Tuesday, August 20, 2019

. . . But What about Antifa?

There are many, of whom I am one, who see a menacing movement toward fascism in this country. (See my 7/20 article “Is the Fear of Fascism Ill-Founded?”) Any vocal opposition to fascism, however, is often met with the rejoinder, “. . . but what about Antifa?” 
The Antifa logo
Descriptive Words about Antifa
There is much online and in the mass media about Antifa. Some of that material is good and helpful; some is certainly not so good or helpful. I am particularly negative toward what is being said/shown on Fox News and by people such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
There is, though, a good and helpful book about Antifa written by a scholar and college professor. That book is Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook (2017) by Mark Bray, who earned his Ph.D. in 2016 at Rutgers University and currently teaches at Dartmouth College.
Early in his Introduction, Bray explains that “anti-fascism is a reasonable, historically informed response to the fascist threat that persisted after 1945 and that has become especially menacing in recent years.
In particular, Antifa in the U.S. see a real danger in the current presence and support of white supremacists, a movement that seems to be increasing in numbers and influence.
Ten Assumptions about Antifa
In reading/thinking about Antifa, I have come up with the following ten assumptions.
1) Fascism is bad/harmful for any nation and for the world.
2) Opposition to fascism is good/potentially helpful for any nation and for the world.
3) The people most actively opposed to fascism are referred to as Antifa.
4) As in any group/movement, there are “good” and “bad” people in Antifa.
5) Antifa members who use violence and physically harm persons should be denounced.
6) Antifa members who adamantly and peacefully oppose fascism should be applauded.
7) In the 1920s and ’30s Antifa in Italy and Germany were too few and too late.
8) Increasing fascism in the U.S. is a real threat that must be taken seriously.
9) Current criticism of Antifa is often misleading and ill-founded.
10) It is better to err on the side of supporting Antifa than to condone fascism.
What about it, readers? Are any of these assumptions questionable and/or indications of muddled thinking?
Despite Misgivings about Antifa
The proclivity of some Antifa members to use violence is troubling to me. I am more in favor of what they try to do than in how they sometimes do it.
But I think DJT is entirely wrong in suggesting that perhaps Antifa should be branded as a terrorist organization. Just last Saturday he tweeted, “Major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an ‘ORGANIZATION OF TERROR.’”
That was just before an expected confrontation between Antifa and Proud Boys in Portland, Oregon. Police intervened and there were no serious clashes, but the leader of the Proud Boys declared their Portland rally a success, saying, "Go Look at President Trump's Twitter." 
Suggestions that Antifa is the (im)moral equivalent of white supremacist groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, etc. are entirely wrong. The latter are against Blacks, Jews, Latinx immigrants, and other non-whites. The Antifa are against the racism and xenophobia of the groups that have characteristics of fascism.
I agree with what historian Dave Renton says in his book Fascism (1999) and cited by Mark Bray: “. . . one cannot be balanced when writing about fascism, there is nothing positive to be said of it.”
Bray further states, “We should be warier of those who are truly neutral toward fascism than those who honestly espouse their opposition to racism, genocide, and tyranny.”
So, despite some misgivings about Antifa, I fully agree with their opposition to the far-right neo-fascist organizations they actively oppose.


  1. After posting this article about 30 minutes ago, I saw this article (see link below) titled "Proud Boys Convicted In NY Beating As Trump Calls For Labeling Their Targets A Terror Group."

  2. The jury may still be out... I have met and been threatened by both the left and right wing militants. They must be avoided, and NOT endorsed. I saw the murderous left-wing government kill off its citizens while growing up. Praise is not in order. Much needs to be hearlded about the anti-Christian leaders and organizations as well, whose pose behind their "good".

    1. No, the jury is NOT still out. There is overwhelming consensus that the fascism in Europe in the 20th century (that of Mussolini, Hitler, etc.) was terrible for Europe and for the world.

      As I understand it, the primary purpose of Antifa is to do all they can to keep fascism from gaining power in the 21st century as it did in the 20th century.

      I continue to agree with Bray's words at the end of my article and my concluding statement.

    2. I am quite familiar with anarchy as well. Antifa are part of the left-side anarchists. These are not "gentle" libertarians. Like their counterparts, they are looking for trouble.
      And look no further than the militant Society of Ignatius of Loyola (another "antifa"??) as well - Their militant history is well known - including their attempts to take out Hitler (not a bad thing in particular, just part of their long militant history for eliminating those of whom they do not approve).

      Seems like a great way to start a war between extremists. Maybe they are needed. Maybe anarchy is the answer. Maybe not. To the victor goes the spoils. Are you hoping for another extreme in liberation?? I don't trust them anymore than the right-wing militants. I think Craig is right, fascists has two polar faces.

    3. I strongly stand by the statement I made in the article: "Suggestions that Antifa is the (im)moral equivalent of white supremacist groups such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, etc. are entirely wrong." I can't pass judgment on the Italian fascists in the 1920s and 1930s, but to say that Antifa is fascist or just as bad as the right-wing fascists is just plain wrong, in my opinion.

      As to the Jesuits, there is a unseemly side to some of their history--no more so than of Christianity as a whole, however. But I have found the ideas and actions of the original Jesuits--Ignatius and Francis Xavier etc.--to be highly commendable. And also during the 17 semesters of teaching as Rockhurst University, a Jesuit school, I found much to praise and little to criticize in contemporary Jesuits. Moreover, I also highly regard the Jesuit now known as Pope Francis.

      I certainly do not support anarchy--and while some Antifa members are anarchist, many are not. I don't know what you mean by "another extreme in liberation." I certainly don't hope for fascism to arise as it did with the Axis powers in the 1940s that led to the fascist opposition of the Allies in World War II. To the extent the Antifa is protesting against fascism that caused so much bloodshed in the past century, I am glad to applaud what they do.

  3. I think your ten assumptions hit the mark, Leroy. Thanks for shedding some light on a group/topic that many are ignoring...our outright rejecting due to misinformation and deliberate mischaracterization.

    1. Thanks for your comments, David. I agree that many are ignoring the Antifa out of unconcern or lack of knowledge, but what bothers me most are, as you suggest, those who reject what Antifa is trying to do because of "misinformation and deliberate mischaracterization."

  4. Before 6:00 this morning (my time, not his), I received the following, much appreciated comments from Thinking Friend Andrew Bolton in England:

    "This is an excellent, balanced and perceptive comment on Antifa. The rise of the Far Right is very worrying. President Trump’s support of the Far Right is dangerously misguided and reminds me of the 1930s in Europe. I went to Lviv, Ukraine, in May and pilgrimaged the story there of how NAZI Fascism wiped out the Jewish population of 110,000 who were a third of the city. White supremacy, racism, fascism, antisemitism, and Islamophobia is never okay.

    "Like you I also support nonviolent protests."

    1. Andrew, I much appreciate, as I indicated, your comments sent soon after my posting the article.

      Yes, in addition to, or a part of, their opposition to fascism, Antifa is opposed to white supremacy, fascism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. But it seems to me that those who are mostly supportive of the groups/ideas that Antifa oppose are the strongest critics of Antifa.

  5. Just now I received the following comment from Thinking Friend Glenn Hinson in Kentucky:

    "A very helpful essay, Leroy. I share your concern about fascism in the U.S. and view Antifa positively, although I’m not an organizer."

  6. Unfortunately, the term Antifa has come to represent not those opposed to fascism, but the far left equivalent of the far right, both using violence and other actions that don't conform to a free society. It no longer simply those opposed to fascism. It never really did represent all opposed to fascism as it was a construct formed of only leftist ideology. I doubt I would be welcomed even though I clearly called out Trump early on in his candidacy as fitting the definition of neo-fascist. Antifa has some resemblance to the student groups and red guard during the Chinese cultural revolution.

    1. Ben, I don't know who you are, but I appreciate your posting comments, although I have some problem with what you have written.

      Antifa seems to be a "big umbrella," and I was writing in support of Antifa in the narrow sense of those who are, truly, anti-fascist. And certainly, I recognize that they never did, and never will, represent all opposed to fascism--but they seem to be the ones who are most actively opposing fascism at the present, and for that I think they are to be commended.

  7. This afternoon I received these brief comments from local Thinking Friend Greg Brown.

    "Well said Leroy. This may be one of those rare situations where there truly is no middle ground — a straight up dichotomy."

    1. Thanks for your comment, Greg. I try to avoid the "fallacy of false dichotomy," but I tend to agree with you that, indeed, this may be a true dichotomy. As one of my Facebook friends wrote a couple of days ago, those who are not Antifa are Profa. Of course, there are different degrees of being "anti" or "pro," but there is no neutral ground, for not being against that which is bad/evil is, in effect, being its ally.

  8. James Smith Crum, whom I first knew in Japan years ago, posted the following comments about this article on Facebook:

    "Thanks for the information about ANTIFA. I am wholeheartedly against Fascism but am also against violence from the far right or left. Frightening times, for sure.

    "I think misinformation, and lack of education, lack of desire to learn, and propaganda news are very dangerous in the lives of many Americans. I see Trump and some so-called religious groups as extremely dangerous. I continue to be baffled by it every single day."

  9. I fear Antifa is falling into a trap. Being ready, as they seem to be, to engage in street fighting with fascist groups is already a victory for the fascists. Organize and publicize for good policies, and let the police square off as needed with the fascists. This is similar to the problem of liberals on college campuses trying to interfere with radical conservative speakers. You make yourself look bad, and give free publicity to your opponent. Have your own meetings, make your own points. I fear Antifa is hurting the very cause it claims to support.

    Now things get more complicated when the rightwing is trying to interfere with proper normal activities, whether a civil rights march, access to an abortion clinic, or simply a church trying to hold a service. There are places for lawyers, leaders, guards and such. Even then, we need to focus as much as possible on thinking smarter, not just on being tougher.

    Let me close with a quote from Ennio Flaiano, "In Italy, fascists divide themselves into two categories: fascists and antifascists." See Wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennio_Flaiano

  10. Craig, I have mixed thoughts about your comments. I see that the negative publicity that Antifa has gotten--on Fox News and elsewhere--has certainly been counter-productive. And I have a problem with "liberals on college campuses trying to interfere with radical conservative speakers." But do we want to say that speakers/advocates of the KKK or neo-Nazis, for example, should be allowed to march in the streets or speak on university campuses with no vocal opposition?

    As long as the fascists are "peaceful" in their marches and rallies, there is no particular need for the police to "square off" with them. The last-century fascists in Germany and Italy had nothing to fear from the police, for they (the police) were under the control of the fascist government. And while our present government is currently far from fascist, it seems as though the KKK and neo-Nazis has perhaps the tacit approval of DJT.

    I don't remember hearing the name Flaiano (although I have heard of some of the screenplays he co-wrote) and know nothing about him, so I can't say anything definite about his quote. But my guess is he was referring to in-fighting among the fascists in Italy rather than any real anti-fascism.

  11. Out of curiosity, what does the typical/average American fascist believe, do, look like, and live?

    1. Here is one perspective that might be considered: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/28/american-version-fascism-alive-and-prospering

  12. Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona wrote,

    "I know so little about this group, I feel unqualified to comment on them. However, I am troubled about what I read about them on the internet. Their violent nature disturbs me. Someone has said, that you can't destroy an ideal with violence, but only with a better ideal. It sounds like this group has a good motive but poor methods. Thanks for the blog."

  13. Well, I tried to make it clear that I do not condone Antifa's use of violence, but as far as I know, there hasn't been a single person killed in recent years in the U.S. because of Antifa's violence.

    But as to not using violence to destroy an ideal, that did not seem to be the position of the Allies when they were fighting against the fascism of the Axis powers in the 1940s.

  14. Unlike his usual quick comments to my blog article, just this morning I received this from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago"

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your comments about Antifa.

    "I agree with the points listed, although I am not sure to what extent fascist groups constitute a political threat in the U S, although they are clearly a real threat for acts of violence. The threat of violence obviously needs to be taken seriously. I consider fascism to be a form mental illness.

    "Unlike those in right-wing or fascist movements, I am not aware of any mass shootings by members of Antifa or other left-wing groups, at least in recent years in the U S. I would, of course, prefer that members of Antifa adhere strictly to nonviolence."

    1. "The recent shooter in Dayton seems to have had left-wing tendencies--but there has been no evidence at all that he thought he was shooting fascists in his deadly actions or that there was any political / ideological reason for what he did. On the other hand, the shooter in El Paso seems to have specifically targeted Mexicans because of his white supremacist views.

      [corrected from what I posted yesterday]