Clearing Up the Fog of Hysteria About The Antifa
There seems to be quite a lot of mindless hysteria about “the Antifa” these days, even in the US Senate where a couple of seemingly lunatic Republican Senators are sponsoring a bill to have the Antifa banned as a “terrorist organization” — what could be equally perceived as criminalising dissent and as enabling legislation for normalising and legitimising neo-fascism and neo-Nazism.
So, let’s today attempt to clear up some of the propaganda fog and paranoia about the meaning of this term “Antifa”.
For one thing, there is no such thing as an Antifa “organization”. It’s an ad hoc mobilisation that comes together and disperses afterwards. So, that’s the first piece of nonsense about the Antifa we will dispense with. The “anti-” bit should be something of a give-away, since you can only have an “anti-” in the context of a “pro-“.
The term “Antifa” is German, and is a contraction of the word “Anti-Faschismus”. The term arose in the 20s and 30s to describe the broad spectrum resistance and defiance of fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, and as the German definition of it relates, the Antifa was characterised by “keine einheitliche politische Theorie” — no unitary theory or ideology. The “anti-” signifies “defiance”. And, of course, this defiance both the Nazis and fascists called “terrorism”
The third layer of fact we should note about the Antifa as regards “terrorism” is the actual statistics regarding murderous violence committed by the Antifa as compared to the extreme right, and it’s a bit of a reality check regarding what constitutes “terrorism” (these figures are for the United States)
-30 years of antifascist activity in the US: 1 confirmed fatality (a nazi who was shot during an altercation in 1993).
-20 years of far-right extremist activity (1990-2012) in the US: 670 fatalities, 3,053 nonfatal injuries, & 4,420 attacks.
Of course, those figures for extreme right violence end in 2012, and there have been a great many more fatalities from neo-fascist violence since, so the hysteria and paranoia about “Antifa terrorism” seems greatly misplaced and quite unrealistic (to put it mildly).
A fourth layer of fact about the Antifa is, that as an ad hoc mobilisation, and not an organisation, it is rooted in the communities that are, or feel, threatened by extreme right provocateurs who are, actually, usually the actual outsiders. The provocateur is, indeed, an old hand in provoking a response for propaganda purposes and escalating the provocations until he gets the kind of response that serves the purpose.
All this, too, seems to be accurately described in the Truthout article on the Antifa — “Far-Right Group Patriot Prayer Is Declining. Thank Anti-Fascists.” And what we learn from the article is that the so-called “Antifa” is typically an ad hoc mobilisation, rooted in the community, to defend the community from neo-fascist incursions. I doubt that there are any such thing as “flying squads” of Antifa provocateurs traveling across the country for the express purpose of attacking extreme right rallies wherever they arise.
Now, to my mind there is one very important reason why this resistance and defiance is vital. Communities are, currently, the laboratories in which new consciousness is being experimented with and being worked out, and these must be preserved as safe spaces for these experiments to continue. We are beginning to hear more frequently about innovative communities, whether things like Transition Towns or inner city neighbourhoods engaged in community projects and community building, almost akin to the new form of the monastery. Such experiments in new forms of community living must be allowed and encouraged to continue without sabotage, hindrance or disruption, because the outcome of such experiments may prove crucial in our future survival.