A Last Post on the Antifa (For Now)

I’m getting a little tired of the whole antifa vs alt-right thing at the moment and am in the mood to move on, however, in fairness, I wanted to acknowledge that since my last post there has been a considerable increase in the commentary from the left critical of antifa violence. A certain discomfort with the violence and intimidation on the part of a sector of the left has been growing over the past few months. In the wake of Charlottesville and the recent antifa behavior in Berkeley – which was so outrageous that even the usual mainstream media outlets were unable to sustain the “clash of extremists” meme (although a number initially tried), let alone the even more preferable (to them) claim of “neo-nazi violence” – dissenting voices on the left have become more widespread.

While most the objections still focus on the arguing that antifa violence is strategically ineffective, alienating potential supporters and allowing the detestable deplorables to assume the role of victims, etc(1), a few actually condemned the acts in themselves(2).   Even before the Berkeley events Noam Chomsky had called antifa behavior “often wrong in principle” and after the events he was joined by others, including Chris Hedges, who argued in How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’ that the black bloc and the alt-right share “the same lust for violence….”

Carl Boggs, long-time left scholar and activist, went even further, arguing against the left’s propensity to attempt to silence offending voices in a Counterpunch article The Strange (and Tortured) Legacy of “Free Speech”

“The irony is that while the [Free Speech Movement] and its heirs did everything possible to expand the realm of free speech, new social forces – extreme identity groups, Antifa – want to restrict or deny freedoms.”

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Disavowal Won’t Save You

Antifascists argue that… physical violence against white supremacists is both ethically justifiable and strategically effective. – Mark BrayWho are the antifa? in the Washington Post.  Mr. Bray is a visiting historian at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa The Anti-Fascist Handbook.

Brooke: But not just that, right? Antifa is fundamentally against the right of fascists to speak and be heard.

Mark: That’s entirely correct. So, in your open you mentioned the popular slogan that liberals have adopted from Voltaire that, “I may disagree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Anti-fascists fundamentally disagree with that premise.  – Interview at Abolition Journal with Mark Bray

Now that the ruling class has given its antifa attack dogs free range, that movement’s theoreticians have suddenly become almost respectable.  Soft ball interviews, access to the mainstream media, and fawning coverage have provided a platform for the likes of Mr. Bray far beyond what they previously enjoyed.

A good example of this coverage is a recent review of Bray’s book in The New Yorker. While not completely uncritical, the reviewer fails to question a number of the author’s most dubious assertions and we are asked to accept on face value his assurances:

As for the slippery-slopists, afraid that antifa will begin with Fascists and eventually attack anybody who opposes them, Bray maintains that the historical record does not support this fear…

Actually, of course, the antifa’s definition of fascism (and white supremacism) is so broad that pretty much anyone to the right of Hillary Clinton and certainly any Trump voter almost certainly falls into that category and so is fair game for physical assault, economic ruin and social ostracism.

This should be obvious to anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past few years, but if you have been, Porter at The Kakistocracy provides the best summary of this I’ve seen so far, in a recent post We’re Going to Need a Bigger Moat.

And, just in case you’ve forgotten, it’s worth considering this very partial summary of violent attacks on the Trump campaign in Continue reading

Which Side Are You On?

We live in interesting times, as the fallout from the Charlottesville events reminds us yet again.

The physical conflict between elements of the right and left is hardly new, nor is the determination of the a significant section of the left to silence dissenting voices by any means necessary.

What is new and noteworthy, however, is the way in which they have been now been wholeheartedly joined in this by the ruling class itself.

And so we have an early vision of what an authoritarian order may look like in the 21st Century West.  Dissenters are silenced not primarily by direct state repression but by private actors – street level thugs engaging in physical intimidation which is then covered up by the elite media blaming the victims for being “violent.”  Fake “outrages” are manufactured and then the corporate media almost as one blares a false narrative, mobilizing the population for ritual mass denunciation of the evil-doers.

Dissidents are not only effectively silenced by being deprived of any access to the public sphere – now mainly controlled by a handful of huge tech corporations – but are also whenever possible deprived of their jobs and even prevented from carrying out such mundane activities as booking a room, a car or a flight.

The response of the left to all of this has been instructive.  A handful have criticized the more “ultra-left” elements, either for strategic errors (see, for example, The Unrepentant Marxist) or out of some slightly guilty sense of discomfort with the outright thuggery indulged in by certain of the antifa.

What has gone almost entirely uncriticized, by the left at least, has been the role of the corporations.  One would expect that a movement claiming to oppose and resist the capitalist system would at least be given pause to consider the ease with which the ruling class has shown that it can and will move against its enemies without the least accountability.  One would think that a truly subversive and revolutionary movement would, merely for the sake of self-preservation, oppose such actions, even when they are aimed at the right.

In fact, however, this is just another reminder of the two things we need to keep in mind about the left:

  • It is a fundamentally loyal opposition, a part of the system. It is unconcerned about the repression directed against the right because its members instinctively recognize, even though they may not admit it to themselves, that they will never be a fundamental threat to the system and are therefore safe from such treatment.
  • It hates and fears the people far more deeply than it opposes the ruling class.

 

P.S. In my recent reading around the net on this topic I came across an interesting web site – aptly named Sisyphean News. Committed to “Exposing Antifa and Working Against the Mainstream Media… the overall goal of Sisyphean news is to create a new platform where freedom of speech will always be protected.” While I believe that the author and I probably see many things differently, I wish him the best in this endeavor. I’d encourage you to drop by and read some of his posts, such as his latest Leftists Rally to Shut Down Freedom of Speech in Boston.

 

On the New Witch Hunt

Sorry, the blog at alternative-right.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.” – Blogger(1)

The braying bad faith of the political alliance which spans the entire spectrum from the mainstream media, corporate elites and GOP establishment to the Revolutionary Communist Party and the black bloc is reaching deafening proportions.

More than anything else, this feels like the early ’50s, with the alt.x movement playing the role of the CPUSA.  Those hard times are here now and there are no doubt worse to come.  Any voice speaking out in even the most moderate way in defense of the interests of the traditional American nation must recognize that the consequences can be real and unpleasant.  (Think job loss, black listing, physical assault, ritual denunciation, silencing, even prosecution when some criminal charges can be trumped up.)

But this too will pass – remember how things changed then over the course of a decade.  Let us hope and, more importantly, work to ensure that our ’60s lie ahead!

Note:

(1) This is what showed up when I tried to access Alternative-Right this morning. It may be that the site is moving elsewhere of its own accord but in the current climate one suspects the worst, especially in light of widespread corporate efforts to silence dissenting voices. (See, for example the announcement at Counter-Currents that their web-hosting service is cancelling its account and that the site may be going off-line, or any of the coverage regarding the purging of offending accounts by Facebook, Paypal, etc. Silicon Valley’s Nazi Purge Kicks Into Overdrive Or: How tech learned to stop worrying and begin policing speech at Vanity Fair is a good place to start.)

The Civil War Left

sumnerattackedbypreston1No, not that Civil War… And, OK, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic but, on the other hand, maybe not.  After all, it’s true that the antifa violence at Berkeley a few nights ago was not really so shocking in itself.

There’s always been that part of the left which claims that the government is “fascist” regardless of who is in office.  Thus, the so-called “Refuse Fascism,” about which much is being made by commentators on the right, looks and sounds just like the same old Revolutionary Communist Party “coalition”, complete with the usual apoplectic rhetoric: it’s “Refuse and Resist,” “Not in Our Name” and “The World Can’t Wait” re-branded for the Trump presidency.

Similarly, for decades before they became the “black bloc” at anti-globalization actions, obnoxious anarchist provocateurs were an annoying presence at Bay Area demonstrations.

And so we know that, like the poor, the ultra-left will always be with us and, when they get the chance, they will act out in all of their usual infantile ways.

Up until recently, however, ultra-left antifa violence was directed at extremely marginal types – the Klan, the National Socialist Movement, etc.  Now everything has changed since, after all, if Trump is Hitler, then all of his supporters must be fascists (“little Eichmanns”?) against whom any violence is permitted. Consequently the usual attempts at shouting down speakers or otherwise disrupting events(1) have progressed to vicious physical assaults on ordinary individuals guilty of no more that wearing a MAGA hat or merely having a ticket to an offending program.

Of even greater concern is the tacit connivance in this on the part of elected officials, as well as the support for it expressed by sectors of the relatively moderate left.(2) Meanwhile, even among the left critics of the Berkeley riot there has been much rejection of the violence on pragmatic grounds but deafening silence when it comes to acknowledging that it might be simply wrong to intimidate and physically attack those with whom you disagree.(3)

Ominously, the bitterness of the current political climate is reaching deep into people’s daily lives. The notion of civil political discourse seems to have vanished, at least among leftists and politics has become a topic raised at one’s own risk, at least if one didn’t vote Hillary. (See, for example, Bay Area Conservatives Keep Meetups Secret Fearing For Their Safety.)

(In my own experience, the hostility of the other side is so intense that any political conversation among our small group of Trump supporters at the office now feels more like a clandestine meeting of the Communist Party workplace cell than a group of friends just shooting the shit in the break room.)

And so we have reached a point at which half of the country is considered not only merely wrong but actually evil by the other. We are the enemy to be intimidated and silenced – there can be no co-existence and no peace. We are obviously nowhere near there quite yet, but ultimately this is the mentality of civil war.(4)

Notes:
(1) Certain sectors of the left have a penchant for “no platforming” and have been all too willing to use it against dissenters in their own ranks, as the TERF’s (“Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”) have found out. Still, this is a far cry from the physical violence now celebrated by much of the left when it is directed at opponents to the right.
(2) See Prominent Leftists Celebrate Anti-Milo Yiannopoulos Violence at Berkeley.  One hardly needs to re-visit the story of the repeated attempts to prevent Trump rallies during the campaign, but if you do, see Moveon.Org Vows to Continue to Disrupt Trump Rallies or What’s the Use in Disrupting Donald Trump?.
(3) A good example of this is an article at Huffington Post, The Debacle At Berkeley in which the author ably argues that the black bloc’s actions were counterproductive, but goes on to say

I am not interested here in having a moral argument about violence in the abstract, or the line between destruction of property and assaults on people. Let’s save that for another time…

(Unlike many others, he at least acknowledges that this is an issue.)
(4) There is an worthwhile post in this regard at the interesting and well-written blog Delayed Mail mainly reflecting on the editorial response of pro-slavery newspapers to the dawn of the new year in 1861 and the prospect of a Lincoln presidency – New Year’s and the Superficiality of Secession. While I suspect that I disagree deeply with its author, it is well worth a read.

The System’s Useful (and Violent) Idiots

Police officers came prepared in riot gear and about 100 outside agitators aimed at causing chaos came armed with sticks and rocks. Some set off fireworks in the middle of Sproul Plaza. Others threw objects at UC police.

And as the violence escalated, officers pulled back…. Police gathered on the balcony demanding that the crowd disperse, but made no moves against the protesters. – CBS SF Bay Area News Police Tactics During Violent UC Berkeley Protest Questioned

In thinking more about the recent events in Berkeley and reading some of the other commentary that pointed to the the failure of the administration to prepare and the inaction of the police, I was reminded of an essay I had read some years back by Don Hamerquist(1) – Fascism and Anti-Fascism, which appeared in Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement (2002, Kersplebedeb Publishing)

The state can tolerate a certain level of anti-fascist illegality on our part just as well as it can look the other way at certain actions of the fascists. Currently, many of our “street” victories do seem to involve tacit police cooperation at a certain level; implicitly sanctioning, or at least not confronting, our tactics and deliberately choosing not to investigate and prosecute at the level which would easily be possible….. [W]hen I read Red Action’s self-congratulatory descriptions of its confrontations with English fascists—and I have seen similar reports from various ARA [Anti-Racist Action] sources—I don’t see any recognition that such success could only occur for a significant time period with police acquiescence at the minimum….

Hamerquist goes on to warn his fellow antifas that serving as a tool of the ruling class so obviously will have negative consequences in the long run:

Keep in mind that in our confrontation with the fascists, the side that is identified with the state is ultimately going to lose politically although it may appear to be winning some street fights.

Doesn’t sound like they were listening…

(1) Hamerquist is an interesting thinker whose activism goes back to a period in the CP in the 60’s, followed by a move into the new left. He spent years in the Sojourner Truth Organization as one of its main ideologues (along with Noel Ignatin – now well-known as “whiteness” historian Noel Ignatiev). Since the collapse of the STO, he has continued to write and his thoughts on “fascism” are influential within a certain sector of the “anti-fascist movement” today. (See, for example, Threewayfight and this discussion at the now-defunct Bring the Ruckus.)

Once you get past their conflation of everything to the right of George Bush into one variant or another of what they call fascism (and they even argued over whether or not Bush himself was a fascist) the discussion within this milieu of the development of the anti-system populist right is not without interest, especially since they break with the traditional left view of this movement (whatever you may label it) as simply a tool of the ruling class. Instead, they recognize its autonomy in class terms and its subversive (and perhaps even revolutionary) character. While this is really the subject for another post (or two or three…), I will just point out that while this crowd is committed on the surface to resisting both the ruling class and those they have identified as “fascists” (thus, the “three way fight”), in practice they serve as the street thugs doing the dirty work of the ruling class much in the way that the SA did in the closing days of the Weimar Republic, albeit on a much smaller scale (for now).