Antifa has been a much talked about group as of late. The discussion started in earnest way back. in 2016 when they clashed with white supremacists, Nazis, and Confederate sympathizers in Charlottesville a few weeks back during the “Unite the Right” rally and then-president Donald Trump struggled with the comparison, saying both sides were to blame for the violence and unrest. Both sides were wrong, both sides were morally reprehensible, equally so, etc. etc.
And, after the recent violence in Berkeley, even “progressive” Daily Show host Trevor Noah came out against Antifa’s more aggressive tendencies when battling Fascism (Antifa = Anti + Fascist).
The Role of Antifa, Then and Now
On the general spectrum, Antifa is on the “left,” and Nazis are (as they always have been) on the right.
But – this is the first problem: Spectrum and “sides” should not be the way this discussion is framed (as much as the president and his followers, and many liberals as well would like it to be). As Nazism/Fascism is something we know historically to be evil, regardless of what the America political spectrum looks like today; it was defeated, both as a mantra/philosophy and as political movement, and has rightly condemned the worst form of authoritarian government rule in the modern world.
This – at one point – went without saying, even coming to define much of pop culture in the United States and abroad. Is Antifa a slightly more menacing and erratic, and perhaps less well-dressed, version of Indiana Jones? He too was known for punching Nazis.
We discuss the power of ideology in Don’t Kill Hitler and The Persistent Appeal of Fascism. The point is here is not praise the approach that Antifa and other groups have taken to combat the recent rise in visible Nazism and support for Fascist rhetoric and action as the pure and simple the “right” course – or necessarily the course of action that will help solve the problem in the long term –
As Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin said after the recent clashes on the streets of his city, “Fighting hate with hate does not work and only makes each side more entrenched in their ideological camps.”
He called for Antifa to be classified as a gang, though not long after it was reported he was part of a Facebook group linked to Antifa.
But – again – it is not about “sides,” or who is “right” or “wrong” in a situation like this. When Far Right values rise to the surface and take hold – if there is a revolution going on in the United States it is one, sadly, fueled by right-wing ideology where it should be one of humanist socialism – the only course of action is to fight against them.
Violence is not > discourse, perhaps. But when violence is the only language the opposing side understands – because how can you argue for the humanity of human beings when the opposing side does not believe it exists? What sort of discussion can there be when it is trying to convince the other side that people deserve rights, simply to exist? What has somehow gotten lost in (primarily internet) discourse is that hate speech and that ideologies that support eradication of certain peoples/races/cultures is not something that is supported by the First Amendment, or sort of rules of decency.
Alt-Right chat logs discussing use of violence on chat platform Discord, first released by Unicorn Riot:
And simply because we are (for some reason) discussing whether or not there should be sympathy or support for Nazis and white supremacists. While we have made huge strides in this country and across the world to come together in support of one another (community is humanity’s greatest achievement), and there is still something of a consensus that fascist and certainly Nazi rhetoric is, pure and simple, regressive, evil, etc., still do our governments and media lean to the right when we discuss what must be done to stop it in its tracks.
This is the point: On the one hand there are people dedicated to an ideology of literal, tangible hate – the torture, rape, and murder of human beings based on nothing more than their heritage, lineage, family; it is a group dedicated to an ideology that wiped millions of people (entire bloodlines) from the face of the earth in unspeakable ways; it is an ideology that supported (and continues to support) the ridiculous and antiquated notion that birthplace, skin color, religion, and/or culture could somehow dictate human worth and ability, and that they should be controlled thus.
On the other, people who believe fighting is better than sitting idly by; better to fight Nazism than let it run rampant in the streets, and that a few well-placed punches against those who believe the supremacist logic of Nazis, the racist legacy of the Confederates, and the iron-fisted and regressive authoritarianism of Fascists is not only warranted, but necessary.
It is a fairly simple concept: Antifa didn’t show up until the Nazis did. Antifascism doesn’t exist without the increasingly prevalence of Fascism. This has been the case throughout history. Antifa today is fighting against the return of one of the single most terrible movements and ideologies in human history.
Opposition is necessary.
Punching a white supremacist might be violence, but it is violence not only separate from the heinous deeds of nazis and fascists, it is violence that is actually, objectively, a good thing.