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HISTORY CORNER: The Antifa story

by SYD ALBRIGHT
| March 20, 2022 1:00 AM

History is the foundation of culture, and culture defines the nature of the people of a nation, city, community, ethnic, social, occupational or special interest group. The variations are infinite.

There are three choices to consider about culture: leave it alone to grow organically, make it better or radically change it.

Antifa is an agent of cultural change, but exactly what it is might be hard to determine. There are “antifa” groups and there is the broader “antifa movement” operating in the U.S. and a number of countries historically and now.

This story is about antifa in the U.S.

Antifa is a political ideology. Those who consider themselves anti-fa (for "anti-fascist") are a decentralized collection of mostly far-left groups, networks and individuals, including anarchists, who confront neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and others they label as “white supremacists.” As a report in the USA Today says, "The movement has no unified structure or national leadership but has emerged in the form of local bodies nationwide, particularly on the West Coast."

"Antifa is known to use force, fear, and violence to further their own interests and to suppress the interests of others,” reads a charging document from the San Diego County District Attorney's office brought against 11 alleged antifa members in a riot case.

“This tactic is referred to as 'Direct Action' and is known to mean acts of violence such as assault, battery, assault with deadly weapons, arson, and vandalism. The alleged object of this conspiracy was to incite and participate in a riot using direct action tactics.”

Pulitzer Prize author Chris Hedges writes, “Punching people in the face or advocating censorship or the abolition of free speech is a very dangerous road to begin to walk down … It’s always the left that pays.

“We have very dark, sinister, totalitarian forces that are snuffing out the last vestiges of American democracy,” Hedges continues. “And we better revolt, we better respond. But carrying out these kinds of street confrontations, plays right into the hands of these centers of power.”

People are comfortable when the prevailing culture is stable. When that stability is threatened, unrest is inevitable. The consequences can be enormous. There are many examples in American history; just to name a few:

Native Americans lived their traditional ways for thousands of years — until Europeans arrived and swamped their culture. Everyone knows the rest of the story.

When Asians and Irish came to America seeking a better life and were willing to work hard for lower wages, the prevailing culture population reacted, evoking negative consequences — derision, rejection, ostracism, violence and even murder.

Also, the U.S. Government passed draconian laws restricting the civil rights of both Native Americans and Asian immigrants.

Slavery brought another clash of cultures.

Over time, most blended into the emerging “American Culture” and the “Melting Pot” worked. It hasn’t been working well in recent times however, and seems to have collapsed just in the past few years.

Television reports and eye-witnesses to street demonstrations saw the cultural attacks in real time.

“Pacific Northwest cities like Portland and Seattle have long been hotbeds for extreme left-wing political movements,” says Andy Ngo and Brian C. Anderson in City Journal magazine.

“Recently, video emerged of black-clad Antifa activists directing midday traffic and harassing drivers in Portland’s business district. A week later, street brawls broke out after an Oregon-based right-wing group called Patriot Prayer held a march in downtown Portland, purportedly in protest of the mayor’s oversight of the police and leniency with far-left activists.”

Those who consider themselves antifa claim they are championing the fight against fascism — raising the question, “What is fascism?”

Miriam-Webster says fascism is “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

Editor Sheldon Richman at the Foundation for Economic Education in New York calls fascism “socialism with a capitalist veneer.”

Some antifa groups promote civil disobedience or violence to combat perceived fascism.

Then there are unforgettable images of bloodied protesters and counter-protesters, smashed store windows, vandalized vehicles, taunting signs, blaring bullhorns, shouting and burning flags. And of course, images of armed police battling the demonstrators — or simply watching the mayhem continue while doing nothing to stop it.

Why is all this happening in these times in history?

The Center for National Interest, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., describes Antifa as a radical movement supporting left-wing causes, noting that “violence (seems) to follow them at every turn.”

The “Antifa Manual” allegedly found at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., in 2017 (that warns readers not to “distribute to anyone who may attempt to harm or denigrate what we are doing”) describes themselves as “a social justice movement against hatred, intolerance and bigotry,” while criticizing the “white male power” that they say control the news media.

“Some of our kind have begun to infiltrate high-level positions of power in major media organizations,” the document says.

“Whites, especially ole white males, have proven to be the greatest evil mankind has ever known.”

To many, it might sound like red meat for conservatives.

Snopes calls the Manual false.

TruthOrFiction notes that when the Manual story first broke, social media had 73,000 “shares,” but concludes it's “unproven” whether the manual was real or fake.

Many sources agree with Snopes.

Some feel antifa groups paradoxically and frequently uses fascist tactics to achieve their goals, and their targets can be on both the left and right — as demonstrated on Inauguration Day 2021, when a Portland antifa group dropped the F-bomb on both Biden and Trump.

“Members pointedly do not eschew violence but rather see themselves as engaging in ‘self-defense,’ protecting other protesters and primarily confronting neo-Nazis and white supremacists to deny them a platform to publicly spread their views,” says a report by Lorenzo Reyes and Doug Tanglin in USA Today.

Quoting the (Portland) Rose City Antifa’s Facebook page, the article continues: “We are unapologetic about the reality that fighting fascism at points requires physical militancy. Anti-fascism is, by nature, a form of self-defense: the goal of fascism is to exterminate the vast majority of human beings.”

The broader antifa movement started in Hamburg in 1932, when the Nazis were an emerging power and nobody could stop them. Some say it started in the U.K. in the 1980s.

Antifaschistische Aktion ("anti-fascist action") was founded by the Stalinist Communist Party of Germany (KPD), with earlier formative support from various Communist “anti-fascist defense” units.

Both KDP and Antifaschistische Aktion battled the Nazis and aimed at toppling the ruling Weimar Republic government. Hitler, aided by his paramilitary “Brownshirts” won the streets — and the ensuing election.

Antifa groups and individuals often say they don’t want that to happen in the U.S.

“In all turbulent periods of revolutionary politics, whether the 1930s, 1970s, or today, the ability to project force on the streets to punish enemies is a valuable asset,” states a report by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank in California. “For the Left today, Antifa is that force.”

The Institute further asserts that the ideology that drives "Antifa" is the core belief that the United States was founded on white supremacy “and therefore needs to be destroyed.”

The right-wing think tank Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., says, “Antifa is in many ways an improved iteration of prior militant leftist guerilla organizations,” concluding with, “Antifa, with its anarchist outer structure and plausible deniability, allows the radical Left to have their cake and eat it too.”

The Institute further asserts that the ideology that drives "Antifa" is the core belief that the United States was founded on white supremacy “and therefore needs to be destroyed.”

Another weapon in some antifa groups’ arsenal is doxxing — a form of bullying to intimidate people they don’t like by publicizing the target’s personal information without permission, including where they live, their phone number, email address and who their employer is — drawing protesters that often cause violence.

These antifa groups are not alone in doxxing. Both right and left groups use it.

Some ask, who funds antifa? Many say billionaire George Soros does, but credible sources debunk the claim.

Whatever antifa is, it’s part of a changing culture in America.

Paraphrasing a quote misattributed to Alexis de Tocqueville — yet worthy:

“America is great because its people are great. If the people cease to be great, American will cease to be great.”

Let us hope that is not happening.

• • •

Contact Syd Albright at silverflix@roadrunner.com.

• • •

De Tocqueville on ‘Rights’ …

“It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the 'right' to education, the 'right' to health care, the 'right' to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.”

— Alexis de Tocqueville

Misunderstood meaning …

Robert O. Paxton, retired expert on fascism from Columbia University calls fascism both a political movement and political practice that arouses enthusiasm for an anti-liberal, anti-socialist, violently exclusionary, expansionist nationalist agenda by violent attacks on enemies, internal as well as external enemies — replacing democracy with an authoritarian dictatorship.

The multi-faceted Antifa …

Despite the various shades of interpretation, Antifa should not be understood as a single-issue movement. Instead, it is simply one of a number of manifestations of revolutionary socialist politics (broadly construed).

— Mark Bray, "Antifa: the Anti-Fascist Handbook," a history of the antifa movement and its roots

Limits on First Amendment?

Scott Crow, a former antifa organizer, 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. That if you are endangering people with what you say and the actions that are behind them, then you do not have the right to do that.

"And so we go to cause conflict, to shut them down where they are, because we don't believe that Nazis or fascists of any stripe should have a mouthpiece."

— Jessica Suerth, CNN

Partnership breakup?

BLM activists are pointing out that many of the members of Antifa are white and “privileged.” And the Antifa groups are digging through social media trying to ‘cancel’ social justice protesters. So, it seems like Antifa is too white and too rich for BLM tastes, and some organizers in BLM aren’t pure enough for Antifa.

— The European Union Times

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GETTY IMAGES

On Oct. 4, 1936, in the U.K., East Londoners converged on Cable Street to force back a march of fascist Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts, telling them “They shall not pass.”

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GETTY IMAGES

Mussolini in Rome with Blackshirts — the paramilitary wing of the Fascist party — the early Antifa (1922).

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MILITARY HISTORY NOW

Volunteers from many nations joined the battle in the Spanish Civil War (1936-37) to fight the fascists in the battlefield, not in the urban areas like in present times.

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GETTY IMAGES

Many Antifa members dress in black clothing, and wear masks to hide their identity from law enforcement.

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PBS FRONTLINE

PBS Frontline/ProPublica documentary series “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville” labels protesters in foreground as “white supremacist,” shown here holding “KKK=Holocaust Terrorism” confronting the group in back holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign.

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CAPITAL RESEARCH CENTER

The term White Supremacy dates back to the 1820s when it meant white people in positions of power, but today the term is derision of predominantly white right-wing groups.

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DUCKDUCKGO IMAGES

Known as Antifaschistische Aktion, Antifa was born in Germany in 1932 as the paramilitary arm of the German Communist Party (KPD), funded by the Soviet Union, becoming the communist version of the Nazi Brown Shirts.

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CITY JOURNAL

Antifa demonstrators in Portland, Ore.

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GETTY IMAGES

Portland, Ore., demonstration.

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GETTY IMAGES

Police declared a riot in Portland, Ore., in November 2021, while other Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters smashed shop windows in march “against capitalism” in Vancouver, Wash.

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ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Police called for anti-mask regulations at protests because masks hide the identity of law-breakers, such as this photo in Washington, D.C.

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