I realize I am preaching to the crowd with this, but I wanted to try to make the point in a new way and also share a related story from my experience.
Fascism is about the exultation of power. A key tenet is the strong deserve the power they seize. Street fighting is not just a means to an ends, it is the ends. As opposed to the effete world of peaceful democratic power.
So, punching Nazis is a victory for Nazis. It proves their point. It accepts their system of power. It juices them up and eggs them on.
I do not agree with people who say that when the Klan rides into town we should all just stay away and ignore them. (Although 10,000 people turning their backs all at once would make a powerful statement.) Rather we need to draw the playing field around the Nazis to place them within that world of our democratic power. That’s where they lose.
I’m also not drawing any kind of moral equivalence between Nazis and people who punch Nazis. Rather, I’m trying to make a point about strategy.
Years ago I volunteered as an escort at a women’s health center that performed abortions. On procedure days the clinic would be besieged by a fanatical church group from Maine. They were never physically violent but could become loud and threatening. Our job was to de-escalate, also to come between the women and the crazies.
The escorts often became targets of church group. But to engage them directly would have ratcheted things up, the opposite of our role. So we came to understand that although we were there because of them, we were not there for them. We were there for the women.
It could be pretty frustrating sometimes! But discipline paid off.
Confronting Nazis is a similar gig, I think. It’s not a symmetrical conflict, but a struggle over whose values and whose system of power is true. Theirs or ours.