Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President a few years back, those on the left have held his rhetoric responsible for the rise of the “alt-right” and the normalization of white supremacist organizations in America. It’s hard to argue with that fact; two years ago I couldn’t name anyone associated with the white supremacist movement. Sitting here today, names like “Richard Spencer,” “Augustus Invictus,” “Chris Cantwell,” and asian television personality – “Tila Tequila” all come to mind when I think of modern white supremacists. While not everyone associated with the alt-right is a racist, it seems as though many members of the movement are comfortable moving within those social circles, which doesn’t help their public perception.
While the “alt-right” has been emboldened by the Trump Administration, so have those on the far-left end of the spectrum.The actions, and perception, of the Trump Administration have led to a steady rise in Antifa. The purpose of the far-left organization is to rid the world of “fascists” be any means necessary, even violence. In the mainstream media, “Antifa” are often referred to as “protesters.”
Militant leftists didn’t greet white supremacists in Charlottesville, “protesters” did.
Far left extremists didn’t protest Ann Coulter’s appearance at Cal-Berkeley; “protesters” did.
Radicals didn’t stop Republicans from marching at a Portland parade under threat of violence; “a group of protesters” did.
Their historical aim is to fight fascism, but recently the group defines fascism as anyone they disagree with. Actual fascism if much worse.
What is Fascism?
Fascism is a political ideology that dominated many parts of central, eastern, and southern Europe in the early to mid 1900’s. Generally, fascism is a radical form of authoritarian-nationalism, characterized by a dictator and suppression of opposition. Historian Mark Bray defines Fascism as:
“a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
The most famous name in Fascism is former best friend of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini.
In 1922 Mussolini was named Prime Minister of Italy. Two years later, in 1924, he named himself dictator.
“Millions of fellow citizens meanwhile concluded that, if not the man to finish what the great work of national unification had begun, Mussolini was at least a lesser evil.
In 1924, there was a near-meltdown when Fascists murdered Giacomo Matteotti, a Socialist parliamentarian. Bosworth surmises that he was about to blow the whistle on hanky-panky with a U.S. oil company.
Mussolini rode out the crisis by declaring himself dictator. He then kept regular office hours and maintained an ostentatiously clean desk. By the 1930s, membership in the party approached 5 million, and membership in one or another Fascist affiliate extended to nearly half the population.”
Eventually Mussolini was so loathed the Italians ended up executing him in April of 1945, then dragged his body, along with the bodies of other fascists, to the “Piazzale Loreto” for public display.
Fascism, at its core, values the good of the nation over the good of the individual. It is an ideology that is directly incompatible with liberty. In general, there are 14 characteristics of Fascism, including:
- Powerful and continuing nationalism
- Disdain for Human Rights
- Identification of enemies/Using Scapegoats
- Strong military
When you read through the characteristics it’s easy to see the overlap between beliefs held by Mussolini and Hitler. You can also see some shared characteristics between white supremacy groups and fascism, and if you, like Antifa, believe that Trump is supporting white supremacy than it is easy to understand why Antifa is calling Trump and his supporters “fascists.”
So What is Antifa?
““Of course we’ll have it (fascism). We’ll have it under the guise of anti-fascism.” – Huey Long
In short, Antifa is a far-left militant group dedicated to fighting “fascism” in the United States and abroad. According to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray, activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people.
This belief means that individuals must take any and all action necessary to stop their enemies; even if it means using violence and intimidation to repress people.
History of Fighting Fascism:
Antifa is hardly a new idea. As long as there has been fascism, there have been people resisting the idea, most groups do so peacefully. The idea of violent resistance to fascism is hardly new, however. It seems likely that the violent version of modern Antifa protesters has it’s roots in a protest from 1936. After Francisco Franco became Spain’s fascist dictator; people in London protested the British Union of Fascists in the “Battle of Cable Street.” The “Battle of Cable Street” provided a blueprint for future antifascists; a strong, unified front willing to fight can defeat anyone.
The modern term “Antifa” has it’s roots in the “Anti-Fascist Action,” a German anti-fascist movement most popular in Europe during the 1930’s, but saw a spike in popularity again in the 1980’s. The movement gained some momentum with punk rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s, however, the leaders of the movement determined that most American’s weren’t familiar enough with Fascism to take a stand. For this reason the American counterpart to the “Anti-Fascist Action” that was popular in Europe, went by “Anti-Racist Action.” After all, almost everyone is against racism.
The movement received its most media attention, prior to this year in 2002. During a meeting of white supremacists belonging to “World Church of the Creator” in Pennsylvania, “Anti-Racist Action” protesters showed up. 25 people ended up getting arrested in the fighting that followed.
How Are They Organized? And What Do They Believe?
What makes Antifa so difficult to understand, and so easy to discredit, is the fact that there is no nationally organized Antifa. Antifa exists as a network of regional affiliates. While they all aim to fight racism, the loose affiliations mean that there is never any official statement. This also means that people (myself included) often fall for fake antifa accounts.
Antifa members are anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-Nazi, and anti-capitalism. The Washington Post describes them as a far-left group dedicated to fighting the alt-right. The majority view themselves as communists and socialists (or the seemingly contradictory “anarcho-communist”). Emboldened by the “Battle of Cable Street,” modern Antifa groups relish the opportunity to violently resist anyone they deem as a “fascist,” often resorting to violence while dressed in bandana’s and glasses as a way to conceal their identity.
What Have They Done?
The growing problem with Antifa is their inability to distinguish between dissenting idea’s, and fascism. On pro-Antifa website “refusefascism.org,” as part of their “Call To Action!” the author (without including any examples of the Trump/Pence administration of repressing anyone), wrote:
“The Trump/Pence regime will repeatedly launch new highly repressive measures, eventually clamping down on all resistance and remaking the law… IF THEY ARE NOT DRIVEN FROM POWER.”
The irony of this sentiment is that Antifa fully supports repressing rights. Remember, according to historian, and antifa expert Mark Bray; activists believe that “fascists” lose their first amendment rights when they use violence and intimidation to repress people. Because of this belief, Antifa can justify being against just about anyone. Hell last week Boston Antifa groups hung up posters around the city that would help people identify “fascists.” The symbols included a thin blue line (in support of cops) and anyone with an “Infowars” symbol near them.
With all that being said, it’s not as though Antifa has been acting with any subtlety. In Portland, Antifa used slingshots to fling human waste at police officers. Last weekend Antifa confronted free speech protesters in Boston, leading to 33 arrests. And in Charlottesville earlier this month, Antifa confronted white supremacists, resulting in violence and the death of a woman.
Earlier this year they rallied against free speech in Berkeley, CA, when Ann Coulter was scheduled to speak, leading to violence and at least 6 arrests. Protesters claimed they were protesting “bigots trying to normalize hate.” While ignoring the fact that in doing so they were spreading hate and suppressing dissenting points of view (a key element of fascism).
Antifa is the reason Politico called Portland “America’s Most Politically Violent City.” Antifa sent threatening emails to parade organizers in Portland telling them the parade would end in violence if the Multnomah County Republicans were allowed to have a float in the annual “Avenue of the Roses” parade. In the emails Antifa made it clear that they considered anyone who supported Trump to be a fascist. The parade was then cancelled because of the threat.
How is Antifa Viewed?
In years past, the mainstream left has, condemned the violent actions of those on the fringe left who would be willing to use violence on enemies. While some on the left reject the idea that Antifa is anything other than an organizing strategy, other’s on the left have fully fed into the hyperbole that Trump is a fascist.
Over at “The Nation,” Frida Berrigan exclaims we’re living in a fascist society under Trump, explaining that with Trump in the White House, the end of life in America is upon us. Osita Nwanevu, at “Slate,” posted a video praising protesters who took violent action against the despicable white supremacist Richard Spencer. While this week over at CNN, Sara Ganim and Chris Welch profiled antifa with the original headline “Unmasking the leftist Antifa movement: Activists Seek Peace Through Violence.” After a few hours of bad press, the headline was changed.
This week opponents of Antifa received the necessary number of signatures needed on a petition to trigger a mandatory response from the White House. The petition called on the Trump Administration to label Antifa as a terrorist organization. While Noam Chomsky, one of the most cited academics in history, and a massive liberal, called Antifa a “major gift to the right.”
The Impact of Antifa?
It’s difficult to comprehend what, if any, impact “Antifa” will have on American society moving forward. Even though membership and notoriety has soared in response to Trump, “Antifa” still makes up an exceptionally small percentage of the left. With that said, 18 months ago we would have said the same thing in regards to the alt-right.
Overall Antifa is a loose network of regional affiliates who fight a political ideology that calls for suppression, by attempting to suppress those that they feel are trying to suppress others. The danger presented by Antifa is their casual acceptance of violence, and willingness to suppress individual rights.