Today’s rampage in Berkeley by antifa thugs is one more opportunity for the left to disavow the practice of brutal physical assault on any opponent they can get their hands on, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting.
Almost none of even those few on the left who publicly dissent from antifa tactics can actually bring themselves to just say that it’s simply wrong to beat people up because you disagree with them.
A good example of this is to be found in the “democratic” socialist magazine In These Times‘ (hardly the voice of the black bloc) debate Should We Deny Fascists a Platform? Even the most moderate of the 3 interlocutors, Nathan Robinson, can still only manage in his contribution We’ll Beat the Fascists With Ideas, Not Fists an argument based on expedience:
The appeal of shutting down right-wingers is easy to see; after all, nobody should want to see these speakers’ poisonous doctrines spread. But in the short term it’s counterproductive, and in the long term it’s suicidal.
It hardly needs repeating that to significant sections of the left the definition of a “fascist” is extraordinarily broad, exceeded only by that of a “racist”. And so, as I have argued elsewhere (for example, here and here) for the vast majority of the left, free speech for the deplorable 1/2 of the country that voted for Trump is something to be allowed only when and if it suits our various radical and now even our not-so radical would-be Big Brothers.