Terms like “antifascist”, “against far right” or being against any kind of evil “Isms” suggest that these gangs fight for civil rights, for a good cause, albeit sometimes using illegal methods.
Such a perception is completely and gravely wrong!
One will easily notice that “antifascists” show fundamentally anti-democratic views and practices: to snuff out free speech, to threaten anybody expressing views not approved by them, to suppress availability of undesirable information in books, papers and the internet, to have people’s private lives destroyed, getting them fired from their jobs, and to rule the streets with violence and intimidation. This is even more apparent in the USA, where free speech has been a kind of sacred, other than Germany, where, after WW2, it has always been an elite consensus that there were some “exceptions”. While these “exceptions” are, in penal laws, currently limited to a few fringe positions, they affect a much broader range of views, upon which Antifa and black bloc, will start snuffing out debate, almost immediately resorting to smear campaigns, threats and violence. Don’t ever think these “exceptions” to free speech are limited to direct offenses and insults, threats or calls for violence! And, of course, any disagreement or criticism will result in the same behavior.
State of Emergency
A great part of Antifa agitation is about proclaiming a continuous state of emergency, a danger of an immediately impending fascist takeover, which “requires” them to impose their “martial law” upon society, allowing them just everything they consider “necessary” to prevent it, including abolishing all civil liberties and unrestricted violence. This is not new after the Trump victory in the USA, it has been going on in Europe for many decades, even when fascist movements were long history, or reduced to small fringe groups.
Their actions aren’t vigilantism, either. Vigilantism would target other criminal or violent groups, where law enforcement fails, in order to keep them from further violent acts, or to punish recent ones. While Antifa may sometimes attack far right militants, these are not the actual targets. The actual targets are ideas, which they claim are either fascist, or contribute to fascism, whatever they call fascism (or any other Ism). Which is often really far away from anything like white supremacy or an authoritarian state.
“Against Far-Right” is not the same as “Antifascist”
The original Antifa, from it’s very beginnings, through history and up to today’s forms, has always been a violent and politically totalitarian movement. It is not to be confused with other groups and individuals, who opposed the historical Nazis, or later neo-Nazi movements, calling themselves anti-Nazi or, naively, “antifascist”. This text refers to a core of “antifascists”, those usually meant when using the short “Antifa”, to whom the historical Nazis, or fascist movements in other countries, were merely rival gangs, and who wanted to seize power in a similar way.
Their primary origin were the communists and their paramilitary street-fighting organizations, such as the Rotfrontkämpferbund (“Red Front Fighters’ Alliance”) in 1920s Germany. Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov delivered a long time binding definition on Fascism on the Communist Internationale in 1935: “Fascism is the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist and most imperialist elements of the finance capital”. This came along with the claim that fascism was inherent to capitalism, and that any true antifascist had to support the communist struggle for power. Communists at the time would call non-communist persons, resisting Nazis or fascists, “opponents of Nazis”, but never “Antifascists”, which would have required them to be communists.
However, with the efforts for a communist takeover increasingly futile among working classes, with the academic milieu becoming the main soil for wannabe revolutionaries, and the rise of the loosely organized “autonomous” scene, then the demise of communism in the late 1980s and 90s, the face of “antifascism” changed:
Antifa after Communism
Traditional communism, especially hierarchic organizations and authoritarian top-down beliefs, became increasingly unpopular among leftists, while the “autonomous” and “anarchists” squatters and vandals, often driven by mainly criminal motivation, became the main forces of “antifascism”, and definitions of their enemies became increasingly random, making any average citizen a potential target. The main consequence, the request for an absolute grab of power and unchallenged rule of the “antifascists”, remained, as the Antifa went away from the old-school commie militias. However, many hardcore Antifa activists still proudly bear the symbols of traditional communism, like the flag of the Soviet Union with hammer and sickle, Soviet era propaganda posters, and greatly admire those totalitarian systems.
There are, or possibly have been, important differences between “antifascism” in Germany and other countries: Through many decades after the defeat in WW2, an intense emotional handling of the atrocities in the war, particularly the Holocaust, has taken place, often resulting in feelings of emotional guilt, even in people not personally related to any of these events. While most leftists worldwide are skeptical and reluctant towards patriotism, the dominant part of the German far left became a kind of “negative Nationalists”, resulting in the “Anti-German” movement. These appear as self acclaimed elites, who have separated from “Germanness” and show a fierce, sometimes genocidal hatred and contempt towards the “ordinary Germans”, as if they were another ethnic group to hate. While it seemed initially, like this disease would hardly spread beyond the former Axis countries, the basic attitude is now visible in the USA, too: A self acclaimed elite being openly hostile and hateful towards average people, including the once praised “working class”, and bound to suppress them.
Will US Americans fight back this time?
On the other hand, the USA have been spared from many of the violent and totalitarian incidents of far-left origin, which plagued Europe for many decades, until recently. There had been no networks of street brawlers and organized thugs, building an organized, countrywide system of oppression, as exists in many parts of Europe, on both sides of the former WW2 front lines. So they are building up now something that has been applied in old Europe for a long time, and there is still a chance to identify and denounce it, and give a proper and timely response to intimidation and violence.
There is still time to educate the public about the background of these “antifascists”. They have one point that makes them even more dangerous than far-right extremists, KKK or neo-Nazis: they abuse positive social and freedom values as a pretext for an allegedly “good” violence and oppression. Just like religious extremists exploit peoples’ widespread associations of religion with positive morals, Antifa extremists do so with common liberal beliefs. They can truly be called an ISIS without reference to a supernatural being.
The “good” pretexts also generate a large stream of followers for the Antifa, who have good intentions, but are not aware of the totalitarian and criminal backgrounds, or believe the stories of an ongoing fascist threat. These serve as supporters for the inner core, as useful idiots, even participating in some violent acts. Usually, they become doubtful after a while, likely leaving the Antifa or becoming inactive. When opposing the Antifa, a difference should be made between (a lot of) misguided people with actual good intentions, and the completely unscrupulous, evil core, the last to be viewed like any other organized crime or terrorist group.
There’s plenty of complaints on the internet, of Antifa being un-democratic and actually behaving like Nazis. This is all right, but does not keep any of them from acting, who is fully aware that he is ill-doing and enjoying to terrorize and destroy other people. Complaints don’t stop violence, not the Antifa, not the KKK, not any criminal street gang. Only a sufficiently strong, or sneaky, opposite force can do so. Whatever that is and in whatever shape it comes.