On Antifa: some critical notes
Presented as a personal, good faith critique of antifa and not merely an antipolitical purist attack, in light of the current moment. Note: this is speaking from a non-European context.
1. : Antifa is essentially limited by being mostly just anti-fascism (or to a degree somewhat against white-supremacy) but antifa usually stops short of being actually radical or revolutionary (explained below). Antifa acts a wall (“¡no pasarán!“) where as revolt is a bulldozer. As an anarchist I am not interested in just stopping the current tide but creating a whole new wave.
2. : Antifa in Los Angeles (& in its vicinity) from what I have seen has been a mostly white subculture, where white Leftists can express their anti-racist-ness instead of an embodying an actual (anti)political force. They show up to nazi rallies but not much else. I did read somewhere that a NYC antifa group once drove up to Queens for a pro-immigrant noise demo ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
3. : A united front against fascism has never really worked out well for those of us who want to destroy more than just fascism. Our desires to do more than destroy, and/or prevent fascism, find themselves indefinitely tabled. Antifa is not a political project and has no real political content beyond “let’s beat up racists.” I do see now an attempt to extend the project of antifa beyond this historical limit point but instead of attempting to extend the project I would rather further other actual radical projects.
4. : Anti-fascism tends to point to a return to a less-racist status quo but usually does not look at structural things deeply enough to understand that to be against white-supremacy would include being against the USA as a colonial nation-state. Antifa sees trees where there is indeed a forest; in that they view the enemy as an individual (i.e. Trump) or groupings of Nazis or other racist white-nationalists instead of analyzing the structural nature of our racist society. This is an analysis that is but a few steps removed from the Liberal position that we should just all get along.
5. : Antifa often bases itself in a type of good vs. evil moralism which assume being against white-supremacy or racism is a purely personal choice made by good people, thus once again obscuring structural and impersonal white-supremacy. Antifa often makes appeals to “duty” as its motive, instead of self-defense or something else (though now the language has shifted toward self-defense). This likely speaks to the historical mostly white makeup of antifa.
6. : To describe every material action against racists and/or white nationalists as antifa, as some in antifa do, is to erase the resistance and revolt of those who are not antifa but something all their own.
7. If Antifa were to oust Donald Trump and to somehow de-mobilize every single racist in this society we would be left with a situation akin to what those in the Arab Spring experienced. The head of the State and its lackeys may be ousted but there persists the structure of the State and its manifold institutions. A reportback from Tunisia states as much. The revolt against fascism (or a bonafide dictator) must seek to go beyond a sort of purification of the territory. Racism is not just the action of organized white racists, but the perpetuation of a whole system. Obviously, what is not mentioned above is another glaring omission of antifa: a substantive critique of capitalism.
8. Lastly, antifa bears no real critique of democracy, whether representative or direct. This is mostly due to its lack of politics. This returns to the reality that antifa lies dormant when the status quo, that does not trouble it, rumbles on. As noted in Dixie Be Damned, “white supremacy’s greatest ally in this country has been democracy, not fascism.” Since antifa relies on demonization as part of its mobilization, it could not (and did not) mobilize in any way against the Obama administration. Antifa may have seen Obama as contemptible, but fears of being seen as racist likely blocked their resistance to Obama and his policies (this was even more broadly seen on the Left for years). Anarchists and anti-state communists bear no such compunctions. We know the enemy is not just fascism or organized white racists but the whole of this society.
All this to say, of course I am against fascism but I am also against many other things. Critiques of these notes will come on like a flood. I may be attacked as not giving the answer to what is to be done now in our current moment. I would contend that the goal is the same (full communism) but because of the upswing of the Right that we will need defensive measures. It would behoove us to make of our defensive measures ones that are also offensive. The Liberals and the Left already are making calls for unity and safety above all, but what has been necessary is to foster antagonisms and the antagonisms have never been as high as they are now. Should we put away our partisan rage now? And on safety: this society has not only failed to keep us safe before Trump, it has been actively attacking us as an internal insurgency with racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, transphobic, xenophobic and capitalist violence. Safety should be a given but we know that real safety comes with a fundamentally different form of life.
Let’s open the possibilities of our revolt against this society instead of foreclosing them. Let’s roll.
UPDATE (11/23/16): follow-up to this here: Fascism & Bourgeois Democracy: Context for critique of Antifa https://www.luchanofeik.club/2016/11/23/fascism-bourgeois-democracy/