Chomsky on antifa

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zugzwang
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Aug 18 2017 01:12
Chomsky on antifa

Not posting this in agreement with Chomsky but just for discussion, as this is the first time I think Chomsky has said anything about antifa and the emboldening of the right in the States since Trump's election.

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/noam-chomsky-antifa-is-a-major-gift-to-the-right/article/2631786

Black Badger
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Aug 18 2017 05:11

Ugh... Not sure why anyone still thinks Chomsky has any relevance to current expressions of radicalism. He's proved how out of touch he is year after year with his various endorsements of electoralism, his refusal to acknowledge the responsibility of academia in general and MIT in particular as part of the militarized state, and now this full-on bourgeois-liberal condemnation of direct action.

zugzwang
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Aug 18 2017 06:20

It's not a good sign when Alex Jones republishes your interview on his website, surely to lend credence to his camp of conspiracy loons and white nationalists. I don't think Chomsky has a grasp of the danger the right poses. He complains of antifa shutting down speakers, presumably he is talking about Charlottesville as well, when the likes of Milo have disclosed information about others in the past and encouraged harm against minorities, deportations, etc. I don't see how a peaceful, "just ignore them" approach as Chomsky recommends would help that situation. Chomsky's position here may be inspired by his own experiences in being shut down, but it is strange that he should be against antifa and direct action against the far right.

Anyone care to respond to any of the arguments he makes here, about the Weather Underground?

ajjohnstone
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Aug 18 2017 06:38
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Not sure why anyone still thinks Chomsky has any relevance to current expressions of radicalism. He's proved how out of touch he is year after year with his various endorsements of electoralism, his refusal to acknowledge the responsibility of academia in general and MIT in particular as part of the militarized state, and now this full-on bourgeois-liberal condemnation of direct action.

Do you think so? When we consider the popularity of his articles, interviews, books, and videos it seems he has an audience and what's more, it is a youthful audience of people seeking education. He out-surpasses in reaching a much wider element of our class than those on this forum do, so out of touch is certainly not one criticism I would present.

I think we all have issues with Chomsky, and very rightly so, but i certainly wouldn't deny him the influence he has.

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Aug 18 2017 07:06

I do have issues With Antifa in the past, mostly tactical.

I think that in general the big problem right now is Capitalism, neo-liberalism, the dismantling of the social-democracies, the constant pilaging of the Third world, wars, and so on. Not really white nationalists.

However at this point white nationalism is starting to become much larger, and mroe Dangerous and at least when it comes to Things like Charlottesville, Thank goodness Antifa were there.

In general however I do agree With him, I don't agree With the no-platforming tactics and so on. I also think that often the large Counter protests against 10 idiots in white Hoods ends up being Counter productive.

But it's not black and white.

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Aug 18 2017 11:59
ajjonstone wrote:
When we consider the popularity of his articles, interviews, books, and videos it seems he has an audience and what's more, it is a youthful audience of people seeking education. He out-surpasses in reaching a much wider element of our class than those on this forum do, so out of touch is certainly not one criticism I would present.

I think we all have issues with Chomsky, and very rightly so, but i certainly wouldn't deny him the influence he has.

Media influence, popularity and exposure aren't the same as having any 'in-touch' theoretical relevance to present issues. The content of Chomsky's politics are even more reformist and out of touch than ever. But then he's a professional talking head so no surprise he would privilege the producing of more words and his audience consuming them over any other form of engagement with reality - apart from voting Democrat.

zug wrote:
Anyone care to respond to any of the arguments he makes here, about the Weather Underground?

Little better than a smear. Comparing those defending themselves on the streets and where they live against fascist invasion with a clandestine group planting bombs against state and economic institutions is ridiculous - suggesting a simplistic lumping together to imply all who don't rule out some necessary use of physical defence & resistance as equivalent with terrorist tactics. Who does it serve to get that message out to his 'wide audience'? The anti-fa issue seems to have confirmed how out of touch US academic leftism is with anything but itself, its adoring audience and its abstract reformism; http://libcom.org/blog/do-marxian-academics-dream-affluent-larpers-17082017

zugzwang
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Aug 18 2017 12:20
Red Marriott wrote:
The anti-fa issue seems to have confirmed how out of touch US academic leftism is with anything but itself, its adoring audience and its abstract reformism; http://libcom.org/blog/do-marxian-academics-dream-affluent-larpers-17082017

Yes I read all of that by Motopu, was nice (could edit to include Chomsky I suppose). It is strange how Chomsky popularizes anarchist theory, has his name slapped on anarchist books, his quotes everywhere in the anarchist faq, and then straight up goes against all conventional anarchist positions, like on electoral politics, direct action against the far right, etc.

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Aug 18 2017 12:30

Ayyyyyy

The dude is right. Reducing 'antifascism' to a set of rudderless tactics centered on street confrontations by left activists is a major gift to the right. Just like going public with your workplace committee too soon is a major gift to the boss.

Antifascism is a set of policies workers take up in self defense. It's not some special recruiting tool of left activists or some special provenance of a tiny group of martyrs or heros.

Without a base in the class, antifa can only be squad v squad (even if you slap the label 'mass' on front and do picket trainings. You're just beefing up your squads a bit). Only people more interested in stroking their own egos would have the gall to turn a defeat into a win; only people who care less about the cause for socialism and the abolition of classes would look at the tit for tat between antifa and these tiny fascist groups and say "we're saving the world".

Jim
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Aug 18 2017 13:48
Pennoid wrote:
Without a base in the class, antifa can only be squad v squad (even if you slap the label 'mass' on front and do picket trainings. You're just beefing up your squads a bit). Only people more interested in stroking their own egos would have the gall to turn a defeat into a win; only people who care less about the cause for socialism and the abolition of classes would look at the tit for tat between antifa and these tiny fascist groups and say "we're saving the world".

You have a choice, oppose fascists when they are tiny and weak or oppose fascists when they are an imminent threat to your personal safety. Choosing the latter is a bad choice.

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Aug 18 2017 13:48
Pennoid wrote:
Ayyyyyy

The dude is right. Reducing 'antifascism' to a set of rudderless tactics centered on street confrontations by left activists is a major gift to the right. Just like going public with your workplace committee too soon is a major gift to the boss.

Antifascism is a set of policies workers take up in self defense. It's not some special recruiting tool of left activists or some special provenance of a tiny group of martyrs or heros.

Without a base in the class, antifa can only be squad v squad (even if you slap the label 'mass' on front and do picket trainings. You're just beefing up your squads a bit). Only people more interested in stroking their own egos would have the gall to turn a defeat into a win; only people who care less about the cause for socialism and the abolition of classes would look at the tit for tat between antifa and these tiny fascist groups and say "we're saving the world".

Keep your head buried in the sand if that's your "comfort zone."

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Juan Conatz
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Aug 18 2017 14:02

I think pennoid is being a bit generous with interpreting what Chomsky is saying, but they are basically correct with what they say. I thought it was pretty much conventional wisdom among veteran anti-fascists that tit for tat street confrontations or counter-rallies isn't sufficient to beat back the far right and that one can only organize their base into a class movement that provides an alternative to the far right and neoliberal politicians. Indeed, I thought that organizations such as the Independent Working Class Association and even the resurgence of the IWW's General Defense Committee were primarily based on this outlook.

Jim
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Aug 18 2017 14:08

The IWCA was setup because the largest British fascist party were beaten off the streets. Recognising they couldn't hold public marches or events they started campaigning in local elections. They could leaflet unannounced, go door to door on predominantly white estates and hold stalls, all reducing the risk of anti-fascist violence. It was the success of street confrontations which forced the BNP to make that strategy change, the IWCA followed.

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Aug 18 2017 14:50

I stick with what I said. In UK, they were beat off the street, but arguably they have remained a significant, if minority political presence. BNP, EDL, UKIP, whatever will come next. Street confrontations were a success in ejecting the far right off the corners and gathering in neighborhoods. They were not a success in preventing the far right from shifting debate on some key issues and getting some policy adopted/co-opted.

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Aug 18 2017 16:25

I'm not sticking my head in the sand comrades. I agree that you have to fight fascists. But tit for tat street demos don't work. I'm not going to stop leftists from doing it, though I will argue for a more effective course. I certainly don't think it's immoral in the abstract to punch a Nazi.

I think Juan is right, and I thought it was understood that you fight fascism by first building a base. I think I differ from Juan a bit because while M1 advance a 'critique' (however shallow) of squd v squad, they don't actually pose a viable alternative.

If I understand their strategy correctly, it's actually quite reprehensible on it's own. Their strategy is to 'involve the broadest layers' of the working class (spontaneously) into the fight against fascism in a public capacity of the I.W.W. This is the political/antifascist equivalent of dragging the union into a fight it isn't prepared to wage or win, on the basis of the decision of an extreme minority of the organization (Locals of the GDC, or even the whole GDC itself a subcommittee of the union, although this strategy originates in a particular spot).

This reflects a more general anti-democratic; federalist bent in the IWW as a result of GMBs. I don't know what you call small sub-bodies of an organization making organization-wide decisions without accountability to the general membership or the explicit mandate of the majority, but it isn't democracy. Some call it "autonomy" but I think unaccountability is the functional expression.

The central principles and facts of the case as I see it are:

1) Self defense in general means minimizing net or absolute losses (however defined).
2) The working class is distinct from left activists
3) There are places where self-defense or fighting for a democratic right (in a local way) are necessary to advance a union organizing drive; there is no case where the working class wins a democratic right (in a national or global sense) or successfully defends itself without union organization. This fact imparts a prioritization.

If these are true, then it implies that the priority is to build a base in the working class through membership institutions they govern that fight for socialism and (directly related) their own self-defense (antifascism). It's also true that public facing counter demos may in many cases not minimize losses either net or absolute. In some cases they may, in others they may not, depending on the organizations and individuals involved.

Left-activist antifascism may strike a chord in a particular context and lead to *some* recruitment on the basis of people happening to be antifascist already; but the vehicle for doing so in our context isn't going to stop these fascists groups. As far as I can tell, the "mass antifascism" pointed out by M1 is essentially aspirational with no course toward getting there, outside counter demos. They make overtures to union organization, but argue for changes in the IWW which will encourage antifascist action at the expense of fixing the failed union organizing model in the IWW (which they see as perfect; excepting the existence of the the CSD model which must augment it).

Actually, like chomsky, I think their current tactics (And raising them to absolute principle) feed into the aims of the right. Most of the bosses' press express opposition to fascism. Most of the city and state governments are recalcitrant to grant permits already (having been pressured not to). But the result is that the fascists get to have their "free speech fights" as a basis of recruitment. The results of these 'mass antifa' counter demos is just a 'massification' of the tit for tat, not an actual alternative.

One result is the IWW is increasingly targeted across the country by cowardly acts of intimidation and threats. And what was the knockout blow we traded for this? To hit the fascists right where Bannon, et. al. wanted us to:

Quote:
The longer Democrats "talk about identity politics, I got 'em," Bannon said. "I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."

Bannon

The CSD argues that we should appeal to the 'broad layers of antifascists as antifascists' (rather than workers; e.g. as liberals etc.) in the act of "mass antifiascism" (public counter rallies). The result isn't actual defense but escalating exposure to violence and those among us critical of this lack of strategy are labeled as reactionaries.

The central defense offered in the IWW for this lack of strategy has been that it is morally justified for the oppressed to fight nazis. That's not a response to a critique of tactics or strategy. That's shoring up your own lack of tactic or strategy by recourse to an argument you're used to winning. I agree fascist deserve to get slugged. That's a premise of the discussion we can have about tactics and strategy.

But by moving the discussion there, people can get out of the terrain of difficult questions, and onto the the terrain of us v. them and purges. The result is to shut down debate and whittle discussion down to naught but self-assurance that you're morally justifiable no matter the metric. It's pretty destructive. It often takes the form of claiming that people who raise these concerns are "white workerists" or some other reprehensible identity category or category of 'oppressor'. This way, criticism can be discarded out of hand.

The final result is that Bannon and Trump can hide their ethno-nationalism in economic nationalism (sounds kinda like a certain right wing politician during the 50s/60s) and keep the ethno-nationalist base while formally condemning the ethno-portion of it's nationalism. And they will trounce the left so long as they obviate class politics and organizing;in a word any sort of collective strategy, to instead chase rightist rallies where they pop up.

Jim
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Aug 18 2017 17:05

I think there's a chance we're all talking at cross purposes here. Ultimately we need to be building working class power, not going on counter-protests to Nazis. But while trying to build working class power we may sometimes need to be involved in physical confrontations with Nazis, to keep them weak and to ensure they don't become strong enough to attack us.

spaceman spiff
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Aug 19 2017 01:22
Black Badger wrote:
...his refusal to acknowledge the responsibility of academia in general and MIT in particular as part of the militarized state, and now this full-on bourgeois-liberal condemnation of direct action.

What are you talking about? He literally has discussed this a dozen times. Pick any of his lectures on Youtube at random and you’re likely to hear him make a comment on how the MIT and many other leading universities were simply working on behalf of the military. And I would bet money on the fact that this is also mentioned in Understanding Power

Black Badger
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Aug 19 2017 05:35

Sorry, Spiff. I should have said how he refuses to accept any personal complicity in that trajectory...

ajjohnstone
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Aug 19 2017 06:22
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he refuses to accept any personal complicity in that trajectory...

What personal complicity is it you mean?
What actual actions (or non-actions) has NC committed to being an accomplice of the ruling class but in particular those sections you cite, the MIT?

No doubt, many of us have been employees of dubious businesses or government (local or national) departments of which we have no control over policies so does that mean we are now all personally guilty of complicity for what is done by them?
What should we have done to escape the association with their anti-social practices.
Is a staff member or student at a university complicit in militarism if it runs an OTC or accepts research funding from the military or a arms corporation?
Is NC to be held to a higher standard of individual behaviour than ourselves?

I don't think anyone on this thread is defending NC's "anarchist/socialist" politics but we have to be a bit more precise in our criticisms of him otherwise our critique is simply rejected.

And you don't require to be a "bourgeois-liberal" to question the worth of certain aspects and expressions of workers' resistance and opposition.

The SPGB declined to participate in putting the boot into Mosley's BUF, actually debating with them in the battle of ideas and not the battle of Cable Street and as a consequence suffered the thuggery of the Communist Party "upholders of free speech and democracy".

Scallywag
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Aug 19 2017 17:52

Can someone comment on the role of 'anarchist' academics/intellectuals in the anarchist movement?

Obviously the revolution needs to be built by working people, and its them who know what tactics work and when they need to defend themselves.

But what's the use of anarchist theorists in this?

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Aug 19 2017 18:29
Scallywag wrote:
Can someone comment on the role of 'anarchist' academics/intellectuals in the anarchist movement?

Obviously the revolution needs to be built by working people, and its them who know what tactics work and when they need to defend themselves.

But what's the use of anarchist theorists in this?

potentially that's an interesting discussion, however on this thread that would be off topic. If you wish to discuss this topic, please start a new thread.

Scallywag
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Aug 19 2017 18:53
Steven. wrote:
potentially that's an interesting discussion, however on this thread that would be off topic. If you wish to discuss this topic, please start a new thread.

Ok I have done, thanks.

https://libcom.org/forums/theory/role-anarchist-theorists-academics-or-intellectuals-anarchist-movement-19082017

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Aug 20 2017 06:57

Have to agree with Chomsky here. Street Antifa is at best a very short term defense of neighborhoods. More often it bolsters fascism particularly when fascists like Richard Spencer hold press conferences while some Antifa on demos tell the media to F off. The long term consequences of cable street are a myth discussed here
http://www.historytoday.com/daniel-tilles/myth-cable-street

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Aug 21 2017 15:47

You keep linking that liberal article as if it proves something - for a very different view of Cable St and its consequences see this article by a participant, Joe Jacobs; http://libcom.org/library/battle-cable-st-1936-joe-jacobs

Talisa
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Aug 23 2017 04:21

I agree that when it comes to neo-nazis, kkk, etc., it can help if we confront them with a beating, or by shutting down their talks and denying them free speech when we have the power to do so.

My question is, where do we draw the line?

I have been really uncomfortable with where some leftists have drawn that line. Like a video I saw on YouTube of a talk that leftists shut down by constantly chanting and shouting over it. The speaker was expressing shitty right-wing views, but he's no nazi, and is a critic of the alt-right and white-supremacists. Watching that made me cringe. (I can try to dig up the link if people are interested.)

So again: Where do you draw the line? Who is it ok to prevent from exercising free speech? Who is it ok to physically attack?

herz2
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Aug 24 2017 12:27

On the issue of Chomsky and military research at MIT see this comment in the other thread on this topic

ajjohnstone
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Aug 31 2017 05:21

Many thanks for the link, herz2.

It certainly offers a lesser-discussed aspect of Chomsky's involvement with the Establishment. As always, we find heroes with feet of clay.

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Sep 16 2017 12:39

I think I am tentatively with pennoid here. I will openly admit to being somewhat of an armchair anarchist, but this is because it didn't take me very long at all to take issue with what limited things I did get involved in a few years ago.

One such thing was counter demos to right wing/fascist organisations in my local area. I distinctly remember milling around the convening point with a comrade with the mainstream union contingent waiting for our lot to turn up. All of a sudden, masked up and everything, they just trundled off a bus (the bus stop was literal meters away), marched straight past us without acknowledging anyone and within a matter of minutes, walked straight into a kettle. This was before the fascists had even turned up. They didn't move from that spot for the rest of the demo.

Eventually, the fascists turned up via police escort and were kept to the other side of the road, being led past the antifa and then crossed to the other side of the road, right to where they were actually planning to demonstrate (outside a home office immigration centre) where they were then kettled. What followed was something I can only describe as a shouting match for a few hours, whilst members of the public walked past bemused by both parties. The kettles held until both parties were escorted by the police elsewhere separately to disperse.

Me and my comrade thought the whole thing to be intensely surreal and pointless so we tried to spend some time doing something actually productive, so we crossed the road and tried to start conversations with pedestrians about what they thought was going on.

I have no moral qualms with violence towards similar groups, and do see the necessity of a vocal presence on the street to let them know they are not welcome in our communities, but honestly I don't think these shouting matches are the way to go. It's like some antifa actively want to be locked down by the police and have a good old aggressive sing along patting themselves on the back and boosting their radical egos, un aware or un caring of how alienated they are from most ordinary members of the class. There also seems to be the expectation that if you are a bit hesitant to start fights and physical confrontations then you are complicit somehow, which is extremely macho. I personally don't see the value in being so bait about things that you could easily get nicked for having achieved nothing. I get a strong vibe of martyrism.

As much as I am against pacifism, liberalism and trying to gain positive media coverage, stories of local mosques going to their demos and providing them with cakes tend to get a lot more of a positive response from non leftists than antifa does. I think writing this off is extremely similar to burying your head in the sand.

lettersjournal
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Sep 16 2017 13:52

I sympathize with the angry, guttural response to a man carrying a swastika flag or wearing a Klan robe, but that's all the more reason not to attend anti-fascist demonstrations. A half century (plus) of collective mythology about the great anti-fascist war and ritual hatred of those symbols overrides one's ability to think. It's an almost Pavlovian response. (Compare to the response to a Che Guevera image or someone calling himself a Maoist.)

The truth is that historically anti-fascism was a more effective nationalist mobilization than fascism. It needed less coercion to achieve the same end: mobilize the whole society for war. The great anti-fascist war remains the most stable national myth in America, Russia, and the UK. Contemporary 'fascists' (to the extent that term makes any sense today) have a paradoxically anti-nationalist element because they deny the national myth of anti-fascism.

The first and governing principle of anti-fascism is the refusal to recognize Bolshevism as fascism (the defense of Russian or American national socialism against German national socialism). Anti-fascism demands a unity of the left against the right - that is, finding common cause with Leninists. Whether or not violent street tactics 'aid the right' (Chomsky's point) is not something I am interested in, but it is not hard to notice a symbiotic relationship between leftist and rightist groups committed to street violence.

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Sep 16 2017 16:49
lettersjournal wrote:
A half century (plus) of collective mythology about the great anti-fascist war and ritual hatred of those symbols overrides one's ability to think.

I must come to your -- partial -- defense. You're not as ignorant as you sound, because it's just your disingenuous passive-agressive shtick. Surely you learned 'rithmatic, so these acts of bad faith override your ability to think through simple mathematic calculations (unless you're still living in the womb of the 1990s; a "half century" ago was 1967 ☮). But as you nihilists believe in nothing, why do you even bother with these sloppy posts?"Are these guys gonna hurt us, Walter?" "No Donny, these men are cowards."

Black Badger
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Sep 16 2017 22:11

Seems to me that there are two layers of antifascism being conflated in many of these discussions.

Layer One is the most outward (public) manifestation of antifascism as an ideology and a mythology: a black bloc, streetfighers, folks who don't care what your political self-identification may be as long as you're out on the streets trying to shut down any fash* anywhere. In the US, this layer is (self-)identified with the double flag (whether red over black, black over red, both red, both black -- the original design from the KPD-organized Antifaschischtische Aktion [founded 1932]), and often with the triple arrows pointing down to the left (with or without the circle -- the original design from the SPD-organized Eiserne Front [founded 1931]). The adoption of these symbols doesn't necessarily mean that those who sport them know anything about them -- in fact, based on the "half-century plus" history of American anti-intellectualism, I'd venture to guess that a vast majority couldn't even be bothered with finding out. However, to the extent that anyone might know anything about their symbolic antecedents, it's probably safe to say that they are antiparliamentary and most likely have a better than average understanding of the conflicting forces of WWII. As far as any formal and informal organizational trend exists, the tendency toward a lowest-common denominator ideological package certainly exists, and the rationale is the same as any Activist formation: get out there and do stuff! This is the part that remains uninteresting to me, but only insofar as it's Activism (an Activist having the self-understanding of being indispensable to The Struggle). They are the ones who organize and recruit for popular fronts; these folks are easy to make fun on because of their earnestness, their politico-historical ignorance (represented by, among other things, a refusal to critique Leninism), and their cult of self-sacrifice.

Layer Two is the individual level, where my sympathies and personal contacts are. I understand viscerally that the "alt-right" (and others who've had their reactionary and anti-radical bigotry bolstered by Trump's election and belligerent agenda) are a real danger to my safety and that of lots of my friends and allies -- not just symbolically or metaphorically. This part of me remains convinced that direct confrontation (whether though ridicule or smack-downs) is the only effective way to counter this threat. I'm not one to mince words when it comes to denouncing Leninism and Popular Frontism, and my preference would be to work exclusively with non-Leninist antifas, but, at least at this stage of the game, I don't see that as a necessity. My ad hoc allies include anyone with a non-legislative strategy and anyone who embraces horizontal/transparent decision making.

Chomsky's condemnation is around tactics, and he should abide by his own critiques and first, do no harm. By asserting that antifas are enabling or somehow making fascists stronger, he's promoting an explicitly anti-radical position (admittedly, nothing new for him). But this takes place on a different layer than what lettersjournal is talking about.

* I will leave out the problematic, incoherent, and often (internally) contradictory analysis of most antifas concerning their understanding of "fascism"

zugzwang
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Sep 17 2017 17:17

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-not-challenge-racist-violence

Here's also Aviva Chomsky (daughter of Noam Chomsky), if anyone's interested, writing in a similar vein as him and making similar comments toward antifa.

Quote:
Over the years I have come to see more and more of what Adolph Reed calls “posing as politics.” Rather than organizing for change, individuals seek to enact a statement about their own righteousness. They may boycott certain products, refuse to eat certain foods, or they may show up to marches or rallies whose only purpose is to demonstrate the moral superiority of the participants. White people may loudly claim that they recognize their privilege or declare themselves allies of people of color or other marginalized groups. People may declare their communities “no place for hate.” Or they may show up at counter-marches to “stand up” to white nationalists or neo-Nazis. All of these types of “activism” emphasize self-improvement or self-expression rather than seeking concrete change in society or policy. They are deeply, and deliberately, apolitical in the sense that they do not seek to address issues of power, resources, decisionmaking, or how to bring about change.