When Peace and Love Need a Bodyguard: Why Antifa Matters
"The antifascists (Antifa)...[and] the anarchists...they saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed and I’ll never forget that."— Dr. Cornel West, speaking on the events in Charlottesville.
Why Antifa, Why Now?
Antifa, of Nazi-punching fame, has been demonized by liberals, the media, and right-wingers until the events that occurred in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since Charlottesville, Antifa has gone from universal condemnation in the public mind, to general acceptance. This article will provide clarification regarding Antifa, the history of Antifa, what it is, and more importantly, what it is not. Is there a reason why the average American has never heard of Antifa until this year, even though it has a decades-long history of fighting fascist hate in Europe? We'll explore why Antifa was feared and demonized more than anti-government patriot militias, neo-Nazis, and white supremacist groups until the events of Charlottesville occurred.
Why are movements such as Antifa necessary to stem the rising tide of neo-Nazi hate groups? They are necessary because there needs to be a physical component to hindering neo-Nazi recruitment and organizing.
Note: For the purpose of this article, "neo-Nazi" will refer to all white supremacists, white nationalists, the KKK, skinheads, or other racial purity cults. This includes the alt-right troll movement Kekistan.
By Any Means Necessary
Standing against hate is a complicated endeavor. There is no singularly effective method. I find that the process of treating cancer is a good analogy for responding to hate. Consider how radiation and chemotherapy are oftentimes accompanied by the direct action of surgery when necessary. Think of Antifa as performing the direct action of surgery. Oncologists don't argue about whether a particular type of therapy is more effective than another, they use all forms of therapy available to fight the disease.
To our peace-loving heroes who are bound by a commitment to non-violent counter-protesting like hand-holding, song-singing, and standing bravely, but non-aggressively, to combat neo-Nazis, I salute you. You are the pure of heart. Your work is invaluable. However, so are the people that will stand by to protect you from the irrational, violent haters. Hate groups are not bound by peace pledges, non-violence, or human decency. To all the peaceful social activists I say, you'll need a buffer or a bulwark against tribal hate and swaggering, deranged ignorance. Neo-Nazis tend to mock people who engage in peaceful resistance and then run over them.
The purpose of Antifa is to be a shield.
There Are Many Ways to Fight Fascism
Being on the front lines and punching Nazis isn't for everyone. But Antifa activity is much more than that. Antifa is less of an organization than it is a movement. Antifa impedes racist, far right-wing organizing and actively resists all KKK, neo-Nazi, skinhead, and white nationalist groups that would organize to persecute Black, Brown, Jewish, and LGBT people. If a person experiences prejudice from a larger group, Antifa will stand up for them.
Antifa is not a hierarchical, centrally organized entity. They are a loosely coalesced movement comprised of various degrees of leftist principles including Liberals, Democratic Socialists, Socialists, Anarchist Communists, and everything in between. However, Antifa activism is not political. They're not promoting a political cause when they confront racists in the street. They're standing up for humanity and the well-being of those whose humanity is being denied by hate groups.
Activists participating in Antifa activities are bound by five Points of Unity:
- We disrupt fascist and far right organizing and activity.
- We don’t rely on the cops or courts to do our work for us. This doesn’t mean we never go to court, but the cops uphold white supremacy and the status quo. They attack us and everyone who resists oppression. We must rely on ourselves for protection.
- We oppose all forms of oppression and exploitation. We intend to do the hard work necessary to build a broad, strong movement of people centered on positioning the working class against racism, sexism, nativism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and ageism with the intention of supporting the most oppressed people. We support abortion rights and reproductive freedom. We want a classless, free society. We intend to win!
- We hold ourselves accountable personally and collectively to live up to our ideals and values.
- We not only support each other within the network, but we also support people outside the network whom we believe to have similar aims or principles. An attack on one is an attack on all.
Oftentimes willingness to fight makes fighting unnecessary.
How You Can Help
You may be committed to non-violence, however, that need not deter you from being antifascist. Neo-Nazis have no such commitment to peaceful assembly and discourse. They have no compunction about using violence to further their cause.
Non-violent activism does help, but it won't work alone. Our sisters and brothers standing for peace and love need body guards, someone to be a bulwark against the rampages and assaults of amassed hate groups.
I personally ask that you do not marginalize, bad mouth, or otherwise spread untruths about what Antifa does. Do not say "They're as bad as the Neo-Nazis." They're not. Antifa is literally standing against hate.
Rachel Smith, an Antifa associate, went into the lion's den and posted this to 4Chan's alt-right neo-Nazi troll page (be wary of the comments there, they're ugly):
"We aren't glitter-bombing Nazis. We aren't throwing flour on them. We definitely aren't going to peacefully shut them down. They want to kill us, they said so in Charlottesville. They made it very clear where they stand and how they plan on taking action. Their violence needs to be met with great force.
If you are not down to physically fight these f**kers, please stay off the front lines. You'll get hurt and your pacifism will be a liability, resulting in others being hurt. Run support. We need more support.
- Go to a street medic training
- Run jail support
- If you're good at using the internet (as in better than average), learn how to securely (and correctly) doxx these people.
- If you're a creative type, write a zine about anti-fascism (we can chat about specifics if you can't think of anything)
- If you're EMT trained, HOST a street medic training
- Become a legal observer through the National Lawyers Guild
- Set up letter writing events to send to political prisoners
- There's a lot of parents who want to fight but can't because of their kids, watch their kids for them
- If you can cook, organize food drives/pot lucks for the larger demonstrations
- Help people in more counseling/therapy ways
- When organizing, inclusivity is not optional, and is mandatory to win
- Listen to the concerns of those most affected
- If you are white, use that privilege to engage your racist relatives and neighbors in thoughtful discussion to change hearts and minds so that burden doesn't fall on our comrades of color."
Desperate Times Call for Intense Measures
If neo-Nazis are proudly marching in the streets it could already be too late. I do know they will not be deterred by reasoned debate or hugging it out. They have an ally in the Whitehouse who makes them feel that this is their moment. They desperately want to be normalized and invited to the table to present their ideas and policy suggestions. We can not let that happen. The last time Nazis had power hundreds of millions died.
Be Antifascist. No, you don't have to punch Nazis or violate your committment to peaceful resolutions, but don't marginalize those that put their bodies and well being on the line for the sake of you and others.
We'll get through this.
© 2017 Duane Townsend