Carl Dix, Veteran Activist, On How Charlottesville Was Different

Members of RevCom preparing to protest in Charlottesville. via Carl Dix Twitter, used with permission.

“Charlottesville” has now become synonymous with the events that happened in the Virginia city two weeks ago Saturday. Those events include: the “Unite the Right” rally bringing together various far-right factions like the KKK and neo-Nazis to protest the removal of a Confederate monument, which had been approved by the Charlottesville City Council; the appearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of counter-protesters opposing the White Supremacist, pro-Confederate “Right;” violent clashes between the “right” and the counter-protesters; James Alex Fields Jr. driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, injuring more than a dozen people and killing Heather Heyer.

“Charlottesville” also came to cement Donald Trump as the least-presidential president in American history as well as sparking multiple similar events, with varying degrees of clashing, nationwide.

Trump initially blamed the “many sides” present in Charlottesville two weekends ago for the violence and chaos. At one point, he backtracked, condemning the hate groups which insitagted both the rally and the violence by most accounts, though he continued to focus on honoring “our history” in a way that showed ideological support for those groups. Finally, he landed on staunchly refusing to condemn White Supremacists, neo-Nazis, alt-right, pro-Confederate groups for their beliefs and actions as well as perpetuating the narrative that anti-fascists groups (which made up a fraction of the counter-protesters in Charlottesville) were as much responsible for the violence and mayhem as the right-wing groups were, despite solid evidence to the contrary.

While, it is true that some anti-fa groups condone violence when enacted against Nazis or bigots, per their ideological opposition to fascist oppression and bigotry, by the majority of accounts from Charlottesville itself, any “violence” from non-right-wing people was purely in self-defense.

The Hot Zone had the opportunity to interview two activists who were in Charlottesville during the “Unite the Right” rally and get their perspective on the events that have reminded this country, once again, that racism is not only intertwined in our nation’s history, it is also still very much intertwined in our society today.

Those events also reminded many, and awakened some, to the fact that Donald Trump is indefensible and shamefully willing to excuse the racism, homophobia, sexism and bigotry of these groups in order to pander to the ideological minority which got him elected and which still supports him.

Luan

“Luan” got involved in activism after Sandra Bland was arrested and later died under suspicious circumstances in jail.

She said that, even having attended numerous protests and demonstrations since joining her movement, this was unlike anything she had ever witnessed. One member of her group “was actually beaten by a white supremacist” in Charlottesville, she said, adding that it felt like “they were ready to kill us and they did,” referring to Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old white woman who was killed by James Fields.

Luan believes that “no amount of voting is going to stop the KKK” and that “we need a revolution.”

This aligns with the group she is associated with, the Revolutionary Communist Club, a youth-based sub-group of the Revolutionary Communist Party. She then put me in contact with one of that group’s co-founding members and a veteran activist:

Carl Dix

Carl Dix got involved with activism almost 50 years ago during the Vietnam War. He was in the army and the orders came down for him to be deployed to Vietnam.

“I had to figure out ‘was I gonna go do that, was I gonna go kill people and maybe be killed myself?’” He says he spoke to people he knew who had previously been deployed. He spoke to people who had been protesting the war, too.

The GI’s he spoke to told him that “everyone there was your enemy…man, woman, child, you killed everything that moved.”

“I could not be a part of that.”

So he refused. He was one of six who refused at that time to go to Vietnam, which was the largest group-refusal to deploy to Vietnam. He served two years in Leavenworth Military Prison for this refusal.

Like other prominent activists, his time in prison helped shape who he would become for the rest of his life. Malcolm X found the Nation of Islam and became a radical civil rights leader. Nelson Mandela attributed his 27 years in prison and a political prisoner under South Africa’s apartheid as a major influence on his future as president of South Africa. “Without the years of self-examination and meditation—seeing positive things in his darkest hours—Mandela might never have become such a remarkable leader after he walked free.”

He had become an activist in 1968, participating in an anti-war demonstration on his base; but, while in prison for refusing to serve in that war, he became a revolutionary and he started to become a leader.

Upon his release from prison he became an organizer for steel workers’ rights in Baltimore. He co-founded the Revolutionary Communist Party, colloquially known as RevCom, with Bob Avakian.

Dix also co-founded the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality in 1996 which became central to ending NYC’s Stop and Frisk policing program, drawing attention to the intrinsic racism in that and other such programs.

On Saturday, August 12th, he was in Charlottesville, Virginia counterprotesting the White Supremacist gathering which left dozens wounded, one dead and the nation reeling.

I was particularly interested to speak with Mr. Dix because of his long history with protesting in this country as a person of color. The events in Charlottesville shocked many across the country; but, I wondered how valid that shock was.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded sometime around the late 1860s, around the time Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. One of its core missions was to promote and “restore” white supremacy utilizing threats, violence and murder against black people and those who supported their freedom. It was somewhat suppressed until approximately 1915 when it reemerged with the slogan “One Hundred Percent Americanism.” The “second KKK” was staunchly against Jewish people, black people, Catholics, and Southern-European immigrants like Italians who were arriving in the US at that time.

The KKK initially took up what had previously been known as runaway slave patrol after the Emancipation made such patrols irrelevant; instead of patrolling for runaway slaves, however, the KKK patrolled black communities to “keep them in line” and remind them of what the White Supremacists saw as their rightful, oppressed place.

The United States was founded on the oppression of people, beginning with Native Americans and indentured servants (some of whom would be grandfathered into the institution of slavery); and the KKK has existed since the legal end of slavery to maintain that oppressive force.

10 years ago, Carl Dix helped to organize and lead a counter-protest to a KKK march in Louisiana.

As someone who has faced overtly-White-Supremacist groups in the past, and as a man of color who has been involved in activism since the sixties, my most pressing question for Mr. Dix was “how was Charlottesville different?”

He said there was a “real difference” in Charlottesville to compared to what he’s seen in the past. One of the elements contributing to that difference, he explained, was the presence of the KKK, Nazis and other factions all coming together. It seems that they were empowered by their joint-presence in a way that was unprecedented in Mr. Dix’s experience.

He also said that Charlottesville’s ralliers were different because they had “no shame.” When he’s faced the KKK before, he indicated, they were less emboldened. Stereotypical Klan members hide their faces beneath their infamous white robes.

In Charlottesville, they were publicly and proudly showing their faces and shouting their slogans.

He seemed particularly impacted by the Nazism that was both overt and prideful that weekend. He said they were using Nazi phrases, like “blood and soil,” which is a translation from a German Nazi slogan.

They were talking about “ovens,” as well, he said.

Adding to the difference was the fact that the “Unite the Right” attendees came to the area armed. He was quick to clarify that a “small fraction” were armed with guns; but, he said, almost all of them had some kind of other weapon, the shields, or sticks and poles and clubs.

He, like Luan, said they came to fight.

When asked if he witnessed any violence while in Charlottesville he said that violence was “all over the place” that weekend.

He witnessed these White Supremacists physically confronting counter-protesters more than once throughout the weekend.

Friday night he attended a church service and said that White Supremacists came up, wielding torches, and instigated physical confrontations outside of the church unprovoked.

A friend of his, a clergyman he did not name, was with other clergy in Emancipation Park ahead of the rally that was later officially cancelled by the city, to pray for the people present on both sides and to preach against bigotry.

He told this story when asked about his thoughts on anti-fa and the accusations of violence “on both sides.”

White Supremacists, according to Dix, started to physically attack these clergymen as they prayed and preached. If not for anti-fa and other young, counter-protesters, he said, those clergy-people were going to be physically brutalized.

This, he said, was the only “violence” he witnessed from counter-protesters: self-defense.

When members of his group were attacked by White Supremacists, who were apparently provoked only by anti-racist chants from his group, fighting back and defending each other was the only way to stop the attack. That attack, according to Dix, took place in an area between two police stations. He felt that the police in Charlottesville “stood aside” and allowed much of the violence to occur before stepping in, indicating that he only saw them intervene after violence had already been going on.

When asked about Donald Trump’s responses to the events in Charlottesville, he said that “Trump has his reasons for his statements.”

Trump is, he believes, a large part of why these White Supremacists groups felt so emboldened and unashamed that weekend. When asked why he believed these groups had behaved differently that weekend from what he had experienced in the past, he said it was because they now have a “friend in the White House.”

In refusing to condemn and outright defending the White Supremacists presence and their actions in Charlottesville, Donald Trump seems to validate this portrayal. Dix also pointed to his perpetuation of the “birthirism” movement and his various racist and bigoted statements as presidential candidate and as president, starting with his calling Mexicans rapists early last year.

While he said he would not have predicted that someone would drive a car into a crowd that weekend, he said it did not surprise him when he heard about it. They had come with a purpose, he reemphasized, and they had planned to be violent. He described their tactics as “isolating one” and enacting violence “when they had the advantage” to do so. Fields seems to have ratcheted up this strategy, giving himself the advantage with his choice of weapon.

Dix stated that there is “no defense” for Confederate statues and that they should all be removed from public placers and replaced with actual Civil War and anti-slavery heroes like Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner.

“There are lots of ways to get history,” he added.

While he and RevCom focus on frontline activism primarily, he stated that focusing on what the Trump Administration is attempting with the voter rolls is vital; if we don’t, he said, we won’t have a chance to make a difference in the “next election” because there won’t be one.

He encouraged people who are inspired by the events in Charlottesville or anywhere to take to the streets and to get involved. While his movement specifically calls for revolutionizing capitalism and transitioning through socialism eventually into a system of communism, getting involved period is his most important message.

It is because people were involved that the White Supremacists who have shown up around the country, both in Charlottesville and elsewhere since, have been shamed and called out for their reprehensible beliefs.

It is because so many showed up in Charlottesville that so many of this nation’s leaders have denounced White Supremacists overtly and called out Donald Trump for refusing to do so.

Those in the anti-fa movement who participate in violent confrontation believe that doing so is important to shame those with fascist or bigoted beliefs. Violence, however, does not have to be involved to truly shame people who would take our country back to the 16, 17, 1800s, those who bemoan the current challenges to White Supremacy. Showing up, dwarfing their numbers and refusing to let them get away with their bigotry does it, too.

And, though state laws vary, I think we can all agree that defending oneself or others against a violent attack, triggered only by anti-racist chants, is significantly different from being triggered to violence by anti-racist chants.

These groups were empowered and emboldened by Donald Trump’s election and his presence in the White House and he has refused to denounce them or their actions, cementing his place as the President of White Supremacy. There were many who knew that his campaign slogan only appealed to white people and men, those who America has always been great for. What is it going to take for us to collectively and decidedly recognize that he meant, and means: Make America White Again?

Visit Revcom.us to learn more about the Revolutionary Communist Party and Club.

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