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ANTIFA, an anti-fascist organization that has made news in recent months, exemplifies the rise of the violent far-left and a growing political divide in the Western world, threatening to destroy the moderate.
Growing coverage from mainstream and indeed fringe media has made ANTIFA a household name. A blatant bias dynamic has emerged, pitting differing opinions about the organization into a far-left-far-right disputation as toxic and violent as the very acts carried out by members of both dispositions. But as ANTIFA begins to penetrate events in current affairs, there exists a need to properly analyze and understand the growing anti-fascist movement.
ANTIFA is not simply a youth movement bent on opposing Trump’s America and destroying public property. It has a history that dates back to the 1920’s and whose roots reach as far back as the initial emergence of 20th-century fascism. Their namesake derives from the German militant organization Antifaschistische Aktion, founded in the 1930’s by militant leftists opposed to the various forms and figures of fascism spreading across Europe at the time, including Germany’s Hitler, Italy’s Mussolini and Spain’s Franco.
But modern ANTIFA’s origins don’t lay in this initial rise of fascism in Europe, but rather in the rise of Nazi skinhead culture in 1980’s Britain. When Nazi skinheads began to thrive in the streets of London and then later the rest of Europe and North America, a need developed to combat the far-right and its recruitment of young people on a street level. There emerged Anti-Racist Action, a group dedicated to anti-fascism and anti-racism. This group participated in numerous counter-protests against white nationalist and Nazi groups, including interrupting a speech hosted by the supremacist World Church of the Creator that resulted in a brawl in 2002, and participation in a protest against the National Socialist Movement in 2005 in the city of Toledo, Ohio, resulting in a riot.
Although Anti-Racist Action is regarded as a predecessor of ANTIFA, there have been more than one anti-fascist organizations that have espoused an anti-fascist disposition. Some other groups included Anti-Fascist Action, an organization that emerged from the Anti-Nazi League in London and formed connections with a German group by the name of Autonome Antifa in an attempt to create an international anti-fascist network, an initiative sought by other similar groups.
Modern ANTIFA is essentially a derivative of these organizations’ ideology and practices, rather than a continuation of the organizations themselves. ANTIFA’s ideology itself essentially stems from the obvious core ideal of anti-fascist action. But as the far-left and its public sphere began evolving, anti-fascist groups began advocating for whatever current perceived injustices were vogue at the time. But ANTIFA’s real identity is that of pragmatic action, not that of ideology and pacifism.
Thus ANTIFA’s modern identity as the group that caused the 2017 Berkeley protests, probably punched White Supremacist Richard Spencer, and participated in the recent Charlottesville counter-protests, has cemented its identity as a far-left militant organization that has caused substantial damage and unnecessary violence. Perhaps to go so far as President Donald Trump’s opinion, the group’s actions may make it akin to the very groups they protest.
Violent events conducted by ANTIFA
The real beginning of ANTIFA violence began with Donald Trump’s inauguration where ANTIFA protests resulted in the arrest of 217 people.
Then came the UC Berkeley protests where Alt-Right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak until ANTIFA rioted, caused substantial damage to the university campus, and effectively prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking.
Then came numerous counter-protests to pro-trump rallies such as an April 15th demonstration where 12 people were arrested.
Then of course came Charlottesville where the “Unite The Right” rally saw ANTIFA counter protest and violence quickly break out with members attacking rally participants and assault those who were otherwise being peaceful. The violence by the Alt-Right led to the death of Heather Heyer.
These events along with ANTIFA’s self-labeling have made the organization that of one that promotes confrontational aggression, the destruction of property, and as liberal commentator Peter Beinart said of the combatting of white supremacism “not by trying to change government policy but through direct action.”
What is indeed unique about ANTIFA is that it is not a structured organization. It does not have a hierarchy and members do not have any official position or rank. It is not centralized and little coordination is made between regional chapters. Rather it is made of smaller autonomous groups united only by an ideology and a specific date and time to protest. Its members may indeed not all share the same opinions beyond a united hatred of “fascists” and white supremacists. Their anonymity and facelessness make it hard to truly understand the core of the organization beyond that of a far-left militant group label.
But it is evident that the group is dangerous. Not just to the Alt-Right or the conservative community, but to everyone— including liberals. As the political climate of the United States begins to become more divided, and perceptions and reductionist notions of political parties and organizations become predominant, the moderate left is in danger of being lumped in with organizations like ANTIFA.
Why is ANTIFA dangerous?
Compassion and empathy between those of the opposite political stance whether with militant organizations, regardless of if they are right-wing or left-wing. And this is just outside of the physical danger of ANTIFA.
ANTIFA is an organization that has no qualms with using violence and with a history of aggression and assault, it is very much not a benign group. We should all be concerned that ANTIFA is on the rise.
Any organization outside of a legitimate government that is apathetic to violent action and actively uses aggression as a means to obtaining wants, is an organization that is dangerous and deserves to be terminated. But ANTIFA may not see itself terminated and indeed may have a future.
If the political divide of the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump continues, and as identity politics becomes a prime topic of contention in the public sphere, ANTIFA will continue to make itself relevant.
The organization thrives on hatred and divide. This is why it, and organizations like it, are dangerous to civil society. Violence and divisive conflict leads to the destruction of a community and ultimately a country. This should be a grave concern for all.