Antifascism as weakness
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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?
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.
 Academia, more often than not, hordes information by limiting access to it and by encrypting it in terminology.
 This social competition also prepares them for the managerial piranha market.
 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.