercising their God-given right to free speech.The Hampton administration seeks to expell students for similar activity. This is the academic version of execution. Pretty draconian.

Robert Anderson, at 10:28 am EST on December 1, 2005

The White Rose

While I applaud Mr. Anderson's knowledge of the White Rose and while I am sympathetic to the students at Hampton, the comparison to the White Rose is simply not accurate. Hans and Sophie Scholl, two of the founding members of the White Rose, did not live in a free society and did not have a right to free speech. (Whether free speech is God-given is another debate). Violating the laws of a government (or tyrrany) which carry a death sentence in a closed society is different from being expelled from school in a free society. These Hampton students have a recourse and the voices of thousands (mine included) to advocate for them.

Prof. Timothy Scholl, Program Director for General Education at Brooks Institute, at 11:50 am EST on December 2, 2005


This exchange concentrates a broader debate in society, especially among those who oppose the Bush regime. In brief, is it correct to compare the trends and dynamics of today to what went down in Germany between 1933 and 1945? What Professor Scholl misses in his reply is that no one is talking about the early years of Hitler's ascension to power. The White Rose students were executed, as Robert Anderson points out in his letter, during World War II, and pretty far into it at that.

There was a whole dynamic, however, that went down in German society in the years preceding the execution of the White Rose students. Step by step and leap by leap, rights were stripped and new norms were put into effect, in what proved to be an inexorable dynamic. Very few, if any, predicted in February 1933 that things would go as far as they did; and many kept denying the dynamic for a very long time after the danger was apparent. And then it became too late to do anything.

Had someone told you five years ago, Mr. Scholl, that students would be threatened with expulsion for daring to pass out "unauthorized" leaflets; or arrested for doing street theater in campus common area for depicting torture carried out by the U.S. government, as they were at Hunter College; or forced to wear an ankle bracelet connected to the LAPD for simply participating in a protest, as Geovany Serrano has been in Los Angeles; or any other of dozens of similar outrages detailed on the site of the organizers of the November 2 protests ( you have found it unreasonable to say that the U.S. was heading in a fascist direction? Would you have found it wrong to invoke the comparison to the White Rose in pointing to what was at stake, and to where things were heading, if people did not resist? Yet today, through steps, people have been inured to the extreme character of what Vice-President Cheney has labelled the "new normalcy", and some go to great pains to correct anyone who dares invoke the analogy which irresistibly suggests itself: Nazi Germany.

The danger is real. The need for resistance-- extraordinary resistance--urgent. As the Call for the November 2nd protest--that the Hampton students are facing disciplinary charges for distributing--says: "That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn--or be forced--to accept."

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