Antifascism as weakness

  • Posted on: 26 June 2019
  • By: M. Shimshon

Fascism and the State

Fascism as a movement means nothing without its relationship to the state. Fascism has acted to gain power in a twofold manner: building street strength and infiltrating/inheriting government mechanisms. Historically the State is the main perpetrator of fascism. Grouplets of fascists contribute to propagandizing and committing political violence through street movement and lone-wolf style attacks. Usually this street movement aspect is largely unsuccessfully outside of their densely concentrated areas as their violence alienates them from a public more likely to be their victim than their ally. Its most successful attempts at gaining power have been through state institutions, but the State, despite huge overlaps in their ideology and professed interests, doesn’t have much interest in fascism.

Fascism tends to be a policy enacted or tendency empowered by the State when its own mechanisms are seen as inappropriate to the task at hand. This can be when the legitimacy of bourgeois democracy is threatened and when it can’t risk its own legitimacy in an act of necessary violent repression. This can be seen over and over again with Xrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn) in Greece, state backed Islamists in Syria and Iraq, neo-nazis in Ukraine, cartels in Mexico, all being used to attack various liberatory movements and enact immigration/policing functions inside the states own territory with a brutality that couldn’t be adequately covered if done under its own crest. Oftentimes in protests between anti-fascists and fascists in the US the state decides that it is best to watch the ensuing chaos and not to intervene and dirty its hands in a matter that is mostly irrelevant to it. When it does intervene, it is mostly because of state infiltration (Klan in the police force, police involvement in militias, local politicians’ investment in fascist activity or dependence on militias to discipline migrant labor, etc.). Seen in this way fascism is a useful pet project to the state, something to be nurtured so that if needed it can be used and then disposed of. Fascism also has very little stability as a ruling political apparatus with every fascist state quickly declining, collapsing, or being overthrown.

Liberalism

The rise in publicity of fascism and fascist violence along with the increase in “identity politics” has given rise to a new ideology, liberal in character, which pervades the left, radical spaces, and much of the public media. This ideology I will term oppressionism. The general ideology has this as its creed: marginalized and attacked groupings are evaluated based on severity of oppression/repression, deemed important as such, and must be remedied. On its own this ideology isn’t bad, it makes sense, people are getting hurt, they shouldn’t be getting hurt, let’s help the worst off first and then the best off. Nothing is radical about this ideology, it exists within nearly every major religion (especially Christianity) in some form through charity and is also a general premise of the need for governance in classical liberal ideology (protecting the endangered and oppressed minority from the majority). So, helping people is good and we should do it, but what does it have to do with anarchist politics specifically?

In its popular incarnation in the US, several liberal premises are built into this ideology’s foundation. One is that the relevance of the struggles of the oppressed has nothing to do with a totalizing change or a rapturous possibility outside of those of reform. Some examples: we can destroy racism through community policing, making safe spaces where we cloister those in danger (those with ‘revolutionary’ potential), put pressure on city councils, abolish prisons (without sieges somehow?). Anti-fascists can support the ideas behind these slogans (destroying racism, abolishing prisons), but the method of implementation, which is the part they should be critical of, is the part which receives the material support. Most anarchists don’t think that these reforms could be successful and think in fact that they bolster the enemy and anarchists don’t seem to have an interest in creating the groupings which could implement their own idea.

The other is that this politic is almost entirely limited to the field of spectacle even when there are real people dying. Oppressionism has an obsession with language and symbols as opposed to systems. Almost all actions are aimed at attempts to reform media, representation, statues, speeches, etc. At best, it aims at balancing privilege which means reducing exceptional and particular oppressions and generalizing or leveling them. Participation in these movements as well is almost only done on the spectacular level of social media platitudes / arguments with no consequences, marches targeting monumental places which only have the appearance of containing power, and excluding those associated with the movement in an endless cycle of purification (which doesn’t really target its enemies who don’t care if they are included in this ‘movement’). Being stuck in spectacle is no suprise because oppressionism has its origins in academia, and academia’s sole terrain, both battleground and product, is language (how problems can be represented).

The main power that the position of academic grants is to influence public discourse and develop the techniques of administrative institutions. This administrative assistance function contains the same logic as no platforming, mainly, that the masses can be easily swayed by information and the best way to influence them is to withhold it.[1] Students on the other hand, more and more understand their education as training for technical and managerial duties. The media attention allotted to them also gives them a sense of self-importance which amplifies the influence and intensity of their guilt-ridden moralism. These combine with the new participatory and democratic form of celebrity culture, improved and widely distributed by social media, which demands that everyone be pure and camera ready in all waking moments of life, into a game of social capital and hierarchies which is ravenously cannibalistic.[2] This social cannibalism makes it even harder for students to take independent initiative which has contributed to their activism functioning almost entirely as appeals to the institution. All of these tendencies have contributed to the authoritarian nature of the politics in academia, and the anti-fascist and oppressionist politic which has come out of it.

The limits of academia are also the ones adopted by the movement as a whole:

1. Harshly enforced requirement for moral purity demonstrated through the correct use of language.
2. Methods of change limited to appeals to institutional power (pleadingly or forcefully in the radical case) or extending and enforcing rule 1 to the general public.
3. The ideology of no-platforming and its patronizing attitude towards ‘the masses’: the view that people are easily influenced, and controlled and defined through their viewership. The only way the masses can participate is through yelling at the screen, which in our day and age of focus groups and yelp, can influence the ‘real’ stage setters.

These problems symbolize the fundamental weakness of this ideology and its ‘praxis’ where those targeted only get targeted on the basis of their language and access to institutional benefits, and those excluded are those who didn’t care about it anyways or those who couldn’t adhere strictly enough to the codes or are critical of shibboleths. Liberal ideology here gains a radical edge by becoming enforced with harsher restrictions and more violence.

Anarchism

Where has our politic gone? Our terminology has been popularized and also completely misinterpreted. Direct action, doing what needs to be done ourselves without asking, has come to mean doing pressure based civil disobedience. We target empty symbols militantly: taking down statues, doxing degenerates, collectively de-platforming from Facebook (seriously?), and finally black bloc demos which usually demonstrate the aesthetic of dangerousness and the reality of impotence. It doesn’t feel good to shit on something for being weak, but why are we weak? Part of it is assuredly not our fault. We are face to face with one of the most sophisticated police states in the world, whose police forces are the size of armies and whose equipment is the armies.

Anti-fascism has come to dominate anarchist discourse. If one looks at anarchist actions in the US, news roundups, and articles (of which this will be another wreck in the crash) one would assume that anarchism and antifascism were synonymous. I like to frame anti-fascism’s relationship with transformative politic through the derisive character of “Antifa Hero!”. Antifa Hero rescues the day from the evil fascists who are tearing through the urban cityscape after emerging from the sewers like CHUDs[3]. After defeating the fascists, Antifa Hero pats themself on the back and, ignoring the deep evil and toxic sludge which created these mutants, says, “My job is done, the day has been won!”. The hero has no way of addressing the architecture of this nightmare beyond impressive slogans, and is capable only of filling the potholes as they appear. Antifascism is related to our politic only in that the world we want is not a fascist one. Why is the logic of anti-fascist politics only applied to fascists? Why not capitalists, the state? One reason is because the politic almost exclusively functions as the targeting of specific individuals and not as an address to systemic issues. The other is that our real enemies, the powerful ones standing in the way of the world we want, are either too powerful for us to come in contact with (let alone attack) or they are just normal people who view our politic as insane and have too much to lose. What does anti-fascism have to say about either of these major roadblocks to our experimentation? Very little. In fact, it tends to marginalize those who dismiss an anti-fascist politic. Critics end up either agreeing to its shallow politic with a caveat so as to remain relevant, or totally alienated from an anarchism which through their exclusion becomes even more synonymous with anti-fascism.

Anarchism has also become synonymous with "militant" activism. Affinity groups are now the titles of civil disobedience working groups and direct action means every action which isn’t directly parliamentary. How did this happen? How did anarchist struggles just become the militant edge of NGO politics? One reason is that anarchists have allowed themselves to be cloaked by and wholeheartedly endorse anti-fascism and its roots to the point where the two have become inseparable or worse yet synonymous. Anarchists adopted this new (not really) and exciting politic mainly because ‘militancy’ re-emerged on the scene in a way that was risky but not really risky which meant that our opportunity had come for publicity. The major reason why anarchists have become so entrenched in oppressionism and its liberal routes is partly because anarchists have made themselves into excellent pawns. Anarchists are ok with violence, breaking the law and disobedience. The anarchist utopia and ethic is one of helping people out. The anarchist in our own imaginations is the protagonist and hero with all the spirit of self-sacrifice implied. This image of self-sacrifice is reinforced by a misrepresentation of the history of the American left. All of these combine to make anarchists excellent stooges in the larger social struggle milieu because they both strengthen the movement through intimidation and violence and legitimize the reformist non-violent elements through comparison. Even when anarchists are self-conscious of all these flaws, oppressionism and privilege politics both make this sacrifice worth it because it helps out people who need help. But helping out people is not just what our politics is about. It is about a total break with the present order, not just the fascist order, or the racist order, but against the way capitalism has organized our lives in their entirety. This is the dilemma at the heart of our involvement in this politic: are we going to sacrifice ourselves just for the elimination of some bad or are we going to fight and live for something beyond all of this?

Insurrection

Open a space, then take it. Is this Leninism or is this realism? The truth is, the void is the status quo, all of our conditioning, all of the muck we were born into. The vacuum of space is sterile, and the vacuum cleaner is dirty. The difference between a revolutionary politic, anarchist or otherwise, and the anti-fascist politic is the difference between clearing the space of this ‘new’ contaminant and filling the space with a new way of life. The body is capitalism, let’s not just destroy one of its carefully tended antibodies but rupture from the body.

One part of why an “insurrectionary” politic seems to lend to the oppressionist anti-fascism which has come to dominate anarchism is that it is an ideology in search of a new oppressed category besides proletarian, because, “the oppressed are what make revolutionaries”. What does this mean for a revolutionary anti-fascism? If repression equals more revolutionaries then anti-fascism turns from reformism to a racist accelerationism where the more POC are repressed the better. This is a semi-unconscious part of the mindset, and explains the near ecstatic outrage radicals often get from watching the trauma porn that passes for political content on social media platforms. Trauma doesn’t make revolutionaries, if it did then we would be trapped in sadism (maybe we are). Oppression doesn’t necessarily lead to insight, and insight doesn’t usually lead to action. Then how do we have any revolutionary model at all? The problem is also that anarchism attracts broken and dysfunctional people and encourages it in order to retain its outraged and virulent character. We should be outraged, and we should make organs which can effectively make use of it, but our job isn’t to agitate people only so they can do some ineffective action which ultimately supports the status quo, if we are ineffective at least let it be our way and for what we actually want.

Propaganda can be separated from spectacle, by being invitational. This invitation can’t be to become a spectator and replicator of the trained and initiated affinities (cliques) and to use the right language. It requires an invitation into the project of anarchy as a whole and an invitation for people to make it their own. Right now, the only bodies we have which are invitational and explicitly anarchist are either publishing projects, solidarity projects, or antifascism (this one mostly as an idea). Adding combative and experimental anarchist organizations into this mix could seriously alter our movement, because attack is a positive element and one which perpetuates itself. Once people learn that they can fight, they can learn how to fight for themselves, because freedom doesn’t just mean not being chained, but something much larger. The fight that one learns from anti-fascism is that people who are ‘bad’ can be punched by us. Learning how to fight our larger enemies and the ones that dominate the majority of our lives (laws and work (and their enforcers), actually opens up possibilities for a future that is determined by us not a perpetuation of the volatile stasis of the statis quo. What does a life of our own choosing look like? Are those fantasies and unknowns exciting enough for us to fight for? If our only light is the losing fight, then we have already won.

[1] Academia, more often than not, hordes information by limiting access to it and by encrypting it in terminology.

[2] This social competition also prepares them for the managerial piranha market.

[3] A good metaphor. At first the CHUDs (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dweller) are seen as the real threat because they are on the streets terrorizing people, but *spoiler alert* the acronym actually turns out to be Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal, the name of a government dumping project which is the systemic source of this threat.

Comments

If you want to read more stuff and see the photos that go along with.

https://armchair.noblogs.org/post/2019/06/26/antifascism-as-weakness/

what is the anarchist definition of fascism? it's so broadly used here. alluding to it being a pet project of the state is so vague

there's not that many islamofascists in iraq and syria that are backed by a state. the closest islamists to fascism are the qutbists and maybe, maybeeee, the wahhabists, and neither chillax in iraq or syria much. drug cartels are fascist? wut? are they cocaine ultranationalists?

I'm getting the impression that Portland Antifa is fight Club for disillusioned youth. And I think overall we are fucked. But I'll go down fighting.

After being immersed in antifascism (theory and otherwise) for awhile, this purposefully vague definition of fascism seems to be the least misleading to me.

People like precise definitions but on this topic, I think the best way to understand fascism is as a shifting confluence of various reactionary forces, being mobilized as street goons or policy influencers. Like the writer said, the state, mostly acting on behalf of the corporate oligarchies, can tolerate the presence of these petty militant reactionaries, playing soldier and preaching whatever hate du jour, as long as they don't get too strong. They're a convenient, blunt instrument to destroy other enemies without getting dirty hands.

This pattern repeats throughout history, across the world and clarifies the differences between different forms of fascism that emerged in different social contexts. The scheme adjusts to its surroundings but the underlying motivations stay the same.

right i mean i think some essentially sound critiques like this have been going on for a while about antifa work, both its theory and practice - seems to denote a kind of defensive/reactive action, proximal to common front-ism, etc - that often seem to miss something that seems most obvious to me which is like, its more on the order of a bucket brigade because our fucking house is burning down?! like, look, there are hippies who do food not bombs type projects because they genuinely think they will 'overgrow the system' or whatever, and there are nihilists who still appreciate projects like that because even if the loftiest goals weren't aimed for much less achieved, some people got to eat, some people became friends, etc. it takes a certain level of privilege not to have to give a shit that roving bands of white supremacist terrorists are mobilizing to terrorize large portions of society, it's a terrible time to be in when this is happening and happening on a continuum with all sorts of other horrible things (basically, continuous with all the rest of western history and politics) and it reminds me somewhat of stuff like katrina, anarchists were out responding to an emergency that most people just didn't give a shit about because it didn't concern them directly.

a lot of this sounds like the critique of activism that the insurrectionist 'wave' of about 10 years ago was putting forth, about anarchists functioning as the more militant foot soldiers of liberals/the left, and i guess you can go egoist about it but a lot of those people considered themselves post left but didn't stop going to protests and being involved in other projects that they tried to push in different directions. for some (like IGD) this led to an ever greater embrace of the left but not always and i think this is part of what the conclusion is getting at. (see also my conclusion)

i don't really get much of a sense here though of what the author actually is aspiring towards ('lives of our own choosing', ok...?), it strikes me mostly as yet another @-on-@ shit talk piece, polemical and not very useful, and the characterizations of 161 tend toward the sort of things the center and right say (mindless, violent puritans...). maybe because i've been far from the front lines most of the past few years i'm just overly appreciative of those who are still out there. it also occurs to me that pieces like this, if not primarily ideological in their criticisms, are circling around hinting at some kind of actual dumpster fire scenarios that it might be better to find a more direct way to talk about? it's really all so vague....what would the author think of the anti-i.c.e. stuff? im left guessing.

finally i want to suggest maybe hauling up some of the history of 161 in the 90s/00s and the debates that were happening then. it was different for a lot of reasons but it would be facile to act like it was completely so; a lot of the same arguments happened in slightly different ways. @s often predominated then and when they didn't, they organized autonomously. there was a lot of overlap with anti police , eco defense, squatting etc. it's also worth mentioning the likes of the 2005 toledo incident where anarchists put a lot of effort into countering a nazi rally, which led to a community-based anti-police uprising. even if antifascism is necessarily 'weakness' i think a lot of these types of incidents, both then and more recently, have been very instructive to a lot of participants as to how much weaker the left and center are even when confronting what should be an obvious all hands on deck type situation. thus it's space for anti-authoritarians to demonstrate what is unique about their approach....or on the other hand to demonstrate indifference to the attacks on marginalized groups. https://web.archive.org/web/20051030032032/http://www.clamormagazine.org...

it's almost as if much of the post-left critiques of activism failed to anticipate just how much bleaker the terrain could get when nobody does anything anymore, or can think of a reason why they should and instead, we're all buried alive in our techno-pods while the world burns.

I mean, I hate liberals and bossy lefty activists too but it turns out much worse was just around the corner!

There's plenty of activism still going on and the structure of it is like an sti that won't go away. Many affecting radicals still are not taking Andrew X's criticisms to heart. The key is to affect without being an activist. Look at the explosion of the international sex professional movement, while activism is a part of it much of it took off without it. It really just comes down good effective messaging.

You missed my point and I'm not engaging with you, as always ziggles

You're connecting the post-left critique of activism with the current terrain which makes no sense. There's actually still plenty of activism going on, this shows that activism is fairly insolvent at actual concrete change.

I didn't say it wasn't going on, nor did I suggest activism makes change, therefore, you don't understand my point.

Toledo initially felt like a really inspiring moment for me, only to quickly make me question what the fuck I was doing. After all us antifa were gone, a bunch of Toledo residents ended up with prison sentences, some of them pretty long. Was it worth it to play masked up tough guy? All those slogans and rhetoric immediately felt very hollow. Maybe it was worth doing. Maybe I'd do it again if I could. I don't know. It's certainly not as clear cut as things looked to me then.

wait, do you think that your actions got other people prison sentences?

i was in toledo antifa had nothing to do with the riot starting we participated sure but it would have happened even if we stayed home.

that also coincides with my experience, which is that the world always occurs even if i always stay home

ah yes, the old antifa/anarchists/whoever came from outside the [insert social context] and they wore masks! And they did things! And stuff happened! And now the more legitimate [insert appropriate identity to social context] have to suffer. You know who's really to blame for all this? The nefarious OUTSIDER to the social context!

In bad times when meat space and effective discourse is failing and being outflanked by your opponent you go back to the theoretical drawing board. I've been repeating time and time again that anarchy and radicalism that matters needs to return to salonical theory building to prep for a new kind of 21st century radicalism. Study where the altright came from and you get a clue of what needs to be done. Antifa represents the old model that no longer works and never worked to begin with.

I've asked before and I'll ask again, why does fascism require a dedicated anti-elective position? It's a branch of authority and anarchists already have that covered. The only people who are interested in a specific antifa elective ideology have ulterior motives that have nothing to do with anarchy. The fact is that most people do not perceive fascism as an existential threat and it indeed isn't the current revival is actual a diminished return compared to its classical counterpart just as modern radicalism is not as potent as the classical 19th century stuff. Leave antifascism to the the liberals and the commies who have an umbrellad or humanist footsoldiering interest in such an elective. It makes no sense for anarchism or anarchy and actually hinders things in regards to a healthy radical dialect.

Antifascism also spoils a good night's sleep!

Righteous goody-goodie two shoes Christians are fascists!

we get it, reading and writing r the most revolutionary thing anyone can do, praxis sucks, never do anything, esp bc no one is doing anything anyway

cool

Has anyone else besides me ever got this feeling that farmers are fascists, that just their òccupation of authority over animals and environment makes them thus, or am I being paranoid?

probably shouldn't use your "feelings" to define words at all

Logically speaking, farmers who torture animals on land stolen from indigenous peoples are fascists.

a rose by any other name

in this case, a rose must be whatever anon thinks smells like shit.

big ol' pile of roses everywhere!

anti-rose aktion

anti-baddies aktion

group identities always require a reason for existence. as far as critique goes, you've hit bed rock. congratulations

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