To the “antifa” movement, cowardly liberals are nearly as bad as Donald Trump and the white nationalist right
Friday, Mar 10, 2017
Since the election of Donald Trump as president, liberals and leftists have been discussing how to best respond to American conservatism’s transformation from a shopworn, Cold War, anti-government philosophy into something else.
To the anarchists and socialists who consider themselves part of the global “antifa” movement (an abbreviation for “anti-fascist”), the transition currently taking place on the right is all too familiar. The rise of the alt-right and white nationalism within the U.S. is something the mainstream left doesn’t take seriously enough, they say, even as many Democrats compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.
If it is true that the civic nationalism of Trump and his top strategist Steve Bannon are helping to lay the groundwork for a more radical right — intentionally or otherwise — then their self-described opponents on the left need to do more than wear safety pins and post Facebook denunciations of the president they didn’t vote for say the antifa advocates.
As Natasha Lennard, a former staff writer for Salon, wrote earlier this year for the Nation that coming to such a realization is difficult for many people on the left. Despite their posture of desiring radical change, most leftists are actually conservative in a certain sense:
Liberals cling to institutions: They begged to no avail for faithless electors, they see “evisceration” in a friendly late-night talk-show debate, they put faith in investigations and justice with regards to Russian interference and business conflicts of interest. They grasp at hypotheticals about who could have won, were things not as they in fact are. For political subjects so tied to the mythos of Reason, it is liberals who now seem deranged.
Instead of merely talking among themselves about opposing racism, say the anti-fascists, leftists need to take direct action to make being a white nationalist as difficult as possible. That’s why many antifa proponents have concentrated their efforts on tactics such as targeting the financial means of support for websites they see as enabling or promoting fascist views; they have even engaged in acts of physical assault against members of the far right.
“Only by fighting and destroying fascism can we actually defeat it,” an anonymous member of the website It’s Going Down told Salon via email.
The antifas’ anonymity is one of several superficial characteristics they share with their bitter rivals on the alt-right. Another is that they take politics much more soberly than their less extreme counterparts do. For the antifas, understanding that white nationalists are deadly serious about instigating a “racial holy war” is the key to countering them.
“During the rise of the Nazi regime in Germany, while anarchists and communists were literally fighting the fascists in the streets, the liberals and social democrats attempted to debate the Nazis point for point in the halls of power,” the anonymous activist continued. “This did nothing, and also normalized the positions of the Nazis and also made them into legitimate positions.”
The center-left’s desire for an open society is its critical weakness, members of a Nebraska-based antifa collective told Salon via email because viewpoints that want to deny all free speech cannot be allow to speak freely.