What does the Antifa have in common with the Ku Klux Klan?
Their political views and desired social orders may be seemingly opposite, but both share the same concept: instead of being official, government controlled forces, or belonging at least to a certain political party, they represent a loose movement of groups, bound to enforce a certain social order through underground intimidation and terror. Both groups do not represent any political leaders heading for a government. There were, in the US South, for long periods no laws barring African-Americans from voting or political activity, or having sexual relationships with persons of another “race”. In fact, the KKK became most active when such legislation was absent or abolished. The 1915 KKK propaganda film, “Birth of a Nation”, depicts it as an underground movement to enforce what an allegedly corrupt, alien and irresponsible government fails to enforce.
Under the Hood
A further parallel is the use of disguise, to remain anonymous, by white or black hoods and a kind of uniform, in order to commit criminal acts in public and be safe from prosecution. This is also a major difference between today’s Antifa and the commie militias (and the Freikorps and SA militias on the extreme right side) in early 1930s’ Germany. Antifa go to great lengths to hide their identity. Names given in publications or as media spokespersons are usually pseudonyms, or virtual persons under whose names messages from different sources are published, although the risk of negative consequences diminished with an increasingly stable political system, compared to the unstable, violence-ridden Weimar Republic. Even the anti-communism of the I mmediate post-war decades has long declined. Traditional far-left Antifa also maintain a “never talk to police” codex, as is common among purely criminal gangs.
For the KKK, this concept has been known as the “Invisible Empire”. What Antifa has been building in parts of Europe over the recent decades, is very similar in how it works. Both groups have allies in politics and media – German Antifa particularly in media, with not just few journalists aligned with their attitudes and supporting even violent actions. Other “leftist” journalists tend to at least trivialize them or treat them as fighters going over the top, for a “good cause”.
Antifa have long given up the goal of a broad, popular revolution, as in Russia in 1917, and even if it was feasible for them, they would probably not want it, simply because they increasingly view the average people as the enemy to be suppressed. The last is a development in post WW2 Europe, especially Germany. The KKK would use disguise and underground terrorism, well knowing that a large portion of the population, government and law enforcement were against them, and it is just the same with Antifa: it is hiding, well knowing that their violent, criminal and totalitarian activity would be facing a broad resistance.
One difference remains: Antifa pretend to be fighting for a general good cause. “Birth of a Nation” never depicts the social order, enforced by the KKK, as fair or just; it just plays with fear of white citizens being terrorized by a majority of savages, thus making a racist, hierarchic order appear “necessary”. The film ends with an iconic scene, the population of African descent being stripped of their Second Amendment rights, forced to hand out their guns. Notwithstanding, “Birth of a Nation” helped the Klan to re-emerge and grow into millions of members in the 1920s. Antifa strongly preys upon hate crimes and the history of Germany and Europe under Nazi rule, in order to make just “everything” appear “necessary” in order to prevent an alleged repetition.
To gain acceptance for their actions and attitudes, they play with a fear of a fascist takeover, that would put hundreds of millions of lives at risk. Even in Germany today, a Nazi-like regime, taking power again, would pose a deadly threat for millions of inhabitants directly, and further tens of millions would feel the loss of all their now dear freedoms as a catastrophe. For the USA, turning towards white supremacy or white nationalism would simply mean the destruction of the USA from inside. Such a regime would be very unlikely, and there is still quite a distance between Trump, current European right-wing populists and 1930s-style fascism. While not completely impossible, the actual risk of such is really no reason to accept an underground system of terror, or a totalitarian thought police, stemming from the communist tyrannies that were rivals of the fascist regimes in the 1930s and 40s. Had the communists taken over Germany in 1933, had it been much better? Surely, there would not have been the genocides and wars that had been, but there had been other forms of terror and mass killing, as could be seen in the other communist countries (saying this is, of course, the ultimate blasphemy for any Antifa member and will provoke just everything from him or her!).
Surely, Trump’s success also had the effect of real bigots feeling encouraged, resulting in some real hate crimes (besides several fakes) and a more repressive, bigoted policy towards immigrants, badly hurting some of their lives. Perhaps people supported this for a basically legitimate (but misguided?) demand for personal security, one demand “Birth of a Nation” also appealed to. But does this justify the undermining and destruction of core freedom values, such as free speech, and underground terrorism in the style of the totalitarian communist regimes of the 20th century?
At the moment, it can hardly be said if Antifa will stay limited to an Invisible Empire of underground terror. Many of them admire the old regimes of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Mao’s China, using anarchist appearance only as a trick to disguise their real attitudes. Once their underground regime pushes official politics in the desired direction, further steps will evolve. And, with some modifications, such a regime, with brutal tyranny as the main feature above any possible “socialist ideals”, might be a likely future option for them.