Perhaps due to my background of being a political refugee from then communist Eastern Europe in the 1980s, and an anti-communist dissident pretty much all my life, a lot of people have been asking what I think about the so-called ‘Antifa’ movement.
While I won’t pretend to be an expert on the subject matter, I decided to pull my thoughts together, and here is my two cents’ worth …
talks of ‘Antifa’ by certain political actors, at home and abroad, appear to be a mere distraction from serious underlying societal problems, and potentially political ones
In my opinion, recent talks of ‘Antifa’ by certain political actors, at home and abroad, appear to be a mere distraction from serious underlying societal problems, and potentially political ones.
For example, I struggle to understand how anyone thinks the US could simply ‘dominate’ or arrest its way out of decades, if not centuries, old fundamental problems, including institutional racism, systemic injustice, and a culture of violence, that permeate US society like cancer …
However, it appears to me that every time there are significant protests against ultra-conservative racists, fascist, and white supremacist ideologies, somehow most revert to denial, and it always becomes someone else’s fault – and ‘Antifa’ tends to become the poster child for it all.
At best, ‘Antifa’ is an umbrella term for a very loose-knit and diverse movement that is difficult to identify as an ‘organisation’. The fact is that it has no identifiable leadership or governing body, no formal membership process, or even a unified ideology or narrative.
The origins of the ‘Antifa’, short for ‘anti-fascist’, movement date back to an anti-Nazi movement in 1930s Germany, where it was linked to the German Communist Party.
the foundations of the movement could very easily be disempowered and counteracted by a responsible society, political class, and law enforcement agencies working together
In my view, the foundations of the movement could very easily be disempowered and counteracted by a responsible society, political class, and law enforcement agencies working together to ensure that those who sprout toxic, failed, racist, and murderous fascist, Nazi, and white supremacist ideologies don’t feel emboldened enough to emerge from under their rocks … where they rightfully belong, these ideologies having historically proved themselves to be absolutely toxic and deadly dangerous to civil society, and humanity as a whole.
Perhaps the biggest difference between this anti-fascists movement and, for the lack of a better term, ‘normal’ opponents of fascism and racism is that ‘Antifa’ doesn’t trust the government or police to efficiently and effectively deal with fascism and white supremacy, largely based on their suspicions that police and the political class of our society are actually tacitly supportive of such ideals. So, arguably, there is also a kernel of conspiracy theory at the heart of the modern version of the movement, which is probably not entirely healthy or reassuring.
often self-interested, amoral politicians, both abroad and closer to home, clearly sense an opportunity in exploiting, and dog-whistling to, racism, fascism, Nazism, and white supremacy to further their own political ambitions
However, they can also be forgiven for this thinking considering how often self-interested, amoral politicians, both abroad and closer to home, clearly sense an opportunity in exploiting, and dog-whistling to, racism, fascism, Nazism, and white supremacy to further their own political ambitions, and are deliberately creating a feedback loop that in turn often offers a veneer of legitimacy for these ideologies in the eyes of some who are looking for easy answers to society’s problems (and sometimes perceived problems).
Perhaps the biggest controversy arises from the view of some, but not all, who expressly identify as ‘Antifa’, whereby violence is permissible in stopping fascists and white supremacists, who they consider to be inherently violent. An example of this view is the 1996 song by the Canadian anti-fascist punk rock outfit Propaghandi, titled ‘The Only Good Fascist Is A Very Dead Fascist’. Although, this song title is really just a modern take on the saying used by some allied soldiers during WWII: ‘The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi’.
history shows us that fascism, Nazism, and white supremacy are not thoughtful or peaceful political and social movements, and once they mature into a mainstream political and social movement, they are the perfect storm of hate, ignorance, oppression, and violence
In one distant sense I empathise with this view, because history shows us that fascism, Nazism, and white supremacy are not thoughtful or peaceful political and social movements, and once they mature into a mainstream political and social movement, they are the perfect storm of hate, ignorance, oppression, and violence.
And these are not ideologies you could reason with either, because hate and ignorance are incapable of rational thought.
Subsequently, generally I’m with Vera on the subject of ‘Antifa’ to a very large extent, as I cannot easily consider those standing against fascism and white supremacy ‘terrorists’.
I must admit that philosophically I consider myself far more closely aligned with … the ‘White Rose’, a non-violent, intellectual resistance movement
Having said that, I must admit that philosophically I consider myself far more closely aligned with, and sympathetic towards, the underlying principles of the ‘Iron Front’, which stood for liberal democracy, and against totalitarian ideologies on both the right and left, from Nazism, to Communism, and reactionary conservatism in between (except for their history of street fights with both the Nazis and the communists in 1930s Germany – I’m a lover, not a fighter) and, above all, the ‘White Rose’, a non-violent, intellectual resistance movement established by Sophie and Hans Scholl, both executed by the Nazis in 1943 for treason after a sham trial.
Finally, the sobering, overriding fact for me is that law enforcement agencies have been identifying right-wing (fascist and white supremacist) groups as an increasing threat to national security across a number of Western democracies in recent years (including in Australia), and by and large in recent years such groups have also been response for more deaths in the US than any other domestic organisation.
The same cannot be said for ‘Antifa’, or other left leaning groups, in the West, which are currently far more benign than far-right operators.
unequivocally rejecting, and fighting against, racism and the ideology of right-wing fascism and white supremacy … are a whole of society responsibilities and … we must not cede the narrative on these matters to fringe groups
However, unequivocally rejecting, and fighting against, racism and the ideology of right-wing fascism and white supremacy (and society’s other ills from domestic violence to homophobia, misogyny, and so on) are a whole of society responsibilities and, whether due to denial or ignorance, or a combination of both, we must not cede the narrative on these matters to fringe groups. Allowing movements such as ‘Antifa’ to take the lead, and the moral high ground, in the fight against these ideologies, could empower ‘Antifa’ and lead to higher levels of organisation in the long term, with potentially far reaching consequences, and a whole new set of problems for our society …
Meanwhile, in the context of the current US protests which sparked the renewed interest in ‘Antifa’, there are also some credible and legitimately concerning analysis and news reports emerging about the complexity and subterfuge of instigators and perpetrators of at least some of the recent violence and property damage.
Update – 30 July 2020: in respect of my comment above relating to the instigators and perpetrators of at least some of the violence and property damage, Minneapolis police has now formally identified the man known as ‘Umbrella Man’, the man who methodically smashed the windows of a car parts shop on 27 May during a George Floyd protest while heavily disguised and carrying a black umbrella, as an affiliate of a white supremacist group, who sought to ‘incite violence’ with his actions on the day, indicating that there are right-wing provocateurs intent to stir up trouble among the protesters.