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).

Berkeley – Antifas Gone Wild

As was to be expected in the Bay Area, in addition to the usual protesters a contingent of black-bloc-type antifas showed up at Milo Yanniapoulos’ scheduled UC Berkeley speech last night. Made up of the typical collection of adventurists, sociopaths, posuers and, no doubt, police agents, this anarchist contingent turned a rowdy protest into a riot.

According to the official UC press statement:

The masked agitators came to campus eastbound on Bancroft Way, and fire damage and other destruction to the Stiles Hall construction site, where a new residence hall is planned, was reported. The group entered campus and immediately began throwing rocks at officers…. Agitators also attacked some members of the crowd who were rescued by police. UCPD reported no major injuries and about a half dozen minor injuries.

Once Yiannopoulos’s event had be oh-so-reluctantly cancelled by the administration, the “anti-fascists” marauded through downtown Berkeley, breaking windows, attacking motorists, setting fires, etc.

UC Berkeley was, of course, quick to deplore the violence:

Campus officials said they condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display and deeply regret that those tactics now overshadow the efforts of the majority to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence at Berkeley and his perspectives.

Since the number of violent antifa is put at only 150-200 people and in any case anyone with the most minimal familiarity with the East Bay political scene would have known that these types would be arriving, one reasonably wonders how things got so out of hand.

The short answer is that the police apparently did little or nothing to actually defend Yiannopooulos’ right to speak – in spite of the UC administration’s pious protestations of a commitment to allowing all voices to be heard. Thus, the UC press release tells us:

In an effort to avoid injuries to innocent members of the surrounding crowd who might have been caught in the middle, police officers exercised restraint and did not respond with force…. No arrests had been made by UCPD as of 9:30 p.m.[Emphasis added]

In fact, the University’s lack of adequate preparation and the UCPD’s inaction at the event reflected the administration’s sympathy with those committed to preventing Yiannopooulos’ speech.

None of this should come as a surprise, of course – it is just business as usual on American campuses. Still though, call me old-fashioned, but there’s something especially revolting in seeing the way the “radical left” of today so willingly and mindlessly serves as the elite’s boots on the ground when it comes to stifling dissent.