Antifa: The Root and History of Domestic Terrorism
Antifa is a decentralized group of activists that work to fight far right elements in society (“Anti-Fascist”). They are revolutionary in nature, often Communists, Socialists and Anarchists who believe it is their job and not law enforcement’s to prevent the spread of white supremacy.
There is no “head” or “President” to Antifa and they do not act in a coordinated, centralized fashion except at the local level. There are tactics that are common throughout Antifa’s organization. Antifa members use protest (often violent) and counter-intelligence activities to promote their cause.
“Antifa” is shorthand for “Anti-fascist.” Antifa’s popularity and visibility has risen with Trump-style populism, which many Antifa members have branded fascism. Antifa’s roots go far deeper than post-election politics, though.
The movement got started in the 20’s and 30’s in response to Franco’s Spain, Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. There was a revival in the 70’s and 80’s punk scene in reaction to the Neo-Nazism that crept back into British and German society. By the late 80’s, this movement had made its way across the Atlantic to the American punk scene.
Antifa has always been confrontational. They fought Brownshirts in the tavern halls of Munich, exchanged gunfire with Nationalists in Franco’s Spain and started a brawl with white supremacist group World Church of the Creator in Pennsylvania in 2002. 25 people were arrested in the brawl.
Last year, at a Trump rally in San Jose, California, Antifa members were part of a group that through eggs and punched rally-goers. A few weeks later, a white supremacist leader in Sacramento led a protest in response to the San Jose rally which attracted Antifascist Action Sacramento. The protest led to 10 stabbings.
In February, Breitbart writer Mila Yiannopoulos was invited to speak at UC Berkeley. Antifa members rioted, breaking stores windows and throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at police.
Antifascists argue physical violence is justified and effective when against white supremacist groups.
Intellectual and liberal activist Cornel West said after he survived neo-Nazi attacks in Charlottesville, “If it hadn’t been for the antifascists protecting us from the neo-fascists, we would have been crushed like cockroaches.”
Is the left and the rest of America united in glorifying Antifa after Charlottesville?
If you had been watching left-wing media, you may be inclined to think this is the case. However, a poll by Survey Monkey told a different story. 40% of Americans blamed the violence on both sides, with another 9% of Americans putting the blame mostly on the counter-protestors. Even among just Democrats, an astounding 24% blamed both groups and 6% blamed the counter-protestors.
This was not a country that came united in announcing its support for direct confrontation with racist activists.
Former M.I.T. Professor and leading figure in liberal thought, Noam Chomsky, said in reaction to Charlottesville and Antifa in general “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win — and we know who that is. That’s quite apart from the opportunity costs — the loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism.”
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dersshowitz went further, saying “Antifa is a radical anti-American, anti-free market, communist, socialist, hard, hard left censorial organization that tries to stop speakers on campuses from speaking. They use violence. And just because they’re opposed to fascism and to some of these monuments shouldn’t make them heroes of the liberals.”
Scott Crow, a former Antifa activist, said the philosophy of Antifa is based on the idea of direct action. “The idea in Antifa is that we go where they (right-wingers) go. That hate speech is not free speech.”
The Supreme Court disagreement with Mr. Crow crosses ideological lines. In Matal vs Tam, a case ruled on in October 2016, all 8 Supreme Court Members, including 4 Republican and 4 Democrat appointees, agreed that there is no hate speech exception to the first Amendment.
Many Antifa members would have little use for the results of a United States Supreme Court case. Lots of members identify as anarchists, and as such have little affinity or faith in state institutions.
During the protest in Boston, Antifa members went as far as to put the logo for police support on fliers with white supremacist logos.
Not all Antifa tactics, however, are violent or protest related. Some other tactics include union organisation, education programs and counter-intelligence on Neo-Nazis, outing them to neighbors and employers. They also urge private institutions to cancel far-right events.
For decades, Antifa members would infiltrate their enemies’ organizations. In the modern era, this has included scouring and responding to message boards that promote fascism and white supremacy.
While they out Neo-Nazis, Antifa members do what they can to remain anonymous. That is why you see them covered head to toe with bandannas across their face in protests.
Many are raising the question whether Antifa is a terrorist group or not, both on the left and the right.
A petition put up in mid August to label Antifa a terrorist organization had well over 100,000 signatures by August 21st, crossing the official threshold to warrant a response by the administration.
The petition states: “Terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims’. This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. AntiFa has earned this title due to its violent actions in multiple cities and their influence in the killings of multiple police officers throughout the United States. It is time for the pentagon to be consistent in its actions — and just as they rightfully declared ISIS a terror group, they must declare AntiFa a terror group — on the grounds of principle, integrity, morality, and safety.”
The Department of Homeland Security agrees with the assessment of the petition to President Trump, labeling the group domestic terrorists.
This may just be the beginning of larger clashes between white supremacist groups and Antifa.