Coming out of antifa smashups with fascists, in Charlottesville and Berkeley in August, condemnation of those physically fighting the alt-right has given new life to Trump’s charge that “many sides” are responsible for violence at anti-fascist actions.
And, some on the left are contributing to this.
While much has been written for and against antifa, it is important to understand why this topic has risen to the point where it is fodder for furious denunciation by late night television hosts, hip liberal magazines, and the Democratic Party.
Trump, Fox News, and the far-right have set the talking points and liberals and social democrats are eager to show they are not extreme, they don’t like to see people beaten up, even the worst racists, and ultimately they’re good citizens who believe in non-violence.
The right’s success in demonizing antifa activists in the eyes of the general population—people who don’t read anarchist and left-wing web sites—creates political space for the Trump regime to continue prosecutions that began with the 200-plus activists facing up to 80 years for DisruptJ20 Inauguration Day actions. We can expect more indictments. (See FE #398, Summer 2017 and page 27 in this issue).
Many social democrats and liberals played a similarly odious role in the 1950s during the Red Scare era when, in order to prove how patriotic they were, they took part in the demonization of people associated with the Communist Party.
Although the CP was more than worthy of criticism for its political treachery toward other tendencies, some on the left eagerly joined the Red hunters with books, articles, loyalty oaths, and even denounced political dissenters during House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) congressional hearings.
Tens of thousands of the accused lost their jobs in schools, universities, industry, and businesses and a political climate of generalized repression was created, setting back civil rights and labor campaigns.
Antifa activists explain that their work is less physical confrontation and more research and exposure efforts, generally known as doxxing. Exposing fascists to their employers and neighbors can result in job loss and public shaming for their racist views.
Reading about a neo-Nazi getting bounced out of their job at a Berkeley hot dog stand delighted most on the left, but this is very reminiscent of what happened to those on the left in the 1950s.
Is it too difficult to imagine the shoe being on the other foot with anarchists losing their jobs and being held in disdain on a mass scale? And, the far-right is currently employing the same technique against its anarchist and left-wing opponents, but rather than shaming and job loss, they use it to spread misinformation by setting up fake antifa sites, hacking antifa and other sites, spreading private information, and creating campaigns of sexual and racial harassment by phone, text, email, and in person.
Even if antifa activists were to cease their doxxing activities, it’s doubtful that the right would. So, it’s best to think about protection, a difficult undertaking when hacking skills are so widespread.
Medium, an online publishing platform, provides an extensive guide to safeguard your electronics, yourself, and our communities. Extensive is an understatement, but at least some of it should be adhered to as a precaution. Search for “anti-doxing guide for activists.”
The situation we face in combating the neo-fascists of today has some haunting resemblances to the past. In 1939, 22,000 supporters of the German-American Bund, modeled on the German Nazi party, jammed New York’s Madison Square Garden while 100,000 people assembled outside in opposition.
A protester attempted to attack the U.S. would-be Fuhrer, Fritz Kuhn, as he stood at the podium, but was beaten down by bodyguards. The New York Times denounced “violent anti-Nazi protesters.”
Recognizing the similarities and differences between past and present is an important part of figuring out how to oppose today’s threats.
The Trump regime’s labeling antifascists “domestic terrorists” needs to be understood as their testing how far they can go in curtailing dissent. It must be strongly criticized and opposed.