A Response to “Beyond Bash the Fash”
This is a response to the IGD podcast, “Beyond Bash the Fash.” I want to state clearly that I encourage people to listen to the podcast and I not only enjoyed the discussion which I felt was done in good faith, but took away a lot from it. The discussion itself is an important one, and having critical reflections about our activity is needed. Despite certain things in the discussion that were said that I disagreed with, overall I thought that those talking were generally respectful of people putting themselves on the front lines and risking life and limb to confront the far-Right, and that their points of critique should be viewed as part of an ongoing conversation, not a line in the sand.
Overall, I thought the point that in the US context, confronting white supremacy generally means confronting not just fascists in the ideological sense, but often people that want to strengthen and defend settler democracy, was well taken. The rise of both ‘Based Stickmen,’ the Deplorable Trump subculture, and the growing power of the militia movements are all testaments to this. What follows are some general points of disagreement and a continuation of the conversation started in the podcast.
I encourage other comrades, including the comrades in the podcast, to continue this ongoing conversation in good faith and in the spirit of deepening and furthering our strategy and organization.
Nature of the far-Right in the US Currently
While the podcast is correct in noting that large chunks of the far-Right in the US seeks to uphold and defend the American colonial project, at the same time there is no doubt that fascist and national socialist ideas have had a big impact on the greater far-Right. Posse Comitatus, which informs modern militia movements, grew out of neo-Nazi and national socialist circles. The KKK, post World War II, also began to become “Nazified,” especially leading up to and after Greensboro, where the various Klan factions began working more closely with neo-Nazi formations, as discussed in the IGD podcast presentation from the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee. The modern militia movement itself, as discussed in Blood and Politics: White Nationalism from the Margins to the Mainstream, also came out of a popular front between the Aryan Nations, the far-Right, and gun-rights groups. So to be short, sure, much of the far-Right is “democratic,” but we shouldn’t deny that it has been influenced to a large degree by fascist and neo-Nazi formations.
But to get to the heart of understanding the fascist threat in the US currently, is to understand beyond it’s ability to generate violence, poach disaffected people from our ranks, and also attack our movements – is that today it functions as a de facto arm of the State. We used to joke that trolls on A-News were secretly feds, well now we have Alt-Right trolls running fake Twitter accounts, pushing Trump supporters to violence and stoking the imaginations of far-Right media. While as even those on the Right have pointed out, these accounts have been bigger points of sabotage not for us, but for them, the desire to attack our movements and spread disinformation ultimately is no longer the task of just the State, but auxiliary far-Right forces.
In the case of the antifascist who was recently arrested in Berkeley, it was in the wake of a campaign by 4chan trolls who doxxed and then pressured the local police to arrest him. Already this kind of activity is spreading to other arenas, with the far-Right harassing Leftist and radical professors and unleashing ‘troll storms’ on anyone that stands up to them.
The point simply is, we live in a time where the far-Right acts as another arm of the government, as it simultaneously calls for both a fascist revolution and also to strengthen existing American white supremacy. Such a stance is ironic and always contradictory; claiming to be the true rebels yet also openly calling for the US government to create a police state in the wake of the Virginia shootings (slog through The Daily Stormer) to destroy the Left. This in itself shows the dual nature of the American far-Right, and one that we find a reflection of in the relationship between Islamic terror groups and Middle Eastern nation states.
Anarchists in US Antifascism and Critique of the “European Model”
There is currently some anxiety among anarchists, especially those that have been abroad and learned from the movement outside of North America, that a growing ‘antifa’ subculture will mean a diminished and diluted anarchist movement. Both CrimethInc. and Peter Gelderloos bring up these concerns in their IGD podcast interviews. While there are kernels of truth in this critique, we must also keep in mind that similar critiques have also been made about the insular nature of the squatting movement, or the limits of 21st Century anarcho-syndicalist unions, such as the CNT, which currently is about the same size in regards to Spain as the SEIU is in the United States. In short, yes, antifa in Europe has limitations, but so does everything.
The point made in the conversation however that I do strongly agree with, is that the antifascist struggle should not, and doesn’t have to be a reason to hide or set aside our wider revolutionary aspirations. As Durutti said, “We make war and revolution at the same time.”
Moreover, if we look at the history of anarchists involved in anti-racist and antifascist struggles in the United States, starting with the history of anarchists and proto-anarchists fighting slavery and for abolition, we come of course to Anti-Racist Action (ARA). What is important about ARA is that it explicitly did not lock itself into being just about fascism, but also organized defense of reproductive clinics and moreover helped in the formation of anarchist organizations such as Love and Rage. In short, ARA took into consideration many of the same potentially limiting factors that the speakers in the podcast bring up.
This is not to say, “gotcha!,” but to simply point out historically in the US it has been possible to conceive of and carry out an antiracist current of confrontational organizing that begins to address some of these critiques.
What Anarchists Often Get Wrong About Other Anarchists Doing Antifascist Work
If you would have asked me about the threat of fascism before the Charleston Massacre, I would have shrugged. Sure there might be some neo-Nazi boneheads lurking in big cities, or KKK groups burning a cross once in awhile to stay relevant, but…it’s not that big a deal.
Then Charleston happened. Then neo-Nazis came out to support the police in Olympia. Then 4chan and militia supporters shot up the Justice for Jamar encampment in Minneapolis. Then the rallies began, and Trump…Suddenly, it felt a lot more real. In the wake of this, much of the larger anarchist movement began engaging in antifascist organizing, responding to Trump rallies, and by and large, organizing large demonstrations and spectacular showdowns. Looking for a way to frame what was happening, the media focused on the concept of antifa as simply the Left (or not Right) version of the Alt-Right, much in the same way they reduced our movement to simply the black bloc during the anti-globalization movement.
But what this misses is the reality that some anarchists and other radicals have for years and decades been slogging in the trenches, doing the hard and arduous task of doing antifascist organizing – without that spotlight. It is now these skills, knowledge, and resources that we as a larger movement build upon. But to suppose that it is these groups, that for many years have been doing this work largely in isolation, are somehow taking away energy from other struggles, would in my opinion, be a mistake.
But to be clear, I think the more central issue and hard question, just as in the post-Occupy moment, is what do we do with the newer people coming into anarchist circles that are coming through antifa? With Occupy, we faced a situation where many of the organizational frameworks of anarchism were used, (consensus, assemblies, affinity groups), but often the critique of democracy, capitalism, and white supremacy was watered down or non-existent. Today, many young antifascists are open to the tactics and often symbols of anarchism, but often lack the overall critique of the Left. Well, let’s give it to them.
Regardless of the situation, these problems are always going to arise, each and every time new people come in. Just as CrimethInc. pointed out we must factor into our organizing the realities of repression, so too must we factor in both bringing in new people and giving them the skills and resources to develop a rounded analysis. One thing is for sure, we shouldn’t push these new people away, we should welcome and encourage them. Antifa is the new Food Not Bombs, so pass me some slop.
This again goes back to both the anxiety of what anarchists are spending their time on and the idea of what we should be doing. In my mind, this answer can’t be universal. It will be different in all different cities, towns, and regions. While the point that the speakers raise is a good one, that we should not forsake organizing on a wider scale in order to get that one man, this is a ultimately conversation and question about movement strategy overall, not just a singular problem of one subset of the overall movement. In short, just as we wouldn’t ask people solely focusing on prisoner support to stop what they are doing, because we all need that infrastructure to be ready when the hammer falls, we must also be grateful to the comrade who trolls The Daily Stormer everyday, if only to learn that something bad is about to go down.
The point here is two fold: antifascism is a necessary component of anarchist organizing in today’s age. If you’re going to be involved in radical organizing, you might encounter a livestreamer with a Kek flag before you ever brush up against an FBI agent. Second, with chapters of various groups springing up around the country, pipeline campaigns popping up left and right, and antifa crews being birthed into existence every month, let’s work to bring all these forces together if we can, learn from each other, and become stronger as a material force. That’s power and the recent mobilizations on June 10th show that it’s possible.
And, if and when the next large scale social movement and struggle kicks off, we sure as shit won’t be sad that the next generation of anarchists cut their teeth of antifascist organizing, networked with established groups and crews, and began to organize and put down roots in their communities.
There is No One ‘Antifa’ Model Currently in the US
There is often a critique of the ‘antifa’ model, however to speak of there being one singular approach would be to create a misnomer.
Currently there exists several models, and often these approaches re-enforce each other, but in each case, differ. There is the “mass antifascism” method of groups such as the General Defense Committee, that focuses on mass community mobilization in response to far-Right groups. There is the more, surgical and confrontational approach, that is more affinity and crew based. There are anarchists that do not organize under the antifa banner, yet are part of the broader antifascist struggle. And there are also numerous organizational approaches, from the Torch Network to a wide variety of autonomous antifascist crews and organizations.
One thing that should be important to note and something that we should feel good about, is that post April 15th in Berkeley, tactics have both changed and evolved as our numbers have grown, while the far-Right has dwindled in size and begun to eat themselves and splinter. Meanwhile, their rallies have gotten smaller, more pathetic, and they are forced to search for anything that mobilizes some sort of base as broader interest has faded. The majority of white people, like the majority of all people, care about bread and butter issues: housing, health care, wages, jobs, the environment they live in, education, etc, not ‘white genocide.’ While Trump gave them a sea to swim in and false sense of unity, now they are forced to crisscross the country on the good authority of a fake Twitter bot that antifa is going to pee on a statue in the middle of some random city. The ethno-state is just around the corner goys!
At the same time, support for Trump is a fucking joke and the only thing that unites the Right is the fact that our movement is growing. While Trump may have opened pandora’s box of the insurgent far-Right, it will also turn much of his base against him and open to anti-capitalist ideas. Moreover, our work has paid off, our message and critiques are generalizing, and more importantly, we are forcing them to react to us, not the other way around.
What Should Change?
Another key question to raise is that if the focus of antifascism grew (as it should) from just being focused on the Richard Spencer’s or Matt Forney’s of the world and onto to a broader strategy of community self-defense and opposition to settler colonial democracy, what exactly would change? Is it simply the optic of not using fascist as the category that we oppose? Is it our critique of the structures of power and domination? Is it tactical, or all these things?
Task of Anarchists and Antifascists Currently
It is clear that the far-Right and the Alt-Right will continue to organize rallies up to the point when they finally realize that they should probably stop and go back to solidifying their cadres, distance themselves from the Posobiec’s and Cernovich’s of the world, and instead prepare again for a point of intervention. Moreover, they have already called for demonstrations throughout the Summer, and people like Kyle Chapman Baked Alaska have even created an industry around such engagements.
Also, whatever faction of the far-Right we are talking about: Alt-Right, Alt-Lite, and New Right – they all are fighting over the same scraps of Breitbart readers, remaining Trump supporters, and 4chan trolls while the gobbling is good, like competing socialist cadres trying to sell newspapers at a union meeting. Let’s burn into our minds that for the ecosystem of the Right, they desperately need us, and not the other way around.
While each of these upcoming demonstrations will present their own dynamics at play and their own obstacles to overcome, in general, antifascist mobilizations are going to continue throughout the summer, and more likely into the fall, as groups like Identity Evropa move to heavily organize on campus. With this in mind, in my view we have several tasks ahead of us.
- Bring as many people up to speed as possible on the threat and nature of the far-Right and the Alt-Right. Explain to people that the threat isn’t bumping into some dude with SS bolts at the pool hall, it’s much deeper and much more insidious. We need to explain the way that the far-Right media works hand in glove with Alt-Right trolls, as does the militia movement with the police and Homeland Security, and in turn, helps to protect and give cover for white nationalists and neo-Nazis. In short, the more people know about these groups, how they operate, what they believe, and how they all work (and don’t work) together, the better. This means mass educational events, film screenings, and distribution of information.
- Build mass antifascist mobilizations while bringing new people into the organizing. In my view, combative and militant ‘antifascist approaches’ are only going to work within the context of mass mobilizations. Thus, modern antifascist organizing requires all of the components now of major mobilizations. Media, medical, legal, etc. While this is an extreme headache to organize and carry out, it is also an opportunity for us to bring in new people into the organizing, reach out to other sectors of the population, and also outflank and out organize the bureaucratic and recuperative Left. This means setting up meetings to plan mobilizations, organizing early and as soon as possible, and having a respect for a diversity of tactics.
- Reach out to new and upcoming antifa crews and offer skills, training, and knowledge. Older comrades should realize that they can play a huge role in the formation of the next generation of anarchists and radicals, simply by sharing their experience, skills, and knowledge with younger and newer folks. Don’t hide that shit in a bushel basket, share it! Give out zines and books, have people over for dinner, and get to know people as best you can.
- Generalize resistance. Mobilizations against the far-Right aren’t just against the far-Right, it’s against an entire system. If Berkeley and Portland show us anything, it’s that the police and the State view the far-Right as a set of pawns to use against us. Let’s generalize not only our critique of what we are up against, but also how we move and act in these situations.
- Continue to reach out to sectors that may be attracted to the far-Right and the Alt-Right. Much of this is already happening, from tabling at gun shows to writing articles for this website, let’s keep on trying to engage the base that these movements pull from, not only counter-signalling them, but out organizing them around basic issues that touch all poor and working people.
Anarchists First, Antifascists Always!