The GW Hatchet, our award-winning student newspaper, has another interesting article this week on the establishment of a new group on campus, the Internationalist Students’ Front, an anti-fascist, anti-nationalist organization. They are advocates of internationalism, a position similar to the prior world socialist movement. The addition of such groups are a good thing for our university in bringing diverse and passionate views to our campus debates. However, it is worrisome that the first organized effort of the group is reportedly to ban a book on campus.
Sophomore Sheng Zhang explained that the group is defined by “internationalism” which “means that we stand in solidarity with every single struggle against oppression in the world.” He said that the group was founded after his effort to host an event on the Kurdish people failed due to any organization with a focus that covered such a topic. Senior Alaina Taylor adds that the group wants to advance new ideas and perspectives on historical events, including U.S. atrocities.
That is all for the good.
Then I read the first effort of the group would be book banning. The group wants Gelman Library to ban two books. Only one is referenced in the article. It is “The Alleged ‘Nanking Massacre’: Japan’s Rebuttal to China’s Forged Claims” – a book that contests the historical (and well established) allegations of Japanese atrocities in World War II.
It is a uniquely poor way to start a group on offering different perspectives of historical events by trying to prevent students and faculty from reading alternative perspectives. Like Holocaust denial, the denial of war atrocities by the far right in Japan is based on pseudo-historical analysis. It is painful for many to read such denials. However, as an academic institution, our faculty and students research such views as part of their studies and discussion. Sometimes we buy books to gain perspective of fringe or discredited views. The denial itself is a legitimate matter of study for some academics.
As we discussed with the Antifa movement, resisting oppression often seems to readily translate into barring the speech of others. It would be a far better focus for the group to work to raise their voices rather than to silence others.
On the group’s Facebook page is heavy on pictures of communist leaders and jargon but its members insist that it is not a communist organization as opposed to anti-imperialist. I would not be bothered if it were a communist organization. The issue is not ideology but tolerance of opposing views and works.