Why the Attacks on Antifa Are Shameful—And Why These Attacks MUST BE OPPOSED

September 4, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


For the past week, “Antifa” has come under a sustained and many-sided political attack, including from liberal and some “progressive” voices. These attacks would be almost laughably idiotic if they were not so dangerous and deadly serious. These attacks echo Trump, as well as other organized forces. (“Antifa” refers to a range of anti-fascist and anti-racist groups with varying viewpoints, who act in different ways to defend against and take on fascist and white-supremacist thugs, on the street and on the internet. Significant sections of Antifa identify themselves as anarchist in some way.)

A sample of the range of the attacks: Noam Chomsky, the progressive anti-imperialist, and a self-identified “anarchist” himself—shut out of the major media for decades—suddenly finds himself quoted in every corner of that media for saying that Antifa is a “gift to the right.” Chris Hedges, the “progressive” commentator, echoes similar themes. Liberal democrats warn that Antifa is causing the legitimacy of the government’s right to the exclusive use of force and violence to come under question. A former speechwriter for Donald Rumsfeld takes to the Washington Post to loudly assert the “moral equivalency” between Antifa and the Nazis whom it takes on. (Rumsfeld, as George W. Bush’s “defense” secretary, directed the utterly unprovoked and illegitimate war against Iraq that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and still counting.) Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party leader, rushed to denounce them, calling for arrests and prosecution.

At week’s end came the punch line to this vicious show—an article on the liberal-democratic Politico website announcing major FBI and “Homeland Security” investigations (and no doubt actions) against Antifa.

Let’s pull the lens back here and get some clarity.

Point Number One: The mobilization of organized groups of fanatical thugs is integral to fascism

The Trump/Pence regime is a fascist regime.1

The Trump/Pence regime has step-by-step taken dramatic draconian moves, stripping away democratic rights, targeting group after group, and suppressing dissent and resistance. Trump himself whips up and foments hatred and vicious violence at his fascist campaign rallies: “take ’em out on a stretcher,” “punch ’em in the face,” referring to protesters, and systematically going after the press as “enemies of the American people.” Trump signaled to the whole world his support of the fascists in Charlottesville. When fascists march with torches chanting racist, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, and outright NAZI slogans—in a country with historic and vicious white supremacy and male supremacy—people opposed to all this should wake the fuck up!

In states like Iowa, fascist militia groups like the Oath Keepers—“retired” law enforcement and military personnel—come armed to Trump rallies and even congressional “town halls” to intimidate opponents. Trump trolls on the internet “dox”—publish private, identifying information about those opposing Trump, and use this information to hound them. Everyone can—and should—go online to watch the three videos released by the National Rifle Association (NRA) in late June and early July that were essentially propaganda and recruiting tools to prepare Trump’s supporters to act as storm troops (the paramilitary street-fighting force that served as an arm for Hitler’s rise to power in Germany). Charles Blow of the New York Times has likened this to raising an army for extralegal purposes.

Meanwhile, “progressives” like Aviva Chomsky2 write articles attacking Antifa, posturing “from the left”—without even mentioning the word fascism and only mentioning the name Trump once in passing. This would be like writing an article condemning the communist resistance tactics in Germany in 1933—after Hitler had come to power—without mentioning Hitler or the Nazis. For anyone who doubts this is fascism, monstrous and grotesque in its implications for humanity, the work has been done—on what this regime has already done and what it has in store, in policy and in law. This is not a “pendulum swing” to a more right-wing Republican administration; this is a fascist regime—now aiming to consolidate itself, in opposition both to mass opposition and opposition from within the ruling class.

It matters that Antifa—along with other groups and individuals, including revolutionary communists—stood their ground and fought back in Charlottesville. Who among the so-called “leftists” and liberals would have preferred the outcome had they not? More bodies in the morgue? Names added to the courageous roster which now includes Heather Heyer? More broken bones? Worse yet, the picture of an openly fascist, racist mob rampaging unchallenged for the weekend would have been a tremendous political victory for the fascists: It would have demoralized those who oppose the regime, and would have emboldened still more backward racists, misogynists, and America-number-one-ers to join their ranks.

Instead, Charlottesville served as a stirring example of what people MUST do in this period. It re-polarized society in a very favorable way, with even forces in the ruling class deserting government institutions associated with Trump. But Charlottesville—including Trump’s insistent defense of the “good people” marching with Nazi insignia and Klan flags—should also have served as a serious wake-up call. To those who now shake their fingers against Antifa and related groups: please take your goddamn heads out of the sand. Recognize the depth and urgency of what is going on.

What is wrong when people amass to prevent fascists from doing their shit when they announce their intent to do it again—as happened in cities after Charlottesville? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary—we have compared this on our site to those who would act forcefully to prevent a lynch mob from assembling, and that comparison is exactly right.

Point Number Two: There is still time, but there is not much time, to drive out this regime through mass political action. But that will require breaking with the “norms” of ordinary bourgeois-democratic rule.

Fascism has not consolidated its rule (for more on this, see revcom.us articles here and speeches given by Refuse Fascism at the recent organizing conferences here and here). The Trump/Pence regime has not yet succeeded in crushing the opposition from the people, overcoming opposition of different kinds from other sections of the ruling class, and fully imposing its program. There is still time—and a “window”—to drive out this regime with mass political action. This is why Refuse Fascism’s call for November 4 is critical. Unless the time is seized, as quickly as possible, it is all too possible that the window for such mass action will shut, and the Trump/Pence regime will succeed in fully consolidating their clampdown.

But such action will require breaking with “the way things are done,” the “norms” of familiar ways of doing things. It will require breaking with the kind of thinking articulated by Peter Beinart, a liberal-democratic commentator, in his attack on Antifa:

Antifa’s perceived legitimacy is inversely correlated with the government’s. Which is why, in the Trump era, the movement is growing like never before. As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people. [emphasis added]

One problem: The Trump/Pence regime does NOT play by the “liberal-democratic” rules, those “norms.” Trump proved this repeatedly throughout his campaign—and throughout his presidency so far, disregarding and trampling on the orderly “cherished” norms of “how things have been done,” including by those in power. As Trump and his regime assaults and destroys these “norms,” Beinart acknowledges this, but then pleads with “us,” the “movement” of opposition, to work within them. “How things are done” includes perhaps some resistance, but in service of channeling into elections and waiting till 2018 and 2020—or protesting each new outrage of the fascist regime as their clampdown tightens. This will have catastrophic consequences. As the Call for Refuse Fascism sharply states:

We must recognize that the character of fascism is that it can absorb separate acts of resistance while continually throwing the opposition off-balance by rapidly moving its agenda forward. 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.

At a time when these liberal-democratic norms are breaking down, with the struggle of the people, the acts of the fascists, their divides with other sections of the ruling class, and overall intensifying polarization in society, Beinart aims to recover these norms, to “hold the center.” This whole deadly logic—along with the roots of fascism in this country and the traps that hem in the thinking of people in confronting this danger—is analyzed in Bob Avakian’s new talk, “The Problem, the Solution, and the Challenges Before Us,” which we urge our readers to listen to and/or read.

Beinart elevates the functioning of this system—of which Donald Trump and this fascist regime is a product—over the monstrosity represented by this fascist regime, gravely underestimating its horrors, dangers, and consequences.

What, Mr. Beinart, do you advise if Trump does do all he has said he will do and the organized fascist thug forces grow, cohere, and become more empowered to act with impunity? Note that in every city, the police have stood aside for fascist forces, escorting them safely to their cars, and then gone after the forces who oppose the fascists. What, Mr. Beinart, do you advise when the Trump/Pence regime throws millions of Black and Latino people off voter rolls in the name of combating “voter fraud” and effectively engineers an electoral victory even before the elections? Defies judicial orders that go against their executive actions? Institutes martial law in the ghettoes and barrios of this racist nation? Rounds up the “young people” (and others) whom you worry do not recognize the government’s legitimacy? Launches war against North Korea or Iran or Venezuela, and rounds up everyone opposing it, or of targeted ethnicities? Should we end this nightmare or wait to see how this unfolds? Substitute “chancellor” for “president” and “Hitler” for “Trump” in the above paragraph you wrote and it would be a prime example of how the road to the death camps got paved.

There is not going to be a cut-rate, no-sweat, play-for-time-and-wait-till-it-blows-over way to deal with the situation we face: a fascist cabal intent on consolidating unchallenged rule, with the ultimate obliteration of all democratic rights, and genocidal measures, including perhaps literal genocide.3 The best thing to do is to act right now as if not only our lives, but the interests of humanity, depended on ousting this regime—because they do, OK? It is worth noting Trump has his finger on the nuclear button; Hitler did not have nukes!

This has historically been true with previous fascist regimes, and it is proving so with the Trump/Pence regime. Even as they face obstacles, they seek to impose different and more oppressive cohering norms in society, trample civil and legal rights, and mobilize violent fascist social bases, like Trump does with his “rallies.” Fascism is hammered in place from above, and by the thugs. Terrified progressive critics of Antifa—and really of all serious resistance—don’t confront this reality and dynamic—of fascism. Willfully blinding themselves, they propagate foolishness, blinding others. With this dynamic of fascism on the move, the scope and space for protest is undermined, weakening the basis for the people to fight, to resist―even as the horrors of fascism accelerate and accentuate!

What is needed is what Refuse Fascism is calling for, beginning on November 4, for people from all walks of life and many differing points of view to

gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country, at first many thousands declaring that this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met: This Nightmare Must End: the Trump/Pence Regime Must Go!

Our protest must grow day after day and night after night—thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions—determined to act to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence regime poses to the world by demanding that this whole regime be removed from power.

In this light, it is important to recognize that the more that fascist groups roam the streets unchallenged, the stronger they become and the more energized they are in imposing fascism, including seeking to crush opposition and resist efforts to oust this regime.

There is still time to drive out this regime—but NOT if people allow themselves to be bound by the very rules that enabled the rise of the regime. NOT if—to paraphrase the poet Yeats—“the best lack all conviction” (and worse yet, condemn those who do righteously act on conviction), and “the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This will not be without sacrifice—those who are so fond of pointing to the civil rights movement as a way to shake your finger at the youth today should really think about what was actually involved in Birmingham, in Selma, and in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Point Number Three: It is unconscionable to cooperate in treating anyone opposing the fascists as the equivalent of the fascists.

The critics of Antifa have failed the most elementary test of both politics and morality: drawing a clear line between those who are carrying out great crimes (in this case with the backing of the state4) and those who are opposing those crimes. This has to be a bright dividing line in any movement that has any hope of stopping the monster. To quote a statement on the Refuse Fascism website:

Don’t allow the ruling forces, or any other force, to divide us or pit us against each other. Don’t fall for “divide and conquer” schemes and divisive actions, reject and rise above petty disputes and sectarian squabbles—reach out BROADLY to UNITE ALL WHO CAN BE UNITED, from different perspectives and viewpoints, around the great unifying objective of driving out, through massive, sustained political mobilization, this regime which has already done such great harm and which poses a grave threat to humanity.

In fact, to answer Noam Chomsky, it is precisely the “divide and conquer” devices of isolating sections of the resistance to fascism, to conciliating in its repression, that are a “gift to the right!” Let’s get right down to it here. The people who joined in, or allowed themselves to be used, in the attacks this past week are taking Martin Niemöller’s famous verse5—starting with “First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I did nothing, then they came for the Jews, etc.”—and making it even worse: “then they came for the Antifa, and I joined in the attack.” Wake the hell up! Don’t do this!

Point Number Four: It is, in fact, not enough to just stand up against Trump’s minions in the streets and develop networks of solidarity. There must be a major political movement, drawing in everyone from Antifa to Indivisible to Democrats, liberals, and disaffected and disgusted Republicans, going into the streets in a determined way, night after night and day after day, refusing to be “turned around.”

It is time now for everyone who is sickened by this nightmare of a regime, no matter what your project today or your vision for tomorrow, to come together for what might well be one of our last best chances to END THIS NIGHTMARE. It is time to get organized. It is time to be part of November 4, to throw in, to give your all to it to drive out the Trump/Pence fascist regime.

Humanity—today and in the future—is counting on us.

1. The following has appeared at www.revcom.us:

What IS Fascism?

Fascism is the exercise of blatant dictatorship by the bourgeois (capitalist-imperialist) class, ruling through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on what are supposed to be civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”

At the same time—and this can be seen through studying the examples of Nazi Germany and Italy under Mussolini—while it will likely move quickly to enforce certain repressive measures in consolidating its rule, a fascist regime is also likely to implement its program overall through a series of stages and even attempt at different points to reassure the people, or certain groups among the people, that they will escape the horrors—if they quietly go along and do not protest or resist while others are being terrorized and targeted for repression, deportation, “conversion,” prison, or execution. [back]

2. “How (Not) to Challenge Racist Violence,” CommonDreams.org, August 21, 2017. [back]

3. Carl Dix has recounted how the fascists in Charlottesville came up to him, and others, and said “We have an oven for you.” [back]

4. It is quite clear—indeed it was clear at the time—that the fascists in Charlottesville carried out their rampage with the conscious connivance of the police. And then, of course, there is the support they received from Numero Uno himself, Trumpf. [back]

5. “First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
“Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.” [back]




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