On Antifa: some critical notes

  • Posted on: 26 November 2016
  • By: thecollective

from https://www.luchanofeik.club/2016/11/17/on-antifa/

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/

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Comments

I think it's weird that antifa is being presented as too singularly focused. There's nothing stopping people from being involved in anti-fascist work along with other projects or efforts. There's usually a fairly wide overlap between anarchist and antifa groupings, you can do both.

when people have nothing to say, they criticize projects as being too singularly focused.

You cook for FNB? You realize that you wont overthrow the state, send books to prisoners, make workshops happen, or wash pepper spray off protesters faces by doing that right?

Notice that social media creates people who seem incapable of almost anything except constant opinion-editorials, complete with the ego required to assume anyone/everyone cares?

if you have deficiency of vitamin C, your body falls out of balance which gives rise to the proliferation of 'pathogens'. you can 'do both' of the following;

(1) cultivate the restoring of balance and harmony.

(2) attack the so-called 'pathogens'.

meanwhile, the attacking of pathogens that APPEAR to be 'fully and solely responsible' for pathogenic attacks, may contribute to further 'relational imbalance' which is the source of the proliferating of pathogens.

so, yes, you can do both such as Western governments are accustomed to doing in cases where there are imbalances in freedom and imbalances in access to the essential resources of our common living space. Police and military are used to attack the proliferating 'pathogens' known as 'rebels', 'anarchists', 'terrorists' and 'criminals', and most often, there is political lip service to cultivating restored balance.

in Western medicine, when anti-biotics further debalance the body and the pathogens proliferate even more, medical science refers to the pathogens as 'new, virulent and anti-biotics-resistant superbugs'. how stupid is that? as Nietzsche puts it, such belief in subject and attribute is a 'great stupidity'.

it is this great stupidity that prevails in our science-deifying Western society.

so, yes, one can do both, ... attack pathogens and work on restoring a new and more balanced and harmonious relational social body, ... but beware putting the attack on pathogens into an unnatural precedence over cultivating restored balance and harmony, ... because it may happen that emphasis on eliminating pathogens drives balance further still in the direction of imbalance and thus amplifies the proliferation of pathogens.

if you want to see this transpiring as we speak, tune in to the continuing 'war on terrorism' as the colonizing powers who imposed huge relational imbalances in the access, by colonized peoples, to their own natural resources, wealth/capital and privileges, ... imbalances that induced relational tensions that actualized pushback labelled 'terrorism', ... this giving the colonizer powers an opening to declare themselves to be 'innocent good guys' determined to wipe out the evil terrorist pathogens that Western justice depict and condemn as 'independent beings', the purported full and sole authors of their evil deeds.

so, yes, the colonizing powers are not just 'attacking pathogens' but 'are doing both'; i.e. they are sending in arms and military strategists to help rebels (those who commit to supporting the colonizing powers and thus get a piece of the colonizers power and wealth in exchange for keeping open the portals of exploitation of the colonized peoples/lands). thus, the colonizing powers are helping colonized peoples by BOTH using their military to eliminate pathogens [who they are inductively actualizing] AND helping the colonized peoples to restore balance by supporting arse-licking rebels in their purported quest to establish 'democracies' like those of the exemplary colonizing powers.

tl;dr One "can do both`(1) and (2) but there is a question of 'natural precedence`.

What the fuck is this? I click this with an open-minded curiosity but this is just a string of blatantly unsubstantiated claims the author doesn't even try to support. Just one apparently baseless statement after another. Antifa is white people. Antifa is subcultural. Antifa doesn't have a structural analysis. Blah blah blah. Why should the reader believe any of this when nothing is supported with any examples, evidence, or even argumentation and the objections to each statement are so apparent and left unacknowledged? I guess we should feel worried our cultural capital is on the line. Wouldn't want to get caught supporting something people are weakly criticizing on the internet as not radical enough.

I mean, it's cool the authors of this article got some notes together for some ideas about how to approach starting a critique. Maybe they can check back in with the rest of us once they've actually written an argument.

In my personal experience with a singular antifa group in a major American city, they were predominantly focused on disrupting the activities of overtly white nationalist organizations or, when none of those were doing anything, beating up whatever random racist they could find or reel in via trolling Stormfront. A lot of the participants genuinely weren't doing much else, and the theory and communiques they published always tended to hype up the threat of the fascist menace and make sort of broad calls for anti-racist solidarity and...that's pretty much it!

Despite being a group ostensibly made up of anarchists, they would have been indistinguishable from a militant anti-racist organization of any background other than that they occasionally mentioned that white nationalism goes hand in hand with capitalism and the state, and even then only at a kind of entry-level depth. I agree that maintaining the capability to fuck up nationalist organizations in a serious way when necessary is an important part of anarchist practice and nothing prevents people from doing other shit while also doing that, but the problem, I think, is that they often don't - and that their theory and strategy often centers anti-racism while leaving anarchism as a tacked-on afterthought.

You realize that if your description is accurate, it only suggests that you met people who suck and/or aren't that good at what they're trying to do, right? Like if I build a shitty boat and it sinks, that's cause I suck at boat-building, that's on me.

What you're glossing over here is that it could also be that your boat was based on a shitty blueprint, in which case it's more of a fundamental problem with the design of that boat than with how well you executed its construction.

Or, hey, maybe it could be a little of both!

Fair point BUT I wasn't "glossing over" anything. I've found most antifa praxis to be too broad and vague to be subjected to much in the way of real critique. Very general concepts like getting together with a group of you friends and learning to protect yourselves and then confronting your political enemies as a group isn't really a direct comparison to the exact measurements required in a blueprint. It's just not specific enough … which means that any failings are way more likely to be the result of the people involved.

However, critics of antifa love to build up this straw man so they can tear it down again, which only makes me narrow my eyes and look more closely at their agenda.

Thanks for writing this. And to the moderators for reposting (though if you could add the numbered points back in, it would be easier to read).

Contra the criticisms made of this text above and in the long reply posted elsewhere, the description made by LNF of antifa ring very true to me (though it's been 10 years since I've rolled on an antifascist action in the northeast, so maybe it's different now in Philly and NYC). Machismo, a tunnel-vision focus on explicit white nationalists (paired, in some cases, with lip service about structural analysis and the occasional "intersectional" organizing drive), organizational patriotism, and a lack of strategic intelligence in the streets: these are the hallmarks of antifa I know best.

I was on a great mobilization earlier this year against a nazi demo - hundreds of people (anarchists, communists, pan-Africanists, lots of "non-politicals"), pushing to clash against the nazis and cops, and exhibiting great collective responsiveness. Broke out of a kettle attempt or two, and kept the focus on the cops as the hidden iceberg beneath the nazi tip. Unsurprisingly though, it was the couple small antifa crews who were there who couldn't read the rest of the crowd, couldn't "harmonize" with us I guess, and just deliriously pushed for man-to-man confrontations with the actually-irrelevant specific nazis. The fetish for physical confrontation trumps the instinct for collective power or political victory.

The fact that the TORCH response denied the existence of this fetish or of any reductionism at all (in any current antifa at all!) reflects their ongoing commitment to circling the wagons. The TORCH people in my region have certainly backed off of revolutionary politics (in favor of some kind of "more authentic" prole-y generic socialism) and are a nightmare to work with - arrogant and uncurious enough that they refuse to listen to information about specific nazis that other people have gathered outside their super-secret TORCH recon.

Similarly telling is their smear of Dauve. Dauve isn't blind to the far-right, he's just clear that the popular front strategy and "antifascism" as such were not effective at stopping fascism. It's not a choice of fighting for revolution or fighting fascism, it's that the former (directly, against the system, including against it's fascist wing) is the best way of accomplishing the latter. And don't tell me that that's what antifa are already doing: fighting for revolution means participating in and spreading mass struggles and fighting against their management/cooptation. That looks very different than spending your time watching and conspiring against the nazis. Sometimes it means going up against the nazis, but generally only when you can directly challenge them in territorial struggles - driving them out of your neighborhood once they start harassing organizers and other, more vulnerable people. There's a fundamental divide between proactive subversive struggles, and reactive organizing (like antifa). By the way, Dauve has been quietly, modestly engaged in the former for decades, so let's put down the bogeyman of armchair activist, the idea of which is only offensive "real warriors."

pretty much prove the gist of the critique, which seems to me to center on their self-righteousness, and disbelief that anyone doing anything else, or not embracing their tactics, is at least wrong, and if they don't like you, then it's fascist.

aside: i wish wish wish we'd get someone who knows rhetoric who would just come on and note logical fallacies. they could be one word posts, "straw man" "bandwagon" "slippery slope" etc.
i swear to gawd that people don't argue their points well as often because they don't know what a good argument is, as because they don't care.

It's ironic that the 3 most dedicated and informed people on this site who actually wish to argue a point are labeled as being the most divisive trolls as well.

… I can't believe we read the same thing. All that piece said was that it's weird to suggest that thousands of different people with dozens or hundreds of different manifestations of the antifa tendency are [insert categorical statement]. There wasn't anything self-righteous at all, just a polite reminder that when you don't see antifa in the street, those people are doing other things, thinking and discussing, same as you.

Dauve is clearly an intellectual ... he's a school-teacher. How is it a smear to suggest he's not the sole-possessor of gospel truth?

Please re-read their exact footnote regarding Dauve and tell me how the sole idea it communicates is that Dauve is not infallible.

yeah, basically the footnote expresses the idea that if you are influenced by a thinker means that you agree with everything they have ever said. They are essentially claiming that because the writers of this critique of antifa are influenced by Dauve that means that they are not for fighting fascism. Which is ridiculous.

No … that's not what it says at all. Your reading comprehension appears to be the problem here.

yes that is what its what its saying, other wise why even bring it up? I mean the original article didn't even bring up Dauve at all. So there is not even a real reason to mention it other than to suggest that the very idea of being influenced by Dauve and the fact that they perceive them as arguing against fighting fascism means that the writers of the article are against fighting fascism. In fact it seems that this whole thing comes from the fact that Dauve said in his analysis of the Spanish civil war that the focus on the fighting of specifically fascism rather than carrying forward the general revolution was something that led to their downfall. so the idea is that if you are so single minded that the fighting of fascism is what you are focusing on as supposed to the fighting of all the authoritarians (like authoritarian communism or those who are in to democracy) is what can lead to your downfall. which makes sense, as the so called allies (authoritarian communists and those into democracy) were all too quick to betray the anarchists.

... Presumably they have their reasons. I see Dauve's name dropped a lot around here for instance. Your entire post is just conjecture though, reading comprehension isn't your only problem apparently?

well it seems to me that their footnote is conjecture, as they don't actually prove their assertion. they don't actually provide any quotes or citations of Dauve's or Bordiga's work that prove what they claim, they just kinda want you to take their word for it.

I didn't say that was the "sole idea" which wasn't my point anyway. They are simply challenging his assertions, much like what I'm doing to you with this post. Don't like it?

Progressive Antifa is where it's at. More tolerant towards Nazis and other marginalized groups. My local proantifa crew even has some skinheads in it. We started a community garden to help build some bridges and heal some old wounds. I never thought selective breeding could be such a bonding experience, but then again plants arent people so it's way less contentious. Ended up naming the garden das Ubermunch! We say fuck nazis, but also we actually fuck nazis. Speaking of breeding programs, we also have a rescue-rescue-dog kennel in the back, too, 'cause all the local hipsters have been dumping their pit bulls now that they're seen as symbols of appropration. Poor things. Gotta play a mixture of gangster rap & Bon Iver just to get 'em to eat anything. They breed about as often as a palestinian panda, but their offspring are really obedient and docile. Like, the stockholm syndrome is already bred-in. Great around kids. Insodoing this was a great teaching moment for our nazi friends, who just wanted to build "doggie showers." But we postantifa/proantifa new better and eventually we all saw eye-to-eye, and the beauty of rescue dog breeding was born. They need a lot of doggie-Prozac to keep their little paws going, but beyond that their owners love them. Cutest little vacant eyes you've ever seen, with a little drool always running out of one side of their mouth :) One look at a face like that and the weight of your personal failures just floats away. We'll be protesting the expansion of a local state-run animal shelter later this week if anyone's interested in a report back.

This made my day lol... Post more often plz. Perbably even better than the average article on somethingawful.com...

Who ever made this is very much so misinformed. I am part of an Antifa crew that I started up in my area and we are all very intersectional, not only are we all very intersectional the crew is actually predominantly POC.The crew works in many forms of organizing we have established a garden, we are all anti capitalist, participate in prison solidarity, as well as dealing with working class issues and protecting the interests of the working class. Our crew is made up of all anarchists as well. Antifa is not separate from anarchism at all the idea and practice of establishing an Antifa crew is merely a tool that can be used by anarchists.

Why not just be an anarchist group?

I can be lots of things at once, oh "anarch". You're mostly just a fool but theoretically, so can you!

I can be a liberal and be associated with the orientation that comes with it, see why being an antifascist is silly yet?

Antifa is not a political stance. It is a moral stance.

You can be antifa and communist, antifa and anarchist, antifa and socialist- hell, there are even antifa capitalist.

If you act against fascism, you are acting as an anti fascist. It does not matter why you are doing so.

Stop treating your allies like they're enemies. If your revolution can wait until your house is clean, if your revolution can wait until your dog is fed, if your revolution can wait until you've had lunch and finished a blog post, then your revolution can wait until you have done your part against fascism.

And everything you said makes hardly makes for anything appealing in particular for the non moral. If you act against fascism it means you are acting against a particular form of authority. In case you haven't figured it out anti authoritarianism has fascism covered. The non anarchist antifas on the other hand do not have the former covered.

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