When dealing with Antifa, it is important not to underestimate them. They may look like dumb street goons, but many are very educated and intelligent – usually way more so than any militia, neo-Nazi or KKK group.
Remember how the former communist countries had huge intelligence services to suppress their peoples? There were Cheka/NKVD/KGB, Stasi, Securitate and many others, with one major task: to spy on their entire, average populations for any sign of political resistance or just potential, political unreliability, and suppress them, if “necessary”. The East German Stasi, for example, had one full-time employee on 180 citizens in it’s heydays, and a far higher number of unofficial, occasional spies. While western intelligence services also develop some very shady and oppressive behavior in many cases, they do at least not usually perform systematic spying on the entire population (well, at least not officially).
A common attitude of contemporary Antifa groups is that average populations are thoroughly fascist in their true attitudes, and need to be monitored and suppressed. This for long looked like a special issue of the German “Anti-Germans”, and exceptional even among other European Antifa groups. But with Donald Trump reaching nearly half the popular votes (and winning through the electoral college system), a similar attitude seems to spread in the USA.
During the cold war, the eastern commies used their western offspring to spy mainly on politicians and celebrities, to blackmail or doxx them, or find compromising material. And in Germany, those where a Nazi past could be utilized, were especially easy marks, and useful in order for the East German government to depict West Germany as a fascist state. This also laid ground for the later Antifa: in the post-war anti-communist period, the communist party of West Germany was banned, but another, East German sponsored “antifascist” group, the VVN-BdA, was spared, with rumors about potential blackmail used against the responsible judge. The VVN-BdA survived the end of the Eastern Bloc and still exists today, and is part of many local Antifa networks.
Other Antifa activists, some of them officially journalists, built huge home archives with information on politicians and members of right wing organizations, requiring reinforced walls and ceilings to support the load of files. Potentially compromising information was peddled to journalists from mainstream newspapers and TV magazines. A common practice of both spying and intimidation by Antifa groups is stealing of name and address lists, of members or sympathizers of undesirable organizations, or mail order customers, and adding them to internal blacklists.
Everyone can become a Spy
With the advance of technology and social media, such practices have become cheaper and gained broader availability. Running an intelligence service, capable of comprehensive monitoring of all-population political activities, no longer requires government authorities with billion dollar budgets. Many software tools, useful for this purpose, are available for free, or relatively cheap. Social media have all the data heaps ready to be searched. A few dozen free-time activists can be as effective in surveillance as an entire, historical Eastern Bloc intelligence service.
On the other side, billion-dollar budgets will not safely protect data from committed and technically skilled activists. Anonymous and Wikileaks have proven the ability of such, to compete even with traditional intelligence services, making those resort to typewriters. Currently, Antifa spies will not need special authority to tap wires, open mail in the post office or a backup key to steal something out of an office. Computers and data communications are highly complex, composed of countless components and layers, each of them being a potential weak spot to break in. And guess, if you download something from a download portal, and later have your web browser hijacked, everything flooded with popups, and a never deliberately installed “system optimizer” opening up, will your system still be half-way secure afterwards? It’s the actual business model of many such companies, to open backdoors on computers and sell access to them! Many people have such stuff on their computers, some even pre-installed by the manufacturer!
Of course, all of this also works in the opposite direction. But many average people and potential Antifa victims take few to no precautions to cover their identity from an oppressive intelligence service. When they appear on the hit lists, possibly for a really ridiculous reason, they are easy marks. The inner circles of the Antifa will be a lot harder to penetrate, because they are aware of their criminal character and use any means to hide their identity. But even these have their weak spots, which take skills and time to find out.
Is there something bigger behind it?
One question remains: is the Antifa really just a hobby intelligence service, including covert operations and terrorism? Or could there be something bigger behind it? In the case of Germany, some hints point to a kind of prolonged post WW2 occupation, keeping the country under political control, especially after reunification in 1990. This is, however, highly speculative and may be nonsense at all. But the great buildup of the German Antifa occurred in the early 1990s, when a number of hate crimes helped to fuel a “brown scare”, a hysteria about an alleged neo-Nazi threat in the mainstream. This is also the time when the “anti-German” current materialized and, over time, turned away from many traditional leftist views, into a purely hostile, oppressive force. Said Antifa journalist, who needed reinforced ceilings for his archives, got a military APC vehicle outside his house for personal protection, when his real name was published in right-wing newspapers. Now, who else do you know who gets a small tank in front of his door, because he might be attacked by hate groups? Most will, even with really serious threats, in best case receive a bit more attention by police.
It can’t be verified how much the German Antifa is backed by countries and state intelligence services. But the idea of a prolonged post-WW2 occupation is challenged by the fact, that at least loosely similar structures exist also on the other side of the old WW2 front lines in Europe. And now, the same stuff is coming to the USA!